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Nest in the Hills – Mudgee Trip Report
Hot Spot Cooyal Creek
While much of western NSW has been experiencing good late winter-spring rains, initially the Mudgee District has missed out but during August & September good rains had fallen and so Mudgee soon caught up so that by the time this first Mudgee District 4 day tour had commence, things were looking great. While the trip participants could have done without rain on the first two days of the trip, the birds liked it and by the third day, the birdwatching was at good as it could be. Enroute to Mudgee we had a short stop in Waratah Park, Blue Mountains NP, where Golden and Rufous Whistlers tried to outcall each other, and a very plesant lunch break at the Windemere Dam Wall, near Cudgegong. Here we had good and close looks at Musk Ducks, Great Crested and Hoary-headed Grebes in the rising waters of the Dam, and Buff-rumped Thornbill, Jacky Winter & Peaceful Dove in the adjacent woodlands.

Our afternoon target was Norman & Edna Kurtz’s property “Balmoral” Cooyal, where Stoney Creek flows through the property to join up with Cooyal Creek. There were plenty of birds to see in the Box Woodland along Stoney Creek and at a little rocky outcrop nearby. A number of both White Box & Yellow Box were in flower and so there were plenty of Musk Lorikeets zapping between the flowering trees. King Parrots were flying around too while great views were had of Diamond Firetails & Blue-faced Honeyeaters, while White-throated Gerygones, White-winged Trillers, Rufous Songlarks and Rufous Whistlers were calling loudly and persistently. Overhead a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles were to be seen.

Sacred Kingfisher by Neil Fifer
Our Motel was in an older part of Mudgee where there were the most beautiful old buildings and lovely gardens. The morning walk around the streets and checking out the houses and their gardens was very enjoyable and the birds were great too! White-winged Trillers were seen in the street trees each day, two pairs of Sacred Kingfishers appear to have based themselves around the bigger & better gardens, along witrh Blackbirds, Grey Fantails, Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows. Our pre-breakfast morning walk birdlist was 33 species! Our second day’s plan was to visit Norfolk Falls but the overnight heavy rain curtailed our effort so we instead birded around Coolah and the Coolah Common. We were surprised to find a pair of Red-wintged Parrots at Birriwa enroute to Coolah, and then a Latham’s Snipe and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at the STW, along with White-necked Heron and Shoveler. In the Cyress Pine/Ironbark forest up behind Coolah we had nesting Chough, Brown Treecreeper, Golden Whistler, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Buff-rumped Thornbbill, Weebill and by now the usual noisy Trillers, Rufous Whistlers, Sacred Kingfishers & White-trhroated Gerygones. We returned to Mudge by two really intersting sandstone out crops, the first was the Hands On Cave, an Aboriganal archaeoligical site and the other was the Drip Rock, which was reached by a walking track along the Goulburn River, through the beehive-shaped sandstone outcrops and overhangs. Rock Warbler, Varied Sittella and Olive-backer Oriole were some of the highlights of the walk. We all look forward to a return trip to the site when we have more time to explore.

The third day took us to Cooyal Creek where we were pleased where we again found Diamond Firetail, saw Dusky Woodswallow & Reedwarbler, and found nesting Red-rumped Parrot, Bee-eater & Red-browed Finch. On then to Honeyeater Flat in Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, where the highlights were Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Fantailed Cuckoo and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike. From here we travelled through Wollar, crossed the Gouldburn River on the Merriwa Rd, and proceeded to White Box Camp, in Goulburn River NP. Good birding was had here, with Painted Honeyeaters calling, and good views were had of Red-winged Parrots, Crested Shrike-tit, Restless Flycatcher, Fuscous & Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. On our return trip to Mudgee, we found a flock of 35 Plum-headed Finches at the Gouldburn River Crossing along with a pair of Zebra Finch, Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo & Black-shouldered Kite. At the Wollar Railway tunnel we added Little Lorikeet & Speckled Warbler, while at Wollar Village we found Tree Martin and Pied Butcherbird.

wollar><BR><FONT size=Wollar Railway Tunnel complete with train
which did not scare the Speckled Warbler Away!
On our final day, we returned via Lue and Rylstone, where we took morning tea in the Ferntree Gully Reserve. We spent some time here checking out the walking trails and in the wet gullies managed to find Brown Gerygone, Golden Whistler and Lyrebird. Lunch was at Duns Swamp, Wollemi NP where the highlight was seeing female Musk Duck with 2 ducklings! Our final stop was at Bowenfels where you look across the railway line to the Lithgow STW! Plenty of good birds here including 3M & 2F Blue-billed Duck, 25+ Pinkear & 12+ Shoveler, along with Hoary-headed Grebe, Reedwarbler etc. All participants had a great time, managed to get up close and personal with some less common species and all manage to see species new to them personally. 135 species were seen during the four days of good birding, good wine, great breakfasts and enjoyable social commeraderie.

by Alan Morris guiding for FTB

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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer