Pilliga Forest Birdwatchers Outing to Sandstone Caves 19 June 2021

It started out a very wet day. In fact when Garnett and I arrived at No 1 Break, it was raining so much that we turned around and came home. By that time, about 8 o'clock, the sun was coming out so we jumped in the car and arrived, I suppose about 9.30. Fortunately our Group was still there and had not departed for our lunch time site down on the Creek. Four of our best Birdos were there, John, Margaret, Helen and Bruce. We were able to join them for a cup of coffee then we all trooped down together.

The Caves are usually a rather quiet spot. We usually depend on our lunch site to give us a decent bird list. BUT John was quietly poking about the car park when he heard a bird call that did not seem to belong there. He has wonderful hearing so he was looking and following a rather different call. He found it, we did not have to look for a "Bird of the Day".

We had never recorded it on a bird outing, in fact, we did not have it listed. I suppose you would like to know what it was. It was a Scarlet Honeyeater. John got a photo of it for the rest of us so we could not argue with him.

He tells me that it is still hanging around and others have seen it. Michael will be saying that he had a small flock of them at the Gilgais but this is the first chance we have had of getting them on our record books. Thank you John, for being such a proficient bird watcher. Thank you to Michael for sharing the sighting of the Gilgais birds as you always do. So the six of us headed off to our lunch site with a list of 33 birds including a Scarlet Honeyeater. The Sandstone Caves excelled themselves with the 33 recordings and the Bird of the Day and the weather managed to produce a decent afternoon as long as we kept our tables in the sun.

We recorded another 28 birds down there without any Hooded Robins unfortunately. Perhaps they will return in the spring to breed.

Now we had 61 sightings for the day with 44 separate birds for the Caves leaving 17 double sightings for the two regions leaving 43 recorded for the Sandstone Caves.

Here is the list: Wedge tailed Eagle, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreeper, Superb Fairy Wren, Spotted Pardalote, Striated Pardalote, Speckled Warbler, Western Gerygone, White-throated Gerygone, Inland Thornbill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Weebill, Noisy Friarbird, Noisy Miner, Scarlet Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Red-capped Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Varied Sittella, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Magpie-lark, Australian Raven, Australian Magpie, Apostlebird, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, Silvereye.

It seems to me that the birds were there down by the creek but were not so very particular in showing themselves. Margaret and I were standing together at one stage and on looking up several Thornbills appeared confining themselves to the thick foliage of the trees. They were Inland Thornbills accompanied by a Pardalote or two, Spotted, I think. Just a reminder that they don't make it easy all the time. Sometimes you have to do a bit of work to find them.

Best Wishes and Happy Birding, David and Shirley

TBW visit to Tamworth Mountain Bike Park Tuesday June 22

Despite a cool start, the day soon warmed up to a pleasant 18 degrees. We are fortunate to have access to the picnic area by car for those who prefer to drive down the hill – many thanks to the management of the mountain bike club. We left Geoff Mitchell at the picnic area, wandered past kids having fun on pushbikes and wandered around the flatter section of the area. As usual, the birds were a little sparse in numbers – they all seem to like making us work by heading for higher ground.

After morning tea, we took the Yuundu Warruwi Cultural Trail which follows the creek up the hill. It took quite a bit of discussion before we could agree that the LBB hiding behind the vegetation in the gully was a Reedwarbler left behind by his migrating friends. It was a very pleasant contrast to our previous outing to the venue – rain makes such a difference!

Birds recorded included three vulnerable species. Printed in italics

Crested Pigeon, White-faced Heron, Black Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Galah, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Brown Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Striated Pardalote, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Torresian Crow, Magpie-lark, Australian Reed-Warbler, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, Diamond Firetail.

Terri Mower

TBW visit to Reserve at Windmill Downs 13 July 2021

Nine of us gathered for an outing at Windmill Downs on a rather chilly morning. We had intermittent sun, but it wasn’t enough to warm either us or the birds! This is an area of great future potential as there has been a lot of tree planting around a string of dams that follow the gully down through the development. This was our second visit here.

The first car to arrive disturbed a flock of 25 Crested Pigeons and they were continually seen throughout the morning. Most of our birds were seen before morning tea, as we wandered around the higher dams. Surprisingly there was nothing much on the dams themselves – a Pacific Black Duck and an Australasian Grebe, plus Australian Wood Ducks and a pair of Masked Lapwings grazing nearby.

