Sue's Big Year challenge 2020

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sue818
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Sue's Big Year challenge 2020

I planned to wait until Small Year info all completed but do not want to forget these two taken on New Year's Day as we drove to Melbourne.

First one is just for Dev as I could not post one in the Small Year. However, there was quite a lot of smoke so impossible to get a crisp shot.

1. Gang-gang Cockatoo male and female

2. Yellow-faced honeyeater (with a lerp I think) from Yackandandah

dwatsonbb
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They are nice photos Sue, given the current climate. Off to a great start.

Wondering if you can edit your title to add in 2020? Might make it easier if these challenges become an ongoing annual event. 
 

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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I have done as suggested, Dale... good idea but not sure where I should put 2020 so stuck it on the end. Maybe it should be first?

dwatsonbb
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I reckon it's right at the end, that was where I am going to put it when it's my turn. Thanks Sue.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

pip-lb
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That is a great shot of the gang gang's. I love these birds. They inhabit a spot where i go back to camp year after year in the victorian alpine area. 

Ok. So the big year challenge has begun. Thanks for kicking it off Sue. I have a few i'll upload in the next couple of days. 

sue818
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Thanks all. Just thought I would forget them being the very first day! No more since. Looking forward to seeing more from you & wondering what numbers we will reach. Would be good to get some more players on board from other parts but 5 is still a good number. 

Devster
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Awww thanks Sue, they are so cute. I would really love to photograph these birds one day.

Alex Rogers
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Those gang-gangs are brilliant, I'd love to see some. Nice atmospheric shot in the smoke haze. 

sue818
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Gang-gangs really are lovely birds and easily located by that 'creaking door' sound. I have seen them a number of times in this place, Derrick VC rest area off the Hume Highway between Marulan and Goulburn.

Ventured into my local park this morning without much expectation as it is very dry with not even a bit of Mistletoe to stake out but occasionally it does deliver big time.

3 Powerful Owl... to make my day.  There were a pair in exactly the same paperbark as when I sighted them some years ago. They are quite difficut to spot and photograph without those sticks and in awful backlight. The droppings helped locate them.

4  Laughing Kookaburra ... an immature one 'laughing' softly with another and awaiting the parent's return.

5  Crested Pigeon... should be able to improve on this and appears that I can just edit the post & switch pictures.

I will also post a view in Best Photos as Dale requested to garner some interest for our Big Year. Still stoked about the Powerful Owls!

Alex Rogers
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Oh that Powerful Owl is awesome! Great sighting, and nice work on getting such a good shot in difficult circumstances. I didn't realise that they are decorated with BIF logos on their fronts :-) I have never seen one, perhaps I can hit you up for a description of where to look? 

Devster
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Yes I'm in love with the Powerful Owl photo. I haven't managed to see one in a few years. Yes the chevrons on the front do look like BIF Alex. lol

dwatsonbb
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As always, great photos Sue. Thanks.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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I think that I must be going for quality over quantity as I had another wonderful sighting today and little else...

6.  that elusive Black Bittern ... I'll post a couple more in Best Photos for the interesting poses. Super week so far! Yes Alex, happy to share what little knowledge I have with you.

pip-lb
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Fantastic. What a weird looking bird. Elusive and yet a really good photo. Well done. 

Devster
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WOW! How do you just get a Black Bittern out in the open like that. It's unheard of. I have not seen any of our Bitterns

sue818
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It appears to be in the open but actually you could not see it except from where I stood as ferns hid it. Very lucky as told where it had been seen earlier that morning so I went to check. Nowhere in sight so I walked along the creek bed and flushed it onto the opposite bank. Great views in between the fern fronds. I was very pleased to get a decent picture after last year's overposed flight shot.

dwatsonbb
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Patience pays off. Nice find, and agree the quality is sublime.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
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Oh that Bittern is beautiful. What an unusual bird, and a great shot. I thought I saw one the other day and got a dodgy BIF shot, but probably a striated heron instead. Nice one Sue. 

sue818
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Now for a few more form recent days around Sydney... where it is now raining quite nicely... think I have lost the Japanese Maple but there is still hope for the other trees.

7  Eastern Yellow Robin in a slightly differnt pose to its usual side of a tree

8 Bell Miner feeding a young one hidden deep in the lantana

9  Superb Fairywren ... a cooperative female singing her heart out

10 Purple Swamphen... no sun to catch the full colour of the plumage but the chick is cute

11  Australian Magpie... one of the locals but not a very interesting shot

sue818
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As Every Bird Counts (EBC), here are some which I hope to improve upon as the year progresses. Sadly, I just missed a shot of a Collared Sparrowhawk when someone unintentionally popped up in front of the camera! Of course, the bird then flew off. A bit like the fish that got away! Still lots of time to try for another.

