Alex's Big Year 2020

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Alex Rogers
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Alex's Big Year 2020

So - I welcomed 2020 in at the Manukah Campsite in Arthur River, Tasmania - not a bad place to be. Had classic Tassie weather on my morning bird walk - cold, grey, windy, warm, rain, blue sky and a bit is sea spray :-) No smoke in sight...

I started my year with pardalotes, which is about as good a way to start your year as it gets. I was confused about ID until I realised there were both spotted and striated pardalotes sharing the same nesting site (a besser-block wall) and feeding their young. They stopped on a nearby wire to check for hazards before returning to the nest, and after about 20 minutes they got completely used to me and ignored me. 

1) Spotted Pardalote

2) Striated Pardalote

Alex Rogers
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I picked up a few of the more common locals on my morning walk around Arthur River

3) Australasian Pipit

4) European Goldfinch. These had me really puzzled until I worked out they were juvenile Goldfinches - quite different to the adults

5) Common Blackbird - having a good sing in the rain. 

6) Black Currawong - had some good sightings around the campsite, they were less reticent here. 

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The beach was quite productive. Arthur River mouth is spectacular, with thousands of logs thrown up on the beach, really wild. 

7) Sooty Oystercatcher

8) Pied Oystercatcher

9) Ruddy Turnstone - haven't seen these for many years, and never photographed them, so they were quite exciting

10) White-fronted chat - took a lot of dud photos of the males, but this female came out ok. 

Alex Rogers
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More from Arthur River

11) White-bellied Sea Eagle. From a boat cruise up the Arthur River. I blew some great BIF opportunities, but got this one as small compensation. Had some amazing sightings of them as the boat crew feed them regularly and they came down to get fish.

12) Pacific Gull. Such powerful and handsome birds

13) Red-capped Plover - chased them all over the beach, need to work on my stealth techniques. 

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Now for a batch of horrible EBCs. Took a few photos on a grey dawn walk that were very low light - wouldn't normally submit them but who knows when/if I'll see these birds again this year? All of them only possible at all by shooting at super high ISO.

14) Green Rosella

15) Common Bronzewing - a first for me, shot in the near dark with ISO54000!

16) Hooded Plover

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Still in Arthur River

17) Laughing Kookaburra

18) Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

19) Masked Lapwing

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We then headed on to Stanley on the north coast. I checked out East & West Inlets, where I picked up a couple of cormorants, and the Black River campsite whcih had some good woodland birds. 

20) Great Cormorant - not great light, but I like the pose

21) Black-faced Cormorants with one Great Cormorant

22) Yellow-throated Honeyeater

23) Dusky Woodswallow

24) Grey Fantail

25) Black-headed Honeyeater

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But the real reason we were at Stanley was this bird, something I've wanted to see for so long. An EBC for sure, but I think you'll agree its a difficult bird to photograph! They only come ashore after dark, and its really important not to disturb them - so I was shooting hand held by the light of the ranger's little red torch. I was very pleased to get anything at all! The photo isn't much - but a good memento of an awesome sighting - we saw 60-70 of them coming ashore at pretty close range, and heard their chicks calling for them and the adults chatting with them as they fed their young - very cool. 

26) Little Penguin

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And a final few from the Tassie trip. 

27) Common Starling

28) Cape Barren Goose - great to see these and hear them honking as they flew in from the offshore islands up North. 

29) House Sparrow

30) Superb Fairywren - also ubiquitous in Tasmania, many in their full breeding colours. Quite like this shot as they might look cute to us, but I bet the spiders find them scary!

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31) Pink Robin - finally managed a shot of the complete bird on our final day in Tasmania

32) Tasmanian Nativehen - a last endemic for the trip

33) Black-fronted Dotterel - immature

And I think that brings my Tassie trip to an end. 

Alex Rogers
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Missed one

34) Grey Shrike-thrush

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And back to the mainland... sunrise last weekend over my local Barton Park wetlands...looks like the negative of the Aboriginal flag, perhaps appropriate...

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It was so sad - the wetlands have dried up, and nearly all the birds are gone - the avocets, the stilts with their young that were just fledging when I left, the teal and the cormorants. I walked up to the lantana hedges that were so prolific last year with their finches and mannikins, wrens and honeyeaters. The lantana is dead, and the natives almost gone, no birds. I tallied 12 species on eBird instead of my usual 35+. It will be interesting t see what the researchers using that data show about bird density and mortality - but this drought is clearly devastating to the local birdlife, and I suspect it is similar on a much much wider scale. 

