I have just had two very enjoyable mornings taking groups to McMahons
Lookout, 25km south of Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, NSW. This
interesting promontory overlooks Lake Burragorang, Sydney's water supply,
and is one of the few places that public access is allowed within the Water
Board's 3km prohibited area (although access from there to the actual lake
shore is not permitted and difficult anyway).
Yesterday we knew we were the first people to go there for several days as
we drove through hundreds of cobwebs strung delicately across the road and
highlighted by the early morning sun and dew. We saw a number of Spotted
Quail-thrushes, flushed from beside the road as we drove by on both days.
Three Glossy Black-Cockatoos were seen through the trees near the carpark
and later, chewed-up cones of Allocasuarina littoralis littering the ground
at the lookout was evidence of where they had been.
>From the carpark it's a one kilometre walk to the main lookout with the
track skirting a gully rich with magnificent tall Turpentines (Syncarpia
glomulifera) and Blue Gums (Eucalyptus deanei). Golden Whistlers dominated
the rather varied aural landscape and other birds here included Rufous
Fantails, Cicadabirds, Red-browed Treecreepers and Noisy Friarbirds.
White-browed Scrubwrens were feeding young in a tangle of low ferns. But
the thing which really delighted the group the most was finding a natural
birdbath high up in a tree. Fifteen metres up the trunk of an old Angophora
costata was a large rounded lump (which is typical of these gnarled trees)
and in the top of this bulge, a cavity obviously holding water. Eastern
Yellow Robins, Brown Thornbills and White-browed Scrubwrens were taking it
in turns to splash around in this bathtub with a view, then perching,
drenched, on the edge to preen. What a sight!
Arriving at the main lookout we found a sea of fog below us, which slowly
evaporated to reveal the vast expanse of still water reflecting the
mountains and forests around it. The lake shore is over one kilometre away
at its closest point and 500 vertical metres below the lookout, but with
binoculars one can identify the larger waterbirds. The Pelicans were easy
to find and a flock of about 150 cormorants - probably Little Black - were
perching in a dead tree. We looked down on them as they all took flight and
followed the shoreline for several kilometres, looking like a swarm of
insects from such a distance. We knew they were low over the water by the
closeness of their shadows. Smaller waterbirds appeared just as dots on the
water and a scope would have been very handy. Below the lookout, Scarlet
Honeyeaters were heard, but not seen, on both mornings.
Our full list is below.
MCMAHONS LOOKOUT AREA
7.30-9.30am, 2 & 3 December 1999
Cormorants (prob. Little Black)
Eastern Yellow Robin
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