Terrick Terrick National Park (Victoria)

Terrick Terrick National Park is a fantastic Victorian birding location. It was a must visit site for my  Twitchathon team when travelling through northern Victoria, and a good friend of mine, Greg Oakley, liked it so much he got married there!  The park is a superb area of open grassy woodlands that’s dominated by White Cypress-pine (Callitris columellaris glaucophylla), one of the last remaining significant forests of its type in Victoria – with most of the trees reaching to about 30 m high. While the other great feature of the park is the almost unique grasslands area in the north-east of park, the area where the endangered Plains Wanderer is found.

Birdwise it has significant population of Plains Wanderer, Grey-crowned, White-browed and Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Mallee Ringneck, Hooded and Red-capped Robin, Gilbert’s Whistler, Diamond Firetail, Peaceful Dove, and honeyeaters such as Black-chinned, Painted and Black Honeyeater.

Yellow Thornbill. Image Greg Oakley.

How to get there
Terrick Terrick National Park is located 225 km north west of Melbourne. From Bendigo take the Loddon Valley Hwy to Eaglehawk turning right to Mitiamo at the Bendigo-Pyramid Rd. Mitiamo is 60 km north of Bendigo. The park is 4 km north of Mitiamo and can be entered at several points off Forest Rd.

Plants
In general the look and feel of the forests of Terrick Terrick reminds me of the Cypress-pine forests in the Flinders Ranges, particularly those around Wilpena Pound. The park supports a wide range of rare and endangered plant species, with the largest known Victorian populations Annual Buttons (Leptorhynchos scabrous, once thought extinct in Victoria), Slender Darling-pea (Swainsona murrayna),  Fragrent Lee-orchid (Prasophyllum suaveolens) and Pepper Grass (Panicum laevinode).

Aside from White Cypress-pine, other trees here include Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora, probably Australia’s best bird and bee attracting tree), Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata); and Buloke (Allocauarina leuhmannii),  Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and larger shrubs such Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa), Gold-dust Wattle (Acacia acinacea), Deane’s Wattle (Acacia deanii), Weeping Pittosporum (Pittosporum angustifolium) and Desert Cassia (Senna artemisioides ssp. zygophylla).

Some of the more common woodland flowers include Clustered Everlasting ( Chrysocephalum semipapposum) and Golden Everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum), while around the rocky outcrops look for Snowy Mint-mush (Prostanthera nivea), Rock Correa (Correa glabra), Nodding Blue-lily (Stypandra glauca) and the delightful purple-blue Rock Isotome (Isotoma axillaris). In the wet gullies, mainly on the north eastside of Mt Terrick Terrick, you may find Swan Greenhood (Pterostylis cycnocephala) and Woolly Cloak Fern (Cheilanthes lasiophylla).   

Rainbow Bee-eater. Image Greg Oakley.

In terms of flowers, there is an array of color from Broughton Pea (Swainsona procumbens), Red Swainson-pea (Swainsona plagiotropis), Dwarf Bluebush (Maireana humillima), Bottle Bluebush (Maireana excavata),  Drumsticks (Pycenosorus globosus), Paper Sunray (Rhodanthe corymbiflora), Pink Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus exaltatus), Bulbine Lilly (Bulbine bulbosa), and Lemon Beauty Heads (Calocephalus citreus).

While the native grassees in the park include Wallaby Grass ( Austrodanthonia and Amphibromus spp), Spear Grass (Austrostipa spp), Pepper Grass (Panicum laevinode) and Rye Beetle-grass (Tripogon logiiformis), Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata), Wire Grass (Aristida ramosa) and
Yam Daisy (Microseris lanceolata).

The endangered Plains Wanderer.  I took this photograph in Terrick Terrick’s grassy plains.

The Birds
In terms of birding – as an indication of how good the Terrick Terrick is – on one particularly morning the dawn chorus I heard from the campground (indeed all the birds heard prior to me getting out of my sleeping bag!) were Gilbert’s and Rufous Whistler, Mallee Ringneck, Red-rumped Parrot, Diamond Firetail, Laughing Kookaburra, Peaceful Dove, Southern Whiteface, Mistletoebird, White-plumed Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thush, Willy Wagtail, Tree Martin (nesting next to the tent), Brown Treecreeper, Striated Pardalote, White-browed Babbler and White-winged Chough. Does it get any better than that! Wonderful stuff.

The best time to visit the park is spring – around late August to Novemeber, particularly if you want to catch the peak flowering and birding times. Although other times of the year, aside from mid-summer also also very pleasant and excellent birding.

The very pleasant picnic area, located at the base of Mt Terrick Terrick.

