Alastair Smith and I had been talking for some considerable time about a trip
to Round Hill, and the day finally arrived on Friday, 26 September 2008.
Although this was Alastair?s third trip to the area, it was my first, but both
of us stood to get a few lifers plus, of course, a number of species that we
don?t get to see very often in the ACT.
Alastair arrived at my place at the appointed time of 5.00 am and ten minutes
later we were on our way! The first bird was not the expected Australian
Magpie, but an Australian Raven, with the Magpie coming in at number 2. We
drove via Yass and Harden to Temora, ticking off species from the car as we
went ? Magpie-lark, Starling, Galah (the ubiquitous Galah that we saw
everywhere on the trip), Noisy Miner, Eastern Rosella, Noisy Friarbird, Welcome
Swallow, House Sparrow, Straw-necked Ibis, Crimson Rosella, Crested Pigeon,
Australian Wood Duck, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Pied Currawong, Red-rumped
Parrot, Red Wattlebird, Australian King Parrot, Pacific Black Duck,
White-winged Chough, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australasian Pipit and Feral
Pigeon (Rock Dove) were all chalked up before we reached Binalong. Then we
started to get the better stuff ;) Frequent sightings of Superb Parrot in
small groups between Binalong and Harden; then Rufous Songlark, Willie Wagtail,
before the first Apostlebird ? there is an invisible line somewhere between
Binalong and Harden where this species suddenly appears and then is seen
frequently along the roadside.
We pulled over a few kilometres before Temora when Alastair spotted some
woodswallows, and were pleased to find a small group of White-browed and Masked
Woodswallows. Little did we know at the time just how many woodswallows we
would see on this trip! The short roadside stop also produced the only
White-winged Triller of the trip, plus the first of many Common Bronzewing.
Laughing Kookaburra and Grey Butcherbird brought our tally to 35 by the time we
reached Temora at 7.30am.
Little Raven in Temora, then the first raptor, Nankeen Kestrel, followed by
Masked Lapwing with a probably short-lived youngster on the road! Our first of
many Cockatiel occurred near West Wyalong where we made a short diversion to
Charcoal Tank NR for a break and a look around at 8.30am. The prize at
Charcoal Tank was a Black Honeyeater ? we followed up a penetrating ?seep? call
that neither of us recognised, and found the culprit sitting on a dead low
bush. We had great (and easy) views of this species, compared to our previous
experience of a bird at Mulligans Flat in Canberra a couple of years ago, when
the birds were flighty, kept high up, and did not call.
Charcoal Tank also gave us our first Rufous Whistler (a species that was
particularly common, but cryptically elusive, at Round Hill), Grey-crowned
Babbler, Mistletoebird, Western Gerygone, Weebill, Brown Thornbill, Red-capped
Robin, Striated Pardalote, Inland Thornbill, Rainbow Bee-eater and White-eared
Honeyeater. We left at 9.15am and headed on our way.
The 100 kilometres between West Wyalong and Lake Cargelligo was strangely dull
and, not only gave us no new species, but very few sightings at all.
We reached Lake Cargelligo Sewage Ponds at 10.30am and stopped for a good look
around at this nice un-manicured rural sewage treatment works (I?m making
comparison here with the mown and ordered sewage works at Fyshwick in
Canberra!). We were greeted here by some stunning White-winged Fairy-wrens ?
in fact, there appeared to be two family groups at the Ponds. Baillon?s Crake
? normally relatively shy and furtive ? appeared to have no concern about human
presence, and we saw at close range probably at least a dozen as we walked
around the ponds. Other species added to our list here were Australasian
Grebe, Australian Reed Warbler, Grey Teal, Hardhead, Australian Shelduck,
Little Grassbird, Little Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Purple Swamphen,
Black-tailed Native-hen, Red-capped Plover, Black-shouldered Kite,
White-breasted Woodswallow, Red-kneed Dotterel, White-fronted Chat, Darter,
Black Swan, White-faced Heron, Whistling Kite, and Dusky Moorhen.
We left at 11.40am and headed into the little township of Lake Cargelligo, and
took a quick look at the lake where we added Eurasian Coot, Whiskered Tern (4)
and a Great Egret. After refuelling the car ? which took longer than it might
have done because I was paying and Alastair spent ages trying to get every
single drop he could into the tank ;) ? we continued on our way?..only 50
kilometres to go now but, first, we stopped on the road known as ?chat alley?
at 12.20pm. Brown Falcon and Zebra Finch were added to the list and, after a
bit of searching and some call play-back by Alastair, we had Orange Chat!
