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Saturday, October 7, 2006 – 2 PM

Capertee Valley still


I slept a little longer Thursday night, maybe as much as 6 hours.  I was up by 5:30 and was out and about for sunrise, which was beautiful.  I had some breakfast and got my stuff together, and was picked up by Carol, Dorothy, and Douglas about 7 AM.  Carol is a professional bird guide, and Dorothy and Douglas are siblings.  Dorothy lives on the other side of the Blue Mountains, and he lives in Scotland, and is here now on an extended visit to various Aussie relatives.  I don’t think that Douglas is actually a birder, but he was interested in everything.


We stopped along the road, very close to where I am staying, and saw a number of “birds of the fields”.  Things like Brown Songlark, Singing Bushlark, Rufous Songlark, and Australian Pipit.  Also some finches – Double- barred Finch, Zebra Finch, and Diamond Firetail.  I love the Aussie bird names, so I am writing some of them here, just to give it a dinkum Aussie flavor, even though they won’t mean anything at all to anyone at home.


After the very productive stop along the road, we moved on to Carol’s property.  She lives in the Blue Mountains, maybe 80 or 90 minutes away, but has a multi-acre place here in the valley, with a nice looking little cottage on it.  We birded there for a while, seeing things like a Sacred Kingfisher, some Little Lorikeets, and two or three species of Honeyeaters.  We had morning tea by a dam on her property, and watched birds come to the dam while we had tea and cake.  She has a little table and four chairs there, in the shade, so it was very civilized.  See pictures.


After we left Carol’s place, we stopped along the road from time to time, but basically made our way to the best site in the valley for the Regent Honeyeater, a threatened species that is very difficult to see anywhere else but here, and there aren’t very many of them here, either.  It is THE specialty species for the Capertee Valley, and any birding trip here always hangs on whether you see the Regent Honeyeater or not.  We had to work for it, by walking along a dry river bed, but eventually we got good views of several Regent Honeyeaters.  They are very striking black and yellow-gold birds.  Beautiful.  We saw other birds on that walk, too, including White-browed Woodswallows and Masked Woodswallows.  Oh yes, and a number of Rainbow Bee-eaters, which are very colorful, beautiful birds.


Next we made our way to Glen Alice, a tiny place with a church, a community hall, some rest rooms, a little picnic area, and a public phone booth.  I guess there were some houses around, too, but not very many.  It was a lovely spot for lunch, and we saw some good birds while we ate, too.  Carol looked at my Aussie bird list (the ones I had seen on my first two trips), to see what we might look for in the afternoon that I hadn’t seen.  She had just mentioned that White-winged Trillers, which I had never seen, usually arrived about this time of year, but she hadn’t seen one yet – and, lo and behold, within a couple of minutes, one showed up.  Even more special for me, I actually spotted it first, although I didn’t know what it was, having never seen one before.  That wasn’t my only lifer bird at lunch, either.  Overhead in the sky, Carol spotted a Collared Sparrowhawk, a fairly uncommon bird that was a treat to see for the first time.  Two Little Eagles flew over during lunch, too, and we got good views of them as they circled above us.  The females are larger than the males, and the size difference was very obvious.


In the afternoon, we visited several more sites and stopped along the road several times.  I got to see such treats as the Weebill (at its nest, no less), Jacky Winter (great bird names!), Hooded Robin, and a female Red-capped Robin (lifer).  Late in the day, as it was starting to get dark, we went to the east end of the valley and were fortunate to see a Superb Lyrebird, some Bell Miners (they have an amazing tinkling call), an Olive-backed Oriole, a White-naped Honeyeater, a pair of Scarlet Honeyeaters (the male has a brilliantly colored head and shoulders), and a couple of Turquoise Parrots.  It was after 6 PM and getting dark fast when Carol dropped me back at my little cottage.  The others still had a 70 or 80 minute drive back to Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, where they had started that morning, at about 5:30.  The day was very long for me, and I’m sure glad I didn’t have to make that trip back and forth to Katoomba on top of it.  The Capertee Valley is about 30 miles long and about 20 miles wide, and we had spent the whole day in only some parts of the valley.  I saw 63 species of birds, which brought my trip list up to 69.  Eight of those were lifers for me, which brought my life list of Aussie birds up to 295.  I wonder if I can get it over 300 before I head out to the West Coast on Tuesday.


All in all, it was a really wonderful day of birding.  I think it must be about the longest day of birding I have ever had.  It certainly wore me out; I was really beat.  I had a couple of drinks, wrote a little in my journal, ate some mixed nuts and a couple of pieces of cheese, and fell into bed about 9 o’clock.  I slept pretty well, although the bed is a bit firm for my taste, and I wake up about every hour to turn over.  I wore my regular walking shoes all day, which is much, much longer than I have worn shoes with backs to them for almost a year, since I got my heel bursitis and tendonitis last November.  I got two cortisone shots in my heel bursa, seven weeks apart, and it seems to have settled it down, at least for now.  The bursitis/tendonitis kept me from getting in shape before this trip (or at least, that is the excuse I used), so now I have to build up my endurance.  I am taking it pretty easy today, to recover from yesterday’s exercise.


It was cooler yesterday than today, maybe in the high 70’s.  We had some nice high clouds in the middle of the day, which helped keep it cooler, and there was a nice breeze blowing all day, too.  There aren’t any mosquitoes, thankfully, but the flies are pretty annoying.  Something, maybe a fly, bit me on my leg and it bled a little, and the flies really went for that.  I had to get a band aid from Carol to cover the wound, to stop them from going after it.  They land on your face and try to drink from your eye or your mouth, and that is annoying for sure.  I think by Australian standards, they weren’t bad at all yesterday, but that isn’t much comfort to me.  I’d love to be able to wear long pants, to protect my legs, but it was too hot for that.  Maybe I can get some tassels to hang off of my hat, to at least keep them away from my face somewhat, or even some netting, maybe, for when they are especially bad.


The elevation here is about 1000 feet, and it cools down nicely at night.  Yesterday morning it was 41 degrees on my deck when I got up, but this morning it was 51, and sure enough, today is a lot warmer.  It is 82 here in my cottage now, and I guess I will have to break down and turn on the a/c if it gets much hotter.


This morning I was up pretty early again, before sunrise (which is on the late side because the valley walls keep the sun out for a while, after it gets pretty light).  I walked around and saw one new bird for the trip list, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, before breakfast.  After breakfast, I went out and found a lifer bird, one that is only found here in New South Wales, the Rockwarbler.  They aren’t very common, so it was great to get good views of a pair of them, just 100 yards from my door.  Oska, the proprietor here, had told me just where to look, and sure enough, there they were.


I drove around this morning and got 7 more species on my own, which is pretty good for me, considering that I just saw 63 species here yesterday.  I got some good pictures of a Dusky Woodswallow on its nest.  I also got a Buff-banded Rail, which is a “good” bird, hard to find usually.  Another highlight was a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles on the ground, then in the air.  I got some pictures of them overhead, and you can really see why they are named that – the tail is very wedge-shaped.


Well, there is a good long entry, catching me up.  Next I will try to process some pictures for the website, and then I will see if I can get on Oska’s phone line and post this and the pictures to the website.


Barry Downunder