Bird watching – tricks of the trade

Birding is serendipitous – you never know what you are likely to see at times, but that is part of the fun of it. The trails in this book have been carefully chosen and tested at different times of the year to provide reasonable guidance to likely species, but you never know your luck.

A few factors and tricks of the trade are worth mentioning to get the best from your birding adventures.

Time of day – bush birds tend to be more active early in the morning and towards evening, so planning a ride at these times can provide the best opportunities. During the middle of the day bush birds tend to be quiet and resting.

This is not true of water birds as much and a visit to one of the water sites can be made at any time.

The importance of water – the region covered in the book is rather dry and water sources are critical to the survival of birds. This makes small dams and creek waterholes very popular for birds, especially on hot days. Sitting quietly and unobtrusively near a bush dam can be very rewarding, not only for viewing  birds, but also to see a variety of other wildlife. Towards evening is often best. If you are very lucky you might even hear the call of the White-throated Nightjar at some sites.

Time of year – spring and early summer are generally the time for breeding for a lot of species and this is often the time when the bush seems most alive with bird movement and calls, as well as the appearance of young birds. 

For example, cuckoos are always calling from late winter onwards and this is the best time to track them down. Later in the season their calls are much reduced and they are harder to locate, although still about.

Seasonal visitors – the beautiful Flame Robin moves down from higher country into lower regions in autumn and winter.

Weather – obviously this often has a big impact on birding. Windy days make it harder to observe and even hear bush birds in the forest. Wind direction will often dictate where you might find birds with some birds seeking the more sheltered sections of the shoreline when there is open water.

After big rain events the low-lying swampy areas become significant bird sites. So be ready to get out to these places once the birds move in.

In times of changing weather,  such as the arrival of summer storm fronts,  it is always worth checking for swifts which tend to fly ahead of advancing weather.

Flowering of eucalypts – honeyeaters are always attracted to trees in flower. Certain locations are well known for flowering events and sudden increases in honeyeater numbers.

Positioning yourself in the bush – some of the smaller species favour the tree tops and this makes viewing harder. Looking up into the tree canopy with strong backlight makes identification very hard. But there are ways around this and these are mentioned in some of the track details. At times you can place yourself more at treetop height as you climb or descend steeper tracks or along embankments, for example the Beechworth trail.

The impact of thermals – if you are interested in raptors and other high fliers, then waiting until the day warms up can be an advantage as warm air rises and the larger raptors such as Wedge-tailed Eagles, Little Eagles, Whistling Kites and Peregrine Falcons like to soar on the rising thermals and can be spectacular to watch.

Use the bird sites – if you are chasing a particular species then a visit to eBird or Birdata is worth it to check for recent sightings in the area. See the Resources section.