Bird watching in Celtic Country
Beardy Dam and Woodlands
The Beardy Waters Dam is one of the best bird watching areas in the district. The site supports a great diversity of wildfowl and there is always a chance of something unusual “stopping over”. To view the entire dam, two areas must be visited – the Shannonvale Road bridge and the Beardy Woodlands Reserve. At the reserve there are picnic shelters and toilets. Platypus have been seen in the river.
Shannonvale Road bridge: Head out the Gwydir Highway towards Grafton, then turn right into the Shannonvale road at the top of the hill. Travel along for 2km (you will see the dam). Parking is available just over the bridge on the eastern side. Both sides of the dam can be viewed from your vehicle.
Beardy Woodlands: Travel along the Gwydir Highway to Grafton about 5km from Glen Innes. The Woodlands is signposted. You can visit either side of the road, with the reserve on the right viewing the dam, and the left viewing the river. The reserve on the right has picnic tables and shaded parking. You can walk upstream towards the weir, where you will have to cross a fence, view the dam from the side of the weir, and the knoll to the left.
Birds seen include: Little pied, littleblack, pied and great cormorants, little, intermediate and great egrets, darter, yellow-billed and royal spoonbills, straw-necked, sacred and glossy ibises, hardhead, shoveler, musk, bluebilled and pink-eared ducks, little and wedge-tailed eagles, red-kneed and black fronted dotterels, sharp-tailed, pectoral and marsh sandpipers, painted and Japanese snipe, blackwinged stilt, whiskered tern, restless flycatcher.
Wellingrove Fossicking Area (Brochure available)
An area of mixed woodland (angophora, eucalypt, casuarina and acacia) surrounding a gully displaying the numerous scratchings of hopeful fossickers. There you will find a picnic area and toilets. If the birds prove elusive you can always try digging for sapphires.
15km from Glen Innes, turn left off the Bonshaw Road, towards Wellingrove. The Wellingrove Fossicking Area is signposted at this junction. The stock route on both sides of this road leading up to the fossicking area can also be rewarding. Turn right after 2km into the fossicking area (also signposted).
Birds seen include: Little and musk lorikeets, king parrot, fan-tailed cuckoo, rufous whistler, buff-rumped and yellowrumped thornbills, varied sitella, brown and whitethroated treecreepers, white-naped, white-plumed, white-eared, yellow-faced, fuscous and regent honeyeaters, eastern spinebill, mistletoe bird, spotted and striated pardalotes, red-browed and diamond firetails, speckled warbler.
Kings Plains National Park
An under-watched area of eucalypt woodland along with casuarinas and wattles and some heath surrounding pools and falls on Kings Plains Creek. Bush camping is permitted and a fireplace is provided at a scenic picnic area on the banks of the creek.
Kings Plains National Park is located 50km northwest of Glen Innes, via the Kings Plains Road. The road is unsealed for about 25km. Follow the signs from Glen Innes (off the Gwydir Highway heading towards Inverell).
Birds seen include: Little and musk lorikeets, scarlet and eastern yellow robins, rufous and golden whistlers, speckled warbler, honeyeaters including yellow tufted, spotted pardalote, dusky wood swallow, double-barred, red-browed finches, white-winged triller, chestnut-rumped heathwren.
A woodland consisting mainly of eucalypts with abundant mistletoe and acacias forming a lower storey. Fine views can be had from the top looking west over the Matheson Valley.
Leave Glen Innes on the Gwydir Highway heading towards Inverell. The turn for Sinclair Lookout is 13km from Glen Innes on the left, as you start heading down the Matheson Hill. You can drive all theway to the lookout, or park your car at the bottom, just off the highway and walk to the lookout, exploring both sides of the dirt road and the gully areas between the dirt road and the highway.
Birds seen include: Wedge-tailed eagle, eastern and crimson rosellas, yellow-rumped and buff-rumped thornbills, whitenaped, yellow-faced, white-eared honeyeaters, eastern spinebill, mistletoe bird, golden whistler, white-winged chough, spotted and striated pardalotes.
Pyes Creek Road
A road through farmland and woodland that at times passes next to a shallow creek. The variety of habitats provides for many species of birds.
