Trip Report: Barrington Tops National Park, 24-25/01/21
Mammals seen in the wild are in bold – any other animals (birds, herps, captive
mammals) are still mentioned, but they are not in bold.
I recently visited Barrington Tops National Park with a friend of mine from
Sydney. I live in Newcastle, so he drove up the night before, and we set off for
Barrington Tops the following morning.
The first stop we made was at Aussie Ark, a captive animal breeding facility that
primarily aims to create an insurance population of ~1600 Tasmanian devils in
case they go extinct in the wild due to DFTD, so they can be reintroduced. As of
now they are at ~400 individuals. Some other endangered Australian animals,
especially the eastern quoll, are also bred there for reintroduction purposes.
Aussie Ark is located in Tomalla, around some of the highest peaks in Barrington
Tops (approx.. 1500m above sea level) which is climatically similar to Tasmania.
When we visited Aussie Ark was having an Open Day, giving one-hour tours to
visitors who had purchased tickets, such as my friend and I. They are not always
open to the public, so be sure to check in advance and book tickets beforehand.
We did get the chance to cuddle Tasmanian devil joeys and pet an eastern quoll,
as well as enter an enclosure with feeding devils, so I quite enjoyed the tour.
After the tour, we set up camp at the nearby (relatively – it was about 45 minutes
away by car) Polblue Camping Ground. I selected this area so we could stay
comfortable because this was the first day of a 3-4 day heatwave; the altitude
(~1500m above sea level) kept things cool. 70km away, in the nearest town
Gloucester at 100m above sea level, max temperature was 36 deg C. In Polblue it
was 26 deg C.
When we finished setting up camp in the evening, we walked a loop/return trail
called the Polblue Swamp Walking Track, saw a red-necked wallaby about
halfway through at the point of the track most distant from the campsite. This
area is supposed to be home to one of only two populations of broad-toothed
rats in NSW (the other is in Kosciuszko National Park), but we didn’t see any.
There is active research and monitoring, including trapping, done on the rats
As darkness began to fall (about 8pm), we began to go spotlighting – I had my
friend drive the Subaru Forester we were using at between 20-40 km/h, and I
scrolled down the window, stuck my head out, and looked in the trees with my
H7.2 LEDLenser headlamp as we passed them. I usually looked about 2/3 of the
way up the tree, which is the height gliders usually hang around at. The ground
was too densely covered to really spotlight most terrestrial mammals properly.
We drove along Barrington Tops Rd at dusk, and saw about 3-4 red-necked
wallabies within 2 minutes of leaving the campsite, and a herd of brumbies (a
stallion, three mares and a foal) about 5 minutes from the campsite. Both of
these sightings occurred when it was still too bright to spotlight. After it had
gotten properly dark, we spotted a common wombat standing next to the road
as we drove along it.
We drove from Barrington Tops Rd to the junction of Pheasant Creek Rd and
Tomalla Rd, and along the way a wombat crossed the road in front of us on two
occasions. At the road junction, drove down Tomalla Rd until we hit farmland,
and the terrain was no longer so steep. The road up until this point (i.e. from
Pheasant Creek Rd-Tomalla Rd junction to the end of the steep terrain) was
supposed to be good for tiger quolls but we dipped. Instead, we began to drive
back along Pheasant Creek Rd to Barrington Tops Rd, so we could follow
Barrington Tops Rd to Geales Bridge hoping to find herps (especially Stephens’
banded snake) on the stretch of tarmac road there. Along the way on Pheasant
Creek Rd, we passed through tall eucalypt forest, where I spotted one greater
glider, and two gliders that were too high to identify but were most likely also
greater gliders (there was some possibility they may have been yellow-bellied
gliders). Once we reached Barrington Tops Rd, we drove along it towards Geales
Bridge. The initial section passed through patches of sub-alpine snow gum
woodland interspersed with patches of Antarctic Beech temperate rainforest,
and in this area we glimpsed a long-nosed potoroo crossing the road ahead of
us. I was not able to get a very detailed look at it, but judging from the size,
shape, colour, and the odd hopping-bounding way it moved that was neither
quite quadrapedal nor bipedal, I’m very confident it was a potoroo and not
anything else. I had a good enough look to see a reasonable outline of the animal
and it was certainly potoroo-sized and –shaped, but the way it moved was the
most convincing thing for me.
We eventually got to Geales bridge and dipped on any herps. We drove back to
Polblue Campground. Along the way, on Barrington Tops Rd, where eucalypts
had become a bit more dominant above the subtropical rainforest layer, we
spotlit one last greater glider, and ran into one last wombat crossing the road.
Upon reaching the campground at a bit past 11pm, we went to sleep.
The next morning we drove down to Sharpes Creek trail to look for subtropical
rainforest birds. This involved leaving the national park and driving through the
peripheral farmland to get to another entrance. We saw a large, handsome
eastern water dragon at one of the creek bridges we crossed along the way, and a
brown falcon perched on a nearby fence post (within 10m). We eventually got to
Sharpes Creek trail at about 8:30-9am, where I was especially hoping to find
noisy pitta, superb lyrebird and paradise riflebird, and all 3 are known to inhabit
this trail. We dipped on all 3 (although I did see a male satin bowerbird, glimpsed
topknot pigeons and saw plenty of bell miners and rufous fantails), but on our
way driving out of the park, we saw one last red-necked wallaby near the Word
Heritage sign. After this, we returned to Newcastle.