Thursday, 15 February 2018

2016 Victoria Trip - Birds part 1

Our tour through Victoria was planned to follow a birding route but still visiting as much of the diversity of Victoria as possible. I researched places to visit to see target species from eBird Australia.
It took a few months of painstakingly going over lists submitted by other birders, using the same time of the year as we were to visit & nothing over 2 - 4 yrs old. Eventually I had a 16 page word document of sites to visit with the names of species I should expect to see with back up sites if I fail to see a particular bird at the 1st site.

After leaving Brisbane, my birding adventures started with a short stop at a park in Warwick, south of Brisbane to locate Musk Lorikeets that are commonly seen in that park.

Our 1st overnight stop was at a free camp west of Warwick at Karara, next to the showgrounds. If you want a hot shower & electricity you pay a small fee to the local Tavern. 
In the trees near our caravan were this pair of Tawny Frogmouth trying their hardest to stay incognito.

A 10 min drive from Karara is the Durikai State Forest. This forest is well known in the south east Qld birding community as being 1 of the best birding places to visit that's 3 - 4 hrs drive from Brisbane.
There's a small dam / waterhole near the main highway that is very popular with nearly every bird specie in the surrounding area.
Take a chair down there early morning or late afternoon & you'll be delighted with the different birds that visit the waterhole. The photos here are just a portion of the birds I saw in that area.

Yellow - tufted Honeyeaters are my favourite.

White-naped Honeyeater.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

White-eared Honeyeater.

This Turquoise Parrot was a welcome surprise to the dam.

Down at water level the activity never stops with hundreds of birds coming & going for a splash & drink.

I also spotted some Varied Sittellas working their way up & down the tree trunks looking for insects & grubs.

Next stop was Narrabri in NSW. I found this pair of Red-rumped Parrots having a drink at a dam near town.

I met up  with a NSW birder friend & we explored some local spots around Narrabri. We found this group of Blue Bonnets along 1 of the back roads near town.

We then had a mission to visit nearby Mt Kaputar to track down the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. This bird has been a nemesis for me on many occasions at Girraween NP south of Stanthorpe.
We checked out a few known sites without luck & finally our last option showed up a bird that was to delight us both.

Driving south there was a wetland near Forbes that showed several Duck species & other waterfowl including this Freckled Duck & Pacific Black Duck.

Pink-eared Ducks

We had lunch at Deniliquin  which was 70 kms north of the NSW / Victorian border.
This is a Crimson Rosella - Yellow sub specie which live in a restricted area close to the Murray River region.

Just south of Deniliquin at Barham there's been a family of wild Ostrich living in a farmers paddock. NSW birders make it their mission to tick off this bird to add to their lists & I thought I'd also add this bird to my NSW list of sightings on eBird.

It was early March & the temperatures were fact the day we arrived in Kerang the mercury rose to 40* C. We were to endure these high temps for more than 10 days. The surrounding country was also looking grim with bare farming fields.

We stayed at Kerang for a couple of days as Kerang has several lakes & wetlands in the region. Kerang is on the Victorian side of the Murray River....the border with NSW.
The Kerang Waste Water dams were a must to visit as well. I wasn't disappointed as there were literally hundreds of ducks lining the 2 dams & also in the air.

Pink-eared Ducks were in their hundreds.

Australian Shelducks were also in their hundreds & being 1 of the largest Australian duck they looked huge in the air.

We then moved on to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in the Mallee region of NW Victoria.
It was extremely challenging birding in the day time high temperatures of 38* C so I was walking tracks as the sun was rising.

I found this moulting / eclipse male Splendid Fairywren in amongst some fallen dead timber.

I also found this very photogenic Red-capped Robin.

I was in Hattah-Kulkyne to find 2 specific birds that live in clumps of Spinifex ....the spiky grasses of the Mallee.
1 of the birds was Mallee Emu-wren & the other was Striated Grasswren. Both birds are hard to entice out of their spinifex homes.
I managed to see 2 or 3 Striated Grasswrens hopping around on the hot sand. Sadly I din't locate any Emu-wrens despite searching for > 15 hrs over several locations in this and another nearby NP.

I also added Gilbert's Whistler to my "life" list.....Life list is 1st time sighting for the observer.

I also found Regent Parrots, but this bird was rather elusive in letting me get good views.

Wandering around I found this female Purple-backed Fairywren.....currently (early 2018)  in the process of being split & re named from Variegated Fairywren.

The very multi coloured Mulga Parrot feed on the ground

We then moved onto nearby Murray-Sunset NP.  We drove a 50 km circuit over sandy tracks.
Southern Whiteface.

Hooded Robin are also happy to sit still long enough to get some 1/2 decent photos.

Striped Honeyeater

Another life bird, a Chestnut Quail-thrush. They are ground dwelling birds & can often be hard to locate. I was lucky enough to see a family of 3 that weren't too skittish like other Quail-thrush's.

During a lunch break at Lake Tyrell I found this Rufous Fieldwren.

We then moved onto another national park called Wyperfield NP  for a night for me to search for more birds.
The heat was relentless with the temperatures still being in the high 30's* C.
I was getting up from my slumber before sunrise to be on the tracks as the sun was rising.

I found this Southern Scrub-Robin scurrying around under the bushes. It was initially shy, but after me hanging about for some time it became more confiding.

Another lunch stop, this time at Nhill & I found these Long-billed Corella's in the cool shade of Eucalyptus trees.

A Black-tailed Native-hen was feeding along the river edge.

Our next Mallee region NP was Little Desert. This NP is on the southern edges of the Mallee region.
There were a few White-fronted Chat about which was another life bird.

