Summary: I went birding in Goulburn in NSW on the way to Mittagong, where I
stayed and birded for three days. On the return trip, a couple of visits to a
reserve outside Goulburn (where I decided contact lenses were not for me). An
ill-planned stop in Chiltern in Victoria, where I had time for a rushed morning
of birding before returning to Melbourne. On the way home we escaped virtually
unscathed from a serious but unusual crash - no more birding for a couple of
I prepared by getting lists for the Mittagong area, and making a matching
playlist for the BOCA CDs loaded onto my phone, and listened to them for a
couple of weeks on the train to work. With earphone, of course – didn't want
all the school kids coming up to me to say how cool they thought the bird calls
26/10/07 Staying with in-laws in Goulburn, I snuck out early and walked up and
down Wollondilly Ck, which runs through the town, mainly because it was close
by. It's a typical urban creek, a bit overrun by willows and funny looking
hybrid ducks, etc, but still interesting. New for me were Sacred Kingfisher
and Rufous Whistler, and I heard my first Common Koel. I was glad I'd recently
seen my first White-winged Trillers, otherwise I mightn't have been able to
identify the male I saw briefly here. Full list at
We left for Mittagong the same day, now minus the kids. I tried an evening
walk behind the caravan park - I had expected to see a few steep hills in the
reserve, but not the rocky, virtually uncrossable gorge I immediately ran into.
I might have seen my first Olive-backed Oriole beside the golf course, but was
caught in a thunderstorm before I was sure, and had to run back to the cabin.
27/10/07 Spent about 7 hours dawdling around the Red Track in the Mt Alexandra
Reserve behind the caravan park. I was using the map booklet that the
information centre had reluctantly sold me the day before. When I mentioned
birds they were keen to send me to Gibbergunyah, but I read this on the
leaflet: "Bird life is probably restricted due to the diminished flora". No
The booklet is useful ("Bush Walks Around Mittagong in the Mount Alexandra
Reserve" by Marie Chalker and Trevor Bensley, $3.60 from the Mittagong
Information Centre), but the walk description is misleading in places, and the
track markings are inadequate in a few spots. I wandered about a kilometre the
wrong way down the creek at one stage because of this, before deciding that it
was so steep and slippery that I didn't care if it was the right way or not.
The rule seems to be that if you haven't seen a red marker for a while, you're
on the wong track.
The creek was low enough for crossings to be made without getting wet socks,
but not without risk of a fall, so I didn't appreciate the three crossings I
(correctly) made when I couldn't be sure it was necessary.
New for me were Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, White-eared and Yellow-faced
Honeyeaters, Rockwarbler, Noisy Friarbird, Red-browed Treecreeper, and my first
good look at a Spotted Pardalote. Sacred Kingfishers could be heard
constantly, and occasionally seen, in the last few kilometres before the town
(going anticlockwise). Full list at
28/10/07 Did the Boxvale Track with my wife. New species: Fantailed Cuckoo
and Rufous Fantail. Sacred Kingfishers heard again. Full list at
That afternoon I drove to Wingecaribee Reservoir to see Great Crested Grebe.
At first glance the whole reservoir appeared to be empty, but I could see a few
dots in the distance, so went back to the car to get the as yet unused scope,
hoping to make good use of it. My the time I got back, one of the dots was
bigger, and looked grebe-like through binoculars. By the time I'd set up the
scope, it was much closer, and by the time I'd aimed and focused it was so
close I didn't need the scope.
29/10/07 No time for a big walk before leaving for Goulburn, so I just did the
first part of the Red Track again, going in the reverse direction, hoping to
see something different earlier in the day. Having changed to daylight saving
the day before, and with no point getting up much before sunrise, I'd been
robbed of an hour's birding. I saw, very briefly, my first Common Koel adult,
and had a good view of a juvenile being mobbed by Crimson Rosellas, Common
Mynas and Pied Currawongs.
I heard Brush Cuckoos and Shining Bronze Cuckoos, but saw nothing else new.
Full list at http://www.eremaea.com/SiteRegionsSurvey.aspx?Survey=25983.
I would have liked to visit Belanglo Forest, Cecil Hoskins Reserve and Fitzroy
Falls, but had no time, so we headed back to Goulburn as soon as we'd checked
30/10/07 and 31/10/07 Back in Goulburn again I spent two mornings at Alison
Hone Reserve, 10km north of town on the Crockwell Road. Thanks to Chris
Brandis for this location. There I saw my first White-winged Choughs, more
Noisy Friarbirds, Red-capped Robin, Leaden Flycatcher (nesting), Varied
Sitella, and my first proper look at a Brown Goshawk (on nest). Heard but still
didn't see Shining Bronze-cuckoo – it was in the private property at the back
of the reserve. Full list at
I entered the reserve with some misgivings because of the sign saying not to,
but a later call to the reserve trustees reassured me that birders are welcome.
The signs are to keep other kinds of undesirables out, particularly rubbish
dumpers. But the attractive looking forest beyond the fence to the south is
It was here, while peering at the goshawk, that I noticed that the contact
lenses I had been testing for several weeks as a better alternative to glasses
for birding had a big blurry patch in the middle of the right eye. Rubbing,
massaging, applying saline, etc, didn't fix it, so I decided not to pursue that
idea. I prefer my vision to be consistent.
1/11/07 We left for Melbourne, but my wife kindly agreed to break the trip by
spending a night at Chiltern. A last minute RFI via my Blackberry phone got
many responses confirming that the caravan park was the place to go, and we
booked the last available cabin by phone. We arrived about 5 minutes too late
to get the booklet from the information centre, because we had to wait for the
longest, slowest train I've ever seen, but luckily the caravan park had one
(Barry Traill's "Bird Trails of Chiltern" – free).
The children helped with planning the next morning's walk by refusing to stop
mucking around until the lights were all out, so I woke next morning not
knowing where I was going to go.
2/11/07 With a deadline because of the need to check out before 10 (or 11, they
reluctantly agreed to ), and again robbed by daylight savings, I read the
booklet in the car for a couple of minutes, and decided to go to Bartley's
Block, which had been recommended by Tim Dolby. I followed the directions,
driving 2.9km out of town, but on the wrong road, and ended up at Frog's Hollow
- how am I supposed to know which way's north? The booklet said jump the old
fence, but the fences either side of Frog's Hollow looked a bit new to me, so I
wandered up the hill a bit to try to work it out. New to me there were
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and White-browed Babbler. I could hear Sacred
Kingfishers all around again, and they were starting to annoy me.
As it got lighter, I checked the map and description again, and realised what
I'd done when I noticed the nearby freeway. So I drove back into town, then
out again to Bartley's Block, not realising I could have driven through the
back way and maybe seen something on the way. It took me this long to work out
what I'd done because Bartley's Block isn't actually marked on the map.
I arrived at Bartley's Block running out of time, and was halfway round when I
realised how overdressed I was, as it was getting quite warm. The flies were
starting to annoy me, and I had no fly spray. I saw another Red-capped Robin
and my first Mistletoebirds before the flies got so bad that there were too
many under my glasses to see properly. I wandered around a bit more, saw some
more White-browed Babblers through the swarm, then decided to leave calmly with
plenty of time to pack, rather than arrive back late and fuming. Full list at
http://www.eremaea.com/SiteRegionsSurvey.aspx?Survey=25973. Are the flies
always that bad there, or is it just a bad season for them?
If you're strictly only interested in birds then stop reading now.
We left easily by check out time and headed back to Melbourne. At about 4pm,
less than a kilometre from home, while driving at 70 in a 70 zone (70.2
according to the GPS log I'd left running since the morning), two 4WD owners
indulged in what appears to be a little bit of road rage in the form of a
passing duel, forgot we were in front of them, and one of them drove into the
back of us at 90 or 100. The other (I suspect) saw us at the last minute,
swerved into the other, and sent the three cars spinning all over the place.
Our car skidded sideways for a bit (after flipping end over end, according to a
witness, but I don't believe it), then tipped onto the passenger side and
skidded along for a bit more before clipping a pole and coming to a halt still
on its side. Miraculously my wife, myself and the two kids in the back had no
serious injuries, just a few scratches and some bad seat belt bruises and sore
There was a recent discussion here about the merits of various 4WDs, and, for
what it's worth, I'd like to add that the Subaru Forester survived the impact
well, as far as protecting the occupants is concerned. I view roof pillars a
little more critically now that I've had a set of them as the only thing
keeping my face off the road that I could see grinding at the side of the car
just inches away.
And I suspect the very square shape of the car may have prevented it from
starting multiple rolls. I also recommend Maxirider booster seats, which kept
the kids (aged two and four) tightly in position and safely away from the sides.
I'm not sure how much gear from the back would have hit us if we hadn't had a
cargo barrier – it was loaded up with heavy bags, the stroller, etc.
The Thule luggage pod was ripped right off the roof, taking one of the roof
bars with it, and had a split up the middle, but didn't burst open.
The camera was handy (everything was handy – all the windows were gone), so I
grabbed it and took a photo of the car before we got into the ambulance. See
m("N00/sets/72157603531473960","//www.flickr.com/photos/29752866");">http: if you're
We retrieved our stuff from the car at the towing yard the next day with
difficulty, as it was the start of the Melbourne Cup weekend. I was expecting
my binoculars to be misaligned, as they were in the back where all the damage
was, but they seem ok, possibly better than before. It may be that it was just
my glasses that had improved. They were badly bent in the crash, but in
straightening them I think I may have got them straighter than they were before.
Everyone was sore and cranky, and we had to spend a lot of time doing the
insurance claim and looking for a new car, so I did no birding for several
weeks. I certainly had to cancel the binocular testing expedition to the
Birding Shop, etc, I'd had planned for the Monday before Cup Day. I got a bit
of a surprise when I went to tie up my bootlaces when I did finally get out.
It seems that one of my walking boots, which were in the back, must have
trailed its laces out the broken side window during the slide, cutting them
short and heat sealing the ends neatly.
I also recall a thread this year about the danger of wearing binoculars in the
car, after someone in the US was reported as having had ribs broken by them
when their air bag went off. In my case, had I been wearing them there's a
good chance they could have trailed out the broken side window as we slid, got
caught between the car and the road, then … who knows what?. So there's
another reason to take them off between stops.
I guess a lot of us also drive with the windows down at times to listen for
birds. I think there's a good chance that one of us on the left hand side
could have easily lost an arm had our windows been down as the car thumped onto
its side. I don't believe the windows actually broke until we'd nearly
stopped, so they may have helped keep our arms in.
Anyway, it was an enjoyable trip except for the crash. I normally go through my
notes and work out any ids I couldn't do in the field within a day, but because
of the mucking around with insurance, etc, I've only just got round to it.
Luckily most of my descriptions were clear enough, but a couple would have been
easier if the memory was fresher.
Thanks to all the people who responded to my RFI's, including Chris Brandis,
Terry Dunlea, Maret Vesk, Troy Mutton, Lorne Johnson, David Stowe, Tim Dolby
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