OUTBACK BIRDS - PART 1 - 29 September to 30 September
Everyone enthusiastically up at 3.30am on 29 September to go away with Richard
Jordan on his Emu Tours Birds of the Outback trip. This was a day of putting
lots of kilometres between us and Sydney, going from Jamberoo to Canberra past
Lake George (a bit low on water), then via Yass, Temora, Stockingbingal,
Ardlethan, Griffith and Hillston. The landscape near Canberra had wide vistas
of golden yellow from canola crops, some thicker stands of trees and creeks
and rivers were flowing with water after being dry for some time. Two
highlights along the way were a Spotted Harrier immature flying low over
canola fields near Temora and Yellow-billed Spoonbill near Stockingbingal.
Griffith to Hillston: Lifer No. 1 - Blue Bonnet (yellow vented form) two
birds landing in grasses, showing off a distinct red belly. There were a fair
number of Blue Bonnet sightings throughout the trip. They're a lovely bird
with a cute demeanor, bobbing their head down and up when they chatter. Lifer
No. 2 - Major Mitchell's Cockatoo being one perched in a dead tree and one
foraging in a tree. Throughout the trip we had a few sightings of Major
Mitchell's, but generally only one or two birds at a time, with one sighting
of four birds. A number of the people on the trip (including me) presumed
that we would see these birds in large flocks but it wasn't to be.
The target was Willandra National Park, however our day was spent in the
knowledge that very heavy rain had fallen near Willandra for two days
beforehand and sure enough, when we were only 44 kilometres away, we couldn't
continue due to the quagmire facing us (note that we had a go getting through,
in true Aussie style - we had driven through hail to get that far!!) Back to
Hillston for Lifer No. 3 - Yellow Rosella. Irrespective of whether it's
considered a species or not, I've never seen a Yellow Rosella before and hence
refer to it as a "lifer" (but don't count it in the number on my life list).
A pleasant walk in Hillston in the morning of 30 September. We've moved into
the realm of Peaceful Dove, Pied Butcherbird, Cockatiel, Brown Treecreeper and
Yellow-throated Miner, but haven't quite yet left behind House Sparrow, Common
Starling, Noisy Miner and Spotted Turtledove.
The road to Willandra National Park and beyond to Ivanhoe a mess so Richard
puts his thinking cap on and suggests we stick to tarred roads for the day,
heading to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park near the far west NSW/Victoria border.
This takes us through Goolgowi, Gunbar, Hay, Balranald (where it was blowing
a gale) and Robinvale.
Lifer No. 4 - Australian Ringneck (mallee form) between Hillston and Goolgowi.
This was the first of several sightings of this bird throughout the trip, but
most sightings of only one or two birds at a time, with one sighting of four
birds. The green feathers are almost luminous.
Lifer No. 5 - Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater between Hillston and Goolgowi. A large
bird and more cream than buff orange on the throat as depicted in Slater (this
applied to the other sightings during the trip, with very few having a rich or
clear orange colour on the throat). An amazing bird in terms of a strong,
variable and rolling song. I noticed that they would often fly up at 45
degrees singing and calling all the way until peaking and starting to drop,
and would then be silent in downward flight.
On the flat grassy plains between Gunbar and Hay we saw flocks of Straw-necked
Ibis, spaced throughout this 62 kilometre stretch in groups of 1x1, 2x4, 2x7,
1x8, 1x20 and 1x24. This continued through the 120 kilometres Hay to
Balranald: 1x1, 2x3, 1x6, 1x20, 1x25 and 1x26.
Other highlights along the way were Grey-crowned Babbler, a lone White-winged
Chough (Hillston to Goolgowi) and Little Raven (Gunbar to Hay).
Two driving days and five lifers. Next instalment Hattah-Kulkyne National
Park up to Broken Hill and out to Kinchega National Park.
Happy birding to you all
(I know it makes me happy)
Sydney NSW Australia