Trip Report: Chiltern - Australia's best winter forests?

To: "" <>
Subject: Trip Report: Chiltern - Australia's best winter forests?
From: Tim Dolby <>
Date: Sun, 21 Jul 2013 12:19:45 +0000
Hi bird fans,
Please see below a slightly self-indulgent, and overly long, trip report of 
sunny Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park in north-east Victoria. For the full 
report, with images, see Any comments, 
suggestions, corrections, please don't hesitate to contact me. Is this 
Australia'a best winter wildlife site?

Due to some research commitments at Charles Sturt University, I've recently 
been travelling through Chiltern quite a bit. As a result I thought I'd update 
my trip report page for Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park - the original report 
was fairly scratchy anyway. If you ask Australian birdwatchers what their 
favourite bird sites are, for many Chiltern easily slips into the top ten. 
There's a wide range of literature available on Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park 
(see the end of this report), so this report is really just my personal take on 
this wonderful national park, wth a few thoughts on some of the plants, animals 
and the best birding sites in the park.

Background notes
Created in October 2002, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park (21,560 ha) conserves 
Victoria's Box‐Ironbark forests and woodlands, a unique habitat to Australia. 
This type of forests once covered 13-14% of Victoria, ~3 million ha, by 2013 
~85% has been cleared. So the park is an extremely important remnant of this 
once widespread forest-type, and provides a really important habitat link 
between the foothills of the Australian Alps and the Murray Riverine plains.

Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is probably the best flora and fauna assemblage 
of any Box-Ironbark forest in Australia. There are well-formed vehicle tracks 
throughout the park, providing access to most areas. I've found the best way of 
birding in the Chiltern is to follow these tracks looking for flowering 
eucalypts. This process is relatively straight-forward: look for recently 
fallen blossom and buds on the ground, and listen for the sounds of calling 
birds. When flowering, the eucalypts in Chiltern produce an abundance of 
nectar, food for hungry honeyeaters and parrots. So, using this technique is a 
pretty effective way to track down the parks birds.

In terms of ornithological conservation, the most significant species is the 
Regent Honeyeater, whic relies on the Box-Ironbark species for survival. 
Historically seen in large flocks - in some cases several hundred strong - 
Regent Honeyeater were once found around Adelaide in South Australia, and Fred 
Smith once saw a Regent Honeyeater at Yarra Bend, a park in central Melbourne. 
Current estimates suggest that there is now as few as 1000 birds. In Victoria 
the main breeding sites for Regent Honeyeater around Chiltern and Benalla. In 
winter Regent Honeyeater disperse widely i.e. recent records of birds in 
Gippsland, with seasonal movements dictated by flowering eucalypts. The loss of 
these eucalypts through habitat loss - especially in terms of corridors of 
habitat - and the lack of regeneration of these tree species, seems to be the 
key to their decline.

How to get there, where to stay
The park's located between Beechworth and Chiltern. It's 275 km north-east of 
Melbourne, 34 km north of Wangaratta, and about 40 km south of Albury and 
Wodonga. The best access is from the Hume Freeway at the Chiltern turn-off. 
Camping and accommodation is available in the nearby towns of Chiltern and 
Beechworth, and there's camping sites along Reedy Creek (Mt Pilot section of 
the park) and basic bush camping at the Tuan Campsite, located on Depot Rd in 
the north side of the park. My personal preference is to stay in the Lake 
Anderson Caravan Park in Chiltern, and the Colonial Motel is also good value.

The flora
The park's dominate canopy trees are open eucalyptus such as the rugged Mugga 
Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon), Grey (E. microcarpa) and White Box (E. 
albens), Red Stringybark (E. macrorhyncha) and Blakely’s Red Gum (E. blakelyi). 
Many of these trees flower in sequence, providing a consistent nectar source 
for the resident and visiting bird species. Occasionally Mugga Ironbark and the 
box species produce hybrids. There are good examples of this at the eastern end 
of the White Box Walking Track, just east of the Honeyeater Picnic Area.  The 
national park also preserves a range of endangered tree species, such as the 
Warby Range Swamp Gum (E. cadens), and the blue-leafed Beechworth Silver 
Stringybark (E. aff. cinerea) - look for the later at the Woolshed Falls. Much 
of eucalypts in the park are covered by Box Mistletoe (Amyema miquelli) and 
Fleshy Mistletoe (A. miraculosa ssp boormanii), a favourite plant of many 
species of birds notably Painted Honeyeater.  Other eucal
 pts include River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis) and Yellow Box (E. melliodora), 
mostly near the parks wetlands such as the Chiltern Valley No 1 and No 2 Dams 
and Frogs Hollow. There are also significant roadsides habitats that run 
through farmland bordering the park, such along Fishers Lane and Toveys Rd.

