Thursday, June 14, 2012

Western NSW & VIC - May 2012 - Part 1

Nankeen Kestrel
After visiting family in Griffith my wife and I headed to Tibooburra in the far North West of NSW. We had planned to spend a few days camped in Sturt NP and then head north to Thargomindah and Bowra before heading home. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and prematurely cut our visit to one day. The forecast heavy rain forced a change of plan, so we headed south to Hattah-Kulkyne NP in Victoria.
On our way to our first stop at Lake Cargelligo we were amazed at the number of birds of prey seen. These included big numbers of Black shouldered Kites and Nankeen Kestrels. Also seen were Black Kites, Swamp Harriers, Whistling Kites and Wedge-tailed Eagles.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos
Traveling out west always brings the delight of seeing a number of parrot species with Blue Bonnets, Australian Ringnecks, Red Rumps, Cockatiels and Mulga Parrots all seen. We were however pleasantly surprised to see two small feeding groups of the normally elusive Major Mitchell's Cockatoos. At a morning tea stop in Rankin Springs we saw Spiny-cheeked, Blue-faced and Singing Honeyeaters having fun in flowering eucalypt.
We made Lake Cargelligo in time to check out the Sewage Treatment works.  My last visit had been very productive, so I was a little disappointed at the lack of crakes and other birds seen, then again it was a quick visit in winter. Some of the birds that did make an appearance included:
White-winged Fairy-wren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Zebra Finch, Pink-eared Duck, Grey Teal, Australian Shelduck, Australasian Grebe, Hoary-Grebe, Brown Goshawk, Little Eagle and Whistling Kite.
The next morning it was an early start and a visit to Round Hill NR., in particular the old wheat field area. Not surprisingly for this time of year there wasn't a lot about although White-fronted Honeyeaters  and Southern Scrub-robins  made an appearance. Also seen were Australian Ringneck and Common Bronzewing.
Off on the road again  for a long drive to White Cliffs. Not much to report other than the big number of water birds and the accompanying birds of prey on the flood plains around Wilcannia.

Little Eagle
We stayed at the surprisingly well  appointed White Cliffs camping ground where a number of Singing Honeyeaters kept us entertained. If the light wasn't failing I would have gone after a Hooded Robin that I'd seen over the fence.
The next day after a long and dusty drive we arrived at Dead Horse Gully camping ground in Sturt NP. On prior visits we had neglected the fantastic scenery of the granites, so it was off for a sunset walk around these wonderful rock formations. The next morning we headed off towards Olive Downs on the Silver city highway. From past visits I knew this was a great road from which to photograph Wedge-tailed Eagles. There are no are very few trees, so they perch on prominent rocks, Another plus is that there is a big number of  Wedge-tailed Eagle present always ready to take advantage of any fresh road kill.

White-fronted Honeyeater
After spending an hour or so photographing the Wedge-tails we continued on to Olive Downs and then onto the Jump-up Loop Track. Not much bird life about on the plateau, however this changed as we entered the plains below and in particular around the water courses and dams. There were good sized flocks of Masked Wood Swallows and Budgies about, along with plenty of birds of prey, in particular kestrels. One of my prime motivations for visiting this area was to improve my pitiful Gibberbird images, alas plenty of Pipits, but no Gibberbirds. Soon we reached one of my favourite sites in the park, South Myers Tank. We were immediately struck by the high water level. During our last visit there were islands in he middle of the dam and muddy margins, these were all now flooded.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
There were still birds about, however the numbers were down on the last time we visited. No Cinnamon Quail-thrush or Flock Pigeons, however the White-winged Fairy-wrens were still about.
Rain was threatening so we made a rapid retreat south to Broken Hill, with plans to head south into Victoria.

Part 2.  Hattah-Kulkyne National Park and the Murrumbidgee River.