With a promise of receding winds and fine weather for next four days, after a period of strong winds and fluctuating hot and cold conditions, 10 happy birders headed out of Sydney for a good time birding around Coonabarabran, the Warrumbungles NP, Baradine and the Pilliga Scrub. The wind was not too kind to us all that day so that it was a bit of a struggle to get any good views of the birds but we persevered! The first birding spot was at Broke Common where while having morning tea, we saw the first of our first Dollarbirds, Rufous Whistlers, White-throated Gerygones and Bee-eaters for the trip, found a group of Brown-headed Honeyeaters with dependent young and Striated Pardalotes. At nearby Monkey Face Ck Lagoon there were Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills and a White-necked Heron. Our lunch stop was at Merriwa Creek, Merriwa, where there was a Great Egret hiding in the reedbed, a Collared Sparrowhawk being chased by Magpies, Double-barred & Red-browed Finches fed along the edge of the water and White-plumed and Striped Honeyeaters were feeding in the River Oaks. Three km west of Cassilis we came upon a flock of about 40 White-browed & 10 Masked Woodswallows feeding on caterpillars & moths in a patch of Patersons Curse, along with Pipits, allowing good views of the birds, we were see these Woodswallows throughout our trip. Then just a bit further on a pair of Brown Falcons. Later at Coolah we caught up with flocks of Straw-necked Ibis; at Weetaliba a 20 minutes stop in a patch of Yellow Box woodland found Jacky Winters & Red-winged Parrots; and 3 km east of Binnaway on a TSR beside the Ulundi Creek we found our first Rufous Songlarks, Dusky Woodswallows and Brown Treecreepers. We arrived into Coonabarabran still in daylight in time to see the parrots all coming to feed at the feeder in the grounds of the Matthew Flinders Motel. Here there were King and Red-winged Parrots, Eastern & Crimson Rosellas & Red-rumped Parrots, Galahs & Sulphur-crested Cockatoos while Musk Lorikeets were feeding in the trees in the grounds! Despite all the wind, our first days count stood at 89 birds, a good total.
Next morning, our early bird walk around the Motel grounds and across the road into a patch of Pilliga Scrub, yielded 34 species before breakfast, including Sacred Kingfisher, Grey-crowned Babbler, Spiny-cheeked & Blue-faced Honeyeaters. By 900 am we were on our way out to the Warrumbungles on a perfect warm spring morning and the weather stayed perfect all day! At Timor Rock we admired the lava plug while listening to the beautiful candescent call of the White-throated Gerygone, and we found a pair of Crested Shrike-tits. At White Gum Lookout, we checked out the great views over the National Park, found a little clump of the rare Greenhood Orchids Oligochaetochilus hamatus and had good views of Yellow Robins and Buff-rumped & Inland Thornbills. Near Strathmore Homestead well within the park, we stopped to allow Red-necked Wallabies and Grey Kangaroos to cross the road, and saw more Dusky Woodswallows, a Hobby and a Wedge-tailed Eagle! We slowly made our way to Camp Pincham to take morning tea amongst Yellow Box and Forest Gum Gums, and to watch White-browed Babblers, Yellow-tufted and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. During our walk along the Grand High Tops Track a pair of Turquoise Parrots flew over and we saw another Crested Shrike-tit, a Golden Whistler, and nesting Pied Currawong and Yellow Robin! We relocated to Wambelong Camp and explored around the flats here before lunch and managed to find a pair of White-throated Gerygones building their nest, while Black-eared Cuckoos were heard calling and a pair of Brown Goshawks thrilled us with their courtship display. Pied Butcherbirds and Mistletoebirds watched us eating our lunch and then it was off to Burbie Canyon to check out the birds and here we found a pair of Leaden Flycatchers this time building a nest. Speckled Warblers, Golden Whistler, Fuscous Honeyeaters and another Turquoise Parrot were other good birds at this site. Our final in park stop was the Woolshed, where we found Brown & Striped Honeyeaters in the River Oaks, Restless Flycatchers, Bee-eaters, Jacky Winters, Buff-rumped Thornbills and a calling Brush Cuckoo. We left the Park and travelled west to Gumin Gumin and Warrumbungle where amongst the wheat fields we found Blue Bonnets, Black-faced Woodswallows, 2 more Wedge-tailed Eagles, many Kestrels and a pair of Brown Falcons. We returned back towards the Park with the setting sun on Chalkers Mountain and Split Rock, it was a wonderful ending to a great days birding when 94 species were seen!
