Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

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Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 2:01 pm

I've just recently begun to show interest in birdwatching, when I realized I still hadn't seen so many species, amongst which many are supposed to be common. I got myself Where to See Birds in Victoria By Tim Dolby, after consulting it online. It's a great little book with great birdwatching spots, although it really lacks detailed maps, and I which Tim Dolby put the same amount of details in the book as he does on his blog.

I decided to do a 5 day loop : First Heathcote-Graytown NP and Greater Bendigo NP, then further West with Kooyoora State Park, go North and explore the Kerang Lakes (which I knew nothing about), then veer East toward the Murray River. I wanted to do Barmah NP but it was closed due to spring floods, so I did the Edwards River section in Murray Valley NP, NSW. After that, I went to Chiltern-Mt Pilot, and finished with Warby-Ovens NP.

To be honest, I don't think I would have ever visited those parks if it weren't for the birdwatching component. They looked small, divided in pockets with farmland in the middle, and far from the wilderness feel I love about some of my favorite parks such as Croajingolong or the Mallee.

On the first day I drove straight to Graytown. The section of the park North of the town is supposed to be great for small birds. I didn't expect such poorly signed tracks though, and poorly signed picnic areas. The Mt Black Quarry area was nothing more that a clearing with some grass, a big hole, and no tables, unlike what the brochure said. But at least I saw a pretty uncommon Diamond Firetail (although I only realized it much later), and plenty of huge grass trees in flower. The Dargile area was nice, but too heavily vegetated for birdwatching. Next up was Mt Ida Lookout which was, well, rubbish, frankly. The views were obscured by trees (even further up the track where there's supposed to be a better spot) and only toward farmland. Birdwise there was nothing but choughs, but being my first day I didn't give as much time as I should have.
Finally I intended to camp at the free Notley campground, in the Northern section of Greater Bendigo NP. Before that I explored areas such as Mulga Dam and Rush Dam, with a surprising mallee vegetation, the closest patch of mallee from Melbourne. But the first dam was disturbed by a family who made the birds fly away, and the second one was disturbed by me, who got too close for a couple of ducks and herons. Trial and error I guess. I also heard a couple of gunshots, that were too close for my comfort, so I left to the campground. It's a nice area, with plenty of roos in the morning.

The second day I didn't expect much of it to be honest, I had no idea what Kooyoora was about. In the morning I explored the Southern section of Greater Bendigo NP which wasn't very good either. Too close to the roads, full of garbage (especially the One Tree Hill lookout), cyclists and runners. But Kooyoora was different. Full of lookouts, well signed walks, interesting rock formations... It looked like a small Mt Buffalo. It was also absolutely packed with sulphur-crested cockatoos and long-billed corellas, and it had many small pockets of forest fulled with little birds such as finches and honey-eaters. I did the Long Rock walking track, which goes through 2 lookouts, a nice ridge section with even better views, some rockholes and big rocks.
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Diamond Firetail
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Red-browed Finch
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Long-billed Corella
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 2:17 pm

Next up were the Kerang Lakes. Having no big protected area, and no bushwalking opportunity, it's never been on my mind. But it's actually a very beautiful area. First I visited Boort and the adjacent Little Boort Lake (the regular bigger Boort Lake is dry). A litte walking pad goes all around the lake, and it's inhabited by pelicans, ducks, swamphens, coots etc... The nearby swamps have also egrets, herons, and the adjacent trees are a refuge for smaller birds. After this I checked out Middle Reedy Lake, which has a bird hide in front of a huge ibis colony. It's also home to many ducks, pelicans and raptors, and the nearby woods had a couple of eastern rosellas. The bird hide is huge, with a telescope and info panels, a very nice spot.
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Little Boort Lake
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Eastern Great Egret
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White-necked Heron
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Straw-necked Ibis
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 2:52 pm

