Trip Report: Blue Mountains (New South Wales, Australia), April 26, 1997

Katie Bertsche, Sydney, Australia;

Finally, an end to my drought of birding caused by the priority of uni work! I took the train from Sydney to Glenbrook in the expectation of a good day's walk in the Blue Mountains. Hopefully I would see some birds along the way too. The weather was beautiful, sunny, not too hot, resembling what I would call an Indian Summer weekend. I was not to be disappointed, as the first bird that I saw was a Black-shouldered Kite from the train. It was perched on the wire right next to the tracks facing us, and as we pulled slowly by I got the best look at this bird that I have ever had. I could see its bright yellow feet, its black shoulders, and I was trying to figure out the color of its eyes as the train finally pulled me out of sight. The birding on the walk from the Glenbrook train station into the national park was also good, with a Grey Butcherbird perched obligingly near the road, and someone's front yard trees were filled with thornbills, a few Eastern Spinebills, some Grey Fantails noisily hawking insects, and at least one Rose Robin, the sighting of which already made my day into a good one.

Flying above the national park office was a flock of Dusky Woodswallows, and a White-eared Honeyeater called noisily from the trees. It has such an obvious call, that I should remember it in the future. I got a good look at some White-naped Honeyeaters as well, both male and female so I could make a comparison between the two. I took the track that leads down to Jellybean Pool, which is a rather shocking blue color because of the clay particles suspended in it. The track down to the pool has recently been burnt, so there wasn't too much activity there except for a Golden Whistler which was spectacular in the sun, and male Spinebill feeding on Mountain Devil flowers. The pool, though I had it to myself, must be well used for swimming by people since there was unfortunately a lot of litter lying around. I don't really understand inconsiderate people who can simply leave trash lying about in an area like this. A single little Pied Cormorant eyed me from a rock on the opposite side of the pool.

Rock hopping up the stream and across the causeway, I turned right onto the Red Hands trail. The trail follows a creek bed, and considering it was about noon by this time, there was still lots of bird activity. Flights of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters kept flying over all day long. I assume this is their migration time, as I must have seen hundreds throughout the day. At the beginning of the trail, the vegetation is open forest, with Casurinas in the along the creek bed and Banksias higher up, and those eucalypt trees with the smooth orange bark and red sap. There were quite a lot of the usual bush birds along this half of the track: Grey Fantails, Brown Thornbills, Eastern Yellow Robins, White-browed Scrubwrens and Red-browed finches. I'm getting a bit better at songs, but there was one I came to that was simply bizarre. All these strange squeaking and nasal noises coming from inside a bush. People walking from the other direction flushed a flock of large birds which of course flew into the bushes on the other side where naturally I couldn't see anything. Finally, after a good bit of searching, I tracked down the source of the strange noises which was a large brownish bird with 'scaly' marks on its breast, a Satin Bowerbird. There were at least 6 birds in the flock, but no nice purple males in sight though.

The track moves out of the dry forest into a gully with closed forest and lilly pilly trees. Harder to see the ubiquitous yellow-faced honeyeaters flying and landing, so I was just walking until I heard a tiny bit of noise down by the creek below me, like a leaf falling but a bit different. A Lyrebird! It was right out in plain view, and as the vegetation wasn't too thick, I got a good chance to examine it before it disappeared into the ferns. It was a female, with a plain chicken type tail. I followed her small rustling noises for some distance before some more people came down the track and when they had passed there was no more evidence that the bird was still around. Interestingly, the she was originally being followed by a scrubwren which was no doubt scavenging the insects stirred up by the scratching. This was the first time I've ever seen this behaviour (of course, this is only the second time I'd actually seen a lyrebird anyway).

Happy with this find, I continued up the hill to the Red Hands cave, which is an interesting Aboriginal site with numerous hand stencils. Just past the cave, as the forest becomes more dry and open again, I spotted a little wren-shaped bird (vertical tail) next to a bench. At first I thought it was a fairy wren, but on closer examination, it wasn't shaped quite right, and it had a definite rust colored rump. A brief view of its head proved that it definitely wasn't shaped like a fairy-wren at all; it had more of the 'evil' look that a white-browed scrubwren has because of the eyebrow, kind of like a little masked bandit. The bird was confusing since there was a flock of fairy wrens in the same area, and when they appeared I was half convinced that somehow my mind had been fooling me and that the mystery bird was just a fairy-wren. Now I regret not bringing my book along with me! But when I got back to the park center I looked the bird up and discovered that it was a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. A life bird for me. And apparently, according to the book, not a particularly common bird either. The fairy-wrens were variegated, by the way, a fact I was only really able to decide on because I spotted one non-breeding male out of a flock of females with a little black in front of his eye.

I started the long walk back to the park office, genuinely glad I'd decided to do this track. I didn't see anything particularly different than before, I even saw the same flock of bowerbirds. However, as I was nearing the junction of the Red Hands track and the causeway I came around a corner and ran into a Rock Warbler. Standing on one of those sandstone outcrops they like, I only got a brief glimpse before it ran off into the brush. Another really good bird that I've only seen once before. And I also found a nice stand of scribbly gums with numerous insect tracks all over the white bark. Finally, as I hiked back up the hill to the train station, not a bird but a copper-tailed skink finished off my day.

Species list

  1. Little Pied Cormorant (1)
  2. Black-shouldered Kite (1)
  3. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (heard)
  4. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (heard)
  5. Rainbow Lorikeet
  6. Crimson Rosella
  7. Kookaburra
  8. Superb Lyrebird (1, female)
  9. White-throated Treecreeper (1)
  10. Variegated Fairy-wren
  11. Spotted Pardalote
  12. Rock Warbler (1)
  13. White-browed Scrubwren
  14. *Chestnut-rumped Heathwren (1)
  15. Brown Thornbill
  16. Yellow Thornbill
  17. Striated Thornbill
  18. Noisy Miner
  19. Yellow-faced Honeyeater
  20. White-eared Honeyeater
  21. White-naped Honeyeater
  22. New Holland Honeyeater
  23. Eastern Spinebill
  24. Rose Robin
  25. Eastern Yellow Robin
  26. Grey Shrike-thrush
  27. Golden Whistler
  28. Grey Fantail
  29. Magpie-lark
  30. Satin Bowerbird
  31. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
  32. Dusky Woodswallow
  33. Grey Butcherbird
  34. Australian Magpie
  35. Pied Currawong
  36. Welcome Swallow
  37. Red-browed Firetail
  38. usual Feral species

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This page served by Urs Geiser;; May 7, 1997