Trip Report: Little Desert in Spring (revisited 2013) - bird sites and i

To: "" <>
Subject: Trip Report: Little Desert in Spring (revisited 2013) - bird sites and it's amazing flora
From: Tim Dolby <>
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2013 11:59:13 +0000
Hey bird fans,

See below a recent trip report to the Little Desert in sunny Victoria; it's an 
update to a previous report. To see the full report with images see It is, of course, meant to be a bit of 
birding and, in this case, floral fun. Any corrections  (it was written fairly 
quickly) or suggestions, please don't hesitate to hassle me! Ps. may have 
overdone it with the orchid images - but 'twas pretty special this season.


Tim Dolby

The Little Desert in Spring (revisited 2013) - bird sites and it's amazing flora

I've just returned from week (with family and friends) in the Little Desert 
(early Oct, 2013), a superb Victorian national park. A bit like my recent 
Chiltern report, this is an update of my original report on the Little Desert. 
Basically it's my personal take on this wonderful park its good birding site, 
and some thoughts about the wonderful plants.

Some Background Notes
In terms of birds, the park is pretty special. With a list of nearly 230 
species, this makes it easily one of the best birding sites in Victoria. When I 
visit, I have a bit of a wish-list. It's one of the only places in Victoria you 
might expect to see Slender-billed Thornbill - so I usually try and target that 
- and there's an uncommon and localized population of Rufous Fieldwren. While 
resident species worth looking for include Southern Scrub-robin is resident, 
Shy Heathwren, Variegated Fairy-wren, and Purple-gaped, White-fronted and 
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. Depending on the time of year, you can see Spotted 
Harrier, Blue-winged Parrot, and classic summer migrants such as Rainbow 
Bee-eater, Peaceful Dove, White-winged Triller and Rufous and Brown Songlark. 
More recently Elegant Parrot, rare in Victoria, has been recorded in the park, 
so this is another bird to look for. Importantly the park also supports 
Australia's southern-most population of Malleefowl, although (despite the park 
being known for its Malleefowl) they are thin on the ground.

Aside from these, it's always worth looking for inland and dry woodland 
specialists such as Black-tailed Native-hen, Banded Lapwing, Purple-crowned 
Lorikeet, Spotted Nightjar, Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Chestnut 
rumped Heathwren (rare resident), Gilbert's Whistler, Crested Bellbird 
(becoming increasingly rare), Jacky Winter, Red-capped and Hooded Robin and 
Diamond Firetail. There are some interesting subspecies such as Grey Currawong 
(black-winged ssp melanoptera), Spotted Pardalote (yellow-rumped xanthopygus) , 
Varied Sittella (black-capped pileata) and the Variegated Fairy-wren 
(purple-backed assimilis).

In terms of rare species to the park, Australian Bustard have also been 
recorded several times - usually at sites that have been recently burnt. 
Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo have been records in the south of the park, and there 
are recent records of Bush Stone-curlew. There are occasional records of 
Painted and Little Button-quail, Black-eared Cuckoo, Cockatiel, Budgerigar, 
Australia (Mallee) Ringneck, Red-backed Kingfisher, Black Falcon, Orange and 
Yellow Chat, Black Honeyeater, Chestnut-rumped Honeyeater, Western and 
White-throated Gerygone, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Forest Raven, 
White-backed Swallow and Zebra Finch. The last time Regent Honeyeater was 
recorded was 1900, so I wouldn't count on seeing that species!

The Little Desert rates extremely high in botanical significance and, in late 
spring, after good rains, it's a fantastic place to see some spectacular 
orchids! Basically I've divided this report into five main sections: i. how to 
get there and where to stay; ii a look at the parks native flora and habitat 
types; iii. a description the stunning native orchids; iv. of course the good 
birding sites; v. and finally a brief look at the mammals and other fauna. For 
me, the best times to visit is in late winter, spring and early summer, when 
the temperatures are comfortable and the park comes alive with wildflowers and 
avian activity.

