From: "Vella, Edwin" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 08:08:33 +1100

Myself and David Koffel, have just returned from an enjoyable and pleasant
inland trip. As a result of covering new birding habitats - the Mallee,
Mulga, the Bluebush plains etc, several species were new to me, and I saw a
total of 37 lifers out of a total trip list of 225 species.

The main areas visited were as follows:

1) Back Creek State Forest (east of West Wyalong, western NSW)
2) Round Hill Nature Reserve (north-west of Lake Cargelligo, western NSW)
3) Loughnan Nature Reserve (east of Hillston, western NSW)
4) Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (north of Ouyen, north-western VIC)
5) Wyperfeld National Park (south-west of Ouyen, north-western VIC)
6) Lake Alexandrina (south-east of Adelaide, SA)
7) The Coorong (south-east of Adelaide, SA)
8) Messent Conservation Park (south-east of Adelaide, SA)
9) Bool Lagoon (south of Naracoorte, SE SA)
10) Mungo National Park (far-western NSW)
11) Kinchega National Park (far-western NSW)
12) Mootwingee National Park (far-western NSW)
13) Cobar Waste Depot (western NSW, a good place for birds!!!)
14) Gum Swamp, Forbes (western NSW)

Here follows my birding diary for the trip:


We left my place at 7am on Sunday, and arrived at Bathurst (approx. 210 km
west of Sydney City along the Great Western HWY), at about 9:30 am (traffic
was good all the way until heading back to town). About 20 km before
arriving in Cowra, we spotted our first inland bird, 4 Superb Parrots (3
males and 1 female) which perched in the Eucalyptus trees beside the road
allowing great viewing. Though not a new bird for either myself or David,
both of us agreed that this was the best views of Superb Parrots that we
ever had. It was a great start for the trip.

We made a brief visit to Back Creek State Forest before West Wyalong and saw
more typical inland species - Speckled Warblers, Inland Thornbill, several
Red-capped Robins and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (the later, being one of the
most commonly encountered birds for the trip).

We then headed to our first campsite in Round Hill Nature Reserve
(north-west of Lake Cargelligo) and on our way we saw Blue Bonnets, many
White-browed and some Black-faced Woodswallows, and at a lignum swamp
between Lake Cargelligo and Round Hill, a first of many sightings of
White-winged Wrens was obtained with 2 freshly plumage males perched and
trilling away on a lignum bush only metres away.

We arrived at Round Hill Nature Reserve at about 4:30. Here mallee dominated
the place and we soon obtained close up views of Gilberts Whistlers, a pair
of Chestnut Quail-thrush, a Shy Heathwren, White-fronted and Yellow-plumed
Honeyeaters and the lovely Splendid Wren all within metres of our camp site.
Spotted Pardalotes of the yellow-rumped form was also sighted, and its call
appears softer than that of the red-rumped form I am more familiar with. I
possibly heard a Red-lored Whistler but the call was too brief and was
unable to track it further.

In the evening, a quick drive around the area yielded a Spotted Nightjar in
front of the headlights.


Woke up early at 5:30 am to the inland dawn chorus dominated by the
Honeyeaters - Yellow-plumed, White-fronted, Singing and Spiny-cheeked
Honeyeaters. The chorus was soon joined by Gilberts and Rufous Whistlers and
by the ringing and ventriloquial call of the Crested Bellbird which we soon
saw. The Bellbird was observed turning its head at different directions as
it called, producing a ventriloquial effect. The call of this bird was seen
or heard and later stages in our trip and to me ranked one of the best bird
songs heard.

During the morning we spotted a pair of quite approachable Southern
Scrubrobins on the north side of the wheat paddock with a Black Honeyeater
and Black-eared Cuckoo heard nearby. 

