Birding Victoria - Birdwatching Tours


FIRETAIL BIRDWATCHING TOURS

Welcome to our tours page. Here you will find details of scheduled group tours, recommended personal tour itineraries and targeted tour options. Your guide Simon has 15 years experience guiding and unsurpassed local knowledge of the birds, animals, plants and their environment here in south-eastern Australia. As well as the birding, our tours include observations of plants and habitats, native animals and reptiles.

SCHEDULED GROUP TOURS

20th to 29th November 2017 The Complete Victorian Megatour

Ten days allows us to traverse the important birding regions of Victoria targeting a huge range of species. This tour has been running for several years now and has proven to be very popular. Cost $3,950 per person on a twin share basis, includes guide costs, transport, all meals and accommodation. Click below for a full itinerary. NOTE This tour is confirmed to run, limitedplaces still available.

Click below for a trip report from the 2015 tour which was of the original 8 days duration

TRIP REPORT 2015 Off with the Birds.pdf TRIP REPORT 2015 Off with the Birds.pdf
Size : 2405.5 Kb
Type : pdf

South-eastern Australia’s Endemics Tour 2018

Dates and cost to be confirmed, expressions of interest welcome. This tour will target all of South-Eastern Australia’s endemic bird species, with the possibility of a Tasmanian extension. A wide ranging and exciting tour covering New South Wales and Victoria

21st to 30th November 2018 The Complete Victorian Megatour Itinerary and costings similar to 2017. Expressions of interest welcome.


SHARE A TOUR: Let me know if you are interested in sharing a tour with others to split costs.  I keep a list of names and contact details and put together shared days. I will also post dates here when visiting birders have booked a tour and are happy to share.  

16th to 18th October 2017 A three day tour of the mallee country of north-west Victoria. Participant happy to share for the company and to share costs. Based from Ouyen, three days targeting the mallee specialities as well as visiting a wide range of habitats.

16th December 2017 A big one day tour to the west of Melbourne 


PERSONAL TOURS - RECOMMENDED ITINERARIES

Tour 1. Werribee’s Western Treatment Plant (half day)

A full morning or afternoon is enough time to see a wide variety of species at this rich birding site. Past half day tours have generally recorded 70 to 80 species. Effort will be focussed on the sections of this vast area with the most bird numbers and diversity at the time, as well as targeting rarer species and local specialities. Cost $220 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks


Tour 2. Woodlands and Werribee tour (one day)

On this tour we shall spend the morning exploring a selection of the diverse woodlands found a short distance to the west of Melbourne. Depending on current conditions this may include Woodlands Historic Park (a River Red Gum dominated woodland), Eynesbury Grey Box Forest, the You Yangs Regional Park (Yellow Gum, Red Gum and Wattle), Serendip Sanctuary (regrowth forest and wetlands) and/or the Brisbane Ranges National Park (mixed forest including Stringybarks, Ironbarks, Gums and Box trees).

A wide range of bushland birds are found in this area representing most Victorian bird families and with a diversity of Honeyeaters, Robins, Cuckoos, Thornbills, Parrots, Lorikeets and more, plus a few scarcer and/or cryptic species such as Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Crested Shrike-tit, Speckled Warbler, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Scarlet Robin, Diamond Firetail and Spotted Quail-thrush to look for. The morning’s birding will set us up for a big day list with a visit to the Western Treatment Plant in the afternoon where waterbirds, grassland birds and raptors are abundant. A day exploring at least four habitat types in a relatively small area.

Cost $390 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks, lunch not included


Tour 3. Surf Coast and Werribee (one day)

This tour takes us right down to the Surf Coast in the morning for a taste of birding in the scenic Anglesea and Aireys Inlet area, which is at the very start of the Great Ocean road, and includes the eastern sections of the Greater Otway NP as well as the Anglesea Heath. We will explore at least five different habitats in an action packed day including ocean beaches and headlands, coastal heathlands and coastal woodlands of Ironbark and Stringybark. 

We will look for the endangered Hooded Plover and some seabirds may be visible from shore depending on the weather such as Gannets, Shearwaters and the Shy Albatross. The low growing heathland areas are home to some specialist species such as Blue-winged Parrot, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Southern Emu-wren, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and the localised Rufous Bristlebird, whilst a taste of the woodlands of the area will add many birds to our day list with the mobile Gang Gang Cockatoo a possibility. Once again the morning’s birding will set us up for a bumper day with the Werribee area to visit after lunch.