The inclusion of the grassland areas into the national park was a major reason for the resent inclusion of Terrick Terrick National Park as an international Important Birding Area (IBA). The grasslands were farmed by the Davies family on a low-input basis. For nearly 100 years they grazed stock at conservative levels, and they felt no need to use fertilisers or chemicals, or plough the land. This was very fortunate for animals and plants such as Plains Wanderer and the Hooded Scaley-foot, Fragrent Lee-orchid and Annual Buttons.  A list of the grassland species recorded at Terrick Terrick include Plains Wanderer, Little and Red-chested (rare) Button-quail, Stubble Quail, Australian Pratincole (uncommon), Banded Lapwing, Inland Dotterel (rare), Brown Songlark, Horsfield’s Bushlark and Eurasian Skylark.

A quick list of the woodland birds in the park includes: Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Pallid and Black-eared Cuckoo, White-backed Swallow, Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Peaceful Dove, Painted Button-quail, Brown Quail, Common Bronzewing, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Brown Treecreeper, Restless Flycatcher, White-browed, Dusky and Masked Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous Songlar, White-winged Triller, Varied Sittella, Crested Shrike-tit, Gilbert’s Golden and Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole, White-winged Chough, Jacky Winter, Flame Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Red-capped and Hooded Robin, Diamond Firetail, Mistletoebird, Western Gerygone, Southern Whiteface, Thornbills such as Buff-rumped, Chestnut-rumped, Yellow, Yellow-rumped. Honeyeater I’ve seen include Black-chinned, Black and Painted Honeyeated (the last two nesting at the base of the Mt Terrick Terrick), as well as Noisy and Little Friarbird (both uncommon at Terricks).

Red-capped Robin. Terricks is probably the closest reliable site to Melbourne to see this species. Image Greg Oakley.

Interestingly the Terricks is also one of the only places in Australia where you can see three species of Babbler in one area, with White-browed Babbler quite common across the park, there’s a small party of Chestnut-crowned Babbler north-west of Riegals Rock, and there are several happy families of Grey-crowned Babbler along Bendigo Creek.

The park, and the surrounding grass and farmland hold a wide selection of birds of prey. On a two day survey for Birdlife Australia we recorded fourteen species of raptors: Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, Black, Whistling and Black-shouldered Kite, Swamp and Spotted Harrier, Brown Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk,  Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Brown, Black and Peregrine Falcon. Grey Falcon (very rare in Victoria) has also been recorded nearby, at the Mt Hope Flora and Fauna Reserve. At night listen for nightbirds such as Barn Owl, Southern Boobook, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Tawny Frogmouth and there are several recent records of Spotted Nightjar.

Between September 2010 and February 2011, much of Victoria was affected by floods. It was unfortunate for the farming communities but, in terms of birdlife, it brought an abundance of waterbirds to the region, such as Brolga, Plumed Whistling Duck, Australian Shelduck, White-necked and Whitefaced Heron, Black-tailed Native-hen, Spotted Crake, Red-kneed Dotterel, Australasian Grebe, Australian Reed-Warbler and Little Grassbird.

GOOD BIRDING SITES AT TERRICK TERICK NATIONAL PARK

Mt Terrick Terrick (picnic Area, around the northern base – and the top)
Around the picnic area and northward around the base of the rock (-36.168949,144.244339) on a good day you should record Mallee Ringneck, Diamond Firetail, Gilbert’s Whistler (they seem to a preference for Cherry Ballart), Rainbow Bee-eater (summer), Ducky Woodswallow, Rufous Songlark (mainly summer – although in some years they over-winter), Red-capped Robin, Mistletoebird, Sacred Kingfisher, Restless Flycatcher, and Yellow, Buff-rumped and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill.

The Plains Wanderer must one of the only birds in Australian that can attract a birding  paparazzi (supervised by Parks Vic).

Moving north around the base of the rock look for Southern Whiteface ( -36.165761,144.243749), usually feeding with Yellow-rumped and Buff-rumped Thornbill in the small shrubland. On one of the twitchathons I recorded Painted Honeyeater nesting in a large Yellow Box on the north side of Mt Terrick Terrick. I’ve also recorded Western Gerygone nesting in a similar area. Look out also for Eastern Yellow Robin – this is basically the north-west boundary of this forest dwelling species.

From the top of Mt Terrick Terrick you command broad views across the northern Victorian plains. Unfortunately most of the native vegetation has been cleared, and what remains is fragmented into small islands in a vast sea of farmland. From the keep your eyes open for raptors such Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, and there is a chance of Black and Peregrine Falcon. There are occasional report of White-throated Neddletail and Fork-tailed Swift, atlhouh you are much more likely to see Tree Martin. The top is a also a great place to see flowering Rock Isotome (Isotoma axillaris). 

Mitiamo Cemetery
A classic peripheral zone, that can be rich in bird species, the area around the old Mitiamo Cemetery is typical of Pine-Box grassy woodland. It’s located alongside the boundary fence on  Cemetary Track (see -36.175574,144.244369). Here you’ll find a nice mix of Slender and White Cypress Pine, Yellow and Grey Box and Cherry Ballart, with the odd patch of Buloke. This is a good site for Gilbert’s Whistler, Australian Ringneck, Peaceful Dove, Hooded Robin, Jacky Winter, Yellow Thornbill, particularly on the east side of the Cemetery.

White-winged Triller. Image Greg Oakley.

Woodland north of Riegal Rock
Located on the north side of the park (-36.12661,144.243143), the woodland immediately north and north-west of Riegal Rock, is a great place to see woodland species such as Mallee Ringneck, Cockatiel, woodswallows such as Dusky, White-browed and Masked, Diamond Firetail, Peaceful Dove, Painted Button-quail, Hooded and Red-capped Robin, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Gilbert’s Whistler, Brown Treecreeper, White-winged Chough, White-winged Triller, Rufous Sonlark, Varied Sitella, White-browed Babbler and honeyeaters such as Black-chinned, Brown-headed and White-plumed. This is also the only area where you may find an isolated population of Chestnut-crowned Babbler, with the nearest established populations several hundred kilometres further north (such as in northern Hattah-Kulkye National Park). Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) and Gould’s Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldi) also occur in this area.

In the finge habitat along Regal Rd you can find moving flock of smaller passerines such as Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Southern Whiteface, Rainbow Bee-eater, Restless Flycatcher, and in spring and summer this is a reliable habitat for Brown Songlark, Pallid and, less commonly, Black-eared Cuckoo. I’ve also seen several large Gould’s Sand Monitor in the north side of the park.

Note that another good area for woodland species is located in the middle of the park – at the intersection of the Molaga-Echuca Rd and the Mitiamo Forest Rd (-36.156831,144.224319). 

Grassland area near Davies Ruins
As discussed, one of the main attractions of the Terrick Terrick National Park is the grassland areas in the north-east corner of the reserve. The best area is near the old ‘Davies Ruins’ (-36.099377,144.284045),  where on a good nights spotlighting in the neighbouring Spear Grass Paddock (-36.103555,144.285396) you might see Plains Wanderer, Little Button-quail, Stubble Quail, Brown Songlark, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Australian Barn Owl, Australian Pipit and, occasionally, Bush Stone-curlew, in grassy areas intermixed with a tree cover. There is also a good chance of Fat-tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicuadata). Rarely Red-chested Button-quail and Inland Dotterel have been recorded.

During the day Black Falcon like to hunt over the grassland habitat. I remember walking across the grasslands, and flushing a Brown Songlark. I watched the bird as it flew away, and then was a load whoosh and whack! A Black Falcon had snatched the bird not twenty feet from where I was standing. It seemed almost as if the Black Falcon at been circling over me, and waiting for me to flush a bird or two.

The Patho Plains section of the grassland is located near the intersection of Clee Rd and Tomara Rd (-36.08861,144.393175). In 2007 a remarkable birding occurrance happended, with large numbers of Australian Pratincole, Banded Lapwing and several Inland Dotterel congregated on the Patho plains. This areas can also be good for Black-faced Woodswallow.

I’ve found the large paddocked farmland to the north of Terrick Terrick National Park to be good for Spotted Harrier, particularly in late spring and summer.  

Brown Songlark. Image Greg Oakley.

Bendigo Creek
A walk along Bendigo Creek can be rewarding. The habitat is a mix of Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta), Grey Box and River Red Gum. It is along the creekline that you look for Grey-crowned Babbler. I’ve seen them at several locations, particularly where the Echuca-Mitiamo Rd crosses the Bendigo Creek (-36.21226,144.271612). On one occasion I saw a family of Grey-crowned Babbler while walking south down the creekline, while on another occasion they were near the old ruins north of the road (-36.201655,144.273959) – which is meant to be the most reliable place to see them.

Another good place to access Bendigo Creek from Jungaburra Road which crosses Bendigo Creek north-east of the national park  (see -36.091922,144.319106). There is usually permenent water in this areas, and as a result it can hold a nice selection of birds. Here I’ve seen Brogla (nesting), large numbers of Black-tailed Native-hen, Spotted Crake, Australasian Grebe, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterel,Scared Kingfisher, White-necked Heron, Australian Pratincole, Little Grassbird, Australian Reed-Warbler, and Southern Whiteface and Grey-crowned Babbler.

Tim Dolby

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