Mallee Safari Part 2.
Early in April, we left for Chowilla Game reserve, north of Paringa in
After shopping and refuelling at Renmark, we crossed the Murray back to
Paringa and travelled north-east along the Murtho Road. The road was lined
with orchards until just before we reached an old customs house.
Although the owner of the old customs house (voluntarily) collects the
camping fees for the Department of Environment and Heritage, he makes a
living from hiring out house boats. Large houseboats. Enormous, luxurious
houseboats. He must do a good trade as the car park was all but full.
We set up camp in the nearby camping area alongside a very wide Murray River.
Chowilla Game reserve covers 17,508 hectares and is 280km NE of Adelaide.
Much of this wetland area is covered with River Red Gum and Black Box.
There is a good understorey of Wattles, Lignum, Hop Bush and other shrubs.
Shooting 'waterfowl' is permitted on certain designated days but,
fortunately, our stay did not coincide with any of these days.
We birded our way around a wetlands walkway, observing lots of birds
including Great Egret, Black-tailed Native hen, Pelican, Darter, Great and
Little Pied Cormorant, Black Swan, White-faced Heron, Shelduck, Coot, Royal
and Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Grey Teal, Swamp (Marsh) Harrier, Whistling
Kite, Brown Tree-creeper, Rufous Whistler, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike,
Little friar Bird, Striped Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater,
White-plumed Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Peaceful Dove, Yellow (form of
Crimson) Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Mallee Ringneck, Little Grass Bird,
Pied Butcher Bird, Dusky Woodswallow, Bronzewing and several more-common
birds like Willie Wagtail, Black Duck and Magpie.
I was particularly pleased to enjoy outstanding views of Striped
Honeyeaters, a bird I first recall seeing in the Capertee Valley with Carol
last year. There were to be lots of them at Gluepot and elsewhere during
I was a little surprised that we had not sighted an Eastern Rosella or a
White-necked Heron. We were to complete our mallee safari without ticking
off either of these birds.
We drove back toward Paringa, stopping off at some dry mallee country
south-west of the old customs house. Here we saw lots of Blue Bonnets. A
pair of Pied Butcher Birds had young in a nest. A tawny Frogmouth flew
close by to us and landed for everyone to enjoy good views. A group of
Chestnut-crowned Babblers attracted our attention and we noticed that their
roosts are larger and higher up in the trees than the roosts of either
Grey-crowned or White-browed Babblers.
A few kilometres along the Murtho Road, we stopped again for a 20 minute 2
hectare survey and observed only Southern Whiteface, Richards Pipit and
Next stop was Murtho Forest Reserve, alongside the Murray River. Now at
Echuca-Moama the Murray is not all that wide and in the nearby Barmah
Forest it has no banks at all, being a perched river. But here, near
Paringa, the Murray was a most impressive, very wide river with cliffs on
both sides. Excellent views were obtained from a clifftop lookout tower.
The birding in this reserve proved to be excellent: most of the species
listed above, plus Kookaburra, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, White-browed
Babbler, Red-capped Robin, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Crested Pigeon,
Weebill, Gilberts Whistler, Australian Raven, Grey fantail, Superb Blue
Wren, Dusky Moorhen and more Striped Honeyeaters. There were a few campers
here and we wondered what they were thinking as we patiently tried to track
down and obtain good views of a Gilberts Whistler. It turned out that some
of them had some interest in bird watching and carried bird guides with
A farmer member, Dallas, pointed out a lovely drooping wattle, Acacia
stenophylla, which he is growing on his dairy farm as a timber tree.
Apparently the wood is highly prized for furniture. Trees are ready to
harvest for this purpose after about 15 years. But the trees growing here
were much, much older. Contrary to common belief, some species of wattle
are very long-lived and, according to an expert on allergies, are not a
trigger for asthma or hay fever. Dallas and another of our group, Karen,
were terrific at identifying native grasses and shrubs for us.
After a few days here we set off for Gluepot with over 100 bird species
ticked off for the trip. We were keen to catch up with one of our members
who was the voluntary ranger there, assisted by another of our friends, Bob
To come: seeking Red-lored Whistlers and Black-eared Miners at Gluepot,
lots of Lowan at Eremophila Park, besieged by emus at Stockyard Plains and
a 4WD trek through Wyperfeld to visit the O'Sullivans of Pine Plains.
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