Ten AM and the White Four-Wheel Drive Club was lined up along Campbell Rd ready to go. Quite cool with the sun struggling to break through light cloud, but calm. The early-morning recce detail appeared (Murray Chambers and Peter in the de rigeur transport mode) reporting a sighting of a bird somewhere in the park, and we were off.
First stop was Distillery Dam and ruins, where some honeyeaters and thornbills were glimpsed – normally a prime spot but the extended drought, relieved only recently by some good rains, has thinned out numbers of birds. Several brush bronzewings were about. The recce had picked up purple-gaped, tawny-crowned and white-fronted honeyeaters early on but these had decamped by the time the group arrived; however we still managed white-eared, yellow-tufted, brown-headed, yellow-plumed and white-plumed honeyeaters. A highlight here was the arrival of Andrew and Austin in an original Mini, immediately voted most original and appealing vehicle of the day and to some extent compensating for the paucity of avian interest.
Meandering along to the Quarry we were underwhelmed by the variety and sheer numerical masses of birds, leading to the interesting spectacle of small groups of birders standing about in the warming morning, gazing at the pleasant if un-avian scenery (mostly mallee, with a line of yellow gums along the distant dry creek) and enjoying chats with one another. A number of photographs of interesting rock colourations were obtained, not to mention wallaby tracks and some quite prickly Acacias.
Next stop was Mulga Dam, in the north of the park. Lunch was enjoyed greatly, followed by a general diaspora into the surrounding scrub. A few of the area’s yellow gums retained the last of their flowers, and the open forest meant that any bird that did appear stood a good chance of being spotted. Sheer birdwatcher saturation finally yielded some good sightings and possibly even some photos, led by a splendid male golden whistler in the trees above the picnic area. Further species in the area included buff-rumped and chestnut-rumped thornbills, crested shrike-tit, restless flycatcher and black-chinned honeyeater; and the bush resounded to the calls of brown treecreepers.
Then on to Rush Dam; considerable creative effort went into attempts to turn a pair of wood duck into something more exotic, but in the end no joy. Apart from half a dozen sittellas the area was remarkably quiet.
We ended the day with a walk to the edge of the park a little south of Campbell Rd, a different habitat with ironbarks and box – again rather quiet, but we were enjoying watching 60+ choughs feeding in the paddock at some distance when we noticed several tiny orange splotches in a newly-ploughed area which turned out to be male flame robins. An informal competition developed to see who could capture the most pixels of orange (I think the winner was Ian Wilson with 16). A final species addition was a pair of Australian ravens flying over, helpfully emitting their despairing drawn-out calls.
Special thanks go to Murray, our local expert, who took us around his best and most favourite spots and regaled us with great stories of the birds he’s seen there on other, more plentiful occasions!