We drove around the actual "Round Hill" and were fortunate to find 7 Pink
(Major Mitchells) Cockatoo perched in a dead tree, but being fairly wary,
they took flight minutes later after achieving  good viewing. This was the
largest number we had seen of this Cockatoo perched together, but we had
sightings of 6 birds later on the trip but other sightings was mainly of

We had initial difficulty in finding the Whoey trail which was supposed to
have some great birds and mistakenly took a fire brake track, but just
aswell as there was a lot of bird activity about there. There were hundreds
of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, hundreds of White-winged Trillers
(numbers of this bird which we have never seen previously with about 5 male
Trillers perched together on the same termite mound), Rufous Songlarks,
Pallid and Horsfields Bronze-cuckoos aswell as Crimson and White-fronted
Chats. No doubt these number of birds were attracted to the abundance of
Butterflies and their larvae aswell as the termites. 

We eventually made our way on the Whoey trail and soon found this spot was
also just as productive, seeing Mulga and Mallee Rignecked Parrots (there
were also signs of the Mallee Rednecks with lots of bullet holes on just
about every sign post in the area), Spotted Bowerbird and a bird that I have
been chasing for quite some time, a Black-eared Cuckoo which perched and
called on a dead Eucalypt. What a thrill and it was very cooperative for a
detailed study.

On our way back to camp we watched a number of birds come to drink at an
almost dried up pool. Visitors to this pool included Mallee Ringnecks, Mulga
Parrots, Common Bronzewings, Bar-shouldered Doves aswell as Spiny-cheeked
and White-eared Honeyeaters.


Thinking, that we were going to have an uninterrupted sleep for the night,
we were woken up at one o'clock that morning by the weird laughter of the
Spotted Nightjar as it flew around our camp site. I got up with my spotlight
and saw it a number of times as it landed on the ground then took off at my
approach. I was able to see the white spots clearly in each wing and its
bright red eyes as it rested on the ground. I also heard the calls of
several Little and Painted Button-quail calling at the time and thinking
whether I would find them at night but their calls were not continuous and
therefore I decided to return to my sleep. 

Later that morning, having decided that we have seen what we are most likely
to see at Round Hill, we decided to head off to Loughnan Nature Reserve, to
find the resident Malleefowl. Upon arriving there we tried to follow some
given directions to a Malleefowl mound but we found all the tracks within
this small reserve running all over the place making any track in the area
looking vague, so we just wandered about through the bush. We ended up
seeing no Malleefowl but had good views of a male and female Crested
Bellbird, the former calling in the canopy of one of the Mallee Eucalypts
and the later feeding on the ground, just metres in front of us.  With
little activity here, we decided to head straight off to Hattah-Kulkyne
National Park in north-west Victoria. 

Between Hillston and Booligal, we saw our first Emus for the trip with a
small number of 6 seen. Further down the road at Mirrool Creek, just a
little north of Hay, we stopped at a small channel amongst 
saltbush/bluebush and saw one of the most dazzling birds of the trip, a pair
of Orange Chats, together with a pair of Crimson and a single White-fronted
Chat. Brown Songlarks and Singing Bushlarks.

We soon passed through the Hay plains hoping to find some outstanding
raptors on the way. The raptors seen along these plains, were mainly Black
Kites, Kestrels, Brown Falcons and our first pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles for
the trip. More Emus were also seen on the plains.

Just before arriving at Hattah, we saw 3 Regent Parrots whiz past across the
road. As it was getting dark quickly, we didn't bother to stop the car for a
better look, as we were fairly confident in getting better views of them the
next day (and we did).


Early morning, we saw various parrots come to drink at Lake Hattah - a pair
of Pink Cockatoos, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Galahs, Little Corellas,
Yellow Rosellas, Mallee Ringnecks, several Regent Parrots and some
Red-rumped Parrots. A pair of Emus aswell as several Red and Western Grey
Kangaroos were also seen beside the lake. In the lake itself not many
waterbirds were present apart from a few Cormorants and Australian Pelicans.

We aimed to find both Striated Grasswrens and Mallee Emuwrens that morning
along the Nowingi track and soon obtained great views of the former singing
in front of us on a low branch beside clumps of Spinifex. It was a thrill to
see this bird as it was my first Grasswren and I have heard others having
difficulty in finding this bird. Well it does require just a little patience
and the bird will come right up to you. Also along this trail we saw 2
Immature male Chestnut Quail-thrushes in trying to find the Mallee Emuwren
which we could not see that morning.

