A Black-fronted_Dotterel at Tallawarra Wetlands reflected in the water
Black-fronted Dotterel

About five minutes drive from my house is Tallawarra Power Station, which has a series of ponds/wetland areas on its grounds. I have often seen some nice pictures of birds from this site, and had long wanted to go and explore there.

Unfortunately, I needed to complete an induction to be able to get into the Tallawarra Wetlnds area and that became my biggest stumbling block when I tried to get access in October 2014. On the company’s website there are 2 emails addresses (including an online submission form), and a couple of phone numbers. Back in October 2014, I tried emailing and calling, but had no success. Phones just rang out, emails bounced back and the online submission form, that says that someone will contact me within 3-4 days, must have been on the fritz. After a few weeks of trying I just gave up. Fast-forward 12 months and I am more desperate and more determined to get access to Tallawarra, so I rang and rang again, emailed and emailed again, and then I spotted a mobile number on one of the pages; I rang the number and someone answered! I explained what I wanted and the gentleman gave me the name and number of someone to ring – wooohoooo! Unfortunately, the person had gone home for the day and it was the Friday just before a long weekend, so I would have to wait until the following Tuesday to see if I could finally get in touch with the person who could give me the key to all I desired which, at that precise moment, was the key to the gate that would allow me into the Tallawarra wetlands (pretty sad really, isn’t it!).

A Hot Long Weekend

What else could I do on the long weekend. My wife and daughters were away and my son would be sleeping in every morning, and would not even know I was not there until the sun was high in the sky. Well, I went to the Wollongong Botanic Gardens again (probably the 10th visit this year, but you never know), and low and behold, a Black-faced Monarch singing high in a tree – a good start, but sadly the only new species for the 2015 list. I was pleased, however, to get some nice pictures of Green Catbird, Eastern Yellow Robin and Satin Bowerbird. I went home and had some breakfast, got my son’s lunch sorted, and then headed down to Shoalhaven Heads and Seven Mile Beach, an area that was renowned for waders and seabirds. It was stinking hot! I got in the car and the thermometer said 39 degrees centigrade in the full sun – phew. I got to the beach around 3.00 pm and hoped to have a quick wander around and then catch some late afternoon pictures, but the beach was packed with people (and dogs!) and very few birds were seen. Some nice shots of Pied Oystercatcher, Superb Fairy-wren and Brown Thornbill would have to do.

On Sunday morning I got up a little later; not my fault really as the clocks changed forward an hour for Daylight Savings during the night. I set off for Warilla Beach in the hope of some new species for the weekend, and the chance of some nice pictures in the early light. There is something beautiful about beaches in the early mornings and late afternoons that I find really enjoyable. I am not a fan of them when it gets too hot, but in the cooler parts of the day I really feel at peace. Although this particular morning I am on a mission to find new bird species, so the peacefulness will not be as serene. Well, the first bird I saw for the day was another Superb Fairy-wren, so not very exciting, but the second bird was a Yellow Thornbill (awesome). This species is gorgeous. I had seen it before, but not in 2015. On the way home from the beach, I stopped at the hardware to pick up some compost and a few light globes and in a tree next to the car was a European Goldfinch, which gave me another new species for the year.

Monday – family day!

Tallawarra Wetlands

Back to work on Tuesday and I was keen to ring the contact person at the Tallawarra power station. 9.30 am, and YES, she answered! There seemed to be no problems at all with me getting the key, but would have to attend an induction later in the week. I booked that in for Thursday morning first thing and, after I completed the 15 minute induction, I was given the key and a visitor’s pass for the following Saturday. Only problem was that I was not able to access the area before 7.00am, which only gave me a couple of hours of good light, before it was too bright. I was able to be there until 5.00pm if I wanted to though, so there was plenty of time for birding. Saturday could not come quickly enough!

