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Birding to Broken Hill &
Menindee Lakes Tour Report
Red-capped Robins by Christina Port
The third Follow That Bird tour to Broken Hill & Menindee Lakes proved to be a very succesful birding adventure for the six people who came along. The second tour was undertaken in May 2008, in autumn, during a drought period and 165 species were seen. In contrast this trip was taken in spring, following a summer of heavy rain and floods, so that the seasonal conditions that we encountered were great for birds, and with spring just underway following some recent rains, there were plenty of birds and over 186 species were seen. The trip will be memorable because of all the Emus we saw with small chicks and seeing some good flocks of Budgerigars in the Broken Hill Region, including one flock of 300+ birds; huge numbers of Black-tailed Native-hens on the Lachlan and Darling River Flood Plains particularly at Wilcannia and Menindee; and an extraordinary number of crakes & rails, seen virtually at every wetland we stopped at, and it was Baillon’s Crakes and Australian Spotted Crakes that were particularly common and all participants became quite famliar with these rarely seen birds.

There were memorable close up views of Australian Kangaroos and Wallabies. Around Orange there were Eastern Grey Kangaroos & Swamp Wallabies, at Nangar NP, there were Red-necked Wallabies and Eastern Wallaroos; around Mt Hope and Cobar there were Western Grey Kangaroos; on the grass plains around Broken Hill and Menindee there were many wonderful views of Red Kangaroos, and around Mutawingti NP and Broken Hill, there were close views of Euros, the inland form of the Wallaroo.

Southern Scrub-Robin by Christina Port
Our first birding stop on the first day (Thursday 24/9) was at the Lithgow STW where the highlights were Pink-eared Ducks, Shovelers and Hoary-headed Grebes and the Reedwarblers were calling well!, Soon we were heading down the backroads between Bathurst and Orange, checking out the rural roads for interesting birds like White-winged Choughs and Red-rumped Parrots. We lunched in the Orange Botanic Gardens where a Superb Parrot checked us out, Blackbirds and Goldfinches were added to our list, the last of the Crimson Rosellas were seen for the next 8 days, and White-throated Gerygones serenaded us in the saplings! We made our way to Nangar National Park via Boree Creek and Cudal, and as we entered the Park from the west, we were delighted to find Blue Bonnets, Brown Falcon and Nankeen Kestrels feeding along the access road. We spend about 90 minutes in and around Nangar NP, and picked up Western Gerygone, Speckled Warbler, Jacky Winter, Crested Shrike-tit, Inland Thornbill, Rufous Whistler and Striped Honeyeater, all good box woodland birds, the types that we all wanted to see! By the end of the first day when we reached Forbes we had seen 85 species, not bad for a travel day!

