Friday, 8 March 2013

On Wednesday morning I debated whether to walk around Lake King before breakfast.  Why bother?  I'd been there yesterday and failed to see White-breasted Woodswallows.  It wouldn't be any different today.  The chance that something rare was out there waiting for me won in the end, as it always does, and I hurried out to see what I could see.  A woman was walking her dog along my usual route, so I chose to do the walk backwards.  Yesterday I had seen two Little Friarbirds.  This morning there were about a dozen of them, very vocal, making me wonder if it were a mixed flock with Noisy Friarbirds.  No such luck.  Every bird I looked at was a Little, even though they were all undeniably noisy.  As I was looking up, examining friarbirds, woodswallows flew overhead.  I focused on them.  Yes, they were White-breasted.  They often cluster in summer in the river red gums at the caravan park end of Lake King.  I had looked for them yesterday and figured that, as it was autumn, they had moved on.  But no, here they were today, as beautiful as ever.  Later I saw them clustering in a huge gum tree on an island in the lake.  I think I would have noticed them had they been there yesterday.  I also saw Tree Martins, so my decision to walk around the lake was well and truly vindicated.

Our first stop this morning was to be Bartley's Block in Chiltern.  I was packing the car in the motel car park when a raptor flew over, being harrassed by magpies.  I looked up.  A Whistling Kite, I thought but nevertheless, out of habit, raised my binoculars.  It was a Square-tailed Kite!  What a good start to the day.  At Bartley's Block, the first bird I saw when I got out of the car was a Turquoise Parrot.  He sat and let me admire him, then, with three companions he flew off.  'Ting! ting!' they said emphatically.  I saw several more Turquoise Parrots this morning, each breathtakingly beautiful.

Black-chinned Honeyeaters taunted me, calling once a fair way away, then not calling again.  I'd trudge through the bush, get to where I thought they had been and look for flowering gums.  It seemed to me that very little was flowering, just a few white box, and there weren't the usual number of honeyeaters.  White-plumed, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous was about it.  But there were Spotted Pardalotes, Crested Shrike-tits, Varied Sittellas, Brown Treecreepers and both Eastern Yellow and (lots of) Red-capped Robins.  Not satisfied with this, I continued to chase Black-chinned Honeyeaters.  I started at the old brewery site.  They led me over the road, then down to the dam and back to the brewery site.  At last, there were some overhead.  I drank them in.  When I couldn't hold my binoculars up another minute, I gave my arms and neck a rest, and stood there, feeling as if I'd achieved something very clever.  I'd seen Black-chinned Honeyeaters.  As I was busy congratulating myself, three Brown Quail flew past and landed in the thick grass a short distance away.  I look for Painted Button-quail around Chiltern, and have seen Stubble Quail here and in Rutherglen, but I don't think I've seen Brown Quail here before.

Chiltern Box-Ironbark National Park

Next we drove along McGuiness Road in Chiltern Box-Ironbark National Park, looking for Spotted Quail-thrush.  It was by now quite hot and the birds were very quiet.  We saw precisely nothing.  Next stop was the waterworks along Woolshed Road, where we always check out the waterbirds.  There was nothing special today, although a flock of European Goldfinches played in the acacias, which was a new bird for the year for me.  Then we did the Beechworth Forest Drive and ate our lunch by the dam.  After lunch we set off for Wodonga and the Wonga Wetlands.  These wetlands make it into my top 100 best Australian birding sites and they are always enjoyable, but often very hot.  Today they were as uncomfortably hot as ever, and worse, most of the wetlands had dried up, so there was not the usual complement of waterbirds.  The best sightings were a flock of Black-tailed Native-hens and 14 Royal Spoonbills, one of them sitting on his haunches.  I don't remember seeing that before.
Wonga Wetlands as they usually are - wet.

With 103 species under my belt, I thought I'd done okay, given the hot weather.  I came home happy, celebrating my Turquoise Parrots, White-breasted Woodswallows and that unexpected Square-tailed Kite.

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