Hawks Nest NSW Trip Report 10-17 Jan 2009 (long)

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Hawks Nest NSW Trip Report 10-17 Jan 2009 (long)
From: "Tom and Mandy Wilson" <>
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2009 22:31:50 +1100
Hi all
I stayed in Hawks Nest on the NSW Lower North Coast for the week 10-17 January. For those of you not familiar with the area, Hawks Nest is about 220km north of Sydney by road and lies on the north shore of Port Stephens where the Myall River enters. It is about 5kms south of Myall Lakes NP and provides access to a range of habitats, including estuary/mudflats, coastal swamp, heath and rainforest. This was a family holiday so birding was generally fitted in around other activities (which involved a trip to Bennett's Beach - opposite Cabbage Tree Island at least once a day). All sites visited were easily accessible in a standard car (apart from the boat trips of course!) Highlights were:

Saturday 10th
- full male plumage Regent Bowerbird at Ourimbah Rest Area on the F3 as we had morning tea on the way up. Also here Bell Miners, Black Faced Monarch. - lunch at Hunter Botanic Gardens produced a juvenile Horsfields Bronze Cuckoo noisily begging from its Yellow Thornbill parents, an immature White Throated Gerygone and a good selection of honeyeaters. Saw a medium sized brown bird bouncing across an open area and into the undergrowth - its posture looked wrong for a juvenile whipbird (too upright) - do they get Bassian Thrush in there regularly?

The week of general observations around Hawks Nest produced lots of Blue Faced Honeyeaters and Scaly Breasted Lorikeets, plenty of cormorants and Egrets and quite a few Bar Shouldered Dove. The Koels up there have had a good season - I counted at least 6 juveniles in different places being fed by Red Wattlebird parents. Saw the local Ospreys several times too. Swifts were apparent most days, with a large flock of WTNTs (best count was 100+) seen regularly over the town, and a pair of Fork Taileds once (on Tues 13th as I walked to the shop to buy milk). In all cases, they were quite low (treetop height) and there was no approaching storm or front. Twice I heard them calling, which is quite unusual for swifts in Australia I think - a squeaky chittering.

Monday 12th
- did an early morning around Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens/Myall River on a pretty low tide - I saw 1 Golden Plover, several small parties of Bar Tailed Godwit, Pied Oystercatcher and Grey Tailed Tattler, several Striated Heron and 1 Intermediate Egret in breeding plumage (next to the Great Egrets also in breeding plumage which made size and bill and leg colour comparisons easy), a Lathams Snipe in a small suburban water retention pond in the housing development behind the Tea Gardens shopping centre (at the edge of town). Saw at least 3 Southern Emu Wren in the swampy grass beside Limekilns Road, heard a Pheasant Coucal and saw a Swamp Harrier hunting over this area, and a Brown Goshawk in the wooded area at the end of this road. Also here were some very plain brown fairy wrens working their way through some low tea tree scrub. They had no real distinguishing features and all the birds looked very much the same, so I was wondering if was looking at a party of Red Backed Fairy Wren? No males in full or part breeding plumage showed up, so I am a bit flummoxed by them. Must be on the very southern edge of their range if that is what they were.

Tuesday 13th
- visited Myall Lakes NP, first visiting Mungo Brush, where amongst the more usual rainforest species, I saw an immature Emerald Dove, lots of Large Billed scrubwrens, several Black Faced Monarchs and 1 very dark myiagra flycatcher - I think it was a Satin but it didn't call (other than rasp) and it didn't hang about so I couldn't be sure on that one; Had lunch and a swim at White Tree Bay, where there were plenty of Leaden Flycatchers, Scarlet Honeyeaters, Noisy & Little Friarbirds, a very smart Rufous Whistler, a very active and noisy pair of White Throated Treecreepers, a Varied Triller and an immature (ie away from its foster parents) Brush Cuckoo at White Tree Bay.

Weds 14th
- Family of Crested ShrikeTits at the Mountain Park in Bulahdelah; an Eastern Robin convention at O'Sullivans Gap Flora Reserve (on the Wootton Road = Old Pacific Highway, north of Bulahdelah) - there must have been 30 birds. The rainforest walk here took a bit of finding and when we got in it was a bit late in the morning, but I think this would be good in the early morning or late afternoon. Also a Brown Pigeon, several Rufous Fantails and a single Satin Flycatcher and Rose Robin there; On the from Bulahdelah to Bombah Point ferry there was what was possibly a Forest Kingfisher sitting on a telegraph wire in a wooded section of the road just after the dirt started. I got a good look at the bird, which showed a deep ultramarine back, clear white collar and breast, but I understand that I needed to see the bird fly to see the white wing patches to clinch it - but as it didn't move while I watched it it could have been a darker coloured Sacred.

Thursday 14th
- dolphin cruise on Port Stephens produced 2 Gull Billed Terns and 2 Little Terns on the lower reaches of the Myall River. I also spotted a wader roost on the SW tip of Corrie Island, but they were too far away for any sort of ID, so next morning...

Friday 15th
- early morning to the inlets at Bundabah and Pindimar (accessed from a little way back up the Tea Gardens- Pacific Highway road) on the low tide and found 200+ Bar Tailed Godwit, several Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew and some Pied Oystercatchers. As well, there were two much greyer, plainer looking Godwit with pinker looking bills that appeared to show a dark rather than speckled rump/tail under the folded wingtips, which I think were Black Tailed. They seemed to keep their distance from the others as well. Also a Mangrove Gerygone and a family party of Little Cuckoo Shrike at the little boardwalk in Pindimar. - in the afternoon we hired a boat and chugged up the Myall River; saw two groups of White Breasted Woodswallow, a close up view of a Swamp Harrier harassing a Wedge Tailed Eagle and were serenaded by a Brown Honeyeater as we were moored having lunch.

Saturday 17th
- stopped at Shortlands Wetland Centre on the way home and saw several Lathams Snipe, Wandering Whistling Duck, more White Breasted Woodswallows (about 25), a Tawny Grassbird (best views I've ever had - 2 metres away scolding at me), singles of Musk Duck, Australasian Shoveler & Nankeen Night Heron, plus the noise and smell of the egret/ibis rookery

Despite spending plenty of time on the ocean side beach at Hawks Nest (which is about 3kms from Cabbage Tree island), apart from Silver Gulls and Crested Terns and 2 Jaegers (1 Arctic, 1 not determined) , I saw surprisingly few seabirds and certainly not a peep of a Goulds Petrel (albeit it is late in the season for them and they generally visit the island at night). After a weather change on Thursday night/Friday morning when the wind shifted to the S/SW from a week of NElies, there were some shearwaters out on the far distant horizon, but certainly nothing that was close enough to be identified.

I had a good look at the picnic area at Mungo Brush, the ferry crossing at Bombah Point and the riverside picnic area and boat ramps at Bulahdelah for the Radjah Shelduck but didn't see them - not sure if they are still about at any of those spots, have found another good place in the district for free handouts or have gone completely?

Thanks to those that responded to my RFI.
Tom Wilson


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