Trip Report - NSW Mid-North Coast 7 - 14 January 2012 (Longish)

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Trip Report - NSW Mid-North Coast 7 - 14 January 2012 (Longish)
From: "Tom and Mandy Wilson" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2012 20:03:06 +1100
Hi All
Just back from a week staying at Dunbogan on the NSW mid-North Coast (Dunbogan is on the Camden Haven River about 30 kms south of Port Macquarie). As is usual on my family holidays, this was more beach than birds, but nonetheless I managed a fair bit of birding, with highlights being: 7 Jan - on the drive up we stopped at Wingham Brush NR near Taree and saw lots of Brush Turkeys working on mounds, Rufous Fantails (not many years where I see Rufous before Grey), Large Billed Scrubwren and Whipbirds. The site is dominated (visually, aurally and olfactorily) by the huge Flying Fox colony that is there. Got to Dunbogan, where the coastal woodland was seething with Rainbow and Scaly Breasted Lorikeets and saw the first of many groups of Yellow Tailed Cockatoos for the week, feasting on the Coast Banksias (groups ranging from family parties of 3 to a flock of 30). The following day I saw the only Brahminy Kite for the trip, cruising over the channel that leads into Watson Taylor Lake and did a short walk in Kattang NR (which protects the heath around Point Perpendicular) , which provided views of 2 Eastern Reef Egret but not much else. We dropped in a looked at Gogley's Lagoon (as a potential sheltered alternative to the beach) which on low tide held some Little Tern, Eastern Curlew, a Mangrove Heron and a lone Godwit. I didn't have my scope with me at the time but the bird, which was some way off, looked very plain and grey all over, so I was thinking possible Black Tailed? Subsequent attempts to find it when I was armed with my scope were unsuccessful. 9 Jan - woke to a huge flock of swifts over the house - at least 150 birds right down to tree top height, feeding on flying ants. The flock seemed to have little sub-flocks within it, presumably pursuing specific denser pockets of ants. The flock was mostly Needletails, but there were two Fork Taileds in with the flock that I saw In the afternoon I drove into the north end of Crowdy Bay NP on a scouting trip and walked a couple of the small side tracks on the road north of Diamond Head. I was actually looking for an area where I might be able to look for Grass Owls in the evening, but much of the heath I found was neither swampy nor a useful height (ie it was well over my head). Nonetheless, I saw a good collection of bush birds such as Scarlet and White Cheeked Honeyeaters, Olive Backed Oriole, Golden Whistler, Brown and Little Thornbill, and heard a Cicadabird and a Pheasant Coucal (as evidence of the denseness of the scrub, the Coucal must have been about 10 metres away, as I could hear it calling and moving, but I couldn't even see the bushes move, let alone the bird itself). A pair of very small lorikeets flew over as well, so I reckoned that there were Little Lorikeets in the area and I located a pair in a flowering tree at the Blackbutt Picnic area. Just north of the park I saw a very heavily built Raven, which was perhaps more noticeable as the common corvids around Dunbogan are Torresian Crows of course. It had a very deep bill and a very noticeably short tail which had me wondering how far afield the Forest Ravens have spread - either south from around Coffs or north from Myall Lakes NP or eastwards off the ranges (I see one was reported from Dingo Tops near Wingham on 1 Jan for example). We had an evening visit to the house from a Tawny Frogmouth, which made a change from the scrounging possums. 10 Jan - went up to Boorganna NR on the Comboyne Plateau, which is an excellent patch of rainforest. Many good birds here including 2 Logrunners, 3 or 4 Wompoo Pigeons feeding very quietly in the tree tops, a flock of 20-30 White Headed and lots of single Brown Pigeons feeding a lot less quietly, a Pale Yellow Robin, several Bassian Thrush and - the highlight for me - a Noisy Pitta that I flushed from the base of a tree. I got a great view of the bright blue wing and tail panels as it flew away and then again as it landed beside a bush on a small creek line. As it had flushed from between two buttresses of a large rainforest tree, I wondered if there was a nest tucked in there, but after waiting some time and as the bird did not return to the tree, I had a very quiet inspection, which revealed only evidence of some serious foraging going on. Also at Boorganna were hordes of Fantails of both types, plenty of all 3 scrubwrens and several family parties of Eastern Whipbirds, complete with begging youngsters. On the way down from the plateau, saw an immature male Regent Bowerbird and several Satin Bowerbirds. We spent the afternoon at a beach in Port Macquarie, accompanied by a regularly appearing Whistling Kite and then had fish and chips for dinner Tacking Point lighthouse, where there were dolphins and a whale (not sure what type, just saw the blow four times as it headed north) as well as some close in Wedge tailed Shearwaters and two Pomarine Jaegers hassling the shearwaters. 