Broken Hill & Menindee Lakes
Five lucky people, together with driver/leader Janene Luff and Guide Alan Morris headed out of Sydney on a wet Tuesday 6th May heading for western NSW and looking forward to seeing the birds in the dry county. And it was dry but first we had to get away from the cold wet mountains where our first stop was at Bowenfels, overlooking the Lithgow STW. This favourite stopping place did not disappoint with everyone soon checking on the Blue-billed & Pink-eared Ducks that regularly frequent this site! Between Vittoria and Orange, we twice stopped for good views of Wedge-tailed Eagles (first of many) and Little Eagles (only seen here!). Lunch was at Lake Canobolas where amid the autumn colours of the Oaks, Poplars Liquid Ambers we caught up with Crimson Rosellas, Hoary-headed Grebes & Yellow-rumped Thornbills. We spent several hours at Nangar National Park (NP), near Eugowra where we were delighted to find 3 Ground Cuckoo-shrikes & Apostlebirds on the road into the Park, and plenty of bushbirds in the Park including Turquoise Parrot, Speckled Warbler, Double-barred Finch, Inland Thornbill, Common Bronzewing, Golden Whistlers, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and Red-capped Robin while a short stop at Eugowra added Brown Treecreeper & White-plumed Honeyeaters and we arrived in Forbes just on dark.
Striped Honeyeater by David Simpson
The early morning walk around Forbes CBD and Lake Forbes turned up 23 species including Blue-faced Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow-throated Miner & Tree Martins while at nearby Gum Swamp were our first Grey-crowned Babblers and Cockatiel and many waterbirds including Shoveler and Musk Duck. Stops along the Lachlan River were at Jemalong Weir and other TSR's where we were amazed at the numbers of Choughs, some times up to 100 birds feeding together but also plenty of Wedge-tail Eagle, Whistling Kite, Kestrel and the occasional Brown Falcon and our first Black Kites. We lunched at Kiacatoo Bridge on the Lachlan River where amongst the Red Gums were Weebill, Western Gerygone, Mistletoebird, Striated Pardalote, Grey Fantail and Rufous Whistler, and then moved into the Black Soil country with its Belah and Boree woodland vegetation and were soon checking out Emus & Blue Bonnets as we headed towards Lake Cargelligo.
An hour's inspection of the small lake known as Sheet of Water on Meredith & John Ervinšs property "Gurrungully" yielded our first flock of 32 Australian Shelduck, as well as Black-winged Stilt, Caspian tern, White-bellied Sea-eagle, White-necked Heron & Great Egret. As we entered Lake Cargelligo township we were met by a small flock of Pink Cockatoos that settled into some onešs backyard tree and we all had great views. On the Lake were many Crested Grebes some with young, along with Hoary-headed & Australian Little Grebes & Hardheads.
The mornings walk along along the Lake foreshore was very productive and we saw plenty of Black-fronted Dotterel, White-fronted Chat & White-breasted Woodswallows as well as the birds previously mentioned, Brolgas were heard calling and Pink-ears, Gull-billed Terns and Avocets were located in wetlands adjacent to the Lake. A great birding spot! We headed for Cobar via Mt Hope and while making a brief stop at Cargelligo Weir we found another Sea-eagle, saw two Brolgas and passing through Euablaong picked up Jacky Winter & Restless Flycatcher. Morning tea was taken at the edge of Round Hill Nature Reserve (NR), where Southern Whitefaces, Mulga Parrots, Spotted Bowerbird, Horsfieldšs Bronze-Cuckoo and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills were the highlights! We moved further west to the edge of Nombinnie NR where we made two stops in the mallee and at both sites we had great views of Southern Scrub-Robin and Shy Heathwren. Crested Bellbird, White-eared, Brown-headed & Striped Honeyeaters, and Splendid Fairy-wren were some of the other highlights. North of Mt Hope we stopped first for a pair of Banded Lapwings, then some large flocks of Cockatiels and the usual Wedgies! At a location about 80 km South of Cobar in mallee we found both Yellow-plumed and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters. Another great days birding!