12  Australian White Ibis... would not come out of the shadow

13 White-throated Treecreeper... needed to be closer but it was moving into trees over the water

14  Dollarbird ... old picture replaced with a much better one taken in Mudgee

Devster
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Great set Sue. The Bell Miner and Swamphen chick are just adorable. I especially love the Swamphen chick with that green backgound as it really makes him pop. Glad you are getting some of this rain as well.

Alex Rogers
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Love the swamphen chick too, great playful shot. 

sue818
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15 Speckled Warbler... thrilled to find three in Glen Davis in the Capertee Valley as I have only seen this bird once before. Two pictures because I like them both.

dwatsonbb
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Some nice photos, I particularly like the Speckled Warbler, I think that would that would been a special moment, Bell Miner shots are also great, but then they are all great.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Devster
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Wow those Speckled Warbler shots are amazing Sue. So crisp and clear

sue818
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Yes, the Speckled Warbler is a beautiful bird and uncommon so I was very lucky as they were also quite obliging.

Working my way through the pictures from the last few days but will take a while as the camera (or its operator) was not performing as per normal. Will have to switch cameras and send this one for a service. Not sure what I can do about the operator!

A few from Mudgee and then some from around the Capertee Valley.

16  Australasian Shoveler... great to see it feeding at Putta Bucca Wetlands in Mudgee but there appears to be a red plume on the large pond and there were numerous dead fish (large carp) and a dead Pelican. I am told it happened after a recent storm.

17 Australasian Grebe... always nice to see these little guys which were on the healthy pond over the back.

18  Australian Pelican... liked the atmosphere of this photo

19   Australian Pipit... very obliging poser in good light

20  Australian Reed-warbler... hope to improve on this at a later date. They were very vocal and flitting in and out of the reeds but always vanished as I raised the camera!

21   Black-fronted Dotterel... always obliging and come out well in the photos although this lot were flying all over the place not just running. Suspect this is a young one.

22  Black-eared Cuckoo... a special one as I have only seen it a couple of times before and in this area or Capertee Valley... the best image I could manage despite it taking time over a drink. It seems to have come out quite brown but is more grey, I think.

23  Dusky Moorhen... might get a better shot later but might as well include this one as it was feeding

24  Dusky Woodswallow... note the white edge on the wing. Again I usually get a much better shot as these are quite obliging but not this day!

25 immature Grey Shrike-thrush... note the rufous eyebrow still visible; a very curious individual who came to check me out.

26 Brown Treecreeper... I liked both shots, lift-off at Putta Bucca and grounding at Glen Alice in the Capertee Valley

27  Diamond Firetail... one of the prettiest birds around; a plump little thing with a snowy white breast, brilliant red trimmings and lovely white polka dots on a black skirt undercut with a white petticoat... of course, it could be male or female

28  Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike... a very average shot from the Capertee Valley and I hope to replace it sometime.

sue818
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A few more from the trip to Mudgee ... I need to get those numbers up! Will post more when I have some time.

Firstly, I have replaced number 14 Dollarbird with a better one taken in Mudgee. Please see earlier post which I have edited.

29   Black-shouldered Kite .. a bit distant but still showing off the lovely shoulder colour and those startling red eyes

30  Common Starling.. awful back light but the iridesence still apparent

31  Eastern Rosella... gorgeous fresh plumage

32  Fan-tailed Cuckoo... awful back light yet again as it was being harassed by the White-browed Scrubwrens

33  Galah... sitting in the shade on a hot day with a number of young ones

34   immature Golden Whistler showing the rufous coulour and curiosity of the young 

35  Eastern Great Egret... not a great shot but starting to change into breeding colour

36  male Australian King Parrot... sitting in the shade in all its splendour

37  Little Black Cormmorant... happily posed for ages until I got the settings right ... fantastic eye colour

38  Little Pied Cormorant... sitting quietly next to the other cormorant and waiting around as I got the shots

39 female Magpie-lark... not sporting an eyebrow like the male

40  Common Bronzewing... an EBC which I hope to upgrade later. Taken quickly as the storm was about to hit us.

41  Jacky Winter... a clear ID shot with those white edges to the tail and a lovely little robin

sue818
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And a few more from Capertee Valley and Mudgee.

