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.


 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.
 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.

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.
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. 


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