Mallee parks and reserves birding tour 20-30 April 2004

Tour participants: Celia Browne, Lisa Cockram, Peter Cockram, and Meryl O'Brien

Starting and finishing point: Melbourne

Where did we go?
The dawn sky was washed with pink when we collected Celia and Meryl in Mont Albert. Peter and Lisa joined us in Castlemaine and we headed north for the first of a two-night camp in Hattah Kulkyne National Park. After departing Hattah we proceeded through the Sunset Country to Billiatt Conservation Park in South Australia for another two-night camp. It was then south of Lameroo to Ngarkat Conservation Park for two more nights. We spent our last three camping nights in Birds Australia's Gluepot Station, north of Waikerie, and finally, a night in a Mildura motel before returning to Melbourne.

Very little rain had fallen in the mallee country for at least four or five months, making conditions less than agreeable. The first two days were fairly hot, followed by a southerly front rendering the next two days cold and windy. Despite these unfavourable weather conditions, we managed to get most of our target birds and had some memorable sightings.

There was not much flowering with the exception of desert banksias Banksia ornata in Ngarkat CP; however there were very few birds feeding in them. Possibly the dry conditions were having an effect on nectar production; at other times, I've seen these banksias full of honeyeaters. There were a few eucalypts flowering but again, these were not attracting honeyeaters.

The main attraction for most of the mallee birds was, unquestionably, the patches of lerp scattered through all the mallee parks and reserves. (Lerp is the sweet, waxy substance secreted on eucalyptus leaves by some insects). Just about all the birds appeared to be feeding on lerp; even a mallee emu-wren was seen eating it in Hattah NP. Pulling up for some bird activity in a patch of lerp in the Sunset Country produced our first record of red-lored whistler for the tour.

The lerp was extensive in Gluepot Reserve and consequently the birdlife there was the best of all the mallee parks. Huge migratory flocks of striated pardalotes were feasting on the lerp, as were good numbers of white-fronted and yellow-plumed honeyeaters right through the reserve.

Strangely enough — or perhaps not given the dry conditions in recent years — no malleefowl was seen, or even a fresh track, despite traversing so much mallee country. We saw a mound in Hattah that had recently been opened up for the winter — and that is about as close as we came. Major Mitchell cockatoo were also scarce, with only three distant birds seen at Gluepot.

Only nine seen: five in a cleared paddock near Billiatt CP, two in Ngarkat CP and two in Gluepot Reserve.

Freckled duck
At least two on a lake about ten kilometres north of Waikerie.

Black swan
Few along the Murray River.

Australian shelduck
Low number at Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Australian wood duck
Roadside dams

Pacific black duck
Roadside dams

Australasian shoveller
A few, at least, on the lake north of Waikerie

Grey teal
Roadside swamps along the Murray R.

Chestnut teal
Roadside swamps along the Murray R.

Pink-eared duck
A few, at least, on the lake north of Waikerie

One on a roadside dam

A few along the Murray R,

Little pied cormorant
Roadside swamps and dams

Great cormorant
At few along the Murray R. at Mildura

Australian pelican
A few along the Murray R. in South Australia

White-faced heron
A few on roadside dams

Great egret
A single bird along the Murray R.

Australian white ibis
A few in Mildura

Straw-necked ibis
One along the Murray R.

Yellow-billed spoonbill
A few in swamps along the Murray R. in SA.

Black kite
Just a few along the Murray R.

Whistling kite
Moderately common along the Murray R.

Wedge-tailed eagle
One or two birds seen most days in the mallee country.

Little eagle
A single bird seen near the Murray R. in the SA

Brown falcon
Only about four birds seen for the tour

Nankeen kestrel
Only two birds seen for the tour

Purple swamphen
A couple on a swamp near the Murray R, near Waikerie.

Dusky moorhen
Roadside dam

Eurasian coot
Swamps along the Murray R.

Red-necked stint
Over 100 at Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Black-winged stilt
A few at Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Red-necked avocet
At least 20 on the lake north of Waikerie and hundreds at Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Red-capped plover
Good numbers on Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Red-kneed dotterel

A single bird at Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Masked lapwing
A few around roadside swamps and dams

Silver gull
A few along the Murray R.

Rock dove

Common bronzewing
Seen most days in Hattah, Billiatt and Ngarkat, just a single bird in Gluepot Reserve.

Crested pigeon

Seen most days, mainly in open country

A few seen on all but one day of the tour.

Little corella
Small flocks at Hattah and at Waikerie.

Major Mitchell cockatoo
Only three birds seen in the distance (and heard) at Gluepot

Regent parrot
One of the highlights of the tour was watching about 30 regent parrots (adults and immatures) feeding on ruby saltbush Enchlaena tomenta berries in the early morning on the sandhills near Lake Hattah.

