Thursday, 16 August 2018


To relieve the boredom of Melbourne's winter, Rog and I spent a week birding around Mallacoota.  We stayed at Gipsy Point's Luxury Lakeside Apartments.  I saw 82 species of birds around Gipsy Point and Mallacoota, and a further 26 species en route, making a total of 108 for the trip.  As for animals, we saw hundreds of kangaroos, a couple of water rats and one sleepy koala.
Eastern Yellow Robin, photo by Pete Stalder

Without a doubt, the highlight was a Beach Stone-Curlew I saw at Cape Conran on the way down, a new bird for my Victorian list.  I looked for it again on the way home, but couldn't find it.

Perhaps my best sighting at Gipsy Point was the pair of White-headed Pigeons which came in to the feeding table, or perhaps it was the lyrebird sitting patiently on her nest.  These wonderful mothers incubate their single egg for 47 days, without any help from dad.  We saw many lyrebirds during the week, all quite unperturbed by people.

We left Melbourne on Friday 27 July and drove as far as Bairnsdale.  Along the way, we stopped at Tara Bulga National Park, where I looked unsuccessfully for Pilotbirds.  At the Sale Common I went for a walk and saw Red Wattlebirds, Magpie-larks and Rainbow Lorikeets.  I wondered why I'd bothered to drive 200 kilometres to see birds I could just as easily see at home.  Then I saw Brown-headed Honeyeaters (one of my favourites) and a very splendid female Collared Sparrowhawk.  She alone justified the trip.  There was no water at all at the Sale Common, so there were no waterbirds.

I always see Grey Butcherbirds at Bairnsdale and often Striated Pardalotes.  On this occasion, a colourful little pardalote sat on the electricity wires, singing his little heart out.  It made me feel good just looking at him.

On Saturday, we drove to Cape Conran, where I was impressed with several bold Bassian Thrushes foraging on the grass and ignoring people totally.  It would have been a photographers' dream.  Of course the stone curlew stole my heart, although I did not want to give the impression to other beach goers that it was anything particularly special.  I walked past slowly, pretending not to be particularly impressed.  

We drove on to Gipsy Point, with one other notable sighting for the day.  Not far past the turnoff from Genoa, right beside the road, sitting on a dead tree looking straight at us, was a magnificent white phase Grey Goshawk.  A truly regal bird.

Mallacoota has lots of lovely walks and I did a fair bit of walking during the week.  I did the Double Creek Nature Trail, the Pittosporum Walk, Shady Gully walk, Betka River loop, part of the Narrows walk and part of Charlies Creek walk.  At the airport I walked along the track past the gun club, and under the power lines near the airport building.  Twice I did the coastal walk at Shipwreck Creek, Casuarina Walk and Heathlands Walk.  The reason for repeating these last three was that I was disappointed in the number of birds I'd seen and hoped I'd just been unlucky.  Alas, when I repeated the walks, I repeated my low bird counts.  I did not see emu-wrens at Shipwreck Creek.  Nor did I see any Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, notwithstanding lots of gorgeous wildflowers.  I finally saw one Tawny-crowned at the airport on our last day.  At Gipsy Point, I did the point-tip walk and I wandered up Tuck Track.
Red-browed Finch, photo by Brook Whylie

The weather was fine, but often very windy, and I think this kept my bird totals low.  I had to keep reminding myself that it was winter, and that I should not be expecting too many birds.  At Gipsy Point, Buff-banded Rails walked about nonchalantly and Eastern Whipbirds played on our veranda.  Crimson Rosellas, Australian King Parrots, Crested Pigeons and ubiquitous Rainbow Lorikeets came to the feeding table every afternoon.  New Hollands and Little Wattlebirds dominated the garden, but there were several Eastern Yellow Robins and flocks of Red-browed Finches and Superb Fairywrens.  I saw Satin Bowerbirds and White-browed Scrubwrens every day.  The sea eagles put on good fishing displays and the Azure Kingfisher simply sat, looking beautiful.  Skeins of Great Cormorants flew overhead each afternoon to roost near the lodge jetty, then flew back to Mallacoota the next morning.

I picked up a birdlist at the Mallacoota Information Centre and, according to this, I saw just one rare bird at Mallacoota during the week:  a Reef Egret.  At the sewerage works, I saw three ducks not on the list:  Hardhead, Shoveler and Shelduck.  At Gipsy Point, I saw one extraordinary lost bird:  a single White-breasted Woodswallow near the jetty.  I've never seen a White-breasted Woodswallow in East Gippsland before, and never seen one in winter anywhere in Victoria.  They are usually in flocks, not single birds, so I'm not sure how or why this little fellow ended up at Gipsy Point.

Rog and I returned to Melbourne with our batteries recharged.  It was a most enjoyable, relaxing week.  I worked hard to see 82 species and was disappointed with very few honeyeaters and just one Brown Gerygone.  Nevertheless I did see some lovely birds and only got two tick bites for my trouble.