The next day (Friday 25/9) we had an early morning walk around Forbes Lagoon and following up on some Little Friarbirds & Yellow-throated Miners scolding about something, we managed to flush a Barn Owl, which as it flew away, was chased by White-breasted Woodswallows! A pair of Brown Goshawks circled overhead, Choughs, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and White-faced Heons were found nesting, and again Reedwarblers were loudly calling and were very common. Soon we were on our way with the first stop at Gum Swamp, where Rufous Songlarks & Sacred Kingfishers were calling loudly, many clutches of Pinkeared Ducks were seen, the White-bellied Sea-eagles had two large young in their nest, 2 Baillon’s Crakes were feeding along the edges of the Cumbungi, and all the Coots, Hardheads, Grey Teal and Wood Duck were very busy feeding. More Shovelers were seen as well as a small flock of Cockatiel. We stopped briefly at Jemalong weir, where our last Pied Currawongs for the trip were encountered, and had morning tea on the Darling River at Condobolin, catching up with Little Ravens and Black Kites. An interesting stop was a Banar Lake, about 20 SE of Condobolin on the Lake Cargelligo Road. Here Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts and some Whiskered Terns were the highlights with many Grey Teal. At a small wetland area to the south-east of Lake Cargelligo, we found Grey-crowned Babbler, Buff-banded Rail, Glossy Ibis and Red-kneed Dotterel. It was very windy at Lake Cargelligo, so while we dodged the wind and ate our lunch we checked the Lake for birds and managed to find large flocks of Coots, Hoary-headed & Little Grebes, Black-fronted Dotterel and Whiskered Terns and a few Australian Shelducks but no Great Crested Grebe which had been expected! Then we were off to the STW where we were not disappointed, straight away we saw 8 Spotted, 3+ Spotless and perhaps 20+ Baillon’s Crakes! There were also Red-necked Avocets, a Wood Sandpiper, many Black-tailed Native-hens, but no Long-toed Stint that was seen the previous afternoon by members of the Southern Highlands BOC who we met up with. They joined us for a walk around Meredith and John Ervin’s property “Gurrungully” which contains Sheet of Water Lake, one of the chain of lakes that links Lake Cargelligo with the Lachlan River. We spent about 90 minutes here and saw 38 species including Pallid Cuckoo, pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles, Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills, 30+ Glossy Ibis, Great and Little Egrets, Brown Treecreepers, Tree Martins and the best bird, a pair of Brolgas! An Australian Hobby was seen as we were departing. On the way back to Lake Cargelligo where we were staying the night, we checked out another tiny wetland where 4 Painted Snipe were seen two days before. Janene ‘s sharp eyes were the one’s that found the one, possibly two Painted Snipe! Wow! A great tick unfortunately not seen by everyone because of their habit of freezing behind a clump of grass! They shared their little pond with Spotted Crakes, Red-kneed Dotterels, Stilts and Grey Teal! 98 species for the day was not bad!

Budgerigars by Christina Port
The early morning bird walk next morning at Lake Cargelligo (Saturday 26/9) turned up a Pink Cockatoo, calling Olive-backed Orioles, Spiny-cheekd Honeyeaters, the usual waterbirds as seen yesterday and a Hobby took a Red-rumped Parrot that was feeding on the ground quite close to us! Our first morning stop was at Chat Alley, NW of Lake Cargelligo, where Brown Falcons, Brown Songlarks, Zebra Finch, White-winged Fairy-wrens, Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite and a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo were found but no Chats!! Amongst the River Red Gums and Black Box on Booberoi Creek for a 20 minute stop, we found Restless Flycatcher, Peaceful Doves, Western Gerygone, Weebills, Rufous Whistlers, Brown Treecreepes and Striped Honeyeaters, and then a stop in the mallee further along the road yielded Red-capped Robins, Chestnut & Inland Thornbills, Splendid and Variegated Fairy-wrens and more Grey-crowned Babblers. In Round Hill NR our lunch spot, we all had great views of Southern Scrub-Robins, saw White-browed Babblers & their nest, saw White-eared & Brown-headed Honeyeaters and the usual thornbills and Weebills. Betwen Mt Hope and Cobar, at an area of mallee, Grey-fronted Honeyeaters were found feeding dependent young and a large flock of White-browed Woodswallows flew over. A quick check of Cobar Common (on the Bourke Rd) turned up Spotted Bowerbird, a flock of 7 Sittellas, Southern Whiteface and pair of Yellow Robins, in addition to other mallee birds seen that day. By the time we settled into our motel at Cobar we had seen 88 species for the day.

