Sue's small year challenge

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Alex Rogers
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I'm a rank beginner compared to you guys with 212 (aussie birds - have another 130 or so southern African birds), of which I've seen 174 this year. It does keep the excitement levels up with "lifers" possible any time and very likely whenever I travel :-) 

Obviously for this little comp photo ID is essential - but do I understand from you both that many birders will normally not count a personal lifer unless they get a clearly identifiable photo for their own records? Interesting, that certainly ups the difficulty, but I can see how that would improve the quality of your data (i.e. keep one honest!)

sue818
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I think the photographers require a photo as proof of a lifer but not every birder is into photography. Some record sightings & details in notebooks and may do sketches to capture field marks, shape, colour, habitat, behaviour & so on. 

I personally like a photo for my own confimation & find it is often helpful after the event ... sometimes a surprise is waiting just to one side. It is also great proof if you see a bird out of area or a vagrant. Two vagrants are on my list & both were accidental sightings; a Citrine Wagtail at a small wetland in Mudgee, NSW & a Rosy Starling on a floodplain in Arnhemland. For the first, I was on my own so a picture was great proof & the second was with a bus load of other birders.

So it is up to the individual. One thing worth suggesting is if you decide to maintain a list then decide early on how you will do so. I just use my PK app on my phone & sync to the IPad but the app is not current with new splits e.g. Variegated Fairywren & Purple-backed Fairywren. In this case, I double up on the entry & note one is the Purple-backed FW.

Sorry for the lengthy answer!

Alex Rogers
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Thanks Sue - very interesting. I started keeping a list last year (also PK app for field records, exporting to a spreadsheet for the life list) and then transitioned to eBird for its global reach when I did a Southern African trip earlier this year. I like the citizen-science and global aspects of eBird, and the app is easy & intuitive, so am maintaining my life list there. They also seem to keep current with splits and changes in taxonomy. I only started photography 6 months ago and am very much enjoying it, so try to photograph all the new birds I see anyway. Mostly for ID purposes as I'm still very shaky at field IDs, but every so often I get a really nice photo which inspires me to try to improve them all. I do keep note on my life list which birds I have ID shots of, and can see how it would be a fun target to try to photograph all the birds on my list. 

sue818
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A few more from Adelaide, Balranald and Bowra (Cunnamulla)

113 Crimson Rosella (race flaveolus or Yellow Rosella) --- at Balranald, NSW. Missed the Blue Bonnets as they cam eoff the side of the road so nice to get this Rosella.

114 Dusky Moorhen in Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Harsh light around lunchtime.

115 Hardhead in Adelaide Botanic Gardens... almost got that colour

116 Pacific Black Duck in Adelaide Botanic Gardens... harsh midday light again

And some more from Bowra but not my best efforts

117 Major Mitchell Cockatoo in early morning light but would have liked a profile picture. Only saw a few where last visit they were numerous.

118  Diamond Dove... love these little ones with such smart eye-liner

119 male Masked Woodswallow .. a bit far away but the white margin is quite noticeable

120 Mulga Parrot.. little jewels if caught in the right light

121 Red-winged parrot..stayed in the intense shade in the heat of the day

122 young Restless Flycatcher... waiting for its next meal... really cute

123 Rufous Songlark... enjoyed numerous trips to the water for a bath in late afternoon

124 Striped Honeyeater... striking bird

125 male White-browed Woodswallow... heaps of these around and a beautiful bird but late in the day

126 male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage... just miissed the focus a bit

127 Yellow-throated Miner ... such a poser always photgraphs well

Alex Rogers
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Some great birds Sue, and a good few new to me. That striped honeyeater IS striking and the White-browed woodswallow is just lovely. Very cool that you got an interesting subspecies for your Crimson Rosella - so different in yellow. 

