Gluepot, Wyperfeld and Mungo NPs
Follow That Bird’s third tour to these locations turned out to be as equally a great birding experience as was the previous two trips in 2005 and 2007 with the added bonus, due to two above average rainfall years, of a countryside that was carpeted with green and there was water everywhere, compared to the previous trips that were run during the drought! The number of species seen, 160 was comparable with the previous trips, the difference being that with all the water, there was no concentration of waterbirds anywhere and indeed obviously many waterbirds species were away breeding further north in the Darling System and the Lake Eyre Basin. The pleasant sunny days and crisp autumn nights made for ideal bird watching conditions so that we did have a pleasant time, while the long grass in the paddocks ensured that there were plenty of raptors to see each day.
Flooded Murrumidgee 2012
Our birding experiences got off to a great start when we stopped for morning tea at Dekker VC Rest Area at Towrang near Goulburn where we found Rose and Scarlet Robins, Buff-rumped Thornbills and Speckled Warblers and we knew then we were in for a good time. Lunch was taken at Binalong amongst the flowering Yellow Boxes, where we had hoped for Superb Parrots, but no luck there but we did find Weebills, Golden Whistlers and White-plumed Honeyeaters! The Miggura Track near Bethungra, amongst Mugga Ironbarks produce the beautiful Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters as well as White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, while Black-shouldered Kites, Brown Falcons and Nankeen Kestrels were the order for the day over old wheat stubbles and grass paddocks. A 20 minute stop at the Junee STW gave us great views of a Spotted Crakes, Black-tailed Native-hens, a flock of 11 Black-fronted Dotterels and Goldfinches! Heading for Leeton, our last stop for the day was Coolamon where we were entertained by Apostlebirds and Blue-faced Honeyeaters.
Our early morning walk around the streets of Leeton and the Hydro Hotel where we were staying turned up 21 species including Red-rumped Parrots, Yellow Rosellas, Yellow-throated Miners and Striated Pardalotes, and then after breakfast we headed for the famous Fivebough Swamp. Good news for Fivebough is that it is totally full of water and overflowing, the bad news for us was that we could hardly get close to the Reserve due to all the water! We spent an hour checking out the area in the vicinity of the entry point and even the outdoor visitor centre was flooded but we managed to get good views of Splendid Fairy-wrens, Red-capped Robins, Cattle Egrets, White-necked Herons, a Hobby pursuing Tree Martins, an immature Sea-eagle, Restless Flycatcher, 2 Cockatiel, and all the usual waterbirds. We relocated to the southern end of the Swamp, along Fivebough Rd, and added Singing Honeyeater, Swamp Harrier, Hoary-headed Grebes and more Black-shouldered Kites and Royal Spoonbills. But we had more places to see so we were off to Darlington Point, picking up a pair of adult Sea-eagles over Cuba Lagoon, 4 Ground Cuckoo-shrikes, west of Darlington Point, our first Black Kite 17 km west of DP, a Spotted Harrier near Yarrada, and at Mulberrygong Rest Area over a recently harvested rice paddock there was a flock of 35 Black Kites and as well as Brown Falcons and Kestrels! At our lunch spot alongside the flooded Murrumbidgee River at the Hay Bridge, birding highlights were Sacred Kingfisher, Little Friarbird and distance views of a Black Falcon & Whistling Kite! The Hay Plain was alive with birds, mostly Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kites and Brown Falcons but we did make a stop for Emus and White-winged Fairy-wrens. Our final stop for the day was at the Willow Point section of Yanga National Park. Highlights here were Spiny-cheeked & Striped Honeyeaters, many Red-capped Robins, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Blue Bonnets and Mistletoebirds, great birding before reaching our destination for the day at Balranald.
On the way to Mungo
Our third day was fine, sunny but cold overnight, so our early morning walk was a brisk as we checked out the flooding Murrumbidgee River, safe behind the levees around the town! There were plenty of Grey Fantails and Blackbirds in the gardens and White-necked Herons and Straw-necked Ibis in the flooded paddocks. A quick breakfast and then off to Mungo National Park via Penarie. The saltbush plains around Penarie were looking great but alas we did not find our Redthroats at the usually reliable sites, but Emus, White-fronted Chats, Black-faced Woodswallows and White-winged Fairy-wrens did entertain us along the way! Lake Arumpo had a lovely carpet of green grass across it and here we saw plenty of Blue Bonnets and Emus, and Mungo Lake looked so great, with its various shades of thriving Bluebush and Salt Bush, making a lovely sight. Lunching at the Vistors Centre of the National Park produced more Spiny-cheeks, Red-capped Robins and Wedge-tailed Eagles, but we also found Chestnut-crowned Babblers and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. The drive across Mungo Lake to the lunettes on the other side gave us great views of c. 20 Orange Chats, including a number of full plumaged males while in the lunettes we added White-backed Swallows to our trip list! Coming back to Balranald, a stop off in the mallee found Mulga Parrots, while in a road side temporary wetland, a pair of Red-kneed Dotteral with 4 tiny chicks, 5 Banded Lapwings, Little Grassbird, Hoary-headed Grebes and a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo were seen.
