A weekend in the Capertee

Subject: A weekend in the Capertee
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 08:57:37 +1000

Was in the Capertee Valley (eastern central tablelands NSW) on the weekend to lead a Cumberland Bird Observers Club outing on Sunday.

Arrived lunchtime Saturday and took two early arrivals with me to talk to some landholders about access and check out a couple of sites.  Driving across the Capertee River flats we came across a lovely Spotted Harrier languidly cross-crossing the paddock in the strong westerly winds.

On Crown Station Road we located a large flock of Red-rumped Parrots feeding on the ground.  Nearby we observed a large cat (feral or straying house cat?) that obviously hadn't seen us.  It suddenly sank to the ground and slunk off, flushing a group of Turquoise Parrot in the process.  In hindsight I'm sure the cat was avoiding us rather than stalking the parrots.  Great views of the birds perched in the open including two birds with very vivid and extensive orange bellies.

Off to Glen Davis where we accessed the fire trail.  Some nice birds including Diamond Firetail and lots of honeyeaters.  No Rock Warblers which I was certain we would find but glimpses of Chestnut-rumped Heath-wren which we followed for something like 30 minutes before they eventually gave up and started giving us excellent views as they foraged through the leaf litter.  Walking back, a party of White-winged Choughs was watched as they dug in the earth, picking up bill-fulls of powdery dust and placed it under their wings and through their back feathers - their own insecticide dust.

The next morning we met the CBOC group in Capertee village.  With 28 birders in tow we descended into the valley.  The first stop was Coco Creek Bridge where we saw our first Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and Fantailed Cuckoos, New Holland Honeyeaters (not a common bird in the valley), Brown Tree-creeper, Dusky Woodswallow and two species of martin.

Moving on our next stop was Crown Station Road.  This time there were no Turquoise Parrot but great views of Peaceful Dove feeding by the roadside.  A quick stop by a dam for White-eyed Duck also produced Zebra Finch and a female Hooded Robin.  

Our major stop was next where we had morning tea by the Capertee River.  On the way into this site we stopped for White-backed Swallows however only the first few cars were able to get a look before they moved away.  This was compensated by reasonable views of a Peregrine Falcon circling in the middle distance - close enough for everyone to appreciate the distinctive features.   Over morning tea we were able to observe a pair of Hobbies at close quarters, sitting in the open, flying around and visiting a nest in the Casuarinas.

A walk along the river saw us have close views of Brown Tree-creeper, another female Hooded Robin, Fairy Martins nesting under a rock overhang and a Budgerigar zooming over.  This sighting more or less set the seen for the next half and hour - Budgies zooming over but not allowing decent views.  Eventually, however, a bird alighted in a tree in full view closely followed by five more in another tree.  Things then started happening with birds going into hollows and others sitting in the open for all to see.  One female disappeared into a small knothole for quite a while before popping her head out to watch the observers below before disappearing back into the hollow.  While all this was happening the Tree Martins zoom around trying, seemingly in vain to get our attention.

Other interesting birds here were Common Bronze-wing, Brown Goshawk, Little Eagle, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike (a "normal" plumaged bird and an "intermediate" bird - the latter looking for all the world like a Black-faced C-shrike except for the tell-tale call).  Moving onto an adjacent timbered hill a couple more White-backed Swallows made an appearance overhead, a Crested Shrike-tit was located although many people were again distracted by a juvenile Budgerigar at eye level.  A Diamond Firetail was briefly seen while three Plum-headed Finches teased by perching in the top branches of a tree a long way away in shocking light!  A pair of Hooded Robins and more Dusky Woodswallows entertained while a flock of much more cooperative Plum-headed Finches were located feeding in a paddock occasionally flying up onto a fence.

After a late lunch between Glen Alice and Glen Davis,watching cuckoos, Zebra Finches and honeyeaters drinking at a bird bath , we had another much shorter walk.  A nesting Eastern Yellow Robin was seen by everyone.  Soon after we were walking through a veritable flock of Fantail and Shining Bronze-cuckoos.  They were everywhere, all pouncing on hairy caterpillars.  Southern White-face were seen by theraodside gate.

Time was getting away from us so we decided to try again for the Turquoise Parrots.  This time the birds were indeed where they had been the same time the day before feeding quietly on the ground.  Fantastic views of the birds with their bright blue faced contrasting sharply with their green bodies and the straw coloured grass.  This being the final stop of the day some people wandered off while others remained watching the turks.

Two of the group stayed overnight so, having several free hours before a scheduled meeting, I took them out early Monday morning to the fire trail site I had visited on Saturday.  This time I heard Rock Warblers pretty much straight away so up the rocky slope we went.  No success but we did have great views of Red-browed Tree-creeper, Brown-headed Honeyeaters and a male Spotted Pardalote collecting nest material.  A little further on we located the first of the returning Rufous Whistlers and Speckled Warbler, the female also collecting nesting material.  Back to the fire trail where we found Diamond Firetail and a White-naped Honeyeater collecting material from a fallen nest on the ground.  A Rock Warbler hopped around the fallen boulders.  This was the first of many that we saw (why couldn't we find them on Saturday?).  A female White-throat ed Tee-creeper was hopping along the ground - an unusual sight - collecting nest material.  Honeyeaters buzzing around a tree attracted our attention - they were drinking in a natural bowl where a Grey Gum forked about a metre above the ground.  Quite a few birds were drinking and bathing in this small natural birdbath.  From here we headed back over the rocky ridge in a more or less straight line for the car.  A pair of Turquoise Parrots whizzed by while more Rock Warblers were encountered along with, probably, the same pair of Speckled Warblers.

In all a great couple of days in the valley.  75 species were seen on the CBOC outing which was pretty good considering the limited habitats we visited while I saw 110 species in a day plus part of the first afternoon and part of the last morning.


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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