The third trip by Follow That Bird to the beautiful Barrington Tops took place during a heat wave which is not the best time to try and find the special birds of the Barrington Tops and the Gloucester District. However despite three days of above 35 degrees and the final day of a cool, heavily overcast and drizzling day, we did see 124 species of birds which was better than the previous trip in 2004 but not as good as he trip in 2006! Despite the heat, we had some great birding experiences and close encounters with a number of special birds.
Wompoo Pigeon by David Simpson
As usual, we took morning tea in the Hunter Botanical Gardens where Dollarbirds, Brush Cuckoos, Golden Whistlers, Sacred Kingfishers and Orioles were singing their heads off and an Oriole's nest was found! Suitably sustained by Janene's Orange Desert Cake we were off, took the turn onto Buckets Way, and soon we were checking the roadsides for interesting birds. We stopped briefly at Booral to check out a Yellow-billed Spoonbill on farm dam that was busy feeding and where Whistling Kite, Grey Teal, Fairy & Tree martins were seen. Soon we were getting good views of Wood Ducks, Galahs, White-faced Herons and both Rosellas as we passed through the greenest countryside enroute to Gloucester. We took lunch in Gloucester Park for its lovely rainforest shade trees and here we had great views of White-throated Gerygones, Dollarbirds, Figbirds and a White-necked Heron. An afternoon trip to the Gloucester Wetlands (aka STW) found Intermediate & Great Egrets, both Yellow-billed & Royal Spoonbills, Hardhead, Australian Grebes and the more common waterbirds.
From here we headed for Copeland Tops SCA passing through Barrington & Copeland enroute. Even though it was still quite hot we soon were checking out Black-faced and Spectacled Monarchs, Brown Gerygones & Brown Thornblls, Scarlet & Lewin's Honeyeaters, King Parrot, Yellow Robin & Golden Whistlers, while Brown Cuckoo-Dove & Green Catbird were calling, We slowly drove back through Copeland Village gaining good views of Satin Bowerbirds and a female Regent Bowerbird, then passed Copeland Common where we picked up Pheasant Coucal, the first of many, and Sacred Kingfishers & Straw-necked Ibis, and Black-shouldered Kites at Barrington. Our last stop for the day was the Cemetery, where we once again managed to find Grey-crowned Babblers and watch them busily feeding shade amongst the grave stones. We were so glad to get back to the Country Club Motel near the golf course and Club, to enjoy a cool dip in the pool at the end of very hot day and enjoy the good meals of the Club.
Next morning we combed the golf course and surround grazing paddocks and at the end of the hour we had totted up 32 species! Southern Boobooks had called during the night and Pheasant Coucals & Pallid Cuckoos were calling in the morning! Latham's Snipe, Cisticola & Pipits, Great Egrets and a White-necked Heron were found in the wet and swamp areas; Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage were feeding amongst the cows, and around the Motel were more noisy Grey-crowned Babblers, Sacred Kingfishers and Dollarbirds. Soon we were off Gloucester Tops, but stopping on the way near Berrico to check out a Rufous Songlark (the only one for the trip) and a Brown Falcon. Sharpe's Creek Camping area within the Gloucester Tops section of Barrington Tops NP was the first stop and morning tea break. Here we had some amazing views of first, a female Superb Lyrebird walking and then running through the camping area and then just inside the rainforest, we were very close to a calling male Lyrebird who every now and then would vigorously shake and fan his tail! Great views and a enjoyable experience, later in the afternoon we had good views of a Russet-tailed Thrush at the same place. Other good birds here were Shining Bronze and Fan-tailed Cuckoos and Black-faced Monarchs. From here we drove up to Gloucester Tops and as the day wore on so the day got hotter, so by the time we reached Kerrapit Trail it was very hot and the birds nowhere to be seen! Finally we picked up a pair of Red-browed Treecreepers, 2 Scarlet Robins, some beautiful Macleay's Swallowtail Butterflies and a large yellow pea, Oxylobium ericafolium. We lunched at the Gloucester Tops picnic area where the commonest species to be seen were Striated Pardalotes and White-browed scrub-wrens, and then we did a walk through the Antarctic Beach Forest. It was wonderful to see the great Beech Trees and in the forest, the calls of the Golden Whistles and Fan-tailed Cuckoos echoed through the trees. Satin Bowerbirds and Spotted Pardalotes were the main species seen. We drove slowly back, looking for birds along the way but apart from Choughs near the Rawdon Vale Rd, nothing special was seen.