How to Get There, Where to Stay
The Little Desert National Park (1350 sq. km) is located ~375 km from 
Melbourne, situated between the Wimmera River and the South Australian border. 
If leaving from Melbourne take the Western Hwy and keep driving; leaving from 
Adelaide take the Dukes Hwy and do the same thing, except head east! Accessed 
via Nhill and Kiata, the park intersected from north to south by the 
Nhill-Harrow Rd. This is a superb road to go birding along, one of my favourite 
'birding roads' in Australia. It's worth noting that the myriad of tracks 
through the park are mostly not suitable are 2WD, with tracks like the Salt 
Lake Tk and Dahlenburgs Mill Tk very sandy and especially soft after rain. 
However, if you know how to drive through sand, and are willing to dig yourself 
out if you get bogged, these tracks can be great fun to drive. The western 
block can be accessed from Kaniva along the Kaniva-Edenhope Rd, and there are 
some nice 4WD track in that section, such as Mt Moffat Tk and East-West Tk.

The best camp site in the park is easily the Kiata Campground, located about 10 
km south of Kiata. The walks around the campground are excellent, especially in 
spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom. There is also camping along the 
Wimmera River at Horseshoe Bend and Ackle Bend, south of Dimboola, although 
during holiday periods these can be busy. Being located in the bend of a river, 
it's actually hard to get up and go for a walk; effectively to take an extended 
walk, you need to drive to another site. (That being said, if you visited the 
riverside campsites outside tourist-times, they could be excellent.)

Another good place to stay - and probably the accommodation of choice for 
visiting birders - is  the Little Desert Nature Lodge, colloquially known as 
Whimpey's. I've stayed there a number of times and, it's great, especially if 
you want a shower! It was established in 1969 by Ray 'Whimpey' Reichelt, who 
organized 4WD tours through the park. By doing so, he was one of the first 
people to draw attention to the parks fabulous wild habitats. Another key 
person in the parks history was Keith Hateley, who established the first 
Malleefowl wildlife sanctuary, which was later expanded to become the Little 
Desert National Park. Keith was the parks first rangers.

The Little Desert Nature Lodge is located at the north end of the Nhill-Harrow 
Rd, about 16 km south of Nhill. On this recent trip, I stayed several nights at 
Kiata, and then a few nights in the Lodges bunkrooms, and the prices weren't 
much more than national park camp fees. At night, while eating dinner in the 
outside dining shed, Southern Brown Bandicoot bounced around our feet looking 
for food scrapes. It's worth noting that an electrified feral animal proof 
fence surrounds the Lodge and the adjacent Malleefowl Sanctuary property.

The Flora of the Little Desert
Despite the fact that the park has very deep sandy soils with low levels of 
nutrients and poor water holding retention, over 700 indigenous plant species 
have been recorded in the Little Desert. That's about one fifth of Victoria’s 
native flora species! Strictly speaking it's not a desert, receiving more 
rainfall than a 'desert' - about 500mm annually, ~150mm more than most strictly 
defined deserts.

For me I've found the best way to understand the distribution of birds in the 
Little Desert is to understand the parks flora, particularly in terms of its 
main habitat types. Roughly speaking, I reckon there are three readily 
identifiable vegetation types, each determined by their soil, causing marked 
differences in plants. The outer edge of the Little Desert is dominated by (i) 
grassy woodlands, then slightly further in, (ii) Mallee and Mallee-Broombush 
woodland and shrubland, while in the center of the park we find (iii) low-lying 
heathland. There is also an assemblage intermediate between Mallee-Broombush 
and the heathland. Each of these habitats have its own group of plants and its 
own selection of birds.

Aside from these tree main habitats, there are also a few seasonal / ephemeral 
swamplands, formed mainly over claypans (specifically in the western section of 
the park), there's some riparian vegetation along the Wimmera River and, of 
course, the park's bordered by extensive wheat and canola fields (good for 
Spotted Harrier, Brown Songlark and Eurasian Skylark).

(i) The Grassy Woodlands
In terms of grassy woodlands, I usually like to visit two areas: the area 
around the Kiata campground, particularly along the start of the walks that 
lead out of the campground i.e. the Red Gum and Albrechts Mill Walks, and the 
Keith Hateley Nature Walk at the Kiata Sanctuary Picnic Ground. Large Yellow 
Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), Grey Box (E. microcarpa), River Red Gum (E. 
camaIdulensis) and Drooping She-Oak (Allocasuarina verticillate), Oyster Bay 
Pine (Callitris rhomboidea) and Slender Cypress-pine (Callitris gracilis) 
dominate the herb-rich woodland community around the Kiata campground, and have 
a seriously herb-rich understory.