Crimson rosella
A few seen towards Melbourne

Yellow rosella
Common along the Murray R.

Australian ringneck
Moderately common in all the mallee parks and reserves except the heath areas of Ngarkat. Several pairs were seen each morning at Gluepot drinking dew off the toilet roof at
Babbler campsite.

Quite a few seen between the mallee parks in roadside remnant vegetation

Red-rumped parrot
Seen mainly in open farmland

Mulga parrot
Many sightings in Hattah, Sunset Country and Billiatt, and also Gluepot where they too were drinking dew from the toilet roof at Babbler campsite.

Blue-winged parrot
One flying over near the headquarters at Gluepot; possibly another calling at Box Flat camping area at Ngarkat.

Southern boobook
Calling nightly at Hattah Lake camping area and at Babbler campsite at Gluepot.

Tawny frogmouth
One flew into camp at Box Flat camping area at Ngarkat attracted by the huge bardy grub moths that were about.

Australian owlet-nightjar
Calling at Hattah Lakes camping area, Billiatt and Box Flat camping area, Ngarkat.

Laughing kookaburra
Roadside sightings along the Murray R. and between Mildura and Melbourne

White-browed tree-creeper
A single bird in open mallee woodland in Gluepot

Brown tree-creeper
Moderately common in mature woodland in Hattah and Gluepot

Superb fairy-wren
A few groups seen in heath near Box Flat camping area, Ngarkat.

Splendid fairy-wren
Moderately common, seen in all mallee parks except Ngarkat's heath. No full colour males seen.

Varied fairy-wren
Not as common as splendid but seen in all the parks except Ngarkat. No full coloured males seen.

White-winged Fairy-wren
A large group in saltbush at Lake Ranfurly, Mildura

Mallee emuwren
Seen surprisingly well despite the dry conditions. About three groups of up to 15 birds seen in Hattah. One was seen to fly up a few feet to take what appeared to be a lerp from a mallee leaf.

Striated grasswren
Seen well in Hattah, two groups comprising two or three birds were located and then inadvertently relocated when we were looking for something else!. Probably heard in Gluepot, but not obvious at that locality. Only one group heard in Billiatt, where at times they have been common.

Spotted pardalote
(yellow -rump form)
Moderately common in all the mallee parks

Striated pardalote
Very common in all the mallee areas, feeding on lerp. Large migratory flocks present in many areas, particularly Gluepot.

Shy heathwren

Pairs seen near Inglewood in mallee alongside an area cut for eucalyptus oil; in the Sunset Country; and in Billiatt.

Rufous fieldwren
A pair seen in samphire country west of Hattah

Seen or heard every day when in mallee country

Inland thornbill
Seen in all mallee parks except Gluepot. One of the more obvious birds in Billiatt — where birds were scarce.

Chestnut-rumped thornbill
Moderately common in all the mallee parks except Ngarkat

Slender-billed thornbill
Several large groups seen in Ngarkat, mainly around the stringy-bark ridges. This race is very similar to buff-rumped thornbill, possibly a bit more scalloping about the face than buff-rumped. Appears intermediate between buff-rumped and the race of slender-bills west of Adelaide

Yellow-rumped thornbill
Seen or heard in all the mallee parks except Gluepot.

Yellow thornbill
A few sightings at Inglewood, Sunset Country and Ngarkat

Southern white-face
Sightings in open country in the Sunset Country and Gluepot

Red wattlebird
Fair numbers seen in all the mallee parks and reserves

Spiny-cheeked honeyeater
Seen feeding on ruby saltbush berries and lerp in all the parks and reserves except the very dry Billiatt.

Striped honeyeater
Sightings of this lovely bird in the Sunset Country and Gluepot (and also Taylorville Station).

Blue-faced honeyeater
Sightings in Hattah and in Mildura

Noisy miner
Sightings along the Murray R. in Victoria and South Australia and from Mildura to Melbourne.

Yellow-throated miner
A few in roadside mallee in South Australia. About 50 seen in Gluepot in the Birdseye Block appeared to be mainly hybrids although there were probably some purebreds among them.

Black-eared miner
We located two or three large groups of mainly hybrid miners along the western edge of Birdseye Block. There were 50+ birds in these flocks and they were extremely wary. We had our work cut out for us to get close enough to obtain satisfactory views, but ultimately saw at least four purebred black-eared miners.

Yellow-faced honeyeater
One seen in Castlemaine

Singing honeyeater
Seen in all the mallee parks on most days of the tour

White-eared honeyeater
Seen in all the mallee parks on most days of the tour

Purple-gaped honeyeater
Seen in low numbers in Billiatt and Ngarkat

Yellow-plumed honeyeater
Good numbers in mature mallee in all the mallee parks except Billiatt, which is mainly regrowth from bushfires. Very common in Gluepot, feeding on lerp.

