Monday, 1 August 2011

Escaping the Bogan's Nest

Despite having recovered from the rigors of Tour dependency, and gone easy at Ham and Lisa’s do on Sat night (thanks guys), I joined the collective and skipped the Sunday Morning spin and instead indulged in some Twittering and Tweeting, in a non social-media kind of way – although perhaps the fact you are reading this betrays my smug hypocrisy. 

Sunday morning; the mudge and I approach the coffee shop via the off-road alternative, walking the ~2 km of bush track below Buzerko Rd, and collected ~35 species en route.  Not a bad offering from a slither of weed-riddled bush. 

After coffee we jumped in the car and made what would constitute our second effort to bag a couple of species which have thus far eluted our birdlists – Regent Honeyeaters and Swift Parrots.  In fact we made a concerted effort to nab these guys a month or so back, but made the journey to the central coast only to come back tickless. 

Regent Honeyeaters are probably the rarest bird in this part of Oz – officially endangered, with generally only sporadic sightings recorded each year.  Their range supposedly covers the Sydney and Hunter River basins to the western side of the blueies.  This year, however, there have been numerous winter sightings in Morriset, just south of Newcastle, in a particular stand of Swamp Mahonganys, which are flowering profusely at the moment.  Swift Parrots, on the other hand, are more numerous, but seasonal visitors, which winter in coastal NSW, before returning to breed in NZ.  Fortuitously, healthy recordings have also been made in the Wyong region, just south of Morriset – hence the chance to nab 2 species with one drive.

First of all the Regents.  Last time we made the trip we failed to find the particular hotspot reported on the web, but found loads of Swamp Mahoganys full of other honeyeaters and lorikeets one might expect to see.  The site is in bushland surrounding an old Psychiatric Hospital.  Unfortunately, not everyone who should perhaps be confined within the said institute were inside the gates.  Especially on this particular Sunday, the 4WD bogans with their booze, fags and pig-dogs, and the accompanying stink bike vermin, where everywhere – ripping up the place, knocking down trees, bulldozing scrub, and no doubt leaving litter wherever it suited – evidenced by the trash that was found, well pretty much everywhere.  How’s the serenity?  

We somehow managed to navigate the myriad of 4WD tracks, dodge the bikes and locate what we thought to be the electricity substation that is mentioned on the web.  About 30 min of searching later, and actually only 150 m from the substation across a little creek, we were rewarded with great sightings of not one, but 4 Regent HEs, skirting the flowering gums which were raucously patrolled by loads of Noisy Friarbirds and Rainbow Lorikeets.  We couldn’t quite believe we had Regents in our sights – which remained glued through our binoculars even as trails bikes screamed past in a haze of dust only meters away (can’t imagine what they must have thought).  A few hugs and high fives later (yes, it was emotional), we made a be-line for the car and got the hell out of there before a lynch mob could be assembled to get the weirdo greenie interlopers out of their playpen (please mazda, don’t fail us now – a few scrapes, wheelspins and bottoming outs and we were gone).

With Regents in the bag we gained the highway and headed south to the oddly named “Spotted Gum Park” in the heart of suburban Wyong (technically Wotanobbi).  Not a spotted gum could be found, just a thin stand of mature ironbarks on a ridge.  The place seemed deathly silent as the sun was starting to wane.  I had joked that we’d either see dozens of Swifties or nothing.  Nothing it appeared to be, until my ears picked up the faintest squeak.  Peering through the bins, high in the canopy my eyes gazed upon a parrot of type I’d never seen before.  Having both breathed it in, minutes later we found another dozen in another tree, then were treated to no less that three more flocks of approx. 10 each, coming in to roost for the night.  Smaller than I imagined – not that much bigger than a budgie, and far less raucous, I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that in one leap they make the journey across the Tasman, twice a year!  No pissed hoons in 4WDs to worry about this time.  We were able to enjoy the moment before setting course for Sydney on a doubly successful birding foray, which brings my Australian tally to approx. 310 species.  Only another 300 to go!

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