On the third day, after camping at Lake Boga Caravan Park (nice but there was a private rock concert accross the street until well into midnight...), I drove up to the secretive Goschen Bushland Reserve, which is basically an abandonned town, or the beginning of a town, with just a city hall and a tennis court. But now it's full of mallee vegetation, and more importantly, full of birds. Surrounded by farmland, this pocket is a haven for honey-eaters and mallee parrots you wouldn't find Hattah-Kulkyne and Wyperfeld, such as cockatiels (which I saw but couldn't take a good photo). I also saw my first rainbow bee-eaters (which are actually pretty common if you look after every small bird you encounter). I went back to Lake Boga, and saw a big flock of coots, pink-eared ducks and pacific black ducks. Kow swamp was next, and it was full to the brim, almost flooding the picnic area. I think I saw a Little Eagle (since they're pretty rare I'm not sure), a nice darter, and other raptors. The flooded dead trees, the strong wind and the brown water make this an almost scary area, I liked it.

I also visited Terrick Terrick NP that same day. Although I liked to see a white cypress forest in Victoria, which seemed totally out of place although completely natural, it was small and with no real bushwalking opportunities. Birds associated with cypress vegetation are small, and I couldn't get any nice pictures. In the park note, they also mention a cemetery worth visiting. Alright, I though it must be an old historic cemetery with info panels... actually it was a real cemetary with recent graves, incredibely hard to find, with damaged roads... Totally out of place in a park note.
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White-Browed Woodswallow & Rainbow Bee-Eater
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White-plumed Honeyeater
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Singing Honeyeater
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Hooded Robin
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Pink-eared Ducks (top right)
Last edited by Hallu on Thu 07 Nov, 2013 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 2:58 pm

More pics.
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Little Eagle ?
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Little Eagle ?
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Kow Swamp
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Australasian Darter
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 3:20 pm

Then it was time to explore the Murray river area. Barmah NP being mostly closed to vehicles, I opted for the Edward River area in Millewa (now called Murray Valley NP). There's a nice bird hide there, but unlike the one at Reedy Lake, it's too far away from the birds... I only have a x24 zoom, and would have needed x100 to take good pics. Saw some nice yellow rosellas though, and the campground was very nice, right next to the river with separated spots. I was disappointed by what is advertised as "the biggest river red gum forest in the world". You see lots of private properties, European trees in caravan parks, noisy motorboats, etc... In terms of river red gums, I was more impressed by the areas in Hattah-Kulkyne and Wyperfeld, near flood lakes. Next I also checked out the Cobram/Barooga area of the Murray River. The picnic spots/beaches were acessible, but everything was poorly signed and you have to find the right spots through trial and error. Not much birdwise except some Eastern Rosellas, ducks and kookaburras.
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Reed Beds Bird Hide
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 3:36 pm

Time to leave the Murray area. On the way to Chiltern, I stopped at a boat launch area near Bundalong. A good instinct, as the nearby river was rich in birdlife, with the highlight being an Azure Kingficher.

At Chiltern, I did the White Box Walk. The roads in the park were in pretty good shape and well signed, this park is what Heathcote-Graytown and Greater Bendigo should be. The walk was nice, with varied vegetation. The highlight was the area with box eucalypts, where I saw about 5 turquoise parrots, including one who wasn't camera shy at all, and I got some very nice photos. Next I explored the Chiltern Valley Dams. They're not signed at all, so you need to know where you're going. There's one with a great bird hide, although I did the mistake of going there on foot through a very old pad full of spiky plants... A sign said "bird hide walk 450 m" while the road actually leads right to it... Anyway, I saw a Sacred Kingficher, another rainbow bee eater, and some red rumped parrots. The other dam had some herons, pelicans, ibises and plovers.

The Mt Pilot section is nice too : some aboriginal rock art (rare in Victoria), and the views from Mt Pilot are quite nice.
Attachments
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Azure Kingficher
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Australasian Grebe
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Turquoise Parrot
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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
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Sacred Kingfisher
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 3:39 pm

More pics.
Attachments
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Rainbow Bee-eater
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P1020950.jpg
P1020961 - P1020964.jpg
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 3:58 pm

On the last day I did the Warby-Ovens NP. I started with the Mt Glenrowan walk, which wasn't very good. The lookout is obscured by trees, and the so called "views of all the summits of the Victorian Alps" are very limited. And actually, what turned out to be a lovely walk it the Pine Gully walk. Full of nice info panels, a hidden lookout, some huge grass trees, a red-capped robin, and plenty of wildflowers. To finish, I explored the Forest Camp. It's full of mistletoe, ironbark-box and cypress pines. Hence it's full of birds. There's a kind of hidden walk at the south of the camp, but I hadn't time to do it.