Our 4th day started with the usual morning walk, this time around the Balranald racecourse where best bird was a Black Falcon harassing Red-rumped Parrots and European Starlings and then it was off to Wyperfeld NP in Victoria! Twenty minutes west of Balranald we stopped for a pair of Pink Cockatoos searching our a nesting hollow in a roadside tree, then we stopped near Lake Benanee for another Black Falcon and Emus, and then again at Euston to watch a small flock of Regent Parrots, fly towards Victoria! We wound our way through Robinvale, Ouyen and Wemen, before coming to stop in Hattah NP for a walk along the Hattah Mallee Trail where we found a Crested Bellbird, Hooded Robins, and Common Bronzewings, while later we took morning tea beside Lake Hattah with its Crested Grebes and Pied Cormorants, within the Park. Then off to Wyperfeld NP, and here was the surprise, the country side was quite dry, and even more so in the NP where we lunched at Casuarian camp, down the Meridian Track. The birds were hard to find but we did manage Splendid Fairy-wrens, Inland Thornbills etc and then on the way back, we had a good look at Hooded & Red-capped Robins, Sittellas and Mulga Parrots. Eventually we had to leave Wyperfeld NP and head onto Pinnaroo in South Australia. As we left the Park we flushed a flock of 14 Common Bronzewings. An icecream stop in Underbool turned up Restless Flycatchers and our first New Holland Honeyeaters, while another Hobby was found at Panitya Silos!
by Chris Melrose
Our first morning in South Australia at Pinnaroo will be remembered for the Brown-headed & New Holland Honeyeaters and Weebills in the street trees, and the pair of Black Falcons harassing Red-rumped and Ringneck Parrots around the Golden Grain Hotel in the main street! Our trip out to Karte and Billiart Conservation Parks was slowed by the good birds that were seen along the roads, like Wedge-tailed Eagles, Banded Lapwings and White-browed Babblers. Karte CP produced Grey Currawongs , Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills and Splendid Fairy-wrens while Billiart CP turned out White-eared Honeyeaters and more White-browed Babblers. As we drove into Loxton, we found a flock of 8 Regent Parrots feeding in the street trees, with Whistling Kites and a Hobby feeding along the flooded mighty Murray River! A brief stop at the Moorook Wetlands found our first Australia Shelducks while the Waikerie STW was disappointing but there were more Black-fronted Dotterels.
It was away early on the 6th day as we headed for Gluepot and Taylorsville Reserves. The weather was perfect and the winds of the previous day were gone! Our trip out to Gluepot was again slowed by the birds along the road, Peaceful Doves, Yellow-billed & Royal Spoonbills, Mulga and Ringneck Parrots, Crested Bellbirds & Gilbert’s Whistlers, Jacky Winters and Restless Flycatchers! Our first planned stop was at the Gypsum Track in Taylorsville Reserve. The focus here was in the many Yellow-plumed and White-fronted Honeyeaters feeding in the flowering mallee and the large flocks of White-browed Woodswallows which were seen continuously throughout the rest of the day. For those people who worked hard looking up into the Woodswallow flocks, a few Masked Woodswallows could be spotted! At another stop in Taylorsville we saw Spotted Pardalotes, a pair of Rufous Whistlers and another Gilbert’s Whistler, and a pair of Southern Scrub-robins. Then it was onto Gluepot where we spent the rest of the day, checking out all the different habitat types like mallee, belah, saltbush plains and broombush spots. We lunched in the shade of the breezeway, near the rangers quarters, after inspecting the Visitor Centre & Museum. In the afternoon we continued to check out the different habitats and enjoy the beauty of the place in a wet year! Other special birds we saw here included a pair of White-browed Treecreepers, Hooded Robin, Variegated Fairy-wren, Mistletoebird, White-browed Babbler and Grey Currawong. It was a top day and the birding and birding conditions excellent!
Our final morning included a walk along the cliffs of the Murray River opposite our motel at Waikerie. Nothing new was seen but 25 species in 20 minutes was pretty good and gave us views of a pair of Whistling Kites at a nest in a Redgum along the River, while there were plenty of Yellow Rosellas and Singing Honeyeaters to see! After breakfast we headed to Adelaide, seeing our last Emus near Blanchetown and Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets at Nurioopta in the Barossa Valley. During this trip I counted our raptors, the commonest was the Black-shouldered Kite (46), followed by Black Kite (36), Kestrel (35), Brown Falcon (23), Wedge-tailed Eagle (20), Whistling Kite (16), Black Falcon (5), Spotted Harrier, Swamp Harrier & Hobby (4), Sea-Eagle (3) and Brown Goshawk (1). Wow! This was a great birding trip carried out in fine weather and good viewing conditions at a time when the countyside was such a joy to travel through. It was great to see the Murray & Murrumbidgee Rivers in flood and to hear all the frogs and watch all the butterflies wherever we stopped! The enjoyment was increased by the pleasant company of Chris, Rita, Glenda, Dorothy and Wendy, while Janene did a great job with the driving and the catering. Thankyou everyone for making the Sydney to Adelaide trip via Mungo, Wyperfeld and Gluepot such a great success.
by Alan Morris ornithologist for FTB