Sunday, October 14, 2012

Avisford Reserve


Double-barred Finch

Avisford Nature Reserve is on the south west corner of Mudgee, with new housing developments moving closer every day. Accessed via Waterworks Road, it covers an area of 2,437 hectares and includes Redbank Creek Dam, which was built in 1899 as a water supply for Mudgee but now does not hold water, apart from a small weir pond at the entrance.

Avisford Nature Reserve protects areas of relatively high ridgelands typified by steep
sloping gullies and hills with open forest and woodlands. These ridgelands provide habitat for diverse fauna and flora populations. The Reserve contains the Capertee stringybark, a tree with a limited geographical range, and seven animal species listed as vulnerable.

A comprehensive fauna survey was completed by the NPWS during July 2002. The area is a particularly diverse refuge for avifauna with the NPWS Atlas of NSW Wildlife listing 161 diurnal bird species as being recorded either in the Reserve or within 10 kilometres of the Reserve. Species from the families Acanthizidae (scrub wrens, thornbills and warblers) and Muscicapidae (flycatchers, robins and allies) are most common and include the Whitebrowed Scrub Wren (Sericornis frontalis), Weebill (Smicrornis brevirostris), Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus) and Jacky Winter (Microeca leucophaea). These species tend to frequent moister and more open lower slope or gully forests (white box – apple box alluvial or blue leaved stringybark open forest sites). The honeyeaters (family Meliphagidae) are another particularly diverse group frequently recorded within the Reserve and include the White-eared Honeyeater (Lichenostomus leucotis), Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) and White-naped Honeyeater (Melithreptus lunatus). Nocturnal bird species including the Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) and Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) are also present in the Reserve.

No dogs allowed, so we made a couple of short visits in the cool of the morning and evening when we could leave the dogs in the car. On arrival in the late afternoon a group of Glossy Black Cockatoos flew over screeching. Double-barred finches and Red-browed Finches enjoyed the last of the sun, Superb Fairywren and White-browed Scrub Wrens twittered from the undergrowth. A young Grey Butcherbird practiced its vocalisations. It took us a moment to identify a Common Blackbird, an ‘undocumented immigrant’ that we don’t see often around our way. Noisy Friarbirds, Eastern Spinebills and White-naped Honeyeaters represented the Meliphagidae.


White-naped Honeyeater

Next morning we were greeted by the call of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo. The tiny birds were out in abundance: Silvereyes, Red-browed and Double-barred Finches, Striated Thornbills and the Fairywrens and Scrubwrens.


Walking along the creek bed, I had a Spotted Pardalote fly out of a burrow almost at my head. It perched glaring at me until I moved away. A number of Red Wattlebirds played a noisy game, and Pied Currawongs swooped and called through the upper branches. Rufous Whistlers added their song to the mix.


A pair of Galahs worked at enlarging a hole.

It will be interesting to see how the reserve develops under National Parks administration. At the moment it is fairly overrun by feral animals: rabbits, goats and foxes are common. In the middle of the year someone cut down over one-hundred trees in the reserve. But it is safe from leashed dogs.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rylstone Weir


Rylstone Weir is a large lake on the Cudgegong River that supplies water to
Rylstone and Kandos. The track to the weir is on the northeastern edge of Rylstone. From central Rylstone, take Louee St to the north edge of town just before the bridge. Turn right into Dabee St, then left into Tongbong St which turns right and becomes Rylstone Dam Rd. Take this to the top of the rise and park along the side of the road near the locked gate. The pedestrian gate gives access to the track that winds up to the weir, and continues on to the headland on the far side.

A pair of raptors were circling and calling in the distance, and White-Browed Scrub Wrens and Superb Fairywrens scolded from the scrub. Rabbits broke from cover as we passed, and Wombat scat littered the path.

On the near side of the lake thick reeds and high grass made it difficult to see birds close by, but out on the water were Great Crested Grebe, Musk Duck, Darter, Black Swan, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Maned Duck and Pacific Black Duck. Reed Warblers could be heard, but not seen.

Tree Martins and Welcome Swallows buzzed the water in a search for insects.


Paddling across the stream in bare feet, we headed up the hill where we were more on a level with the treetops. There were many White-plumed Honeyeaters, one tending a neatly woven nest.

Eastern Yellow Robin were also plentiful, and similarly seemed to be tending nests in the low shrubs.


A Brown Treecreeper circled the tree trunks.


In the distance a Little Eagle soared, harried by smaller birds, but never coming close.

