Lower Hunter Wetlands birding Saturday 22 November 2003

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Subject: Lower Hunter Wetlands birding Saturday 22 November 2003
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 13:49:09 +1100
A group of 17 Sydney birders with Follow That Bird Tours, visited the Lower Hunter Region, NSW on Saturday 22/11/03 but expectations were not to high as it was raining steady when departing Sydney, still raining as we passed through the Central Coast and still raining when we arrived at our first birding site, Pambalong Swamp, Minmi. Through the rain we did get some good views of of White-necked Herons, Intermediate Egrets with their nuptial plumes and Cattle Egrets with their lovely buff-coloured head and necks, feeding in the wet meadows. In the open shallow water there was a group of 11 Yellow-billed and 2 Royal Spoonbills feeding together and nearby 4 Red-necked Avocets, which are not normally seen at this site. Black-fronted Plover, Sacred Kingfishers and White-breasted Woodswallows were other birds for which good views were obatined. Our morning tea stop was the Cricket Ground in Minmi which has some under cover facilites and here we were entertained by a pair of Long-billed Corellas.
We drove on through the rain to Maitland and the Walka Water Works, and once again started our walk in the rain. The rain eventually stopped at 1.30 pm but the weather never actually cleared. However there were plenty of waterbirds to see at the waterworks, the best being 6 Great Crested Grebes as well as the usual ducks including Hardheads, Wood Ducks and Chestnut Teal. Not long after we first arrived a Peregrine flew over and not much further on, a Hobby appeared and perched in tall tree , and thanks to Janine and her telescope, everyone had good views of this bird. Reedwarblers were active around the edge of the reservoir, while Little Grassbirds and a Tawny Grassbird were both heard calling although not seen. An adult male Darter showed to an advantage and  a small flock of Little Black Cornmorants were watched herding small fish in the shallows. Black-fonted Plovers were located in some wet meadows where Fairy Martins were seen feeding flying young. A juvenile Fantailed Cuckoo was seen in some Jacaranda Trees but no one was coming to feed it, and White-thoated Gerygones, Mistletoebirds and Yellow-faced Honeyaters were active in the woodland nearby. It was dry by the time we ate our lunch and watched the plantings of Bottlebrushes and Grevillas, where Brown & Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and Little Wattlebirds were very busy and Pied and Grey Butcherbirds tried to out sing each other.
Our last stop was the Hunter Botanic Gardens at Heathbrae. There was a lot of activity here in the Blackbutt Forest, presumably some of these trees were in flower. The Sacred Kingfishers were very active digging into nest holes and chasing each other and there were at least 4 Leaden Flycatchers involved in a territorial dispute too. An Olive-backed Oriole was busy feeding three young in a nest; Noisy Miners were very busy hassling a Channel-billed Cuckoo out of their territories; White-throated and Brown Gerygones were in full song; and Rufous Whistlers, Grey Fantails & Grey Shrike-thrush were all seen. As we about to depart a Grey Goshawk was seen on overhead wires and allowed all to obtain good views. Despite the weather 82 species were seen so that all participants had a good time.The  wet weather so wide spread across the State has bought a promise of good seasonal conditions to come and all the wetlands, but particularly in the Hunter Valley, now having a chance ro replenish thus improving the outlook of the breeding success of the Egret colonies. We will be back in March!!
Alan Morris
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