New South Wales: Sydney to Plains-wanderer
This New South Wales birding “road trip” starts out in Sydney, where nearby Royal National Park hosts Superb Lyrebirds and Topknot Pigeons in the temperate rainforest and dramatic outcroppings of Hawkesbury Sandstone, which host the state’s only endemic, Rockwarbler. Moving inland, we shall visit the temperate eucalypt woodlands of the Capertee Valley, where Turquoise Parrot, Little Lorikeet, “Eastern” Crested Shrike-Tit, Hooded Robin, and Yellow-tufted and Black-chinned honeyeaters occur. Nearby woodlands could bring us face to face with Superb Parrot too. Moving further west, we will visit some fantastic inland wetlands, where a multitude of waterbirds occur, including Spotless and Australian Crakes, and Freckled, Musk and Blue-billed ducks, and Australian Shoveler may also be found. Coastal heathlands will also be covered to search for Eastern Bristlebird, Beautiful Firetail, and Southern Emuwren. Reaching our farthest point inland, we will make a special night foray in search of the rare Plains-wanderer in country where Red Kangaroo roams, and can turn up other rare species like Ground Cuckooshrike.
Other Tour Information:
Length: 9 Days
Starting City: Sydney
Ending City: Sydney
Physical Difficulty: Easy
Focus: Birding, Photography
Max group size: 8 + 1 leader
Detailed Itinerary. All page references are from the Habitats of the World: a field guide for birders, naturalists and ecologists
Day 1: Arrival in Sydney
We will stay in the Sydney suburb of Sutherland, within easy reach of Royal National Park. A night will be spent in Sutherland.
Day 2: Royal National Park to Lithgow
We’ll spend the morning exploring the varied habitats within Royal National Park such as Wet Sclerophyll Forest (pp. 72), and Coastal Heathland (pp. 66), seeking Superb Lyrebird within the temperate wet gullies, Rockwarbler among the dramatic Hawkesbury Sandstone outcroppings, and checking for Beautiful Firetail, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater in the coastal heathlands. If there is news of a reliable roost of Powerful Owl, we may stop in on that too. In the afternoon we will make our way to the town of Lithgow for a single night, our launching pad for exploring the Capertee Valley the following day.
Day 3: Capertee Valley to Forbes
A dawn departure will have us in the famous Capertee Valley for breakfast, surrounded by Temperate Eucalypt Woodland (pp. 77) and Dry Sclerophyll Forest (pp. 75). The cool morning air will be ringing with the calls of honeyeaters. While this area occasionally hosts the ultra-rare Regent Honeyeater, we would be extremely lucky to find this after the recent population crashes. Nevertheless, we will still be treated to some other fantastic birds and it will give us a good chance to mop up some great birds, with the backdrop of the imposing Blue Mountains around us. We hope for birds such as Diamond Firetail, Yellow-tufted and Black-chinned honeyeaters, Restless Flycatcher, Crested Shrike-Tit, and Zebra Finch. Leaving the Capertee Valley we return to Lithgow and veer west towards Forbes. The main attraction here is Gum Swamp, a large wetland that is a haven for waterfowl. We should be able to find Blue-billed Duck here, along with Pink-eared Duck, Hoary-headed Grebe, and perhaps the very rare Freckled Duck, as well as Cockatiel in the trees around the edges. The night will be spent in Forbes.
Day 4: Back Yamma to Lake Cargelligo
We will spend the morning birding Back Yamma State Forest close to Forbes; an area of Callitris Woodland (pp. 57) and Temperate Eucalypt Woodland (pp. 77). The Callitris Woodland is a particularly interesting habitat as it is one of the few types of conifer woodlands in Australia. This will provide us with a gradual introduction to some of the birds of Australia’s drier inland. Possibilities include Turquoise Parrot, Blue Bonnet and Mallee Ringnecks, and perhaps our first gorgeous Red-capped Robins. We depart Forbes mid-morning pushing west for Lake Cargelligo. It is not a birding trip without a visit to the sewage works, and that will be our first port-of-call after lunch. We should find our first White-winged Fairywrens here, and it is often a good location to find some of the secretive small crakes like Baillon’s, Australian and Spotless crakes. In the late afternoon we will make our first visit to the famous Nombinnie Nature Reserve. Swathed in Mallee (pp. 81), a dense, uniquely Australian habitat where all the branches of the very short spindly eucalypts spread from the base of the tree, giving it a distinctly shrubby appearance. This reserve is home to a host of special birds, many difficult to see. Creeping through the mallee we may find Shy Heathwren, Southern Scrub-robin and Chestnut Quail-Thrush. We may have dinner in the field here, allowing us to wait until dusk so that we can see Spotted Nightjars hawking insects from the roadside. The night will be spent in Lake Cargelligo.
