A few notes on finding rare & sought-after birds in Northern Victoria

This report briefly outlines some of my personal experiences in finding some of northern Victoria’s rarer bird species i.e Red-lored Whistler and Malleefowl etc, and some sought-after bird species i.e. Emu.

Species discussed include Emu, Malleefowl, Australian Bustard, Little, Painted and Red-chested Button-quail, Spotted Nightjar, the Mallee parrots such as Major Mitchell Cockatoo, Elegant, Scarlet-chested, Mulga, Turquoise and Superb Parrot, Blue Bonnet, Redthroat, Black, Pied, Painted, Striped, Purple-gaped, Scarlet, Regent Honeyeater, Tawny and White-fronted Honeyeater, Black-eared Miner, Striated Grasswren, Mallee Emu-wren, White-winged and Splendid Fairy-wren, White-browed Treecreeper, Redthroat, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Red-lored and Gilbert’s Whistler, Slender-billed Thornbill, Orange and Crimson Chat, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Rufous Fieldwren, Southern Scrub-robin, Shy and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, Apostlebird and Little Crow.

Superb Parrot: in Victoria they are mainly recorded between September and December around Barmah National Park.

Emu
Not really rare or even uncommon, but they are a key target for many visiting international birders. Given their size, they can surprisingly be quite hard to find unless you travel to the right places to look for them. Good sites include Wyperfeld National Park such as around the Wonga Campground, and along the track to the Casuarina Campground in the north of the park. The northern section of the Murray Sunset, is good, while the closest reliable place to Melbourne to see wild Emu is the Grampians National Park, such as around Halls Gap, and they are particularly common on the western areas of the Grampians, such as around Wartook. They are also common at the Lower Glenelg National Park, Croajingolong National Park, and Wilsons Promontory National Park (although the population here is based on a release program).  

Inland Dotterel
A very rare species in Victoria. Ned’s Corner has a resident population of Inland Dotterel. They are best found by spotlighting certain tracks in the right habitat. A few years ago, while returning to my campsite at night, I nearly drove over an Inland Dotterel along the main track into the property (about half between the Stuart Hwy and the homestead, -34.197321,141.334248).

Malleefowl
Despite its size, Malleefowl can be an extremely difficult bird to find! My personal favorite spot to look is along the beginning of the Dattuck Tk, located in southern Wyperfeld National Park. I recommend parking 100 m or so up from the Ring Rd intersection (-35.596792,142.113301) and concentrate efforts on the right hand side of the track. There are several unworked Malleefowl mounds in the immediate area, one along the appropriately named Malleefowl walk, and the other 100 m or so down the Lowans Tk. In northern Wyperfeld I’ve seen them on the Wirrengren Plain Tk, in areas with open grassland intermixed with Mallee.

In Hattah-Kulkyne National Park I’ve recorded along the road into the park (early in the morning and at dusk) and along the Nowingi Tk.

An extraordinary photograph showing dozens on Malleefowl
feeding along the Ouyen-Patchewollock Rd, February 2013.
(Thanks Colleen Barnes!)

Another good spot to look is Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve (-35.218978,142.310357). Indeed this reserve probably has more Malleefowl per hectare than anywhere else in Australia.
Just west of Bronzewing, another good place to see Malleefowl is alongside the Ouyen-Patchewollock Road (-35.255222,142.17483). In January and February 2013 a staggering 84 Malleefowl were counted feeding along this road, feeding on grain beside on the roadside. They continued to be seen here in good numbers about April 2013, but then numbers dropped off. That being said, they are still regularly seen feeding in the paddocks bordering Mallee woodland close to this road, with this areas probably your best chance of seeing this endangered and unique megapode.

Australian Bustard
Very rare in Victoria, with an estimated 10 pairs. The only reliable place to see Australian Bustard in Victoria is to search the roadside farmland near the southern section of Wyperfeld in an area known as the Telopea Downs, such as near Yanac and Netherby. One spot to look is the area north of Kaniva on Arthurs Rd, between Chappel Rd and Murrawong North Rd.

Australian Bustard: Telopea Downs

Little Button-quail
Not uncommon, but unless you know where to look, they can be very difficult to find.
Fortunately there are a couple of good places to see them. One of the best is Goschen Bushland Reserve – for instance, we never failed to find them during our Twitchathon race at Goschen. The best place to look is around the old cricket field, a large grassy area on the north side of the reserve (-35.470326,143.463773). If there’s a group of you, fan out in a line and walk quietly across the cricket field. When you reach the other side, the Little Button-quail will flush. Nearby Tresco West reserve is also particularly good, especially long grassy areas in the north section around the golf course.

Another place to look is along the start of the Dattuck Tk in Wyperfeld National Park, looking in the small patches of grass beside the track.

Terrick Terrick National Park’s grassland are also excellent, particularly in the main grassland paddocks in the north-east section of the park (the area set aside for Plains-wanderer conservation). They also occur in the open grassy woodland bordering the grasslands.

Aside from that, you can see them in grassy areas in most of Victoria’s northern parks and reserve and, at time, they can be very common. On several occasions – such as at Yarrara Flora and Fauna Reserve – I’ve literally had to kick them out of the way.

