Private birding tour for Margaret Yeo, Albert Low, and for two days around Deniliquin, Tun Pin Ong.
Route travelled:
22 April 2011 Melbourne to Chiltern to Deniliquin
23 April 2011 Deniliquin
24 April 2011 Deniliquin
25 April 2011 Deniliquin to Ouyen
26 April 2011 Ouyen to Mildura


Trip report: Easter 2011 with Margaret and Albert (and in Deniliquin, Tun)


Friday, 22 April 2011
Word had gone out that regent honeyeaters were again being seen in the Chiltern area, so on Good Friday after collecting Margaret off a flight from Singapore and Albert from the Perth red-eye, we headed to Chiltern.

The first regent was spotted only fifteen minutes after we arrived at Bartley’s paddock. There were two to three birds present, all unbanded. Bartley’s paddock looked a treat and other good birds included scarlet and red-capped robins and speckled warbler. A couple of turquoise parrots flew by, intent on not stopping. Overhead, a little eagle went into combat with a wedgetail.

We lunched at Cyanide dam (it is no surprise that Parks Victoria has changed the name of this popular lunch spot) and then headed to Mt Pilot. A nice group of flame robins, including some coloured males, were had along the back roads near the range.  It was quiet in the range; more scarlet robins and a yellow robin were seen but the highlight was a gorgeous female koala that crossed in front of us and shot up a tree to peer beguilingly at us from behind the trunk.
With no spotted quail-thrush to be had, we headed for Deniliquin.

Note the unusually squared bib on the red-cap robin

Saturday, 23 April 2011
Now with Tun on board, we headed out to look for superb parrots and soon found some splendid adults around Pretty Pine feeding on thorny saltbush berries under the box trees.

Northeast of Pretty Pine we got more superbs feeding in grey mistletoe growing on boree and several rufous songlarks, which are usually gone by now. We worked hard for painted honeyeaters, recently seen in this area, but to no avail. Other honeyeaters seen included striped, spiny-cheeked, white-plumed and singing. ‘Union Plain’ produced the resident owlet-nightjar and boobook owl as well as zebra finch and a lovely male peregrine falcon, only the second time I have seen this species on the farm.

We ventured out onto the plains north of Wanganella after lunch. A stop at a drying out goosefoot swamp gave us an immature Australian spotted crake and many white-winged fairywrens. Just before dusk we scored a pair of black falcon hunting over a lignum swamp. Despite stubble quail (black falcons’ favourite meal), being in plague proportions out on the plains, black falcons are still scarce in the district.

The first birds spotlighted were a couple of pairs of banded lapwings followed by sub adult female plains-wanderer, three to four months old. Soon we had myriad stubble quail, several red-chested buttonquail, and the usual order of pipits, brown songlarks, singing bushlarks and fat-tailed dunnart. Another plains-wanderer was spotlighted, this time an adult-plumaged male. All that was missing was little buttonquail, which has been moving out of the district in recent weeks.

Homeward bound we spotlighted a couple of barn owls.Unwisely, sitting in the middle of the Cobb highway was a red-chested buttonquail, followed soon after by a little buttonquail. The grass was very wet and these birds had opted for the warmth of the bitumen. Luckily there was little traffic (for them and us) and we moved them to a safer spot.  


Sub adult female

Little buttonquail finding warmth in the bitumen of the Cobb highway.

Easter Sunday 24 April 2011
As we headed out of the golf club precinct, where Tun, Margaret and Albert were staying, we happened upon a male painted buttonquail feeding by the roadside. Buoyed by such a good start, we headed east of town to some box woodland. Flame robins, my first for the season in this district, were had, as well as other woodland birds like chestnut-rumped thornbill, southern whiteface, red-capped robin, rufous whistler and more painted buttonquail. A covey of brown quail exploded from the undergrowth beneath our feet. An azure kingfisher was seen briefly on a nearby backwater. A group of white-plumed honeyeaters peering into a hollow in a large river redgum and making a racket blew the cover on a barn owl.

Nearby lanes produced a pair of brolga feeding near a rice crop, the first I have seen for some months, and about eighty plumed whistling-ducks on a dam. More superb parrots were encountered in the grey box country in roadside trees, as well as apostlebirds and a pallid cuckoo in the boree and an immature spotted harrier hunting over the paddocks.

