PHOTOS from Coolah Tops National Park
In February 2016 we camped for three nights at the Cox's Creek campsite in Coolah Tops NP in central NSW
Please find the photos from this trip in the gallery below the text.
We had a week away on this trip, camping in national parks near Mudgee. Coolah Tops was the first place that we stayed.
The road in to the Cox's Creek campsite did not augur well for our stay there, having been recently burnt and apparently barren of wildlife, but the campsite was great. We placed our tent right next to the creek which was still flowing in spite of the dry weather. We had a little waterfall that proved to be a favourite bathing spot for birds, right at our back door.
The campground was situated in grassy woodland dominated by silvertop stringybarks and ribbon gums, which derive their common name from the untidy strings of bark that hang down from their trunks. Small wattles and tea-trees grew along, and often over the creek, providing abundant cover for birds that came to drink and bathe in the otherwise parched landscape. In fact, I expect that we had the creek to thank for the abundance of wildlife in this camping spot, as we saw very little in other parts of the park. There was a constant parade of bathing birds at several spots along the creek throughout the day.
Whenever we camp there always seems to be one species of bird that is particularly common in the campground, and in this case it was crimson rosellas. Both juveniles and adults were present coming down throughout the day alone and in pairs or small groups, to drink and bathe in the creek. Eastern rosellas, which prefer more open country with a grassy rather than shrubby understorey, were much less common. We also heard king parrots, although they were not common and not often seen.
The other common parrots were sulphur-crested cockatoos which flew in noisily from the surrounding callitris woodland periodically during the day, perhaps to feed their young. The young birds made a persistent continuous harsh rasping cooing noise, begging for food whenever one of their parents was nearby. We occasionally caught resting birds with our spotlights in the trees along the creek at night.
Also contributing to the noise particularly during the dawn chorus were noisy friarbirds (which have an erratically melodious sound) and wattlebirds with their harsh scratchy calls. Yellow-faced honeyeaters were very common, as were eastern spine-bills. White-naped honeyeaters were sometimes seen near the creek.
We saw both red-browed and white-throated treecreepers within the campground. White-browed treecrepers seemed to show interest in a particular tree-hollow in a stringybark, a metre or so above ground level, and for a while in the morning would congregate around it and sometimes disappear inside it. Treecreepers nest in tree hollows and it is possible that this was either a previous nest site, or was being inspected for its nesting potential. They didn't seem to have eggs or young in it because they showed no interest at other times of the day.
The common bigger birds were there, magpies, butcherbirds, currawongs and kookaburras.
We saw both brown and striated thornbills. It is the first time that we have identified striated thornbills. Most of the thornbills that we ever see are browns. In the bird guides they appear to be very similar, but when you take your own photos differences become clear. Apart from those usually mentioned such as the brown colouring on the rump of the browns (which is often covered by the wings) and their darker eye colouring the striated thornbill has streaks rather than scallops of pale colour on its forehead, and appears to have a paler streak forming a bit of an eyebrow above the eye. According to Michael Morcombe's bird guide, striated thornbills only forage in eucalypt trees, whereas browns are found in lower shrubs.
There were also other common small birds including grey fantails, silvereyes, superb fairy wrens, white-browed scrub-wrens, spotted pardalotes and red-browed scrub-wrens.
Red-necked wallabies were our first visitors, in the evening as they cautiously crossed the creek as we set up camp, followed by eastern grey kangaroos, some of which were very tame and clearly accustomed to being fed. We surprised a swamp wallaby that was hiding in the undergrowth along the creek, at Rocky Creek Falls, but it didn't hang around to have its portrait taken.
A black snake slithered across the campground on our second afternoon.
But the real highlight of our visit was seeing greater gliders. These beautiful, graceful marsupials were very common around the campsite and along the creek, emerging from their tree hollows just after dark. We often saw two animals emerging from the same tree. According to the National Parks and Wildlife information on their noticeboards these gliders eat the leaves of the silvertop stringybark trees that dominate the surrounding woodland.
We also found a boobook owl while spotlighting.
This was a great and largely isolated campsite. Although a number of vehicles drove in while we were there, only one other couple stayed to camp. The accessibility of the creek for bathing and drinking made the birds easy to photograph.
This small waterfall in the creek was a favourite bathing spot for birds.
The campground was woodland with a grassy understorey dominated by silver-top stringybarks and ribbon gums, so-called because of the messy strands of bark hanging from the trunks. The tree in the front of this photo was a favourite of treecreepers which would fly into the lower hole and (according to Laura) emerge from the upper hole. Treecreepers nest in tree hollows, but I don't think they were nesting at the time as they only hung around the hole for a short time each morning.
A pair of adult crimson rosellas waiting to bathe in the creek.
This adult female crimson rosella was cautiously looking around before entering the nest hollow in a ribbon gum, at dusk. Her partner was keeping watch from a nearby tree.
This young crimson rosella has not yet acquired its full red and blue adult plumage.
Eastern rosellas were not common at the campsite. Note that the cheek-patch is white in this species compared with the blue patch of the crimson rosellas.
A king parrot waiting with a young crimson rosella (in front) for a bathing opportunity.
Two young white cockatoos begging for food from the nearby adult. The young birds made a persistent loud rasping sound whenever a parent bird was nearby.
A noisy friarbird waiting while another one drinks in a protected part of the creek.
This was the most common honeyeater.
This adult spinebill has been grooming itself after its bath.
This is a female white-throated treecreeper, with a reddish spot near her ear.
Having a drink on a hot day.
I have agonised over the identification of the thornbills at Cox's Creek. I think this is a brown thornbill, based on the reddish colouring with obvious white scalloping on its forehead. This distinguishes it from the inland thornbill which would have a black forehead with white scalloping, and the striated thornbill which would have reddish colouring with white streaking on the forehead, and a more obvious pale eyebrow.
This is a striated thornbill, distinguished from the brown thornbill by the pale streak above the eye, striations rather than scallops in the brown colouring on the forehead and the paler eye colour. There are other differences between the species, but the rump colouring often seems to be hidden by the wings.
Striated thornbills coming down to bathe.
This bird, lacking blue colouring to the tail, is probably a female.
Quite often scrub-wrens have been the most common birds around camp-sites. They were not so common here.
A spotted pardalote comes down for a drink.
The bird on the left is an adult, and that on the right is a juvenile. It has its red rump colouring, but hasn't yet acquired its red brow. It still has the white spots near the corners of its beak - its baby gape.
This fellow was encountered in the campground, and was a timely reminder to wear decent footwear and watch where we placed our feet.
Although the wallabies were a bit cautious, at least two of the kangaroos appeared to be quite tame - maybe raised by carers.
We surprised this swamp wallaby at Rocky Creek Falls. It was hiding in the scrub covering the creek, but escaped before we could take any decent photos. This photo has been included just as a record of the species in the area.
The most thrilling thing about the Cox's Creek campsite was the population of greater gliders. They were very common. In the evening, when spotlighting we could find about eight or ten just within the campground area. We had our most successful nights of spotlighting ever, just walking along the path near the creek. They are the most beautiful animals, and it was a privilege to see them here.
We are becoming accustomed to finding boobook owls when we go spot-lighting at night.