Next morning, our early morning walk took us across the road into some Forest Red Gum woodland, soon we were having close encounters with Grey-crowned Babblers, we had two Pallid Cuckoos loudly calling to each other, and checked out Grey Fntails and White-throated Gerygones in the saplings. Channel-billed Cuckoos and a Coucal were also calling! After breakfast we were off to Barrington Tops, again another very hot day. At the ridge between Barrington & Copeland we stopped for some close views of Coucals and Sacred Kingfishers, and near the Rawdon Vale turnoff we encountered a Wedge-tailed Eagle & Brown Falcon, and a number of Pipits. We stopped a number of times enroute to the Barrington Tops, and marvelled at all the flowering Illawarra Flame Trees showing brilliant scarlet amongst the dark green of the other rainforest trees, as we made our way up the steep ranges. Top birds on the Tops included Large-billed Scrub-wren, Lyrebird and calling Shining Bronze & Fan-tailed Cuckoos at Honeysuckle Point, Red-browed Treecreepers and Flame Robin at Devils Hole, and more Flame Robins at Polblue Swamp lunch spot, After lunch we search out Crescent & White-naped Honeyeaters, Rufous Whistlers, Tree Martins and then it was time to leave and head back down the Mountain as a bushfire was reported to be approaching from the north-west, not that we saw any smoke. It was very hot and windy by then and with few birds to see, we made our way back to Gloucester, checking out a few more Pheasant Coucals on the way. At Copeland Common, a short stop found Torresian Crows, Red-browed finch, Orioles and Eastern Rosellas to add to our days list.
Juvenile Wood Duck by Neil Fifer
The Cool change came through at 4.10 am and so by sun-rise fog and drizzled had settled in and the temperature was down to 20C and it remained cloudy, overcast and drizzly all the day. We had a good stop along the banks of the Manning River, 3 km NW of Rookhurst, and found Brush Cuckoos, Noisy Friarbirds, Jacky Winter, Black-shouldered Kite, Black-faced Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher and 24 other species in 20 minutes! A stop at some large fruiting Moreton Bay Figs near a farm house along the way, found 3 Channel-billed Cuckoos, 8 Topnot Pigeons & Satin Bowerbirds all feeding on the figs, with a Nankeen Kestrel and many Tree Martins nearby. At the turnoff to Woko NP there was a Koel Cuckoo, Choughs, Sacred Kingfisher and Dollarbirds, and soon we were exploring the Woko NP picnic area before having our morning tea! Here a Noisy Pitta was calling, Black-faced Monarchs were building a nest, great views were had by all of a pair Wompoo Pigeons, and there were close encounters with Eastern Whipbirds, & Yellow Robins, and Wonga Pigeons were seen and heard! A short walk along Brush Turkey Track found Spectacled & Black-faced Monarchs and Rufous & Grey Fantails, as well as the three scrub-wrens! It was with reluctance that we left Woko and started the long journey home through the drizzle and rain. No new birds were added on the return journey, although the Bulahdelah Forest Park turned on the usual Noisy Friarbirds, Rufous Whistlers and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, while Olive-backed Orioles were found feeding young in a nest!
So despite the hot weather we all had some enjoyable birding experiences, and Bernice, Janet, Helen, Barbara and Brian all had a great birding time in the beautiful Barrington Tops and enjoyed good food and comfortable beds at the Golf Club and Motel. The new coach performed well and we all appreciated Janene's driving skills on those steep mountain roads.
by Alan Morris guiding for Follow That Bird