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Friday, 5 December 2014

Big Weekend Birding North East Victoria Day 2

An early start this morning with Michael turning up at 6am surprisingly we were all on time and we left just before 6. Our first spot to head to was Bartley's Block..... I had been looking forward to finally seeing this remarkable birding spot, and it certainly didn't disappoint.
On getting out of the car the birds were already calling loudly, the first bird I saw was a group of Vareid Sittella on top of a dead tree, a few Peaceful Doves were probably the loudest callers as we walked through the little gate into the block. 
    Peaceful Dove

We stopped at the first dead tree on the left, this tree as Michael said it is a great roost/flyby tree and was always getting something new landing on it every few seconds, White-winged Triller, Varied Sittella,  Fuscous, Yellow-tufted and Brown-headed Honeyetears, Mistletoebirds and Sacred Kingfisher were extremely active.
    Varied Sittella
    Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
    Fuscous Honeyeater
    White-winged Triller

A short walk towards the citrus trees following the calls of Western Gerygones that were prominent as well as my 3rd lifer in Leaden Flycathcer which showed nicely in the citrus trees as well as the Eucalyptus trees bordering the block. 
    Western Gerygone
    Leaden Flycatcher 

Lots of Honeyeater activity in the trees around the block with Mistletoe in flower, no Painted Honeyeater calling though. We continued walking around the block, stopping here and there to find a new day species, we heard the calls of Pallid Cuckoo and Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo. 
A distant Eastern Yellow Robin called towards the dam so we headed off to find that, on the way we stumbled upon a family group of White-browed Babblers who stuck tightly to the low shrubs.
    White-browed Babbler

From chasing the Eastern Yellow Robin around we came across a few smaller birds, Yellow Thornbill and Weebill were flitting in and out of the trees and the Weebill sat nicely for some photos.

Funnily enough we never found the Robin as the next bird we heard was a Speckled Warbler and as most hadn't seen one before it was a higher priority than the Robin so off we were chasing the Warbler through the trees near the dam, it came out of the cover for a few seconds and we were able to get off a few shots.
    Speckled Warbler

From here he headed back towards the dam when I asked Michael what the Turqouise Parrot sounded like at this point a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike flew high overhead.

And only a minute later the call of the Turqouise Parrot came from above, just a flyby so wasn't able to confirm it, but nearly my 4th tick. We got back to the carpark but this time I was able to pick up the call of the Turqouise Parrot earlier and was able to watch it dart in and out of the trees for about 30 seconds before disappearing! My 4th lifer!!
We got back into the car and headed towards Cyanide Dam and Honeyeater Picnic Ground and along the road Michael saw a pair of Crimson (yellow) Rosella so he stopped for Jenn to get a photo.
   Crimson (yellow) Rosella

As we arrived in the Honeyeater Carpark' we immediately heard the calls of the Black-chinned Honeyeaters and the unmistakeable call of the Olive-backed Oriole which was a lifer for Ros.
    Olive-backed Oriole

As we walked down the little hill Michael heard and saw a roosting Turqouise Parrot which I was able to get the binoculars on but no photos were taken as it was very flighty. We walked the path around the dam but it was pretty quiet, we stopped back near the car at the end of the dam and Michael found a spot where the Honeyeaters were coming down to drink, White-naped and Black-chinned all seemed to enjoy the exposed perches above the water.
    Black-chinned Honeyeater
    White-naped Honeyeater

From here we made our way towards Dam 1 for morning tea, stopping along the road at the little farmers wetland which was surprising good on the right hand side of the road, with Australasian Shoveler, White-necked Heron and many other waterbirds present.

    Australasian Shoveler

We got to Dam 1 and on getting out the car Michael heard the call of Little Lorikeets just above where we had parked, another lifer for the ladies so they spent some time taking photos of those beautiful little creatures. Also in these River Red gums the distinct call of Crested Shrike-tit was heard and then seen as they actively feed in the trees.
    Little Lorikeet
    Crested Shrike-tit

We had a great morning tea which was provided by Michael and was a lovely way to spend half an hour in such beautiful habitat.
As we checked the dam one last time we found that a dead tree in the middle had Welcome Swallows as well as both Fairy and Tree Martins.
    Welcome Swallows and Tree Martins

From here our next area to head to was Dam 2 which was more beautiful than dam 1 and for me the dam looked to be way more promising for secretive birds as it had lots of cover around the margin and just looked more bird friendly. Wasn't much here that we hadn't already seen so we didn't spend a whole lot of time there, Fuscous Honeyeaters enjoyed the water.
    Fuscous Honeyeater