Painted Button-quail
Can be quite common in Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, but also very hard to find. The best chance of seeing them is to walk around in the right habitat, open woodland with a nice leafy ground cover, particularly Box-Ironbark woodlands, and hope that you stumble across them. More often than not, they flush, and are hard to re-fiind. Look in the Chiltern section of the park; the spots I’ve seen them most has been along Ryans Rd near the Barnawatha treatment works (-36.101648,146.622244), along small valley’s to the east the White Box walk, and in the woodland immediately south of the Honeyeater Picnic Area and Cyanide Dam. Aside ftom Chiltern, in Victoria, I’ve seen them at Kooyoora State Park, Wartook State Forest and the Grampians.

Red-chested Button-quail
Very rare in Victoria, with the best chance of seeing them in Terrick Terrick National Park. With a preference for wetter areas of taller spear grass (Stipa spp.), you probably won’t encounter them in the same location as the Plains-wanderer (see below). 

Plains-wanderer
Extremely rare, Terrick Terrick National Park’s grassland in the north-east section of the park is the only reliable place to see this bird in Victoria. The only real way to see it is to contact Simon Starr from Firetail Birds Tours (http://www.firetailbirdwatchingtours.com), who will take you into Terrick Terrick to try and find them.

Barking Owl  
A rare bird in Victoria, with a preference for woodland in the north-east of the state. A good spot to look for them is in the southern side of the Chiltern section Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, such as at Honeyeater Picnic area at night (also a good spot for White-throated Nightjar) or along Hoveys Road. Closer to Melbourne, they’ve also been recorded at Kaluna Park, Painters Island Caravan Park and along the King River, near the centre of town, in Wangaratta. Near Benalla they have been heard along Killena Avenue.

Spotted Nightjar
Look for this species at dusk hawking for insects over and near a good Mallee dam. Good park to look include:

Greater Bendigo National Park: in the park a couple of good dams spring to mind, particularly in the Whipstick and Kamarooka sections, such as this small dam (-36.534709,144.336659) and the Distillery Dam (-36.548914,144.368155). In the Whipstick they also like to hawk over areas of Mallee eucalypt that have recently been cut for eucalyptus oil harvesting.

Flushed Spotted Nightjar. Nowingi Track – they fly like a
large black butterfly.

Hattah-Kulkyne National Park: probably the best places to see Spotted Nightjar in Victoria, with the best spot to look along the Mournpall Tk north of the Lake Mournpall Campground. I’ve seen them on several occasions along here, and a park ranger once told me that he’d recorded upwards of 12 Spotted Nightjar on one night in first 4 km section north of the campground! Tawny Frogmouth and Eastern Barn Owl are also quite common along this track. Also at Hattah, I’ve flushed a Spotted Nightjar during the day along the Nowingi Tk; and I’ve seen a bird fly directly through the Hattah Campground (camping next to Little Lake Hattah, located at the very end of the campground).

Wyperfeld National Park: I’ve seen several times along road into the Wonga Campground, also along the Dattuck Track, and at the Devil’s Pool on the Discovery Walk, just before Lake Brambruk.

Note: Spotted Nightjar has a distinct preference for roosting in areas with white pebbles or stones – such as along some Mallee tracks, or the ground service in the Whipstick – a surface that suits this species in terms of camouflage. The best time to see them is just on dusk, where basically they look and fly like a very large black butterfly. 

Victoria’s Inland Parrots 
Note 1: Before looking at each individual species, it’s worth noting that the Casuarina Campground in northern Wyperfeld National Park (-35.446092,142.000086) must surely be the best place in Australia to see some of our inland and Mallee parrots. An impressive seventeen species of parrot and cockatoo species have been recorded including Regent, Mulga, Blue-winged, Elegant and Red-rumped Parrot, Blue Bonnet, Mallee Ringneck, Budgerigar, Musk and Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Eastern Rosella, Cockatiel, Major Mitchell’s and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little and Long-billed Corella and Galah. In a short mornings walk around low hills around the campsite, you can virtually be guaranteed of seeing Regent and Mulga Parrot, Blue Bonnet and Major Mitchell’s – and you can throw in other species such as Emu, Splendid Fairy-wren, Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbill, Striped and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Southern Whiteface, White-browed Treecreeper and, at the right time of year, there is a chance of Black-eared Cuckoo, Crimson Chat and the woodswallows, robins and songlarks to name a few. Not bad.

Note 2: Regent Parrot, Mallee Ringneck, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and Crimson (Yellow) Rosella (ssp flaveolus) can usually be seen around the Hattah Campground. Check for Regent Parrot and Yellow Rosella in the River Red Gim near the top toilet block.

Note 3: Wymlet Tank, on the Honeymoon Hut Track in the Murray Sunset is also an excellent place to see Mulga Parrot, Regent Parrot, Mallee Ringneck and Major Mitchell Cockatoo, and I reckon this site may be the best chance of seeing Scarlet-chested Parrot in Victoria.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (Ssp C. l. leadbeateri with crimson and yellow crest)
Good spots to see Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo include northern and southern Wyperfeld National Park, particularly around the main campgrounds (Wonga and Casuarina). In northern Wyperfeld, they also occur around the Snow Drift picnic area. They also occur around Hattah Lake and Lake Mournpall campgrounds in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park.

