Boyd’s State Forest was the first stop – lunching with Lyrebirds in fact; a male was in full tilt displaying. We also had the company of several Rock Warblers, Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds.
As we approached Narooma dusk was fast approaching but we snuck in a bit more birding by the river. White Ibis, Great Egrets and Masked Lapwings protested loudly as an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle skimmed over them. On the other side of the road a Caspian Tern was making its final foray for the day when two Azure Kingfishers appeared, one taking prime lookout spot on an oyster post. It was shortly joined by a Striated Heron and both entertained us with ineffective attempts at fishing.
The following morning the early types were up to check the blossoming eucalypts for Swift Parrots but we were not successful. Still we had magnificent views of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets. But anticipation was high, the weather was bright with only a slight, if chilly breeze. Bar-tailed Godwits and cormorants various watched as we boarded our boat for Montague Island and an utterly disinterested seal continued to doze as we sailed past.
Yellow-nosed Albatross by Nevil Lazarus
Almost immediately we spotted several Humpback Whales the first of many spectacular sightings over the next three days. But we were distracted by a raft of albatross some way off. As we closed in we could see half a dozen Yellow-nosed and a larger young Shy Albatross. In fact Yellow-nosed were ever present around Montague while we were there but surprisingly no other species.
Our NPWS guides for the duration were Mark and Annette, two nicer thoroughly enthusiastic folk you couldn’t hope to meet. Noel was resident NPWS ranger for the week and he introduced us to Robert a young Silver Gull who had been born with a duff wing. Rather than fly around in circles Robert had opted to befriend the NPWS folk who regularly fed him in his ‘home’ at the foot of the lighthouse. We explored this imposing monument with Annette. From the top the views were stunning. Dare I say the high light of our visit?
As good as it was, it wasn’t. It was the whole island and its avian residents and, of course, the indolent fur seals. We explored every nook and cranny revelling in the beautiful scenery and the peaceful soothing quality of bird calls and gentle waves. We discovered Brown Falcon, two male Nankeen Kestrels, one a juvenile, and a family of four White-bellied Sea Eagles. One of them was seriously harried by a very put out juvenile Peregrine Falcon.
We scoured the bushes for birds and followed the loud calls of what we eventually decided, well 90%, were elusive Crescent Honeyeaters. Golden-headed Cisticolas and Little Grassbirds dashed over the reeds ahead of us. Their calls provided an ever present daytime chorus but at night another chorus took over – the croaks and cackles of the Little Penguins. On the second night we parked ourselves close to a hot spot to watch some come ashore. Patience paid off and a small troop waddled past and up the trails to their burrows. They are without doubt real cuties.
I have to say the humans were great company too. Mark and Annette thoroughly spoiled us and were great company throughout. Keith and Audrey were celebrating their 52nd Wedding Anniversary on the island. Glenda became my co-sleuth as we chased the mysterious call and Pam, a comparatively new birder was keen to see anything that flew. Janene, as ever, was a terrific host and I have to say we all had a wonderful time. And I say this even though my winning streak at Scrabble was crushed by some dastardly cheating – still it was a good night out on the ties…. In all, and as always, great camaraderie and exceptional birding.