Trip report: Fowlers Gap (and western NSW)

To: <>
Subject: Trip report: Fowlers Gap (and western NSW)
From: "Frank Hemmings" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 10:44:24 +1000
Hi all,

Just returned this long weekend gone from a field trip for work to UNSW's field station at Fowler's Gap, aproximately 110km north of Broken Hill on the Silver City Hwy. Species in bold are lifers.

Drove the first day (23/9) to Cobar. Interesting records, east of the divide, along the way included my first Channel-billed Cuckoo of the season (crossing the hwy at Springwood), and a Grey Currawong feeding in a tree roadside at Meadlow Bath.

Started to take notice of roadside birds from Dubbo, many of these were seen later on the trip or at Fowlers Gap itself such as Apostlebirds, Ringnecks and Mulga Parrots, Black-shouldered Kites and Nankeen Kestrel. Also saw the only Brown Goshawk, Little Eagle and White-winged Chough near Dubbo, and a single Blue-faced Honeyeater at Narromine.

Stopped for the night at Cobar, and for the first time got in at a respectable hour which allowed me to go birding in the last hour or so before dusk. Went west out of town less than a km along the Barrier Hwy, and stopped in an area adjacent to the cemetery. Three lifers including Pied Honeyeaters (males calling like crazy and performing their courtship display flight), a few Black Honeyeaters, often feeding in Eremophila longifolia (Emu Bush), and a few White-fronted Honeyeaters. Also present at this site were loads of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, Rufous Songlarks and White-winged Trillers, and some Southern Whiteface and Yellow-rumped Thornbills.

In town itself I added White-breasted Woodswallow, Red-rumped Parrot, White-plumed Honeyeater, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Magpie-Lark

On the drive the next morning (24/9) we saw a major Mitchell Cockatoo perched in the early morning sun in a dead eucalypt about 20km west of Cobar, a male Red-winged Parrot further west, and a roadside Red-capped Robin. We started to see groups of Budgerigars from Cobar onwards too, and a beautiful male White-wiinged Fairy-wren near Wilcannia. Another lifer with brilliant views of an adult Spotted Harrier close to the road near Wilcannia.

Arrived at Fowler's Gap in the afternoon of 24/9 and stayed until the morning of 30/9. Saw 77 species, with a further 4 heard only. Lifers for me here included:

Crimson Chat - two birds flew across the driveway near the buildings, and these were the only ones I saw in this part of the property. Abundant on plains ("flats") in the eastern sector of the property, which is mostly Maireana aphylla shrubland;

Orange Chat - a single male seen on 26/9 near Saloon tank (on the flats), and another pair in East Mandelman paddock (also on the flats) on the way to the Mulga Reserve on 28/9, and a female (spotted by Dean Portelli) at the Mulga Reserve on 29/9;

Blue-winged Parrot - 3 birds spotted, including an adult male, at noon on 27/9 at the Mulga Reserve. The birds flew a short distance and eprched in a dead tree allowing reasonably good views. I returned the following morning and found 5 birds, with brilliant views including of an adult male with a substatially orange belly. The birds were often feeding on the ground, and when flushed flew a short way and alighted on the ground again, where they were hard to see in the relatively dense cover of herbs including white daisies (Rhodanthe floribunda);

Cinnamon Quail-thrush - whilst on the hunt for a particular plant on 29/9, I was driving with a friend in the western sector of the property which is gently rolling countryside with Bladder Slatbush shrubland. In the Sandstone Paddock we flushed what i thought at first may have been a buttonquail from the car. I got the bins onto it and was startled to see a male Cinnamon Quail-thrush. Only had the briefest glimpse of black throat as it spent most of its time walking in a zig-zag course between the shrubs away from us and with it's back turned.

Other highlights (for me) from Fowler's were:

Blue Billed Duck - a few on both Fresilich Dam and the Lake (I'd only seen these previously in WA)
Freckled Duck - a few on Sandstone Tank
Blue Bonnets - great views of these in the late afternoon sun at the Mulga Reserve Spotted Harrier - more good views of this species, which i hadn't seen up until this trip Crested Bellbird - 1 at the Mulga Reserve, hadn't seen this sp. for years so was nice to catch up with it again
Black-faced Woodswallow - Mulga Reserve, also hadn't seen these for a while
Chestnut-crowned Babbler - Great Birds!

On the return journey (30/9) we saw a few more Major Mitchell Cockatoos (again near Cobar), two flying with the sun shining through their wings heightening the effect of the pink wing lining. I stopped in again at the site near cobar Cemetery, accompanied by Dean Portelli, and we had fantastic views of male Black Honeyeaters, Pied honeyeaters, the last Crimson Chat, Mulga Parrots and Budgerigar for the trip, a beautiful male Red-winged Parrot and great views of 2 male Splendid Fairy-wren, one of the most amzingly coloured birds in NSW (and a new NSW record for me). Also added Rufous Whistler and Misteltoebird to the trip list from this site.

We stopped about 7km to the east of Cobar the next morning (1/10), and added Pallid Cuckoo, Jacky Winter and Grey Shrike-thrush to the trip list. Some familiar birds started to reappear with Noisy Miners NW of Trangie, Eastern Rosella and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo near Dubbo. Both White and Straw-necked Ibis were also seen on the approach to Dubbo.

List for Fowler's Gap was as  follows:

Blue-billed Duck
Musk Duck
Freckled Duck
Black Swan
Australian Wood Duck
Grey Teal
Pink-eared Duck
Hoary-headed Grebe
White-necked Heron
Intermediate Egret
Black Kite
Spotted Harrier
Brown Falcon
Nankeen Kestrel
Black-tailed Native-hen
Eurasian Coot
Black-winged Stilt
Red-capped Plover
Black-fronted Dotterel
Gull-billed tern
Whiskered Tern
Crested Pigeon
Peaceful Dove (h)
Little Corella
Ringneck (Mallee)
Blue Bonnet
Mulga Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot
Horsefield's Bronze-Cuckoo
Australian Owlet-nightjar
Red-backed Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
Rainbow Bee-eater (h)
Variegated Fairy-wren
White-winged Fairy-wren
Striated Pardalote
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Southern Whiteface
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Yellow-throated Miner
Singing Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
White-fronted Honeyeater
Crimson Chat
Orange Chat
White-fronted Chat
Hooded Robin
Chestnut-crowned Babbler
Chirruping Wedgebill
Cinnamon Quail-thrush
Crested Bellbird
Willy Wagtail
Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike
White-winged Triller
White-breasted Woodswallow
Masked Woodswallow
Black-faced Woodswallow
Grey Butcherbird
Pied Butcherbird (h)
Australian Magpie
Australian Raven
Little Crow
Singing Bushlark
Richard's Pipit
House Sparrow
Zebra Finch
Welcome Swallow
Tree Martin
Fairy Martin
Little Grassbird (h)
Rufous Songlark
Brown Songlark

Extras seen from the road:

Straw-necked Ibis
White Ibis
Little Eagle
Brown Goshawk
Black-shouldered Kite
Red-winged Parrot
Eastern Rosella
Major Mitchell Cockatoo
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Common Bronzewing
Channel Billed Cuckoo (Springwood)
Pallid Cuckoo
Splendid Fairy-wren
Red-capped Robin
Jacky Winter
Rufous Whistler
Grey Shrike-thrush
Black Honeyeater
Pied Honeyeater
Noisy Miner
Blue-faced Honeyeater
White-winged Chough
White-browed Woodswallow
Grey Currawong (Meadlow Bath)
Common Starling



Frank Hemmings
John T. Waterhouse Herbarium
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of New South Wales

Tel +61 2 9385 3274
Fax +61 2 9385 1558

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