Mallee Safari ~ Part 1

Subject: Mallee Safari ~ Part 1
From: Keith Stockwell <>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2006 15:50:02 +1000
A few days ago I returned home from Echuca and District BOCA's safari to
mallee areas of Victoria and South Australia. A few weeks prior to Easter,
we commenced our trip in the Victorian mallee. First stop was in
north-western Victoria.

John Land has written the following about Mt Crozier in the the
Murray-Sunset National Park:

A small group of participants in the Echuca Branch of BOCA's March/April
tagalong camped at Mt Crozier while others who did not fancy the sandy
track camped at Hattah Lakes.

Mt Crozier is situated in the magnificent Murray-Sunset National Park. This
park is Victoria's second largest national park and can reasonably be
regarded as true outback. It is remote, harsh and beautiful with abundant
wildlife and a profusion of wildflowers after rain.

Activities there were varied but of course bird watching was uppermost in
everyone's mind and the Red-lored Whistler was our special target bird.
(More of that later). Plenty of walking was done as a group, or in ones and
twos. The walks were delightful. A loop walk scaled Mt Crozier where one
could gain sensational views over the sea of mallee which extended as far
as the eye could see. Another walk meandered through several very different
plant communities like mallee, grassy flats, Allocasuarina and Acacia.

One participant was a plant guru so her opinion was in high demand as we
discovered plants which we wanted to identify.

Alas, we were not able to positively identify the Red-lored Whistler. We
heard calls which we thought compared favourably to our BOCA CD of its
calls, but we wanted to be 100% sure before we recorded (ticked) it.We had
a brief but not good enough sighting, so we had to admit defeat and vow to
return another day.

 The species recorded were - Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brush Bronzewing, Galah
(of course), Major Mitchell's (Pink) Cockatoo, Australian Ringneck, Mulga
Parrot, Southern Boobook, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Brown Tree-creeper,
Superb Fairy-wren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes,
Weebill, Western Gerygone, Inland Thornbill, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Red
Wattlebird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Singing
Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Brown-headed
Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, Jack Winter, Red-capped Robin, Hooded
Robin, White-browed Babbler, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Varied Sittella,
Crested Bellbird, Gilbert?s Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush,
Restless Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Masked
Woodswallow, White-browed Woodswallow, Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird,
Australian Magpie, Grey Currawong, Australian Magpie and Tree Martin.

End of John Land's report.

The rest of us camped alongside a dry Lake Mournpall in Victoria's Hattah
National Park. We did, however, travel through remote mallee country to Mt.
Crozier to spend a day with those who camped there.

En route, crossing the Raak Plain south of the Nowingi Toxic dump site, we
observed large mixed flocks of Masked and White-browed Woodswallows. We
came across some 'purple patches' where we had good views of the following
species: Pied Honeyeater, Southern Whiteface, Brown Tree-creeper, Mulga
Parrot, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Inland Thornbill, Spiny-cheeked
Honeyeater and White-backed Swallow. At Mt Crozier, we observed most of the
birds which John has listed above (apart from the 'owls' and Major
Mitchells). It was a little difficult to positively identify some wrens as
they were not in breeding plumage, but we concluded that they were
Variegated Wrens. We enjoyed good views of Chestnut Quail Thrush but most
of us only heard the Crested Bellbird.

Upon finally arriving at Mt Crozier, the girls knelt down and kissed the
ground, so glad they were that we had survived the last bit of the track
which was somewhat challenging. After spending a few hours at Mr Crozier,
we decided to return via Pink Lakes and sealed highways.

Birds which we observed near Lake Mournpall included Emu, Wedgetailed
Eagle, Australian (Mallee) Ringneck, Regent Parrot, Red-rumped Parrot,
Restless Flycatcher, Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Grey
Shrike-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Jacky Winter, Hooded Robin, Red-capped
Robin, Gilberts Whistler, Tree Martin, Weebill, Spiny-cheeked, Singing,
White-fronted and Brown-headed Honeyeater, White-browed Babbler, Grey
Butcher Bird and White-winged Chough plus lots of Masked and White-browed
Woodswallows. Again, the wrens were a little hard to identify but we
concluded that the ones we saw here were Splendid Wrens.

Whilst birding in some mallee north of the camp ground, our party disturbed
a bird that must have been sitting on the ground. It was within a metre of
one birder when it flew up. Lagging behind the others, I was the only one
who caught a good view: only one of the others caught a glimpse of it and
none of us heard a sound. Its flight was silent! The bird was brownish with
long wings and it was about the size of a raven. I can only assume it was a
Spotted Nightjar.

It didn't matter that no one else saw it, however, as we were all to obtain
close up views of one at Eremophila Park later in our trip. I would have
taken a fantastic close-up photo had the battery of my camera not decided
to go flat at the moment when I pushed the 'shutter'. Always carry a spare

The weather was ideal. I was pleased that a hard-working dairy farmer
(Dallas) found time to join us. And our Branch founder, Jon Hosford,
travelled across from Tasmania to be with us. No one enjoyed the trip more
than Jon and Dallas!

After several days in the Victorian mallee, we broke camp and headed off to
Chowilla in South Australia. Other camp sites were Gluepot Reserve,
Eremophila Park, Stockyard Plains and Wyperfeld National Park. More about
our visits here later.

Keith Stockwell

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