Lucy Aplin and I just spent the Canberra-day long weekend doing a first
exploratory visit to Round Hill National Park.
Our plans to pack the car and leave Canberra at 4am on Saturday morning were
briefly delayed with a torrential downpour as I was about to step out the
front door, however the rain disappeared as soon as it arrived and at
10-past we were on the road. The aim of this was to get past Temora before
dawn with the hope of picking up some good parrots along the way. We
weren't to be disappointed! The road from West Wyalong to Lake Cargelligo
was teeming with parrots, and before long we'd seen several hundred
red-rumps, galahs, blue-bonnets and cockatiels.
We arrived at Lake Cargelligo around 9:30am and a visit to the STW added a
few species (though not many as we had hoped for!). First off the rank was
a lone Shelduck, with a few grey-teals, australasian grebes, pacific blacks,
about 10 darters (including juvis) and a little pied cormorant. A
black-fronted dotteral was also seen scurrying about, while four or five
white-breasted woodswallows flew about.
A drive along the lake in town added some royal spoonbills, straw-necked
ibis, silver gulls and a large raft of little black cormorants. The weather
by now was quite hot with intermittent relief as cloud cover came over and
the breeze picked up. Driving on towards Round Hill we made the compulsory
stop along Chat Alley, whereupon we met up with several hundred heads of
cattle walking through. Pulling up just before the cattle grid we saw a
brown songlark in a field to the south, while chat alley produced vast
numbers of richard's pipits. Unpreturbed, we searched on with great hopes
for chats but could only muster up three female/imm white-winged wrens.
Driving towards round hill we stopped briefly at the creek crossing which
had plenty of water, but could only add Western Gerygone to our list. The
mallee itself was surprisingly quiet, and several stops along the main
through road could only uncover small groups of chestnut-rumped thornbills
and a single white-eared honeyeater. So we continued our exploration,
finally finding Whoey Tank and adding southern white-face and mallee
ring-neckeds. Visiting the old wheat-field and the RLW track yielded only a
ground of very active grey-crowned babblers, and a lone (incredibly bright)
male red-capped robin on the road back.
Returning to Whoey Tank where we had decided to camp the first night, we
discovered the place entirely over-run by southern white-faces. We explored
the area a little, finding only noisy miners about. Driving back out
towards the quarry water-hole, mulga parrots were feeding on the ground, but
disappointingly, the water-hole was dry. A read through our printed notes
taken from previous trip-reports found a description of another hole on the
road towards round hill at the end of the sealed road (which as a side-note
is now sealed all the way to Mt Hope). This also proved to be dry, though
contained a bit more life with weebills, splendid wrens, pied butcherbirds,
common bronzewing, ring-necked parrots, and bar-shouldered doves flying
about. Sitting and having some dinner we looked over the wheat-field at a
pair of emus feeding in the distance.
Back at Whoey tank shortly before dusk we found the birds drinking at a
trickle of water coming out of one of the tanks which is now empty (the
other appears half-full). Here we added spiney-cheeked honeyeater to our
disappointingly small round-hill list. Slightly dejected, we set the alarm
for 6am ready to do some pre-dawn birding.
Unfortunately, things improved little the next morning, where a few hours of
walking around yielded only glimpses of spotted bowerbird, a group of
splendid wrens and some grey-crowned babblers moving through. The number of
mulga parrots around, however, was quite impressive with several groups
flying about the area. Returning to the tent for a morning snooze before
the heat set in, I was awoken after an hour or so by a strange, rather loud
noise. Looking down at me, through the open window, was the spotted
bowerbird who appeared about as shocked as I was when I opened my eyes!
Makes me wonder if I was snoring like a bowerbird?
Lucy at this point had a crippling migraine so we decided to head for some
reprieve at the Mt Hope pub. A most friendly of establishments, with some
food, beers (for me) and pain-killers (lucy) in us, we ventured back to the
outdoors to find two very active bowerbirds in the small 'playground' beside
the pub. Driving back towards Round-Hill we stopped at a spot to look at
some bird activity where we found two or three crested bellbirds (the only
ones for the trip) and a single grey-fronted honeyeater.
We had decided originally to spend the second night at the campsite near the
old wheat-field, so after packing up the tent, we decided to spend the last
few hot hours driving around to see if we could stumble on something. we
decided for the track which follows the wheat-field down two sides, and
which proved most profitable. Our first stop came after some loud calls on
the thick mallee side of the path and yielded a female Gilbert's Whistler.
A bit further down the track and we came upon another, this time a male
giving us great views. One last stop near the south-western end of the old
wheat-field for another whistler (each time hoping for a red-lored
whistler), yielded some mallee alive with birds, this time in the sparser
mallee inside the field. Our glimpses of gilbert's whistler were quickly
forgotten as a chestnut quail-thrush was flushed from under Lucy's feet.
Having missed it myself, we set upon stalking it and were rewarded with
further views. Crouching down to try find the quail-thrush again, I came
upon a shy heathwren who was unaware of our presence, scratching and digging
about the base of a bush. At this time there appeared to be several more
heathwrens and quail-thrushes calling in the area but it was time for us to
set up camp.
As it began to get significantly darker (mostly thanks to an approaching
storm), I was investigating the old bedford truck wreck when I thought I
heard a southern scrub-robin calling nearby. I walked back down the track
coming into camp when one just flew in front of me and landed beside the
road giving great views. Unfortunately by the time Lucy had arrived, it had
disappeared. At this time we were well and truly wishing we'd brought some
insect-repellent, those flies were incredible! After dark we drove down the
track a bit in the hope of finding a spotted nightjar, and weren't to be
disappointed, as one hawked in front of the car headlights.
That night proved quite hot, and through some disturbed sleep, I
half-remember hearing an Australian Owlet-Nightjar calling loudly very
close-by, and what I thought were foot-steps nearby. I remember thinking
they were of the two-legged kind, but talked myself out of it before I woke
up further, thinking it was my imagination running wild as there couldn't
possibly be anyone else around.
The next morning, we had decided that we would try for Major Mitchell's
Cockatoos we had been told frequent the Mt Hope pub at dawn. So an early
drive and breakfast in the car-park yielded much of nothing, other than a
very vocal willy wagtail, some ravens and a few galahs. Driving back
towards camp, we stopped shortly at the crested bellbird spot which was dead
quiet and were still hopeful of finding some scrub-robins for Lucy. With
the increasing heat, the mallee was already dead quiet (around 8:45am), and
as I hurriedly packed our gear, Lucy went about in search of another lifer.
A few seconds later she called to me from a few meters away, apparently
having found some evidence of my 'footsteps in the night'. Not 10 meters
away from the tent were a series of fresh mallee-fowl footprints, with the
tracks of at least two birds having walked the gap between two bushes that
very night! (That I didn't get up to see it in the night has remained an
area of great grevience)
Lots of whistling and pishing finally rose some life from the mallee and
soon, four or five scrub-robins were calling from all around us. When one's
curiosity got too much for it, and it approached within 10 or so metres from
our camp in the mallee, Lucy finally managed to pin-point it quick enough to
get some short views of it.
Now we could head off, and we hit the road for Condobolin, having decided to
visit a few spots on the way home. The forest towards Euabalong West and
Euabalong proved very quiet, though a short stop on the bridge heading out
of Euabalong uncovered a hive of activity. Here we found many
yellow-throated miners, choughs, blue-faced honeyeaters (one which was
feeding another), apostlebirds, striped honeyeaters and a single little
friarbird. Then the noise became almost deafening as a little eagle flew
very low overhead and some nearby galahs, sulphur-crested cockatoos and
sacred ibis took flight, joined by the choughs, miners and apostlebirds.
After this, stopping for a brown snake on the road allowed us to finally add
white-plumed honeyeater and another red-capped robin before reaching the
Parkes STW. Here we found most of the usual suspects (though no freckled
ducks), along with a soaring whistling kite, two yellow-billed spoonbills, a
couple of black-winged stilts, and finally, some black-tailed native-hens.
A quick visit to Gum swamp in the hopes of finding some bigger birds (ie:
brolgas) yielded only a sacred kingfisher to our list until a Black Falcon
swooped very low above our heads (a bird I had long been overdue to see).
A few superb parrots overhead driving back through Harden/Binalong completed
our list for the trip, in which we saw 90 species in 3 days, including 17
lifers for Lucy and 11 for me.
Thanks to everyone's posts on Birding-Aus and Canberra-birds, several of
which gave great directions, while others gave good discussion allowing us
to get a bit of a feel for the place before leaving.
Some notes: As previously mentioned, the road to Mt Hope from the
intersection at Round hill is now sealed and very good. The tracks to Whoey
tank, along the old wheat-field and the main road through the reserve (mt
hope to lake cargelligo rd?) have all recently been grated and are in
excellent condition. The sign for the track to the old wheat-field (a sign
for nombinnie nature reserve) is quite recessed into the mallee and hard to
find. If coming from the south, look for it carefully on the left when
about 1.5kms from the intersection ahead, after having come down the hill.
The track to Whoey tank is easiest to find along the mt hope-euabalong rd,
cutting to the right after reaching the bottom of the hump over round hill
(there is only a sign about 1080 fox baiting there). Also worth noting is
that there is a large, very wide area which has been cleared. I suspect
that the road to Euabalong will soon be tarred, and go straight across the
back of the hill, instead of taking the two curves currently present.
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