NSW parks & reserves birding & natural history tour 17-22 Nov 2024

Dennis Braddy - Glossy Black-cockatoo - Inala Nature Tours
Dennis Braddy - Glossy Black-cockatoo - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Sunday, 17 November 2024 to Friday, 22 November 2024
6 days
AU$4,235 per person sharing. Single supplement: AU$650
Star attractions are Superb Lyrebird, Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Eastern Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren, Gang-gang Cockatoo and the NSW endemic Rock Warbler. We also include a night tour to see nocturnal mammals such as Greater and Sugar Gliders.

Have you ever wondered what wildlife lives within the iconic and scenically beautiful National Parks like the Blue Mountains?
Join us for a wildlife adventure into several different National Parks located around the Sydney area where you will be amazed by what is living so close to Australia's largest city.

With a wide variety of habitats on the city’s doorstep, this six-day tour of the Sydney area takes in the best of the region’s wildlife, from an abundance of birdlife through to various amazing mammals and reptiles. We visit the beautiful Royal National Park, the vast Blue Mountains National Park, the incomparable Capertee Valley and the heathlands, forest and open ocean of the Illawarra region. Star attractions being Superb Lyrebird, Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Eastern Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren, Gang-gang Cockatoo and the NSW endemic Rock Warbler.  We also include a night tour to see nocturnal mammals such as Greater and Sugar Gliders.

This tour has been designed to link with Inala's South-eastern Queensland's Birds and Wildlife Tour so please contact us if you are interested in joining both.

Start Location: 
Sydney NSW
Finish location: 
Sydney NSW

Inala Nature Tours NSW parks & reserves birding & natural history small group tour

17th – 22nd November 2024

Have you ever wondered what wildlife lives within the iconic and scenically beautiful National Parks like the Blue Mountains?
Join us for a wildlife adventure into several different National Parks located around the Sydney area where you will be amazed by what is living so close to Australia's largest city.

With a wide variety of habitats on the city’s doorstep, this six-day tour of the Sydney area takes in the best of the region’s wildlife, from an abundance of birdlife through to various amazing mammals and reptiles. We visit the beautiful Royal National Park, the vast Blue Mountains National Park, the incomparable Capertee Valley and the heathlands, forest and open ocean of the Illawarra region. Star attractions being Superb Lyrebird, Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Eastern Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren, Gang-gang Cockatoo and the NSW endemic Rock Warbler.  We also include a night tour to see nocturnal mammals such as Greater and Sugar Gliders.

This tour has been designed to join our South East Queensland group tour (7-16 Nov 24) and our South East Australia tour (23 Nov - 2 Dec 24) 


Day 1. Sun 17 Nov 2024. Superb Lyrebirds and superb birding: Royal National Park-Illawarra-Jamberoo.  
Day 2.  Mon 18 Nov 2024. Birds, macropods and amazing nocturnal mammals: Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. 
Day 3.  Tue 19 Nov 2024. Albatrosses and Whales: Kiama pelagic and Jamberoo area.  
Day 4.  Wed 20 Nov 2024. Jamberoo to Blue Mountains National Park. 
Day 5.  Thu 21 Nov 2024. Capertee National Park. 
Day 6.  Fri 22 Nov 2024. Capertee Valley to Sydney and depart. 


B- breakfast, L- lunch and D-dinner.

Day 0. Saturday 16 November 2024. Arrival in Sydney.
Participants also joining our SE Australian tour travel from Melbourne to Sydney today. Own arrangements today.
Accommodation: none**. Meals included: none.

