As we waited at Killara the black clouds were rolling in but Janene arrived in the nick of time as it started to spit, so we headed north and left the clouds behind. A Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo sitting close to the road brought the bus to its first stop, giving everyone on board a great view. Straw-necked Ibis, White-necked Herons and Maned Ducks along the way kept everyone looking and Bell Miners called. A Swamp Wallaby ran across the road at speed and White-winged Choughs stopped the bus again. Here too a Blue-faced Honeyeater was found. Nankeen Kestrels and Pied Butcherbirds were the first of many seen on the trip.
Barraba Group by Andrew Sharp
When we stopped for tea and cake at Wollombi a Blue-faced Honeyeater came in and gave amazing views. Satin Bowerbirds flew through and Spotted Pardalotes called. Still in Wollombi, another quick stop allowed us to see a Wombat feeding during the day. A pond had Royal Spoonbill, Eurasian Coots, Australasian Grebe and Hardhead. Little Raven began to appear and Euros in various colour variations delighted.
North of Muswellbrook a Black-shouldered Kite and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike appeared; then there was another stop and all out of the bus to watch many Black Kites thermalling up. The Wingen Pub was the perfect place for lunch which we shared with many fathers on Father's Day. During a small walk before entering the bus again Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Brown Thornbills and a very handsome Golden Whistler were seen.
The drive north through beautiful country had everyone happy. Bruce called 'Raptor!' and we all piled out again for a Wedge-tailed Eagle. Here too we had Double-barred Finch, Jacky Winter, Striated Pardalote, White-throated Treecreeper and finally a Restless Flycatcher called and was seen. It couldn't have been more pleasant!
We progressed through Crawney's Pass, a wonderful part of the world. An earlier shower of rain gave it a great look with no dust. A stop and a walk allowed us to add White-naped Honeyeaters to our growing list. Our final bird of the day, a Grey-butcherbird, flew alongside the bus as we arrived in Nundle, our stop for the night.
Azure Kingfisher by Christina Port
Day 2 started with beanies and jackets as off we went, rugged up against the wind, for the 7am walk. An Apostlebird teased, Crimson Rosella fed on the grass and a large flock of Little Corellas and a few Galahs along the Peel River were showing off against the stormy background. As we walked around, Elizabeth found a Spotted Pardalote, and then 3 Striated Pardalotes were seen very well as one came down quite low doing its wing-and-tail display, a nesting behaviour. A Common Blackbird appeared on the way back, but the chirping House Sparrows only gave a fleeting view as the bus pulled out. Off we went but soon came to halt to see Dusky Woodswallows, the first of many seen throughout the day.
At Chaffey Dam the water had dropped about 15 feet. Grey Fantail, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Superb Fairy-wrens greeted us near the road. Down on the water, hundreds of Eurasian Coots, Australasian Grebes, Hoary-headed Grebes, and Hardheads swam. As we wandered down, White-headed Stilts fed along the edge and great views were had of a pair Black-fronted Dotterels. A Whistling Kite flew over; Great Cormorant, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants were all perched and a pair of White-faced Herons flew in as we moved off.
Our lunch spot was at Attunga State Forest amongst the Callitris forest. Weebills called and flitted around as we ate our lunch. We began our walk as it started to drizzle. Pied Currawongs called and drank in the shed gutter. Grey Fantails and a Laughing Kookaburra were spotted and two Common Bronzewing flew away from the bus. Om the road out, Red-rumped Parrots, White-winged Choughs and a Brown Falcon kept us watching.
Diamond Firetails by Christina Port
Our final stops for the day were the Tarpoly Creek TSR and the Borah Creek TSR. Brown Treecreepers brought the bus to a stop and we had a leisurely walk down through the White-box remnant woodland. White-plumed Honeyeaters, Dusky Woodswallows, Buff-rumped Thornbills, Eastern Rosellas and then a very pale Common Bronzewing kept us busy, followed by a large group of White-winged Choughs and further along were Western Gerygone, Jacky Winters and Diamond Firetails, which all flew off but one came back to pose.
On Day 3 Barraba was looking inviting as we headed down to walk by the river. The day was clear and cool. Almost immediately, a large group of Blue-faced Honeyeaters flew through, then 20 Red-winged Parrots came through in the opposite direction. A flowering Mugga Ironbark down by the river had Noisy Friarbirds feeding, as Brown Honeyeaters and then some of the Blue-faced Honeyeaters returned to feast on the flowers. Red-browed Finch were a delight. A large group of noisy Apostlebirds initially created havoc, then flew, and finally we had them sitting closer and more easily seen. White-plumed Honeyeaters were building a nest and as we turned around European Blackbirds were feeding. We rechecked the Mugga Ironbark on the way back and this time found Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters feeding. As we returned for breakfast the last birds were Double-barred Finch.
We drove out towards Woodsreef, stopping at Ironbark Creek Bridge on the way and walked along the creek. Superb Fairy-wrens, a posing male King Parrot, and Common Bronzewing sat long enough for everyone to have great views. Other birds seen were Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Golden Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, and a Wedge-tailed Eagle up high.
