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The Forests of Chiltern Trip Report
Turquoise Parrot by Nevil Lazarus
It is two years since Follow That Bird visited Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park in Victoria’s north and as this years winter rains were above average in the area, it was thought that a trip in October 2008 would be very rewarding. So it was with high expectation that our party of eight headed south on Thursday 16 October for Gundagai via the Hume and Hovel Track, Burrinjuck Dam area and Jugiong. In this part of the State seasonal conditions were good and everything was green and throughout the trip the bird song was loud and continuous! Our first major stop was at the Captains Reserve on the Hume and Hovell Track, where the Yellow and White Box was flowering and the din from the Rufous Whistlers, White-winged Trillers, White-throated Gerygones and Sacred Kingfishers was astounding! While eating our lunch we watched nesting Choughs, tried to find the Buff-rumped Thornbill’s nest without success but did see Striated Pardalotes, Striated Thornbills and Crimson Rosella¹s all feeding dependent young. Along the shores of Burrinjuck Dam we found plenty of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters & Yellow Robins, and Goldfinches feeding in the exotic pine trees. On the Burrinjuck-Bookham Rd we stopped for calling Rufous Songlarks, and found Brown Songlarks, Brown Falcons, Black-shouldered Kite and many White-winged Trillers! At the Murrumbidgee River bridge at Jugiong a small group of Superb Parrots flew over while we were checking out the Fairy Martins and Reedwarblers on the River!

Bartleys Block
The early morning walk up the hill to Mt Parnassus at Gundagai gave us good views of Kestrels and Pipits while back at the Motel, Blackbirds and a small flock of Double-barred Finches provided some entertainment during breakfast. The we were off to Mates Gully at Tarcutta, checking out the Mugga Ironbark and box woodlands on the TSRs there for bushbirds and seeing Restless Flycatchers, our first White-browed Woodswallows, Western and White-throated Gergones, Brown Treecreepers and Leaden Flycatchers. Sittellas feeding young in nest was a highlight as was the number of Olive-backed Orioles and White-winged Trillers present, and a Pallid Cuckoo called! We travelled along the backroads around Holbrook, Culcarirn and Gerogery finding Cockatiels, Brown Falcons and Kestrels, and then spent most of the afternoon at the Wonga Wetlands. The wetlands were lower than when we were there previously but the vegetation was much greener this time due to some recent rains so the calls of the summer migrants like Sacred Kingfishers, Rufous Whistlers and Trillers was a continous feature of our stay. Among the bushbirds new for the trip were White-breasted Woodswallows, Little Grassbirds, Yellow Rosellas, Bee-eaters, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, Horsfield¹s Bronze-Cuckoo and Little Friarbird, while waterbirds included 12 Black-tailed Native-hen, Yellow-billed & Royal Spoonbill, Australian Shovelers and Shelduck. There were many Swans with cygnets and on the nest, while Grey Teal had ducklings. We left reluctantly and headed for Chiltern where we stayed for two nights.

The grounds of our motel were good for birds when we did our morning walk! Brown-headed & Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Red-capped Robin, Weebill and Mistletoebirds were some of the highlights seen before we headed for Andersons Lake and the Railway Station ­ both good birding spots too. At the Lake were many Reedwarblers and some Black-fronted Dotterels, Rufous Songlarks and another Horsfield Bronze-Cuckoo. We were soon on our way into Chiltern NP and spent most of the morning in the Klotz & Lang Rd areas. Here we found an obliging and friendly banded Regent Honeyeater, one of the birds from the Captive Release project almost 6 months before, as well as Black-chinned, Fuscous & Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, White-browed Babblers, Little Lorikeets, Peaceful Doves and many White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, either already nesting or checking out suitable sites. We took morning tea at Indigo Cemetery where Dusky Woodswallows, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes and Choughs were found and then it was onto Bartleys Block to stake out the Painted Honeyeaters! They were soon heard giving their distinctive “georgie” calls but getting any satisfactory views was difficult. Bee-eaters, Western Gerygones and Black-chinned Honeyeaters were more amenable!

White-browed Babbler by Nevil Lazarus
The Cyanide Dam was dry so that the birdlife around the Honeyeater Picnic Area was a bit light on but we did find some good Ground Orchids and a Brown Treecreeper¹s nest containing 3 tiny young! We relocated to Frog Hollow where we spent part of the afternoon and here the highlight was great views of at least three Turquoise Parrots, but we also managed to find nesting Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, a White-necked Heron, a Grey Teal with ducklings and a Brown Goshawk flew over! We also checked out the Ryans Rd area and the Chiltern STW where nesting Jacky Winters was the highlight and Restless Flycatchers and Hoary-headed Grebes were found.

On the Sunday morning early walk, again the Motel provided great birding, this time turning up a Speckled Warbler, Red-capped Robin, Goldfinches & Rufous Whistlers and under the adjacent road bridge there were nesting Swallows and Fairy Martins. Andersons Lake produced a Black Duck with 5 ducklings, and calling Pallid Cuckoos, Yellow Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots. We soon headed for Bartleys Block to nail the Painted Honeyeaters and this time we all were rewarded with great views, the male bird called well from a easy to find perch. Also present were Golden Whistlers, a Horsfield¹s Bronze-Cuckoo, Little Lorikeets and Black-chinned Honeyeaters. We again checked out the Klotz rd area this time seeing a pair of Pallid Cuckoos, and finding nesting Fuscous Honeyeaters, Jacky Winters and White-browed Babblers. We took the back way out of Chiltern to Howlong on the Murray River, birding all the way through the pastoral areas, and seeing Pipits, Brown Songlarks and Kestrels. We checked out the Redgums along the Murray River at Howlong and saw Little Friarbirds, Restless Flycatcher and Whistling Kites and meandered along the backroads through drought affected areas, seeing Grey-crowned Babblers and Apostlebirds, to Pleasant Hills where we took lunch! The weather had deteriated by then, being very hot, windy, dusty and thunderstorms threatened! In the hills around Burrendan near Wagga Wagga we found more Little Lorikeets, Woodswallows and Fuscous Honeyeaters, Donkey and Sun Orchids, before being chased back to the coach by the wind and the rain. At Oura, we stopped for great views of 7 Superb Parrots and some Little Corellas, and arrived back at Gundagai all happy chappies!

Yellow Thornbill by Nevil Lazarus
Our final walk at Gundagai next morning found Yellow Rosellas (their most eastern limit in NSW), a Sparrowhawk carrying a baby bird and we checked out the Double-banded Finches again ­ the only ones seen on the trip. Then we were off to Coolac, Adjunbilly and Wee Jasper, all south of Yass. Seasonal conditions were great here, plenty of Songlarks and Trillers on route, Eastern Spinebills and Crimson Rosellas in Buccleuch SF, and nesting Orioles and Satin Flycatchers at Wee Jasper, while Satin Bowerbirds, Wedge-tailed Eagles and Shining, Fantailed, Brush and Horsfield¹s Bronze-Cuckoos, Red-capped Robins and Leaden Flycatchers were all seen and heard. Overall we saw 145 species, saw, heard and experienced spring in southern NSW in a good season, enjoyed the birding at Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP and had a very enjoyable social time. Many thanks to Ann, Bernice, Bruce, Janet, Kathleen and Vee who provided great company and camaraderie for the Trip.

By Alan Morris, Guiding for FTB

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