Follow That Bird
- Sydney's Birding Company

Day Trip Reports

Holiday Hot Spot Trip Report

Saturday 15 December 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Black Bittern by Greg McCarry
What a great way to finish the year with some great birds and great company on this final day tour for Follow That Bird!

After picking up the guide from Vineyard we made our way to Cattai stopping briefly at a few dams to check out some waterbirds including a Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australasian Grebes, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Ducks as well as both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.

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Brown Goshawk by Greg McCarry
We had a wonderful hour or so at Mitchell Park with the highlight being a Black Bittern perched out on the open on a log beside Cattai Creek. The usually very elusive bird stayed there for a couple of minutes or so giving us excellent views before deciding to take off. We went to where it landed getting a brief but even closer look, within a few metres and then it flew further up stream to land on a more distant log. This was certainly a new bird for many in our group. We also had here both Brown and Grey Goshawks, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Olive-backed Orioles, Sacred Kingfishers (including one in its nesting hollow), Rufous Whistlers, Eastern Spinebills, Oriental Dollarbirds, Cicadabird, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Lewin’s and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.

We then went on to nearby Cattai National Park for our morning tea where we encountered some Satin Bowerbirds, a Brown Goshawk sitting quietly in a nearby eucalypt trying not to draw too much attention and some Fairy Martins nesting inside a sandstone cave beside the river. A more natural situation then what we are used too. Also we had a number of Eastern Grey Kangaroos around the picnic area where we also had our lunch.

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Australian Pipit by Greg McCarry
After our lunch in Cattai National Park we then headed over to the Richmond turf farms stopping briefly at Pitt Town Bottoms on the way seeing Intermediate and Eastern Great Egrets, Black-winged Stilts and Australian White Ibis beside the Mckenzie Creek flood plain.

At the Richmond turf farms was a Nankeen Kestrel, several and very vocal Rufous Songlarks, a couple of female White-winged Trillers, several Australian Pipits (one in its display flight), brilliant looking Red-rumped Parrots, 4 Zebra Finches, a Restless Flycatcher, Sacred Kingfishers, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, and many more Fairy Martins (this time we had them nesting under a road culvert) and a couple of Black-winged Stilts on the flooded turf.

Finally at Bushells Lagoon we had 3 Wandering Whistling-ducks among hundreds of other ducks (including several Pink-eared) and a lot of Grey Teal and Hardhead. A Swamp Harrier (initially identified as a Whistling Kite) and a White-necked Heron were also seen here.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Mt Banks Wilson & Tomah Trip Report

Saturday 17 November 2020
Birder: Carol Probets

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Eastern Yellow Robin by Greg McCarry
The northern part of the Blue Mountains is dotted with basalt-capped peaks sitting atop the sandstone plateau like islands cloaked in lush forest. So today we would go island-hopping with three of the mounts on the itinerary.

I met the bus at Richmond, joining 15 birders on board and Janene driving. A White-necked Heron and Brown Cuckoo-Dove were called as we approached the climb up Bellbird Hill, followed by a White-headed Pigeon on the power-line at Kurrajong Heights.

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Flannel Flowers by Carol Probets
The mountains provided an atmospheric dry mist to set the mood of the day. Our first stop was the botanic gardens at Mount Tomah for morning tea. No sooner was our attention diverted by a movement in the shrubs when a crafty Pied Currawong seized the moment and tried to snaffle Chris’ packed lunch. We rescued it just in time and Chris didn’t have to go hungry later.

A short walk through the formal garden into the rock garden gave us a decent list of birds including Eastern Yellow Robin, Lewins Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, White-browed Scrubwren and an Eastern Whipbird seen scuttling across the top of a stone archway. The pink flowers of a large, impressive weigela were attracting nectar-guzzling New Holland Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills.

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Satin Bowerbird by Greg McCarry
Our second mountain of the day was the wild and windswept beauty of Mount Banks. Our walk took us through heathland at its base, bursting with an exceptional display of wildflowers of every colour. Most eye-catching were the bold yellow Drumsticks Isopogon anemonifolius amid profuse lilac pea flowers of Mirbelia rubiifolia, snowy white Leptospermums, Conospermum, delicate bells of Epacris and velvety Flannel Flowers, red Mountain Devils and crimson bottlebrush, blue Dampiera, various yellow pea flowers and Goodenias. The area had been burnt in the 2013 bushfire and it was interesting to see how the natural regeneration is progressing.

There were birds too, of course, but they werent necessarily easy to see. Rufous Whistler and Eastern Spinebill gave us good views as did an obliging White-eared Honeyeater. But it was that beguiling high-flying songster, the Tawny-crowned Honeyeater which proved most elusive, and we had to be content with snippets of its fluty call drifting across the heath. Tree Martins were the recompense as we stood on a rock scanning the landscape and taking in the view.

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Wildflowers by Carol Probets
Waratahs lined the road on our way to the lunch spot at Mt Wilson, our third mountain of the day. Surrounded by tall, lush forest in the Cathedral of Ferns picnic area, there were so many birds we hardly had a chance to eat our sandwiches. The highlight was a Crested Shrike-tit foraging in the canopy, though we also enjoyed stunning views of Eastern Yellow Robin, Satin Bowerbird, Grey Fantail, Lewins and Yellow-faced Honeyeater with Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Black-faced Monarch and Bassian Thrush heard.

The rainforest beckoned for our afternoon walk. Before long we found the large hanging nest of a Yellow-throated Scrubwren, with just a glimpse of the owner darting across the forest floor. Not far away a Large-billed called, completing the trio of scrubwrens for our days list. We eventually had close views of a Brown Gerygone, and Brown and Striated Thornbills busily foraging at the Happy Valley track head. But it was a Rufous Fantail which provided the most memorable moment, its orange tail flashing and fanning just a few metres from us, brightening the dim understorey.

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Little Wattlebird by Carol Probets
The drive back down the mountains was happily interrupted by a pair of Gang-gangs flying across the road and a stop at Bilpin for coffee and the obligatory ice cream. Little Wattlebirds, Superb Fairy-wrens, Satin Bowerbirds and Eastern Spinebills kept the photographers and keenest birders entertained out the back.

Thank you all for providing wonderful camaraderie yet again and of course Janene, for the excellent planning, logistics and driving.

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Ku-ring-gai NP & The Basin Trip Report

Saturday 10 November 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Shining Bronze-Cuckoo by Greg McCarry
A Koel and Australasian Figbird in amongst a couple of fruiting figs were amongst the first birds we laid our eyes on after arriving at the Westhead lookout. We then walked the track from the lookout through the open forest to the Resolute Picnic area were on our way we came across 3 Australian Brush Turkeys, Red and Little Wattlebirds, Eastern Spinebills, groups of Variegated Fairy-wrens and Brown Thornbills.

On arriving at the picnic area, Janene had our morning tea nicely set up where to our great surprise a large sized Goanna was also just sitting within metres off our table! Our morning tea was delightfully interrupted by a calling male Leaden Flycatcher, an Olive-backed Oriole and a Grey Shrike-thrush where we enjoyed good looks at all 3 in succession.

Janene then drove us back onto the road and dropped us off at the start of the Basin Trail. We then walked along the 3km or so trail with nice views of a male Rufous Whistler, a calling male Spotted Pardalote, groups of New Holland Honeyeaters, top views this time of a splendid male Variegated Fairy-wren, a White-browed Scrubwren, a magnificent adult White-bellied Sea-eagle flying just over the tree tops, 3 Whistling Kites, a Peregrine Falcon, both Shining Bronze and Channel-billed Cuckoos and an Eastern Yellow Robin. Also another Lace Monitor and nice looks of a Swamp Wallaby was also had along this walk too.

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Pacific Black Duck by Greg McCarry
When we arrived down to the Basin picnic area we had enough time for a half hour or so lunch before we boarded the ferry across to Palm Beach. Whilst we were having our lunch, 2 more Lace Monitors were on the prowl and hoping for a free hand out near our barbecue shelter but much to the dissatisfaction of another Brush Turkey with an active mound there, 3 Masked Lapwings and the Noisy Miners. The piercing alarm calls of a Superb Lyrebird were also heard from the adjoining hillside.

We then boarded the ferry to Palm Ferry where we had a good side by side comparison of a White-bellied Sea-eagle and a Whistling Kite overhead and on a boat both Pied and Little Pied Cormorant side by side.

On arriving at the Palm Beach Wharf, Janene was then ready to pick us up to head off to Deep Creek Reserve off the north side of Narrabeen Lake. Here we had some nice views of a Golden Whistler, Lewin’s Honeyeaters, another male Leaden Flycatcher but a fleeting one of an Azure Kingfisher. A Magpie was also seen dive bombing a Brush Turkey here too.

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Burton’s legless lizard by Elliot Connor
We also managed to squeeze in a short visit to nearby Irrawong Reserve where an Immature White-bellied Sea-eagle circling overhead was scaring off all the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs. Not far we also had some nice views of 3 Oriental Dollarbirds, Brown Gergones, Lewin’s Honeyeaters, a Grey Fantails and a nice lengthy one of an Eastern Yellow Robin.

Certainly a nice way to spend a pleasant spring day!

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

PS Chris King research and sent on the latest on the Mallee Emu-wren, Can’t get the link to work, sorry. You can copy and paste to reach the link herewith –

And Elliot took a photo which Peter Robertson has IDed, thanks!

Blue Gum Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 8 September 2020
Birder: Tiffany Mason

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White-faced Heron by Greg McCarry
The group caught up with the guide at Penrith Weir (after spotting Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian White Ibis and Cattle Egret on the trip to the base of the mountains) and we were treated to several fly-bys from Australian King-Parrots before heading down to the water. Two Great Cormorants were sitting on the concrete wall, iridescent in the sunlight, a Darter was sunning itself at the shady shore and a single Australasian Grebe was diving in the lower pool. Peter spotted an Azure Kingfisher amongst the low branches of the She-oaks and we saw its brilliant blue and orange flit downstream to perch near a group of Pacific Black Ducks.

Following the path down-stream, we heard Bell Miners chiming from the eucalypt canopy and some of us got a brief glimpse of this olive-green bird with bright orange beak, but they were generally a ‘heard and not seen’ species. We did, however, get great views of a White-faced Heron fishing in a side-stream close by the path, displaying the beautiful maroon plumes of a breeding individual. An Eastern Whipbird was calling from the gully and across the water sitting on a sand bar was a group of ducks including 3 Pink-eareds (with their fabulous striped bellies) and a Chestnut Teal.

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Kookaburras by Greg McCarry
While sipping morning tea, we spied a pair of Maned Ducks checking out a hollow in a dead tree and there was a brief (but unsuccessful) attempt to free the twine knotted around a (biscuit-partial) Magpie-lark’s feet with the assistance of Johno’s coat.

Heading up the hill, a U-turn brought us a quick view of a mature male Satin Bowerbird in his glorious deep indigo plumage (which only develops once the birds reach 7 years of age). Then a walk along the end of Yellow Rock Road, where we saw a pair of Laughing Kookaburras guarding a tree hollow (in preparation for nesting) and a little later a White-throated Treecreeper making his (minus the red ear patch indicative of a female) way up a tree trunk. Brown and Striated Thornbills called and we had momentary looks at both, trying to spot the difference by means of voice (toodle-pip for Brown, zit-zit-zit for Striated), eye colour (red for Brown, dark for Striated) and cap pattern (scalloped for Brown, streaky for Striated).

At the end of the road, there was a little time to check out (through the scope) a perched Wedge-tailed Eagle across the valley and admire the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo condominium below: a series of tree hollows in neighbouring eucalypts was proving popular with at least 8 of these large, noisy white birds.

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Yellow Rock by Greg McCarry
After lunch, we headed to our final destination: Blue Gum Swamp. Descending the hill, there were plenty of flowering shrubs to admire plus a blossom-visiting Eastern Spinebill. We heard the mournful descending trill of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo and finally got to view the Brown Gerygone the guide had promised (another small brown bird! This one with a pale eyebrow and red iris). A Golden Whistler was calling and played ‘hide-and-seek’ with us, as it flew from perch to perch in search of insects. At the swamp itself, with its majestic stand of towering Blue Gums, we had a good long look at a New Holland Honeyeater, one bird that really enjoyed posing! A Large-billed Scrubwren appeared and began scolding us  quite a surprise in the open sclerophyll and very welcome.

Our walk back was accompanied by sightings of Superb Fairy-wrens, White-browed Scrubwrens, a Brown Cuckoo-dove high in the canopy and, for the lucky few, a Yellow-footed Antechinus (carnivorous marsupial) scampering through the bracken. At the final bend, a friendly National Parks and Wildlife Ranger pointed out the endangered Leucopogon fletcheri fletcheri, a small innocuous heath-like shrub with tiny white flowers right at the edge of the track. The trip was concluded with a well-deserved icecream!

By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB

Thirlmere Lakes & Bargo River Trip Report

Saturday 4 August 2020
Birder: Jennie Wiles

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater by Greg McCarry
The potential of drought breaking rains didn’t put off the keen participants and the day delivered some lovely bird sightings. The birds were undoubtedly enjoying the first bit of moisture for a long time.

The morning tea stop at Stonequarry Creek in Picton was beside the picturesque viaduct. The creek was quiet except for a few noisy King Parrots but a nearby front garden was hiding a bower of a Satin Bowerbird in among the azalea. The male first drew our attention to the area and everyone was able to get a good sighting of those amazing violet eyes and beautiful indigo blue plumage.

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Eastern Yellow Robin by Greg McCarry
On to Bargo River at Tahmoor. On the drive there, a group of six Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos were searching for grubs in the wattles beside the road. A rather unusual sighting for the area was a party of White-winged Choughs grazing in a horse paddock beside the road.

At Bargo River the beginning of our walk coincided with what was to be the only heavy downpour of the day. We retreated back to the bus for a short while but it didn’t last long and we headed out again. The track along the river produced many honeyeaters, including the resident Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, White-faced Honeyeaters, White-naped Honeyeaters and Brown-headed Honeyeaters heard high in the tree tops. Both the thornbills – Striated and Brown, White-throated Treecreepers and Silvereyes made an appearance as we wandered along the track. Peaceful Doves were heard above the rocky ridge but didn’t show themselves.

At Thirlmere Lakes National Park we enjoyed our lunch under the gorgeous gum trees. A flowering mistletoe was attracting New Holland Honeyeaters which caught our attention while we ate. A female Scarlet Robin also flitted around the nearby bushes, showing all of us the gorgeous blush on her breast. Christine wandered down to the edge of Lake Couridjah where the water level is very low and Janene warned about stepping into the sucking mud after a bad experience on her visit a few days previously. Christine excitedly gave the raptor sighting call to us. Brian was quick to respond and was able to identify it as a Swamp Harrier.

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Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo by Elliot Connor
Along the 2 hour wander along the circuit walk around 3 of the 5 lakes, the birds were relatively quiet but there were some glorious sightings along the way. The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos made another appearance, this time very close and we could see them chewing on banksia cones. The Spotted Pardalotes were frequently heard in the tree tops crunching on what was presumably lerp. One was also seen lower down in the vegetation allowing a good photo opportunity for Greg. A long-necked turtle on the track took our attention from the birds for a moment. There were groups of little birds throughout the forest busily moving through in mixed feeding flocks. These included Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, Eastern Yellow Robins, Striated and a Yellow Thornbill, White-naped Honeyeaters and White-throated Treecreepers. The Bell Miners were calling constantly in one small area. A sign of spring approaching was a Brown Thornbill with nesting material in its beak. Further along a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo also quietly flew into view. The highlight however, was probably the 3 Glossy Black-Cockatoos who we first heard with their creaky door call as they ate from the casuarinas. We then saw them as they flew, when they revealed the brilliant red panels in their tails.

Fortunately the rain held off until we approached the bus again and it set in as the group left Wollondilly and headed home after an enjoyable day of birding.

By Jennie Wiles bird guide for FTB

Swamp Mahoganies & Swift Parrots Trip Report

Saturday 4 August 2020
Birder: Christina Port

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Spotted Pardalote by Greg McCarry
It was a windy clear autumn day as the bus picked me up at Wyong and we headed north in search of something special. As left the motorway we began to see birds: Maned Ducks, Eastern Rosellas, a flying Great Egret and the first of the White-faced Herons for the day. We arrived in Mulbring for morning tea, with lots of birds to distract us from the delicious biscuits provided. Blue-faced Honeyeaters were seen fussing at a Babblers nest. A pair of Long-billed Corellas posed perfectly while Galahs wheeled around in the wind. Torresian Crows called, and we did finally see them flying. A Grey Butcherbird sat, and we eventually found Red-rumped Parrots at a hollow. Grey-crowned Babblers were heard so off we went to explore. Maybe 30 Crested Pigeons were around. As we approached they flew off and so did a pair of Babblers, which we watched jumping around a bush for a few minutes.

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Grey-crowned Babblers by Elliot Connor
Back on the bus, off we went past some Cattle Egrets in Hepburn Road as we entered Elrington State Forest. We walked out down among the trees with Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters seen well. Then Fuscous Honeyeaters, Dusky Woodswallows and a surprise pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes gave great views. A pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles circled above briefly. A calling Spotted Pardalote was finally found and in the end we had a great view of the handsome male. Then we heard a bird call that kept us guessing. Sleuth Brian worked it out: a Black-chinned Honeyeater, which stayed hidden. Heading out to our lunch spot we saw Black Swans and White-headed Stilts in a large roadside pond. A Black Kite flew briefly by the bus and there were Pelicans and Chestnut Teal swimming as we passed the Hunter River.

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Regent Honeyeater Christina Port
We enjoyed lunch at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens with a Laughing Kookaburra and Noisy Miners keeping us company. We were here for a purpose, as we walked down the track past Variegated Fairy-wrens, heading to where critically endangered Regent Honeyeaters had been seen recently. There they were, giving neck-breaking views feeding among flowering Blackbutts. Janene lay down on the job and was joined by others for horizontal bird watching. It worked very well and we all finally had views of this beautiful bird. Here too were many White-cheeked Honeyeaters and a Little Wattlebird. Our walk back to the bus was busy with Grey Fantail, Brown Gerygone, Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Spinebill and White-browed Scrubwrens.

Heading down the M1 we spotted a surprise Common Bronzewing flying across the motorway. Our final stop was for an ice cream at Wyong and we were all happy. A wonderful day’s birding with great company, 65 fabulous birds seen and heard. Thanks to everyone.

Christina Port guiding for Follow That Bird.

Caves & Birds Trip Report

Saturday 21 July 2020
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Chestnut-rumped Heathwren by Nevil Lazarus
An elite group of friendly and relaxed birders tackled a few sites in Royal National Park on a cloudless winter day.

Morning tea was preceded by a short productive stroll around the Wattle Forest Picnic Area and the adjacent galley forest. Janene ensured we wouldn’t go lyrebird-less by spotting a female doing its best to rearrange everything in its path. Amongst many others, scarlet honeyeaters, Bassian thrush, yellow-tailed black-cockatoos and a male rose robin all made for a great start to the day.

The southern end of Lady Carrington Drive and the eastern section of Forest Path was quiet in comparison. Nevertheless we managed all three scrub-wrens, another lyrebird and a range of honeyeaters including the very smart-looking white-naped.

We enjoyed a rest at a large shelter once used by the Dharawal Aborigines. We marvelled at some excellent charcoal drawings and red ochre hand stencils.

Given that we all survived our slightly off-track excursion and we were still talking to one another, well, to me really, we toddled off to Garie Beach for a late lunch in the sunshine. Some blubber-gutses were motoring northwards whilst I tried my best not to feed cheese to the superb fairy-wrens.

Wattamolla and nearby Providential Point was our last stop. As the day was getting a little long in the tooth and the shadows were lengthening on the coastal cliffs we decided to find a sunny exposed rocky position to search for rockwarblers. Happily there were a couple of obliging birds which may or may not have been looking for food at the time.

Icing on the cake was delivered by a chestnut-rumped heathwren, that, after a few false starts, sat on a low bush and screamed at us.

Some quality birds and excellent company made for a very enjoyable day.

By Steve Anyon-Smith

Australian Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference Trip Report

Saturday 5 July 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Rockwarbler by Nevil Lazarus
(although perhaps not as good as Fiona O’Sullivan’s?)
Perfect winter (?) weather welcomed an Australia-wide group of young ladies that had travelled to Sydney for a wildlife carers conference. Janene and I had the distinct pleasure to accompany them on a birding tour of Royal National Park.

Winter in Royal sees a great influx of honeyeaters that take advantage of flowering banksias. There were certainly no shortage of them along our first site, Lady Carrington Drive, with New Hollands, yellow-faced, scarlet, white-naped and Lewins, along with eastern spinebills and red and little wattlebirds. Other desirable birds included bassian thrush.

Strangely, despite plenty of evidence of lyrebirds, none were calling nor any seen. The guide was getting nervous.

Morning tea was taken at Jersey Spring picnic area. There was no cloud nor wind and the bird activity constant. Some sulphur-crested cockatoos flushed a small flock of the bizarre-looking topknot pigeon.

The return walk to the bus saw the group well-spaced and enjoying each others company. Despite the perfect conditions few new birds were seen.

A wise woman suggested we try Wattle Forest for birds, as we had a little time up our sleeves before lunch at The Weir Café at Audley. The adjacent galley forest was productive with the keen eyes of the group spotting a female lyrebird, thus saving the guide from having to neck himself. Other birds seen included large-billed scrub-wren and green catbird. A lomandra filled with dwarf tree frogs was a non-avian bonus.

A languid lunch in the sun at the café produced a brown goshawk flypast. Native bees on the table flowers were a pleasant distraction for the group  who were clearly focussed on more than just birds.

The coast beckoned. One of the few great environmental stories of the age  the increase in the humpback whale population  soon saw us on the cliffs at Providential Point. Immediately we had some humpies with an inshore bottlenose dolphin pod acting as an escort. Others were seen lob-tailing in the distance. Two friendly rockwarblers harassed us, whilst a white-bellied sea-eagle soared about nearby. Various cormorants, greater crested terns, silver gulls and Australasian gannets were also seen.

Around fifty species of bird were spotted on the day, along with some other critters. The perfect conditions and excellent company guaranteed a great day in the field!

By Steve Anyon-Smith guiding for Follow That Bird

Narrowneck Honeyeater Migration Trip Report

Saturday 28 April 2021
Birder: Carol Probets

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Red Triangle Slug by Carol Probets
The mountains put on their most evocative weather for today’s trip. I met 11 birders at Wentworth Falls as King-Parrots and Crimson Rosellas chattered in the trees above. With fog closing in it was just as well we weren’t here for the views, but the day’s main focus was the honeyeater migration which is markedly affected by weather. Nevertheless, a small flock of determined Yellow-faced Honeyeaters came through while we had morning tea.

So it was on to the prime observation point on top of a hill cloaked in stunted heathland with a 360 degree view and deep valleys plunging either side – though we couldn’t see any of it. The fog blanketed us in a soft white world, silent apart from migrating Silvereyes and the occasional ‘dee-dee’ of Spotted Pardalotes moving through – tinier and hardier birds than the honeyeaters whose travels are so easily halted by weather. We savoured the experience of listening through the fog. Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, a distant lyrebird and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos could also be heard.

A Crescent Honeyeater taunted us nearer the bus as it called from the gully. During our walk we managed to see some birds, including a party of Red-browed Finches feeding on roadside fleabane and Allocasuarina seeds, a Rockwarbler spotted in company with White-browed Scrubwrens, and Silvereyes feeding in flowering Banksia ericifolia. The calls of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos came ever closer. By the time we got back to the bus the fog had turned to drizzle.

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Walking into the Abyss
The lunch shelters at Govetts Leap awaited; lunch was convivial with much talk of birds and birding trips. By the time we finished our cuppa the track was beckoning and the fog clearing. The view from George Phillips Lookout revealed itself a bit at a time between gaps in the swirling mist. Along our walk we had good views of Eastern Yellow Robins, White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Thornbill and we listened to the distinct calls of male and female Red Wattlebirds.

One benefit of the damp weather was the likelihood of seeing a Red Triangle Slug, and we were keeping our eyes peeled. This charismatic Gastropod is Australia’s largest native land slug. Just as I was pointing out the distinctive trails indicating one had been eating the algae on the bark of a tree, Anne spotted it. A beautiful golden form of the Red Triangle Slug gliding up the trunk, eventually coming to rest under a loose piece of bark. There are several colour forms but all have the distinctive red triangle, which contains the breathing pore.

We finished the day with a visit to Evans Lookout where, judging by the fresh scratchings, we’d only just missed a lyrebird. The ground was littered with the orts of Glossy Black-Cockatoos – chewed Allocasuarina seed cones. A patch of blue sky appeared and the sun sent shafts of light into the valley, painting the cliffs orange.

Although the weather had conspired against us for viewing the migration it was a fun day of learning, listening and atmosphere. Thanks everyone!

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

South West Sydney Trip Report

Saturday 7 April 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Striated Thornbill by Greg McCarry
We travelled on a rather hot autumn’s day to a number of locations in south-western Sydney.

On route via the M4 freeway we had our first bird of prey for the day, a Brown Goshawk flying over the bus.

First stop was Mulgoa Nature Reserve and we walked along the ridge via the Dillwynia Trail which was rather slow at first but we eventually started to see some nice birds included Grey Fantails, both male Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Striated and Yellow Thornbills, Weebills, Spotted Pardalotes, Grey Shrike-thrush and had another sighting of a Brown Goshawk circling high overhead. We also had some Dingy Swallowtail and Common Brown Butterflies.

We then went off to Warragamba Dam for morning tea where were we were greeted by a couple of Laughing Kookaburras, Pied Currawong and 3 Masked Lapwings.

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Yellow Robin by Greg McCarry
After morning tea, we did a leisurely stroll towards the dam and we were delighted in having very good close views of several Common Bronzewings on the ground, a group of Satin Bowerbirds (with an adult male and 3 female/immature male birds foraging in some fruiting fig trees), several Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown Thornbills, Eastern Spinebills, 3 Jacky Winters and both Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Silvereyes in their thousands on migration. As we were departing we also saw smaller flocks of Noisy Friarbirds in migration mode.

We then headed off to Bent’s Basin for lunch. On route to Bent’s Basin we had a large numbers of Straw-necked Ibis with some Australia White Ibis among them and on some dams Black Swan, Maned Ducks, White-faced Heron, Australasian Grebe and good numbers of Grey Teal.

We chose to have our lunch beside a large dam in Bent’s Basin and it was a good decision as while we were having our lunch we had a displaying Pacific Baza and on the dam itself was a beautiful Azure Kingfisher, both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and an Eastern Great Egret in hunting mode.

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Azure Kingfisher by Edwin Vella
After lunch we then headed off to Cobbitty with a great view of a Whistling Kite flying quite low beside a dam on our way.

At Cut Hill Reserve in Cobbitty the wetland there had very little water but was still suitable for a variety of waterbirds included a couple of Great Egrets, White-headed Stilt, 4 Black-fronted Dotterels, Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhens, Grey Teal and Australasian Grebe.

We then stopped for a well deserved ice-cream after finishing the day with a good tally of at least 70+ species.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Eagles & Robins in the Megalong Valley Trip Report

Saturday 24 March 2021
Birder: Carol Probets

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Striated Thornbill by Greg McCarry
March is such a great time of year in the Blue Mountains and we struck gold with a perfect autumn day after a spell of rain. I joined the group at Glenbrook and we headed up the mountains on a full bus with 19 onboard plus Janene driving. With several first-time birders among the group we used the driving time to cover the basics of birding: binocular technique, field guide use, identification tips and ethics. By the time we got to our first stop, everyone was ready for some birding action!

Evans Lookout started with White-browed Scrubwrens foraging amongst the leaf litter, an Eastern Spinebill feeding at a Mountain Devil flower and the air filled with contact calls of migrating Spotted Pardalotes, a sound which would feature at every stop today. Bell Miner calls wafted up from the valley floor as those who lingered a bit longer to take in the view caught sight of a fast-flying Peregrine Falcon. The sharp note of a Mistletoebird sounded close but the bird itself was gone before we even had a chance to look for it.

Back at the carpark we caught up with a Rockwarbler gleaning insects underneath the parked cars and providing great views for all. Over morning tea we watched a White-throated Treecreeper and a bright male Golden Whistler, shortly followed by a female. Meanwhile, Chris emerged from a visit to the ladies room telling us shed been joined by a cheeky White-browed Scrubwren. These scrubwrens have clearly been hanging around with the Rockwarblers too much! An Eastern Yellow Robin delayed our departure as orange and brown Swordgrass Brown butterflies danced through the understorey.

Winding down the Megalong Valley through warm temperate rainforest a lyrebird rushed across the road in front of us. We emerged into the open country on the valley floor where a blob on the end of a dead branch turned into a Nankeen Kestrel. As we neared it took flight and a White-faced Heron flew in the opposite direction. A party of White-winged Choughs near the tea rooms were the first of several groups we saw.

Our next stop started off quietly until a faint Scarlet Robin call led us through the forest where we found a female posing nicely. Joy then spotted the first of two Wedge-tailed Eagles sailing over and – bingo! – we already had our robins and eagles which were the days main targets.

Soon a male Scarlet Robin caught our eye and we found ourselves in the midst of a wave of bird activity. A mixed flock of a dozen species included a pair of Jacky Winters, Yellow-rumped, Buff-rumped, Striated and Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantails, Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Rufous Whistlers, Spotted Pardalotes and a silent White-throated Gerygone adeptly located by Michael.

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Jacky Winter by Greg McCarry
We enjoyed lunch in a serene patch of open-forest with honeyeaters feeding in the flowering stringybarks and a Pied Currawong loitering nearby. Welcome Swallows and Dusky Woodswallows passed high overhead on migration. The unmistakable squealing cries of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos preceded a pair flying through in spectacular fashion, flashing their yellow tails.

Further down the valley we walked along a creek where we found White-eared, Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters, more good views of jewel-like Spotted Pardalotes, and Grey Fantails everywhere. At least three species of frogs called from a swampy section of creek.

Several Willie Wagtails in the forest canopy were most likely migrating and a bird with rufous wings proved to be a juvenile Golden Whistler. Our arrival at the end of the walk was announced by 7 or 8 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos taking flight together. Meanwhile, Janene had been watching another Scarlet Robin from the comfort of the bus. The weather started to change and the first raindrops had everyone retreating into the bus, ignoring an unidentified Myiagra flycatcher.

During the drive out of the valley, we added Grey Butcherbirds (adult and immature) and the stunning sight of a flock of 20 Crimson Rosellas, including several green immatures. Finally, a lyrebird again darted across the road allowing a quick view for a few more who hadnt seen the first one.

Our timing couldnt have been better, as the weather then delivered its fury with lightning and torrential rain falling outside the bus and us comfortably inside. Wed enjoyed a window of idyllic conditions – a typically lucky Follow That Bird day trip, not to mention the great birds. Altogether we recorded about 55 forest and woodland species.

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Wyrrablong Reserve & Norah Headland Trip Report

Saturday 24 February 2021
Birder: Christina Port

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Cattle Egret with chicks by Greg McCarry
The last day of summer as the bus arrived and we started our day with great views of the Bell Miner. Their calls were ringing in our ears as we headed out from Wyong towards Jilliby. We stopped constantly to see the birds feeding along the road side. Many Straw-necked Ibis and then Australian White Ibis. The ponds have started to dry out but still with enough water for a few duck species; Hardhead, Pacific Black Duck and Grey Teal. A Royal Spoonbill flew off giving great views for those with binoculars trained on it. The Maned Ducks were feeding in the roadside ditches and dam surrounds.

Along the road we started to see quite a few White-necked Herons. Our first stop was the White-necked Heron rookery where we saw 4 nests with young in various stages. Noisy Friarbirds called and flew in at Dooralong during morning tea and after our cup of tea we explored the fringes with Yellow and Brown Thornbills, Superb and Variegated Fairywrens and an Eastern Yellow Robin calling.

We moved onto the Cattle Egret rookery. Lots of activity in the heat of the day. The Purple Swamphens, Dusky Moorhens and Eurasian Coots were all feeding in the mud. The egret tree was a hive of activity with lots of young birds waiting to be fed. We also had Australasian Grebe, Great Cormorants and Little Pied Cormorants.

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Lewin’s Honeyeater by Greg McCarry
It was time to cool off, so we headed over to the coast. Lunch at Terilbah Sensory Gardens with the Rainbow Lorikeets, a Grey Butcherbird and White-breasted Woodswallows up high. On the water a great comparison between the Caspian and Crested Terns showing how big the Caspian is. The Australian Pelicans were posing and in front of thousands of Black Swans on the water. We also had Pied Cormorants zooming passed. We walked towards the island and a Great Egret was preening and Chestnut Teal milled around.

Wyrrabalong National Park was our next stop and we walked part of the Lilly Pilly Loop Trail among the beautiful Cabbage Tree and Bangalow Palms. The Brown Thornbill, Grey Fantail, Lewins Honeyeater and an Eastern Yellow Robin showed but the Eastern Spinebill called staying hidden.

At Norah Head we enjoyed the sea breeze near the lighthouse and watched tens of Little Terns flying passed. There were also Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters soaring low over the water. New Holland Honeyeaters conveniently posed and Little Wattlebirds flew hither. Heading out we had a Dollarbird sitting on an overhead wire. It was a juvenile beginning to get adult colours. We stopped for a welcome ice-cream or in some cases ghastly coffee at Norah Head before leaving the Central Coast and heading down the M1.

Thanks everyone for a great day birdwatching.

Christina Port guiding for Follow That Bird.

Patonga & Pearl Beach Birding Trip Report

Saturday 20 January 2021
Birder: Christina Port

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Patonga Creek
On a beautiful summer’s day on the Central Coast the bus arrived early at Kariong, with all hopping out keenly to see Scaly-breasted Lorikeets. An Eastern Spinebill flitted through and Little Wattlebirds appeared  to become the most common bird of the trip. Two White-throated Needletails flew over but the Satin Bowerbirds were frustratingly difficult to see.

Our first scheduled stop, Bull’s Hill Quarry, is no longer in use; we found Red-browed Finch feeding along the side of the track. There were also New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters, as well as a Little Wattlebird. Some Australian Pelicans flew over while Superb Fairy-wrens in beautiful colour hopped around. The old quarry, now filled with water, is quite a beautiful place. Today some Pacific Black Ducks, Australasian Grebe and a Little Pied Cormorant were in evidence. A Golden Whistler called but wouldn’t be enticed out. We were on a mission to find Brush Bronzewing and one was well spotted by Brian: it landed and stayed long enough for some to see it hiding in the brush.

On to Pearl Beach and the Crommelin Native Arboretum, where we enjoyed morning tea. The Satin Bowerbird wasn’t home but we were impressed with its bower. Cicadas made a such a racket that listening to bird calls became impossible. We wandered beneath the magnificent eucalypts, enjoying the shade. A small Lace Monitor was observed and then a much larger one which we all got to see. A Superb Lyrebird gave fleeting views, as did Lewin’s Honeyeaters flying about. Juvenile Golden Whistlers posed long enough for everyone to get a great look.

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Hakea sp in full bloom
Next we wound down the hill to Patonga and walked around the area watching circling Whistling Kites and Pelicans. On the water, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants used the fishing trawlers to rest. Silver Gulls were everywhere. We had a very enjoyable shaded lunch in the old picnic area. Many people were swimming and enjoying the water and facilities while we headed off to look for more birds, with everyone keen get to to our next stop, the creek, where we had a great walk. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were sensibly resting in the shade of some of the larger trees. Figbirds were around: we had great views of the females and then finally a male. An Eastern Rosella and Satin Bowerbirds weren’t so accommodating and took off quickly. An Australian Brush-turkey perched on a tree branch and then a White-faced Heron emerged and wandered along so everyone could see it well. After returning to the bus for a drink we managed a quick walk down the other way, where it was mostly quiet except for a female Leaden Flycatcher up high.

On to Brisbane Waters National Park at Warrah Trig; again the walk down was very quiet. White-eared Honeyeaters were present but elusive. At the lookout we took in the breathtaking view from Barrenjoey to Patonga, with Ku-ring-gai Chase NP in between. Hearing the odd whisper here I finally found Spotted Pardalotes and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. Brown-headed Honeyeaters were a nice surprise and finally we had good views of White-eared Honeyeaters. As we headed back up the hill an Echidna ambling across the track caused great excitement.

Pausing at Kariong for a welcome ice cream stop on our return journey, we also scanned to find Yellow Thornbills high up in the eucalypts.

A great day’s birding with a great group.

Christina Port birding for Follow That Bird

Christmas Party Hot Spot Trip Report

Saturday 16 December 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Tawny Frogmouths by Edwin Vella
A very hot but enjoyable day birding with Santa delivering the goodies for us well before Christmas day!

We started off at Pitt Town Lagoon were brief views where had a Red-kneed Dotterel, Royal Spoonbill, 3 Little and 4 Great Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, a Baillon’s and Australian Spotted Crake, Reed Warblers, Golden-headed Cisticola, Chestnut-breasted Mannikins and a small group of Pacific Plovers on one of the island’s in the middle of the Lagoon.

Before having our morning tea at Mitchell Park we had a short walk along Cattai Creek where we had a few Olive-backed Orioles, Rufous and Golden Whistlers, Grey Shrike-thrush, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Spinebill, Dollarbird and a Pacific Baza displaying high above. While enjoying our morning tea with Janene’s lovely Christmas Cake we had a Sacred Kingfisher, Lewin’s Honeyeater and a Little Wattlebird feeding young. We also had nice views of an Eastern Water Dragon on arrival.

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White-faced Heron by Lois Towart
We then moved to Cattai National Park looking at the Bell Miners while sheltering under the large eucalypts where a beautiful adult White-bellied Sea-eagle circled fairly low above us. During lunch at the picnic area beside the Hawkesbury River we initially thought there was a domesticated duck foraging with some Maned Ducks but it turned out to be a leucistic male Maned Duck – all albino with a few traces of its usual plumage. We also had some nice views of Satin Bowerbirds, Olive-backed Orioles and a pair of Tawny Frogmouths roosting in one of the casuarinas in the middle of the picnic area. A couple of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were under the shade of some trees, as would be as expected during the midday heat.

After lunch we headed to the Richmond Lowlands picking up a Glossy Ibis on the way at McGraths Hill. Driving through Cornwallis a Buff-banded Rail walked across in front of our bus and then gave us some lovely views as it moved by the sprinkler in a crop field. Further on at the Richmond Lowlands we had some nice views of Red-rumped Parrots, Cattle Egrets in wonderful breeding plumage, Straw-necked Ibis, Yellow Thornbills, Willie Wagtails with young and a number of Black-fronted Dotterels in a couple of dams there.

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Australian Reed Warbler by Greg McCarry
We then made our way to Bushells Lagoon where we all managed some views of an Australian Crake foraging out on the mud with both Red-kneed Dotterels and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Goldfinches and a family group of White-bellied Sea-eagles.

Despite the heat keeping a number of birds under cover we still ended up with over 90 species of birds for the day!

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Minnamurra Falls Trip Report

Saturday 2 December 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Brown Cuckoo-dove by Edwin Vella
With a good run through and out of the city, we eventually made our way down to the Illawarra region for a good day’s birding.

First of all was our morning tea stop at Bulli Tops. A short walk to the look out had quite a number of Topknot Pigeons perched on the emergent fig trees in the rainforest below the cliff and a beautiful chorus of birds including Brush and Fan-tailed Cuckoos, Golden Whistlers, Eastern Whipbirds etc. Whilst having a morning tea there a Satin Bowerbird flew past and we managed some great looks at both an Eastern Yellow Robin and Eastern Spinebills.

The main road into Minamurra was quite productive birding and a stop along this stretch gave us good views of Grey Shrike Thrush, Rufous Whistler, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Satin Bowerbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Spinebills and Grey Fantails. A Cicadabird was also heard calling as well as Dollarbirds and a Sacred Kingfisher.

Not long after we had arrived in the Minnamurra Rainforest, we were able to get our eyes onto one of at least 2 Brush Cuckoos present. A fairly steep but leisurely walk up to the waterfall gave us excellent views of a number of obliging Superb Lyrebirds right beside the track including 2 ‘superb’ looking adult males which had came flying down towards us. Also along the walk we had 3 species of Scrubwren (including an extremely close of White-browed which had food in its bill most likely for young nearby, Yellow-throated as well as a group of Large-billed Scrubwrens), Black-faced Monarch, Rufous Fantail, more Topknot Pigeons and a couple of Brown Cuckoo-doves.

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Superb Lyrebird by Edwin Vella
After coming down from the waterfall, we had our lunch beside the Minnamurra River where a Lewin’s Honeyeater (a species that had evaded us during our walk through the rainforest) actually gave us a close inspection as if to say here I am! We were also accompanied by another Black-faced Monarch and a couple of handsome looking Eastern water Dragons in breeding colour.

Just as we had finished lunch, a storm had arrived through with some heavy rain, so we went back on the bus and started driving back.

However, we a brief pause in the rain gave us the opportunity for a short stop at the Tallawarra Ash Ponds in Haywards Bay. Here we were able to add more species for the day’s lists in a much different environment with 5 Red-necked Avocets, several Black-winged Stilts, a flock of 25 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, a few Pink-eared Ducks, Australasian Shovers, Royal Spoonbills in splendid breeding plumage, Great Egrets, a Brown Goshawk, Reed Warblers and an Australian Crake.

A wonderful day beating the rain and a nice tally of 88 bird species!

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Hexham Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 18 November 2020
Birder: Christina Port

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White-breasted Woodswallows by Greg McCarry
The weather forecast was for wet and Id packed everything I needed. It hadnt dampened the spirit of the bus load and we watched as the clouds darkened and circled but apart from a light sprinkle the weather was perfect for bird watching.

Heading up the M1 we spotted a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles circling. A quick stop at the BP at Beresfield where a Cicadabird was calling and then we headed into Hexham swamp. The Cattle Egrets in their golden breeding plumage were feeding beside cattle in the paddocks. Golden-headed Cisticolas zizzed and a Black Kite and Swamp Harriers kept everyone looking high. After a welcome morning tea we walked down the track finding White-breasted Woodswallows clumped together. The Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows were feeding young. Most Australian Pelicans seen gliding around were interestingly immatures. Great Egrets in various stages of breeding plumage fished and the White-fronted Chats disappeared, although a male came back giving us a view on the mud flat. The Mangrove Gerygone were quiet but one came out briefly and then hid again. We also had a Whistling Kite and in the fields beyond the track a group of maybe 50 White-faced Herons and 30 Masked Lapwings gave flight as another Swamp Harrier flew over.

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Welcome Swallows feeding by Greg McCarry
Over to Ash Island for our lunch stopping for Purple Swamphens for our overseas visitors plus a White-necked Heron was also seen. An Osprey nesting on the power tower looked down on us and as we ate, we had a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles flying up and down the river. In closer a Pied and Great Cormorant were seen. Some were lucky enough to have a Pied Butcherbird invite himself to lunch giving very close-up views.

Then off to Stockton Sandspit where Pied Oystercatchers on the sand and Sooty Oystercatchers on the rocks. Bar-tailed Godwits the most common species, although we did see a Black-tailed Godwit in flight. There were also Red-necked Avocets and some White-headed Stilts. After much looking the Pacific Golden Plovers were discerned and there were a few Eastern Curlew and Whimbrels. As we walked out a Brown Honeyeaters was seen. A few Crested Terns and a Caspian Tern were flying around. We drove around the corner and Grey-tailed Tattlers became our last new bird of the trip.

A great days birding in the Hunter region with a fantastic group. 75 species seen and heard.

Thank you everyone. Christina Port guiding for Follow That Bird.

Killalea Lagoon Trip Report

Saturday 21 October 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Martini’s First Day Birding by Anne Brophy
We started off at Sublime Point at Bulli Tops where a group of Crimson Rosellas greeted us as they foraged around the picnic site while we had our morning tea. A short walk to the lookout yielded nice and close views of a Lewin’s Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird and surprisingly a couple of Diamond Pythons basking in the sun at the lookout and facing the brunt of the very cool breeze!

As we left Sublime Point a few of us got a brief glimpse of Grey Goshawk flying down into the trees.

As we drove down past Wollongong, a Nankeen Kestrel made a daring kill as it flew straight and just in front of our bus landing on the other side of the highway. Certainly a great view of this falcon!

There was news that a pair of Orange Chats had been seen at Dunmore so as it was close to where we were heading anyway, we thought we would try a do a quick twitch! Unsuccessful in finding the Chats we may have been but we had goods looks a Cattle Egrets in their breeding plumages, displaying Golden-headed Cisticolas, Fairy Martins, another good look at a Nankeen Kestrel beside the bus and a couple Topknot Pigeons flying past.

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Mistletoebird by Greg McCarry
Next at the Tallawarra Ash Ponds were we had a Black-shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite, 8 Red-necked Avocets with some Black-winged Stilts, 3 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 2 Spotless Crakes seen through my scope and heard Little Grassbirds, Reed Warbler and a Lewin’s Rail.

We arrived at Killalea State Park for lunch where nearby a pair of White-faced Herons and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were both nesting. A stunning male Satin Bowerbirds and Figbird flew past.

After lunch, we did the long but leisurely walk around the lagoon were the rainforest regrowth gave nice views of an Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebills, Yellow Thornbills, Brown Gerygones, Leaden Flycatcher and wonderful views of a stunning male Mistletoebird at close range. On the lagoon were 3 Musk Ducks, Hardheads, a Black-fronted Dotterel and a very close perched Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo.

A raft of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were out to sea and as we heading back up the hill to the car park we also had a party of both Variegated and Superb Fairy-wrens, White-browed Scrubwrens and Silvereyes.

Another great day out!

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Katandra & Long Reef Trip Report

Saturday 23 September 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Grevillea Caleyi by Edwin Vella
A hot Spring but very enjoyable day was spent in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

We started the day with a short stroll behind the Bahai Temple in Ingleside while on the search for a rare Grevillea calleyi in which we found a few healthy specimens and one in very nice bloom. There were also other spectacular wilflowers there too with Waratahs, Native Purple Iris, Boronias etc. We also came across a numbers of birds including Eastern Spinebill, Little Wattlebirds, Eastern Yellow Robin and a paitr of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike supposably nesting.

We then headed off to the Katandra Bushland Sanctuary sighting a pair of Masked Lapwings with 2 baby chicks running around on a lawn. At Katandra we saw the arrival of a number of summer migrants including a Balck-faced Monarch, a pair of Leaden Flycatcher, White-throated Gerygone as well as a family group of Variegated Fairy-wrens (including 2 brilliantly coloured males) as well as a couple of brilliant male Scarlet Honeyeaters. Just before we were about to leave, we noticed a couple of Brown Thornbills coming to drink at a small bird bath new the car park so we sat and waited for a while as thet were soon later joined by other Brown Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwrens, a group of Spotted Pardalotes, Variegated Fairy-wrens, Lewin’s Honeyeater and an Eastern Yellow Robin all coming to drink. Interestingly, we had both the Thornbill and Scrubwren side by side at the bird bath so it was good to compare these 2 Little Brown Jobs!