Saturday was forecast to be around 32 degrees centigrade, and having a 7.00 am start meant that I was going to be walking around the large area that Tallawarra Wetlands occupies carrying camera equipment, water and a pair of binoculars in the heat. Thankfully, I could park quite close to the entry gate, so at least I could go back to the car and offload some things if I needed to. Well, that was the plan anyway, and you know what generally happens to my plans. The walk from the entry gate to the main pond was about 200-300 meters through, at some points, quite long grass and shrubs. The ground was also quite muddy in places, so it was quite slow progress. There was a walking track that went around the ponds, but it was quite elevated and sometimes a bit far away from the water so, when I could, I tried to walk as close to the water as I could. First bird spotted was a Golden-headed Cisticola, which was nice, but not new, followed by Black Swan, Black-fronted Dotterel and a large group of Grey Teal and Chestnut Teal. Was pleased to get some nice nice pictures of the Dotterel, but still nothing new. Then I got a glimpse of a large duck toward the middle of the main pond, a male Musk Duck, with a large lobe hanging under his bill, unmistakable and a new sighting for the year – great. There had been reports of Blue-billed Duck here in prior years, which I had not seen in the wild before, and I was keen to spot one of these as well. As I was taking some pictures of a very obliging Black-fronted Dotterel, I saw something move to my right, and there was a single Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, another new bird for the year. As I moved around the main pond, I was delighted to see, and get some nice pictures of a Clamorous Reed-Warbler and Little Grassbird (both new species for year), Wandering Whistling-duck (which is the furthest south I have seen this species), Red-kneed Dotterel, Royal Spoonbill, Pied Stilt and more Yellow Thornbills. It started getting very hot by the time I had done a full circuit so I decided to head back to the car and go home for some breakfast. Luckily I did, as I had inadvertently locked a lady out of one of the gates, by bypassing her padlock when I locked the Tallawarra power station padlock. She was, understandably, a little miffed but, thankfully, she had not been waiting long.

Making the Most Out of a Missed Opportunity

I was on standby to go out on a boat with the Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association (SOSSA) again on the 24th, so was hoping to get a spot on this, after missing out in September due to bad weather and my dad’s birthday.

Being on standby for the boat, meant that I had to wait for and email or text from SOSSA to know if I would get a spot. The weather was a bit blowy and overcast in the days leading up to the weekend, so I was also not sure if they were going to cancel the trip. Unfortunately, I did not hear from them, and did not get out to do any birding either . When I got into work on Monday, I was really annoyed. I had received an email on Friday afternoon, saying that they were running a boat trip on the Sunday and that there was a spot available for me if I wanted it. I had missed the email completely! I don’t know how I could have, as I was checking for it all day Friday and even looked on Saturday. Maybe there are forces conspiring against me – or, perhaps, just a missed email.

The upside of the “missed” email was that I spent a day sorting out¬†pictures from some of the trips I had done earlier in the year. I went through my Cairns trip pictures from August, and was very pleasantly surprised. The day before I flew out of Cairns, I went to Cattana Wetlands for a quick visit. I had been there already on the trip, but it is a great place and I had an hour to spare late that afternoon. I had to be back at the hotel to go out to dinner, so I was in a bit of a rush. There were pictures of four new species for the 2015 list, that I had forgotten to write down in my book! These were: Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Yellow Honeyeater, Brown-backed Honeyeater and Rufous Fantail. Score!

October’s Summary

October (and some missed species from August) added 11 species to my 2015 list, but none to my life list. Tallawarra Wetlands gave me some nice new birds and a good local spot to revisit another time. There were some very nice birds seen, and some very pleasing pictures taken, and it was great to get a good look around the Tallawarra Wetlands, but I am still a long way from my goals. I have 233 species on my 2015 list (still 167 short of the 400 species target) and 24 new species for my life list (which leaves 26 still to get), and just 2 months left in the year. I have missed out on some great days out with SOSSA (this month they saw 12 species that I have not seen this year, including 8 that I have never seen before!), but who knows what is around the corner. I have a few short business trips planned for November and December to Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth. I might get the opportunity to get a few hours of birding in while I am there, so I will just have to wait and see.

I’ll keep you posted …

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

Musk Duck
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Yellow Thornbill
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater (August)
Yellow Honeyeater (August)
Brown-backed Honeyeater (August)
Rufous Fantail (August)
Black-faced Monarch
Australian Reed-Warbler
Little Grassbird
European Goldfinch