I am recently (well 2 weeks ago now) back from a week's family holiday
staying at Sandy Beach about 20kms north of Coffs harbour. As always,
birding was mixed up with other activities. This visit we decided to give a
trip up onto the tablelands to Dorrigo a miss so my activities were
concentrated on coastal locations.
I have been to Coffs before, but always in July, so was sure there would be
differences bird-wise. All up I saw or heard about 160 species, with 14
seen only in transit to from Coffs and 46 seen from or very close to our
holiday accommodation. Main highlights as follows:
- 13 Jan - Stopped at Sea Acres NR in Port Macquarie on the way up and got
good views of several Spectacled Monarchs, several groups of Large Billed
Scrubwrens and some Green Catbirds, plus a pair of mating goannas (him as
keen as mustard - her not interested)
14 Jan - rained most of the day - nothing of interest. Went to Woolgoolga
Headland hoping to see something but the SE wind was so strong I could
hardly stand up, let alone hold the bins steady. My son (on the windy side
of the car) struggled to even get the door open!
- 15 Jan - I saw a Little Friarbird in the costal scrub at Emerald Beach.
Driving south through Coffs saw a very large and spread out flock of swifts
(both species). Picked up the first birds at the Big Banana and saw the
last ones as we passed the roundabout at the south end of the town just
before the dual carriageway. That's about 7kms of swifts and while not
densely packed anywhere I would not be game to even attempt the numbers
except to say it would be well over 300.
Walked at Bandgeree and Bluff Tracks in Bongil Bongil NP (at the Repton end)
which produced an Osprey carrying fish up a tidal creek (a nest?), Little
Shrike Thrush, Wonga Pigeon, Spectacled Monarchs, all 3 possible Scrubwrens
and lots of Rufous and Grey Fantails.
- 16 Jan - had an early morning walk on the heathland just outside Red Rock
and saw 7 Southern Emu Wrens, several parties of Brown Quail, Tawny Crowned
Honeyeaters (2 vs 100s of White Cheeked Honeyeaters), lots of calling Tawny
Grassbirds, a large very pale grey cuckoo with no obvious markings on the
chest (so probably a Pallid), Red Backed Wrens (2 smashing males), a
Pheasant Coucal, Bar Shouldered and Peaceful Doves, .
No sign of the Beach Stone Curlew on the Corindi Estuary at Red Rock but
many E Curlew and a Whimbrel.
- 17 Jan - walked at Bruxner Park behind Coffs and saw an Emerald Dove
(flying along the road), several Green Catbirds (including one making a
little chipping call between cat miaows) and Spangled Drongos, heard Wompoo
Pigeons and saw 2 Russet-tailed Thrushes. We also rescued a smallish goanna
that had got itself stuck in a garbage bin.
In the evening I went to Newmans Rd Lake in Woolgoolga (Musk Duck, 12
Wandering Whistling Duck) and then Woolgoolga Flora Reserve hoping to
connect with some owls. I saw a Tawny Frogmouth and heard several Owlet
Nightjars. Whilst there, I met a chap called Dick Cooper who suggested I try
up on the ridge top in Wedding Bells State Forest where Masked Owls have
been seen/heard in the past, so I headed up there and heard more Owlet
Nightjars, a Boobook Owl and saw 2 Squirrel Gliders (at least I think so -
they were quite big and had very dark stripes on their faces - so plenty of
Owl tucker but no Masked Owls.
18 Jan - a very hot day but even in the middle of the day a walk at
Woolgoolga produced Wompoo and Rose Crowned Fruit Doves, all 3 scrubwrens
(again), Cicadabird, Little Shrike Thrush, Pale Yellow Robin, Southern
Logrunner (I love it when I stop to see what's making the rustling in the
leaves and the Logrunner appears from underneath the leaf litter) and more
19 Jan - visited Smiths Lake in the morning and saw 4 Jacanas, 2 Musk Duck
and 2 Wandering Whistling Duck. I then headed further inland on this road,
which took me into part of Wedding Bells SF. Very dry in there (probably not
so dry now) and birds few and far between, but I found (nearly stepped on) 4
Painted Button Quail, a Wonga Pigeon, lots of Spangled Drongo (probably the
most numerous bird bigger than a fairy wren in there), a male Cicadabird and
a pair of Olive backed Oriole and a family group of Striated Thornbills.
We spent the afternoon at Urunga where we walked the boardwalk - great
singing from the Mangrove Honeyeaters (that's a difference from July visits
when they are pretty quiet I've found) and on the mud flats seen from the
side-boardwalk a lone Black Tailed Godwit. Several Bee-eaters circled over
the mangroves too. The wader/tern roost on the island in front of the hotel
held 2 Beach Stone Curlew, 2 Caspian Tern, several Gull Billed and Common
Terns, plenty of Curlews, Bar Tailed Godwit, a single Whimbrel and lots of
Dotterels (Red-capped based on relative size) running around and loads of
Fairy Terns - all the terns seen fishing over the river from the boardwalk
20 Jan - saw a White Headed Pigeon at Urunga and stopped at SW Rocks on the
way home. After looking near the jail for Glossy Black Cockatoos (none at
home today) I was permitted a short break at the Boyters Lane hide in
Jerseyville where there were 9 Sharp Tailed Sandpipers, a Glossy Ibis, Grey
Teal, 6 Royal Spoonbills and lots of Pied Stilts. From there it was home
through the drizzle/rain with the highlights being a Buff-banded Rail
crossing the road near Kempsey and an Australian Hobby near Karuah.
I had a copy of the excellent Coffs Bird Routes brochure with me, plus my
experience from prior trips and some gen from the archives and off
Eremaea...plus the helpful tips from Dick Cooper, who told me where to look
for the Stone Curlews at Urunga - thanks Dick.
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