Hattah NP and area

Subject: Hattah NP and area
From: "Mark Sanders" <>
Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 07:51:27 PDT
Deniliquin and Hattah Area

Utilising the extra long long weekend, Al and I decided to head on to Deniliquin to see the family and do some birding at the same time. I also arranged to spend two nights over in the Mallee around Hattah and Murray-Sunset National Parks with Tom Wheller and Steve Seymour. We left Sydney on Thursday after lunch, which meant that it was already dark when we left the freeway and headed out over the plains through Urana etc. Hence very few birds of interest were observed.
Deniliquin Area
Friday (21st) to Monday (24th) was spent relaxing and birding around Deni. On Saturday and Monday afternoons I took a short trip out the Tocumwal Road, east of Deniliquin. The highlights of the area were Diamond Firetails, Painted Button-quail, Boobook Owl, Rufous and Golden Whistlers, Dusky Woodswallow and three Superb Parrots, one of them a coloured male sitting in the evening sun. Before heading out the Tocumwal Road on Monday, Al and myself drove down to the Gulpa State Forest. Here we found White-browed Babblers, Red-capped and Hooded Robins. We were unable however, to find the Gilberts Whistlers. Total number of bird species seen around Deniliquin was 76 along with two reptiles, two Brown Snakes and a small skink that I suspect was Spiny Palmed Chinning Skink (Cryptoblepharus carnabyi). Leaving at about 9:30 on Tuesday (25th), Tom, Steve and myself journeyed to the Murray-Sunset National Park, where it was hoped we would be able to find Red-lored Whistlers amongst other things. On the Journey over we spotted Little Eagle, Blue Bonnets, White-backed Woodswallow, White-browed Babblers, White-winged Wrens, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, and Yellow-throated Miners, most at one stop. We also had a very short stop in at Wondown Nature Reserve to have a quick look for the Mallee Fowl. Tom was the first to spot the bird walking off into the bush and it disappeared quickly before we could get a satisfactory look. At 3:10pm we entered the Murray-Sunset National Park and headed down Pheeby's Track. In the National Park we got great looks at many of the Mallee birds including Shy Hylacola, Regent Parrot, Mallee Ringnecks, Chestnut Quail-thrush, White-eared Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote (yellow rumped form) as well as a Hobby, Hooded Robin, Southern Whiteface, Red Wattlebird, Singing Honeyeater, White-fronted Chat, and White-browed Woodswallows. Spotlighting along the track that night was most disappointing, in fact we did not see anything at all! Probably not surprising though given the very cold night. Arising the next morning after shivering through the night we set off around the camp site. Shy Hylacolas, Inland Thornbills, and Crested Bellbirds were very obliging, allowing us to have very close encounters. Tom and myself gradually headed back to the camp to pack up, while Steve went walkabout, leaving us to clean up. On return he had only added Southern Scrub-robin to our growing list. We drove back down Pheeby's track towards Hattah, and stoped at a small waterhole on the right of the track. Here a large number of honeyeaters were flying down to drink, and we sat for some time watching all the previously seen species and Brown Headed Honeyeaters, while enjoying the morning sun and constant noise of birds. Finally dragging ourselves away, we hopped in the car and drove for a few more kilometres, only to spot after hearing a Gilberts Whistler. Disembarking from the car, Tom heard the distinctive call of a Red-lored Whistler and it was only a matter of minutes before we had found the bird, a newie for me. Over the next half and hour or so we saw this bird several times in clear view. Also in the area were two other whistler species, the Gilberts (both male and female) and a female Golden Whistler. Some discussion was directed at the Golden Whistler as she had quite distinctively rufous underparts. It was a fine opportunity to compare and contrast the three species. Also at the stop a group of Splendid Wrens was seen mixed with Variegated Wrens, also allowing interesting contrasts between the two species. Just before leaving the Mallee Area in the National Park, we slowed to look at a Pallid Cuckoo when I heard the high pitched twittering of Mallee Emu-wrens. We immediately pulled over and had very satisfying looks at both females and males from about 10m while they perched on top of a large clump of spinifex. Approaching the birds, we surrounded a small male in a young short pine tree. He hopped from side to side while we peered through the foliage from about 1-2 metres away. Spectacular!!!! Probably the best looks any of us have had at of this species. Lunch was had still in the National Park, but out of the mallee near a salt lake under a large box tree. Here we had good looks at Mulga Parrots, but little else of interest was seen. We continued our trip out of the National Park and over into Hattah National Park. Arriving mid to late afternoon we searched for Southern Scrub-robins and had excellent looks at both a male and female as they stood on the edge of the track only a few metres away from us. The next bird species we were after was Striated Grasswrens. We spent some time looking for them, with no luck except for Mallee Emu-wrens and Gilberts Whistler. Finally while looking at several Chestnut Quail-thrush we heard the calls of the Grasswrens and within second they were walking all over us. For perhaps about 15 minutes they circled us, sometime running up within 2 metres of us, before shooting off as fast as lighting between the Spinifex bushes. Their speed is something that must be seen to be fully appreciated. At times one would sit on the tip of a bush and call, sometimes he would choose a bush so close that the binoculars could not focus. After a while we noticed that they had distinctly curved tails and began to suspect that they might be nesting after the recent rains they had in the area. This might also explain their enthusiastic defence of there territory. We left the Grasswrens in peace and walk back out to the car, by which time it was too late to drive to Wondown to camp for the night as planned. Instead we camped in Hattah National Park. The night was not as cold as the previous evening and spotlighting was more successful as we heard, but did not see, numerous Owlet Nightjars, and a Tawny Frogmouth. We packed up early in the morning and headed off without spending time birding around the camp site as I had to get back to Deni so that Al and I could head on up to Sydney that afternoon. On the way out of the park, we drove around the regular haunts of Pink Cockatoos, as this was the only remaining bird species that we had expected to see. However they eluded us again and we left Hattah National Park and headed for home. The only stop on the trip to Deni was again at Wondown at about 9:45, after the Mallee Fowl. This time we got much better looks at him as he slowly walked away from us. For most of the time we watched him he was giving a low grunting call similar to that of an Emu. The only other bird of interest on the way home was a pair of Black Falcons. Total number of bird species seen in the Hattah-Sunset trip was 100. Unfortunately the Reptiles were rather disappointing, but probably to be expected given the time of year and the extremely cold nights. Consequently only a few Mallee Dragons (Ctenophorus fordi) and a Pogona species were seen, probably just a Central Bearded Dragon (P.vitticeps) but possibly an Eastern Bearded Dragon (P.barbata). It was seen from the moving car and hence a positive identification was not possible. Only one species of butterfly was seen in the area and that was a Small Grass Yellow (Eurema smilax). All in all, this is one of the best trips I've had to the Mallee, not only because we saw everything, but we also had great views, often the best we have ever had of all the interesting species.