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Osprey Long Reef by Edwin Vella
Later at Long Reef an Osprey showed very well on 3 occasions for us and at one time landing on a large rock in the middle of the reef metres in front of us. There was also a Nankeen Kestrel chasing a young White-bellied Sea-eagle and on the Reef were Pied and Great Cormorants, 3 Pacific Golden Plovers (one with traces of breeding plumage), 4 Ruddy Turnstones, about 50 Red-necked Stints and 5 Sooty Oystercatcher. Off shore was an Australasian Gannet and a number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters quite close in shore.

We finished off a great day with just under 80 species.

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Curra Moors In the Royal Trip Report

Saturday 2 September 2020
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Sprengelia incarnata
A pre-morning tea stroll at Wattle Forest, Audley, in Royal National Park was a prelude to the day’s main menu – an outing on the Curra Moors circuit.

Perfect early spring weather was a bonus for a group of keen younger middle-aged ladies with an eye for birds and wildflowers.

The start of September is a time of transition in Royal with many of the winter horde of honeyeaters leaving the park. Within weeks the annual migration of summer migrants will appear. I wonder what the local birds think of all this?

Wattle Forest always has birds. The incessant calling of an unseen wonga pigeon provided a sound backdrop for the usual array of waterbirds along with some forest gems  with golden whistlers, superb fairy-wrens, yellow-faced and Lewins honeyeaters, brown gerygones, satin bowerbird and Australian king parrots amongst these.

The start of the Curra Moors circuit is within outstanding forest dominated by Angophora costata and turpentines. Every tree seems to have its own unique character. Many forest birds were seen with New Holland honeyeaters, eastern spinebills, white-browed scrub-wrens, brown and striated thornbills, grey fantails and golden whistlers dominant. A fantail cuckoo practised its repertoire of calls. Arguably the best birds seen on the outing appeared simultaneously with a small flock of brown-headed honeyeaters  not an easy bird to find  being complemented by two soaring wedge-tailed eagles.

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Just before the waterfall
> We made a start on our flower-spotting. Many visitors to Royal dont realise that it has over 1,000 flowering plants  the longest list for any area of its size in Australia, and second in the world for temperate forests, with only the fynbos in South Africa being more diverse. Sun orchids (Thelymitra ixioides) were common with caladenias less so. The heathland was at times a riot of colour with boronias, epacris, correa, tetratheca and countless others competing with the occasional waratah and Christmas bells. Impressively, the collective knowledge of our group was able to identify almost everything we could see.

Birding on the moors was at times slow in terms of diversity. Whilst New Holland honeyeaters and little wattlebirds provided constant movement, some of the heathland specialists didnt show themselves. There was a fleeting view of a tawny-crowned honeyeater. A couple of large families of variegated fairy-wrens were spotted. International birders often comment that these birds are one of the highlights of any trip to Australia  for good reason!

Our lunch site, a rocky perch at the edge of The Great Eastern Fire Break allowed excellent views of the Tasman Sea. Curiously it was devoid of sea monsters at the time of our visit. A few Australasian gannets, silver gulls and distant greater crested terns were the birds seen. A soaring white-bellied sea eagle flew across Eagle Rock.

Such was the fitness and keenness of our group, many were keen to complete the walk so we set forth perhaps a little earlier than was necessary. The best animal seen on the return was a heath (or Rosenbergs) monitor sunning itself beside the trail before disappearing down its hidey hole.

Janene ran (!) ahead to set up some afternoon tea in the car park. The walk we’d completed is the best part of ten kilometres in length so everyone can consider themselves fit and able for a little while yet. A cameo stop at Audley added a few more birds to our day list. These included Australasian swamphens and a gorgeous olive-backed oriole. Over 50 birds were identified on the day.

By Steve Anyon-Smith birding for FTB

Belanglo State Forest Trip Report

Saturday 5 August 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo by Edwin Vella
A cool and very windy day was spent during our trip to Belangalo State Forest and other parts of the South Highlands on Saturday.

On our way down, we turned off the freeway towards Nepean Dam where we had our morning tea. We pulled in about half way along the main road towards the picnic areas where we were delighted to see a pair of brilliant Scarlet Robins beside the road. A number of Mugga Ironbarks were also in flower attracting a Brown-headed Honeyeater amongst several Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. Other birds also seen were Striated and Buff-rumped Thornbills, White-throated Treecreeper and Eastern Spinebill.

After our morning tea we went back onto the freeway with a few stops beside the road to check out Straw-necked Ibis and a dam containing a few Hoary-headed Grebe, Hardhead, Eurasian Coot and Black Swan. A Peregrine Falcon also whizzed passed us startling a group of Startling and Galah in the surrounding paddock.

Not long before we entered the Belangalo State Forest, a couple of Emu (probably the only wild ones that exist closest to Sydney!) were spotted in a paddock.

Driving through Radiata Pine forest in Belangalo we were happy to get excellent views of a Bassian Thrush foraging close to us on the ground, a group of White-winged Choughs and our first Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos for the day.

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Watching Grey Currawongs
Outside the Pine Plantation, we then walk through beautiful sandstone county along the Miner Despair Trail. Being fairly exposed to the exceedingly windy most of the birds kept to cover, but we still managed some nice looks of both Striated and Brown Thornbills, Crimson Rosellas, Grey Shrike-thrush and Grey Fantails.

We had our lunch at the rest area within the State Forest with Maned Ducks beside the dam and Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos circling around us.

After lunch, we then drove through other parts of the forest seeing lots of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos here and there feasting on the Radiata Pine cones, another Emu, more White-winged Chough and a pair of Grey Currawongs giving us excellent views as they foraged on the ground. A dam just outside the State Forest also had 3 Australasian Shoveler amongst other waterbirds we had already seen earlier on.

Our lovely day in the Southern Highlands was topped off nicely having our afternoon tea in Berrima.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Wild Walk with Birds & Caves Trip Report

Saturday 1 July 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Forest Path Climb
The coldest morning of the year welcomed Louise, Mike, Duncan, Peter and the FTB team on a birding tour of Royal National Park.

Out of respect for the likelihood of the birds at Wattle Forest being frozen, we started the day at Wattamolla. Many of the usual “campground bums” were seen en route to our first site, the lookout at Providential Point. These included a fully plumaged male superb fairy-wren which was, well, superb. Happily we were soon mugged by a pair of rockwarblers on the track just short of the Great Eastern Fire Break. These lactose-tolerant monsters ambushed us in their usual way  a great way for us all to start the day.

The sea, what little there was of it between the humpback whales, was quite angry. A stiff south-easterly breeze provided the conditions for good views of black-browed albatrosses and Australasian gannets, along with distant views of yellow-nosed albatross. Thanks to Duncan’s sharp eyes, a giant petrel was seen resting on the water.

After morning tea we relocated to the southern end of Lady Carrington Drive. The birds were in mixed species flocks and we crashed into a couple of these. The first of them allowed excellent views of crested shrike-tit, golden whistler, white-throated treecreeper and a few others. We agreed to follow Forest Path for a short way on account of Janene’s recent intelligence that we would see lots of lyrebirds there… Nevertheless Louise soon had us looking at a group of noisy topknot pigeons that were crashing about feeding on the fruits of rainforest trees. Additionally all three local scrub-wrens were listed with white-browed, yellow-throated and large-billed all seen in quick succession.

At one point one of our number veered off the track for personal reasons and stumbled upon a small shelter with some Aboriginal hand stencils and charcoal drawings. A nice addition to the mix of delightful things possible in Royal. As Mike and Louise have an interest in orchids we ticked off Pterostylis nutans (Nodding Greenhood) and probably Corybas aconitiflorus (Spurred Helmet Orchid), flowering along the side of the track.

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Forest Floor
Lunch was enjoyed at Garie Beach with more blubber-gutses, aggressive fairy-wrens and a couple of white-fronted terns feeding just beyond the beach.

After I failed to find a beautiful firetail at a “pretty much guaranteed” location we had our last hurrah in fading light and crashing temperatures on the Gundamaian Fire Trail. Here the lost firetails were rediscovered along with a scrum of the more common honeyeaters.

I must thank everyone for their positive and cheerful company, on what turned out to be a great day in the field!

By Steve Anyon-Smith birding for FTB.

Yengo National Park Trip Report

Saturday 20 May 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Blue-faced Honeyeater by Edwin Vella
The rain had cleared just in time for our day trip to Yengo National Park on the western outskirts of the Central Coast region.

At Kulnura before our morning tea a short walk through remnant bushland produced nice views of White-throated Treecreeper, Grey Fantail, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Red-browed Finches, a flock of Australian King Parrots, and an Eastern Whipbird calling in higher branches. Whilst having morning tea, we also enjoyed close views of a pair of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos feeding in a Radiata Pine metres away.

Further on our way to Yengo National Park we also saw a White-necked Herons and several groups of Wood Ducks.

Moments later we were driving through Yengo National Park stopping first beside the road in a gully within the Forest. Here we had nice views of Yellow-tufted, White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Variegated Fairy-wrens, Spotted Pardalotes, Brown Gerygone as well a some Thornbills – Brown, Striated and Buff-rumped. A Jacky Winter was also seen foraging on the edge of the road and we also had a very obliging Grey Shrike-thrush. One of our lucky guests also had nice views of a pair of Rockwarblers here. A walk further up the road also produced both Lewin’s and White-naped Honeyeaters.

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Grey-crowned Babblers by Edwin Vella
After our lunch, we stopped at Finchley lookout which offered fantastic views of the surrounding wilderness and views all the way to Singleton and Muswellbrook. We also heard here the “whoop…whoop” call of a Wonga Pigeon, several calling Super Lyrebirds and a Spotted Quail-thrush. Back at the bus we had wonderful looks of both Lewin’s and White-eared Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills. We had another short walk nearby the lookout hoping to see the Quail-thrush that had been calling, but unfortunately not to be seen but instead enjoyed good views of a pair of Golden Whistlers and a White-eared Honeyeater as consolation.

Driving out of the forest our leader did see a Spotted Quail-thrush briefly scurrying away beside the road and as we drove out of the forest we were surprised to see beside the road a group of Grey-crowned Babblers and a couple of Blue-faced Honeyeaters with them. The Babblers were seen attending a nest which they often use as a roost when not breeding. A pair of Jacky Winters was also seen on a power line nearby.

On our way back to Sydney we had a Nankeen Kestrel near Laguna and after passing through Kulnura a group of White-headed Pigeons perched nicely for us on the powerlines beside the road.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Robertson Birding Trip Report

Saturday 25 March 2021
Birder: Bob Ashford

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Belmore Falls by Bob Ashford
After virtually four weeks of constant rain it was heartening to see some blue sky and even feel a little heat from the sun. Black clouds were on the horizon but birders are made of sterling stuff and ignoring a few drops we strolled around the Nepean Dam picnic area to the raucous calls of flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and great views of both Eastern and Crimson Rosellas.

Among us were seasoned veteran birders and absolute beginners, all smiling! A fleeting glimpse of a speeding Collared Sparrowhawk got all of us excited as it stirred up Red and Little Wattlebirds, Silvereyes, Pied Currawongs, three Musk Lorikeets and three Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. Not a bad way to start the day!

After morning tea we strolled away from the Lorikeets to the dam. Faint honeyeater calls were heard  Yellow-faced, White-naped, and a busy Eastern Spinebill. Then several Grey Fantails, a White-throated Treecreeper and some White-browed Scrubwrens joined in. Janene also spotted a Rock Warbler.

The dam was FULL! And water was thundering over the rocks at the spill, all very dramatic. In the gardens we spotted a fleeing Common Bronzewing, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Superb Fairy-wrens and Red-browed Finches.

Next stop was Wingecarribee Dam for lunch where a rather splendid Great Crested Grebe, a Pelican and a flock of Straw-necked Ibis entertained us. But those black clouds were rolling in and as we set off again the rain set in.

The gravel road in to the Belmore Falls were almost creeks in themselves and by the time we got to the Falls it was obvious that driving across might not be such a good idea. This was subtly reinforced by the strained quiet in the bus! And so we retraced our steps to approach from the other side. This detour produced quite a number of White-necked Herons working the very wet paddocks for frogs and worms.

The trudge through the rain to the Falls produced just one very damp Brown Thornbill well spotted by Ashleigh. The Falls were spectacular, when you could see them through the crowded umbrellas! A challenge was set: “A coffee or an ice-cream for the person who spots a bird we haven’t seen yet before we get back to the bus” I set the challenge, fairly confident that I wouldn’t be coughing up. Silly Me! Greg and Katherine spotted a Grey Shrike-thrush even more soaked than the Thornbill. Greg enjoyed his well-deserved coffee.

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Rockwarbler Nepean Dam that
irritatingly only Janene saw
To round off what was now a very wet day we headed to the cattle sale yards at Moss Vale where there are some dams which can be very productive at times, though confidence wasn’t high with so much water lying around. Still we got some Starlings, Magpies and dripping Galahs and a flock of Grey Teal paddling around in a paddock en route.

Miraculously the rain stopped as we arrived and as we tumbled out of the bus up went the cry “Pink-eared Ducks”. That got the dawdlers out!

There were at least a dozen and an equal number of Shovellers, several Hardheads, Chestnut Teal, Great Egret, Coot, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, Little Pied and Black Cormorants, some Masked Lapwings and Black Duck. All very exciting. Then another call “Raptor”, and indeed there was. Sitting quite calmly on a bare branch on the opposite bank a large female Brown Goshawk eyed us before taking off into the mist. And then Kaye piped up “Is that a Blue-billed Duck?” and the answer was “Yes, it is”.

Not a bad finale to the day. Except for Janene, who managed to shout out Peregrine as we raced up the freeway. The rest of us were still gloating over pour list, a very respectable 70, give or take!

A wonderful outing with a great bunch. Thank you for such enjoyable company. Oh, and err, for laughing at my joke!

By birder Bob Ashford, skylarking for FTB

PS Looking forward to seeing Bob in October 2017 when we all hope he returns…

Wheeny Creek Trip Report

Saturday 11 March 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Gang-Gang Cockatoo male by Edwin Vella
After a fairly wet week, we were all delighted to enjoy a nice sunny day to the north-western outskirts of Sydney.

We started off at Maraylya Park were upon some persistence managed to get some good views of a number of Musk Lorikeets. A few White-throated Needletails flew quite low over the eucalypts and a number of Rainbow Bee-eaters were also passing over on their migration north. A nearby dam also had some Black Swan as well as a number of Eurasian Coot and both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis.

On route to Wheeny Creek we were very pleased to see a Square-tailed Kite flying low over an open paddock and a Sacred Kingfisher perched on a power line beside the road at Kurrajong.

On arrival at Wheeny Creek in the Wollemi National Park, we enjoyed an hour stroll around the picnic areas were we saw a number of Lewin’s and White-naped Honeyeaters both posing nice and well for us, Scarlet Myzomela, Rufous Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robins, White-throated Treecreepers, Grey Fantails, Satin Bowerbird and Red-browed Finches.

While having lunch, I was mentioning how the numbers of Gang-gang Cockatoos are declining around Sydney when soon after Janene called out “Gang-gangs” and we then saw an adult pair attending a nest hole inside a very large eucalypt. The male went inside the hollow and the female perched outside and blending in quite well with the tree. Certainly one of our most beautiful Cockatoos!

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Blue-billed Duck female by Edwin Vella
After a satisfying lunch we then headed out to Pitt Town Lagoon via Kurmond and Windsor in the Hawkesbury Valley and added an Oriental Dollarbird to our list.

Pitt Town Lagoon certainly had quite a large number of waterbirds with many just returned from the inland where good rains at the later had previously caused a mass exodus from the Sydney area. There were hundreds of Grey Teal but in amongst them we eventually got our eyes onto Chestnut Teal, Pink-eared Ducks, Australasian Shoveler, Hardhead and most surprisingly a female Blue-billed Duck (the later being a very rare visitor to Sydney and a new addition to the Follow That Bird list!). amongst the ducks we also had quite a number of White-headed Stilts, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, a magnificent pair of White-bellied Sea-eagle (an adult and an immature bird) flying side by side and Golden-headed Cisticolas.

After the guide was dropped off later in the day, the rest of the Follow That Bird crew also had added a pair of White-necked Herons and a Jacky Winter on the journey back to Sydney.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Tableland Road & Minnehaha Falls Trip Report

Saturday 18 February 2021
Birder: Carol Probets

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Scarlet Robin by Carol Probets
The cool mountain environment is a welcome enticement in summer, especially after the recent heatwaves. I met the group at Glenbrook – 8 birders with Janene driving – ready for a day visiting some of my favourite local haunts.

Before we even had time for hellos and introductions our eyes turned skyward as the long, scythe-shaped wings of swifts streaked through the air. These were Pacific Swifts, also known as Fork-tailed Swifts though the forked tail isn’t obvious unless the bird banks and spreads its tail. We estimated at least 10 moving in and out of view, with a couple of White-throated Needletails among them for comparison. Swifts and needletails are often associated with approaching storm fronts, though you’d never know it from the blue sky and halcyon weather that prevailed this morning.

Higher up the plateau we arrived at Kings Tableland for a walk in the heathland. Crimson Rosellas and New Holland Honeyeaters soon appeared while Grey Fantails darted about in almost every tree. Standing on Sunset Rock, we looked down at a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flying along the clifftop as the tinkling of Bell Miners wafted up from the depths of the valley. We found fresh chewings of Allocasuarina distyla seed cones, signs of Glossy Black-Cockatoos feeding though the birds themselves proved elusive today. Several of the group did see the Beautiful Firetail which had been taunting us with its faint call. A Striated Pardalote flew in and an Eastern Yellow Robin and male Rufous Whistler were seen well.

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Blotched Blue-tongue by Carol Probets
A distinctive creaky sound heralded one of the day’s highlights with at least 6 Gang-gang Cockatoos calling to each other through the trees. One pair flew in and sat together on a high branch with much canoodling and allopreening. What an adorable picture they made.

We ate lunch at Gordon Falls as a Red Wattlebird kept a hopeful eye on our sandwiches. A green-plumaged (female or immature) Satin Bowerbird hopped onto a sunny patch of ground, stretched out its wings, fluffed up its feathers and sunbathed. But its repose was short-lived: as soon as the sun went behind a cloud, it snapped out of its trance and hopped away.

Our plans to visit Minnehaha Falls Reserve were changed as we knew of a nearby site with more birds and fewer people. This decision paid off, firstly with a display by two male Scarlet Robins in a territorial dispute, their bright red breasts and white foreheads flashing as they chased each other through the trees. A Wedge-tailed Eagle sped across the sky going somewhere in a hurry. White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Spinebill and Brown Thornbills gave us good views. Duncan first spotted the Sacred Kingfisher, pointing it out to everyone before it flew off. A female Variegated Fairy-wren obligingly showed herself, while the blue male disappeared quickly into the undergrowth.

A large Blotched Blue-tongue lizard scuttled away as it tried, not very successfully, to hide in a prostrate shrub. We arrived back at the bus to see a Collared Sparrowhawk in hot pursuit of a flock of Common Starlings (themselves an uncommon sight in Katoomba).

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Gang-Gang Cockatoos by Carol Probets
Storm clouds gathered as we drove down the mountains with flashes of lightning in the distance. By the time we arrived at Springwood the rain was pelting down. But it didn’t last long and we were soon walking through the cemetery under a half-blue sky and a silver-edged cumulonimbus. As the sun hit the wet ground, an eerie mist rose from the gravestones making us feel like characters on the set of a suspense thriller.

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos called across the golf course, two eventually flying closer and giving us good views in the top of a pine tree. Australian King-Parrots flashed through the turpentine forest. An agile Jacky Lizard jumped around on an upturned tree stump, curiously looking up at the humans who were trying to photograph it.

Our final bird was a Common Bronzewing, rainbow colours shining in its wings. Just then, we became aware of a loud clattering across the gully, the sound rapidly moving closer. We hurried back to the bus as hailstones the size of golf balls started falling around us. Good timing! Those swifts had proved true to their reputation as harbingers of stormy weather. As it happened, they were also harbingers of a delightful days birding.

by Carol Probets naturalist for FTB

Bobbin Head Trip Report

Saturday 4 February 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Grey Butcherbird by Edwin Vella
Our day started off with quite overcast and very humid conditions while we walked along the Sphinx track in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. We encountered here both Red and Little Wattlebirds, Crimson Rosella, a group of Variegated Fairy-wrens, Mistletoebird, Spotted Pardalote, Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebill, Lewin’s Honeyeater, a large group of White-throated Needletails flying overhead and our first Kookaburra sighting especially to the delight of our 2 overseas guests from the UK and Canada.

We then drove to Bobbin Head to have our morning tea and later took the scenic walk beside Cockle Creek taking us through a variety of habitats with a mangrove board walk, a nice stroll through open forest and into a small area of rainforest. One of our favourites for the trip was encountered along this walk when came across a few Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. We were also just as happy to see a pair of Azure Kingfishers which posed for quite an extensive time beside the creek for all of us to see and enjoyed better views of a Spotted Pardalote.

Other creatures were also encountered along this walk included a number of fish species in the creek, lots of soldier crabs in the mangroves, both a freshwater crayfish and an Eastern Water Dragon in the rainforest stream and just before we headed back to our bus large Lace Monitor on a base of a large eucalypt.

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Lace Monitor by Edwin Vella
We then had our lunch just outside the Kalkari Discovery centre where we were joined by a couple of Australian Brush Turkeys and had an Orchard Swallowtail butterfly fly by.

Our afternoon was spent around Warriewood where at the wetlands we saw a few Dollarbirds, Grey Butcherbird, Brown Gerygone, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, several young Dusky Moorhen, White-faced Heron, Eastern Spinebill and a Brown Goshawk sneaking its way past us.

Our last birding was had at Irrawong Nature Reserve where after hearing a number of Eastern Yellow Robins at the other locations we eventually saw one here. We also had a nice view of a Sacred Kingfisher, Grey Fantail, another Brush Turkey and a Swamp Wallaby foraging out in the open was also a nice mammal sighting.

At the end of our day a stop for ice cream topped it off nicely for a hot summer’s day of birding.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Cool Coast Birding Trip Report

Saturday 21 January 2021
Birder: Christina Port

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Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit by Christina Port
A beautiful cool day after the storms of the previous night and the heat we’d been having. We drove down Ourimbah Creek Road at a leisurely pace. A Grey Butcherbird and Masked Lapwing started the day. The ponds along the way didn’t disappoint: we had Maned Duck and Pacific Black Duck at one and a White-necked Heron and White-faced Heron at another. To see so many Laughing Kookaburras gracing the wires and fences was great. Big excitement at the call of a raptor and a Grey Goshawk had us out of the bus; this was a new bird for some. Male Satin Bowerbirds flew off quickly and the calls of Bell Miners were ringing down the road. A Sacred Kingfisher sat on the wire, Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeet and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were seen along with King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas to add to the parrot festival. Lots of Red-browed Finch young and old were feeding on grasses and Silvereyes feeding on berries.

We finally made it to Jilliby State Forest and were greeted by Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and an Eastern Yellow Robin. Along the track numerous Brown Gerygone flitted about and a Black-faced Monarch gave difficult views. Lewin’s Honeyeaters were there and a male Superb Lyrebird flew across the track. We watched a Large-billed Scrubwren foraging for food and young Eastern Whipbirds gave fleeting views in the scrub. A Yellow-throated Scrubwren was finally seen as we turned around. A highlight for many was seeing a Crested Shrike-tit and a Rufous Fantail. As we arrived back at the bus we had a beautiful male Golden Whistler and Variegated Fairywrens. Returning along the road we stopped for Brown Cuckoo-Doves playing chasings with each other and a Dollarbird.

On to our morning tea spot at Katandra National Park, where we enjoyed a very welcome cuppa with Bell Miners calling as well as a lone White-throated Treecreeper.

Brown Cuckoo-Dove by Nick Giles
Davistown was our lunch spot but we headed off first with the scope to see our target bird here, an Eastern Curlew! One flew down and landed very close to us and we had great views. A White-breasted Woodswallow hawked for insects, Australian Pelicans, Mallard and Little Pied Cormorant were around. Just before returning to get our lunch an Australasian Darter flew in and started fishing. While we ate, I spied a Bar-tailed Godwit and we also had great views of a Figbird in a tree close by.

We headed off to Saratoga. passing a few Australian White Ibis. At the wetlands we looked for Mangrove Gerygone but all was quiet. As we headed back Brian said he thought he heard one, and we trooped back and sure enough we saw one well and heard others calling.

On to Copacabana to Cochrane Lagoon. There were plenty of Swans on the water along with a lot of Chestnut Teal. A couple of White-bellied Sea-eagles put up all the birds, allowing us great views. The trees along the way had Little Black, Pied, Little Pied and Great Cormorants resting. A Brush Turkey was tending his mound while White-browed Scrub-wren made it difficult as did Variegated Fairy-wrens. Away in the distance a pair of White-headed Stilts were our last birds as we headed back to the bus.

Off to the Bouddi Pony Club for a very quick sighting of Bush Stone-curlew and we were excited to see a pair with a baby. Also seen here were Laughing Kookaburra, and Crested Pigeon was our last bird.

On to Kariong for a welcome ice cream before heading down the M1. Thanks to everyone. We enjoyed a great day’s birding with lots of wonderful birds.

By Christina Port birding for FTB

Christmas Party Birding – Mangrove Creek Dam,
Bulga & Wallaby Scrub Road Trip Report

Saturday 17 December 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Mistletoebird by Edwin Vella
Our Christmas outing to the Hunter Valley was certainly enjoyed by all who attended with a good list of 86 species.

Our first stop was Mangrove creek Dam where we had good views of both a male Rufous Whistler and Grey Shrike-thrush as well as Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters while having our morning tea there. On the road in and out to the dam we also had an Australian Pipit in an open paddock, a small group of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, Red-browed Finches feeding on roadside grass, Variegated Fairy-wrens and Eastern Spinebill.

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Rainbow Bee-eater by
participant Nick Giles
Our drive through the picturesque Hunter valley through Bucketty, Laguna, Wollombi and Broke yielded us some good finds on our way including Dollarbirds, White-throated Gerygones, a Wedge-tailed Eagle flying over a group of Straw-necked ibis, a White-necked and many more White-faced Herons, Pied Butcherbird, Fairy Martins,Noisy Friarbirds, our first group of Grey-crowned Babblers, White-winged Choughs and our first Blue-faced Honeyeater.

When we finally arrived at Bulga it was time for our lunch. Our American visitor was finally able to get on to here first pair of Galah after a couple of fly bys earlier on. They then certainly gave her magnificent views as they turned around heading towards us and landing in a nearby eucalypt. Certainly grabbing our attention here was a very obliging male and a female Mistletoebird which were fond of a small group of eucalypt saplings. We considered this to be one of the first three of Christmas specials! A short walked near our lunch stop also yielded excellent views of a pair of Grey-crowned Babblers and a pair of Striped Honeyeaters.

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Mistletoebird on the wing
by participant Nick Giles
After lunch we drove onto Wambo Rd where along the road we had some Red-rumped Parrots resting on roadside trees, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Nankeen Kestrels and a Little Eagle flying quite low over us with prey (being a small Rabbit). Further down the road we pulled up beside the road after we had noticed a Lace Monitor dashed quickly and headed up the nearest tree it could find. In the Casuarina woodland here were a number of Buff-rumped Thornbills with young, Grey Fantail, Speckled Warblers and great views of 2 other Christmas specials – a male Scarlet Myzomela (Honeyeater) and a male Red-capped Robin. At nearby Wallaby Scrub we also had some Varied Sitellas and Spotted Pardalote.

After noticing Rainbow Bee-eaters perched beside the road at Broke we decided to have a stop here as well where we also found a couple of young Blue-faced Honeyeaters being fed by its parents and a male Satin Bowerbird.

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Little Eagle with bunny
by Edwin Vella
On the long stretch home we check out a few dams around Pokolbin and Cessnock adding a few more waterbirds for our trip including Australasian Darters, Australian Pelicans, Black Swans and Black-fronted Dotterels.

A final stop at the Wattagans was for ice-cream where it also gave us good views of a foraging Noisy Friarbird.

by Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Boxvale & Bargo River Trip Report

Saturday 26 November 2020
Birder: Bob Ashford

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Little Black Cormorant
As we drove into the Nepean Dam picnic area we were escorted, at least temporarily, by several Eastern Rosellas, definitely one of our most beautiful parrots. Then, while Janene set up the coffee and biscuits (its hard work birding!) we strolled the nearby area and enjoyed views of Superb Fairy-wrens, Crimson Rosellas, a loud Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, a pair of very accommodating Grey Butcherbirds and the ever present Eastern Spinebills. Not a bad start – and made the coffee and biscuits taste all the better!

A short walk by the dam produced White-browed Scrubwren, several frustratingly difficult to see Spotted Pardalotes and very easy to see juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo. As we departed for the Boxvale Track a Noisy Friarbird flew briefly alongside the bus prompting a call of “look at that bald-headed thing” immediately followed by another voice that said “not Bob, the Friarbird”. The cheek of it!

The day was warming up fast and birds were moving in to the shadows of the trees. There were a few Australian Ravens pecking along the side of the freeway though. Interestingly Little Ravens have moved in to the Southern Highlands in numbers over the last few years, particularly around the cow paddocks. We scoured every raven carefully but were obviously not in the right place as we did not manage to see any Littles.

As we headed along the early stages of the Boxvale track toward the Nattai Creek Dam we found Sacred Kingfisher, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Fantail, a very elusive Buff-rumped Thornbill and three White-throated Treecreepers obviously having a little disagreement. Several continually busy Eastern Spinebills eventually led us to a number of Yellow-faced and New Holland Honeyeaters and then there was a call Wedgie, and sure enough high above a Wedge-tailed Eagle glided toward the coast.

At the dam we really weren’t expecting many water birds, there having been a mass exodus to the wet interior this Spring, but in fact we were greeted by a pair of Coots proudly showing off their four red-headed chicks. Several Wood Ducks, a few Black Duck, one lone female Chestnut Teal and a pair of Little Black Cormorants all made the dam far livelier than we had hoped for. Around the edges several unseen but loud Australian Reed Warblers added even more excitement.

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Golden Whistler with spider
In the surrounding open woodland White-throated Gerygones called and the ever present Rufous Whistlers did their best to out call each other while several Striated Thornbills quietly chirruped away as they passed us by. A lone Dollarbird “chuk-chukked” us as it flew back and forth from its various lookout branches. On the return to the bus a sharp-eyed birder spotted a Grey Fantail sitting on its stunningly beautiful nest. Good spot Boxvale!

At lunchtime in Berrima we ignored the posh café with the white tablecloths and picnicked in the park. Good decision. Lying on the grass looking up through the huge Cypress trees we spotted resting Little Corellas, Galahs, an Olive-backed Oriole and a troop of very entertaining Yellow-rumped Thornbills. Then as we headed north again to our next stop, the Bargo River, we passed through Mittagong where, outside the pub our attention was drawn to a large sign which said – Authentic Mexican Food  so good Trump has built a wall round it! We also saw a Common Myna!

The Bargo River is always a nice walk and we were welcomed by tinkling Bell Miners, cascading White-throated Gerygones and the zinging calls of Rufous Whistlers. Before long White-throated Treecreepers, Peaceful Doves and another accommodating juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo joined us, with the latter being attended to by frantic White-browed Scrub-wrens. Then up popped a beautiful Rock Warbler offering some of the best views some of us have ever had. And then a Shining Bronze-cuckoo, always a delight to see and in this case a “lifer” for Nick, one happy birder! Other additions were Brown Thornbill, Mistletoebird, Grey Shrike-thrush and White-naped Honeyeater.

We rounded off a grand day, in grand company, with an ice-cream at Pheasants Nest.

Thank you all, Bob. (Ashford guiding for FTB)

Mount Tomah Trip Report

Saturday 19 November 2020
Birder: Carol Probets

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Macleays Swallowtail by Carol Probets
At 1000 metres altitude and cloaked in lush vegetation, Mount Tomah is the perfect place to escape the November heat. I met six birders and Janene driving the bus at Richmond, ready for our ascent to the basaltic luxuriance of the mountains botanic garden.

During the drive, the mysterious nomadic movements of Australian waterbirds was earnestly discussed, with various theories expounded. The chat then turned to Bell Miners as we drove up Bellbird Hill. Naturally we stopped at Berambing to catch a look at these most predictable of all birds. We not only had great views of the Bell Miners but a blue male Satin Bowerbird in full view by the roadside.

On arrival at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (Mount Tomah) we were greeted by an Eastern Yellow Robin singing its dawn territorial song well into the morning. Striated Thornbills and a Spotted Pardalote gave our necks and binoculars a workout while Brown-headed Honeyeaters were heard in the tall Eucalyptus fastigata.

The gardens are an enchanting mix of native vegetation and cool-climate plants from around the world. A New Holland Honeyeater demonstrated that exotic plant species can be attractive to native birds as it foraged for nectar in the formal garden.

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Crimson Rosella by Janene Luff
We were entertained during morning tea by a juvenile Australian Raven with dark eyes and a pink gape. Its incessant calling prompted its parents to feed it occasional morsels which only shut it up momentarily.

Next, it was off to explore the rest of the garden. We headed down through the rock terraces where enormous protea blooms yelled: Look at me! Spikes of Puya from Chile were flowering in a deep turquoise colour so unusual they didnt seem real. The bright orange flowers of Buddleja globosa were drawing in an array of butterflies, including Macleays Swallowtails, Australian Painted Ladies and Yellow Admirals. Birdwise, we enjoyed good views of Eastern Spinebill, Brown Thornbill and Superb Fairy-wren, and a party of Striated Thornbills foraged uncharacteristically low in the trees.

The Gondwana Forest is often a hotspot of bird activity and today was no exception. A stunning male Golden Whistler, a Grey Fantail darting about, a Brown Gerygone coming in for a close look, a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling high in a tree and a female-plumaged Rose Robin were some of the highlights before lunch.

At our shady lunch spot, a male Satin Bowerbird was raiding nearby picnic tables. Even trips to the amenities proved interesting with strikingly-patterned moths decorating the outside wall of the toilet building, as they often do. And the Yellow Robin was still singing at the carpark.

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Even the Lawns are
Breath-taking at Mt Tomah
We had wisely saved the Lady Nancy Fairfax rainforest walk for the heat of the afternoon. The deep gloom of the forest was far from gloomy, with plenty of bird activity and colour. Here we saw Black-faced Monarch, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, a Golden Whistler carrying a spider and an Eastern Yellow Robin splashing in the creek. Male and female Eastern Whipbirds called antiphonally and were not shy in giving us great views. It was rather funny to see a whipbird chased along a branch by a Brown Gerygone a fraction of its size.

At the end of the walk, a Large-billed Scrubwren appeared, taunting us by flying across the track several times. Every trip needs a bogey bird and todays was the Rufous Fantail, which was briefly heard several times but refused to be seen. Common Blackbirds were ubiquitous throughout the garden and in the rainforest.

Returning up the Plant Explorers Walk we found a Brown Gerygone in the early stages of building its nest. When completed this will be an impressive hanging structure with a hooded entrance and long tail. We arrived back at the carpark to find the Yellow Robin still singing.

We recorded approximately 50 bird species, a good total for a trip like this (single destination). If every day was like this one, wed have idyllic lives indeed.

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Blue Gum Swamp, Lower Blue Mountains Trip Report

Saturday 29 October 2020
Birder: Tiffany Mason

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Stephanie by Janene Luff
Meeting up with the guide at Penrith Weir, the group gathered to admire a perched Dollarbird, although this took some manoeuvring in order to extinguish the glary sky and bring out the beautiful greens and blues of its plumage and its impressive red beak. We heard Eastern Whipbirds in the gully and saw Red-vented Bulbuls lurking in the lianes. Olive-backed Oriole was calling insistently and some dedicated searching finally paid off with relatively good views of the bird, moving steadily through the canopy in search of insects. A lone male Australian Wood Duck (Maned Duck) grazed unconcernedly nearby and we found a Bar-sided Skink peering from a small tree hollow.

A daring decent down a grassy bank to the rivers edge got us good views of numerous cormorants (Little Pied, Little Black and Great), a Darter and a White-faced Heron, the latter fishing in the shallows below the splash zone. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes and Australian Ravens flew overhead and it was time to scale the precipitous bank back to the bus for morning tea.

Across the boxed in bridge over the Nepean (or was it the Hawkesbury? Over to you, Jill…) we passed cattle paddocks, devoid of Cattle Egrets (they had joined every other egret in Australia at the Macquarie Marshes for a spectacular breeding event), but sporting a couple of raptors. Little Eagle! was the guides first cry, followed by No, wait, Square-tailed Kite!! and finally Whistling Kite, Im sure of it!!!. The pale morph was a mite deceiving, but the long tail and black fingers were the final clinchers. The pair appeared to be nesting in a large eucalypt close to the road. We watched their antics for a while and then headed up hill to Yellow Rock.

Alighting from the bus, we walked through an area that had suffered in the devastating October 2013 bushfires (not once, but twice!), noting signs of good vegetative recovery: epicormic buds bursting straight from the trunks and shrubs crowding each other out in an effort to reach the light. The birds, however, were rather scarce: Spotted Pardalote called insistently (Paul Keating!), Striated Thornbills zitted in the canopy, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters darted to and fro, and we got a pretty good look at an Eastern Yellow Robin, pouncing on prey in the undergrowth. A single Wedge-tailed Eagle was spied high above the trees and a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater made an all too brief appearance as we strolled to the lookout for lunch.

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Waratah by Janene Luff
Lunch was accompanied by sightings of Brown Thornbill in the Banksia and Rock Warbler playing hide and seek behind the sandstone outcrops. The mournful descending trill of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo provided the soundtrack.

After lunch, we headed to Blue Gum Swamp and were detained at the car park by a tree bursting with birds: Yellow Thornbills, Brown Thornbills, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and a Golden Whistler all zipping back and forth, testing our binocular skills to the limit. There was plenty of blossom to attract Eastern Spinebills and we got terrific views of a pair feeding in a Grevillea. The Waratahs were in bloom, too, and our attention was only diverted from the flora by an Eastern Whipbird that emerged from the bush to check us out.

We saw a Rufous Whistler incubating her eggs in a nest (nail-bitingly!) close to the path, Brown Gerygones darting above an Eastern Water Dragon at the creeks edge and had fantastic views of the stunning Variegated Fairy-wren. A Leaden Flycatcher flicked his tail at us, flying in close enough for us to admire his gleaming blue-grey helmet (executioners hood reckoned one of the Canadian ladies). Time was running away from us, and we reluctantly turned back towards the bus, happily picking up a soaring Square-tailed Kite on the way. A grand total of 67 bird species was tallied as we capped off the day with a well-deserved ice cream!

By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB

“Iomar” Station Trip Report

Saturday 22 October 2020
Birder: Christina Port

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Gang Gang Cockatoo by Nick Giles
I woke to thunder and lightning and pouring rain and it was still raining when Janene and the busload of keen birders arrived as I sheltered under an awning. A slight adjustment was made to the schedule and we hit the road. Well, what an adventure today turned out to be! We headed off down the road towards Yarramalong, where we backed up to a bedraggled Pied Butcherbird. Fields of Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage were everywhere, 120 plus in one group. Maned Ducks (I’ll get used to it one day  Wood Duck for the confused), Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teal all feeding in the sodden fields, an Australian Raven and Laughing Kookaburra in the next paddock and on the next pond a Royal Spoonbill and Australian Magpie. We pulled in again to look at a group of Long-billed Corella and a Little Corella and at the next stop to ooh and aah at a baby Masked Lapwing! A Privet tree in full flower harboured Silvereye, Red-browed Finch, White-browed Scrubwren and an Eastern Spinebill. An Eastern Great Egret was seen flying. Another pond had Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant and Welcome Swallows overhead. The wires along the way were a great perch for Galahs. Another stop had Brown Cuckoo-dove, Eastern Rosella and Crested Pigeon. White-headed Pigeons gave great views showing the adult males female and juvenile, 8 in all, and on the opposite side of the road a Noisy Friarbird seemed to be hawking for insects. A Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Dusky Moorhen, Brush Turkey, Grey Fantail and Little Wattlebird made an appearance as we headed up Bumble Hill Road. A Sacred Kingfisher, the first of many, and a White-breasted Woodswallow finished off the morning drive.

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Grey-headed Babbler by Nick Giles
We arrived at Kulnura for a welcome cup of tea. Scarlet Honeyeaters called but proved difficult in the light high up in the trees. A Lewin’s Honeyeater was easier, Striated Thornbills and Double-barred Finches flitted through. A Golden Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, Silvereyes, Grey Fantail and Eastern Rosella kept us all looking hard. An Eastern Whipbird and a European Blackbird called but were hidden behind the hedge. As we were leaving, a Bar-shouldered Dove was seen sitting on the wires.

Heading down Murray’s Run to the Watagan State Forest we heard the ringing calls of the Bell Miners and saw beautiful wildflowers. A stop had us out of the bus again looking for Spotted Pardalote, White-throated Tree-creeper, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, a young Golden Whistler and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. Much excitement when we saw a Pademelon hopping away and Crimson Rosellas providing some colour amongst the greenery.

Lunch was had under the magnificent pines at the Pine picnic area in the Watagan SF. A Pied Currawong oversaw our meal and Satin Bowerbirds were the clean-up crew, the male giving wonderful views. A Black-faced Monarch was finally seen and during a short walk we were rewarded with two Rufous Fantails chasing each other around.

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White-headed Pigeon by Nick Giles
Time to leave and down through the last of the Watagans with a pair of Yellow-rumped Thornbills to where the trees disappeared and open farmland greeted us. Eastern Rosellas to the right and left and Red Wattlebirds, more noisy Friarbirds and Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in the flowering trees. A lone Dollarbird appeared as we headed down Mill Lane where we saw a Purple Swamphen with babies. Musk Lorikeets had us out of the bus craning amongst the high trees. Then down the final stretch into Iomar, noting Pied Butcherbirds and a Pipit feeding young, a pair of Red-rumped Parrots and a group of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes.

In Iomar we were greeted by Red-necked Wallabies and a Sacred Kingfisher. We started our walk and watched a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins, then Dusky Woodswallow, but all were eclipsed as we heard the call of the Gang Gang Cockatoo. Back we ran and a male gave wonderful clear views as he called. Nick was very happy with new bird no. 3. A Yellow-tufted Honeyeater was difficult but Brown Cuckoo-doves came close and King Parrots showed well. Little Lorikeets called and were gone before you could see them and then there was a Swamp Wallaby!

As we headed out the call ‘Kestrel!’ came, but morphed into Pacific Bazas. There appeared to be 5 or 6 and Nick couldnt believe his luck; new bird No. 4! To top it off we had Grey-crowned Babblers, a pair of Black Swans, a Darter, and the final bird as we drove off was a Jacky Winter. What an amazing rainy day birding trip! 85 birds in total. Thanks to Janene and a great group.

Christina Port guiding for FTB.

Wattamolla in Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 8 October 2020
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Tongue Orchid
An elite group of younger-middle-aged birders had a well-deserved morning tea at Wattamolla in Royal National Park. The days destination was Eagle Rock (or Curracurrong), located next to what was previously known as Curracurrong Falls. More on that later.

Upon leaving the car park the usual scrum of New Holland honeyeaters swamped a welcoming eastern spinebill and several little wattlebirds. A few minutes later we heard a rockwarbler, which was seen scrambling about in the undergrowth before plummeting out of sight.

Birding was always going to be challenging on a day with a constant southerly wind that gusted up to 30 knots at times. Nevertheless a white-bellied sea-eagle gave close views at it soared past with what looked to be a pied cormorant in its talons. Janene then spotted a swamp harrier over the heathland.

The track north of Curracurrang Creek (not to be confused with Curracurrong Creek), presented a range of small reptiles including copper-tailed skink, eastern water skink, Whites skink and jacky lizard. The guide claims he also saw a common scalyfoot.

Most of the skulking heathland birds refused to be seen in the blustery conditions with the exception of an aptly named and obliging beautiful firetail.

A feature of the walk was the display of wildflowers. A relatively wet winter and early spring meant that everything that could flower was doing so.

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Enchanted Cave
A lookout point en route to our destination gave us a chance to spot several humpback whales. Some were breaching and others pectoral fin slapping. Dozens of wedge-tailed shearwaters were also seen feeding, along with Australasian gannets and an occasional black-browed albatross.

Curracurrong Rises soon came into view. This watery feature appears on some maps as Curracurrong Falls. Spare a thought for creek water. Perhaps the most exciting thing that it might ever get to do is to fall off a cliff face and crash into the sea. On this day it would obey gravity for a bit and then turn around, go upwards and some distance inland, before dropping back into the creek. This was repeated ad infinitum. Such was the strength of the wind. News helicopters were filming it!

Our lunch site was mercifully fairly protected. Here we could watch frolicking whales, the occasional black-browed albatross and other seabirds. The local chestnut-rumped heathwren called us names and hid in a bush.

The return journey was easier as we had the wind in our tails. A side-trip to an enchanted waterfall (adjacent to a magic glade) added a pair of black-faced monarchs, some Aboriginal artefacts and a local numbskull to our list. The numbskull was on a mission to tidy up dead vegetation within a perfectly good creek. Nobody knows why.

The day grew colder and older. Janene suggested something about hot chocolate at Audley. Although our bird list did not run to 15 pages, we agreed that the day provided something for everyone. The scenery was superb and the track chosen provided some good exercise without killing anyone.

By Steve Anyon-Smith, perfect guide

Spring Birds & Sandstone Wildflowers Trip Report

Saturday 17 September 2020
Birder: Tiffany Mason

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Killara Station was hosting a number of parrot species, and, as the bus was early, Hie Ming had the opportunity to add several new species to her Australian bird photograph album: Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Rosellas and King Parrots all posed in the morning sun. Duncan brought the guide up to speed with the birds spotted on the way from Macquarie Street: particular mention was made of the Intermediate Egret gracing a negligee…

The Chiltern Track was ringing with birdsong (Spotted Pardalote, Bar-shouldered Dove, Eastern Whipbird and Little Wattlebirds) and decked with boughs of spring flowers, the plentiful pink Boronias attracting our admiration (Anne feeling obliged to ask for permission to look at the blossoms, given that it was a birding trip!). A Yellow-tufted Honeyeater made a very welcome appearance and we all got good views of this beautiful species as it darted around us, snapping insects in flight and flaunting its golden mustachios.