This spring (Sept 2013) many of the plants were flowering. Black-Anther Flax 
Lily (Dianella revoluta) were prominent along the walking tracks, with delicate 
flowers hanging downwards, contrasted with the robust, strap-like leaves. Every 
so often I came across a Blue Star (Chamaescilla corymbosa), one of my favorite 
flowers - with each flower lasting just one day, although individual plants can 
flower for several weeks. Other blue flowers along the walks at Kiata included 
Broughton Pea (Swainsona procumbens), Grooved Dampiera (Dampiera lanceolata) 
and Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii) - like the Blue Star, each 
flower lasts just one day, and they only flowers in sunlight. Other flowing 
plants includes Silky Parrot-pea (Dillwynia sericea), Red Parrot-pea (D. 
hispida), Daphne Heath (Brachyloma daphnoides), Brush Heath (Brachyloma 
ericoides), Flame Heath (Astroloma conostephioides), their bright red, tubular 
flowers a favoured food for Emu, as are their red, succulent fruit, Austral 
Stork's-bill (Pelargonium austale) - what a great name - a plant in the same 
genus as the exotic geraniums found in our gardens, and Horny Cone-bush 
(Isopogon ceratophyllus) - I'd seen this intriguing species flowering just a 
few weeks earlier near Anglesea.

A nice selection of bright yellow flowers shone out of the matt groundcover; 
the most obvious were Yam Daisy (Microseris lanceolata), Clustered Everlasting 
(Chrysocephalum semipapposum) and Hibbertia and Goodenia sp. such as Bundled 
Guinea-flower (Hibbertia prostrata), Twiggy Guinea-flower (Hibbertia virgata), 
Bent Goodenia (Goodenia geniculate) and Woolly Goodenia (Goodenia robusta). 
While creamy flowers included the fragrant candle-like heads of the Creamy 
Stackhousa (Stackhousa monogymna) and star-shaped honey-scented Milkmaids 
(Burchardia umbellata). The diversity was simply outstanding.

I hadn't noticed this before, but at the start of the Albrechts Mill Walk there 
are several clumps of Spinifex (Triodia scariosa). Uncommon in the Little 
Desert, I associated it with Wyperfeld National Park and, from there, extending 
further north and west. Seeing it in the Little Desert reminds me of an 
isolated clump of Triodia I found at the Tresco West Bushland Reserve, near 
Lake Boga. Once again, it makes me wonder what exactly is the southern / 
eastern limits of this iconic plant.

(ii) Mallee and Mallee Broombush
Between the open woodlands and the central heathlands, the park's vegetation is 
dominated Mallee. From what I can gather, six main species of Mallee eucalypt 
occur in the park - Yellow (Eucalyptus incrassata), Bull (E. belmana), Red (E. 
calycogona), Dumosa (E. dumosa), Green (E. viridis) and Green-leaf (E. phenax) 
Mallee. Good areas of Mallee occur along the Kiata South Rd, and on the road to 
the Kiata Campground, noting that both good spots to see Purple-gaped 

Much of the Mallee is dominated by Broom Honey-myrtle (Melaleuca uncinata), or 
Broombush, creating a habitat type known as Mallee Broombush. Good spots of 
this type occur along the start of the Salt Lake Tk and the Salt Lake Walk 
(both beginning near the Kiata Campground), in the sandy ridges and laterites. 
Broombush its name from European settlers who used the branches to sweep their 
homes and, more recently, it's been used to make brush fences. It seems to me 
that Broombush Mallee has its own collection of  plants, such as Broom Baeckea 
(Baeckea behrii) and Wallowa (Acacia calamifolia), the later produces flowers 
and seeds that are a favorite food for Malleefowl - and, in the Little Desert, 
this is the most likely habitat that you will see this species.

