Friday, 23 June 2017

Syd The SIPO

Syd the SIPO


The South Island Oystercatcher , (SIPO) is an oystercatcher from New Zealand. It is quite similar to our Australian Pied Oystercatcher (APO), but the SIPO has a slightly larger bill and shorter legs. SIPO's are endemic to NZ, but occasionally a lone individual turns up on the East Coast of Australia. SIPO's have now been recorded 10 times in Australia since 1998.

Last year, an oystercatcher was banded at Stockyard Point. It was identified as an APO and given a red leg flag of 1N. This oystercatcher then flew to Ballina, where it was identified in late December as a South Island Pied Oystercatcher. 

June came around, and on the 18th, Simon Star went to Stockyard Point, where the SIPO had been banded. After some searching, lo and behold, there was 1N! Birders rushed to Stockyard Point, to add a SIPO to their Vic list. I wasn't able to make it until the 22nd, but I got there eventually.

Stockyard Point is a point of land on the eastern side of Western Port Bay, near Jam Jerrup. It is a popular location for shorebirds, with its large tidal mudflats.

A variety of shorebirds coming into land  - Stockyard Point

Stockyard Point, Google Maps
Stockyard Point
The beach, western side of Stockyard Point

It took 3 hours to get to Stockyard Point from Bairnsdale, and we arrived around 8 AM. It was overcast, but calm. High tide was due at 11 AM, so we had a bit of time to wait. As we were waiting, we saw some Cape Barren Geese in the distance, two Terek Sandpipers, a Gull Billed Tern, numerous APOs and lots of ducks.

Shelduck

APO
 It got closer to 11AM, and more birders turned up. Eventually there was about 11 birders, all peering through scopes and cameras, waiting....

Don't know where everyone went..

Oystercatchers were flying in, two or three at a time. There was a medium sized flock, right in front of us, feeding and preening.

Then, someone called out, there it is! A oystercatcher flew in, bearing the tag 1N. The larger bill and shorter legs, were noticeable, but only just.

Syd is the 2nd on from the left


Syd is the 4th from the left
Syd seemed to mix in well with the APOs, and I would have lost it if it hadn't been for the other birders calling out its position.

After some time, we turned our attention to the shorebirds that had flown in.


Double Banded and Red Capped Plovers, Curlew Sandpiper, Red Necked Stint

Red Knot, Red necked Stint, Double Banded Plover


There was around 60 Red Knots, many Curlew Sandpipers, Red Necked Stints and Red Capped Plovers.

Some of the Curlew Sandpipers and Red Knots were in spectacular breeding plumage.

Curlew Sandpiper in red breeding plumage
Apparently these birds will probably overwinter here.

After photographing the waders, we started to head back. It was a 1.3Km walk back to the carpark, but a Brown Goshawk being attacked by a raven added some interest.


We then headed over to Reef Island, but that's another story.

All up, we got 6 lifers, and 10 new species for 2017.  Lifer pie consisted of a piece of Apple Slice from the Rosedale bakery.


Monday, 5 June 2017

The Haunted Stream (Stirling)

The Haunted Stream (Stirling)


The Haunted Stream is a small river that winds its way down the Tambo Valley into the Tambo River. The countryside is steep and rugged, and there are no major roads for access. 

Today there are only a few campsites and some mine shafts, but around 100 years ago, the Haunted Stream was a hive of activity. Over 800 people lived and worked in and around the town of Stirling. 100 gold stampers crushed the quartz from dozens of mines. There was a hotel, school, store and police station. Today is are only a few remaining bricks and mineshafts that dot the hills.

The name Haunted Stream is of a slightly unclear origin. The general opinion is that it stems from the murder of “Ballarat Harry” ( Roger Tichbourne) by Tom Toke in the Haunted Stream headwaters.  Keith McD Fairweather says, “One other suggestion as to how the stream became known as haunted has been put to me, but in view of the weight of the evidence supporting the murder aspect, it cannot be correct, although interesting. When the stream was first opened up, there was a colony of Powerful Owls there. This bird is known as the screech owl to many, because its cry has been known to send men rushing off into the night to rescue a woman being murdered.” ( Fairweather, Keith McDonald. Time To Remember. 1st ed. [Doctor's Flat, Vic.]: [Keith McD. Fairweather], 1975.  Page 208).   However, I have been reliably informed that Powerful Owls do not screech,  so the screeching was most likely from a Sooty Owl.