Cost $390 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks, lunch not included


Tour 4. Surf Coast and the Otways (one day)

This tour begins, as with Tour no.3, along the Victorian Surf Coast exploring scenic ocean beaches and headlands, coastal heathlands and woodlands.

Spending more time here gives us a greater chance of connecting with more of the elusive heathland birds and also to drive further along the scenic Great Ocean Road into the taller, denser forest of the Otway Ranges near Lorne and Wye River. This beautiful forest of towering Gums and giant Tree Ferns, similar to those found east of Melbourne in the Great Dividing Range, deliver us yet another suite of potential bird species, such as Satin Bowerbird, Australian King Parrot, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Olive Whistler, Crescent Honeyeater, Bassian Thrush, Forest Raven and seasonally other wet forest species such as Rose Robin, Rufous Fantail and Satin Flycatcher.

Time spent this far west also gives us a very high chance of seeing the iconic Koala. The day concludes with a drive of around 1 hr and 40 minutes back to Melbourne. Cost $390 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks, lunch not included


Tour 5. Dandenong Ranges National Park and Werribee’s Western Treatment Plant (one day)

East of Melbourne in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range are towering forests of Mountain Ash, the world’s tallest hardwood tree. These stunningly beautiful forests are home to one of Australia’s most remarkable birds, the Superb Lyrebird. 

A morning spent here is usually enough time to find this species, as well as a nice range of other wet forest birds. Regularly seen are Rose Robin, Rufous Fantail, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Red-browed and White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Whipbird, Crescent Honeyeater, Lewins Honeyeater, Brown Gerygone, Striated Thornbill and Crested Shrike-tit amongst a range of other possibilities. Driving through the leafy Melbourne suburbs on the way may produce a variety of Parrots such as Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets, Long-billed and Little Corellas and perhaps a roosting Tawny Frogmouth. The freeway past Melbourne’s CBD allow us to easily drive through to the west and spend the afternoon at Werribee’s Western Treatment Plant where the birding pace will rise to another level with easier viewing in the wetlands and open country.

Cost $390 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks, lunch not included

Tour 6. Great Dividing Range (one day Oct to March only)

Exploring the hills and mountains east of Melbourne deserves a full day especially in the warmer months of summer when breeding migrants add to the resident birds. Driving through the suburbs various wetlands and riverine woodlands can be visited and will add to the day list. They hold a wide range of birds with many Parrot species, plus the chance of roosting Tawny Frogmouths and Powerful Owls. Further out in the Yarra Ranges National Park, Toolangi state forest and Bunyip State Park, vast tracts of forest await us. A range of species reach the limit of their range here and are not found further west including Superb Lyrebird, Pilotbird, Lewins Honeyeater, Large-billed Scrubwren, Black-faced Monarch, Eastern Whipbird and Brown Gerygone. Other wet forest specialities also here include Olive Whistler, Rose and Pink Robins, Satin Flycatcher, Gang Gang Cockatoo, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Brush Cuckoo, Cicadabird, Rufous Fantail, Satin Bowerbird, White-throated Needletail (Dec to Mar), Bassian Thrush and Red-browed Treecreeper.

This absolutely beautiful countryside is not going to produce a huge species list for the day, however there are a number of sought after south-east Australian endemics to be found. Cost $390 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks, lunch not included


Tour 7. Central Victoria – The Box-Ironbark country (one day)

With freeways heading north from Melbourne it is possible to visit the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range in a day. North of the divide, the rainfall is lower and the habitats open out allowing for easy birding.

A different suite of species occur here in the “box-ironbark” country to what is found in southern Victoria. A wide range of Honeyeaters occur, taking advantage of year around nectar supplies including the three classic box ironbark species (Yellow-tufted, Fuscous and Black-chinned). Diamond Firetail, Southern Whiteface, Red-capped and Hooded Robins, and Gilberts Whistler all occur on the granite outcrops in the region, and pockets of mallee country support Shy Heathwren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Inland Thornbill and yet more Honeyeaters (Purple-gaped, White-fronted, Yellow-plumed and Tawny-crowned). In early spring cuckoos abound with the scarce Black-eared a possibility. In summer Rainbow Bee-eaters and flocks of various Woodswallows arrive to breed.