While walking along the beginning of the Salt Lake Walk, Snow Myrtle (Calytrix 
alpestris), Common Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix tetragona) and Heath-myrtle 
(Micromyrtus ciliata) flowered profusely, attracting insects such as native 
bees, Thynnid wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and ants. The common butterfly 
in the Little Desert is the Blue-spotted Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi), they 
flew rapidly from plant to plant, frequently settling, wings outspread, on a 
plant to feed or on the ground to bask in the sun. In the afternoon I noticed 
that the males established territories around flowering myrtle, driving away 
any intruders. Also along the Salt Lake Walk the stunning Blue Star 
(Chamaescilla corymbosa), Inland Figface (Carpobrotus modestus), and Broughton 
Pea (Swainsona procumbens) were all flowering. Birds such as Shy Heathwren, 
White-eared Honeyeater, Inland Thornbill, Varied Sittella (black-capped ssp 
pileata), Variegated Fairy-wren and Shy Heathwren have a preference for this 
type of habitat. Also along the Salt Lake Walk I also came across and enormous 
cockroach. Possibly a burrowing-type, from the Macropanesthia genus? It was 
wingless and heavily armoured, and emitted a load hissing noise when startled!

(iii) Banksia Heathlands
In the central section of the Little Desert, the sandy swales and plains 
between the dunes, you find superb heathlands. It's dominated by Desert Banksia 
(Banksia ornata) and Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), both species growing 
dwarfed in the Little Desert, only a meter or so high, due to low soil nutrient 
levels. They can grow up to 6 meters trees in the more fertile soils. Other 
major components of the heath include Dwarf She-oak (Allocasuarina pusilla), 
Heath Tea-tree (Leptospermum myrsinoides), Mallee Honey-Myrtle (Melaleuca 
neglecta) and Violet Honey-myrtle (Melaleuca wilsonii), with its bright lilac 
flowers. All these plants are hardy, semi-dense and compact, ranging from 2-3 m 
in height, and well-suited to low rainfall.

Intermixed with the heaths are areas of Slender Cypress-pine (Callitris 
gracilis), Bull-oak (Allocasuarina luehmannii) and Desert Stringybark 
(Eucalyptus arenacea) - like the dwarf  Banksia, they are a smaller, growing 
much taller in other areas of Australia, and a variety of plants such as Desert 
Common Correa (Correa reflexa var scaberula), Common Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix 
tetragona), Sweet Quandong (Santalum acuminatum), Golden Wattle (Acacia 
pycnantha) and Creeping Muntries (Kunzea pomifera).

The Little Desert's Stunning Orchids!
The Little Desert's terrestrial orchids are spectacular! This spring I found 
them everywhere, particularly along the start of all the Kiata campground 
walks, around here -36.448136,141.798486. I've found another good spot to look 
for them is along the Keith Hateley Nature Walk, as is Whimpey's. They were 
quite prominent in the small fenced-off area in Whimpey's, protecting them from 
hungry Emu and Western Grey Kangaroo.

Orchids tend to be found in woodlands and forests at low altitudes, with a 
preference for moist, well-drained soil. So, after spring rains, the low-lying 
sandy soils of the Little Desert are perfect! Perhaps the most prominent orchid 
was the Spider Orchids, including Green-comb Spider-orchid (Arachnorchis  
dilatata), Heart-lip Spider-orchid (A. cardiochila), Upright Spider-orchid (A. 
stricta)  and a few endangered Wimmera Spider Orchid (A. lowanensis), an orchid 
known from only four sites in Victoria.

Aside from the Spider Orchids, Caladenia-type orchids seen included Hooded 
Caladenia (Caladenia cucullata), Pink Fingers (C. carnea) and White Fingers (C. 

Another genus of orchid that were present this spring were the superb 
Thelymitra, the Sun Orchid. This spring found three types, Salmon Sun Orchid 
(Thelymitra rubra), Azure Sun Orchid (T. azurea), and the Rabbit Ears Sun 
Orchid (T. antennifera), the column has two distinctive red to brown interior 
"ears". The Thelymitra are amongst my favorite orchids; delicate, rich in 
colour, and they only open in full sunlight. They also seem to appear one day, 
and then vanish the next. Finally, probably the most common orchid this spring 
was the Leopard Orchid (Diuris maculata), with clusters of orchids in a number 
of places around the park.

