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Home-grown, handmade and home-spun : honeyeaters and handsome parrots, a 10 day birding safari around Victoria, Australia.


Treepol

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Treepol

@Soukous  harsh economics for harsh times I suppose.

 

I was really impressed with the birds, landscape and history that we saw in Victoria, not having spent much time there either. I shudder to think what the country around Cape Conran (where we saw the acres of grasstrees) looks like today as well as other areas in fire ravaged East Gippsland. I suspect that the areas we birded around Orbost and over Dinner Plain and Hotham Heights are now little more than ash. 

 

I thought we could do a joint TR from Goa - 2 days each!

 

When we arrived in the Mallee, Simon told us to look for grey lumps in the wheat because this would be a Malleefowl. He was still explaining size, shape etc. when he said - there's one there! Sure enough, quite a large 'grey lump' strutted out of the wheat stubble and crossed the road behind  the vehicle. 
 

 

Wheat is the word
 

The itinerary devoted 3 days to the Mallee, located in the dry northwest corner of Victoria where we discovered a slew of colourful parrots, the highly-sought Malleefowl and many honeyeaters. This region of Australia is also a key wheat-growing area and the sight of miles of golden wheat and the infrastructure required to support the industry seemed singularly Australian to me.

 

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The wheat farms are primarily family businesses characterised by a large number of small farms and a small number of large farms. During 2012-13 Victoria produced 3.42 million tonnes of wheat grown on 1.5 million hectares. Whilst Victorian wheat production is in decline, many Mallee towns exhibit significant agricultural engineering and architectural heritage which defines the landscape and reflects past prosperity in the bush.

 

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Some towns are successfully utilising dis-used wheat silos to attract weekend visitors and tourist dollars along the Silo Art Trail.

 

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Grand hotels and gracious main streets are remnants of better days in the Mallee.

 

Hotel Victoria, Ouyen.

 

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River red gum staircase

 

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Main street, Ouyen.

 

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Wycheproof 'Broadway' where the grain train rolled down the main street to the railway and silos.

 

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Zubbie15

Really enjoying this report @Treepol, lots of places I never knew existed, although clearly Australian from the names! And while there are a few birds that bring back pleasant memories of our trip to Australia, lots of new ones for me. 

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Treepol

Thanks @Zubbie15 still a couple of days to come.

 

Day 8

 

This morning I was out and about very early, hoping to see the Major Mitchell’s again but was out of luck. The galahs were all around, so I wasn’t surprised that the Major Mitchell’s were absent as they avoid confrontations with the aggressive galahs.

 

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Our first stop was at Ouyen sandhill where a flock of about 45 Pied Honeyeaters were feeding. The Pied Honeyeaters were the first bonus bird of the day, as they are visitors to the Mallee from the dry inland.

 

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A Crimson Chat was a stand-out bird among the bare branches. Singing Honeyeaters stayed low in the trees while a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters caught the early sun.

 

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Singing honeyeater

 

The second bonus bird of the morning was Red-backed Kingfisher, or rather a pair of these birds, also uncommon in western Victoria.

 

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We spent a good half hour at a waterhole where Crimson Chats, Woodswallows and a host of Honeyeaters fluttered in to drink. A pair of Cockatiels joined the mob which was too much for an emu that melted back into the bush.

 

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Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

 

 

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Crimson Chats

 

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White-eared Honeyeater

 

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Crimson and White-fronted Chats

 

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Yellow-plumed Honeyeater

 

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White-fronted Honeyeater

 

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White-browed and Masked Woodswallows

 

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Cockatiel

 

Lake Tyrrell is the only salt lake in Victoria and the site of our only encounter with Rufous Fieldwren.

 

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Rufous Fieldwren

 

An Australian Pipit was bobbing around and the only Black-faced Woodswallow was also seen here. Sea Lake was our lunch stop today where the Main Street has retained some original buildings.

