Beautiful Barrington Tops Trip Report
Peter, Joan & Pierre at Pol Blue
We left Circular Quay at 7.30 am and headed to Killara Station for a pickup and we were fortunate to see a beautiful King Parrot. We then headed north for our 4 day bird watching trip to the Barrington Tops area which contains a diverse habitat including the furthest southern remnant of Antarctic beech forest on the mainland.
The Hunter Botanical Gardens was our first stop. We went for a walk before morning tea, and after passing a section of the gardens which was well guarded by Noisy Miners we saw various varieties of common garden birds and then the highlight was the Channel Bill Cuckoo. After morning tea we headed cross country where we made a few unscheduled stops where we saw a Brown Falcon soaring followed by an Australian Hobby. Near Clarence Town we were delighted to by a pair of Dollar Birds, some Pied Butcher Birds and we sighted a Friar Bird nest just above the road.
Lunch was at Dungog where an amicable Forest Raven was perched near our picnic table giving us the opportunity to see the difference between the Australian Raven and the Forest Raven and the final identification was the call. We continued along the Bucket Way where another unscheduled stop produced some Topknot Pigeons and a Bell Miner colony. We also saw two Red Necked wallabies beside the road. Our final stop for the day was Copeland State Forest where we had excellent views of a male and female Log Runner. We also had some more difficult views of a Largebilled Scrub Wren. These two birds were ‘lifers’ for many of the group. Among other sightings was a female White Brow Scrub Wren bringing nesting material and some food to her nest. The nest was well camouflaged at the base of a bushy plant. The Noisy Pita was calling but despite all our efforts to bring it closer we weren’t able to sight the bird. On our way to the Motel at Gloucester we saw a Brush Turkey and Red Necked Pademelon.
Following an excellent dinner, good sleep and a hearty breakfast we headed to Gloucester Tops National Park. A quick stop at Gloucester Cemetery we had good views of the Grey Crowned Babbler. A few kilometres short of the National park entry we stopped to look at a Jacky Winter which proved to be a good stop as we saw a succession of common birds; some Dusky Wood Swallows feeding and perching; a White Winged Triller which was difficult to see at first but eventually we had some stunning views; Yellow Rumped Thornbill and from over the mountains came a Wedgetailed Eagle.
At Sharpes Creek we went for a short walk. While looking at a Black Faced Monarch a male superb Fairy Wren came very close to us. We also heard the Rose Robin calling but no view. Back in the bus we continued to make our way up the windy road enjoying stunning views along the way and we arrived at Kerript Trail where we were welcomed by a Fantailed Cuckoo which was perched nearby our bus stop. We commenced our walk along the Kerript Trail to the tune of Brown Gerygone. The trail didn’t produce many sightings but we heard the elusive Rufous Scrub bird calling and we attempted to see the bird but the result was a few leeches with the bird remaining elusive. It was our first encounter with the Antarctic Beech Forest habit and the group was amazed by its beauty.
Lunch was at Gloucester Falls which is a sub Alpine habitat with Snow Gums being the main tree. We went for a walk where we saw some Striated Thornbills, other common birds with the highlight being the Leaden Flycatcher. We returned by bus to Sharpes Creek and finished the afternoon with a walk along the river where we saw female Lyre Birds, numerous Brown Gerygone and two Yellow Tailed Cockatoos.
Brown Thornbill by Nevil Lazarus
On our way to Barrington Tops we stopped at the upper side of the old Copeland Trail where a surprise awaiting us – Varied Sittella with their characteristic pointy upward bill and running down the tree searching for food made interesting viewing. The view was brief as they were feeding in Bell Miner territory they were chased away. Also viewed were the Golden Whistler and their beautiful call.
Morning tea was at Honeysuckle picnic area (a remnant of Antarctic Beech forest) where we finally had good views of the Rose Robin. One of our team members saw and photographed a Red Bellied Black snake sunning itself in the middle of the pathway. Janene pointed out a beautiful orchid to one of our English visitors.