Orchids always fascinate me. The huge variation of forms and colour lead to a 
bewildering array of species and hybrids, with many extremely morphologically 
difficult to separate. I've found identification's often confusing. Perhaps not 
surprising, for instance recent taxonomy revisions have increased the number of 
Caladenia species significantly and split the genus into separate groups. For 
instance Caladenia filamentosa alone has been split into ~40 different species 
and subspecies, while a number of subspecies have been upgraded to the status 
of full species, such as C. fragrantissima ssp. orientalis to C. orientalis. 
This makes some the splits and lumps in birds look like child's play! Grasswren 
taxonomy, phewee.

Furthermore the complex interaction with pollinators, result in 
pseudocopulation, with the elongated flower tips producing sexual attractants 
known as  pheromones, confusing pollinators, usually male Thynnid wasps, into 
thinking the flower is a female. Further to this, underground to this in fact, 
they have a complex mutalistic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi; the fungus 
assimilates nutrition from the orchid, and the orchid requires the fungus to 
germinate. When it comes to the orchids, it's a plant that lives on the edge, 
and the planet's life doesn't get much better.

Birding Sites

Kiata Campground
One of the best area of birding here is in the open woodland immediately south 
and east of the campground, particularly around the area that the main Kiata 
campground walking tracks begin. The most popular walk for me is the Red Gum 
Walk (~2 km). It's particularly good for robin's such as Scarlet, Red-capped, 
Hooded, Eastern Yellow Robin, Jacky Winter and Southern Scrub-robin.

Just east of the campground, in the largest clumps of shrubs 
(-36.447765,141.800728), there is usually a pair of Southern Scrub-robin. In 
terms of the Jacky Winter, they are a woodland bird that's declining across 
most of its range. With a preference for grassy-woodlands that are not less 
than 10 hectares, unfortunately the average size of grassy woodland patches in 
the Wimmera is only 3.5 hectares.

Other birds to look for include Peaceful Dove, Pallid Cuckoo, Rainbow 
Bee-eater, Restless Flycatcher, Rufous Songlark, White-winged Triller, 
White-throated and Brown Treecreeper, White-browed Babbler, Dusky, White-browed 
and (less commonly) Masked Woodswallow, Weebill, Tree Martin and Diamond 
Firetail, and I've seen Pied Butcherbird along this walk, rare this far south. 
It's probably the best area for parrots such as Purple-crowned Lorikeet and 
Eastern Rosella, and rarer visiting parrots such as Cockatiel, Budgerigar and 
Mallee Ringneck and, at night, listen for Southern Boobook, Australian 
Owlet-nightjar, and Tawny Frogmouth.

If you walk along the start of the Salt Lake Walk (about here 
-36.453046,141.79607) - or the Salt Lake Tk, down to the vicinity of the water 
bore, 2 km south of the Kiata Campsite (accessed via the Salt Lake Tk) - you'll 
soon find yourself walking through Mallee Broombush woodlands. Here the 
birdlife changes, now seeing specialists species such as Purple-gaped, 
Spiny-cheeked and White-eared Honeyeater, Variegated Fairy-wren, Shy Heathwren, 
Gilbert's Whistler, Varied (black-capped ssp pileata) Sittella, Buff-rumped and 
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, and look for uncommon species - there are records of 
Black and Pied Honeyeater and Crimson Chat in this area.

Another good spot for Mallee specialist is the Kiata South Rd, near where it 
joins the campground road (-36.431503,141.7744), an excellent spot for 
Purple-gaped Honeyeater. If you bird along the roadside just north of the 
intersection, you'll find an old dam (east side at -36.43045,141.777252). 
Birdwise, this spot can be rewarding. Banded Lapwing often reside in the 
paddock immediately north of here (-36.428603,141.782316).

Just west of Kiata, walk along the Keith Hateley Nature Walk at the Sanctuary 
Picnic Area, it also provides access to Mallee, again good habitat of the 
Purple-gaped Honeyeater. In spring the nature walk is a well-known site for 
orchids, and the rare Hairy-pod Wattle (Acacia glandulicarpa).