White-plumed honeyeater
Seen in redgum at Hattah

Brown-headed honeyeater
Seen or heard in all the mallee parks

New Holland honeyeater
A few in Castlemaine and in heathland in Ngarkat

White-fronted honeyeater
Heard in the Sunset Country, common in Ngarkat and Gluepot, feeding on lerp.

Tawny-crowned honeyeater
A pair was seen in cut mallee at Inglewood; another pair in Billiatt; moderately common in banksia heath in Ngarkat.

Pied honeyeater
A lovely male seen in mallee and spinifex country on Taylorville Station and a few others flying over in the same general area

Jacky winter
Sightings in Sunset Country and Billiatt; fairly common in Gluepot

Red-capped robin
Only a few sightings at Inglewood, Billiatt and Gluepot. Some brilliant males at Gluepot

Hooded robin
A pair in the Sunset Country and several pairs at Gluepot including one quiet pair at Gluepot's Babbler campsite

Southern scrub-robin
One in Billiatt and another in Gluepot

White-browed babbler
Seen or heard in all the mallee parks

Chestnut-crowned babbler
Many groups seen in the more open habitats in the western half of Gluepot.

Chestnut qual-thrush
Sightings in mature mallee in Hattah; Sunset Country (c6); quite a few in Gluepot where several immature birds were seen.

Varied sittella
A single group of the black-capped race seen in Belah woodland in the Sunset Country

Crested bellbird
Just a few sightings in Gluepot and en route to Gluepot.

Red-lored whistler
A immature male singing and subsequently seen in the Sunset Country about 30 kms east of the South Australian border, and another lovely old male seen while we were on the walking track on the west edge of the Birdseye Block in Gluepot. This latter male did not utter a sound in the 10 to 15 minutes we had him under surveillance.

Gilbert's whistler
A pair, which was quite furtive, was seen halfway along Track No. 7 – we managed to get a good look at the male. Another calling at Babbler camping area in Gluepot.

Golden whistler
A few sightings in thick mallee in Hattah, Billiatt and Ngarkat.

Rufous whistler
A few seen in Hattah, the Sunset Country and Gluepot.

Grey shrike-thrush
Sightings in all the mallee parks

Restless flycatcher
A single bird seen in Gluepot

Magpie lark
Roadside sightings in open areas.

Grey fantail
One near Inglewood and another in Gluepot

Willy wagtail

Seen most days of the tour

Black-faced cuckoo-shrike
Seen most days of the tour

Ground cuckoo-shrike

Three very quiet birds seen feeding on grasshoppers in amongst pearl bluebush Maireana sedifolia near Sandy Dam, Gluepot.

White-breasted woodswallow
Surprisingly, about four birds seen in fairly dense mallee in Hattah

Masked Woodswallow
Small groups flying over with white-brows, up high, at Gluepot

White-browed woodswallow
Small flocks flying over; also seen feeding on lerp in mallee at Gluepot

Dusky woodswallow
A few flying about in Hattah and in Gluepot

Grey butcherbird
Seen or heard on most days of the tour

Pied butcherbird
A few about Hattah and Mildura

Australian magpie
Seen on every day of the tour

Grey currawong (black-winged form)
Seen or heard in all the mallee parks and reserves. Surprisingly common in Gluepot.

Australian raven
Seen or heard on most days of the tour

Little raven
Seen Mildura to Melbourne, few in open farmland about Lameroo

Little crow
One flew over at Gluepot calling, west edge of Birdseye Block

White-winged chough
Seen on most days of the tour

Large, tame group (c 20) in Lake Hattah camping area; another group by the Murray R. at Waikerie, and a group in Gluepot near the headquarters.

Australasian pipit
One in the Sunset Country

House sparrow
Common around human habitation

One near Inglewood, another near Ngarkat and another heard in Gluepot.

White-backed swallow
Four up close, just west of Hattah and another two in Ngarkat

Welcome swallow
Seen most days of the tour

Tree marten
About 10 feeding overhead in the Sunset Country

Moderately common in Ngarkat in the banksia heath

Common blackbird
Few seen in towns en route

Common starling
Flocks seen in open farmland en route

Native mammals

Western grey kangaroo
Just a few seen in or near most of the mallee parks

Eastern grey kangaroo
Few seen Mildura to Melbourne

Mouse sp
A mouse species came into our camp at Box Flat camping area in Ngarkat to drink water from the washing up area. Hard to know if it was a native species. Our best efforts to attract it back with water and cheese (a Lake St Claire gouda) were unsuccessful.


Mallee dragon
Few in Hattah

Eastern bearded dragon
One in Hattah

One in Billiatt



checklist of species seen on mallee parks tour 2004


tours 2005