Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Cattle Egret by Jim Smart

When Rog suggested we attend Pfeiffer's winery's 30th birthday dinner, I agreed immediately, knowing that I'd get a couple of days' birding in Chiltern.  Pfeiffer's is in Wahgunyah, so we stayed at our favourite Rutherglen motel, the Wine Village.  We drove up on Saturday 26 April, stopping along the way at the Grass Tree roadside reserve, ostensibly for coffee, but really to look for birds.  There is a very pleasant walk here and, over the years, I have seen some good birds at this spot.  And also some very pretty wildflowers.  On this occasion, I managed to do the entire walk without seeing one bird. Unprecedented. Then we had coffee while Superb Fairy-wrens played around our feet and Weebills serenaded us from the canopy.  Altogether, Saturday was not a very birdy day.  The only noteworthy record was a paddock  full of Cattle Egrets beside the Hume - my first for the year.

Sunday was perfect:  beautiful autumn sun.  I had great expectations.  First stop was the ephemeral swamp in Rutherglen near the tip, often the site for good birds.  Not today.  There was water in the swamp and a few ducks, but no crakes, no waders, no dotterels.  The best I could do was a Tree Martin.  I was sure I'd do better at Bartley's Block.  We arrived to see a car parked near the gate, an unusual occurrence.  I usually have the place to myself.  The occupants told us that they'd seen a Regent Honeyeater here the day before.  Now I really did expect some good birds.  A male Scarlet Robin flew by to confirm that I was right.  However, he turned out to be the best bird I saw.  As we drove to Greenhill Dam, a pair of Turquoise Parrots flew by.  Sittellas put on a beautiful display for me at Cyanide Dam, where the Brown Treecreepers were more scarce than usual, and, perhaps for the first time, I did not see an Eastern Yellow Robin.  We visited No 1 dam, then No 2 where the most interesting sighting was a female Flame Robin. 

We had lunch at The Terrace at All Saints winery, just because the chef had been written up in the Weekend Australian.  This was one of the best meals I've ever eaten, and I would happily recommend this restaurant to anyone willing to pay $70 for three courses.  (We made do with two courses for $55.) 

I started Monday morning with a walk around Lake King in Rutherglen.  I saw 24 species before breakfast, the most interesting being Tree Sparrows, which I saw in the main street of Rutherglen opposite our motel, amongst a flock of House Sparrows.  We checked out Lake Anderson in Chiltern, then drove to McGuiness Road in the Mt Pilot section of the national park.  This is where I look for quail-thrush.  I walked along the road in the sun.  It was very pleasant but there were very few birds, and no hint of quail-thrush.  Next we visited Woolshed Falls, stopping to check out the ducks at the waterworks on the way.  There were some Blue-billed Ducks on the dam, but they insisted on staying as far from the road as possible.  In Beechworth, we did the tourist drive, and ticked Satin Bowerbirds on schedule at Lake Sambell.  Then we returned to the national park in Chiltern, where I walked along Tower Hill Road.  I did see some button-quail platelets, but sadly, no button-quail.  At Cyanide Dam, the Sittellas were in the same tree they'd been in yesterday.  I disturbed a Common Bronzewing and admired White-naped Honeyeaters as they splashed in the dam.

Tuesday was grey and it rained most of the way home.  I enjoyed my time around Chiltern.  I always do.  However, I've never before come home thinking that the highlight was lunch at a winery, rather than the birds I'd seen.

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