Nhill–Harrow Rd
One of the most productive areas for is the Banksia heathland bordering the 
Nhill–Harrow Rd, especially where it intersects with the Dahlenburgs Mill Tk. 
This area is adjacent to farmland, 3.4 km south of the entrance to the Little 
Desert Nature Lodge (-36.481157,141.653346). Search the knee-high heathland for 
Slender-billed Thornbill, a range-restricted species in Victoria. Take care 
with any identification because the superficially similar Buff-rumped Thornbill 
occurs here, though it generally occupies taller heathland. Another heathland / 
saltbush / samphire specialist, the Rufous Fieldwren, occurs here in similar 
habitats to that of the Slender-billed Thornbill. Here you may also see 
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Blue-winged and Elegant Parrot (the latter in 
spring and summer; perhaps the best site in Victoria), Dusky, White-browed and 
Masked Woodswallow (all spring–summer), Purple-gaped, Tawny-crowned and 
White-fronted Honeyeater, White-fronted Chat, Variegated Fairy-wren and 
White-backed Swallow (summer). Brown Songlark and Spotted Harrier often occur 
in the nearby paddocks.

Rufous Fieldwren tend to be more commonly found further south down the 
Nhill–Harrow Rd, such as along the start of the Phillips Tk, 8.8 km south of 
the Nature Lodge (-36.52976,141.645836), and along the intriguingly named 
McDonald Hwy (really just sandy track) 14.7 km south of the Lodge (-36.581875, 

As an aside though, it seems to me that one noticeable absentee from the 
heathland of the Little Desert, when you compare to the coastal sites such as 
Anglesea, is Southern Emu-wren. The Mallee Emu-wren, found to the north of the 
Little Desert, is clearly a remnant population of Stipiturus, dating back to 
the regions coastal past, so what happened to the Stipiturus in the Little 
Desert? Perhaps knocked out by localized fires, a historical warning to the 
future of the Mallee Emu-wren.

Little Desert Nature Lodge
One of the most accessible areas to see a variety of birds in Little Desert is 
in the grounds of the Little Desert Nature Lodge. It's basically set out as a 
microcosm of the Little Desert, with a nature trail that walks you through 
areas of heathland, some nice woodlands, the 'native flora garden' and past a 
few small waterholes. The lodge has an impressive bird list including Emu 
(common in the grounds), Malleefowl, Brown Quail, Collared Sparrowhawk, 
Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Peaceful Dove, Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, 
Gilbert's Whistler, Variegated Fairy-wren, Red-capped and Scarlet Robin, 
White-fronted, Yellow-plumed and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Restless Flycatcher, 
Chestnut-rumped, Inland, Brown and Yellow Thornbill, Diamond Firetail and, 
several years ago, I saw Western Gerygone.

Stringybark Walk
The Stringybark Walk (-36.464411,141.656218), and its extended loop, starts of 
the Nhill–Harrow Rd just 1.5 km south of the Nature Lodge. A very pleasant 
walk, it's a good for heathland honeyeaters such as Purple-gaped, 
White-fronted, Tawny-crowned, New Holland, White-naped and White-eared 
Honeyeater. You also get Purple-crowned and Musk Lorikeet, Inland and 
Buff-rumped Thornbill, Shy Heathwren, Golden, Rufous and Gilbert's Whistler, 
and robin such as Scarlet, Flame, Red-capped, Hooded and Jacky Winter. At 
night, Bush Stone-curlew has been heard along this walk.

Salt Lake
The area around Salt Lake (-36.535235,141.80355), and in the heath along the 
Salt Lake Tk, hold similar species to this found along the Nhill-Harrow Rd. The 
knee-high heath around the lake used to be THE site in Victoria for seeing 
Slender-billed Thornbill - and they are probably easier to find here than along 
the Nhill-Harrow Rd. Other birds around the lake include Emu, Blue-winged 
Parrot, Purple-crowned and Musk Lorikeet, Tawny-crowned and White-fronted 
Honeyeater, White-fronted Chat, White-backed Swallow, Southern Scrub-robin, 
Hooded Robin, Jacky Winter, Australasian Pipit and Buff-rumped Thornbill. 
Beware though, the Salt Lake Tk is definitely 4X4 only - the long sandy 
stretches making it a challenging for drives. If you have problems, let your 
tyres down. When there is adequate water in the lake, it can attract 
Black-winged Stilt and Red-necked Avocet.