And as suspected, you roar into the lead position! Good stuff :-) 

Devster
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A great lot of photos Sue. Those Mulgas would be a new one for me. When I went to Bowra about 3 years ago I barely saw any MMC only managed a photo from a distance. The Songlark was going from Dusk till Dawn going and going from tree to tree singing his little heart out. I didn't realise the Cimson Rosellas has so many subspecies. You learn something everyday. Thanks for sharing. You are now over double me in the bird count.

sue818
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Thanks for the feedback. I was a bit disappointed in my Bowra shots as I knew they could be much better but lots of reasons why they were not so just means another visit sometime. It is good value with so much on offer. First visit, MM were everywhere including outside our room & huge flocks so areal treat. This time only saw 2 together and a couple after we left Cunnamulla.

Crimson Rosellas and Australian Ringnecks have a number of varieties so they are the ones I make notes about... yet to see the Cloncurry Ringneck. Subtle differences to look for and we saw Port Lincoln & Mallee Ringnecks this trip. 

As to the count, a few awful shots to come and then I had best find some local birds. They were not cooperating at my local park yesterday but I know where the little waterhole is so if I can stand the mozzies, I might stake it out. Actually, it is not the count that really makes it fun... it is getting out there and encouraging more people to do so and really look at what is about .. even if it is an Indian Myna. Looking forward to more...  love to see a Crescent Honeyeater picture from someone or maybe a Dusky Robin.

Devster
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sue818 wrote:

Actually, it is not the count that really makes it fun... it is getting out there and encouraging more people to do so and really look at what is about .. even if it is an Indian Myna. Looking forward to more...  love to see a Crescent Honeyeater picture from someone or maybe a Dusky Robin.

That is so true Sue and I love seeing what birds everyone has in their neck of the woods. I'm hoping to get up to Mt Glorious tomorrow morning for a few rainforrest birds but they can be very tricky. As for your Dusky Robin & Crescent Robin, I'm guessing you're waiting for Daleto post them since they're endemic to Tas? I'd love to see a Gang Gang!

sue818
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Actually Dev, Dale is in Tassie but Pip has a chance of a Crescent HE in Victoria with one seen last few days in Jell's Park although I confess to not knowing where that is! Alex is based here in Sydney with me. We hope to get out to Warriewood this weekend.  It is wonderful to see the variety... I must photograph that Indian Mynah.

Devster
Devster's picture

So we have someone from Victoria, 2 from Sydney, 1 in Tas and myself in Qld. If any of you are up in Brisbane I would be happy to take you to a few local spots. If it is just one person I may even be able to get you cheap accomodation. I still haven't taken that photo of an Indian Mynah yet either. lol

dwatsonbb
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Lovely series Sue, I know you wish for better with some of your shots, but honestly I'd be happy with all of those. As far as my lot goes, there's been mention of people's totals and "lifers", well my total of species sited (confirmed ID) currently sits at 87 - I've seen lots of birds over the years, but never really bothered with counting or identifying them. That's a recent addition to my experiences. As for finding those elusive endemic species, don't hold your breath. I'm still battling work and weather. Got some leave coming up, so hoping to improve my count, particularly the number of species photographed.

Dev mentioned the Tasmanian Pelagic Species, hoping to get out soon, when the wind drops, as well as being a keen birder, I'm also a keen fisherman, but don't often take the camera (my old rig would just give pixels in the sky, not always suitable for ID). I will start taking the Nikon, and hopefully might get a few more.

Alex, I know you mention "lifers" a lot - my definition is a bird that I am unlikely to see, perhaps a rare or species not in my local area. I currently have 3 Tasmanian birds on that list - in order of desire, 1. Orange Bellied Parrot 2. Swift Parrot and 3. Forty Spotted Pardolote. I did see 2 Forty Spots a couple of weeks ago, an absolute joy, but getting a photo, that caused some anguish. At least now I know I can access their habitat.

Anyway, I am pleased to see the success of this challenge, and am hoping more players join in for next years Big Year Challenge.

As a few have said, it's about getting out and enjoying the process for me, rather than my total tally.

