On a disused section of a cropping farm in central NSW, one man is on a quest to unravel some of the secrets of the painted honeyeater.

Story + Photo Don Fuchs

Laconic farmer Harry Rowling owns several stations, including Wollongough station, just past the quiet town of Ungarie in central NSW. He has been growing wheat on its 146ha and is expecting a profitable year.

A small parcel of Wollongough, where the historic Wollongough Homestead once stood, is neglected. The overgrown buildings are derelict and beyond salvation, and vegetation is claiming back the land. For Harry, the ground here doesn’t have much value for cropping. It tends to flood and get boggy after rain. This, however, is not the reason he doesn’t touch this parcel.

“We leave that here as habitat for the birds,” he says. “I like birds.”

Surprisingly, this very small corner of his property has turned into a conservation project of great value. Several mature weeping myalls infested with grey mistletoe grow here, proving irresistible to a rare and rather elusive bird, the painted honeyeater.

This story excerpt is from Issue #153

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2024