Thursday, 23 April 2015
Regent Honeyeater Release April 18th..... Plus birding around Chiltern
After a lot of planning it finally came around, months of discussions with everyone from Birdlife Australia to DELWP to members of Victorian Birders, the weekend had finally arrived and the Regent Honeyeater release was on.
Matt McCrae and I had all intentions of leaving at 6pm on the Friday night to arrive at Lake Anderson Caravan Park in Chiltern just after 9pm, but the plans got thrown out the window when i had a message from Tim Nickholds saying he had found a daytime roost of a Barking Owl and given that its not an easy bird to find in Victoria we decided to leave straight away
We were in the car and on our way by 1 pm, stopping at the service station on the Hume Highway near Seymour to pick up our first Blue-faced Honeyeater of the trip. We arrived in Wangaratta at 4.20 pm where we meet up with Tim and he happily showed us the beautiful owl roosting in a tree, one eye open at all times, the rain was constant and at times heavy, but it did not dampen the excitement of seeing such a beautiful bird.
From here we decided to have a quick look along Lancaster Gap Road in Chiltern but the rain was excessive and it was not wise to continue we headed to the pub for dinner.
We meet up with Jenn, Alison, David, Susan, Bill for dinner at the Telegraph Hotel for a great meal and a few quiet drinks before heading back to the Caravan Park to wait for the arrival of Owen, Jack, Pete and Brad who were traveling from Melbourne, they had decided to try for the Barking Owl but it had moved off in the night.
They arrived at 10.30pm in the pouring rain, it was going to be interesting putting up 6 one man tents but actually worked pretty well, we luckily had a camp kitchen area right next to our sites and was able to build the tents inside there before taking them out in the rain.
It poured rain all night, at points with thunder and lightning i thought the birding would be excruciating on Saturday. Had the alarm set for 4.50am and after making a coffee and having a hot shower we all decided to not leave as early as we had arranged and was in the car at 5.45am on the way to Bartley’s Block.
As the sun rose, birds started calling, started with Australian Magpies and Laughing Kookaburras, which then turned into Noisy Friarbirds and a beautiful Mistletoebird.
Michael Ramsey and Matthew Crawford turned up and together with our group we walked around the block, many birds around after the rain from overnight, it was hard to say what the best birds were but we amassed a huge 45 species for just under 2 hours. Speckled Warblers, Western Gerygones, Black-chinned Honeyeaters, Crested Shrike-tit were probably the highlights.
We headed back to the caravan park for a quick look for the wild banded Regent Honeyeater Dean Ingwersen had found only a few days early, but after a quick search we left without luck. Along the road to the Regent Honeyeater release site which was on Crusher Track we stopped behind Michael Ramsey who was looking for Turquoise Parrots in the fields on the right, to our utter delight at least 4 Turquoise Parrots were roosting in a open dead tree so were able to get good views despite the rain.
From here we headed to the Release, many cars were already there and with our convoy it filled the spaces along the road quickly.
It looks like about 70+ people had gathered and after an introduction from Glenn and Dean we were off to the viewing area in anticipation for the release. While the talk was on Michael and I both saw a Regent Honeyeater flying over the heads of speakers and was great to see a free flying ( assuming a captive bird from Tuesdays release).
There was a roped off area about 40 metres back away from the Tents and had great views between the Box Ironbark forest. The tents were opened and the birds mostly flew, a large group of at least 16 birds exploded from the tents and sat atop a dead tree right above the volunteers heads. Such a memorable and awe inspiring moment, something i will cherish for the rest of my life.
It started to pour with rain, so everyone packed up and moved off to there cars quickly, we had no intention of stopping though so we headed off to Cyanide dam and Honeyeater Picnic ground, overnight it seems a tree had come down across the road in the picnic ground so we had to park on the road. We walked in and immediately saw the beautiful white Swamp Wallaby who sat perfectly for a pose.
We walked around the dam, not much excitement, a male Red-capped Robin,a few White-naped Honeyeaters but not much else. As we finished off the loop it seemed the best part area was in the car park itself, we got a beautiful Male Rose Robin that Matt had found, another male Red-capped and a few male Scarlet's as well as a distant calling Eastern Yellow Robin.
From here we headed up the road a little and headed onto White Box Walking track, it was relatively quiet and then the rain hit, a quick run back to the cars and on the road again.....
Our next spot was to Chiltern Dam 1 which was okay still raining and still crappy weather but a pair of White-breasted Woodswallows, a few sheltering Little Lorikeets and some waterbirds made up for the constant rain.
Look at that Rain!
We walked over towards the other farmer dam and the paddock was covered in water, which the birds seem to really enjoy, Crested Shrike-tits, Grey Shrike-thrush and White-plumed Honeyeaters were hawking insects off the surface. Black- Fronted Dotterels were also seen scrurrying around the waters edge.
From Dam 1 we headed to Dam 2, opened the gate and drive along the road with the windows down but was pretty quiet, driving all the way along to the Wetland hide, we quickly scanned the waters edges and got the normal run of the mill birds, 1 lone Cattle Egret and a low flying Whistling Kite.
