Trip Report - South West NSW 27 August-2 September 2004

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Subject: Trip Report - South West NSW 27 August-2 September 2004
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 11:46:51 +1000
During the week 27 August to 2 September 2004, John Mclennan and I undertook a trip to south-west NSW for the purpose of surveying the birds in four one degree blocks where no surveys had been carried out for the Continuing Australian Bird Atlas, since its start in mid 2002. The area was known to be in drought and indeed by the time we left Cobar on the second morning of our trip, it was apparent that the birds were going to be few and far between because of the very dry conditions and degraded habitat as a result of the drought. However we managed to find some birds in the first two one degree blocks (around Emmdale 31, 145) and on the road from Emmdale to Ivanhoe (32, 145), and were all set to visit the isolated block which incorporates Darnick & Sayers Lake (32, 144) the following morning. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for the birds (and the farmers) it started to rain that night in Ivanhoe and the rain lasted for the next 3 days during which time about 60 mm fell, Ivanhoe was on the State news as having the highest rainfall for the day, twice, and as there was only one bitumen road out of town and not where we planning to go, we stayed in Ivanhoe for two nights and went no where!. After Ivanhoe we were due to spend 2 nights at Willandra NP but the roads remained closed there, so eventually we went south to Booligal, across to Hillston, and birded around Hillston-Lake Cargelligo instead. We never got into the Darnick-Sayers Lake Block but still managed to do some surveys in the other three blocks!
Some rain had fallen a week or two before around Medowie Creek, NW of Booligal and then across through Hillston to Lake Cargelligo and so that area was starting to green up. So it was not until we were south of Ivanhoe that the birding began to improve. In the Medowie Creek area, Emus, Singing Bushlarks, Banded Lapwings and a Spotted Harrier were first encountered, the Singing Bushlarks in good numbers! In and around Cobar we had encountered some of the first Spring migrants, such as Rufous Whistlers, Pallid Cuckoo and White-browed Woodswallows, and after Booligal,  Rufous Whistlers and Willie Wagtails were encounted at just about every site. At Willanthrey, NE of Hillston the first White-winged Trillers were heard and seen, and were then seen at a number of sites. Dusky Woodswallows were not encountered until Bogan Gate on the way home, and only one Horsfield Bronze-cuckoo was seen .
Other highlights included a flock of 300 Red-necked Avocets on Sheet of Water, a lake to the north of Lake Cargelligo were there were two Brolgas, 10+ Whiskered Terns, a lone Glossy Ibis and a flock of 26 Red-kneed Dotterels feeding along the lake shore; an adult male Golden Whistler was actively calling in the mallee in Nombinnie NR north of Willanthrey; Major Mitchell Cockatoos were seen at a number of sites west of Cobar and at Langtree, south of Hillston; Pinkears were only seen at New Cobar Tank and there was a lone Great Crested Grebe on Lake Cargelligo; 3 newly arrived Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were at the Lake Cargelligo STW. A Hooded Robin was seen at Willanthrey, while no finches at all were seen until we were heading back home down the Hunter Valley.
All up 133 species were seen during the seven days. 70 surveys were carried out at 65 sites many ten minute blocks were visited for the first time since the start of the Continuing Atlas, With the arrival of the rain some nesting had commenced and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Grey-crowned Babbler, Pied Butcherbird, Apostlebirds, Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows were all found breeding. The seasonal conditions will now be superb over the next few months in that Region, especially as it is raining down in the south west again as I type up this note If anyone could make it out to Sayers Lake and Darnick to fill in the remaining gap, John and I, as well as the Bird Atlas would appreciate it!
Alan Morris
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