Ackle and Horseshoe Bend
Another good birdwatching in the Little Desert is the area around Ackle and 
Horseshoe Bend (-36.507842,142.01678), particularly where the heathlands meet 
the Black Box and Red Gum along the Wimmera River. This is a good site for the 
elusive Shy Heathwren, Southern Scrub-robin, as well as Purple-crowned, Musk 
and Rainbow Lorikeet, White-winged Triller, Spiny-cheeked, Black-chinned, 
Brown-headed, New Holland, Tawny-crowned, White-eared Honeyeater, while rarer 
species such as Black and Pied Honeyeater have also been records.

McCabe Hut Track
Chestnut rumped Heathwren is rare in the Little Desert, however there is a 
small population along the 4WD McCabe Hut Tk. I personally haven't seen them 
there (or looked), but there are a few reliable recent records. One spot to 
look is along the McCabe Hut Tk ~3km north-west of Eagle Swamp (at 
-36.533036,141.93797) and along Charcoal Flat Tk (at -36.574767,141.957003).

Snape Reserve
The Snape Reserve (754 ha) is deserving of its own dedicated trip report, with 
over 170 species recorded. A Trust for Nature property, it's located directly 
adjacent to the Little Desert National Park, accessed via Pine Ave, just a few 
km south of Dimboola. It's named in honor of Diana and Brian Snape (a past 
Trust chairman ), a great couple, you won't meet two more dedicated 
conservationists. In you wish to visit, contact the supervisory committee, 
details are on the website. Like Whimpey's it's basically a microcosm of the 
Little Desert, with all the main habitat types represented.  The south side is 
dominated by large areas of heathland, there are several different types of 
woodland and some nice, open grassy areas. After good rains, ephemeral wetlands 
fill on the property, and can be excellent for water birds.

The larger copses in the properties woodland contain Southern Scrub-robin, 
while the heathland is good for species such as Shy Heathwren, Variegated 
Fairy-wren, and Tawny-crowned and White-fronted Honeyeater. Other species to 
look for include Emu, Peaceful Dove, Rainbow, Musk and Purple-crowned Lorikeet, 
Rainbow Bee-eater, Painted Honeyeater (rare), Crested Bellbird (increasingly 
uncommon), and it is great for smaller passerines such as Striated, 
Buff-rumped, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Chestnut-rumped, Inland, Brown and there is 
a chance of Slender-billed Thornbill (BANG, that's all eight Victorian 
Thornbill!), Weebill, Southern Whiteface and Diamond Firetail. A good spot to 
look for the smaller grassland passerines is the grassy areas in the top north 
corner. The last time I visited Wedge-tailed Eagle nested on the property, and 
after rain, you may luck upon Painted Spadefoot Toad and Mallee Spadefoot Toad.

Glenlee Flora and Fauna Reserve
20 km north of the Dimboola you will find the wonderful Glenlee Flora and Fauna 
Reserve (570 ha). I've included it in this report because it's a great place to 
go woodland birding, and can easily be incorporated into an extended trip to 
the Little Desert. Classified as remnant Buloke-grassy-woodland, Glenlee 
contains one of the highest percentage of this type of grassland in reserves in 
Victoria. The soil structure of the reserve is predominantly sandy loam. Aside 
from Buloke, the reserves dominate vegetation includes Yellow Gum, Brown 
Stringybark, Blackbox, Buloke Mistletoe, Grey Mulga, Leafless Current Bush, 
Golddust Wattle and Golden Wattle. The grassy areas (near the bird hide - see 
directions below) were carpeted in swathes of the low-growing, white papery 
Blunt Everlasting (Argentipallium obtusifolium). In terms of orchids there were 
flowering Azure Sun Orchid (T. azurea), and Glenlee is a primary conservation 
areas for the Mallee Spider-orchid (Caladenia lowanensis).