Day 1. Sunday 17 November 2024. Superb Lyrebirds and superb birding: Royal National Park-Illawarra-Jamberoo.
We will head just to the south of Sydney this morning and enter world-famous Royal NP (one of the world’s oldest national parks), focussing our attention on the riparian forests and woodland along the Hacking River where we will have a great chance of finding our first Superb Lyrebird, as well as Azure Kingfisher, Variegated Fairy-wren, Scarlet Honeyeater, Brown Gerygone, Green Catbird, Pacific Baza and Topknot Pigeon. Further into the park we will also search the open heathlands for birds like Southern Emu-wren, Beautiful Firetail, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. We may be lucky enough to see a Tiger Snake or Copper-tailed Skink as well. In the early afternoon we will make our way further south toward the Illawarra region, with the hamlet of Jamberoo our destination for three nights. In the local area can be found Eastern & Crimson Rosellas, Australian King-parrot, Dusky Woodswallow and Red Wattlebird. There will also be another chance for Superb Lyrebird near our accommodation.
Accommodation: Jamberoo (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 2. Monday 18 November 2024. Birds, macropods and amazing nocturnal mammals: Barren Grounds Nature Reserve.
With an early rise in order we make our way to Barren Grounds Nature Reserve where we commence our search for a few of the skulkers of the area. Tall forest and adjacent heathlands in this area are home to Eastern Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren, Pilotbird, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Yellow-throated Scrub-wren, White-naped Honeyeater, Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo and the very uncommon Eastern Ground Parrot. Mammals here include Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Swamp Wallaby. After lunch and down along coastal areas we will look for Sooty Oystercatcher, Australian Pelican, Crested Tern, Australasian Figbird and Little Wattlebird. Possible reptiles include Eastern Water Skink, Water Dragon and Red-bellied Black Snake. In the evening and if energy levels allow, we can go out for a bit of nocturnal spotlighting, with the chance of Sooty Owl, Southern Boobook and Tawny Frogmouth, as well as mammals like Greater Glider, Sugar Glider and Common Ringtail Possum.
Accommodation: Jamberoo (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Tuesday 19 November 2024. Albatrosses and Whales: Kiama pelagic and Jamberoo area.
Another early morning will see us down on the docks at the coastal town of Kiama, ready to board our charter for the day as we head out to the continental shelf in order to see a variety of pelagic seabirds. Species we will look for include Shy, Campbell & Buller’s Albatross, Grey-faced Petrel, Providence Petrel, Fairy Prion, Pomarine Jaeger, White-faced & Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Australasian Gannet and hopefully Wandering Albatross. At this time of year we will have an excellent chance of seeing migrating Humpback Whales, with some individuals often approaching the boat quite closely. Other mammals include the chance of Common & Bottlenose Dolphins, Short-finned Pilot Whale and New Zealand Fur Seal. We usually arrive back to shore mid-afternoon so if we’re up for it we can do some local birding or just have the rest of the afternoon off to relax.
Accommodation: Jamberoo (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Wednesday 20 November 2024. Jamberoo to Blue Mountains National Park.
After a more leisurely breakfast this morning we will leave the Illawarra and make our way towards the Blue Mountains, necessitating a few hours of travel in the morning. Birding en route we hope to find Bell Miner, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Grey Butcherbird and Australian Hobby. In the afternoon we will concentrate our efforts on finding the enigmatic Rock Warbler amongst the tumbled and craggy sandstone outcrops of the Blue Mountains National Park. Other birds in the mountainous forests here can include Red-browed Treecreeper, Eastern Whipbird, Rose Robin, Common Koel and White-browed Scrubwren. If the sun is shining, we may find reptiles like Diamond Python or Jacky Dragon. We will then make our way to our base at Lithgow late afternoon. Accommodation: Lithgow (en suite rooms).  Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Thursday 21 November 2024. Capertee National Park.
We will be heading to the amazing and beautiful Capertee Valley today, so we will need to leave early in order to take in enough of this biological hotspot. The region’s avifauna is a melting pot of dry country, inland species as well as those of coastal forests and mountains, and thus supports a huge array of different birds. We’ll look for Little Eagle, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Scarlet Robin, Spotted Quail-thrush, Double-barred Finch, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Wonga Pigeon, Turquoise Parrot, Little Lorikeet, Rufous Songlark, Speckled Warbler, White-browed Babbler, Southern Whiteface, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Black-chinned Honeyeater, to name but a few. If conditions are in our favour there may be the chance of the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater in the Capertee National Park, and we will have another chance of Rock Warbler here as well. Mammals here include Red-necked Wallaby, Common Wallaroo and Yellow-footed Antechinus, and we could find reptiles such Eastern Brown Snake, Lace Monitor or Striped Skink.  
Accommodation: Lithgow (en suite rooms).  Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Friday 22 November 2024. Capertee Valley to Sydney and depart.
This morning we will make a final sojourn into the Capertee Valley to look for any birds we may be missing, and then after lunch will make our way back to Sydney where the tour will conclude.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B, L.

 Group size: 6-8 people + specialist Inala guide

2024 Price  AU $4,235 per person sharing for a minimum group size of 6 people
Single supplement: AU $650 

Discounts are available for joining two or more consecutive tours together (ie NSW and SE Queensland or SE Australia and NSW). Please contact us for details.

Price includes: 6 nights’ accommodation, specialist guide and transport, meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary.

Price does not include: Airfares, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, laundry, or other items of a personal nature.

