Thought I would give a report of my trip to the mallee. I went from Monday
September 27 to Friday Oct 1.
First I should say upfront that I dipped on a lot of birds.
I had the 'Where to See Birds in Victoria' book and was expecting to find a
lot more than I did. I've only been birding for a year so I think this was
just a problem of technique, often I would enter a dry forest and just find
it completely silent and I wasn't sure if driving along tracks was better
than going on foot.
That said I had a great trip, still saw quite a few new birds and the
scenery was just incredible.
So here it goes:
Monday September 27
Set out from Melbourne early in the morning. Before the first destination,
Lake Tyrrell, we stopped to take pictures of the amazing orange flowers that
were popping up everywhere. I had heard that Central Australia was getting a
lot of flowers and the Mallee didn't disappoint in that regard.
After that, the first interesting sighting on the way was a Red-backed
Kingfisher sitting on a power line in some town (sorry, completely forgotten
the name but it was a small town on the Calder)
I thought this was a good omen since I love kingfisher but arriving in Lake
Tyrrell midday it was completely dead. Very windy and couldn't find any
birds other than a Singing Honeyeater (new)
After that we went to check out Gama Reserve on the way to Ouyen. Lots of
activity here, mostly from a family of Brown Treecreepers (new) that were
making a ton of noise. Did see the first Mulga Parrots (new) of the trip,
some Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Singing Honeyeaters and caught a glimpse of
a male Variegated Fairy-wren (new.)
Next we headed for Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve...at least I hope
that's where we went. It was off Torneys Road and had a dam with water in
it. Anyway saw a pair of Southern Whiteface (new,) a few Weebills as well as
a beautiful male Splendid Fairy-wren (new). Got very close to him but
unfortunately he was against an overcast sky.
Then it was off to Hattah-Kulkyne to set up camp. Saw this lizard strutting
across the road; maybe someone can help me with an ID?
Setting up the tent at the Lake Hattah campsite I saw my first Apostlebirds
(new.) The novelty wore off quickly, let me tell you!
That was the end of the first day since the afternoon was spent setting up
the tent and camping gear.
Tuesday September 28
Tuesday morning we headed to the Nowingi track to look for Mallee Emu-wrens.
This was a lot more difficult than I had originally thought. First I had
only brought track pants with me and walking through the spinifex gave my
legs a gentle stabbing every time. Next, although I enjoyed roaming the
spinifex clumps, it was incredibly hard to find anything. Most of the sounds
I heard was just loose bark scraping against the trees in the wind. Anyway
didn't see any Emu-wrens that time, over an hour spent there and the only
birds I saw were a few Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters (new)
After a few nice panoramic views at Warepil Lookout we decided to try the
track around Lake Mournpall. Not long after leaving the Lookout we saw a
pair of Mulga Parrots fly into the woods. Aching to get some photos of one I
headed out and managed a slightly blurry shot of the male
Luckily enough I stumbled on a family of Red-capped Robins while looking for
the parrots. I love these guys and even managed to witness two males
fighting, looked like fat little fireballs colliding with each other. Took
tons of pics and the male was pretty indifferent to me as he went about
foraging for the youngster
On the way out I also saw a Ringneck Parrot (new) and a pair of Emu (new)
from the car.
After that we arrived at Lake Mournpall and decided to do a bit of the track
(wasn't feeling up for doing the whole 9.5km lake loop.) There were lots of
flowers around the track and they were covered in bees but I never got stung
the entire trip.
Anyway on the brief walk I saw Chestnut-rumped Thornbill (new) Brown-headed
Honeyeater (new) , Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler, Red-capped
Robin and spent the rest of the time chasing Splendid Fairy-wrens. No good
photos of them from that walk, they sure are a lot more skittish than the
Superbs back home.
On the way out we saw a pair of Mallee Ringnecks and I got my only good
photo of them
I found it was pretty common to see pairs of parrots flying around the
Mallee but they were all incredibly twitchy.
A brief rest at the campground where I saw a Great crested Grebe on the lake
before we headed back to Nowingi to look for the emu-wrens again.
At Nowingi in the afternoon I again found Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters but this
time also saw some friendly Jacky Winters. Caught a very blurry glimpse of a
Chestnut Quail-Thrush (new) and I think I may have seen a Mallee Emu-wren:
It was a bird the size of a wren and it jumped/flew out of a spinifex clump
in front of me into another one. It landed in the base of another patch and
seemed to burrow through to the other side where it flew in to a larger
clump. I stood staring at the spinifex for about 5 minutes when I realised
it must have taken an exit I wasn't watching and was long gone. I'm not too
confident IDing stuff without a photo and I guess it could also have been a
Striated Grasswren but i'm not sure.
Slightly cheered up after seeing something we headed back to the campground
for the night. Tried a bit of spotlighting heading from Lake Hattah to
Mournpall but only turned up a few Brushtail Possums.
Wednesday September 29
Wednesday morning we headed back to Nowingi for one last shot at the Mallee
Emu-wren. Again I only got photos of some Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters but I
also had 2 possible Emu-wren encounters. I heard a soft squeaking and saw a
wren-sized bird up ahead of me. Of course it was sitting with the sun behind
it and by the time my camera focused it had magically vanished, that's how
it goes I guess :P
Back at the campground for a break I saw a few Yellow Rosellas around and
also a pair of Black-Tailed Native Hens (new)
and some Grey Teal in the water.
In the afternoon we headed for Pink Lakes in Murray-Sunset National Park.
Managed to avoid running over a Shingleback Lizard and got some nice photos
as a reward :)
Saw a pair of Blue Bonnets (new) by the lakes but couldn't get a decent
shot. I hadn’t heard much about these birds before the trip which is a shame
because they are just beautiful. I wish I had gotten a nice picture but they
got spooked so easily. Also in the Pink Lakes area was a pair of Red-rumped
Parrots, A Black-shouldered Kite, some Masked Lapwings with chicks, Rufous
Songlark (new), and a ton of newly hatched locusts by the lake!
Again I looked for Emu-wrens around the spinifex area around Pink Lakes but
only found this lizard
anyone up for an ID?
On the way out I saw the only Major Mitchells Cockatoo (new) of the trip but
just got a blurry photo.
Nearing sunset we went to Wymlet Tank to try to find some parrots. Saw a
pair of Banded Lapwings (new) and managed to get some nice shots of them
Also in the area were more Brown Treecreepers, Red-rumped Parrots and a pair
of Blue Bonnets that permitted me very distant shot.
I had decided the night before that I was sick of camping (this was my first
time in almost ten years and the nostalgia didn't last long) so we stayed at
a motel in Mildura the last 2 nights.
Thursday September 30
Thursday morning we decided to try King's Billabong near Mildura. The Vic
Parks website said it had fairy-wrens along the walking track....all lies!
Nothing there but some Miners and a few Yellow Rosellas.
After that we headed for Bronzewing again, this time trying the northern
part from Merrett Rd. I was hoping for some Malleefowl or a shot at the
Quail-thrush but didn't get any luck. It was very quiet, had a few Splendid
Fairy-wrens but i couldn't get close with all the undergrowth but did get
some decent shots of Chestnut-rumped Thornbills collecting nesting material.
On the way out I got some distant shots of a Pallid Cuckoo (new)
Next we went back to the south part of Bronzewing to get more shots of
Splendid Fairy-wrens. They were infuriating to try to photograph; the
Southern Whitefaces were a bit more accommodating. Chestnut-rumped
Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Brown Falcon, a flock of Varied Sitella,
Rufous Whistler and an immature Red-capped Robin were also present.
After that we headed to Gama Reserve again, I wanted to try getting a
picture of the Variegated Fairy-wren. Spiny-cheeked, White-plumed and
Singing Honeyeaters were present a long with those noisy Brown Treecreepers.
Located the Variegated Fairy-wren again but they rarely went out in to the
open. This was the best shot I could get :/
Made one last trip to Bronzewing as the sun was going down. A few new things
were there this time, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote, Cockatiel
(new) and a Little Eagle (new.) As the light was failing we went back to
Mildura for the last night.
Friday October 1
Friday morning we went back to Lake Tyrrell to look for the White-winged
Fairy-wren or some colourful chats (anything other than white-fronted).
Driving very slowly along Lake Tyrrell road I think I saw a White-winged
Fairy-wren standing on a shrub but by the time my camera was raised it had
flown off. It was very distant so I’m not that sure. I did see some
Australasian Pipits, White-winged Triller, White-fronted Chat, an immature
Red-capped Robin and very happily, a Rufous Fieldwren (new)
After that we decided to make the last stop at Wyperfeld before heading back
to Melbourne. On the way we stopped at Patchewollock to photograph some
flowers and found some Variegated Fairywrens but couldn't get close.
Eventually we entered northern Wyperfeld and it was just stunning. Yellow
flowers everywhere, absolutely amazing. Birding was very good here as well.
Just south of the Casuarina campgrounds, off the Meridian track I wandered
around a bit and found a nice mixed feeding flock. Was happy to catch a
female Mulga Parrot unawares and finally get some in-focus shots
would you believe that it was actually too close this time? Got very close
to some Southern Whitefaces, saw some Ringneck Parrots, White-browed
Babblers, Splendid Fairy-wrens and Red-capped Robins. Last birds of the trip
were a pair of Blue Bonnets but in keeping with tradition they refused to
let themselves be photographed :)
After that we headed back to Melbourne, arriving Friday night.
All in all I had a good trip. I think I would see it in a much better light
if I'd gotten a photo of the Emu-wren but it wasn't to be. A few other
disappointments like the lack of malleefowl, colourful chats, woodswallows
and regent parrots were also pretty annoying.
Weather was not too bad, had about 30 minutes of rain the second day but
other than that it was mostly fine if a bit cold at night. The overcast days
were frustrating as a week earlier they had it forecast as sunny the entire
week but it was only a thin layer of clouds and still bright enough for
If I did it again I probably would have stayed at Wyperfeld or Pink Lakes
instead of Hattah, found them to have a lot more birds and generally they
seemed more scenic. Would probably have kept away from the Nowingi track but
it's easy to say with hindsight :)
I might have come off a bit negative about the experience but I always wish
there was more I could see when out birding. I’m pretty happy with having
seen around 20 new species (probably won’t count WW FW or Emu-wren.) Still
had a blast and there's an excuse to go back now!
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