Just back from a week staying at Dunbogan on the NSW mid-North Coast
(Dunbogan is on the Camden Haven River about 30 kms south of Port
Macquarie). As is usual on my family holidays, this was more beach than
birds, but nonetheless I managed a fair bit of birding, with highlights
7 Jan - on the drive up we stopped at Wingham Brush NR near Taree and saw
lots of Brush Turkeys working on mounds, Rufous Fantails (not many years
where I see Rufous before Grey), Large Billed Scrubwren and Whipbirds. The
site is dominated (visually, aurally and olfactorily) by the huge Flying Fox
colony that is there.
Got to Dunbogan, where the coastal woodland was seething with Rainbow and
Scaly Breasted Lorikeets and saw the first of many groups of Yellow Tailed
Cockatoos for the week, feasting on the Coast Banksias (groups ranging from
family parties of 3 to a flock of 30). The following day I saw the only
Brahminy Kite for the trip, cruising over the channel that leads into Watson
Taylor Lake and did a short walk in Kattang NR (which protects the heath
around Point Perpendicular) , which provided views of 2 Eastern Reef Egret
but not much else. We dropped in a looked at Gogley's Lagoon (as a
potential sheltered alternative to the beach) which on low tide held some
Little Tern, Eastern Curlew, a Mangrove Heron and a lone Godwit. I didn't
have my scope with me at the time but the bird, which was some way off,
looked very plain and grey all over, so I was thinking possible Black
Tailed? Subsequent attempts to find it when I was armed with my scope were
9 Jan - woke to a huge flock of swifts over the house - at least 150 birds
right down to tree top height, feeding on flying ants. The flock seemed to
have little sub-flocks within it, presumably pursuing specific denser
pockets of ants. The flock was mostly Needletails, but there were two Fork
Taileds in with the flock that I saw In the afternoon I drove into the
north end of Crowdy Bay NP on a scouting trip and walked a couple of the
small side tracks on the road north of Diamond Head. I was actually looking
for an area where I might be able to look for Grass Owls in the evening, but
much of the heath I found was neither swampy nor a useful height (ie it was
well over my head). Nonetheless, I saw a good collection of bush birds such
as Scarlet and White Cheeked Honeyeaters, Olive Backed Oriole, Golden
Whistler, Brown and Little Thornbill, and heard a Cicadabird and a Pheasant
Coucal (as evidence of the denseness of the scrub, the Coucal must have been
about 10 metres away, as I could hear it calling and moving, but I couldn't
even see the bushes move, let alone the bird itself). A pair of very small
lorikeets flew over as well, so I reckoned that there were Little Lorikeets
in the area and I located a pair in a flowering tree at the Blackbutt Picnic
area. Just north of the park I saw a very heavily built Raven, which was
perhaps more noticeable as the common corvids around Dunbogan are Torresian
Crows of course. It had a very deep bill and a very noticeably short tail
which had me wondering how far afield the Forest Ravens have spread - either
south from around Coffs or north from Myall Lakes NP or eastwards off the
ranges (I see one was reported from Dingo Tops near Wingham on 1 Jan for
example). We had an evening visit to the house from a Tawny Frogmouth,
which made a change from the scrounging possums.
10 Jan - went up to Boorganna NR on the Comboyne Plateau, which is an
excellent patch of rainforest. Many good birds here including 2 Logrunners,
3 or 4 Wompoo Pigeons feeding very quietly in the tree tops, a flock of
20-30 White Headed and lots of single Brown Pigeons feeding a lot less
quietly, a Pale Yellow Robin, several Bassian Thrush and - the highlight for
me - a Noisy Pitta that I flushed from the base of a tree. I got a great
view of the bright blue wing and tail panels as it flew away and then again
as it landed beside a bush on a small creek line. As it had flushed from
between two buttresses of a large rainforest tree, I wondered if there was a
nest tucked in there, but after waiting some time and as the bird did not
return to the tree, I had a very quiet inspection, which revealed only
evidence of some serious foraging going on. Also at Boorganna were hordes
of Fantails of both types, plenty of all 3 scrubwrens and several family
parties of Eastern Whipbirds, complete with begging youngsters. On the way
down from the plateau, saw an immature male Regent Bowerbird and several
Satin Bowerbirds. We spent the afternoon at a beach in Port Macquarie,
accompanied by a regularly appearing Whistling Kite and then had fish and
chips for dinner Tacking Point lighthouse, where there were dolphins and a
whale (not sure what type, just saw the blow four times as it headed north)
as well as some close in Wedge tailed Shearwaters and two Pomarine Jaegers
hassling the shearwaters.