 

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The town is experiencing something of a comeback due to the proximity of Lake Tyrrell and the silo murals. Further down the road a brief stop at Mt Korong achieved a fine Painted Honeyeater, Mistletoe Bird and a second Diamond Firetail.

 

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Painted Honeyeater

 

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Mistletoe Bird

 

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Mt Korong

 

A Brown Falcon perched near the top of the granite boulders while Peregrine Falcon wheeled overhead. The final stop today was at a waterhole in Inglewood Nature Reserve where Tawny-crowned Honeyeater was the target bird.

 

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Tawny-crowned Honeyeater

 

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

 

Our third bonus bird was a Square-tailed Kite, a very unpopular guy because he lives on nestlings and is universally feared by other birds. Late in the afternoon we turned onto Plonkbottle Road and headed to Inglewood for an overnight.

 

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Soukous

Now I have 3 Kingfishers to find on my next trip. :wacko:

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For some reason I'm not being allowed to like any posts - much be a glitch. The architecture is as interesting as the birds, like another world. Plonkbottle Road! Priceless, you couldn't make it up!

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Zim Girl

The painted silos are very impressive.  

Loving all the birds and enjoying this very much.

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Treepol

@Soukous @Galago @Zim Girl thanks for reading along and your encouraging comments. 

 

Day 9

 

Peaceful Doves were pecking around the motel early this morning as we packed the car to begin the trip south to Airey’s Inlet along the Great Ocean Road. An Australian Hobby perched on a fence post near Maldon, our breakfast stop today.

 

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Maldon Main Street

 

Muckleford Nature Reserve was our first stop for Red-capped Robin, a colourful bird that didn’t wait around for photos, however the tiny Buff-rumped Thornbill was more co-operative.

 

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We drove to Brisbane Ranges NP in search of the shy and secretive Chestnut-rumped Heathwren which was heard but not seen.

 

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Brisbane Ranges NP

 

The wildflowers in this park were very colourful and included the Blue Pincushion plant and a pretty daisy.

 

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The Scarlet Robin was very confiding and a Pallid Cuckoo showed well.

 

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We ate lunch at Anakie picnic site inside the park where an Olive Oriole flew around and a Tawny Frogmouth and chicks were found in a high nest.

 

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The last couple of hours was spent at the Western Treatment Plant which is a haven for water birds. Black Swan and Royal Spoonbills dozed. Pied stilts waded in the shallows, Bar-tailed Godwits relaxed nearby and 2 Red Knots slept just ahead of them.

 

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Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Whiskered Terns shared a quiet corner of the most active pond.

 

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A Red-kneed Dotterel fished in a smaller pond and was later joined by a Black-fronted Dotterel and a Curlew Sandpiper fishes alone.

 

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This Sandpiper found a solitary rock away from the mob.

 

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Caracal

Thoroughly enjoying this report @Treepol following your travels through places familiar to me.

I hadn't realised that the Yellow Rosella is a sub-species of the Crimson Rosella.

Many great sightings but I have to say I'm so impressed with your photo of the Eastern Whipbird. That bird is hounding me! It's so elusive. Most mornings when I walk the rail trail through the patch of bush there's that distinctive sound generally very close but can I get a good sighting - No Way! 

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Peter Connan

Fascinating report!

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Treepol

@Caracal thanks for reading along. I was surprised that the Yellow Rosella is a Crimson Rosella in disguise - I suppose they will be split sometime soon. This is the first whipbird that I have seen, heard plenty but as you say they are elusive.

 

Thanks @Peter Connan

 

Day 10

 

This morning we were at Split Rock Lighthouse at Airey’s Inlet before breakfast to see the Rufous Bristlebird.


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Rabbits nibbled around the lighthouse grounds and the coastal scenery was eye-catching and a complete change from the bush and dry land areas we had visited during the past week.

 

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This confiding (or possibly just hungry) Singing Honeyeater perched just a metre in front of us on the way back to the car.


