West of Griffith

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Subject: West of Griffith
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Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 09:32:15 +1100
G'day all,
Just got back from a long weekend pest mitigation trip to the rice fields on a property south of Barrenbox Swamp, conditions weren't exactly conducive to birding when the cold air mass and wind came after a thunderstorm Friday night (it was mid thirties when we got there Friday but we had jackets on all day Sunday and most of the day Saturday, for the first time ever I think, in sunny but windy conditions), although I still saw some great birds. 
Camped on the edge of the a couple of hundred acres of box woodland (some just coming into flower but not enough to attract much yet) overlooking one section of rice paddies highlights included the Striped HEs above our heads and dropping down right in front of us to take insects whilst watching flocks of up to a thousand Sandpipers (Sharp-tailed I think???maybe Pectoral) wheel around and then settle and disappear into the 20cm high rice. 
I was with a couple of old farts (some of the CSIRO people may know Stormin' Norm the ex-techo) so we took it easy but I didn't mind sitting down sipping a nice cold vb watching the budgies, red-rumps, cockatiels, ringnecks etc, etc, fly past with both small doves and both butcherbirds, Rufous Whistlers, Little Friarbirds, above mentioned Striped HE etc, etc, calling in the background!  Managed a lifer in the box woodland, Inland Thornbills in a mixed feeding flock including Weebills, Buff-rumped and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Sittellas, Rufous Whistlers and probably something else but I can't remember.  Also a Red-Kneed Dotterel in an open area near the edge of the block.  I was perplexed by one bird species that had to be Olive-backed Oriole's but I didn't hear any the whole trip and every time I got close they melted into the wildly swinging foliage.  I often saw a solitary largish bird with a slight brownish tinge to the wings, greyish body flying back to the edge of the woodland and landing 50 yards in, got one split second glimpse thru the binos of orange eye and beak.  No Robins or Treecreepers and only one pardalote in a diff block of box but I didn't get a good chance to check out the different habitats comprehensively.
Flushed a flock of 50-60 Glossy Ibis off a flooded area of dead timber next to a dam.  Also saw Black-fronted Dotterels here along with a small flock of Marsh Sandpipers.  Stilts everywhere as Marsh Terns.  Saw most species of raptors including a Wedgie (not often seen here but some over near Carrathool), both harriers, Brown and Black Falcon and a congregation of around 100 Whistling Kites (maybe because they were next to a paddock full of lambs???? but didn't get a chance to ask the cockies), no positive Square-tail Kites.  One interesting observation was noticing a weather balloon whilst looking at the Ravens chasing the Wedgie!!!!  Can I put in a rarities report in somewhere for that!! :-)
Zebra Finches along the fences of course as well as a possible Double-bar (or could I mention Plum-headed????) in the flooded overflow from Barrenbox - didn't hear them and couldn't get the binos on one little finch in time.  As I said conditions weren't all that good for looking at small birds.  Saw all species of inland waterfowl except Freckled Duck, (500+ Grey Teal, couple of hundred Blackies, one hundred or so Woodies, 50 Hardhead, 1 Mountie, 20 Shoveller, 50 Pink Ears and a few Swans including three half grown Cygnets on one dam).  1 Native hen, hundreds of coots, some moorhens, the odd swamphen, White-breasted and some glimpses of other Woodswallows.
Also picked up another lifer - a female or immature Orange Chat next to a paddock of dry land wheat being stripped whilst saying goodbye to the cockies.  It gave us excellent views flying along next to and in front of the car for a couple of hundred metres (yellowish rump obvious) then stopping on the edge of the track within a couple of metres of the car!  Seeing all three cuckoo-shrikes at different times in diff places was nice too.  That's about all I can remember at the moment and it's taken me way too long to write this so I better stop! :-)
cheers, Alex.
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