Still, I tried to make the best of the unusual light, and got a few photos. 

35) Spotted Dove

36) Rock Doves - tried to get a more abstract shot of this common bird, not entirely successful

37) Galah - on the football nets in the abandoned Barton Park

38) Striated Heron in the mangroves nearby. I found out that Striated Herons are always associated with mangroves. Bit of an EBC, he wouldn't let me get close. 

39) White-faced Heron - quite like the mood of this shot, but just missed focus. Have to learn to use the off-centre focus points in my camera, and try back-button focus. 

40) Nankeen Kestrel. This was a great sighting - the kestrel scared up the rock doves above, then was swooped by a posse of young male magpies who hang around there - and then the galahs took him on. They were having a ball chasing him - they were literally playing with him, you could tell they thought it was a great hoot chasing him around, doing aerobatics etc. I don't think I'm anthropomorphising, the magpies were all business, but the galahs were definitely having fun. The kestrel was chased from pillar to (goal)post and eventually gave up and flew off in disgust. 

41) Australian Magpie - one of the juveniles who took on the kestrel

42) Australian Pelican - flyover by a pair, one very raggedy from moult

Devster
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Wow what a cracker of a start, up tp 42 species already! You've certainly hit the ground running Alex. I especially love the fluffy Pink Robin and like the compositions of the Ruddy Turnstones. Time for me to get off my butt.

dwatsonbb
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What can I say - congratulations on a flying start, some awsome photos there. I do like you Little Penguin photo with the red light. Apparently the red is easier on the eyes for the birds, so although we sacrifice natural colours, you can get a shot which otherwise would be near impossible. Thanks for posting.

Are you going to pace yourself, or just keep pushing through? Either way look forward to more of your work.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

pip-lb
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Great work. I love the great cormorant! Do birds yawn? 

sue818
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I really need to get a move on as you are off to a fantastic start as well Alex. A great selection and I love the Pink Robin. Did you note that your Tasmanian Striated Pardalote has a yellow spot rather our usual red spot? 

Devster
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sue818 wrote:

Did you note that your Tasmanian Striated Pardalote has a yellow spot rather our usual red spot? 

I did not know that Sue, you are a fountain of knowledge. Thank you for sharing and feel free to share any other little pearls of wisdom as well.  I had a look and it seems there are about 4 subspecies of Striated Pardalote. I get the race melanocephalus 'Black-headed Pardalote' up here in Brissy

Alex Rogers
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Thanks for the comments all. 

Dale - I'll just take the opportunities when I can. The locals are getting scarcer and scarcer - but I'll be travelling quite a bit for work and play this year, so will hopefully visit a few areas with lots of birds. I have a Darwin trip coming up soon and am taking the family into the Kakadu for a long weekend, so that should produce a few different birds. 

Pip - yes, birds yawn

Sue - thanks for the pointer. No, I've never observed striated pardalotes before, and wasn't aware of all the different subspecies. Because they were nesting next to and interacting closely with spotted pardalotes, they had me puzzled for a while anyway - took me some time to work out that they were Striated, not oddly-coloured Spotteds. I've done some more reading since then on all the pardalotes, very cool birds. 

sue818
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Alex, if visiting Kakadu, make sure you do an early morning Yellow Waters cruise. Wonderful fun for the family with plenty of crocodiles & buffalo but great birds for you. Don't forget Fogg Dam on the way there or back as even a brief visit is worthwhile & it is beautiful. 

Thought you might not have known about the different Pardalotes and your picture was a great demonstration. We occasionally see the yellow spot but usually it is the red. 

Alex Rogers
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42) Pelican - already posted one, but here is another one that I like. Fishie's last slide. 

43) Rainbow Lorikeets - yes, we feed them a little every day in our garden

44) Australian Raven - "I'm loving summer" with Maccas

45) Willie Wagtail feeding young. Interesting to note how much bigger the newly fledged chick is than its parent - the aduly was kept constantly busy catching insects while the youngster just sat there and cried for food - must be exhausting for the adults. 

