Also-rans: 2018 birding roundup

Where has 2018 gone? So many birding trips, and not so many blog posts. 😦 Don’t despair, Constant Reader: when that ball dropped in Times Square, it heralded an era of more regular blog posts. 🙂 But first, here is a roundup of ‘also-rans’ birding trips we did in 2018 – more photos and less words.

You Yangs [August 2018]

Black-eared Cuckoos began popping up in southern Victoria in record numbers in winter, and we were determined to see one. The closest report was at the Toynes Road Branding Yard at the You Yangs – less than an hour’s drive away.

We arrived on a cold sunny morning to find eight other birders in the carpark gearing up for the cuckoo search; coincidentally, we had met some a few months earlier searching for the Drongo – it’s a small birding community in these here parts.

Disappointingly, however, a teenager (accompanied by an adult birder) pulled out a Bluetooth speaker at the car park, pointed it at the forest, and blasted the cuckoo call into the crisp morning air before even trying to look for the bird! No bird(s) appeared, but it made the next hour of birding very confusing as we weren’t sure if we were hearing playback or an actual bird. After seeing a Restless Flycatcher (that was repeatedly called down to eye level by said birders for the perfect photo), we left in annoyance for another location.

A poor photo of a Restless Flycatcher high up in the trees

One of our favourite birding locations at the You Yangs is Drysdale Road Carpark at the north eastern boundary of the park. There is a picturesque lake here that birds often drink at the water’s edge, and in the past we have seen whistlers, Silvereyes, and many honeyeaters, including Yellow-faced, White-plumed, and Spiny-cheeked.

The lake – I don’t think swimming is allowed

Whilst at the lake, I could have sworn that I heard the call of a Black-eared Cuckoo, but I was highly doubtful for two reason:

  1. None had been reported here previously
  2. It very well could have been the teenager blasting playback again

Still, the day was young, the lake was quiet, and I had nothing to lose by following the call. After half an hour of triangulating the call, we were led right back to the car park, and there, not 10m away from our car was a Black-eared Cuckoo calling its heart out! Crippling views were had, which compensated quite nicely for the poor photos. Still, we left very pleased with finding our target species in a previously unreported site.

Black-eared Cuckoo

Western Treatment Plant [October 2018]

We visit Victoria’s premier birding destination, the Western Treatment Plant, at least six times a year, and we create memorable experiences every time. Our October visit was no exception, with the highlight being a stunning Tiger Snake in the bushes near Gate 8.

Why did the Tiger Snake cross the road?
To get to the other side where the frogs and birds are
European Hare
Brown Falcon
Black Kite
Singing Honeyeater
Blue-winged Parrot

Mount Korong Nature Conservation Reserve [November 2018]

Red-backed Kingfishers were consistently reported over the course of a few days at a reserve in central Victoria about 70km north west of Bendigo, and we were determined to see it. Armed with pin-point directions to the bird, as well as reports of numerous Black Honeyeaters and Painted Honeyeaters, we waited for a dry, cool weekend to make the 5hr, 450+km round trip.

The drive from Bendigo is a pleasant, picturesque one, through farmlands and unsealed roads, with abundant birdlife. Indeed, we had cracking views of Rainbow Bee-eaters on the approach to Mount Korong before 8am!

Mount Korong in the distance, and Rainbow Bee-eaters flying from paddock to paddock
Rainbow Bee-eaters

When we arrived at the Mount Korong carpark and were assembling our gear, a very vocal Painted Honeyeater landed in a dead tree right in front of us – the first lifer for the day!

Painted Honeyeater

We met another birder returning from hills who advised us that Black Honeyeaters were everywhere. After a one-hour slog up the hillside, we were rewarded with awe-inspiring views to the horizon, and eventually, a lone Black Honeyeater (Lifer #2)! At other nearby locations we picked up
Southern Whiteface (Lifer #3) and Gilbert’s Whistler (Lifer #4 – no photos).

Majestic views
Black Honeyeater
Southern Whiteface

We never did find the kingfisher, nor did any other birders on that day. But, true to birding form, the bird showed consistently for a week from the following day. At other locations in the park, we did, however, see a wide variety of wildlife, including White-browed Babbler (next to the car in the carpark!), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Mistletoebird, Diamond Firetail, Swamp Wallaby, and a massive Lace Monitor (sitting in the middle of the road!). This was perhaps one of the most memorable birding days out we have ever done: perfect weather, mindblowing vistas, and incredibly abundant and diverse wildlife.

White-browed Babbler
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Lace Monitor

Big Birding Day [December 2018]

With our one-day birding record standing at 103 species, we were determined to have a crack at besting it in the dying days of 2018. So, on New Year’s Eve we set out on a ‘big birding day’, with our first stop at 8am being Point Addis.

A cool, calm day, the carpark was already filled, but we thankfully saw Rufous Bristlebird scurrying across the road near the toilet block on our drive out, as well as a White-eared Honeyeater. Next stop was Ironbark Forest a couple kilometres away, where we added another dozen birds to our tally, including Buff-rumped Thornbill.

Point Addis view
White-eared Honeyeater
Buff-rumped Thornbill

Our next site was Anglesea: Camp Road, just north of Coogoorah Park, which must be one of the most productive birding sites in Victoria. The birds were everywhere – whilst listening to the call of a Gang-gang Cockatoo, we saw the very quick Blue-winged Parrots flying across the road and a raucous flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos above us. Dusky Woodswallows lined the overhead powerlines, while Satin Flycatchers, Rufous Whistlers and Golden Whistlers flitted from tree to tree. The real highlight, however, was seeing a juvenile Fantailed Cuckoo being fed by a much smaller White-browed Scrubwren – an excellent demonstration of ‘brood parasitism’.

Satin Flycatcher
Fantailed Cuckoo

After a pitstop at a remarkably quiet Serendip Sanctuary, we made our way to the nearby birding mecca of the Western Treatment Plant where we added no less than 50 species to our tally over three hours. We didn’t see the Wood Sandpiper or Little Stint, though perhaps we did and didn’t realise it, because we probably couldn’t identify them anyway! The highlights were, however, a crossing Tiger Snake, a Buff-banded Rail and six chicks, and a small flock of Glossy Ibises. At 4pm, after eight hours of solid birding, we ended the year on a high with a new one-day species record of 108 species, and an eagerness to best it in 2019. I’ll raise my glass to that challenge!

Tiger Snake

Buff-banded Rail
Glossy Ibis
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