Gold was discovered in 1863, and the rush began in 1865. A Hungarian digger by the name of John Polich opened the Passover mine in 1882.  Many more mines followed.

https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/773815
 In 1882, the town that had sprung up at Haunted Stream was to be named Nelson. However, it was actually called Stirling, after James Stirling who was a geologist in the area.

A state school was opened in 1887, with a maximum attendance of 80. 

https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/767950

However, Stirling had no agriculture or any other way of surviving other than gold. So, by the early 1900's, the town was dwindling.  According to Keith McD Fairweather, a potato farmer and some friends attempted to drive a tunnel though Hans Hill in the 1930's, but it never eventuated. 

https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/767952
 
https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/767950
Today, the Haunted Stream is a popular 4X4 destination, with its many creek crossings and steep hills. 

During the winter, gates block access into the Haunted Stream, though the old town site of Stirling is still accessible. 

Birding wise, there is nothing special. Azure Kingfisher in the river, Yellow Tufted Honeyeater, Grey Shrike Thrush, Bassian Thrush and currawong are the main birds to be seen. 


Bassian Thrush

Azure Kingfisher

The track into the Haunted Stream is quite rough and slippery when wet. Only 4X4 or All Wheel Drives should be driven in there. 

Straight down

Haunted Stream track

A small tunnel.
The Haunted Stream is a great spot to visit, whether you are bird-watching, 4X4ing, picnicking, or interested in local history. 




References

"Explore Museums Victoria's Humanities And Natural Sciences Collections". Museums Victoria Collections. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 June 2017.

Fairweather, Keith McDonald. Time To Remember. 1st ed. [Doctor's Flat, Vic.]: [Keith McD. Fairweather], 1975. Print.

Fleet, James. The History Of Gold Discovery In Victoria. 1st ed. Print.

Gardner, P. D. Names Of The Great Alpine Road Between Bairnsdale And Omeo. 1st ed. Ensay, Vic: Ngarak, 1997. Print.

"Home". Trove. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 June 2017.

Shire Of Tambo, 1882-1982. 1st ed. [Lakes Entrance, Vic.]: [The Shire], 1982. Print.

Steenhuis, Luke. Secrets Of Ghost Towns Of The High Country. 1st ed. Vermont, Vic.: Research, 1998. Print.

Watson, Angus B. Lost & Almost Forgotten Towns Of Colonial Victoria. 1st ed. [Victoria, Australia]: Angus B. Watson and Andrew MacMillan Art & Design, 2003. Print.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Global Big Day 2017

Global Big Day 2017

Global Big Day is an international eBird event where thousands of birders from across the world go birding, and submit as many eBird checklists as possible. So far, over 13,000 people have participated, submitting nearly 33,000 checklists, and these figures are going up rapidly. 

Global Big Day in Australia was on May 13 this year. Last year we went to Cape Conran and Marlo, but this year I wanted to keep it more local, to save on travel time. After having a look at Google Maps, I came up with a route. The list of places we went to this year, with the key bird species I was after are listed here:


Mossiface: Starting point for the day. Common backyard birds.

Tambo Upper: Cattle Egret, Chestnut Teal.

Swan Reach: Blue Billed Duck, Australasian Grebe.

Tambo Bay: Pied and Sooty Oystercatcher, Crested Tern.

Bullock Island: Pacific Gull, Black Faced and Little Pied Cormorant.

Lakes Entrance Treatment Plant: Any sort of duck, mainly Pink Eared.

Burnt Bridge: White Throated Treecreeper, Rose Robin, (dipped) Eastern Yellow Robin, Azure Kingfisher.

Colquhoun: Chestnut Rumped Heathwren,(dipped), Spotted Quail Thrush, Yellow Tufted Honeyeater.

Wards Rd: Emu.

Mossiface: Lunch.

The Cut: Red Capped Plover (dipped), Musk Duck, Kestrel, Whistling Kite, Red Necked Avocet.

Jones Bay: Black Winged Stilt.

Lees Rd: Grey Fantail, Collared Sparrowhawk.


Tambo Flats: Black Shouldered Kite.

Tambo Flats, from Mossiface

We got a total of 88 species, and 20 checklists, in 8 hours. The Lakes Entrance Treatment Plant had 5 specie of duck, making this our best stop. Burnt Bridge was also very good, with Azure Kingfisher, Bell Miner, and most of the bush birds.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Lonely Bay Walk

Lonely Bay Walk

Lonely Bay Walk is a 5km return walk at Lake Tyers. It follows the shoreline of Blackfellow Arm that extends out into Lake Tyers. The walk can be accessed from Blackfellow Arm tk, which runs off Burnt Bridge Rd. Lonely Bay Walk can also be accessed using a boat.  The walk has moderate terrain, and it has recently been "rake hoed" clear.


