Our guest speaker in May was Andrew Silcocks from BirdLife Australia’s national office in Melbourne. One of the projects that Andrew is involved in is a study of Australasian Bitterns. It was a fascinating talk, about a bird which only has a low population base (the present estimates are 850-1000 birds) and is extremely cryptic.
For those combined reasons, most of us rarely ever see one and so it was wonderful to learn so much about them from Andrew’s talk. It turns out that the rice-growing areas around the Murrumbidgee are extremely important for Australasian Bitterns, with possibly the entire population, or close to that, spending their summers in the rice fields when they hold water. We also learnt that Australasian Bitterns make long distance movements to and from the rice fields, of several hundreds of kilometres on some occasions.
Best access for the Sandspit is from the carpark underneath the eastern side (Stockton side) of the bridge.
At high tide, several shorebird species roost in or around the lagoon and are readily seen from observation points at the information signs near the carpark.
The better action occurs between roughly 2-3 hours after high tide when many other shorebirds arrive from their roost sites and start to feed on the exposed mudflats especially on the northern side of the Sandspit.
Later most of them depart for the Fullerton Cove feeding grounds (these are not easily accessible). Use either of the skirting paths around the Sandspit to find a viewing spot – do NOT go through the middle as this disturbs the birds. More details are in the Newcastle City birding route
June Bird of the Month
Just about every sizable wetlands in the east of our Region has one or more families of them for most of the year.
It’s not unusual to see groups of 6-10 birds together, and sometimes much larger ones.
Although these birds are absent from the Hunter Region in winter they are usually the last species to leave and the first to return.
We’ve chosen it for bird of the month to remind us of warmer days!
HBOC supports the National Atlas and submits records from all of its activities to the Birdata portal http://birdata.birdlife.org.au/.
We strongly encourage our members and visitors to do the same. Our club receives an annual export of all Hunter Region records and we use this information to find out how our local birds are faring.