Birds that we saw, but only managed record shots, or no shots at all were an Azure Kingfisher, a flash of blue over the river; a pair of Sacred Kingfishers investigating a hollow high in a dead tree, an Olive-Backed Oriole resting briefly in high branches; two White-browed Babblers who called from within the blackberries before fleeing to the far side of the fence line; a Fuscous Honeyeater hawking for insects; Willie Wagtails; Noisy Miners; White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike and Black-Faced Cuckoo-Shrike; Rufous Whistler; Laughing Kookaburra; Crested Pigeon; Grey Shrike-thrush; Australian Magpie; Magpie-lark; and Peaceful Dove.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

TSR #21 Mudgee


The travelling stock route and reserves network (TSR network) in New South Wales and Queensland is an extensive network of public land that was established for the droving of sheep and cattle during early European colonisation, often along traditional Aboriginal pathways through the landscape. Travelling stock routes are roads along which livestock can legally be driven, and usually have wide verges on which cattle can graze. Travelling stock reserves include stock routes as well as fenced areas for camping with or watering stock overnight. Because TSRs have remained publicly owned and generally have not been cleared, many protect remnants of woodland vegetation in the otherwise highly-cleared wheat and sheep farming belts.

The administration of NSW TSRs is complex, and differs between the geographic divisions of the state. In the west the TSRs are leased by private landholders with the condition that they provide access to travelling stock. In the east the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities currently oversee management, the collection of rates and the movement of stock, and are under increasing pressure to provide a clear economic case for the value of TSRs under their care. A range of uses are permitted including picnicking and walking, but this varies from reserve to reserve. There is a concern that some TSRs may be sold to neighbouring land holders, leading to the further break-up of the TSR network, loss of access for current users and the probable loss of key network functions. The TSR Network also faces a range of other threats, including overgrazing, invasive species, firewood collection, and mining.

Travelling Stock Reserves, with remnant vegetation and permanent water, play an important role in protecting bird species whose habitat has been reduced by broad scale farming.

Declining songbirds of the NSW sheep-wheat belt:
Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus
Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittata
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza uropygialis
Southern Whiteface Aphelocephala leucopsis
Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis
White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus superciliosus
Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera
Crested Shrike-tit Falcunculus frontatus
Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris
Crested Bellbird Oreoica gutteralis
Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta
Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans
Red-capped Robin Petroica goodenovii
Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata
Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis
Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata

To get to Travelling Stock Reserve #21 head out of Mudgee towards Gulgong on the Castlereagh Highway. Pass Cullenbone Lane on the left and the TSR is on the right 0.7km further on, just before the crest of a hill. Driving over the crest there is a driveway on the left where you can safely turn to come back to the gate. Close the gate as there may be stock in the reserve. The track down to the river is rough but easily negotiated in 2WD. 


Striated Pardalote


Eastern Rosellas


Red-Browed Finch


Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos


Surrounding Area



Headed to Mudgee along the Golden Highway I pulled into the rest area at Cassilis, a good spot for a leg stretch for both myself and Dusty, and a place where I always seem to find interesting birds – including once a pair of Red-winged Parrots. It didn’t disappoint this time with a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling above and White-winged Choughs chattering on the ground.


A group of Red-rumped Parrots flew up into the trees as we walked joining the Galahs. I could hear Thornbills high above.

Driving on to the point marking the top of the Great Dividing Range at 692 metres elevation, I spotted a baby Channel-billed Cuckoo perched on a branch overhanging the road, and risked life and limb to snap a photo.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Woy Woy

Woy Woy is probably best know for its most famous visitor, Spike Milligan, whose family moved to Woy Woy in the 1950s. Milligan apparently quipped “Woy it is called Woy Woy oy’ll never know” and tourists delight in repeating the phrase to anyone they catch standing still. Milligan also said that Woy Woy was "the largest above ground cemetery in the world" but that is less often repeated. My interest was sparked by the fact that from Woy Woy you can look onto Ramsay Island to see the local Pelican rookery, and watch the courtship rituals on the water.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blackalls Bay





Made the most of the sunshine yesterday to visit Burge Road reserve, Blackalls Bay, Woy Woy from where you can look out to Ramsay Island where there is Pelican rookery. While there were a few baby pelicans being fed, adults were still courting in spectacular fashion – but more of that later. The Strangler Figs along the foreshore path were full of birds including Red Wattlebirds, Little Wattlebirds, Noisy Miners and the Green Figbirds that I tried to capture eating the fruit.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lees Reserve



There was a cloud of these little finches feeding on grass seeds, unfortunately on the far side of a drainage ditch so I couldn’t get close.  Known here as the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, they are also called Chestnut-breasted Munia. Typical finches, their feeding antics are fun to watch – they tend to perch on the grass stalks rather than find dropped seed on the ground.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lakes Beach

There are always large groups of Australian Raven foraging on the off-leash dog beach, but if I’d thought about it at all, I would have assumed they were collecting bits of organic matter that had come in on the tide.