On the way to Polblue we saw an echidna on the side of the road – another photo opportunity. On the trail at Polblue we observed Tree Martins going in and out of their nest (a hole in a tall Eucalyptus); our ever faithful companion, the Brown Thornbill; a little further on we saw Striated Thornbill which feed a bit higher in the canopy giving us sore necks but a good exercise in comparing the difference between the field marks of the Brown and Striated Thornbill. We heard the Crescent Honeyeater calling a few times but unfortunately it was on the other side of the swamp. By a little creek in very dense vegetation we heard the Olive Whistler. We stopped and tried to entice it to come out but it didn’t comply – so close yet so far! We briefly saw a female Scarlet Robin and a male Flame Robin. After our walk we enjoyed a delicious lunch accompanied by numerous Red Wattle birds.
Back in the bus we stopped again at Copeland Trail where some of us decided to walk the trail again where we had a brief view of a female Tree Creeper; sightings of Golden Whistler, Yellow Faced Honeyeater, Lewins Honeyeater, Brown and Striated Thornbill, King Parrot all of which were out most common sighted bush birds during the trip. We had excellent views of a male and female Spotted Pardalote. As we walked down the trail we eventually left the tall Eucalyptus forest and entered the rainforest but unfortunately the Noisy Pitta wasn’t calling.
We ended the day with a beautiful dinner at Gloucester.
Each morning during our stay at Gloucester some of us went on an early morning walk which proved to be fruitful. On the last morning after hearing the Brush Cuckoo at different locations we finally had a very good view. Some of the highlights of our morning walks were Sacred Kingfishers, Yellow Thornbills, Fig Birds, a Rufous Fantail, Striated Pardalotes, White Winged Triller, Clamorous Reed Warbler.
On the bus and heading towards to Woko National Park we had good views of three Yellowbilled Spoonbills and further on good views of a Wonga Pigeon. At Woko National Park (a remnant of dry rainforest habitat) we had a successful short walk with the highlight being a Spectacle Monarch for which we had searched previously at Sharpes Creek. Another highlight was the Green Catbird. Outside the rainforest we heard a Cicada Bird calling (no view). The Casuarina by the creek revealed some Yellow Thornbills, Satin Bowerbird and Scarlet Honeyeater amongst other common birds. One of our team members saw a male Regent Bowerbird. Grey Goshawk and Wedge Tailed Eagles were seen soaring.
On our way back towards Gloucester we chanced upon two Pheasant Coucal with a brief but good view. We farewelled Gloucester with one last stop. On the Eastern side of town there is an interesting wetland where we saw Darters, Grey Teal, Great Egrets, White Necked Herons. The most interesting part was the many different species of raptors seen in a short period of time. We saw a Kestrel hovering; a Whistling Kite and Brown Falcon chasing each other and a brief view of a Black Shouldered Kite. We continued our journey being amazed at the raptor display we had witnessed.
On our way to Bulahdelah we saw Eastern Rosellas, Crimson Rosella, Masked Lapwing and a couple of Scaly Breasted Lorikeets. We stopped at Bulahdelah for lunch and our last walk produced a few surprises. Near the water dam we heard a Restless Flycatcher. We saw a Rufous Fantail, Noisy Friarbirds chasing each other. At the picnic area we saw White Winged Choughs and heard a Leaden Flycatcher.
Back on the bus and on our way back to Sydney we did the bird list and a total of 134 species were seen or heard. We were hoping to see a Silver Gull (which we amazingly did not see on our trip). I was wondering – can we count the many Silver Gulls seen at Circular Quay at the commencement of our trip?…..as one of our team members suggested.
I would like to personally thank Janene, Joan, Ian, Kathy, Bruce, Pamela, Peter and Jack for their patience and kindness and to have made first trip so pleasant.
by Pierre Charbonneau guiding for FTB