After lunch we headed to Wyperfeld National Park. Here walked part of the
trail to Lake Brambruk. In the heathy areas along the trail, past some
fairly high sand dunes, we had a pair of Redthroats singing on top of
bushes. I reckon these birds sound better than any caged Canary, and are a
nice neat little bird. We found a Malleefowl mound at the end of the Dattak
track, but didn't seem to be in current use.

On our way back to Hattah, we saw a flock of 10-15 small Lorikeets whiz in
around our car and land in some red-flowering Eucalypts along the main
street at Hopetoun. We soon found that these were Purple-crowned Lorikeets
feeding with some Musk Lorikeets. What a treat.

We arrived back at camp in Hattah-Kulkyne and observed a Boobook Owl in one
of the many large River Red Gums and heard a Tawny Frogmouth.


We decided to have one more try for the Mallee Emuwren at the corner of the
Nowingi track and the Old Calder Highway. This time we decided to walk in a
bit more from the trail amongst the spinifex grass and then success at last,
good views of a pair was obtained as they were enticed by a little

We then headed through the SA-VIC border to Lake Alexandrina, just out of
Adelaide and on our way we spotted 16 Cape Barren Geese in paddocks beside
the northern end of the lake itself. We went for a walk along the beach from
Goolwa near the Murray River entrance but saw nothing really of interest,
apart from a nice clean beach disturbed by 4WD's (What a shame!!!).

We made a final visit of the day to Tolderol Game Reserve, again on the
north side of the lake. Here I heard a Little Bittern calling for some time
in some reeds. Small numbers of waders were present, which included
Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red necked Stints (yes, the sign at the entrance
did say lead bullets allowed in this reserve. Just aswell these were the
only rednecks seen). 

With the initial intention of camping at Salt Creek, we were fearing that we
will not make it as the fuel was running low and David was getting a bit of
the cold, so we pulled at the nearest place to stay at Woodswell, just 17km
west of Salt Creek.


First point of call, was the Petrol station at Salt Creek (about the middle
of the Coorong) to stock up on fuel and oil. There was a Black-tailed Native
Hen with 3 well grown chicks beside the Service Station. Here we met a
couple of very helpful Aboriginal rangers. They told us that the Malleefowl
still hangs about its mound 3.7km from the Service station on the Old
Melbourne Rd. As we have been walking around a fair bit in mallee so far,
and had hoped to have seen one by now with all our walking, we went straight
there in no time. Upon arrival, we saw the Malleefowl just finishing a few
touches to its mound, but the bird did not decide to hang around too long.
Being shy it is afraid of us humans and sneakingly disappeared from behind
the mound. Despite this I was satisfied with a few minutes of viewing seeing
all its beautiful coloured patterns.

Near the mound, there is a loop track that goes around coastal mallee
vegetation. We were hoping to find the Slender-billed Thornbill on this
trail, but none were seen. However, along this trail, Black-winged
Currawongs (a subspecies of the Grey Currawong) made their presence felt
with there loud clanking calls.

We made a short visit to Messent Conservation Park, just a few km north of
Salt Creek. Here we found in the Mallee Heath area, a Shy Heathwren, a pair
of Southern Srubrobins and interestingly a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins. In
the heathy areas, we found another Southern Scrubrobin, a Tawny-crowned
Honeyeater and Southern Emuwrens.

