Hot birding down the Lachlan

To: "" <>
Subject: Hot birding down the Lachlan
From: Chris Lloyd <>
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2017 06:22:09 +0000
Some months ago the idea of a week birding in western NSW seemed like a good
idea. A warm but pleasant amble down the Lachlan  with the caravan brought
us to Forbes and three booked nights at the CP. Now closer followers of
ancient rituals and weather forecasts would already have noted some red
flags. We simply noted that the CP was choka-block and moved straight to
Gums Swamp. Nothing spectacular but a good collection of old friends and,
like all the countryside around, plenty of  water and greenery. Returning to
the Park we found an unusual number of men with large black sideburns and
women sporting some variation of the onesie with sequins. The penny dropped
when an otherwise perfectly competent string quartet moved from Dublin to
Memphis while rehearsing in the camp kitchen at the request of the large
impromptu audience. At this point it was 6pm and a bracing 36° with 38° for
the following day.

A day of retail therapy, the library and the hysterical society kept our
cool until an inevitable return to the van and afternoon of recline in the
air-con. It was not to be as the combined assault of frig and AC compressors
brought on a denial of service from the aging circuitry of the Park. Tempers
flared as much trousers as the system tripped out every half an hour or so.
There were compensations. For those rooting for the King there was a crooner
at a battery power mike and for us the delight of warm beer and wine while
watching the aerobatics of four first year Collared Sparrowhawks intent of
playing tag with cockies while a brace of White-faced Heron observed both

It was with a brave face that we informed Rhinestone cowboys and girls that
we were headed for the milder climes of Lake Cargelligo. 39° in Condobolin
made the bitumen toasty for the dog’s pads and a hefty 20 knot
north-westerly made clothes driers redundant. As we motored along the Valley
Way to LC the Bureau raised the bar for the following day to 44° and we
started to consider professional help.

Then we struck the ephemeral lakes and flooded paddocks. Most of the world’s
population of Pacific Herons seemed to have descended and around their legs
wandered Black-winged stilts of all ages, Red-necked Stints, coots, and
plovers. Overhead in the wind were the Marsh Terns in flocks of dozens while
all three ibis species strutted their stuff in the greasy water. There was
nothing new, just thousands of ‘good’ birds loafing or foraging as the whim
took them. There were stilts on to their third or fourth clutch while the
previous off-spring wandered around the sitting adults. Ducks and grebes
seemed to have endless trails of bobbing heads either behind them or on
their backs. A pair of Plumed-whistlers did not seem to have lost one of
their near grown brood to the Kites as they wove through a forest of egret
and spoonbill legs and bills. A quick dash through the furnace blast to the
water’s edge showed that, what appeared a still surface from three metres
away was a swirling stew of on algae, insects, fish and crustaceans. It
might be hot but nobody was going starve.

Friday lived up to everyone’s expectations and to the 44° nature added a
powerful north-westerly and thick black clouds to provide an apocalyptic
edge. Gallons of water and a little bit of German refrigeration engineering
kept two adults and a small spotted dog from joining their respective makers
as lunchtime hit the 40 mark and climbing. But nothing stopped the birds. We
peered in awe out the windows as half a dozen Major Mitchells cartwheeled
across the park and Peewees and Pied Butcherbirds used the sprinklers to
assist the luncheon efforts. Two Butcherbirds carried out a full mating
display of neck pecks and vocals on the wing while their youngster watched
on. The White-Ibis, using their suburban experience wandered about lawns and
bins exuding an air of ‘nothing to see here’ as dog and humans cringed under
wet cotton. The one great saving grace of the west in summer is the evenings
and despite the mid-forties onslaught by midnight you are reaching for the
sheet and then the blanket.

Dawn brought 30 degrees and a south-westerly that brought the ‘feel’ down to
25° but with a sun that had the bite of a White Pointer. So it’s off for a
day along the Lachlan and the lakes. Once again no new birds but who needs
new birds when thirteen adult Nankeen Herons rise from a water race and
disport themselves around the trees? Everywhere water moved there were
fishers dipping a bill in their favourite hole. At the regulator there was a
line of black and tans in their yellow waders as the water rolled past. No
one was missing out and even the ill equipped ibis were making a catch. Just
up river a human family complained they had got little other than carp

The locals were as awe inspiring as the birds as they maintained their
laconic bonhomie to melting birders and still mowed lawns, welded pipe or
served customers. Cargelligo again lives up to its reputation as a hot spot
to bird.

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