Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I've returned from almost five days in the gorgeous NSW mallee with an old mate of mine (and gun birder), Steve Edwards, as well as three members of Southern Highlands Birdwatchers. We were blessed with rich cobalt skies and unbridled sunshine for 95% of the time we were out there. Our home was Lake Cargelligo Caravan Park (not salubrious, but all we needed).

The birding was extraordinary - we saw dozens of impressive species. However, we dipped on 4 of our targets: Malleefowl, Red-lored Whistler, Ground Cuckoo-shrike and Orange Chat. We came and went from Round Hill and Nombinnie Nature Reserves, Sheet of Water (private property), Lake Cargelligo Sewage Treatment Works (as you do), various roadside spots between LC and Condobolin, Lake Brewster Weir, Murrin Bridge and Booberoi Creek, in search of birds. The entire area is a keen birder's fantasy land.

Here's what we unearthed...

GREY FALCON (wacko!; my second record - the first being out at Fort Grey in Sturt National Park about ten years ago; bird was circling effortlessly on and off over an hour above the old wheat paddock in Nombinnie Nature Reserve; distinct black fingered wing-tips; no flapping; obvious universal grey; silent; left alone by other birds)
BLACK FALCON (2 birds very high over celebrated 'chat alley' on the way to Round Hill; Batman-like flight silhouette clear against white of massive clouds)
LONG-TOED STINT (tick; one bird at Lake Cargelligo Sewage Treatment Works; zig-zagging flight; obvious bronze-edged secondaries; pale legs; a lot smaller than Red-kneed Dotterel it stood next to; there are very few records of these birds in NSW)
PAINTED SNIPE (tick; thanks to Steve-o who found this at wetland by road to Condobolin within seconds, close on dusk, after 3 earlier trips failed to unearth the nomad)
GILBERT'S WHISTLER (I was fortunate to see both a male and a female singing in one afternoon; about 8 birds in various areas in and around old wheat paddock within Nombinnie; may not have seen the bird had we not been using playback)
CHESTNUT QUAIL-THRUSH (tick; glimpses of 2 birds dashing between porcupine grass in the old wheat field; bird's soft whistle often heard; Eastern Spinebill-like call also heard)
SHY HEATHWREN (bad view in old wheat paddock; not worth talking about)
SOUTHERN SCRUB-ROBIN (as with the heathwren)
SPOTTED BOWERBIRD (close to 10 birds by Lachlan River at Euabalong)
WHITE-BROWED BABBLER (nesting near wheat paddock)
BLACK HONEYEATER (Steve saw many near railway line that intersects Nombinnie and Round Hill Nature Reserves after I'd headed home with SHB members)
CRIMSON CHAT (Steve also saw these, I failed to)
WHITE-FRONTED CHAT (bad views of 3 birds in swampy area along Condobolin Rd; different spot from where Painted Snipe was viewed)
WESTERN GERYGONE (more attractive than I recalled)
CHESTNUT-RUMPED THORNBILL (two birds by nest in dead tree branch at Murrin Bridge)
ZEBRA FINCH (3 birds seen on barbed wire fence along 'chat alley')
PINK COCKATOO (only one bird seen during the 5 days!; are their numbers dropping?)
SOUTHERN WHITEFACE (on road to Murrin Bridge township)
SUPERB PARROT (circa 10 birds seen between Temora and Harden on way home; the male is a gorgeous, gorgeous thing; is it the most spectacular of our parrots?)
EMU (only 2 birds seen on the way to 'chat alley')
GLOSSY IBIS (a couple of dozen at the LCSTW on our first day; brilliant stuff)
BAILLON'S CRAKE (possibly 20 birds at LCSTW; out in open and confiding, to a point; also seen at the spot we recorded Painted Snipe; I'd never seen so many)
SPOTLESS CRAKE (a couple of birds found near bird hide at LCSTW)
AUSTRALIAN SPOTTED CRAKE (many birds at Snipe spot and LCSTW)
WHISKERED TERN (maybe thirty birds on our first dat at LCSTW)
BROLGA (2 flying birds seen fleetingly through trees at Sheet of Water)
BARN OWL (4 birds seen in one night!; all close-ish to Lake Cargelligo)

When it comes to reptiles, we came across a lone Central Bearded Dragon (handsome; yellow & light grey), a handful of Mallee Dragons (damn quick), as well as Sand Goannas (similar to Lace Monitors, but more indistinct tones and lighter eyes), when traversing Round Hill and Nombinnie. There wasn't much on the mammal front: a small number of Western Grey Kangaroos somewhere or other and a Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat or two, on dusk, over the road between Nombinnie and Round Hill.

This was one of the most rewarding bird sojourns I've ever been part of. Thanks to my fellow birders for the laughs, passion, skills in the field, camaraderie and laughs.

I can't wait to the next installment.

LJ, September 29 2011.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This Saturday morning, I'm off to the middle of NSW for 5 days, to search for rare and endangered birds. The mallee is meant to be glorious at the moment. It's been a demanding (yet rich and rewarding) school term and I can't wait to tune out and replenish myself.

LJ, September 20 2011