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Beautiful Barraba Trip Report
Rufous Songlark
A group of ten birders visited Barraba, on the North-west Slopes of NSW during the period 5-9 November 2003 for the purpose of checking out the “Birding Routes” of Barraba, a location synonomous these days as being a place where one is likely to see the Regent Honeyeater. This trip was centred around the historic beef and sheep property “Oakhampton”, now also an award winning B&B;, located between Manilla and Barraba and close to Split Rock Dam. The 1700 ha property has plenty of its own White Box woodlands, some of which had commenced to flower and thus attracting Little & Musk Lorikeets, and Noisy and Little Friarbirds. The property also has a beautiful homestead garden with both native and European trees and shrubs so that there were plenty of birds to see there as well. Good stands of Bottlebrushes in the garden along with several flowering Mugga Ironbarks, not only attracted the aforementioned birds, but also Brown, Striped, Spiney-cheeked &White-plumed; Honeyeaters, and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Zebra Finches and Southern Whitefaces fed on the ground. Even a male Koel and 2 Channel-billed Cuckoos visited the house garden each day! Two large dams on the property attracted Red-kneed Dotterels, Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts and the usual array of ducks, Coots & Moorhens, but also Peregrine Falcon, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Little Eagle, Brown Goshawk & Kestrel. Turquoise Parrots were also located in the woodlands.

The first full day there was spent checking out the Borah & Tarpoley Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR) in Barraba and Adams Reserve in Manilla Shire. White-winged Trillers, Rufous Songlarks, Brown Treecreepers, Sacred Kingfishers, Rufous Whistlers, Masked and White-browed Woodswallows were a feature of every site we visted in Barraba Shire and nests were found of most species. In addition at Tarpoley TSR (Bird Route No 8) we also found some Crested Shrike-tits and Hooded Robins, Jacky Winters and Peaceful Doves.

At the well known Borah TSR (Bird Route No 9), where we lunched under the shade of the creek side vegetation, we saw more Turquoise Parrots, as well as Fuscous Honeyeaters, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, a Little Lorikeet feeding two nestlings in the tree hollow, and a nice group of Double-barred & Plum-headed Finches and Diamond Firetails, and nearby there was a Pallid Cuckoo. Dollarbirds, Bee-eaters, Yellow Robins & Mistlebirds were present in the creekside vegetation. From here we finished the day at Adams Reserve where a Black Falcon was seen dive bombing a Little Eagle, and Spiney-cheeked Honeyeaters and Olive-backed Orioles attracted our attention.

Next day (7/11/03) we birded along the Cobbadah-Upper Horton Bird Routes (No.12) stopping at a number of places in the White Box woodlands along this route. Plenty of White Box in flower so that Little, Musk, Scakly-breasted and even a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets in Upper Horton were the order of the day. Once again Turquoise Parrots we found in two locations as were Black-chinned Honeyeaters, while Jacky Winter, Fuscous Honeyeater, Yellow Robin,Willie Wagtails and Sacred Kingfishers were all found nesting. Good view were had of King & Red-winged Parrots and Dusky Woodswallows. Spotted Bowerbirds were found in Upper Horton village, while Zebra, Red-browed, Double-banded & Plum-headed Finches were found along the Horton River and Choughs, Fairy Martins, Apostlebirds and Striated Pardalotes were found nesting. In the afternoon we visited Little Creek TSR ( No 6) where in the rain and drizzle we ate our lunch and watched Brown-headed Honeyeaters, White-throated Gerygones and Restless Flycatchers, while a visit to Plumthorpe TSR (No.5) gave us good views of Wedge-tailed Eagles, Common Bronzewings and a Hobby, not to mention just about all of the above birds. While at Upper Horton we checked out the Paulina Trees in a private yard where Regent Honeyeaters had been reported for several days earlier but saw none. A quick visit to the Mille TSR (No 3) found more Diamond Firetails, Dusky Woodswallow feeding flying young, and nest of the Rufous Songlark with 3 young.

Our final full day at Barraba saw us travelling along the Garibaldi TSR (No. 11) & the Nangagrah & Conoor TSRs (No.10). Conditions here in the eastern part of the Shirev turned out to be much drier than the western side but in the Gulf Creek and Coonoor sites, some Mugga Ironbark, c. 15% was in flower, while around the Woodsreef area there was some White Box and Yellow Box flowering. Alas no Regent Honeyeaters were found but we did get good views of Little & Wedge-tailed Eagles at Gulf Creek Sports Ground along with Musk Lorikeets feeding young, and a Fantailed Cuckoo. At Garbaldi TSR our first Grey Fantail for the trip was seen; while at Conoor TSR we had great views of a number of White-throated Gerygones including one building a nest. Finally at Nangahrah TSR we located nesting Weebills and Black-fronted Dotterels on the common at Woodsreef. On the way back, we call in at the Winery, some 3 km north of Barraba to replenish our supplies only to learn from the proprietor that at 1000hrs that morning 10 Regent Honeyeaters came unexpectedly into his clump of flowering bottlebrush (the property adjoins Mille Reserve)! Alas we were heading home next day so that those Regents will have to wait for another visit.

We returned home travelling from Manilla via the Moore Creek Rd to Bendemeer, then along the Thunderbolt Way through Walcha, Nowendoc, Bretti Camping Reserve, Gloucester, Newcastle to Sydney through some great country. Conditons between Walcha and Nowendoc were very green and lush, and we were able to have some good sightings of Azure Kingfisher, Satin Bowerbird, Scarlet Honeyeater and other coastal birds. All up 123 species were seen in the Barraba District while 143 species in total were seen for the trip, a special feature of this trip was the number of nests and birds feeding young that were located.. Accommodation at “Oakhampton” was excellent while the meals prepared and served by our hosts there, Belinda Nixon & family (6th generation owners of the property) was a memorial feature of the trip, and while we were there we were able to watch Australia beat Scotland in the Rugby! Barraba is well worth a visit, and a repeat visit for those who have been there before. Don’t forget to check out the winery for its birds and its wines, we particularly liked the Cabernet Sauvignon! The people of Barraba are very happy to welcome visitors to their Shire.

Alan Morris leading for

Follow That Bird – sydney’s birding company

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