Signs of Major Mitchell Cockatoo: Paddy Melon (Cucumis myriocarpus.

Elegant Parrot (Eastern Australian ssp. N. e. elegans)
Very rare parrot in Victoria, I’ve recorded them on the Meridian Tk in northern Wyperfeld, while the most reliable place to see them in heathland / bordering farmland the Nhill-Harrow Rd in the Little Desert National Park (-36.48145,141.654875). Note that this is also Victoria’s most reliable place to see Slender-billed Thornbill.

Scarlet-chested Parrot
Extremely rare in Victoria. There has been only several recent sightingalong the Pheenys Tk in the Murray-Sunset, on the road to Nowingi when leaving Colignan, just to the north of the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, and west of Murrayville (near Carina) on the Mallee Hwy. By my reckoning, the best chance of seeing this species in Victoria is around Wymlet Tank on the Honeymoon Track in the Murray-Sunset.

In recent years, Scarlet-chested Parrot has been a regular visitor to Birdlife Australia’s Gluepot Reserve in South Australia. I saw them there in 2012.

Mulga Parrot
Not uncommon. Prefers pure Mallee woodland, rather than bordering open woodland. Look for them in dense Mallee Wyperfeld (such as along the Malleefowl Walk), Murray-Sunset (Wymlet Tank) and Hattah-Kulkyne National Parks. Not found in the Little Desert.

Blue Bonnet (ssp. N. h. haematogaster ‘Yellow-vented Blue Bonnet’)
Not uncommon in the right habitat, good place to see them include the roads around southern Murray-Sunset National Park and Wymlet Tank, along the roads into northern and southern Wyperfeld National Park, and they also occur at Lake Tyrell (such as here -35.446984,142.867945), and they can be seen along roads between Goschen Bushland Reserve and Lake Boga, representing Australia’s southernmost population.

Australian Ringneck (ssp. B. z. barnardi ‘Mallee Ringneck’)
Not uncommon is most Mallee parks, although uncommon further south such as the Little Desert. An unusual southerly population occurs in Terrick Terrick National Park, being common around the main picnic area.

Turquoise Parrot
The best places to see this uncommon species is Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park or the Warby Ranges. In Chiltern, try Bartley’s Block or the box-ironbark woodland immediately east of Honeyeater Picnic Area, or you may simply stubble across them while moving through the park. In the Warby Ranges, try around the Forest Camp (-36.220976,146.17841) and at the old oval (a great birding spot) immediately north-west of the Forest Camp (-36.218587,146.171801). In the Warbies, I’ve also seen them at the Spring Creek Picnic Area, at Wenhams Camp, and the roadside of Devenish-Wangaratta Rd (-36.304366,146.153826).

Superb Parrot
A hard bird to find in Victoria, and it’s considered rare and endangered. The best places to look fantastic looking bird is north of Nathalia – in December and January look for them at the intersection of the Murray Valley Hwy and Picola North Rd (-35.926382,145.20637), and along Trickeys Lane, Picola North Rd, Yielima North Rd and Thorpes Lane, all just south of the Barmah National Park – along these roads there are signs indicating their significance for this species.

Note: in NSW, from winter to December they are common around Wagga Wagga, with a good place to see them being near Car Park No 7 at Charles Sturt University, where they come into drink at a series of small dams (-35.062434,147.355616), and at Berry Jerry State Forest (now part of Murrumbidgee Valley National Park), which sits on the side of Old Man Creek alongside the Sturt Hwy west of Wagga Wagga. Access to the near the toilet block, and look here (-35.053432,147.04908). They are also found along north of Wagga Wagga along the Olympic Hwy – try the roadside pull-in here (-34.959543,147.448346) or the roadside Bushland here (-35.007107,147.421222). In Wagga Wagga I’ve actually seen them flying down the main street. Around the township of Leeton is another a good spot, such as along Irrigation Way (-34.643364,146.415669). 

Yarrara Flora and Fauna

White-browed Treecreeper
This species is best found at Yarrara Flora and Fauna Reserve (-34.416752,141.429141), 80 km south-west of Mildura. A good spot to look is along Yarrara South Rd. This is just south of the large grain silo. Note that Gilbert’s Whistler also occurs here.

White-browed Treecreeper is also found at Timberoo Flora and Fauna Reserve, look along north side of Walpeup Lake (-35.195607,142.139908). There is also a small population in the White-cypress Pine at the entrance of northern Wyperfeld National Park.

Striated Grasswren (Ssp. A. s. striatus)
The most reliable site to find Striated Grasswren is along the south-end of the Nowingi Tk in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. Accessed via the Old Calder Highway about 1 km south of the Calder Hwy, drive north up the Nowingi Tk, and park in a small parking area about 100 m up (-34.692386,142.272173). Checking the Mallee woodland for the Striated Grasswren – and Mallee Emu-wren – either side of the track. One occasion I saw both species within minutes just east of where the track veer’s north-west (-34.691451,142.273741). Another, less reliable, site for Striated Grasswren is along a small fire trail that runs parallel to the Hattah-Robinvale Rd (-34.761715,142.320735). I usually park my car at the entrance to the national park, and then walk across to the fire trial.

In the Murray-Sunset National Park, they are found along the North South Settlement Rd, and immediately north-east of Pink Lakes, look for Striated Grasswren and Mallee Emu-wren are found along the north-east end of Pioneer Drive (4WD) and along the southern end of Mt Crozier Track (-35.031344, 141.754432).

A fairly stardard view of a Striated Grasswren.

Note: Striated Grasswren can be found in Gluepot Reserve in South Australia.

Note also: Striated Grasswren ssp A. s. striatus will soon be split from other subspecies of this species, become an independent species in its own right.

Mallee Emu-wren
Like Striated Grasswren, the most reliable site for Mallee Emu-wren (in Australia) is along the south-end of the Nowingi Track in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. Park about 100 m down the track, and check either side of the track (-34.692386,142.272173).

Other sites that I’ve seen Mallee Emu-wren include:
Hattah-Kulkyne National Park: along the Konardin Tk (usually several hundred meters in from the Kangaroo Fence, -34.689598,142.32277), with the main access point via the Mournpall Track near the Lake Mournpall Campground (-34.693056,142.339207).

Hattah-Kulkyne National Park: along the Warepil Lookout Walk. Again the best access is near the Lake Mournpall Campground.

Murray-Sunset National Park: in areas of Spinifex (Triodia) along the Last Hope Track, looking for them in the first section of good Mallee woodlands, west of the township of Hattah. Note that this areas is readily accessible via 2WD.

Some tips of seeing Striated Grasswren and Mallee Emu-wren
In most cases that I’ve seen Grasswren and Emu-wren they’ve been in areas that have large tussocks of Spinifex combined with clumps of low growing Mallee eucalypts. Easily the best time to see them is just after dawn. From my experience I’ve found there’s a couple of basic techniques for locating them:

•    Firstly walk very slowly and listen very carefully for their high-pitched weak call;
•    Secondly, walk quickly, covering more territory, stopping whenever you think you hear something, and then listen carefully. Note that this is a particularly good technique to see Grasswren sp. generally, which tend to move away when approaching.

White-winged Fairy-wren (mainland ssp M. l. leuconotus).
White-winged Fairy-wren is a salt-bush specialist, often occurring in this type of habitat bordering saline inland lakes.  Good sites include Lake Tyrrell (-35.442246,142.828614) near Sea Lake, Lake Tutchewop (-35.519391,143.740264) near Lake Boga and the Kerang Treatment Pond and Fosters Swamp (-35.734512,143.944091) immediately east of Kerang.

At Ned’s Corner they’re common along the road into the Homestead and camping area, with a resident family immediately behind the main shower block (-34.140927,141.32585).

Splendid Fairy-wren (Eastern ssp M. s. melanotus ‘Black-backed Wren’)
Not uncommon in the right habitat – open woodland intermixed with a layer of scrubs, usually bordering Mallee woodlands. One place to look is the small hillside immediately east side of the Casuarina Campground in northern Wyperfeld (-35.446092,142.000086), as well as the ti-tree shrubland along Lake Brambruk walk in southern Wyperfeld (-35.577213,142.051824), In Hattah-Kulkyne National Park they occur at the very beginning of the Konardin Tk, immediately after/inside the kangaroo fence (-34.691415,142.332675).

Redthroat
The only reliable site in Victoria to find Redthroat is in southern Wyperfeld National Park along the Discovery Walk to Lake Brambruk. The walk starts at the Wonga campground near the toilet block. Best spot is in the small Mallee and tea tree shrubland dominated small valley just before you reach Lake Brambruk – just after you leave the Devil’s Pools (-35.568076,142.065291). The can also be seen earlier on this walk in the tea tree shrubland on the first hillside at the start of the Discovery Walk (-35.580023,142.059798). I’ve also seen them in similar habitat along Wyperfeld’s Desert Walk.

Black Honeyeater   
Black Honeyeater can usually be seen at Goschen Bushland Reserve (-35.472248,143.459911), particularly just west of the tennis court and near the communication tower. The best time to see them here is spring and summer, particularly when Long-leaf Emu-bush (Eremophila longifolia) or Berrigan is in flower. Nearby, they are also found at Tresco West Bushland Reserve, located immediately south-west of the township of Lake Boga (-35.485222,143.617655). The best spot to look is the south-east corner – which can be accessed via a track from Lalbert Rd (-35.485257,143.605726) or from the east side, via Wilson and Winery Rd (-35.486803,143.620779). I usually access from the Lalbert Rd end and leave via Winery Rd. Under the right conditions, they can be quite common here. For instance on one occasion I flushed several bird as I was opening my car door. If you miss Black Honeyeater at either Goschen or Tresco West, there is a really nice section of Eremophila along Long Lake Rd (at -35.45727,143.60525), access via the Ultima-Lake Boga Rd, immediately north of Round Lake. In spring summer White-winged Triller are also usually seen here.

