Monday, 19 January 2015
Bunyip exposed, a great day with fellow birders
What started out as a small gathering of birders ( Matt, Owen, Andrew, Bill and myself) that had decided to go in search of the beautiful and ever elusive Sooty Owl and White-throated Nightjar of Bunyip State Forest on Sunday the 18th of January, we decided that we would head towards Bunyip just after lunch to get in some afternoon birding before the owls.
We talked about it and decided to put an open invitation out to fellow Victorian birders who might have enjoyed a Sunday session out in this magical spot, thinking the late night planned and being a Sunday that not many people would be keen, but to my surprise a huge number of people asked to tag along and was a great day.
We had planned to meet at Mortimers Picnic Ground at 2.30 pm and on pulling into the carpark, I saw a Rufous Fantail flitting along the creek, a beautiful bird to start the day.
There was only 1 birder in the carpark and after introductions were were off in different directions listen and following birds. Rose Robin, White-naped Honeyeater and Grey Fantail the most vocal as well as a weird call from a family of Eastern Rosellas. As more people started turning up we didn't venture too far from the cars but had views of at least 3 Red-browed Treecreepers, a calling Cicadabird, and a very vocal Australian Raven. Many Yellow- faced Honeyeaters were busily chasing each other through the trees as we saw our first Eastern Yellow Robins.
After about an hour we had amassed about 26 species here and was a great start with Lewin's Honeyeater one of the last birds photographed and as we were leaving a Sacred Kingfisher started calling.
After reading Luke Shelley's blog on Bunyip, I decided to next stop at the Diamond Creek crossing on Camp Road, on getting out of the car we were instantly surrounded by at least 3-4 Red-browed Treecreepers and a lone White-throated Treecreeper, as well as a few calling Brown Thornbills.
A Pied Currawong took flight from the road to add another species to the list. Not much else was around here but it was a great spot to view and most people see a lifer at close range.
Our next spot was Buttongrass Track so pulling up our cars ( a convoy of 5) in the carpark we headed off in search of the Southern Emu-wren. As we neared the first little dam, we noticed a distressed women crying about her dog which had been bitten by a snake, she was unable to carry her golden retriever to the road so Matt being the kind and generous person assisted the lady with the help from Bill and Owen to take the dog and the owner to the ladies house. A very kind gesture I think! Surprisingly we found out the dog survived, it didn't look like that would have been the outcome at the time! On the way back Matt got a beautiful photo of a Cowboy Beetle.
As this interruption had eaten into our birding time there wasn't too much to note here, a pair of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Welcome Swallows hawking over the dam and many calling White-eared Honeyeaters. Owen and myself heard the call of Southern Emu-wren just near the second dam on Guide Track but couldn't locate it, so it was back towards the car, a little excitement on way back with a cuckoo bursting out of the trees, initially hoping it was a young Brush Cuckoo but it wasn't until looking at photos was it to be seen as a young Fan-tailed Cuckoo.
So from here we headed towards Link Road, stopping at another spot Luke had said to stop at was Nichols Hut Track and this was also where Andrew had seen and heard Common Cicadabird a few weeks ago, so off down the track we headed. First birds along hear were Crescent Honeyeaters and many more Grey Fantails with a Rufous Fantail as well. Along here there were also a few Eastern Spinebills which called prolifically.
Fiona thought she had heard the call of the Common Cicadabird and as everyone went silent it was clearly calling. A quick burst of Playback gave everyone awesome views of this species and many excited people ensued. It sat perfectly at the top of a dead branch and I can see how people can get confused with Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.
Our next spot to stop was the corner of Black Snake Road and Ash Landing Road as this is supposably a good spot for Black-faced Monarch which didn't disappoint as a pair was seen flitting in and out of the wattles just off to the side of the road. We pulled the cars over about 40 metres from the intersection and this was where the monarchs were.
A fair distant away a call of a Satin Flycatcher was heard and a pair of Brush Cuckoo also were highlights, it was getting late in the day so we decided against heading further down Ash Landing Road and decided instead to try our luck at Dyers Picnic Ground to see if we could get Beautiful Firetail which we missed on but did get some other beauties, a pair of Gang Gang Cockatoos, a lone female / immature Satin Bowerbird, at least 3 Olive-backed Oriole seen high up in the trees and at least 6 Satin Flycatchers.
A very worthy finish to a great afternoon birding, we needed to head to the Helipad for dinner and to meet up with Tim Bawden. After some dinner some people stood on the road watching the skies and were lucky enough to see a White-throated Needletail just before dusk, and as dusk approached we were able to see at least 1 White-throated Nightjar and at least 2 others calling not far from the helipad. Tim decided to walk down to Black Snake Road to have a listen and we heard the call of a Sooty Owl which was up Ash Landing Road.
After getting in our convoy we headed back to Ash Landing Road to try and locate the Sooty Owl which we did and also hearing a Southern Boobook as well. People decided that bush bashing for the Sooty Owl was worth a shot an nearly an hour later the people who braved the deep scrub were treated to great views of a Sooty Owl, was a very tough walk back to the road, and being so deep in the scrub was very tough to lift feet and at points seemed impossible, but all worth the pain and suffering to see such a beautiful owl.
While trudging back to the road I got a sight and heard a Australian Owlet-nightjar which was scooting between the trees as I laid on my back after falling off a log again.
We had used up most of the time tracking down this little beauty that we skipped any more stops along the way and headed straight to Mortimers Picnic Ground.
At Mortimers we were then treated to a pair of Sooty Owls who were constantly calling to each other and now everyone could see this lovely owl, a great way to finish off the night for everyone. It was just after 11.30 pm when we bid everyone farewell and headed for home. A huge 57 species was seen for the day and some memorable birds and a new lifer 404 for me in White-throated Nightjar.
Thanks again to the people that are happy to share their photos and to everyone that ventured out to Bunyip.... A big thanks to Tim Bawden for taking the owling part of the trip an exceptional birder who is always happy to lend a hand!
Can't wait for Kamarooka in a few weeks hopefully!