|Eastern Yellow Robin, photo by Jim Smart|
We left Melbourne at 3.15 p.m., and arrived at Crusoe Reservoir at 4.45. Rog said I could have an hour and (perhaps stupidly) I thought I might be able to get the snipe in that time. In retrospect, I don't think that was ever going to be possible. Two hours might be doable. However, I set off optimistically. It was quite warm and I was in a hurry. I decided Crusoe Reservoir might just be the Eastern Yellow Robin capital of Victoria. There were lots of Dusky Woodswallows too, and a pair of noisy Crested Shrike-tits. Honeyeaters flew by, but I told myself I was on a mission to see a snipe, and could not dally admiring honeyeaters. Thanks to Birdline Victoria, I had good directions. I knew the bird could not be seen from the track, and birders had to bush bash along the shoreline. It had been last seen on a small inlet 200 metres past the pine plantation. My plan was to find the pine plantation as quickly as possible, then to leave the track and follow the shoreline. I knew it was going to be hard work.
Just past the pine plantation, as I was searching for a suitable spot to approach the shoreline, a grey-brown bird flew across the track in front of me. I did not get a great look, but I saw a long tail, with white outer tips. It landed on the ground just out of sight. I thought it could only be a Southern Scrub-robin. This was worth taking a few minutes to follow up. So I did. The bird had other ideas. It scurried away uncooperatively. I'm sure it was a Scrub-robin as I can't imagine what else it could possibly have been. I was most surprised to learn later that the Southern Scrub-robin is not on the birdlist for the Greater Bendigo National Park. That can't be right. The habitat is perfect. And I'm sure that's what I saw. But then, I can always be mistaken, as has been proved many times.
When my scrub-robin departed unambiguously, I once again turned my attention to the snipe. I believe I found the inlet where it had been last seen. The terrain was not inviting. Foolishly, I looked at my watch and realized I couldn't make it back within my time limit. I spent a half-hearted five minutes looking for the bird, then reluctantly hurried back to my husband, quite snipe-less. It was 6 o'clock. Rog had had a long drive and thought it was time to book into our motel for the night.
The next morning, I started out at Crusoe No 7 Pond looking for Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. I've never seen these birds in my home state and I wanted to rectify the omission. Again, thanks to Birdline, I had good directions about where to go. I found the spot easily, but alas, there were no heathwren this morning. There were lots of Red-browed Finches and Superb Fairy-wrens and some waterbirds on the water. The most common bird this morning was the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. These are such beautiful birds, I always feel guilty wishing a few would morph into something a little rarer. Conditions were perfect, and I spent an enjoyable time at Crusoe No 7 Pond. There simply weren't any heathwren at the designated spot when I was there. I vowed to return.
Then came the debate. Was there time to look for the snipe this morning? The clock was ticking and I dearly wanted to visit Kooyoora State Park, about an hour's drive from Bendigo, where I was hoping to see many wonderful birds. Birds like Speckled Warblers, Diamond Firetails, Hooded Robins, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Gilbert's Whistlers and Painted Honeyeaters. Had I known that I was going to dip on every one of these species, I might have devoted some time to the snipe, but, ever the optimist, I decided to be greedy and go for my long list of expected good birds. With the benefit of hindsight, had I looked for the heathwren yesterday, and the snipe this morning, I might have ticked them both.
So, we set off for Kooyoora State Park. This park did make it into my "Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia." It is number 14 - very high on the list. So you can understand why I was prepared to forego my snipe to get here.
We set off on the Calder Highway, stopping to buy a sandwich in Marong, and turning off the Highway at Inglewood. (Incidentally, Inglewood used to be a good spot for Southern Scrub-robins, before the Department of Sustainability and Environment decided that the area needed a preventative control burn.) We took the Melvilles Caves entrance to Kooyoora State Park. A Wedge-tailed Eagle soured overhead as we drove in. We saw just one Brown Treecreeper, and many White-throated. There were White-browed Babblers and Peaceful Doves.
|Red-capped Robin, photo by Jim Smart|
I'd had a most enjoyable 24 hours. It had been good birding and I told myself that I had no right to complain at what I'd missed out on, I should be happy with what I had seen. But we birders are inherently greedy. We always want more.