Chiltern has Australia's largest reserved population of Black Cypress-pine 
(Callitris endlicherii), mainly on the dry granite ridges in the east of the 
park near Eldorado. Travelling through these Black Cypress-pine forests reminds 
me of Terrick Terrick National Park in central Victoria, a park dominated by 
White Cypress-pine (C. glaucophylla). Perhaps surprisingly the cypress-pine 
forests near Chiltern are under-visited by birders, myself included. I might 
correct this oversight during the forthcoming spring.

The park has a prolific array of shrubs that includes many wattles and 
wildflowers. During winter and autumn the shrub layer is relatively quiet - 
when compared to spring - however it still has a wonderful selection flowering 
plants and contrasting colours. You might see Hoary Sunray (Leucochrysum 
albicans), Slender Rice-flower (Pimelia linifolia), and Urn Heath (Melichrus 
urceolatus) - a plant somewhat similar to Heath Murtle. One autumn flowering 
flower is the Common Fringe-lily (Thysanotus tuberosus), surely one of 
Australia's most strikingly beautiful wildflowers, its frilly edges of their 
three petaled flowers only last for one day.

Wattles include Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Varnish Wattle (A. 
verniciflua) and the winter flowering Spreading Wattle (A. genistifolia), with 
its delightful lemon colour. The Deane’s Wattle (A. deanei) is a rare local 
endemic.  The Spur-wing Wattle (A. triptera) was planted in the park during the 
1960s. It was sourced from the only natural occurring Victorian population in 
the Warby Range State Park, in case of local extinction. Cherry Ballart 
(Exocarpos cupressiformis) features highly in the park, and is a favoured tree 
for many species of birds, including honeyeater such as Regent Honeyeater, 
using its dense foliage for roosting and to search for small insects. (Indeed 
the relationship between Cherry Ballart and Regent Honeyeater is probably 
understated in the literature.) The wattles and the Cherry Ballart contrast 
beautifully with the hard black fissured trunks of the Mugga Ironbark and Grey 

Another winter flowering plant is the Broom Bitter-pea (Daviesia genistifolia). 
A low-growing egg and bacon style plant, it has a delightful tinge of orange 
and mauve. Somewhat similar it the apply-named Handsome Flat-pea (Platylobium 
formosum). Then there is the blue Common Hovea (Hovea linearis).

It is worth searching for the extremely rare and critically endangered Mountain 
Swainson Pea (Swainsona recta). The total number of reported plants in 
Australia ranges from ~2,700 to ~4,000. Presumed extinct in Victoria, until a 
single population of four plants was found near Beechworth in 2001, discovered 
by none-other than Eileen Collins.

Spring is the time for prolific wildflowers in Chiltern. For those fascinated 
by our native orchids - myself included - with patience late-autumn/spring is 
the time to search for them. Look for the the spectacular Crimson Spider Orchid 
(Caladenia concolor), Lepord Orchid (Diuris pardina), Mt Pilot Spider Orchid 
(C. pilotensis) - an endemic to Victoria's northern inland slopes - and the 
rare Yellow Hyacinth Orchid (Dipodium hamiltonianum) - another with a 
leopard-like colouration, it's covered in purple spots.

In spring Golden Everlasting (Brachyscome bracteata) cover the ground at 
Bartley's Block. Along with Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), the block turns 
into yellow-wonderland. Another yellow-flowering plant is the Woolly Ragwort 
(Senecio garlandii). An erect perennial, daisy-like flower, growing to ~2 high, 
it was previously only known from one site in Victoria. Two new sites have been 
found, one of those in the Box-Ironbark forest in Chiltern. The total 
population consisted of a single individual! (The best spot to look for Woolly 
Ragwort is actually The Rock Nature Reserve, about 30 km south of Wagga Wagga.) 
At some sites the Chocolate-lily (Arthropodium strictum) can completely blanket 
the ground - such as around the car park at Yeddonba. The flower is a 
delightful blue, while the use of chocolate in the names alludes to the scent 
of the flowers which resembles chocolate. With their racemose inflorescence ~1 
m high (great term that means the flower stalk continues to produc
 e new flower buds during growth), when the Chocolate-lilies flower, they 
flower in large clusters they look spectacular. Fringed Heath-myrtle 
(Micromyrtus ciliatus) is common in certain areas of the park, particularly 
around Mt Pilot along the walk to the summit.

