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Alpine Birds & Flowers Trip Report

Crackenback Mountain Thredboby John Gale
Day 1. Left the Sydney screech, farewelled from Killara by Channel-billed Cuckoos and Galahs.

A loose flock of 6 Gang Gangs were our first birds at Mackey VC Rest Area, then 3 cuckoos – juv Shining Bronze, Horsfield’s and Fan-tailed, between 4 thornbill species – Yellow-rumped, Brown, Striated and Yellow. Clamorous Reed-warbler called from the creek, and Eastern Water Skink and E W Dragon were sunning themselves. Other birds included Olive-backed Oriole, Rufous Whistler, Crimson Rosella with young, and White-throated Treecreeper feeding young. Further south, a Black Kite was a great pickup. Namadgi National Park Visitors Centre was blustery: a Wedge-tailed Eagle put up a flock of Galahs, and Noisy Friarbirds and Pied Currawongs were active. On route to Bimblegumbie we had several raptors – Collared Sparrowhawk, Brown Goshawk and Nankeen Kestrel, finches included Red-browed, Diamond and European Goldfinch, as well as Restless Flycatcher, Flame Robin, Dusky Woodswallow, Rufous Songlark, and an Echidna managed to safely cross the road. An afternoon shower took the edge off the day.

Cormorant Nesting Site 09 by John Gale
Day 2. During our pre-breakfast walk at Bimblegumbie we found Yellow-faced, White-eared and, most common, White-naped Honeyeaters, (the Yellow-faced had 3 fledglings, 2 on the rim of the nest, 1 had ventured just beyond, all less than 1/3 of a metre off the ground) Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Dusky Woodswallow, Diamond Firetail, Eastern Yellow Robin and a family of 4 Tawny Frogmouths. The Thredbo Riverside Walk showcased some wonderful wildflowers identified by Carol, as were Olive Whistler and Flame Robin.

The chairlift up Crackenback Mountain dropped us into wildly windy alpine conditions with gusts approaching 100 kph, not surprisingly, not too many birds, but irrepressibly and most beautifully, the wildflowers survive. Late in the afternoon a Brush Cuckoo gave us a hint of its accelerating maniacal call.

Water Dragon by John Gale
Day 3. On our morning walk we found the Brush Cuckoo and the Frogmouth family, and added Brown-headed Honeyeater to the White-eared, Yellow-faced and very active White-naped. Red Wattlebird (nesting), Rufous Whistler, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren and Brown Goshawk were added to our Bimblegumbie list.

Next bird highlight was the Khankoban STW. We saw White-winged Choughs just before the entrance, then raptors included Swamp Harrier (putting the ducks up) and Whistling Kite, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels – the Black-fronted though smaller were pushing around the Red-kneed, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Great Egret, Australasian Shoveller, Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut and Grey Teal, European Goldfinch, Australasian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Blackbird, and as we left we had great views of a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters and difficult ones of Mistletoebird – a really productive area. Our lunch stop at Clover Flat produced several Gang Gangs and King Parrots, each of which were feeding young, and much Pied Currawong activity. Further clockwise on our big loop, Barbara spotted a common wombat, foraging in daylight. Last stop at 3 Mile Dam gave us distant views of Hoary-headed Grebe – well spotted Janene. Back home and after another gastronomic delight, our spotlights found a hungry Sugar Glider, 2 Ring-tailed Possums, 2 pairs of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos roosting up high, and throughout, microbats flew through our torchbeams, illuminated for a second.

Day 4. Through a rusted hole in an old watertank, a Striated Pardalote delivered a morning morsel to waiting chicks. This was the ninth species breeding record for Bimblegumbie this trip, which included Dusky Woodswallows feeding young in the nest as were Red Wattlebirds seen later this morning. Other good birds on our morning walk included 4 Diamond Firetails, much honeyeater activity, a family group of Sacred Kingfishers and Olive-backed Oriole. On route to the high country we lucked upon a flock of at least 50 White-throated Needletails scything across the landscape. Up towards the alpine zone at Charlotte Pass, we witnessed that knarled yet resilient beauty of those twisted old eucs on the Snow Gum Walk, some aging towards 300 years. Brown Thornbills, White-browed scrub-wren and a family group with a lovely male Flame Robin flitted through the limbs. From the lookout platform we could see groups of microscopic humans filing up the Kosciuszko Summit Track, congregating at the end celebrating the wonder up there, one standing triumphantly on top of the trigpoint.

Lunch at Rennix Track offered 3 Nankeen Kestrels calling, and up the track more Flame Robins, very confiding to Wendy. A Pallid Cuckoo called in the distance. Returning home through that beautifully desolate country, with great granite standing stones placed with the precision of a Zen Master, reminded me of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy character – Slartibardfast – a planet designer, who when pondering Norway’s coastline commented “Yes, some of my best work”! The Big Burp gave us several Cunningham’s Skinks.

Tawny Juvenile at Bimblegumbie by John Gale
Day 5. This morning’s walk we set out to find the Brush Cuckoo again – successfully- and also saw great views of Eastern Yellow Robin, and Satin Flycatcher feasting on a dragonfly, an Australian Raven called, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, and found the new roost of the Tawny Frogmouth family, one youngster making a continuous froglike pulsing call. We packed up, said our goodbyes (so long gourmet food hello baked beans) and were off to Michelago, Margaret finding a White-necked Heron on route. At the train station we added Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Through to Canberra with Australian Pipit darting off the road, Silver Gull, Nankeen Kestrel, and a Black Swan on Lake Burley Griffin. Lunch at the Botanic Gardens and Carol called down a pair of Weebills, then we had King Parrot, Eastern and Crimson Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler, White-winged Choughs, a photogenic Eastern Water Dragon, and a couple of treats courtesy of the bookshop.

Last stop at Pheasant’s Nest gave us Silvereyes and icecreams, and finally Carol conjured up an Australian White Ibis!

Thanks go to a sharp-eyed, good humoured, and well behaved bunch (mainly thanks to Janine), yes OK thanks to Janine’s organisational skills with or without the folder and driving, Carol for driving, keen and enthusiastic botanical knowledge and birds – thanks, and the warm hospitality of Bimblegumbie – great food, lovely country down there, good company and 112 species plus assorted mammals, reptiles, insects, a monotreme, and glorious wildflowers, a wonderful Australia Day Weekend.

Report by John Gale guiding for Follow That Bird

PS : If you would like to see the plant list, email me and I will send it to you, Janene

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
3/59 Central Road
Avalon NSW 2107
Sydney Australia
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer