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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Northern Victoria Massive Birding Weekend with the Filthy Flockers 13-15th January 2017

What started out as a little bit of a joke between us Filthy Flockers gathered some momentum with the sighting of the Diamond Dove at Echuca late in December, we had played around with dates and finally the stars aligned and we were set to head off Friday 13th. Bill, Owen, Matt, Brad and I invited along David Adam and Dan Ashdown to accompany us on this crazy journey.
Bill arrived at my place on Thursday night just after I finished work at 5.30pm, and instead of the normal person's meet and greet, I discussed with Bill about heading to Bunyip State Forest to see if we could nail down a White-throated Nightjar. With this news I called Owen who was keen and we picked him up along the way arriving at Mortimers Picnic Ground at 7.00pm. The birds were relatively active late in the afternoon and we picked up a few nice birds, Red-browed Treecreeper, Olive-backed Oriole, Eastern Whipbird and Satin Flycatcher. We then moved onto Nichols Hut Track which is along Link Road and we had hoped to find the Cicadabird that has been seen recently, we missed on this little fella but we did get a heap of Rufous Fantails and a Crescent Honeyeater. From here we headed to the junction of Black Snake Creek Road and Ash Landing Track as this has been a good place previously for Black-faced Monarch and again it didn't disappoint!! A bird called loudly for a good few minutes as we also listened to a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling. From here we headed u Black Snake Creek Road where we pulled into the Helipad. On arrival we saw a few cars, Timbo was there as well as Karen Weil and Geoff Leslie. We were amazed at the huge moon as it rose above the treeline. It was that bright it actually cast a shadow behind us! Truly spectacular but a little frustrating as it meant we had to wait longer for the White-throated Nightjar, we had a few birds calling, Brush Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra were the most vocal. 
Finally we heard the first Nightjar call just after 9.40pm and for the next 30 minutes had at  least 5 birds calling around us, 2 birds in flight together was certainly the highlight as the meet head on and crossed paths. We had Southern Boobook calling as well as Australian Owlet-nightjar which i have found to be a difficult species at Bunyip SP. We tried on the way out for Greater Sooty Owl, but disappointingly missed on them at all locations. Bill and i arriving home at 1am!!
Work got in the way of a very long weekend birding, and as i headed to work Bill headed to the Western Treatment Plant, where he picked up a Black-tailed Godwit with the help of the Wader Whisperer Dez Hughes, funnily enough these two thought it was funny that i was missing out on birds while i was working and had the gaul to message me and rub it in!! The workday was excruciatingly long and as the clock ticked 5 i was out of there!
Quick stop at home to pack the car, Brad was already waiting at my place and we were off! We had planned on meeting up with the others at Kamarooka at the Distillery Dam. As we drove down Bendigo-tennyson Road, my eyes were fixed for birds, i noticed a bird fly over the car and told Brad to stop, above the road the White-throated Needletails were hawking insects just above the treeline. We tried in vain to get cracking photos on this tough and extremely fast species!
    White-throated Needletail
   White-throated Needletail

We arrived at Distillery Dam where the others were waiting , they too were watching the Needletails and White-browed and Masked Woodswallows. We had an hour before dark, and the tracks were ridiculously wet after a little rain making things a little sloshy. We checked out the dams, a lot of water is being help in both the dams which is a good sign for Honeyeaters over this coming summer. The highlight in the daytime hours was surely the Inland Thornbills we got on the track that heads towards Bendigo-tennyson Road. We had at least 4 birds circling us just before dusk. We did also get this Young Golden Whistler and some Weebill!
   Golden Whistler
   Weebill

The real reason we were at Kamarooka was too try our luck at finding the Spotted Nightjar at dusk. The Spotted Nightjar at Kamarooka is a sort after species and very hard too hear or see and after talking to Tim Bawden, Simon Starr and Steven Davidson during the week i had little hope we would find it. Tim had tried many a time to locate this bird in the exact same spot, the last person i knew of that had seen it was Steven on the 2015 Twitchathon and even then it was a few kms from where we stood. 
We stood and listened just sitting on the edge of the Distillery Dam, no birds were calling so i decided to play the call, instantly we had a response from near the Bee boxes. It called loudly 2 times from there before it took flight and circled behind us and called twice again. We didn't see the initial flight across, but as the bird re circled the dam the beams of our torches hit the eyes of the Spotted Nightjar as it sailed back over to the original spot. At the same time we had a Southern Boobook calling. We waited there for another 20 minutes but no other calls from any other birds were heard! Lets just say i did a few fist pumps! Its always great when something like this comes off, and to be here with 6 mates and all hearing it was truly something! 
Our next target was Eastern Barn Owl as we drove the backroads towards Goschen Bushland Reserve. As we drove along the farm roads after about 40 minutes we saw the first Eastern Barn Owl, but we stopped to far away and as we got out of the car it took flight, it was a lifer for Dan and he was able too get great views. But i wasn't happy, it wasn't the way you should see a Barn Owl, so as we kept driving Brad saw one out of his window, again stopping in a convoy didn't really work but we got out of the car and walked back about 20 metres where the Eastern Barn Owl took flight, but luckily for us it flew along to the next tree. Here it perched and allowed us some cracking views at about 10m. 



  Eastern Barn Owl

From here we headed towards Goschen, on the way i think i fell asleep for a few minutes ( sorry Brad).... Anyways Brad shoves me and said look look look, i wake up not knowing where the hell i am and see a meteor coming towards the car, the light was lite up green and purple and looked like it crashed into the paddock alongside the road. It was spectacular to watch!
We arrived at Goschen at 1am where we quickly set up camp, before heading off for the next installment! The Little Button-quail was a target for both Bill and Matt and i had high hopes after our last adventure here, where we had a beautiful female sitting pretty for us for 10 minutes.
Tonight proved a little more troublesome, not that we weren't finding the LBQ as we flushed them at least 20 times but not one landed anywhere close to where we were, usually taking flight and flying a good 50-100m from us. As we walked the cricket oval  (which you cannot see anymore because of the overgrown grass a lovely habitat for the LBQ) we just weren't getting lucky. Finally I flushed one from my feet and it only flew about 10m and dropped at the base of a small shrub. We quickly were able to circle it and it didn't subsequently take flight, allowing us too spend time with this beautiful little male!


   Little Button-quail

As you can see by the last photo ( which is mine), i decided to get down and dirty with this little beauty, i paid the consequences after as i was covered in burrs but it was so lovely too see LBQ at ground level. A few hi fives were thrown around and we ventured back to camp just before 2am. In bed just after 2am and had set the alarm for a relatively early 5am. Beep Beep Beep went the alarm and i was awake, did i even sleep i am not sure! Packed up the soggy tent and a quick coffee thanks to Brad had me raring to go! We listened to both Singing and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters calling on dawn.
   Singing Honeyeater

As the light rose we started, heading down the path towards the Community Hall, but only about halfway Owen and I heard the call of the Grey-crowned Babbler, so we chased that. We followed the calls and along the way picked up Pied Butcherbird. Finally we found the Grey-crowned Babblers, ( interestingly there only ever used to be 1 poor old sole that was associating with White-browed Babblers) they were moving from tree to tree, it was great too see a second bird now here! We did also see the family party of White-browed Babbler.



   White-browed Babbler

We continued along the new fence that has cut off the park to the large tower, picking up a few little birds to add to the day in he smaller shrubs, Yellow-throated Miner and Hooded Robins were very noticeable and vocal, and also a few pair of Greater Bluebonnets were calling and landing always about 50m away!!


   Hooded Robin
   Yellow-throated Miner

We walked back towards the Hall, the birds around here had certainly changed in the last month, the Woodswallows had seemed to have disappeared and was relatively quiet, we did pick up a young Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo on an open branch. We walked to the back of the tennis courts and were greeted with a family of Variegated Fairywrens. Such a stunning bird and a tough one in Victoria!



   Variegated Fairywren

We then tried the grasslands of the cricket pitch again and flushed more LBQ from the grass but as the same from last night they took flight and went well past a distance we could track them down. As we walked towards the trees we finally had White-browed and Dusky Woodswallows flying above and landing on open branches giving for great views!


   White-browed Woodswallows

At this point we also flushed a daytime roosting Australian Owlet-nightjar which was vocal all night and now sat out nicely for us!
  Australian Owlet-nightjar

Also around these trees we finally heard our first Rainbow Bee-eater and then were able to track them down to get a few shots! There colours are truly beautiful! You can never give them justice from photos! Also present in the wooded area was a very young Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.


   Rainbow Bee-eater
    Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

The time was starting to get on so we headed back towards the cars and the front gate, along the way seeing more Hooded Robins and a male White-winged Triller flying over. Just at this point as the other blokes were busy watching the Triller i saw what i believe to be a female Black Honeyeater. I had views with the naked eye as it flew directly above my head at about 2m and i could clearly see a small bird, white on the breast and changing slightly to brown as it got closer to throat, the overall size and the over proportioned bill to body ratio in my mind could be nothing else, but as i hadn't got bins on it and its flew over the trees and disappeared it was a bird that got away! I am 90% confident on  my id and hopefully with people visiting Goschen soon someone will be able to relocate. We checked out the Southern section hoping for Crimson Chat, we weren't that lucky!!! We did however flush another Australian Owlet-nightjar and got too see some Varied Sittella.
   Australian Owlet-nightjar

As we headed back to the cars i flushed 5 more LBQ from the southern section, i wouldn't be surprised if there is no less than 50 LBQ in and around Goschen at moment! If that's a species on your wish list i would be going tomorrow!
After seeing Scott Baker's report on Swan Hill Sewage Ponds a few weeks prior and the birds that he saw  there i thought it was worth a visit. As we hadn't been there before we found our way driving a few farm roads, pulling up to a small gate and fence which had been manipulated to allow for access. As we walked in we did not know just how much of a hot spot this little place was. As we got to the first pond we got our eyes onto a small part of Plumed Whistling-ducks which took flight as we got closer.

   Plumed Whistling-ducks

All the standard duck species were present, and Dan then got a visual on a family of Black-tailed Nativehen running on the path in front of us. We checked the next pond with the same sort of result, but we did notice a larger swamp about 200 metres away from the ponds. There seemed too be lots of action, and as we inspected the closest mudflat/ drying depression we saw Red-capped Plover and very young White-heaeded Stilts.
   Young White-headed Stilts

As we got closer to the small lake/ large pond we could see just how productive it was!
Hundreds of Red-necked Avocets were feeding on the edge of the lake, Whiskered Terns were hawking over the middle of the lake.
    Whiskered Terns

As we pushed our way through the masses of prickly Sedge we got to the shoreline. All along the shore there were birds as far as the binoculars could focus. I would not exaggerate to say there were more than 10000 birds on this lake! Nearly all duck species bar Chestnut Teal and Freckled Duck were here, a beautiful Blue-billed Duck male was parading around the middle. The shorebirds were prevalent as well, a huge party of Red-kneed Dotterels, both adult and Juveniles were feeding.

   Red-kneed Dotterel

As we scanned the shores we started to find a few waders, as we walked along we tried to identify them without flushing but was difficult as there was no shelter and as we pushed too close they would fly. As we got to a group of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers Brad and Dan picked out a beautifully coloured Pectoral Sandpiper at the back of the flock! Was a great pickup by them and not a bird i was expecting up here!

  Sharp-tailed Sandpipers on the left and Pectoral Sandpiper on right
    Pectoral Sandpiper

After the excitement of the Pectoral we cruised the shores hoping to find something rarer. There were a large flock of Marsh Sandpipers and 1 lone Common Greenshank. As we pushed our way back through the sedge we hit the grasslands that ran alongside the sedge. As we walked along we had a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite fly over.
   Black-shouldered Kite

As we watched this beauty fly around we flushed a LBQ, then another LBQ and by the end we had flushed no less than 5! Also we flushed 9 Brown Quail in the same sort of area. As we got close to the cars Matt thought he had seen White-winged Fairywren and after some searching it appeared he was correct, as we found a few adult males in full breeding plumage and a couple of females! Getting back to the cars we had amassed a whopping 50 species for here and a truly exceptional little spot! A place i will be checking every time i head to Goschen.
Our next stop was back to Lake Boga where we had hoped for an easy tick of White-breasted Woodswallow on the Power lines, and as usual it didn't fail! Didn't even need to get off the main road!
   White-breasted Woodswallows

Our next stop was Lake Tuchewop, of recent records the lake was pretty underwhelming and on arrival we noticed why, the saltpan was literally just that the whole north section was dry and the glare off the salt was hard to handle when trying to search for birds! Nothing of interest at the north side we headed towards the south, picking up a few raptors but nothing we hadn't already seen this trip.
As we drove into the south end we flushed a White-necked Heron from the farm paddock. The south section at least had some birds, mostly ducks, a few waders maybe 20+ Red-necked Stints and some Red-capped Plovers but nothing overly exciting.
Our next stop was the Middle Lake Ibis Rookery, just on the outskirts of Kerang. We stopped off and instantly had Grey-crowned Babblers in the car park. The Ibis at this place are insane, so many circling above, trying to pick a needle out of a hay stack, Owen got a female Darter. As we got to the observation tower we spotted more Grey-crowned Babblers which posed nicely for us!
   Grey-crowned Babbler

The tower/bird hide is relatively poor and visibility is somewhat limited, we saw the main suspect, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis as well as Royal Spoonbills.
   Australian White Ibis

As we were leaving we had a Peregrine Falcon fly over the colony at speed, and then a small party of Glossy Ibis circled around the colony for good views. As we left the Rookery heading towards Kerang we had a beautiful female Peregrine Falcon just above the car and was a sight too see.
A quick bite too eat at Kerang Bakery before heading towards Echuca in search of the Diamond Dove. We arrived at the spot with many cars around, a rather hot day and a weekend at the boar ramp wasn't ideal, however we searched for an hour hoping for the dove, no luck we did however have both Little and Noisy Friarbird, Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Sacred Kingfisher to add to the list.
Next stop was Terrick Terrick NP, where we were going to be camping at Mt Terrick Terrick. As we drove the roads from Echuca to Terrick Terrick we came across a beautiful Black Falcon hunting a family of Common Starling, at one point the Black Falcon was only 20m away from the car on a dive to attack a Starling, it was mesmerising to see such speed and agility and not crash head first into the ground!
   Black Falcon

Our next stop was Bendigo Creek river crossing, this area has always been good for birds and again it was pretty hot, Rufous Songlark, Peaceful Dove, Restless Flycatcher were probably the highlights however we did miss out on Grey-crowned Babbler.
   Restless Flycatcher
A non birding highlight was seeing this beast of a Lace Monitor basking itself along the Bendigo Creek, the only reason we knew he was around was the claw noises as he got comfy. A beautiful looking specimen he was!
   Lace Monitor

As we walked back to the cars i walked into a dead branch that overhung the river, out shot a Australian Owlet Nightjar!
   Australian Owlet-nightjar

We arrived at camp just on 7pm, and set up. Everyone was truly buggered by now and no one wanted to do anything, we just sat around talking and listening to birds. White-plumed Honeyeaters dominated the calling with the occasional Sacred Kingfisher or Hooded Robin thrown in. After dark we went in search of the Australian Owlet-nightjar that was calling near camp and we found it relatively easy, except that there are s many spiders at Terrick terrick it was like walking a mine field, nearly between every tree there was a spider web, all different species as well, some at ankle height and others at head! You just didn't know where too look!
   Australian Owlet-nightjar

We were in bed early at 11pm, as we had another early start! Everyone was up and packed up by 6am and slowly we got moving, about 7am we actually started to head off on foot, picking up Australian Ringneck pretty close to the camp.
   Australian Ringneck

As we walked around the base of Mt. Terrick Terrick we weren't going overly well, a few birds around but not what we were looking for, Gilbert's Whistler was no where to be found! We did however get a pair of Masked Woodswallows sitting atop of a dead tree which was a highlight!
   Masked Woodswallow

We got back to the cars and drove around the corner up towards the day picnic area, Owen and Dan had walked and on finding them they had seen Red-capped Robin, Southern Whiteface, Chestnut-rumped and Yellow Thornbills. So we followed them back to where they had seen the mixed flock and too our luck they were still around, giving great views of all the small birds!
 Chestnut-rumped Thornbill


    Red-capped Robin

   Southern Whiteface

After following these around for 30 minutes we still were missing 2 birds, the Gilberts Whistler and the Diamond Firetail. The next stop was the Mitiamo Cemetery where we picked up more Red-capped Robins and a few Diamond Firetails, we dipped on the Gilberts Whistler however which was a little disappointing,
On the road out we picked up Little Eagle just out of the park and a nice looking Brown Falcon.
    Brown Falcon

Our next stop was Kamarooka, this time in the late morning so we were hoping for some new birds. As we got close to the park, Brad and I were the first car travelling at 100km we saw 2 birds roosting in a tree about 100m from the road, in a few seconds we had worked out they were Australian Hobbies so we turned the car around too make sure of the id. We were correct and we found a family of 3 in these trees.
    Australian Hobby

We drove into Camp Road heading towards the Mulga dam, we stopped a few times along the road and picked up a few birds, mostly honeyeaters they prevalent species, we had Yellow-tufted, Yellow-plumed and Fuscous all around.
    Yellow-plumed Honeyeater

   Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

As the morning turned into the afternoon the birding got tougher, as we pulled into Mulga dam we had a few honeyeaters, a calling Crested Bellbird and a late calling Australian Owlet-nightjar. The highlight at the dam however was a Sacred Kingfisher. Its nest must have been close as it was bring food back to the young. The spider looks like a tasty morsel!
   Sacred kingfisher

We checked out Milllwood Dam but as t was nearly peak of the heat and mid 30s the birds had shut up shop and gone to the beach! We had a few Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters but overall really quiet. A quick check along Campbells Track at the white rocks spot hoping for some of the rarer honeyeaters, however that failed with no honeyeaters at all. We did find a Shy Heathwren and a flock of White-throated Needletails.
   Shy Heathwren

   Looking hard trying to find a Fork-tailed Swift!! Damn only Needletails!

A quick stop off at Distillery Dam too check, again really really quiet but by now it was mid 2.30pm and heat oppressive, we bid farewell to Matt and checked out the dams. Not much around a few lazy Common Bronzewing the highlight!
I did however get a new earring stud from one of the local bees, who took attraction to one of my ear lobes and decided too end his life suicide style as his ass ended up embedded in my ear! Not a pleasant feeling, at least the positive was i was able to hear better with an enlarged ear!!!
Our last stop was Crusoe Reservoir, where we had just found out that a few of the locals (ferals only kidding Scott you were the only normal one) had arranged too meet us there. Greg and Janice Mckay, David Livermore and Scott Eaton all bendigoites had kindly offered to take us around. We took off and found pretty quickly the Great Crested Grebes that frequent this large lake.
    Great Crested Grebe

The next bird we had good visuals of was the White-winged Trillers which are usually seen around the Pines and today was no exception. A beautiful coloured bird posed nicely for us.
    White-winged Triller

We searched and searched for the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren without any luck which was not surprising they are such little skulkers i wasn't expecting too see them! Scott however did find us a day roosting Australian Owlet-nightjar! I am not sure how many we saw over the weekend but nearly at every place we stopped!
    Australian Owlet-nightjar

Also at this spot it was rather fun, Owen heard a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike at the same time i heard the call of a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, an argument ensued and we both believed we had heard that species. To prove who was write i played the call of the White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike who responded instantly and flew over into the tree in front of us. I was feeling pretty pleased i was right!!

   White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike

But too my despise and claiming victory too early a juvenile Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flew into the same tree and was sitting only metres away from the White-bellied! So the moral of the story i am always right even if i was proved to be wrong!
We searched around for the heathwren again here but still no luck we did get good views of White-winged Chough and Peaceful Dove was probably the last bird of the day!
    White-winged Chough

   Peaceful Dove

The last photo of the day was a group of us surveying Crusoe Reservoir just in case we missed anything!
    Scott Eaton, David Adam, Philip Peel and Dan Ashdown

It was a incredible weekend, 145+ species, 1000+ kms meeting up with friends in Bendigo, adding 57 species to my year tally, camping with mates and having a good laugh at Bill sleeping arrangements! Its a blast heading away chasing birds, this trip pushed us too the limit with lots of birding, lots of driving, lots of walking (40+km) i reckon we traversed, and a bare minimum of sleep! Thanks to Brad, Bill, Owen, Matt, Dan and David for a very memorable trip north and to Greg, Janice, David and Scott thanks again for taking the time out to come and see some of the Filthy Flockers parading around your wetlands! A huge shout out to Brad for driving there was so crazy long hours we did and hats off too you for doing it with ease!!!! Thanks to David Adam, Owen Lishmund, Bill Twiss, Brad White, Matt McCrae for allowing me the use of their incredible photos! Without them the blog would be no where near as good!
Below i have attached the ebird listings from the trip! I hope you enjoy!

Kamarooka
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679711

Barn Owl
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33633551

Goschen
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679721
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679724

Swan Hill Sewage Ponds
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679727

Lake Tuchewop
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679731

Middle Lake Ibis Rookery
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679733

Echuca
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679734

Terrick Terrick NP
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679737
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679741
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679743

Kamarooka
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679749

Crusoe Reservoir
http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S33679752



4 comments:

  1. What a great trip. Thanks for posting!

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    Replies
    1. Cheers Reuben it certainly was a great trip!

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  2. Sweet! A wonderful read of a great time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasa great trip mate, soon you will be coming along!

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