Sunday, 26 July 2015

The road that parallels the rail trail

Having some spare time on 25 July I decided to do a birding trip from Bungendore via Hoskinstown to the Captains Flat Rd at Foxlow along the various manifestations of Hoskinstown Road which more or less follows the Captains Flat Rail line, which has been proposed - with a lot of community support - as a rail trail.

My effort started on the edge of Bungendore, at Trucking Yard Lane.  The disused section of the railway line (green line below) comes off the still active Canberra - Goulburn line (black below) about 3 km out of the village.
However, my explorations started on the edge of the village as two dams (and the surrounding paddocks) there often have interesting birds.  The dam on Trucking Yard Lane (TYL in the image above) is the preferred location of a flock of Plumed Whistling Ducks which have taken up residence there over the warmer months.   At times the surrounding paddock, and the trees above the racks in the image below, are occupied by up to 500 each of Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.
However the weather on this day - strong wind and quite cool - was such that the Plumed Whistling Ducks were not observed.  The only waterfowl around were about 75 Pacific Black Ducks and 30 Australian Wood Ducks (aka Maned Goose) and 8 Australian Shelduck.  A few Galahs were over by the racks .

I then moved on to Hoskinstown Road and looked on the dam opposite the Bungendore Meadow development.  This is often the location of large numbers (up to 100) of Australian Shelduck but there were only 6 visible on the dam on this day.  About 100 Galahs were munching on something in the paddock - possibly Cape Weed tubers.

The rest of the trip is illustrated in this image.
About 1 km along Hoskinstown Rd I crossed the active rail line and drove down the road through paddocks for another 5+ kms until our first crossing of the disused line.  After a little climbing over the next 1.4km we got to the road edge of the 6 mile Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR).  As seen in this image at the road it is a very nice area of old Eucalyptus mannifera with lots of hollows, making it popular with nesting species in Spring.
The far side of the TSR is a grassy slope which runs down to the rail trail.  Neils Creek Rd runs through the TSR and crosses the trail  on its way to servicing some properties.  Near the junction of this road and the trail is a largeish dam which has at times provided a harbour for a good range of waterfowl.

Back to Hoskinstown rd, we go downhill and pass the end of Briars-Sharrow Rd on our way to the radio telescope at Mills Cross.(11.7km from Bungendore).  A few hundred metres further and the rail trail crosses the road.
That image gives a good idea of the trail as it crosses the Plain, with rather attractive hills on all sides.   Note also the dam on the Western side of the rails: there are a lot of them in this section of the trail and they be interesting focal points for birds.  At this time of the year the grass in this area in good habitat for the Flame Robins seeking refuge from the cold of Winter in the mountains.

Hoskinstown Rd at this point is bordered by Hawthorns (Crategus sp).  They are unfortunately an introduced species and thus BAD, but also provide shelter for many native birds (including Diamond Firetails) and food for many other species, notably Gang-gang Cockatoos.  Which of course makes them GOOD.  If the ideologues want to get rid of the Hawthorns it is probably a good thing, as long as they establish alternative trees/shrubs, with similar benefits for birds, first!

About 17km after leaving Bungendore one enters the village of Hoskinstown, with the rail line just the east (where it crosses Plains Rd).  I have been told that the first house in the village was rented by Marianne Faithfull while Mick Jagger (now, of course, Sir Mick Jagger) was filming Ned Kelly in Braidwood.

We press on down the road, ignoring side roads leading to Forbes Creek (after 18km) and, after crossing Yandiguinula Creek,  Rossi (23km).   The road now climbs a fair bit to a look out over the Foxlow Lagoon.  The rail has stayed down along the far side of the Creek but is exposed to the Lagoon at its NW end.  This Lagoon is the only large water body in the area traversed by the rail trail and - while it does go dry in very droughtish times - provides a good refuge for water birds.  It is the only site in the area where I am aware of Musk Ducks being resident and wheer I have seen the only Whiskered Tern recorded in the area.  It is on private property which should not be entered.

At the high point of the road is this small memorial.  The silver bowl gives a clue that Brownie was a dog: possibly one who devoted its life to sorting out stock in the surrounding paddocks..
Descending a hill - always a Good Thing on a bike - the trail comes back close to the road running by a remnant of eucalypts.
 I suspect these are a mixture of E, mannifera (Brittle gum) and E. pauciflora (snow gum).  Again the trees are old and with a good supply of hollows.  The area is very popular with nesting Tree Martins in Spring and the fallen timber in this general area has allowed me to record Brown Treecreepers in the past.

You are asking where are pictures of birds?  I took some of Banded Lapwings back near Mills Cross but they were very naff.  However this light-phase Brown Falcon posed nicely on a Koppers log beside the trail crossing about 28.4 km from Bungendore.
Just before the road hits the Captais Flat Rd it crosses the Molonglo River.  The road crossing is slightly East of this interesting rail bridge.
I'll see if I can do another post sometime soon covering the remaining distance down to the Flat.

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