• Jas Big Red
Dec 21: The perils of giving up too soon
 

I reckon giving up is a key skill in life. Knowing when to quit a project doomed to failure is probably just about as important as determination to see something through. The trouble is, one has to decide when to give up and when to face the headwind. Today I put in a 15th effort for Black Bittern, arriving at Sandy Camp Road Wetlands just after dawn (eBird checklist here). In many ways I was going through the motions, with only a few birding days left until the end of the year (we fly to the UK on Christmas Day, back in Australia on 24th January). My options for year ticks are now very limited. The three most likely possibilities are White-winged Black Tern, Black-breasted Button-quail and Black Bittern. All are very difficult, and all require very different search strategies in very different places.

I kept vigil over the bittern pond for about half an hour when Steve Murray showed up, and we birded together for a while. He showed me a White-winged Triller nest, which had a female bird sitting tight, presumably incubating eggs. He had seen a male on there just earlier; nice to see them sharing parental duties. After chatting for a while, I decided to head home. I could have stayed another 20 minutes or so before I absolutely had to leave, but the chance of Black Bittern seemed so remote, and I’d done this so many times before that I didn’t think twice about giving up slightly early.

As I neared the car park, my phone went and Steve told me he’d just seen a Black Bittern, but that it was flighty and nervous. I couldn’t believe it, and began running back to the bittern pond. I must have got there within about three minutes, and I had missed it by literally seconds. Steve said it last flew east over the railway line, into the swamp there. I had a look from the track that runs along the railway line, but couldn’t see anything perched up in the trees.

The time had come when I really did have to leave, and of course the “if onlys” were swirling around in my head. Still, it wouldn’t be a proper big year without a bogey bird, now would it?

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 305 species. I spent 1 hour 46 minutes birding, walked 4.008 km and drove 20.5 km. My chronological year list is here.