(Note: Tresco West Bushland Reserves is also a good site for Little Button-quail – looking at the north section of the reserve, near the golf course. Both Goschen and Tresco are also a good sites to see Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Crimson Chat, Zebra Finch, Rainbow Bee-eater, Masked and White-browed Woodswallow, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Variegated Fairy-wren, Yellow-throated Miner, while Blue Bonnet and Pied Butcherbird occur along the roadside in the area and, in summer, White-breasted Woodswallow can be seen roosting on the power lines in Lake Boga.)

Another excellent place to see Black Honeyeater is a very small roadside reserve known at Gama Reserve (-35.533981,142.530257). It’s located on the corner of Gama Sea Lake Rd and Sunraysia Highway. White-fronted Honeyeater also visit this little roadside reserve.

Another place I’ve seen Black Honeyeater in Victoria was in Wyperfeld National Park along the Lake Brambruk walk. This was actually first place I ever saw this iconic species; a very memorable birding moment, in succession I saw Redthroat, Black Honeyeater and Black-eared Cuckoo, each in turn a new species for me!

Other spots in Victoria I’ve also recorded Black Honeyeater have been Greater-Bendigo National Park, Chiltern National Park, Terrick Terrick National Park, Yarrara Bushland Reserve (nth of Murray-Sunset) and Glenlee Flora and Fauna Reserve (nth of Little Desert) and along Trinita Rd (-34.899853,142.256016) in the Murray Sunset National Park. Most of these later sites are not the normal haunts for this highly nomadic species; their presence is more reflective of their irregular migration patterns, where they follow flowering plants such as Eremophila and eucalypts such as Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon).

Pied Honeyeater
Goschen Bushland Reserve is also the site for Pied Honeyeater, however it’s considered one of Victoria’s rarest nomadic visitors, and an irregular visitor to this site. Remarkably, in the spring/summer of 2009 and 2012 they were one of the most common honeyeater at Goschen! I’ve also recorded them at Murray-Sunset National Park along Trinita Rd (-34.899853,142.256016), access via the Calder Hwy, 13 km south of the Hattah. Trinita Rd is a great spot to go birding.

Scarlet Honeyeater
A bird not normally found in northern Victoria until recently – their normal range it eastern Victoria, being moderately common in Croajingolong National Park in summer. Recently, however, a population has sprung up in Chilern-Mt Pilot National Park, and seem to be resident year round. I’ve seen them Mt Magenta Mine and at Frog’s Hollow.  

White-fronted Honeyeater
Both Gama Reserve and Goschen Bushland Reserve (mentioned above) are both good sites for White-fronted Honeyeater however, from experience, the most consistent site to see this species in Victoria are: in the Little Desert National Park, such as in the heathland along the Nhill-Harrow Rd, or near Salt Lake; the Whipstick heathland in the north section of Greater Bendigo National Park; along the Desert and Discovery Walks in Wyperfeld National Park, particularly when the heath is flowering; along Trinita Rd in the Murray Sunset National Park; and they are occasionally quite common in the fruit orchards around Mildura.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater 
With a preference for similar habitat to White-fronted Honeyeater, they can usually be seen at all the sites mentioned about. Unlike White-fronted Honeyeater, they also like coastal heathland. 

Striped Honeyeater
This species can sometimes be found in the River Red Gums alongside the Murray River between Mildura and the South Australian border, with a good spot to look for them at Ned’s Corner (-34.139266,141.325804).

There is also several resident pairs of Striped Honeyeater in the Casuarina Campground in northern Wyperfeld National Park. One year, they nested immediately next to the toilet block (-35.445533,141.995639). Listen for their call, somewhat similar to Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. 

Purple-gaped Honeyeater
An uncommon species with a preference for Mallee woodland. They have a distinct preference for the Mallee-Broombush. Look for them at the:

Little Desert. Check along the track into the Kiata Campground on the Kiata South Rd, and along Kiata South Rd). Another good spot is the water bore 2 km south of the Kiata Campsite (-36.465351,141.796628) accessed via the Salt Lake Track). They are also found in the Big Desert, such as the Big Billy Bore.

Greater Bendigo National Park: occurring in the Whipstick section, for example along the Eaglehawk-Neilborough Rd, and in the ‘Kamarooka’ section, such as along the track to the Distillery Dam (-36.54719,144.371485), accessed via the Bendigo-Tennyson Rd.

Grey-fronted Honeyeater
Extremely rare in Victoria. They only real chance you have of seeing them is in the far-west section of the Big Desert, such as near Big Billy Bore camping and picnic area on the Murrayville-Nhill Rd, although much of this area has been burnt out. Look in areas of Desert Banksia heath, where there are clumps of Slender-leaf Mallee. In 1982, seven birds were recorded 15 km north of Millewa South Bore, in Dumosa Mallee Scrub, so that area is a good place to search.

Painted Honeyeater
Usually located by hearing it distinctive ‘georgie, georgie’ call, in  spring and summer there are a couple of good place to look:

Chiltern National Park: in spring and summer look in the ironbark trees with large clumps of Mistletoe around Bartley’s Block (-36.124643,146.610155).

