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

To: Tim Dolby <>, birding-aus <>
Subject: Trip Report: Chiltern - Australia's best winter forests?
From: David Clark <>
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2013 19:44:15 +1000
Thanks Tim, that's inspired me to make another trip to northeastern

I was working in the area about this time last year and saw a Common Wombat
grazing in broad daylight at the foot of Skeleton Hill.  The landowner told
me that they occasionally get wombats around their house (on the south side
of Doma Munji Creek).

One of my colleagues had recently emigrated from Portugal and it was his
first wombat.



On Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 10:19 PM, Tim Dolby <> wrote:

> 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?
> Cheers,
> Tim
> 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 Box.
> 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 others.
> 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
>  wl.
> Yeddonba
> 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 sign-posted.
> 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!
> Cheers,
> Tim Dolby
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