The Austral Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea glauca) occur in the park, although not as 
common as you'd expect. For example, they're far more common in the Warby 
Ranges, which has a similar environment. The flowering stems attract large 
numbers of butterflies, hoverflies and other insect. These in turn attracts 
birds. I've found that the Xanthorrhoea is an excellent nesting-plant for 
various woodland birds such as Golden Whistler - it's always worth having a 
look in their dense grassy foliage for nesting activity.

I should point out that the Chiltern is a great place to see fungi. The most 
dramatic are the Smooth Cage (Ileodictyon gracile), an intriguing basket fungi, 
the wonderful Earthstar (Triplex Geastrum) and the stunning Blue Stain 
(Chlorociboria sp). These are all spectacular to see. On several occasions in 
Chiltern I've met groups of mycologist (fungi people), scouring the ground for 
fungal fruit.

Chiltern's animals
The Box-Ironbark forests around Chiltern are a fantastic place to see a 
selection of native Australian mammals. Effectively the mammalian fauna 
consists of large grazers, medium-sized browsers, small ground insectivores, 
arboreal species and the bats.

In terms of large grazers there are two - the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus 
giganteus), common, while the Black (Swamp) Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) is often 
seen darting off the dirt tracks - there's usually an animal or two resident 
along most watercourse and creek lines. The Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is 
relatively common, while the Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is surprisingly 
rare. I've not seen them in Chiltern, but I've heard that recently a burrow was 
found, with associated diggings and droppings. I'm not sure what their status 
in the Mt Pilot section, particularly the far-east near Beechworth? They are 
certainly quite common in the Beechworth Historic Park.

The main small ground insectivores in the park is the wonderful Yellow-footed 
Antechinus (Antechinus flavipes). Also known as the Mardo, a local shop keeper 
refers to them as the Chiltern Golden Mouse. At times is can be quite common; 
recently I seem to be seeing them every stop I make. An intriguing animal, it's 
comparatively diurnal when compared to other similar species. It's infamous - 
for want of better word - for its sexual behaviour, engaging in a mating-frenzy 
that results in the stress-related death of all adult males before they reach 
one year old! I've seen them at a number of location in Chiltern. Recently I've 
seen them at Chiltern Valley No 2 Dam - they made the small diggings just 
before the bird hide. I've also seen them along Ryans Rd, most often on the 
ground, but also feeding high up in the canopy, with an animal darting in and 
out of a small tree hollow ~60 feet up a Grey Box.
The arboreal, tree-dwelling species are particularly well-represented in 
Chiltern-Mt Pilot-National Park. Late one night - while spotlighting for owl - 
in the beam of the cars headlights, I saw a Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale 
tapoatafa) run (or rather bounce) across the Chiltern-Beechworth Rd. It then 
leaped into a roadside tree. This Brush-tailed Phascogale is heavily dependent 
upon the Box-Ironbark ecosystem - aside from Chiltern, I've seen them several 
times at Heathcote-Graytown National Park.

Three gliders (Petaurus sp) are present in the park. The Sugar Glider (Petaurus 
breviceps) has an alternative name - the Short-headed Flying Phalanger! Not 
bad. That's what I will call them from now on. A good spot to look for them is 
Frog Hollow, jumping between trees, and listen for their barking call just 
after dusk - a yip, yip or yap,yap, a bit like the bark of a small dog. Another 
glider, the Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is almost twice the size of 
a Sugar Glider. It's uncommon, and has a preference for roadside trees and 
watercourses in the southern area of the park. I'm yet to see Feathertail 
Glider at Chiltern - it's the smallest of the local gliders, occasionally 
observed along river line and Box-Ironbark forests feeding amongst the heavily 
blossoming flowering eucalypts. All the gliders are highly social, and very 
territorial, so where there's one there's sure to be others. The gliders, along 
with the Brush-tailed Phascogale and the bats, seem to be bene
 fiting from the erection of mammal boxes. Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus 
vulpecula) and Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) are both 
reasonably common, preferring areas with large hollow-bearing trees, and can be 
seen around Chiltern's town parks. A good spot to look for Koala (Phascolarctos 
cinereus) is around the Honeyeater Picnic Area.

Bat species feature predominantly in Chiltern. The extensive list includes 
Southern Freetail Bat (Mormopterus planiceps), there used to be a large colony 
of inside the historical Chiltern Jail, White-striped Freetail Bat (Tadarida 
australis), Gould's (Chalinolobus gouldii) and Chocolate Wattle Bat (C. morio), 
Gould's (Nyctophilus gouldi) and Lesser Long-eared Bat (N. geoffroyi), Inland 
Broad-nosed Bat (Scotorepens balstoni), and Large (Vespadelus darlingtoni), 
Southern (V. regulus) and Little Forest (V. vulturnus) Bat. All are vulnerable 
to loss of roost sites in tree hollows and, of course, loss of habitat.