Dunach Conservation Reserve: looking in the trees with clumps of Mistletoe on the south side of the reserve (-37.255652,143.731479), and around a small dam here (-37.256669,143.734853). The reserve is accessed via the Ballarat-Maryborough Rd.

Warby Range State Park: I’ve also seen them in the Killawarra section of the Warbies, at the Forest Camp (-36.220976,146.17841) and at the old oval (a great birding spot) immediately north-west of the Forest Camp (-36.218587,146.171801).

Terrick Terrick National Park: on a Twitchathon my team found them breeding at the base of the north side of Mt Terrick.  

Regent Honeyeater
Extremely rare and Critically Endangered. The have a distinct preference for Box-Ironbark woodland that borders a woodland dam. The best places to look are:

Chiltern National Park: concentrate you search around Green Hill Dam, Honeyeater Picnic Area and Cyanide Dam, Bartley’s Block, Magenta Mine along any of the parks tracks such as Green Hill Rd, Klotz Track – areas that have been the focus of a re-introduction program in the last few years.

Warby Ranges State Park: an excellent area for birdwatching is around
Forest Camp, located in the more northerly Killawarra section of the park, where there is a chance of seeing Regent Honeyeater.

Black-eared Miner
Extremely rare in Victoria. There is a scattering of Black-eared Miner through the Murray-Sunset National Park. A core area to look is around the intersection of the Pheeny’s Tk and Underbool Tk. They have also been recorded just west of Wymlet Tank on Honeymoon Hut Tk, 4.7 kilometers west of the intersection of Meridian Rd (-34.918874,141.968629, a site for Red-lored Whistler – see below). They can also found at the Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve, looking for them in the central parts of the park.

Note: the main place to see this species in South Australia at Birdlife Australia’s Gluepot Reserve, and I’ve also seen them in Ngarkat Conservation, along the Bordertown Pinnaroo Rd.

Chestnut-crowned Babbler
The Mournpall Tk at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park is an excellent place to look for Chestnut-crowned Babbler, particularly in open grassing area with isolated stands of native pines. Families usually consist of 10 birds or more. Check also along the Bitterang Tk, also good track to Apostlebird. Chestnut-crowned Babbler are also found at Ned’s Corner, look in the flat saltbush plains just before you get to the homestead, while White-winged Fairy-wren are also common here.
There is also an extremely isolated small family of Chestnut-crowned Babbler in the north section of Terrick Terrick National Park immediately north-west of Reigal Rock.

Grey-crowned Babbler
For some time they were resident at the Murtoa Golf Course near MMM, particularly in native pines on the west side, for example, they nested near the 14th hole!

They are found around the bird hide at Reedy Lake 5km north of Kerang on the Murray Valley Hwy. And I’ve also seen them on the Loddon River just west of the Kerang, on the eastern side of the river, where the Murray Valley Hwy crosses the Loddon.

Another spot I’ve seen them is near the along the Kimbolton kiosk and the levee bank at Lake Eppalock near Bendigo.

They also occur along Old Lurg Rd, near Grant Rd and Winton-Lurg Rd intersection. Near Peechelba, they occur along Cemetery Rd in the grassy Grey Box woodland area.

Perhaps the most famous population in Victoria is along Fisher Lane on the north side of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park.

Near Barmah forest, they occur along the roads where you normally search for Superb Parrot, such as along Trickey’s Lane and Lyles Rd.

In all cases, look for signs of their roosting nest in the trees along roadside.  

Red-lored Whistler
A very rare species and, twitching-wise, one of Australia’s most sought-after species. The most accessible site to see Red-lored Whistler and the place I have most often recorded Red-lored Whistler is along the Honeymoon Hut Track, particularly west of where it intersects with Meridian Road, most reliably between 4 to 6 kilometers west of the Meridian Rd (such as 4.7 km west). On most occasions I’ve seen birds on the north side of the road, foraging and calling mainly from the ground. The best method for finding Red-lored Whistler is to stop every 100 meters or so in the appropriate habitat and listen for its distinctive call.

This site is readily accessible for people who are staying at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. Also, although the tracks are all dirt with several sandy rises, they are generally OK for soft 4WD (such as Subaru Forester or Nissan XTrail) during dry periods.

You can access this site from two directions:

•    Firstly via the excellent Trinita Track (a really good birding spot and strangely not shown in the national park notes), which heads west from the Calder Highway 15 km south of the township of Hattah. Follow this track for approximately 20 kilometres, then turn left into Galah North Road, and then right into the Honeymoon Hut Track, which takes you past Wymlet Tank and to the Meridian Road intersection. From there drive 4.7 km west along the Honeymoon Hut Track.

•    Secondly from Walpeup drive north up Meridian Road, and then turn left once you reach the Honeymoon Hut Track, and drive ~4.7 km.

