The Central Coast of Australia is a one and one half hour drive or train ride north of Sydney so it is an easy day trip for the visiting birdwatcher. It encompasses the local government areas of Gosford and Wyong. For the keen birder, it provides a wide variety of habits with about 420 species being recorded here. A day’s birding is likely to yield in excess of 100 species.
There is a very active birding community here with a monthly meeting and two field trips scheduled every month.
RTA Reserve Ourimbah
The RTA Reserve was acquired as farmland when the M1 motorway was built about 35 years ago. It is now regenerating into rainforest/wet sclerophyll forest. It is home to a significant variety of birds including the more common species such as Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Whipbird, Brown Gerygone, Yellow-throated Scrubwren , Golden Whistler, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, Brown Thornbill, Satin Bowerbird, Green Catbird, Red-browed Finch and Superb Blue Wren. Bassian Thrushes are seen regularly along with a variety of pigeons including Topknot, Wonga, Brown, and White-headed. Bar-shouldered Doves are also relatively common but the Emerald Dove is only an occasional visitor. It is not usual to see a Grey Goshawk patrolling the tree tops.
It is also home to two iconic birds for the Central Coast – the Bell Miner and Regent Bowerbird.
The tinkling territorial call of the Bell Miner is heard along the ridges and creek lines throughout the Central Coast. It was the title of a very well known Australian poem by Henry Kendall which was inspired by the time he spent here. These pugnacious birds live in large colonies in eucalyptus trees which they vigorously defend their main food source – lerps. Lerps are a structure of crystallized honeydew produced by larvae of psyllid insects as a protective cover. Lerps are a favoured food source for a variety of honeyeaters, lorikeets, pardalotes and thornbills so the Bell Miners are kept busy. Unfortunately, the Bell Miners are so successful at “farming” their food source that eventually the eucalyptus succumbs to the insect attack and starts to dieback. The Bell Miners then move on to a new site.
The male Regent Bowerbird is breathtakingly beautiful with its magnificent plumage of black body and gold cap and wings. Whether seeing them for the first or the 100th time, it is always an exciting experience. The male Regent, like its more common relative, the Satin, builds avenue bowers to attract the females. The Satin Bowerbird decorates its bower with blue objects whereas the Regent uses shells, seeds, leaves and berries.
The arrival of the spring migrants brings a new sense of vibrancy to the reserve. The forest rings with the calls of Black-faced Monarch, Rufous Fantail, Brush Cuckoo, Leaden Flycatcher and Common Cicadabird. The postman whistle call of the Fan-tail Cuckoo is heard constantly.
Spring and Summer yields some interesting vagrants for the Central Coast including Spectacled Monarch, Noisy Pitta and White-winged Triller.
Macpherson Road Swamp, Central Coast Wetlands-Dairy Swamp & Tuggerah Sewage Treatment Works
These fresh water bodies are all located within a couple of kilometres of each other and host a similar variety of birds. Ducks such as Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Duck and Hardhead are common, while the presence of Freckled, Pink-eared, Shoveler, Musk and Blue-billed are dependent on inland seasonal conditions. Great and Little Egrets are common with Intermediate also seen regularly. White-faced Heron are common while White-necked Heron and Glossy Ibis sightings are irregular. Black-winged Stilt are breeding residents while Red-kneed and Black Fronted Dotterels are also seen regularly.
Common raptors are Whistling Kites, Swamp Harrier, White- bellied Sea-eagle and Black- shouldered Kite
Macpherson Road Swamp has a good population of Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. The calls of Tawny and Little Grassbird characterise McPherson Road. This is the best place to see Latham’s Snipe in Summer since Australian Painted Snipe and Black-tailed Nativehen have been recorded here.
The Dairy Swamp is a more likely site for waders where Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is the most common species but Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-toed Stint and Oriental Plover have all been seen here in the last couple of years. The Dairy Swamp area has a series of fresh water creeks flowing through it providing habitat for Black Bittern, Azure Kingfisher and Striped Honeyeater. Southern Emu-wren is also a regular sighting here.