The early morning walk out along the Bourke road (Sunday 27/9) gave us great views of Ringneck, Mulga and Blue Bonnet Parrots, several Brown Honeyeaters, Spiny-cheekded and Singing Honeyeaters, more Spotted Bowerbirds and many Apostlebirds. Our first stop today was the Newey Tank and STW. Amongst the usual collection of ducks and Coots there was a male Musk Duck, some Black-tailed Native-hens, Little Grassbird, Splendid Fairy-wrens, another Pink Cockatoo, and Blackbirds, Rufous Whistlers and Restless Flycatchers were calling well! At the McCulloch Range Rest area, Janene found a Pied Honeyeater amongst all the Yellow-throated Miners and & Apostlebirds, and while crossing the Darling River Flood Plain between Tallywalka Ck and the Darling River, where they was plenty of shallow areas of water, there were many Black-tailed Native-hens, Egrets, Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Black & Whistling Kites and Little Black Cormornats to be seen. While refueling in Wilcannia a flock of 200+ Little Black Cormorants flew over and a Hobby, chased some Fairy Martins and the first of many Black -shouldered Kites in the Wilcannia – Broken Hill areas were seen. 75 km W of Wilcannia near the Springs Rest Area our first Wedge-tailed Eagle for the trip was found, along with a Hobby, Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows. We had great birding at Little Topar Lake, where the lake was very full and came right up to the road giving great views from the coach of Spotted Crakes, Rainbow Bee-eaters, White-fronted and Orange Chats and Red-kneed Dotterels feeding along the shore line of the Lake. There were plenty of Coot, Hardhead and Grey Teal in the Lake, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns were feeding over the water, and Spoonbills and Ibis fed in the adjacent areas. More Wedge-tailed Eagles, Emus and Kestrels were seen on the run into Broken Hill and the days total was 86 species!

Pied Honeyeater by Christina Port
The wind on our first day in Broken Hill was ferocious (Monday 28/9) and birding was difficult. We did a leisurely drive around Silverton checking out the heritage buildings and murals and headed for Umberumberka Reservoir. A Hobby in Silverton, 4+ Musk Ducks and some Hoary-headed Grebes on the Reservoir, and a flock of 18 Cockatiels, White-winged Firy-wrens and Red-capped Robin there, were the highlights. In Penrose Park, Silverton we found nesting Apostlebirds & Yellow-throated Miners, but on our return trip, midway between Silverton & BH, we happened upon a flock of about 300 Budgerigars feeding on the ground, along with some Crimson Chats, Chestnut-crowned Babblers, Chirruping Wedgebills, Black-faced Woodswallows and Zebra finhes in a spot out of the wind. This was the first of a number of Budgie flocks in the Broken Hill Region that we found. A visit to the Stephens Creek reservoir found more HH Grebes and Wedge-tailed Eagles and near Willymatong Creek, more Wedge-bills, a pair of Redthroats and a Red-backed Kingfisher. A late afternoon visit to the Living Desert Park when the wind had dropped turned up Diamond Doves, White-backed Swallow, Chirruping Wedgebills, Crested Bellbird, Rufous Songlarks and more White-browed Woodswallows. Our daily list was 68 species.

On our 2nd day at Broken Hill (Tuesday 29/9), we headed for Menindee Lakes and despite the wind at the Stephens Creek crossing we stopped for Wedgies, Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites, Black Kites, Tree Martins and Emus. A bit further on we happend upon a group of 6 Pied Honeyaters feeding with Spiny-cheeked Honeyaters in Emu-bush Eremophila longifolia and then our first Spotted Harrier quartering over Blue Bush grasslands. Our first stop at Menindee Lake was at Sunset Strip – the waves on the lake were so huge there were no waterbirds to see but while having morning tea in the community centre we managed to find another Red-backed Kingfisher, and nearby another Spotted Harrier. The next stop was at Crick Park in Menindee township close to the Darling River. In 40 minutes we saw 35 species which included White-winged Trillers, new for the trip, both species of Dotterels, plenty of native-hens, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills feeding young, Sacred Kingfisher and the usual waterbirds. Cormorants, Darters & Ducks & Kites continually flew over Menindee on their way up and down the Darling River and to and from all the Lakes. We lunched alongside the river in Kinchega NP amongst the huge Redgums. Here waves of Native-hens ran up and down the bank of the River to drink and return to the bush. The river was full of flocks of Cormorants and Darters and Great Egrets with some Night-Herons. Brown Treecreepers and Grey Shrike-thrushes were our lunch time companions. After lunch we headed for the Park HQ and spent some time here checking out Emu Lake, which at this point was now drying back and the flood plain was full of Native-hens, Herons and Egrets. Other birds here included Australian Shelducks, Chestnut-crowned Babblers, Blue Bonnets and Rufous Songlarks. We checked ou the Saltbush/Blue Bush Plains in the Park but found nothing special other than Pipits and White-winged Fairy-wrens. Plenty of Black-shouldered Kites out feeding as we returned in the evening to Broken Hill, 92 species for the day.

Wedgetail Eagles by Christina Port
Our 3rd day at Broken Hill (Wednesday 30/9) started out sunny and less windy so we had high hopes for the day as we headed for Mutawingti NP. Our first stop was Salthole Ck on the Tibooburra Rd, where we found a nice group of White-backed Swallows for all to see and close up views of two perched juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagles, along with Zebra Finches and Wedgebills. At the Mutawinjti Rd junction, a known site for Redthroats, we spent some time searching and we were finally rewarded with an immature male bird. But here we also saw a group of 8 Black-shouldered Kites, several flocks of Budgies, White-winged Fairy-wrens & Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. A morning tea stop on a creek near Acacia Downs Station turned up a Barn Owl, Pallid Cuckoo & Pipits, and nearer to Mutawingti NP, Hobby and Brown Falcon. A Red-backed Kingfisher entertained us during lunch near the visitors centre and after lunch we walked into Homestead and Mutawingti Gorges. Emus with chicks were all around the place, Red-capped Robins, Southern Whitefaces & Brown Honeyeaters were found in the gorges, another Barn Owl was flushed from a gum tree and Rufous Whistlers and Spiny-cheeked honeayters were common. Our return trip turned out to be a race against time as we were heading south-west along a gravel road into a storm that was coming from the South-west! We made it onto the bitumen, 72 kms from Broken Hill, 10 minutes ahead of the storm hitting, bringing with it heavy rain and lightning! It rained the rest of the way home and there were only 56 species for the day!

The following day we commenced our return to Sydney (Thursday 1/10), it started out fine and then rained intermittently all the way to Nyngan. More Emus with chicks, more Budgies and more Wedge-tails in the Broken Hill to Wilcannia leg. A repeat stop at Little Topar Lake found all the same birds as before but with good views of both Budgies and Gull-billed Terns. Just outside of Wilcannia we checked out Woytchugga Lake, where we saw about 400 BT Native-hens, Blue Bonnets, Wedgebills and Yellow-billed Spoonbills. On the crossing of the flood plain between the Darling River and Tallywalka Creek, where there must have been over 2000 BT Native-hens seen from the coach, we saw 5 different Spotted Harriers quartering over the grass plains and shallow wetlands, several crossing in front of the coach, great views! At 20 kms east of Wilcannia was a small flock of Pink Cockatoos and an afternoon stop at Newey Tank, Cobar yeilded a female Musk Duck, Brown Honeyeater and Nankeen Night Herons, not seen on the first visit! A flock of 200 Budgerigars at Tikkara HSD, 12 km west of Nyngan, was a good find! 91 species for the day.

Barn Owl and friends by Christina Port
Our final day (Friday 2/10) was an early start and we were away by 7.30, at times through mist and light rain and other times, heavy rain! There were still some good birds to see, like Spotted Bowerbird, Blue Bonnets and Cockatiel around Nyngan, at Trangie were more Night Herons and White-necked Herons, at Belaringar, a small flock of Budgies, the last for the trip and at Narromine, where we stopped for morning tea, Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Rufous Songlarks and a Peregrine Falcon. A 20 minute stop at Geirie Bald Hill Reserve, amongst the White Box Woodland there, we found a Little Eagle, Peaceful Doves, Sacred Kingfisher, an early Leaden Flycatcher and Rainbow Bee-eaters. Our lunch stop was at Burrundong Arboretum, another White Box Woodland, where flowering box trees were attracting Musk Lorikeets & King Parrots! Our final bird stop was at Lake Wallace, Wallerawang in the rain, hoping for a Great Crested Grebe. Alas it was so windy on the Lake there was none to be seen but we did get a small flock of White-browed Woodswallows feeding on the road, a Baillon’s Crake at the waters edge and a flock of 20+ Goldfinches feeding on the grass. Our total bird list for the trip was 186 species and for Bruce, Rita, Kathleen, Pat, Brenda and Christina, a great birding experience in western NSW.

Alan Morris Ornithologist for Follow That Bird.

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