Kangaroo Valley & Jervis Bay
The serious stuff started in the kids' playground of the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. Forgoing the swings, the sighting of a white phase Grey Goshawk, seen from the coach near Bulli Pass, was relived again. And in fact, raptors proved to be a highlight of the weekend.
Brian & Margaret relaxed within hours...
As we headed south along the freeway Janene provided extra excitement by twice pulling off to the side to check out a possible Hobby (in fact a Kestrel) and a pair of Little Eagles which provided stunning views. Enthusiastic encouragement by passing drivers was lost a little in the rumble of traffic and we pushed on to the rainforest haven overlooking Kangaroo Valley. Here a Wedge-tailed Eagle performed loops and dips for us before we turned our attention to the more challenging skulkers in the undergrowth.
White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens scolded us, Grey Shrike-thrushs and Golden Whistlers serenaded us. But the grand performers were, of course, the Superb Lyrebirds. Brown Gerygones busied themselves in the branches and bold Satin Bowerbirds competed with King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas for scraps from the lunch table. Brown Cuckoo-doves fattened themselves on berries. So far so good we agreed.
A short stroll above the Kangaroo River provided great views of Yellow Thornbills, White Throated Treecreepers and a female Brown Goshawk. Oh yes, and a few Grey Fantails.
Grey Fantail by Neil Fifer
Overlooking the Shoalhaven River from Nowra Showgrounds we spotted a flock of Cattle Egrets, early arrivals for the winter season. From there we followed Bens Walk down to Depot Farm. Barely had we started when two Rock Warblers (Origmas) appeared and set the tone for a very productive stroll. Rufous and Golden Whistlers, Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets, Yellow Robins, White-headed Pigeons and Variegated Wrens and splendid views of Rufous Fantails. Just as we were boarding the bus a resplendent Black-faced Monarch arrived to enthral us. There we also a significant number of Grey Fantails. Not bad, over 70 species and it was only Day 1.
Early morning Day 2 and we were checking out the bush surrounding the Huskisson Tennis Courts. Initially the only things making a racket were the Kookaburras and Magpie Larks but they were completely outclassed by the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos passing overhead. In the bush skulking Fairy Wrens generated plenty of discussion - Superb or Variegated. In the end we got both over the weekend. Equally frustrating were pigeons various until, at last, a Common Bronzewing was confirmed.
Following a very hearty breakfast we set off for Booderee Botanic Gardens to try our luck spotting the Eastern Bristlebird. We did enjoy excellent views of New Holland Honeyeaters, Little and Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds. We pished and squeaked our way through the heath and 'possibly' heard Southern Emu Wren. An unusual regular bird call generated increased adrenaline flow but to no avail the Eastern Bristlebird did not show and we moved on to lunch.
A pre-lunch stroll chalked up Brown Thornbill, the ever present and delightful Eastern Spinebill and, much to our surprise, quite a number of Grey Fantails. We also turned up White-cheeked Honeyeater and a Shining Bronze-cuckoo. Following lunch we returned to Huskisson for a leisurely boat trip up Currumbene Creek.
The weather held and we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon exploring the quieter stretches of the creek. Very quickly we notched up a new suite of birds. Silver Gulls (of course!), White-faced Herons, Striated Herons, Crested Terns, Pelicans, Pied Oystercatchers, Masked Lapwings being typically territorial, Black and Wood Ducks, Chestnut Teal and Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorants.
Not long after we set off a Whistling Kite twisted and turned its way over the tree tops causing some consternation to a small flock of White-breasted Woodswallows. Further up the creek a juvenile Osprey was spotted. On our return it had been joined by an adult and they generously allowed us to dawdle and enjoy views of them and they were well worth looking at. As we arrived back at Huskisson a White-bellied Sea Eagle swooped over headed and then circled high into the sky eventually disappearing from view. As much as we as we felt we had had the best it was, in fact, still to come.
As we docked a short series of sharp barking calls had us all a little open-mouthed as we watched a very bold Little Penguin come up alongside and then proceed to check out the locals fishing lines! That is the great adventure of birding - it is never as predictable as this years NSW State Election!
Early morning Day 3 and at last we saw Spotted Dove! Probably about fifty of them. After breakfast we headed to the mangroves around the Lady Denman Museum. The tide was out and so were the crabs, seven different species in all we were told but they all looked pretty muddy to us! But they had attracted the attention of a Sacred Kingfisher and for that we were very grateful.
Leaving the mangroves we pottered in the nearby woodland and a very productive walk that was too. Several Eastern Whipbirds obliged us with great views. Frisky Rufous Fantails showed off their splendour. We did see some more Grey Fantails but all of us agreed that they were indeed beautiful and not another word was said against them.
Red-browed Finches busied themselves in the damper patches. Silvereyes dangled from appetising clumps of grass seeds, a Fan-tailed Cuckoo trilled away high in the canopy and several Varied Sittellas kept our neck muscles fully stretched!
On to Shoalhaven Heads to see what was there in the way of waders. Not a lot, with nearly all well on the way to Siberia by now. But we saw a couple of dozen Bar-tailed Godwits with several resplendent in brick-red summer plumage. At Gerroa we counted eleven Sooty Oystercatchers.
Birding the Currumbene Creek
Heading north we pulled in to swing our binoculars over the Tallawarra Ash Dams at Yallah. There was plenty of action over the water as a Swamp Harrier put up ducks various. On the water were Black Swan, Australasian Grebe and a lone female Musk Duck. From the reeds came the plaintiff call of the Little Grassbird which refused to show itself and just as the heavens opened and we scrambled into the bus the bright tinkling of a Goldfinch cheered us on our way.
And, lo and behold, just as we were about to turn on to the freeway there, sitting nonchalantly on a power line was another Grey Goshawk!
The birding was great both for the quality of views and the variety, 108 species in all, plus several kangaroos. And the company was exceptional. We birded hard, sorted out the NSW State political problems and had a lot of laughs. My grateful thanks to Janene, Margaret, Christine and Brian. You were a splendid mob.
by Bob Ashford Ornithologist for FTB