Gunderbooka National Park, north-west NSW

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Subject: Gunderbooka National Park, north-west NSW
From: "Allan Morris" <>
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 14:40:48 +1000


Gunderbooka National Park is a recently established park centred around the Gunderbooka Ranges in north-west NSW. The size was increased in 1999 by the addition of the property Mulgowan, on which much of the range is located. The park is located between Cobar and Bourke, being about 60 km SW of Bourke and now incorporates the three former grazing properties of Ben Lomond, Belar and Mulgowan. At this point of time limited visitor facilities are only available on the Ben Lomond section. The NSW Field Ornithologists Club negotiated with the NPWS to undertake a bird survey of 50, 2 ha sites of the Park during March-April 2000 to provide information to the NPWS Wildlife Atlas Data Base and Birds Australia Bird Atlas. John McLennan & I were part of the survey team and the first to arrive on site. A report on the actual NSWFOC Bird Survey will be published elsewhere.

Our trip was also planned so as to re-visit a number of Birds Australia 2 ha Atlas sites, so travel to Gunderbooka was via Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, Mudgee; Coonabarabran & Baradine areas, Willie Retreat in the Macquarie Marshes and returning via Goulburn River NP. We also spent time atlassing in and around Louth & Tilpa. All up 81 Atlas sheets were completed and 31 NPWS Wildlife Atlas sheets for Gunderbooka NP were prepared.

Seasonal conditions were great. Most areas in north-west NSW had received between 125-300 mm of rain in the three weeks prior to our visit and a further 25 mm of rain midway through the trip. Everything was green and wet, and most areas were covered in 20-30 cm of grass just coming into seed. This means that within a few weeks, wonderful conditions will exist for Budgerigars, quail, button-quail, Songlarks etc in that part of NSW as the seeds all ripen and fall to the ground.

We travelled via the Hunter Valley with our first stop near the junction of the Widden Valley Rd and the Sandy Hollow-Bylong Rd, where Brown-headed Honeyeaters were of interest. Between Bylong & Wollar near Mt Misery was a flock of Plum-headed Finches. On the eastern side of Munhorn Gap NR we looked for the reported Regent Honeyeaters without success but Musk & Little Lorikeets were feeding in flowering Grey Gums, and Satin Bowerbirds were present which is about their western limit. Fuscous Honeyeaters were located at Honeyeater Flat and Bee-eaters were migrating northwards overhead. Superb Lyrebirds and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters were present at Moolarben Picnic area and White-browed Babblers were on the western side of the reserve. Our first Apostlebirds were located at Beni Crossing, Mendooran as was our only sighting of Diamond Firetails. At Margaret & Andy Humphrey’s place Rosedale, Coonabarabran we saw our first Blue-faced Honeyaters and Peaceful Doves.

Next day (19/3), we stopped in Wittenbra SF near Bugaldie and found a male Scarlet Honeyeater feeding in mistletoe, I know of no previous records for this species in Coonabarabran Shire. Speckled Warblers, Red-winged Parrot, Double-banded Finches and late Dollasrbird and White-throated Gerygone were seen. Just outside the forest were 20+ Plum-headed Finches. European Blackbirds and Spotted Bowerbirds were seen in Baradine’ streets, Little Friarbirds at Terridgeee Lagoon and our first Wedge-tailed Eagles on the Coonamble road. West of Coonamble there were often paddocks full of floodwaters and Shovellers were regularly seen. Our only 2 Banded Lapwings for the trip were located east of Quambone. We atlassed at both the Little Terrigal & Terrigal Ck crossings on Sandy Camp Station, Macquarie Marshes and found Plum-headed Finches at both locations, with a Spotted Bowerbird and a Black Falcon at the latter. A White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike was seen at the Bulgera Ck crossing and our first Zebra Finches and Singing Bushlarks near the Macquarie River Crossing along with a juvenile Pallid Cuckoo. At Willie Retreat HSD in the Marshes there were Hooded Robins, a flock of 11 Ground Cuckoo-shrikes, Horsfield Bronze-Cuckoo, an Owlet Nightjar and many Red-winged Parrots.

From Willie Retreat on 20/3 we travelled via Marra Hall to Monkey Ck on the Bogan River and then onto Coolabah. As we crossed Marra Creek there was a lone(?) Red-tailed Black Cockatoo displaying over trees, the location being south of the known range in that area (elsewhere it is only south of this site along the Darling River) & a Brown Goshawk. Rufous Songlarks were calling at Monkey Bridge and when lunching 27 km NE of Coolabah a lone Fork-tailed Swift flew over and the first Bar-shouldered Dove for the trip was seen. Bourke had its usual Black Kites & Little Crows circling over the town, and Brown Songlarks were a feature of the grass plains just to the south-west of Bourke enroute to Gunderbooka.

At Gunderbooka NP (21/3) the mulga/box woodland was alive with White-fronted, Singing & Striped Honeyeaters, Rufous Whistler & Crested Bellbird calling incessantly and Bee-eaters regularly passed to the north, and there were plenty of Emus with half grown young. Unfortunately it had started to rain the previous evening and continued all that day. We were reduced to walking to our sites but had good views of Chestnut-crowned Babblers, Mulga Parrots and Red-capped Robins enroute. Hooded Robins were located at 5 sites, Black-eared Cuckoos at 3 and Double-banded Finches & Sparrowhawks at 2 sites in the park. On Tuesday moring small numbers of White-throated Needletails and 6 Fork-tailed Swifts flew over in the drizzle and rain. A group of 4 Halls Babblers were seen 3 km from Belah HSD on 22/3, 2 Little Woodswallows and 2 Brown Quail seen on Mulgowan HSD section on 23/3. In the Park Apostlebirds and Magpielarks were nesting, while Splendid Fairy-wrens, Southern Whiteface and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills were all seen building nests, and Owlet Nightjars were seen and heard.. A pair of Budgerigars were seen at the Belah Tank on our last morning and a lone Olive-backed Oriole at Ben Lomond House tank.

We left Gunderbooka on 24/3 and headed for the very green and wet pastures of Louth where we stayed with Don & Kerry Beasley, Kerry being the principal of the Louth Primary School. This delightful little school has its own Spotted Bowerbird’s bower in the playground! Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are a feature of the village and the redgum woodlands along the Darling River from Louth to Tilpa. Black Kites, Whistling Kite, Hobby & Kestrel were all seen at Louth. On the western side of the Darling along the wet grassy plains between Louth & Tilpa we saw 6 Spotted Harriers on 25/3, Stubble Quail at 4 locations and numbers of Songlarks and Singing Bushlarks. At one location, on the Wanaaring Rd, a Spotted Harrier missed a Pipit which was chased again only to have two Black Falcons attempt to catch it, the Pipit was only saved from destruction because the immature Harrier then attacked the Falcons! Even the Emus that moved off the road ahead of our vehicle were seen to flush Stubble Quail from the grass.

We headed east on 26/3 , stopping at Beni SF near Dubbo for lunch and were able to keep company with Inland Thornbills, White-throated Gerygone and Yellow Robins. At Saxa was another Spotted Harrier, and at Dapper NR near Goolma, we saw our last Apostlebirds & Grey-crowned Babblers for the trip (they had been very common!) and we headed for Big River Camp, Goulburn River NP where we were to spend the night. Here next morning 27/3 we had a lone Glossy Black Cockatoo, Rockwarblers at 2 sites, & our first Fantailed Cuckoo, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren & Dusky Woodswallows for the trip. Heading back to Wollar on the Mogo Rd we stopped for 2 Turquoise Parrots, 2 Spotted Quail-thrush and 2 Regent Honeyeaters all at the one site 4 km NW of Wollar. Three Wedge-tailed Eagles together just west of Merriwa was our last most interesting sighting. 182 species for the trip. Some woodland birds for which concerns have been expressed for their apparent decline, ie Grey-crowned Babbler, Restless Flycatcher & Brown Treecreeper appeared to be in good numbers, but others like Jacky Winters and Diamond Firetails were hard to find as were Banded Lapwings. This is the our second long trip in western NSWW in recent times during which Banded Lapwings were virtually impossible to find.

Alan Morris & John McLennan


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