Victoria's northern plains

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Subject: Victoria's northern plains
From: "Simon and Alex Starr" <>
Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2011 20:14:23 +1100
Hi all,

Felt like I had to share a memorable afternoon and evening yesterday around the 
Terrick Terrick National Park and the nearby Patho plains on the northern 
plains of Victoria.

Following rain,rain and more rain, the area is still very much green and native 
plants are continuing to seed.  This has resulted in an explosion in numbers of 
Quail and Button-quail.
A couple of years ago at the dry and dusty end of the drought, these species 
were hard to find at all, but at present sightings are relatively easy.

My evening started driving from Gunbower south along the Gunbower-Terricks road 
where certain grasslands were jumping with Singing Bushlarks, and Stubble Quail 
called from all directions. A lone Budgerigar was sighted far from any trees, 
eventually resting in a large African Boxthorn alongside a healthy flock of 
Zebra Finch.

Further south some quick walks in various grassland reserves produced Stubble 
Quail and Little Button-quail in abundance.

I then drove west across the Bendigo creek to have a look at some of the 
grasslands closer to the Terricks Forest.  Along Ferris road a number of 
birding experiences collided... and it really was quite incredible.  A pair of 
plumed Whistling Duck came up from a still wet depression ( normally a rare 
summer migrant), then a raptor extravagansa as a Little Eagle soared up in a 
thermal followed by a Black Falcon, which decided to cruise back down and then 
circle a nearby paddock obviously hunting. It was focused on a small area, and 
to my surprise looking down there was an adult Spotted Harrier floating and 
hanging in the air just above the grasses. The Black Falcon continued to follow 
the Harrier's progress waiting for the inevitable flushed prey.  It seemed to 
lose interest after some time when no action was forthcoming, and eventually a 
Pipit burst out and caught its interest.  A chase then proceeded , high into 
the sky, with the Falcon pursuing hard, but the Pipit had the mo
 ves and the mean black hunter gave up in disgust !
Further along the road more Stubble Quail erupted, and a Buff-banded Rail 
legged across.  The place is pumping !
I then poppped into a waterhole in the north-west of the Terricks forest, where 
the action was just as lively.
The warmer weather and "slightly" drier conditions had encouraged many birds to 
visit the area. Within half an hour the following birds were 
sighted....White-browed Woodswallow, Restless Flycatcher, Diamond Firetail, 
Rainbow Bee-eater, Common Bronzewing, Peaceful Dove, Black-chinned Honeyeater, 
Tree Martins, a family of Aussie Grebes, White-plumed and Singing Honeyeaters, 
WWChoughs, Little Button-quial and a male Painted Button-quail on the drive out 
plus another flushed along another track,   I left somewhat bedazzled.

I then picked up 4 birdos visiting from NSW who were quite keen to connect with 
a Plains Wanderer. We drove out to some grasslands east of the Bendigo creek 
and waited for the sun to go down.  20+ Plumed Whistling Duck flew by and 
Stubble Quail called from all around as a fiery sun slowly faded.
Our 2 hour grassland wallk with spotlights was incredible for the sheer numbers 
of Little Button-quail and Stubble Quail.  They must be up to a third 
generation this summer.  Young chicks were seen, plus many calling birds.  What 
a bumper season for them.
 After 1 and a half hours a female Plains Wanderer was flushed and we spent 
some 20 minutes enjoying her company...however we needed a little bit of luck, 
as this species has largely dispersed from the general area following the 
eruption of grass growth everywhere and few relaible sites remain.  
And then, as if that was not enough, the walk back to the car produced a 
flushed Red-chested Button-quail which we managed to see well on the 
ground...possibly thanks to the lack of moonlight.
Eventually two male RCBQ's were seen at close range...another normally rare 
summer migrant
The night was rounded out with a calling Owlet-Nightjar back in the forest.

The good times that inland Australia have been having for a year or two have 
definately made it to Victoria :-).  Its a welcome reprieve after many many dry 

Simon Starr.


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