Honeymoon Hut Track, southern Murray Sunset National Park

Some tips for finding Red-lored Whistler

Recent research indicate that Red-lored Whistler has a very specific habitat preference.  Firstly, this habitat consists of Mallee woodlands that has a sparse open canopy with two to five metres Mallee trees such as White Mallee (Eucalyptus dumosa). Secondly this habitat includes a moderately dense shrub layer, a mosaic of species such as Callitris, Allocasuarina, Banksia, Baeckea, Melaleuca and Leptospemum. Thirdly, an important factor is the presence of occasional tussocks of Spinifex (Triodia scariosa) and occasional sand dunes. It is worth noting that Red-lored Whistler rarely occurs in tall Mallee, i.e. with trees that exceed 5 metres.

In essence, Red-lored Whistler like Mallee woodlands that contains native pines and have a ground cover dominated Spinifex and occasional sand dunes. They do not like Mallee woodland on the plains with tall Mallee trees.

It is also worth noting that fires are a dominant part of the Mallee landscape and are a major factor in determining the nature and distribution of vegetation and, therefore, the presence of Red-lored Whistler.  Fire age i.e. when was the Mallee last burnt largely determines were you can or can’t see Red-lored Whistlert. Their response to fire depends on the changes in vegetation structure, such as leaf litter, Spinifex cover and tree barks, all affected by fire, and all recover in slightly differing time-frames.

In the Murray-Sunset, Red-lored Whistler tends to favour early post-fire, intermediate post-fire and long-unburnt age-classes i.e. vegetation which exhibits a post fire age of between 5 to 50 or more years. Recent studies suggests that the fire age-class of moderate age, i.e. 21 to 44 years since the last fire is of greatest importance to Red-lored Whistler.

It is worth remember that some of areas in central Murray-Sunset are very remote and 4×4 drive only. Carry extra water, fuel and good maps etc (see http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/resources05/05_0402.pdf), and tell someone where you are going.

Gilbert’s Whistler
Terrick Terrick National Park is a very reliable site to see Gilbert’s Whistler. Look around the picnic area and the base of the rock (-36.167649,144.242343), although they are found throughout the park. When I’ve camped there, it’s often one of the first birds I hear calling in the dawn chorus.

They are also quite common in at Yarrara Bushland Reserve (-34.416752,141.429141) 80 km west of Mildura, and at Timberoo Flora & Fauna Reserve (-35.199938,142.144607), 20 km south-west of Ouyen. Both sites also good reserves for seeing White-browed Treecreeper.

You can also find Gilbert’s Whistler in Wyperfeld National Park: look the beginning of the Dattuck Tk, between the track and the base of the Eastern Lookout (-35.596112,142.111537). 

Little Desert National Park: Nhill-Harrow Rd. A good spot to find
Slender-billed Thornbill, and there’s a chance of Elegant Parrot.

Slender-billed Thornbill
The most accessible site to see Slender-billed Thornbill is the Banksia heathland bordering farmland on the Nhill- Harrow Rd in the Little Desert National Park (-36.480984,141.653892). This area is ~2 km south of the Stringybark Walk. Walk around until you find them – this can take a little time. Shy Heathwren, Rufous Fieldwren, White-fronted and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater can also be seen in this area, and there is a chance of Elegant Parrot. Another spot to look for Slender-billed Thornbill in the Little Desert is the knee high heath around Salt Lake (-36.532312,141.802293) on the Salt Lake Track – please note that this track in is very sandy and accessible by 4×4 only! 

Orange Chat
At Lake Tyrrell (when entering near Salt Lake) during spring and summer you can usually see Orange Chat, particularly on the right hand side of the (racing) track that leads east from the lookout. Blue Bonnet, Blue-winged Parrot, Rufous Fieldwren, Brown Songlark, White-winged Fairy-wren and Black-faced Woodswallow also occur at Lake Tyrrell.

In spring they also occur at Lake Tutchewop, best seen in the salt-bush habitat on the west side of the lake (-35.512544,143.740114).

Crimson Chat on Meridian Track,
Wyperfeld National Park

Crimson Chat
A nomadic species that turns up in Victoria every few years. The Meridian Tk in northern Wyperfeld can be a good spot to see them, particularly between the Wool Track and the Casuarina Campground. Also along the Jenkins Track between Kelly’s Lookout and Mount Jenkins. The open woodland areas of Murray-Sunset National Park can also a good place to see them, such as along Trinita Tk. In good years, Goschen Bushland Reserve can also be a good spot to see them.

Note: Crimson Chat are generally regarded as an indicator species for good times to go birding in northern Victoria i.e. when Crimson Chat are present across north-west Victoria (spring/summer) then it’s going to be a good year bird-wise . Other indicator species are good numbers if Rufous Songlark, White-winged Triller, Budgerigar, Cockatiel and Black Honeyeater.

Chestnut Quail-thrush

Chestnut Quail-thrush can be quite common at Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve. On one occasion, I recorded no less than 12 separate Chestnut Quail-thrush on a walk through Bronzewing. Listen for their high-pitch contact call, and then walk quietly in that direction. Note Bronzewing is an isolated reserve, and the tracks in the reserve 4×4 only. They are also relatively common in the Mallee woodland areas along the walk to Lake Brambruk in Wyperfeld National Park – again listen for the high-pitched call.  The can be also quite common at the Murray-Sunset such as in the along Trinita Rd, just west of the Calder Hwy.  

