Birding with 2 American Vistors around Sydney 21st July 2002

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Subject: Birding with 2 American Vistors around Sydney 21st July 2002
From: "Edwin Vella" <>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 19:48:28 +1000

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of showing two American visitors, Marc Weinberger and John Mitchell around the Hawkesbury area and the lower Blue Mountains. The weather was glorious and so where our wildlife sightings. Both Marc and Jon showed a very keen interest in both our native flora and fauna and Jon had his camera ready to take many good shots just about all the time.


I met both Marc and John at the Penrith Motor Inn were they were staying for the 3 nights in Sydney (and Australia, after a wonderful couple of weeks in Papua New Guinea) where we had a number of birds just outside the motel ? many Little and Long-billed Corellas, both Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets (4 of the later and are quite uncommon this far west), several Red-rumped Parrots and lots of White-plumed Honeyeaters.


As we drove to our first official spot, I spotted an Australian Hobby perched on the power lines, a first of several good sightings. At Shaws Creek (in Yarramundi) in the foot hills of the Blue Mountains, it did not take long to find the much talked about SWIFT PARROTS. We saw atleast 6 feeding on the lerps alongside a Bell Miner colony (I was told by John deHeume yesterday that there were up to 100 present in this area). Other birds seen here included a Brown Quail, 2 Common Bronzewings, several Bar-shouldered Doves and King Parrots.


We then moved onto Blue Gum Swamp Creek in Winmalee with the hope of finding a Superb Lyrebird. Fortunately, this beautiful part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area did not get battered away from last summers bad bush fires and has made a good recovery from the devastating 1994 bush fires. We walked for a couple of km or so and back along the main trail and saw an Eastern Shrike-tit, both Red-browed (4) and White-throated Tree-creepers (feeding in the same Eucalypt), a few very confiding Rock Warblers (one was seen in the ferns rather than amongst rocks or on the trail where the others were seen), a wonderful look at a Fan-tailed Cuckoo and a few White-browed Scrubwrens very close to our feet. Mysteriously, not even one Lyrebird was seen or heard which is quite a common species in the Blue Mountains are. A Pilotbird was also heard calling briefly but too far from the track. Both Jon and Marc admired also the variety of wildflowers along our walk, namely Banksias, Acacias and Grevilleas.


After a pleasant walk here, we grabbed lunch and drove through the Turf farms on the outskirts of Richmond and Windsor were we observed a few common species of raptors ? a pair of Whistling Kites, Black-shouldered Kites and Kestrels as well as a mixed flock of native and introduced finches ? Zebra and Double-barred Finches, Nutmeg Manikins and Goldfinches.


We arrived at Pitt Town Lagoon (north of Windsor) in the early afternoon where I heard a couple of times what sounded like a Grey-crowned Babblers. Though still common (but declining) in NSW, these are thought to be locally extinct from this part of the Hawkesbury and most likely what I heard was a good imitation by some other bird? There is still however the odd sighting of Grey-crowned Babblers along the Hawkesbury River. The number of waterbirds here yesterday was much fewer than what there were a few weeks ago and the Freckled Ducks appeared to have done a disappearing act which I was hoping to show my overseas friends. We did see a few of the other waterfowl ? Pink-eared Duck, Hardheads and Australasian Shoveler as well as a Swamp Harrier, Pied Stilts, both Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels and Yellow-billed Spoonbill among others. 


Before reaching our main final destination, we stopped at the golf course at Wisemans Ferry to view one of our more so colourful Honeyeaters, the Blue-faced Honeyeater. These honeyeaters appear to be slowly establishing themselves in this part of the Sydney region with breeding already recorded over recent years.


We crossed via the ferry to get away from the Sydney side to the other side of the Hawkesbury River (Central Coast Region) to visit Dharug National Park. Here hopefully I was able to show Marc and John atleast one Superb Lyrebird. And to both their delight, there were atleast 10 Superb Lyrebirds roaming around the edges of the picnic areas as well as a Brush Turkey, a few Wonga Pigeons (4), many Bassian Thrushes and Satin Bowerbirds. John certainly used up alot of film here. It was certainly a good part of the day to be at Dharug! We also heard a male Superb lyrebird giving away it somewhat endless mimicry of the neighbouring birds.


Before the night time show, we observed briefly two Glossy Black-cockatoos fly over the hillside heading to roost and a large Common Wombat made an appearance so that we were able to have a good look at this animal with some light. I was not really that optimistic towards spotlighting being cold in the middle of winter (have never spot lighted before this time of year) and with just about a full moon (not ideal for spotlighting the elusive animals). However, despite these conditions, I though we give it a try for atleast an hour so that my American friends can get a taste of the Aussie marsupials and perhaps a nocturnal bird or two. It didn?t take long till we had our next great find when an adult Powerful Owl landed in a tall Eucalypt giving us a good view. As it was probably its breeding season, we made our observation as brief as possible with a less powered torch and not shining it directly all the time in its eyes. We also got a good look at one of the few Yellow-bellied Gliders. After an hour after dusk, we decided to make a move back to Penrith, but stopped briefly at the Hazel Dell picnic area, a kilometre or so back up the road towards the ferry, were we heard a MASKED OWL call twice (being familiar with Barn Owls both Marc and John knew already that it was something different). And another few kilometres further up and adjacent to an area of Swamp, we had our last find, a Barn Owl nicely perched on the power lines (if only it was an Eastern Grass Owl!)


Both Marc and John had such a wonderful and memorable experience for a such very brief stay in Australia.


Edwin Vella   



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