Day 5: Round Hill & Plains-Wanderer
Another pre-dawn departure will have us enjoying breakfast as the sun rises and the birds start singing around us at Nombinnie. We will spend the morning here as we work to pick up all the mallee specialists, plus a few other birds of the dry interior, including the incomparable Splendid Fairywren. While we only spend a short time in this habitat, this does allow us to add a swathe of new birds in this short period, nonetheless. We will have to drag ourselves away from Round Hill so we can get on our way to Hay and one of the highlights of the trip. The plains surrounding Hay are home to one of the most enigmatic and rare Australian birds, the Plains-Wanderer. We will take a night drive across the Chenopod Plains (pp. 30) with local guides armed with spotlights and an intimate knowledge of this odd bird’s habits. Although it will mean a late finish, this is often the most highly-rated outing of the trip, as we often get crippling views of this amazing bird. Make sure you bring your camera! We will spend the night in Hay.
Day 6: Hay to Griffith
After a long night looking for Plains-Wanderers we will take the opportunity to have an atypical late start. When we are ready we will make our way over to Leeton where the main attraction is one of the best wetlands in Australia, Five Bough Swamp. We will check the swamp for Red-necked Avocets and Red-kneed Dotterels working the muddy edges, Australian Shovelers, Hardheads, and Musk Ducks swimming in the open waters, and Swamp Harriers quartering the reedbeds. As the water levels vary greatly in Five Bough, our afternoon plan will be flexible, and may also involve a trip out to Binya, an area of Brigelow, (a woodland habitat type), to the north. The night will be spent in the town of Griffith.
Day 7: Binya to Robertson
In the morning we will visit Binya, a callitris wooded area near Griffith that holds great birds like Splendid Fairywren, and sometimes even the rare Painted Honeyeater, along with White-winged Chough and Apostlebird. In the afternoon we head eastwards towards the town of Roberston, probably arriving in time to make our first visit to the heathland of Barren Grounds, which is home to rare species, like Gang-gang Cockatoos and Eastern Bristlebirds. On a few evenings we have even had the nocturnal Ground Parrots starting to forage, but that would make it a red-letter evening for sure. The night will be spent in Roberston.
Day 8: Barren Grounds to Sydney
Early morning will see us back at Barren Grounds to to continue searching for the many elusive species there, like Southern Emuwren and Eastern Bristlebird; before we head down off the coastal escarpment to Bass Point. This rocky peninsula juts out into the Pacific Ocean, and depending on the weather conditions can be a good land-based location to pick up a few seabirds for our list, with Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters most likely. We will probably take a field lunch here before returning to Sydney. We should have time for an afternoon visit to Royal National Park, to start picking up birds there like Eastern Spinebill, and maybe even a Superb Lyrebird. The night will be spent in Sydney.
Day 9: Departure from Sydney
Everyone departs from Sydney on this day. There is no birding scheduled.
PACE: Intense. This tour attempts to see as many bird species as possible. Typical starts are between 5:00-5:30am. Drives on most days are 2-3 hours, although involve extensive birding stops. The longest single drive is on day 7, of around six hours. Some breakfasts may be taken in the field, or might involve fast food places, as they are the only ones available during the early morning hours.
PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Easy. Most of the birding will be done from roads and mostly flat, well-maintained trails. You can expect to walk around 3-4 km (2-3 miles) per day on average. There are no high-altitude sites.
CLIMATE: Sydney is a temperate area, with temperatures between 14°C/57°F and 34°C/75°F to be expected. As this is a springtime, some rain is to be expected.
ACCOMMODATION: Good to very good throughout. All accommodations have private bathrooms, full-time hot water, and 24-hour electricity. Most lodges/hotels have wifi either in your room or at reception.
TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for entry into Australia, which must be valid for at least six months beyond your departure. All visitors must obtain a visa or travel authorization in advance, however this can usually be done online fairly painlessly; check the Australian immigration website, or ask our office staff for help if you are unsure.
WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Accommodation from night of day 1 though to night of day 8; meals from dinner on day 1 to dinner on day 8; reasonable non-alcoholic drinks during restaurant meals; safe drinking water between meals; most hotels in Australia provide a kettle and tea and coffee; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the evening of day 1 to the night of day 8; transfer by taxi to the airports at the start and end of the tour; ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary in a suitable vehicle driven by the tour leader; entrance fees to all birding sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips to the tour leader; international flights; excess baggage fees; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, internet, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees (including any Covid test fees); other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.