Not surprisingly Glenlee has a wide range of woodland birds. Like Snape 
Reserve, it's good for small passerines: Inland, Chestnut-rumped, Striated, 
Buff-rumped, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, and Thornbill, Weebill, Southern Whiteface, 
Variegated Fairy-wren, Diamond Firetail and occasionally Zebra Finch. It's an 
excellent honeyeater site, particularly for Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, as well 
as Spiny-cheeked and White-fronted Honeyeater and I've recently recorded Black 
Honeyeater. Like the Little Desert, there are some interesting subspecies: Grey 
Currawong (black-winged ssp melanoptera), Spotted Pardalote (yellow-rumped 
xanthopygus) , Varied Sittella (black-capped pileata) and Variegated Fairy-wren 
(purple-backed assimilis). Other species to look for include Rainbow Bee-eater, 
White-browed Babbler, White-browed, Masked and Dusky Woodswallow, Restless 
Flycatcher, White-winged Triller, Hooded and Red-capped Robin, Jacky Winter, 
Brown and Rufous Songlark, Brown Treecreeper, Gilbert's Whistler and, at night, 
listen for Bush Stone-curlew (rare locally).

The reserve's divided in two, a western and eastern blocks (either side of the 
Nhill-Jeparit Rd). There's a bird hide in the center of the eastern block with 
an associated water tray (-36.242716,141.847569), which is probably the best 
area for birding. To access the hide from the Nhill-Jeparit Rd (when driving 
from Nhill) take the first dirt track on your right (-36.233681,141.837437). 
After ~1 km turn up a track that lead north (-36.246999,141.844416), and the 
hide is another 200 meters (-36.242629,141.847483). You can also access it on 
foot via the Gerang-Glenlee Rd. The Western block immediately opposite the 
Nhill-Jeparit Rd entrance track is also worth birding.

Mammals and other species
Finally, this is a very brief discussion of the parks mammals and other 
species. In terms of the Macropus, there are several species, all relatively 
common: Western Grey Kangaroo, Red-necked Wallaby and Black Wallaby - and there 
are occasional records of Red Kangaroo. The presence of Red-necked Wallaby in 
the Little Desert (and, nearby in the Grampians), always intrigues me. The 
closest population for this species is on Victoria's far-east coast. The 
Red-necked Wallaby here must represent a remnant population, a bit like the 
Glossy Black-Cockatoo on Kangaroo Island and Victoria's south-west Red-tailed 
Black-Cockatoo, all reflective of a time when there was a habitat link between 
east and west Victoria.

A number of possum and glider species occur in the park, including Brushtail 
Possum, Little Pygmy Possum and Western Pygmy Possum, Sugar Glider and 
Feathertail Glider - if looking for the Pygmy Possum and Feathertail Glider, 
try spotlighting in the heathland. Silky Mouse is quite common, their burrow 
systems in the low Banksia heath are fairly distinctive. Other mammals include 
Echidna, Platypus (very rare, only occasional sightings along Wimmera River), 
Water Rat (records similar to the Platypus), Fat-tailed Dunnart - a preference 
for grassy areas - and, at last count, 11 bat species.

32 species of reptile have been recorded. From memory the species I've 
encountered being Sand Goanna, Common Scaly-foot, Eastern Bearded Dragon, Jacky 
Lizard, Shingle-back, Western Blue-tongue, Eastern Brown Snake, Marbled Gecko, 
plus a few skinks, which, in retrospect, I should have paid more attention to. 
The park lists 9 species of amphibian, with the most noteworthy for me Painted 
Spadefoot Toad and Mallee Spadefoot Toad. These are your classic desert-type 
toads, burying themselves underground often for years at a time, only to appear 
after very heavy rains to breed. Once, while staying at Snapes Reserve, heavy 
rains created a series small ephemeral wetlands to occur near my campsite. That 
night, several thousand Spadefoot Toad appeared, as if out of no-where, to 
breed in the puddles.


Tim Dolby

This email, including any attachment, is intended solely for the use of the 
intended recipient. It is confidential and may contain personal information or 
be subject to legal professional privilege. If you are not the intended 
recipient any use, disclosure, reproduction or storage of it is unauthorised. 
If you have received this email in error, please advise the sender via return 
email and delete it from your system immediately. Victoria University does not 
warrant that this email is free from viruses or defects and accepts no 
liability for any damage caused by such viruses or defects.

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU