Just a quickie to set up the huge contrast that I'm experiencing now (see next post).
Mid-winter is the time for the second (and much less-desirable) wader count of the year. Last year it involved a long walk along the beach; this year I only had to walk a couple of hundred metres, but the trade-off was that I had to be up at 6.00 am to make the crossing to Robbins Island. This can only be done at low tide in a 4WD, guided by someone who knows the way across the complex banks and channels (think Sands of Dee, or the Solway Firth).
Google Earth's view of Robbins Island. The island is about 20 km east to west.
We cross slightly west of the southernmost point.
And of course it's pretty dark at 7.00 on a mid-winter morning, and completely dark at 6.30pm, which was when we made the return trip. We travelled in the back of a Parks and Wildlife ute and our guide was John Hammond, who leases Robbins Island to run wagyu cattle which he sells to Japan. I appreciated his local knowledge as we were coming back; the route is marked with reflective posts, but it zig zags all over the place, so who knows which of those shiny reflections comes next?
Between those two crossings there was a lot of waiting around, before and after the hour or so so of formal counting around high tide. Fortunately there is a warm and dry hut just opposite our counting site at Wallaby Island, so Gary, my counting partner, and I were able to brew up before and after.
The Wallaby Island Hut.
It might not look much, but it's very welcome.
Inside the hut.
The floor is woodchips
And did we see anything? Not much is expected in the winter count since most, but not all, the migratory waders ought to be in Siberia, doing their reproductive business. But as it happened there were a number of birds that had decided to stay with us, probably first year birds. We saw a couple of the bog-standard Red-necked Stints, but also some Eastern Curlews with their ridiculous beaks, and a Whimbrel, all of which made the other counters quite jealous, the more so because our site was sheltered from the very sharp and squally westerly wind.
Our counting station.
And at low tide.
(I know these are the wrong way round, but Blogger is having an off day)
And here are the curlews.
Jeannie stayed home, of course, but loyally got up to see me off, and had restoring hot dinner when I got back.