From Macquarie Street, we had all the usual suspects across the Sydney Harbour Bridge: Australian Raven, Common Myna, Magpie...at Killara, the group had spotted King Parrot. Onward through Sydney traffic and we began to pick up some new species: Black-winged Stilt and Cattle Egret at the Windsor overpass. Bell Miners obliged by calling at their hill and a Lewin's Honeyeater flew across the road at Kurrajong; in a paddock near Bilpin, Crimson Rosellas were feeding in the grasses with a pair of Magpies.
As we drove into Lithgow, a Satin Bowerbird flew across our bows. Morning tea at Lithgow STW provided good views of Hoary-headed Grebes, Hardhead, Pacific Black Duck and Australian Shoveller. After much scanning of the ponds, we finally found the Blue-billed Duck in plain view (but with bill tucked under his wings): the stiff, up-turned tail was the clue.
Australian Ringneck by Greg McCarry
At Capertee, we made a brief stop for Tree Martins flying over the road and a Jacky Winter, sallying for insects from its perch on a fence. Soon afterwards, we saw two Wedge-tailed Eagles at Ilford; then Little Pied Cormorants plus a gazillion coots on Lake Windemere.
We picked up House Sparrows in Mudgee before finding a lovely (and very popular) spot next to the Cudgegong River for lunch. White-plumed Honeyeaters called from the River Red Gums and an Azure Kingfisher sat stock still staring for prey from a low branch as we gazed on admiringly.
There were Cattle Egrets and Little Ravens at Goolma, then a real treat at Ballimore as a Spotted Harrier flew low across the paddock adjacent to the road. We got excellent views in the scope, admiring the pink-striped belly. Towards Nyngan, the first of many Black Kites appeared.
Wedge-tailed Eagle by Greg McCarry
The morning walk by the Bogan River at the caravan park was very rewarding: Pied-mudlarks, Yellow-throated Miners, Welcome Swallow, Peaceful Doves, Little Black Cormorants and a Crested Shrike-tit (spotted by Anne) working the decorticating bark! Yellow-billed Spoonbill poked along the bank; Red-winged Parrots flew by; Striped Honeyeaters and Bar-shouldered Doves called.
At the old hospital (or rather, in the grounds of) we found a family of Grey-crowned Babblers, lots of Blue Bonnets, Red-rumped and Red-winged Parrots. Around the corner we found Spotted Bowerbird and Cockatiels.
On to the STW (spotting a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike on the way, perched on a roadsign) where a White-faced Heron took flight at our approach and we were treated to a feast of ducks! Pink-eareds, Hardheads, Grey Teal, Pacific Blacks and Black Swan. There were Fairy-wrens playing on the fence which turned out to be White-winged - their beaks almost orange in the morning sun. Then, we glimpsed a male in breeding plumage and fortunately, he overcame his shyness so that everyone had a chance to admire him.
Leaving Nyngan behind, we stopped on the Cobar road for a short walk by the railway track. There were plenty of Noisy Miners, put out by a Brown Falcon, a Pied Butcherbird and some bathing White-plumed Honeyeaters. Three Cockatiels flew by as we got distracted by invertebrates: a Two-spotted Lined-blue butterfly and a Spiny Spider.
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo by Greg McCarry
Just before Cobar, we pulled in to a rest area to check its birding potential but were driven off by a very indignant Yellow-throated Miner, launching itself at the bus! Lunch at Newey Reservoir was accompanied by a calling Restless Flycatcher, and Brown and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were seen feeding in the flowering Mugga Ironbark above the picnic tables.
There were plenty of Coots to entertain us and a Pelican surrounded by cormorants secluded on the island across the water. After lunch, we spent time tracking down a very vocal Striped Honeyeater and it paid off when everyone got pretty good views of it flitting through the canopy.
On to the STW and a Musk Duck, trying to stay out of sight under water, was spied at the back of one of the ponds. There was a Grey Fantail, as well as Splendid Fairy-wrens, Singing Honeyeaters and Yellow Thornbills buzzing through the bush. We tracked down Inland Thornbill for Barbara before heading out to the South Cobar Common.
En route, Yellow Spoonbill and Black-fronted Dotterel made good use of a shallow pool amongst piles of road base. There were Blue Bonnets galore at the Common, and a family of Chestnut-crowned Babblers kept us at a safe distance as they bobbed about in search of insects. We got good views of a Little Eagle perched on a power pole, Southern Whiteface hopping through the grasses and Mistletoebird darting through the Mulga. As we were about to depart, the guide yelled out "Black Falcon!", just to see how fast Bernice could descend from the bus...it turned out to be (pretty fast!) a very dark Brown Falcon instead, but well worth a look through the scope. Onto the motel where Blue-faced Honeyeaters cavorted in the setting sun and two Australian Hobbies flew overhead.
Red-tailed Black Cockatoos by Greg McCarry
The morning walk took us north on the Louth Road for a tree full of honeyeaters: Singing, Blue-faced, Spiny-cheeked plus Yellow-throated Miners. We crossed the road and were treated to the sight of 3 Major Mitchell's Cockatoos perched precariously on top of the scrub. We followed them to a pine tree in a backyard and watched them munching on cones. As we headed back for breakfast, a total of 7 landed in a large gum tree, providing a truly spectacular start to the day.