Keep on birding, and stay safe.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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Did you know Gang-gangs sound like a creaking door... that is how I have found them. Gorgeous bird but don't think I'll manage one this year! I wish that I had started photography & bird watching earlier. Saw numerous birds before getting into establishing the ID & just too busy when working. Retirement makes it much easier. Another reason for taking part in the challenge is to build that desire & interest in others.

sue818
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A few from the local waterhole and a couple more from Bowra --- still sorting them.

128 male Variegated Fairywren... very late in the day so grainy

129 female Superb Fairywren... he did not want to come out of the bushes but she was not shy

130 Eastern Spinebill... even later in the day

131 immature Red-capped Robin... a number around Bowra at the time

132 female Crimson Chat... awful shot but identifiable so EBC and not likely to find another soon

Devster
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Another great set Sue. I find the female wrens are a lot more photogenic than the males. They hide like moviestars, lol. Your Robin is sooo cute. You're proving very hard to catch Sue, but I'll keep trying. haha

pip-lb
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sue818 wrote:

Actually Dev, Dale is in Tassie but Pip has a chance of a Crescent HE in Victoria with one seen last few days in Jell's Park although I confess to not knowing where that is! Alex is based here in Sydney with me. We hope to get out to Warriewood this weekend.  It is wonderful to see the variety... I must photograph that Indian Mynah.

Mushrooms rocks just below the Mt.Erica summit near Mt. Baw Baw is the very exact spot for crescent honeyeaters. They are always there. Not sure i'll have a chance to get there before year is out but we'll see. Also a good spot for pink and rose robbins. 

I'm also really enjoying the regional varities being posted, what else is interesting is the presence of common birds across the continent. It's strange to see the same thornbill being photographed in Queensland that i see down here. I find it odd that there are resident royal spoonbills in southern Victoria and also Northern Queensland. Amazing adaption within the same species.

Alex Rogers
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Great additions Sue. Love the female Superb, but its the Variegated I'm jealous of - I have only seen them a few times and find them much less confiding (ie much harder to photograph!) than the Superb. Nice shot of that pretty boy. Also like you Spinebill, I've never seen one of them, gorgeous bird. 

dwatsonbb
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Again great work like them all Sue

Honestly I hope not to include an Indian Myna in my set, as they have yet to reach our shores, 1 bonus in being an island. There was a report of 1 up North last year, but thankfully never seen again.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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A couple from home in Sydney

133 Noisy Miner

134 Rainbow Lorrikeet

sue818
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A few from visits to Warriewood in Sydney. Went back today, Alex, and the birds were all out and about! Orioles still at the high boradwalk but with plenty of company --- Thornbills, Gerygone, Variegated Fairywrens and so many more.

135 Purple Swamphen --- like the carpet of plants

136 Eastern Yellow Robin --- sunbathing but moved before I could find a better postition

137 Red-whiskered Bulbul x2 because I like the singing one as well

138 Eastern Whipbird --- a poser but would not allow a full body shot. Quite happy with this oneas they are difficult

139 Australian White Ibis --- liked this as it is not garbage in its bill

140  Sulphur-crested Cockatoo --- love their antics

141 Red-browed Finch --- very sunny so a bit washed out

142 Brown Gerygone... really happy with this one as they are so small and fast... on second visit he posed so I ignored that stick!