As we descended further, Brown Thornbills and Grey Fantails started to kick up a fuss, alerting us to a Lace Monitor, scrabbling up the rough trunk of a Coast Banksia. Back on the bus and heading to our morning tea spot, we added Swamp Wallaby to the list and at Resolute Picnic Area, a pair of Brush Turkeys was parading around, hoping for biscuit crumbs. At one point, the male Brush Turkey, assiduously guarding its mound, spied a Lace Monitor across the clearing and chased it up a tree!

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Chestnut Teal
Lewins Honeyeaters heralded the start of the track down to West Head, through the wet sclerophyll forest, where birds were scarce but Leaf-curling Spiders, flowering Lomandra (Chris encouraging us to inhale its unusual scent) and fruiting Blueberry Ash were all on show. A White-browed Scrubwren called as we emerged at the look out, with fabulous views of Lion Island and the whiff of Coastal Myall filling the air. Cyclists and magpies were jostling for space and we left them to it, making our way to Illawong Picnic Area for our rendezvous with lunch.

As we munched on our sandwiches, Laughing Kookaburras alerted us to a nesting Tawny Frogmouth, providing more excellent photo opportunities. A pair of Masked Lapwings was loafing on the grass, and Orange Ringlets and Imperial Jezebels (both butterfly species) provided extra colour and movement. After lunch, we had a quick stop at a promising-looking patch of bush and it paid off with great views of Spotted Pardalote and Golden Whistler, the latter singing merrily as he hopped through the foliage.

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FTB birders
At Cottage Point, waiting for the ferry, we added Crested Tern and Pied Cormorant to our list. Out on the water, White-bellied Sea-eagles and Wedge-tailed Eagles (the Wedgies pointed out by a fellow passenger) soared above us, Silver Gulls and Black Cormorants flew past, and Matthew had a well-earned 40 winks (!). At Patonga, the Whistling Kites were out in force, one individual taking advantage of a moored fishing boat to sit and preen. Welcome Swallows rested on a neighbouring boat and the photographers were clicking furiously! En route to Palm Beach, we saw another White-bellied Sea-eagle, but this one wasnt cruising, it was being harried by a Peregrine Falcon  a spectacular sight.

Joining Janene and the bus at Palm Beach, we headed to Irrawong Reserve, picking up Grey Goshawk on the way. In the rainforest, Brown Gerygones were calling; across the water, a Sacred Kingfisher piped its mournful whistle and we were able to admire a flash of blue as the sun caught its plumage. There were Eastern Water Dragons on the creek banks and one dropped into the water for a bit of a swim as we approached. A pair of Chestnut Teal was also here, posing prettily on a fallen log, and Red-vented Bulbul called from a tangle of vines, proving quite tricky to spot. We finished the day with a respectable 61 birds ticked and our heads full of the wonderful spring colours, scents and sounds of Ku-ring-gai.

by Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB

Mangrove Creek Dam, Bulga & Wallaby Scrub Road Trip Report

Saturday 10 September 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Wedge-tailed Eagle by Edwin Vella
It was great to persuade Janene to organise an outing to Bulga in order to show why this area is one of my favourite places in the Hunter Valley.

On our way up we stopped at Mangrove Creek Dam where we also had our morning tea. As we drove in a Common Bronzewing flew across the road in front of our bus. Here we had wonderful views of a Brown Thornbill, an Eastern Yellow Robin as well as some of the honeyeaters which were about including a White-cheeked as well as some Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters. As we drove out of the dam area, we also some good views of our first couple of Pied Butcherbirds for the trip.

We then a brief stop at a wetland on the outskirts of the Broke township where we had a Black Swan on a nest, a couple of Royal Spoonbills, an Eastern Great Egret, a White-faced Heron and a couple of Grey Teal.

When we arrived at Bulga we had our lunch at a small reserve within the town. There were quite a number of various honeyeaters foraging in the flowering Mugga Ironbarks nearby including lots of Noisy Friarbirds, a family of Blue-faced Honeyeaters and a couple of Spiny-cheeked and a Striped Honeyeater. An Australian Hobby also flew over here.

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Rainbow Bee-eater by Edwin Vella
After lunch we drove along Wambo Rd and were amazed to watch from our bus an adult Wedge-tailed Eagle feeding on a dead kangaroo carcass with a young bird next to this adult in the adjacent paddock. Further up the road we also encountered a family of Grey-crowned Babblers which had some young to feed and a Nankeen Kestrel. Also in a patch of woodland off this road we also had a great mix of birds included a splendid adult male Red-capped Robin, a number of Speckled Warblers with both Buff-rumped and Yellow Thornbills, Weebills, Yellow Thornbills. Also beside Wollombi Brook on the opposite side of the road were a group of 19 Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos.

We then drove along the Wallaby Scrub road on the eastern end of Bulga were we also saw another Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Brown Treecreeper, Dusky Woodswallows, White-winged Choughs and a group of newly arrived Rainbow Bee-eaters pausing nicely for us in the eucalypts beside the road.

On our way back towards Sydney we had another brief stop at Broke where we also saw another Common Bronzewing and had a White-throated Gerygone singing beautifully for us.

We later drove through Cessnock were we saw some other waterbirds including Australasian Grebe, Australian Pelicans and a Black-fronted Dotterel.

A great day with over 90 species (seen & heard) recorded for the days trip.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Swift Parrots & Swamp Mahoganies Trip Report

Saturday 2 July 2021
Birder: Christina Port

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Scarlet Robin male by Christina Port
The bad news was the Swift Parrots had joined the Army and were living it up at Singleton Training Area with no public access.

The good news was the sun was shining and we could miss the election hype and sink ourselves into some serious birding.

The bus arrived at Wyong to pick me up and everyone was out of the bus getting great views of Bell Miners, their calls ringing. Groups of Pied Currawongs flew overhead and a Common Myna made an appearance.

Our next stop was the Wyong Service Centre and here we had Rainbow Lorikeets and Noisy Miners in a feeding frenzy on flowering trees.

Back out onto the M1 we had Straw-necked Ibis, a Black-necked Stork flying, Australian Raven, lots of Laughing Kookaburras, Pied Butcherbird, Masked Lapwing, flying Black Swans and a Willie Wagtail.

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Scarlet Robin female by Christina Port
A quick stop in Kearsley as Janene spied a Blue-faced Honeyeater which gave good views, along with Crested Pigeons and a Pied Butcherbird. Australian Wood Ducks brought us to our next stop, then Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finch, Yellow-Tufted Honeyeater and a friendly Grey Fantail at the next.

We finally arrived in Abermain and here feeding in the blossom were Red Wattlebirds, Noisy Friarbirds and lots of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. In the distance we could see raptors and finally made out a Whistling Kite and eventually, a Wedge-tailed Eagle. A Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike kindly landed out in the open on a wire giving great views.

Heading into the Werakata NP Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Noisy Friarbirds were found, with a Dusky Woodswallow soaring overhead. We headed down for a very welcome cup of tea where Striated Thornbills and Spotted Pardalotes were posing well, as was a male Golden Whistler and an Eastern Spinebill. A cuppa and birds!

As we drove back through Abermain a Galah and House Sparrow were seen and a pair of Scarlet Robins perched and fed in front of us! In Abermain township New Holland Honeyeaters and Superb Fairy-wrens with a male in full breeding colours paraded.

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Variegated Fairy-wren female by Christina Port
Straw-necked Ibis brought us to another stop as we headed to Quorrobolong. On to Heaton Road where we stopped at the pond for great views of a Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Royal Spoonbill and Black Swans. Purple Swamphens and Dusky Moorhen were walking the banks while Grey Teal, Pacific Black Ducks and Australasian Grebes were swimming around.

There was much excitement for Tom and Nancy from the US when as we saw Eastern Grey Kangaroos in a paddock. That was followed by Little Pied Cormorants hanging out to dry, Eastern Rosellas and a lot of Musk Lorikeets feeding on the blossom. Our only other stop was to see an Echidna as we headed to a late lunch. It was at a perfect spot to eat, Heaton Lookout in the Watagan NP, with such a great view and Eastern Yellow Robins and White-browed Scrubwrens to keep us entertained.

A last look and we had Lewins Honeyeaters, Red-browed Finch, White-throated Treecreeper and a lone female Variegated Fairy-wren, or as named by Quinton, a Long-tailed Wench!

Back on the bus and on to the Wyong Service Centre for an ice cream. Tom and Nancy found a Spangled Drongo, a great last bird for the day. 67 birds seen and heard on this beautiful winters day. Thanks everyone for your great company.

by Christina Port birding for Follow That Bird

Winter Solstice Night Spotlighting Trip Report

Saturday 17 June 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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White-bellied Sea-Eagle
The Winter Solstice Spotlight Event saw an elite group get off to a shaky start with a visit to Wattamolla. The weather was said to deteriorate and scary looking clouds lurked.

It was thought, by me at least, that a few desirable heathland birds might be seen just south of the car park. These may well have been hiding elsewhere or perhaps eaten by humpback whales, numbers of which were gaily frolicking in damp conditions. Never mind, if there was little action on the ground, that didn’t stop an aerial war between two peregrine falcons and an adult white-bellied sea-eagle. At one point the eagle rolled onto its back to fend off an attack.

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Tawny Frogmouth by participant Rob Child
An adjournment to the southern end of Lady Carrington Drive preceded a coffee and sugary cake fest.

One of the advantages of spotlighting in winter is that it gets dark early. Funny that. We started walking in twilight and covered the first half kilometre or so without disturbing any critters. This situation deteriorated with a sighting of a short-eared possum. These guys, relatives of the common brushtail, are a range-restricted beast that occurs locally most commonly in rainforest in the southern parts of Royal. A discussion of its diet and taxonomy can be accessed here –
Mountain Brushtail Possum

A number of common ringtail possums were observed. All of them had their trademark look – cute and stupid. Although just a single sugar glider was seen well – again feeding on Acacia, this time on sap, a couple of others were heard calling.

By far the most significant sighting was a spectacular and starkly black and white greater glider. This guy had brilliant eye-shine and was doing very much nothing at all high in a blackbutt. Before the 1994 fires in Royal these beautiful animals were quite common. This sighting represents perhaps only the second record in the park in 22 years. Good work us!

Several rusa deer were seen.

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Tawny Frogmouth & Steve’s hand
by participant Rob Child
Given that Follow That Bird is a birdwatching outfit and we hadn’t seen anything nocturnal with feathers, we decided to try our luck with a brief sortie in the Audley picnic areas. We were quickly rewarded with a tawny frogmouth or two, one sitting on the grass and the other defying the instructions on a “no stopping” sign. It may have been the same bird.

Dwarf tree frogs abounded pretty much everywhere we looked.

A rather terse instruction to stop talking was precipitated by a fairly close screech from a sooty owl. A “tape” of its call soon had a dark-backed owl wheeling close by through the mid-story and then vanishing. We all had different views. I would have liked to have seen it perched…

Once more, our spotlight event produced some excellent sightings in what turned out to be ideal conditions. I must thank my company on the night for their good cheer and positive attitude!

by Steve Anyon-Smith birding for FTB

Swifties & Speckled Warblers at Cobbitty Trip Report

Saturday 28 May 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Yellow-billed Spoonbill juvenile by Edwin Vella
As we ran out of time during last weeks trip to Sydneys wonderful south-west we had arranged another trip this time to the Cobbitty area.

It was a fairly cold and wet start of our trip but this certainly did not dampen our spirits in enjoying another great days birding out.

We headed first to the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan where the first road stop into the gardens produced a range of parrots including Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets, Red-rumped Parrots, Eastern Rosellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos as well as a Nankeen Kestrel and Grey Fantail. In the nearby small dams we also saw a number of Hoary-headed Grebes, Eastern Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Hardhead and more Red-rumped Parrots feeding on the grass beside our bus.

When we arrived at the main car park for morning tea, a pair of Pacific Bazas had distracted us they flew into some adjacent trees. We managed to get some good views of this remarkable species of raptor as the resident Noisy Miners were mobbing them. A Noisy Miner was also later seen trying to tenderise a caterpillar it had recently caught but later dropped on the ground in front of us.

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Olive-backed Oriole by Edwin Vella
As we drove out of the gardens, a couple of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, a small group of Yellow-rumped Thornbills, a male Golden Whistler, a Grey Shrike-thrush and a Yellow-faced Honeyeater were seen. Both a pair of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and a Swamp Wallaby were also of interest.

When we arrived at Cobbity, we headed for Kirkham Rise Reserve where the despite the fairly damp conditions proved quite a productive spot. Brown-headed Honeyeaters, a pair of Crested Shrike-tits, Red-browed and Double-barred Finches and after stalking them for a little while, we all eventually got some good views of a few Speckled Warblers (which is certainly quite a rare bird for Sydney).

Being quite hungry we decided to have a fairly early lunch at our next stop at nearby Cut Hill Reserve. Here on the small wetland there produced a Little, Cattle and Eastern Great Egrets, a couple of Black-winged Stilts, a Peregrine Falcon flying past fairly quickly, Whistling Kites and 2 over-wintering Tree Martins amongst the Welcome Swallows.

In the early afternoon, we drove up further along Cut Hill Rd and a few other side roads in the hope that we may come across any Swift Parrots that have been recently sighting there. No Swift Parrots were seen but we did come across both Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills, our fourth Egret species being an Intermediate Egret, Olive-backed Orioles, King Parrots, a Restless Flycatcher, a Brown Falcon and a Black-shouldered Kite.

Later on the afternoon we checked one of our hot spots from the previous weekend being Mulgoa Nature Reserve. Here we had 5 species of Thornbills and the Weebills, Varied Sitellas, a Jacky Winter, a Rose Robin and last of all a Brown Goshawk flew past at the time we were leaving rounding off our wonderful day’s list of birds to an even hundred species.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Bents Basin & Cut Hill Reserve Trip Report

Saturday 21 May 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Eastern Yellow Robin by Edwin Vella
A great Autumn’s day was had exploring some new places in the western and south-western parts of Sydney.

We started out in Mulgoa Nature Reserve which proved quite productive during the hour or so we were there with a good mix of small birds including an interaction between a pair of Rose Robins, an Eastern Yellow Robin, a mixed group of Thornbills and Weebills, Red-browed Finches, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Spotted Pardalotes and best of all a wonderful trifecta of raptors soaring above us which included a light morph Little Eagle, 3 Pacific Bazas and a Brown Goshawk.

We moved onto Bents Basin where we also had our lunch in a rather tranquil and peaceful setting. A short stroll after lunch to the basin provided us with some wonderful views of an Azure Kingfisher by the stream flowing into the basin, a very obliging adult male Rose Robin and the same for a very friendly Grey Fantail as well as some of the classic Little Brown Birds such as Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbill and White-browed Scrubwrens.

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White-bellied Sea Eagle by Edwin Vella
Driving out of Bents Basin we were stoked at seeing another species of red robin being a beautiful adult male Scarlet Robin on a fence associated with Double-barred Finches, a Restless Flycatcher, a Jacky Winter, a small group of Yellow-rumped Thornbills and some Bar-shouldered Doves. On the opposite side of the road was a group of White-winged Choughs. Further along the road, we came across another trifecta of raptors with a pair of adult Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring above with a Whistling Kite and a Peregrine Falcon mobbing the pair of Eagles.

When we arrived a little later at Warragamba, we had flocks of hundreds of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters passing through with some White-naped Honeyeaters amongst them. We walked down towards the dam and were surprised to see a White-bellied Sea-eagle flying by and later joined by 2 more adults with much loud communication amongst them. A Grey Shrike-thrush was moving about the rails above the dam wall as we walked back towards the bus where we also saw another Jacky Winter perched high in the crown of a eucalypt. There was also a pair of Common Bronzewing also spotted in picnic area as were driving out.

While going past the Orchard Hills department of defence land we spotted a raptor perched in a dead tree hoping to add to our fantastic days list of raptors and after turning our bus to confirm its identity it was not to be, but nether the less always nice to see another Peregrine Falcon.

By Edwin Vella birding for FTB

Cattai & Pitt Town Lagoon – Western Sydney Trip Report

Saturday 30 April 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Rose Robin by Edwin Vella
A nice autumn day was spent visiting a number of our favourite sites in Sydneys Hawkesbury area.

We started off checking a few dams around Maraylya where we were already off to a good start in building upon a good days list with a Yellow-billed Spoonbill, 2 White-necked Herons, a few Hardhead, a pair of Black Swans, Australasian Grebes and our first Cattle Egrets for the day. Both Red-rumped Parrots and Eastern Rosellas added that touch of colour.

Although our visit to Pitt Town Lagoon was brief, bird sightings were quite fruitful with a family of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins (a pair of adults with some young birds) providing us with a good show, lots of Pink-eared Ducks with some Australasian Shoveler, Black-winged Stilt as well as groups of Royal Spoonbills and Australian Pelicans.

Another brief stop was made beside the McGraths Hill Sewerage works where a Swamp Harrier, Black-fronted Dotterel as well as much of the same ducks that we had seen at Pitt Town Lagoon.

As we headed towards Bushells Lagoon, a group of finches caught our sights so we stopped beside the road and noticed it was a flock of at least 20 Zebra Finches (adults with young birds) with also a pair of Jacky Winter, a Restless Flycatcher and some Yellow-rumped Thornbills nearby.

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Double-barred Finch by participant Nick Giles
Bushells Lagoon teemed with a good variety of waterbirds with lots of Egrets of 4 species (Little, Cattle, Great and Intermediate), Cormorants of 3 species (Little Pied, Pied and Little Black) and a few raptors were also about including a family of Black-shouldered Kites, Nankeen Kestrel, Whistling Kite and a Swamp Harrier. However the star of the show here was a national rarity being a male Paradise Shelduck from New Zealand.

Having caught up with some great birding during the morning, we eventually had our lunch at Streeton Lookout where a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles was spotted by the river on the edge of the escarpment.

After lunch we then headed to Castlereagh Nature Reserve just south of Windsor were a number of flowering Mugga Ironbark was attracting a good variety of honeyeaters including White-eared, White-cheeked, New Holland, Brown-headed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebirds and Eastern Spinebills. Other bush birds seen included a group of Varied Sitella, White-winged Choughs, a Rufous Whistler, some Double-barred Finches and Weebills.

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Swamp Harrier by Edwin Vella
Later as we drove through South Windsor, we pulled over to the side of the road after we had noticed an adult Square-tailed Kite flying low over the houses. Quite an uncommon raptor for Sydney! We were fortunate to watch it over a few minutes and even saw it land in someones backyard. Just Wonderful!

Our last site for the day was Mitchell Park in Cattai where we topped it off nicely with a very obliging and beautiful adult male Rose Robin, a group of Lewins Honeyeaters, a male Golden Whistler, Common Bronzewings and an Olive-backed Oriole.

We ended up with a list of over 100 species for the day which is certainly excellent for this time of year!

By Edwin guiding for FTB

Honeyeater Migration over the Blue Mountains Trip Report

Saturday 23 April 2021
Birder: Carol Probets

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater by Carol Probets
A cool change had spring up overnight, bringing the fresh, invigorating mood of autumn. Clouds sailed across the sky but there was no hint of the rain the group had left behind on the coast. The first good bird of the day was a White-headed Pigeon seen at Valley Heights during the drive up the mountains.

I met the group (8 participants with Janene driving and Max assisting) at Wentworth Falls, where flocks of migrating Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Silvereyes were moving in a constant stream over Wilsons Park. Many of the Yellow-faced landed in a dead tree to rest and regroup, allowing everyone to quickly become familiar with this symbol of the honeyeater migration.

Back on the bus we talked in more detail about the phenomenon of the autumn honeyeater migration and I described the Blue Mountains Bird Observers ongoing project to monitor these birds as they fly along concentrated pathways. 2016 has proved to be a big migration year with our biggest count results since the project began and this trend has been echoed in many parts of south-eastern Australia. Nevertheless there is much day to day variation so we headed out onto Narrow Neck to see for ourselves what the morning would bring.

We were greeted with a huge amount of bird activity. Eastern Spinebills, Yellow-faced, White-naped, Lewins, Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters were in abundance. Dusky Woodswallows and Welcome Swallows soared overhead, while Spotted and Striated Pardalotes could often be heard.

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Silvereye by participant Lois Towart
Great views of Silvereyes busily pecking at the seed heads of fleabane allowed us to see the difference between race lateralis from Tasmania and familiaris which breeds on the mainland. Its amazing to think that some of these tiny birds have flown more than 1000 km in the past few weeks.

Then there was great excitement when, among all the honeyeater activity, a Pilotbird appeared at the back of the clearing, hopping into the open for all to see.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters were surprisingly prevalent and delighted everyone with their cheerful colour. Crimson Rosellas, White-browed Scrubwren and Satin Bowerbird were also seen, and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos sailed past.

We checked out the Banksia ericifolia and B. cunninghamii flowers starting to open and sampled their nectar, much loved by the honeyeaters. It was interesting to watch a Striated Thornbill also availing itself of this sweet resource.

It was great to bump into Cathy and Barry who had just completed their mornings count. The relatively low figure of 168 migrating birds in 20 minutes belied the amount of activity as the honeyeaters were obviously having a re-fuelling day due to the cloud cover. In a way, this was better for us as it allowed much longer views of the birds than if they were flying through.

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Scarlet Robin by participant Lois Towart
Lunch was had at Govetts Leap where a very pale immature magpie prompted a discussion on magpie plumage phases (this one was in its second set of plumage after fledging). A short walk to look for lyrebirds only resulted in us seeing their scratchings and hearing one calling deep in the valley below.

So it was off to the Megalong Valley. Through the winding rainforest section the bus was brought to a halt with Janene calling lyrebird! and we all saw the bird (a female or immature) slink into the forest beside the road.

Another roadside stop gave us White-winged Choughs before a short walk at the pony club. What seemed like a quiet site at first, suddenly became alive when we located a mixed feeding flock. Jacky Winters, Buff-rumped Thornbills, Varied Sittellas, Spotted Pardalote, White-throated Treecreeper and Grey Fantails were all seen well but the highlight was a gorgeous male Scarlet Robin, first noticed by Max.

A Nankeen Kestrel on the drive out of the valley was the only raptor of the day and brought our total to 53 bird species. Stunning autumn colours and spectacular scenery were the days bonuses.

By Carol Probets guiding for FTB

Hunter Valley TSRs’ Trip Report

Saturday 12 March 2021
Birder: Christina Port

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Brown Goshawk by Christina Port
A gorgeous autumn day and a great start with the ringing calls of Bell Miners greeting our bus load of birders. The trip up the M1 was a minefield of Traffic Police, 11 in total I believe, but to sweeten the trip we had a pair of Grey Goshawks flying over the bus.

Our morning tea stop at the Watagan Gap had a friendly pair of Eastern Yellow Robins and Superb Fairy-wrens to watch as we drank our tea. Lewins Honeyeaters and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen well too.

As we travelled to the first Travelling Stock Route (TSR) we stopped continually along the road. Straw-necked Ibis, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Wood Duck were seen. Then a Brown Falcon was spotted by Max, perched on the wires. Cattle Egret, White-faced Heron and up higher a Wedge-tailed Eagle was briefly seen.

We stopped in Marrowbone Road and travelled the TSR. Our first bird was a White-throated Gerygone, calling beautifully and seen as it flitted about. Grey Fantail, Double-barred Finches, Scarlet Honeyeaters and Striated Thornbills were closer to the ground. A pair of Scarlet Robins were also seen. As we travelled down we had butterflies everywhere, along with Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, a single juvenile Bar-shouldered Dove, Grey Butcherbird and a female Rufous Whistler kept the binoculars focused. White-plumed Honeyeaters were calling loudly, Eastern Rosellas kept flying off and an Australasian Grebe fished in a dam close to the track. Tree Martins and Welcome Swallows hawked around the trees, a pair of Pied Butcherbirds sat quietly and a Brown Goshawk flew up high. The dominant bird down this end was the Noisy Miner.

We had lunch at the Debeyers Picnic Area along with a group of Silvereyes, a few Red Wattlebirds and many different species of Butterflies as well.

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Grey-crowned Babbler by Christina Port
Another dam on the way to our afternoon walk had a pair of Black-fronted Dotterel, Purple Swamphens with young, Masked Lapwing and an Eastern Great Egret flew in. A little further along we added Black Swans and Dusky Moorhen to our total.

We headed down the TSR in the opposite direction and Janene spooked a hare which took off like a rocket. White-throated Gerygones were still calling and a large group of Grey Fantails flitted around. Calls from a small group of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flying over the trees had us focused. An Australian Hobby was seen flying around and the calls of upset Grey Butcherbirds and Noisy Miners had us racing along trying to find the cause. I suspect it was the Brown Goshawk seen flying off at speed as we approached. We had two raptors sitting in a tree in the distance too, very hard to distinguish and I couldnt sort it out with photos. We had a Hobby and a Goshawk in the same area, so I think it was this odd pair. At the end of the track Superb Fairy-wrens and Red-browed Finches were in the long grass. Then the curiosity of an immature Brown Goshawk gave us superb views as it circled around us a couple of times. A walk along the road had Little Pied Cormorants and a group of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters travelling along. As we turned the corner, the next field of grapevines had Jacky Winters. More Dusky Moorhen, Pacific Black Duck and some Common Bronzewings flew off near the bus as we drove along as well.

We stopped at Saddlers Creek Winery with Grey-crowned Babblers in mind and they didnt disappoint. They were seen well around the back, along with Red Wattlebirds, Grey Butcherbirds and Superb Fairy-wrens. A few went inside the Winery too and came out with brown paper bags  a very successful visit.

Our final stop of the day was in Cessnock for a very welcome ice cream which was enjoyed watching about 75+ migratory Yellow-faced Honeyeaters travelling in a large group overhead.

We were finally heading back to Sydney and our last birds were Black-shouldered Kite and European Starling. Thank you to a wonderful group of people and a great days birding in the Hunter Valley: 73 birds seen and heard.

Christina Port guiding for FTB Day Trip Report

Saturday 12 March 2021
Birder: Max Breckenridge

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Female Blue-billed Duck
A very small complement of birders allowed for a laid back and tailored trip to the sandstone country inland from the Central Coast. Continuing the trend of hot days Sydney has currently been experiencing, we made haste to our first site in order to beat the heat.

Ourimbah RTA Reserve can be a fantastic spot during summer due to the cool, shaded wet schlerophyll forest here. Not far down the track we encountered a mixed feeding flock of small birds and were able to obtain stellar views of Large-billed Scrubwrens. A cohort of Yellow-throated and White-browed Scrubwrens, plus Brown Gerygone, Golden Whistler, Brown Thornbill and Eastern Yellow Robin also kept us entertained. Further along we encountered a pair of Bassian Thrush feeding in the open with an Eastern Whipbird. It was nice to farewell a single Black-faced Monarch on its way north as we headed back to the bus.

A very pleasant drive up the Yarramalong Valley, noting Australian Wood Ducks, Straw-necked Ibis and Satin Bowerbirds on our way, lead us towards our next stop  Mogo Creek Campground in Yengo National Park. What was supposed to be a relaxing stop hoping to spot Painted Buttonquail or Spotted Quailthrush was rudely interrupted by a group of campers running a generator and blaring music from two massive speakers… We opted to head down the track leading away from ACDC, but it required some walking! Brief views of a Gang-Gang Cockatoo and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater meant our visit wasnt a totally lost cause.

Our lunch stop was a very serendipitous pullover at a small grassy clearing just past the locality of Mogo Creek. It was a beautiful spot at the confluence of two creeks under the shade of Sydney Blue Gums. Despite the presence of a Bell Miner colony, we much preferred their blinking calls to the cacophony of music at the campground. We even managed to find some birds; White-naped, Yellow-tufted, Lewins, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Leaden Flycatcher, flyover Little Lorikeets, Satin Bowerbirds, Wonga Pigeon, Superb Lyrebird heard and a mixed group of Superb and Variegated Fairywrens.

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Female Blue-billed Duck
From here we began the leisurely drive south towards Wisemans Ferry. While it was a scenic endeavour, I could sense Janene was mentally counting down the days until I could take the wheel of the bus and let her relax. The freshwater lagoons characteristic of sandstone ridge country provided some good birds from the relative comfort of the bus. Best of all was a female Blue-billed Duck on a lagoon opposite the St Albans General Cemetery  a rare bird for the Central Coast/Hawkesbury region. More common species on the lagoons included Great Egret, White-necked Heron, both teals, Hardhead, Australian Pelican, Black-fronted Dotterel and Australasian Grebe.

After crossing the Hawkesbury River back into Sydney proper, we made a quick jaunt up Laughtondale Gully Rd. We finished off the day here with views of a few low-flying White-throated Needletails and more Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters.

A fantastic day, with great company and great late Summer birding.

Max Breckenridge for Follow That Bird

Mount Ball Track, Top of Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 5 March 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Our Exceptionally Gifted Naturalist Leader
Sometimes when eagerly anticipating a guiding ‘job’ I might have a slightly restless sleep the night before. Now I know why.

It was never going to be easy for our keen, good looking and intelligent team to find lots of birds in Royal National Park on what was a hot day in dry conditions.

The original plan would have seen us expire in the exposed heath on Curra Moors. We opted to walk the Audley Mt Ball – Wattle Forest circuit instead. Even though the time of year and the weather wasn’t helping I expected to get a few desirable birds along the ridge-top on this little-used track. Young Max found us a migrating leaden flycatcher and that was about it. A beautiful firetail flew past at head height and wasnt seen again. Once more it was Max that spotted some distant needletails. Other birds seen were variegated fairy-wren and the usual common honeyeaters  New Holland, yellow-faced, both wattlebirds and eastern spinebill. It seemed there were more butterflies than birds!

Our lunch stop on the banks of the Hacking River at Wattle Forest failed to add too many birds to our list, but wait on, Max has found a rock warbler for us on the other side of the river. Where did Max come from? (and was he going back?….). Record numbers of lace monitors were evenly spaced throughout the picnic grounds.

Leo had earlier accompanied Marian on a side trip around the Audley picnic grounds and Lady Carrington Drive. The best bird seen was a migrating male satin flycatcher, a stunning bird.

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Max & Leo and our Exceptionally Gifted Naturalist Leader
We adjourned to the southern end of Lady Carrington Drive to escape the sunshine and try our luck. Here I expected to make up for lost ground and discover a few of the parks better critters. Or, as it happened, maybe not. Although it was again fairly quiet, a few nice birds were to put in an appearance. These included all three scrub-wrens (yellow-throated, white-browed and large-billed  thanks Max), brown cuckoo-dove, black-faced monarch, an eastern whipbird doing its best logrunner impression, a few rufous fantails, thornbills, gerygones and other bits and pieces. Janenes earlier return with Marian to the bus proved advantageous with good views of a crested shrike-tit.

My despondency was in contrast to the positive vibes of everyone else. We made the most of the conditions and enjoyed our time inside some beautiful forests.

As I drove home I listened to a story on the radio on birding in the USA. Maybe this would be a good hobby for me? Or maybe Ive left it too late…

by Steve Anyon-Smith (on what might be his last report!) birding for FTB

Hexham Swamp & Stockton Sandspit Trip Report

Saturday 27 February 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Great Egret Hexham Swamp
The weather ended up being quite pleasant than was originally forecasted for our trip up to Newcastle. On our way we spotted both a Whistling Kite and our first Brown Falcon.

Just before entering Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve in the surrounding paddocks and smaller wetlands we already started to pick up quite a number of interesting birds included 3 White-bellied Sea-eagles perched together (comprising 2 adults and a younger bird), a Brown Falcon (perching nicely for us to see its distinguishing features), 4 species of Egret, flocks of Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, White-necked Herons and a Pied Butcherbird.

Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve as often the case had a vast number and a good variety of water and shorebirds for us to sort out. Not long after we arrived there a few hundred Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was seen in a shallow part of the wetland right beside our bus, a pair of Chestnut Teal with young, a mixed flock of Eastern Great Egrets and Royal Spoonbill as well as a small group of White-fronted Chats which we all managed to see.

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Hexham Swamp
After parking our bus beside the wetlands, we had our morning tea and noticed amongst us a Caspian Tern, a pair of Australasian Shovelers amongst other waterbirds. We then had a walk beside the wetlands where we spotted about 10 Common Greenshank and noticed their smaller cousins were also with them being 2 Marsh Sandpiper. A few Swamp Harriers, another White-bellied Sea-eagle, Australasian Darters and hundreds of White-faced Herons, lots of Black Swan and a group of Australian Pelican were also noticed at these wetlands.

Lunch was spent beside the Hunter River on Ash Island were we were greeted by another Swamp Harrier, another adult White-bellied Sea-eagle, a Pied Butcherbird, Dollarbird and some Eastern Rosellas.

After lunch, we arrived at Stockton sand spit as the tide started to recede and had many waders to see close at hand. Amongst the hundreds of both Bar-tailed Godwits and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, we were also able to identify amongst them both 2 Red and 2 Great Knots, a small group of Grey-tailed Tattlers, Whimbrels and Eastern Curlews, Curlew Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, 2 Pied Oystercatchers, Black-winged Stilts, and Red-capped Plovers. Amongst the Crested Terns were a few Caspian and a couple of Gull-billed Terns.

Our drive back home was not without an ice cream stop about halfway along to top off a terrific days birding.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Summer Spotlighting in Royal NP Trip Report

Saturday 6 February 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Leseur’s Frog by Leo Skowronek
Royal National Park has never looked happier. Curiously a promised “Godzilla El Nino” had delivered the heaviest summer rainfall in 28 years. On this day, for once, we didn’t have to stand in it.

The birds also delighted in an opportunity to move about unencumbered by rain. As we set off mid-afternoon along Lady Carrington Drive we thrilled to witness a collared sparrowhawk chasing a pied currawong through the trees. Soon thereafter a mixed foraging group of small passerines was seen. A brilliant male scarlet honeyeater was amongst these and was seen low and quite close. Other birds in the flock included variegated fairy-wren, white-browed scrub-wren, white-throated treecreeper, grey fantail and black-faced monarch.

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Tawny Frogmouth by Leo Skowronek
Although the birds were patchy it was commented that more birds were seen on this late afternoon than might be seen on some early mornings. Further sightings included satin bowerbirds, green catbirds, grey shrike-thrush, sacred kingfisher, brown cuckoo-dove, rufous fantail brown gerygone, both brown and striated thornbills, and a stunning azure kingfisher proudly showing us a small fish it had caught.

Dinner was keenly anticipated and delicious.

After eating we decided to park the vehicles near the visitor centre and try for white-throated nightjars at dusk in the main picnic area. Various microbats were spotted before one or possibly two or three nightjars appeared, making several passes and showing their brilliant eye-shine.

As so often happens with “perfect spotlighting conditions”, the animals we sought were hiding. Leo kept us entertained with a number of different frog sightings (thanks Leo!). Eventually a tawny frogmouth was seen. This was soon followed by quite a few common ringtail possums. And although there were a range of interesting spiders and large nocturnal moths and other insects, where were the sugar gliders?

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Banksia Hawk Moth by Leo Skowronek
With the guide starting to quietly panic and sunrise not too far away (joking), a sugar glider volplaned to a nearby Acacia tree allowing all to get good views. A further frogmouth, sugar glider and ringtail possum rounded out the evening, leaving us with a good mix of wildlife sightings.

It failed to rain at any point.

by Steve Anyon-Smith birding for FTB

Summer Spotlighting Trip Report

Saturday 30 January 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

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Sugar Glider by Leo Skowronek
If further proof was needed that birders are not water soluble, and it probably wasn’t, it was nevertheless provided on what turned out to be a very interesting and ultimately rewarding late afternoon and evening at Audley and Wattamolla in Royal National Park.

Soon after starting our stroll along Lady Carrington Drive a collared sparrowhawk wheeled in, perched in the open nearby and screamed at us. What it said was “It is going to rain, hard, and there’s a good chance you’ll all melt or get struck by lightning, or both”. None of us had the necessary special skills to understand this so we tried to get as far from cover as possible and wait for a storm or two to hit. A number of more common but attractive birds were seen well. These included black-faced monarch, white-throated treecreeper, variegated fairy-wren, satin bowerbird, rufous and grey fantails, brown gerygone and a few others.

As we swam back to our starting point we found our vehicles parked in a lake. We looked forward to a delicious dinner. Fearful of wandering too far lest we might be swept away we cowered in a picnic shed. Sacred and azure kingfishers were observed, along with a host of waterbirds. These struggled to determine where the river ended and the picnic area started.

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Owlet Nightjar Juvenile by Leo Skowronek
A quick sortie to Wattamolla gave us the opportunity to see tawny-crowned honeyeater and hear little penguins. Eastern whipbird and ubiquitous New Holland honeyeaters shared the honours as the last diurnal birds seen before sunset.

Back at Audley the rain had stopped and despite the guide’s gloomy predictions for our prospects of seeing anything good (or anything at all), optimism reigned. It started off slowly enough. Eventually an exposed sugar glider got the ball rolling. This was soon followed by common brushtail and common ringtail possums. The latter were close, cute and inexplicably dry.

The highlight proved to be prolonged and open views of an Australian owlet-nightjar right next to the road. It couldn’t care less about all the attention it was getting. The same reaction was displayed by a nearby tawny frogmouth.

So the evening ended happily and well, we all managed to learn something, and nobody melted.

By Steve Anyon-Smith birding for FTB

PS The flowering orchid was Cryptostylis subulata.

Alex (parrot) website

Mount Banks & Wilson – Blue Mountains Trip Report

Saturday 16 January 2021
Birder: Carol Probets

The basalt-capped mounts in the higher Blue Mountains were the main destinations for today’s trip. Mount Tomah and Wilson are topped by volcanic remnants of a lava flow 14-18 million years ago, making them now islands of lushness and a magnificent way to escape the heat of summer.

When Judy and I joined the bus at Richmond the birding action had already begun. A stop at the McGraths Hill sewage ponds had produced a flurry of waterbirds including Black-winged Stilt, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, a female Darter, Pelican, Chestnut and Grey Teal as well as 4 Channel-billed Cuckoos. Great Egrets had been seen in flight along the way.

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Black-faced Monarch on nest by Micheal Eyles
And so it was onwards to the mountains. Approaching Bellbird Hill, we spied at least 6 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos in their leisurely flight and at the same time, a raptor. Its short tail was the clincher confirming the identification: Little Eagle!

Shortly after this a White-necked Heron in a paddock along the roadside was the first of several such sightings.

When we arrived at Mt Tomah it was shrouded in mist. A party of Superb Fairy-wrens, including two blue males, entertained us during morning tea. A short walk gave us good views of White-browed Scrubwrens and we also found Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Yellow Robin and a male and female Common Blackbird.

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Spotted Jezebel at Pierces Pass by Carol Probets
Stories of a reported possible (though unconfirmed) Letter-wing Kite at Rigby Hill earlier that week was some encouragement for a last minute change of itinerary, though mostly it was due to the promise of a fantastic mixed flock of small birds that I had seen the day before at Pierces Pass.

And sure enough, as soon as we arrived at the Pierces Pass picnic area a Rufous Fantail welcomed us by showing off its orange fanned tail as it chased insects around the understorey, which it continued to do the whole time we we there. A young Eastern Yellow Robin just coming into its adult plumage had managed to catch a huge insect which it grappled with for several minutes. The distinctive calls of the Eastern Whipbird and Pilotbird rang out through the understorey, but they didn’t come into the open. An unusual call reminiscent of a raptor turned out to be a Grey Fantail. But the highlights for most were the Beautiful Firetail and a Rockwarbler which flew back and forth just missing Anne; was it nesting nearby, or perhaps feeding young?

Banksia serrata flowers were just starting to open and attracting New Holland Honeyeaters. A stunning Spotted Jezebel butterfly (Delias aganippe) posed low on a fern, delighting the photographers.

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Michael and Judy looking at a giant tree fern,
Mt Wilson by Carol Probets
The Cathdral of Ferns at Mt Wilson was our cool lunch spot, and although rain threatened, we stayed dry. After lunch our walk took us through towering tree ferns, where we compared the two species Cyathea australis and Dicksonia antarctica.

This is the spot for rainforest birds like the Yellow-throated Scrubwren which ambled across the road in front of us. Their large hanging nests look like a tangle of vines or flood debris and we wondered if they were still using them this late in the season. They are sometimes appropriated by Large-billed Scrubwrens as a handy alternative to building their own. Other species here included the Brown Cuckoo-Dove (heard only), Lewin’s Honeyeater, Brown Gerygone, White-throated Treecreeper and Golden Whistler. Two Yellow Robin nests were seen just 20 metres apart, beautiful cup-shaped creations adorned with lichen and vertical strips of bark. Neither appeared to be currently in use.

Gorgeous Fun Birders Nick & Shanley, Mt Wilson
Further along the road we spotted another nest, this one covered in moss like a fuzzy green ball, typical of a Black-faced Monarch nest. No sooner had we moved away when the pair of monarchs moved in, one closely following the other which briefly sat on the nest. This “mate-guarding” behaviour is characteristic of many birds during the nest-building stage and we were thrilled to see this nesting activity so late in the season. After egg-laying, incubation and nestling period, it will be mid-February by the time the young leave the nest, and migration wouldn’t be too far after that. Certainly a late nest.

Our final stop for the day was at Bilpin for snacks and ice creams. A search out the back added King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Satin Bowerbird and Red-whiskered Bulbul.

By the end of the day we’d ticked more than 70 species and enjoyed beautiful rainforest and cool mountain scenery. Thanks to Janene and all in the group for making it another top day.

By Carol Probets guiding for FTB

Christmas Party Birding – Budderoo National Park Trip Report

Saturday 19 December 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

Despite the weather being quite hot, we still enjoyed some good birding around the Illawarra and Southern Highlands areas.

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Black Rock Skink Barren Grounds by Edwin Vella
Our first stop was the Bulli Tops lookout which gave magnificent views of Wollongong and the beautiful Sub tropical rainforest below the escarpment. Around morning tea here we had obliging views of first of several sightings of White-throated Treecreeper for the day, Eastern Spinebill and White-browed Scrubwrens. Butterflies also abounded the lookout with beautiful Macleays Swallowtail and Blue Triangles fluttering about.

We arrived later in the morning at Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, where the temperatures were quite high and with some of the birds a bit tough in finding but we did managed some glimpses of skulkers like Southern Emu-wrens and Eastern Bristlebird being amongst our target birds here but longer looks of New Holland Honeyeaters and Brown Thornbills. The Christmas Bells were also in great flower on the button grass heath here. Just before having our lunch, Janene had found us a female Gang-gang Cockatoo feeding amongst the foliage of a nearby eucalypt and also saw a couple of Black-faced Monarchs around the car park. While having lunch we were very surprised to see a Black Rock Skink walk under our picnic table and unconcerned past our feet. Leo had found another one of these quite large skinks a little earlier resting inside a large log during our walk on the Griffiths trail here.

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Striated Pardalote by Edwin Vella
After a good lunch and rest, we then headed for nearby Budderoo National Park were birds were more active with good views this time of a small group of Southern Emu-wrens and Janene seeing a Beautiful Firetail flying past. Walking further along the Firetrail here we also got some great fews of a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos perched on a dead tree we were able to sort out the differences between the male and female cockatoos. Just a little further on, the unexpected happened, when we accidentally flushed a Ground Parrot which was certainly the star bird of our trip. We were certainly ecstatic!

We later stopped at Robertson for a well deserved ice cream break.

Before heading back to Sydney, we had a brief stop at Wingecarribee Reservoir to see if any Grebes were present. We did see here both the Great Crested and Hoary-headed Grebes as well as a Striated Pardalote and a Sacred Kingfisher which ended the day nicely.

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB.

PS Anne Brophy says “the books I was recommending for top summer reading are by Sulari Gentill, the first in the series being ‘A Few Right Thinking Men'”; thanks Anne!

Newcastle Waders Trip Report

Saturday 12 December 2020
Birder: Christina Port

A refreshing day with cooler temperatures after yesterdays heat wave greeted a keen busload of birders as we headed up the M1. We stopped for breakfast and a coffee at Wyong, then on to the outskirts of Newcastle where we picked up our two remaining passengers and spied our first bird of the trip, a quick Mistletoebird.

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Sharp-tailed Sandpipers by Christina Port
On to Hexham Swamp Reserve and as we drove in we watched courting Intermediate Egrets and Cattle Egrets in beautiful breeding plumage feeding alongside cattle. Australian Reed-warblers called and hid at one stop. A Swamp Harrier close to another stop took off and we watched as it flew away. At another stop we watched White-fronted Chats and an immature Australasian Pipit. More Chats brought the bus to another stop and we all piled out. Two immature Black-necked Storks were seen in the distance, and we had a lot of happy birders! A little later we had two adults plus two immature Storks! Leo called Black Kite and sure enough we had one flying reasonably close. Fairy Martins and Gull-billed Terns were seen at our next stop and then Janene pulled the bus over and we enjoyed a great morning tea spotting birds.

As we walked along we could see Sharp-tailed Sandpipers resting on the Juncus stumps and we headed off to get a better view of feeding Whiskered Terns. Just as we were getting close enough an Australian Hobby flew through and we didnt see them again. Feeding in the swamp were Australian White Ibis, Eastern Great Egrets and White-faced Herons. We spotted at least a thousand waders flying in the distance. What a spectacle! We continued walking and had a male White-winged Triller trying to stay hidden but we eventually got a view and at least two females or juveniles were seen as well. A Bar-shouldered Dove posed and White-breasted Woodswallows were in the background. We could hear and briefly see Australian Reed-Warblers and Little Grassbirds. We also had Australian Pelicans flying and sitting as we neared the bus. On the way out a little Red-kneed Dotterel flew and landed so we had great views. Hunkered down here in the saltmarsh were two Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, then two Red-necked Stints flew in and a Little Egret in prime breeding plumage fed along the edges.

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Waders in Flight by Christina Port
We travelled to Ash Island for our lunch with great views of the water. An immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle was our first raptor there, followed by an adult, a Swamp Harrier, Brahminy Kite, and finally a Whistling Kite completed our lunch-time show. A Pied Butcherbird, Brown Thornbill and Grey Fantail were also seen here, along with Superb Fairy-wrens who responded to my squeaker.

Our final stop for the day was Stockton Sandspit. Great excitement as we could already see great numbers of birds from the bridge. We started our walk down and a large group of Black-winged Stilts began calling. Then we spied a group of about 70 Eastern Curlews. As we got closer we could see many Sharp-tailed Sandpipers hiding in the saltmarsh. Onto the spit where a large group of Red-necked Avocet could be seen feeding and resting; as we watched, groups of about 20 left for a different spot at sporadic intervals. We had great views of a Whimbrel through the scope. Pacific Golden Plovers were feeding on the sand, Red-necked Stints and Bar-tailed Godwits were seen well too. We also had Black-tailed Godwits, Grey-tailed Tattler, Curlew Sandpiper and a Great Knot. Resting on the sand were four species of tern: Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Crested Tern. A few White-faced Herons were flying around as well as a pair of Pied Oystercatchers. Such a wonderful sight!

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Red-kneed Dotterel by Christina Port
Then the call came to return to the bus, and we made our way back and headed off. We dropped off the Newcastle pair and headed south. A White-necked Heron became the final bird of the day, seen feeding on the wetlands as we drove past.

The final stop for an ice cream was most welcome. It had been a wonderful days birding with great species seen and heard. Thanks everyone.

By Christina Port, guiding for Follow That Bird.

For Nick. You can buy the Audobon Bird Call from Bintel.

Ku-ring-gai NP to The Basin Track & Palm Beach Ferry Trip Report

Saturday 28 November 2020
Birder: Christina Port

Our first stop was West Head Lookout where we had great views across Pittwater to Palm Beach. We also had a Peregrine Falcon that looped around more then once and we watched as it had an encounter with a Channel-billed Cuckoo. The Cuckoo survived to tell its tale loudly and eventually the Peregrine flew out of sight. A Whistling Kite was soaring around too, giving quite spectacular views while flying below us showing its plumage from a very different angle. Another highlight here was a Green Tree Snake, a non-venomous beauty seen quite close.

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Golden Whistler by Christina Port
From here we walked through spectacular Sydney Red Gums to the Resolute Picnic Area. We had Brown Thornbills, Little Wattlebirds and an elusive Rufous Fantail to accompany us. Olive-backed Oriole and Grey Butcherbird called but were too far back to see.

A very welcome morning tea was then enjoyed by all. A Brush-turkey wanted an invite but Janene had him under control. We had a good look at him tending his mound before we left.

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Green Tree Snake by Leo Skowronek
We headed down the Basin track enjoying the constant calling of Rufous Whistlers. New Holland Honeyeaters and White-eared Honeyeater were also seen. Variegated Fairy-wrens were difficult but we finally had fleeting views as they called and mostly stayed in the dense brush. A Pheasant Coucal called and stayed hidden. We also had a family of Grey Shrike-thrush further down that gave good views. A Swamp Wallaby posed well too. We reached the bottom where we found a picnic table with a view to sit and eat our lunch overlooking Pittwater, with Australian Wood Ducks, Noisy Miners, Laughing Kookaburras and Silver Gulls to watch as we ate. We also discovered in a fenced-off area a nesting Masked Lapwing. A White-bellied Sea-Eagle was seen briefly by some as we prepared to board the ferry.

Our trip across to Palm Beach added Pied and Little Pied Cormorants to our growing total. We met up with Janene and headed to our last stop for the day Irrawong Reserve at Warriewood.

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Brush Turkey by Leo Skowronek
A Dollarbird stopped us in our tracks then in the Reserve we found Golden Whistlers feeding young, Grey Fantails, Brown Gerygones and an Eastern Spinebill. Further along, a Sacred Kingfisher called and flew, a Red-whiskered Bulbul posed, and high up we saw White-throated Needle-tails. Varied Sittellas in a group were feeding and changing trees and an Eastern Yellow Robin was seen briefly.

At the waterfall the scope was on a beautifully posed sunbathing Eastern Water Dragon. We headed out towards the road where we found another Brush Turkey and mound. We had great views of the male using his claws to get material for his mound! Our final bird of the day was an obliging Lewins Honeyeater, before we all boarded the bus and headed for home.

A very enjoyable day with great company and birds to delight.

by Christina Port guiding for FTB.

Zig Zag Railway Trip Report

Saturday 7 November 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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White-winged Choughs by Edwin Vella
On this glorious spring day, we headed west through Richmond and then made our way through the Bells Line of Road with our morning tea stop at the Waratah Picnic area in the Blue Mountains NP near Bilpin. Before we actually had our morning tea we made a short stroll down the road with a good mix of habitat and birds to go with it. Most surprising for us was an adult White-bellied Sea-eagle flying up and over the forest, something we dont get to see that often away from large areas of open water. We also enjoyed some good views of both Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Grey Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robins, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Red-browed Finches, a pair of Channel-billed Cuckoos flying over, 2 male King Parrots (at eye level and very close range), Sacred Kingfishers and Eastern Spinebills.

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Macleay’s Swallowtail by Edwin Vella
After a satisfying morning tea stop, we then made our way to the Zig Zag Railway. Here we walked for a couple of hours through the recently burnt forest. There were a number of Buff-rumped Thornbills, a flock of White-winged Choughs, Rufous Whistlers, wonderful views of a Grey Shrike-thrush making its beautiful notes, brief but good views of a Grey Currawong flying past, more Eastern Spinebills, a Leaden Flycatcher, a Brown Thornbill, Sacred Kingfisher and a female Flame Robin. Our overseas guest was also very pleased to see his first wild Eastern Grey Kangaroos and a Swamp Wallaby. Many of the wildflowers in the area were also in full bloom including Waratahs and a few species of orchid.

After having our lunch at Zig Zag, we decided to make our way down the other side of the Blue Mountains and into Lithgow to check out the Water Treatment Plant there which is certainly a haven for a good number and variety of ducks. Sorting through about 300 or so Pink-eared Ducks produced 2 rarities, a male Blue-billed and a single Freckled Duck as well a number of Hardhead, Australasian Shovelers, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Hoary-headed Grebe, Eurasian Coot and Masked Lapwing. We also saw there a small number of Yellow-rumped Thornbills.

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Freckled Duck by Edwin Vella
On our way back through the Bells Line of Rd, we finished off at one of the local cafes in Bilpin for an icecream stop and a few admiring a beautiful Macleays Swallowtail butterfly feeding low on some flowers.

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Putty Road Trip Report

Saturday 24 October 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Latham’s Snipe by Edwin Vella
We started off a Pitt Town Lagoon which had a nice assortment of birds. On the lagoon itself we had a number of Pink-eared Ducks with some Grey Teal, a few Eastern Great and a single Little Egret, several Red-kneed Dotterels, Black-winged Stilts and a single Lathams Snipe. In the area surrounding the lagoon, we also saw Red-browed, Zebra and Double-barred Finches, Black-faced Cuckoos-shrikes, Eastern Cattle Egret, White-plumed Honeyeater, Golden-headed Cisticolas and Australian Reed Warblers.

Our morning tea was spent beside the picturesque Colo River where we were happy to see a Wonga Pigeon feeding on the edge of the open grass, several Lewins Honeyeaters, a good view of an Eastern Whipbird out in the open and a few even got onto a Satin Bowerbird. A Superb Lyrebird was also heard quite close by here but kept well hidden in thick scrub.

While driving on the Putty Rd through Colo Heights, a Common Bronzewing was spotted as it flew parallel with our bus where we then pulled over to where it landed but then flushed giving us one more last view.

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Glossy Ibis by Edwin Vella
We eventually made it to Howes Swamp just in time for lunch. Whilst having lunch there, we were greeted by a Varied Sitella foraging in a nearby eucalypt and calls of Brush and Pallid Cuckoos as well as other birds. The walk along the fire trail beside the swamp was very productive and we certainly picked up a good variety with a Pallid and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, White-throated Gerygone, a Little Eagle soaring high above, Jacky Winters, Rufous Whistlers, quite a number of Grey Fantails and a good assortment of honeyeaters with Scarlet, White-naped, Yellow-faced, Brown-headed, Yellow-tufted, White-cheeked, New Holland Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebill, Little Wattlebird as well as Noisy Friarbird.

After a satisfying stay at Howes Swamp, we then made our way back to Sydney with an afternoon stop at Colo Heights for an ice cream break while watching Eastern Spinebills and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters feeding in a nearby grevillea and finally at stop at McGraths Hill where we added a Glossy Ibis.

We finished the day with an incredible list of 107 species!

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Ellalong Lagoon Trip Report

Saturday 3 October 2020
Birder: Christina Port

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Common Bronzewing by Christina Port
What a stunning spring day as a busload of eager birders travelled north to the Lower Hunter. Our first stop was the Watagan Mountain servo where we had a very welcome morning tea while watching Red-browed Finches and Superb Fairy-wrens and Eastern Whipbirds teased with their calls.

Off down Sandy Creek Road, stopping to view Cattle Egrets, an Eastern Great Egret, Eurasian Coot and White-necked Heron. A quick stop to view Masked Lapwing chicks turned into our first view of a pair of Red-rumped Parrots as well, along with Galah and a Long-billed Corella feeding. We turned down Heaton Road and Grey-crowned Babblers were spotted along with the first of many Common Bronzewings for the day. A Clydesdale scratching his rump amused many on the bus.

Ponds a-plenty along Heaton road, all with different species: Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Little Pied Cormorant, Hardhead and Pacific Black Ducks. Black Swans had four cygnets and a pair of Australasian Grebes were building a nest. An Australian Hobby flew through and Grey-crowned Babblers were seen again.

As we drove down Swans Lane we had great views of Australasian Pipits. A pair of Pelicans resting by a pond were a surprise. We eventually arrived at the private property Iomar. Birds were calling, so Janene dropped us off and we walked down the road. Little Lorikeets fed in the flowering gums giving views, or flew like rockets as they charged from tree to tree. Also some bossy Noisy Friarbirds and White-eared Honeyeaters were feeding and calling. As we moved down the road the call of Bell Miners was heard and many of them were seen. We also saw Rufous Whistlers and Eastern Yellow Robins and a Grey Shrike-Thrush called. Dusky Woodswallows swooped around while Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters gave great views. A Wedge-tailed Eagle was spotted gliding silently above the treetops and proved to be a highlight. On the way out we had our first White-faced Heron for the day and a pair of Pied Butcherbirds flew near the bus.

On to Kitchener Poppethead Heritage Park for lunch. The Poppethead comes from the old Aberdare Central Colliery at Kitchener and the dam was also part of the mining operation. We sat and watched Dusky Moorhen, Australian Wood Duck and Pacific Black Duck swimming on the dam as we ate lunch. A Red-bellied black snake was spotted by Judy as it swam across the lake and an Australasian Darter fished. Red Wattlebirds and a White-faced Heron flew around making a huge racket. Shadows on the ground held a Common Bronzewing and Bar-shouldered Dove feeding close by. A walk produced Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, more Common Bronzewings and King Parrots. Back at the bus Rainbow Bee-eaters were briefly seen.

On the drive to Ellalong Lagoon a Striped Honeyeater was heard and we had brief views before a Noisy Friarbird chased it off. Luckily we also found Yellow-rumped Thornbills hopping around and showing well. The Lagoon was quiet but finally a Royal Spoonbill was seen among the Cormorant species. A pair of Channel-billed Cuckoos flew past, chased by a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

Exploring the ponds and puddles along Congewai Road was very rewarding. A Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-fronted Dotterel and a Great Cormorant were in one pond. A Blue-faced Honeyeater was briefly seen and another pond produced Black-winged Stilts. A Nankeen Kestrel circled by the road. Our final stop had us out of the bus and searching for those tiny Scarlet Honeyeaters and Rainbow Bee-eaters. The Bee-eaters were eventually seen well by all and the Scarlet Honeyeater by some. Brown Cuckoo-Doves fed on Tobacco Bush weed along the side of the road. We heard a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Striated Pardalotes and Lewin’s Honeyeater but they remained out of sight. An Eastern Spinebill flew around while we all enjoyed an ice cream at Wollombi: a very welcome stop after a great days birding on what turned out to be a hot day with 90 birds seen and heard. Thanks to everyone, you were a great group.

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Laughtondale Gully & Dharug NP Trip Report

Saturday 12 September 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

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Grey Goshawk by Edwin Vella
Not long after arriving at our first spot we were greeted with wonderful views of an adult White-bellied Sea-eagle flying over Maroota and being chased by a couple of Ravens. As we moved further down the road, we encountered a good mix of honeyeaters with good view of White-cheeked, New Holland, White-naped, Lewins, Yellow-tufted and Scarlet Honeyeaters as well as Little Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds and Eastern Spinebills. It was very exciting alone to watch a white morph Grey Goshawk soaring overhead but also very interesting was to see here as well the other 2 Accipiter species of Raptor being a Brown Goshawk and a Collared Sparrowhawk. An old Satin Bowerbirds bower was seen with the birds themselves still present nearby and Striated Thornbills were also nesting beside the road.

We drove down the Gully and towards Wisemans Ferry with an Eastern Great Egret and White-faced Heron in one of the few swamps we drove past a group of Cattle Egrets in a paddock.

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Striated Thornbill nest by Edwin Vella
We had a morning tea at Wisemans Ferry in the company of Mistletoebirds chasing each other, numbers of Yellow Thornbills, Satin Bowerbirds, Olive-backed Orioles and Bar-shouldered Doves and White-winged Choughs.

We then crossed over the Hawkesbury River via the ferry and eventually made our way into Dharug NP. A walk before our lunch produced a couple of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, Scarlet and Lewins Honeyeaters, Variegated and Superb Fairy-wrens and Varied Sitellas.

Whilst having lunch, we had Fan-tailed Cuckoos calling around the picnic area with one spotted calling, a pair of Crested Shrike-tits and a Satin Bowerbird foraging on the ground on the edge of the picnic area.

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Variegated Fairy-wren by Edwin Vella
After lunch, we had a leisurely stroll around the very scenic park with a Nankeen Night Heron beside the creek, numbers of Noisy Friarbirds, Golden Whistlers, Eastern Yellow Robins, White-throated Treecreeper and some very obliging views of more Variegated Fairy-wrens. A Superb Lyrebird was making its presence felt with its loud ringing calls.

On our return Ferry trip back into Wisemans Ferry a Whistling Kite was seen flying beside the river.

We finished off the day at the lookout overlooking the Wisemans Ferry where in addition to the wonderful scenic views from there, we also had some good views of a couple of White-eared Honeyeaters.

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Wadalba & Craigie Reserve, or Round-About the Central Coast Trip Report

Saturday 29 August 2020
Birder: Christina Port

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Spring is in the Air by Christina Port
As I waited for the bus to arrive there wasn’t a cloud in the sky a beautiful day on the Central Coast.

Our first stop was the Ourimbah Creek Reserve and those frustrating little brown birds taunted us as we wandered a long. Finally though we had wonderful views of Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbill and Large-billed Scrubwrens. It was fascinating to watch the Yellow-throated Scrubwrens courtship rituals and the White-browed Scrubwrens completed the Scrubwren trifecta. Leo lifted a piece of wood and found a Weasel Skink for us all to look at. A first for most of us I think. We also had a Brown-cuckoo Dove and Regent Bowerbird charging through and as we left a Green Catbird posed for a short time.

On to Wadalba and a very welcome morning tea at Mascord Park. A pair of Little Corellas were obviously in spring mode along with Eastern Rosella, Crested Pigeons and Galahs as we drank our tea. A short walk here had Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Ducks in the ponds. Onto our main stop at Wadalba a wonderful open space along Louisiana Road. Many flowering trees attracting Yellow-faced, Lewin’s and Scarlet Honeyeaters. White-breasted Woodswallows flew around and also a pair of Brown Goshawks up high. Superb Fairy-wrens hopped around and Laughing Kookaburras shared a joke! Also seen Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes and a pair of White-faced Heron in an aerial display. As we returned to the bus a nest was found with an Australian Magpie comfortably sitting on it.

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Masked Lapwings by Christina Port
Sunshine Park was our lunch spot and right next to the bus was a Masked Lapwing on eggs. She protected them and didn’t move as we came and went. A male Satin Bowerbird flew through as we ate. After eating we headed down to Ourimbah Creek to see Great Cormorant and Australasian Darter fishing. A Grey Butcherbird feeding in the trees and Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Ducks and Mallard all swimming in the creek. Just as we were leaving a White-bellied Sea-Eagle charged down the creek followed closely by an Australian Raven.

Heading along Chittaway’s Geoffrey Road we stopped to view about 20 Avocets feeding and resting. Grey Teal, Black Swans, Silver Gull and an Eastern Great Egret on one side. Over the other side we had great views of a hunting Striated Heron and a sitting Caspian Tern showing great detail in the scope. We finished at the point and had Australian Pelican, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Oystercatcher and an Eastern Great Egret who casually walked passed us. The cormorants sitting in the beginning were Little Pied Cormorants, but on our return had all turned in to Little Blacks. The trees gave us a female Golden Whistler, Red Wattlebird and a Striped Honeyeater which was a new bird for some of us.

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Great Egret by Christina Port
The Tuggerah STW had a large group of Fairy Martins swooping and feeding with the Welcome Swallows. Purple Swamp Hen and Black-fronted Dotterel were on the banks. Hoary-headed Grebes and Hardhead made up the majority in the water but there were some Australasian Grebes and a very handsome male Australasian Shoveler. At the end of this track a mixed feeding group of birds produced Yellow Thornbills, Eastern Spinebill and Superb Fairy-wrens.

Our last stop for the day was McPherson’s Road Swamp. We were greeted by a large group of Red-browed Finch hopping along the track. Grey Fantails and Silvereyes flying around. The Tawny Grassbirds were calling but difficult to see. The water gave views of a pair of Freckled Ducks, Eurasian Coots and Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets. A Whistling Kite flew overhead and a Royal Spoonbill was seen feeding as we left. A group of Figbirds flew over as we reached the bus and across the road our last bird of the day were Cattle Egrets feeding in the paddock opposite. A great day birding in what turned into a very spring like trip with a great group. A wonderful total of 87 species seen. Thank you everyone.

Christina Port guiding for FTB

Katandra Bushland Sanctuary & Warriwood Wetlands Trip Report

Saturday 1 August 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

Osprey by Edwin Vella
We had a rather cool and slow start at Katandra Bushland Sanctuary in Ingleside where we eventually picked up on some of the locals including a Brown Cuckoo-dove, A male and a female Golden Whistler, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbills, Lewins Honeyeater, an Eastern Yellow Robin and a Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

After morning tea at Katandra we drove down the escarpment with more sunnier and warmer conditions towards Irrawong Reserve where a pair of Brown Goshawks was spotted from our bus just before we arrived there. Barely a few metres in Irrawong Reserve, we were delighted with crippling views of a pair of Eastern Whipbirds foraging in the undergrowth and even being able to watch one making its iconic whip crack call! We were delighted to have very good views of the other locals here including several Brown Gerygones, a male Spotted Pardalote (quite close to the ground and presumably near its nest), a Lewins Honeyeater bathing in a puddle and a White-throated Treecreeper. As we were heading out of the rainforest, we saw a Brush Turkey beside the road playing around with a cardboard cup.

From Irrawong Reserve, we walked leisurely into the adjacent Warriewood Wetlands seeing a number of Grey Fantails along the way as well as some Yellow Thornbills, Red-browed Finches, Varied Sitellas and another Brush turkey attending its mound. When we arrived at the actual wetland area a Royal Spoonbill gave obliging views as it fed in its typical manner with bill swaying from side to side in the water beside the board walk. From here we were however even more lucky to at least get a brief view of a Lewins Rail which was quite vocal in the middle of the day. This was apparently one of target birds for one of our American visitors. Wasnt she very lucky!

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Long Reef Headland looking south
While having lunch just outside the wetlands, we were very happy to see a pair of Osprey flying above us with one being chased away by a Magpie.

After lunch, we then headed to Long Reef seeing 3 Double-banded Plovers in breeding plumage and a White-fronted Tern as well as a Sooty Oystercatcher. There were also good numbers of seabirds very close to the reef including about 10 Black-browed and 2 Shy Albatross, 12 Fairy Prion (a few foraging within a few metres of the reef allowing excellent views) and at least 50 Fluttering Shearwaters and several Australasian Gannets. We also had again very good views of presumably the same pair of Ospreys seen earlier at Warriewood with one of the pair landing on the rocks platform on the edge of the reef.

Certainly a great day enjoyed by all and ending with a high note.

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Hot Spot Trip Report

Saturday 20 June 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

Apostlebird by Leo Skowronek
The weather certainly turned out better then originally forecasted with a pleasant winters day birding enjoyed by all. When we arrived at Nurragingy Reserve in Doonside we had a couple of tame Apostlebirds happy to see us in the main picnic areas as they walked towards us on arrival which was a surprise for all. The ponds there had a number of water birds including some Hardhead, Australasian Grebe and Little Pied Cormorants. A short stroll through the bush there revealed a Spangled Drongo, a male Crested Shrike-tit, a Rose Robin, one lonely Varied Sitella, lots of Grey Fantails and a light morph Little Eagle.

Australasian Darter by Leo Skowronek
After morning tea, we then headed off to the Hawkesbury with unplanned stop at Pughes Lagoon where we spotted a roosting Nankeen Night Heron in a casuarina tree, a very obliging Australasian Darter, a Black Swan chasing a car and a beautiful Azure Kingfisher.

We later had lunch at Streeton Lookout in Freemans Reach where we had some wonderful eye level views of a couple of adult White-bellied Sea-eagles. An imitation of its call brought in a pair of Crested Shrike-tits with one almost landing on our UK visitor Chris. Other birds seen here included a group of Red-rumped Parrots including a female bird peering out of a nest hollow, a Lewins Honeyeaters, Eastern Great Egret and viewable at a distance over Bakers Lagoon was a Black Kite! The later is a very rare visitor to Sydney.

Crested Shrike-tit by Edwin Vella
After a satisfying lunch, we then returned back to the Hawkewsbury lowlands where we saw a female Musk Duck on a deep pool of water beside Powells Lane, another rare bird for Sydney. In the surrounding paddocks were a flock of about 100 Zebra Finches, a Restless Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Thornbills feeding with Nutmeg Mannikins on the ground, 5 Dusky Woodswallows, both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Bar-shouldered Doves and an Australian Pipit. We also had some more interesting raptor encounters here including a female Brown Goshawk on the ground plucking away at what appeared to be a Cattle Egret, Nankeen Kestrels, another light morph Little Eagle perched on top of a casuarina and then later being mobbed a few times by a flock of Galahs and a Black-shouldered Kite dive bombing an a adult Sea-eagle a hard time.

Spotted Pardelote by Leo Skowronek
We finished the afternoon nicely with a splendid adult Spotted Harrier quartering over the long grass beside Bakers Lagoon bringing the days list of birds almost to the 100 species mark!

By Edwin Vella guiding for FTB

Solstice Evening Birding Trip Report

Saturday 23 May 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

Sugar Glider by Nevil Lazarus
As an entrée to some spotlighting at Audley, in Royal National Park, a small but enthusiastic group enjoyed a short walk along The Meadows Fire Trail and Warumbul Road to catch the last of the afternoon sunshine. The excellence of the light showed a few beautiful firetails at their beautiful best. Other birds were seen here including both wattlebirds, other common honeyeaters, golden whistler and grey shrike-thrush.

We adjourned to Wattle Forest Picnic Area for afternoon tea. A meltdown in the local cockatoo and lorikeet population heralded a brown goshawk flypast but few saw it clearly. A pair of yellow-tailed black cockatoos were unconcerned as they flew high overhead.

Ben and Luke, two young guys from Thornleigh, were shown some dwarf tree frogs alongside the river. Frogs always inspire youngsters and these were no exception. I thought we might be stranded in the picnic area forever!

The spotlight started slowly (probably because it wasnt truly dark), but all was not lost as the first of our sugar gliders showed itself well. We were to see seven more. I have spot-lit this area many times and I have never seen such active gliders. It may have been the local version of the Sugar Glider Olympics. One volplaned* at least 25 metres. Another volplaned toward a sleepy frogmouth, missed the tree and crashed to earth. Others just ran about, did cartwheels and acted like they wanted desperately to be somewhere else. Those more timid of spirit than our sturdy crew might have been concerned about being swamped by gliders.

Three tawny frogmouths were seen; with one pouncing on seemingly invisible prey on the ground. Australian owlet-nightjars were calling and glimpsed in flight. A distant southern boobook was heard briefly.

Common brushtail and common ringtail possums were seen well, with one of the latter immersed in a nectar-filled Banksia ericifolia flower-head.

Although the targeted sooty owls were absent (or silent) there was plenty of nocturnal life evident for a late autumn evening.

By Steve Anyon-Smith guiding for FTB

*Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust; the term volplaning also refers to this mode of flight in animals. It is employed by gliding animals and by aircraft such as gliders. This mode of flight involves flying a greater distance horizontally than vertically and therefore can be distinguished from a simple descent like a parachute.

Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan Trip Report

Saturday 2 May 2021
Birder: Richard Johnstone

Musk Lorikeets by Christina Port
A dismal weather forecast kept the numbers down for the day at Mount Annan, with 4 people braving the conditions. However it didn’t turn out too bad and we managed to keep out of the rain for most of the day. It was quite mild so actually good conditions for birding.

On arrival at the Gardens we were early, due to no traffic on the roads (Little Corellas among others were noted on the trip down), so we ventured in, discovering a eucalyptus buzzing with birds; Galahs glowed with the sun behind us as did Eastern Rosellas, Musk Lorikeets, and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters still passing through on their winter migration. There were Australian Wood Ducks on the road together with Masked Lapwings and a Purple Swamp Hen on the other side of the of the pond. Such a dazzling start to the day! Richard then caught up with us, so I’ll stop filling in, Janene.

Because of the recent widespread rain the water birds are well dispersed, but the usual Coots, Hardheads, Pacific Black Ducks and White-faced Herons were about, and easily seen. A family of Hoary-headed Grebes is still present on Lake Nadingamba in the north of the garden, along with several Australasian Little Grebes.

A walk in the Conservation Woodland yielded some of the usual species, Bell-miner, Golden Whistler, Red-browed Finch, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Lorikeets were heard flying over. We had great views of a group of Rose Robins, with birds in different plumage, adult male, young male, and female plumaged birds. An uncommon sight was a male Scarlet Robin, at the northern end of Plantbank, spotted and called by the quick-sighted Leo.

We had a quick tour of Plantbank, looking at the areas where the processing and storage of seeds are carried out, as well as tissue cultures that are maintained for conservation and research.

This year Musk Lorikeets were seen in the central car park, the surrounding suburbs have many planted specimens of Eucalyptus sideroxylon, Mugga Ironbark, and muskies are particularly obvious in the flowering trees. Probably the highlight of the day was a small party of Pacific Bazas, which were pretty confiding around the central car park, and gave excellent views. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in finding the Powerful Owl which had been seen a few days before in the Connections Garden, as well as a Square-tailed Kite that was observed the day before in the nursery.

61 species were recorded for the day, a good total for Mount Annan.

by Richard Johnstone guiding for FTB

Narrowneck, Blue Mountains Honeyeaters Trip Report

Saturday 28 March 2021
Birder: Carol Probets

Yellow-faced Honey Bimblegumbie Probets
Yellow-faced Honeyeater by Carol Probets
I joined the bus at my usual spot at Wentworth Falls with 7 birders on board and Janene at the wheel, ready for a day in the mountains with the autumn honeyeater migration our focus. But first it was a quick detour to see a particularly impressive Satin Bowerbird’s bower. Even in autumn his collection of blue plastic objects was consummately arranged, with a single yellow crest feather from a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, a few yellow leaves and two cicada shells adding contrast.

On the bus discussion of the autumn honeyeater migration ensued and I outlined the methods used by the volunteers who count them. Like many of the great spectacles of nature, the migration is notoriously variable and a certain amount of good luck is needed for seeing it at its best. Nevertheless, there is always something interesting to see!

We ventured out onto Narrow Neck peninsula where the migrating flocks are funnelled into a narrow path along the escarpment. But a strong north-westerly wind was keeping the numbers down and whatever birds were migrating were staying low. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were moving through the understorey, much to the annoyance of the resident New Holland Honeyeaters. Occasionally a hardy Spotted Pardalote flew over which got Nick’s heart racing.

Leo first spotted the Peregrine, which was later seen a few times flashing through the sky at high speed.

A track on the leeward side of the peninsula got us out of the wind where all the sensible birds were. Here we watched a few flocks of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Silvereyes moving through the trees and bushes – at least some of the Silvereyes the Tasmanian subspecies lateralis, up for the winter. Grey Fantails were everywhere.

Banksias were starting to put on a good show with B. ericifolia and cunninghamii in heavy bud and starting to open. Just before we left, a migrating flock of 40-50 Welcome Swallows swirled over in defiance of the wind.

Next it was off to somewhere more sheltered – the Rhododendron Garden. Soon we encountered a mixed species flock with Lewin’s Honeyeater, White-throated Treecreeper, male Golden Whistler, Striated and Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finches and the ever-present Grey Fantail. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles were spotted through the treetops, chased by a Magpie as they flew.

The streets of Blackheath gave us magnificent autumn foliage colour which the keen photographers took advantage of.

A last minute decision to head down the Megalong Valley turned out to be a great choice. On the way through the rainforest, a plaintail Superb Lyrebird darted across the road, seen by a few before it disappeared over the edge.

Once out in the more open habitat, the bird sightings came thick and fast. Stopping to look at a White-necked Heron in a paddock, we also saw 3 Kestrels, 3 White-faced Herons, a single Straw-necked Ibis perched high in a dead tree and Superb Fairy-wrens.

At Old Ford Reserve, the Bell Miners were louder than ever. During lunch, White-eared and more Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen and two juvenile magpies were locked in a playful game of wrestling. A swirling flock of birds very high and distant were deemed to be woodswallows, and a bit later a closer view confirmed this; they were almost certainly Dusky.

Nick was finally rewarded with excellent views of a male Spotted Pardalote gleaning for lerps in the eucalyptus foliage, a highlight for everyone.

A short walk nearby gave us the chance to check out the rare Megalong Valley Bottlebrush, Callistemon megalongensis. This was only described in 2009 and numbers fewer than 2000 individuals.

Our final walk was along a lovely fire trail with Banksia spinulosa coming into flower, and shapely Persoonia linearis or Narrow-leaf Geebung in fruit. A flock of Buff-rumped Thornbills was seen here and Leo glimpsed a probable Red-browed Treecreeper, but it remained elusive. A Mistletoebird called as it flew overhead, and we enjoyed more views of Crimson Rosellas, White-eared Honeyeater and of course those Grey Fantails.

Although conditions were not ideal for the migration, we proved that there’s always something interesting to be seen. Thanks Janene and all for helping to make it a great day.

by Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Fitzroy Falls Trip Report

Saturday 28 March 2021
Birder: Bob Ashford

Pied Currawong lords over the
picnic table by Diederich Achermann
The sky was blue, the sun was bright, the temperature invigorating and the bus full of cheery birders, plus a very enthusiastic Leo. And the day only got better!

As we pulled in to the Nepean Dam picnic area a White-eared Honeyeater appeared and this less common visitor kept us jostling our binoculars and coffee. Less impressed with us were the Kookaburras who turned up their noses (can they do that?) at the wheat free biscuits. Obviously far less picky the Pied Currawongs soon finished them off (the biscuits that is). There were also quite a number of Grey Fantails!

Onwards we went, sighting Eastern Rosellas, Red and Little Wattlebirds, to Cecil Hoskins Reserve. Mistletoe was out in bunches and unsurprisingly we encountered a number of the cute little Mistletoebirds throughout the day. On the dams were Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, a few Darters, one doing a perfect imitation of a swimming snake, Black Swans, Great Egret and a single Hoary-headed Grebe.

The trail beside the dams was busy with Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Brown and Striated Thornbills and a large number of Grey Fantails  again! This very pleasant walk allowed plenty of stops while we got the scope on to a lone White-necked Heron and several White-faced Herons put to flight by a couple of chattering Blackbirds.

And yes, there were more Grey Fantails. At this point, having seen several dozen, and getting just a touch over-distracted by them, we decided to rename them the-bird-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned. Not that it made any difference as they continued to appear in numbers wherever we went for the rest of the day, but it provided a little levity!

Bird of the Day, Grey Fantail
by Neil Fifer
At the end of the trail we hit a hotspot. Silvereyes out-volumed the TBWNMNBM, though interestingly we could not find any of the Tasmanian race. They must have still been on their way. Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Goldfinches tinkled away but remained hidden. Red-browed Finches, Grey Shrike-thrushes, several more Blackbirds and a couple of Golden Whistlers kept us on our toes. Leo spotted a Black-shouldered Kite as it shot over our heads. A slower Whistling Kite lazily floated over our heads in the opposite direction the sun picking out the beautiful tans, creams and golds of its plumage, a wonderful view. A few noisy Sulphur-crested Cockatoos saw us off and as we reached the bus again a big flock of Little Corellas gave us a magnificent fly-past.

On our way to Fitzroy Falls a pair of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos paused in a big pine, just long enough to allow everybody a really good view. Roadside birding has its moments. At Fitzroy Falls the falls were in full flow but the birdlife was not as forthcoming. Still the weather was superb, the sun at the perfect angle for burnishing the dramatic cliffs and valleys and the walk very pleasant indeed. As we turned away from the cliff edge trail the birding improved significantly  especially around the car park. Of course!

There were more Thornbills and Silvereyes, inquisitive Yellow Robins, cautious White-browed Scrubwrens and about half-a-dozen nimble Sittellas. These crazy upside-down acrobats kept us amused for quite a while trying to outperform a couple of White-throated Treecreepers. Another special moment.

At the picnic tables up went the cry Lyrebird and there it was nonchalantly scratching at the leaf litter. It was a male happy to show off its gorgeous lyre tail. On a nearby branch a female Satin Bowerbird, equally nonchalant, preened in the sun. A scuttling Eastern Whipbird was less cooperative but a Lewins Honeyeater came to check out the last of the wheat free biscuits. There were also quite a lot more of those birds mentioned earlier…

As we headed to the freeway for the journey back to Sydney we spotted a lone Cattle Egret, a migrant that defies the trend and heads south in winter from Newcastle and one of first to arrive this year. Welcome back. Then a quick visit to Wingecarribee Reservoir produced several very handsome Great Crested Grebes.

73 species and a cracking day for birding made all the better by a bunch of birders full of the joys. Thank you for your company and to Leo and Janene for a very pleasant day. Must do it again sometime!

By Bob Ashford birding for FTB

Mitchell Park (Cattai), Pitt Town Lagoon
& Castlereagh Trip Report

Saturday 14 March 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

Hard at it
Our drive through Boundary Rd in Oakville set the day quite well with nice sightings of a pair of Jacky Winter (quite a rarer bird these days in Sydney), a group of Red-rumped Parrots, Black-shouldered Kite and on some small dams, a pair of Black-fronted Dotterel, Black-winged Stilt and Australasian Grebes.

We had a brief look around Maraylya Park where some good looks of Musk Lorikeets and a Noisy Friarbird were obtained.

Our morning tea was at Mitchell Park in Cattai where we picked up a Peaceful Dove and a Wonga Pigeon on our way in. As we set up for morning tea, the birds could not wait to greet us with an adult male Golden Whistler, Grey Fantails, Striated and Yellow Thornbills, Crested Shrike-tit, Olive-backed Oriole etc. After a nice cuppa, we then walked beside the road seeing a Lewins Honeyeater feeding on some berries, a Sacred Kingfisher, Satin Bowerbird, Rufous Whistler and a very obliging White-throated Gerygone came quite low down for us to observe!

White-throated Gerygone - Marsden Park, NSW - 060310 -4
White-throated Gerygone by Edwin Vella
We then headed to Pitt Town after seeing flocks of Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis circling high in the air and a Dollarbird beside Longneck Lagoon. Christine, one of our regulars had commented that it has a stubby tail so it must be instead a fifty cent bird!

At Pitt Town Lagoon, we walked to the hide and observed from here a pair of Brown Goshawks having a display then later joined by another individual (probably an adult pair with their recent offspring), a juvenile Swamp Harrier, a number of Pink-eared Ducks, a group of Australian Pelicans, more Black-winged Stilts, flocks of both Little Black and Great Cormorants and an Australasian Darter.

We passed through McGraths Hill with a pair of Hardheads and a good comparison of both Intermediate and Eastern Great Egrets on the lagoons beside the road.

Lunch was had at Yarramundi Reserve where some good looks where obtained of a group of Varied Sitellas, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Red-whiskered Bulbul and another Dollarbird. Some lucky few also managed a Double-barred Finch. Along the River there, a group of Sydney Short-necked Turtle were haring a logs with a Little Pied Cormorant.

Our final spot of the day was at Castlereagh Nature Reserve where the Brown-headed Honeyeaters and Weebills were new to some of the group. We also had a White-necked Heron taking off from a dam, Eastern Spinebills, New Holland Honeyeater, a Spotted Pardalote and a Grey Shrike-thrush.

The day ended up nicely with 100 species from visiting some nice places around the Hawkesbury.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Lake Wollumboola Trip Report

Saturday 7 March 2021
Edwin Vella

White-throated Treecreeper, female by
Anne Brophy
An early overcast morning gave way to a fairly warm day as we headed down the south coast towards Lake Wollumboola.

We broke the journey down south nicely with a morning tea stop at the Bulli lookout where the early morning mist below the lookout gave way to spectacular views of the Illawarra area but even more so were fantastic flight views of a male grey morph and female white morph Grey Goshawk flying below us . Other nice birds seen around the lookout were a small group of Topknot Pigeons flying over, a female Leaden Flycatcher, a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins, a White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Thornbills, Silvereyes, a Golden Whistler and some Crimson Rosellas. We also had beautiful views of a Macleays Swallowtail butterfly feeding on the flowers of lantana.

Our journey between the Bulli Lookout and Lake Wollumboola was quite birdy with a Swamp Harrier at one stage flying close and parallel to our bus beside the highway, a few White-necked Herons, flocks of Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill and Nankeen Kestrel were highlights.

When we arrived at Lake Wollumboola it was time for lunch at a very pleasant location on the northern side of the lake. Here we could see thousands of both Black Sawn and Coot spread across the lake. A very spectacular sight indeed! A young White-bellied Sea-eagle put on a good show as it caused the large rafts of Coots to scurry. Other waterbirds seen beside the lake were a few Eastern Great and a Little Egret, a few Black-winged Stilt and 4 species of Cormorant.

Crested, White-winged Black & Little Terns
by Anne Brophy
After lunch we walked along the eastern side of the lake, adjacent to the beach. Unfortunately, the most hoped for White-rumped Sandpiper from North America had departed only days before we arrived. However, we did find a flock of eleven Caspian Terns, a recently arrived Double-banded Plover from New Zealand with a few Red-capped Plovers (including the young of the just past nesting season). We were also very fortunate to get close views of a group of roosting terns comprising Crested, White-winged Black and Little Terns. Driving out from Lake Wollumboola we also saw another White-bellied Sea-eagle but this time an adult bird.

On our way back home to Sydney, we drove into Berry with a pair of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flying beside our bus giving great views before we made our way to the local ice cream shop.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

McPherson Road & Dairy Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 28 February 2021
Birder: Christina Port

Bush-Stone Curlew by Anne Brophy
The last day of summer was a great day to go birding. We were greeted by White-breasted Woodswallows as we arrived at McPherson’s Road Swamp, our first stop of the day. Tawny Grassbirds were singing and displaying and great views were had. Golden-headed Cisticolas were there too, calling but much harder to see. While trying to spot a calling Koel, Janene found an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle quietly watching the Swamp. Pacific Black Ducks and Chestnut Teal along with Eurasian Coots swam around. Little Black Cormorants and Australasian Darters flew and we had Black-shouldered Kite and Nankeen Kestrel circling. As we advanced down the track Superb Fairy-wrens were seen and then a Latham’s Snipe flew across the track giving great views to everyone. Yellow Thornbills, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails were in the trees as we were leaving and an elusive Pied Butcherbird serenaded us the whole time we were there but gave not one view.

On to the Dairy Swamp (or Central Coast Wetlands as it is now known) and we were greeted by Straw-necked Ibis, Australian Ibis and a Little Pied Cormorant. We stopped the bus on the side of the road on the way in. Australasian Pipit, Black-fronted Dotterel and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper had the scopes out and trained. Black Swans were there in numbers, Black-winged Stilts fed along the edges and a Australian Pelican preened. We had an Eastern Great Egret and a Cattle Egret along with many Australasian Darters. As we moved away for morning tea the Black Swans did some aggressive sorting out. Ouch!

The morning tea stop was very welcome and we watched a Royal Spoonbill feeding and lots more Australian Pelicans coming into land. We then headed down towards the track and a pair of Sacred Kingfishers were spotted. Over the gate and down the creek track, lots of Laughing Kookaburras were cackling around. Grey Fantails were there, along with Brown Thornbills. And just as I was watching out for a Lewin’s Honeyeater a Black Bittern took off. High fives all round! Other birds here were Eastern Yellow Robin, juvenile Golden Whistler and on the track Bar-shouldered Dove.

We returned to eat lunch here too and a rather shabby looking Swamp Harrier was seen in the distance. A quick walk on the other side and we found a pair of Long-billed Corellas feeding on the massive Bunya Pine cones. A Rainbow Lorikeet was peering out of one of the breeding boxes, Eastern Rosellas flew and a Grey Butcherbird was seen.

Our next bird to find was the endangered (in NSW) Bush-stone Curlew. Our first stop was the Bouddi Pony Club and almost at once we found three: a breeding pair and an immature showing well and giving great views to everyone. We had Australian Wood Ducks here too along with a Grey Butcherbird. Feeling very pleased with ourselves we stopped and had a celebratory ice cream before heading off to our second Bush-stone Curlew spot at Umina High School. And we found two more! More high fives!

Our last stop of the day was the Girrakool picnic area at Brisbane National Park among the beautiful Sydney Red Gums. We finished off with Little Wattlebirds and plenty of New Holland Honeyeaters as our last bird. Thanks everyone for a great days birding on the Central Coast, finishing up with 79 species seen and heard.

Christina Port bird guide for Follow that Bird

Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 21 February 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

Hawk Month by Brana Wolf
Indifferent weather greeted a team of enthusiastic and philosophical local and overseas birders for a cooks tour of Royal National Park.

The first site visited  Little Marley Fire Trail, was, according to the guide, a great site for heathland birds. It proved good for beautiful firetails, but that was about it. The idea of seeing emu-wrens or other skulkers remains just that. A pair of yellow-tailed black-cockatoos was seen flying in the distance.

Morning tea was enjoyed at Bonnie Vale Picnic Ground. There were a few more birds in evidence here, with lovely views of royal spoonbills, a figbird (not a commonly seen bird in Royal), along with a range of waterfowl, cockatoos and parrots.

Wattle Forest at Audley was next. Here the rain joined us and threatened to wreck our modest plans. Nevertheless a large mixed foraging flock of passerines entertained us while we constantly kept ourselves amused looking for leeches.

Green Tree Snake
Green Tree Snake by Brana Wolf
A post-lunch search for dwarf tree-frogs was a success (not surprising really).

Lady Carrington Drive in the middle of the afternoon in summertime doesnt generally produce too much. Proving that anything is possible, we turned around any earlier disappointments by having a wonderful walk with many good sightings. Superb lyrebirds made for a good start, though for many a roosting powerful owl (spotted by the keen eyes of Joan Rosenthal) competed with a gorgeous Australian owlet-nightjar as bird of the day. Other birds included a pair of delightful crested shrike-tits, black-faced monarchs, rufous fantails and all three scrub-wrens. Cameo appearances were provided by a green tree-snake and a colourful and enormous moth that ultimately escaped the attention of a shrike-tit  and us.

Despite a slow start the tour finished in a rush with 68 species seen and heard.

By Steve Anyon-Smith bird-guiding for FTB

Hexham Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 7 February 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

Hexham Swamp
We headed up north from Sydney expecting that the initial overcast conditions we were driving through were to clear to a fairly mild sunny day. This certainly did eventuate on arrival at Newcastle after sighting a singing White-throated Needletail on the way up.

Driving along the outskirts of Hexham Swamp we were greeted by a good range of birds including 3 species of Egret – Eastern Great, Intermediate and flock of Cattle Egret (with some of the Cattle and Great Egrets still in breeding plumage), a Golden-headed Cisticola posing nicely next to our bus without us needing to get out and an Australian Hobby seen landing in a casuarina in the middle of a paddock. As we drove into the swamp area, a flock of about 250 or so Grey Teal drew our excitement as they took to the air. What may have spooked them may have been one of the numbers of Swamp Harrier or White-bellied Sea-eagle which were seen flying around the swamp.

We then had morning tea watching also our fourth species of Egret, a Little Egret and a small flock of Royal Spoonbills. After our morning tea, we walked further along the track cutting through the swamp where we all managed some good looks of the elusive Little Grassbird, Australian Pelicans, White-breasted Woodswallows, a few Fairy Martins amongst the large numbers of Welcome Swallows aw well as a couple of Common Greenshanks. After explaining to the group on our way up to Newcastle about a good possibility of seeing both Torressian Crow and Australian Raven on the outing and to explain how to distinguish between the two very similar looking birds, we were able to put that to good practice when we had good views of both species at the same time and hearing them both call. At the end of the track through the swamp we were amazed to see a huge flock of about 500 Black-winged Stilt with a Whistling Kite on the watch. As we drove out of the swamp we also had some excellent views of a few White-fronted Chats drinking at a puddle, four Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a number of Australian Pipits.

Group Hexham Swamp
After a good couple of hours or so at Hexham Swamp, we then drove across the Hunter River onto Ash Island for lunch where we got marvellous looks of another Australian Hobby perched nicely for us beside the bus. Whilst finishing off our lunch, we saw unexpectedly a Black Kite flying over, a raptor normally associated with dry inland areas in NSW. We also saw a Caspian Tern, a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles perched in the mangroves beside the river and not far from them, a nice adult Brahminy Kite. What a great lunch stop!

After lunch, we drove to Stockton to check the shorebird high tide roost arriving there at the perfect time when the tide was starting to fall. Very good number of migratory, nomadic and some resident shorebirds were here including large numbers of Red-necked Avocets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Eastern Curlew, both Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers and Pacific Golden Plovers. Amongst them, we also saw smaller numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover, Pied Oystercatchers and Black-winged Stilt. There were also some Little, Caspian and Crested Terns amongst these large flocks of waders.

On our way home, we finished it off nicely with a small group of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos and a refreshing ice-cream!

by Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Summer Spotlighting in Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 31 January 2021
Birder: Steve Anyon-Smith

Powerful Owl Male
Powerful Owl by Chris Charles
Summer afternoons are not usually the best times for birding in Sydney. However a group of enthusiastic birders from all parts of the globe were treated to ideal conditions for a short walk along Lady Carrington Drive as an entree to some spotlighting. A wide variety of birds managed to get in our way with the best of them being a roosting powerful owl which could be seen from the fire trail perched in a turpentine tree, along with a pair of yellow-tailed black cockatoos, also sitting in a nearby tree. Summer migrants were represented by black-faced monarchs and rufous fantails. Resident birds included green catbirds, satin bowerbirds and azure kingfisher.

After an enjoyable and healthy dinner (a sentiment shared by one very tame and patient magpie), we set about willing the sun to go down. This proved to be no easy matter. It became pretty obvious that the likelihood of sunset is somewhat variable, depending on the will of the observer.

While we waited a few microbats and grey-headed flying foxes were seen. Shortly before breakfast time we set of with our spotlights, although it was hardly dark. Within seconds we had the first of several sugar gliders which all gave prolonged and open views. A swamp wallaby was seen along with several common brushtail possums which were enjoying the flowering banagalays (Eucalyptus botryoides).

The ‘fluffiest’ tawny frogmouth yet seen sat below eye level next to Lady Carrington Drive, completely unfazed by the drooling throng staring and taking photos. It was nice to leave this bird exactly where we found it seemingly unaffected by its sudden fame. A tape of Australian owlet-nightjar was played at a few locations. At first a few birds could be heard to respond but failed to show themselves. Eventually one landed a couple of metres away directly above our heads. Our guide and at least one other tried to turn it into a noisy miner but it refused to descend to such depths and showed its true form briefly but well enough to confirm its identity.

A very pleasant evening all round. I must thank all the participants for their enthusiasm and good cheer!

by Steve Anyon-Smith bird guiding for FTB

Long Reef Cool Waders Trip Report

Saturday 6 December 2020
Birder: Edwin Vella

Long Reef
With quite a stormy week, we were blessed to have the weather hold for us without being rained on during our trip around the Narrabeen and Collaroy area.

We started off at Deep Creek Reserve adjacent to Narrabeen Lagoon where things started off a bit slow with deafening cicadas about but we did get along to a nice patch producing some lovely birds such as a brilliant male Golden Whistler, a male Leaden Flycatcher, a Rufous Fantail, some White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbills and a Sacred Kingfisher. Brett, a visitor from California also saw and heard his first Laughing Kookaburra here.

Later on in the morning we visited Warriewood Wetlands where we almost missed on seeing one of our highlights for the day being a Pacific Baza sitting very quietly on a well concealed nest. Thanks to a birder not part of our group but known to the leader for this great find. As we watched the baza on the nest, we also noticed an Australian Brush Turkey perched in some low down bushes at about eye level beside the track who was also keeping an eye on us. Also along the board walk we had some nice views of both Variegated and Superb Fairy-wrens, Yellow Thornbills, another Leaden Flycatcher, Silvereyes, Red-browed Finch and as we headed back to the bus some also glimpsed an Olive-backed Oriole.

We had lunch at the southern end of Fishermans Beach in Collaroy and opposite the Long Reef golf course as we watched a group of Australian Pelicans and Silver Gulls waiting for the fisherman to throw out the leftovers of their catch. A pair of pelican was also watched having a bit of a brawl over the scraps!

Grey-tailed Tattler by Anne Brophy
After lunch, we walked beside the Long Reef Golf Course having some very good views of some more Variegated Fairy-wrens and both Red and Little Wattlebirds. On the golf course itself were quite a number of Masked Lapwings, Eurasian Coot and Australian Wood Duck.

When we finally reached the reef we were soon looking at large flock of Red-necked Stint as well as 4 species of cormorant and Greater Crested Terns amongst the Silver Gulls. Walking on the other side of the reef we also saw a group of Pacific Golden Plovers, some Ruddy Turnstones, Grey-tailed Tattler, a Sooty Oystercatcher and some more Red-necked Stints. Out at sea through our scope we managed to see some Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.

As we walked back towards the beach we also saw 4 more Sooty Oystercatchers and a Nankeen Kestrel hovering over the cliff. The day then ended with some fantastic pies from some or a refreshing ice-cream for others.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Wild Watagan Birds Trip Report

Saturday 29 November 2020
Birder: Chritina Port

Brown Cuckoo-dove by Neil Fifer
It was a beautiful spring day as a busload of eager birders headed north up the M1. The birding along the roads was quiet and we started with Masked Lapwing. A diagnostic conversation followed on how to tell the difference between male and female Magpie Larks, our next species. Heading down towards the start of the Watagan Mountains a Sacred Kingfisher sitting on the wires brought us to our first stop and had us craning out the front window. That was followed soon after by a Grey Fantail. We then found a likely spot and poured out of the bus. Olive-Backed Orioles were calling and finally seen well. A Grey Butcherbird posed and Noisy Friarbirds, Golden Whistlers and Fan-tailed Cuckoos called but stayed hidden.

The Pines Picnic Area in the Olney State Forest on the Watagan Mountains was our morning tea stop, under the towering Pinus Radiata trees. Pied Currawongs called and flew and Crimson Rosellas displayed. Brown Thornbills were feeding in the lower trees and easy to see. We wandered down and had great views of feeding Lewins Honeyeaters and a Brown Cuckoo-dove hanging upside down to get the best fruits. A male Satin Bowerbird was seen well here too. We then crossed the bridge and wandered down the track. The highlights here were nesting Leaden Flycatchers and a Spotted Pardalote. As we were leaving the site a Wonga Pigeon wandered, feeding among the trees, followed by Judy getting some great photos.

Back on the bus but continually stopping as birds crossed our paths, we had Grey Shrike-thrushes and a Rufous Fantail was seen fleetingly. It then remained elusive but a female Golden Whistler was seen well.

Heaton Lookout, named after tree cutter Richard Heaton, an English convict, was our lunch spot. We saw interesting relics from the timber industry and heard Scarlet Honeyeaters calling as they fed in the mistletoe while we ate. Further down we had White-eared Honeyeaters and White-throated Treecreepers calling and the constant ping of Bell Miners. As we admired the view across to Lake Macquarie and the coast a beautifully coloured Lace Monitor caused much excitement and great close-up views. On our way out we added our only Sulphur-crested Cockatoo for the day and the first of many Noisy Miners. Here too we saw a White-necked Heron and two others were seen soon after. What appeared to be Eastern Grey Kangaroos were resting under trees in the heat of the day. Janene spotted a Pied Butcherbird along the way and Eastern Rosellas flew near the bus.

Pines Picnic Area Olney SF
Eastern Grey Kangaroos were seen and easily identified as we travelled through Morisset Hospital to our final destination of the day, Wood Point, along Pourmalong Creek and Lake Macquarie. We were greeted by a pair of nesting White-breasted Woodswallows as we got off the bus. One perched and the other sitting on the nest were seen clearly in the scope. As we walked to the point Dollarbirds circled high up before perching where we were able to see their beautiful colours so clearly in the scope. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes and Grey Butcherbirds were active in the high trees. Scaly-breasted Lorikeets zoomed passed and were later seen in a breeding hollow by Janene and Steve. Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants flew across the water and a group of Black Swans rested. As we looped back we had difficult views of Variegated Fairy-wrens, a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew overhead and a Crested Tern flew over the lake. A Little Corella resting in a tree wasn’t bothered by us and we had great views. As we neared the bus we had a feeding party of Yellow Thornbills, Red-browed Finch, a Grey Fantail and a very handsome male Variegated Fairy-wren out in the open this time. The final bird for the day was the Australian Pelican. A large group was thermalling up high.

As we returned along the track we picked up and befriended a couple of hot and tired travellers who gratefully joined us. So a young lady from Belgium and the other from Greece enjoyed the bus trip back to Morisset train station with us.

A great days birding in a beautiful part of the country. Thanks everyone.
By Christina Port birding for Follow That Bird.

Mt Tomah Trip Report

Saturday 22 November 2020
Birder: Carol Probets

Puya by Carol Probets
A brief respite from the heatwave conditions earlier in the week foreshadowed a beautiful day amongst the cool-climate vegetation of Mt Tomah. Before I met the group of 16 birders at Richmond, they had already chalked up a fabulous sighting of a Spotted Harrier at McGraths Hill.

We wound our way up Bellbird Hill with its tinkling of Bell Miners, past flowering Angophora costata and on to the wonderful botanic gardens on the volcanic soil of Mt Tomah. A family of Superb Fairy-wrens provided the welcoming party and morning tea was enjoyed beside a giant walk-through bower with real Satin Bowerbirds nearby.

Our walk around the gardens gave us new birds at every turn. An Eastern Yellow Robin singing its “early morning song”, Crimson Rosellas, Brown and Striated Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwren, White-throated Treecreeper, Lewin’s Honeyeater and a gorgeous male Golden Whistler were some of the early highlights. The 3-metre tall blue Puya (Puya alpestris ssp. zoellneri) from Chile was putting on a spectacular show and attracting many honeybees.

A Kookaburra flew up from the path carrying a huge arthropod, possibly a yabby. Common Blackbirds were ubiquitous. In the heath and heather garden, two male Superb Fairy-wrens chased each other “like blue sapphires flying through the air”. A Welcome Swallow nest in the pavilion contained one egg, not yet being incubated.

Eastern Spinebills were feeding from various types of flowers. A Black-faced Monarch, Brown Gerygone and pair of Golden Whistlers were seen in the Gondwana woodland. A female Gang-gang Cockatoo called before giving us a great view in flight as it disappeared through the trees, and a Bassian Thrush foraged quietly along the side of the track. A juvenile Rose Robin fibrillating its wings was fed by an adult.

Brown Gerrygone by Anne Brophy
Native plants of interest included Potato Orchids (Gastrodia sp.) springing up through the leaf litter and Rock Felt-fern (Pyrrosia rupestris) adorning trees and rocks.

By lunchtime we had walked through 6 continents, past rock pools, through formal gardens, woodlands and luxuriant native forest.

The Lady Fairfax rainforest walk was a perfect way to escape the afternoon heat after lunch. Here we found several hanging nests of Yellow-throated Scrubwrens and eventually saw the birds. Grey Fantail and Eastern Yellow Robin were also active here, and a couple of Black Jezebel butterflies (Delias nigrina) caught the light as they fluttered through filtered sun in the rainforest shadows.

Returning to the carpark, we found the Satin Bowerbird’s bower decorated artfully with bright blue plant tags, rosella tail feathers and yellow leaves and petals.

Ice creams on the way home topped off a great day. No matter how long you spend at Mt Tomah, it can never be long enough.

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Wyrrabalong & Norah Head Trip Report

Saturday 15 November 2020
Birder: Christina Port

Topknot Pigeon by Christina Port
After yesterday’s high 30s a very pleasant birding day greeted us as we explored the Central Coast. Our first stop was the Ourimbah Creek Reserve. Rufous Fantails were chasing each other, Channel-billed Cuckoos and Topnot Pigeons flew overhead and the place hummed with Brown Gerygones calling. We had views of a Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Lewin’s Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and Large-billed Scrubwrens feeding young. Tantalizing calls from a Black-faced Monarch and Sacred Kingfishers teased but the birds stayed out of view.

As we headed to our second stop we spotted a Dollarbird which proved to be the first of many seen throughout the day. Laughing Kookaburras, Rainbow Lorikeets, Purple Swamphens, Crested Pigeons and a lone Straw-necked Ibis were also seen on our trip.

Our morning tea stop was Picnic Point at The Entrance. Here we had Pied, Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorants. Hundreds of Black Swans were sitting just off shore in a rather full Tuggerah Lake, along with many Australian Pelicans. A few Bar-tailed Godwits fed in front of us together with an Eastern Great Egret, White-faced Heron and Australian White Ibis. Just before we headed to a welcome cup of tea a Little Tern delighted along with a Caspian and Crested Tern. As Janene backed the bus out we had a Grey Butcherbird swooping on an Australian Magpie. It was all action.

We travelled across the bridge to Terilbah Reserve and here we added an Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and two Common Greenshanks to our growing total. Brian spotted a Black-shouldered Kite as we headed north.

We stopped at Wyrrabalong National Park and walked part of the Lilly Pilly Loop Trail among towering Swamp Mahogany trees (Eucalyptus robusta) and fruiting Cabbage Tree Palms (Livistona australis), with great close-up views of a Grey Fantail, juvenile Golden Whistler, Lewin’s Honeyeaters, Brown Thornbills and Red-browed Finch feeding young. The Leaden Flycatcher stayed hidden, but Topknot Pigeons provided a wonderful spectacle as large groups flew overhead. Arriving at the bus we had lost a few birders so I walked back to find them and they’d found a female Regent Bowerbird posing well.

Angophora blossom
Lunch was at Mackenzie Park Budgewoi and as we ate we watched Australian Wood Ducks with young, Eurasian Coot, a Whistling Kite hunting along the rivers edge and a Dollarbird perched and flying. We also had Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Ducks. The three Amigos (Alan, Laurie and Brian) with their ringside seat had great views of a White-bellied Sea-Eagle too. A walk along Budgewoi Lake after lunch showed us a fishing Eastern Great Egret, Little Egret and White-breasted Woodswallow being blown around in the wind.

We arrived at the beautiful Norah Head. We watched as Short-tailed Shearwaters headed south and many were just floating in huge rafts, resting. Fluttering and Hutton’s Shearwaters were heading north and south. Another bird remained elusive and Ann saw an Australasian Gannet. Also among the shrubbery we found Striated Thornbills and New Holland Honeyeaters. A surfie wedding at the Norah Head lighthouse threatened to derail the birding trip as everyone waited for the bride to arrive, which she did in a Kombi and thongs!

A quick stop at Bush Street Reserve Norah Head where we had great views of a Tawny Frogmouth, our last new bird of the day, followed by a welcome ice cream before heading back to Sydney.

Thank you everyone. A great days birding with 82 birds seen and heard. Christina Port birding for Follow That Bird

Shipley Plateau and The Rhododendron Gardens
Trip Report

Saturday 25 October 2020
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Cream Waratah by Carol Probets
It was an idyllic warm morning when six birders travelled up to enjoy the birdlife and spring beauty of the upper Blue Mountains. The trip was perfectly timed as many of the migrants were recently arrived in the area – perhaps a little later than usual. Because I met the group at Wentworth Falls I missed the earlier excitement of seeing black smoke in the distance which turned out to be a truck trailer on fire. It had wisely been disengaged by the roadside. Never a dull moment on FTB trips!

But onto birds and excitement of a different kind. A persistent call during morning tea had some of the group convinced they were hearing a distant peachface. Not our usual Blue Mountains avifauna! But on listening more closely it turned out to be something much more interesting – a Buff-banded Rail calling from the nearby swamp.

Eastern Whipbird by Carol Probets
The local Satin Bowerbird had been busy as his bower was a picture of intense blue and yellow, with items including the blue tail feathers of Crimson Rosellas, plenty of ubiquitous blue plastic lids and pegs, along with Sulphur-crested Cockatoo crest feathers, yellow leaves and flowers. We stepped away from the bower and in no time the male turned up, fussily adding and moving decorations.

We left him to his work and headed to our next stop in the Megalong Valley. The lush eucalypt-rainforest ecotone was alive with bird calls. Within a 50 metre radius we found about 22 species, including good looks at Red-browed Treecreeper, Black-faced Monarch, Grey Fantail, Superb Fairy-wren, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Crimson Rosella, and a Brown Thornbill picking insects off the hanging bark. A Shining Bronze-Cuckoo flew over and a Rose Robin tantalised us with its calls, but the prize for most stunning views was won by the black, white and yellow team consisting of a male Golden Whistler and a Crested Shrike-tit.

The Rhododendron Garden was our lunch spot where a cheeky Red Wattlebird kept us entertained. Not only were the “rhodos” at their peak but a spectacular display of Waratahs were flowering. The mixture of natives and planted exotics looked a picture and birds were in abundance. We watched Lewin’s Honeyeater, Red-browed and White-throated Treecreepers, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-browed Scrubwren and a cute Australasian Grebe on the pond, accompanied by an orchestra of Striped Marsh Frogs, Common Eastern Froglets and the odd Eastern Pobblebonk. Not to be outdone, the male and female Eastern Whipbird stepped onto centre stage giving everyone great views as they sang their antiphonal song. A pair of Sacred Kingfishers flew back and forth to their nest hollow.

Back Door Ease
Next it was onto Shipley Plateau for a contrast in habitat and a walk in the heath while storm clouds gathered on the horizon. A Rufous Whistler sang heartily and was seen by all. Abundant wildflowers included a display of Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix tetragona) and the Spotted Sun Orchid (Thelymitra ixioides). A beautiful sustained song wafting across the heath revealed a pair of Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens and three of the group got good views of this tricky species. A large native Botany Bay Cockroach (Polyzosteria limbata) was seen on the track – a real beauty but too fast for a photo. Back near the bus we watched a blue male and a green immature or female Satin Bowerbird in a noisy interaction.

After admiring the views at Hargraves Lookout, one more flurry of activity gave us two of the best sightings of the day. A male Variegated Fairy-wren dazzled us with his blueness while a pair of majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles soared overhead. What a way to finish a perfect spring day….and the storms held off.

PS by Janene. We kept picking up new species on the drive home; nothing outstanding but you can’t put a good team down!

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Wheeny Creek & Wilberforce Waders Trip Report

Saturday 11 October 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Gang-gang Cockatoo,
Female by Anne Brophy
A quite warm spring day had produced an excellent range of birds with 103 species seen or heard during our visit to Wheeny Creek and the Hawkesbury area.

We started off at the McGraths Hill sewerage treatment works where a pair of Masked Lapwings had 3 young, a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels (appearing no larger then the young Lapwings, a pair of Black-winged Stilts, Australian Reed Warblers, Superb Fairy-wrens, an Intermediate Egret and even a Nutmeg Mannikin for a lucky few.

We then went Freemans Reach with a brief stop beside the Breakaway Oval were we enjoyed great views of a pair of Crested Shrike-tits and some Red-rumped Parrots.

Golden-headed Cisticola
by Anne Brophy
Eventually we made it to Streeton Lookout for morning Tea where we saw the pair of Whistling Kites still attending the nest as previously seen a few weeks ago on our raptor course. Yellow Thornbills also showed very well here and so too did a single Double-barred Finch.

After morning tea, we also had a couple of other brief stops at a few other places in Freemans Reach seeing a Yellow-billed Spoonbill on a small dam, 3 Dusky Woodswallows having a go at a Nankeen Kestrel and a Restless Flycatcher.

Before we drove all the way down the hill towards Wheeny Creek we stopped beside the road to seeing a few honeyeaters like White-eared and Yellow-faced as well as Eastern Spinebill and a Noisy Friarbird.

Nutmeg Mannikin by Anne Brophy
Whilst having lunch at Wheeny Creek, we were visited by a number of birds included a male Satin Bowerbird, Golden Whistlers, a female Gang-gang Cockatoo and another Noisy Friarbird. During a short walk here after lunch all got to see a Rufous Whistler, Brown Gerygones and Lewins Honeyeaters but only a lucky few managed to see the Rockwarbler.

Around Richmond we saw a male White-winged Triller, a Royal Spoonbill with some Cattle Egrets on a dam, a Black-shouldered Kite and a Swamp Harrier put on a good show for us beside the road opposite Bakers Lagoon.

Our final site for the day was Pitt Town Lagoon where we briefly watched a pair of adult Chestnut-breasted Mannikins but longer views of a male Golden-headed Cisticola showing off for us all. There was also a good mix of both water birds and shorebirds here including a number of Red-kneed Dotterels, 5 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, a few Pink-eared Ducks, 3 species of Cormorant (Little Pied, Little Black and Great) as well as an Eastern Great Egret.

By Edwin Vella ornithologist for FTB

Mt Keira & the The Sea Bridge Run Home Trip Report

Saturday 4 October 2020
Birder: Bob Ashford

Coal Cliff Sea Bridge
Coal Cliff Sea Bridge
It was surprisingly hot and sticky when I joined the FTB Bus at Waterfall and even at 0915hrs the birds had worked out that this was not a day for boisterous singing and rushing around! Still, mad dogs and Englishmen and all that…! In this case there were several of us of British origin and three visitors to Sydney determined to make the most of their free time to enjoy our Aussie birds. Matthew and Melissa from Ohio, Melissa being decidedly more determined!, and Torben from Denmark. He proved to be very keen and kept me on my toes throughout the day.

‘Raptor’, in a very slight lilting Danish accent had Janene doing one of her very capable freeway stops as we tumbled out to identify a Whistling Kite. Some birds enjoy the heat and the thermals it generates! The large number of Silver Gulls at the Botanic Gardens clearly indicated that picnics were in full swing. The attentive Purple Swamphens, Coots, Moorhens, Black Duck and Hardheads confirmed it was indeed a holiday weekend and were busily vacuuming up the offerings. Rainbow Lorikeets and Musk Lorikeets were busy on the flowering gums and on a branch overhanging the ponds a Magpie Lark was putting the finishing touches to her nest.

As we strolled into the rainforest a very noisy bunch of Noisy Miners, Satin Bowerbirds and Little Wattlebirds had us searching the creepers half way up a large gum. Try as we did we could not locate the cause which we concluded was probably a well hidden snake or small goanna. It got the adrenalin going though!

As we walked we discovered a Rufous Fantail (the migrants were arriving) Yellow Robin, White-browed Scrubwren, Crimson Rosellas and King Parrots, several stunning male Satin Bowerbirds and three feisty Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes. Then we headed to Mt Keira Lookout.

Rufous Fantail
Rufous Fantail by Chris Charles
Initially it was surprisingly quiet but persistence paid off with great views of White-throated Treecreepers, Brown Thornbills, Eastern Spinebills, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Lewins Honeyeaters. After lunch we headed down the hill and to the coast. By now the breeze was freshening and it had become a very pleasant day. Torben was keen to see an albatross. A big ask but one never knows.

At Wollongong Harbour three species of Cormorant and a couple of Pelicans lazed on the rocks! Near Austinmere we spotted several Crested Terns and several Kelp Gulls and a passing Australasian Gannet all spotted by Torben. I did my best to keep up with him while explaining I was looking out for Albatross’s!!!!

Finally we stopped on the Hacking River in the Royal National Park and strolled along the river. Our first bird was a Bassian Thrush and it gave us splendid views. But we were after another migrant. Golden Whistlers and Eastern Whipbirds tantalised us with their calls and then, at last, the call we were after – Black-faced Monarch! This hot weather was obviously encouraging them southward. It took us some effort but before too long we spotted this beautiful grey, rust and black bird among Grey Fantails. Happy we turned our attention to the LBJ’s which turned out to be Brown Gerygones and Large-billed Scrubwrens. We were all happy, especially our overseas companions but Torben was not finished. Up went the call, ‘Raptor’, and lo and behold there was a Little Eagle sliding over the canopy! He didnt get his albatross but was certainly the day’s best spotter!

In all it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. Good fun, good birds and an especially good bunch of birders, my thanks to you all.

By Bob Ashford birding for FTB

Thirlmere Lakes Trip Report

Saturday 13 September 2020
Birder: Bob Ashford

Thirlmere Lake by Rita Johnston-Lord
You know its going to be a day of serious stuff when the birding starts in either a car park or around the local loo block! And so it was with us. The Picton Public Toilets are admirably situated adjacent to Redbank Creek on the road to Thirlmere. While Janene laid out the coffee and biscuits most of us availed ourselves and then scoured the trees, shrubs and creek. The first bird to be spotted was a female Blackbird, then a Lewin’s Honeyeater, then a couple of Little Corellas obviously concerned about something and looking up in to the sky, lo and behold we saw the reason, a soaring Brown Goshawk. Never underestimate the local facilities as a good birding spot!

Of course the side of a road is almost as good and on the road to Thirlmere, as we approached a large orchard ablaze with pink blossom, a cry went up “Birds!”. With careless regard for oncoming traffic out we tumbled to discover the first of many, very many, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters of the day. They were pecking away at the blossom, joined by a Jacky Winter, several Willie Wagtails and passing Brown and Striated Thornbills. Around us the characteristic ‘ping’ of Bell Miners reverberated outcompeting the Peaceful Dove and Spotted Pardalotes. A Crested Pigeon bowed to us and a smart looking Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike gave us a fly past. Red-rumped Parrots and Eastern Rosellas added to the colour and Grey Fantails tried their best to numerically overwhelm the YF HE’s. We departed to the piercing descending whistle of a hidden Horsefield’s Bronze Cuckoo.

Thirlmere Fire Track by Rita Johnston-Lord
By now the threatening clouds had largely dispersed and the sun was up. Passing through Thirlmere we slowed to enjoy all the old steam engines. I couldn’t help recalling my youth in the UK when trainspotting was the hot hobby of the era and when most train spotters very soon morphed into a generation of bird spotters.

At the lakes we hit the trail to spot more birds. Unfortunately it quickly became the wrong trail as I led the group up the forest path. Nonetheless, we did get excellent views of Superb and Variegated Fairy Wrens, abundant numbers of both Grey Fantails and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (been a good year for both of them obviously!), Thornbills, Eastern Spinebills, Yellow Robins, Red-browed Finches, Golden Whistlers and a White-throated Treecreeper. In the background were the constant calls of elusive Eastern Whipbirds and a Shining Bronze Cuckoo and then an actual sighting of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo.

Volcanic in the midst of Sandstone by Rita Johnston-Lord
During lunch we checked out one of the lakes. Hardheads, Australasian Grebes, Grey Teal, Black Duck and Little Pied Cormorants worked the water while a squadron of Welcome Swallows hawked the reeds. From across the other side, not so far away, Janene and Joan heard the steady throbbing call of an insomniac Tawny Frogmouth. Nearby a lone White-eared Honeyeater taunted us with its calls eventually rewarding us with excellent views.

On the road to Nepean Dam a much smaller dam provided us with great views of four White-necked Herons. At Cave Creek we all got very quick views of an ‘eagle-type’ raptor rapidly vanishing through the trees. General consensus was it ‘might have been’ a Little Eagle. At the big Dam the forest was regenerating well after the devastating fires of last summer, even a male Satin Bowerbird was staking its claim and Red Wattlebirds were squabbling over the few Bottlebrush that had been saved.

In all, a very pleasant day, and 64 species seen and close to another dozen heard. The company was also very pleasant and my thanks to Janene, Jan, Joan, Rita and Duncan, especially for their patience with my directional ineptitude!

By Bob Ashford birding for FTB

Boxvale & Bargo River Trip Report

Saturday 6 September 2020
Birder: Janene Luff

Eastern Spinebill by Chris Charles
As we left Sydney the weather cleared and the rain stayed away all day on the southern highlands; a bonus for the defiant small troupe of birders. Partridge VC sported the fledgling White-plumed Honeyeater (its presence emailed to the newsflash list during the week) now flying solo after mum who was feeding only intermittently as junior foraged hungrily. Apart from the excellent fruit truck there was an Australasian Grebe, Eurasian Coot, vivid Welcome Swallows, Masked Lapwing and White-faced Heron. House Sparrows also lurked.

While a flat tyre was gallantly changed by NRMAzing Yellow-faced Honeyeaters passed heading south, Australian Raven lingered and No. 71 drain was examined while staying OFF the Hume Highway.
But before we knew it Boxvale Track loomed, pock-marked with deep puddles; golden wattles and red, pink, blue and mauve wildflowers were blooming heavily after the encouraging rain. All very beautiful between the dense stunted white-trunked gums with a Grey Fantail swooping and fluttering.
Morning tea was interrupted by a Fan-tailed Cuckoo seen well, and then attacked by a feisty little bird, a potential replacement candidate, who at least recognises the adult culprit if not the egg!
Down the track our highlight bird was a female Rose Robin who taunted our photographer Judy, darting at insects and vanishing, stock-still on similarly-coloured dead wood. The best spotter of the day, Duncan, found an Olive-backed Oriole in great light, at an easy angle. Superb Fairy-wren in eclipse showed briefly but they do not seem to be socialising with humans readily this time of the season. Crimson Rosellas flew through and Spotted Pardalote was heard.

Bargo River delivered as usual, although a hot-burn had been through the first part of the track, most likely as a zealous fire-break for the encroaching suburbanisation. Even so, on approach Red-browed Finches fed on the aforementioned lawn with easy viewing from the bus and a White-throated Treecreeper not only fed along the trunk of a palm tree, which was surprising but then proceeded to scale the mission-brown brick wall, obviously feeding on insects caught in small webs. Well, birdwatching never ceases to amaze; perhaps this adaptation could improve other suburbs.
A superb close view of a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike wowed a few before alighting from the bus and as we walked we spotted Common Bronze, which turned out to be quite common(4) but extra beautiful; Striated Thornbills were high up in the flowering Sydney Peppermint Eucalypts together with White-naped Honeyeaters a bit later: Eastern Spinebills were prevalent as were Eastern Yellow Robins and more so, New Holland Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds. A King Parrot startled us with the intensity of the red-orange, deep green with blue slash on the wing, feeding on a grub outbreak at eye-level and spotter Duncan found and showed us the Peaceful Doves. Almost back at the bus and Varied Sittellas, quite striated on the back as photographed by Judy, landed on a cleverly disguised nest. It looked like a knob on the pale branch. Jan “ided” terrestrial orchid Wax-lip in pink form. A fitting end to a very enjoyable day, except for our only raptors of the day – two Black-shouldered Kites hovering in the copper light, we drove back into Sydney rain, dry-as-a-bone.

by Janene Luff, covering for Bob Ashford in his absence.

Hunter Hideouts Trip Report

Saturday 30 August 2020
Birder: Christina Port

Fan-tailed Cuckoo Christina Port.jpg
Fan-tailed Cuckoo by Christina Port
Before we even left the car park at Wyong interchange binoculars were out and we had wonderful views of a Satin Bowerbird and Bell Miners. Then we had a slight detour. A Black-necked Stork had been reported at McPherson’s Road Swamp at Tuggerah and was just waiting to be seen and seen it was. We had wonderful views of this immature BLACK-NECKED STORK, Intermediate Egret, Eurasian Coots, White-necked Heron and others. The Black Swans had 3 Cygnets and a Royal Spoonbill flew past. Also Australasian Grebe, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants showed well. Welcome Swallows and Fairy Martins flew over the water hawking for food. We moved around the back and added Grey Fantail, Lewin’s Honeyeater, and courting Musk Lorikeets to the list.

We could have stayed longer but this was a Hunter trip after all and so we headed north. The recent rains had the area looking fantastic and birds were aplenty. Australian Wood Ducks graced the farm ponds and Straw-necked Ibis were feeding on the wet fields. Our morning tea stop was Mulbring Park. In between tea and biscuits we had a pair of Brown Goshawk soaring over, Pied Currawongs, Red-rumped Parrots and eventually the Eastern Rosellas came out of hiding. A Grey Butcherbird was seen and as we were leaving we had Long-billed Corellas and House Sparrows. Just out of town we stopped to see a big mixed feeding flock of Little Corella, more Long-billed Corellas and Galahs and further along our first Nankeen Kestrel.

We drove slowly out to Quorrobolong, watching the paddocks and ponds. The bus stopped often with more White-necked Heron, White-faced Heron, an Eastern Great Egret, Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills. An Australasian Pipit was difficult, but the Australian Magpies were in large numbers (50ish) as were the Straw-necked Ibis (250ish) feeding on the fields. We arrived at “Iomar”, a private property, and had great views from the bus of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo that came in close and a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins. Then we enjoyed a walk down Swan Lane with Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosella, Little Lorikeets, fighting male Mistletoebirds and a Blue-faced Honeyeater an unexpected highlight. We reached the bus and Janene added to our finds with a female Rufous Whistler, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Tree Martins and more Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters to be seen. We searched for those elusive Little Lorikeets feeding high in the trees, but had to make do with swift fly-bys. We made our way down the track and enjoyed the antics of 3 Dusky Woodswallows and a Grey Shrike-thrush called in the distance. White-throated Treecreepers were heard but not seen. Our drive out afforded great views of a perched Nankeen Kestrel posing and a family of Pied Butcherbirds. The guide nearly gave the driver a headache as she finally found Grey-crowned Babblers as we drove along Heaten Road.

Eastern Yellow Robin Christina Port.jpg
Eastern Yellow Robin by Christina Port
We enjoyed lunch beside Kitchener Lagoon in the Poppethead Reserve. The Little Pied Cormorants rested and were joined by a male Australasian Darter. Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coots and Royal Spoonbill fed along the edge. Red Wattlebirds were busy in the park and Brown Thornbills and Bar-shouldered Doves called. As we drove out, Yellow-rumped Thornbills were briefly seen with a huge group of House Sparrows.

Our next stop was Ellalong Lagoon at Paxton where an Australian Pelican slowed us, Black-winged Stilts stopped us, and Red-kneed Dotterels had us out and looking through the scope. A Royal Spoonbill fed with wings flapping and then Brian caused much excitement sighting a female BLACK-NECKED STORK. Our second for the day. The lagoon is now fenced and owned by Port Waratah Coal Services as an ecological offset but we had a great view from the road of Black Swans swimming on the lagoon while a group of Australian Pelicans and Great Cormorants rested. A Whistling Kite flew through, providing a great look at its upper wings, and as we were preparing to leave an Australian Hobby went by.

We were running out of time but we headed down the Congewai Road. Black-fronted Dotterel were seen along the edge of a farm pond. Jacky Winter and Yellow-rumped Thornbill were feeding from the fence line. More White-necked Herons brought the total for the day to at least 12, outnumbering the White-faced Herons seen. As we were turning around to come back a Brown Cuckoo-Dove was seen perching in a Wild Tobacco plant. As we headed out a Black-shouldered Kite was sighted and White-winged Choughs were the last new birds of the days. Thanks everyone for a wonderful days birding in the Hunter with 91 birds recorded.

Christina Port, guiding for Follow That Bird.

Curra Moors Trip Report

Saturday 9 August 2020
Birder: Joshua Bergmark

New Holland Honeyeater by Josh Bergmark
It was a pleasant and warm winter morning which saw 10 intrepid birders venturing south to Royal, Australias oldest and certainly one of its birdiest national parks.

Everyone prepared themselves for the day ahead by spotting roadside birds as we drove along and all were rearing to go when the bus pulled up at Wattle Flat. A Satin Bowerbird bower was looking lovely and blue in preparation for the coming spring and a large party of Red-browed Finches kept us entertained as they fed by the river, Brown Gerygones hovering overhead. A little further in a beautiful Bassian Thrush gave everyone excellent views, particularly exciting as this is often a difficult bird to see well and as the cockatoos started shrieking we looked up and a pair of Grey Goshawks cruised overhead and higher up we spotted a small group of Dusky Woodswallows heading west. A couple of early Shining Bronze Cuckoos hid from all but Janene and soon after we had to hide our morning tea from the ridiculously tame Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in the picnic area.

We then headed towards the coastal heathland, specifically the Curra Moors trail, which was to be our home for the next few hours, though not before spotting a low-flying Little Eagle over the road and a lone Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo perched in the sun. Some Brown and Striated Thornbills kept us entertained and a male Variegated Fairy-wren finally sat still long enough for everyone to see. Over the next hour we had delightful encountered with throngs of New Holland Honeyeaters, both Red and Little Wattlebirds, hundreds of Silvereyes (both of the mainland and distinctive Tasmanian race) and one quick White-naped Honeyeater. On eventually reaching the cliffs, a refreshing breeze made us all feel better, as did the very showy Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, some of us even managing scope views of this peculiar heathland bird foraging on the sandstone rocks as they so often do.

Bassian Thrush by Josh Bergmark
On sitting down for lunch at the waterfall, it wasnt long before Andrew exclaimed “Rockwarbler!” and much to our delight a Rockwarbler fed at our feet as we fed ourselves. In the end, four of these enigmatic NSW endemics put on a show for us at the waterfall, leaving us all overjoyed.

The walk back began but despite everyone being knackered the spread out group managed to enjoy everything from the innumerable wildflowers and honeyeaters to a lone and slightly confused Swamp Wallaby. A snack break at Audley rounded off the day and our bird count stood at 74  a grand total for a grand day out.

By Joshua Bergmark guiding for FTB

Pelicans are a-Courting Trip Report

Saturday 26 July 2020
Birder: Christina Port

Drinking Pelican Christina Port.jpg
Drinking Australian Pelican by Christina Port
It had been so dry for months and this morning we enjoyed some much needed rain. The Northern Mallard ducks in the puddles were having a ball frolicking in the water bathing and feeding and Kay was quite excited to see them. We donned our wet-weather gear and headed out to see the Australian Pelicans. They were all hunkered down as the heavy showers moved through, except for their mouths which they opened wide collecting the welcome rainwater. The ubiquitous White-bellied Sea-eagle sat on its perch waiting, the Pied and Little Pied Cormorants fished as did the Australasian Darter. The Great Cormorant sat under its little green umbrella (a boating marker) waiting for the showers to pass. One or two Musk Lorikeets called as they changed trees. Also seen here Eastern Great Egret and a little walk produced an Australian Pied Oystercatcher sitting on the jetty waiting for a lower tide.

The showers continued so we headed for a covered morning tea spot. On the way Figbirds were seen flying, Little Corellas and also a mother Masked Lapwing lovingly protecting her 3 chicks under her umbrella-like form. Morning tea was most welcome and we watched a Little Egret hunting the shoreline here. After morning tea we wandered up to see Long-billed Corellas preening their wet feathers. We marvelled at their beautiful pink feathers. Also seen here a White-faced Heron. There were many Silver Gulls and Mallard type duck species and Kay was now over her excitement at seeing the ducks. Time to return to the Australian Pelicans.

Masked Lapwing protecting young Christina Port.jpg
Masked Lapwing protecting young by Christina Port
The Australian White Ibis were vocal and active as they flew around, many returning to the island with sticks to add to their nests. Caspian Terns and a Royal Spoonbill were resting. A pair of Chestnut Teal swam by. The Pelicans were slowly beginning to move but the showers were persisting so we headed to our lunch spot.

We arrived at Girrakool Picnic Area in the Brisbane Waters National Park just as the sun came out. The Grey Butcherbird, Red and Little Wattlebirds flitted around as we ate our lunch. Fan-tailed Cuckoos called hauntingly and Rainbow Lorikeets screeched. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters called and perched. After lunch we went hunting Variegated Fairy-wrens that gave frustratingly fleeting views. New Holland Honeyeaters called and a Golden Whistler posed briefly. Eastern Spinebill, Brown Thornbill and White-browed Scrubwrens all were busily feeding. The big surprise here was a raptor spotted by Janene. We weren’t expecting a Swamp Harrier rising in the thermals.

Bush Stone Curlew Christina Port.jpg
Bush Stone-curlew by Christina Port
We had a quick stop at Umina to see a very obliging Bush Stone-curlew enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

Then back to the Australian Pelicans. The tide was out and there were many birds out feeding on the mudflats, mostly Australian White Ibis but Eastern Great Egrets and Royal Spoonbills were all busy too. A pair of Whistling Kites flew through to somewhere, giving great views. The Australian Pelicans were flying, courting and bathing and we were able to see them well a little further down. As we walked down to get those closer views we had two Buff-banded Rails up close. We had to leave the pouch rippling Pelicans parading in the afternoon sun and all too soon we were heading back to the M1. A very enjoyable days birding. Thanks everyone for your company.

By Christina Port guide assistant for FTB

Superb Lyrebirds in the Blue Mountains Trip Report

Saturday 5 July 2021
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Superb Lyrebird by Carol Probets
Winter is the time when the Superb Lyrebirds are at their most active, singing, displaying, mating and nesting, so early July was a perfect time for a trip to the mountains to focus on these famous beauties. Of course any other species that happened to pop up into binocular view would also be looked at!

I joined the bus at Wentworth Falls, 8 keen birders already on board and Janene at the wheel. I am told the good bird sightings had started before the group even left the Sydney CBD. While checking out the White Ibis sitting on eggs at the top of the palm trees in Macquarie Street, Janene had spotted a Peregrine Falcon banking around the Intercontinental Hotel. A spectacular start to the day!

First stop was morning tea at Gordon Falls where an Eastern Yellow Robin was using the picnic table as a perch from which to scan the ground for insect prey. It delighted us all with its photogenic poses. Next, a mixed flock of small birds included Striated Thornbills, White-throated Treecreeper and Eastern Spinebill. A Striated Pardalote, possibly the Tasmanian yellow-tipped form, was heard but could not be seen.

We noted recent lyrebird scratchings as we walked down to the lookout for clear views of Jamison Valley and the vast expanse of forest as far as the eye could see.

A little grove of club mosses (Lycopodium deuterodensum) was growing beside the track, ancient plants whose relatives once dominated the landscape. A bracket fungus growing high in the fork of a eucalypt was Laetiporus portentosus, also known as “White Punk”.

We sampled the edible orange fruit of Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius), named possibly because wombats may dig up its tuberous roots which are also edible.

Travelling on the bus to our second site near Mt Victoria was a chance for a detailed discussion of the life history and song of the lyrebird. During a short walk we found recently used display mounds. Other birds we saw included Lewin’s Honeyeater, a large group of White-naped Honeyeaters, and bright Crimson Rosellas.

Lunch beckoned, and who would expect to be offered freshly made hot crepes in the bush? It was an unexpected treat on a cold winter’s day, thanks to a couple of enterprising French cooks!

The lyrebirds must have finished lunch about the same time we did. At exactly 1:05pm, the singing began. We were then treated to a wonderful concert which included mimicry of at least 14 different bird calls* in addition to the lyrebird’s own song. The bird itself managed to keep one step ahead of us as we trailed it through the understorey.

At the same time, a party of Varied Sittellas, Grey Fantail, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and White-browed Scrubwren were competing for our attention, not to mention the Fan-tailed Cuckoo seen by Janene.

A second singing male further along the road led us on another quest to catch a glimpse of the performance. We were close enough to hear its soft clicking notes between the louder songs and mimicry. Finally, when most of the group were creeping through the shrubs and looking in the other direction the bird made a fast dash across the road, seen from the bus by Janene (who had all the day’s luck!) and Ian. You can’t help thinking lyrebirds have a great sense of humour!

* Following is a list of bird species we heard the lyrebird mimic: Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Eastern Whipbird, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong (adult), and Pied Currawong (juvenile).

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Winter Solstice Spotlighting Trip Report

Saturday 21 June 2021
Ornithologist: Steve Anyon-Smith

Sugar Glider -- Royal NP - January 2014 014a
Sugar Glider by Steve Anyon-Smith
Perfect winter solstice conditions welcomed a small group of dedicated wildlife lovers to the Audley picnic areas in Royal National Park. These we shared with several original Holden Monaros (which were apparently marrying each other), numerous young lovers and a birthday party for children and others of the former Soviet Union.

The pre-spotlighting session will be remembered for the hot water rationing as much as the birds seen; although flyovers from as many as three swamp harriers was unusual. A brief glimpse of the stunning grey goshawk was seen by one of the group.

Remarkably we failed to be attacked by Australian owlet-nightjars. Judging by their response to playback the park has a very healthy population of these remarkable birds with a dozen or so being heard at various locations. One was seen in flight and another gave a stunning display of its left eye. Heard but not seen was a powerful owl.

In keeping with the Soccer World Cup theme, Royal’s ever-reliable possums played a three-all draw. Three sugar gliders were seen along with three ringtails and three brushtails. One of the brushtails is possibly regretting the amount of birthday leftovers it has ingested.

A microbat was seen well. This was probably a little forest bat (Vespadelus vulturnus), at less than 4 grams a contender for the smallest mammal in Australia. It is most unusual to see microbats in the “middle of winter”.

A bush rat (Rattus fuscipes), a native rodent, was seen by some after enjoying the seasonal bounty provided by Banksia ericifolia. Dwarf tree frogs were observed sitting menacingly on riverside vegetation.

By Steve Anyon-Smith guiding for FTB

Killalea Lagoon Trip Report

Saturday 14 June 2021
Birder: Bob Ashford

Tallawarra Ash Ponds
Four intrepid birders rose early to cold temperatures and pouring rain, dressed and courageously braved the storm clouds. Uppermost in their mind was a question – “Why?” Weather watchers must have a very similar constitution to birders, neither know exactly how it is going to turn out!

Our first objective was the Tallawarra Ash Ponds adjacent to Lake Illawarra and lo and behold as we arrived so the rain stopped! And the sun came out. So did the birds.

In fact many of the bush birds were boisterously bathing in the little creek. Eastern Spinebills, Grey Fantails, Silvereyes, Eastern Yellow Robins. In the bushes were Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, Satin Bowerbirds and nearby a Willie Wagtail scolded us while a male Nankeen Kestrel watched from a power line. Mmmm, maybe this might work out we thought!

On the track to the main pond smaller pools held Coots (a lot!), Moorhen, Black Swans, Chestnut Teal, Great Egret and Black Duck. In the bushes and in the air were Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Crested Pigeons, Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finches, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and both Variegated and Superb Fairy-wrens. By now the sun was up and it was warm! While watching some stunning Goldfinches gleaming in the sun’s rays we spotted a very large nest high in the branches of a very tall tree and then a pair of Whistling Kites watching us. They too looked stunning with the sun highlighting all their shades of brown, tan and gold. And a very dapper Black-shouldered Kite flew past. The answer to the question “Why?” was rapidly being fleshed out!

Blue-billed Duck by Chris Charles
Our key goal was the main pond. Recent reports by the local clubs had indicated it would be worth it – if we were lucky. Around the edges were Black-winged Stilts, a few White-faced Herons and surprisingly large numbers of Masked Lapwings. In the water were good numbers also of Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes and a few Musk Ducks which everyone examined very studiously! A flotilla of 39 Pink-eared Ducks floated offshore accompanied by eleven Australasian Shovelers, many Hardheads and a few Grey Teal. And then we spotted them  glinting in the sun, golden bronze backs and giveaway bright blue bills – two magnificent male Blue-billed Ducks. Accompanying them were four juvenile offspring who did look remarkably like small Musk Ducks (hence the earlier efforts with the actual Musks!). Well, that pretty much summed up the “Why?”

With the grand confidence of hindsight we set off for the 20 minute drive to Killalea State Park. “I knew it would all work out” said someone. “Sure!” the rest of us might have said, but we didn’t want to jinx the day! By the time we set off at Killalea the sun was low in the sky and right over our shoulders bathing the scenery and birds in fabulous light. It really was a beautiful afternoon.

In the Coral trees Lewin’s and New Holland Honeyeaters chased each other and Little and Red Wattlebirds chased them. In the bushes Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Brown Gerygones, and Spotted Pardalotes entertained us. At the lakes edge mobs of Purple Swamphens and Coots (lots more!) grazed. Great, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants hogged all the semi submerged fence posts except for one White-faced Heron who looked rather out of place. A quick scope scan produced a Darter and seven Freckled Ducks and an unexpected Caspian Tern. This really was turning out to be a very good day.

Up went a cry – “Brown Goshawk” followed very shortly by “Swamp Harrier” which obligingly came to rest on a large branch in full sunlight providing all of us with the best views of one in a very long time. Over Bass Point two White-breasted Sea Eagles were spotted along with a smaller white-bellied raptor. That took some effort and some deft scope work to finally identify it as an Osprey! As we rushed to the beach for better views up came another bird of prey which we quickly assumed to be another Osprey. But there was enough about it for us to double check and to discover it was, in fact, a Little Eagle. Eight raptors for the day, plus some great ducks and – well! – just a great day’s birding.

As we climbed the hill to start the journey home we took one last look over the lake, the Point, the sea and, yes, halfway to the horizon great plumes of mist came from a pod of Humpback Whales! And finally an Australasian Gannet did the honours and made the days species total 81. A Grand Total. Janene, Mary, Brian and I turned to each other with big grins. We had answered the question. Because you never, never know!

By Bob Ashford birder for FTB

Mt Annan Botanic Garden Trip Report
renamed The Australian Botanic Garden – Mount Annan

Saturday 10 May 2021
Birder: Richard Johnstone

Mt Annan Plantbank
A dozen or so people were treated to a lovely warm sunny day at Mount Annan, with walks to the lakes in the central precinct of the garden (Lakes Sedgwick and Fitzpatrick), and through the woodland to the north of Plantbank. Waterbirds were fairly low in numbers, some prominent species being Hardhead, lots of Eurasian Coots, Eastern Great Egret and both species of spoonbill; Royal and Yellow-billed. Several groups of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen and heard, other species included Grey Fantail, Bell Miner (which has become a common species here over the last few years), White-plumed Honeyeater, Weebill, Olive-backed Oriole, and most surprisingly a flock of Figbirds, only the second time I have personally observed them in the garden. Galahs and Rainbow Lorikeets were seen closely inspecting nest holes, the late autumn weather getting them into breeding mode. Mistloetoebirds proved elusive, easy to hear, can be very difficult to see.

On Lake Nadingamba in the north of the garden was a small group of Hoary-headed Grebes, these are not often recorded here, and appeared to have bred, as most of the birds were juveniles.

The ubiquitous Noisy Miners are very responsive to the appearance of raptors, and the Striated Pardolotes we were ferreting out quietened, so eyes were turned to the sky when loud alarm calls rang out, very shortly afterwards we were treated to great views of a Collared Sparrowhawk, it really stirred all the smaller birds up.

Mt Annan Group by Rosmarie Erben
The walk back to the Stolen Generations carving produced good looks at Bell Miners, a Tasmanian Grey Fantail flicked above a Red-bellied Black Snake and Spotted Pardolotes were well seen by all. But the belle of this area was the female Rose Robin seen briefly.

Some surprising omissions to the day list, Musk Lorikeet, which has been a common species at the garden over the last few months, were not seen or heard, and the Sparrowhawk was the only raptor for the day, despite the large number of raptors on the gardens bird list.

63 species were ticked off at the end of the day (5 heard), a nice days birding.

By Richard Johnstone birding for FTB

PS We had a wow of a day mostly because of Richard’s intimate knowledge of the plants and plantings (often the story of where he collected the seed, down to the month, year and conditions included, and why he planted them in this particular spot!). We were bowled over with the extent of his work at Mt Annan for the past 28 years. It is a credit to him and an irreplaceable legacy he is leaving. Plus the Plantbank was knock-your-socks-off-state-of-the-art, and open to the public during the week. Janene.

Megalong Valley & Honeyeaters Trip Report

Saturday 3 May 2021
Ornithologist: Tiffany Mason

Aseroe rubra
Aseroe rubra dubbed “Vampire Sea Anemone”
by guide Tiff
Just before 10am, the bus stopped to pick up Tiff (me) at the Evans Lookout turn-off. There were Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos calling from the wind-blown trees, but we continued to the lookout for Rock Warblers. Leaning on the railings, we could hear Bell Miners calling from the valley below. The view was spectacular and, despite the wind, we could hear the three Crimson Rosellas, perched just below us, munching away at gum nuts.

As we started the loop track there was a shout from Janene: the Rock Warblers were back at the carpark! We climbed the steps in time to see two Rock Warblers enjoying the warmth of (and perhaps some slightly cooked insects stuck to) the underside of the bus. We walked back down to the lookout, via the loop, admiring the flowering Mountain Devils and the occasional call of Eastern Spinebill and New Holland Honeyeater. As we sipped our tea, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Spotted Pardalotes flew by on their northerly migration.

On the way back up the hill, a brief stop at the rhododendrons gave us glimpses of Eastern Yellow Robin and White-browed Scrubwren. More Yellow-faced Honeyeaters flew overhead… a prostrate Grevillea was pointed out and there was much discussion on its alleged specific name, gaudichaudii, (which turned out to be something someone at Bunnings had made up) although later research proved it to be G. laurifolia.

Coral Heath
Coral Heath by guide Tiff
We gave the wind the slip at Coachwood Glen, and descended into the gloom of the rainforest. Brown Gerygones called and a small flock appeared, working the leaves hard for leaf-feeding insects while a Grey Fantail swooped and scooped others in flight. Further down the track, all was quiet, until Brenda succumbed to the temptations of a mid-morning dip in the creek…

Leaving the rainforest behind, we emerged on the floor of the valley and began walking between tall dry sclerophyll forest on one side and open paddock on the other. Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flew by and a Lyrebird called from across the valley. White-eared Honeyeaters were very vocal and eventually we caught sight of one high in the canopy of a Stringybark. A White-throated Treecreeper was also seen (but it wouldnt come close enough to let us see whether it was the more colourful female or not) and a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles delighted in the gusts above the escarpment.

Onwards to our lunch stop where a close look at the picnic tables revealed some bizarre fungi, like a rotting sea anemone, called Aseroe rubra. After a very welcome warming Milo, we were treated to some of the best views of the day: a Rose Robin flashed his glowing chest at us, landing in full view on the road, and an Eastern Yellow Robin was equally obliging, holding our stares in its beady eye.

Out of the cold – Megalong Cafe
After lunch, it was up to the Six Foot Track, where a flurry of Thornbill activity (Browns, Yellows and Striateds) held our attention for a few moments. Wandering on down the creek-side, all became very quiet except for the wind in the River She-oaks. Duncan looked keen to continue on to the winery (having dressed for the tropics, he was in need of something to warm the cockles), but it was time to catch the bus back up the hill.

We retraced our tracks to the tea rooms for some hearty soup (ice cream would have led to hypothermia) before boarding the bus for home. On the way out of the valley, a large feeding flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Galahs and Australian Wood Ducks made a multi-coloured quilt on the front lawn of a lucky householder. A little further on, two Jacky Winters darted out and back from the fence, flicking their tails and performing aerial pirouettes: the perfect species to cap off a day of Blue Mountains birding.

By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB

Narrow Neck Migration Trip Report

Saturday 26 April 2021
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon by Nevil Lazarus
The autumn honeyeater migration through the Blue Mountains is one of the great events of Australian nature and this day trip was scheduled right in the middle of the migration period to maximise our chance of seeing it at its best. However we all know that nature can be unpredictable. Looking at the weather forecast before the trip, I had been getting a little worried.

The honeyeater migration on any given day is strongly related to weather and if it’s wet, overcast or the wind is blowing the wrong way, there may be little migration to see. The day dawned cloudy and the wind was starting to pick up – from the wrong direction. Narrow Neck plateau would surely be bleak and unproductive in such conditions. I was thinking about other birds we could target, alternative sites…

So it was with fingers crossed that we headed towards Katoomba in the Follow That Bird bus. Encouraged by glimpses of small honeyeater flocks crossing the highway, we decided to head straight onto Narrow Neck to see what was happening while the day was young. As we drove along the peninsula, it was hard not to notice the constant movement of small birds flyng across the road in front of us. A promising sign!

We reached our first observation point and no sooner had we got out of the bus when flock after flock of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters started whizzing past us with an urgency typical of the autumn migration.

As these birds head north towards winter feeding areas rich in nectar, they’re funnelled up gullies and along the escarpments, with Narrow Neck forming a major bottleneck where they can be seen flying at eye level across the heath. The flocks had a mesmerising effect as we watched for a while. Along with the honeyeaters we picked out tiny pardalotes by their shape, and Silvereyes, many of which have flown from Tasmania. In addition, spectacular numbers of Red Wattlebirds were moving through – we estimated over 100 seen during a fairly short period.

The resident New Holland Honeyeaters were kept busy defending their patch against the onslaught of travelling birds. Suddenly their staccato alarm calls rang out across the heathland. The reason became obvious: a pair of Peregrine Falcons patrolling the sky.

During the next 30 minutes these Peregrines gave us a sensational display of hunting prowess. Soaring high, suddenly to fold wings back into a stoop, they moved with breathtaking speed. Going this way and that, each time one flashed past the honeyeaters would take cover. Eventually we saw one of the Peregrines had been successful as it carried prey the size of a Yellow-faced Honeyeater – and was tearing at it while soaring effortlessly. If we saw nothing else that day, this alone would have made it a truly memorable and worthwhile day!

Scribbly Gum by Tiffany Mason
But the raptor action didn’t stop there. Further along the road, a low flying Collared Sparrowhawk gave us a brief but close view betrayed by more alarm calls from the New Hollands.

Occasionally, Yellow-faced and, eventually, White-naped Honeyeaters landed in a tree allowing views of their features and subtle beauty. Of the birds not obviously migrating, a male Golden Whistler was a delight to see.

The wind picked up further along the road and our attention moved to the plants with Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera) flowering at or near its highest occurrence in the mountains, the groundcover Persoonia chamaepitys cascading over a rock, and carnivorous Sundews (Drosera spathulata) with remains of insect prey. Two species of Banksia – ericifolia & cunninghamii – were starting to open; these will provide a major source of winter nectar for honeyeaters.

After lunch at Govetts Leap we walked to George Phillips Lookout and spectacular views of the Grose Valley. Here we found ourselves looking down on migrating Yellow-faced Honeyeaters as they flew along the edge of the escarpment.

Along the Heritage Track, the trunks of the Scribbly Gums (Eucalyptus sclerophylla) were decorated with the scribbles of Ogmograptis scribula larvae and the distinctive tracks of a Red Triangle Slug.

A mixed flock of small birds was a fitting end to the day, including Variegated Fairy-wrens (brown females and males in eclipse), Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, and good views of Brown and Striated Thornbills for comparison. So many birds at once it was hard to know where to look!

Postscript: The results from the official 20-minute honeyeater count on Narrow Neck, done by volunteers half an hour before we were there, were: 362 Yellow-faced/White-naped Honeyeaters, 59 Silvereyes, 13 Red Wattlebirds. This translates to 1302 birds per hour (bph) and would be a pretty good indication of the migration rate we saw that day.

by Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 5 April 2021
Ornithologist: Steve Anyon-Smith

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater Hunters
The weather gods smiled on us as we set forth at our first site in Royal National Park  the Mt Bass Canal (previously known as Mt Bass Fire Trail). Aside from trying to find the least wet path we managed superb views of the aptly named Beautiful Firetail. Although Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were less obliging they were seen in flight. A lone Yellow-tailed Black cockatoo provided a relief from the hordes of New Holland Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds.

Bonnie Vale Picnic Area was an ideal morning tea stop and the usual suspects were present in and around the small lake. These included Nankeen Night Heron, the rather under-rated and beautiful Royal Spoonbill, White-faced Heron, Little Egret, Purple Swamphen, Australian White Ibis and various ducks.

A speculative stop on Little Marley Fire trail failed to add any birds to our list with the guide incapable of finding Southern Emu-wren even though he claimed they were common.

Pied Currawong eating a Feathertail glider
by Anne Brophy
Wattle Forest Picnic Area at Audley always produces birds, any time of day. A Brown Goshawk and distant Scarlet Honeyeaters being the best of them.

After lunch we attacked Lady Carrington Drive with varying degrees of expectation and enthusiasm. The southward journey to Jersey Spring Picnic Area was unusually quiet save for wonderful views of the Scarlet Honeyeaters. The walk back to the bus more than made up for it. A large flock of the bizarre-looking Topknot Pigeon flew over. Next was a very obliging Superb Lyrebird alongside the track, oblivious to our attention. The highlight (and lowlight at the same time) was a Pied Currawong. It wasnt the bird that excited  it was what it was eating  a rather unfortunate Feathertail glider.

A brown cuckoo-dove preceded proof that the birds main breeding season is long gone. This was provided with an extra-ordinary mixed foraging flock of small passerines. This was one of the best Ive ever seen in Royal and included: New Holland, Yellow-faced and Scarlet Honeyeaters, Striated Thornbill, Grey Fantail, Little Wattlebird, Golden Whistler, Crested Shrike-tit, Rose Robin, Eastern Spinebill, Spotted Pardalote and Silvereye (both forms). A great way to finish a very pleasant day in the field!

By Steve Anyon-Smith birding with FTB
Some attractive mammals were seen along Lady Carrington Drive, all of them belonging to the genus Homo.

Barren Grounds Trip Report

Saturday 29 March 2021
Birder: Joshua Bergmark

Beautiful Firetail 2
Beautiful Firetail by Chris Charles
An early start saw the intrepid ten venture south in search of some of NSWs most elusive birds, despite the threat of a misty downpour. After a surprisingly lively bus trip to Jamberoo (and a huge group of 30 Royal Spoonbills in a roadside pond), we hadnt even piled out of the bus for breakfast before Ashwin woke us up even more with the shout of White-headed Pigeon! Flying away However luckily we were able to relocate about twenty birds feeding on the other side of the football field with a complement of Satin Bowerbirds, Brown Cuckoo-Doves, a single Olive-backed Oriole, and tasty pastries for breakfast.

As the birding bus trundled dutifully up the escarpment, everybody kept Janene on her toes with many callouts to stop for lyrebirds as we rounded hairpin bends. Thankfully everybody saw at least one male at some point on the drive. The bus pulled up at Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, but the misty drizzle and wind dampened our spirits somewhat. However the feeling was short-lived, as no sooner had we rounded the first corner, a superbly tame Eastern Bristlebird posed for us in the middle of the path! We eventually had to give up on the idea that it would disappear from view into the heath, and instead were forced to walk around this endangered and cryptic species to get closer to the Beautiful Firetails feeding just up the track, but only had brief views before a distracting Ground Parrot let out it’s musical ascending whistle just off the trail. Despite an efficient search for the bird, all we succeeded in was getting wet and poked by spikey bushes. By the time we had reached the bottom of the firetrail and returned, the “heard only” Ground Parrot count was at six, and soon rose to nine, despite another couple of attempts to find the birds by those brave enough to re-enter the dense, wet, heathy scrub (although we sure got very close!!!).

Eastern Bristlebird
Eastern Bristlebird by Chris Charles
The obligatory relaxing FTB morning tea to recharge our batteries was well received, but soon enough everyone was back out in the heath in search of more birds. Unfortunately the emu-wrens remained elusive, as did a pair of Bassian Thrush for most, and the young green Crimson Rosella sitting on the path was not a Ground Parrot. However a number of Eastern Yellow Robins, Grey Shrike Thrush and Golden Whistlers put on a show, as well as another ridiculously cooperative Bristlebird, who gave scope views for all! Beautiful Firetails were so common that we had to agree to no longer stop and look at each one or we would have never left!

S Emu Wrens x 4
Southern Emu-wrens x 4 by Chris Charles
As midday came and went, almost all the birds deliberately avoided us, despite two fairly long walks down to the main road and out to go and look at the lookout. Yet, some excitement was still had with great views of Crimson Rosellas and Eastern Whipbird for everyone. With one final dip on Pilotbird, we cut our losses and headed up the road to Budderoo National Park, where we soon found a party of Southern Emu-wrens, however the difficult swampy terrain meant that only a few people managed to see them. A female Leaden Flycatcher and a noisy flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos rounded off our day on the plateau, and after an impromptu quadruple raptor stop for Nankeen Kestrel, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Goshawk and Black-shouldered Kite, we checked out Hayward’s Bay STW with a Pink-eared Duck and Whistling Kite to round off our day-list to an impressive 81 species with an extra 5 heard only. Some cheeky bus gossip passed the time until we reached Sydney, and our successful day came to an end. Thank you immensely to Janene and Ashwin for helping me out on my first official guiding trip with FTB, and also to all the birders who put up with my insistent calls to “bash through the heath to see that parrot!”

By Joshua Bergmark guiding for FTB

East Meets West on the Putty Road Trip Report

Saturday 22 March 2021
Birder: Edwin Vella

Putty Road Group 2014
Our first stop at Pitt Town just outside of Scheyville NP turned out to be an unexpected hot spot, with lots of bird activity within a relatively small area and great views of some of Sydneys uncommon woodland birds. It was actually beside a fairly old cemetery and with a few flowering eucalypts attracting many of the birds. We had excellent views (quite often close to the ground) of a fairly large flock of Brown-headed Honeyeaters (a bird that we often see only very high in the canopy) and we even saw them perched on the headstones with a couple of Jacky Winters and a small group of Peaceful Doves (the later 2 species are nowadays harder to find in Sydney) and even more was a Black-chinned Honeyeater present which we heard calling. Also showing well here was a Restless Flycatcher, White-throated Tree-creeper, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Red-browed and Double-barred Finches and Eastern Spinebills.

We then had morning tea at the new bird hide at Pitt Town Lagoon. With also the aid of spotting scopes, we found here an excellent variety of ducks and other waterbirds. We had Freckled, Pink-eared and Pacific Black Ducks, Australasian Shovelers, Grey and Chestnut Teal and even Hardhead. There were also quite a number of Black-winged Stilt, Royal Spoonbill, as well as both Eastern Great and Intermediate Egrets foraging on the edges of the lagoon. At least 2 Black-shouldered Kites and a Swamp Harrier were the 2 raptors seen at the lagoon.

We were then on the bus up the Putty Rd with a brief stop beside the Colo River (having good views of an Eastern Spinebill and Lewins Honeyeater) before arriving at Howes Swamp in Yengo NP for our lunch.

Scarlet Honeyeater
Scarlet Honeyeater by Edwin Vella
(heard only on this day)
While settling ourselves for lunch at Howes Swamp, we soon realised that were in the company of a small group of Gang-gang Cockatoos beside the swamp. We all had good views of these gorgeous Cockatoos sitting quietly in the trees through one of our spotting scope. Also flying overhead were some Tree Martins and Dusky Woodswallows.

After lunch, we went for a walk on the edge of the swamp seeing a good mix of bush birds including both Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Eastern Yellow Robin, Variegated Fairy-wrens, White-browed Scrubwrens, lots of Grey Fantails, Spotted Pardalote and some nice views of Yellow-tufted and White-naped Honeyeaters. We left here before the storm arrived and headed back down the Putty Rd with a refreshing ice cream stop on the way at Colo Heights.

Our final spot for the day was the McGraths Hill sewerage works viewed from Windsor Rd. There were a number of Australasian Grebes and Australasian Shovelers here and another Swamp Harrier. However for most, the best of all was prolonged views of an Australian Hobby. This falcon was seen initially hunting over the wetlands and then later perched nicely for us in the trees where we all had great views through the spotting scope allowing us to see more of the finer features of this magnificent raptor. Certainly a nice way to end the day!

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Hexham Swamp Revisited Trip Report

Saturday 15 March 2021
Birder: Christina Port

Spoonbills in flight_Hexham Swamp_Marion Anstis
Royal Spoonbills in Flight by Marion Anstis
A beautiful autumn day and a bus full of eager birders headed north along the M1. Straw-necked Ibis flying greeted us near Hexham. Then the day started as we entered the security zone and coped with frustration as we followed the security car and werent able to stop for birds like Black-shouldered Kite (1). We were soon free and the bus stopped to show a Grey Butcherbird and just a little further along a beautiful Australian Hobby (2) sitting on a fence post, stretching then taking off in front of us. Large groups of White-faced Herons took flight as the bus approached. It was wonderful to see so many. At our morning tea stop we had the scope out and enjoyed the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers feeding along the Juncus rushes. Still drinking our tea and we were craning our necks for White-bellied Sea-Eagles (3), Grey Goshawk (4), and Whistling Kite (5) and then a Black-necked Stork was watched until it disappeared from view. We also saw a Swamp Harrier (6) putting many of the local birds up.

We walked down the track watching Eastern Great Egrets, Royal Spoonbills, and Australian White Ibis feeding. Lots of Sandpipers feeding and resting but all appeared to be Sharp-tailed and no elusive rarities were seen no matter how hard we looked. The ducks were mostly Grey and Chestnut Teal, and Little Grassbirds called their call and flitted along the base of the plants. A young White-breasted Woodswallow chirped away, hoping to get the adult to feed it and Welcome Swallows swooped and fed. Australian Pelicans and Little Pied Cormorants covered in a rust colour perched on dead trees. At the end of the track glimpses of a shy Sacred Kingfisher gave limited views. We all agreed a beautiful place to be. As we left, slowly checking out all the ponds and puddles on the way out, we admired all the Black-winged Stilts, Masked Lapwings and finally saw a Spotted Crake feeding briefly before disappearing. A Golden-headed Cisticola was there for 2 seconds and a Nankeen Kestrel (7) had the bird books out and a great discussion on whether it was male or female.

Brahminy Kite_Kooragang Island_Marion Anstis
Brahminy Kite by Marion Anstis
On our entrance to Ash Island we had another view of a shy Sacred Kingfisher as we made our way to the lunch spot. A hasty change of plan as the gate was locked  we found a different spot to sit. This turned out to be a very fortuitous turn of events as I saw another raptor over the Hunter River which quickly turned into a Brahminy Kite (8). Much amazement and excitement as they dont normally occur this far south and we all agreed this was the bird of the day. We ate lunch on the banks of the river watching Pied Cormorant, Crested Tern and Silver Gull flying along while White-faced Heron, Eastern Great Egrets, Little Egret and Australian Pelicans were feeding along the river bank. A Pied Butcherbird was seen here and a Grey Fantail called among the trees.

Back on the bus for our final birding stop of the day where we headed out to Stockton Sandspit. In the ponds along the way we had Black Swans and among the Teal species a Hardhead.

At Stockton Sandspit we had Pied Oystercatchers, Red-capped Plovers and Australian Pelicans resting on the sand. A Common Tern was flying along with Silver Gulls. A Whimbrel showed well feeding on crabs, and we found Eastern Curlew and many Bar-tailed Godwits resting. More Black-winged Stilts were seen, a Terek Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plovers, some colouring up into breeding plumage, were feeding. An Eastern Osprey (9) flew over, another White-bellied Sea-Eagle and a Whistling Kite had the waders flying. The last wader of the day was a Grey-tailed Tattler feeding along the mudflat. A group of Superb Fairy-wrens, Silvereyes, White-browed Scrubwren and a Brown Honeyeater finished our visit. Spotted Doves sitting on wires were our first for the day as we left Stockton.

On the motorway south a Wedge-tailed Eagle (10) was seen and finally a Purple Swamphen in a roadside wetland. And as we all dreamed of ice cream we headed home. Thanks everyone for a great days birding with 75 bird species seen and 10 raptors in the total.

By Christina Port guiding for FTB

PS A small flock of five Topknot Pigeons were seen from the bus as we left Ourimbah. Total for the day with birds seen from the journey home was 79! JL

Cottage Point Ferry & Ku-ring-gai Chase NP
Trip Report

Saturday 8 March 2021
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Eastern Yellow Robin by Anne Brophy
We enjoyed quite a warm early autumn’s day at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on the edge of Sydney’s northern suburbs. When we first arrived there we were greeted by a party of Bar-shouldered Doves feeding on the ground near the end of Chiltern Rd. Not too long after that a pair of Collared Sparrowhawks flew over our heads and closer to eye-level we had a number of Eastern Spinebills, both Brown-headed and New Holland Honeyeaters, Red-browed Finches and some of us were lucky to get a glimpse of a Brown Cuckoo-dove.

We then went work a walk along the Chiltern Track were we watched a group of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, White-eared and White-cheeked Honeyeaters and a very obliging female Leaden Flycatcher came down close to us to give us a good look.

Morning Tea at the Resolute picnic area was shared with 3 Australian Brush Turkeys, a Laughing Kookaburra and some Red Wattlebirds. It was here were we also saw a large Lace Monitor showing well for quite a while on the ground.

Lyrebird Hunting by Anne Brophy
From the Resolute picnic area we did the short but very productive walk to the West Head lookout. A very fruitful spot along the way here produced a very obliging Grey Shrike-thrush, a Rufous Fantail, male and female Golden Whistlers, Brown Thornbills, both White-eared and a Yellow-faced Honeyeaters as well as a party of Variegated Fairy-wrens.

We had lunch beside Coal and Candle Creek where we were delighted to see a Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring above the ridge and a stunning adult male Superb Lyrebird giving a repertoire of calls including some mimicry of the local birds and even some very bizarre and rhythmic calls.

We later caught the ferry from Cottage Point for a trip to Palm Beach via Patonga. Along this delightful and very scenic trip we saw quite a number of White-bellied Sea-eagles, Whistling Kites (including a nesting bird at Patonga) and a Brown Goshawk.

Our day finished up at Warriewood were we were able to add a few more birds including some Brown Gerygones, Eastern Yellow Robin, Australian King Parrot, Grey Fantail and a beautiful Grey Goshawk to top it off nicely.

By Edwin Vella Bird Guide for FTB

Botany Bay NP & Seabirding Trip Report

Saturday 1 March 2021
Birders: Janene Luff & Christina Port

Crimson Rosella Christina Port
Crimson Rosella by Christina Port
The beginning of autumn saw a grey and at times drizzly wet day. An intrepid group of birders werent going to let a little inclement weather stop them and were out to see the wonders of Botany Bay. On the way we had Little Corella, Pied and Little Pied Cormorants and lots of Silver Gulls along the water front. Our first stop was at Woolaware Shores and we donned our wet weather gear and had our binoculars on Pied Currawong, Australian White Ibis and Masked Lapwing. At the waters edge an Australian Pelican was swimming along. In the distance a large group of birds could be seen and the scope was brought out for the first of many times. They were all Australian Pelicans. A White-browed Scrubwren buzzed and growled but didn’t give a view. Enjoying the plantings along the edge were Red Wattlebirds, New Holland Honeyeaters and an Eastern Spinebill flying and calling and seen briefly. A White-faced Heron used a building as a view point before flying down and feeding in front of us.

We drove onto a surprising residential pond area with Hardhead, Grey and Chestnut Teals, Pacific Black Ducks and Australasian Grebes. A highlight was a small group of Hoary-headed Grebes who made viewing hard work as they continually dived for food. As we drove slowly along a Australian Reed-warbler and Little Grassbird were seen well. Welcome Swallows were perched in and around the shelter giving close up views and also feeding over the water.

Back on to the bus and we headed to Botany Bay National Park. Morning Tea was up next and we enjoyed it with Australian Magpies and Noisy Miners. The Crimson Rosella was calling and as we were leaving Ann said “What’s that red bird?” A beautiful Crimson Rosella gave us excellent views before flying off.

Cape Solander was our next stop and we spent an hour looking for and discussing sea birds. The wind was onshore and driving the light rain at us but we still managed to see Australasian Gannets flying south as were the many Short-tailed Shearwaters we were seeing. One or two came in quite close to shore for a better view. A few Crested Terns flew passed near the cliffs. And as we were leaving we were able to see close up views of a moulting Superb Fairy-wren and his mate. He had almost lost all his lovely blue and tail feathers.

Kelp Gull
Kelp Gull (immature) by Christina Port
Lunch was undercover at the National Park visitors Centre. Our lunch time music was provided by Musk Lorikeets feeding on the Eucalypts over head. We also had Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian Magpies, and a fabulous close up view of an Australian Raven showing off the beautiful hackles. Other birds seen here were Grey Butcherbird and the excitement of a Brown Goshawk streaking after a large flock of Rainbow Lorikeets at 500kph! Wow. As we were leaving another Crimson Rosella perched beautifully and displayed his wonderful tail feathers. Ann had another great look.

We walked in the vicinity of the water reservoir after lunch and we were able to add Little Wattlebirds and a Black-shouldered Kite to our day and also seen were many New Holland Honeyeaters. As we drove off Ann called a flying Crimson Rosella by name. That’s what birding is all about.

We checked the break walls at Kurnell for birds on the way out adding an Australasian Darter to our birds seen.

Our last stop of the day was at Mistral Point Maroubra. We were again looking for those wonderful pelagic birds. In closer to shore we had Great Cormorants preening on lamp posts and what a delight to finish with an immature Kelp Gull flying passed the point.

What a wonderful day’s birding with a great group of eager birders.

By Christina Port for FTB.

Summer Spotlighting in
Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 22 February 2021
Ornithologist: Steve Anyon-Smith

Tawny Frogmouth Christina Port
Tawny Frogmouth by Christina Port
An exceptional spotlighting evening!
The afternoon started well with light cloud and a bit of a breeze but the birds were calling along Lady Carrington Drive, surprising for February when it can be quite quiet. We skipped straight over beside the Port Hacking River to a Lomandra longifolia full of Dwarf Tree Frogs, amongst other species. Then a Nankeen Night Heron flew further up river, waiting for us to put the scope on it, where it literally glowed. There is no photo like the real bird in good light, and for one birdwatcher this was the highlight of the evening.
Oh yes and Steve held a Lace Moniter back by the tail for our close inspection, before it escaped to rest in the tree for the rest of afternoon.
Further along a couple of of Olive-backed Orioles, one quite young, sat waiting to be scoped too – co-operative birds, good start.
Along The Drive apart from Satin Bowerbirds, Brown Gerygones, Eastern Spinebills, Yellow-faced and Lewin’s Honeyeaters, wattlebirds in the flowering Red Bloodwoods and a host of other small safety-flocking birds, the highlight was a small male Collared Sparrowhawk chasing its quarry through the trees with extraordinary agility. The forest was certainly humming after some much needed rain during the week.

Australian Owlet-nightjar Christina Port_edited-1
Australian Owlet-nightjar by Christina Port
Changing locations the group walked before dinner seeing a Green Catbird and great views of a Grey Goshawk. Dinner filled the empty spot, but the maruading Suphur-crested Cockies, and allies, were disappointed.
We waited for night to fall as microbats delighted and Grey-headed Flying Foxes left their roost for an evening of feeding elsewhere. A pair of fast flying White-throated Nightjars thrilled quick birders with the powerful reflected eye shine. Wowee, but more was to come, almost immediately an “owl” flew into the trees above and led us a merry chase, finally settling and revealing itself as a gorgeous but distant Southern Boobook.
Moonless night settled and we traipsed down to the end of the carpark where a Tawny Frogmouth patiently waited just above head height for a change; Steve already having spotted his flight in to rest there.
Sugar Glider Christina Port
Sugar Glider by Christina Port
Moving right along an Australian Owlet-nightjar sat in the spotlight at eye-level while photos were taken and we looked on in adoration. What a treat; 4 completely different families of birds in under an hour of spotlighting. But there was more. Next a Sugar Glider straddled the angophora, a hawkmoth was captured briefly for a closer view, Red Fox and deer were seen, and a couple of headless birds, fast asleep, undisturbed by the spotlight.
On the “other side”, of the bridge, a perfect Sugar Glider sat with curing tail looking at us at eye level; absolutely picture perfect. The rest of evening passed with very pleasant company and the very best of camaraderie, thanks everyone.

Written by Janene on behalf of a busily retired
Steve Anyon-Smith guiding for FTB.

Hexham Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 8 February 2021
Birder: Christina Port

LEgret - 1
Little Egret by Christina Port
We had a beautiful cloudless morning as we headed north to Hexham Swamp. The drive in afforded us Cattle Egrets still in breeding plumage, along with White-necked and White-faced Herons. Also along the way we had Crested Pigeons, Spotted Doves, Straw-necked Ibis and Masked Lapwing. A pair of Pied Butcherbirds played hide and seek and a Yellow-rumped Thornbill raced away showing clearly its yellow rump. We saw our only Intermediate Egret for the day here too. Driving slowly along onto the Swamp Reserve we had Australian White Ibis waiting for us. Flying overhead were Little and Eastern Great Egrets. A Black-shouldered Kite hovered and then perched, giving us all great views. Arriving at the swamp we had a very welcome cup of tea which we hurriedly drank and then the scopes were out and the birds were in view.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers to the left and right. In fact they were everywhere. And then a smaller one came into view and quickly left the scene; it turned into the first of the Broad-billed Sandpipers we were to see. And then hundreds were in the air flying together in an amazing formation! We didnt have to wait long to see the cause as a spectacular Australian Hobby was flying through them, passing close in front of us giving fantastic views. This was followed closely by a White-bellied Sea-Eagle and also overhead Whistling Kites. The birds finally settled and we were able to get good views.

Among the hundreds of sharpies a Terek Sandpiper was spotted and seen briefly close in and then relocated further out with the scope. A female Ruff, the Reeve, was seen preening and resting. More Broad-billed Sandpipers were seen with 5 or 6 in the same view, some close in feeding were a highlight.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper by Judy Wand
On the track was an Australasian Pipit bobbing along in front of us and among the mangroves Australian Reed-Warblers, Little Grassbirds and Golden-headed Cisticolas were calling and flying about. Some small Red-necked Stints were feeding along the edge of the mudflats. Welcome Swallows and Tree Martins were swooping over the mudflats. We saw at least 4 Australian Spotted Crakes and a beautiful Red-kneed Dotterel hurried out of view. It was well after 1:00 when the bus picked us up and we headed out very slowly, hoping for an Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Lots of Willies and Pipits but no yellow!

Our lunch spot was the beautiful Blue Gum Hills Regional Park at Minmi. The birds were mostly quiet except for a squawking young Eastern Rosella. Also seen were Noisy Miners, a Grey Butcherbird and Australian Magpies. And just as we were getting back on the bus another White-necked Heron and our only Swamp Harrier for the day were seen flying in the distance.

Reeve by Chris Melrose
Our summer has been very dry and our next stop, Pambalong Swamp, had huge areas growing vegetation instead of supporting waterbirds. As we reached the main area there was still a little water but much reduced. Purple Swamphens and an Eastern Great Egret were feeding on the right-hand side, but as we trickled along the left-hand side produced much excitement as a White-necked Heron was attempting to swallow a large eel. A White-faced Heron arrived to see what was happening, but all were interrupted by the arrival of a White-bellied Sea-Eagle, a magnificent bird! It was followed by 3 Whistling Kites. We saw the young Sea-Eagle perching in a tree to eat and the scope showed it was devouring an eel, possibly the one the White-necked Heron dropped.

On our way out we stopped to see a Dollarbird showing beautifully on the wires, White-breasted Woodswallows, and a Sacred Kingfisher posed briefly. A Brown Falcon swooped around giving great views before heading away.

A visit to Minmi wouldnt be complete without stopping at Shazzas Country Café. It was a very comfortable place to eat an ice-cream inside on the lounges, or outside under the cooling tree. Here we added Galah and Satin Bowerbird to our birding day; they ended up being our final birds. An excellent days birding, enjoying our wonderful summer weather.

by Christina Port birding for FTB

Forest of Tranquility Trip Report

Saturday 25 January 2021
Birder: Christina Port

Brown Thornbill by Kay Vernon
The overnight rain had cleared to a brilliant blue sky and the day was looking fantastic for birding. The bus arrived on time and I was about to climb in and meet everyone when the call of a raptor rang out from the bus and everyone piled out with binoculars at the ready. And not to disappoint there was a Little Eagle over Ourimbah along with a White-necked Heron circling until they were out of sight. What a great start to the day.

We headed down to Ourimbah Creek Reserve and into the forest where we saw Brown Cuckoo-Doves feeding in the canopy. Large-billed Scrubwren were in trees close to the track and giving great views. The Lewins Honeyeater was calling and seen and Rufous and Grey Fantails flitted in and out giving good views. The Black-faced Monarch was difficult because of the light and the Whipbird streaked across the track.

Our drive along the beautiful Ourimbah Creek Road gave wonderful views of a White-necked Heron, White-faced Heron, Masked Lapwings and Australian Wood Ducks on the side of a pond. We arrived at the Forest of Tranquility and were greeted by Red-browed Finch and Eastern Yellow Robin. After a lovely morning tea under the watchful eye of an old Wallaby we walked up to the teepees and added White-browed Scrubwren and Laughing Kookaburra to our list. As we headed back to the bus we had very close-up views of a Brown Thornbill.

Our departure was stopped by Superb Fairy-wrens and Red-browed Finch hopping along the fences and trees of the driveway. Then we resumed our drive down Ourimbah Creek Road. Wonderful views of Satin Bowerbirds and a Dollarbird perched high in a dead tree as Janene was able to find a safe place to stop and we had everyone craning through the bus windows with binoculars at the ready.

Grey Fantail with cicada shell
by Kay Vernon
Through Hidden Valley we arrived at the Ourimbah State Forest where were delighted to see Yellow-throated Scrubwrens feeding on the track along with Eastern Yellow Robins. After negotiating around a nervous horse and rider we continued down, seeing Silvereye, Rufous and Grey Fantails and more Lewins Honeyeaters. We headed back with everyone anticipating lunch. We just had to stop for another Black-faced Monarch, along with a Leaden Flycatcher and Rose Robin giving fleeting views. We finally arrived back at the Forest for a well earned lunch. What a peaceful place to eat, with Brush Turkeys wandering through the grounds and Lewins Honeyeaters and Red-browed Finch drinking and bathing in the gutter of the shed.

Our final stop of the day was McPhersons Road Swamp at Tuggerah. We were greeted by Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants flying. In fact lots of birds were flying, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets were seen and I spotted the Swamp Harrier flying along the far end putting many birds into the air. It was wonderful to see four Glossy Ibis flying in a group. Freckled Ducks, which are a vulnerable species in NSW, were seen well in the scope. We could easily see the head of the duck showing how different it is from the other duck species. Other ducks seen at the swamp were Pacific Black Ducks and some sleeping Hardheads. Eurasian Coots and Australasian Grebe were feeding on the swamp and Red-kneed Dotterel along the foreshore. A pair of Black-winged Stilts and a Lathams Snipe eventually gave good views through the scope. The Snipe was very skittish but did come out into the open for quick bursts of feeding before hiding from view. A Sea-Eagle flew through and also put the birds up, coming down and flying off with what looked like a small bird. The Tawny Grassbird called and called but remained elusive until it decided to pose with a big fat caterpillar in its beak. Chestnut-breasted Mannikins initially flew through and disappeared, but eventually gave a great showing with beautiful adult plumage. As we left, Golden-headed Cisticolas were calling but that was as close as we got.

A great days birding in the rainforest and wetlands. As the guide left, everyone was seen enjoying an ice cream.

Mt Banks & Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains
Trip Report

Saturday 23 December 2020
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Red-browed Finch by David Simpson
It was the summer solstice and a glorious sunny sky when 8 birders travelled up to the Blue Mountains to visit two of the area’s most beautiful basalt capped mounts. 2013 had been an “interesting” year up here with extensive bushfires and a huge emergence of Masked Devil cicadas during the spring. But although more than 70,000 ha were burnt, the Blue Mountains is a large area and most of it remains unaffected. And the only remaining signs of Cyclochila australasiae (the Masked Devils, Greengrocers and Yellow Mondays) were tree trunks studded with empty cicada shells (although other, slightly less deafening species have emerged in some places).

Our drive up through the foothills was made pretty by flowering wattles along the roadside, identified as Acacia parramattensis. Our morning tea stop at the Waratah picnic area proved to be particularly birdy. We were entertained by a Purple Swamphen picking the famous Bilpin apples and carting them into the middle of a swamp, for what purpose we weren’t sure! A distant calling Koel kept us scanning the far trees, while the closer trees were alive with Satin Bowerbirds, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills, Golden Whistlers, Grey Fantails and Eastern Yellow Robins, among others. A Red-browed Finch performed a display holding a stalk of seeding grass in its bill and swinging it about, an impressive feat! Cherrynose and Razor Grinder cicadas provided the soundtrack.

Christmas Birding Belles
We continued up to Mt Banks where we had the chance to compare the burnt and unburnt heath vegetation on either side of the track. The process of regeneration after a bushfire is one of the most wonderful and fascinating natural events to witness. Epicormic shoots were emerging from the trunks and branches of trees and new growth coming from underground lignotubers. Already flowering were Trigger Plants (Stylidium sp.), Flannel Flowers (Actinotus helianthi) and Purple Fan-flower (Scaevola ramosissima). The Blue Mountains Mallee (Eucalyptus stricta) was also flowering and we watched an Eastern Spinebill taking nectar from red Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa) flowers. Drumsticks (Isopogon anemonifolius) were releasing fluffy seeds from their round cones. In the picnic area we found the sweet dumpling-like fruits of Apple-berry (Billardiera scandens). White-eared Honeyeaters were about and a juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo flew through, stopping briefly in a burnt tree. Cicadas here included the mellifluous Alarm Clock Squeaker.

Back on the road and a quick stop to try and see a female robin glimpsed as it flew past into burnt woodland; the Tree Martins overhead were much more co-operative. Regenerating grass-trees Xanthorrhoea sp. were looking particularly beautiful.

Next was the basalt-capped “island of lushness” that is Mt Wilson. The layer of basalt capping the mount was formed during an extensive lava flow 14-18 million years ago and today supports a rich vegetation. During lunch we watched a Magpie feeding its fledged young a large cicada which was swallowed whole. A walk in the shade of the temperate rainforest at Cathedral of Ferns was a perfect antidote to the heat of the day. Here Yellow-throated Scrubwren nests hanging from branches resembled snagged flood debris. A mixed flock of small birds included Brown Gerygone, Eastern Yellow Robin and Large-billed Scrubwren. The latter lay down in a sunny patch on the forest floor, spread-eagled – perhaps sunbathing or anting.

Sydney Golden Wattle (acacia longifolia)
Rufous Fantails proved a challenge to see but perseverance paid off when we all finally had fabulous views of this beauty, fanning its orange tail. Meanwhile, those back at the bus watched a Superb Fairy-wren fighting its reflection in the window.

The drive back down the mountain produced more birds of note. A Brown Falcon near the Mt Wilson turn-off was an unusual sighting for the Blue Mountains. At Bilpin we stopped to watch a small group of White-throated Needletails whizzing low overhead and 9 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos in the pine trees.

Ice creams and other treats at Bilpin provided a fitting end to a great day of contrasting habitats, fascinating bird behaviour, good company and nature at its most interesting. In addition we avoided crowds and summer heat!

By Carol Probets ornithologist for FTB

Dairy Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 7 December 2020
Ornithologist: Janene Luff & Alan Morris

Female Australasian Darter by Chris Melrose
We were lucky enough to have Alan Morris join us for the first half of the day meeting at McPhersons Road swamp and fell straight into a pair of raptors thermalling ever higher. An uneasy consensus was reached at white morph Grey Goshawk and a Pacific Baza. Nice start to the day.
As we walked on a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo called and was seen well being harassed by a Yellow-faced Honeyeater. Nutmeg Manikins appeared with juveniles, a Variegated Fairy-wren shone, the sedges threw Tawny Grassbirds, Royal and Yellow Spoonbills shook their heads with nuptial plumes at their full glory. A pod of Little Black Cormorants fished together with a Intermediate Egret on the bank, not symbiotic but very helpful! Golden-headed Cisticolas were heard as the Latham’s Snipe was spotted with a Black-tailed Native-hen – hubber-hubber! There were 5 Red-kneed Dotterels, 14 Freckled Ducks and 4 Pink-eared Ducks.

We left bird-heaven and had morning tea at Dairy Swamp where the Australian Pelicans were bathing, fluffing out the huge feathers filled with water and greatly enjoying themselves. Alan led us along the “back creek” where the find of the day was a Black Bittern seen by all but not for long enough. As we walked further along the same bittern appeared, equally hurried to depart our company.

The cool breeze kept the heat at bay during lunch and we wandered down over the bridge without finding the Southern Emu-wren: better luck next time. Departing down the road to South Tacoma, female and immature Australasian Darters led us on to a Caspian Tern that dove giving a glimpse of the red beak. An Olive-backed Oriole gave neck-breaking views into the sun… Hidden in the bushes very young Grey Fantails perched.

Last stop of the day Chittaway Point had 2 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, a Red-kneed Dotterel and 2 Red-necked Stints together with a cluster of Caspian Terns, Grey and Chestnut Teals. On the Point there was an array of thornbills, Silvereyes and an immature Golden Whistler. A Nankeen Night Heron flew back to a little island. Better views of Caspian Terns were had and 100 beautiful Black Swans swanned around. A male Darter was seen on the drive out to ice-cream and a happy bunch of birders at 97 species for the day.

by Janene Luff guiding for FTB.

Morning at Pitt Town Lagoon, Cattai NP & Mitchell Park Trip Report

Saturday 23 November 2020
Ornithologist: Tiffany Mason

Chris Melrose's Kookaburra
Chris Melrose’s Kookaburra
On the drive out I would like to note that we had good views of two Dusky Woodswallows, a neck-breaking look at a Pacific Bazza by those up the front of the bus and some lovely Eastern Rosellas flew with the bus before we met Tiff.

It was cool, overcast and humid at Pitt Town Lagoon – gum boots were a good choice of footwear (for those wishing to avoid trench-foot) as we squelched down to the gate (where a male Superb Fairy-wren perched and posed). A large greyish bird flew into the trees overhead: a Pallid Cuckoo. It was quickly detected by a White-plumed Honeyeater who was obviously not pleased with a cuckoo being on its patch and made its displeasure known by grabbing a beakful of cuckoo feathers!

Onward through the gate, where Golden-headed Cisticolas and Australian Reed-warblers serenaded us, both species eventually showing themselves. In fact, the Cisticolas were more than happy to be seen, and at close quarters too. Eastern Yellow Robin and Eastern Whipbird called while finches abounded: Red-browed, Double-barred, Gold and Spice (or Nutmeg Mannikin), plus a group of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins feeding on the ground beyond the bridge. As we approached the creek, two Brown Quail emerged from the vegetation, scurried across the path and quickly vanished in the grass on the other side.

Finally, we reached the viewing platform to a rather empty scene. The water level had risen and all the wader habitat was inundated, so it rather looked as if we had missed our chance to catch the Ruff. A Pelican flew over and Black Swans gathered at the eastern shore. Hardheads and Grey Teal were numerous, Pacific Black and Chestnut Teal completed the duck list, and far across the water, Black-winged Stilts were tip-toeing, Eurasian Coots were dipping their bills in the water and a small flotilla of Hoary-headed Grebes was bobbing on the wavelets. Little Grassbird called (invisibly) from close by and a lucky few got to see a Tawny Grassbird. White-faced Herons flew overhead as did, shortly after, a very noisy remote-controlled model aeroplaneit was time to move on.

We walked out along the eastern fence-line, picking up Yellow-faced Honeyeater in the eucalypts and a single female White-winged Triller in the Melaleucas. There were more Black Swans, a couple of Purple Swamphens and some Dusky Moorhens, but the sky was lowering and new species were thin on the ground/water. On the way back to the bus, Channel-billed Cuckoo (later seen flying overhead) and Little Wattlebird called from nearby gardens.

At the entrance to Cattai National Park, Bell Miners called and we nearly ran over Edwin Vella… he reckoned Cicadabird and Dollarbird were dead certs at the river. We began a pre-prandial walk through the picnic area: a pair of Musk Lorikeets flew overhead, Olive-backed Orioles called (just audible above the roar of speed boats), Noisy Miners walked (the only honeyeaters who do!) on the heavily manicured grass and Grey Butcherbirds swooped between the She-oaks.

Cattai NP
At the rivers edge, we got good views of Eastern Spinebill and Lewins Honeyeater, feeding on the mistletoe nectar. Yellow Thornbills were enticed down from the Casuarinas and we had just enough time to get a good look at them before the rain came down. We raced to the nearest picnic shelter for an early lunch (and a White-bellied Sea-eagle). The rain eased and a Cicadabird called; we tracked it to its perch and it took flight… so now we have a really good idea of what the retreating form of a Cicadabird in flight looks like. We were rewarded, however, we a view of a rather bedraggled Oriole – the bird whose call had been teasing us relentlessly for the past 90 minutes.

On the way out of the park, we stopped for White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Golden (calling) and Rufous (a pair, happy to give us a look) Whistlers, Variegated Fairy-wrens (playing hard to see) and the songs of Horsfields Bronze-cuckoo and Spotted Pardalote. A little further on and a Sacred Kingfisher posed cooperatively on a power line. We still hadn’t got a good look at the Dollarbird Edwin had promised us, though, much to Marg’s disappointment. Suddenly, a Grey Goshawk flew across the road in front of us, landed in a large eucalypt and was immediately dive-bombed by the Dollarbird we’d all been waiting for. We got the scope on it as it sat on the traditional dead tree-limb and, finally, Marg got a perfect view of this handsome bird (as did a passing cyclist!). There was a cry of Raptor! and we all looked up just in time to see the spectacular stoop of a Square-tailed Kite. Back on the bus, and Rainbow Bee-eaters appeared to be lining the road as we drove out, their gorgeous plumage dazzling in the welcome sunlight.

On our round-about way to Mitchell Park, we spotted a Little Egret in a roadside dam (but not, unfortunately, a Black-fronted Dotterel). At Mitchell Park itself, the first bird was the beautiful Azure Kingfisher, a miniature jewel that dived for prey then sped away past us, up river. The afternoon was getting very warm and the cicadas were in full voice – head-achingly so! Another raptor, the Whistling Kite, was seen overhead, a young male Satin Bowerbird presented himself (dark green chin, grey bill) and New Holland and Brown-headed Honeyeaters vied for nectar in the flowering eucalypts. Wonga Pigeon and Brown Cuckoo-dove were calling, the sky was threatening once more and most of the party turned back towards the bus. Glenda, Steve and Duncan caught a brief glimpse of the Brown Cuckoo-dove before it disappeared into the rainforest. The others didn’t luck out on new species, however, and picked up Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and White-throated Treecreeper on their return. As we alighted, the rain came down again, and then turned to hail. Fortunately, it didn’t last long and certainly didn’t prevent us from a well-earned ice-cream to cap off a very successful day.

On the return journey we clocked up another 3 species bringing our total for the day to 110 bird species seen or heard by the group.

By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB

Laughtondale Gully & Dharug NP Trip Report

Saturday 2 November 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Smokey Great Cormorants by Erin Coyne
Despite some bushfire smog about, our day started off well at Maroota with a variety of birds greeting us including gorgeous Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, the same with a male Golden Whistler, White-throated Treecreeper, Variegated Fairy-wrens and a small group of King Parrots.

Morning Tea was had at the picturesque Wisemans Ferry beside the Hawkesbury River where a short walk beside the golf course produced several Blue-faced Honeyeaters with an adult pair feeding 2 young birds, Channel-billed Cuckoo, an adult White-bellied Sea-eagle circling overhead and a lucky few also managed to glimpse a Square-tailed Kite flying away from us.

Welcome Swallow by Tom Torda
We then later took the Ferry across the Hawkesbury River and made our way into Dharug NP. From the entrance, we slowly walked along Mill Creek into the national park where we had some stunning male Scarlet Honeyeaters foraging in eucalyptus blossoms, Lewins and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and an Australian Brush Turkey decided to join our group but not on our bus. Upon the approach of lunchtime, we then boarded our bus to drive on further to the upper picnic area.

While having a pleasant lunch a number of birds put on an appearance including 3 Brown Cuckoo-doves, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Spotted Pardalotes and a Lewins Honeyeater posing quite still for us.

Chestnut-breasted Mannikins by Edwin Vella
Our last stop for the day was to Pitt Town Lagoon which certainly allowed us top up our already good list of birds for the day even further. These additions included a group of Glossy Ibis, a group of Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbill, visitors from afar such as the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Pacific Golden Plovers as well as nice flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins by the reeds.

We then finished the hot day (not just the weather but our great list of birds!!), with an ice cream stop. 101 species of birds were recorded for the day.

by Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Fitzroy Falls Trip Report

Saturday 19 October 2020
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

RufousFantail - 1
Rufous Fantail by David Simpson
A bunch of friendly, and some familiar, folk bounced off the bus at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens undeterred by the heavy smoke haze. The original plan to meet at the Avon Dam just off the Hume Highway had been changed due to bushfires around Picton . The Botanic Gardens are always a good bet though we didnt rush off birding, an important event had to be celebrated first. It was Janenes birthday!

Out came the cake, along with the Moorhens and Swamphens who had quickly concluded something may be on offer. Atop the cake was a model bird singing. Old Chook said someone. Mother Hen said another more kindly. And with Figbirds calling, Magpie Larks trilling and the odd Silver Gull circling we Happy Birthday-ed Janene and went birding!

Taking the trail past the ponds we passed three young fledgling Welcome Swallows and headed into the remnant rainforest along the creek. Satin Bowerbirds, Eastern Yellow Robins, some squabbling White-browed Scrubwrens and a beautiful Olive-backed Oriole were soon spotted. As we emerged from the trees Little Wattlebirds chattered, a Grey Butcherbird fluted and Superb Fairy Wrens bounced. A Blackbird scalded us and among the screeching Rainbow Lorikeets a lone Musk Lorikeet was heard.

Then we hit the Princes Highway to Albion Park and climbed the Illawarra Highway up the escarpment to Robertson, past the Big Potato (though several alternative names were offered!) and on to Fitzroy Falls. Flights of White Ibis passed us, several White-necked and White-faced Herons were spotted and a nifty bit of parking by Janene had us tumbling out for better views of a circling Grey Goshawk.

In true birding fashion the car park at Fitzroy Falls proved highly productive. Yellow-faced and Lewins Honeyeaters flitted and Yellow Robins eyed us with curiousity. As we set off after lunch towards the Falls a busy flock of Red-browed Finches, Brown and Striated Thornbills entertained us. They were shortly joined by a pair of stunning Rufous Fantails, the first of the season for some of us. They, in turn, were almost outclassed by a stunning looking and very accommodating male Golden Whistler. A White-throated Treecreeper and several chirpy Grey Fantails joined the crowd and a tantalising Black-faced Monarch sang but did not show.

The smoke haze meant the long views from the west track of the Falls were gone but the ethereal atmosphere more than compensated. Every now and then Crimson Rosellas would appear and brighten the place up. Above, a hidden Shining Bronze-cuckoo whistled and far below a Superb Lyrebird sang.

On our return to Wollongong, and an ice cream!, we made a quick stop at Haywards Bay to check the Ash Ponds. Surprisingly few ducks were present but we were rewarded with excellent views of a male Swamp Harrier who obliged us with a close fly-by to round off a very productive and congenial day. Many thanks to my co-spotters and Janene.  We achieved a very respectable 72 species for the day.

By Bob Ashford, birder for FTB.

Blue Gum Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 28 September 2020
Ornithologist: Tiffany Mason

Common Bronzewing by David Simpson
At the Penrith Weir, the ornithologist finally caught up with the group and was able to point out the Mistletoebird which had been teasing the group with its call for some time from the top of a dead tree. Climbing back up from the river, we got good views of a pair of Red-rumped Parrots munching on grass seed, a female Superb Fairy-wren and a pair of nesting Magpie Larks. Walking back to the bus, we encountered a Masked Lapwing and a pair of Wood Ducks, while those at the back of the group were lucky enough to spy a mature male Satin Bowerbird in the riparian vegetation.

Leaving the rowing club behind, we headed up slope, stopping briefly for Cattle Egret (hanging out with the cows, naturally) and Rock Doves in a roadside paddock. At our first official mountain-top stop, Yellow Rock, the wind was blowing and the birds were sensibly hunkered down. In order to avoid falling debris, the group began a brisk walk down the road, seeing and hearing nothing except for the plaintive cries of the leader, who was seeing all the good stuff back at the bus! Yellow-faced Honeyeaters called and we traced them to the Bridle Trail, which was surprisingly tricky to access.

The honeyeaters were proving elusive and the only fauna on show were Black Jezebel butterflies (be sure to add the word butterfly to the name if you want to find out more about this pretty species from your favourite search engine!). A few hundred metres later, and we discovered why the gate to the Bridle Trail was locked…we were trespassing! Fortunately, the landholder was friendly and interested in our quest to discover birds. Heading back towards the bus, we got a brief glimpse of the Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, then a good look at a perched Common Bronzewing and Red Wattlebird (a young bird with very short red wattles).

Our next stop was for lunch, overlooking the Nepean River at the recently burnt lookout (aptly named!). There were patches of green in the canopy but not enough vegetation to interest the birds, so we headed straight to Blue Gum Swamp for a post-prandial walk. The wind wasnt easing and the birds were still nervous but there were some pretty plants to admire, including the endangered Leucopogon fletcheri and the very photogenic Waratah, and an Eastern Water Dragon, basking on a log.

Finally, the birds began to call (Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Eastern Spinebill, Brown Gerygones and a small flock of Little Lorikeets overhead) and we got a glimpse of some birds: Variegated Fairy-wrens, White-throated Treecreeper, Golden Whistlers and, best of all, a White-naped Honeyeater feeding young in a beautifully woven nest hanging over the path.

It was time to head back to the bus and down to Penrith for a well-earned ice-cream!

By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB

Crescent Honeyeaters & Pink Flannel Flowers Trip Report

Saturday 3 August 2020
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Grey Goshawk by Christina Port
Winter can be a surprisingly rich and pleasant season to be out and about in the Blue Mountains – and this year it had been extraordinarily mild. But come the day of our trip, the thermometer plummeted, the wind sprung up and it seemed like we were about to get the entire dose of winter in one day! Not to worry – our strategy was to concentrate on the more sheltered sites and trust that the birds would do the same. At our very first stop it was clear this was a good strategy!

With 12 birders on board we headed to Gordon Falls for morning tea and were greeted by a very obliging Eastern Yellow Robin and White-throated Treecreeper. It wasn’t long before these were joined by a male Rose Robin, giving us sensational views of his rosy red breast as he flitted between low branches and the ground. In spring and summer this species is usually found high in the rainforest canopy, but in winter it moves out of the gullies and catches more of its food on the ground – giving us all a better chance to watch and admire!

The action continued with a White-browed Scrubwren feeding only 30cm from Janene’s feet, too close for binoculars. Striated and Brown Thornbills. Lewin’s Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Grey-Shrike-thrush and the first migrating pardalotes were just a few of the other species taking advantage of this lovely sheltered site.

But other places beckoned and we headed off in search of banksia-rich heathlands and honeyeaters. We rounded a bend on Cliff Drive just in time for all to see a Superb Lyrebird trot across the road in front of the bus. We rounded another bend to find that our next planned stop, Cyclorama Point, was copping the brunt of a howling westerly wind! Nevertheless, it’s one of the most scenic spots at Katoomba so the intrepid group were soon out of the bus and heading down to the lookout. Banksia ericifolia flower spikes were glistening with sweet nectar but it was too windy for the honeyeaters here. While looking into the depths of the Jamison Valley below, Janene noticed a pale bird flying differently to the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. It landed in a tree in the lee of the Narrow Neck cliffs and with binoculars we could see that it was a Grey Goshawk!

Pink Flannel Flower by Carol Probets
Back near the road we watched a tiny Striated Thornbill visiting Banksia cunninghamii flowers taking nectar as if it were a honeyeater. Malaita Point and Eaglehawk Lookout were quite sheltered and gave us great views of the Three Sisters. Of interest here were the Native Currant bushes, Leptomeria acida, laden with their refreshingly tart fruits.

After lunch we walked along Narrow Neck plateau where the action was concentrated on the sheltered eastern side of the ridge, lovely conditions for us and the birds. The rare and fascinating Pink Flannel Flowers, Actinotus forsythii, were still in bloom and just starting to wither having been out since May. Normally this species flowers in summer one year after fire, with the seeds laying dormant in the soil for years until the right conditions occur.

A largish bird of prey was seen well by some of the group, gliding above with wings hunched in the turbulence. After some discussion, consensus was reached that the raptor was a Little Eagle! A White-eared and plenty of New Holland Honeyeaters were seen. A pile of feathers which once belonged to an Australian Owlet-nightjar were a sad reminder of the impact of feral predators. This small nocturnal bird comes to the ground to take insects making it vulnerable to attack.

Our main target species on Narrow Neck were the Crescent Honeyeater and the Pilotbird, neither of which showed for us though the Crescent was heard. In less windy conditions we might have been lucky, but in spite of this the day had given us some great birding moments with the beautiful Rose Robin the jewel in the crown. And all with a fine backdrop of oh-so-blue mountains receding into the distance and bright golden wattle splashed across the landscape. Winter is magic!

By Carol Probets Ornithologist for FTB

Barren Grounds Trip Report

Saturday 29 June 2021
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

Barren Grounds
Coffee and quiche at the Jamberoo Bakery seemed a sensible way to start the day. It was, after all, pouring down outside! But it was a bright and friendly bunch who had gathered to forage the heathland at Barren Grounds in search of the ever elusive Ground Parrot. One wit suggested that we would probably enjoy more success if, instead, we searched for the Drowned Parrot. And off we set.

To be fair it was a very grey day, and when not getting wet from constant showers we got very wet walking through the heath hoping, with delusional optimism, to flush a drowned parrot. We never did see a Ground Parrot, a long shot even in the best of conditions, but put a bunch of cheery birders anywhere and they will turn up the goodies.

The first success was three very obliging Red-browed Treecreepers as we arrived at Barren Grounds. Then several flighty Southern Emu Wrens enticed us further into the heath with the additional reward of a calling Eastern Bristlebird. Not seen then but there was plenty of day to go!

Little and Red Wattlebirds, New Holland Honeyeaters, a few Crimson Rosellas and a chirpy Grey Shrike-thrush cheered us on. It was a strange sight really. Eight soaked birders, only visible from the waist up, spread out across the heath, each sporting an umbrella that offered no practical value at all. But we were happy!

Back at the car park (and true birders know that car parks are by far and away THE best birding spots!), enjoying a well-deserved hot cuppa, three Gang Gang Cockatoos displayed for us and Erin spotted our first Beautiful Firetail of the day. A short stroll produced a hyperactive Antechinus running up and down tree trunks, lifting pieces of bark and harvesting quite a feast. Consensus settled on a Brown Antechinus.

Epacris Impressa
We then explored the entry track into Budderoo National Park, the rain having eased a bit, and quickly picked up a trio of Thornbills  Brown, Striated and Yellow-rumped. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters appeared and a total of six Beautiful Firetails cheered us up no end. And to top it all a curious and quick moving Eastern Bristlebird fluttered across the track. And so we headed back to the car park for lunch.

En route another Bristlebird crossed another track and more stunning views of a single Firetail. The Gang Gangs were still there busily inspecting large holes high in a tree and preening each other. The rest of us huddled round our mugs of hot tea! The ever sharp-eyed Josh spotted a quiet Bassian Thrush scratching at the ground among the undergrowth and a Lyrebird sang for us.

We then headed down the escarpment to the Tallawarra Ash Dams, or at least as close as we could get. There was plenty of activity. Several sizeable flocks of Hardheads, a Musk Duck, a surprising number of Pink-eared Ducks and a few Australian Shovelers floated out in the middle accompanied by Australasian Grebes, a few Coots and Black Swans. By now it was pouring but undeterred a lone Swamp Harrier slowly flapped its way across the water causing some rapid disbursement among the swimmers!

So, we didnt find the Drowned Parrot, but in the end we got 72 species, a remarkably good tally considering the weather. Congratulations to Erin, Chris, Janene, Brian, Duncan, Matt and Josh for their resilience and making it such an enjoyable day.

Thank you, Bob Ashford birding for FTB.

Hunter Valley TSR’s Trip Report

Saturday 13 April 2021
Ornithologist: Christina Port

Rose Robin by Christina Port
A beautiful sunny morning greeted 15 keen birders as we headed up the F3 towards the Freeman’s Drive turnoff. Our first stop was at the Watagan Forest BP Service Station at Heaton Gap which is on the Great North Walk. We had wonderful views of Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Spinebill, Lewin’s Honeyeaters and Superb Fairy-wrens flitting around our feet as we had our morning tea. A White-throated Treecreeper was heard calling over the road and overhead we were able to watch large groups of mainly Yellow-faced Honeyeater in migration. A spectacular sight!

We then headed towards Cessnock. The countryside was looking so green and lots of dams filled with water and birds. We stopped to get distant views of a Wedge-tailed Eagle and the pond opposite was teeming with life. Eurasian Coots, Pacific Black Ducks, Australian Wood Ducks, a Little Pied Cormorant, Australasian Grebes and a Clamorous Reed Warbler flying around the dying cumbungi. Also seen along the way were flying Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, White-faced Herons, a Black-shouldered Kite, Masked Lapwings and Galahs.

Arriving at Elfin Hill the usual Travelling Stock Route was overgrown. With all the green pasture it has obviously not been needed for grazing stock for quite some time. Janene took a few intrepid explorers down through the head high grass to look for Grey-crowned Babblers which ended up being heard and not seen. They did get views of a Brown Goshawk and a Little Eagle. Most of us headed down the Marrowbone to Oakley Creek TSR which was a much easier route to navigate. Yellow-faced and White-plumed Honeyeaters were seen and heard calling as we travelled along. Lots of Eastern Rosellas and Galahs as well as Spotted Dove and then Bar-shouldered Doves were seen. Unfortunately the doves view was fleeting as they hurried away. Further down we had great excitement with our first sighting of Double-barred Finches in a group with Red-browed Finches. The birds provided a great view for all and an opportunity for the keen photographers in the group as they posed well. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were seen several times flying around and a pair of juvenile Olive-backed Orioles in the tree tops gave reasonable views. Torresian Crows were flying and calling in the paddocks beside the TSR. Brian spotted a male Rose Robin. He was a little difficult for some but we all eventually had great views. What a beauty. A Grey Butcherbird was seen and a Pied Butcherbird was calling in the distance. Noisy Miners aggressively guarded this end of the walk so we saw few other small species here. The bus was waiting for us at the end of a very successful walk.

We hadn’t gone far when lots of oohs and aahs were heard. As we pulled over at a local dam we had great views of a pair of Australasian Grebe and their very cute baby. We watched as both parents fed the baby.

Our lunch spot at Debeyers Road provided us with a fantastic view of the Cessnock wine making area. A Wedge-tailed Eagle was seen flying in the distance and finally a view of a Pied Butcherbird. After we had all eaten we walked along Debeyers Road. We got views of King Parrots sheltering from the heat as well as more Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. Otherwise it was a little quiet in the heat of the day.

We drove to Mt View Road and walked the end of the Jackson Hill TSR. More Double-barred Finches, a Grey Fantail and a female Golden Whistler were calling and hopping around in the trees. Lots of Yellow-rumped Thornbill were seen amongst the grape vines. Then we wandered up passed the vineyards to a shady spot. In the tree above us a Black-shouldered Kite sat quietly. Flying in the scrub were lots of Superb Fairy-wrens, Silvereyes, Double-barred Finches and a lone Yellow Thornbill. Janene spotted a Golden-headed Cisticola who posed very well. As we walked back to the bus a group of about 10 birds flew ahead and hid in the vines. Brian and I went and searched where they seemed to land but they were well gone. I thought that perhaps they could be the elusive Grey-crowned Babblers but none of us got a positive ID! Also here we saw groups of Torresian Crows flying around. The heat inspired the word “ice-cream” and we headed out.

The final new bird of the day was a White-necked Heron on a dam! We were backing the bus for a better view. Then we returned to our first stop again for a welcome ice-cream. A great day’s birding saw us seeing or hearing 69 species on a beautiful autumn day!

By Christina Port birding for FTB

Eagles & Robins in the Megalong Valley Trip Report

Saturday 16 March 2021
Ornithologist: Tiffany Mason

New Holland Honeyeater by David Simpson
I met the group at Evans Lookout but already they had a surprise encounter with a Grey Currawong which everyone had great views of and is not able to be seen as well as they saw it very often. Then as the bus approached the carpark there were three Rock Warblers in plain view, again everyone had great views. We were off to a good start! Heading to the lookout we had a lovely close-up view of an Eastern Spinebill then on to the fantastic views of the sandstone escarpments. Bell Miners were calling in the valley below, Spotted Pardalotes from the trees above and neither deigned to show themselves. A quick reviving cuppa and our first eagles of the day: a pair of Wedge-tailed, spotted by Laurence, flying high above the car park. It was time to cross the ridge at Blackheath and head to the Megalong Valley. As we dropped down into the sheltered gullies the vegetation began to change: tree ferns, vines and tall trees of the rainforest. This is good habitat for Yellow-throated Scubwren, whose nest is built overhanging creeks and is used by the Golden-tipped Bat, Kerivoula papuensis afterward. An Eastern Yellow Robins piping call was heard from the bus – it was to be our only Robin encounter of the day.

On the valley floor we hopped out of the bus for a walk along the road, paddock on our right and tall open forest on our left. Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Butcherbird, White-throated Treecreeper and a juvenile Golden Whistler, with white shoulder spots and rusty streaks on its wings made appearances, as did a pair of Crimson Rosellas. Two Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flew by with hardly a sound, much to Alan’s amazement. There was some paddock art to admire (corrugated iron constructions) and a single Kookaburra perched on a power pole, then it was time to head to the Megalong Creek picnic area for lunch.

A rowdy group of Korean students preparing to walk the Six Foot Track were already there but it didnt deter the Grey Fantail, who kept us company while we ate our sandwiches, or the Yellow-faced Honeyeater and two Eastern Water Dragons. Janene heard White-naped Honeyeaters giving their chew-chew call from across the creek and some of us managed a brief glimpse of this handsome little bird as it gleaned insects amongst the foliage: black cap, red eye wattle, green back and white belly. A White-throated Treecreeper obliged us with much better views as it worked its way up a nearby box tree, stopping to prise an insect out from under the bark.

To aid our digestion we set off across the creek and up the road but it appeared to be siesta time for many of the birds…there wasnt much action in the trees. We had another glimpse of the White-naped Honeyeater and of a New Holland Honeyeater but it wasn’t until we reached the Six Foot Track itself that the birds livened up. First, a young Rufous Whistler, with heavily streaked belly and pale brown wing streaks, then the thornbills starting flitting around keen to give us some identification practice. Brown Thornbill with its brown, scalloped forehead and streaky throat; Buff-rumped Thornbill with its orange face, white eye and tail-flicking behaviour and Striated Thornbill with its white-streaked, chestnut-coloured forehead and delight in calling from high in the canopy where nobody can possible see it. Fortunately, it was encouraged down for the group to get a closer look.

The bus arrived to take us to our final destination of the day, the Megalong Café for a well-deserved ice-cream. On the way Margaret called Heron! and there, indeed, was a White-necked Heron standing in the meadow. It took off for a short flight, enough to show us the headlights on its wings before landing further off. At the café we wandered over to the back paddock spying Wood Ducks at the dam. The pony got a few friendly pats then we wandered around the dam in search of new and interesting species. A Magpie was hiding behind a cairn (female, with a slightly grey nape) and Yellow-rumped Thornbills were calling from an acacia on the dam wall. Probably the easiest thornbill to identify with its white-spotted black crown, white eyebrow and bright yellow rump, we got excellent views of this species – There are four of them in there! concurred Suanne and Gian Luca just as six birds flew out of the wattle, and away into the distance.

As we headed back to the bus the stragglers got a half-hidden view of a White-browed Scrubwren as it bounced around amongst the leaf litter under a drooping shrub. Our final species in the valley (“What was that white thing back there?” asked Janene) was a Masked Lapwing hiding in plain view among Wood Ducks. It was time to drop off the guide and head home after a satisfying day of Eagles, Thornbills and Whistlers. Oh, and a Robin.

By Tiffany Mason Ornithologist for FTB

Summer Spotlighting in Royal National Park Trip Report

Saturday 9 March 2021
Ornithologist: Steve Anyon-Smith

Summer Spotlighting by Christal George
The rescheduled tour was attended by 15 flexible birders who basked in the warm humid, and dry weather. February 23 was awash with a whopper of a storm!
On the drive to RNP a few birds were spied from the bus but starting at 2.30pm really diminished the activity, birds that is not birders who chatted away creating the renown camaraderie.

Once Steve Anyon-Smith arrived (coming straight from a full day on a pelagic!) the pace picked up with Kookaburras hunting from low branches beside the parked bus at the start of Lady Carrington Drive. An adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle was well spotted by Barb, soaring majestically at the end of the valley and Australian Wood Ducks grazed beside the toilet block. Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens swam on the Hacking River.

As we started out along the Drive you could hear Yellow-faced Honeyeaters calling in the canopy but the detection of another similar coloured bird by Jane, Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters delighted new and old birders alike, and kept our necks flexible. Dapper in their yellow, black and white feathers a third bird appeared with guess what, same colours again, the Golden Whistler. Grey Fantail, Brown Thornbills and Lewin’s Honeyeaters also joined us. White-throated Treecreepers flew from tree to tree, jumping along, and hiding on the other side of the trunk.

With no Lyrebirds in sight, or hearing, we wandered back listening to Satin Bowerbird, but never was one seen, on either side of the River despite calls frequently ringing through the forest. We moved to Wattle Tree Forest while the light was still strong and had fabulous views of Yellow-throated Scrubwrens.

Fine dining at dusk brought some friendly magpies and at last light the microbats appeared. There seemed to be Horseshoe Bats and Grey-headed Flying Foxes according to the sizes noted by Steve.

Off we excitedly danced down the path spotting the most magnificent Tawny Frogmouth, wide awake and surveying us leisurely before turning and ever so silently flying into the black. Definitely my best views from such a perfect angle, bravo Steve!

Next Ring-tailed Possums foraged in the close-by canopy, looking sleek and cute; white tummies protruding and very bright-eyed. It is a joy and a privilege to see these creatures in the wild, acting as they would if we were not there at all.

The rest of the evening we spent spotting possums, Brush and Ring-tailed and a stag posed above us on the slope looking very striking, but we still wondered where the shooters were when you needed them.
Steve searched in vain for a Sugar Glider but they were elsewhere that night. All the same I am certain that we all had a wonderful time out in the warm night air, and exhausted but satisfied thanked Steve for his prowess.
by Janene Luff on behalf of a very tired Steve Anyon-Smith.

Dairy Swamp Vagrants & Visitors Trip Report

Saturday 17 November 2020
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Black Swans by the exceptionally
wonderful Nevil Lazarus
Along with our driver, 18 eager birds set out on the last FTB outing for the year to check out the birds of the Tuggerah-Chittaway wetlands and had a most successful time. Our first stop was at McPherson Rd Swamp, Tuggerah and within half an hour we had seen over 42 species and this included 18 Royal Spoonbills, 6 Tawny Grassbirds, 3 Lathams snipe, 4 Red-kneed Dotterel, a Grey Goshawk was flushed from a bush, a Swamp Harrier made a number of incursions over the reedbeds and a Black-shouldered Kite saw us off the place! Several small groups of Chestnut-breasted Manikins were feeding in the long grass, totalling about 15 all up and Cisticolas, Olive-backed Orioles, Sacred Kingfisher and Koel Cuckoos were all calling well! Australian Ravens and Torrestian Crows were playing their games and it was possible to hear the two different calls. Both Great & Intermediate Egrets were present on the Swamp and the Black-tailed Native-hen made its own cameo appearance!

We reluctantly left this site and headed to the closeby Central Coast Wetlands, also at Tuggerah. We took our morning tea at the picnic shelter at the same time keeping an eye out of raptors and in doing so saw about 40+White-throated Needletails up high over the site, and in time, both a Swamp Harrier and White-breasted Sea-eagle. On the Dairy Swamp we were fortunate in finding a lone Marsh Sandpiper and a pair of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers feeding together, amongst many Masked Lapwings, Hardheads, Wood Ducks and Grey Teal. A flock of 35 Cattle Egrets flew into the Dairy Swamp, but only made a brief stay. A walk around the new walking track that loops through the Pioneer Creek Wetlands had us flush a number of Lathams Snipe, with at least a minimum of 4 birds seen, a small party of Southern Emu-wrens appeared to feeding young in a nest, and a nest of a Willie Wagtail and a Magpie-lark were found in adjoining trees. A Buff-banded Rail could be seen on the other side of the Creek. We checked out the plantation area along Tuggerah Creek and found Sacred Kingfishers, Channel-billed Cuckoos and a Figbird with one juvenile. Common Koels, Dollarbirds and 3 Intermediate Egrets were also seen. We returned to the same picnic area for lunch and enjoyed good conversations and camaraderie together.

After lunch we visited first South Tacoma point, seeing 3 Nankeen Night-Herons roosting in the casuarinas along Wyong Creek, where there were also Olive-backed orioles, Bar-shouldered Doves, Yellow Thornbills, Striped honeyeaters and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes. In the shallow waters around the point a flock of 8 Whiskered Terns, some in breeding plumage were an unusual sight, while on a sandbar we could see Bar-tailed Godwits, Sharpies and some Red-necked Stints. There were atleast 1200 Black Swans and hundreds of Grey Teal feeding in the shallows and many Caspian & Crested Terns. Our final destination was Chittaway Point, and once again there were similar species of waterbirds, including an Australian Shoveler & 26 Black-winged Stilts at the North Chittaway Wetland, while a Chittaway Point, a good surprise was a Great Knot feeding with some Bar-tailed Godwits close to the viewing area. Our final stop for the day was Sunshine Reserve, where alas the Tawny Frogmouth did not show but a pair of Striated Herons and another White-bellied Sea-Eagle enlived the afternoon for us. By the end of the day we had seen 97 species, not bad for short days birding. This was my last occasion for me as the Ornithological Guide for Follow That Bird! I have enjoyed my ten years as guide and made many friends and had some great experiences. I wish to thank everyone for their company and friendship during that time and wish Janene and the other guides and all the Clients a Happy Christmas and a great birding New Year!

By Alan Morris

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to The Basin
& Palm Beach Ferry Trip Report

Saturday 17 November 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Glossy Black Cockatoo by Edwin Vella
A beautiful Spring day started us off exceptionally well when we were able to observe at close range a family group of 3 Glossy Black-Cockatoos feeding on casuarinas close to the West Head lookout in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. We watched the adult male, female and its youngster for at least 10 minutes before setting off to walk along the track running from the lookout to the Resolute Picnic ground. Some nice birds were enjoyed along this walk which included obliging views of one or two Rock Warblers, Scarlet, Lewins and White-cheeked Honeyeaters, small flocks of Little Lorikeets here and there and the buzzing sound of a Cicadabird.

Upon arriving at the picnic area we then had morning tea where Janene had found us a nesting Olive-backed Oriole and had some more Little Lorikeets flying over.

After our morning tea, we then headed off in the bus for The Basin track. Along this walk we had some beautiful views of male and female Variegated Fairy-wrens, a male Rufous Whistler, White-eared and New Holland Honeyeaters, as well as Brown Thornbills. When we arrived at the picnic area we were greeted by 3 obliging Swamp Wallabies as well as a nice adult White-belllied Sea-eagle, 3 Whistling Kites and a Brown Goshawk.

After lunch we caught the ferry across to Palm Beach and en Route we saw a Darter on the rocks, more views of the White-bellied Sea-eagle and a Whistling Kite diving a number of times to catch fish. An Australian Pelican swam beside a group of Pied Cormorants resting out on a small boat and good views of a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins followed the wake of the surrounding boats.

We then met Janene at the Palm Beach Warf and headed to our final destination of the day, Irrawong Reserve at Warriewood. It did not take long to bump into a great mix of birds. Here, we were delighted with the close presence of Eastern Yellow Robins, Silvereyes, Brown Gerygones (with nest), Eastern Spinebills, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, a pair of Sacred Kingfishers, at least 3 Dollarbirds, Grey Fantail, Golden Whistler and an Eastern Whipbird. An Eastern Water Dragon was also sighted beside the track to the waterfall.

We then had our afternoon tea and just before we had to call it day a small group of White-throated Needletails made a brief appearance as they circled overhead.

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Belanglo State Forest Trip Report

Saturday 27 October 2020
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

Spotted Quail-thrush by Tom Torda
The day was bright and sunny, barely reaching the low 20s which made it a perfect day for birding. And we weren’t disappointed.

First stop was Nepean Dam where a hyperactive female Satin Bowerbird kept us guessing where she was actually building her nest. She would fly back to this particular pine tree landing about a third of the way up and then hopping from branch to branch until almost to the top then vanish! A pair of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes kept us guessing too. They were busy bringing in big bugs obviously feeding voracious young but in spite of the best efforts of all no nest was seen.

We did enjoy excellent views of a Lyrebird scratching away at the edge of the trees plus a pair of Leaden Flycatchers, various frustratingly active Thornbills and a lone Wedge-tailed Eagle as it soared overhead. And a short stop as we left the Dam produced a Noisy Friarbird to its busy to and froing to its nest, one we could easily see this time, feeding young, and another pair of Leaden Flycatchers.

Arriving at the edge of the Bellanglo State forest we scanned a usually productive dam. A bunch of lazily floating duck turned out to be Chestnut Teal- only after some boisterous discussion about eclipse plumage. The result of which was any fleetingly glimpsed unidentified bird was labelled eclipse! It’s a tough job guiding birders!

As we drove the bumpy track to Miners Despair Loop we enjoyed the antics of a party of White-winged Choughs but the big delight was at the start of our walk. A extremely accommodating Spotted Quail-thrush delighted us all. This beautifully looking bird is far from common and for some these were the best views in many years. For others it was a very rewarding tick. In the end it was voted bird of the day.

As we strolled along the track we had great views of the three species of Thornbills – Brown, Striated and Buff-rumped – allowing us to compare and identify each species particular features. Not so easily achieved was identifying some brown honeyeaters among a very busy bunch of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. But persistence paid of and they were eventually identified as Fuscous Honeyeaters. Also accompanying this flighty flock were Grey Fantails and White-eared Honeyeaters and several striking Rufous Whistlers. A lone female Gang-gang Cockatoo gave a very passable impersonation of a creaking door.

Wonga Pigeon by Tom Torda
We then moved on to Cowlishawls Track where sharp-eyed Greg spotted a Sacred Kingfisher eyeing us warily. A little further on more sharp eyes spotted a pair of Buff-rumped Thornbills flitting to and from a tiny nest built into a small hole in the side of a gum tree. Its a busy time of the year for birds! The cascading calls of White-throated Gerygones kept most of us straining to spot them in the canopy. This resulted in more thornbills, even some good views of tiny delightfully decorated Spotted Pardalotes, but no sightings of the gerygones.

What we were not short of was Grey Shrike-thrushs whose beautiful melodic calls had accompanied us throughout the day. White-throated Treecreepers kept us entertained until a female Flame Robin appeared followed shortly afterwards by her sharply dressed male partner. He was happy to show off for a while before a lone rabbit sent them scurrying.

Our last stop was in Bargo for an ice cream. It had been a tough but rewarding day. It was the least we deserved. A Blackbird did battle with a Noisy Miner and in a nearby garden a Koel koelled us.

An excellent day, in excellent company and some excellent birding too!

By Bob Ashford Ornithologist for FTB

Seabirding at Botany Bay NP Trip Report

Saturday 13 October 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Black-browed Albatross by Nevil Lazarus
A nice and a warmer then expected sunny day lead us to a enjoyable days bird watching around the Botany Bay area.

A pleasant walk around the shores of Woolooware Bay in Taren Pt allowed us to see a Sacred Kingfisher perch on a fence, an Eastern Egret foraging and catching a few small lizards, Red Wattlebirds feeding recently fledged young and out roosting on a jetty, about 28 Australian Pied Oystercatchers with the odd Sooty Oystercatcher amongst them.

At Woolooware Swamp in Kurnell we saw 6 more Pied Oystercatchers, a Black Swan, 4 Common Greenshanks, a Black-shouldered Kite, a Brown Honeyeater, and flying slowly and low above our heads 3 Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos.

Later in the morning, we had a nice walk along the Yenna Track in Botany Bay NP where 2 Fan-tailed Cuckoos calling to each other allowed themselves to be revealed as well as an immaculately coloured male Variegated Fairy Wren, Eastern Spinebill and a Grey Fantail.

When we go onto the coast, we then sea watched from Cape Solander where a rewarding hour or so produced a good mix of sea birds. We were amazed to see at least 20 Cape Petrels foraging amongst the feeding flocks of thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a few hundred Wedge-tailed and a few Fluttering Shearwaters amongst them. Also a Shy and at least 10 Black-browed Albatross, 2 Giant Petrels, a dark morph Arctic Jaeger, Australasian Gannets and an adult Kelp Gull were amongst the other sea birds seen from here.

We later had our lunch at the Commemoration Flat Picnic Area were quite a number of tame birds (Kookaburras, Crimson Rosellas, Pied Currawongs amongst others) were watching us at very close quarters and hoping they would be given a free feed. We did not oblige of course. However, this was where we saw a nice looking Dollarbird, Spotted Pardalotes, a Brown Goshawk as well as another Sooty Oystercatcher on the rocks.

Later in the afternoon we also had another sea watch, this time from Mistral Pt at Maroubra. Here we saw another 6 Black-browed Albatross, thousands more Shearwaters (Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed mainly as well as a few hundred Fluttering Shearwaters amongst them), another Kelp Gull, Australasian Gannets as well as some Crested Terns. An adult White-bellied Sea-eagle with a decent sized fish catch also had greeted us soon after our arrival there and just before we had left, a few blows were seen from a distant Humpback Whale which round the day nicely for us.

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Ellalong Lagoon & the Lower Hunter Trip Report

Saturday 29 September 2020
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Alan expands from his wealth
of birding experience
It was a somewhat windy day that commenced with a cool sunny morning as 18 happy birders headed for the Hunter Valley for a days birding. For some, it was a first time birding experience with a group of like minded people! Our first stop was along Sandy Creek Rd Quorrobolong where we checked out a raptore that flew along the road ahead of the coach. Once stopped in open farming country with some scattered eucalypts, we were able to identify the bird as an Australian Hobby, and in quick succession at the same stop, we identified Nankeen Kestrels, a Brown Falcon, and White-throated Gerygones were heard calling, a good sign that spring has sprung and the migrants birds had returned to this part of NSW. We had another stop at the wetlands along Heaton Gap Rd, where we soon found more Kestrels and a Brown Falcon, 6 Tree Martins, a Wood Duck with 8 ducklings, a Royal Spoonbill, a flock of Grey-crowned Babblers, Red-rumped Parrots and a Great Egret.

From here we gradually wound our way along Swans Lane to the private property “Iomar” Quorrobolong, with its good stands of Box Woodland and Spotted Gums, checking out Pipits and Pied Butcherbirds on the way. We remained here for the rest of the morning where Yellow-tufted and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were the dominant small birds, Little Lorikeets were busy overhead in the flowering gums, and good views were had of Dusky Woodswallows feeding young, Scarlet Honeyeaters, a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, Jacky Winters, Noisy Friarbirds and Grey Shike-thrush, while Fuscous Honeyeaters and Bell Miners were calling. Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters were seen feeding young in a nest, Rufous Whistlers were busy setting up territories, and a Fantailed Cuckoo was giving its mournful call.

We moved onto the Poppet-head Park at Kitchener for lunch, where a Brown Goshawk and a White-bellied Sea-eagle flew overhead, and Eastern Spinebills, Superb Fairy-wrens, Coots and Moorhens entertained while we ate. After lunch we explored the bushland surrounds and added Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown & Yellow Thornbills and Mistletoebirds to our list. At Ellalong, and the southern end of the Lagoon, we found plenty of Black Ducks and Grey Teal, Little Corellas were flying around and there were also Darters, White-faced Herons and more Brown Falcons and Sea-eagles in the sky! We then moved to the Paxton end of Ellalong Lagoon where there were some large flocks of Pelicans, and in the surrounding fields in the small wetlands there was a pair of Swans with 3 cygnets, a Yellow-billed Spoonbill amongst the Royals and more Grey Teal, Black-winged stilts and Black-fronted Dotterels!

We proceeded slowly up the Congewoi Valley, past the public school and into the farming areas where we were rewarded by seeing a flock of 14 Double-barred Finches, a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters, Mistletoebirds, Striped Honeyeaters, a White-necked Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, a Brown Goshawk flew over, a number of Nankeen Kestrels were sighted, more Black-fronted Dotterels and a pair of Masked Lapwings with three tiny chicks and Swamphens with chicks too. We finished the day with a list of 90 species and a satisfied group of birders headed home to Sydney very pleased with the birding and the pleasant surrounds of this section of the Hunter valley.

By Alan Morris, Ornithologist for FTB

Spotlighting in the Royal National Park
Trip Report

Saturday 7 July 2021
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella & Steve Anyon-Smith

Beautiful Firetail by Ken Griffiths
We started off late in the afternoon with a walk along the Gundamaian Fire Trail where it abounded with honeyeater activity. Little Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters were the most numerous but we were eventually able to pick out several Yellow-faced, White-naped, Brown-headed , Fuscous and the beautiful Scarlet Honeyeater amongst them. One of the birds we hoped to find here were Beautiful Firetails and we were lucky to find at least 4 of these stunning gems! Dusky Woodswallows and a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet flew well overhead and a flock of 6 magnificent Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flew over the track as we started to head back to the bus. The Eastern Whipbird and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren also called beside the track but remained elusive.

We then later arrived at Audley to enjoy an evening snack at Willow Tree Flat alongside the Hacking River and before preparing ourselves for our evening walk. A couple of Australasian Grebes, Wood Ducks and lots of Moorhens and Swamphens as well as an Eastern Yellow Robin were present here. It was also at this spot were we were lucky to find a few Dwarf Green Tree Frogs, keeping quiet and hiding amongst the Lomandra Thickets beside the River.

It was not long after we began our evening spotlighting, we found our first Sugar Glider for the night, one just on the edge of its nest hollow and showing very well to everyone in the group. We then found our first Common Ringtail on the other side of the river and then 2 more Sugar Gliders, both seen gliding and landing on the trunks of the 2 different eucalypts. A joy to experience!

We then went over the other side of the river to walk towards Wattle Flat were we found 2 more Common Ringtails, another Sugar Glider posing beautifully for us and then later our only nocturnal bird for the night, a Tawny Frogmouth which also allowed us to approach quite closely as it tried to flatten itself against the branch (a disguise which only really works well for it during the day).

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Courting Pelicans Trip Report

Saturday 9 June 2021
Ornithologist: Alan Morris & Christina Port

Female Chestnut Teal by Christina Port
A break in the wet and windy weather of recent weeks found Saturday a perfect sunny winters day, little wind and fresh conditions and great for birding! So a coach load of eager birders, after a pleasant ride up the F3 from Sydney, and a change of drivers, for local birder and photographer Christina Port to take over, we were soon checking out the birds in the flowering heathlands of Brisbane Water National Park near Kariong.

Because of all the rain, the flowering heathland banksias, Banksia ericafolia and spinulosa, and some flowering Swamp Mahoganys were attracting all the honeyeaters and the air was filled with the song and clatter of Red & Little Wattlebirds, Lewin’s,Yellow-faced, New Holland & White-cheeked Honeyaters, Eastern Spinebills and an occasional Scarlet Honeyeater. Rainbow Lorikeets were abundant, Grey Fantails and Grey Shrike-thrushes added to the calls, while Superb and Variegated Fairy-wrens, Brown Thornbills and Red-browed Finches were soon located and differences explained to the six or so first time birders! Of interest was a group of 3 Red-whiskered Bul Buls, an introduced species not seen by many people, and some ponds were Chestnut Teal and Little Grebe were found.

We moved off to Girrakool Picnic area BWNP, for morning tea and afterwards walked the Girrakool loop Track. Again plenty of Banksias, Epacris, Darwinia and Croweas, flowering or coming into flower. New birds seen here included Noisy Friarbird, Brown-headed and White-naped Honeyaters, Golden Whistler, Striated Thornbills and Spotted Pardalotes. The Creeks were running well and Eastern Spinebills were darting in the heath everywhere, and there was plenty of opportunity to do some wildlflower watching as well! Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos called in the distance but none actually were seen.

We took our lunch at the boat launching ramp on Woy Woy channel where we looked out over Brisbane Water to Rileys and Pelican island. Highlights here were the Pelicans at the fish cleaning benches, the hundreds of Northern Mallards looking for handouts, an Eastern Osprey perched on a dead tree on Rileys Island, and Pied and Little Pied Cormorants flying past. Aftre lunch we movd around the corner into Blackalls Bay, and walked along the bycyle track down to a spot opposite Ramsay Island to look out onto the Pelican and White Ibis colony here. I estimated that there were 60+ pairs of Pelicans on nest with eggs or with young, 40+ non-flying immatures swimming around or loafing at the colony, and 50+ Pelicans indulging in courtship behavious, displaying their lovely breeding soft parts colours of pink, blue and white! Soon we were all familiar with the fluttering and extended pink and blue pouches, the gaping displays showing off the beautiful pink throats and pouches, and formation swimming toattract members of the opposite sex! Other birds around here included 6 Pied Oystercatchers, 11 Caspian Terns, a pair of Eastern Ospreys indulging in some courtship dispays of synchonised flying and diving, 30 0r 40 Figbirds feeding in Strangler Figs on the waterfront, flocks of Galahs, Long-billed and Little Corellas feeding and roosting in some of the trees, and both Great Egret and 4 Royal Spponbills, in addition there were about 20 pairs of White Ibis nesting on Ramsay Island as well.

Our last stop of the day was at Palmers Lane, Bensville where we looked without success for Mangrove Gerygones, but managed to see Striated and White-faced Herons, Cattle Egrets and Wood Ducks, King Parrots and Eastern Rosellas. We finished the day with 68 species a good winters day count, and everyone enjoyed the lovely sunny weather and the feast of birding activity!

by Alan Morris, Ornithologist for FTB

Honeyeater Migration Trip Report

Saturday 21 April 2021
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Yellow-faced Honeyeater by Neil Fifer
Groups of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were constantly flying over, going west just above the treetops as I waited for the Follow That Bird bus. The bus arrived and it didn’t take long before many of the birders had these migrating flocks in their sights.

The streams of migrating honeyeaters passing through the Blue Mountains this autumn are much more numerous than last year’s disappointing numbers. Back on the bus we talked about the huge unexplained variability in numbers from year to year, the effects of weather and the possible wintering areas where these flocks might be heading.

Arriving at Katoomba Falls Reserve, frustratingly the sky clouded over and the honeyeaters which normally fly up the gully at this point had stopped. However the Silvereyes don’t stop flying when it’s cloudy and we noted two flocks high overhead, travelling north. A Red Wattlebird in a nearby tree provided the new birders with an opportunity to practise using their binoculars, with the fine markings and red wattles clearly seen.