The water has receded alot since last time i was there in November so we were able to walk the waters edge back towards the gate. We flushed a family party of Diamond Firetails which was beautiful for everyone. There was also a very loud and friendly Restless Flycatcher which seemed to follow us around.
Back in the car the time was mid afternoon and Matt needed to go to the toilet at the Caravan Park, so we all decided while he went we would have another look for the Regent Honeyeater.
On arriving at the Flowering Ironbark Tim, Owen and myself saw a Regent, and the excitement began, people taking photos and trying to pin point it for others, it was chaotic bedlam but sort of organised. Owen was yelling to everyone “take photos!! Photos of the bands!!! Anyone get the bands!!” it reminded me of the Painted Honeyeater situation i was in at Chiltern in November, barking orders for photos!!!
Many minutes past as we followed this bird in and out of the trees, finally confirming it was the wild banded bird that Dean Ingwersen had banded at Corowa last year.
Such excitement and total exhaustion we were all content with the views. Then it happened, another Regent Honeyeater flew in, both seen in flight at the same time together on the same branch.
If the excitement could get any better, well it certainly did, photos and many more photos to confirm it was unbanded which it certainly was, a quick call to Dean and he was there, quickly pulling out his massive camera and snapping away, quickly getting the shots he was after and certainly showed us an unbanded bird!
Its hard to explain the feeling, like it was not real, but seeing it in the binoculars certainly proved that but still so surreal. Witnessing one of the most breathtaking birdwatching experiences i can ever remember, and what made it better i was with 15 other birders who have the same amount of passion ( some a little more passion) as me.
We weren't sure if we could top this and wondered if we should just call it a day now, but decided against that and headed to Fishers Lane to try and find Grey-crowned Babbler but failed, some nice birds around though and we got Common Bronzewing roosting in a tree.
Tim Nickholds decided that we should have a look at Ryans Road as he loved this place, we drove along and pulled up just at the junction of Ryans Road and the Sewage ponds. We got out of the car and there was alot of activity, Restless Flycatcher, Jacky Winter, Noisy Friarbirds, and a female Scarlet Robin.
Owen, Tim and I were walking together at this point and we all saw a small Honeyeater type bird explode from the tree in front of us and as we followed it with the eyes we all looked at each other. It was just smaller than a Little Friarbird which were around at this point, and we wondered if it could have been another Regent Honeyeater but we could not relocate this bird. Would have been nice to confirm but we were running out of light and needed to head back to camp.
All of us headed to the Pub again for dinner, another great night with many laughs. We headed off looking for Owls at around 9.15pm and as we drove down Tooveys Road we heard at least 4 Boobook Owls in the farmers Paddock on the left but was private property so decided to do the right thing and left them. We did find a massive Tawny Frogmouth before calling it a night.
A late start this morning as we had to pull down the tents, We were nearly ready to go when i had a call from Jenn just before 7am who said they have more Wild Regent Honeyeaters in the Caravan Park, but on arrival i only got a glimpse as they scurried across the lake to the island. Again many photos were taken and we are under the impression that there was now another Wild unbanded Honeyeater, making that 3 wild Regents in the Caravan Park.
We headed to the DELWP site for the Bush Stone-curlew but missed out, wasn't where we saw it last time and hopefully nothing has happened to it. We then cruised down the road to the old Great Southern rd Mine Trailings where we hoped for White-backed Swallows and we weren't to be disappointed, at least 20 of these beautiful birds were seen hawking over the fields.
White backed Swallow
A quick stop in Rutherglen for a coffee and some breakfast at the Bakery, also got many people a lifer with the Eurasian Tree Sparrow common in the courtyard of the bakery.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Another stop at Lake King in Rutherglen to try for White-breasted Woodswallows but none around, a few nice birds on the lake though. We checked out Kings Road Wetlands and we were able to find Dusky Woodswallows, more Diamond Firetails and both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes.
From here our next target was Double-barred Finch at Black Dog Creek, we failed here after searching for over an hour. Some beautiful birds around though, Peregrine Falcon, Flame Robin, Peaceful Dove and a lone Wedge-tailed Eagle getting harassed just above our heads.
We decided to give the Peechelba Cemetery Road a go, hoping for Grey-crowned Babbler and Plumed Whistling Ducks which we were lucky to observe both. A party of Grey Crowned Babblers were seen about 30 metres in off the road, a few long distance photos but such a beautiful bird.
Then we were able to see a flock of Plumed Whistling Ducks about 250 metres from the road, not a great view but could see the plumes very clearly having to resort to standing on this fallen tree for a vantage point.
We also got at least 4 Pied Butcherbirds here.
We decided to drive down a little to see if we could get a better view, not sure what spooked the birds but they exploded from the water, at least 700 Plumed Whistling Ducks circled the lake, an absolutely awesome sight.
Last stop was back to Wangaratta to have another crack at the Barking Owl for those who missed it on Friday. It was in the exact same tree on the same branch. Luckily for everyone we were able to get about 10 minutes with the bird before leaving.
An absolute crazy weekend with so many highlights and so many laughs. I cant wait to organise another camp as i reckon this was a cracker!
Ebird lists are below of birds seen on the trip.
Ps. Thanks to everyone's photos it really makes for better reading! And thanks to a great bunch of birders a truly awe inspiring trip away!