Greenhood Orchids Oligochaetochilus hamatus
by Robin Murray
Again Sunday came forth as another glorious day, and again another great early morning walk, this time seeing Speckled Warblers, Little Friarbird, White-eared Honeyeater & European Blackbird amongst the 34 species seen! Then we were off to Baradine and the Pilliga, stopping first on the road near The Duke's Inn, at Bugaldie where a pair of Ringneck Parrots & Common Bronzewings were seen. At the corner of Butlers Lane (Bird route No 4), we stopped to watch a group of Grey-crowned Babblers and found Pied Butcherbirds nesting and Apostlebirds with young and many Rufous Songlarks madly calling! Butlers Lane leads to O'Dells Crossing in Wittenbra State Forest (SF). We spent 40 minutes here and had great views of 12+ Turquoise Parrots, as well as Ringneck Parrots, and nesting Restless Flycatcher, Yellow Robin, Olive-backed Orioles and Brown Treecreepers. Other species present included Leaden Flycatcher, White-browed Babblers, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike while Black-chinned Honeyeaters were heard calling but not found! We relocated to Baradine to check out the nesting Square-tailed Kites. Here we were fortunate in seeing one adult bird bring in food to the sitting bird which then appeared to feed the young in the nest and herself, but we could not make out what the food item was! Around the nest, calling Sacred Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Dollarbirds were very obvious, and a pair of Cockatiels flew over. Off to Merriwindi SF where we lunched in a grove of Pilliga Box amidst calling Spiny-cheeked, White-eared, Brown-headed & Striped Honeyeaters, Rufous Whistlers and Leaden Flycatchers, and we finally caught up with a Western Gerygone, while White-browed & Dusky Woodswallows hawked overhead. Back to Baradine and out onto the Coonamble road, stopping first at Terridgerie Creek bridge to check out the nesting Fairy Martins, and to see the Little Ravens and Little Friarbirds, and then onto Terridgerie Lagoon. Over 300 Strawn-necked Ibis were roosting around the Lagoon, a pair of Whistling Kites circled overhead, our first White-breasted Woodswallows were hawking through the Red Gums, while Black-fronted Dotterels and a lone Marsh Sandpiper were feeding in the shallows. A Great Egret & Intermediate Egret were also present, Yellow-throated Miners were kicking up a fuss and a group of White-winged Trillers were found! On our return trip we picked up a Spotted Bowerbird in Baradine while at Bugaldie we were lucky to find two male Black Honeyeaters feeding in a flowering White Cedar, while another Spotted Bowerbird was seen nearby! This day we saw 107 species! Wow!
Mallee Ringnecks by David Simpson
Monday morning was the start again of a beautiful sunny day! We were off early with our first stop for the day at Beni Crossing on the Castlereagh River 10 km east of Mendooran. Fairy Martins were nesting under the bridge, a pair of Grey Teal rushed their 9 babies to safety on our arrival, a female Goshawk & a Whistling Kite circled overhead, Reedwarblers and Rufous Whisters called loudly calling and 4 Great Cormorants were roosting on the bank! A walk through the Box woodland TSR yielded Little Friarbirds, Spotted & Striated Pardalotes, more Grey-crowned Babblers and good views of large Eastern Brown Snake! Onto the Riverside Park at Mendooran where there were Dollarbirds, Sacred Kingfishers, another Western Gerygone and many Reedwarblers and some Little Friarbirds. At the Liamena Railway Crossing, west of Dunedoo, there were 6 Emus, were they wild ones? Our return through Dunedoo and Gulgong was very ordinary and there were few birds because this area is hard hit by drought. Conditions had improved by the time we reached Mudgee and our lunch spot at Lawson Park, beside the Cudgegong River at Mudgee was lovely and green! We picked up a Darter here, Dusky Moorhens were nesting, Red-rumped Parrots and Eastern Rosellas were coming and going from their nest holes and Red Wattlebirds were feeding young. Our final birding spot for the day was at Bowenfels, overlooking Lithgow STW where the Blue-billed Ducks were in fine form with their blue bills absolutely glowing! Pinkears and Shovelers were also present in good numbers.
Greenhood Orchids Oligochaetochilus hamatus
by Robin Murray
All up we saw 155 species on the trip well up on out species count for the same trip in March 2006. To Jean, Anne, Rita, Edith, Robin, Rolfe, Christa and Dorothy, many thanks for your good company on this bonzer springtime bird watching trip. The spring time calls of the Rufous Whistlers, Sacred Kingfishers Bee-eaters, Dollarbirds and White-throated Gerygones will long remain in our memories as a standout feature of the trip!
By Alan Morris guiding for FTB