A drought ravaged paradise. The Capertee Valley is looking as dry and brown
as ever. Dams and creeks are drying up and there's no moisture in the soil.
My neighbours' paddocks are dusty and bare except for the grey, yellow and
brown remnants of what was a grassy covering, eaten and trampled down by
hungry cattle. In my paddock, which has no cattle, that grey, yellow and
brown grass is still standing in dry knee-high tussocks which softly brush
the feet of the trees.
The mistletoe has finished flowering and the Eastern Spinebills which were
so abundant during the past month have disappeared as suddenly as they
appeared. However, most of the woodland honeyeaters - Black-chinned,
Striped, Brown-headed - are still around. They must be finding lerps or
other insects, as there is nothing currently flowering on my block
(although there is a beautiful pink-flowering Mugga Ironbark in bloom on a
It's not all bleak. There are plenty of birds around and as one species
moves away another unexpectedly appears. The dynamic ever-changing nature
of the birdlife is never more apparent than during autumn.
Flocks of Dusky Woodswallows are sweeping over the valley each day, flocks
of pardalotes fly over, vigorously chased by Noisy Miners, and Gang-gangs
are moving around the escarpment in small groups. As I sat with friends by
the dam on Sunday afternoon a pair of Hooded Robins appeared by the water's
edge, only the second time I've seen them here since buying the property
last November. For a purely black-and-white bird, the male is always such a
stunning sight. I hope they hang around for the winter. Shortly after, my
ears pricked up with a faint tinkling call and there, silhouetted in a dead
bush on the dam wall was the weekend's only new addition to the property
list - a single Southern Whiteface. This brings the total to 108.
I went for an early morning walk to the far western end of the block where
the small dam has completely dried up. What is usually a hive of bird
activity was deathly silent.... except for a Speckled Warbler moving
through the bushes. I hadn't seent his species here since my very first
visit in November, so it was great to have it back again.
Lately I've been seeing a lot of the three Spotted Quail-thrush which
always seem to be in the rocky creekline beside the cabin. I rarely walk
down there without flushing one or hearing their high-pitched contact note
(or is it an alarm call?). A flock of 15 Varied Sittellas regularly works
the branches and tree trunks around the cabin. A Pallid Cuckoo is still
present and calling frequently. At night, the Owlet-nightjar has taken to
feeding out in the paddock - I assume it's taking advantage of the
All the birds come at once to the birdbath, never individually! A mob of
Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, a Crested Shrike-tit, several Peaceful Doves and
a Brown Treecreeper bathing together made quite a sight the other morning.
A Pied Butcherbird lives in the scattered large trees in my front paddock,
while a pair of Grey Butcherbirds inhabit the more wooded area further back
around the cabin. These two species seem to reply to each other's calls as
one's singing usually sets the other off as well. The most enjoyable alarm
clock I ever had.
No matter when I plan to come home, I always end up staying longer. I
finally made my way out of the valley this morning, about a day later than
planned. Avoiding the holiday traffic was a convenient excuse, but in
reality it was so that I could spend another morning in this very dry but
peaceful slice of paradise.
Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley, NSW
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