 We left the Mallee region behind us & headed south to Horsham.
I found this pair of Eastern Rosellas bathing in a pond of water created by the lawn sprinklers.

White-browed Babblers were at nearby Nurcoung Nature Reserve. This reserve was very active with loads of birds.

A female Golden Whistler.

This Shy Heathwren was a treat to see.

A male & female Red-rumped Parrot in Horsham.

Green Lake was near Horsham. The water levels were quite low, but there was still plenty of bird life on & around the lake.
Australasian Shoveler & Eurasian Coot in the foreground.

Really low water levels of Green Lake.

Australian Shelduck male (right) female (left)

The Grampians are in the distance.

We are now in The Grampians, staying at Halls Gap.
I found loads of immature Crimson Rosella's feeding in the campground Eucalypt trees.

I found this group of Emu on a day drive through the Grampian National Park

As you will  have noticed I love Red-capped Robins. They are so photogenic. This is a male bird, the girl is rather plainer brown with a tinge of red on her forehead & off white breast.

I found several Flame Robins as we walked up to a Mount William lookout. That's a cobweb behind the bird.

After the Grampians we moved to Ballarat. I visited Lake Wenderee where I found this Hoary-headed Grebe.

I also found Great-crested Grebe....this one looks like he's had a bad hair day after diving underwater looking for food.

I also visited  Lake Burrembeet that is 20 kms west of Ballarat. The water levels were receding & quite shallow in places  & the bird life there was prolific.
Sadly Victoria & South Australia still have open duck shooting season each & every year. It has been outlawed in other states of Australia, but these 2 states Duck Hunters continue to decimate the duck population. They are restricted to just a shooting few species of duck but sadly every year they are killing endangered ducks.
I got caught up in this debacle with a couple of duck hunters on the lake when I started my visit to the Lake.
Thankfully they had gone by the time I got closer to the other side of the lake where they had been.

These Banded Stilts were "life" birds.

At Greater Bendigo NP I found a group of Purple-gaped Honeyeaters.

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater

Here we go.....another beautiful Red-capped Robin.

I found a Crested Shrike-tit foraging along the tree trunks looking for grubs under the bark.

Buff-rumped Thornbill feed near the ground

Galah checking a potential nesting site.

En route to the Murray River again we came across this Brown Falcon sitting on a fence post beside the road.

We stayed at Barmah so I could find these handsome Superb Parrots.

I also found a Nankeen Kestrel...these small falcons hover over fields looking for mice for their next snack.

In the reeds next to the Murray River I found this  usually secretive Little Grassbird.

We next camped along the Murray River at Yarrawonga. I was in our kayak when I saw 2 White-faced Herons displaying with each other.

Red Wattlebird

Native to Europe & Asia, Common Blackbirds were introduced to Australia n capital cities bar Brisbane, Darwin & Perth by our pioneers in 1862. Their range is now moving very slowly into the Brisbane southern suburb region.
Unlike other introduced species that pose a threat to our native birds to compete with nesting sites, to my knowledge these birds don't pose any threats to our native birds. This is a male bird & have a very pretty song very early in the morning.

A female Superb Fairywren.

Another Crested Shrike-tit. I see very few of these birds in Qld & took another opportunity of a photo seeing as the bird was showing well lower in the trees.

We next moved to the Chiltern region. In the nearby National Park I found these Gang Gang Cockatoos, the female is here.

Male Gang Gang Cockatoo

Speckled Warblers usually feed on the ground.

In the pond at the caravan park was this Pacific Black Duck & Mallard cross Duck.

The reason I was there in Chiltern was to try & locate the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater.
There are only about 400 birds in the wild mainly due to habitat loss. A program has been in place since 2009 to breed these birds in captivity & release them into the wild at strategic places where the flowering Ironbark trees are abundant.

I was really lucky to find out that there was at least 2 of these birds feeding in the trees at the back of the Chiltern Caravan park. 1 of them had been a previously banded captive / release bird & the other a wild bird.

After a great couple of days at Chiltern we moved south, now towards the Snowy Mountains.
We stayed at Porepunkah just north of Bright. In the trees at our caravan park were another pair of Gang good is that.

We spent a couple of days exploring the region around Mt Buffalo & The Alpine NP's.
I found this White-naped Honeyeater feeding down low in the bush on 1 of our walks.

We  drove up & over the highest peak of The Alpine NP.....Mt Hotham. The scenery was glorious but we didn't stop for birding as it was blowing a gale on the mountain top.

Our next stop over was Bruthen. I visited near by Fairy Dell Reserve to seek out Superb Lyrebirds.
I could hear 1 calling in the thick bush. These birds are the proverbial mimic of many bird from the surrounding forest. What a joy to listen to....then it was exciting to see one too, though it was scurrying away from me. I got to see a few more along some of my walking tracks in the next week.

From Bruthen we moved onto the Gippsland region. We stayed in the Marlo region for 6 days.
I had a couple of birds to seek out, including Crescent Honeyeater.

A male Superb Fairywren in 'eclipse' plumage......non breeding

This bird was 1 of my target species....Southern Emu-wren.... a hard bird to get to come out of their thick bushy habitat.

On another walk at Cape Conran I found Beautiful Firetail....that's their name....another life bird.

The birds along that section of road verge were very confiding..... a young Eastern Whipbird

Another life bird was this Pilotbird that likes to forage on the ground....... what a bonus, 2 life birds in 1 small section of roadway at Cape Conran.

To finish this chapter there was this butterfly......maybe called a Common Brown Butterfly....I'm not 100% sure.

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