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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Chasing the Triple Threat at Lake Tutchewop 29/12/2014

Matt McCrae, Andrew Allen and myself had planned a ridiculously early start on the 29th of December to try our luck at the rare triple threat of Long-billed Dowitcher, Oriental Plover and Red-necked Pharlarope that was seen a few days before Christmas. 
We left at a little after 3.30 am for the long trip ahead, with the first bird seen along the Calder a nice Barn Owl roosting on a small pole in the middle of the freeway near Mt. Macedon. We stopped at the service station for a quick caffeine hit near bendigo where we heard a Laughing Kookaburra. 
The road towards Kerang was starting to liven up as the sun rose just after 5.45am with raptors galore, Whistling Kites, Black Kites, Black Shouldered Kites, Brown Falcons and a lone Spotted Harrier was seen along this stretch, many road killed animals on the road so many birds were seen either on fences, on the roadside vegetation or on the road itself. 
I saw a pair of Whiskered Terns hawking over the sedges near Lake Charm Caravan Park as we pulled up to the South end of Lake Tutchewop. Getting out of the car at just on 7am we were greeted with a few fellow birders who were already there. Not much action at the South End with a few waterbirds but nothing of great interest. interestingly though a perched Whistling Kite on a dead trunk on shoreline.
   Whistling Kite

 A small flock of Red-necked Avocets being the most exciting, a few small waders including a very beautiful Common Grrenshank and a lone White-headed Stilt. 
   Common Greekshank

We had been in contact with Carolyn And Grace who were at the North End but also they had no luck so we decided to drive the lakes edge and meet up with the ladies at the North End. Not much seen along the edge other the Red-capped Plovers which appeared to be everywhere.
    Red-capped Plover
    Red-capped Plover

As we drove around the lake, not much wader action anywhere other than the Red-capped Plovers so made pretty quick time to Carolyn at the north end. As we approached there was a small group of waders, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a lone Curlew Sandpiper, a few Red-necked Stints and not much else. 
Carolyn and Grace jumped into the 4x4 with us and headed around the opposite bank towards the South End. Again not much along the way though and made good time arriving back. A few birders were still scoping the waders which had grown a little, but after checking them all I decided to head towards the scrub up towards the road to see if I could find the White-winged Fairywrens which I could hear calling. The others headed towards the little creek outlet where they also found some nice birds. They were lucky enough to find a beautiful male White-winged Fairywren.
    White-winged Fairywren
   Female White-winged Fairywren

Also at that little creek they found a nice group of White-fronted Chats.
   White-fronted Chat

I faired okay with my trip up to the scrub with a lovely Singing Honeyeater calling beautifully and did find a few pairs of White-winged Fairywrens but my males were in eclipse and also a small party of Superb Fairywrens.
   Singing Honeyeater
   White-winged Fairywren
   White-winged Fairywren

We headed back to the car as it was nearing 9.45am and on checking the waders once again we saw that the number of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers had increased but still no Long-billed Dowitcher.
   Sharp-tailed Sandpipers

We drove the ladies back to their car at the north end as we decided to give it a shot at trying to find some chats ( failed ) but we did find a very obliging male Variegated Fairywren. I have never been to a birding spot where I had seen 3 species of Fairywrens before this trip and was blown away.
    Variegated Fairywren
    Variegated Fairywren

From here our next spot was to head to Tresco West Bushland Reserve to try for Blue Bonnet and Yellow-throated Miner. As we pulled into the reserve we all heard the distinct calls of the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters as well as Singing Honeyeaters.
   Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Above us there were White-browed Woodswallows and as we walked into the scrub, you could hear the calls and finally saw the White-browed Babblers jumping around a few trees.
   White-browed Woodswallow

I noticed a weird bird perched about 200 metres from me and as I got binoculars onto it I noticed it was a Masked Woodswallow. I grabbed out my camera which is fairly unusual and snapped off a few dodgy identifiable photos before the boys turned up. It took flight and they got views as it glided overhead but never perched again.
   Masked Woodswallow and White-plumed Honeyeater

Pied Butcherbirds were calling beautifully and as I watched them I noticed a few parrots flush by but disappeared beyond sight, hopefully would track them down when back in the car. We headed off and as we drove we continually flushed parrots from the road some being Blue Bonnet and another's being  Eastern Rosellas, and at some points they were in mixed flocks which did make id a nightmare! 
   Blue Bonnet

At the last spot we got out of the car we had heard the calls of Miner and wanted to check them out, sounding very similar to Noisy Miner we weren't overly confident but once you see them you can certainly see the difference. They were mixed together but we were able to find at least 3 Yellow-throated Miners.... Lifer 1.
   Yellow-throated Miner

We drove the rest of the track and occasionally stopped and listened or watched the Blue Bonnet as they flushed from the road. We had a choice to make at this point we could go to Goschen but on all reports recently it had been very quiet and with Carolyn and Grace heading there we sent a text to find out how it was, there response wasn't encouraging so we decided to head to Lake Boga and pick up the White-breasted Woodswallow in town, which was relatively easy only 1 bird though but found near the general store.
   White-breasted Woodswallow

Our target then was to head back towards Kerang and out towards Barham in southern NSW to tick the undoubtly most dodgy but tickable Ostrich. Yes wild ostriches in Australia who would have thought!! 
We drove the road which was barren and very dry but we had been in contact with car full of birders who were out seeing the ostrich a few hours early and that they had seen 7. We turned the road and instantly saw a male Ostrich sitting on a mound about 100 metres away.... Lifer 2..... 
We crappy views we decided to head down the road further where we found another 4 on either side of the fence as well a clutch of Ostrich Eggs in a small scrapping. 
   Ostrich Eggs 

As we were driving towards the Ostrich site we noticed a very nice looking river crossing which we decided to stop at on the way back. As we pulled up we heard the unmistakeable call of the Sacred Kingfisher. We could hear in the background a flock of White-winged Chough and above us there was a small group of Buff-rumped Thornbills. Not much else around and as it was peak of heat around 4pm  wasn't that surprised.
As we drove down another dirt track Matt found a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters that were roosting on a dead tree, flitting between one and the other and you could see that they had excavated a hole in the side of the bank. We didn't want to disturb them so no photos were taken.
From here we walked to the waters edge where we found a Sacred Kingfisher who sat nicely for us.
   Sacred Kingfisher

Also here we found a family of Jacky Winter, 2 juveniles and parents, such beautiful birds, all be it very plain in colour but there so dainty.
   Jacky Winter

From here we headed back to the border, Matt noticing a Endangered Bush Stone-curlew along the way back so we stopped there to have a look. Not much around but did get great views of Little Friarbirds.
   Little Friarbird

Also at this spot I was pretty confident I heard a Noisy Friarbird but couldn't track it down so didn't count it for the day tally. We crossed the border and headed towards Kow Swamp which was on the way home but the time was getting on and being such a long day we had a quick look around but seemed pretty quiet so we left. Out last bird there was a beautiful Crimson (yellow) Rosella. 
   Crimson (yellow) Rosella

It was another great trip with Matt and Andrew, we have now been on a few big trip together and it's certainly a great help having another 2 sets of eyes and the long trips are passed with laughter and joking definitely makes for a great long day! Looking forward to more expeditions and again thanks to the boys for their photos.

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