Devster
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Wow, you are off to a great start Alex. I do love the Pelican with the fishie slide

Alex Rogers
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Hooray for some rain this weekend! Got out taking some photos even so - my local ponds are full of water again and some of the birds are back - so good to see. Challenging light, so no great photos - but saw some good birds. 

At my local Landing Light Wetlands, the avocets are back. 

46) Red-necked Avocet

Alex Rogers
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47) Red-rumped Parrots - I found a pair on the roof in the rain, Female and Male

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48) a rather soggy Crested Pigeon

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And then I took the kids to Jamberoo to play on the waterslides in the rain while I spent 6 hours exploring the Killalea State Reserve near Shellharbour. What a great place - even with the lagoon still dry, there was a mix of habitats from coastal heath, wet coastal forest, casuarina groves, fruting fig trees and shoreline, so plenty of birds. I was super-excited to find 3 lifers - poor quality photos unfortunately due to very bad light and rain, but Every Bird Counts... and these count double for me :-) 

49) Oriental Dollarbird - if I had a dollar for each dollarbird I've seen, I'd now have $4! They were all perched on the highest possible spear of a stick against the white sky. Awesome birds, I'd love to see one in good light 

50) Topknot Pigeon - I was advised (by the Illawarra Bird Observer's Club in their handy guide to the area) to check the fruiting fig trees carefully - it was good advice! 

51) Eastern Spinebill - another reasonably common bird that I've wanted to see for a long time, and never have. They were active in the casuarinas, and I never saw one in good light, but had a great sighting of them moving through the trees. 

52) Variegated Fairywren - almost as good as a lifer, this is the first time I've managed to photograph one. Ive seen a few, but they are a lot shyer than their more common Superb cousins. I added a second photo to show the chestnut shoulders clearly. 

Alex Rogers
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I saw lots of other cool birds on this walk, but conditions were really challenging, with driving rain alternating with flat white glare. Still, always great to get out and practise in less than ideal conditions. 

53) Golden-headed Cisticola - singing in the reeds down by the dry lagoon. Took me a while to sneak up close enough, but eventually got a reasonable shot. 

54) Fan-tailed cuckoo. Have been hearing them calling a lot this summer, but this is the first time I had a crack at a photo - he was quite obliging

55) Figbird - a real EBC shot, will try for better. 

and a white-faced heron in the rain just because I quite like it (already posted) 

Alex Rogers
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56) Magpie Lark

57) Black-faced Monarch - only saw a couple of these last year, so was pleased to see this one, complete with dragonfly

58) Eastern Yellow Robin laughing at the idea that they can't sit on horizontal sticks

59) Crimson Rosella looking super-saturated (in colour as well as water)

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60) Silvereye were everywhere, but moving fast in the undergrowth as they do

61) Little Wattlebirds were also enjoying the flowers

62) Red Wattlebirds were out being bossy and showing of their colours

63) Golden Whistlers were also abundant

Alex Rogers
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64) Silver Gull - a windswept pano for something a bit different (167 gulls in case you were wondering :-) 

Alex Rogers
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But probably my favourite photo of the day was this one on the way back to Jamberoo - love the matching colours and proprietary air of this egret. I added a more conventional photo as well.

65) Cattle Egret with matching cow. 

pip-lb
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Haha, that cattle egret photo is hilarious, gold. The fan tailed cuckoo is beautiful too, actually that's a damn good collection of birds generally. Great stuff Alex. 

Devster
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Yes that Cattle Egret is a cracker. A very nice collection of birds indeed Alex. I do like the Black faced Monarch and the Cuckoo especially.

Alex Rogers
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Thanks guys :-) Was a fun weekend in the rain, and today Sydney is clear, warm with blue clean skies for the first time this summer - actually feels the first day of a normal summer. Here's hoping for more rain and a return to something closer to normal. (The "old" normal"...)

Tomorrow I'm off to Darwin for work, then will have 4 days off with the family in Kakadu. Will be staying at Cooinda and getting out a bit on Yellow Water, will go via Fogg Dam (for as long as the family can handle it :-) and doing a lot of walks in the area, so will hopefully come back with a few new birds in the camera. It is not the ideal time - expecting 35 degrees, lots of rain and super-high humidity, and the birds will be well dispersed - but it was too good an opportunity to miss, and I havent been there for 30 years. Looking forward to it. 

sue818
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Love the Cattle Egret with cow and well done catching the Black-faced Monarch with cicada (rather than dragonfly, I think). Looking forward to some wonderful new birds from NT. 
I have been trying to catch up to all of you but yesterday saw us drive through a fierce storm with plenty of wind & impressive lightning, tree parts over the road (4 of us required to move the second one which was a complete tree!), followed by an equally impressive dust storm! Birding halted. Once home, I will load a few birds that I managed to find but also seem to be having some camera issues... although it could be the operator.