Other native mammals recorded in the national park include Water Rat (Hydromys 
chrysogaster), Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), both predominately from the 
Mt Pilot section. Every now and again there's are unconfirmed report of 
Spot-tailed (Tiger) Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus). It's mainland Australia's 
largest marsupial carnivore, with the last confirmed sighting in the mid-1970s. 
Unfortunately a couple of introduced animals seem to be increasing, Sambar Deer 
(Rusa unicolor) and Hare (Lepus europaeus). A couple of weeks ago I flushed a 
Hare from its hide in very centre of the national park.

The birds in the park
Over 220 bird species have been recorded, with a full list available on the 
Friends of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park website. That makes Chiltern second 
best birding site in Victoria, about 40 behind the Western Treatment Plant, and 
a few ahead of Hattah-Kulkyne, Croajingolong, Greater Bendigo, Warby-Ovens, 
Terrick Terrick and the Little Desert. In effect, aside from some silly 
treatment plant, it is the best birding site in the state! By way of comparison 
to other birding sites in Australia, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP reminds me of the 
Capertee Valley and Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve in NSW, Sundown and Girraween 
NPs in Queensland and, perhaps, Dryandra Reserve (for various reasons) in 
Western Australia.

Visiting birders target species Regent, Painted and Black-chinned Honeyeater, 
Swift and Turquoise Parrot, Square-tailed Kite, Painted Button-quail, 
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Grey-crowned Babbler, Speckled Warbler, 
White-browed and White-breasted Woodswallow, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Western 
and White-throated Gerygone, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Diamond Firetail and 
night birds such as Barking Owl and White-throated Nightjar. In the Mt Pilot 
section highlights include Australian King-Parrot, Satin Bowerbird (winter), 
Spotted Quail-thrush and Leaden Flycatcher.

The more common species in Chiltern include Yellow-tufted, Fuscous, 
White-naped, White-plumed and Brown-headed Honeyeater as well as Eastern 
Spinebill, Red Wattlebird, Noisy and Little Friarbird. Other common birds 
include Eastern Rosella, Little Lorikeet, Red-rumped Parrot, Common Bronzewing, 
Laughing Kookaburra, Brown Tree-creeper, Jacky Winter, Scarlet, Eastern Yellow 
and Red-capped Robin, Golden and Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, 
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Restless Flycatcher, Dusky Woodswallow, White-browed 
Babbler, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Silvereye, Mistletoebird, plus a few 

Some of the uncommon, rare and vagrant species recorded include Freckled Duck, 
Brolga, Black-tailed Native-hen, Bush Stone-curlew, Latham's Snipe, Australian 
Painted-Snipe, Black-eared Cuckoo, Red-backed Kingfisher, Black and, very 
rarely, Grey Falcon, Cockatiel, Southern Whiteface, Masked Woodswallow, Rose 
Robin, White-backed Swallow, Crescent Honeyeater, Cicadabird, Double-barred 
Finch and, more recently, honeyeaters such as Black, Scarlet and White-fronted 
Honeyeater. Hooded Robin is becoming increasingly rare in the forest, and 
Crested Bellbird, last recorded in 1991, is considered locally extinct.

Bartley's Block
Bartley's Block is an old bush paddocks bordered by Box-Ironbark, and is 
probably the most visited birdwatching spot in the park. As with most birding 
habitats, fringe habitats provide some of the best birding, and this is 
certainly the case with Bartley's Block. It's located ~3 km from Chiltern, on 
the left/west side of Howlong-Chiltern Rd. The best access is via a small car 
park at the north side of the block - blink and you'll miss it.

I have found the best technique for birding Bartley's is to simply walk around 
the block's boundary, a total distance of about a kilometre. This will usually 
produce a wide diversity of woodland such as Little Lorikeet, Jacky Winter, 
Mistletoebird, Red-browed Finch, Rufous and Golden Whistler, Restless 
Flycatcher, robin's such as Scarlet, Red-capped, Flame (winter), occasionally 
Rose Robin and, in  spring and summer, you can add the following to the list: 
Sacred Kingfisher, Peaceful Dove,Western Gerygone, White-winged Triller, Rufous 
Songlark, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo and Olive-backed Oriole. 
It's worth keeping an eye open for raptors to look for include Brown Goshawk 
and Collared Sparrowhawk.

