Mallee Safari ~ Part 3

Subject: Mallee Safari ~ Part 3
From: Keith Stockwell <>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 00:30:20 +1000
Echuca and District Branch of BOCA's Mallee Safari Part 3

On 4th April, from Chowilla,  we travelled west to Waikerie where we
replenished our supplies and showered before crossing the Murray by ferry
and driving north through Taylorville Station to Gluepot.

We camped at the Sittella Camp Ground for six days (five nights) and spent
each day birding in and exploring different parts of the reserve.

Shortly after arriving, I wandered off alone along a nearby walking track
and soon spotted a juvenile Pallid Cuckoo and obtained an excellent view of
a White-eared Honeyeater. Crested Bellbirds and Red Wattlebirds were
calling and a Tree Martin circled overhead. There was a party of
Chestnut-crowned Babblers near our camp.

The following morning, 5th April, we travelled west, exploring the area
around Old Gluepot homestead. We observed several Pied Honeyeaters which
appeared to be feeding with a large mixed flock of Masked and White-browed
Woodswallows. Other birds observed included Red-capped Robin; Hooded Robin;
White-faced, White-fronted, Spiny-cheeked and Yellow-plumed Honeyeater;
Splendid Wren; Willie Wagtail; Black-eared Cuckoo; Mulga Parrot;  Crested
Bellbird; White-browed Tree-creeper and Brown Falcon. White-browed
Tree-creeper was a new bird for some members of our party.

On 6th April, we set out for Froggy dam and Broggy's Hole. A Little Eagle
hovered over the scrub near the Kangaroo Dam site. We stopped alongside an
area of porcupine grass (spinifex) in the hope of attracting some different
birds. In the distance, Jon, co-founder of our BOCA Branch, sighted some
emus and waved a white handkerchief in the air. This attracted the
attention of the emus and they came closer and closer until one of our
party became somewhat apprehensive and persuaded Jon to stop attracting

As we were travelling slowly along track 5, Jon heard some unusual calls.
So we stopped and obtained wonderful views of a Southern Scrub Robin which
seemed reluctant to leave its spot: it made sure we all had a good view of
it. Nearby we obtained good views of a Striated Grasswren. Other birds in
this purple patch included Masked and White-browed Woodswallows; Striped,
White-fronted and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, and Crested Bellbird. Large
flocks of woodswallows seemed to follow us from Hattah and Mt Crozier to
Chowilla to Gluepot!

There is more to Gluepot than birds. En route to Froggy Dam, a very long
line of processional caterpillars was discovered. For the better part of
half an hour, we watched the procession slowly make its way along. One
caterpillar decided to stop crawling for a while and those behind it
concertined (sic?) into one another and the chain took many minutes to
reform, with the offender resuming its place further back in the procession.

On the way back to camp we decided to do the Airstrip Walk and were
rewarded with good views of Chestnut-crowned Babblers; Chestnut-rumped
Thornbills; Striated Pardalote; Jacky Winter; Brown-headed, White-fronted
and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters; Crested Pigeon; Brown Tee-creeper, Weebill
and Mistletoe Bird.

Late one afternoon, three of us decided to bird near the Babbler camp site
and hit another purple patch: in a small area over 15 minutes we observed
(in order of sighting) Jacky Winter, White-eared Honeyeater, Yellow-plumed
Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, White-browed Tree-creeper,
Rufous Whistler, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote, Varied
Sittella, White-browed Babbler, Yellow-throated Miner, Brown Tree-creeper,
Weebill, Red-capped Robin and Chestnut Quail Thrush.

On 7th April, we travelled to the north-western section of the park and
completed the walking trail near Picnic Dam (east of the Bellbird camp
site).This was quite a long walk. For long periods, few birds called. But
in one 500m stretch alongside the northern boundary fence we spotted up to
10 Chestnut Quail-thrush running about on the ground. Jacky Winter and
Red-capped Robin flew about and sat on the fence. An emu paraded ahead of
us. Other birds in the area included Spiny-cheeked, White-fronted and
Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebird, Gilberts Whistler and Crested

There was another line of processional caterpillars here. A house fly at
the head of the line seemed to be trying to divert them. An ant found its
way blocked by the line and crawled up and down parallel to the line before
finding its way around the line. All the time, the fly persistently tried
to algter the course of the line. Why we do not know.

Later, a few of us walked part of a track near Babbler Camp and saw most of
the birds listed above plus Splendid Wren, White-browed Babbler and Grey

On 8th April, we set off for the Mallee Fowl (Callitris) Walk west of
Babbler Camp Site. We hoped to find Red-lored Whistler here. I reckon I
heard one calling but we could only see Gilberts Whistler and other species
which we had already observed elsewhere in the reserve. Still, it was a
lovely walk.

Some of us returned to the start of the Whistler Walk before returning to camp.

On Sunday 9th April, we broke camp and headed back to Waikerie, stopping at
the reserve's southern boundary to search in vain for the elusive Red-lored
Whistler. We were sad to leave Gluepot as the place had good vibes and lots
of birds which we don't often see in our home turf.

At Waikerie, we made use of the facilities at the caravan park, stocked up
at the supermarket, enjoyed the lovely pasties of the highway bakery and
visited a small chocolate factory before setting off for Eremophila Park.

Located east of Waikerie, Eremophila Park is an area of mallee in a sea of
cleared land. The property is owned by Stella Mack who, along with her late
husband, removed cattle from the bushland area when they purchased the
property back in the 1980s. Part of the land is cleared and grazed/cropped.
Part of the bushland has been sold to the government and is a reserve. The
area of bush which Stella still  owns covers a few hundred acres and
supports a population of Mallee Fowl. The camping area is very pleasant,
with running water in the toilet/shower block. Stella kindly allowed us to
use a room in a cottage for a dinner ~ which Jon cooked for us ~ and for
bird call.

Apart from Mallee Fowl (Lowan), the highlight was being able to locate and
observe close up a Spotted Nightjar. It patiently sat still  on the ground
whilst we crept ever nearer to photograph it. Alas, just as I pushed the
'shutter' on my digital camera I discovered that the battery was exhausted.
Always carry a spare battery folks! Fortunately there were two others who
captured the bird on 'film' and Iook forward to seeing the photos.
hopefully there will be a good one for our next branch newsletter (our
newsletters can be downloaded from the branch's web site).

The worst thing about Eremophila Park was the flies: a thick swarm of flies.

Stella gave us a list of birds which had been observed in her bushland by
members of the Fleurieu Bird Observers Group a year or so back. Both of us
observed 40 species. Our list was almost identical to theirs except that we
missed out on Rainbow Bee-eater and one or two other birds but made up for
it with Little Eagle and Spotted Nightjar.

We noted that he mallee form of the Spotted Pardalote has a brighter yellow
rump than the form found around Echuca.

Birds observed on Eremophila Park
Latitude 34 14 14 S, Longitude 140 11 02 E
By Echuca and District BOCA tagalong members
9th and 10th  April 2006

Lowan (Mallee Fowl)
Little Eagle
Common Bronzewing
Crested Pigeon
Australian Ringneck
Mulga Parrot
Southern Boobook (heard)
Spotted Nightjar
Australian Owlet Nightjar (heard)
Brown Tree-creeper
Variegated Fairy Wren
Spotted Pardalote
Striated Pardalote
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Southern Whiteface
Red Wattlebird
Yellow-throated Miner
Singing Honeyeater
White-eared Honeyeater
Yellow-plumed Honeyeater
Brown-headed Honeyeater
Jacky Winter
Red-capped Robin
Hooded Robin
White-browed Babbler
Rufous Whistler
Grey Shrike-thrush
Restless Flycatcher
Grey Fantail
Willie Wagtail
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Grey Butcherbird
Australian Magpie
Grey Currawong
Little Raven
White-winged Chough
Tree Martin

Two more spots to be visited: Stockyard Plains and Wyperfeld National Park.

Keith Stockwell


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