**Please note: We would be pleased to arrange accommodation in Sydney before and after the tour if required.

Further Information:

 Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee.  Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations.  Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink.  Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.

The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline.  Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to.  The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.

The pelagic: This activity is weather dependant. In the unlikely event that the pelagic is cancelled, some land-based touring will be available in the area that day.   

Link to map of tour general locations in google maps

Please click here to open a separate online doc which answers many of the questions you may have about joining an Inala small-group tour, from the structure of an average day to the pace, activity level, meals, rooms etc .......

NSW Parks & Reserves Tour 18th – 23rd November 2022
Trip Report - Angus McNab
( NOTE: The 2022 tour coincided with very challenging windy weather conditions, so the itinerary was adapted to suit the challenges. )

Day 1, 18th November – Sydney to Lithgow

We collected everyone before leaving town and managed to spot an Eastern Koel in the tree above the parked car when meeting Noelene. From there we drove up the mountains. Our first stop was extremely quiet, there was hardly a bird to be heard. Spotted Pardalotes were one of the few calling birds. Fortunately, we spotted a gravid Jacky Dragon on the road which was a good start for the herps list We walked the closed road toward Murphy’s Glen Campground, and birds were silent, fortunately the group was eagle-eyed and we managed to spot a few birds including Fan-tailed Cuckoo, White-browed Tree Creeper, Eastern Spinebill, Brown Thornbill, and a big male Jacky Dragon.

After lunch the birds continued to be quiet but as we walked, we had some moments of activity, with Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Red-browed Treecreeper, White-browed Scrubwren, Eastern Yellow Robin, Crimson Rosella, a Grey Fantail family, and Pied Currawong on a nest. 

Our final stop today was again in search of Rockwarbler. The road was closed to vehicles but we could walk down and enjoy the flowers along the trail. We got down to the spectacular lookout without much birding success. After enjoying the view we walked back up the trail and had some more luck stopping for Striated Thornbills. We watched a group of at least four Satin Bowerbirds making odd calls, playing on balancing sticks, and flying around together. King Parrots, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and Striated Pardalotes were spotted as we made our way out before heading to Lithogow.

Day 2, 19th November – Capertee Valley

It was an early start today, 5:15 breakfast and we were off! Making our way down into the valley we stopped in an forested area with stony, gravelly soils and relative dense ground cover. Stepping out of the car we instantly spotted a Gang-gang in the tree above us, one of Noleen’s targets for the trip. The male sat and fed, dropped some vegetation and then headed off. We listened as the White-throated Treecreepers sang with the Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Striated Pardalotes, and Spotted Pardalotes, while Red-browed Finches moved through the undergrowth. Noisy Friarbirds were loud and raucous but we were after a softer, high-pitched call and it wasn’t long until we heard it. A Spotted Quailthrush was calling from the hillside above us. We watched and searched for movement, then it came out in a blast and perched high in the trees calling for its mate which responded but didn’t show.

Moving along to our next stop and within minutes we had already seen more birds than yesterday! A restless Flycatcher sat on the nest, Eastern Yellow Robins flitted about the mid canopy, an Olive-backed Oriole called from the treetops, and Superb fairy-wrens moved down low.  We heard the distant calls of the Channel-billed Cuckoo, and glimpsed an individual as it flew by in the distance. There were many birds (and goats) to see, and we ended with a Fan-tailed Cuckoo down low which Noleen Managed to get a great photo of!

We slowly moved into the valley, stopping on the roadside for more birds. Grey-crowned Babblers and Speckled Warbler were not very cooperative, but Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Gerygone were all as cooperative as these small birds can be. Red-rumped Parrots, Tree Martins, and Fairy Martins flitted by, whilst Australian Ravens sat in the trees, Australian Pipits hid in the grass and Golden-headed Cisticolas called from the grasstops.

We moved Towards Glen Alice for lunch and a short walk with Common Bronzewing, Crested Shrike-tit, Jacky Winter, White-plumed Honeyeaters, and a family of White-winged Choughs. 

We made our way back slowly, stopping in at a few spots to try for photos of Cisticolas and better views of the Babblers before hitting up the Lithgow Treatment Plant. The ponds were quiet bird wise but loud Australian Reed Warbler wise. A Pink-eared Duck was sitting in a prime viewing position on a post, whilst the Dusky Moorhens, Pacific Black Ducks, Australasian Grebes, and domestic feral duck floated around the ponds.

