A selection of recent trip reports.
LAKE CARGELLIGO, April 2016 Roger Heffernan
The township of Lake Cargelligo welcomed us with a week of warm sunny days, often with a high cloud cover. The lake was full but the surrounding countryside was extremely dry. Gathering at the Caravan Park on Monday morning a group of six set out for Chat Alley where recent reports had indicated a noticeable absence of birdlife. However, we were all thrilled to observe a flock of 40 White-fronted Chats flying among the vegetation. What an exciting start to our visit. Moving on towards Booberoi Creek several Nankeen Kestrels appeared along the roadside as well as Apostlebirds and Little Ravens.
The area near the creek was alive with activity. Two Sacred Kingfishers perched on the fence took cover in the trees by the water. White-browed and Brown Treecreepers, Restless Flycatchers, Striated Pardalotes, Red-rumped Parrots and Yellow-rumped Thornbills were all present. The melodious call of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters resounded in the vicinity. A lone mystery call was eventually resolved to be a female Rufous Whistler. On the return via Chat Alley eight Australasian Pipits were seen by the roadside. A sole Southern Whiteface was found on the fence as we drove back onto the main road. After lunch in town the next stop was the bird hide at Nilsson’s Lane on the southern edge of the lake. A variety of waterbirds and waders occupy this site. The Spotted Harrier that Bryan and I observed on Sunday’s reconnaissance failed to keep the appointment. At the Sewage Treatment Plant the outer ponds were much drier than previous visits and the birds appeared very restless. A selection of ducks, grebes and cormorants were noted along with pelicans, coots and swan. Whistling and Black Kites were spotted in the adjacent field. A highlight was three photographers in pursuit of a group of White-winged Fairy-wrens through the shrubs along the wall of a dry pond with the birds continually out of reach, while all by herself Nalda stood and watched a lone male, perched atop a wattle, sing uninterrupted for 10 minutes – no camera!!
The second day, with the group now numbering eight, saw us set out westward for Round Hill and Nombinnie Nature Reserves. At the rock quarry we discovered Pied and Grey Butcherbirds, Spiny-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and Bar-shouldered Doves. While seated for morning tea at the Wheat Field, a male Gilbert’s Whistler flew into the tree beside us offering an extended observation of this rare and elusive species. Close by, the aptly named Shy Heathwren was located by some of the party but vanished before the rest could get a peep. With the group scattered, a second SHW was found on the opposite side of the track. Lunch at Whoey Tank was non-productive until we were leaving when a pair of Red-capped Robins posed beside the track. A group of Blue Bonnets and a Little Friarbird added to the count before returning via Euabalong.
On Wednesday morning we headed for Brewster Weir. All were thrilled when a Spotted Harrier appeared beside the road and flew into an open paddock. The species count at the weir was lower than on previous visits. A regular assortment of waterbirds and waders were seen along with Yellow (Crimson) Rosella. Crossing the river at Willanthry lunch was taken in a roadside rest area. Birds seemed very quiet here until some of the party took a walk
around. Diamond Firetail, Brown Treecreeper, Striated Pardalote and Peaceful Dove were some species found. The return journey followed a dirt road along the northern side of the river. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles were disturbed feeding on a young feral piglet. A short deviation to Dead Mans Point as we neared town found a White-bellied Sea-Eagle, 2 Whistling Kites, an Eastern Great Egret and a Silver Gull.
Thursday took us to Curlew Waters and Lake Cargelligo Weir returning via farmland and the abattoir. This farmland was inaccessible due to wet weather on our previous visit. Along Stuart Drive two large flocks of Little Black and Great Cormorants flew overhead and settled on the middle of the lake. Cruising on, five Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos were spotted roosting in a tall tree in the distance. Walking in for a closer inspection they flew off to parts unknown. As we made our way back to the main road a group of White-browed Babblers teased us as they scampered through the young trees and undergrowth. Bird numbers in and around the weir were very few. Passing by the abattoir yielded more White-winged Fairy-wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and one Brown Falcon (dark morph).
On Friday, with only three of us left, I took a final look at the STW where four Cockatiel and 16 Australasian Darters grasped the limelight. Later we retraced yesterday’s trail in search of the Major Mitchell’s without success. Chestnut-rumped Thornbills with Variegated Fairy-wrens dashed about in the scrub. Over 100 Australian Shelducks were found at the end of the canal along with 23 Black-fronted Dotterel, 10 Black-winged Stilts, pelicans, swans and cormorants.
It was a pleasure to lead such an obliging and considerate group for the five days. Although the species count was below the previous spring visits most of us saw new birds for the first time and, best of all, we had fun.
Species Count – 112 (full list here)
Some images from the trip, courtesy of Karen Buckland.