Crimson Chats by David Simpson
Our mornings walk out towards Cobar's racecourse again provided plenty of birds. Highlights were Mulga & Ringneck Parrots, a Little Button-quail was flushed and Singing Honeyeaters were calling everywhere, Zebra Finches and Red-capped Robins were a bonus. We headed for Wilcannia and Broken Hill, stopping at a number of locations to check out Pink Cockatoos, Emus, Wedge-tailed Eagles and the like. At the Darling River at Wilcannia, we ate our lunch on the river bank and managed to see a few Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and Grey Shrike-thrushes. Stops near Scopes Range and Metford Tank yielded the expected Chestnut-crowned Babblers and Chirruping Wedge-bills and then onto Broken Hill.
From Broken Hill on the first day we made excursions to Silverton and Umberumberka Reserve, where at the latter place we picked up a few Blue-billed Ducks, White-backed Swallow, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Grey Fantail, Variegated Fairy-wren, Redthroat at several locations, and on the Mundi Mundi Plains a party of Cinnamon Quail-thrush. In the afternoon we visited museums and art galleries, in the late afternoon we inspected the sculptures in the Living Desert Park, and then walked down through the hills to the Carpark, the birds here being mostly Black-faced Woodswallows, Tree Martin and Singing Honeyeaters. On the second day we went out to Menindee Lakes and Kinchega NP, again stopping in the hills south of Broken Hill for more Redthroats, Hooded & Red-capped Robins, Mulga Parrot & Chestnut-crowned Babblers. There was no water in Menindee Lakes but there was water in Wetherill and Pamamaroo Lakes, and in Copi Hollow we saw many Great Egrets, Whistling Kites and Pied Cormorant, Blue-billed Duck, White-necked Heron, Hardhead, both small grebes and another Restless Flycatcher.
The Red Gum forests along the Darling River within Kinchega NP rewarded us with some great birding, with many Darter and Pied Cormorants along the River and 3 Crested Shrike-tits, Peaceful Dove, Brown Treecreeper, Black Kites overhead and another Restless Flycatcher. Time was spent exploring the old Kinchega Woodshed where plenty of Blue Bonnets and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills were found and the saltbush plains, where a large mixed flock of Black-faced Woodswallows, White-fronted & Crimson Chat, Pipits, Southern Whitefaces and White-winged Fairy-wrens was followed. Our final day in the Broken Hill district was spent out at Mutawinjgi NP where we explored two of the Mulga covered gorges checking our the Aboriginal Heritage and the beautiful colours of the gorges. Peaceful & Diamond Doves, Rufous Whistlers and Red-capped Robin, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Wedge-bills and White-winged Fairy-wrens were the common birds found on this day and we saw another Cinnamon Quail-thrush!
Major Mitchells by David Simpson
We reluctantly headed for home on Saturday 13 May but not before we stopped near Mt Gibbs Railway Station and checked out large groups of Wedgebills, one flock of 80 birds being noted! Redthroats, White-winged Fairy-wrens and Mulga Parrots were also found around here. Just east of Wilcannia we counted 11 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos feeding on the ground in saltbush, great views and at Baden Park, 100 km W of Cobar found more Spotted Bowerbirds & Red-capped Robins. Great Cobar tank and the Cobar STW were checked out, so many birds! Including good views of winter plumaged Crimson Chats, White-browed Babblers, European Blackbird, Yellow Thornbill, Jacky Winter and Restless Flycatchers plus all the ducks and grebes.
We stayed the night in Nyngan arriving and departing in the dark!! However west of Trangie we came across some very large flocks of Cockatiel, re-entered the territories of Black-shouldered Kite because there was plenty of grass, and saw our last Emus for the trip. We took morning tea in Geurie Bald Hill Reserve and had crippling views of Diamond Firetails, a Rufous Songlark & Dusky Woodswallows, along with Brown Treecreepers, Little Lorikeet, Sitellas and Rufous Whistlers. We stopped for lunch in Burrendong Arboretum where we farewell the Apostlebirds and re-discovered Musk Lorikeets, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Little Friarbirds! What a great trip and what good company was Belinda, Rose, Rita, Janet and Bernice! Everyone saw some new birds for their Australian List and we all enjoyed the wonderful desert scenery of the mulga covered hills and gorges and saltbush plains of the Broken Hill District. 169 species were seen all up, a good total for late autumn/winter.
By Alan Morris guiding for FTB