Northern NSW road trip Jan 2009 (longish)

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Subject: Northern NSW road trip Jan 2009 (longish)
From: "Eric Finley" <>
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 18:26:06 +1100
Following are highlights of a 6 day road trip to the northern tablelands
and Grafton to Dorrigo area over the first week of the year. The trip
was a combination of birding and non-birding activities, but I did get
to squeeze in quite a bit of bird-focussed activity in an area where a
lot of the natural attractions coincide nicely with great birding. Best
birding was at Little Llangothlin Lagoon and Dorrigo NP, and Nymboida
which was a real highlight of the trip - wonderful and well-priced
accommodation in a beautiful rural setting with a lot of typical
northern NSW birds. Extended views of Barn Owl and White-throated
Nightjar were probably the highlights, along with fantastic lagoon
birding at Little Llangothlin.

2 Jan 2009  Sydney to Tamworth via New England Hwy

This was a driving day only, but a few nice raptor sightings en route. A
Square-tailed Kite north of Ourimbah on the Central Coast was the best
of these.

3 Jan 2009 Tamworth to Glen Innes via Inverell

An interesting day of woodland, road verges and lagoons.

First stop - after the bakery at Uralla - was Dangar's Lagoon. Healthy
water levels with quite good numbers of waterfowl but not much exposed
around the edges. Cold wind made the conditions less than ideal. This
was the first of several stops with good numbers of Aust Shoveller,
perhaps 70-80 here; other ducks mostly Grey Teal, a few Chestnuts, and
Black Duck. Royal and 2 Yellow-billed Spoonbill also present.

Next stop was to walk the trail at Mt Yarrowyck NR - a beautiful remnant
of slopes woodland. We were the only people here, and birds were
abundant and easily seen. Highlights inc 2 parties of Speckled Warbler,
4 spp of thornbill (Buff-rumped, Striated, Brown and Yellow-rumped, in
descending order of abundance), plenty of Leaden Flycatchers,
Mistletoebird, and an imm Aust Goshawk.

En route to Inverell, had great flight and perched views of a Pacific
Baza which came in low over the road c 10 kms before Bundarra. Was
feeding on phasmids in woodland verge.

Back at Guyra, stopped in on the town side of Mother of Ducks Lagoon,
using the boardwalk and shelter here for viewing. Unfortunately there
was only a small stretch of water on this side, then extensive reed
swamp. The far side was clearly the centre of activity as I could just
make out a number of ducks and swans, and there were plenty of others
coming in and out of the area. Most interesting was a count of 65
Whiskered Tern, which seemed to be dropping into the far reedbeds -
possibly nesting. Straw-necked Ibis were very common here - and all
across the tablelands. Also many Clam Reed Warblers and cisticolas, and
a Swamp Harrier.

Little Llangothlin Lagoon - spent 2 hours here from about 4.30pm. This
was my first visit here and I was very impressed - the setting is
beautiful, and birds were far more abundant and more varied than at the
other lagoons visited. I concentrated around the entrance/parking area
and trail to the north/east - did not have time to do the circuit walk.
I'd recommend a scope here (apart from plenty of Aerogard!) for a decent
look at the waterfowl - I don't have one, but was fortunate in having
the sun low behind me -  was only when it broke through scattered cloud
that I was able to clearly identify Blue-billed Ducks by plumage and not
just shape. Highlights here were a count of 29 Blue-billed Ducks - dont
know if this is unusually high?.Other waterfowl inc perhaps 2000 Coot,
over 1200 Grey Teal, Aust Shoveller and Black Duck around 500+ each, 15+
Hardhead, 3 Musk Duck, a handful of Chestnut Teal and about 45 adult and
60+ cynget/imm-plumaged Black Swan. Hoary-headed and Aust Grebe were
both common, as were Dusky Moorhen and Purple Swamphen. A section of
muddy fringe had 75 Sharp-tailed and a Marsh Sandpiper, and several
pairs of Pied Stilt. 15 Glossy Ibis also present. These numbers apply
only to birds in the western section of the lagoon - there were hundreds
more visible to the east, probably thousands given the reed cover and
extent of the lagoon.

Interestingly no Pink-eared Duck were seen at any of the waterfowl
habitats on this trip.

Blackbirds were seen at Inverell (1) and Glen Innes.

4 Jan 2009   Glen Innes to Nymboida via Gwydir Highway

Beardy Dam before 7am on a cold morning had only a handful of birds,
including small numbers of Blue-billed Duck (9 in one party and 3 in
another), Aust Shoveller, Black Swan, Black Duck, Chestnut and Grey
Teal. 2 White-bellied Sea Eagle and 1 Latham's Snipe.

Rainbow Lorikeets were abundant from Glen Innes to Grafton, including
throughout the Gibraltar Range and Washpool National Parks.

