In late September 2019, Dad and I will be setting out on a nine-day expedition to outback NSW. We will be visiting Broken Hill, Mutawintji National Park, Sturt National Park and venturing beyond Cameron Corner into the sand dunes of the Strzelecki desert in South Australia. I call it an expedition because this journey has a purpose; to find the rare and elusive birds which live in these remote places.
Currently my Australian life list sits at 389. I want that to be 400 by the end of the year. I set myself a goal in January, to find 2 new species each month this year in order to achieve that. Back then, I needed 21 species to reach my target of 400. For the first 5 months of 2019, I was on track.
In January I did a mad dash up to Taree, hoping for Aleutian Tern. I missed that species but did end up adding 4 species to my Australian life list; Common Tern, Greater Sand-Plover, Double-banded Plover and Sanderling. Also in January, a visit to Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve resulted in finding Collared Sparrowhawk; two adults and an immature circling just overhead. These 5 lifers in January put me ahead of the game.
In March, a family vacation to South West Rocks presented a couple of opportunities to bird. An early morning visit to Boyters Lane Wetland was rewarded when I encountered a pair of Mangrove Gerygone hopping through the mangroves. From the front porch of the holiday house there was ample opportunity to watch Pacific Swift. And a drive through Yarriabinni National Park allowed me to finally see one of my most wanted Aussie birds, Wompoo Fruit-Dove.
In May, a quick stop at Emu Green gave me Red-whiskered Bulbul, and a drive into Wollemi National Park resulted in not one, but five, Spotted Quail-thrush foraging on the roadside.
Surprisingly, by the end of May I was still on track. Ten ticks in five months. And that's when birding slows down in NSW. The days get shorter and colder, and a lot of birds disappear for the winter.
June, July and most of August have gone by with no new additions to the list, and so we arrive at the grand plan to reach 400 in one big push.
In terms of finding lifers I've pretty much birded out my home range, which means I need to expand my search radius. The red dirt country has always been a special place for me, so naturally I looked west when I planned to find new birds.
Day One of the expedition will be a 900-kilometre drive west to Broken Hill.
On Day Two we will visit Silverton and Living Desert State Park in search of Rufous Fieldwren, Redthroat, Chirruping Wedgebill and Black-eared Cuckoo, before heading out to Mutawintji National Park. Here we will search for Grey Falcon, Little Woodswallow and Hall's Babbler. We will also be on the look out for the erubescens subspecies of Euro, which have a pale red coat, unlike the grey and black individuals we are used to. And if we get very lucky, we may spot one of NSW's only Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies.
On Day Three we will travel north to Sturt National Park. We will spend 5 nights camping in the park, alternating between Dead Horse Gully and Fort Grey campgrounds. We will travel the Gorge Loop Road, searching for Gibberbird, Australian Pratincole, Flock Bronzewing and Black-breasted Buzzard. At Fort Grey, we hope to find Ground Cuckooshrike, Red-browed Pardalote and Spotted Nightjar.
On Day Six we will travel west to Cameron Corner, for a chance at Banded Whiteface and Cinnamon Quail-thrush, as well as crossing the border into South Australia to search for Eyrean Grasswren atop the dunes of the Strzelecki.
Day Eight we will be heading south again, stopping at Cobar for the night.
Day Nine will see us return home, hopefully having hit the 400 milestone.
We will undertake this expedition in a Suzuki Grand Vitara 4x4. We will camp in swags and take enough supplies to feed and water us for nine days. Birding gear will include binoculars, spotting scope with tripod, cameras and field guides.
So that's the plan. If it all goes accordingly, we may end up with 17 species added to the list. And even if we don't, it will be an incredible adventure, traversing harsh and beautiful landscapes, visiting outback roadhouses, and finally making it to the north-western corner of our home state.
I will be posting a full day by day trip report when we return. You can find it in Travel Diaries.
Wish me luck!