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MEETING REPORT
Annabel and Eric’s WA Trip September-October 2017
It is hard to fit a long trip into one short talk.  There are so many things we’d love to tell you, but we are limiting this to showing you birds not seen in our area, as well as a handful of other things we found especially interesting,  such as a Yellow-rumped Thornbill feeding young in SA.  We were fascinated to find it had a tiny lizard in its beak!
Eric got his first new bird at Broken Hill – a Chirruping Wedgebill.  We went to the Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta.  It’s a great place to visit.  There is a large collection of eremophilas there, plus two bird hides positioned on walks near artificial watering points.  No sign of the White-winged Fairy-wrens we expected, but we did have distant views of White-fronted Chats.
Our introduction to the Nullarbor was a bush camp with lots of trees!  Here we saw lots of Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, very like White-plumed, but with yellow plumes and strongly striated chests.  We ran out of trees soon after that, just before Head of Bight, our first view of the coast.  There were very few seabirds around the southern coast, due to a lack of nutrients inshore.  You go there to view the Southern Right Whales that come to calve.  We had lunch at our car before looking for whales.  There was an avocado skin on the floor of the car and to our astonishment a Singing Honeyeater hopped straight in and helped itself!  

Singing Honeyeater at Head of Bight - Photo A. Ashworth

By the time we got to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, the vegetation was all low growing, grey shrubs.  Birdwatchers know of a spot, six kilometres along a dirt track from the Roadhouse, where the rare Nullarbor Quail-thrush has been seen.  We camped that night at the exact spot, but of course, didn’t see it.  We did see a number a Hairy-nosed Wombat holes though, some of them active.  Imagine our excitement next morning when we saw three of the Quail-thrush on the way out! 
Once into WA, we were surprised to find that there were few places on the Nullarbor that didn’t have trees.  The vegetation varied from open shrubby grasslands to bushy areas, stunted trees and even stands of tall trees.  I felt quite cheated!  Where was the real Nullarbor?  We certainly had no trouble finding good bush camp sites.
Much to Eric’s disgust, we could not take honey into WA and the roadhouses on the other side of the border, did not have any for sale.  After two nights he was suffering withdrawal symptoms!  At Cocklebiddy, the roadhouse owner took pity on him and smuggled out some sachets from the diner.  
When driving through the wheatbelt of WA, we passed a bird on the road and stopped to take a look.  It was a Banded Lapwing with a tiny chick.  A second lapwing joined it, followed by a second chick.  The parents were trying to get them off the road.  One chick obliged but the other wouldn’t, so the parent simply sat down beside it whilst Eric directed traffic around it. 
There are no rivers in the granite belt of WA.  When a railway was built to service the goldfields, they needed water for steam engines.  There were a number of large granite outcrops however, so they harvested water off these, feeding it down into tanks or dams.  The only birds of note in this area were the Western Corellas.  They differ from our Little Corella as they are larger, have a longer beak and more of a crest.  
It was plants which had drawn us north.  We were in search of the famed Wreath Flowers.  We eventually found them along the roadside near Pindar.  They only grow in disturbed gravelly places.  There was another unusual plant at Pindar – an Upside Down Pea.  It has stiff foliage and the tubular flowers are gathered around its base.  Quite weird!
We headed down the west coast towards Perth and were surprised to find that all these Indian Ocean beaches were enclosed by reefs.  It was strange to see boats moored in calm water offshore and ducks swimming in the sea.  We stopped to look at the stromatolites near Cervantes and met some overseas visitors who told us they had just seen Red-necked Stints.  On closer inspection we found them to be Red-capped Plovers!
A pair of Rock Parrots gave us a thrill when we found them in the dunes behind a beach.  They were well camouflaged amongst the vegetation.