This morning I picked up after Dusty, and then left the bright blue bag to be picked up when we re-traced our steps. On the way back to the car, however, there were bird footprints around the bag, it was torn open and the contents were gone. Who knew?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Soldiers Point

I regularly see Australian Gannets out to sea from the rocks at Soldiers Point, but had the luck to have three circling above me as I waited for the red-capped plovers to forget about me and come closer. (They never did but that may have been because of my antics in capturing gannet images.)


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Soldiers Point


The Australian (or Nankeen) Kestrel is Australia's smallest falcon and probably the one most people are familiar with. It is often seen on roadside power lines or hovering above sports fields looking for mammals, insects and reptiles.  Once they have their prey in sight, they plunge head first toward the ground, pulling out of their dive at the last moment to strike with their feet.

Kestrels have specially adapted eyes which enable them to see ultra violet light.  This ability allows them to see scent and urine trails which are invisible to humans, and gives them the advantage when hunting to know where to expect to find their prey.



This bird was hovering off the side of the bluff at Soldiers Point. Fishermen had driven away all the shorebirds so I was headed home when I saw him from the carpark. Great to get shots from this point of view, rather than my usual belly shots.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chain Valley Bay


It was a day for the little birds when we walked along the firetrail in Chain Valley bay. A group of Varied Sitellas were peering under the branches looking for insects.


A Rose Robin kept lookout high in the trees, while Spotted Pardalotes dashed around in the canopy.


Golden Whistlers sang, Superb Fairywrens scolded from the shrubs and Eastern Spinebills chased each other and gleaned insects from the bark of the eucalypts.


Hunter Wetlands Centre


On my way back to Uni at lunchtime I stopped in at Nourish at the wetlands to kill two birds with one stone – if that is not an inappropriate expression to use here. While the facilities for humans continue to improve, and it is a very pleasant lunch spot for anyone wishing to re-charge before the afternoon onslaught, it seems to now be primarily a refuge for Australian White Ibis. The stupid birds took to the air in vast noisy flocks as I approached within 200m taking with them the birds I was hoping to see.

There were good numbers of ducks, including:




Pacific Black Duck


Wandering Whistling ducks and Chestnut Teal



Wandered along the new concrete path beside the lake on a beautiful evening, with just a sufficient chill in the air to make walking pleasant. I was mildly resentful of the “fair weather” walkers that now crowd the path – when it was a muddy goat track we had it to ourselves. Never mind, another week or two and they’ll all disappear indoors.

I didn’t take a lot of photos, but the pelicans always reward the effort. Most of the images I got are begging to be in a caption competition – “Your rejection gets me, right here!”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Toukley, NSW


Having my cup of tea in the garden this morning with my camera in my lap I was surprised by a grey butcherbird who flew in to take some spiders from the bromeliads.  I don’t think of the broms as bird-attracting, but the noisy miners take nectar from the flowers and a friend who lives near the wetland has egrets regularly helping themselves to the frogs nestled in the fronds.

My target was the lorikeets – more to sharpen my reflexes than because I wanted more photos of them. They may be approaching pest proportions in the suburbs, but they certainly are colourful and highly entertaining.



Sunday, April 29, 2012

Goolawah Regional Park


From top to bottom: Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Square-tailed Kite.

In 2010 Goolawah State Park was re-designated Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park, and the campground I’ve been visiting for some years with my dogs became part of the national park. The Regional Park is a 60 acre strip between the road and the beach, with the national park to the north and Limeburners Creek National Park forming its southern edge.

Given that Australia has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world with two thirds of families having a pet we have some of the most restrictive laws controlling them. I’ve always been entertained by the fact that I can have my dog with me in the five-star Trump International Hotel on the strip in Las Vegas, but not in most local caravan parks. At the tail end of the Easter holidays there were around a dozen families with their dogs at Goolawah. In addition to the general rules governing dog ownership in NSW under the Companion Animals Act, at the Park dogs must be desexed and confined at night. There was one dog that wandered about, a half-grown pup whose owners spent a lot of time in the surf, but it didn’t cause any problems and the other fifteen or so dogs ran and swam with their owners on the beach and collapsed tired and happy beside the campfires of an evening. One family have been staying here for four weeks every May for forty years, always with their dog, including their current pet Joe – a wonderful big guy never far from his owner’s knee.

