When I heard that the Long-billed Dowitcher had returned to Lake Tutchewop, I had no option but to go back. It was worth the drive (and what a drive it was!) Thanks to the friendly birders at the lake, who located the bird, I achieved a wonderful lifer - a bird that I'd never dreamed I'd see. I am again indebted to my fellow birders.
I planned to arise at 5 a.m. and leave at 6, but as I was awake anyway, I jumped out of bed at 4.15, and left at 5. It was dark and very, very wet. My first problem was that Johnson Street had been blocked off for some sort of street carnival. Despite having no sense of direction, I managed to navigate my way around that in the dark. The next problem was filling the car with petrol - something I've never done before in my new car. Then, going up the Calder at about 60 k in the 110 k zone, I found myself aquaplaning all over the wet road. Most disconcerting. I wondered if there'd be ice at Macedon. It was 8.5 degrees, so I figured that was too warm for ice. Instead I was treated to thick fog.
The first bird I saw was a kookaburra at 6.20. Other good birds on the trip up were a Royal Spoonbill and a Spotted Harrier.
I arrived at around 8.45, better timing than I'd expected with my slow speeds. I drove up Lake William Road, noting the sign "Dry Weather Road Only." I parked cautiously on the road and was disappointed to see that there were no birders present on this (south) side of the lake. Within minutes a white 4WD arrived, and drove off the road and into the mud. I followed it on foot down towards the lake and recognised Barb Williams as one of the passengers. Again there were lots of stilts and avocets, but not much else. Certainly no sign of a dowitcher.
After extricating the 4WD from the mud, the carload of birders decided to check the north side of the lake and Barb promised to phone me if the bird were there. The road on the north side was undergoing major roadworks when we were here on Wednesday, and I thought it wouldn't be safe to drive on it in my little car. I think the aquaplaning on the Calder made me more cautious than usual.
Then came the news: the bird was present! I was going north, mud or no mud. I smiled sweetly (at least I hope it was a sweet smile) at a total stranger and asked for a lift. I drove to the north road where I intended to park and jump into his vehicle, but when I arrived, I thought the road looked perfectly fine - in fact much better than Lake William Road - so I did not need to impose on him.
There were quite a few people there - I counted 13 cars. And a very happy group of birders they were too. After last Wednesday's heat, today was windy and cold. And most of all, muddy. But nothing could dampen our spirits as we admired that dear, delightful dowitcher.
I should also thank Richard Baxter for posting the bird's return on Birding-Aus, because otherwise I would not have known it was there.