A lot of the shrubby plantings had succumbed during the drought, but there was still enough shelter for Superb Fairy-wrens, as well as Zebra and Double-barred Finches. Yellow-rumped Thornbills were also nearby and a Grey Fantail put in an appearance to keep Terri happy! A lone Straw-necked Ibis was seen above the newest dams.

Galahs were common and a family of Eastern Rosellas sported their bright colours. Red-rumped Parrots were also there, but they were nearly overlooked because their colours merged in so well with the grass. A group of Apostlebirds entertained us at one point.

After morning tea, we moved further down the reserve, but only added a few birds, the best being Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes. A Corvid put in an appearance – probably an Australian Raven. It was time to head home and get warm.

Our birdlist was as follows:- Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Straw-necked Ibis, Masked Lapwing, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Galah, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Superb Fairy-wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, White-plumed Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Common Starling, Common Myna, Zebra Finch, Double-barred Finch

Annabel Ashworth

Pilliga Forest Birdwatchers Visit Ruins Road Dam 17 July 2021

When Garnett and I arrived Bruce had a good fire going and that was very welcome at almost any time of the day. John, May, Vanessa, Michael were also there which gave us seven all up and that is how it remained. The Dam was nicely full but not over the road as it can be if over full. Not many water birds, just a couple of Australian Wood Ducks and an Australasian Grebe. I would have settled for a Hoary-headed Grebe but Michael and John talked me out of it declaring it to be a Juvenile Australasian. Their eyes are younger than mine so I didn't make much of a fight.

As I have mentioned before this is one of my most favoured spots in the Pilliga, My first association with the area goes back to the 1990s when a big beautiful habitat ironbark overlooked the western bank. The 1990's summer fire caught the upper hollows and reduced it to a big black hollow stump full of dirt and no doubt the home of many small bush creatures. It stood there for many years dominating that side of the dam, a reminder of the horrors of summer fires. But still offering a birth place for many forms of forest wildlife, even in its stricken state. I drove out there the winter before last to find the big stump on fire. The Forest Incorporate had Hazard reduced the area. A courageous old tree at last fully destroyed.

Is fire the answer to saving the forest from summer fires? We must find ways of stopping these fires in the first place. Now I have my little bit of sad history, I had better bring you back to the present.

The crew spent a fair bit of time wandering about were generally satisfied to come back to Bruce's fire. It was that sort of day and the birds were in warm spots out of sight, well, we saw 32 for the day, being: Australian Wood Duck. Australasian Grebe, Eastern Rosella, White-throated Treecreeper,

Variegated Fairy Wren, Spotted Pardalote, Striated Pardalote, Speckled Warbler, Inland Thornbill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Weebill, Noisy Friarbird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, Red-capped Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-browed Babbler, Varied Sittella, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Grey Fantail, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey Butcherbird, Magpie-lark, Pied Currawong, Australian Raven. Nothing there to get madly excited about. And we have had our last winter outing, with a very promising spring coming up. By that time, something after 11 o'clock, we were all sitting neatly spaced round the fire, somebody said "it would be warmer in the car" So home we went.

Next month we will be very civilised. We go to the Warrumbungle NP.

Best Wishes and Happy birding.

David and Shirley

TBW Visit to the Property of Richard and Geraldine Austin 27 July 2021

After a run of very cold, windy weather we were pleased to have a lovely day for a visit to the Austins’ property, just out of town. They met us at their front gate and led us on a lovely walk down into a valley behind their home, then back to the cars by a different track. The track was up and down hill through timbered country and was muddy in patches – still a rather rare experience for us.

Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of birds to start off with and the highlight was seeing six Striated Pardalote feeding in one tree. We are used to seeing them singly or in pairs. An Olive-backed Oriole was also a good sighting. At the highest point we were able to see the back of the adjoining Bike Track, another place we like to visit. Weebills and Yellow Thornbills put in an appearance and the wildflowers here and there diverted the attention of the more botanically minded group members.

After morning tea back at the cars, two people absconded to look at the Austins’ Spinifex Hopping Mice, whilst the rest of us moved into the adjacent reserve. We began to find some interesting birds. Fuscous and Brown-headed Honeyeaters (a new bird for at least two people) were good to see, as was the Speckled Warbler. A Yellow-rumped Thornbill was busy carrying nesting material to its nest in a pepper tree and a female Golden Whistler and Diamond Firetails were also seen in this area. We thought we heard Fairy-wrens too, but as we were unable to find them, they are not included here.

