Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Around Oz Part 39 - Kings Plains National Park NSW: Heath-wrens and twin flat tyres

Chesnut-rumped Heath-wren
We departed the western plains of NSW (see previous post), heading east to the pretty town of Bingara, where we overnighted in a caravan park and dined at the RSL Club. Then it was on to Kings Plains National Park, north-east of Inverell, which I’d not visited previously.

Kings Plains National Park

Kings Plains National Park
We had the delightful Ironbark Camping Ground to ourselves, set beside a creek in the beautiful NSW western slopes woodlands with their wonderful granite rockeries - a region so familiar to us through many visits to sites such as Girraween and Sundown national parks.

Camping at Kings Plains
We had only a few days of our round-Oz trip left, and had prided ourselves on not having had a single mechanic mishap with the vehicle, not even a flat tyre. Then we discovered that the stony road on the way in to Kings Plains National Park in north-east NSW had punctured not one but two tyres. One tyre had a pretty savage tear but the other was a slow leak. Glenn, ever the capable handyman, managed to get the vehicle back to Inverell for new treads by stopping and inflating the slow-leak tyre at 10-km intervals.



Fuscous Honeyeater and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater are common in the woodlands. Other birds about included quite a few that were new for the trip as we hadn’t been in far eastern Australian before here:  Buff-rumped Thornbill, White-naped Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Leaden Flycatcher, White-throated Treecreeper, Pied Currawong. Also about are Brown Treecreeper, Azure Kingfisher, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella and Dusky Woodswallow.

On the first afternoon I found a very nice Chesnut-rumped Hylacola (Heath-wren) which I managed to get a few snaps of.  It was near the road in suitable looking metre-high heath.

Chesnut-rumped Heath-wren

Chesnut-rumped Heath-wren
Mammals include good numbers of Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Swamp Wallaby and Red-necked Wallaby.

Swamp Wallaby
In the morning I reconnected with the hylacola and saw the first of the eastern races of Black-chinned Honeyeater and Crested Shrike-tit for the trip; I had seen the golden-backed race of the honeyeater in north-west Queensland and the NT, and the western race of the shrike-tit in WA. 
Also about were Brown Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, White-browed Babbler, Little Lorikeet and Striped Honeyeater.

Black-chinned Honeyeater

Crested Shrike-tit


           

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Around Oz Part 38 - Wilcannia to Brewarrina, the Western Plains of NSW

Blue Bonnet
Following our visit to Broken Hill (see previous post) we headed east through Wilcannia to Emmdale, a roadhouse with an area for camping behind it, for a two-night stay.  We had planned to head north from Wilcannia to camp in the Pardoo-Darling National Park but didn’t think it was worthwhile doing the 100km round trip on dirt roads. Emmdale is on the edge of the national park, with tracks through it starting across the road from the roadhouse.

Emmdale Roadhouse - Time to Relax

Emmdale - Sunset over the mulga.
We met our friend Kathy, who drove from Newcastle to join us for the five days we planned to spend in the Darling River region national parks.  Like the rest of our trip - with the conspicuous exception of the Winton-Longreach area - the inland scrub here was looking good with plenty of ground vegetation and flowering shrubs.

Emu - in abundance around here
About Emmdale we saw large numbers of Emu, Red Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo, along with unusually good numbers of Blue Bonnets. We had a lively evening in the roadhouse bar that evening.

For our only full day here, it rained continuously, and often heavily; this was the first time on the trip that we were confined to our camper trailer by rain. Brief forays about during rain spells turned up Chesnut-rumped Thornbill and Mulga Parrot but not much else; Yellow-throated Miner, Apostlebird and White-winged Chough were common.

Emmdale - Joys of camping in the rain
We headed east to Cobar, seeing Spotted Bowerbird there while we lunched.