Birds were plentiful, including doves, ducks and quail at ground level, along with snakes and lizards.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Blue Mountains


I have done a number of day trips with Follow That Bird which I have always thoroughly enjoyed. Well organised, the trips take in the best spots for the time of year, and with knowledgeable guides and an interesting bunch of people a great day’s birding is guaranteed. We were picked up by the bus at Killara after a foggy drive for me down the F3. But as we waited the fog started to lift. I was a little chastened to realise that we all immediately recognised each other as birders: a certain age, wearing muted colours, sensible shoes and a shady hat – even with the bins slung around necks or suspended from high tech harnesses.

Yesterday our destination was the Blue Mountains to observe the autumn honeyeater migration.

On the way out of town we saw the usual urban birds:

  1. Common Myna
  2. White Ibis
  3. Magpie Lark
  4. Welcome Swallow
  5. Australian Magpie
  6. Feral Pigeon
  7. Little Corella
  8. Laughing Kookaburra
  9. Noisy Miner
  10. Rainbow Lorikeet


First stop was Wilson Park in Wentworth Falls, the trailhead for the Charles Darwin Walk. Here we picked up our guide Carol Probets, an acknowledged expert in the birds of the region. From the park we also had good views of the migrating birds heading up the valley and pausing to rest on the dead trees. The fact that the birds migrate during the day and at tree-top level make them a relatively easy spectacle to observe.

The majority of the birds are Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. As I wrote in the Wikipedia article on the species, while there are resident populations of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater throughout its range, it is for the most part a seasonal, latitudinal, daytime migrant. During the autumn (March to May) it migrates north along the highlands and coastal fringe of eastern Australia to southern Queensland, to return in the spring (August to October) of the same year. The birds commonly move in flocks of 10 to 100 birds, but occasionally in larger groups of up to 1,000 or more birds. They move in successive flocks at a rate of up to several thousand birds an hour. Near Hastings Point in New South Wales over 100,000 passed through in a single day.

The species is able to detect geomagnetic fields and uses them to navigate while migrating. Experiments where the vertical component of the magnetic field was reversed indicate that the magnetic compass of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater is based on the inclination of the field lines and not on polarity, distinguishing between the direction of the equator and the poles, rather than north and south. While their flight is in one general direction, it is not in a straight line as the flocks stay in vegetated areas, negotiate gaps in the mountain ranges and detour around cities.

The migration of many birds in Australia, including honeyeaters, has generally been described as occurring mainly in response to external environmental stimuli, such as food availability or an influx of water. However, the Yellow-faced Honeyeater has been found to have a broad range of characteristics which are consistent with the adaptations of Northern Hemisphere migrants to their mobile lifestyle: an annual cycle of migratory restlessness; seasonally appropriate orientation based on magnetic, solar and polarised light cues; and a migration program based on the magnetic inclination compass.


We stopped for morning tea at Katoomba Falls Reserve. While the contact call of the Yellow-faced Honeyeater was with us almost continuously, also flying overhead were:

  • White-naped Honeyeater,
  • Noisy Friarbird
  • Silvereye
  • Striated Pardalote
  • Spotted Pardalote

Young Red Wattlebirds fended for themselves in the trees around our picnic spot.


Other birds we observed over our tea cups were:

  • Pied Currawong
  • Galah
  • Crimson Rosella
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo


The honeyeaters are channelled into narrow flyways by the peaks and valleys of the Blue Mountains – one of the narrowest of which is at Narrowneck. The bus parked before the Golden Stairs and we walked along the track towards the locked gate at the top of the rise. Highlights here were:

  • Beautiful Firetail
  • Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
  • White-naped Honeyeater
  • Yellow-faced Honeyeater
  • Golden Whistler
  • Grey Shrike-thrush
  • Silvereye



Last stop for the day for lunch and a walk was Govetts Leap. BIrds came to us as we ate our sandwiches:

  • Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
  • Grey Fantail
  • Eastern Yellow Robin
  • Eastern Whipbird
  • Bell Miner
  • Eastern Spinebill
  • Brown Thornbill
  • White-throated Treecreeper
  • Wedge-tailed Eagle
  • Crimson Rosella
  • Spotted Pardalote



Walking out along the loop track brought close-up looks at:

  • Australian Raven
  • New-holland Honeyeater
  • Yellow-faced Honeyeater
  • Striated Thornbill






  • Mountain Devil
  • Hairpin Banksia



All round a great day.