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Friday, 19 December 2014

Victorian Birders Outing to Toolangi, Murrindindi and Yea Wetlands

We had arranged for a group of us ( members of the Victorian Birders Facebook Page) to head up to the wet forests of Toolangi on an early Sunday Morning the 14th December. People were coming from far and wide, with Warrnambool, Geelong, Maryknoll being the furthest away. 
We arranged for a brisk 7.30 am arrival so Matt, Andrew and I had decided to leave at 5.30 am to get in a cheeky 30 minutes of birding before everyone arrived. The drive up through the mountains was spectacular and the morning sunshine very pleasant. We arrived at our meet point at just after 6.30 am  so we drove along Sylvia Creek Road a short distance and got out to have a listen. 
Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were calling well, Eastern Spinebills were flitting around as a group of Gang Gang Cockatoos flew overhead. King Parrots were actively feeding through the trees and their distinctive call was heard by all. At this stage Owen and his father Steve had turned up so we continued on to the next bend in the road where we got out again to have a listen. The same calls were heard here, but Golden Whistler, Grey Fantail and Brown Thornbills were new to the list, as well as a very vocal Pied Currawong. 
We stood around for about 15 minutes but the light was shocking for photos, some nice birds though and a good start to the morning, we headed back to the meeting point at the intersection of Myers creek Road and Sylvia Creek Road.
We pulled up and on getting out the car noticed a huge flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and a couple of Little Corella feeding in a farmers paddock, as well a lone White-faced Heron roosting in the dead gum, as a few Australian Ravens were seen and heard calling.
As people started arriving we heard more Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Superb Fariy-wren and Brown and Striated Thornbills. Funnily the Common Blackbird was the most prominent calling bird, which did surprise me a little. After the pleasantries were over and all members had arrived we were back In the cars in a 7 car convoy ( Matt, Andrew, Owen, Steve, Susan, David, Kris, Kieran, Bill, Carolyn, Jade, Jenn, Mike and his son and myself). As I was lucky enough to be in the front car it was my job to listen for birds, and stop where things looked promising. Luckily I stopped at the first place along Sylvia Track  as on getting out of the car Owen heard the soft call of the Rose Robin, after a quick burst of Callback a beautiful male perched for everyone to see.
    Rose Robin

We headed then to Wirrawilla Rainforest Carpark, on arriving the unmistakeable call of the Brown Gerygone echoed through the trees, as another male and female Rose Robin called from just above the Gazebo. Golden Whistler, Eastern Spinebill and Crescent Honeyeaters called from the trees, as we started the walk up past the toilet block. 
    Golden Whistler
    Eastern Spinebill

Along the track, bird calls were coming from everywhere, Rufous And Grey Fantail, Satin Flycatcher, Large-billed Scrubwren, Pilotbird, Superb Lyrebird and Crimson Rosella being the most prolific. So hard to photograph in rainforest conditions and only views through binoculars for most people (except Owen and Mike who searched in vain to see Pilotbird) as either side of the track was dense coverage and birds were scurrying quickly in the foliage.

Returning back to the Carpark we then decided to do the Rainforest walk, completely covered in there was not much light in there but we arrived at the small bridge overlooking the creek, we played the call of the Pilotbird and waited, no sign so Owen moved on a little, I stayed put and saw a Pilotbird cross the creek on a moss covered log. Everyone was looking in that direction when Carloyn noticed a beautiful male Pink Robin, sitting on a beautiful perch not calling but gave everyone beautiful views. Lifer number 401 for me!!
    Pink Robin

At this spot there was also a very vocal Crescent Honeyeater who sat nicely for photos.
    Crescent Honeyeater
    Crescent Honeyeater

We continued along the boardwalk, hearing Large-billed and White-browed Scrubwren, Pilotbird and Grey Fantail in the moss covered foliage. Pilotbird still seemed to be very elusive and as we got to the seating we ran into Rohan Clarke. After chatting for a few minutes we continued on finding another male Pink Robin and another Pilotbird calling from up the mountainside as well as the metallic call of the Superb Lyrebird.
We arrived back at the carpark and had morning tea, some nice hot coffee and some biscuits. Our next spot was to try Tanglefoot Carpark, hoping to see some new things. Along the road we stopped at a spot that I heard a Superb Lyrebird very close to the road, getting out the calls stopped as usual but Carolyn was able to get good views of a Pilotbird flying across the road as Owen had flushed it out. Also at this spot there was another Brown Gerygone which showed nicely for some. 
Arriving at Tanglefoot it was relatively quiet compared to Wirrawilla but with some persistence the birds started to appear. Eastern Yellow and Flame Robins were seen not far from the cars.
   Eastern Yellow Robin
    Flame Robin
Also seen around the carpark was another male Rose Robin, as a Lewin's Honeyeater was calling nicely and giving great views as many people hadn't seen one before.
    Lewin's Honeyeater

