Last weekend (27-28 Sept) I had a great time leading an Australian Special
Interest Tours (Follow That Bird) trip to the Capertee Valley in the NSW
central tablelands. Following is the trip report.
The weather had turned a little nasty as I hurried to the meeting point to
join the ASIT bus in Katoomba on Saturday morning. The eleven other birders
on board had all come up from Sydney and it was with smiles and a sense of
humour that we braved icy winds and sago snow to reach our slightly
sheltered morning tea site at Evans Lookout. We feasted our eyes on the
Grose Valley views and a stand of delicate Caladenia orchids beside the
track, in all shades from white to a beautiful rich pink, as we feasted our
soul on warming coffee and cake. Wherever it is that birds go in such
conditions, it was obviously not here, but the scratched-up earth revealed
much recent lyrebird activity. At least we knew it would be a little warmer
and drier in the Capertee Valley and we all looked forward to the weekend
During the drive we talked about the fabled Capertee Valley and why it is
such an outstanding birding area, the problems faced by woodland birds and
the very encouraging work being done in the valley to help declining and
Our first stop in the valley itself was at Coco Creek, where the very first
bird we saw as we got out of the bus was a Black-chinned Honeyeater. A good
omen, especially as minutes earlier one of the group had mentioned that he
would really like to see this species! The Needle-leaf Mistletoe in the
River Oaks was flowering well and we counted nine species of honeyeater at
this spot, including New Holland, Yellow-faced, White-naped, and great
views of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. We watched two of the latter in a fight
over a patch of mistletoe, one bird grabbing the other's wingtip in its
bill and hanging on viciously as the other flapped and flailed. Coveted
stuff this mistletoe! A pale morph Little Eagle was seen circling high and
moments later, the alarm calls of the honeyeaters alerted us to an
Australian Hobby rushing by and disappearing over the ridgetop.
A strange two-note call had us puzzled for a while until we found the
culprit, a heavily streaked fledgling Rufous Whistler, still with much
rufous on the face. This was not a call I've heard the adults make. Finches
were also common here - Double-barred, Zebra, Red-browed, and Diamond
Firetails. We also saw the first of many White-winged Trillers.
Along the roadside we stopped to look for Plum-headed Finches but instead
found a handsome Brown Falcon perched in a dead tree right beside the road,
giving us excellent close views as it braced itself against the wind. We
stopped briefly to watch Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Jacky Winters and a pair
of Hooded Robins demonstrating their typical "perch-and-pounce" feeding
For lunch I had arranged access to a cottage where we were able to dine
while watching Yellow-tufted, Fuscous and White-naped Honeyeaters at the
birdbath, Zebra Finches nesting in the eaves, Restless Flycatchers, Diamond
Firetails, Dusky Woodswallows, Red-rumped Parrots and Eastern Rosellas, and
a Jacky Winter perched on the clothesline singing an elaborate song
reminiscent of a canary. On a walk around the property a Jacky Winter was
found sitting on its tiny nest and fed by its mate. Some of the group
watched a Wedge-tailed Eagle chased by ravens while others were lucky to
see a pair of Kestrels in a spectacular aerial display. Everyone was
appreciative of the hospitality of April Mills in allowing us access onto
her fabulous place.
After lunch we headed down to Glen Davis where we went for a walk along a
wooded fire trail. This was a great spot with sheltered gullies offering
refuge from the wind for us and the birds. Splendid views of Bee-eaters in
the sunlight, a Brown Treecreeper posing on a stump, many White-winged
Trillers feeding on the ground and White-winged Choughs collecting mud for
their nest were some of the highlights here. We were buzzed by a small
flock of Little Lorikeets, and Zebra Finches bathed in an actual bathtub.
The "find of the day" was awarded to Alan, one of the group, who found a
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike sitting tightly on its nest at a very windy
spot in the northern section of the valley. At Rylstone a late afternoon
search for platypus in the river yielded plenty of Clamorous Reed-warblers,
Purple Swamphens and King-Parrots and too many ripples to make out any sign
of platypus, so we headed for the comfort of the motel and a hearty dinner
at the pub.
Sunday morning dawned calm and clear as a pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos
visited the motel garden. On our early morning walk we chased Brown-headed
Honeyeaters around the golf course, eventually getting fleeting views as
they fed actively. We also watched Weebills hovering around the outer
foliage of the trees, yet more White-winged Trillers, both male and female
Spotted Pardalote, and glimpsed two Musk Lorikeets as they whizzed past. We
noticed a male Rufous Whistler which was very pale on the breast like the
inland form which is illustrated in Pizzey & Knight. There was much
interest created by a Striated Pardalote seen entering a tiny knothole in a
weatherboard building across the road.
Driving through the Cudgegong Valley near Rylstone we stopped for Hardheads
on a dam and also had great scope views of a Kestrel and Olive-backed
Oriole. It was a perfect sunny day, certainly making up for the windy
Back into the Capertee Valley and as we drove across the Bogee River
someone called "White-necked Heron!". As we stopped to look at this
magnificent bird, my attention was drawn to a small movement in the reeds
which turned out to be the characteristic flicking tail of a rail. It was a
Buff-banded Rail, seen by those at the front of the bus before it
disappeared, not to be found again!
At our morning tea spot on the Capertee River we watched a Rufous Songlark
repeatedly performing its song-flight, and a group of Little Lorikeets flew
in and started feeding in the mistletoe allowing us to see their beautiful
colours up close. The Fairy Martins had seemingly not yet returned but we
looked at their nests from last year under the bridge.
Glen Alice is always an idyllic place and here we found three fluffy
fledgling Superb Fairy-wrens with short tails and pale gapes. They were
accompanied by a male who literally gleamed in the sunlight, his blue
seemingly brighter than any other Superb I have seen. On our walk behind
the church we all saw the Crested Shrike-tits and Rainbow Bee-eaters which
were everywhere, but only I caught a glimpse of a White-backed Swallow
before it disappeared behind a tree and down the creek. As we ate lunch we
were "invaded" by a party of 7 White-winged Choughs, including two fluffy
juveniles. Who would want to be anywhere else!
The very best however, our two main target species, were saved till last.
We headed up Crown Station Road in search of Turquoise Parrots, and it
wasn't long before I heard the characteristic metallic note as two small
parrots flew overhead . I shouted "Those are Turqs!" as they disappeared
from my field of vision. Viv who was a little further along the road
managed to keep them in sight and pointed out which trees they landed in,
and it was sharp-eyed Jan who eventually spotted them amongst the foliage.
Talk about teamwork! Everyone got brilliant scope views of a stunning male
with quite an orange belly, as some of them have.
We had time for one last stop and it was suggested we try Crown Creek for
Plum-headed Finches. As we reached the bridge, I fixed my binoculars onto a
small movement and lo and behold, a pair of Plum-headed Finches
materialised! Again, everyone got to see these intricately marked birds -
and what a high point to finish on.
Despite tricky weather conditions at the start, the Capertee Valley had
lived up to its reputation and we ended up with over 100 species for the
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