Target Species: Zebra Finch, Diamond Firetail, Regent Honeyeater
I had read many article/stories of the Capertee Valley. It was said to be the mecca for the bird peeps. As I set out early on a Saturday morning for a weekend of birding, I was full of anticipation, expectation, apprehension, doubt. Will it live up to its storied suppositions? Will my callowness appreciate what I will see? Would someone else in my shoes appreciate this experience more? I was curious as to my angst. I should be jubilant in my endeavour. But in hindsight my feelings may have been simply down to the fact that it was pretty bloody early! And I was tired.
We set off from Sydney at 4:30am, with my mate Matt as always. He had been there before and had always talked of the plethora of birdlife and the ravish landscape. I had always placed his passionate dribble as exaggeration. But I’d hoped it would surpass his lofty applause.
We arrived during the Golden Hour, perfect timing really and it truly was a beautiful morning. The air was still, the sun was glistening, a hint of wind nicked the air. The soaring sandstone cliffs filled the horizon, binding us in from three sides.
This place was alright I thought (sarcasm for super awesome).
Maybe Matty was right?
A Brown Falcon was the inaugural Capertee Valley bird for me, and I tipped my cap to it like a drunk to a barman. We continued further only to be stopped by a Scarlet Robin and his date. Upon exiting the car, we could hear the Diamond Firetail in the distance, calling, shouting, desperate for our attention, but we stuck with the robins. Flocks of Silvereye and Double-Barred Finch were in propinquity. Birds omnipresent. We stayed focused on the robins, much to their chagrin.
Upon the same road we had hit target number one, well rather target number one found us! Zebra Finch lined the barbed-wire roadside in numbers uncountable. Zebra Finch feed in large flocks and feast on grass seed. Partners mate for life and just the slight drop of rain can send these birds into a breeding frenzy, swiftly building nests and rapidly raising their young. Zebra Finch chicks will fully fledge within 35 days! These guys were simply feeding. A big tick for me.
We were lucky. We were immediately stoked, so we hurriedly set up camp, eager to check out some more sites. We were staying at the Coorongooba Campground and man was it gorgeous. Golden, sandstone cliffs on one side, dazzling bush on the other. Highly recommended.
Our first stop was just by the campground, a kind of transition zone alongside the river. Many bird species will accumulate in these transitional zones; where more than one vegetation type abuts. I have found if you want to find birds, they need a combination of three things:
- Shelter/hiding place
- Food source
That’s it. They’re much simpler than us humans.
In our case, we had open forest meeting farmland/grassland with the Capertee River meandering through. Our assumption proved right as we ambled down toward the river. As we stood in one spot, we were met with a scene of birds; a band of avian consort. They were like a cockroach to a crumb, coming from all directions, at one stage, I counted 11 different species in the same scrub with a wombat complimenting from the floor! Many photos were taken to say the least. Birds included Speckled Warbled,Rockwarbler, Grey Strike-Thrush, Eastern Yellow Robin and Golden-Headed Cisticola.
We headed out to Glen Alice next, hopeful for more species, but absolutely content with what was already found. I would have been happy to chill out by the campground, beer in hand, feet up with the sight of sunset on golden cliffs, however my edacious appetite for more said “no mate, get out there!” We wandered around (cemetary area) and was stoked to find some more lifers for me. Aptronyms were abound; Grey-Crowned Babbler babbled ostentatiously, Brown Treecreeper crept up the trees, Brown Quail quailed and shrank, Striated Pardalote pardaloted around… I may have made that last one up. For the inept, amateur birdwatcher I am, this was great! Many new species found and ultimately photographed. We retired to the campsite and under the bright, irradiated stars above, sunk our teeth into a six pack and relaxed in our quiescent minds.
To Be Continued…