And in winter the birding is just as good with many southern birds calling this home for the winter and nectar producing trees attracting four species of Lorikeet and the endangered Swift Parrot. Amongst a wide range of other species, past tours have located Crested Bellbird, Square-tailed Kite, Spotted Quail-thrush, Painted Honeyeater, Powerful Owl, Crested Shrike-tit, Restless Flycatcher and Southern Scrub-robin. Quality birding, any time of the year, on the sunny side of the ranges touring quiet rural areas

Cost $390 for 1-2 people, plus $50 for each extra person, includes drinks and snacks, lunch not included

Tour 8. The Mallee - North-West Victoria (3 days )

Imagine touring through “empty” country, with enormous National Parks and wilderness areas. What’s more the birds here include some of Australia’s most stunningly beautiful. The north-western corner of Victoria has the state’s lowest rainfall and sunniest and warmest climate. Highly adapted mallee, cypress pine and casuarina woodlands and riverine floodplains support a range of birds found nowhere else in Victoria.

A diverse range of Parrots include the colourful Mulga Parrot, the rare and beautiful Regent Parrot and the extraordinary Pink Cockatoo amongst others. As well as the mallee species found further south in central Victoria, this region provides a home to some rare and highly adapted specialities such as the Malleefowl (the world’s only arid zone megapode), the endangered Mallee Emu-wren (Victoria’s only endemic bird), Striated Grasswren, Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush and Red-lored Whistler, all species high on many people’s wanted list.

It is also the best region in Victoria to see Emu, Striped Honeyeater, Apostlebird, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Southern Scrub-robin, Rufous Fieldwren, Black-faced Woodswallow, Black Honeyeater, Orange and Crimson Chat (in season), Crested Bellbird and White-fronted Honeyeater. To cap it off all four Victorian species of Fairy-wren occur, the Splendid, Variegated, White-winged and Superb. Quality birds in a pristine environment, with time for targeted birding at hotspots in central Victoria on the drive up and back again.

Cost $1,150 for 1-2 people plus $150 for each extra person. Drinks and snacks provided each day. Main meals and accommodation are extra. I will organise, can vary from camping up to 5 star depending on requirements.

 

Tour 9. East Gippsland (3 days)

As with the north-west of Victoria, the East Gippsland region retains 80 percent or more of its natural vegetation cover and the wildlife is diverse and wonderful. Vast tracts of country, with endless bush tracks to explore in a quiet and natural environment, and of course plenty of exciting birds to look for. The climate is maritime and quite sheltered from extremes, with rainfall occurring throughout the year. Habitats include pockets of warm temperate rainforest, large areas of eucalypt forests of a wide range of species, coastal heathlands, banksia woodlands, plus ocean beaches, estuaries and wetlands. All the birds mentioned in the Great Dividing Range tour above are present including the Superb Lyrebird, but travelling further east gives us the opportunity for a range of extra species such as Wonga Pigeon, Scarlet Honeyeater, Spotted Quail-thrush, Turquoise Parrot, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Southern Emu-wren, Beautiful Firetail and Eastern Ground Parrot. 

Add to this the chance to spend a night spotlighting in Victoria’s diversity hotspot for mammals and nightbirds. Our three large Owls all reside here, Sooty, Masked and Powerful while White-throated Nightjars are present in summer plus a decent range of nocturnal mammals mean a night out is sure to be interesting. On the coast, there are sites for the rare Hooded Plover, various migratory shorebirds including Latham’s Snipe, White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Pacific Gull amongst others. 

Cost $1,150 for 1-2 people plus $150 for each extra person. Drinks and snacks provided each day. Main meals and accommodation are extra. I will organise, can vary from camping up to 5 star depending on requirements.

Tour 10. North-East Victoria and the Riverina (3 days)

This tour takes in a great diversity of inland ecosystems and gives us the chance to target a number of localised and rare Aussie birds. The famous box-ironbark woodlands of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park are the best part of Victoria to see the beautiful and dainty Turquoise Parrot, whilst the nomadic Regent Honeyeater also occurs annually in small numbers but less predictably.

