The old saying: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck (known as the Duck Test), is an expression broadly used to infer that we should trust our judgement about what we are looking at. In the world of birds, there are few birds that look, swim and quack like a duck, so you are probably looking at a duck! But which one?
Those of you who have read some of my previous articles will know that I failed dismally on my goal of seeing 400 Australian bird species in the 2015 calendar year. I managed a grand total of 277 which, considering I had a trip to Cairns, a trip to Brisbane, a trip to Melbourne and a trip to Canberra, as well as two pelagic trips and quite a lot of days out in my local area of the beautiful Illawarra region, was not very flattering. I had a secondary goal of adding 50 new species to my Australian life list, which faired somewhat better with 37 new species observed. This all came about after my curiosity was roused from watching the movie “The Big Year” starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin. Worth the watch!
Happy New Year – 2016 is upon us. For me, it was ushered in at Newcastle, at a house belonging to my wife’s cousin and her husband. New year’s day was a quiet affair, sitting in their backyard, playing cards (500) and jotting down a list of every bird I saw as I sat there. The first bird for the year was a Channel-billed Cuckoo, that was heard long before it was seen flying overhead; by the end of the day I had 15 on the list.
Last year I managed to count 277 species of Australian bird species, which was a long way short of my target of 400 species. I did manage to add 37 species to my Australian bird life list, which, although being 13 short of my 50 species target, was very pleasing indeed.
I have set myself the same goals for 2016 – and I am determined to improve on last year’s results!
As at the end of November my 2015 Australian bird list was a respectable 275 which, although a long way short of my 400 species goal, was very pleasing considering the busy year I had. I had also added 37 new Australian bird species to my life list, which now stands at 466 in total – nice!
Could a trip to Chiltern and the Western Treatment Plant (both in Victoria), two of Australia’s top ten birding hotspots, get my (Little) Big Year back on track? Well, they are fantastic places to visit and November is my birthday month, so maybe that would bring me some extra luck.
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.
The Guinness Book of Records lists the Southern Cassowary, the world’s third largest bird, as the most dangerous bird on Earth and, having been privileged to have been within just a few centimeters of this magnificent animal, I can certainly say that they are truly a formidable bird, and look like they could definitely dish it out if they wanted to.
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.
Swifts and Swallows are often mistakenly considered to be closely related. Although they share similar habits, they are representatives of two distinct families. Swifts share a family with the swiftlets, while swallows are grouped with the martins.
In the year so far, up to the end of July, I have managed to see just 181 species of Australian birds, which is a long way short of my goal of 400. Given that there are only 5 months left in the year, and the 5 months from March to July saw only 59 species added to the list, I am not feeling very hopeful at all. My second goal of adding 50 new species to my life list is looking slightly more promising, especially after a big boost in July of 11, and I now have 19 for the year. This is still going to be very difficult, and I am really going to have to hope for a brilliant Spring and early Summer.