Bartley's Block (and Chiltern) must be one the best places in Australia to see 
honeyeaters, rivaling most site in Australia. An amazing 18 species have been 
recorded here, including Eastern Spinebill, Red and Little Wattlebird, Little 
and Noisy Friarbird, Noisy Miner, and Black-chinned, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, 
Brown-headed, White-naped, White-eared Honeyeater, Regent, Yellow-tufted, 
Fuscous, White-plumed, Black, Scarlet and Painted Honeyeater. Not a bad list! 
Painted Honeyeater is one of the most sought-after, usually found from spring 
to autumn, they have a particularly liking the flowering Box Mistletoe in the 
larger Mugga Ironbark on north-west side of the block. In April this year there 
were 5 birds feeding in the same trees tree!

Speckled Warbler occur along the south-east side of the block, near the two 
small dams, and in the area of scattered Golden Wattle at the top of the block. 
The area around the wattle is also excellent for smaller passerines such as 
Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Red-browed Finch, Western Gerygone and robin's such as 
Scarlet, Red-capped, and vey occasionally Rose.

On the north-east side of the paddock you'll find the old Bartley Brewery. 
Operational from 1861-1913, it's important to the history of Chiltern. It's 
also a good area to look for Turquoise Parrot and Western Gerygone (in summer, 
listen for them calling the larger gums near the car park). Remnant exotic 
trees around the old brewery site include a couple of very old Japanese 
Persimmon trees (Diospyros kaki). In autumn the their leaves turn a spectacular 
orange colour and, in late April, the trees fruit ripen, attracting dozen of 
birds, such as such as Golden Whistler, Mistletoebird, Eastern Spinebill, 
Brown-headed and White-naped Honeyeater and Pied Currawong to name a few, all 
gorging themselves. There is nothing better that just sitting under these trees 
and watch the continual procession of feeding birds.

Honeyeater Picnic Area and Cyanide Dam
Along with Bartley's Block, the Honeyeater Picnic Area at Cyanide Dam is 
probably Chiltern's best known birding site. Until recently, it was the best 
place to see Regent Honeyeater and it still has potential; for example in 
spring 2012 a pair of Regent Honeyeater bred near the junction of All Nations 
Rd and Cyanide Rd. I've found the best birding area is the south-east side of 
the dam, being particularly good an hour or so after dawn. Birds seen here, and 
around the dam generally, include Turquoise Parrot, Painted Button-quail, 
Black-chinned, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeater, Little Lorikeet, Scarlet 
Robin, Restless Flycatcher, Mistletoebird and, in summer, Sacred Kingfisher, 
Peaceful Dove, Olive-backed Oriole and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike (most often 
seen walking north along Cyanide Rd). The dam is particularly good for Brown 
Treecreeper and Eastern Yellow Robin, both species surprisingly tame, while on 
the dam itself is usually a pair of Australasian Grebe. The dam is
  also a summer hawking site for White-throated Nightjar.

White Box Walking Track
The White Box Walking Track starts just north of the Honeyeater Picnic Area. 
It's total length is just over 8 km so it takes a good couple of hours to 
complete. I usually just do a small loop at start of the walk: walking up the 
hill to the top of the first major ridge, then turn east and walk down the 
forest slopes back to Cyanide Rd. When the White Box is flowering, the 
east-facing downward slope can an excellent for both Swift and Turquoise 
Parrot, and several pairs of Painted Button-quail are are usually in this area, 
particularly in the small valleys the bottom of the ridge. It's also a good 
spot to see Yellow-footed Antechinus and Lace Monitor (particularly summer, 
when they're more active). Other birds to look for include Scarlet and 
Red-capped Robin, Western and White-throated Gerygone (summer), Crested 
Shrike-tit, Varied Sittella and White-throated Treecreeper.

Green Hill Dam
A small wildlife dam n Green Hill Rd, between Magenta Rd and the Pipeline 
Track, it's located on the northern edge of the forest. Over the last couple of 
years Green Hill Dam has become perhaps the most reliable place to see Regent 
Honeyeater. It's a classic Box-Ironbark dam, surrounded by bush. Sometimes the 
sounds of birds can be almost deafening - especially mornings and and evenings 
- with some of Australia's most vocal honeyeaters such as Noisy Friarbird, Red 
Wattlebird, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeater all calling continually. In 
terms of birding, it's a good spot just to sit down to have lunch or a cup of 
tea. Be patient, sit, wait and listen for the birds to come to you.

Somewhat similar to Green Hill Dam, the Lappins Dam (-36.131064,146.567389) 
another good wildlife dam: in November 2012 a Regent Honeyeater was seen here.