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Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos squawked around the car park.

 

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Down the road European coots and a Great Egret lazed in a quiet wetland and this Wood Duck kept a close eye on us.

 

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Behind the trendy town of Lorne this koala was dozing on a high branch and a Shining-bronze Cuckoo perched on the opposite side of the road.

 

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The She-oak Picnic spot was alive with birds and we saw some beauties. Satin Flycatcher, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Satin Bowerbird.

 

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Down at the beach Greater Crested Terns rested on the rocks.

 

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The area around Anglesey kept us busy with Blue-winged Parrots,

 

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and then 2 more cuckoos - the Fan-tailed and the Brush.

 

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The Brush Cuckoo is a brood parasite and this bird was up to no good, watching out for Satin Flycatchers preparing to nest. An Eastern Yellow Robin posed for photos whilst undertaking a thorough preening session.

 

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Lunchtime came around very quickly today, so we stopped at Lara before heading back to the Western Treatment Plant for some final waders and water birds. Fairy Martins were busy building mud nests near the gate.

 

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Sadly, the grey and overcast conditions didn’t help the photos. Australian Shelducks crowded specific ponds and there was one large flock of resting Australian Pelicans.

 

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This photo of a male Musk Duck clearly shows the diagnostic wattles.

 

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A Great Egret in breeding plumage kept company with a pair of Great Cormorants.

 

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A single sighting of a Cape Barren Geese family was very welcome.

 

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The Whiskered Terns indulged in a midge feeding frenzy alongside the car.

 

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These large, non-biting midges breed well at the treatment plant and are a favourite food of these Terns. The next half hour quickly filled with a multitude of sightings. Returning to a quiet flow, this photo shows the size difference between the Great and Little Black Cormorants.

 

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These black swan are returning to the sea after a dip in the ‘fresh’ water at the Treatment Plant.

 

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A pair of Pink-eared Ducks share a rocky island.

 

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A large flock of Red-necked Avocets shelter in a quiet pool.

 

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Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers shelter out of the wind. 

 

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A lonely Marsh Sandpiper preens amongst the other birds.

 

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We sat at this far pool with the birds all around us and completed our final birdcall. Later this afternoon Simon will drop us back in Melbourne and our wonderful 10 day Megatour is over.

 

 

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Treepol

Endnotes and photo finish

 

Simon Starr of Firetail Birdwatching Tours has 16 years experience as a bird guide in Victoria, during which time he has discovered interesting and reliable birdwatching sites for tours throughout the year. I was particularly pleased that we had more than one opportunity to see many non-localised species and improve on photos along the way. We travelled through varied habitats as well as some amazing country such as the wheat growing area in the Mallee, the high alpine country and former gold rush settlements of Maldon and Omeo.

 

The diversity of the itinerary guaranteed a huge variety of birds, and everyone was impressed with the final count of 260 species.  We visited a variety of habitats including coastal, rainforest, Mountain Ash and Sclerophyll Forest, wetlands, heathland, alpine high country, plains, mallee drylands, grasslands and a salt lake. We birded farmland, roadsides, national parks and nature reserves, picnic sites, river banks, beaches and estuaries. The parrots and honeyeaters were the stars of the show together with localised species such as the Malleefowl and Southern Emu-Wren.

 

Whilst the mammal list was short it did include a koala, 3 species of macropods, the engaging Fat-tailed Dunnart and reptiles were represented by a Lace Monitor.

 

This 10 day trip included 2 x 2 night stays and 5x1 night stays. We quickly adapted to the 1 night stays and incorporated departures and travelling time into the daily routine. Most days began around 7 am with breakfast or some early birding followed by a hearty breakfast. Lunch was either at a local cafe or bakery or we bought picnic food and ate during a birding break. Dinner was eaten at local pubs or restaurants. Simon knows a great range of cafes and restaurants, although in some regional towns dining choices were limited which dented the culinary style we had come to expect! All accommodation was at clean and comfortable motels that were owner or locally managed. Birding usually finished about 6.30 pm and some evenings Simon offered spotlighting.

