Lake Brewster, Lake Cargelligo

Subject: Lake Brewster, Lake Cargelligo
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Sun, 07 Jul 2002 18:45:00 +1000
Hello Birdos,

On Saturday I headed off towards Lake Brewster, SE of Lake Cargelligo in central western NSW to look for Painted Snipe. It was a place that I hadn't visited before. It has come up a few times in my work with NPWS as a mapping problem. Should it be classified as an old wetland or as a degraded Black Box woodland?

I headed north-west from Rankins Springs along the Hillston Rd and past many long skinny roadside remnants of Bimble Box woodland. The Bimble Box woodland looks to have been one of the dominant vegetation communities in the lowlands below and between the hills that stretch south and west of Lake Cargelligo. As most of the lowland country has been cleared these remnants are most of what is left. However there are a few small state forests around these hills that can give an indication of what some of this lowland country might have been like. I visited Melbergen SF (33 46 20; 146 02 26) briefly around late morning. Despite terrible windy conditions, I had very quickly come across 20 birds species which isn't bad for this area. It consisted of mostly Belah (Casuarina cristata), Callitris Pine with some big trees of Bimble Box and Euc. intertexta. Compared to most of the remnants in this area there was an impressive amount of shrub layer consisiting of Rosewood, Wilga and especially Hakea. In one spot there were some Hakea trees that were a couple of feet across at the base. Lots of Hakea regrowth and a great cryptogram cover over the soil (lichens, mosses etc.). The grasses looked only lightly grazed. Unfortunately it is a very small state forest being about 1 km by 1.5 km. What probably saves it is that it backs onto the Little Melbergen Range on the western side. Some of the birds present included Hooded Robin, Red-capped Robin, Southern Whiteface, Restless Flycatcher and all the usual thornbill suspects. I couldn't help feeling that I was seeing a little bit of country that might have been a little bit like what Oxley saw in 1817 when he came through these hills. Even the soil felt like what Oxley had described, soft and yielding, of course that could have been from the rain the day before! Also Oxley was seeing animals that now seem exotic such as bettongs and bilbies!

Lake Brewster was dry, dry, dry! The lake bed was blowing away in places. It is also mostly filled with dead eucalypt stags, presumably Black Box. There was water in the odd channel and in Brewster Weir and it was in these places that I recorded birds but no Painted Snipe, despite seemingly suitable habitat here and there. Freckled Duck (1), Banded Lapwing (6), Ground Cuckoo-shrike (5), Long-billed Corella (100), Black-tailed Native-hen (5), White-bellied Sea-eagle, Grey-crowned Babbler and Brown Treecreeper were probably the most interesting things.

On the way back home and under brooding clouds I cam across an extremely amenable gang of 35 Pink Cockatoos which I ended spending about an hour with. After being flushed a couple of times and their moving a short distance they decided that I wasn't a threat and allowed me to approach very close while they perched in the trees around me. They were very much paired off and there was a lot of squabbling, copulation and hollow inspection going on, accompanied all the while with their wavering voices. Some of them even became curious in me and came to take a closer look, some to within a few metres. It was quite a bizarre feeling having these fantastic cockatoos expressing such curiosity in me rather than me being curious in the birds as it usually is. I could hardly tear myself away but it was getting darker and I was expecting the rain to come down at any moment. Pink Cockatoos are now firmly my favourite parrot!


Mick Todd
Griffith, NSW

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