A very pleasant morning concluded with a few of us wandering around the extensive native plantings that Richard and Geraldine are responsible for. When these plants mature they should provide good habitat for smaller birds. A big thankyou to the Austins for making us so welcome.

We recorded the following birds:-

Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Little Pied Cormorant, Black Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Speckled Warbler, Weebill, Yellow Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote, White-plumed Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Red Wattlebird, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Golden Whistler (female), Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Double-barred Finch and Diamond Firetail.

Annabel Ashworth

TBW Saturday Outing – 31st July 2021

Murrurundi to Wallabadah Loop

Granite boulders and sub-tropical bush surrounded us as we shared our sightings at Bird Call. About half the group had undertaken the more strenuous walk up to the “Eye of the Needle”. The remainder of us explored the edge environment of the lower parts of Paradise Park. We didn’t see the Tawny Frogmouths that Chris and I saw on our reconnaissance trip, but Beth did hear their soft low oom-oom-oom call at the Golf Course end of the picnic area.

The plan on today’s TBW Saturday Outing was to explore some of the TSRs on the western side of the New England Highway, so after Bird Call we travelled west from Murrurundi, then looped back east to Wallabadah.

There was a bright yellow patchwork of wattles in heavy blossom as we crossed the Liverpool Range at Nowlands Gap. We then left the highway and travelled slowly along Swinging Ridges Road west of Ardglen. A group of frisky cattle soon joined us. It appeared they thought Marg and Bill’s little white car was another of their playgroup. The views to the western horizon from the top of Swinging Ridges Road were enjoyed by all of us.

Groups of Musk Lorikeets and Noisy Miners greeted us when we arrived at Borambil TSR. They were feeding in the flowering Yellow Box trees. This is a 15 hectare area of Box Gum Woodland with mature trees. An empty Raptor nest was spotted in one of the treetops. However, the diversity of bird species was not great at this location as the ground storey vegetation was degraded.

Warrah Creek Reserve was next stop and our lunch spot. It was good to see Warrah Creek flowing. During the drought it was dry. This site is fairly open farming country on the Liverpool Plains, so the species reflected this. Brown Falcon, Pied Butcherbird and Galahs were observed.

The Gunnedah Connection (Frances and Gail) headed back to Gunnedah from here, while the rest of the group headed to Wallabadah Park Campground to complete the loop. This campground is a very popular overnight stay for travellers and we were curious to see what the birding was like along the creek line. We were hopeful that our sighting numbers would head upwards after the lowish numbers at the previous two survey sites. It was pleasing that our survey at Wallabadah did result in higher species numbers. Perhaps this was because this creek line has a lot more trees than Warrah Creek and a denser understorey than Borambil. Time of day was also a contributing factor.

Our group is so lucky to have a local network of TSRs and many public bush spaces to explore!!

Paradise Park (24 species)

Tawny Frogmouth (H), Galah (150), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (3), Rainbow Lorikeet (H), Musk Lorikeet (6), White-throated Treecreeper (2), Superb Fairy-wren (2), Yellow Thornbill(2), Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote (H), Striated Pardalote (H), Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater (6), White-plumed Honeyeater (2), Red Wattlebird (10), Little Friarbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Australian Magpie(2), Pied Currawong (2), Grey Fantail (2), Magpie-lark, Silvereye (6).

Borambil TSR (16 species)

Common Bronzewing, Wedge-tailed Eagle (2), Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (2), Musk Lorikeet (15), Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella (3), Laughing Kookaburra, Striated Pardalote, Yellow-faced Honeyeater (3), Noisy Miner (50), Pied Currawong, Magpie-lark, White-winged chough (30), Welcome Swallow (2).

Warrah Creek Reserve (16 species)

Australian Wood Duck (3), Brown Falcon, Galah (4), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (4), Superb Fairy-wren (3), Yellow-rumped Thornbill (3), Striated Pardalote, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Pied Butcherbird (juv.), Australian Magpie (2), Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Magpie-lark (2), Welcome Swallow (3), Fairy Martin (3).

Wallabadah Park Campground (26 species)

Crested Pigeon (3), Straw-necked Ibis (20), Black Kite, Galah (6), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (9), Rainbow Lorikeet (4), Musk Lorikeet (3), Australian King-Parrot, Crimson Rosella (2), Superb Fairy-wren (5), Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater (16), White-plumed Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Australian Magpie (2), Pied Currawong (4), Willie Wagtail (2), Australian Raven, Magpie-lark, Silvereye, Welcome Swallow (4), Common Starling (2), Common Myna (6), Double-barred Finch (3).

Denise Kane