A cave, some lunch and many songlarks
September 2007 Trip Report #17
Weddin Mountains New South Wales
We headed off south from Forbes for the Weddin Mountains National Park. We had also visited this park three years ago and had good memories of this lovely spot. I remember though that the birding was a little on the slow side (meaning: I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see much).
On the drive in to the picnic and camping ground we saw two Emus and heard quite a few Brown Songlarks in full song. Eastern Rosellas flew across in front of the car and Galahs flew overhead. White-winged Choughs greeted our arrival with much calling.
We pulled into a parking bay and prepared to have our lunch. An Australian Raven landed in the tree above us, but when he realised we were not about to share our lunch he flew off before I could get a photo. I realised then that I have some good photos of Little Ravens, the species common around home, but I do not yet have any shots of its larger cousin. Patience.
Apostlebirds were busy feeding on the ground just south of our lunch spot. After our lunch, a camper came over to our picnic table and talked to us for some twenty minutes. Time seemed to be getting away from us and we still wanted to visit another national park further east, so we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go for a walk after lunch.
As we left the park our departure was delayed by some twenty minutes. The predominantly pine forested area along the access track seemed to suddenly fill with bird song. Many Brown Songlarks were calling. My wife saw some flowers she wanted to investigate. I took a nice shot of a male Red-capped Robin. A White-winged Triller also joined in the chorus along with some more Choughs, a Rufous Whistler, a Grey Fantail who could barely be heard and a Brown Falcon glided overhead sending the local Noisy Miners into a frenzy of alarm calls.
And to crown it all off, a majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle soared high overhead.
It was a lunch break to remember.
And the cave? High up on the cliff face above the campsite and picnic grounds is a cave. Infamous bushranger Ben Hall reputedly used this as his hideaway.
Home again – and an unexpected visitor
We are home again after 24 days on the road in South Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. I will continue posting articles and photos of my birding experiences over the coming weeks.
This morning we had an unexpected visitor to our garden, a beautiful Sacred Kingfisher. While we see this species around Murray Bridge from time to time, it is an infrequent visitor to our garden. When I checked my database records I found out that the last visit was as long ago as 2000, but I have a feeling we have seen it more recently. My records are not quite up to date. A few minutes later I heard a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo calling, but it had gone before I could get out there to see it. We heard this species calling in many places on our recent holiday, along with several other cuckoo species.
A visit to Gum Swamp Forbes NSW
2007 New South Wales trip report #16
One of the places I wanted to visit on this trip was Gum Swamp several kilometres south of the town of Forbes. I had previously visited this popular birding spot three years ago. It has a bird hide a few steps from the car park. Not that one actually needs a hide; the birds seem to ignore you anyway.
On the way there I commented to my wife that I hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t taken the recent dry conditions into account when planning to stop here. I shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have worried. The swamp was at near full capacity and the birdlife just as prolific as I had remembered it from three years ago.
Over a twenty minute period I added the following species to my rapidly growing Trip List:
- Fairy Martin (gathering mud for nesting, as were the Welcome Swallows)
- Grey Teal
- Chestnut Teal
- Pacific Black Duck
- Pink-eared Duck
- Hardhead (White-eyed Duck)
- Australian Wood Duck
- Dusky Moorhen
- Eurasian Coot
- Australasian Grebe
- Black Swan
Probably the best sighting of all was quite unexpected; a single White-bellied Sea-eagle. I tried to get a photo but even with 12x zoom he is but a small white dot in the distance. A better photo will have to wait. Meanwhile you could have a look at a close up photo I took of one in the Taronga Park Zoo last year – click here.
A delightful birding break
2007 New South Wales trip report
Lachlan River crossing, Waroo
We stopped briefly at Condobolin for supplies; fuel for the car and food for the body Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from the local bakery. (Visiting local bakeries in small towns is something of an addiction of ours; not all that healthy but oh so delicious. We compare everyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vanilla slices with the bakery at home; few come even close for flavour. But I digress.)
The birds along this stretch of road were very similar to the previous stretch from Lake Cargelligo to Condobolin. One new addition was several Laughing Kookaburras. We were also disappointed to see a dead Echidna on the side of the road, another road-kill victim. Driving over an Echidna is potentially dangerous for drivers, as my daughter can attest. She didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t kill the little animal but it punctured her tyre.
About halfway along this stretch of road we looked for a suitable morning tea stop. A narrow road leading off the main road crossed a very old bridge and we found a lovely park-like spot next to the Lachlan River. Actually, because of the prolonged drought in this area the Ã¢â‚¬Å“riverÃ¢â‚¬Â is not much more than a narrow, shallow pool of murky mud.
The tall gum trees all around supported a vibrant population of birds. Galahs, Cockatoos, Magpies, Ravens and Red-rumped Parrots were in abundance. I also saw three Peaceful Doves, always a lovely species to encounter. A new species for the trip list was several Brown Treecreepers.
It was a delightful break from driving.
A small accident
2007 New South Wales Trip report #14
The next day we were on our way bright and early Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for us that is. It was another bright, sunny day with a few clouds and a cool, gentle breeze. Corinne drove for the first leg to Condobolin, seeing IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d done most of the driving yesterday.
The wheat farming district from Lake Cargelligo to Condobolin is largely open, lightly timbered with some remnant vegetation on the roadside. Despite the general sparsity of trees and bushes the birdlife is still quite interesting. Because my wife was driving I could keep a detailed list of species seen as we went along.
Apostlebirds were very numerous, small groups of four to ten were seen every kilometre or so. So were the Australian Magpies, though these were more often encountered singly or in twos and threes. Australian Ravens seem more interested in walking the roadside verges than in flying. This is also true of the many White-winged Choughs seen along this stretch of road. They also seem unafraid of traffic, barely moving out of way of oncoming vehicles.
Crested Pigeons do very well in this district, indicating they have reliable seed producing plants. We also saw small flocks of Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos along the way. Two Blue Bonnet Parrots flew in front of the car at one point. Magpie Larks feed along the edges of the road too, along with Noisy Miners and Willie Wagtails.
The only raptors we saw on this leg of our journey were several Nankeen Kestrels. More than once I saw one dive from a height of five or more metres into the grass. It was hard to see what each one caught for lunch as we hurtled along the highway at 100kph. It was probably a small reptile, grasshopper or mouse.
Just a short distance from Condobolin we had a small accident. A small flock of four Galahs feeding on the edge of the road was a little slow taking off. One unfortunately hit the passenger-side corner of the windscreen. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look back, but there is no way it could have survived. The impact even took a small chip out of the glass but it did not crack the glass. If it had shattered Ã¢â‚¬â€œ highly unlikely Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I would have received a face full of glass, feathers and blood.
Road kills are a frequent occurrence here in Australia unfortunately. Our own record is lower than most; this was only the fourth bird I can recall either of us hitting in nearly forty years of driving.