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The Forests of Chiltern Trip Report
Turquoise Parrot by Nevil Lazarus
Day 1 Friday 9 November 2020 Sydney to Gundagai Glorious weather was the signature of this tour and we set off with light hearts at the thought of no responsibilities but to watch birds for five days.

Partridge VC was our first stop where a Golden-headed Cisticola called, Hardheads were sunning their white bellies on the bank, Grey Teal and Eurasian Coot were commonplace during the tour. Stopping again at Mackey VC for a Nankeen Kestrel, there were picture-perfect views of a White-throated Treecreeper and plenty of Superb Fairywrens; also to be a constant during our walks. Reed Warblers were seen by one, heard by the rest, as was a Sacred Kingfisher, Crimson Rosellas and Pacific Black Ducks flew in and the ubiquitous Rufous Whistler serenaded our spring birding party.

There was a Brown Goshawk as we drove and later a close up of a Noisy Friarbird’s red eye, White Ibis and another constant the Rufous Songlark’s ringing metallic call. The first of the Diamond Firetails was delighted in on the drive down to Burrinjuck Dam, also White-throated Gerrygones and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo called. The calistamons were vibrant and the Grey Fantails kept us company during lunch, with King Parrots almost in the sandwich filling!

At Jugiong we crossed the long low bridge over the Murrumbidgee River to the sound of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos shrieking and the sweet calling Striated Pardalote. Rita found a Superb Fairywren bobbing in and out of their neat water-view nest.

At Gundagai on the same River an Australasian Darter was heard on the other side, Great Cormorants, Wood Ducks, Red-rumped Parrots, Little Friarbird and White-plumed Honeyeater and Whistling Kites soared overheard. A Peregrine Falcon sat waiting for us to id him and a flock of 60 Straw-necked Ibis aerated the paddock. Was it the same 60 we seen earlier?

Dinner with the mesmerising view, past the roses and lavender, through the apricot and lilac hills.

Day 2 Saturday 10 November Gundagai to Chiltern A bright fresh morning walk up Mt Parnassus brought us Double-barred Finch, very pale inland Yellow Thornbills, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, a Richard’s Pipit displayed and lots of Galahs flew through the spectacular views 360 degree views.

A shopping stop at Tarcutta before the wonderful Mates Bush Reserve where we were greeted by a Leaden Flycatcher, a Red-capped Robin got us all excited and many of the usual suspects sang from the Mugga Ironbark trees.

Chinese food in a lovely shaded room at Holbrook before Wonga Wetlands walked us through some excellent birding. Highlights were seeing the Sacred Kingfisher, previously only heard, perfect views of the Azure Kingfisher spotted by Brian, Great-crested Grebe on a “bling-looking” afternoon pond, Musk Duck, Tree Martins flying at eye-level and even one that landed at our feet to say hello. Little and Pied Cormorant, Black-fronted Dotterel and Red-kneed. A Water Rat rippled past. Monster Reed Warbler showed up the Little Grassbird beside him and the Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills swept along filtering the water. Pelicans and Purple Swamphens were present and a Black-tailed Native-hen ended the second perfect birding, shopping and lunch day.

Wonga Wetlands
Day 3 Sunday 11 November Chiltern A glorious day dawned on a walk to Lake Anderson where there were Grey Teal ducklings, Gold Finches and a highlight – a wonderful Flame Robin, female feeding a very striped juvenile on the town’s wires. Yes this is great birding country!

We put our vehicle through its paces beside the railway track finding Crested Shrike-tits. Frog’s Hollow, our first stop in Chiltern’s Forests produced Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, a flowering Mugga Ironbark had lots of Little Lorikeets and a tailless White-browed Babbler, one Diamond Firetail, lots of Reed Warblers, Brown Treecreepers by the dozen, the ever present Rufous Songlark in very lush grass and carpets of yellow Paper Daisies.

