News from the Blue Mountains NSW

Subject: News from the Blue Mountains NSW
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2006 17:28:11 +1000
Hi birders,

This is the first chance I've had in a while to write up some of my recent bird news from the Blue Mountains. People sometimes imagine the mountains to be too cold in winter to see many birds, but this is far from the case. In fact it can be the best time to see many of the area's specials. But the seasons change and spring is now in the air. As I write this I can hear a Rose Robin calling, and the flowering plum across the road from my house contains at least 20 Red-whiskered Bulbuls poking about in the flowers for nectar.

This winter has been a really good one for the flowering of banksias and consequently honeyeaters have descended onto the heathlands in droves. At Shipley Plateau near Blackheath, eleven species of honeyeater have been regularly seen, including Yellow-tufted and Fuscous, species not often found in the upper mountains. On 5th August and again on the 28th, the numbers of Yellow-faced and White-naped had to be seen to be believed: constantly chasing each other, swirling around in little flocks and calling from deep within the banksia shrubs. White-eared and Brown-headed have also set up camp at this site. Narrow Neck peninsula near Katoomba is another recent hotspot with Crescent Honeyeaters adding to the activity there.

The spring (reverse) migration of Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters has got underway during the past month and, although not usually as spectacular as the autumn migration, it will be interesting to hear how the numbers develop after the phenomenal numbers that moved through last autumn.

This has also been a very good year for the Petroica (red) robins in this area. I'd been despairing at the decline of both Flame and Scarlet Robins as my sightings of these gorgeous birds seemed to get fewer and fewer over recent years. But this season I've been heartened to see them with more regularity. Memorable sightings over winter included a group of 7 male Flame Robins in the Megalong Valley on 10th August. On 7th July in the Capertee Valley, I had the great experience of seeing male Scarlet, Flame and Red-capped Robins all within a couple of minutes in the same paddock. In the last couple of weeks, Scarlet and Flame Robins have now returned to their breeding areas at Shipley where Scarlets were seen building a nest on the 28th.

I already posted about the Square-tailed Kite we saw at Shipley on 28th August. This is only my second record of that species for the upper Blue Mountains, though I've heard of two other reports over the years (not including the lower mountains where they are more frequent).

Despite what the books say, I most often encounter Pilotbirds in heathy clifftop areas, especially in winter when they come up out of the gullies more. (This could also have something to do with the fact that I tend to spend lots of time in winter on heathy clifftop areas! However the point is, they can certainly be found in this habitat.) At both Narrow Neck and Evans Lookout I've occasionally had Rockwarbler and Pilotbird together in the one binocular view. On 10th and 11th August I had the pleasure of guiding Nigel Marven of 'Prehistoric Park' fame. Nigel is a keen and competent birder and his first view of a Pilotbird was one which emerged, completely unexpectedly from the shrubs on Narrow Neck while we were looking at Crescent Honeyeaters.

Another species Nigel wanted to see was Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, which we easily found displaying high above the heath at Mt Hay in its distinctive song-flight, before dropping to shrub level and posing in full view for us on an exposed branch.

I've been seeing fairly large winter flocks of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos at Woodford (c.60) and Kings Tableland (c.50), but Glossies have been much harder than usual to find at their regular haunts. One of the Glossy Black-Cockatoos reported by Neil Kirby at Springwood Cemetery on 11th July was still there on 5th August.

Blue-billed Ducks are still at the Lithgow sewage ponds. They seem to have become entrenched there and I usually see between 3 and 6 on each visit.

A pair of Grey Currawongs began nesting at Blackheath in the first week of August. On the 27th at Murphy's Glen, the forest was alive with Shining Bronze-Cuckoos, all calling persistently and being chased by smaller birds. A number of honeyeaters were focussing their attention on the decorticating bark of the Blue Gums (E. deanei). On the 28th, a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike was an unusual sighting on Narrow Neck - the first time I've ever seen one this high up the mountains. It was travelling through no doubt.

The upper Blue Mountains is approximately 100km west of Sydney and around 1000 metres above sea level.



Carol Probets
PO Box 330
Katoomba NSW 2780

Phone (02) 4782 1831

Guided birding in the Blue Mountains & Capertee Valley
ABN 73 550 267 027

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