Day 3, 20th November – Lithgow to Jamberoo

Today was beautiful, blue skies, sunny, and warm, however it was blowing a gale from our first stop through to our last. This made for a challenging day, but we saw some beautiful sites, saw some birds, and undertook a scenic drive We headed down from the Blue Mountains towards Royal National Park.

Arriving in the park, we spotted Superb Fairywrens, Laughing Kookaburras, Pied Currawong, and more Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, with water birds being almost non-existent.

We had lunch at a Picnic Area, watching as the Kookaburras stole peoples food and shared it with the Australian Magpies, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and Noisy Miners. A little Pied Cormorant and Dollarbird were highlights here before we walked down the track in search of more birds. Birds continued to be hard to spot, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Australian Golden Whistler, and Easter Spinebill were about all we saw before we heard a large tree come down in the distance. A good indication we should move on we walked back with Anne spotting a Common Tree Snake on the edge of the path.

Unfortunately, there had been an accident and the occurrence of the emergency service vehicles became apparent. This meant the road we had planned and sites we planned to visit we closed or required access from another direction. We headed out of the park and looped around to get back to a beach. The access road was also closed as we approached but as we turned around the road closed signs were removed, and we managed to get down to the beach parking area. A Lace Monitor was present in the picnic area, searching for food, and we headed down the track. New Holland Honeyeaters were abundant, with a few other birds like Grey Shrikethrush, Grey Fantail, and White-browed Scrubwren being seen. We stopped at the swimming hole and had an Eastern Water Dragon and Eastern Water Skink sitting on the rocks which were a nice bit of variety. The wind continued to blow hard and we headed back to the car and onwards to Jamberoo. A missed corner allowed us to see a Rock Dove as we passed the Wollongong Hospital before continuing to our accommodation.

Day 4, 21st November – Southern Highlands

We had hoped the wind would ease, despite predictions it would stay the same. Our pelagic was postponed due to bad weather and our plans changed, we headed to Barren Grounds. It was difficult to have a conversation once we were out of the car, the wind was blowing terribly. We had to try! The resident Pied Currawong was in the carpark, and Anne was quickly onto a Black-faced Monarch but it was difficult after that. We wandered the trails in hope of spotting an Eastern Ground Parrot, but it wasn’t to be. Brown Thornbills were still about in the low heath and a small group of Southern Emu-wrens were chatting as we approached but barely poked their bills out of the heath. It was going to be a tough day. We continued to search and covered a few kms but the birds were doing there best not to be out in the weather. We turned to the botany as we walked and we saw many colourful flowers, including Christmas Bells.

In the afternoon we headed south to Shoalhaven Heads in search of some coast birds. Arriving at the carpark we had a quick lesson in wader ID using the well painted toilet block as an informative guide. Wandering down to the beach we had a group of 15 or so White-throated Needletails fly overhead, circling in big arcs, with a small Tree Martin or two flying in a similar area. A nice group of birds to spot, the clear blue skies allowed us to view the patterning well and not just have them as silhouettes. The beach was quite with the occasional Crested Tern and one White-bellied Sea-eagle flying overhead. We moved back around the headland and into the full blasting of the wind and there wasn’t a lot to see, even the shorebirds had taken refuge elsewhere, out of the wind.

Checking another part of the area we managed to get onto south Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Far Eastern Curlew, Grey Plover, Australian Pelican, Crested Tern over the shallow sand banks.  A few birds we hadn’t previously seen but the wind just kept blowing and blowing.

We made another stop at Hanging Rock Lookout and made our way down below the lookout, the wind was somewhat less of an issue and the birds were hiding down here. White-headed Pigeon, Brown-cuckoo Dove, Eastern Whipbird, Lewin’s Honeyeater, and Azure Kingfisher were nice birds that had been hard to spot throughout the trip. The walk was very scenic and the rock formations beautiful but the Rockwarblers remained elusive.

Day 5, 22nd November – Southern Highlands revisited

The wind continued to blow a gale this morning, so we attempted to avoid the worst of it heading into a low point in the hills. A Brush Cuckoo was singing loudly at the entrance but could not be spotted in the canopy, we wandered along the shade covered park and it was relatively quiet but once we reached a sunny patch covered in Lantana there were plenty of birds to see. Silvereyes, Lewin’s Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, the introduced Red-whiskered Bulbul, Welcome Swallows, Brown Thornbills were all feeding and chasing each other. Down on the dam Black Swans were nesting or already had relatively large cygnets, and Pacific Black Ducks were coming and going as Australasian Swamphens fed in the long Grass.