Rock Parrots - Photo E. Fair
Another new bird for Eric was the Laughing Dove.  The magpies over there have a variety of back patterns.  The males have white backs whilst the females and immatures have mottled backs
Dryandra Woodland, SE of Perth is a great birding spot.  We saw a Golden Whistler there which looked like ours, but has now been classed as a separate race, called the Western Whistler.  The two best birds at Dryandra were the Rufous Treecreepers which fed all around us, and the Blue-breasted Fairy-wren.  They are very similar to the Red-winged Fairy-wren which we saw elsewhere.  The Red-winged is larger, has a paler blue head, larger chestnut patch, and tends to be near creeks etc. in damper habitats.
 In the tall southern forests we got our best view of the “Twenty-Eight” Parrot, which is the western version of the Port Lincoln.  They are distinguished by a little red above their beak.  They are Ringnecks and are lumped together with the Mallee as Australian Ringnecks.  Eric also had excellent views of the White-breasted Robin and the Western Rosella.  It is a lot smaller than our rosellas.
We were delayed by heavy rain in the Albany area, but still managed to see some good birds including one of the two black-cockatoos unique to the west.  We think they were Carnaby’s or Short-billed Black-Cockatoo.  It is the more widespread.  Both are identical except for the length of the bill.  That was impossible for us to gauge, so we identified them by habitat.  We saw them in the Stirling Ranges and again on the Kalgan River near Albany.  
There was also a pair of Ospreys there.  As we watched the female, the male arrived and mated with her.  Then they sat companionably side by side before heading for their nest in a nearby pine.
The rain continued on and off as we started heading east with localised flooding.  We noticed a bedraggled parrot on a fence.  The photo was just good enough to identify another new bird – an Elegant Parrot!  Very similar to the Rock Parrot but when you see them side by side you realise that the Elegant has some yellow on its face.
Despite the rain, we loved Cheynes Beach with its lovely flowers, and birds including the Western Wattlebird, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater and the western version of the White-browed Scrubwren.  Over there it has a strongly streaked chest and I think it is about to become a separate species.
Red-winged Fairy-Wren   Photo: E. Fair

There are three specialty birds at Cheynes Beach.  The Western Whipbird, the Noisy Scrub-bird and the Western Bristlebird.  We heard the Whipbird a few times but never saw it.  Similarly the Noisy Scrub-bird could be often heard, but didn’t show itself.  We did get one quick glimpse of it, as it did its regular run across a nearby road.  We’d given up completely on the Bristlebird however, but just as we were about to leave, there it was!  It ran along a track in front of us, right beside the caravan park.  Wow!
Fitzgerald River National Park is a magic place.  We stayed two extra days because of the birds, the fantastic scenery and incredible flowers, such as the Royal Hakea and Quaalup Bells.  We had great views of Hooded Plovers, Australian Shelduck, a Grey-tailed Tattler and a grey morph Eastern Reef Egret.  We even found a nesting Pied Oystercatcher.  Its nest was halfway up a huge sandcliff.
Heading further east, we had to visit the whales again at Head of Bight.  Our Singing Honeyeater was there to meet us.  It landed on the car’s mirror as we stopped and was soon eating out of Eric’s hand!
We explored the Eyre Peninsular before coming home.  Birds we saw there included Common Greenshanks, a large Pacific Gull looking big amongst the smaller Silver Gulls and Cape Barren Geese.  There were lots of Pied Cormorants around the coast line and we found some Black-faced Cormorants with them near Coffin Bay.  They are usually found on offshore islands.
Walking along a seaweed strewn beach north of Port Lincoln, we suddenly noticed movement.  The weed was full of roosting Red-necked Stints.  They took off, then landed quite close to us.  Three brave ones came really close, allowing for fabulous photos.
In a park right on the highway in Whyalla.  A small flock of Black-tailed Native Hens were grazing, but one couldn’t settle.  It wanted to get across the highway.  We watched the bird as time and again it tried to get across the busy road, only to be forced back by the traffic.  Finally, it found a gap, ran halfway across, then flew the rest of the way!
All in all, it was a fabulous trip, full of lovely birds, colourful flowers, and amazing scenery.  In retrospect, it is not the birds that stand out most.  It is the dramatic coastal scenery and the expanse of the Nullarbor.  We would do it again tomorrow, given the chance.
 
 
TRIP REPORTS
Sunday Outing 15 July 2018 to Dowe National Park and Manilla Sewage Treatment Plant
There is nothing like a bit of good birding at a Sewage Treatment Plant to start the day!  So before heading out to Dowe National Park we called into Manilla STP.
We were fortunate that Matt Hinze was our guest guide for the day. He is very familiar with the appearance and calls of the birds at each of these locations.
Icicles were still hanging from the surrounding structures as we commenced the day with a long detailed observation of a Yellow-throated Miner. It was found in a low, weedy bush near a pile of gravel, close to where we had parked our vehicles. It is paler and smaller than the Noisy Miner. The yellow patch on its neck was obvious. We also noted its diagnostic pale rump when it flew away.  Another highlight of our visit to the Treatment Plant was a brief sighting of a Black-tailed Native-hen. It moved quickly from an open paddock beside one of the ponds to the cover of the ponds banks. Its erect laterally compressed tail brings the impression of a small chicken to mind.
After listing 43 species, we then headed 21km west-south-west of Manilla to Dowe National Park which forms part of the catchment for Captains Gully. Its water flows into the Namoi River. The water level at this corner of Keepit Dam was extremely low on this Sunday Outing.
Dowe National Park is an important island for the movement of woodland birds in a cleared and fragmented landscape. It provides a stepping stone between nearby reserves. The White Box-White Cypress Grassy Woodland and the Yarran (Acacia omalophylla) Woodland it contains are two plant communities of conservation significance.
Our bird survey for the day listed six of the ten threatened species noted in the park. These were Speckled Warbler, Grey-crowned Babbler, Varied Sittella, Hooded Robin, Brown Treecreeper and Black Falcon. I also particularly enjoyed seeing the Blue Bonnets, Cockatiels, Western Gerygone and Stubble Quail. We totalled 38 species at this site.

The complete bird lists for the day are as follows:
Manilla Sewage Treatment Plant Bird List (43 species)
Australian Wood Duck, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, Australasian Grebe, Crested Pigeon, Little Pied Cormorant, Cattle Egret, White-faced Heron, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Whistling Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Black-tailed Native-hen, Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Masked Lapwing, Galah, Little Corella, Red-winged Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren, Weebill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote, White-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Rufous Whistler, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Restless Flycatcher, Magpie-lark, Apostlebird, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Common Starling, Common Myna, Double-barred Finch, House Sparrow.

Dowe National Park Bird List (38 species)
Stubble Quail, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon, Whistling Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Black Falcon, Galah, Cockatiel, Eastern Rosella, Blue Bonnet, Red-rumped Parrot, Brown Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Speckled Warbler, Weebill, Western Gerygone, Yellow Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Inland Thornbill, Southern Whiteface, Striated Pardalote, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Red Wattlebird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Varied Sittella, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Pied Butcherbird,  Australian Magpie, Willie Wagtail, Apostlebird, Jacky Winter, Red-capped Robin, Hooded Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Common Starling, Australasian Pipit.
Denise Kane
 
Pilliga Forest Birdwatchers Visit Trapyard Dam 21 July 2018
Our day at Trapyard Dam on the 21st July was neither too frosty, too windy and was certainly not too cloudy. Bruce and David were first to arrive which made time before others came for Bruce to build a fine fire.  There was a sneaky little breeze which made the warmth very acceptable.  Lou, John and Shirley arrived followed by Mary, now in good health again, and Innes with their grandson Ben.  Thanks to Helen and Margaret for their apologies.
There is water in the dam but it is very low.  The only birds to make use of it were the little flock of Double-barred Finches.  Ben spent his time untangling a fishing line he had found to catch yabbies.  A red-necked Wallaby had a long drink.  David, at morning tea, produced a cake with two candles which Shirley blew out while Happy Birthday was sung for her birthday the day before.  How nice!
Bruce spotted the two birds which qualified for Bird of the Day - Varied Sittellas seen on a final walk before he left for home and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills.  I have given it to the latter as they are not often seen other than at Trapyard Dam.  A nest in a fissure of a small tree was seen on our visit in October 2014.
Our tally of birds was thirty-two, not bad, considering.  They were Wedge-tailed Eagle, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Common Bronzewing, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreeper, Striated Pardalote, Speckled Warbler, Inland Thornbill, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Weebill, Striped Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, White-eared Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Australian Raven, White-winged Chough, Double-barred Finch, Varied Sittella.
David is having a visit to Hospital and we send him our very best wishes for a prompt recovery.
We will need him at our next outing on Saturday 18th August at Swindles Well.  Hope to see you there, too.  Good Wishes and Happy Birding.
David and Shirley

Tuesday Walk Along the Peel River in Tamworth 24 July 2018
Only 6 of us were out to enjoy the sunshine as we started off behind the Paradise Caravan Park to bird along the Peel River on Tuesday morning.  At first we listed the usual Magpie-lark, White-plumed Honeyeater and Superb Fairy-wrens etc and down by the river we took time to watch the Double-barred Finch busily preening after their early morning bathe.  The Pied Butcherbird sang to us as the Welcome Swallows hunted down the many insects above the water. A flock of 16 Pacific Black Ducks took to the skies and one White-browed Scrubwren just ignored us as he busily fed among the rocks. He always looks as though he has a scowl on his little face.
This part of our walk eventually took us back to our cars for a quick morning tea before we set off on the walking track under the bridge and as far as the Children's Playground.  Along here we were able to observe a Nankeen Night Heron quietly sitting on the edge of a tree across the other side.  Where were our camera buffs?? Next to our surprise there was a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater also willing to come to the edge and let us admire him.  This bird was a first for our lists along this part of the river.  An Eastern Yellow Robin was added to our list, also a Singing Honeyeater.  We were very pleased with ourselves and couldn't make up our minds which would be the bird of the day.  So many lovely ones to choose from!
We finished up with 41 species and a good dose of our vitamin "D". Birds seen; Pacific Black Duck, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Nankeen Night Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Nankeen Kestrel, Dusky Moorhen, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrub-wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote, Eastern Spinebill, Singing Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater (YON), Noisy Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Magpie-lark, Eastern Yellow Robin, Welcome Swallow, Fairy Martin, Common Blackbird, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, House Sparrow.                       Joan Dunne
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