Spring has Sprung

Spring 2015 was good for this Hooded Plover on Berarra Beach, as it successfully raised two chicks
Hooded Plover

Spring is here!! Well, I am a believer in Spring starting after the equinox, which was on the 23rd of September, and, when I hear the first unmistakable call of a Channel-billed Cuckoo for the year, I start getting excited. This year, the first call was on the morning of the 14th September.

The resident birds have been calling and displaying for the past month and territories are being established and maintained for the Spring breeding season. Even the long drive to work has been more eventful, with the Little Corellas in a very playful mood, hanging from the broken covers on the street lights, and sunrise has been getting earlier and earlier. I am also getting up earlier and earlier, which is good – most of the time.

To refresh your memory (and, more importantly, mine), the first 8 months of the year have been somewhat tough. Other than the first two months and the trip to Cairns in August, it has been very difficult to find new species for both my 2015 list and my life list. I was still 177 short of my 400 species target for the year, and 26 short of my 50 species target for my life list at the end of August. My biggest enemy has been the time I am able to dedicate to getting out birding, followed closely by not travelling to many other regions in Australia.

I managed a few local trips in the first part of month. Budderoo Plateau on the 5th was good, giving me two new species for the 2015 list, including a Beautiful Firetail, which was very unexpected, but much welcomed. I also went back to the Wollongong Botanic Gardens, in the hope of seeing something different, but it turned out to be a nice Spring picnic with the family instead – which is always very enjoyable. I did see a kite in the tree next to where we were sitting, but it was on the end of a piece of string, with a family trying to get it down. I helped them retrieve this by carrying a picnic table over and pulling the offending branch down, while the father of the other family disentangled the string from the smaller branches.

Work consumed me for the bulk of the month, but I had hopes of getting to the beaches to try and catch some glimpses of any waders that were returning this month. Sadly, the weather was quite ordinary and I also hurt my back doing some work around home and was not in the best of moods, or condition, to go wandering around too much.

The Southern Oceans Seabirds Study Accossiation (SOSSA) trip that was booked for the 26th of September was, unfortunately, cancelled due to rough seas and wet weather. This was a big blow for me, as it proved to be so successful in July. It was re-scheduled for the next day, but that was my father’s birthday and I was going to be down the coast at the coastal town of Sussex Inlet. To add to my annoyance, SOSSA published their trip list for the Sunday on the following Monday, with a total of 28 species sighted, and nine of these being species I had not seen before (ever!) and a further four being new ones for the year. Bugger!

Sussex Inlet was the place where I spent the majority of my holidays from 1983 onwards. It is a great place, especially in Spring, and I have managed to see quite an extensive list of bird species there. I was hoping to get out for a few hours on both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning to a couple of my favourite spots in the hope of seeing something new for the year. Dad had recently had Glossy Black-Cockatoos in his yard, so I was hoping to catch a glimpse of these if I was lucky.

A Spring in my Dad’s step … Well, not quite!

Well, Saturday afternoon was a bit of a write-off. Given that the boat trip had been cancelled, I was aiming to pick my son up from his work at 2.00pm and head straight to Sussex Inlet, which would give me around 2 hours before it got dark. We got there in good time but, as soon as we had unpacked the car, the rain started to pour – that put pay to anything productive for the rest of the day. Dad told me tat the Hooded Plovers (an endangered shorebird species) had started nesting on one of the beaches nearby, so I thought at least he would be able to show me where they were supposed to be and I could head straight there the next morning. We arrived at the beach just as the weather closed in, so we thought we would just walk to the edge of the grassy area near the car park and have a quick look. We had only walked about five metres when dad slipped on the wet grass and landed on his backside. Apart from being a little muddy, he got back to his feet only to slip over again and then skidded about four metres down the grassy slope. This was quite amusing, once I had established that he was alright of course, and became the topic of conversation over the next 24 hours. We didn’t see the Hooded Plover, we both got wet (dad much more than me) and decided to head home for a couple of beers instead.

The next morning, dad and I went for a walk through some bush near the house. Initially things were looking very quiet, but a pair of Common Bronzewing and a Crested Shrike-tit, gave me a couple more for the list. Back home for breakfast and to make a new salad, that I had recently discovered, for dad’s birthday lunch, and then a quick trip out ot the beach to look for Hooded Plovers. The beach where this species occassionally nests at is seperated from the car park (and dad’s slippery dip!) by a small shallow creek. After all of the rain, the creek was quite deep, and a little wider than normal, and I was extremely worried about losing my own footing and dunking my expensive camera equipment in it. Thankfully, this did not happen, but I was very sceptical about my chances of seeing any birds at all, due to some mindless people letting their dogs run up and down the beach (where there are clear signs saying that they are not permitted at all).

A Pair of Hooded Plovers

I was to be pleasantly surprised. A pair of Hooded Plovers were, indeed, nesting in a fenced off area of the beach, just 75 metres from the creek. I got a good viewing of the pair, and also managed to get my first decent images of these beautiful birds (away from their nest of course). I spent around 10 minutes with my (mostly) willing subjects, before leaving them to get back to their own business. Hopefully, they will be successful in hatching their eggs and raising their young. These birds are lovingly watched over by some great volunteers – check out their Facebook Page.

No other opportunities arose in the month, so the end result was just five species added to the 2015 list, but no new species for my life list. That takes the totals to 228 and 24, respectively, with only 3 months to go. I am feeling that this goal is going to be impossible without some more trips away. October has a long weekend at the beginning, so perhaps that might provide an opportunity for a quick road trip!

September’s New Hatchlings for my (Little) Big Year List:

Common Bronzewing
Hooded Plover
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Crested Shrike-tit
Beautiful Firetail