The Streaked Shearwater was a new species for me in February 2016

Those of you who have read some of my previous articles will know that I failed dismally on my goal of seeing 400 Australian bird species in the 2015 calendar year. I managed a grand total of 277 which, considering I had a trip to Cairns, a trip to Brisbane, a trip to Melbourne and a trip to Canberra, as well as two pelagic trips and quite a lot of days out in my local area of the beautiful Illawarra region, was not very flattering. I had a secondary goal of adding 50 new species to my Australian life list, which faired somewhat better with 37 new species observed. This all came about after my curiosity was roused from watching the movie "The Big Year" starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin. Worth the watch!

Well, it is on again, with the same targets, for 2016 and January got me off to a flyer (bit of a bird pun there!) with 161 species recorded in January, including 6 new species for my life list. Is this something to get into a flap about? Read on ...

The Route Taken by the SOSSA Boat

What is SOSSA, I hear you ask! Well, SOSSA is the Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association, and it runs boat trips out past the Continental Shelf from Kiama (mainly) and Wollongong, NSW. I have been on three trips with them now, July 2015, November 2015 and February 2016, and they were all fantastically well run and very informative. Not only that, I got to see [and photograph] dozens of birds that I have never seen before, and that I probably never would have seen unless I was in a boat way out at sea!

Red-winged Fairy-wren (a new species for me)

Happy New Year - 2016 is upon us. For me, it was ushered in at Newcastle, at a house belonging to my wife's cousin and her husband. New year's day was a quiet affair, sitting in their backyard, playing cards (500) and jotting down a list of every bird I saw as I sat there. The first bird for the year was a Channel-billed Cuckoo, that was heard long before it was seen flying overhead; by the end of the day I had 15 on the list.

Last year I managed to count 277 species of Australian birds, which was a long way short of my target of 400 species. I did manage to add 37 species to my Australian bird life list, which, although being 13 short of my 50 species target, was very pleasing indeed.

I have set myself the same goals for 2016 - and I am determined to improve on last year's results!

As at the end of November my 2015 Australian bird list was a respectable 275 which, although a long way short of my 400 species goal, was very pleasing considering the busy year I had. I had also added 37 new Australian bird species to my life list, which now stands at 466 in total - nice! 

Unfortunately, December is a really busy month for me at work, and is also a busy social time of year as well. Did I make either of my targets I hear you ask ...

I was pleased to get pictures of the Shy Albatross in November 2015

Just a quick recap. After watching the movie "The Big Year" late in 2014, I started wondering just how many Australian bird species I could see in a year, without really trying. I settled on a figure of 400 (around 40% of Australia's recorded species) for 2015, which I thought would be an ambitious, yet achievable, target. While I am a keen birder and photographer, I also have a wonderful wife and 3 lovely children who, although love for me to spend time doing what I love, consume a large amount of my free time. I also work around 50-60 hours per week in my "real" job, so time is somewhat limited. As the year progresses I am realising just how hard a goal I had set myself and, as of the end of October, I am up to just 233 species! I am quite happy with this figure, but it is a long way short of my goal. Many missed opportunities, some big work projects, and some bad weather have hampered my efforts, but I am not a quitter. I set myself a back up goal of trying to add 50 new Australian bird species to my life list in the 2015 year, which stood at 429 species as of the end of 2014. This was not fairing much better, with just 24 added at the end of October. 

so I seized the opportunity to spend an hour at Tidbinbilla and try and get some pictures of a Platypus in the nice late afternoon light

Back in March 2014 I took a friend, Aniket Sardana, to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in Canberra to attempt to see and photograph a Platypus. Tidbinbilla has an enormity of wildlife, some introduced and some extant, including Emus, Koalas, Wallabies, Kangaroos and Platypodes (sounds better than Platypusses, or Platypi!); as well as a large range of bird life, reptiles, smaller mammals and other wildlife that choose to make the nature reserve their home. All of these are protected within large enclosures that keep out feral predators as much as possible. 

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