Just before Christmas, I ran a request on birding-aus for information on
sites for mallee emu-wren, striated grasswren and white-browed
treecreeper in the mallee country of north-west Victoria. Many thanks to
Alistair Poore, Lawrie Conole, Richard Thomas and Steve Clark for
invaluable information received.
Louise and I drove to Ouyen from Sydney (1075km ) on Dec21, had two days
birding the Hattah/Wyperfield area,drove to Melbourne for a family
Christmas, took our car over to Tasmania on Dec27, returned to Melbourne
on Jan8 and took the coastal route back to Sydney arriving on Jan10. The
whole trip was great, but the highlight by far was the two days in the
mallee...I just love that environment.
The long drive to Ouyen did not allow much birding but we had a good
view of a superb parrot flying across the highway near Cowra.We detoured
via Swan Hill to check out Phil Maher's reported red-necked phalarope
expecting to find a small-sized sewage lagoon (Swan Hill being a fairly
small town).Our hearts sank when we saw this expanse of reeds and water
with the temperature around 35deg celcius and having driven 900km
already! Fortunately we encoutered a group of Melbourne birders who had
just spent 3hours searching and swore that it was no longer there. Our
sincere thanks fellows, if you are reading this.
We spent the whole of Sunday morning on the Nowingi Track in Hattah
looking for emu-wren/grasswren with total lack of success. We stopped
off at the Hattah Store at lunchtime (they have excellent fresh-made
rolls for the record) and the store lady showed us a pink cockatoo
'creche' that had been set up for a couple of weeks in a large
eucalyptus in her backyard. She claims that all the young of several
cockatoo pairs are left each day under the supervision of a single adult
while the others are off foraging. Is this documented behaviour for pink
(or other) cockatoos?
We then drove over to a site at Yarrara suggested by Lawrie Conole to
look for white-browed treecreeper. We were not optimistic since it was
now cloudy,muggy and about 42deg. However, we located three birds within
only 15mins or so, which was just as well since we wouldn't have lasted
much longer in the heat. A black-eared cuckoo at the same location was a
good bonus. On the way back to Ouyen we gave the Nowingi Track another
try despite the conditions and this time quickly located a party of six
mallee emu-wrens at exactly the location described in T&T. ("...two
small pull-ins on the left...").
Monday morning dawned very cool after the previous day's heat and we
decided to try for striated grasswren on the south side of the Murray
Valley Highway opposite the Hattah Park entrance. This is a really good
location because you can easily walk the fire-break for a good distance
without having to fight your way through virgin bush, spinifex and the
risk of getting lost. We just kept listening for those almost inaudible
high frequency squeaks and eventually heard them (and saw them) about
700m along the fire break.And what fantastic birds - we watched a party
of 4 or so for several minutes.
Having achieved the three ticks with almost a day to spare, we took a
relaxing drive along the Konardin Track in Hattah where the flowering
gums were attracting large numbers of honeyeaters.(We had no difficulty
in a 4WD but the track is pretty soft and sandy for 2WD). After spending
time watching a big group of honeyeaters (which included a single black
honeyeater), we got back into the car and before I started the engine, a
pair of malleefowl appeared on the track not 20metres in front of us and
proceeded to feed unaware of our presence, for about 10 minutes. This
was one of our birding highlights (ever) and we wonder whether these
magnificent birds will survive human encroachment in the next few
After the mallee, the rest of the trip was unexceptional. We achieved
our aim of finding forty-spotted pardalote, pink robin and
orange-bellied parrot in Tasmania but they were all readily found at the
prescribed locations and we didn't feel as though we had accomplished a
lot. The three-pound wild brown trout that I caught on a dry fly in
Little Pine Lagoon gave me a lot more pleasure if the truth be known!
Wishing all birding-aus subscribers a happy and healthy 1997, and lots
of good birding.