Sunday, 29 January 2017

Old Wallangarra Road

Misty morning along Old Wallangarra Road -looking south

Straddling the Queensland and New South Wales border is one of my favourite birding destinations -Old Wallangarra Road. Not a reserve, but farmland, and no free access to much of the surrounding countryside, with the added restriction of having to keep one's self to the roads or the verge.... no matter, a day out here regularly leaves one feeling renewed and as though they have just indulged in a very enjoyable few hours birding. Never have I departed here feeling any less than satisfied. 

One of the first things that one notices on arrival at Old Wallangarra Road is the extremely healthy bird species diversity, something no doubt sourced to the nice-sized swathe of woodland that is Girraween National Park not all that far away to the north and east, as well as other extensive and modest parks and reserves in the region, from where some of the winter migrants originate. Another reason is due to the transition of habitats that strike here; the location is situated in something akin to a pocket, where the temperate woodland of the south chances up against the drier country of the west and north, whilst a relatively short distance to the east are the extensive tracts of rainforest that run north and south, up and down the Great Dividing Range.

Turquoise Parrot -female
And because of this several bird species' distribution limits occur in the general region. One species belonging to this category is the White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus superciliosus, a bird more frequently encountered in similar habitat further south where it can be common. These birds are not recorded all that often in southern Queensland and there are only a few "reliable" spots locally where they might be seen. (It is only the second-ever location where I have recorded them in this state.) Similarly, the Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata and Chestnt-rumped Heathwren Callamanthus pyrrhopygius find a place here, although the former is encountered far more easily than the latter. The conjunction of habitats also helps explain the presence of Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus and Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus, birds not normally drawn together for want of habitat, along with Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius, both the local corvids (Australian Raven Corvus coronoides and Torresian Crow Corvus orru), the stunning Turquoise Parrot Neophema pulchella (picture rightand, if one is lucky, the enigmatic Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata (below left). 

More often than not, the somewhat secluded nature of the location allows for relaxed and undisturbed birding and vehicles rarely pass along the bitumen. This may be the reason for the birds' approachability; I find that they are far from shy and often allow close approach. For instance, the most recent visit here at the end of January coincided with a foggy morning and as I made my way slowly along Hickling Lane numerous Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans, initially prostrate on the warm dirt surface of the road, took to the air and began hawking insects around me, some coming to within a whisker of my cheek, taking swipes at unseen objects..., one even passing between my legs, and then gradually disappearing back in the haze, only to be replaced by another, shuffling off droplets from their wings close to m
y ears. Shortly after, they were joined by small numbers of Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus and Wecome Swallow Hirundo neoxena, each and all as genial as the other.

Hooded Robin -female
Whilst this was occurring small numbers of Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura
guttataDouble-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii and Plum-headed Finch Neochma modesta were not far away, all casually feeding in the knee-high sodden grass lining the road verge, their lookouts on the fence-line drifting into and out of a torpor in the lazy conditions. A little further afield in the damp paddocks Australian Pipit Anthus australis, Yellow-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa, Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys and Restless Flycatcher Myiagara inquieta were searching for tid-bits to the hellish calls of some distance Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae.

The muffled sound of an Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus call came to my ears from over by the opposite side of the road, a nocturnal bird not afraid to call during daylight hours. When this has happened before I would search tree hollows near where I thought the bird called, but more often than not do not have any luck locating them this way. Rather, they tend to flush and explode out of their hollows at the most un
moments and scare the hell out of one, looking innocent and charming as they pose on a nearby branch.

Silvereye Zosterops lateralis -a common resident.
One of the things I like to do when visiting here is walk the fenceline on the eastern side of the road, where it borders a paddock. It can be quite wet here after rain but it is more than worth taking the trouble over. It takes one between the fence and a strip of roadside woodland where an amazing number of birds use the exposed trees and fence posts as places to perch and sally out from. On cold mornings, and there are may cold mornings here, it is a perfect place for them to warm themselves to the morning sun. Scarlet Myzomela Myzomela sanguinolenta were burying their heads in the eucalyptus blossom along here  during my recent visit, taking time out every now and then to "give it to" any one of the other honeyeaters that dare pilfer "their nectar". Size is no object for these feisty little customers.

This is 
just small portion of the array of birds that occur here, with other observers documenting the presence of the Brown Goshawk, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australian Kestrel, Australian King Parrot, Southern Whiteface (out of it's "normal" range) and the Eastern Spinebill, just to name a few. Superb Lyrebirds have even been recorded singing in the general vicinity, apparently, their song certainly loud enough to carry the distance from the adjacent hills.

In four or five visits here, I have come across 83 bird species (outlined below), al
though on this latter visit had to make do with a little over sixty. 

Personal birdlist for the site:

Australian Pipit, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Double-barred Finch, Plum-headed Finch, Red-browed Finch, Diamond Firetail, Mistletoebird, Common Starling, Silvereye, Rufous Songlark, Tree Martin, Welcome Swallow, Jacky Winter, Hooded Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Australian Raven, Torresian Crow, Restless Flycatcher, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Olive-backed Oriole, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Rufous Whistler, Australian Golden Whistler, Crested Shriketit, Varied Sittella, Common Cicadabird, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Dusky Woodswallow, Pied Currawong, Australian Magpie, Pied Butcherbird, Grey Butcherbird, White-browed Babbler, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Brown Thornbill, White-throated Gerygone, White-browed Scrubwren, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Striated Pardalote, Spotted Pardalote, Scarlet Myzomela, Brown Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, White-naped Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Superb Fairywren, Variegated Fairywren, Brown Treecreeper, White-throated Treecreeper, Satin Bowerbird, Sacred Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Oriental Dollarbird, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Pacific Koel, Turquoise Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Little Loriket, Musk Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Galah, Bar-shouldered Dove, Peaceful Dove, Peregrine Falcon, Australian Hobby, Little Eagle, White-necked Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Pacific Black Duck, Maned Duck

Based on Australian_IOC_Checklist

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