Next it was out onto Narrow Neck, a spectacular natural landmark and superhighway for migrating birds. With the clouds now partly clearing, we watched continuing movement of the Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters along the peninsula. A large migrating flock of Noisy Friarbirds and Red Wattlebirds silently flew by. Spotted Pardalotes were heard and one Striated was seen. Everywhere there were (non-migrating) New Holland Honeyeaters feeding in the abundant banksias.

A Beautiful Firetail landed briefly in a shrub, calling, and promptly vanished again. Dark shapes through the trees became Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos and a stunning male Golden Whistler was admired by all, prompting Janene to wax lyrical over its “fine foliage” (a slip-up which had no chance of going unnoticed today)!

Govetts Leap was our delightful lunch site and even here the brisk “chip chip…” contact calls of the migrating honeyeaters continued to provide the soundtrack to our day. A White-throated Treecreeper gave us great views; as did the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and a magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring low overhead. Slightly more challenging for most were the Brown Thornbills and an Eastern Whipbird.

Gazing into the depths of the Grose Valley at George Phillips Lookout, we watched flock after flock of honeyeaters flying along the tops of the cliffs below us. Back at the carpark, an Australian Raven was spotted carrying something large. It turned out to be a chop, no doubt stolen from someone’s barbecue. This is the same pair of ravens that I have seen caching food in hollow limbs and crevices in the rock wall, but today the chop was devoured enthusiastically. The final species for the day was a party of Striated Thornbills busily foraging in the outer “plumage” of a large eucalypt.

The day had provided many memorable sightings combined with the awesome Blue Mountains views. Autumn is a wonderful time of year and it’s always great to see the migration in progress.

by Carol Probets ornithologist for Follow That Bird

Watagan Mountains Trip Report

Saturday 28 February 2021
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Welcome Swallow
Welcome Swallow by David Simpson
Huey allotted us an overcast day following a week of heavy rain, for this Saturday outing, so we were pleased that we could at least be out and about birdwatching in some dry weather. When we turned off the F3 Expressway near Morisset and headed through Cooranbong and up into the Watagan Mountains, we expected to see plenty of birds around the local wetlands en route. However this was not to be because of all the rain, the wetlands are covered in heavy reed growth and there was little open water, so waterbirds have plenty of places to hide in. So our first proper stop was at Heatons Lookout, Watagans NP with views over Lake Macquarie and the Tuggerah Lakes. While having morning tea we spent time sorting out those “little brown birds”, like Brown Thornbills, Brown Gerygones, Large-billed scrub-wrens, Spotted Pardalotes and Eastern Spinebills, and having got them sorted we found Brown Cuckoo-doves feeding on the green berries of the Bleeding Heart Tree, Yellow-faced, White-naped and Lewin’s Honeyeaters were feeding on Strinybark blossom, a Superb Lyrebird was heard calling in a gully, a Wedge-tailed Eagle circled low over us, Satin Bowerbirds and Crimson Rosellas checked us out for food, and a Brush Bronzewing on the road gave everyone good views as we left the site.

We wound our way through the State Forests and National Park to the Pines Picnic Area, seeing mostly Grey Shrike-thrushes, Eastern Whipbirds, Pied Currawongs and Satin Bowerbirds along the roads, eventually coming to the Pinus radiata plantations located around the picnic area. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding on the pine cones and wailing through the trees as we ate our lunch. There were more Crimson Rosellas and Brown Cuckoo-doves, and White-browed Treecreepers and White-browed Scrub-wrens were added to our list. The weather was closing in so we departed for the shores of Lake Macquarie where it was much brighter, travelling through Martinsville and Morisset, where Pied Butcherbirds, White Ibis, Swamphens, Moorhens, Masked Lapwings and our favourite Wood Ducks were ticked off, while many Grey Kangaroos were found grazing in the grassy glades of the Morisset Hospital grounds.

We finally reached the Wood Point section of Lake Macquarie, where the Swamp Oaks, Mangroves, Forest Red Gums and Melaleucas promised some good bush birds! Soon we found a party of 8 Varied Sittellas scouring the trees up and down the trunks and branches for insects, Superb and Variegatred Fairy-wrens, Yellow and Brown Thornbills, great views of Golden Whistlers, both male and female, and Grey Fantails & Willie Wagtails. Out on the Point were Black Swans, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Darters and Pelicans. There were Eastern Rosellas & Laughing Kookaburras in the woodland, and finally we added to our raptor list for the day. First a Whistling Kite circled over us and then we found a pair of Eastern Ospreys, roosting in a dead tree, not far from a previously used nest. This pair is currently the most southern nesting pair in NSW as the two pairs further south at Narrabeen Lakes and at Ulladulla have not nested in the past 12 months. Welcome Swallows & White-breasted Woodswallows were hawking along the waterways and our last bird for the day, a Dollarbird was seen roosting in a tall tree along the Creek, bringing to 67 the days birdlist. The participants of this trip found a good cross section of the birds of the Lake Macquarie area and enjoyed some pleasant walks in the Australian bush with good company!

by Alan Morris ornithologist for Follow That Bird

Boxvale & Bargo River Trip Report

Saturday 19 November 2020
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

Boobook by Christina Port
9am and it was already 34 Celsius! On my seat in the bus Alan had put a packet of Minties. Was it going to be one of those days?

We started at the Partridge VC layby on the Hume Highway, as one does when birding. And on a nearby dam an Australasian Grebe was tending to its floating nest and a Black Swan and Hardheads lazed along the edges. White-plumed Honeyeaters and House Sparrows (wherever there is a crumb!) flitted in the bushes. Not a bad start.

Heading south Little Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Pacific Heron and a Kestrel raised the buzz in the bus. As we turned off towards Moss Vale a shout of ‘Raptor!’ had us all tumbling out for great views of a Little Eagle, a boisterous Rufous Songlark. Goldfinches, a pair of Red-rumped Parrots and a Dusky Woodswallow. Birds were now the topic of conversation, not hot weather. At the Boxvale Track young Josh set the expectations high when heard the call of a Spotted Quail Thrush. And there were plenty of other birds calling though most were frustratingly difficult to see. Still we did see Rufous Whistler, Eastern Spinebill, White-browed Scrubwren among others and at the dam Coots and Hardhead but a lone male Musk Duck stole the show. On a bare-branched tree Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants were drying their wings. On the return Josh (on another week of ‘work experience’, half his luck!) all but trod on a Tiger Snake.

Red-browed Treecreeper
by Christina Port
This encouraged a swift return to the bus but not before picking out the calls, and then the birds themselves, of Little Ravens, a new bird for the FTB ‘Sydney List’.

At the Hill Top lunch stop even the birds had called it a day – too hot. But we persevered and turned up a busy pair of Buff-rumped Thornbills. Nice find.

On to the Bargo River, a pleasant stroll which usually has us spinning to watch all the birds and we weren’t disappointed.

As we disembarked there was a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and nearby a pair of Peaceful Doves cooed contentedly. The track is a very pleasant shaded stroll. Just as well, as it was now very hot and sticky, though you wouldn’t have thought so with all the activity around us.

White-naped Honeyeaters, New Holland Honeyeaters, White-throated Treecreepers, several male Rufous Whistlers giving each other grief, the occasional Golden Whistler and Yellow Robins. In the background Fan-tailed and Shining Bronze Cuckoos called and the suddenly across the track flew a juvenile cuckoo. It paused in a nearby bush and appeared to be following a pair of Brown Thornbills. It was and they were flat out feeding it. Our views were excellent but opinions were undecided on whether it was a young Fan-tailed or Brush Cuckoo. Christina Port emailed her photograph to Alan Morris who wrote – “In my opinion it is a juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo. This is because a juvenile Brush Cuckoo is finely barred all over both on the wings and on the breast. The juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoos is partly barred and partly checkered on the breast and belly and checkered on the wing. Such a description fits your bird.”

A little further on a Treecreeper wended its way up a trunk and again later confirmed as Red-browed. In both cases it was Christina’s long lensed photos that clinched identification.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo by Christina Port
Then the calls of Crested Shrike Tits were heard and there they were along with a number of Sittellas. We all enjoyed great views especially of a young CST, a paler less decorated version of Mum and Dad. All this commotion disturbed a Boobook owl that popped out of his hole in a broken branch to find out what was going on. I could have sworn he mumbled “Oh! The FTB Birdwatchers” before popping back in again.

By this time the heat was taking its toll. As we made our way toward Picton Janene called out ‘Straw-necked Ibis, anybody want to get out?’ there was an unqualified response from everybody ‘No thanks. We can see them from the bus’. It was at that point that Janene said ‘Right. I think it’s ice-cream time. That brought forth a far more energised and favourable response.

Post ice-creams we diverted to a small dam near Picton and picked up Black-fronted Dotterel, Australian Shoveller, great views of a pair of Red-rumped Parrots and a chorus of Golden-headed Cisticolas.

It was one of those days. A hot, sweaty, 94 species, great day. And a great bunch of birders who were great fun to be with. Thank you.

by Bob Ashrod orithologist for FTB

Bundeena Ferry to Watamolla Trip Report

Saturday 5 November 2020
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo by Christina Port
Well, it started off as a cracker of a day and only got better! It was bright and sunny, temperatures were in the mid-twenties with just enough of a gentle cooling breeze to keep all of us keen birders and the birds very happy.

As we boarded the ferry at Cronulla a chorus of calling Koels and croaking Corellas bid us good birding and during the crossing to Bundeena basking cormorants and Pelicans idly watched us sail by. Disembarking at Bundeela we headed to the loos. I have discovered a direct correlation between the need for a loo stop and the number of birds and species seen at the same location. Everyone’s needs seem to be satisfied, let’s put it that way!

Dollarbirds, Satin Bowerbirds, Kookaburras busy feeding chicks in an old ants nest high in nearby branches, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes and Little Wattlebirds bullying the Noisy Miners for a change.

On we travelled to the fire trail trying to ignore the ever present New Holland Honeyeaters. This is a terrific looking avian but after many tens one does yearn for something else! And we were not disappointed – Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters giving us wonderful views.

At Wattamolla an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle soared overhead while in the heath White-browed Scrubwrens, Silvereyes and elusive Yellow Robins entertained us. At the cliff edge a female Kestrel was spotted taking a small lizard into a well hidden hole. Presumably there was a happy chick inside. Offshore amongst the whitecaps regular streams of shearwaters were busy fishing, too far out to be species specific but fun to watch. All this, I might add not too far from another handy loo.

Lunch called and we headed for Wattle Forest where, coincidentally, there was another handy convenience. Fan-tailed Cuckoos and Olive-backed Orioles called incessantly. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Corellas joined us expectantly. White-throated Treecreepers and Golden Whistlers entertained us and not too far away a Cicadabird buzzed. Loos. Birds. I rest my case.

Lady Carrington Drive RNP
by Chris Melrose
Along the river’s edge strode an elegant Great Egret and a less elegant but equally bold Lace Monitor. A short walk turned up Red-browed Finches, Yellow Robins, Azure and Sacred Kingfishers. On the river Australasian Grebes, Wood Duck and a couple of Moorhens added to the scene.

Along the other side of the river, Lady Carrington Drive, we discovered several spectacular Variegated Wrens, Black-faced Monarchs, Green Catbirds and a pair of Spotted Pardalotes flying backwards and forwards from their nest tunnel obviously feeding youngsters. Then, just before we headed homeward, from yet another suitably placed loo (need I say more?) we spotted a pair of Leaden Flycatchers.

In total 79 species by the time we did the count and 80 if you add the Coot just as we left the weir. Yes it started off great and just kept getting better. The weather and the birds helped of course. But mainly it was the birders. A cheerful and happy-go-lucky bunch who made the day. Thanks Guys.

By Bob Ashford ornithologist for FTB

Birds & Sandstone Wildflowers Trip Report

Saturday 25 September 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Lace Moniter close up by Edwin Vella
A good day was had at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park with mainly nice warm weather, stunning and colourful wild flower displays throughout the national park and of course some very nice birds!

Our first walk was along the Centre Trail were a variety of Grevilleas, Pea flowers, Boronias, Heath flowers and many more other brilliant and colourful displays initially entertained us. Bird activity was mainly quite along this trail but we were more than compensated with great views of an Eastern Whipbird moving about between bushes before getting back onto the bus to our next spot.

Our next spot was the Elvina Track were quite a number of honeyeaters were taking advantage of the multitude of flowering blossoms throughout the woodland and heath. We all had great views of the White-cheeked Honeyeaters and good comparisons of them as the similar looking New Holland Honeyeaters as well as Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills, Silvereyes and Grey Fantail.

Morning tea was had at the Resolute picnic area where an Australian Brush Turkey and Magpie made good company. Around the picnic area, we were also delighted to see a few Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, Dusky Woodswallow soaring overhead with an Australian Pelican and Olive-backed Oriole. We even heard hear at least a couple of rare Swift Parrots which despite calling above us were too hard to see in the high canopy of the eucalypts.

Masked Lapwing chick by Edwin Vella
We then went to the West Head Lookout facing Barrenjoey Head and with good views of Lion Island as the surrounding Broken Bay and Pitt Water estuaries. Here we saw a Whistling Kite, Australian Hobby and nicely marked Lace Monitor showing well to a number of onlookers at the lookout.

Around midday, lunch was head at the Illawong Bay picnic area were delighted to see a pair of Masked Lapwings guarding closely its single chick. We were also interested to see here another Lace Monitior and then like watching an interesting wild life documentary, seeing it boldly stroll towards the family of Lapwings with the parent lapwings on the defence. With all this commotion, we then wondered what had happened to the baby lapwing. Then to our amazement, we saw the chick squatting so flat to the ground as it blended very well with its surroundings. If we had not noticed, we may have accidentally trodden on the poor thing!

We then went down to Cottage Point where we saw a young White-bellied Sea-eagle soaring together with a Whistling Kite. Here we then enjoyed a nice ferry ride to Palm Beach via Patonga with more White-bellied Sea-eagles and Whistling Kites as well as 4 species of Cormorants to entertain us. Before heading back home we stopped on our way at Deep Creek Reserve next to Narrabeen Lagoon. Here our days bird sightings rounded quite well with a family of Australian Wood Ducks (with very young ducklings), Australasian Grebes, Chestnut Teal as well as hearing both an Azure Kingfisher and LewinÕs Honeyeaters.

by Edwin Vella orithologist for FTB

Swamp Mahoganies & Swft Parrots Trip Report

Saturday 25 August 2020
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Swift Parrot courtesy of Antwep Zoo
This day started foggy, dull and overcast and while the fog did lift, unfortunately the overcast weather persisted and the 15 participants of the trip were probably feeling a bit disappointed about the weather. However all that disappointment was banished as soon as the coach pulled up at the first stop, the Wyongah Community Hall, on the westrrn side of Tuggerah Lake, and everyone alighted from the coach only to find that the coach was parked under a flowering Forest Red Gum, full of Swift Parrots! The birds were screeching, gurgling, whistling, calling to each other, flying to and from nearby flowering Red Gums and together with Rainbow Lorikeets and other birds, the sky was full of birdsong! We were soon out and about checking out nearby Cadonia St, Tuggerawong Drive and Courangah Rd and a development site where there were more flowering trees including Swamp Mahogany and Indian Coral Trees. Noisy Friarbirds were dominating the Swamp Mahogany and Coral Trees and having many battles with the resident Bell Miners, and so the Forest Red Gums were left mainly to the Swift Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets and a few Noisy Miners. Other birds seen here included Lewin’s & Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalotes and a lone Black-shouldered Kite. There was over 100 Swift Parrots at this place and the area was full of the sound of them calling to each other and everyone obtained great views of this rare parrot.

Having had so much success with Swifties it was decided to try our luck with the Regent Honeyeaters that were known to still be present at the Sub-Station site at Morisset. We parked at Pourmalong Creek in the Morisset Hospital Reserve and walked along the tracks for about 1.5 km to reach the site. Alas the Swamp Mahoganies were still flowering, the air was full of the call of Noisy Friarbirds intent on chasing other honeyaters and lorikeets away from the food source, but our 15 pairs of eyes could not locate even one Regent Honeyeater. Our efforts were not wasted though, we did have good views of 8+ Little Lorikeets, a party of 5 Varied Sitellas, Golden Whistler, Striated Thornbill, White-throated Treecreeper, and Yellow-faced, White-naped, Scarlet, White-cheeked & Brown-headed Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills all feeding on the nectar flow from the Swamp Mahoganies and other flowering Banksias and Hakeas. A Fan-tailed Cuckoo was heard and seen and great views were had of a Shining Bronze-cuckoo.

We returned to the Central Coast and lunched at Joshua Porter Reserve, Chain Valley Bay south. This is another Swiftie site and we were not disappointed, as once again, as we alighted from the coach, we could hear and see Swift Parrots feeding in Swamp Mahoganies, Blue Gums and Lemon -scented Gums at the picnic area. These trees were planted trees only a few years old and are not very high as yet so the Swifties could be seen and photographed at a low level. There were other birds to see here as well, and once lunch was eaten we explored the walking tracks and foreshore reseves of this part of Chain Valley Bay. Highlights here were 4 Fan-tailed Cuckoos calling well and giving all great views, a large flock of about 10 Varied Sittellas, Darter, White-breasted Sea-Eagle, Caspian & Crested Terns, good views of Bar-shoulderedd Doves, Cattle & Great Egrets, Yellow Thornbills and Variegated Fairy-wrens, Red-browed Finches and Chestnut Teal. We filled in the afternoon at this site, and as the rain kept away, we ended up with a reasonable bird list, with 68 species seen and great birding experiences especially for those people who were seeing Swift Parrots for the first time. There were 30+ Swifties here, and with 100+ at the Tuggerawong site, seeing 130+ in the one day is a great experience!

by Alan Morris ornithologist for FTB

Lyre Birding at Minnamurra Falls Trip Report

Saturday 25 June 2021
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

Satin Bowerbird by Christina Port
As the coach pulled into the Bulli Pass picnic area so did around a hundred Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, all heading south. I had noticed similar flocks a day or two earlier. It seems that the moment the equinox ticks over it triggers ‘spring action’, however premature. Over the next couple of months migration and mating will be on the mind of many species. And throughout the day there was regular ‘tick, ticking’ as more Yellow-Faced flew over.

This wasn’t the case with the Cattle Egrets at Albion Park, still in all white plumage and unlikely to head north to breed until at least early October. But they were the excuse to stop and check a ‘sizeable puddle’, as someone put it. Puddling around were Grey and Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Australasian Grebe, Coot, Moorhen and Black Swan. Around the edges strutted a large contingent of Magpie-Larks while overhead Welcome Swallows chased invisible insects. A significant number of members on the trip had never been birding before and this was a great introduction for them.

A little harder was the far off Wedge-tailed Eagle circling over the escarpment. This was spotted by Josh, a young, keen and obviously competent birder doing Work Experience with FTB. In fact his sharp eyes were invaluable in helping us all find hard to see birds once in the rainforest. Lyrebirds singing, male Golden Whistlers, a Satin Bowerbird’s bower, sneaky White-browed Scrubwrens, small flocks of Large-billed Scrubwrens, White-throated Treecreepers, Brown Cuckoo-Doves. I was forever grateful that I spotted a Green Catbird and was able to point that out as it sat in the sun looking truly gorgeous. For a while there my status as ‘experienced bird guide’ was in serious doubt.

Minnamurra Falls 2011
In fact Lyrebirds did us proud this visit. We arrived at the car park to discover a nonchalant female scratching away just outside the window of the Park Centre. When we opened the door to get an even better look it simply ignored us. It only moved on when a keen photographer literally stood next to it.

On our return to the Centre from the walk to the falls, which were in good flow, we sat down at the picnic tables only to be joined by a very dapper male Lyrebird. After scratching around for a bit it then slowly climbed the branches of the tree next to us. I have never had such spectacular views of a male so close and for all the ‘beginners’ this was the cr?me a la cr?me’.

Lyrebird at Minnamurra by Christina Port
In all it was an excellent day with some 70 species recorded. This was a great introduction to birdwatching for those just starting and even those of who have years of birding under pour belts it was an excellent day.

There was one downside, well, for me at least. As is often the case Janene screeched to a halt on a narrow road on the way out from Minnamurra because she had seen a raptor fly into some trees on the far side of a paddock. I rushed out to identify it. Hot on my tail was Super Josh who spotted it instantly and declared “It’s a juvenile Bazza!” (Crested Hawk). I had been outsmarted once again by his eyes and talent. It’s true what they say in show business – about kids and animals, I mean.

Fortunately the group was not only forgiving they were great fun to be with. And I thank them, as well as Josh, for their contribution to an excellent day of birdwatching.

by Bob Ashford ornithologist for FTB

Mass Honeyeater Migration Trip Report

Saturday 28 May 2021
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

New Holland Honeyeater by Neil Fifer
A beautiful late-autumn day in the Blue Mountains welcomed nine birders on the Follow That Bird bus. The first stop at Wilson Park provided the opportunity for a binocular lesson for those participants new to birding, with plenty of birds around to practise on. Common species in the park were Pied Currawongs, Red Wattlebirds, Crimson Rosellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, while in a leafy tree was a mixed group of Brown Thornbills and Silvereyes. The chestnut flanks and grey throat of the Silvereyes indicated they were of the Tasmanian race, here for the winter.

The main purpose of the day was to see the migratory honeyeaters. Every autumn, thousands of Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters migrate through the Blue Mountains heading north towards their winter feeding areas. Some years they come in huge numbers and in some years, for unknown reasons, they hardly come through at all. This year has seen much lower than usual numbers migrating through the mountains, but with the banksias now coming into flower, the heathlands are filling up with honeyeaters of all sizes getting ready to stay for the winter months.

On Narrow Neck the heath was a continuous buzz of activity with New Holland, Yellow-faced, White-naped Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills never keeping still for more than a moment – the New Holland demonstrating their hawking skills as they darted out in pursuit of flying insects. The loud calls of Crescent Honeyeaters could be heard but these remained hidden. Overhead, large flocks of Red Wattlebirds were flying north, Welcome Swallows flew over and flocks of Silvereyes filled the air from time to time.

Beautiful Firetail by Nevil Lazarus
The flower heads on a Banksia cunninghamii beside the track were gleaming with nectar, and inserted fingers came out dripping with the sweet liquid. No wonder there were honeyeaters in droves. We also had views of White-browed Scrubwren, White-throated Treecreeper and a distant Satin Bowerbird.

We ate lunch at Katoomba Falls where Kookaburras and Pied Currawongs eyed our sandwiches and Crimson Rosellas were seen gleaning small insects from eucalyptus leaves. It was then off to Shipley where the bus was brought to a halt by the sight of a Bassian Thrush on the road verge, and Eastern Grey Kangaroos were out grazing.

One of the great things about birding is that it takes you to some of the most scenic yet lesser-known locations, and our walk at Shipley was a good example. Here we saw yet more honeyeaters, including good views of a pair of White-eared. We listened to a distant Superb Lyrebird, saw Grey Shrike-thrush, Eastern Yellow Robin and Josh pointed out a male Golden Whistler. But the grand finale was a Beautiful Firetail which sat high in a tree for all to admire, undoubtedly bird of the day!

Pearl Beach & Patonga Birding Trip Report

Saturday 19 March 2021
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Whipbird by David Simpson
Thirteen eager birders travelled to Kariong for a days birding in the Pearl Beach and Patonga areas on a day where the weather forecasters promised “scattered showers” but alas all we received was “rain periods” and it was very heavy rain at times too! But nothing daunted, we pulled up at our first stop, Brisbane Waters National Park, and soon we were amongst a group of New Holland & White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills and Little Wattlebirds feeding in flowering Red Bloodwoods and Bansia oblongifolias. Also present in this tall heath were Yellow Robins, Grey Shrike-thrushes and Crimson Rosellas and some more common species. We made our way through Woy Woy enroute to Pearl Beach and ticked off the Long-billed Corellas, Galahs and Suphur-crested Cockstoos that inhabit the suburbs there, before settling into the Arboretum where we could take our morning tea under cover from the rain. Alas while we able to find the Satin Bowerbirds bower and the Brush Turkey’s mound, the owners never showed at that time, but we did manage to pick up Lewin’s Honeyeater, Brown Thornbills and Variegated Fairy-wrens, Golden Whistlers and more Eastern Yellow Robins.

At Warrah Trig we took the walk down to Tony Doyle’s lookout over the Hawkesbury River and then the firetrail back to the Trig. Here good views were obtained of White-eared Honeyeaters, more wattlebirds and White-cheeked Honeyeaters. After all that excercise it was time for lunch where we sheltered from the next bout of rain. From the dry pavillion we watched a pair of Peregrine Falcons check out the landscape, being warned of their coming by the local Noisy Miners. At the Patonga Wharf there were Pelicans, and both Pied and Little Black Cormorants feeding on whitebait, giving us a good view of them and feeding Crested Terns. Fishermen cleaning fish caught the eye of a pair of nesting Whistling Kites and they made a number of sorties over the gathering throng of pelicans and gulls to see what they could retrieve.

After lunch we first visted the Tesselated Pavement on the hill, where a little group of Red-browed Finches added to the excitement, and then it was down to the caravan park from where we walked upstream along Patonga Creek as the tide was falling. There on the mudflats and adjacent oyster leases, were plenty of White-faced Herons, Great, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, and Australian Darters for the benefit of our new birders to learn how to tell them apart. And tell the Mallards apart from the Black Ducks and Chestnut Teal. A late Sacred Kingfsher put in an appearance, a few Brush Turkeys were found, Grey Butcherbirds hassled Noisy Miners, Welcome Swallows allowed for close approaches and the other pair of Whistling Kites called and swooped around their nesting Pine tree. Wood Ducks and Eastern Rosellas showed to an advantage. On this trip many birders were beginners at the game, so it was sensible to spend more time on the common species. Despite the rain we managed to see 68 species which was a good total for a wet day.

By Alan Morris Ornotholgist for FTB.

Mt Tomah Trip Report

Saturday 19 February 2021
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Alan Mathew Mt Tomah
Lush gardens on a mountaintop, a diversity of stunning birds, a shady rainforest walk, beautiful butterflies and a generous dash of camaraderie proved to be the ingredients of an enjoyable summer’s day for the 19 birders on the Mt Tomah day trip.

After a binocular lesson at Richmond for the first-time birdwatchers in the group, we wound our way up Bellbird Hill to the accompaniment of the Bell Miners, having already clocked up a few species including a fast-flying Australian Hobby (seen by Brian) and a Dollarbird (seen by everyone).

During morning tea at Bilpin, a confiding Eastern Yellow Robin showed off its “perch-and-pounce” hunting technique as it foraged for invertebrates in a garden bed beside the picnic tables. Crimson Rosellas, a pair of Laughing Kookaburras and a female or immature Satin Bowerbird were also seen here.

It was then up onto the basalt soil of Mount Tomah and its magnificent cool-climate gardens where we spent the greatest part of the day. In the formal garden we managed to see a pair of Eastern Whipbirds working their way along a hedge as they called. Walking down through the rock garden gave us great views of Red-browed Finches, parties of Superb Fairy-wrens with numerous blue males, an Eastern Spinebill probing the pink tubular flowers of a heath and an Australian Magpie, strangely, soaring like a bird of prey. Eastern Water Skinks darted across rocks as we walked by.

Further down in a shady area the bower of a Satin Bowerbird was seen, with a great collection of blue plastic spoons, lids, lolly wrappers and other decorations, but there were fewer yellowish items than there often are during spring when the bower is more intensively maintained.

It was amongst the tall Eucalyptus fastigata (Brown Barrel) trees that we were treated to the best birding of the day. It started with a Black-faced Monarch – an immature without a black face, obsessed with obtaining something from a fork in a particular Brown Barrel. A Grey Fantail followed and we soon realised we were in the midst of a mixed flock consisting of more than 16 species. For a good half hour there was so much bird activity it was hard to know where to look. Golden Whistler, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown and Striated Thornbills, Brown Gerygone, White-throated and Red-browed Treecreepers were some of the birds seen, but the absolute highlight was a couple of Crested Shrike-tits moving through the trees, always a thrill to see. Nearby, a Bassian Thrush quietly foraged in the leaf litter, its subdued markings admired by all.

Startlingly close views of a New Holland Honeyeater interrupted our walk back to the top, before we enjoyed a relaxed lunch in the lushness of the picnic area.

Mt Tomah Range Views
During the morning some of us had also been paying attention to the abundant butterflies, with several huge Orchard Swallowtails soaring past, an Imperial Jezebel and a Yellow-spotted Jezebel seen. Meanwhile, Janene saw a Blue Triangle. At the carpark we watched a Macleay’s Swallowtail circling above, its green underwings and prominent swallow tail noticeable.

After lunch we set off for the new Jungle Walk, a shady loop through warm temperate rainforest. A unique feature here was the ring of Sassafras trunks encircling a room-like space where the giant parent tree had died. A pair of whipbirds called loudly nearby, Black Jezebel butterflies graced the gloom, and a Lewin’s Honeyeater flew in and landed in the ferns right beside us. A fast-moving brown shape on the forest floor turned out to be an antechinus, which quickly disappeared into a crack in a log. Back up at the road, a Common Blackbird added to the list.

Driving back down the mountain, the bus was brought to a halt by the call of “Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos” and a small flock of these magnificent birds sailed past. The Bell Miner colony in the neighbouring trees provided a final challenge but after some searching these elusive birds were seen well.

The day had provided something of interest for the beginners and regulars alike, proving that botanic gardens can be among the very best places to observe birds and other fauna.

by Carol Probets Ornithologist for FTB

Pioneer Dairy Wetlands & the Pelican Creche
Trip Report

Saturday 13 November 2020
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Pelicans by Christina Port (I think?)
18 eager birders, 4 of whom were new to birdwatching, enthusiastically decended from the coach at our first stop at the Pioneer Dairy Wetlands at Tuggerah, on the Central Coast. The weather turned out to be a very warm to hot day and great for a morning’s birding at the Dairy. There was plenty of action at the Dairy Swamp as Pelicans arrived and departed, a male Musk Duck was on display and a Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kite, in turn checked out the birds. A White-breasted Sea-eagle then made a foray over the wetland and put up all the White Ibis, Royal Spoonbills, Cattle Egrets and a Great Egret and the ducks, quite a spectacular moment! Also disturbed was a pair of Wandering Whistling Ducks, which are rarely seen on the Central Coast. Channel-billed Cuckoos were on display to as they flew too and from the Moreton Bay Figs on the Dairy, giving their raucous calls. A walk along the trails produced Golden-headed Cisticolas, Superb Fairy-wrens, Tawny Grassbirds, breeding Black Swans, and Striated, Brown & Yellow Thornbills.

Creched Birders
After an enjoyable morning tea in the Dairy Bails, overlooking the Dairy Swamp, where Fairy Martins were coming to their mud nests under the eaves of the building, we moved to Chittaway Point to check out the breeding Black-winged Stilts before stopping for lunch at Sunshine Reserve. Here we were able to admire not only mother Tawny Frogmouth on her nest but nearby was father with the previous clutch of young. Other breeding birds were also present, Grey Butcherbirds were feeding a juvenile, Masked Lapwings had 3 chicks, Noisy Miners were feeding dependent young while 2 pairs of Darters each were tending to 2 large young in each nest that were leaning out over Ourimbah Creek. We moved onto Cockrone Lagoon at McMasters Beach. The lagoon was very full so there were no muddy margins for waders, but there were some good birds here including Dollarbirds, Sacred Kingfishers, nesting White-breasted Woodswallows and Chestnut Teal with 4 ducklings.

Our final stop was at the foreshore of Blackwall Bay, Woy Woy, where we sat down in the shade of a tree to view the Pelicans and White Ibis nesting on Ramsay Island, just offshore. We estimated that there were about 200 prs of Pelicans nesting and 80 pairs of White Ibis. While watching the behaviour of the courting Pelicans with their lovely pink bills flaping, and the juveniles in the creches, Pied Oystercatchers came and went, a Caspian Tern landed on the Island, and Koel Cuckoos and Red Wattlebirds chased each other in the tree above us! We finished the day seeing 80 species, a good total for what turned out to be hot day on the Central Coast.

By Alan Morris Ornithologist for FTB

Putty Road Trip Report

Saturday 23 October 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Crested Shrike-tit by David Simpson
A quite warm spring day greeted us on our adventure through the picururesque Colo Valley along the Putty Rd.

After leaving the suburbia of Sydney, we made a brief stop first at the McGrathÕs Hill wetlands where a number of water birds was there to be observed. These birds included a few Cattle Egrets, Black Swan, Australasian Grebe, Chestnut Teals, Australian Reed Warbler and Golden-headed Cisticolas (including one male seen displaying and calling above our heads).

After a satisfying lagoon watch we then made our way to Kurmond where many noisy Bell Miners where there to greet us. One of our highlights here was watching a pair of Dollarbirds in good breeding colour. The male was seen first displaying and then mating with the female. Also here were pair of Striated Pardalotes checking out some real estate , Eastern Rosellas, Laughing Kookaburra and Little Wattlebirds.

We then headed off to the Colo River where we then enjoyed our morning tea. An abundance of Common Brown butterflies were there to greet us as well as many birds. Here we watching a female Satin Bowerbird making its nest high in a tree, a LewinÕs Honeyeaters, 4 magnificent Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flying overhead, Yellow and Striated Thornbills were busily foraging in the trees as the Superb Fairy Wrens on the gorund and a Leaden Flyctatcher was briefly seen. As we then continued on the Putty Rd, we were alerted by the presence of an Australian Brush Turkey in someoneÕs front garden as well as some more Satin Bowerbirds.

Lunch was then later had after our arrival at Howes Swamp in Yengo NP. Quite a number of birds were heard calling as we ate and more butterflies flying about. After lunch we had a relaxing 2 hours walk along the trail there admiring Eastern Spinebills, Jacky Winters, a Pallid Cuckoo, a couple of Crested Shrike-tits, Tree Martins, an Eastern Yellow Robin on its nest, Sacred Kingfisher, Grey Fantails and Rufous Whistlers as well as a brilliant wild flower display. We also saw a fairly young Lace Monitor climbing up a dead tree.

On our way back to Sydney, we drove past a Black Wallaby beside the road and also briefly stopped at Colo Heights for an ice cream and a few other birds to add to our list, bringing the total of “seen and heards” to 92 species.

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB.

Mt Keira & the Coast Run Home Trip Report

Saturday 9 October 2020
Ornithologist: Bob Ashford

Wollongong Botanic Gardens by participant Wendy Gelhard
Sending enticing photos of birds, in this case a female Satin Bowerbird, to those considering joining a trip often results in us not seeing it. This is known as Janene’s Law. But lo and behold as we pulled up at Mt Keira Lookout the very first bird we saw was, yes!, a female Satin Bowerbird. And we saw a lot more, and the flashy males, by the end of the day.

There was plenty of competition too. We also enjoyed excellent views of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Large-billed and White-browed Scrubwrens, Yellow Robins, White-throated Treecreepers, Red-browed Firetails and a beautiful Black-faced Monarch. One of the participants came back from the toilets and said she had seen a wonderful Flowering Pea. That stopped conversation temporarily, but did prompt an appreciative discussion of just how many beautiful flowering plants there were, including the prolific purple of the Mint Bush.

Our next stop was Byarong NP where an Olive-backed Oriole and a Grey Butcherbird attempted to out carousel each other. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoos won on sheer volume and acrobatics but lost on song quality.

At the Botanic Gardens it seemed every four year old was having a birthday party and an army of Silver Gulls had convened to help finish off cake crumbs with Swamphens, Moorhens, Chestnut Teal and Black Duck happily assisting.

As we strolled the gardens we spotted Topknot Pigeons, Brown Gerygones, Lewin’s Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills, Yellow Thornbills and both species of Wattlebird, Red and Little. A host of Grey Fantails were busy darting everywhere while a cool Blackbird serenaded us beautifully.

Satin Bowerbird by participant Wendy Gelhard
At the Cactus garden (memories of Arizona) a lone male Satin Bowerbird and a single Eastern Rosella strained credulity as they checked out a giant Saguaro Cactus and had a few of us wishing we had brought our cameras!

On from the Gardens we followed the coast north toward the Royal National Park. A lone Cattle Egret sat on the fence of a large sheep pen with not a cow in sight. And naturally it was deemed, therefore, to be a ‘Sheep Egret’. Only a little further along at a playing field in Towradgi the cry went up ‘Wader!’. There, all by its lonesome, was a Whimbrel, a totally unexpected sight in the middle of suburbia, providing some of the best views many of us have ever seen. A brief stop near Thirroul turned up Sooty Oystercatchers, various Cormorants and a Kelp Gull.

At the Waterfall turn off in RNP we stopped to prowl the river and listen to elusive Golden Whistlers and a Shining Bronze Cuckoo.

Finally we sat in the bus checking off the birds seen during the day, a very reasonable 69. We were lamenting that we had not seen or heard any raptors when at that very moment a regular ‘ee-chew, ee-chew, ee-chew’ commenced and to the call of ‘Pacific Bazza’ everyone scrambled out of the bus again.

There above us for the next five minutes we watched enraptured (sorry!) while PB did his bit circling, stooping and flaring. Though we didn’t see his mate we could hear her cheering him on. Number 70 and what a splendid end to an excellent day in fun and friendly company. Thank you all.

By Bob Ashford Ornitholgist for FTB

Hawkesbury River Trip Report

Saturday 25 September 2020
Ornithologist: Edwin Vella

Grey Goshawk that we missed
but Edwin saw the next day!
A beautiful spring day was had in the Hawkesbury area in the outskirts of Sydney.

The first hour was spent around the Windsor-Richmond Turf Farms where we saw several flocks of finches including Red-browed Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, a Hobby flying past and other interesting birds observed included a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Australian Kestrel, Black-shouldred Kite, Swamp Harrier and Rainbow Bee-eaters.

Later in the morning, we headed off to Cattai with a rich assortments of birds including an obliging Shining Bronze-cuckoo snatching moths from a telegraph pole, a pair of Brown Goshawks, Yellow Thornbills, a Bar-shouldered Dove, both Golden and Rufous Whsitlers, Little and Long-billed Corellas and more Rainbow Bee-eaters.

After lunch we then headed further up Wisemans Ferry Rd to a private property next to Wheeny Lagoon in Cattai. Here we found a Australasian Darter, a Great Egret, magnificent pairs of both White-bellied Sea-eagles and Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring over the lagoon and also a White-throated Gerygone and Variegated Wrens also putting on a good show.

A quick drove past Mitchell Park on the way home, gave us nice views of a Dollarbird, a Sacred Kingfisher and a Common Bronzewing just as we departed.

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Blue Gum Swamp Trip Report

Saturday 4 September 2020
Ornithologist: Carol Probets

Huge Blue Gum Tree
Three sites covering a selection of different habitats were on the menu for our day around the Lower Blue Mountains. The group was small but enthusiastic and the earlier rain had stopped by the time we reached our first site.

First stop was the Weir Reserve on the Nepean River. We didn’t even need to leave the picnic area as the birds were out in force. A flock of Red-browed Finches was first on the list, while a Fan-tailed Cuckoo called tantalisingly, eventually rewarding us with great views. A Shining Bronze-Cuckoo also called persistently but remained invisible to our eyes. We had clear views of Red-whiskered Bulbuls, beautiful Red-rumped Parrots, two Lewin’s Honeyeaters and Crested Pigeons with their subtly coloured plumage. Goldfinches, Red Wattlebirds and Superb Fairy-wrens added to the mix and waterbirds included a Darter and Great Egret. An immature Olive-backed Oriole was seen well in the scope and, while eating Janene’s delicious cake, we were entertained by White-plumed Honeyeaters harassing a Grey Butcherbird.

Back in the bus and driving through Emu Plains, we saw both Little and Long-billed Corellas and wondered when the last Emu was seen in Emu Plains (a long time ago!). As we headed up into the mountains some of the group spotted two White-headed Pigeons flying over Glenbrook.

Blue Gum Swamp Birders
Yellow Rock lookout is a pleasant picnic area with large outcrops of Hawkesbury Sandstone giving a view over the Nepean River, Penrith Lakes and part of the Cumberland Plain. Approaching the lookout, a Grey Fantail darted through the treetops, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Spotted Pardalote were seen and a Noisy Friarbird called. We studied the male and female flowers of the Forest Oak (Allocasuarina torulosa) and searched for the chewings of Glossy Black-Cockatoos, though none were seen. We had as much to admire botanically as avifaunally. The soft velvety shoots and leaves of Astrotricha floccosa were particularly eye-catching, while at the lookout the Yellow Bloodwood (Corymbia eximia) was in full flower, but the star of the show was the sensational Wedding Bush (Rhinocarpus pinifolius) adorning the rock ledges.

After lunch a walk down to Blue Gum Swamp Creek led us into beautiful moist forest dominated by tall Blue Gums (Eucalyptus deanei). Not far from the carpark a Brown Cuckoo-Dove called. As we descended to the creek, the bird species increased and we were lured into the Grotto by the bird activity along the track. Highlights here included excellent views of Brown Gerygones, Red-browed Treecreepers, Golden Whistler, New Holland Honeyeater and the ever-present inquisitive Eastern Yellow Robins. Tree Martins flew above the canopy and we inspected the large hanging nest of a Yellow-throated Scrubwren, which didn’t appear to be in current usage.

Although the trip had started with the threat of rain, we ended up staying dry all day and having a wonderfully bird and plant rich day.

By Carol Probets Ornitholgist for FTB

“Iomar” via The Watagans Trip Report

Saturday 17 August 2020
Ornithologist: Alan Morris

Grey-crowned Babbler by Christina Port
Saturday, 7th August was just a lovely sunny winters day and there were high hopes for good birding by the 16 birders (5 new to organised birdwatching) who set off from Syney on this day! It turned out to be a Yellow Robin day and no matter where we stopped, there were at least two Eastern Yellow Robins to greet us and everyone had good views! Our first stop was the site of the Old Woodbury Park Inn at Alison Rd Wyong where in the surrounding paddocks and turf farms, there must have been a problem with Army Worms or beetles in the pastures as there were 100s of White & Straw-necked Ibis, along with Cattle Egrets and White-faced Herons, Wood Duck, Chestnut Teal and Black Duck feeding there! Close to our morning tea table, Noisy Miners, Common Mynas and Rainbow Lorikeets fed in the overhead flowering Coral Trees (giving the guide an opportunity to explain differences between Mynas and Miners), while down along the banks of Wyong Creeks, good views were had of Yellow-throated & White-browed Scrub-wrens, Yellow Robin, Red-browed Finch, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Grey Fantail and Eastern Whipbird. The guide was also able to explain the differences between those little brown jobs like Brown Gerygones and Brown Thornbills. We had planned to enter the Watagan Mountains off Walkers Ridge Road Bucketty, which meant that we would be travelling along the Yarramalong Valley and Cedar Brush Creek, to Bucketty and then into the Watagan SFs. Along the way we stopped or slowed for King Parrots, Eastern Rosella, Satin Bowerbirds, Jacky Winter, Grey Butcherbirds & Grey Shrike-thrushes.

Eastern Yellow Robin by Christina Port
On Lunch stop was at The Basin Camping area in Olney SF, where tall Sydney Blue Gums, yellow flowering wattles and Tree Ferns were the main vegetation types. Here we were serenaded by the calls of a male Superb Lyrebird, and while he never showed himself, we all became familiar with his calls and heard him mimic common birds of the area like Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Satin Bowerbirds, Crimson Rosellas and Pied Currawongs. The birds we did see here, apart from those that the Lyrebird mimiced, included Golden Whistler, White-throated Treecreeper, Grey Shike-thrush and yes, Yellow Robins! We then drove through the Wattagans, exiting down the Heaton Lookout Road. As we traversed the paddocks en route to Iomar Homestead, and its Box Woodland habitat, we had good views of the common birds of the area like Red-rumped Parrots, Pied Butcherbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Pipit, Eastern Rosella, Tree Martin and Brown Falcon.

We were at Iomar Box woodwland for about an hour and while it was during the mid afternoon when all the birds tend to go quiet, we soon had managed to find a number of the key species of the site like Yellow-tufted, Yellow-faced & Fuscous Honeyeaters, Yellow Robin, Superb Fairy-wren, Eastern Spinebill, Jacky Winter, a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, Grey Shrike-thrush and Tree Martins. Little Lorikeets shot through without stopping and the several Mistletoebirds heard calling were very hard to see in those mistletoe clumps high up in the Grey Box, but some people had good views. Soon it was time to head for home, but there were still birds to see in the roadside wetlands and farm dams (Black Swan, Great Egret, Royal Spoonbill) and at our final stop at Heaton Gap for an ice-cream, we managed to located Striated & Yellow Thornbills. Altogther a great days birding, 68 specie being seen, and good birding experiences for some new birders.

Alan Morris ornithologist for Follow That Bird

Birding for Beginners Trip Report

Saturday 17 July 2021
Guide: Edwin Vella

Brown Gerygone by Edwin Vella
The second day for our beginner’s bird watching course was held on another fine day at Cumberland State Forest at West Pennant Hills.

At first we got our participants to complete a quiz concerning birds and the various niches they occupy within the forest (from the ground to the canopy of the forest as well as the airspace above). It was not easy for our novices at this first attempt but later all participants found the quiz easier to when it was revisited at the end of the day. With a native plant nursery located in the centre of the state forest, it was convenient to discuss birdscaping the garden and what suitable plants to grow to encourage a good variety of birds. We also talked about what plants to avoid discouraging more aggressive species occupying the garden.

Before morning tea, we did the brief walk along the nearby sensory trail followed by a brief visit to the large open grassed area on the opposite side of the nursery where we were able to see a good cross section of the forest and saw a few Grey Fantails flitting about the edge of the forest and various Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets inspecting some nest hollows.

Brown Thornbill by Edwin Vella
After morning tea we walked part of the main forestry trail and saw a god variety of forest birds including an Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistlers, some nicely coloured Variegated Wrens, White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Gerygones, a male Satin Bowerbird and a good sighting of the elusive Eastern Whipbird (after hearing a few others).

After having our lunch, we went through our field guides to try to identify the species that we had seen during the morning. As were doing so, a group of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flew majestically past.

After lunch we then walked along the western edge of the forest seeing an Olive-backed Oriole and to much great excitement a majestic adult Pacific Baza foraging in the canopy as it was being mobbed by other birds.

Our last walk for the day was around the top section of the State Forest were we visited the Bell Miner colony and also added a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet for the day’s birdlist.

By Edwin Vella Ornithologist for FTB

Follow That Bird   Phone: +61 2 9973 1865
3/59 Central Road
Avalon Beach NSW 2107
(Sydney) Australia
- Sydney's Birding Company  
Photos of Splendid Fairy-wren and Diamond Firetail by Nevil Lazarus. Header design by Participant Daphne Gonzalvez.