On our way out of Dam 2 we got great views of the Olive-backed Oriole and a beautiful pair of Peaceful doves who sat perfectly for photos.
    Olive-backed Oriole 

From Dam 2 Michael took us down a farm road away from Chiltern which he had hoped would have a population of Plumed Whistling-ducks on it, and he didn't disappoint as there was a large flock of at least 140 roosting on either end of the dam.
    Plumed Whistling-ducks
    Plumed Whistling-ducks

It was a fast paced tour so after a quick look at the ducks we were off to try and find the Double-barred Finch at Lilliput but we dipped on those it was now nearing the heat of the morning and the forecasted 36 degrees was already showing on the radar so we headed off in search of the next target that being Woodswallows and White-backed Swallows at an old mining site. The Woodswallows 
Were present but only White-browed and Dusky were there no sign of Black-faced though. And the White-backed Swallows also weren't there Michael was still confident on the Swallow, so we were back in the car heading to DEPI in Rutherglen to try our luck on the Bush Stone-curlew.
We searched for a good 20 minutes around the trees and the surrounding areas without luck, Michael then heard it call so we headed towards the call, splitting up we thought we would cover more ground but we weren't able to locate it. Backtracking over the area visited I now know why they are camouflage experts I must have walked only 3 metres from it laying in the leaf litter in the carpark without it moving, lucky for Michael's eagle eyes that he spotted it.
    Bush Stone-curlew 

We took a few photos and the whole time the bird did not stand up or even shift it's body, a very well camouflaged bird! Michael also found a Brown Goshawk that was circling just above the tree tops next to one of the buildings.
From here we headed off towards Rutherglen along a road that Michael said was a great spot for Red-backed Kingfisher but there wasn't any today, but we did finally find a pair of White-backed Swallows in a dead tree in a paddock.
    White-backed Swallow

From here we went looking at a few local Wetlands that can sometime have Brolga on them, we pulled up to the first one and we instantly saw a Little Egret which Michael said was rare in North East, but at the same time on the opposite pond on other side of road there was a pair of Freckled Ducks, many other waterbirds were also on the wetland. No brolga though.
    Little Egret
    Freckled Ducks and Eurasian Coot
    Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teals, Pacific Black Ducks, Little Egret, Little Pied Cormorant, 
    White-faced Heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Little Black Cormorants and Masked Lapwings

From here it was off to the caravan park at Rutherglen for a look for White-breasted Woodswallow but we also dipped on this one, finishing the tour with Michael at just after 1pm, stopping at Rutherglen bakery for lunch and then driving us back to our cabin. It was a wonderful day with an absolutely great guide in Michael his bird knowledge was unbelievable and would certainly highly recommend his services if you are thinking of a trip up to chiltern and the surrounds, his patience and unfaultering dedication to his birdwatching was well worth the money.....
The tour reaped a massive 116 species in just over 7 hours with 2 lifers for me... The list is below thanks to Michael for providing.

So we wished Ros and Michael a safe drive and Jenn, Kris and myself decided to head off to a place Michael had recommended to get Red-browed Treecreeper. We got in the car and headed off to Lake Kerferd which is just on the outskirts of Beechworth, the gps got the roads wrong and we had to back track a little but finally found the spot. We got out of the car at the spillway and headed to the right into the bush, the birds in here weren't what we were looking for but still nice all the same, White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Fantail and Brown Thornbill all seen well but not sign of the Red-browed Treecreeper. We headed back to the car and went and checked out the spillway, I heard what I thought was a White-throated Gerygone and after playing callback it flew straight in and sat in the tree right in front of us.
    White-throated Gerygone

From there we headed left of the car and only about 5 metres in we heard the calls of the Red-browed Treecreeper which was my 5th lifer of the trip. They sat very obliging for photos and can certainly see why they are aptly named.
    Red-browed Treecreeper

After leaving here we headed back towards Chiltern again and decided to stop at the summit but there wasn't much bird activity here other than both Golden and Rufous Whistlers. So on top of Michaels list we found another 3 or 4 species so was a really big day. 
We decided to give the White-throated Nightjar a go after dark but we had no luck with it, did for a moment think we had until we realised that the frogs in Cyanide dam actually sounded similar to a nightjar call. A long day birding but a very rewarding day with 120 species seen and some very special memories. Thanks again to Michael for such a wonderous day and to the ladies for their great company. 
Still going to try one last time in the morning for Painted Honeyeater at Bartley's block before heading home.

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