I have just had a four days up in the Armidale region, mainly visiting
family but including some birding.
The effect of the drought conditions was apparent in many ways. Dangars
Lagoon at Uralla (where the Pratincole was seen last Christmas) is now
lower than I have ever seen it, with wide areas of dry mud in front of
the hide. But there were still large numbers of ducks and grebes on it,
squeezed into the restricted areas of open water. I searched in vain
for the usual Great Crested Grebes, but both other Grebe species were
present, and I also found no Freckled Duck, though there were still a
few Blue-billed about and the Musk Duck had a family of half-grown
young. Most numerous ducks were Pacific Black, and Shoveler, with some
Grey Teal and Hardheads also present.
The drought presumably acounts in part for the large numbers of
predators seen everywhere. Best were an Australian Hobby beside the
road near Muswellbrook, and a Little Eagle at Wallabadah.
We spent two days on a private property beside the Styx River along the
Wollomombi-Kempsey Road. This area is so high (1000 metres) that it is
usually quiet in winter, but there were more birds about this time,
including numerous White-eared Honeyeaters, Scarlet Robins, and
Red-browed Treecreepers, as well as the more common woodland species.
The local pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles had a young bird with them. Most
interesting of all was a new bird for me: a female Spotted Quail-Thrush,
which ambled across the road and then let me trail it for several
minutes through the bush.
Associate Professor John M. Clifton-Everest
Department of Germanic Studies
University of Sydney
(61) (2) 9351 2262
Fax (61) (2) 9351 5318
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