We drove over to the Coreen area after lunch where Australian painted snipe had been seen in the past week. None were seen until late afternoon when one flew across the road and landed in a paddock. A short time later, Tun spotted a male sitting under a box tree. Further investigation revealed up to fifteen feeding in a flooded wheat crop adjacent to the main swamp.  They weren’t brooking close scrutiny so I wasn’t able to discern the ratio of adults to juveniles; suffice to say, some were young birds. Other species seen at the swamp included brown quail and buff-banded rail. Peregrine falcons must be active in this area if the grey teal and galah wings lying about the swamp are any indication.

A boobook owl hunted over the road as we headed back to Deniliquin.

Monday 25 April 2011
Saying farewell to Tun, we made early tracks for the mallee. Towards Moulamein a beautiful immature wedgetail eagle posed for us in the early morning light. West of Moulamein birding really kicked off with Australian ringnecks, bluebonnets and chestnut-crowned babblers in roadside trees. This was my first sighting of the babblers at this location post-drought; it was good to see them as I thought their numbers might have been decimated.

It was quiet when we arrived at our first patch of mallee west of Toolybuc, but not for long. We spotted a malleefowl mound and as we prepared to go and check the mound, a (assumedly) male malleefowl walked up and started scratching at the mound.  Some low ooming and cooing notes were heard and soon the male was joined by the (assumedly) female and they both scratched away. Whether they were opening up the mound for the female to lay an egg or opening the mound for the winter, I can’t say but suspect the latter to be the case.

Before lunch, mulga parrots, ringnecks, grey currawongs (black-winged form), spotted pardalotes (yellow-rumped form) and other small passerines but no honeyeaters. After lunch a female chestnut quail-thrush flushed up from beside the track and was soon joined by the male. The mallee was ours today!

Hattah bound, we stopped en route at some cypress and belah scrub that gave us no less than two singing male Gilbert’s whistlers. Variegated fairywrens were seen in the undergrowth. Circling over the road, a pair of adult spotted harriers.

Not a lot of activity in the national park until we heard mallee emu-wrens calling close to the track. We got good views of a male and female; others were calling but did not show. Having made our way back to the vehicle, we were about to move on when we heard a striated grasswren calling close by. We soon tracked him down; the female called but was more reticent.

Flocks of white-browed woodswallows had been flying overhead while we were concentrating on the wrens.

We had made a big hole in the mallee birds but there were still some key birds to get in the morning including Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, red-lored whistler, rufous fieldwren, crested bellbird, southern scrub-robin, shy heathwren and regent parrot.

Tuesday 26 April 2011
We knocked off the scrub-robin early next morning and after some searching, shy heathwren. Other nice birds here included splendid fairywren, inland thornbill, white-browed babbler and white-fronted and white-eared honeyeaters. Both Gilbert’s and golden whistler were calling nearby.

The Sunset Country produced a lovely male golden whistler (mallee race) and a male crested bellbird singing his heart out.  Further along the road, we stopped for some grey teal and avocets (adults and juveniles) on a flooded saltpan and heard a Major Mitchell's calling nearby. We soon had this stunning bird in our sights. Further west, that good old Aussie icon, the red kangaroo, was much admired.

Rufous fieldwren, in the samphire flats, was soon put to bed. Our next target was the hardest of all, red-lored whistler. There were several factors against us. One, the mallee birds had been hit hard by the drought and I had not been to this spot for several years so I was winging it, so to speak. And two, it was nearly midday and quite warm, and the middle of autumn. My lack of confidence was misplaced as we had only walked for about half an hour when a male red-lored whistler flew in and started feeding. Photo call over, he flew off whence he came without uttering a sound. A great morning and one that called for a celebratory glass of red with our picnic lunch.

Brown snakes are generally scarce in the desert country so I was surprised when some campers came by and showed us video footage of one they had seen down the track a bit.

We were rendezvousing with Peter Waanders in Mildura so we headed off, seeing white-backed swallow, yellow-plumed honeyeater and just a few masked woodswallows along the way.

We arrived in Mildura with just one mallee scalp missing from our belts, regent parrot. Margaret and Albert, I’m sure will have got this species with Peter as they had a day around Waikerie. Ironically, I saw three small flocks of regent parrots near Euston, in New South Wales, as I headed home. (Ironic because regent parrots are uncommon north of the border).

Albert and Margaret (and Tun while we were in Deniliquin) were a pleasure to bird with and I was sorry to say adieu. We were just warming up!

© AOS Pty Ltd

Some dates on these photos are incorrect, i.e., the painted buttonquail, the emu-wren and the grasswren, each were seen the prior day. Will be rectified soon (sometime ... maybe ...)






Note the eye shine on the painted snipe, photo taken at 6 pm.



mulga parrot 25 April 2011

spotted pardalote (yellow-rump form)









golden whistler (mallee form)


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