Fuscous Honeyeaters were at Magenta Mine and Buff-rumped Thornbills strained our eye-sight turning out to be throughout the forests. A Peaceful Dove called in the background. Over the other side of the expressway we took Ironbark Track and ran into White-browed Woodswallows which led to long views of a Turquoise Parrot; such pretty markings of yellow and turquoise, no wonder this bird is sought after.

At Honeyeater Dam, after a celebratory meeting of Shaun Dooley, the “Turks” flew past us with hardly a stir from the birders, what luxury! Also the White-throated Gerygone defended his territory after a zealous birder encouraged him with a recording. White-winged Triller, Leaden Flycatcher and the, by now, monotonous Sacred Kingfisher.

The weather got a bit hot as we walked Bartleys Paddock and there was not much flowering, still a couple of Mistletoebirds amused us, there was a “pale” Striated Pardalote and a dozen White-winged Choughs partied.

After a siesta and early dinner we ventured back to Battery Site on the other side of Frog’s Hollow to watch the Little Lorikeets and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters flat on picnic blanket and our first White-necked Heron flew in to brilliant light on the other side of the dam. Then Honeyeater Dam crepuscular as we hunted down a calling Tawny Frogmouth through wildflowers and hot rising eucalyptus scents. Whilst driving slowly out Painted Button-quail crossed the road and obliged with views through flowery undergrowth. Really a wonderful day within the target destination.

Fuscous Honeyeater by Nevil Lazarus
Day 4 Monday 12 November Chiltern to Gundagai After a warm night we watched the resident Straw-necked Ibis at the motel as were the all the other little birds (Mistletoebird, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Striated Pardalote and Gold Finches) that fed in the brilliantly flowering calistamons. We wandered over to the Lake again before breakie for a fabo sighting of a Diamond Firetail and Wood Duck ducklings.

Donchi Hill sprouted Red-capped Robins from the start of our entry and I had a short look at a Scarlet Robin. Buff-rumped Thornbills, Leaden Flycatcher, Brown Treecreepers haunted us as the milder weather lulled us. A Common Bronzewing startled us. At Indigo Cemetery we chased a Shining Bronze-cuckoo amongst the Dusky Woodswallows.

On the way to Howlong, where the mighty Murray River surges through, signs of recent rain became evident as new ponds in the paddocks held White-necked Herons, lots of Grey Teal, Straw-necked Ibis and loud frogs. By Walbundrie the 200mls of rain last Wednesday was keeping us ecstatic but not for the windrowing canola & wheat croppers.

At Henty Brian ided a Superb Parrot that sat for a very happy Rita. Further on at Rock Reserve there were two Speckled Warblers, Chestnut-rumped and Buff-rumped Thornbills and a male and female Red-capped Robin, but the 33 degree heat got to us and we pressed on to Gundagai watching Black-shouldered Kites, Brown Falcon, and perfect views of three Superb Parrots with the light behind us.

Day 5 Tuesday 13 November Gundagai to Sydney Up Mt Parnassus in the cool morning light with a Red-capped Robin the highlight, as were the Crimson Rosellas. We stopped often on the drive to Wee Jasper at the beginning, the first by a dairy herd that yielded a Diamond Firetail; how could you drive past it? Plus a Restless Flycatcher, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Rufous Songlarks and two Brown Falcons. The temperature cooled as we climbed into Buccleuch State Forest to find Striated Thornbills, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Crimson Rosellas. The air cleared to that crisp bright light and at Wee Jasper there was a Sacred Kingfisher calling and a Noisy Friarbird in the distance and of course the ubiquitous Rufous Songlark. Broad-leafed Hickory Wattle bloomed profusely as we headed to Yass past the magnificent Murrumbidgee River that had been in full flood recently and was broad and billabonged with the usual water birds attending.

Two Brown Falcons and a Little Eagle just before Yass and extraordinary curly cloud above us brought the temperature down 10 degrees but we recovered to a steady 20 by the time we reached Sydney.

Thank you Chiltern birders, without you, these lovely experiences would not have been, Janene Luff.

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