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Macquarie Marshes Trip Report
Kay donning the gaiters
Day 1 Tuesday 2 October 2020

Very pleasant weather started our tour after a shower the night before, and was set to continue throughout the entire journey; always a bonus. A flock of Australian White Ibis gleamed as the city pickups crossed the Harbour Bridge with the city looking remarkably clear after high winds the past week. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos played on the grass opposite the RACA. Turning from the Kurrajong Road we were greeted by Crimson Rosellas, a Blackbird and Satin Bowerbirds criss-crossing the road. Our morning tea stop brought us Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, an Eastern Whipbird called for Duncan who was keen to see the bird but no luck this time. We did have beautiful views of a male Golden Whistler in radiant plumage and the female was close at all times. Waratahs bloomed back along the road as a colony of Bell Miners rang out a glorious morning. Lewin’s Honeyeater called on departure. As we detoured through Portland we found our first Straw-necked Ibis, Pacific Black Duck and Masked Lapwing. Further on we had lunch at Capertee with Yellow-rumped Thornbills bouncing under the trees and as we walked beside the railway, Joan spyied a Sacred Kingfisher, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen and Kookaburras laughed. Roadside birding beside Windamere Dam surprised flying Great-crested Grebes, lots of Little Black Cormorants, a Pied Cormorant, numerous Hardhead Ducks, Australian Pelican, flocks of Silver Gulls and a Superb Fairywren, male, delighted us in the blackberry bushes below our precarious station. Our first Black-shouldered Kite appeared by the road on the drive to Dubbo together with Nankeen Kestrels to keep us craning within the bus. Lots of parrots were seen but not identified as we hurried along to get to the back of the Western Plains Zoo. Some most likely Superb Parrots. Classic carpark birding at the zoo proved fruitful discovering the first of our daily friendly White-plumed Honeyeaters, our first Little Friarbirds and Noisy Friarbirds, a number of Black Kite and a Whistling Kite soared. We found Paul Metcalf who took us to see the highly successful captive breeding program of Mallee Fowl. Views were stunning with the black foreneck mark prominent and marked wing feathers gorgeously vivid. While we were filled in on the progress of this program, Apostlebirds cawed together with White-winged Choughs and one Grey-crowned Babbler clung to a cypress in the forest surrounding the enclosures. A male Rufous Whistler interrupted Paul. We finished the day with a good walk and Spanish food, rounding off a perfect travel day with 82 species seen and heard!

Day 2 Wednesday 3 October

At the 7.00am walk along the Macquarie River we saw Striated Pardalote, Brown Goshawks, Straw-necked Ibis, Black Kites thermalling, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Long-billed Corella and Cockatiels heard but not seen, yet. We crossed the winding Macquarie River at Rawsonsville and walked a box tree area sighting our first Striped Honeyeaters, lots of Little Friarbirds, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Whistling Kites. Rufous Songlarks’ metallic chime haunted the paddock side stop, as did the Western Gerygone of which we had good views. Black Kites became our companions in the back blocks close to Warren. We stopped on the road to Willie Retreat to watch a very co-operative male White-winged Fairy-wren sitting up on a barbwire fence waiting for us all to admire him. Also saw fleeting Zebra Finches and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. At Willie Station the White-breasted Woodswallows mobbed us overhead and a flock that turned out to be Plum-headed Finches intrigued Kay and me as they flew to and from the cumbungi. A party of Grey-crowned Babblers were a delight as they chortled in the grounds of Willie. After lunch the Brown Treecreepers seemed to be everywhere and it was a pleasure to enjoy the peeping squeak and hopping antics. Restless Flycatcher was new and easily viewed, as was the Spotted Bowerbird. A Variegated Fairy-wren showed in the tumbleweed and Emus were plentiful along the drive to and from Warren. A watery stop on each side of the road had White-necked Heron, Intermediate Egret and a White-faced Heron and some lucky frogs that had escaped these to date. The ever present Pacific Black Duck also added to a glorious afternoon of quiet water, huge trees and a peace that we had reached our intended habitats. A Pallid Cuckoo sat on the fence and as the sun set Australian Ring-necked Parrots were seen, numerous Apostlebirds and Blue Bonnets flew right beside the bus for great viewing. Happy days! A welcome dinner in the barbecue area at the Warren motel ended day two.