Enjoy Kakadu and Fogg Dam... a Pied Heron would be nice.

Alex Rogers
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I'm up in Darwin now, and my plan to hit a couple of local spots before work tomorrow has hit a hitch - torrential rain! Lovely to go out and walk in warm rain, so rare in Sydney, but I'm not taking my camera out in it. Forecast is rain for the entire 5 day stay :-( Ah well, will enjoy walking with my binoculars in the rain if it doesn't let up, and just enjoy seeing what I see. 

sue818
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Oh dear, the camera would probably fogg up as well! Enjoy the binoculars and time with the family.

Devster
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Noooooo! I feel for you Alex, although you seem to be taking it well

dwatsonbb
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Great shots Alex, I also like the Cattle Egret with its oversized look alike. Bad luck on the weather, hopefully you still might get something new.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
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Just got back - midnight flight ex Darwin getting in at 6am into Sydney, and straight to work - going to be a tough day. But despite my pessimism, we had very little rain in the Kakadu, and managed to get out every day for walks, a cruse on Yellow Water, even a scenic flight over the waterfalls. We explored some of the Aboriginal art sites and learned a bit about the local culture and history, and while it wasn't a birding trip (as my family repeatedly insisted) I managed to get in a good bit of birding, and saw a lot of new birds, even managed to photograph a few. It was some of the most challenging conditions I've ever tried photographing in - 35+ degrees every day, 100% humidity, dense swarms of flies and mosquitos. You are right Sue, I did Fogg up, the first 15 minutes of every bird walk was spent mopping the front element of the lens - then the rest of the walk would be mopping the sweat off the viewfinder and trying to keep the flies out of my eyes. Yuk. With the wet well under way, the birds were no longer concentrated on Fogg Dam and the other permanent bodies of water, so Fogg itself was underwhelming - but the bird life generally was great, you just had to work a bit harder to spot it. And yesterday at lunchtime I was floating in a cool pool under a waterfall in the middle of the Kakadu which we had totally to ourselves - a very nice way to spend a couple of hours. 

It will take me some time to sort my photos (I have to do some work at some time...) but hopefully I have a few cool birds to post on the weekend. 

Devster
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Wow, very jealous but looking forward to seeing what birds you managed to get Alex

sue818
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Sounds like the trip was a success for you and the family... bet the crocodiles were appreciated. Nice that you managed a few birds, I am eager to see waht you managed to capture... still hanging out for a Pied Heron.

Alex Rogers
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Only got a few photos processed this weekend, too many chores! Ah well, here is a start anyway. Darwin was raining and hot, tricky conditions, but I saw a few birds around the city parks 

66) White-bellied Cuckooshrike - bit of an EBC shot really. (Misidentified Grey Whistler removed)

Alex Rogers
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67) Northern Fantail - a new bird for me, quite similar to our familiar Grey Fantail. No factsheets .

Alex Rogers
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68) Lemon-bellied Flycatcher / Flyrobin. A lovely little bird, and quite confiding like the similar Eastern Yellow Robin. No factsheet - look like BIBY doesn't have fact sheets for NT birds .

Alex Rogers
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69) Magpie Goose - saw these all over the Kakadu, but never got a better photo than right here in downtown Darwin. 

Alex Rogers
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70) Forest Kingfisher - these glorious birds were also common - saw them on most outings .

Alex Rogers
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71) Brahminy Kite - a snatched opportunity as he sailed past - got a bit lucky to get even this EBC. What a cool bird, he cruised over the foreshore for a while before heading out along the coast. Another new bird for me .

Alex Rogers
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72) Whistling Kite - I can finally tell them apart from Black Kites :-) 

Alex Rogers
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73) Torresian Imperial-pigeon. Love these striking white birds, and I quite like this shot of one with his gob full. 

sue818
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Nice set, Alex but I think 66 (b) shot is a Grey Whistler as you were in the area. A new one for you probably

Sue

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