Victorian mallee trip- 10th to 12th Sept- longish

To: "BA email" <>
Subject: Victorian mallee trip- 10th to 12th Sept- longish
From: "simon starr" <>
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2010 23:28:09 +1000
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 
last year.
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 
pine/moonah/mallee country.
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.

Cheers all,

Simon Satrr.

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