143 Brown Cuckoo-dove.. awful back-lit shot as quite high in the tree

144 immature Fan-tailed Cuckoo ---not a Brush Cuckoo as back not heavily marked and yellow eye-ring but might get it confirmed

145 Bell Miner x2 --- adult and then a young one. Numerous young around and bird sitting on a nest

146 White-cheeked Honeyeater --- very noisy as many of them around gorging on Coral trees, Grevillia and Bottle-brush

147 Eurasian Coot --- lunch time

148 Olive-backed Oriole... posed for Alex and for me

dwatsonbb
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Great work Sue. I agree it is a Fan Tailed Cuckoo. Too many to list my faves, most would be new for me. Thanks.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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Could not leave it there so a few more from our trip that I have neglected to upload:

149 Red-kneed Dotterel --- saw some younger ones but like this one from Cloncurry best

150 Black-fronted Dotterel --- Cloncurry delivers again but taken as the sun is going down 

151 Australian Tern previously called Gull-billed Tern --- saw this one on the way to Cloncurry but cannot recall the name of the town with the small lake

152 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper --- saw these a few times but best light here at Mt Isa

Devster
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So many wonderful shots Sue. I've never seen the Bulbul and do love the one of it calling. The young Bell miner is cute, it's just a pity they have to grow up. I also like the Swamphen and even the Noisy miner Pic. My favourite would be your Brown Gerygone. For 2 reasons. 1. The detail, light and background are amazing. 2. It shows me I'm not alone having a stick run through the middle of a perfectly great shot. Haha

sue818
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Yes, Dev, those sticks are annoying especially with such great bokeh. I comtemplated removing it in processing but too tired tonight as I left home at 5:30am to get that very shot. There were so many little birds, it was difficult to keep track of the one I wanted.

As to the Bell Miners and the remnant Swamp Mahoganey forest, fingers crossed that it survives... the Miners are spreading throughout the area now. When I first started going there about 4 or 5 years ago, the place was alive with numerous other birds but the variety seems to have dropped.

sue818
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I think that these are the last few from my recent travels... some are truly awful shots and are true to the notion that EBC to get to Pip's desired 400.

First lot of EBC are from Warren in NSW, a couple of highly cropped shots:

153 Pink-eared Ducks ... a couple in company of many other birds

154 Australasian Shoveler...also in company of many other birds

From the Flinders Ranges:

155 male Rufous Whistler which is horribly backlit but EBC

A few more from Chinaman's Reservoir at Cloncurry and nearby:

156 Black Kite... forgot I had this one and not too bad .... picture next post

157 Grey Shrike-thrush... would not come out of the shade except to hide in branches ... picture next post

158 Sacred Kingfisher... could not get coser as it was on the dam wall but one of only two seen on the trip as we were in dry country

159 Budgerigar... flying everywhere but never close until they settled in awful light

160 Fairy Martin... best I could get at the time as fast little fellows and I was concentrating on a Gull-billed Tern

161 Rufous-throated Honeyeater... highly cropped EBC as distant view as sun was setting but rufous throat quite clear

And finally a few more EBC from Clearwater Lagoon at Mt Isa:

162 Little Black Cormorant... anyone want to count them and their friends?

163 Green Pygmy-goose... never got very close so best I could manage

164 Whiskered Tern... highly cropped but quite identifiable

165 Pictorella Mannikin... the worst EBC but hope you can see the white scallops on the chest of the male, higly cropped!!!

sue818
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No sure what happened but here are the pictures.

156 Black Kite... forgot I had this one and not too bad

157 Grey Shrike-thrush... would not come out of the shade except to hide in branches

sue818
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I have found another lot of Pictorella Mannikins from Cloncurry at sunset. They are better EBC in that you can just see the scaly breast, black face and throat along with the spots on the wings which are definitive. So I am actually at 165 if you all accept the Pictorella Mannikin.

Alex Rogers
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Hello Sue - an impressive lot of photos, and puts you at a commanding lead! Nice. Yes, will take the Pictorella Munia - cool to see a bird I've never heard of (have seen & photographed the Scaly-breasted Munia). Love the black-fronted dotterel,that eye-ring is so cool. And your whipbird was a great catch, great shot of the bird in its habitat, and very hard to do. Also like the swamphen in the swamp. 