Gang Gang Cockatoo
Lonely Bay Walk travels through a wide range range of environments. Wet gullies, dry open forest, lakeside and thick scrub. This accommodates a good scope of bird species. Black Swan, Great Egret, Whistling Kite, Sea Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Wonga Pigeon, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Sacred and Azure Kingfisher, Superb Lyrebird and Bassian Ground Thrush can all be readily seen here.


The walking track is in a wide "U" shape, starting on Blackfellow Arm Tk, and ending at the end of Blackfellow Arm Tk. There is a picnic area with a walking track and steps down to the water.

Even if you aren't a bird watcher, there is still plenty to see. There is a good range of flora, and plenty of wallabies and goannas too.



Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Cut and Jones Bay

The Cut and Jones Bay

I have previously written a post on The Cut, but I think that it needs a new post.

 The Cut is a small "delta" that was created when the Mitchell River broke through the Silt Jetties into Jones Bay. This delta of small sand islands are a haven for shorebirds, terns and many other water birds. The sand islands are very much affected by wind and rainfall.
The Cut-Google Maps

Jones Bay is a bay formed by the Silt Jetties and the northern edge of the Gippsland Lakes. It is a favourite location for Eurasian Coot, Musk Duck, Swan and Great Crested Grebe.

Jones Bay-Google maps
Jones Bay and The Cut can be accessed by Riverbank East Rd. Riverbank East Rd can be accessed from McEacharn St, from the Princes Hwy.

Curlew Sandpipers
Caspian Tern with fish

Birds that can be seen at The Cut are:

Waders: Curlew and Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper, Red Necked Stint, Red Capped Plover, Pacific Golden Plover and  Common Greenshank.

Cormorants and Darter: Darter, Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorant.

Terns:  Caspian, Common, Little and Fairy Tern.

Raptors:  Peregrine Falcon, Swamp Harrier, Sea Eagle, and Whistling Kite.

Red Capped Plover and Red Necked Stints
Common Greenshank
Red Capped Plover

 Birds that can be seen at Jones Bay:

Duck: Musk Duck, Grey and Chestnut Teal.

Terns: Same as The Cut

Raptor: Same as The Cut.

Great Crested and  Hoary Headed Grebe.

Eurasian Coot.

Golden Headed Cisticola.

White Fronted Chat.

Terns
Red Necked Avocet
Whistling Kite

Golden Headed Cisticola
Jones Bay and The Cut are excellent birding places. The Cut is a hive of activity during the summer months, with migratory waders, and Jones Bay is always a great spot for raptors, duck and cisticola. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Howe Flat

Howe Flat

Howe Flat is located in the far eastern end of East Gippsland and  is part of the Cape Howe Wilderness Area. 


Howe Flat can only be practically accessed using a 4x4, though a boat could also be used, but this could be difficult. Directions to Howe Flat by car are: Turn onto Maxwells Rd from the Princes Hwy, 7.4Km north east from the NSW/VIC border. Continue down Maxwells Rd (Maxwells Rd turns into Buckland Rd) until you come to Lakeview Tk on your right. There is a gate here, that is closed during the winter months. Take Lakeview Tk and continue on it until you get to Howe Flat Tk on your right. Take this track, and you will get to Howe Flat. Note: The Lakeview Tk is windy, steep and very narrow. There is a creek crossing and a number of steep gullies. Most of the track has no mobile phone reception, so be careful at all times. All the tracks are well sign posted, so you shouldn't get lost. 


Lakeview Tk

Lakeview Tk

Once you arrive at Howe Flat, there is a walking track that leads to the ocean. Ground Parrot, Southern Emu Wren, Eastern Bristlebird and a variety of honeyeaters can be seen along here. Once you reach the ocean, you will be able to see Gabo and Tullaburga Island. If you have a spotting scope, you may be able to see Black Faced Cormorants on Tullaburga Island. Australasian Gannets can be seen feeding off the coast, and albatross and petrels are always a possibility. 

An unfortunate Ground Parrot,

The walking track to the beach at Howe Flat
Red Necked Stints on the Beach at Howe Flat.

Snakes are also rather abundant on the Howe Flat area, so be very careful. 


Gabo Island

Howe Flat is an excellent place to visit, providing you have the right car, and plenty of time. The birdlife is excellent, and the scenery is also great. This is a must visit place.