Near the toilet block there was a suspected Brush Cuckoo but no one was able to get a view either by camera or binoculars but there was a very beautiful Satin Bowerbird high up in the trees scurrying around. We then bid farewell to Mike and his son as we headed off towards Murrindindi Scenic Reserve as Luke Shelley and Rohan Clarke had both recommended a visit. As we drove along the road, we started to see the logging coupes ( such a waste to our beautiful trees). A very sadden feel flows over you when looking at the habitat destruction the loggers have on the environment. 
I decided to stop at a spot where there was regrowth from the fires a few years ago thinking we may  have gotten Blue-winged Parrot as it looked the right type of habitat but nothing was really calling, it was the peak of the day and was getting hot so a lot was quiet. We did get this beautiful grasshopper though.

Stopping at Murrindindi Scenic Reserve was very nice, it looks like a great spot to camp, a clean toilet, a beautiful open camp fire with firewood collection allowed and large designated grassy spots. Can definitely see myself going back there to listen to the dawn chorus as when we got there it was relatively quiet. We walked the track to the river where we found both Brown and Striated Thornbills.
    Brown Thornbill
    Striated Thornbill

On making it to the river we heard Eastern Whipbird calling on the other side of the river, White-naped Honeyeater were feeding and resting atop one of the dead trees along the creek. We decided to cross the river to see if we could find the Whipbird and as we crossed the dead log across the creek Matt, Owen and I heard the calls of the Brush Cuckoo, as it was a lifer for Owen he headed back to the creek to look for it as Matt and I continued on. Whipbird was so close but the trees and shrubs were thick and Impenetrable so we gave up. The brush Cuckoo continued to call but no one was able to set eyes on him.
We continued along the track for a while and came to another opening, not much birdlife around now as it was nearing 2pm and was getting hotter. However there was a beautiful little skink that was sunning itself by the river.
On our walk back to the car we did find a Rufous Whistler which was the first for the day.
   Rufous Whistler

As it was getting substantially hotter we decided to head to Yea Wetlands as I had heard it was a good birding spot for Azure Kingfisher, Leaden Flycatcher and Western Gerygone. Along the road out of Murrindindi we found 4 Wedge-tailed Eagle circling above and a few Dusky Woodswallows hawking insects on the forest verge, 
We arrived at Yea wetlands and we were greeted by a pair of Crimson Rosellas in the carpark, we heard the unmistakeable calls of the Bell Miner in the distance. We walked to the suspension bridge where someone spotted a Tawny Frogmouth sunning itself in the middle of the Yea River which is the weirdest and most exposed I had ever seen before.
    Tawny Frogmouth
    Tawny Frogmouth
   Tawny Frogmouth

From here we followed the calls of the Bell Miner which were  rearing young in a weird nest, reminded me of a green ants nest of dried gum leaves.
   Bell Miner

We walked around the Wetland, not much activity on the water itself with Pacific Black Duck, Dusky Morrhen, Purple Swamphen, both White-faced and White-necked Heron and a lone Little Pied Cormorant. Owen heard the kikiki call of the Sacred Kingfisher which we were able to follow to an open tree in the middle of the wetland. 
    Sacred Kingfisher

From here we followed the Yea River hoping to find the Azure Kingfisher along the riverbanks, the overhanging vegetation didn't really suit a Kingfisher but we did find a nice pair of Eastern Yellow Robin.
   Eastern Yellow Robin

Owen and myself were in the front and I thought I had heard the call of the Western Gerygone which he subsequently didn't hear, we played the call and it responded, but it wasn't a Western Gerygone but a Pair of White-throated Gerygone. An awesome sighting. While we tried in vain to get everyone's attention a Leaden Flycatcher pair started calling as well. It was a mad rush trying to find two special birds in a space of 2 large Gum trees. 
   White-throated Gerygone
   White-throated Gerygone
   Leaden Flycatcher
   Leaden Flycatcher

After a good thirty minutes of chasing these special birds around we were heading back to the cars, it was now nearing 4.30 pm and people had some distance to travel home, I was about 10 metres behind Owen when he turned around as he neared the River, he and I heard the call of the Azure Kingfisher but we couldn't find it amongst the dead trees. 
Overall it was a great day, exhausting and thrilling with many new birds for most but just a great day spent with like minded people in the bush enjoying the beautiful birds Victoria has to offer, I think overall we had seen just over 70 species which is a great day in the habitats we visited. 
Thanks to everyone who attended, these outings make birding more enjoyable and does give a good indication of the people willing to help those less experienced. I for one am happy to organise these outings as I know lots of people gain so much more knowledge from them rather than birding alone. Thanks also has to be given to the people that have helped me along the way and are willing to lend advice when needed and it's extremely helpful to me ( Tim Dolby and Tim Bawden). 

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