Trip Report - Leeton-Griffith Area 10-14 September 2004

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Subject: Trip Report - Leeton-Griffith Area 10-14 September 2004
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2004 12:33:07 +1000

 16 members of our Club travelled to Leeton Caravan park for a birdwatching and atlassing weekend and to take part in the 10th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Club. As part of the Anniversary celebrations, an special dinner was held on the Saturday night; and an inspection of Fivebough Swamp (a RAMSAR Site) and BBQ lunch planned in the Brobenah Hills for the Sunday. The weekend also coincided with the bi-annul Glossy Black Cockatoo Count and 8 members took up the offer of taking part on the Friday evening. A good evenings birdwatching eventuated with 32+ Glossies being counted although none were seen by our members.

Despite the drought, our visit had followed widespread rain across the Leeton-Griffith area 3 weeks and one week before so that a carpet of green grass and green wheat was everywhere, interspersed with the gold of the Canola crops & local wattle trees, making very pleasant spring conditions. >From our base at the Leeton Caravan Park we set off to visit Binya SF on Saturday morning, unfortunately for us, it rained, and the cold, wet conditions made bird watching difficult! Good birds were encounted though including Brown-headed, Spiney-cheeked, Striped & Singing Honeyeaters, White-browed & Grey-crowned Babblers, Red-capped Robin, Peaceful Dove, Chestnut-rumped & Inland Thornbills, Western Gerygone & Crested Bellbird. The wet conditions forced us to change our plans and so we then relocated ourselves to Lake Wyangan where we knew there were some under-cover picnic areas. Once we were there, the rains eased, changed to intermitent storms so that we were able to bird watch between showers and eat, drink & socialise in dry conditions while waiting for the storms to pass. Here we found Whiskered Tern, Shoveler & Pinkear, Sea-Eagle & Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe, White-breasted Woodswallow, Reed Warbler & Blue-faced Honeyeater.

In the afternoon, as the weather improved we visited Nericon and Campbells Swamp, where the MFN have used NHT grants to re-vegetate, establish hides and walking tracks and other facilities. Although there was little water we were still able to find Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilt, Red-capped Plover & Pipit etc. The work that has been done here has certainly made the sites a must for future visits.

The Saturday evening Anniversary dinner at the historic Hydro Hotel, Leeton certainly provided a great nights entertainment. The meal was excellent and the speakers, Dr Freudenberger who spoke on the findings of his Riverina bio-diversity surveys and Matt Cameron, who spoke on his study of the Glossy Black Cockatoo population of the Goonoo SF to the north, made some very relevent comments on the management of the local threatened species and the importance of local reserves of the Region.

The following morning, Mike Schultz led an inspection of the Fivebough Swamp, Leeton, enabling all to see the very commendable works that have been provided here to provide access to the internationally recognised Fivebough Wetlands and the adjoining STW ponds. The works include walking tracks, viewing mounds, hides and visitor facilities and Mike also explained about present and future management practices relating to the use of cattle and the management of the water flows to the site. 45 species of waterbirds were seen during our inspection including 7 Baillon?s Crake, 2+ Spotted Crakes, 4 Spotless Crakes, 60 Glossy Ibis, 5+ Freckled Duck, 30+ Blue-billed Duck, Shoveler, Pinkear, Hardhead, Whiskered Tern, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 60+ Avocet, 100s Stilts, Zebra Finch, White-fronted Chat, Cisticola, Little Grass Bird, Hobby, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon, Kestrel, Sea-Eagle & Swamp Harrier! Wow!

Our shared BBQ lunch with members of the MFN, on a part of the forested section of the Brobenhah Hills owned by Andrew Thompson, followed by a walk around the hills was a great success. There were plenty of good birds to see including Southern Whiteface, Weebill, Diamond Firetail, White-browed & Brown Treecreeper, Red-capped & Yellow Robin, Blue Bonnet & Red-rumped Parrots and Variegated fairy-wren. We then moved to Bungambil SF where we found Olive-backed Oriole, Jacky Winter, Speckled Warbler, Ringneck Parrot, nesting Chough & Striped Honeyeater & Common Bronzewing.

On the Monday we were privileged to be led on an inspection of the important little mallee vegetation Pulletop Nature Reserve, by the local NPWS Fire Management Officer & Birding NSW member John Brickhill. Pulletop was established when Malleefowl bred in the reserve in the early 1960s and the surrounding land was mostly mallee too! Alas, the 125 ha reserve is now surrounded by a sea of wheat and the Red-lored Whistler, Chestnut Quail-thrush and Mallefowl, which the Reserve was famous for, now no longer occur! However we did manage to find Mulga Parrot, Brown-headed, Yellow Robin, Yellow-plumed & White-eared Honeyeaters, Crested Bellbird, Wedge-tailed eagle, White-winged Triller, and the yellow-rumped form of the Spotted Pardalote. From here we moved across Cocoparra NP and birded in the Woolshed Flat and Jacks Creek section for the remainder of the day. Pallid Cuckoo was about the only bird seen here that was new to the list but good views of Splendid Fairy-wrens and Speckled Warblers was the order of the day!

We had a get together that night at the Caravan park with everyone agreeing that the Camp-out and the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalist Club?s arrangements had been a great success. 139 species were seen during the camp-out. Sixteen 10 minute grid blocks were visited and 40 atlas sheets prepared for both the Birds Australia and NSW Bird Atlassers.The next day we all made out separate ways home with my highlight being 25+ Superb Parrots feeding in flowering Mugga Ironbark, 20 km south of Wyalong. (Alan Morris).

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