Night terrors

Unlike  UK ‘night birds’ – owls and nightjars, which come out at dawn and dusk, these species in Australia are strictly nocturnal. So after several fruitless night walks, yesterday we managed to catch up with two night time ‘ticks’, Australian Owlet Nightjar and Southern Boobook. The price we paid for this success however was to be eaten alive by mosquitos – despite wearing long pants, sweaters, hats and being dosed with liberal quantities of repellent! Under these rather testing circumstances it’s not surprising that the photos are rather poor – just about good enough to get an overall impression of the birds.

Australian Owlet Nightjar, just about twenty centimetres long – half of which is made up for by it’s tail. A common and well distributed  species but, lacking an ‘eye shine’, very difficult to see in heavily forested areas.



The Southern Boobook was a slightly easier quarry, with a bright orange eye shine and readily responding to play-back


Two down and about another half dozen to go, with more ‘night terrors’ to face in the process – better send for another tub of bite cream I guess!

Ash Island does the Double

A couple of recent excursions to local birding hot spots have paid dividends, particularly Ash Island, which has produced two Aussie ticks for me – White-winged Black Tern and King Quail, in as many days. Other interest has come in the form of Black-necked Stork at Pambalong Reserve and at Bunnings ‘scrape’ (the equivalent to a B&Q carpark in England!) another tick in the shape of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail – with a supporting cast of eleven Australian Painted Snipe! These ‘celebrity’ birds, together with a heap of the more common local stuff, have nudged the list to over 150 already!

First up, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper – the ‘default’ wader species on Ash Island and adjacent Hexham Swamp


Black-necked Stork, a scarce visitor/possible occasional breeder in the lower Hunter. We found this immature bird at Pambalong


First of the two Ash Island ticks –  one of four White-winged Black Tern, photographed here with Welcome Swallow.


The search is on for the second, which required a 4.30am start, a ‘planet earth’ tick – King Quail! Pictured here, at one of NSW’s biggest recent twitches – from left to right Steve & Mick Roderick, Dan and me – Jane taking the photo


.. and here’s the prize, an amazing shot taken by Mick, of a two second show as this ‘micro’ Quail flew to cover!


More ‘celebrity birds’ – this one, a self found Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Bunnings Scrape. This species was only recently discovered  wintering, in single figure numbers, in the Ash Island/Hexham Swamp area, so to find one away from the regular location was a real bonus


Mick kindly turned up at Bunnings to confirm the identification of the Wagtail and promptly found a group of Australian Painted Snipe! This photo features four of the total of eleven seen


To conclude this ‘birds of the lower Hunter’ blog, some of the more regular species…

Nobby’s Noddy


The Light House, Nobby’s Head, Newcastle

Saturday, and we move out of the Old Brush to a hotel in Charlestown – nearer to Dan, Morgan and the kids, and with a few more creature comforts. In the afternoon we enjoy a family outing to see the sights of Newcastle’s water-front, treat ourselves to ice cream and, by some complete fluke, collect our first Australian ‘tick’ of the trip! Casually looking out to sea, Jane spots a largish brown sea bird off shore. Dan confirms that it’s a Wedge-tailed Shearwater and then, scanning further out to sea, sees another interesting pelagic species – a probable Noddy, blogging over the rocks, just off of Nobby’s  Lighthouse. We quickly clean the kids up, collect optics from the car and head off up the Point. Sure enough, with the aid of a telescope, we are able to confirm the identification features of Common Noody – a rare summer visitor to Newcastle and a ‘planet earth tick’ for Jane and I. We continue to the end of the breakwater to enjoy the spectacle of an Australian Fur Seal, swimming about to the delight of the small assembled crowd.

The gorgeous ‘tribe’ of grand kids – Jonah, Samuel & Solomon, enjoying an ice cream!

Distant shots of Common Noddy, blogging off Nobby’s Head, Newcastle



and Australian Fur Seal, courtesy of Jane.


A lovely family afternoon and a completely unexpected ‘life tick’ into the bargain.

Back to Old Brush


After a long but trouble-free flight from the UK we arrived back at the Old Brush, a delightfully tranquil retreat, half and hour from Newcastle and Dan, Morgan and the kids. A great place to recover, get over the jet lag and relearn the basics of Australian birding.

The cabin:





The grounds;





The birds: Dusky Moorhen


White-headed Pigeon


Eastern Yellow Robin, courtesy of Jane Williams


Australia Brush Turkey


Yellow-throated Scrubwren


… and finally, if you’ve got an itch you just have to scratch it!