Bird list for Thurs 20th - Thurs 27th.
Emu                   Little Pied Cormorant     White-necked Heron
White-faced Heron     Large Egret               Sacred Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis     Yellow-billed Spoonbill   Black Swan
Mountain Duck         Black Duck                Grey Teal
Wood Duck             Black-shouldered Kite     Black Kite
Wedge-tailed Eagle    Little Eagle              Swamp Harrier
Black Falcon          Australian Hobby          Brown Falcon
Nankeen Kestrel       Malleefowl                Painted Button-quail
Dusky Moorhen         Swamphen                  Masked Lapwing
Black-fronted Dotterel  Domestic Pigeon         Peaceful Dove
Common Bronzewing     Crested Pigeon            Galah
Long-billed Corella   Sulphur-crested Cockatoo  Regent Parrot
Superb Parrot         Eastern Rosella           Yellow Rosella
Mallee Ringneck       Red-rumped Parrot         Mulga Parrot
Blue Bonnet           Pallid Cuckoo             Boobook Owl
Owlet Nightjar        Kookaburra                Pipit
White-backed Swallow  Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Blackbird
Southern Scrub-robin  Red-capped Robin          Hooded Robin
Jacky Winter          Crested Shrike-tit        Red-lored Whistler
Gilberts Whistler     Golden Whistler           Rufous Whistler
Grey Shrike-thrush    Crested Bellbird          Restless Flycatcher
Grey fantail          Willie Wagtail            Chestnut Quail-thrush
White-browed Babbler  Superb Blue Wren          Variegated Wren
Mallee Emu-wren       White-winged Wren         Striated Grasswren
Shy Hylacola          Southern Whiteface        Inland Thornbill
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill  Buff-rumped Thornbill  Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Yellow Thornbill      Striated Thornbill        Weebill
White-throated Treecreeper   Brown Treecreeper  Red Wattlebird
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater     Noisy Friarbird    Noisy Miner
Yellow-throated Miner   Singing Honeyeater
White-eared Honeyeater  Yellow-plumed Honeyeater  White-plumed Honeyeater
Brown Headed Honeyeater White-fronted Honeyeater  White-fronted Chat
Mistletoebird           Spotted Pardalote       Striated Pardalote
Silvereye               Goldfinch               Red-browed Finch
Diamond Firetail        Zebra Finch             House Sparrow
Starling                White-winged Chough     Magpie Lark
White-browed Woodswallow  Black-faced Woodswallow  Dusky Woodswallow
Grey Butcherbird        Pied Butcherbird        Magpie
Pied Currawong          Grey Currawong          Australian Raven
Little Raven

                Total = 121

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