Magenta Mine
A historical mine, and an adjacent dam, the Mugga Ironbark around the car park 
is excellent for honeyeaters such as Black-chinned, Fuscous, Yellow-tufted and 
Noisy Friarbird. I've also seen Swift Parrot here. For this reason it was as 
chosen the release site by the Regent Honeyeater recovery team. The birds were 
reared at Taronga Zoo, with a hope that they'd provide a boost to the wild 
Regent Honeyeater population. Of the forty or so released birds, about half 
were fitted with radio transmitters. The monitoring program seems to be have 
been a great success, with most birds getting through the cold nights and some 
have put on weight since being released.

Recently I was surprised to hear a Scarlet Honeyeater calling near the mine. 
Tracking it down, it was a stunning scarlet-coloured male. Apparently, in the 
last couple of years, a couple of birds have been resident at Chiltern. Seeing 
it intrigued me, raising a number of questions. What was it doing here? In 
winter! Calling in winter! They're normally a summer migrant to Victoria's 
east-coast, inhabiting coastal temperate forests. Have these birds accidentally 
headed up the west-side of the Great Dividing Range, rather than the east 
(their normal migratory pathway)? Perhaps these are the birds seen in Melbourne 
in the summer of 2009/10. Upon reaching Chiltern they reached a habitat 
dead-end, unable to move north? Conversely, they stuck around because the 
eucalypts around Chiltern flower with regularity, enabling the, to hang on, 
albeit in very small numbers.

Frog's Hollow
Frog's Hollow (or Frog Hollow) is a pleasant small wetland and old dam that 
used to be a site of an early gold crusher. Located on the Barnawartha Rd ~3 km 
from Chiltern, it's surrounded by River Red Gum. Like some of the other dam 
sites in Chiltern, the bird-life here can be prolific and at times almost 
deafening. It's good site to add Australian Reed-Warbler and Little Grassbird 
to your Chiltern list, and one of the best site for White-bellied 
Cuckoo-shrike, occasionally seen in the trees above the picnic ground.

Klotz Track
This is a classic Box-Ironbark forest track that's located in the north-east 
side of the park, accessed via Green Hill Rd, just past the Green Hill Dam. 
When the trees are flowering, it can be a great place for forests specialists. 
I usually stop here to look for Regent Honeyeater, looking anywhere flowers 
appear on the ground. Once I walked around Klotz Track for several hours 
looking for Regents, seeing Painted Button-quail, and Swift and Turquoise 
Parrot, but no Regents. Upon returning, a Regent Honeyeater was feeding in the 
tree directly above the car!

Ryans Road and the Barnawatha Treatment Plant
Ryans Rd has proved a real gem in the park. It runs along the northern edge, 
through excellent Box-Ironbark forest. Some of the honeyeaters recently 
recorded along Ryans Rd include Fuscous, Yellow-tufted, Black-chinned, 
White-naped, White-plumed, Brown-headed, Scarlet, Black, Regent and 
White-fronted (2nd record for Chiltern). Of course White-fronted and Black 
Honeyeater are normally semi-arid/Mallee woodland birds so, again - like the 
Scarlet - what are they doing here? It was only recently birders where 
speculating, and predicting, where in Australian you might see both Black and 
Scarlet Honeyeater together. Well, that place is Chiltern!

Recently I've spent quite a bit of time walking the hillsides adjacent to Ryans 
Rd. Almost without exceptions, each time I have, I've seen Painted Button-quail 
and Yellow-footed Antechinus (two highlights for the park) as well as Little 
Lorikeet, Common Bronzewing, Brown Goshawk, Restless Flycatcher, Scarlet and 
Eastern Yellow Robin, Jacky Winter, Golden Whistler, Spotted Pardalote, Dusky 
and, occasionally, White-browed Woodswallow, Varied Sittella and Crested 
Shrike-tit.  It's worth scanning the treatment plant Ryans Rd for waterfowl, 
such as Grey and Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead and at the moment 
Flame Robin (a winter visitor) are feeding in the grounds of the plant.

Pipeline Track
Requiring high-clearance in places, the Pipeline Track is 4x4 track (X-Trail 
and Forester would be o.k). The track crosses a number of steep ridge lines, 
with the highest immediately north of the Magenta Mine. The top of the ridge is 
a roosting area for Dusky, White-browed and, less commonly, Masked Woodswallow, 
particular summer and autumn.