Turn left towards Stannum just north of Deepwater. Inspect the pools on your left soon after this turn as they often hold a variety of waterfowl. Follow the road through Stannum onto the Red Hill Road. Turn left (10km from Stannum) when you reach the Pyes Creek Road. This road continues on to Tenterfield. However, better birding is had if you return after 7km via Pyes Creek Road to the New England Highway. Birds can be seen at any time along these roads, especially on PyesCreek and Red Hill Roads. Land on either side of Pyes Creek Road is private. Most of the birds below have been viewed from the road. Drive slowly being mindful of stock and stop when you see activity.
Birds seen include: Wedge-tailed eagle, Pacific baza, yellow-tailed black and glossy black cockatoos, rainbow, musk and little lorikeets, king and turquoise parrots, channel-billed cuckoo, rainbow bee-eater, dollarbird, hooded and eastern yellow robins, restless flycatcher, white-throated and brown treecreepers, honeyeaters (including scarlet), apostlebird, diamond, plum-headed and redbrowed finches, tawny frogmouth.
Washpool, Gibraltar Range National Parks (Brochure available)
These National Parks provide two areas of wilderness where many bird species not normally seen further west can be found. Picnic and camping facilities are available in both parks.
Washpool: Travel along the Gwydir Highway heading towards Grafton. Turn left 73km east of Glen Innes onto the Coombadjha Road, follow the signs to the picnic and rest areas. The rest areas and their connecting tracks are as good as any place for spotting birds.
Gibraltar Range: Again travelling along the Gwydir Highway towards Grafton, turn right 69km east of Glen Innes. Information on the parks facilities can be obtained from the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre. The Mulligan’s Hut area is one place that should be explored as well as the road leading to the hut.
Birds seen include: Grey goshawk, brush-turkey, Wompoo fruit-dove, topknot pigeon, brown cuckoo-dove, glossy black and yellow-tailed black cockatoos, king parrots, superb lyrebird, brush cuckoo, noisy pitta, rufous scrub bird, cicadabird, White’s thrush, pale yellow robin, blackfaced monarch, rufous fantail, eastern whipbird, southern emu-wren, large-billed, white-browed and yellow-throated scrubwrens, brown gerygone, yellow and striated thornbills, little wattlebird, Bell miner, Lewin’s honeyeater, figbird, green catbird, spangled drongo, satin bowerbird.
Mann River Nature Reserve (Brochure available)
A scenic reserve with rugged terrain contrasting with peaceful river flats. Fireplaces and toilets are provided on the reserve making it ideal for picnics or camping. The waterholes at the camping area are suitable for swimming.
Head out the Gwydir Highway towards Grafton. Turn right 36km east of Glen Innes. The camping area is 10km along this road down “The Big Hill”. Search around the camping area. One km further east the road crosses the Mann River near the Wytaliba School. The northern banks of the river are worth exploring. For the fit or those with a 4WD, the Narrow Pass track climbs up through the reserve to Tommy’s Rock Lookout. The beginning of the track is 4km east of the camping area.
Birds seen include:Little pied cormorant, straw-necked ibis, common koel, azure kingfisher, rainbow bee-eater, dollarbird, spotted quailthrush, rose robin, golden and rufous whistlers, redbacked fairy wren, speckled warbler, spotted and striated pardalote, red-browed and white-throated treecreepers, red-browed firetail, yellow-faced honeyeater, eastern spinebill, Torresian crow.
Little Llangothlin Lagoon
A highland wetland Nature Reserve attracting a variety of wildfowl and waders. Access: New England Highway, 42km south of Glen Innes. Take the Tubbamurra Road and after 3km turn left on Bagot Road. The reserve is a further 3.2km. The reserve can be used as a viewing area for bird watching, and there is also an easy 4.8km walking track circling the lagoon. The loop track can be taken via Billy Bung Lagoon and the old dairy site that extends the walk by 900 metres. Birds seen include: Australasian grebe, white-faced and white-necked herons, black swan, black-winged stilt, Japanese snipe, swamp harrier, grey teal, black and musk ducks, blackfronted dotterel, varied sitella, grey butcherbird. A full list of wildlife and birds seen is included in the Little Llangothlin Nature Reserve brochure.
This information has been prepared by members of Birds Australia Northern NSW group. Additionally, the contribution of the late John Crofts in compiling the text for this page is warmly acknowledged.
Illustrations courtesy of Simpson & Day’s FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF AUSTRALIA Seventh edition Published by Penguin Group (Australia).