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.