Fishers Road
The roadside trees along Fishers Rd is a local site for Grey-crowned Babbler. 
Locate north-side of the park, the road is a significant roadside area, 
providing a high-value vegetation remnants, important for habitat linkages and 
connectivity. The Babbler's are most often seen about half way between 
Chiltern-Howlong Rd and the old Howlong Rd, with the best way to find them to 
look for the distinctive collection of large dome, stick nests - most are 
alternative nests/roosting platforms.  The birds are usually nearby. Other 
birds I've seen along Fishers Rd include Dollarbird, many many Eastern Rosella, 
some Crimson Rosella including occasional Yellow ssp flaveolus, and several 
Yellow-footed Antechinus.

Chiltern Valley No 1, No 2 Dams, and Wenkes Rd wetland
The Chiltern Valley No 1 Dam, a large old mining dam, is an excellent bird 
watching area. It's accessed just before the corner of Wenkes Rd and Chiltern 
Valley Rd, ~3 km from Chiltern. Some of the waterfowl and waterbirds recorded 
here include Australian Shoveler and Musk, Pink-eared and, occasionally, 
Freckled Duck, Australasian, Hoary-headed and Great Crested (rare) Grebe, 
Latham's Snipe (uncommon summer), Australasian Darter, White-necked Heron, 
Great Egret, Nankeen Night Heron, Great and Little Black Cormorant, 
Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterel and Black-winged 
Stilt. Whistling Kite hunt over the dam, and look for other raptors such as 
Peregrine and Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby, Little, Wedge-tailed and, 
occasionally, White-bellied Sea-Eagle. It's a particularly good spot to see 
White-breasted Woodswallow. In the River Red Gum bordering the dam, more common 
birds such Little Friarbird, Restless Flycatcher, and Crested Shrike-tit, 
foraging for
  insect on the loose bark. Pied Butcherbird, uncommon here, lives along the 
roadside in this area. Some of the other birds recorded here include Latham's 
Snipe, Black-tailed Native-hen, Intermediate Egret, Budgerigar, Tree and Fairy 
Martin, Dollarbird, Rainbow Bee-eater and Masked Woodswallow.

I should have mentioned that just before you get to the turn-off to the No 1 
Dam, it's worth scanning the small wetland along Wenkes Rd. These are 
well-known for attracting skulking crakes and rails; Buff-banded Rail, 
Baillon's, Australian Spotted and Spotless Crake, Black-tailed Native-hen and, 
more commonly, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot have all been 
recorded. The best time to see them is during warmer months, when their food 
source, the invertebrates, are more active.

Chiltern Valley No.2 Dam is the largest wetland in the area. Another old mine 
dam, it's an excellent birding wetland and there’s a nice bird hide to boot. 
Many of the species recorded at Dam 1 have also recorded here. The list 
includes Brolga, Latham's Snipe, Intermediate Egret, Australasian Darter, Royal 
Spoonbill, Black-tailed Native-hen, Red-kneed Dotterel,White-breasted 
Woodswallow, Dollarbird, White-backed Swallow, Little Friarbird, Blue-faced 
Honeyeayer, Rainbow Bee-eater, Diamond Firetail and Double-barred Finch, the 
last seen recently by Michael Ramsey along Chiltern Valley Rd near the gate. 
Red-bellied Black Snake can be quite common, particularly in the Tall Sedge 
(Carex appressa) around the lake, so tread carefully in the grassy stuff. One 
thing this snake is hunting is Yellow-footed Antechinus. Quite common in the 
surrounding woodland - the diggings on the path just before the bird hide are 
theirs. It was nice to see that there's a new metal bird hide at Da
 m 2 (thanks to the Friends of). Be careful, though, when closing the hide door 
- it makes a lot of noise.

Lake Anderson and Lake Anderson Caravan Park
In terms of 'birding' accommodation, the cabins at the Lake Anderson Caravan 
Park are excellent. Lake Anderson is also the best place in the area to see 
Blue-faced Honeyeater and Little Friarbird. Other birds around the lake include 
Straw-necked and Sacred Ibis, Eastern and Crimson Rosella (occasionally Yellow 
ssp flaveolus), Rufous Whistler, Yellow-rumped and Yellow Thornbill and look 
for Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  Around the lake you can usually see Hardhead, 
Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Mallard, Black-fronted 
Dotterel, White-necked and White-faced Heron, in summer, Australian 
Reed-Warbler and Little Grassbird, and the island is a roost site for Great, 
Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant and sometimes Nankeen Night Heron.

Chiltern Golf Course
In summer, it's worth walking along Howlong Rd on the edge of the golf course. 
In summer I've found it to be a particularly good spot for seeing 
Yellow-throated Gerygone.  I reckon the golf course is under-bird watched. For 
instance I can find no bird lists for the golf course, probably because birders 
just don't play golf (fair enough), a shame, golf course are generally an 
excellent bird habitat. I wonder how often Regent Honeyeater and Swift Parrot 
have used the trees along the fairways, and beside the greens, to feed. (In 
Melbourne, for instance, the Royal Park golf course is one of southern Victoria 
most reliable sites for seeing Swift Parrot.)