On our way out, we unfortunately got bogged on the sandy road track that
runs down to Messent CP. We then had to find a way to get our  2WD out from
the sand. Fortunately, we struck luck once again. The 2 Aboriginal Rangers
who we met at the service station earlier that morning, came out of nowhere,
like Gods Angels and helped us out in no time. Yes, they really deserve a
beer. Not only they found us the Malleefowl, they even got us out. Phew, we
were lucky they came only a few minutes latter, otherwise it would have been
a 20 km walk to Salt Creek and back and a waste of our precious birding

Late in the afternoon, we then drove from the southern end of the Old
Melbourne Road, in the hope of finding Rufous Bristlebirds. We drove about 2
km up the road and decided to paly a tape, when all of a sudden, we saw this
big thing run like a rabbit, pausing briefly in the middle of bushes. We
were surprised how large this bird is compared to its cousin, the Eastern
Bristlebird. We played the tape again, and it moved from one bush to
another. 4 other Bristlebirds were also heard calling from either side of
the road. Then up in a sky, a soft parrot call was heard, and we briefly saw
an Elegant Parrot fly over.

We then moved up to Tea Tree crossing were I saw a pair of Fairy Terns
perched on small rocks on the edge of the Coorong lagoon. Again further up
the road we were surprised to see 5 Brush Bronzewings feeding with 2 Common
Bronzewing Pigeons. The former being more smaller and rufous in colours
behind the nape and back.

We made another visit to the Malleefowl mound and saw a Purple-gaped
Honeyeater nearby.

We bumped into John Seemour from the Zoology department of Adelaide
University who was studying the Bristlebirds at the Coorong the time we were
there. He says, one of the best places to see these birds is at the Port
Campbell in Victoria, were they run all over the car park there. 


We decided to move on from the Coorong that day, but before we left, there
was one more highlight there. A flock of atleast 5000 Banded Stilts
(containing a few juvenile birds) with smaller numbers of Red-necked Avocets
gathering together on a small island in the middle of the Coorong Lagoon.
With the tide rising, the Stilts had left the island at the last minute
before it was too deep for them. What an impressive sight they were.

We then headed to Bool Lagoon after being told it is often a good place for
water birds and is of significance to South Australia's waterfowl. We found
a number of Magpie Geese there, aswell as Whiskered Terns, large numbers of
Sacred and Straw-necked Ibis, several Musk Ducks and 4 (3 male and 1 female)
Blue-billed Ducks. I have found these Blue-billed quite retiring compared to
the other ducks 
and when I disturbed these from the reeds, they dived down and popped up
until they were further out into the lagoon.

In the Naracoorte area, we saw and heard Forest Ravens and saw 4 Long-billed

On our way to Loxton, where we intended to stay for the night (not far from
the NSW and VIC borders), we saw another Malleefowl feeding beside the road
(beside Ngarkat Conservation Park), an unexpected find. 


Not much birding was done on this day as we were tired from the past week.
All we did was move between 2 caravan parks from Loxton to Mildura. On our
way we did see flowering Silky Oaks with many Little Friarbirds and
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and some attractive red-flowering gums attracting
White-plumed and White-fronted Honeyeaters. Also between the 2 towns a flock
of atleast 300 Little Corellas were seen.


We visited Mungo National Park via Harry Nanya Tours (an Aboriginal run
touring company), departing from the Mildura Tourist Information Centre.
This was sort of a break from birding, but not completely as we saw some
good birds to and within the National Park. We saw an Inland Dotterel beside
the road, just north of Wentworth, but the bus would not stop for us to have
a longer look. We also saw and heard Red-backed Kingfishers and our first
Little Crows for the trip.

On the "Walls of China" within Mungo NP, we were shown the remains of a
Hairy-nosed Wombat, Betongs, and believe it or not, the Tasmanian Tiger (now
I can say I have seen one, well atleast some of its bones). We were also
shown the historic wool shed which was constructed of locally hand cut
Cypress pine (white-ant resistant) logs. We also saw remains of a Rabbit
proof fence which unfortunately has not prevented the Rabbits to spread
further inland.

Later that afternoon, after returning back to Mildura, we were ready for our
next main part of our birding trip into more inland country around Broken

On our way there, along the Silver City HWY, we stopped at a good stand of
Sheoak woodland and soon heard and saw our first White-browed Treecreepers.
They were a shade darker than the Brown Treecreeper, with a very distinct
eye brow and heavy streaks on the underside. Its calls are also quite
distinctive and  softer compared to that of the Brown Treecreepers. After
having satisfying views of these birds, and walking back towards the car, I
had just missed an aggressive Eastern Brown Snake as it hissed after I
walked over its log. I hadn't noticed it until David told me seconds latter.
It was about 5 foot long.