For my first birdwatching trip it was very nice. I saw parks I would never have explored if I was fully focussed on bushwalking. I love the box-ironbark forest, although more the type encountered around Chiltern/Warby range, and less around Bendigo/Heathcote (but that has a lot to do with the poor condition of the roads and the parks). Only one thing missing, I still haven't seen a spoonbill, which are supposed to be common birds. I'll try my luck around French Island another time.
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Red-capped Robin
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White-plumed Honeyeater
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Rufous Whistler
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby frenchy_84 » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 4:23 pm

Sounds like a great trip.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Giddy_up » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 9:36 pm

Great pics Hallu, sounds like you had a really good look around. I think the little parrot that is about 15 from the end is an Elegant Parrot (Neophema sp) and not a very common bird at all. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 07 Nov, 2013 10:09 pm

Thanks.

Regarding the parrot yYou mean right after the Grebe ? No that's a turquoise parrot for sure. It was in Chiltern NP, an area known for them, an Elegant Parrot is out of range here, you'd have to go to the other side of Victoria, at the border with SA. That's how you can differentiate them, although they look a lot alike. But they're both quite rare, although easy to see in some very specific areas.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Giddy_up » Fri 08 Nov, 2013 10:08 am

Thanks Hallu for the clarification. Damn nice little birds.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Ninox » Tue 31 Dec, 2013 10:58 am

Nice pics Hallu. Your Little Eagle with the question mark is a Whistling Kite, both flying and perching.

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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Thu 02 Jan, 2014 7:33 pm

Thanks, that makes more sense.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby iandsmith » Sat 01 Feb, 2014 12:39 pm

That's how it all starts out...one bird, then another etc.!
Here's a few I've taken in recent months you may also be interested in.
Cheers, Ian
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Blue faced honeyeater
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Nankeen night heron (2) (640x632).jpg
Nankeen night heron
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Pied oystercatcher (640x432).jpg
Pied oystercatcher
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Musk lorikeet
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Fight night
Cocky versus galah (3) (640x428).jpg (152.17 KiB) Viewed 6075 times
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Giddy_up » Sat 01 Feb, 2014 1:01 pm

Love that Muskie, super fast and a real treat to see and get the photo. Thanks Ian
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby taswegian » Sun 02 Feb, 2014 5:11 pm

Fantastic. Thanks all for the pleasure of seeing those.
When in Hawaii I admired the many and varied birds, even bought a book about them only to read many were imports! If the windows would open on the plane the book would have ended in the Pacific. Upset the whole experience!

Now please tell me these are all dinky dye Aussie birds.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Hallu » Mon 03 Feb, 2014 6:18 am

Giddy_up wrote:Love that Muskie, super fast and a real treat to see and get the photo. Thanks Ian


If you like muskies, there's a nice spot at Croajingolong on the walk toward Little Rame Head (after Seal Creek, West of Shipwreck Beach). There's a section of forest where I saw 4 or 5 of them. They're not particularly shy, but tend to stay high in the trees so you need a good lens.
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Re: Birdwatching trip : box-ironbark forests & Murray river

Postby Giddy_up » Mon 03 Feb, 2014 6:40 am

Hallu wrote:
Giddy_up wrote:Love that Muskie, super fast and a real treat to see and get the photo. Thanks Ian


If you like muskies, there's a nice spot at Croajingolong on the walk toward Little Rame Head (after Seal Creek, West of Shipwreck Beach). There's a section of forest where I saw 4 or 5 of them. They're not particularly shy, but tend to stay high in the trees so you need a good lens.


Thanks Hallu,

Love all the birds, probably because my dad was a very avid bird watcher and they bring back some great memories. I've just noted that little spot in my book if I venture that way. Much appreciated, Thanks.
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