Northern Shoveler ~ SA Twitch!

Last Saturday evening there was a post on the South Aussie Birding Facebook page about the sighting of a Northern Shoveler. My buddy, James Cornelious, alerted me to this. I began seeking more information. My friend, Kay Parkin, suggested a dash for it as it might quickly move along. I decided to go the next morning.
The white spot in the middle is Norman the Northern Shoveler
Troopi is still in the shop awaiting a used replacement fuel tank to become available somewhere. So I was off in the Prius at sunrise Monday heading for South Australia (and saving enough in fuel to afford a room). It was about seven hours to the spot. Around two thirds of the way there, I began getting reports that the duck had not been seen that day. I considered cutting my losses so-to-speak and heading back home. My new Facebook friends, Eddy and Jenni, texted saying that they were going to check out the surrounding areas later in the afternoon since the day before the duck had been seen in the arvo. I decided to carry on.

I checked into a little cabin at the Keith Caravan Park ($100, I recommend it). Then I drove about 40 minutes to the “ponds” near Tilley Swamp. There was no one else around and no Northern Shoveler either. It had not returned. As dusk approached, I left the ponds and drove back to the cabin.
Keith Caravan Park cabin... works for me.
This is what was odd to me. I was not disappointed. I was honestly okay with not having seen it. I had kind of figured it was gone. A group of serious birders had spent the whole morning searching the area and had dipped. The smart money was on that it had departed for good. I am sure I would have been disappointed if I had missed it by an hour or something, but it had not been seen all day. I did not have that ‘dipping sadness' that can be so crushing. But I figured I would go have a look in the morning. Who knows?

The next morning I was up before five and put the kettle on. I was loading the car as the dawn chorus was coming alive. Sweet. I love that. At first light I was driving west to the spot. With the sun rising behind me, I arrived by the ponds and parked off the edge of the road. With my bins, I scanned the pond on the right, no Northern Shoveler. Then I scanned the first pond on the left (south) and it was not there either. Then I caught a glimpse of bright white in the pond just behind the south pond. I got the scope out of the car quickly.

As I am going on a twitch I have a lot of time to think. I was in the car alone for close to seven hours on the drive over. And I picture in my mind various scenarios of rocking up and seeing the bird. What that will feel like. I picture seeing the bird in my mind. This is not magical thinking. I do not think I can manifest the bird by visualizing it. But I do imagine seeing the bird and how wonderful that moment can feel. That moment feeds my passion for this type of birding. It don’t get much better than seeking and then finding. Not for me anyway.

I set up the scope and focused it. There was that moment. The glimpse of white morphed into the beautiful white chest, and then the iridescent deep green head and rufous sides of a male Northern Shoveler. It was the “That’s It!” moment in twitching that makes it all worthwhile. I was looking at the bird! I drank in the experience. I breathed that bird. I took recording shots as best I could. I was approximately four hundred meters from the duck and the land was fenced and private, but the scope views were crystal clear gorgeousness. There was no one else around to see me glow and I was glowing with excitement and genuine joy. I walked to the middle of the road partially up the hill behind me and with one dot of signal I texted Eddy and Jenni. I sent one word, “YES!”
Lifer Selfie. Norman is somewhere in that pond over my right shoulder.
I resumed staring at, and appreciating, the duck. Then I went back to the road and I sent Philip Peel a message asking him to please post to Facebook that I had refound it and the location. I managed to get a back-of-the-camera phone pic to go though! Then I went back to staring at the duck.

There were other cool birds around. A couple of dozen Black-tailed Native-hens were bobbling about in the paddock just in front of me. They are beautifully goofy birds. I was standing so still viewing the Shoveler that they ended up walking over within a few meters of me. When I did move, they freaked out in their wonderfully goofy way. It was like they were saying, “Run! It’s a monster! Run! RUN!” I love them.
A few of the several hundred Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos in the area
Lifer Pie in the form of Ice Cream (and I had a cookie too).

There are so many wonderful parts of a twitch. And at the culmination of a successful twitch there is Lifer High. It strikes me the first moment I see the bird and then it reverberates and reverberates. I feel giddy and giddy is good! That wonderful feeling can echo through me for days afterwards. I feel it right now two days later sitting at my table in the Tiny House. I am so grateful. I did it. I twitched Norman the Northern Shoveler. Yeah, I gave him a name. I love that bird. As I would.

Before I left for the long drive back to Lara, Luke and Kathy Leddy rocked-up to view the bird and then Eddy and Jenni arrived (having set land speed records to get there). So I was able to share a bit of the delightful giddiness of Lifer High. This was all due to Facebook. Social media: don’t go birding without it.

And... the book about the year of traveling all of Oz is coming along very well. I will keep y'all posted. I am hoping to have it completely finished by Christmas.

Peace. Love. Birds.