It's nice to start each year with a special bird so, as I got in the car at 7 am and headed to the Western Treatment Plant (WTP), I tried very hard not to look at any birds. Then an Indian Myna, one of Australia's worst environmental bird pests, sometimes known "lovingly" as flying rats, flew straight in front of the car and I couldn't help but see it, sigh. Ah well, the year had to start with something in its normal habitat, a suburban (smile).
|Indian Myna in its normal habitat, a suburban street|
It is also nice to start the year with friends and our champagne picnic at the WTP with Joy T, Mel and Joy S has now been going long enough to be a tradition to look forward to. And like last year, unexpected friends joined us. This year Annette and Mark stopped by our spot that looks out over the coastal marshland - that is full of often heard, but rarely seen, crakes and rails - and made us six. Perhaps next year it will be eight (smile).
Unlike last year, the sun came out for us and the wind didn't blow, so we sat back and chatted about 2014 and dreamt of trips for 2015 knowing that the birds and weather will conspire to thwart many of our plans. For example on Friday and Saturday, 2nd and 3rd of January, the temp got over 38º C (100º F) in Melbourne and higher on the drying salt lake where the dowitcher is hanging out. Joy and I were going to drive north-west for a second look at the Long-billed Dowitcher, as well as chase up some arid country birds but we decided against it, maybe we are getting old (smile). On Saturday the heat came with gale force northerlies and the effect is similar to standing in front of a blast furnace with its door open. If we had been with the dowitcher, stinging sand and salt would have been added to the mix. Not fun birding.
|Pectoral Sandpiper with very worn feathers|
One uncommon bird seen on Jan 1st 2014 was seen again this year, a Pectoral Sandpiper, but the Long-toed Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper we had last year have either not returned yet or have not been found. This is not surprising as there are tens of thousands of small waders at the plant at the moment and finding one small bird that is only slightly different from all the rest is not easy. It is made harder still when you have patiently worked half way through a flock of thousands only to have a Swamp Harrier go over, and they all take off, re-sort themselves with a whirr of wings, and then land back where they started (smile). But in the end I finished the day with 95 species which is a good number and just a bit down on last year's 104.
So with the temp in the 40s for the last two days I have been computer birding in preparation for 2015. The new diary has been started, the new bird sighting spreadsheet is finished, all the 2014 photos are sorted and stored and many cups of my new favourite green tea, Lung Ching, have been drunk. Maybe this week, when the forecast is better, I will head west and see if I can find a Painted Honeyeater, and so the pleasure of being in the bush and finding birds will continue for another year.
Happy New Year everyone, stay well and I hope you see lots of birds and don't dip on too many.
All text & images © Jenny Spry