The Minnamurra National Park opens at 9 am and we did our best to get there as soon as it opened. As we approached the gate a Superb Lyrebird was sitting on the road and gave us a look as it ran into the bush. Apparently, we needed a better look so we continued into the park for a walk. Exiting the vehicle there were three lyrebirds calling just meters from the creekline below our viewpoint. Could we see them? No. we listened as the sung and mimicked other birds before deciding we needed to try find another. We walked the boardwalk through the park slowly searching for our target. The wind was still fairly strong above us but it was relatively still at ground level, but the birds were quiet. As we moved we heard the scratching of a Superb Lyrebird and watched for a few minutes as it moved across the forest floor in search of invertebrates. Once everyone was happy we moved on, trying to find any of the Brown Gerygones that were calling. As we neared the end of the walk we spotted a juvenile cuckoo being fed by a Brown Thornbill, much to the disgust of a pair of Black-faced Monarch. We had some morning tea, watching the picnic birds (Pied Currawongs) watching us.

It was a bit over an hour drive to a lake where we had lunch, and enjoyed some more bird art on the toilet block. It was a beautiful day but the wind remained a hinderance. On the lake there were Crested Tern, Caspian Tern and a very active flock of Little Terns. Six Far Eastern Curlew were nervous we had arrived (despite the 150m and water between us) and took flight down to the beach. Masked Lapwings and a single Red-capped Plover where the only other shore-bird types we saw but a White-bellied Sea-eagle and more White-throated Needletails were nice to see against a blue sky rather than the usual storm-front white skies.

With little actions we optimistically tried our luck again at Barren Grounds. A quick coffee and we headed to the park. Upon arrival it wasn’t as windy as yesterday, more gusty and less consistent however, where the wind had dropped in the lowlands it hadn’t in the hills and it was very windy, too windy. We tried our luck and were rewarded with better views of a pair of Southern Emu-wrens, however, these with the Pied Currawongs brough the total list of birds seen to two. We could faintly here a few other species but called it a day before long, as it was extremely unlikely we would see anything more. Another drive down the Macquarie Pass and we were home.

Day 6, 23rd November – Jamberoo to Sydney

Weather forecast suggested the wind would be less today, and it wasn’t as windy as previous days but it was still very challenging and the wind was stronger than we had hoped. Our first stop was Coachwood Park, where we really felt the wind. There was a good number of birds moving but most were keeping low and out of the wind. Our hope of seeing birds that the frequent the canopy were dashed, but Satin Bowerbird, Laughing Kookaburra with young, Noisy Miners, Super Fairywren, Lewin’s Honeyeater were making the most of the morning sun.

We headed back to Royal National Park and as there were no motor vehicle accidents we were able to move around the park freely. We started out at the beach and walked part of the coast trail. Little Wattlebirds were the most commonly seen bird, White-browed Scrubwrens were also common but not much else was vocal. The views were spectacular and the walk around the cliff edges and sandstone walls were something to behold.  A river provided a nice quite picnic area that was empty but was quite lovely. We managed to find both Brown Gerygone and Large-billed Scrubwrens in the shady areas along the creek whilst hearing Eastern Water Dragons moving through the leaf litter.

We revisited our previous lunch spot and reacquainted ourselves with the local Laughing Kookaburras, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and Pacific Black Ducks that wanted our food. It was also nice to get better looks at the Dollarbird, and watch an Azure Kingfisher fishing in the river. From here we walked along the track hoping again for Rockwarblers but it wasn’t to be, we walked all the rocky sections and further through the carpark but without luck.

We had a final attempt for Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. It was getting hotter and with little shade but we pushed through and walked the track with New Holland Honeyeaters calling nonstop. Upon reaching a steep downhill we decided to turn around, stopping and watching some Spotted Pardalotes as they flittered in the canopy. As we walked back towards the car we got to see a single Beautiful Firetail feeding on grass seeds, a great little bird we missed at Barren Grounds, and a good result from our walk. We made one final stop back too a weir to round out the day, spotting a few good sized Eastern Water Dragons before we finished up the trip.

I’d like to thank you all for joining on this trip! It was unfortunate that the weather played such a significant role in limiting our ability to find our targets but I really appreciate your positivity throughout the trip and I do hope you enjoyed it. We saw some nice birds, and beautiful flowers and scenery, which was a lot of fun for me. I look forward to birding with you all again in the future.

Guide: Angus McNab
Trip report & Images: Angus McNab

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