 A little further up the road, we saw our first Chestnut-crowned Babblers
which we soon found to be quite common around the Broken Hill area. What I
also like to note that the Blue Bonnets in this part of the country are
different than those seen earlier in the trip, with no red on vent (but
yellow) and shoulders, being a different subspecies altogether.

Along the Silver City HWY, as it got darker, we had to be extra conscious
concerning the roadside as hundreds of Kangaroos attempted to cross the road
and yes, we had 2 near misses. We felt relieved that night upon arriving in
Broken Hill that we didn't hit one. However we could not avoid driving
through a plague of insects up that stretch of road, with lots of insect fat
marks all along the windscreen.


Set out that morning straight to Kinchega National Park along the Menindee
Rd. On our way we spotted some Chestnut-crowned Babblers beside the Road and
wanted to get a better look a them, soon later I heard another new bird for
the trip across the road, Chirruping Wedgebills. We found the Wedgebills
quite common around Broken Hill and further north. They were usually seen in
groups of upto 30 birds and often with the Chestnut-crowned Babblers. This
was one of my favourite birds of the trip. Its amazing how such a bird can
sing nicely almost non-stop on top of the low bushes. We also found it quite
curious at times and approached us through squeaking.

At Kinchega National Park, we disturbed an Owlet Nightjar beside Menindee
Lake, which was full of water after good rains in the area. This rain cut
off the road from Ivanhoe to Menindee. This was originally our planned route
to Broken Hill, but just as well we stuck to the Bitumen along the Silver
City HWY. There were several water birds in the lake itself including quite
a few Australian Shelducks, but being so large, most waterbirds may have
been at the other end of the lake which was not accessible. We had some good
finds around the lakes including my first Black-breasted Buzzard (seen
soaring above the trees), a pair of White-backed Swallows perched in a small
dead tree at eye level and 8 Black-tailed Native Hens.

At one of the lakes we saw several Emus with both Red and Western Grey
Kangaroos drinking beside the lake. We saw, what I thought might of been a
large Wombat lying on dry mud beside the lake and only got the back view of
it. Having not seen a Wombat before, David was keen to have a closer look.
Upon David getting closer to it, the beast woke up and took off in a hurry,
with David very surprised as it turned out to be one of a few Wild Pigs
attracted to the water.

After making a brief visit to the Pub at Menindee  were Bourke and Wills had
stayed, we then drove up to Mootwingee. On our way I saw 2 male Redthroats
beside the road among more Wedgebills and Chestnut-crowned Babblers.

Just a few kilometres up the road, we stopped at an area of Bluebush and
played the call of the Rufous Fieldwren (Calamanthus). One popped up in no
time and came rushing towards us and walking a few metres in front of us. It
later climbed one of the bushes and started to sing. In response, a
Redthroat was seen and  started to call on top of another bush as if it had
some competition with the Fieldwren. Further on we saw several Crimson
Chats, Banded Lapwings, 3 Australian Pratincoles and a Black Falcon perched
on the ground beside the road, only a  couple of metres from the car.. The
Falcon was unusually, quite approachable.  We also saw a group of no less
than 6 Wedge-tailed Eagles sharing a Kangaroo carcass beside this stretch of
road .

Upon the arrival at Mootwingee National Park that night, we were constantly
mobbed by a swarm of insects attracted to us and our torch light as we set
up our tents. There were insects of every type - Moths, Beetles, Dragon
Flies, Mozzies and 10 inch Stick insects. This was the most unpleasant night
of the trip and neither of us had such an encounter of this swarm of insects
in our life. Just when we were just about to doze off in our tents, a storm
soon brewed with fierce winds, fearing that both of our tents would be blown
away but fortunately didn't. 


The morning started off fairly fine and we started off early in our search
for the Halls Babblers supposably found in the area about Homestead Creek
Gorge. I saw a small number of Little Woodswallows flying about and perching
in trees, and saw both Chestnut-crowned and White-browed Babblers but not
any Halls Babblers. We saw a Pair of Peregrine Falcons calling from the
cliffs as if trying to distract us away. The female made short circular
flights as it called, meaning that it may have been defending its nest area

Quite soon and unexpected the rain came and set in  and we spent a few hours
walking in the rain. We soon found that we unexpectedly chose one of the
most challenging walks. Unexpectedly, we had to abseil down a cliff and walk
through narrow gorges with water below.

On arrival back to the camping spot, we confronted two rangers, who gave us
the news that all roads to Mootwingee were cut off with last nights rain and
we were stranded in the Park. They said that anyone who attempted to leave
the area would risk a fine of about $4000. We knew that such a fine and the
expected road conditions, would not be worth it. This however, then allowed
me another opportunity to look for the Halls Babbler. One of the two rangers
told me that he had seen the Halls Babbler on the Western Ridge. I did go
looking in that area later, but unfortunately I had no luck again in finding
it and  despite a long walk on the ridge. It was a tick that we should have
deserved, as we walked along most of the ridges tops in that area through
habitat favoured by this Babbler.  


We hoped that we could leave the area that morning, as more rain could make
us stranded for several days as the heavy clouds looked quite threatening.
Near the campsite that morning, I saw a group of 6 Pink Cockatoos fly over
aswell as some Diamond Doves and a lone Budgerigar.

Soon that morning, we were given the all clear to leave, and in no time, we
were on our way back on the bitumen. On our way back, we saw 3 Black Falcons
perched alongside the road (all quite approachable at a reasonable distance)
and a male Orange Chat.

After driving back to Broken Hill, we decided to head for Cobar. As David
wanted to take a road side nap beside the road in an area between Broken
Hill and Wilcannia, I got out of the car and investigated the bird activity.
I saw large numbers of over 100 Crimson Chats over the hillside, together
with lots of other small birds, hundreds of Woodswallows, Wedgebills and
Chestnut-crowned Babblers. 

After passing through Wilcannia, we approached the Talyawalka flood plain,
which was really flooded a full of birds. Here we saw hundreds of
Black-tailed Native Hens with lots of chicks running along and beside the
road with the adults, a pair of Freckled Ducks, several Pink-eared and Teal
with young (the forner ducklings had bills reminiscent to their parents), 2
Red-necked Avocets and several Whiskered Terns.

After 500 km of driving that day, we finally made it to Cobar.

DAY 13 - 13th NOVEMBER 1998 (COBAR - FORBES)

Spent the morning looking for Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrushes beside the
Towns Waste Depot there in Mulga woodland with stony ground. These birds
have been seen there in the past but unfortunately did not show up for us.
However, we did great views of Spotted Bowerbirds that came to us rather
than vice versa.

After lunch, we decided to make another visit to Round Hill to get 2 birds
that we missed previously, both the Grey-fronted Honeyeater and Red-lored
Whistler but unfortunately could not find. We did however find a large flock
of more than 300 Budgerigars feeding beside the road north of Mount Hope. A
Peregrine was also seen snatching a dead one from the middle of the road as
we were watching the live ones.

On our way to Forbes, and passing Lake Cargelligo, we saw a pair of Spotted
Harriers fly over the road.


We made a brief visit to Gum Swamp, just out of Forbes with a male
Blue-billed Duck seen briefly, a Darter feeding 2 chicks on its nest, very
close up views of Pink-eared Ducks and their ducklings from the bird hide, a
pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles and a hundreds of nesting Pacific
(White-necked) Herons with some fledged young.

Upon arriving back at home, the most exciting part of the trip arrived -
washing the car.

Overall, we travelled a distance of more than 5700 kilometres, covering a
lot of NSW's west, north-west VIC and south-east SA. And had an enjoyable
and relatively safe birding trip with a good touch of adventure.

I thank everyone who provided me with information for this trip. I have
found all the information given to me to be very helpful.

Until the next big adventure....

P.S. Trip list enclosed below 


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