11 Jan - had an early morning walk at Henry Kendall Reserve in Laurieton,
which borders Stingray Creek between the Camden Haven River and Queens Lake.
Saw an immature Brush Cuckoo being fed by its Variegated Fairy Wren foster
parents/siblings, White Breasted Woodswallows, a Leaden Flycatcher
In the afternoon we went up North Brother mountain (Dooragan NP) which, as
well as affording magnificent views over the Camden Haven area, provided a
Fan Tailed Cuckoo and a pair of Green Catbirds, which were not "miaowing"
but making a little squeaking noise to each other - not quite the "pik"
described in Pizzey. On the way to Pilot Beach for a late swim, the only
Blue Faced Honeyeater of the trip flashed across the road and at the beach
car park was a pair of Striped Honeyeaters mobbing a Kookaburra (I think
they had big youngsters as we saw a party of 4 there two days later).
12 Jan - spent the morning at Sea Acres NR in Port Macquarie, where there
were at least 4 Spectacled Monarchs at various points around the reserve.
The Rose Crowned Fruit Doves previously reported on birdline were still
present - I saw two in the tops of trees at about post 150 on the boardwalk.
There was a family of Crested Shrike Tits not far up from the visitor centre
and several Green Catbirds, as well as two large Land Mullets and a goanna.
I didn't see any Brush Turkeys in the reserve or area, which struck me as
unusual - there were certainly mounds in the reserve and I've seen loads
there in prior visits (one even built his mound in the car park a few years
ago which resulted in its partial closure). While in Port Macquarie, I had
a look at the wader roost in the Hastings River in the town centre, which
revealed many Bar Tailed Godwit and Eastern Curlews, Crested Common and two
Fairy Terns and three Knots mixed in with the roosting godwits. After
another afternoon on the beach - where a group of 4 Sooty Oystercatchers
swept past - our trip back to Dunbogan was enlivened by sightings of single
Square Tailed Kite and Grey Goshawk in the wooded area between Bonny Hills
13 Jan - had an early start up the road to Wauchope to look at Kings Creek
Swamp (thanks birding-aus archives), where I saw a pair of adult Comb
Crested Jacana and their three chicks, and 8 Wandering Whistling Ducks (no
Plumed ones, despite incursions elsewhere into NSW). There were quite a few
Hardhead on the swamp and the adjacent farm dams held 4 White Necked Herons.
I stopped in Broken Bago SF on my way home and saw a good selection of bush
birds - several Variegated Wren families, Rufous and Golden Whistlers, my
first Silvereyes of the year. An unproductive afternoon fishing at Dunbogan
did produce a small flock of 12 White Breasted Woodswallow, a Little Cuckoo
Shrike and a Gull Billed Tern over the main river and eventually, after much
scrutiny of the mangroves opposite, a Brown Honeyeater, which I'd been
hearing all week but had not managed to get onto.
14 Jan - started on the way home via Crowdy Head and then Harrington. Saw a
small party of Red Backed Wren near Coralville, a dead Buff banded rail on
the road and a Rainbow Bee Eater between Harrington and Crowdy Bay. We had
lunch on Pilot Hill in Harrington, overlooking the sand bar at the mouth of
the Manning River. There was a big mob of terns (Crested, Common and
Little) here as well as a good number feeding further out (with attendant
Jaegers). Waders on the bar included Golden Plover, Red Capped Dotterel,
Eastern Curlew and Bar Tailed Godwit and a group of 30 or so Red Necked
Avocet all roosting on the wet sand with their heads tucked away out of the
wind. It was pretty blowy, with a fresh north-easterly blowing, so many of
the birds were hunkered down (the terns on the windy side so that they could
only be seen from up on the hill, not when I got down to water level by the
Marine Rescue station). However, from sea level I could see some smaller,
pale (almost white) birds in amongst the sticks/vegetation on the sandbar.
None of them stood up or moved about while I was watching and kept their
heads tucked away, so I couldn't see bills either. I don't think they were
Dotterels as I couldn't see any caps, so I wondered if they might have been
Sanderling (have any been reported from the area recently?).
On our way home, we stopped at Karuah for afternoon tea, a town that most of
us coming to/from Sydney will just blast past on the by-pass. There were
two Ospreys and a Sea Eagle circling over the bridge over the river. I also
discovered the Karuah Wetlands, where I had a very short walk and saw 4
Nankeen Night Heron, a Great Egret, Scarlet Honeyeater, and Golden Whistler.
The final transit bird of note for the trip was a Brown Falcon just north of
Raymond Terrace, which was cruising above the grassy verges.
All up I saw about 150 species, which is pretty good for a week when I wasn't
going full bore. If anybody wants more information on the sites or
specifics, drop me a line.
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