Spotted Quail-thrush by Christina Port
Watch participant Whit Andrews video for his son's class in the US, starring Teddy and this is what he saw on our trip- YouTube at its Best!
Seven birders came together from Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Canberra and the US for this tour and our first short stop was Wilson Park at Wentworth Falls, where Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were busy feeding on the seeds of Deodar cedar trees, and King-Parrots provided a burst of colour.
Approaching Evans Lookout, we stopped to admire Crimson Rosellas feeding by the roadside. A mixed flock came by with Brown and Striated Thornbills, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebill and a Rockwarbler, hopping through shrubs instead of the more usual rock and pathways. Down at the lookout during morning tea we were treated to good views of more Rockwarblers, a White-throated Treecreeper and Janene's delicious cake. Every time we come here the view is different, and today we had a misty view with the shapes of the escarpments gradually materialising from the haze as the clouds cleared, revealing patches of blue sky. A Peregrine Falcon flew by, disappearing as quickly as it appeared.
Down in the Kanimbla Valley at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain, Superb Fairy-wrens, Red-browed Finches, Spotted Pardalotes and Eastdern Rosellas were numerous. In the open grazing country, the pond at Fragars Road had an Australiasian Grebe on its nest, Grey Teal and others while a wander along the lane gave us Diamond Firetail, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Red-rumped Parrot, Mistletoebird and Grey Butcherbird but the highlight was hearing Whit's exclamation, "OH MY!!" on seeing a Sacred Kingfisher through the scope. Everyone in the group got to see this stunning bird. The popping sounds of Striped Marsh Frogs were heard - a call which has been described as sounding like a tennis ball being struck.
At Duddawarra Bridge we added Dusky Moorhen, Brown Falcon and an Australian Reed-Warbler feeding a juvenile in the reeds.
Our lunch site in the Jenolan State Forest had us searching for an elusive Bassian Thrush which managed to keep just ahead of the group and offered us no more than fleeting glimpses. The thunderstorm circling around us added a dramatic touch to lunch but we managed to stay dry.
Echidna by Christina Port
Back in the bus we had amazing views of three Wedge-tailed Eagles circling low over the road, and they continued to accompany us at the start of our walk. This walk traverses a beautiful open-forest of eucalypts on Binoomea Ridge culminating in the steep downhill to the Caves, and our main targets were Spotted Quail-thrush and robins. The first 2 or 3 kilometres had picturesque but quiet stretches punctuated with patches of good birding with species such as White-eared and White-naped Honeyeater, Red-browed Treecreeper and Satin Bowerbird. An Echidna was a great sighting, walking beside the track and just after this we were treated to a male Superb Lyrebird in full view - what a picture.
A little further along we found ourselves in the midst of a travelling flock of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes. Among these was a single, darkish morph White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, the ID confimed by Whit's photo showing the more irregular black throat and faintly barred underparts.
Lyrebird by Christina Port
Finally, a female robin was spotted and at the same moment, a female Spotted Quail-thrush appeared on the road ahead, giving some of the group a couple of brief views before it disappeared over the ridge. As we got closer to the Caves, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and several Rufous Fantails were seen.
We were here on the same weekend as a historical event and a couple of last century's cave guides were spotted briefly in the hallways of Caves House. After drinks and dinner in the charming old-world dining room, we headed out on foot through the arch with the spotlight in readiness. It's fairly well-known that Sooty Owls have inhabited Jenolan Caves for many thousands of years, with prey remains dating back 35,000 years at a roost site in one of the caves. Just as it was getting dark, we heard the "falling bomb" call, and then it didn't take long before we had located the owl high in a tree above the cliff. In what was probably the highlight of the weekend, everyone was able to watch this fantastic bird for several minutes with the modestly dimmed spotlight allowing it to behave naturally and minimising the chance of affecting its vision.
Red-necked Wallaby by Christina Port
The next morning the winding road to Kanangra was blanketed in a thick fog. We noticed dark Swamp Wallabies and Red-necked Wallabies and during a photography stop, saw a female Flame Robin, White-eared and Brown-headed Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird and Gang-gang Cockatoo. Eucalyptus pauciflora, the Snow Gum, grows here and the insect scribbles on the white trunks were exquisite. Kanangra Walls is one of the most spectacular places in the Blue Mountains. This morning's view from the Plateau Walk was soft and muted with mist hanging on the tops of Thurat Spires and the great Kanangra Deep yawning below us. An immature lyrebird scratched around the top of Murdering Gully, while another Echidna curled into a ball of spines beside the track. Brown Thornbills were the only birds seen out in the heath although Welcome Swallows danced in the updraughts above the cliffs. On our way to the Boyd River, a Brown Goshawk was seen perching in a dead tree.
The Boyd River campsite was a delightful lunch spot and gave us yet more fantastic birding. Highlights here included Satin Flycatcher, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, and a pair of Grey Currawongs feeding on something in the shaggy bark of a gum. We watched through the scope as a pair of Gang-gangs quietly munched their way through clusters of Spitfire grubs (sawfly larvae), the juice staining their beaks and chins like children who had been eating blackberries.
Carol Probets & Janenen Luff by Whit Andrews
After lunch we didn't get very far before another mixed group of birds brought the bus to a halt, and we had Fan-tailed Cuckoo, 6 female Flame Robins, a female Scarlet Robin, another Satin Flycatcher, Spoted Pardalote, Rufous Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, Crested Shrike-tit, and voila!... terrific views of a male Spotted Quail-thrush.
We wondered where all the male red robins were. Along the road, as we neared Jenolan Caves again, this question was answered and we started seeing one male Flame Robin after another. So on this trip we had managed to see every one of our main targets: Flame and Scarlet Robin, Spotted Quail-thrush, Grey Currawong, and the fantastic Sooty Owl, along with some of the best and varied scenery the Blue Mountains has to offer. The Jenolan-Kanangra weekend is always one of my favourite trips to lead.