The Capertee Valley "springs" to life

Subject: The Capertee Valley "springs" to life
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 2004 15:44:25 +1000
It's been about three months since I've had the chance to stay overnight on my land in the Capertee Valley, so I took the opportunity last Thursday night to camp by the dam and spend some time checking out the birds on Friday, in between guiding two groups of visitors around the valley. This is the first spring since I've had the land so I've been looking forward to seeing what it brings. Over the last four days I added six more species to the property list.

When I arrived I was greeted by a sea of brilliant yellow with two species of wattle (A. ixiophylla & A. decora) in full flower. There are also a couple of White Box trees flowering, the fallen cream blossoms carpeting the ground below. The whole area has really come alive within the last couple of weeks and the place is now abuzz with activity. Diamond Firetails, Dusky Woodswallows, Crested Shrike-tits, Olive-backed Orioles, and Black-chinned Honeyeaters are all vocal and highly visible on my block. I found two pairs of Jacky Winters buidling nests, as were the Yellow-rumped Thornbills. A pair of Kestrels were working the front paddock, where the Pied Butcherbirds are in glorious song. Small groups of Little Lorkeets were zooming around everywhere and once or twice a Musk Lorikeet flew over, the latter a new species for the property.

The next two new additions to the list came during the night. Shortly after dark I heard the weird rising notes of a White-throated Nightjar. This is a species I've been waiting for as the huge area of rocky scree slope seems perfect for them. A couple of hours later, as I was sitting quietly by my campfire gazing at a sky filled with stars, the peace was suddenly shattered by a frantic, high-pitched screaming, at least two voices which went on and on, not far away. This had me grabbing a torch and charging across the dark paddocks in the hope of seeing what was undoubtedly a pair of Barking Owls. The sound quickly got further away but continued for some time from a large isolated eucalypt. Eventually the screaming subsided and a couple of distant double-barks were heard before being drowned out by the barking of dogs from neighbouring properties.

After all that excitement I returned to my fading campfire and my now cold tea. I finally went to sleep lulled by the occasional calling of the resident Owlet-nightjars.

Early Friday morning the property list continued to grow with the addition of Fairy Martins flying over and a White-throated Gerygone which gave just one burst of song. This brought the list up to 114.

Painted Honeyeaters have arrived up near the back dam and on Sunday morning, after an hour of searching, my visitors and I finally got great views of this beautiful bird. Up at the back dam we also saw one of the Brush Bronzewings coming to drink, as well as three Commons and a host of honeyeaters of 6 species.

I was also pleased to note the return of Turquoise Parrots after their winter absence from the site. A Red-capped Robin was heard calling from a dense stand of wattle just over the fence in a neighbour's property. I wondered whether this was the same bird which had been hanging around the cabin over winter but has now moved from that spot.

Over the four days we also did quite a bit of birding around the valley but on Sunday afternoon I was back on my property getting a few jobs done. Just as I was about to leave, species No. 115 turned up when, in the tree above me was the unmistakable loud "TINK" of a single Bell Miner! I looked up to see it being swiftly chased off by a White-plumed Honeyeater! (A few months ago I'd thought I heard a Bell Miner in one of the front paddock trees but didn't record it because it was such an unlikely place and I couldn't have been sure it wasn't just a Starling mimicking. But this time it was definite.)

Overall I recorded 95 species around the valley, and many of the migrants haven't arrived yet. For the first time in three years, it's starting to feel like it did before the drought with an abundance of life and activity. The drought is certainly not over, but perhaps the birds think otherwise.



Carol Probets
Blue Mountains NSW
The Capertee Valley north of Lithgow, NSW Central Tablelands

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