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

To: Charles Silveira <>, "" <>
Subject: Trip Report: Little Desert in Spring (revisited 2013) - bird sites and it's amazing flora
From: Tim Dolby <>
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 06:57:57 +0000
Good questions Charles. I’ve also noticed several historic references to 
Striated Grasswren in the Little Desert, and wondered about this (perhaps the 
same source as you).

I think the main issue here is the availability of appropriate habitat - or 
lack of it - in the Little Desert. One reason I mention Triodia in my report is 
that I'm intrigued this plants distribution, and its recent historical 
distribution i.e. pre-land clearing. Further to this, what was the associated 
distribution of Triodia-linked species such as Striated Grasswren, Mallee 
Emu-wren, Red-lored Whistler and Black-eared Miner? As you know, essentially 
Striated Grasswren inhabit sandplains dominated by mature Triodia hummock 
grassland with an overstorey of trees such as Mallee eucalypts. Unless this 
combination exists, they won't be present. Although a couple of research papers 
(Eckert 1982; Clarke 2005) point out that Striated Grasswren do occur less 
frequently in heathland dominated by Banksia and Hakea, and in Mallee shrubland 
with dense Dark Turpentine Bush (Beyeria opaca) - i.e. not Triodia. However, as 
far as I know, this is not the case with ssp striatus found in NW Victoria.

So, I think you're right, when Pizzey refers to a "Little Desert" he may be 
referring to what's now know as the Big Desert. Pizzey lived near the 
Grampians. As the crow flies, this isn’t far from the Little Desert. So if 
anyone was aware of the birds of the region, he would've been. As a result I 
think it's unlikely to be a distributional error on his part.


From: Charles Silveira 
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:45 PM
To: Tim Dolby; 
Subject: Trip Report: Little Desert in Spring (revisited 2013) - bird sites and 
it's amazing flora

Hi Tim,

Pizzey & Doyle (1980) gave the range of the Striated Grasswren as, "Inland
and w. Aust.: from Vic. mallee (e. to Annuello-Kooloonong) s. to Little
Desert...".  I was never able to clarify this with Graham Pizzey and am
wondering now, given your experience in the Little Desert, whether you have
any comments?

I am aware of some of the early Mallee bird literature referring to a
"Little Desert" located at the north-west of what is now called the Big
Desert and have always wondered whether this is the source of the Pizzey &
Doyle (1980) statement.  I have recorded the Striated Grasswren in the north
of the Big Desert in the mid 1980s and then, in 1992, was taken by the late
Frank Noelker to one of his Striated Grasswren sites in the very south-east
corner of the Big Desert.  We didn't see or hear the species calling that
day but he had recorded it there on a number of occasions.  So far as I know
Frank's records would be the southern-most locality for Victoria unless
Graham Pizzey had records that aren't available elsewhere.

All the best,


Charles Silveira

-----Original Message-----
From: Tim Dolby
Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:59 PM
Subject: Trip Report: Little Desert in Spring (revisited
2013) - bird sites and it's amazing flora

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


Tim Dolby

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

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!

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