Several birds ? male and female ? what little beauties! A lifer for both of us.
We tore ourselves away from these jewels at 1.00pm and stopped a short distance
further on at Booberoi Creek where we added Jacky Winter, Brown Treecreeper and
White-plumed Honeyeater (the only birds of these species for the trip) and Grey
Shrike-thrush. Finally, we got Yellow-throated Miner shortly before crossing
the railway line into Round Hill/Nombinnie Nature Reserves at about 1.30pm with
84 species under our belts.
We decided that, as we were mainly after the mallee species, to set up camp
along the ?Red-lored Whistler Track? near the old wheat field, rather than at
Whoey Tank. Crested Bellbird called frequently near our campsite but we only
actually got to see them on a couple of occasions. Yellow-plumed Honeyeater
was common here too. Throughout our stay, the air was full of woodswallows ?
Black-faced, Masked, White-breasted and White-browed by the thousand.
After setting up our camp we headed south along the western edge of the wheat
field and soon added two Shy Heathwren (lifer for both of us) to our tally,
within about 200m of the north west corner. Within another 300m we tracked down
an all grey whistler in some mallee understorey. The only feature was a orange
wash to its vent and a lighter lore. Both our field guides (Morcombe and
Pizzey) indicated this as probably a female Gilbert?s Whistler. [It was only
after returning to Canberra that Alastair reviewed HANZAB which provided the
real identity ? the highly prized Red-lored Whistler ? a lifer for both of us.]
After a 5km walk we returned to the campsite to hear a nearby Southern
Scrub-Robin which we enticed into a eucalypt ? perched in a tree it was most
unlike what we had anticipated the bird would look like in the flesh. Another
lifer for us both. We saw Gilbert?s Whistler on several occasions near the
camp ? this was another lifer for me. That night we wandered along
track towards the main road and the only bird calling was a Spotted Nightjar
(another lifer). Interestingly a Pallid Cuckoo called most of the night.
The next morning we headed to the dam near Whoey Tank with Spotted Bowerbird as
our target species. No sign of this bird but plenty of pigeons and parrots
including three Major Mitchell Cockatoos came to the dam. A nearby quartering
Spotted Harrier sent all the birds scurrying and soon after we decided to try
and find the bower reported by Mugford et al. For about two hours we searched
the callitris in the vicinity of Whoey Tank, but there was no sign so we
decided to return to the dam. Frank took up a vigil while Alastair answered a
call of nature. Of course the Spotted Bowerbird chose that moment to appear and
just as quickly disappear. Frank took photos which he showed to an incredulous
and jealous Alastair.
We spend some more time looking but as the temperature rose we decided a return
visit to the dam that afternoon was our best chance. On returning to the wheat
field a male and female Crimson Chat (lifer for Alastair) were observed on the
track near our campsite. We spent the next few hours looking for Red-lored
Whistler near on the westerly wheat field track, but with no joy and so
returned to the dam with chairs about 3.30pm. By 4.05 we had at least 3 Spotted
Bowerbirds and White-fronted, Black and Singing Honeyeaters. A single
White-backed Swallow was another lifer for Alastair.
Very satisfied we returned to camp for dinner and another walk for nocturnal
birds, but again only Spotted Nightjar called.
With Spotted Bowerbird under the belt, Frank needed a Chestnut Quail-Thrush, so
the following morning we quartered the wheat field and were rewarded with two
birds and another four Crimson Chats, in northwest corner and within 500m of
the campsite. At one stage we heard a distant roar like surf and tracked the
source down to about 1000 woodswallows (Masked, Black-faced and White-browed).
The full list of 64 species that we saw at Round Hill is:
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
On the return trip, we stopped again at Lake Cargelligo Sewage Ponds and added
White Ibis, Spotted Crake, Australian Hobby, Tree Martin, Fairy Martin and
White-necked Heron to our list. Then, a short stop at Jindalee State Forest
added White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, White-throated Treecreeper, Sacred
Kingfisher, Peaceful Dove. Finally, we got Dusky Woodswallow before arriving
back in Canberra around 5pm on Sunday, 28 September 2008.
A fantastic trip! 8 lifers each, and a grand total of 132 species.
Alastair Smith & Frank Antram
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