A leisurely (?) stroll in Wollemi National Park

Subject: A leisurely (?) stroll in Wollemi National Park
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2003 10:48:50 +1100
As part of the radio-tracking study of Regent Honeyeaters I have been 
involved in (along with very able volunteers Carol Probets and Tiffany 
Mason) I have been trying to get into the centre of the Wollemi National 
Park (the northern section of the Blue Mountains) for about a month now. 
The reason - one of our tagged birds had moved down the Capertee River 
gorge system to the point where it joins the Wolgan River and becomes the 
Colo.  It was therefore important that we determine the habitat 
characteristics that this bird was utilising.

The only easy way to do this is to be dropped in by helicopter.  For those 
unfamiliar with the area these gorges are cut deep into the rough 
sandstone plateau.  We were uncertain if we could get in as it would be up 
to the helicopter pilot to determine whether he could safely drop us onto 
the river.

Our problem, however, is that every time we thought we had a helicopter 
booked it would be commandeered by the local NPWS staff for fire fighting 

On 30 December I received news that NPWS had a helicopter that was being 
used to monitor a number of controlled fires and that it was available to 
drop us in and, importantly, pull us out afterwards.  So, on the 31st I 
was dropped, with a work colleague, onto the Colo River in the dead centre 
of the Wollemi wilderness area.  This was an interesting exercise as we 
descended below the cliffs and then through the trees onto the sandy river 
bed, the helicopter pilot maintaining his hovering position to ensure that 
the runners didn't get sucked into the soft sand while we unpacked our 
gear and waved him away again.

Over the last few weeks the area had received some long overdue rain but 
this made our job a more than a bit difficult as we had to walk along the 
river either through water or on waterlogged soft sand.  I had envisaged 
having time for some leisurely bird watching while in there but 
circumstances dictated that this was not to be.  A hard 10 km walk through 
water and soft sand with a heavy backpack scanning constantly for an 
elusive radio signal was heavy going. 

Some interesting birds were seen.  Numerous Rock Warblers were observed 
foraging on the sand of the river bed - behaviour I'm not used to seeing.  
A Rufous Night-heron was unexpected and a Brown Cuckoo-dove was 
noteworthy.  At our turn-around point we were treated to Azure Kingfishers 
zipping around before we deduced we were almost sitting on top of there 
nesting hollow.  Other than that nothing other than what you would expect 
- lots of Rufous Fantails and Leaden Flycatchers were interesting.

Did we find our Regent?  Well no, but we did finally pick up the signal of 
our transmitter which we eventually located on the ground.  The cotton 
weak point of the harness (made of hat elastic) had broken and fallen from 
the bird just as it is designed to do.  Despite not seeing our bird we 
were able to determine where it had been and get an idea of the habitat it 
had been using.

An interesting day in an area not readily accessed by bird watchers.


David Geering
Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 2111
Dubbo  NSW  2830
Ph: 02 6883 5335 or Freecall 1800 621 056
Fax: 02 6884 9382

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