Warrah Trig (near Patonga)
The ridge top heath land around Warrah trig is characteristic of much of Brisbane Water National Park. Honeyeaters such as White-cheeked, New Holland, White-eared, Little and Red Wattlebird and Eastern Spinebill are all common here and Chestnut-rumpled Heathwren can be seen here. This is also a good site for the Rockwarbler. The Rockwarbler is always found close the ground acting like a scubwren. Its range is confined to the Hawkesbury Sandstone area of NSW. It is the only endemic bird of NSW.
A walk to the lookout is a must. Not only has the Rockwarbler been seen here but the view of the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater is absolutely stunning. The birdwatcher may be rewarded with views of soaring Whistling Kites, White–belled Sea-eagle or even a Peregrine Falcon.
Munmorah State Recreation Area
Located at the northern end of coast, local birders go to the Munmorah State Recreation Area to see Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Brush Bronzewing and Dusky Woodswallow in the coastal heaths. However, the park also supports a huge variety of the more common honeyeaters. It is worth a drive here just to witness the spectacular coastal scenery at Wybung Head and Snapper Rocks.
The Tuggerah Lake system consists of three interconnected, relatively shallow saltwater lakes emptying into the Tasman Sea at The Entrance. It is the dominant topographical feature of Wyong Shire.
From a birding perspective, it supports a significant variety of water birds including Black Swan, Australian Pelican, 4 species of Cormorant, Darter, Black-winged Stilt, Grey and Chestnut Teal, Black Duck as well as Egrets and Ibis. Terns such as Crested and Caspian are common while Whiskered are occasional visitors and Little Terns usually nest at The Entrance in summer.
The number and species of waders depends a little on the lake level but Sharp-tailed and Marsh Sandpipers, Greenshank and Bar-tailed Godwit can usually be found. Great and Red Knot use the lake as a stop-over so while seen every year, they are not here for long.
Three headlands – Norah Head, Soldiers Point and Pelican Point provide a suitable habitat for waders. Soldiers Point usually has a good number of Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Red-capped Plover and Grey-tailed Tattler. In addition, Wandering Tattler has been a regular summer visitor. Common Terns arrive in Summer and are replaced by White-fronted Terns and Double-banded Plovers in the Winter before returning to New Zealand to breed. Reef Egret turn up irregularly at any time of the year.
Norah Head is the best place to sea watch. In summer, Wedge-tailed, Short-tailed and Fluttering Shearwaters can be seen in large numbers while winter brings Black- browed, Yellow-nosed, Shy and even the occasional Wandering Albatross into telescope range.
For the more adventurous, boat trips to the continental shelf leave twice a year from Swansea. Winter trips yield Albatrosses (Wandering, Black-browed, Shy, Yellow-nosed and Bullers) along with Brown Skua and Giant winged and Providence Petrels. Summer trips tick off the shearwaters as well as Wilson’s and White-faced Storm Petrels. Long-tailed, Pomerine and Arctic Jaegers’ were seen on the last trip. These trips yield some significant vagrants over the years including Cook’s, Black and Tahiti Petrel, Red-tailed Tropicbird, White Tern as well as Black-bellied and New Zealand Storm-petrels.
Settlers Road Bucketty
The convict built Great North Road forms part of Settlers Road. This road was completed in 1836 to join the colony of Sydney with fertile Hunter Valley. Remnants of the road can still be seen. It is forms the western boundary for the Gosford Local Area and thus offers the Central Coast birders the opportunity to see a new suite of birds in the dry forest. The most dominant bird here is the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater but other honeyeaters such as White-naped, White-eared and White-cheeked are also plentiful when conditions are right. Painted Buttonquail and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren favour this habit along with Common Bronzewing, Gang-Gang and both Yellow-tailed and Glossy Black Cockatoo. There is a resident pair of Spotted Quail-thrush at the Mogo Camp ground and White-belied Cuckoo-shrike is seen regularly.