Note: probably the place where they are most common in Australia is Gluepot Reserve, regularly seen walking of the road on the drive into the reserve, and common around the Babbler campground. 

Rufous Fieldwren
Like Orange Chat, the main site in Victoria to see Rufous Fieldwren in the saltbush/samphire around Lake Tyrrell. Access the lake via Bailey’s Rd just north of Sea Lake. Look in a fenced Blue Bush re-vegetation zone north of the lookout, and south of Lake Tyrrell Rd (-35.443898,142.8281). Rufous Fieldwren have a delightful complex call, which usually indicates its position. Note that, aside from Orange Chat, this area is also a good place to see White-winged Fairy-wren, Blue Bonnet and Black-faced Woodswallow.

The other main Victoria site for this species is areas of saltbush/samphire in the Little Desert National Park, with a good spot to search along near Red Gum Swamp (-36.559084,141.626036) and along the Phillips Tk (-36.530261,141.643803, 8.8 km south of the Little Desert Nature Lodge) and near the intersection of the Nhill–Harrow Rd and McDonald Hwy (really just sandy track) 14.7 km south of the Little Desert Nature Lodge).
 
Apostlebird
There are several large families at both the Hattah and Mournpall campgrounds at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. You can also see them along the tracks in the northern section of the Hattah. I have also recorded on the suburban edge of Mildura, such as along Dow Ave – the Rd opposite the airport.

Southern Scrub-robin
There are a number of good sites for this bird, which is best found via its distinctive call. They tend to prefer closed scrub near and around Mallee. The Discovery Walk to Lake Brambruk is excellent, particularly between the Mt Mattingly Lookout and the Devils Pools. They also occur along the Dattuck and Lowans Tk.

There is usually a pair of Southern Scrub-robin just east of the Kiata Campground in the Little Desert National Park – look in the largest clumps of shrubs (-36.447765,141.800728), and they are common at Snape Reserve, a Trust for Nature property adjacent to the Little Desert, on the Old Racecourse Rd.
The closest spot to Melbourne that I’ve found them has been just north of Inglewood towards Kingower, along the Old Inglewood Rd near Kurting Rd and Bacon Rd. I’ve also seen them in Kooyoora State Park, such as at the intersection of Breakwater Rd and Kirwans Rd (both really just tracks).

Shy Heathwren
This can be quite a common bird in the Mallee, but as the name suggests it can be very shy. They respond very well to pishing or call playback. They are common in the Little Desert at most of the Mallee sites. They are also common at Wyperfeld, Hattah and the Murray Sunset in most areas of Mallee. For example, they can be easily seen at the south end of the Dattuck Track and along the Lowans Track. Shy Heathwren are also quite common in Bendigo’s Whipstick (part of the Greater Bendigo National Park), for example in the heath along the Eaglehawk-Neilborough Rd.

Chestnut-rumped Heathwren
A very hard species to get onto. I have known birdwatcher who’ve birded in an area for years (often an area they regard as their ‘local patch’, but not known that Chestnut-rumped Heathwren occur there. They can be seen just south of Bendigo, for example in the Salomon Gully Flora Reserve, literally 2 km from the CBD of Bendigo. They are also found Mandurang south block, part of the southern section of the Greater Bendigo National Park, as well as Sedgwick State Forest and around Diamond Hill Rd.

One of the best place to look along the road to the lookout on Mt Ida, part of Heathcote-Graytown National Park.

Recently I also found a population of Chestnut-rumped Heathwren just west of the Wartook near the Grampians, along the Old Adelaide Rd (-37.069355,142.273718). They are also relatively common at Jilpanger Flora and Fauna Reserve (-36.944953, 141.756477); but note, this reserve that can be tricky to find.

Ground Cuckoo-shrike
In 2002 I saw Ground Cuckoo-shrike near the beginning of the Dattuck Tk in the southern section of Wyperfeld National Park, while in 2006 and 2007 Ground Cuckoo-shrike they were recorded along the Lake Mournpall Loop in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, in the section of the track that follows the northern edge of Lake Mournpall.

Little Crow
A resident population exists at the Mildura Tip. I have also recorded them in scattered locations around the far north section of Victoria, such as the Red Cliffs Meringur Rd and near Wymlet Tank in the Murray Sunset National Park. Listen for their distinctive call, and look for their white down feathers.

Double-barred Finch
Once very rare in Victoria, although in the last couple of years they have been recorded with greater regularity, for example birds have been turning up at Chiltern Valley No 2 Dam, Tooborac, Talgarno, Towong Gap, Black Dog Creek at Lilliput and Indigo Valley Rd Barnawartha. Perhaps the only reliable site to see them is on the outskirts of West Wodonga along Felltimber Creek Road at, and opposite, a small vineyard (-36.1296,146.8286).

Good luck.

Tim Dolby

PS: if you are looking for an excellent professional bird guide to the northern Victoria I can personally recommend both Simon Starr, from Firetail Birds Tours, (http://www.firetailbirdwatchingtours.com) and Michael Ramsey (from Bronzewing Birding Services (http://www.bronzewingbirdingservices.com).

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