11 Jan - had an early morning walk at Henry Kendall Reserve in Laurieton, which borders Stingray Creek between the Camden Haven River and Queens Lake. Saw an immature Brush Cuckoo being fed by its Variegated Fairy Wren foster parents/siblings, White Breasted Woodswallows, a Leaden Flycatcher In the afternoon we went up North Brother mountain (Dooragan NP) which, as well as affording magnificent views over the Camden Haven area, provided a Fan Tailed Cuckoo and a pair of Green Catbirds, which were not "miaowing" but making a little squeaking noise to each other - not quite the "pik" described in Pizzey. On the way to Pilot Beach for a late swim, the only Blue Faced Honeyeater of the trip flashed across the road and at the beach car park was a pair of Striped Honeyeaters mobbing a Kookaburra (I think they had big youngsters as we saw a party of 4 there two days later). 12 Jan - spent the morning at Sea Acres NR in Port Macquarie, where there were at least 4 Spectacled Monarchs at various points around the reserve. The Rose Crowned Fruit Doves previously reported on birdline were still present - I saw two in the tops of trees at about post 150 on the boardwalk. There was a family of Crested Shrike Tits not far up from the visitor centre and several Green Catbirds, as well as two large Land Mullets and a goanna. I didn't see any Brush Turkeys in the reserve or area, which struck me as unusual - there were certainly mounds in the reserve and I've seen loads there in prior visits (one even built his mound in the car park a few years ago which resulted in its partial closure). While in Port Macquarie, I had a look at the wader roost in the Hastings River in the town centre, which revealed many Bar Tailed Godwit and Eastern Curlews, Crested Common and two Fairy Terns and three Knots mixed in with the roosting godwits. After another afternoon on the beach - where a group of 4 Sooty Oystercatchers swept past - our trip back to Dunbogan was enlivened by sightings of single Square Tailed Kite and Grey Goshawk in the wooded area between Bonny Hills and Laurieton. 13 Jan - had an early start up the road to Wauchope to look at Kings Creek Swamp (thanks birding-aus archives), where I saw a pair of adult Comb Crested Jacana and their three chicks, and 8 Wandering Whistling Ducks (no Plumed ones, despite incursions elsewhere into NSW). There were quite a few Hardhead on the swamp and the adjacent farm dams held 4 White Necked Herons. I stopped in Broken Bago SF on my way home and saw a good selection of bush birds - several Variegated Wren families, Rufous and Golden Whistlers, my first Silvereyes of the year. An unproductive afternoon fishing at Dunbogan did produce a small flock of 12 White Breasted Woodswallow, a Little Cuckoo Shrike and a Gull Billed Tern over the main river and eventually, after much scrutiny of the mangroves opposite, a Brown Honeyeater, which I'd been hearing all week but had not managed to get onto. 14 Jan - started on the way home via Crowdy Head and then Harrington. Saw a small party of Red Backed Wren near Coralville, a dead Buff banded rail on the road and a Rainbow Bee Eater between Harrington and Crowdy Bay. We had lunch on Pilot Hill in Harrington, overlooking the sand bar at the mouth of the Manning River. There was a big mob of terns (Crested, Common and Little) here as well as a good number feeding further out (with attendant Jaegers). Waders on the bar included Golden Plover, Red Capped Dotterel, Eastern Curlew and Bar Tailed Godwit and a group of 30 or so Red Necked Avocet all roosting on the wet sand with their heads tucked away out of the wind. It was pretty blowy, with a fresh north-easterly blowing, so many of the birds were hunkered down (the terns on the windy side so that they could only be seen from up on the hill, not when I got down to water level by the Marine Rescue station). However, from sea level I could see some smaller, pale (almost white) birds in amongst the sticks/vegetation on the sandbar. None of them stood up or moved about while I was watching and kept their heads tucked away, so I couldn't see bills either. I don't think they were Dotterels as I couldn't see any caps, so I wondered if they might have been Sanderling (have any been reported from the area recently?). On our way home, we stopped at Karuah for afternoon tea, a town that most of us coming to/from Sydney will just blast past on the by-pass. There were two Ospreys and a Sea Eagle circling over the bridge over the river. I also discovered the Karuah Wetlands, where I had a very short walk and saw 4 Nankeen Night Heron, a Great Egret, Scarlet Honeyeater, and Golden Whistler. The final transit bird of note for the trip was a Brown Falcon just north of Raymond Terrace, which was cruising above the grassy verges. All up I saw about 150 species, which is pretty good for a week when I wasn't going full bore. If anybody wants more information on the sites or specifics, drop me a line.
Tom Wilson


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