42 Royal Spoonbill... gorgeous bird to catch in flight

43 Mistletoebird... calling often this trip

44 Pacific Black Duck ... yes that is the tongue protruding through the bottom of the bill... accident of some sort but seems OK

45 Plum-headed Finch... great to see these ones again as not often found and no fact sheet available

46  White-browed Scrubwren... serious looking character

47  Rainbow Bee-eater... focus a bit soft but I like it anyway... post bath

48  White-winged Chough... adult with that complete red eye

49  Masked Lapwing

50  Red-kneed Dotterel... quite a photogenic subject

51  Red-rumped Parrot... plenty of these about

52  Rock Dove... almost walked over my feet to get a drink from the the river

53  immature Forest Kingfisher... thanks, Dev (initially mislabeled as a Sacred KF).

54  Silvereye... always a cutie

sue818
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And still more from the same area but not great shots so hope to replace at some stage

55  Red-browed Finch

56  White-plumed Honeyeater

57  Pied Stilt (not counting Teal as another picture of them to come)

58  Striated Pardalote... awful picture but very high in the trees... note the red dot

59  Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

60  Welcome Swallow... about to catch a bug which you can just see

61  Yellow-rumped Thornbill

62  Willie Wagtail... doing an odd run

Devster
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Wow, you have certainly been busy Sue. Great set and great to see sooo many species and it's only January! Your Kingfisher has me thinking. With that colouring and buff Lores, I wondered if it was an Immature Forest Kingfisher? Happy to be wrong. The action shot of the Welcome Swallow is fantastic and that Chough with the Red Eye looks evil. lol.

sue818
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Thanks, Dev, quite correct, it appears to be an immature Forest Kingfisher (post now edited). I was trying to photograph a Sacred Kingfisher feeding another when the pair flew off and this one landed 2 minutes later in a nearby tree. I should have picked it up when processing the pictures but ... too tired?

Anyway, here is the picture of the Sacred Kingfisher pair for comparison. The buff breast is obvious as is the greenish blue unlike the brighter blue on the Forest KF.

63  Sacred Kingfisher

dwatsonbb
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Some more nice photos Sue, would love to see the Kingfishers one day. There are supposed to be Azure and Sacred near home, but I have not been able to find them yet!

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
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Some awesome photos Sue - looks like a great trip. Love the kingfishers (who doesn't) and cool to see the subtle differences. I've never seen a Plum-headed Finch, very nice. Love your photo of the Dotterel too - while they are photogenic, the eye can easily disappear into the black head, and you've caught the light very well. The bad-boy chough photo catches their gregarious nature well, too. 

sue818
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Thanks, hope you find those Kingfishers, Dale as they are well worth the effort... often sitting quietly on the lowest branch over the water.  The trip was a sudden decision to get out and see how Capertee went with the fires and visit friends in Mudgee... usually a good value trip.

Alex, Dotterells of any sort seem to be happy to pose but you do need to get the light right. I will post a young White-winged Chough in Show us your Chicks but do not have any shots that show that white wing patch well. I have often found Plum-headed Finch around Mudgee especially in my friend's veggie patch!

sue818
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64  a pair of Variegated Fairywrens (female then male) from Glen Davis in the Capertee Valley.

Little confused as to what to call it as differentiated from the Variegated Fairywren as Purple-backed Fairywren if west of the Great Divide by the IOC but not sure that the Birdlife Australia Working List has followed suit. So if I get a Variegated Fairywren (i.e. east of the Divide), can I post it as a separate species?

dwatsonbb
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Nice photos yet again Sue. As far as your Fairy Wrens go, i think you cannot count purple and variegated as separate species, would be similar to me posting a Tasmanian Wedgetailed Eagle (which some now list as endemic) and then posting a mainland wedgie. If It is in essence the same bird, just the location which separates them. If they havean obvious difference which seperates them maybe?  Personally I wouldn't care. 
Holly might have to make the final decision?

I assume the same would apply for the Eastern and Western Yellow Robin? So what about a Pale Yellow Robin?

I think I have raised more questions than I have answered.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Devster
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OK here's my 2 cents worth. I cannot find Purple-backed fairy Wrens in my guide anywhere so I'm guessing thats a name for one of the subspecies of Variegated Fairy Wrens and since we decided we're not counting subspecies it wouldn't count. As per Dales questions, Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis), Western Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria griseogularis) & Pale Yellow Robin (Tregellasia capito) are listed as seperate species and have totally different calls so in my opinion would all count seperately.

sue818
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Ok, just worth sorting out early before I get the local variegated Fairywren. Some people keep their lists on E-bird.  
 

We should use the BirdLife Australia Working List which is currently v3 and is available online. E-bird uses the IOC (international ornithological committee) list. Wish they were consistent! You will find some new splits such as Grey-headed Whistler which are not in field guides e.g. second print of latest CSIRO guide with better index has updated the sighting list even though guide remains the same.

