Thursday, 15 August 2013


I've just enjoyed a quick trip to north-east Victoria.  I visited Chiltern, Rutherglen and Wonga Wetlands in New South Wales.  The interesting thing was that I saw more birds around north-eastern Victoria than I did on my recent trip to the Queensland gulf country.  Yes, I know, north-west Queensland is in drought, and north-east Victoria has had recent good rains.  But, I was on my own in Victoria, whereas in Queensland I was with six serious birders all trying to clock up as many species as possible.  By myself, I saw as many species in one day as we did on our best day in the gulf country:  59.  In Queensland, we averaged 42 species per day.

On Tuesday, we had lunch at Fowles winery (my favourite restaurant) and I did a bit of birding in the vineyard while Roger paid the bill.  In these few minutes, I enjoyed some of the best birding I've had in a long time.  I saw both male and female Flame and Scarlet Robins, Red-rumped Parrots, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, colourful if exotic Goldfinches and, best of all, Southern Whiteface.  The bird I saw had a feather in his beak, leading me to conclude that he was nesting.  Alas, I could not find his nest.

We had a look at Black Swamp, but there is so much water around generally that the birds have plenty of options, and there was nothing special here.  Then it was on to Rutherglen, where I had hopes for the ephemeral swamp.  There was a fair bit of water here, but not quite enough.  The small hillocks that form islands when the swamp fills, were still accessible by land, so I did not expect to see any crakes.  I've seen good birds here (Turquoise Parrot, White-breasted Woodswallow, Rufous Songlark in summer) but not today.

We always have a look at Ironbark roadside stop.  Yes, I have seen a Regent Honeyeater here - once.  Some of the ironbarks were flowering, but not profusely and there were few birds today.

Wednesday started with bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky.  We started at Wonga Wetlands.  Last time I was here, there was little water and few birds.  Today, there was a great deal of water and few birds!  Conditions were perfect as I walked around hopefully.  The only bird I saw that I haven't seen here before (this is going from memory, I must check my records) was a Musk Duck.

Wonga Wetlands

When people talk about good birding spots in Chiltern, they will mention Bartley's Block, Cyanide Dam, Greenhill Dam and Number 2 Dam.  (Incidentally, No 2 Dam was locked on Wednesday.  I've not seen that before.)  I don't often hear mention of Chiltern Park, one of my favourite Chiltern birding spots.  This is a roadside stop, north of Chiltern, accessed as you are driving south on the highway.  The sign says that the walk takes 15 minutes.  The birds are always good (at least, they've always been good when I've been there) and I've never done the walk in less than half an hour.  On this occasion, the canopy was dominated by Fuscous Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds, and male and female Scarlet Robins took over at eye level.  There were also Striated Thornbills and at least one White-naped Honeyeater.

We have our usual Chiltern routine, but there are some spots we don't often visit.  One such place is Yeddonba.  We went there once, years ago, and it was so hot that we were not encouraged to go back.  It is part of the Chiltern Box-Ironbark National Park.  'Yeddonba' means black cypress pine in the local Aboriginal language and this place has special significance for the Aborigines.  On this occasion, we decided to take a look and I did the walk.  The views were great, but the only birds I saw were Grey Fantails and Brown Thornbills, which did not (in my mind) justify the steep and slippery track.  However, I was pleased I went.  There are some Aboriginal rock paintings which were worth a look.  What was of special interest was a painting of what I believe can only be a thylacine.  As these animals became exinct on the mainland some 2,000 years ago, we are left to assume that the painting is at least that old.

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