Thursday, November 3, 2016


Last weekend, my Twitchathon team, the Gang-gang Gang (my oldest friend Steve Edwards; his mate from his childhood, Steve Cooper, and yours truly), travelled over 1300km in search of NSW birds. The Twitchathon is an Australia-wide race to see as many bird species as possible in 24 hrs. Yes, it's as adrenalising as base jumping or falling from space when on Red Bull or cage fighting or taking on Mexican wrestlers in a bad bar in Tijuana!  Money is raised for Birdlife Australia. It's a great opportunity for citizen scientists to contribute to conservation and education. 

Here is the route we took: Lake Wollumboola-Nowra-Kangaroo Valley-Bundanoon-Yass-Boorowa-West Wyalong-Ungarie-Lake Cargelligo-Nombinnie Nature Reserve-Lake Cargelligo- Ungarie-West Wyalong-Weddin Mountains area-Murringo Gap-Boorowa-Yass-Bundanoon-Robertson-Macquaire Pass. 

We all started birding back in the mid-80s, so there's a lot of knowledge (and eccentricity) in the Gang-gang Gang. This was the third Twitch for our posse. We recorded 193 species in a 24 hr period. Not as good as last year, where we found 203 species in a 24 hr period, but still bloody good. 

Moments worth mentioning... getting drenched courtesy of a sudden squall when trying to identify waders at Lake Wollumboola... a camera falling from the 4WD and breaking... putting a staggering, hurting emu chick out of its misery (the bird had been hit by a car)... unpleasant... we were all mournful... sleeping for an hour (after 3:30am) in the back of a 4WD filled with mosquitoes... not recommended... waking to the dawn chorus in Nombinnie's mallee... heaven... dead insects everywhere in a Wyalong truck stop toilet... crossing flooded roads where Whiskered Terns hunted... confusing a lamb with a cattle egret... yep, embarrassing... what was I saying about all that knowledge?... and it was I who confused the two... seeing a Hooded Robin for the first time in 20 years... knowing when to move on... knowing when to stay... gulping coffee and liquorice all sorts... speaking to three blokes in raincoats, with beers, who asked us what we the hell we were doing and referenced The Big Year... trying to stay awake and alert and focused and cheerful... crying 'Carn the Gang-gang Gang' at times when we hadn't seen a new bird for ages, so as to keep the morale up... drinking beer at the end of the whole thing (in the carpark at the base of Macquarie Pass and all its glorious rainforest)... testing each other on bird calls... taking the piss out of each other at every opportunity... 

We birded in mallee, dry grassy woodland, rainforest, wet sclerophyll woodland, on a beach, at an estuary, by sewage ponds, next to swamps, in towns, by inland rivers, at service stations, in open farmlands etc. Landscape was so much of the experience. Nombinnie Nature Reserve's red dirt, spinifex and perplexing corridors of stunted trees blow our minds on each visit. The three of us see the place as sacred: we ache for Nombinnie for days after leaving it. 

The most noteworthy bird species: Superb Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Green Catbird, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Rockwarbler, Hooded Robin, Little Button-quail, Painted Button-quail, Gilbert's Whistler, Splendid Fairy-wren, Spotted Harrier, Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Black-eared Cuckoo, Pink Cockatoo, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Plumed Whistling-duck, Wandering Whistling-duck, Blue-billed Duck, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint. 

An adventurous time. Kerouac would've been proud. 

LJ, November 4 2016.