Thanks guys.

Alex Rogers
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Yes, while the intention is simple (only full species count, not sub-species) the devil is in the detail! But this is a fun challenge, no sheep stations at risk, pretty easy to work out amongst ourselves, I think. I agree that we should refer to the current Birdlife WLAB for current definition of species. While I love eBird and use it for my own life lists and surveys, it does have some notable differences from the way we view things in Australia (and South Africa for that matter). I'll put a note to that effect on the rules section so its not lost in / clogging up Sue's thread - if anyone has any comments or preferences, lets discuss it there. 

Alex Rogers
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Lovely shots of the Fairywrens by the way :-) 

sue818
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A few more from Olympic Park area in Sydney... a very hot and humid day to be out birding. Using a different camera and lens (D7200 with Nikon 300mm F4 PF) for this lot as the other sent off for servicing. I have replaced a couple of older posts 12 and 39 with better pictures (Australian White Ibis and Magoie Lark). I changed the Magpie Lark as on further inspection, it may have been an immature one rather than a female. I am also replacing 57 Pied Stilt but will do it in this post because it is in good company.

65  Black Swan

66  Chestnut Teal

67  Common Myna

68  a pair of Hardheads... white-eyed male and dark-eyed female

69  Eurasian Coot ... love those feet!

70  Little Egret... not a great shot as it was very shy and moved into the shade as soon as I saw it at the outlet

71  Pied Cormorant.... sporting a breeding flush and inflated sense of self as very interested in the females around him

72 Red-necked Avocet ... love these beautiful birds with their crazy scoop of a bill

replacement 57 Pied Stilt.. another gorgeous bird seen with the Avocets

73  Silver Gull... representative shot

74  White-faced Heron... keeping company wiht the Little Egret at the outlet

Alex Rogers
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You managed to get up nice and close to the Avocet and Stilts with that smaller lens, Sue and even closer for the swan - nice shots. 

sue818
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You can get very close at OP if the tide is right and the 300 mm PF is a great lens. I love the Stilts and Avocets there. The swan is a head shot because I could not get far enough away with a prime lens or I would have a fence in the way. My main problem was harsh light as mid-morning to noon. 

Devster
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Some beautiful shots there Sue. The Swan and the Pied Cormorant are my favs.

sue818
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Thanks guys, the light was awful so this next shot reflects that. Very hot and humid and the colour is off because of the glare. There were quite a lot of birds present at Olympic Park. Often they come in close to shore but most of these were too far off for the 300mm lens. Hard work birding in summer.

75  Sharp-tailed Sandpiper... this is heavily cropped and I know there is a Teal present but with the light, I am not happy to call it as Grey or Chestnut. An excuse for another visit.

dwatsonbb
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Oh for a minute, I thought you had mixed up a Sandpiper and a Teal (which would have to totally thrown me off - Sue getting one wrong hahah), actually had to look twice to see the target bird. Nice photo, and shows how species share the same patch. Thanks.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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Hoping to get out once more before cataract surgery but weather not promising... although the rain is wonderful. So keep up the good work and don't be concerned if I am absent for a bit. I'll work hard to catch up through the year... maybe some more travel.

karentwemlow
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Hope the surgery goes smoothly. Thanks for all your support so far :-)

karentwemlow
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Loving your photos too by the way. That Brown Treecreeper in the Capertee Valley is a pretty good find isn't it? We did some tree planting down at Glen Davis last year for the Regent Honeyeater. I was so anxious the fires were going to go through there, so glad they didn't. 

The young Golden Whistler is just gorgeous, one of my favourites. Like the robins, I think it's the big eyes that get me :-)

sue818
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Thank you. Should be fine as I had one eye done 2 years ago so the reduction in glare should make birding easier.

It was very dry in the valley although there had been some rain. Capertee Valley is a beautiful place and tree planting seems to be a success so I am also pleased the fires did not sweep through the entire valley. There were still some areas like the park closed off so we could not go to all the usual spots. The windmill on Crown Station road is usually a great spot but there was almost no water in the little dam once the road was opened. Glen Davis campground --- there are usually plenty of Brown Treecreepers as was the case this time but I was especially pleased to see the Speckled Warblers. I had only seen one in the Pilliga. Around church and graveyard in Glen Alice is also a good place.

Keep up the pictures, I will enjoy them.

Alex Rogers
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Good luck with the op, Sue, hoping for a very positive outcome as you suggest. Let us know when you are back in the saddle, and perhaps we can go for a walk together again soon. 

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