 

Reflecting on this trip, I continue to be amazed that this wonderful wildlife experience was just a one hour flight from my home and that birding started in the Melbourne suburbs, just a short drive from our first motel. The big sighting at Shepherds Bush was a juvenile Powerful Owl and this auspicious start set the bar quite high for the rest of the trip and we were not disappointed.

 

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Simon, keeping a weather eye on the rain clouds

 

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Lake Tyers

 

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Ovens-Warby NP

 

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Long-billed Corellas, Deniliquin

 

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Red-rumped parrots, Deniliquin

 

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Hattah Lakes Store

 

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Brisbane Ranges NP

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Soukous

Wonderful.

You realise, I'm sure, that if you put all your wonderful birds into a BY thread you'd be amongst the front runners. :rolleyes:

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Peter Connan

A beautiful report, thank you!

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Zubbie15

Thanks for sharing @Treepol, such a wonderful variety that even this non birder can appreciate. I hope to get to that general area sometime relatively soon, so this was really interesting to read. 

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Caracal

Thanks for this wonderful report @Treepol which I'm bookmarking as it might come in very handy for helping with IDs.

 

PS Did you get to see the Rufous Bristlebird?

 

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Treepol

@Zubbie15 thanks for your comments. I certainly hope you do manage to get to Victoria, I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of birds and kangaroos and the wild koala of course.

 

@Soukous I loaded as many as I could into the 2019 BY but I was no match for the hare and the tortoise and others.

 

@Peter Connan thanks

 

@Caracal glad you enjoyed this TR, which is even more 'home-grown' for you than it is for me. We did see the Bristlebird and here it is, sorry forgot to load the photo in the main report.

 

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Soukous
2 hours ago, Treepol said:

I loaded as many as I could into the 2019 BY but I was no match for the hare and the tortoise and others.

 

Very few people were, :(, most of us were in a different league.

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Thank you for a wonderful report. You really saw a wide variety of birds and photographed them really well.

 

It was interesting to see the landscapes and towns. It is sad to think what has happened to some of the places you visited.

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Thanks Treepol for another truly inspiring report!  Given that we typically start from Canberra, this is being filed immediately for our next trip.  This year, we'll be doing Northern Queensland following along from your report up there, and Janzin's.  It was really fun to see some birds that I know and love from Canberra interspersed with all these great new parrots (to me)..  Funny that we just recently saw an owlet nightjar in Sulawesi (someone else saw one in some other odd location).  We had great travels through Victoria before we were birders and it will be nice to go back with this orientation, assuming there is regrowth and recovery there.. It is such a sad time for Australia...

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Just caught up with the last few posts. Great report @Treepol and a total of 260 birds in ten days is a real stonker (that's for @xelas!) Your photo of the terns catching midges at the treatment plant is lovely, almost like a painting.

 

If I remember rightly you'll be on your way to India either now or very soon. Have a fab time and look forward to the next TR #nopressure :D

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Treepol

Thanks @TonyQ, @jmharack, and @Galago

 

I heard from one of the others on the trip that Cape Conran, the Cabbage Tree Trail and the town of Orbost escaped the flames. I’m very happy to think that the Southern Emu-Wren that we watched and the parrots that were feasting on the grass tree nectar will be going about their daily lives as usual.

 

@Galago yes I am overnighting in Melbourne tonight where the temperature was over 40C when l arrived in mid-afternoon. I’m off to India tomorrow in search of tigers, birds, golden temples, marble palaces and other wondrous sights. 

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  • 1 month later...

Just catching up on your TR @Treepol - fantastic arrangement of Bird sightings.

It saddens me the devastation the fires have caused across the country, especially the eastern side.

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