At Washpool, did  a section of the Washpool Walk. Species seen included
Black-faced Monarch, Rufous Fantail, Satin Bowerbird, Brown Gerygone,
Brown Thornbill (all common), Superb Lyrebird (3 seen), Brown
Cuckoo-dove, Large-billed Scrubwren, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Golden Whistler
and White-throated Treecreeper. In the tall eucalypt forest added
Crimson Rosella, a family party of 4 Tawny Frogmouths  inc 2 juveniles
flushed from a trackside vine, White-naped, Yellow-faced and New Holland
Honeyeaters, and abundant Bell Miners. In addition to Rainbow Lorikeets,
a few Scaly-breasted were present. At least 2 Wompoo Fruit-doves

Dandahra Picnic Area in Gibraltar Range NP had 4 Glossy Black Cockatoos,
2 were juv birds begging for a feed.

4-7 Jan   Nymboida

Stayed at the Nymboida Coaching Station Inn - great place and good value
for money I thought, excellent birding from the spacious balconies
overlooking the river and river oaks, in the gardens, and along the
roadsides. Didn't investigate local walking trail options, but the area
is surrounded by state forest and national parks. Dorrigo is just over
an hour away, Coffs similar, and Grafton is 40 kms or half an hour

Birds seen in the gardens and along the river here included Blue-faced
and Brown Honeyeater inc juveniles of both, parties of White-throated
Honeyeaters, White-cheeked and Scarlet Honeyeater, Noisy and Little
Friarbirds, Double-barred and Red-browed Finches, Pied Butcherbird,
Spangled Drongo, all 4 lorikeets with Rainbow then Musk the most common,
Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Aust King Parrot, Aust and Grey Goshawk,
Peaceful and Bar-shouldered Doves, Brush (heard daily), Shining-bronze
and Channel-billed Cuckoos, Pheasant Coucal, Sacred Kingfisher, Striated
(melanocephalus) and Spotted Pardalote, Little Cuckoo-shrike,
Mistletoebird and Torresian Crow. Nearby roadsides also had Brown Quail
and White-throated Gerygone.

White-throated Needletail were seen at Nymboida on 6 Jan (5 birds) and
near Dalmorton on 5 Jan (c.15 birds)

A Barn Owl was seen hunting on the roadside on 6 Jan. 5 White-throated
Nightjars were seen along the Armidale road between 5 and 15 kms south
of Nymboida on the same night. These included 2 birds resting on the
road in open forest about 15 kms south of Nymboida on a ridge which
might border Nymboi Binderay NP. The birds remained on the road a few
metres infront of the car for 2-3 minutes, giving me my best ever views
of this species.  Numerous Pretty-faced Wallabies, Eastern Grey Kangaroo
and a Red-necked Pademelon also seen along this road. Great evening
drive (which was on the return from Dorrigo NP).

6 Jan   Dorrigo NP

Did the c 7 km Wonga Walk from The Glade picnic area in the late
afternoon, with stops either side at the skywalk. This is a fantastic
and easy walk, the rainforest is excellent for viewing here with often
open understory, and occasional steep sections and canopy breaks
offering mid and upper canopy views, and birds were in evidence all
along the path. The ridiculously tame Bassian Thrush immature at the
beginning of the trail was fun - he picked an insect off my shoe as I
stood quietly on the trail - as was the Aust Brush Turkey aggressively
defending his dust-bath hole in the middle of the picnic area lawn from
any other turkeys sighted. I was shocked at how busy the skywalk was
when we arrived after midday, but did see close cruising Grey Goshawk
and Wedge-tailed Eagle then. On return at 7pm, had the place to
ourselves, but was generally quiet birdwise - though did produce the
only (brief) views of a Wompoo Fruit-dove for the trip. Highlights on
the walk were Rufous Fantail and Yellow-throated Scrubwren (very
common), juv Brush Cuckoo (suspected Rufous Fantail or Yellow-throated
Scrubwren fosters, as both were in immed vicinity but not seen attending
to the cuckoo), Topknot, Wonga and White-headed Pigeons, Brown
Cuckoo-dove, a few Logrunners and Green Catbirds, a Regent Bowerbird and
many Bassian Thrush inc immature birds. Also a forest dragon sp and a
very impressively-proportioned Land Mullet.

7 Jan   Nymboida to Sydney

Few stops on the return drive, and with temperatures rising as we came
south Newcastle was too hot for a Kooragang stop mid afternoon. 5 Forest
Ravens were seen inland from Coffs Harbour near Nana Glen, and a stop at
Harrington added Bar-tailed Godwit, Eastern Curlew, Pacific Golden
Plover, 1 Caspian and many Little Tern, Striated Heron and Pied
Oystercatcher (2).

188 species for the trip was a nice start to 2009 - and in a beautiful
part of the country. Any questions/comments are welcome. Happy new year,

Eric Finley

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