Birdwatching in Capertee Valley - Overview and Preparation
We got back from Capertee Valley recently and boy are my eyes tired. We had a GREAT time and it was a dream come true to visit one of the best birdwatching locations in the world. Capertee Valley is what's known as an IBA which stands for 'Important Bird Area.' There are some 12,000 places in the world with this categorization, but Capertee Valley happens to be in the top 50 best birding locations in the world and only one of two locations in Australia listed in the book: Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die by Chris Santella.
In fact, Capertee Valley is home to more species of birds than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere.
What makes this valley so special? Just like in real estate, the answer is: location, location, location. Not only is Capertee Valley the second widest valley in the world after the Grand Canyon, but it's also where the forests of the Blue Mountains transition to the woodlands of the NSW Western Slopes. Ringed by national parks and conservation areas, this valley's got it all, especially birds. Check out my crudely drawn Venn Diagram below:
See what I mean? It's the ultimate mash-up of inland and coast. And what's especially nice about the valley is that you don't have to go very far inland to see all those inland birds. Capertee Valley is just a three hour drive from Sydney.
Before I go any further about Capertee Valley, I have to mention that it's one of the few and best places to see Regent Honeyeaters, which are critically endangered. If you live in Sydney, you might have noticed that the Taronga Zoo has been featuring these birds a lot in the last year since they turned 100. To celebrate, they picked a handful of species to make a long-term commitment to and the Regent Honeyeater was one of them. They've done conservation work and successfully released birds back into the wild after breeding them at the zoo.
Their biggest threat is the loss of habitat they've experienced through deforestation, disease, livestock and dense planting. These little guys LOVE ironbark trees. Which is what's so cool about Capertee Valley, because many of the land holders have committed to planting ironbark trees to provide a habitat for the Regent Honeyeater. See, the land is all private in the valley. It's mostly cattle farms, but everywhere you go you see signs about the project and planting along the road. It's a wonderful thing that's going on there and I hope it makes Regent Honeyeaters happy, because let's face it: they've had a rough time.
But that leads us to the next part of visiting Capertee Valley - how to see it if it's all private land and cattle farms? As the saying goes: if you can't beat em, join em. Most of the farmers have created places on their property for visitors to stay. In our case, we found a rental through airbnb that was in the heart of the valley called Glen Alice Farm. It was incredible and we loved where we stayed. It was right along the bird trail, which is a series of 19 easily accessible bird watching sites. Each site is marked by a sign that lets your know what birds you might expect to see there. These signs are all on the side of the road, at easy to identify landmarks like bridges or intersections. But staying at a farm let us sit outside each morning with our coffee listening to the dawn chorus of birds.
To prepare for the trip, we bought some warm heatech clothing from Uniqlo (since we went in Winter) and made sure to brush up on what we might expect to see during the trip. Amy and I each made a wishlist of birds we hoped to see - her's was the red-rumped parrot (check) and mine was the diamond firetail finch (Amy saw it, but I didn't).
Lastly, on our way out of Sydney, we made sure to do a grocery shop as stops along the way are limited. The most important thing to know, though, is that the closest fuel can be a 40 minute drive from the valley depending on where you stay, so we filled up before heading into the valley to make sure we had enough for the 3 days we were there. The only thing left to do was some serious bird watching which we've covered in our Capertee Valley Part II post.