Further along, as we stopped for morning tea, Peaceful Doves came in to be seen, a Turquoise Parrot rocketed through, and a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike gave great views feeding in the trees. On to the Mugga Ironbarks where we saw the first of many Fuscous Honeyeaters, Spotted Pardalotes, while a Black-chinned Honeyeater called.
White-plumed Honeyeater by Christina Port
Next, while driving, Janene reported 5 birds flying up. Out we all trooped, to see Jacky Winter, Peaceful Dove, Dusky Woodswallow, Brown Tree-creepers, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Diamond Firetail, Hooded Robins and a Golden Whistler - phew - all without moving! Back at the Mugga Ironbarks we lunched under the trees with Turquoise Parrots flying through again and Fuscous Honeyeaters overhead.
More Turquoise Parrots and Yellow Tufted Honeyeaters stopped the bus again. We walked here up to the corner and over the cattle stop found two male Hooded Robins, Dusky Woodswallows and Double-barred Finch, all in a paddock with cattle. Further on, at the Garibaldi TSR, a Brown Honeyeater and Willy Wagtail were all we could find.
Our final stop for the day had Fairy Martins flying up high and great close-up views of their nests on the bridge. There were Dusky Woodswallow and Welcome Swallows too. Down by the creek among the nettles, we found White-throated Treecreepers and Superb Fairy-wrens. Returning to the bus Janene had a Striped Honeyeater fly through.
Day 4. Barraba was glorious this morning as we headed off for our walk with two extras, a local farmer and his wife. We were still outside the hotel when an Australian Hobby flew onto the communication tower. Double-barred Finch, Yellow-rumped Thornbills were common and we also had Yellow Thornbills, Red-winged Parrots and King Parrots flying through and Spotted Doves perched and calling.
Today as we drove out we had more Diamond Firetails and White-winged Choughs before we reached Plumthorpe TSR. We walked down the track amongst distressed and dying trees - the Manilla River was more a series of ponds. The drought conditions were biting hard here. Striated Pardalotes, Galah, Musk Lorikeets and Brown Goshawks greeted us. By the creek an Azure Kingfisher thrilled as it fished and posed, giving amazing views. Superb Fairy-wrens, White-throated Treecreepers and Red-browed Finch were here as well. Behind the creek a Speckled Warbler stopped long enough for ID before heading on its way. Fairy Martins, Dusky Woodswallows, and a pair of Jacky Winters watched us go. A Bearded Dragon lay flat and hoped we would leave him, which we did, then out to the Apostlebirds.
Striated Pardalote by Christina Port
At Horton Falls, our lunch stop, those who climbed down to the falls found only a trickle. Spotted Pardalotes, a calling White-throated Treecreeper, Buff-rumped Thornbills and a zooming Little Lorikeet kept us entertained. Duelling or friendly, a pair of Beard Dragons were circling each other on the side of the road, fascinating to watch for a few minutes.
At our next stop, Little Creek, we walked under towering trees. Musk Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, Weebills, and a Striped Honeyeater were seen before we headed back to the bus to avoid a light shower. Driving on, we stopped at Bereen Mountain Lookout overlooking the Horton valley with breathtaking views. No birds, but worthwhile; a heavy police presence was taking in the view too.
King Parrots, more Choughs, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles and an Echidna kept us looking as the bus drove along. A quick stop at Upper Horton gave close-up views of a Red-rumped Parrot, Apostlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets. A walk around produced White-plumed Honeyeaters, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and another Diamond Firetail.
Our last stop today was Cobbadah, where we had a nice walk among the trees, the noisy late-afternoon Galahs being the highlight.
Dinner at The Playhouse
Day 5 We bade farewell to Barraba. As we drove along, we had Little Corella, Australasian Pipit and a Whistling Kite. We stopped at Bendemeer for morning tea with Crimson Rosellas, Australasian Grebe, and Fairy Martins. At Walcha we turned on to Thunderbolt Way and on to Nowendoc where Crimson Rosellas were down feeding giving great views, and Yellow-rumped Thornbills were easy to see. A White-necked Heron in a pond on the outskirts was seen coming and going.
Our lunch spot today was Bretti Reserve beside the Little Manning River. There we found Dusky Moorhen in the river with Pacific Black Duck and Little Pied Cormorants, and along the edges Satin Bowerbirds, Lewin's Honeyeaters, Noisy Friarbirds and lots of Silvereyes. Driving off from here we saw numerous Cattle Egrets in the nearby paddocks, an Intermediate Egret at a pond. We said goodbye to Thunderbolt Way at Gloucester and then headed for the highway. Our last stop for the trip was at Minmi, with White headed Stilts, Red Wattlebird, Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets and a Grey Butcherbird. Then it was on to the M1 and home.
Much of our trip was through drought affected areas, and while we did see this Janene managed to choose some amazing landscapes for us to enjoy. Thank you Janene and to everyone for such a great trip. Wonderful company and birds. 120 species seen and heard.
Christina Port guiding for Follow That Bird