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Returning to the Capertee & Wolgan Valleys
Trip Report
Pantone’s Crown by
Rita Johnston-Lord
The Blue Mountains drizzle provided an atmospheric start to the weekend with our first stop at Evans Lookout where waratah flowers stood out like red beacons along the roadside. We pulled up just short of the carpark to look for the Flame Robin that I’d been keeping an eye on all spring. No sooner had we got out of the bus and it called, allowing everyone great views of this stunning bird. Flame Robins have a preference for recently burnt forest, which explains why it had moved into this patch (which was part of the Nov 2006 bushfire).

Two Grey Currawongs and some Brown-headed Honeyeaters were also seen here. During morning tea we searched the trees for Glossy Black-Cockatoos, unsuccessfully. However, just as we were leaving, a soft, short growl got my attention and there, sitting quietly chewing on Allocasuarina seeds, was a group of 3 Glossies. Probably been sitting there watching us all along!

Driving west we saw 4 or 5 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos on River Lett Hill, and pale-yellow flowering Acacia falciformis graced the roadside.

The two valleys that would be the focus of our weekend are separated by just a narrow ridge yet are quite different in character and birdlife, the Capertee being broader and characterised by more inland species. Into the Wolgan we went first, the narrow winding road giving spectacular views of the towering cliffs above the valley. At the foot of the Wolgan Gap the tinkling calls of Bell Miners filtered in through the bus windows.

Lunch by Carol’s Dam by Rita Johnston-Lord
Between here and Newnes the birds were plentiful, with some of the highlights along the road being Common Bronzewing, Double-barred Finch, Diamond Firetail, Brown Falcon, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dusky Woodswallow, White-winged Triller and an astonishing fight between 3 Pipits.

Our lunch site at Newnes campground had White-winged Choughs, a shiny blue/black Satin Bowerbird, Brush Cuckoo heard and a multitude of flies which tried their best to compete with us for lunch. The calls of the Bleating Tree Frogs fooled some members of the group who mistook them for various bird calls! A short walk after lunch yielded several Rufous Whistlers, and White-naped and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. On the way out of the valley a Crested Shrike-tit was an excellent sighting from the bus.

Our first birds for the Capertee Valley were none other than a small flock of Plum-headed Finches perching along a fence. Further along the road we found Diamond Firetail, Southern Whiteface, Zebra Finches, Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo and a White-necked Heron. Brown Songlarks are particularly numerous this year and this day we had good scope views of a male on a fence. We arrived at our motel with a good bird list already under our belt and looking forward to Sunday to explore the Capertee Valley at greater length.

That night it rained, which was obviously appreciated by some of the wildlife. While walking back to our motel after dinner, we found a ‘Pobblebonk’ or Banjo Frog on the road. This large frog is so named because of its distinctive banjo-like “bonk” call. The rain stopped just in time for our early morning walk on the golf course. Here we saw Yellow-rumped Thornbills at a nest, Weebills and on a small wooded ridge Speckled Warbler, Leaden Flycatcher, Olive-backed Oriole and a female Red-capped Robin. A Koel called but was not seen.

Carol’s Property Capertee Valley by Rita Johnston-Lord
The rest of the day was spent back in the Capertee Valley. At one site six species of tiny birds included Western Gerygone performing its sweet rambling song, and Buff-rumped, Yellow-rumped and Yellow Thornbills. A Jacky Winter was trying to feed 2 young in a nest, though the young didn’t seem interested. Our interest was held with views of Pallid Cuckoo, White-browed Woodswallows, Striped Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Mistletoebird, and an Azure Kingfisher beside the river.

Late morning we headed onto my property where a party of Southern Whitefaces were at the front gate to welcome us. Lunch was had in the shade of a White Box tree beside the dam while Peaceful Doves, Yellow-tufted, Fuscous and White-plumed Honeyeaters came to drink. During a walk up in the woodland toward the cliffs we saw White-browed Babblers, Brown Treecreepers and best of all: most of the group had extended views of a Painted Button-quail.

We then left my place and headed back towards Capertee. A detour up Crown Station Road for our last chance at Turquoise Parrots looked like being unsuccessful until we had almost finished a short walk along the road. Another bird call (something common which we quickly forgot about) caused us to turn around at the exact moment a Turquoise Parrot flew across, its shallow fluttering wingbeats, yellow underparts and soft metallic call providing a scant but adequate sighting.

The Capertee had once again lived up to its reputation as a first-class birding area even though a lack of flowering meant that there were few honeyeaters or lorikeets around and the Regents had failed to breed and gone elsewhere. Nevertheless we saw more than 110 species during the weekend.

by Carol Probets guiding for FTB

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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer