Monday, 26 December 2016

Out West To Durikai

Closing in fast on the end of the year, I found myself drawn to visit Durikai State Forest, approximately 40 kilometres west of Warwick. One can never find enough excuses to visit this park, so I gave in to the urge and set out before the sun was up.

Instead of entering the reserve from the highway, which passes through the more northern section of the reserve -something I usually do, I decided it was worth exploring an interesting area to the south where an uneven dirt track enters from the east. It is an area I don’t get to as often as I would like and I had been thinking of a visit for some time.  

So, heading west along this track, a couple of stops were made. The first of these was at a spot known as Thane Creek, where that small watercourse crosses the track and enters a partially cleared paddock to the north, and where there was a good deal of bird activity at the time. The best part of an hour was enjoyed exploring a relatively small area here, whereupon some rather nice bird species were discovered.

Quite apart from the usual suspects found in this habitat, there were also others that were a bit more of a pleasant surprise. Little Bronze-Cuckoo and Brush Cuckoo were rather nice discoveries, as was a group of approximately a dozen White-winged Chough that burst up off the ground further into the woodland. Three Restless Flycatchers interacting with one another around me was another nice encounter, likewise that of a Turquoise Parrot, four Speckled Warbler, two Jacky Winter, a Crested Shrike-Tit and good numbers of Fuscous Honeyeater.

Some Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike were very active and vocal in the woodland and I followed the progress of the latter as they pursued one another through the eucalypt canopy. They seemed to be concentrating their efforts around a particular group of trees and I wondered whether they would ever stop. Eventually, they alighted momentarily in the upper parts of an ironbark and enabled me to get good views. But then I noticed something nearby to the left; there was a nest with three chicks balancing in the fork of a branch.

(Cuckoo-shrike nests are usually very precarious structures and one wonders how any of them can raise a clutch successfully. But this nest was a lot more substantial than any other I had seen of theirs and appeared as though it may have been built upon the old nest of another species.)

Just before I was about to leave, I observed a Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike fly into the same ironbark. To my surprise it landed very close to the nest (pictured above). But the chicks neither made sound nor movement –clearly, they were sated. But I was mindful that it could have been so easy to walk away believing the nest belonged to the other species.

The second stop was a little further west at a spot known as Hunts Gully (top picture). It is made up of a string of isolated pools which, when I ventured a little further into the woodland towards them, I was delighted to find had quite a good deal of water in them. Not only that, the surrounding clearings and vegetation were looking very green and promised much, and this was something soon borne-out. For the most part the countryside had looked parched but here was a genuine oasis.

Before long a family of Restless Flycatcher were encountered around the pools, the two adults occasionally visiting a couple of well-developed offspring with tidbits –for the most part, though, they were mainly left to themselves. A pair of Turquoise Parrot were feeding in the small clearings and were far too smart and wired to allow close approach. More obliging were a group of Dusky Woodswallows. Initially a little cautious of my presence, after a while they were happy to appease their curiosity and approach nearer, allowing me to take some close-up photographs of an immature (left) and an adult (below left). After that, they were more than happy to continue feeding around me at close range.
One of the more surprising finds here was of a Little Eagle. The adult bird had sprung up from nearby wood and began circling low over the area. Normally, these are recognised more as winter visitors to these parts, so to find this bird here close to mid-summer was a little odd.

Around me Little Lorikeet were feeding on the small amount of available eucalypt blossom, whilst two Varied Sittella flew in and began foraging for insects amongst the deep grooves of the ironbarks. More evidence of breeding came in the form of a juvenile Eastern Yellow Robin –its patchy grey waistcoat not up to the majesty of the nearby adult- and a family of four Crested Shrike-Tit (adult pictured below). Taking spiders and other insects from beneath the smooth-barked gums, the shrike-tits were softly chattering away to one another, only now and then articulating their more well-known mournful tune.

Having spent the best few hours down in these southern parts, it was then that a track was taken to the north and north-west, which comes out eventually on the Cunningham Highway. From here a short drive to the west was undertaken towards a small dam just off the bitumen.

Anyone who has visited Durikai State Forest will probably know this dam. Small in stature, it can play host to an amazing variety of birds when it is at its best. Famous for its Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, one can get as many as 13 different species of this nectar-feeding group coming down to drink and bathe in a single visit. And there are many other species besides that will keep one occupied between times.

Just another great morning’s birding here.

Morning's Birdlist:

Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, Mistletoebird, Tree Martin, Welcome Swallow, Jacky Winter, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-winged Chough, Australian Raven, Torresian Crow, Restless Flycatcher, Leaden Flycatcher, Magpie-Lark, Willie Wagtail, Olive-backed Oriole, Grey Shrikethrush, Rufous Whistler, Crested Shriketit, Varied Sittella, Common Cicadabird, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Dusky Woodswallow, Pied Currawong, Australian Magpie, Pied Butcherbird, Grey Butcherbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Yellow Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, White-throated Gerygone, Weebill, Speckled Warbler, Scarlet Myzomela, Brown Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Little Friarbird, White-naped Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Fuscous Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Superb Fairy-Wren, Variegated Fairy-Wren, Brown Treecreeper, White-throated Treecreeper, Sacred Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Brush Cuckoo, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Turquoise Parrot, Little Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Galah, Peaceful Dove, Crested Pigeon, Little Eagle

Based on Australian_IOC_Checklist V1.1

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