After breakfast, we drove a little way up the Louth Road and stopped for a short walk through the Bimble Box. A Crested Bellbird was hopping around on the ground and we also picked up a pair of Mulga Parrots and heard Chestnut-rumped Thornbills (which remained frustratingly out of sight). We scraped the red mud off our boots as a pair of Hooded Robins pounced for prey at the side of the road.
Out on the Kidman Way we saw Red-winged Parrots and Janene executed a smart U-turn to view a group of Chestnut-crowned Babblers. At the Nullamutt watering holes, a Brown Goshawk caused alarm amongst the Yellow-throated Miners. A Chestnut Teal shared the dam with Hoary-headed Grebes and Pink-eared Ducks. Crossing the road, we hear Weebills and saw a Rufous Whistler and a feeding flock of Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills. Boulenger's Morethia (a small skink) poked its head out from behind a fence post to see what all the fuss was about.
At the 'Shire of Bourke' sign, Audrey spotted two Emus, then we entered Gundabooka National Park as 3 White-backed Swallows flashed overhead. After lunch at Dry Tank, we took the Little Mountain walking track through the Mulga. There were calls of Splendid Fairy-wren and Inland Thornbill, but the birds were being elusive. Three Wedge-tailed Eagles were spotted high above us. The lookout was spectacular and seemed to blaze colour after the drabness of the Mulga. Back at the camp ground, Red-capped Robins kept us company as did a Carnaby's Skink, sunning itself on a fallen log. A short walk back along the road yielded White-browed Treecreeper quietly investigating a Mulga trunk and a Central Netted Dragon peering at us from the safety of a Mulga ants' nest!
Little Corellas by Greg McCarry
On the way out of the park, we stopped at a drainage line for a walk among the bigger trees. There, we found a pair of Mulga Parrots feeding quietly on the ground; Brown-headed Honeyeaters called from the canopy. Heading into Bourke, there were more Emus (one group of 14 juveniles) and a quick stop for Black-faced Woodswallows, sitting on the fence.
Our morning walk on day 4 took us along the Darling River. A Great Egret and a white-necked Heron were both looking for breakfast and a Sacred Kingfisher perched nearby, scanning the ground for something tasty. White-plumed Honeyeaters chased through the River Red Gums and a Restless Flycatcher called; Bernice was lucky enough to see it. As we headed back for breakfast, 2 Red-tailed Black-cockatoos flew by.
At the Dry Billabong, there were Variegated Fairy-wrens playing hard to see in the blue bush. Closer to the river, we saw Western Grey Kangaroos and several Brown Treecreepers. The massive River Red Gums held us in thrall, the swirling patterns of various hues of pinks, creams and greys standing out in the morning sun, as did a number of Ringnecks, perched on the lower branches. On the way back into town we stopped by a White Cedar bursting with Red-tailed Black-cockatoos: all at once, they took off in a burst of black and red feathers that brought gasps of appreciation from the bus!
Morning tea (the blend with a touch of Bimble Box to add local flavour) by the Darling gave us plenty of opportunity to look more closely at Little Corellas and admire their subtle plumage and facial colouring. Then it was off to Byrock for a look at the Aboriginal interpretative walk next to the rockpools where we watched a solitary juvenile Red-kneed Dotterel taking stock of its existence...the walk back to the pub was accompanied by Singing Honeyeaters, Southern Whitefaces and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. We stopped to photograph a pair of Red-capped Robins on the road.
Apostlebird by Greg McCarry
Over lunch, we had fabulous close-ups with curious Apostlebirds, gazing hopefully at us from the fence, Hooded Robins, Spotted Bowerbirds and Red-winged Parrots.
Heading on to Tiger Bay, Black Kites, Black-shouldered Kites and Cockatiels lined the route. At the wetlands, there were a few small woodland birds chirping away, including Grey Fantail and some young Western Gerygones, sporting an almost yellow wash to their plumage. Reed Warblers 'chucked' from the reeds and finally one was brave enough to come out and pose for a photo.
At Gilgandra the next morning, it was cold and misty next to the Castlereagh River, but there were birds out and about including a young Olive-backed Oriole cavorting with Little Friarbirds in the top of the pine trees. White-faced and White-necked Herons were out fishing and a family of Superb Fairy-wrens was playing hide-and-seek in the grasses next to the footpath.
After breakfast, our destination was the Gilgandra Flora Reserve. Amongst the Callitris and Ironbarks, White-eared and Striped Honeyeaters called, Red-capped and Eastern Yellow Robins pounced and Brown and Yellow Thornbills tested our resource partitioning theory (who was in what shrub/tree?)! A Rufous Whistler made an appearance and we admired the flowering Sword Wattle (Acacia gladiiformis) with its large, scythe-shaped phyllodes.
Gilgandra Flora Reserve by Greg McCarry
On the drive to Denman, we stopped for a Wedge-tailed Eagle perched on a kangaroo carcass (not quite what Greg had hoped for) and saw a Collared Sparrowhawk fly over the road. Over lunch, a Fan-tailed Cuckoo could be heard giving its plaintive descending trill.
Between Broke and Cessnock, a large dam caught our attention: Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel, Swans, Pelicans and Yellow Spoonbill were the highlights. A much-anticipated icecream stop at the Watagans Servo was doubly rewarding with a soundtrack of Lewin's Honeyeater, Green Catbird and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and glimpses of White-browed Scrubwrens, Eastern Spinebills and Brown and Striated Thornbills. Then it was onto the freeway with a final tally of 120 birds under our belts (to add to the icecreams)!
By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB