Mallee trip report

To: "" <>
Subject: Mallee trip report
From: Peter Shute <>
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2016 06:07:27 +0000
"Only more parties of emu-wrens".

What rotten luck, Philip.

Peter Shute

Sent from my iPad

On 26 Sep. 2016, at 3:44 pm, Bill Stent 
<<>> wrote:

Mallee trip report from Philip Peel

Replies to <> please

Disappointedly our Mallee trip has come to an end for 6 of us, 5 days of
pure bliss as 9 of us explored the northern section of the state. We started
on Tuesday where Alison, Adam and Dan started the trip up, Adam and dan
picking up bush stone curlew in Horsham and then onto little desert where
they amassed a huge 50+ species including our main target the slender-billed
thornbill on Salt lake track (or affectionally known now as white knuckle
track) where the track was crazily soft sand... as the remaining group
didn't fancy getting bogged I was a little disappointed that again I may
miss this elusive skulker..... Tim, Owen and myself left Melbourne At 6pm
and stopped off at Horsham for the bush stone curlew..... a little
concerning that there was only 1 bird this time fingers crossed the other
bird was on a nest or caring for young! We arrived at kiata campground
little desert at 10.30pm where we were greeted with calls from Australian

Awoke early before first light to pack up and listen for dawn chorus, this
has to be my favourite birding spot the dawn chorus is absolutely
breathtaking with white-fronted honeyeaters being the most vocal around
camp. We walked around the campground and along a few tracks about 500m from
camp and we picked up Southern scrub robin, emu, rufous songlark and White
browed babbler. From here we headed to lowan sanctuary ( Keith hately
reserve) where the first bird was Black-eared cuckoo and Australian
ringneck..... the cuckoos are certainly out and about as we had pallid,
black-eared, fantailed and horsfields all in the sanctuary... we didn't see
however malleefowl but the mound here certainly looked like it had been
worked on recently.

From here the 6 of us headed around the park towards the little desert
nature lodge, along the road we picked up Australasian pipit and a pair of
brown songlarks calling profusely. The 3 remaining people David, Deb and
Nina had left Melbourne on Wednesday morning at 6am to meet up with us and
they arrived at kiata about the time we checked out the discovery walk, not
much around there of any excitement so we continued to dahlesburgh mill
track to try our luck for rufous fieldwren and slender-billed Thornbill with
both species again eluding us. We did however pick up banded lapwing, a
large flock of yellow tailed black cockatoos and variegated fairywren. From
here we tried merretts bushland reserve to see if there was any elegant
parrots around but no luck and really not much action there at all with the
best bird being a yellow-rumped thornbill 😜

We then ventured to mahrs hut track with the recommendation from last year
from Kevin, Scott, Tim Bawden and Tim Dolby that we should be able to locate
slender-billed thornbills at this spot. The first bird here was tawny
crowned honeyeater followed by an unidentified neophema parrot. I was so
annoyed as I flushed it from the only tree in this section I was walking and
if only I scanned the tree before getting too close may have been able to
identify it. After 40 mins on trudging through the Heath most had returned
to the car defeated. Owen and I weren't giving up and walked about another
500m from the road and finally we heard our first Thornbill this
point we weren't happy to call it slender-billed as we know buff-rumped are
in the area so after chasing them around for 30 mins we finally were able to
get some shots and extended views through the bins to be happy enough to
call the others over to see them too. Also as we hunted the thornbill we had
rufous fieldwrens calling and after everyone got views of the thornbill our
attention turned to the fieldwren which obligingly sat atop a grass tree
giving great views. Our target bird was under the belt as we headed then to
southern wyperfeld for our next target the redthroat!

A quick stop off on the road to wonga campground we picked up Gilbert's
whistler, before heading down discovery walk for the redthroat... the same
location as previous visits yielded results with a redthroat seen within 3
mins. It then took some time to get great views for everyones lifer and then
we picked up splendid fairy wren just before a rain front kicked in. We had
to shelter from the rain under a tree for a good 15 mins before it subsided.
In the meantime the remaining 3 david, Deb and Nina arrived so as we turned
back up in the camp ground they were ready to go back to see the redthroat,
so back in we went and again found the bird without much hassle but getting
a photo was difficult as the wind was strong and the bird was keeping
low.... one interesting behaviour we noted was that the redthroat was
mimicking a southern scrub robin nearly too exact pitch and execution except
for a little extra at the end... very interesting it was to see and hear..
also of note was a southern scrub robin and a major Mitchell cockatoo.

We left here and headed to camp at casuarina campground and arrived just
after dark to some hairy roads with water covering in places, eventually
after some effort we arrived at camp with gale forced winds and half the
people decided to sleep in the cars but those that braved the wind were
rewarded with barn owl calling at 3.30am with loud screeches above our
heads. The only real target at wyperfeld now was white-browed treecreeper
and after packing camp we headed to the location. We picked up some Nice
birds but struggled to get onto the treecreeper, inland thornbill, splendid
fairy wren, mulga parrot and more major Mitchell cockatoos. After 40 mins we
eventually heard the treecreeper calling from the ridge and after tracking
it Down it gave prolonged views atop of a dead pine. As we headed back to
the car we got another Gilbert's whistler and a wedge tailed eagle with at
least another 3 treecreepers.

We then headed back towards the entrance before heading towards snowdrift
camp ground where we hoped to get regent parrots . Along the road we had a
perched Brown songlark and a few Australasian pipits. Arriving at the spot
we found no less than 10 birds flying around and checking out nesting
hollows which was awesome.

From here we headed into Ouyen for supplies before heading to hattah truck
stop to look for mallee emu wrens. After Alison's disastrous run of bad luck
(or poor birding skills 😜😜) she'd been unable to locate them on 3 previous
trips and after guaranteeing them the pressure was on but after 5 mins the
pressure was over with at least 4 emu-wrens were showing well.

Next stop was the plains on the old Calder hwy on hattah to try for chestnut
crowned babbler. We found them relatively easily with at least 14 birds in
the party as well as 3 species of fairywrens. Splendid, variegated and
white-winged all were in fulll breeding plumage and at points was hard to
know where too look!

After Setting up camp at lake hattah we explored warepil lookout and nowingi
track quickly for striated grasswren but we only found more emu-wrens!!!!

Early morning rise to again try for our main target the striated grasswren
again trying warepil lookout without luck and then again onto nowingi track.
We had views of crested bellbird and chestnut-backed quail-thrush on arrival
and more emu-wrens. Silly mistake I made was to split away from the group
chasing emu-wrens when I got a call saying grasswren!!!! When I arrived with
the others the bird had disappeared and only 1 lucky person dan had gotten a
visual. We subsequently searched the area for over an hour with no calls, no
birds and finally we gave up!! We tried spots along konardin track again
with no luck but only more parties of emu-wrens!! After discussing
grasswrens with Tim Bawden the night before he made mention he finds
grasswrens easiest at pink lakes. With that information and some gps co
ordinates from Tim Dolby I decided that instead of staying another night at
hattah we would head to pink lakes. On driving out along konardin track dan
spotted a pair of quail thrush which allowed for close viewing. We arrived
at pink lakes around 4pm and headed to the grasswren spot. We searched and
searched and I thought I had heard one but couldn't locate!!! We gave up and
headed to camp a little dejected but spirits were risen by the sight of a
flock of 18 major Mitchell cockatoos feeding on paper daisies which allowed
for close views. Again we set up camp just before dark and bed early for
another pre dawn wake up call to try for the grasswren again! As we arrived
at the location Tim and Owen heard a contact call which we chased for 10
mins without sighting and then dan and myself split away from the group
heading further into the triodia. After about 20 minutes and again going off
on my own i heard contact calls and without knowing if it was emu wrens I
chased the call and found myself in the middle. I listen And watched
intently for 20 mins as I tried to locate the grasswrens that circled me.
Finally after this time I eventually found a bird and got some very crap
shots I was then comfortable to Coohee to the others. Dan arrived first and
we both stood and admired them while the others arrived.

After everyone got there view we headed to wymlet tank to camp and try our
luck for red-lored whistler. The roads in were impassable but after an hour
and 1 bogged car later we found our way there. Honeymoon hut track was
mostly okay and we made it to the known spot but no red lored around.
Driving back to camp david, Tim and Owen saw a malleefowl cross the road but
took off before everyone could see it. After camp setup Adam, alison and I
took a drive down the track and found ourselves another malleefowl that
allowed us to take some photos!

Rain set in and we bunkered down for the night with the occasional call of
the Australian owlet nightjar! At 5.20 am a spotted nightjar called over the
tank but no visual was seen but heard by 5 of us. We looked in vain for the
whistler but without luck but best bird was southern scrub robin and
chestnut backed quail thrush! We headed back into Ouyen to fairwell tim,
Alison and Nina who were continuing onto gluepot as the rest of us headed to
lake tyrell for rufous fieldwren, white-winged fairywren and black-faced
woodswallow which were all seen and photographed . This was the last stop on
a whirl wind trip of 130+ species 1100 kms and 90km on foot! 2 lifers for me
and a trip I will always remember!! A huge thanks to everyone that came
along it was bloody exceptional! As always a big thanks go to tim Bawden and
tim Dolby for their willingness to share there extensive knowledge which
helps immensely on trips like these!!!

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