Spotted Bowerbird
We had planned to camp in Gundabooka National Park for a three-night stay but the rains closed all roads, so we threw darts at a map and ended up at the Four Mile Campground, just outside Brewarrina. We were right on the banks of the Barwon River here, so very nice, and free camping. Large flocks of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo were along the river.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo 

Barwon River - from our camp near Brewarrina
Birds on the floodplains and in surrounding scrubs include Red-rumped Parrot, Brown Treeecreeper, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Restless Flycatcher, White-winged Triller and 4 species of woodswallow - White-breasted, Black-faced, Masked and White-browed. Night birds calling were Southern Boobook, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Tawny Frogmouth and Eastern Barn Owl. Kathy saw a single Pink Cockatoo along the river. Also of interest have been a couple of Pale-headed Rosellas - I would have thought well outside their range limit.

Brown Treecreeper
We had a morning checking out some roadside woodlands around Brewarrina. Birds included Red-winged Parrot, Red-capped Robin, Cockatiel, Blue Bonnet, Pallid Cuckoo, Chesnut-rumped Thornbill and White-winged Fairy-wren. A few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-capped Plovers were on a small irrigation dam.

Pallid Cuckoo

Cockatiel




Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Around Oz Part 37 - Mildura & Broken Hill: Redthroat, Chirruping Wedgebill, Flowers and Sculptures in the Desert

Redthroat
Following our visit to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (see previous post) we moved on to Mildura for two days at the Palms Caravan Park on the edge of town. Mildura is a hotspot for all things River Murray – irrigation; paddle steamers (some build 120+ years ago and still in service); those grand red gums linings its banks. We visited various spots including old homesteads, Loch II, the wharf area, Kings Billabong (most impressive and looking like a great place to camp), Etiwandi Wetlands (totally unimpressive) and Red Cliffs. Mildura is a nice town with lots of character.

Murray River paddle steamer

Murray River - Red Cliffs
I checked out some of the Murray River wetlands around town but nothing of interest, though I had the first Red-rumped Parrots of the trip. We headed north from Mildura to Wentworth, where we saw the confluence of the Darling and Murray rivers, then on to Broken Hill for a two-night stay in the Lake View Caravan Park.

Murrary and Darling Rivers meet at Wetnworth
The park is on the eastern fringe of Broken Hill, a town with a rich historic and artistic heritage. Broken Hill once boasted 60 pubs but we struggled to find one open on a Sunday night, ending up at the quaintly named Democratic Workers Club.

Early in the morning I searched some of the bluebush-acacia woodlands in the hills on the edge of town. It was nice to see Chirruping Wedgebill seemingly everywhere.

Chirruping Wedgebill

Chirruping Wedgebill
Then I found a magnificent male Redthroat, a species I had failed previously to get a decent snap of. I also saw a male Black Honeyeater briefly. There were also plenty of Rufous Songlark about.


Redthroat

Redthroat
We visited Sculptures and the Living Desert Sanctuary, 12km from town. This is a collection of sculptures of varying quality from artists around the world sitting atop an imposing hill in the middle of the desert; definitely worth a visit.

Broken Hill nestles in the desert

Sculptures & The Living Desert Sanctuary
Emu, Zebra Finch and Budgerigar were here, as well as Euro and Central Australian Bearded Dragon.
Central Australian Bearded Dragon

Euro
We dropped in on the Broken Hill Synagogue Museum, a stately building with a lady manager who talks way too much, and the Minerals Museum.

Old Broken Hill Synagogue

 No sign of drought in this neck of the woods. Again, the arid woodlands are ablaze with wildflowers.

Wildflowers aplenty about Broken Hill
Among the wildflowers were some patches of iconic Sturt's Desert Pea growing in depressions beside a railway line.

Sturt's Desert Pea

On our last morning I birded about 15 km out on the Wilcannia Road. I saw more Redthroats and Chirruping Wedgebills along with Red-capped Robin, Crimson Chat, loads of Rufous Songlarks, Southern Whiteface and the first Chesnut-crowned Babblers of the trip. 

Southern Whiteface

Chesnut-croswned Babbler

Friday, 19 September 2014

Around Oz Part 36 - Victoria's Mallee: Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

Malleefowl
Following our visit to Adelaide (see previous post) we moved eastwards across the South Australian border to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in north-west Victoria. I had been to Hattah several times but not to our destination this time for a three-night stay – Lake Mournpull camping ground.

Mallee - Hattah-Kulkyne 
Due to Murray River flooding for environmental management, most major roads in Hattah (and the main camping ground at Lake Hattah) were closed so we had to get there via the somewhat rickety Konardin Track. It was fortunate that the store owner in the roadside hamlet of Hattah knew this, because there was nothing on Victorian National Parks websites to indicate it.

Flooded River Red Gum
The camping ground is nicely laid out around the shores of Lake Mournpull, now extensively flooded. The cost here, however, of $30 a night for an unpowered site with no facilities but a pit toilet is manifestly excessive by interstate standards.

Great Crested Grebe
The first afternoon I hiked a bit of the Mournpull Track. Displaying pairs of Great Crested Grebe were in the water about the campsite and Yellow (Crimson) Rosellas were common.
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Yellow Rosella
Other birds noted included Nankeen Night-Heron, Pink Cockatoo, Mulga Parrot, Inland Thornbill, Chesnut-rumped Thornbill, Splendid Fairy-wren, Red-capped Robin, Southern Whiteface, White-eared Honeyeater and White-browed Babbler.  There were lots of frogs calling, although the nights were cold.

Splended Fairy-wren

Mulga Parrot male
Mulga Parrot female

Pink Cockatoo
The first morning we hiked the Warepil Lookout circuit together and I repeated the walk later in the morning. Fresh tracks from Malleefowl were seen but no birds. Birds about included Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Spotted (Yellow-rumped) Pardalote, White-winged Triller, Pallid Cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo.

Spotted (Yellow-rumped) Pardalote
In the afternoon I walked a few kilometres up the Konardin Track; extras for the local list included Jacky Winter, Hooded Robin and Brown Treecreeper. We are again plagued by heavy winds during the day which severely limits the ability to find stuff.

Malleefowl tracks
On the second morning I left early for a 16-km hike, heading west up the Konardin Track to Nowingi Track, then south to the Old Calder Highway and back to the camp ground via Warepil Lookout. Along Konardin I found fresh Malleefowl tracks which had crossed my boot prints from the afternoon before. Then along Nowingi Track I had a Malleefowl scratching about just 20m from me. It did not seem too perturbed by my presence as I watched it for about 20 minutes; this was the same area where I had previously seen Mallee Emu-wren. I've seen Malleefowl 3 or 4 times previously but this was my closest encounter.

Malleefowl

Malleefowl

Malleefowl
I also a single Chesnut Quail-Thrush, at the junction of Nowingi and the Old Calder. Other birds for the local list today include White-fronted Honeyeater and Little Crow, while Emu and a nice flock of Regent Parrots were about the camp ground. Hattah is renowned for its variety of parrots.

Regent Parrot

Regent Parrot
White-eared Honeyeater
The sole quail-thrush and malleefowl aside, I’ve not seen or heard other terrestrial specialties of the region on this trip - Southern Scrub-Robin, Mallee Emu-wren, Striated Grasswren, Shy Heath-wren. Although mid-September, it is cold and birds generally are quiet; it could be that they are still in winter behaviour mode. However, I would have expected more encounters; I’ve seen these species on previous visits to Hattah. It has been suggested that grasswrens and other small terrestrial birds in South Australia have suffered as a result of an explosion of feral cat numbers in recent years - due to a series of good weather seasons in southern inland Australia.
Cat paw imprint - Hattah
It has also been suggested that cat numbers have increased in south-west Western Australia due to the success of fox control programs in reserves such as Dryandra; the assumption is that foxes are efficient predators of kittens. This may be why the endangered Brush-tailed Bettong and Numbat have declined in recent years at Dryandra and elsewhere after initially doing well in response to the fox control measures.

Certainly I saw plenty of fresh cat paw marks on the trails at Hattah, as indeed I did at Dryandra and other reserves we visited recently in South Australia and Western Australia.

On the last morning I walked part of the Mournpull Track, encountering an excellent pair of Gilbert's Whistlers; this is another species I would have expected to see more of.

Gilbert's Whistler

Gilbert's Whistler