Mt Pilot section and the summit
Mt Pilot is in the south-east section of the park. Part of the Barambogie-Mt 
Pilot Ranges (or the Barambogies), it differs from the northern section because 
it's largely granite country. The difference in geology produces different 
habitat types to those in the Chiltern section, and therefore some different 
species of birds. The Mugga Ironbark are absent and the granite hills have 
extensive areas of native Black Cypress-pine.

If you are spending several days in Chiltern, or Beechworth, the 300m walk up 
to the open rocky granite summit of Mt Pilot is a must. It provides spectacular 
360 degrees views, and gives you a real feel for the area. Scan updrafts above 
the forests and countryside for raptors such as Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, 
Peregrine Falcon and there is a chance of Square-tailed Kite (cruising about 
the canopy between spring and autumn). In spring the walk up to the summit is 
covered in wildflowers. Your best chance of seeing a Spotted Quail-thrush is 
the woodlands around Mt Pilot - look for them feeding on the ground, 
particularly along ridge lines. The wetter forests of the Mt Pilot section 
favour birds such as Gang Gang Cockatoo, Leaden Flycatcher, Rufous Fantail, 
Rose Robin, Spotted Pardalote, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren 
and White-browed Treecreeper, and night birds such as Owlet Nightjar, 
White-throated Nightjar, Southern Boobook and a possibility of Barking O

Yeddonba (an aboriginal name for the Black Cypress-pine) is located at the 
western base of Mt Pilot. It is good site for smaller passerines such as Yellow 
(feeding in Silver Wattle around the car park), Buff-rumped, Striated and Brown 
Thornbill, Weebill and, in summer, Western and Yellow-throated Gerygone. At 
night, it is also worth listening out for Barking Owl. I've heard and seen them 
here, and along Tovey's Rd.  A few weeks ago there was a large group of Satin 
Bowerbird - surprisingly rare winter visitor to the park moved along Tovey's Rd 
into a farm orchard. Yeddonba is also a great spot to see Chocolate Fringe-lily 
flowering in profusion around the car park in spring. It is really worth having 
a look at the Aboriginal red-ochre painting which is believed to be of a 
Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine), a species that became extinct on mainland 
Australia ~2000 years ago.

While in the Mt Pilot, section it's worth visiting the Woodshed Falls. Five 
Minutes from Beechworth, the falls are spectacular after heavy rain. Mt 
Barambogie is also interesting. The forests are dominated by stingybark, Red 
Box and Blakely's Red Gum. The summit, like Mt Pilot, is covered by large 
granite boulders. It's accessible via a rough 4x4 track, unfortunately not-well 

Summing up and more info
If you plan to visit Chiltern, aside from this report, it's really worth 
tracking down some of the other literature available, in particularly Chris 
Tzaros's a fantastic book entitled Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country, Sean 
Dooley wrote an excellent chapter on Chiltern in Where to See Birds in 
Victoria, Barry Trail produced a booklet entitled Bird Trails of Chiltern (13 
pages), available free from the Chiltern Visitor Information Centre, and 
lookout for an article written in 1999 in the Australian Bird Watcher entitled 
'Current and past status of the birds of Chiltern - a Box-Ironbark forest in 
north-eastern Victoria.' (1996, 16:309-326, Traill, B.J., E. Collins, P. Peake, 
S. Jessup). Although I haven't looked at this article recently, for many years 
it was my essential resource when visiting the Chiltern. Further, individual 
sites in Chiltern are well-documented in Eremaea. There is also a range of 
excellent information on the Friend of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park web
 site - read through the archive their newsletter. So (as mentoned at the 
beginning of this report) this is my personal, slightly self-indulgent, take on 
this wonderful Box-Ironbark national park.

Dean Ingwersen, who, like me has spent quite a bit of time in Chiltern recently 
(as part of the Regent Honeyeater release program), described the park to me 
beautifully: "Chiltern's a bit like a plum pudding. Incredibly rich, jam-packed 
full of wildlife and, in terms of the birds, you just don't know what will turn 
up next!" Just after Dean said this, we both heard a White-fronted Honeyeater 
calling, a species normally associated with the semi-arid woodlands - the 
closest populations are easily 200 km away. A few minutes later I flushed a 
small covey of Painted Button-quail and then, another 15 minutes later I was 
looking at a spectacular Scarlet Honeyeater. What a place!


Tim Dolby
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