Mid-week bird trips make me jealous :-) But we have 6 weeks left and it is easier adding birds when your count is low, so all is not lost, but we'd better get out there taking photos....

sue818
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That is the end of photos from my trip so from now on it is all about getting out there often. Shame my local park is missing its normal birds, plenty of food but few feeding there. I’ll give it another go & then head further afield. Plenty of Sydney birds still, I don’t even have a Chestnut Teal, Golden Whistler or Brown Thornbill... or that Indian Mynah!

sue818
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Double posted .... I-pad issue. Looking forward to more successes from everyone’s weekend adventures.

Devster
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Wow Sue, I had never heard of a Pictorella Mannikin or Rufous-throated Honeyeater, I had to look them up. Never seen the Green Pygmy-goose before only the Cotton. You certainly have seen some interesting birds on your latest trip. Just a little bit jealous.

sue818
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Thanks guys, it is great to see the Pictorella Mannikins but they were always far away or flying off. Working on better shots next time!

Our trips are always interesting, Dev and it is wonderful to see something new or get a better shot than previously. We have seen quite a bit of Australia over the last few years but the effects of the drought are heart-rending. I would like rain everywhere for Christmas.

Alex, you have a wonderful advantage each outing... a chance of something new. It gives you a lift each time and improving on a previous shot is satisfying.

Dale and Pip, I hope work and other things give you some time to get out and about again soon... still holding out for a Crescent Honeyeater but really love lal the birds. I get much satisfaction from the walk and sightings and it relaxes me for the week ahead.

sue818
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A companion for 129 ... male Superb Fairywren came out to play at Warriewood

dwatsonbb
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The range of birds showing up for this challenge is amazing. I particularly like the Dotterals, so clear and colourful. Your BIF show your experience, must take time and patience for some of those, and I guess a little bit of luck to. Thanks again.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
sue818's picture

Thanks, Dale. Yes, luck is involved but it is still about getting out and about which is why this challenge is turning up such a range of birds. BIFs are challenging as often back-lit so I find side-on view better. Of course, normally it is just whip up the lens and take a burst as they appear and keep following if you can. Definitely luck!

sue818
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Time to post a few more local birds from Bicentennial Park and around the Waterbird Refuge, today and on the weekend with Alex

166 Spotless Crake... saw at least 3 but my pictures are of the juvenile (white throat) not the more colourful adult

167 Striated Heron... waiting patiently for the fish to come through

168 Red-necked Avocet... stunning birds but not in this shot... overcast and too far away

169 Chestnut Teal... a great poser but I missed getting all of the female

170 Channel-billed Cuckoo... noisy great bird; heard 3 of them coming and just got the camera up in time but backlit and cropped

171 Common Myna... just for Darryl as he might never see them... check out the eyes as they are interesting

172 Black Swan... room for improvement

173 Silvereye... hope to get a better shot

174 Silver Gull... just so it is recorded

175 Spotted Dove... had forgotten about these lovely little birds as we were travelling in areas where they are absent

176 Buff-banded Rail... hanging out in the same pond as the Crakes

Devster
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Wow, another great set Sue you are now in a comfortable lead. The Striated Heron & Teal shots are my favourite. I won't be able to get out now for a bit as I have my kids so will have to plan my trips.

sue818
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No doubt you will find some time and a bird might happen by... preferrably without a stick in the way. I managed a few sticks in these shots but did not post the Pied Currawong which looked like it was picking its nose!  Enjoy the children as they grow up fast.

A bit confused with the spelling of the name Common Mynah or Common Myna (I know it is no longer Indian) as both seem to be used. The option on BiB is with the H but Ebird seems not to use it. I have now gone with the spelling in the latest Bird Guide.

pip-lb
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Fantastic stuff Sue, 176, wow! 

I'm hoping to get away this weekend, i have a hell of a lot of catching up to do. Your photos are inspiring.  

Alex Rogers
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Some nice shots there Sue, great work on catching the channel-bill, they didn't give us much opportunity.

sue818
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Thanks all for the generous comments.

Pip, sounds like we have achieved the goal... inspire us all to get out there. Looking forward to more from you. Some great birds down your way. I am only at 176 because of the travel we did.

