Monday, January 10, 2011

Victoria road trip & Mallee Birding

Well after a year of talking about it I have decided to take the plunge and start a birding blog! I have no idea what I am doing but I hope that after stumbling through the first few attempts that I may eventually get this little blog up and running.

I began this year in Victoria on an 8 day road trip. Well actually it started on Boxing day. I drove to Melbourne via Glen Coe CP, Telford Scrub and Lower Glenelg River CP.

Blue Winged Parrot

Striated Fieldwren

Bush Stone Curlew

Cape Barron Geese

Red Browed Finch

I then headed on to Melbourne to visit my friend Vik Dunis and we had a great day at Werribee - Western Treatment Plant. After exploring the area we then got down to the job at hand, we had a Stilt Sandpiper to find! Find it we did! We were extremely fortunate to meet up with Fred Smith, who, as it turns out is an 87 yr old birder and Victoria's SENIOR Wader expert. Talk about a stroke of luck for us! He got out the car, sat on the ground with his scope and had the Stilt Sandpiper in 3 minutes! Incredible.

We then headed to CERES Environment Park where I ticked Treesparrow then onto Ivanhoe to Wilsons Reserve where Vik and I found 2 juvenile Powerful Owls, one of which was feasting on a small insectivorous bat.

Powerful Owl eating Bat

We celebrated our day with a delicious pizza and a nice bottle of red!!

The next day I reluctantly left my generous host and I drove to Wangaratta via the Warby Ranges and a great little spot called Dave's Hill. I've never experienced so many noisy Cicada in my life!!

The following morning was THE DAY! This was the day my trip was planned for. I was DETERMINED to get Turquoise Parrots and I will NEVER Surrender! I began at 6am - this shouldnt be too hard I thought, this is Chiltern! Hmmmm, yeah right! A drive to Bartleys Block, a good scan at the waist high grass, a careful walk to the dams - nothing.

OK, onto Cyanide Dam - 2 laps got me Fuscous and Yellow Tufted Honey Eaters. A longer hike of the Whitebox Mallee trail - nothing. Another 3 laps of Cyanide Dam = Olive Backed Oriele and White Bellied Cuckooshrike.

Yellow Tufted Honeyeater

No Turquoise Parrots. Hmmm ok then. Random driving - stopping at roadside vegetation and any paddock with native grasses - lots of red rump parrots - hmmm

4pm - I'm getting depressed and desperate! Back to Bartley's Block and walked the perameter. Easier said than done - waist high grass, shin deep mud, snakes and goodness knows what else.

By 6pm, with perspiration running down my forehead,  wild eyes and much gnashing of teeth I began running through the middle of the block in the long grass, arms flailing above my head - like Moses parting the red sea... up and down, up and down .....but still NOTHING!

At 7.15pm my bottom lip started quivering and I began walking back to the car sobbing quietly to myself. I'm a failure -

About 10 metres from the gate I stopped to scan the grass one last time - I stood there, a mud covered, blood stained zombie. I gazed pathetically at the swamp in front of me - this paddock had beaten me....

.... all of a sudden I heard a quiet "ping" coming from behind me. I turned around and there in front of me are 3 Turquoise parrots sitting on the ground on bare dirt in a clearing staring up at me !!!!

Turquoise Parrot

                                              Turquoise Parrot

To say I was totally STOKED would have been an understatement! I frantically photographed them until they flew carelessly away.

Then I danced wildly around the mozzie filled swamp-  the happiest person on earth!

The next morning I was up at 4.30am. I drove to Mathoura reedbeds where I heard Little Bittern and saw one fly from one clump of reeds near the bird hide to another.  Tick - OK, that was a treat. I now have a day up my sleeve!!

I decided in a moment of insanity to try again to get 1 more tick in SA for my year list so over to Telford Scrub (yes I am insane) to see the Satin Flycatchers. I pulled up, walked in about 15 metres and got them in less than 5 min thank goodness! SA year list ended up a record 355! AWESOME! 

I believe the previous record was 345. I guess I really should have tried a bit harder because as it turns out I could have gotten an even higher list if I'd gone up the Birdsville for Grey Grasswrens and Scarlet Chested Parrots, both of which I dipped on. Oh well, never mind. I'm happy with my 355 - I beat the record by 10 species! NICE!!

With the record tucked safely in my belt I then got a coffee and bottle of Pepsi Max before driving to visit my sister. I arrived a sweaty scruffy mess and was asleep within the hour!!

The following morning I dragged my poor unexpecting sister to Geelong Botanic Gardens where I got an elusive Song Thrush!  Back to my sisters house for New Years Eve. I was so tired I slept through it!

Waking in Sunbury Victoria on New Year's day, my year list total was zero! A terrifying thought!! I was up, packed and on the road by 6am.

I drove to Portland, Nelson, Lower Glenelg NP, Dry Creek Reserve, Telford Scrub to Kingston in 1 day. Birding all the way. Highlights were Gannet's at Portland, Satin Flycatcher & Eastern Yellow Robin at Telford Scrub, Gang Gang Cockatoo at Lower Glenelg River CP.

Aust Gannet

Eastern Yellow Robin

Jan 2 - I birded Salt Creek and the Coorong back to Adelaide. The resident Malleefowl was working its mound and Salt Creek Rd had it's fill of Beautiful Firetails, Diamond Firetails, Southern Scrub Robin, Restless Flycatcher and good views of Rufous Bristlebird.


Restless Flycatcher

Jan 3 - Brookfield Conservation Park with my dear friend Chris Steele's. Birding with Chris is always great fun. We spent a lovely morning in the mallee finding some great birds.

Mulga Parrots

Highlights included Southern Scrub Robins, Splendid Fairy Wren, Black Earred Cuckoo, Crested Bellbird, Chestnut Quail thrush, Elegant Parrot, Mulga Parrot and Mallee Ringnecks.

Crested Bellbird

Owlet Nightjar

Southern Scrub Robin

After Brookfield I called into a park "near Williamstown" to visit the not so secret nesting Square Tailed Kites. I found this nest in the first week of November after my friend Colin told me they were hanging around this area. After find the nest I phoned Colin and we decided to keep the location secret to ensure the juveniles safety. They dont seem to worry about us being there at all though. That is good as word has spread and the site is getting over run with birders needing to tick them off their lists!

The 2 juveniles are learning to fly now and only the mother is staying with them. Dad is off dutifully hunting most of the day to keep them all fed.

After day 3 my Australia Yearlist total was 207

Through out the past week I have been frequenting Magazine Rd Saltfields on my way home from work adding a few more birds - so my year list total is now on 215