Billabong-style braid of the Southern Marsh
Day 3 Thursday 4 October

Duncan and I headed out early to Tiger Bay STW next door to the motel where we saw a White-winged Triller, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Great Egret, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Darters, lots of Red-rumped Parrots, Red-winged Parrots, Fairy Martins and Common Starling. With no bags to pack we departed to Willie Station once again sighting Cockatiels; a Red-winged Parrot sat for us amongst Zebra Finches and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, and then flew beside the bus showing off the stunning red on lime green. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles thermalled beside flocks of Cockatiels. We stopped in some very old cyprus forest to view Rainbow Bee-eaters, Bar-shouldered Doves, 9 Chestnut-crowned Babblers led us on, Grey Shrike-thrush, Variegated Fairy-wren and Tree Martins. Masked Woodswallows were in the grounds of Willie Station as were 30 Plum-headed Finches snoozing in a single tree, a sight to behold, which of course we did! The Brown Treecreepers peeped as we walked past a Restless Flycatcher and the Grey-crowned Babblers were cooperative showing themselves every which way. Two male Spotted Bowerbirds, pink erectile crests displayed, fought a war of the bower for 20 minutes with the owner triumphing after a tussle with one male pulling at the bower. Riveting stuff. After a Neenish Tart lunch Carollyn our National Parks Ranger led us through Monkeygar which is still flooded containing 50 Glossy Ibis, 3 Red-kneed Dotterels, Black Swan, both other Ibis, Australasian Grebe, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead and a Whistling Kite was heard. The feel of being in the marshes started to dawn as the beauty of the water, reeds and birds began to calm us that we had reached the destination at last. We walked through ankle-deep water watching disturbed flocks of 100’s of birds like teal and egrets lift off when a Swamp Harrier wandered past. A Brolga appeared to liven us up as did the very large Brown Snake quite close. We lingered soaking up the wild contentment of this special world before making our way to one of the braids that feed the Southern Marsh we were visiting. This billabong style waterway kept the heat at bay with large trees containing Blue-faced Honeyeaters, as White-browed, Masked and White-breasted Woodswallows flew overhead. During the sunset drive home Black-tailed Native Hens ran across the road, then criss-crossing in front of the bus were Common Bronze-wings, Crested Pigeons, Bar-shouldered Doves, small flocks of feeding Cockatiels, and two Barn Owls flew through the lights. Mega day ended with roast lamb and fresh fruit, perfect.

Day 4 Friday 5 October

Magnificent day heading for 32 degrees started the Tiger Bay Waterlands walk with the usual brigade although very good views of the Australian Ringneck, a Peregrine Falcon flew past showing its barring well in the light, a Red-bellied Black Snake, one of many sighted during the trip, posed for Duncan’s camera. Two Mistletoebirds gave us the run around, as did a juvenile Butcherbird. Farewelled by numerous Apostlebirds and Cockatiels. Just before Gulargambone at Armatree Joan spotted White-winged Fairy-wren along with Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows. A walk along the Castlereagh River had the usual culprits and the sandy river sprouted enormous trees. At Gilgandra Flora Reserve we saw a female Red-capped Robin, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Buff-rumped, Inland and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, an enormous flock of 300 Galahs circled over us and the gardens were awash with blooms, kunzea being the most spectacular purple. Grey-crowned Babblers lined the road on the drive in. Pam and I heard one call from a Glossy Black Cockatoo but it was not sighted nor heard again, unfortunately. Compensated by a Chinese smorgasbord in the popular local at $13.70 a head.

Wonderful Trip!
Day 5 Saturday 6 October

The callistemon in the Gilgandra Windmill Motel attracted a King Parrot, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Australian Ringneck, Cockatiels flew in the River Redgums, and back to the Rainbow Lorikeets. Sweet Peas in the local servo capped my day early and we headed for the long drive home. Cainbil Bridge was welcomed as a good walk to Grey-crowned Babblers, Little Lorikeets flew at lightning speed overhead and Joan spotted an Olive-backed Oriole. Very hot and still weather drew us to dear little Cassilis for a shady morning tea with the usual Yellow-rumped Thornbills and the ladies had good views of a Striated Pardolote. At Denman Little Lorikeets flew whilst the pub’s western flowering tree attracted Noisy Friarbirds. A mulberry tree had a Figbird on departure from our Tuscan Stacks at the Cafe. From Broke we studied ponds with the usual suspects but then suddenly two Chestnut Teals – much waited on – appeared. Don’t know where they all are but we had almost none! Past a Long-necked Tortoise at Ellalong and some feeding Royal Spoonbills finished our birding day. 155 species were seen or heard.

Many thanks to the wonderful travel companions Joan, Kay, Pam and Duncan, may we ride again together!

By Janene Luff guiding for FTB

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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