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Stockton Sandspit & the Breakwall Trip Report

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Whimberel by Christina Port
Day 1 Saturday 3 March 2021

Our first stop was Pambalong Swamp with the area quiet after the prolonged dry weather. Some recent rain had provided some water and there were Black Swans and Purple Swamphens on the fringes. The Casuarinas had Yellow and Brown Thornbills and overhead 3 Whistling Kites flew through. An Australian Reed-Warbler gave a brief call and Superb Fairy-wrens and Red-browed Finch with nesting material were around. Back to the car and an Eastern Yellow Robin posed well. Just as we were leaving another bird flew in and a Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo gave good but quick views.

Travelling on to Stockton Sandspit and the tide was very high. In close we had about 1000 Red-necked Avocets with 30 Eastern Curlews behind them. The White-headed Stilts were feeding and as we walked around at least 80 Pacific Golden Plovers were hiding in the salt marsh in various stages of breeding colours along with a few Curlew Sandpipers sprinkled among them. Crested and Caspian Terns flew overhead. In the banksia some Double-barred Finches played hide and seek along with Brown Honeyeaters.

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Whistling Kite by Christina Port
We enjoyed lunch at Stockton before driving off to Ash Island. A Brown Falcon surveyed the recent grass fire hoping to find lunch. A Grey Butcherbird called and as we walked the river the Spangled Drongo attacked a Dollarbird and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. As we headed out there was much excitement caused by good views of a Pied Butcherbird. New bird for Daphne and Dom.

Our first Cormorants were seen at the wreck with Little Black and Pied resting and a White-faced Heron feeding among the oysters. A little further a long a White-breasted Woodswallow stopped us, then we spied a Sacred Kingfisher. It flew across the road and the patch of vegetation was alive with White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Little Wattlebirds and a pair of Eastern Whipbirds called deep in the bush. A little further a long the Grey-tailed Tattlers were feeding on the mud flats with Black-winged Stilts. A return trip to the Spit hoping to see waders spread out feeding on the mudflats was thwarted by some boys playing there; they had chased everything away. We were able to add a pair of Royal Spoonbills flying over and a Great Egret as we left. At the motel Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Eastern Rosellas finished the day.

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Daphne & Dom by Christina Port
Day 2 and we met with a full moon in the sky and the sun just up for an early morning walk along the river. The Willy Wagtails chirped and chatted as we walked along. Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Yellow Thornbills were feeding in the trees. The Great Egret feeding among the mangroves in beautiful early morning light and so were the White-faced Herons. Almost quicker than a speeding rocket a group of Little Lorikeets flew over. Sea Eagles were honking and one eventually flew over. Hoping for more waders we managed Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel feasting on crab.

A return visit to the Sandspit this morning provided more great views and we were able to add Red Knot to our day. A group of godwits flying showed the Black-tailed Godwits well. We also called into Ash Island again and an Osprey, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Swamp Harrier and Sea Eagles made for a raptor-fest!

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Sharp-tailed Sandpiper by Christina Port
There was much excitement as we arrived at the Hunter Wetlands and walked before lunch. Magpie Geese, Grey Teal in numbers and Wandering Whistling-Ducks roosted. An Australasian Darter flew over and Spangled Drongos were attacking anything in sight! Intermediate Egrets as well as Great flew in and Australasian Grebe kept everyone interested. As we sat waiting for lunch we had live music and birds to entertain us. A Black Kite drifted past which got the cameras clicking. Another walk in the wetlands after lunch and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos in the Casuarinas flushed the smaller birds. Lewin’s Honeyeaters, a handsome male Golden Whistler, Rufous and Grey Fantail flitted around. The White-browed Scrubwrens were telling someone off as we moved on rather quickly with thunder and black clouds filling the sky.

Hexham Swamp was our last stop for the day as the wind blew and the rain started to come down. There was a Nankeen Kestrel and Cattle Egrets with the cattle as we approached the swamp. The Chestnut Teals were in close; Australian Shovelers further back. White-fronted Chat males posed quite well however the Australian Pipits on the road were less co-operative. The Sharp-tailed Sandpipers fed beside the salt marsh giving great views and photographic opportunities. The haunting call of the Little Grass bird accompanied us as we travelled down. Bar-shouldered Doves flew in front of us, Mangrove Gerygone gave a brief showing and White-breasted Woodswallows and Welcome Swallows enjoyed the wind. An immature Black-necked Stork was a distant bird while the Black-shouldered Kite and Hobby were in closer. Great views of Pied Butcherbirds and Eastern Rosellas as we headed out to the M1. 9 species of waders, 8 species of raptor and a great variety of birds were seen with a total of 102 seen and heard. Thanks to Daphne and Dominic for a great weekend.

Christina Port bird guiding for Follow That Bird

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
3/59 Central Road
Avalon NSW 2107
Sydney Australia
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer