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Forbes and Round Hill
Queens Birthday Long Weekend
Trip Report
Brown Falcon by David Simpson
With the drought biting hard, we set off into the Outback for an extra long Queen’s birthday holiday weekend. Travelling over the mountains and out to Lithgow and Orange we saw hovering Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites as well as Mare’s Tail clouds promising much-needed rain.

Lunch at Lake Canobolas near Orange gave us a chance to get good views of Little Pied Cormorants swallowing fish, Musk Ducks and Hardheads diving for food, plus the Eurasian Coots showed us their unusual lobed feet.

Just before Nangar National Park, on the way to Forbes, we stopped to get a better look at the world’s fourth largest eagle, the Wedge-tail. There were two of them soaring above the cliffs of Nangar in the afternoon light. We also found other birds – lots of Noisy Friarbirds chasing each other through the eucalypts, Apostlebirds feeding on the ground and with them a handful of gorgeous Grey-crowned Babblers.

At the entrance to the national park we encountered a flock of Red-rumped Parrots, more Apostlebirds, a male Mistletoebird and a huge fruiting cumquat tree left over from Nangar’s agricultural past. We spent the night at Forbes.

Nangar National Park
Rain, Rain, Rain ! The farmers were leaping for joy but the rain made today’s birding a little difficult. We donned raincoats and carried umbrellas for our 7am walk down to the banks of Lake Forbes. Many thousands of Galahs were celebrating the rain by hanging upside down on branches and power lines and flapping their wings, getting thoroughly and joyfully wet. The noise from so many beautiful cockatoos was quite amazing.

Unexpectedly we found Black-tailed Native Hens on an island in the lake as well as a Yellow-billed Spoonbill sweeping its bill from side to side in the shallow water. Further along, a large native water rat ran down the embankment and swam along like an otter.

After breakfast we headed to Gum Swamp, just on the edge of town, and spent the morning in the bird hide. Along with Pacific Black Ducks and Grey Teal there were quite a few Pink-eared Ducks sitting on logs, Australasian Grebes diving under water and Great Cormorants sitting in the dead trees. The highlights though were a female Musk Duck and her four ducklings bobbing along like corks, Blue-billed Ducks which eventually swam close to the hide and a lone Freckled Duck sitting like a statue.

Heading further west we had morning tea in the rain at Jemalong Weir. We heard Spotted Pardalotes and a Rufous Whistler and we saw a Grey Fantail. On one of our occasional stops on the road to Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo we luckily saw a Peaceful Dove and an astonishingly beautiful male Red-capped Robin while at another stop we glimpsed Blue Bonnets.

Varigated Wren by Neil Fifer
We enjoyed a late lunch beside the lake and with the telescope saw Red-necked Avocets and some Australian Shelducks. The weather front had now passed, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Silver Gulls and a tern were high overhead snapping up insects. We headed out of town for some more road-side birding and saw woodswallows also chasing insects and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and a White-fronted Honeyeater feeding on flowering mistletoe. At Murrin Bridge a troop of Grey-crowned Babblers gave us ring-side seats to their antics. Dinner was beside an open fire in the Royal Mail Hotel in Lake Cargelligo.

Day three started with very thick fog so we couldn’t see a great deal on our morning walk to the lake. It was also very chilly. Things got more exciting when we left town (and the fog) and headed to Round Hill. On the way we stopped at Chat Alley and immediately found a dozen chats, mainly Orange with a few White-fronted. The males of both species looked great in the sunlight as they sat on the tops of the saltbushes. It’s always a joy to see chats.

Soon after, we hit the dirt road which, by now, was very muddy. Our driver Chris kept us on the straight and narrow and we didn’t stop until we reached the heart of Round Hill and Nombinnie Nature Reserves. A walk along a side track produced Weebills and White-eared Honeyeaters but the piece de resistance was a Southern Scrub-robin only five metres away. It looked at us inquisitively as it hopped about beside the track, eventually deciding that we posed no threat. It came out into the centre of the track giving us all excellent views of this often-shy species. Its mate also made an appearance but stayed in the shadows.

Heading back to Condobolin via back roads we saw plenty of Magpies and Magpie-larks. We lunched in Condobolin at Gum Bend Lake, a bone-dry recreational lake beside the Lachlan River. This spot proved very productive with excellent views of a pair of Cockatiels, a small flock of Little Corellas and the always-enjoyable Grey-crowned Babblers (a threatened species but we found them everywhere). Striated Pardalotes, Whistling Kites and White-plumed Honeyeaters were calling.

Largest Cumquat Tree this side of
Nangar NP with Olwen and Charlotte
On the way to Forbes to our third and last night we did a bit more roadside birding, one spot in particular producing Yellow-rumped Thornbills, a male Red-capped Robin and a female Hooded Robin. We reached Gum Swamp as the sun set and in the gloom saw a White-bellied Sea-eagle and a Peregrine Falcon.

A short walk on our last morning produced some Blue-faced Honeyeaters and plenty of Galahs in their roosting trees beside Lake Forbes. We left a little bit earlier for our journey to Sydney and stopped in at Goobang National Park which proved a bit quiet at first. We scared a couple of Common Bronzewings, saw White-eared Honeyeaters and Weebills and heard a White-throated Treecreeper. At Manildra for morning tea we encountered a small collection of birds including Willie Wagtail and Yellow-rumped Thornbills plus we accidentally flushed a Brown Goshawk from its hiding place in a gully. Lunch in Bathurst gave us good views of Red-rumped Parrots and a close view of an Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage.

We encountered heavy traffic coming home through the mountains. A thoroughly enjoyable long weekend (there should be more of them) with many participants seeing new birds.

Andrew Patrick guiding for FTB

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
3/59 Central Road
Avalon NSW 2107
Sydney Australia
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer