Gum Swamp, Lake Cowal, Macquarie Marshes

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Subject: Gum Swamp, Lake Cowal, Macquarie Marshes
From: "Dion Hobcroft" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 22:42:15 +1100
On 6-9.3.03 went on a work related snake oriented field research trip in
western NSW. En route to Forbes managed to lose the gear box of the Hilux
(it stayed in 4th gear which was useful until I made it into town). $2000
dollars and 24 hours later we were on the road again. Spent several hours as
the vehicle was repaired at Gum Swamp 5km W Forbes where there were 10
Freckled Ducks, 4 male and 2 female Blue-billed Ducks (including a
displaying male to a female), White-bellied Sea-eagle, female Darter on a
nest, a first year Pallid Cuckoo, a single Dollarbird, Brown Treecreeper and
Grey-crowned Babbler. Also squeezed in a visit to Back Yamma State Forest
and saw a Southern Whiteface, Red-capped Robin and a couple of Speckled
Warblers plus a Bearded Dragon.

At Lake Cowal the country looked pretty poor despite the recent rain.
Australian Hobby, Owlet-nightjar, Bluebonnets and Cockatiels were present.
Found the shell of a predated Broad-shelled River Turtle but alas the local
population of Tiger Snakes has dwindled. It appears carp have change the
ecology of the lake and this combined with drought has hammered the snake
population. Last time I visited in 1989 I saw 6 in three hours!
Pools of water had small numbers of the sonic clicking Uperoleia rugosa in
breeding mode and the mosquitoes had had enough time to get out a few
generations and were very happy to eat me alive. One of my learned
colleagues found a Curl Snake and Green Tree Frog in the log next to his
head as he lay his swag upon the ground.

Next stop was the Macquarie Marshes to visit some sites. Driving via
Tottenham recorded one Spotted Harrier at Warren and one Brown Songlark near
Nevertire. Again the birding was very quiet but a highlight was a booming
Australasian Bittern at night at Monkeygar Creek in the Marshes. The only
other life forms encountered on a 50 km night drive were one Echidna and one
Barking Frog. A Peregrine Falcon, Red-winged Parrot, one Stubble Quail were
some of the better birds. Some locals told me about the increase of Barking
Owls around their homestead and how they had recently lost a couple of
chickens to an Inland Carpet Python. They happily relocated the python away
from the house. Red-bellied Black Snakes were present in healthy numbers and
saw ten in three hours here but most were in poor condition and in need of a
feed. A giant Bell's morph Lace Monitor was one of the few suspects
benefiting from all of the starving herbivores.

Heading back to Sydney small numbers of White-throated Needletails were near
Gilgandra and larger numbers between Mudgee and Capertee (100 plus). On the
entire journey recorded only 4 Brown Falcons, 2 Black Kites and 1 Little
Eagle. Observed only one Rabbit and one Hare, one Cat and three foxes on two
night drives. It is going to take a while for the populations to recover
from the dry and more rain would be a great thing for all.


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