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.
Brown Falcon by David Simpson
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
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.
Nangar National Park
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.
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.
Varigated Wren by Neil Fifer
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
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.
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.
Largest Cumquat Tree this side of
Nangar NP with Olwen and Charlotte
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