Alex, I ducked back to OP yesterday when the sun came out but the tide was in so the birds too far away. The Crake was out but still really hard to distinguish from the background reeds so these shots were from our outing. I called into Lake Belverdere and 3 Channel-billed Cuckoos flew over giving me a chance as I heard them coming but still high in the sky and back lit. Actually had to go there for a Common Myna as the ones at home scatter the minute I lift the camera!

Cannot believe that I have not posted a Golden Whistler, Brown Thornbill, White-throated Treecreeper or a Spotted Pardalote! They seem to be hiding from me. I will aim to get a good Pied Currawong soon and maybe some shorebirds from Long Reef. The combined effort must really be getting up there now so hope it is inspiring others for next year's challenge.

dwatsonbb
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Thanks again Sue. Your right, I won't see a Common Myna, well not for this challenge anyway. Your photos are an inspiration to both get out there practice.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
sue818's picture

177 from today at Warriewood ... overcast and awful lighting but this was a delight to stumble across... a Grey Fantail with a nest in progress

And the sticks when you stand in the wrong spot

Finished product when I walked past it yesterday almost on the path. A quick shot so as not to disturb an active nest or attract unwanted interest.

sue818
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and a couple more from today

178 Golden Whistler - a male in his lovely golden coat

179 Black Bittern flying off and horribly back-lit... if acceptable. I think the field marks are there ... dark upper wing, white streaking on throat and you can just see the stripe down the side of the neck. Amazed I managed any shot as it came over.

Alex Rogers
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I love the fantail photos Sue - how cool to see the nest building. 

Re 179 - I'll take your word for it if you want to claim it as you are so much more experienced, I'm always amazed at how good birders can ID from a glimpse. Personally I get it wrong too often (and once bittern, twice shy?) 

Devster
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Wow, Black Bittern, now you're just rubbing it in. lol. I too would have to take your word for it as I have never had the privilege of seeing one. 

sue818
sue818's picture

Thanks guys, you are generous. It is a dreadful photo. I have seen the Black Bittern quite often at Warriewood & was quite sure of it as it went past but still checked the photos. Quite definite on the laptop but just doesn't seem to be a way of making the photo clearer for this post. Light was awful as cloudy bright skies are very difficult.  It is a good bird to get as not very common. 
Looks like another visit is due as I also heard a Barking Owl but it was behind other trees. That would also be a good bird to photograph. There are often interesting birds there but this smoke is not helping the photography.

Not sure that I can reach 200 for Dale but worth giving it a try as there seem to be some birds around at present.

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Thanks Sue, reckon you will give 200 a serious shake. Your Grey Fantail is adorable. Never seen any Bittern, yet alone a black one.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

pip-lb
pip-lb's picture

Yep, i've never seen a bittern either. I've learnt a lot from this challenge and i wasn't expecting that, but great shots, thanks. 

sue818
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Thanks all, I am going to replace the Black Bittern with an Emu which I had forgotten about... better check I have not missed anything else! I hope to get a better shot of the Bittern another day but it is not clear except on my laptop... yet again at Warriewood the Barking Owl sounded off but hid deep in the bush so no picture of it either. So on with the challenge

179 is now Emu from Bowra

180  Pacific Koel (think it was Eastern Koel but changed recently?) from Warriewood, Sydney. Plenty around but this was the only one close enough and even then it was on the other side of the creek so cropped a lot.

181  Tawny Frogmouth adult --- check it out in "Show us your chicks"

female Golden Whistler a partner for the male 178

So here I am at 181 with a few common ones still missing so I will work on that. Thank you Alex, this challenge is wonderful so I do hope others are watching the species climb as it is quite educational.

sue818
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Ooops make that 182 with this one from Bowra which was also overlooked

182  Jacky Winter... have fantastic pictures of these little ones from Capertee but not from Bowra. I really needed more time there.

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