Great to hear of all the fantastic birding up in the outback.
The Victorian mallee certainly has an outback feel to it, though it hasn't
quite had the rainfall that SWQueensland/ northern SA has experienced, and even
if it did, being sandy dune country, there would be limited flooding.
However conditions are good at present in this corner of Victoria.
I have just returned from an early spring 3 day trip around Hattah/ Wyperfeld/
Murray-Sunset/ Bronzewing etc. and here's some highlights from the trip.
First night camped near Ouyen where 12 Pink cockatoos provided a morning
spectacle just NW of town.
Drove to Mildura and checked out the Koorlong and Merbein areas. Some healthy
groups of Chestnut-crowned Babblers were good to see. Cockatiels were around
and about, nice to see them returning already after the big numbers in Nth Vic
Near Merbein were White-backed Swallows and Black-faced Woodswallows.
Picked up Steve from Sydney and Jim from Brisbane and headed down to Hattah
where we called in at Lake Hattah for lunch. The lakes are very full, with
various duck,coots,grebes, etc around. Cockatiel and White-winged Triller were
found. We did not see Regent Parrots there, but at the end of the trip around
Lake Mournpall there were a few hanging around even in the middle of the day.
We then drove on to Bronzewing Flora and Fauna reserve where we camped in a
quiet clearing. We were on our way to check an active Malleefowl mound when we
located an adult Malleefowl at close range. Sometimes they are spooked and fly
off (or walk very quickly). But as happened to me last month, this bird was
quite unconcerned and just continued to feed only a short distance from us.
We had to wait until the next morning before we managed to locate any Chestnut
Quail-thrush. We found a pair alongside a sandy track. Observing from the
car...which works well for this species, we watched as the male carried
eucalypt leaves into some low shrubs. The two birds hung around for a long
time, obviously nest building.
On foot I doubt we would have been able to observe them going about their daily
Then we drove up to Pink Lakes to walk through some of the vast expanse of
quiet, mallee/porcupine grass country which can be accessed from Pioneer drive
and the Mt Crozier track. From my records over the last few years the Mallee
Emu-wren seems to have declined considerably, and we found none this trip. We
did however have good brief views of Striated Grasswrens, though they were
typically remaining mostly out of sight.
After what was some very quiet ( quality not quantity) birding we decided to
head down to Wyperfeld NP ( the northern part ) where we birded some
Plenty of birds and variety here as usual, with Splendid and Variegated
Fairy-wren, Red-capped,Hooded and Southern Scrub Robins, White-browed
Treecreeper, Gilberts Wistler, another 14 Pink Cockatoos, Mulga and Ringneck
Parrots etc. Of interest were both Fan-tailed and Shining Bronze Cuckoos, both
species which I associate with further south, but seem to have a brief presence
in the mallee in early spring.
We returned to our camp in Bronzewing where both Owlet and Spotted Nightjars
called whilst we enjoyed the campfire on a cold starry night.
The final morning we took our chances on locating a Red-lored Whistler up in
the Murray-Sunset NP near Wymlet Tank. Being a calm morning in early spring I
figured we had a real chance of hearing a calling bird, and sure enough within
a few minutes of pulling up ( about 5 kms west of Meridian road, on Honeymoon
track) we heard the sound we were hoping for. The bird was some way off in the
scrub.We stalked the bird, gradually getting closer. Its amazing how far the
call carries in this open environment on a calm morning. We walked further and
further, until very close and waited. We were lucky and it showed well for 30
seconds or so in some eucalypt foliage , and then low down in a heavily
flowering wattle. It then disappeared and went quiet. This bird was either a
female or a young male, lacking rufous colouring on the lores and throat which
were just obviously paler/buffy. It did have a strongly rufous/buff
I have tried call-back in the past for this species, but have had times where
the bird stops singing and disappears completely so I dont bother now, and for
such a scarce bird it is probably better left alone in that regard.
So this was really quite incredible. Within 20 minutes we had good views of RLW
and so we decided to run with our good fortune and move on to try again for the
Mallee Emu-wren, this time up at Hattah.
The walk througb the porcupine grass was very quiet again and not a peep from
any wrens at all. A few years ago I would virtually guarantee MEWren sightings
given a couple of hours in the right area, but they seem to be at a low ebb at
the moment. This part of the Nowingi track ( close to the Old Calder Highway)
has seen a lot of activity over some years, both from birders with the calls on
their mobile phones etc ( from all over the world) aswell as some studies where
I believe that birds were handled. I hope that human activities have not
deterred the birds from this area, and that it is the more natural cause...
being drought, that has lowered their numbers.
As always, a trip to the mallee was a great time to remember.
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