At any time of year the birding in these forests is lively with an abundant diversity of woodland species. The wetlands and Red Gum forests of the Murray river floodplains are an important nesting ground for the Superb Parrot which may be found in the district most of the year. In times of flooding many ephemeral wetlands fill with water and support a wide range of breeding waterbirds including Australasian and Black-backed Bittern in season.

Finally the open plains and native grasslands of the riverina country provide an opportunity to experience the vastness of Australia’s inland regions. This is the land of drought and flooding rains, with conditions varying widely from year to year. Probably the most sought after grassland bird of the region is the Plains Wanderer. Numbers of this bird in Victoria are currently well down on normal with a low success rate. To include a spotlighting night tour to see this bird specifically is currently an add on tour at extra cost on a private property north of Deniliquin. If interested contact me for cost details. Species that may be present in the open plains and grasslands include Stubble Quail, Little Button-quail, Black Falcon, Spotted Harrier, Brown Songlark, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Emu, Banded Lapwing, White-backed Swallow, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-winged Fairy-wren and Plumed Whistling Duck amongst others.

Cost $1,150 for 1-2 people plus $150 for each extra person. Drinks and snacks provided each day. Main meals and accommodation are extra. I will organise, can vary from camping up to 5 star depending on requirements. Plains Wanderer spotlighting extra.

PERSONAL TARGETED TOURS and EXTENDED TOURS

Allow me to design a targeted tour to fit your individual requirements. Combining some of the recommended itineraries together into one longer trip is very popular. I often organise trips of between 4 and 8 days, taking in as wide a variety of sites and birds as possible. Also trips are often planned around a specific target list of birds. Contact me at sandastarr@bigpond.com and I will plan the best itinerary possible to meet your requirements.

 

TOUR LOGISTICS:

Pick up and drop off Many tours start and finish in Melbourne. Pick up is available throughout the Melbourne city area, airport pick up adds $25 to the cost of the tour ( to cover tolls and parking) Some tours of northern Victoria may start at or near our property near Pyramid Hill on the northern plains, thus allowing for more birding time in the north.

Tours will generally start early, and run until early evening. For overnight stays, some spotlighting after dark is usually possible. In the longer days of summer, a break of an hour around lunchtime or early in the afternoon is to be expected for driving safety reasons.  

Transport - Personal tours for 1-4 people will be in a 2012 Nissan X-Trail 4WD. For group tours an 8 or 12 seater late model minibus will be used.

Tour Costs - Personal tour costs are listed above against each tour itinerary. Personal tour costs listed are for up to two people. Add an extra $50 per day to the cost for each additional person over two up to a maximum of four persons. The cost covers transport, guiding services, plus drinks and snacks throughout the day. The cost does not include accommodation or meals.

The all-inclusive scheduled group tour price is per person

Payment details - For personal tours payment may be made prior to any tour by direct deposit (electronic funds transfer). Overseas bank transfers usually attract a $15 fee in Australia which needs to be added to the total cost. Payment may also be made with cash on the day. 

For scheduled group tours a deposit is required to confirm booking and full payment must be made one month prior to the trip.

Accommodation bookings For personal tours I can assist with booking suitable accommodation as required.  Cheaper accommodation options or camping  are available in some areas. For nearly all areas there is usually accommodation available in amongst the birds. Clients will need to pay for the guide's accommodation and evening meals on overnight stays as required, the cost of which will be kept to a minimum.


TRAVEL TIPS:

Australia is generally a very safe country to travel in, however there are some things to be aware of.

The weather in Victoria is quite variable, so for much of the year it is best to be prepared for any conditions. It is unusual for a trip to be spoilt by the weather, but at times it can be windy, wet, cold or hot ! January and February are the hottest months, but most of the summer it is still quite reasonable for birding. Heatwaves do occur however, particularly in the north of the state, when birding can become unproductive for much of the day, and some trips may be better postponed. Bushfires are part of life in Australia, and on “days of total fire ban” some Parks may be closed.

Road conditions can vary, and when travelling to areas of public land such as National Parks, State Parks etc, it can be worth checking on current conditions. www.vicroads.vic.gov.au  is the website to visit to find out about road conditions across the state and www.parkweb.vic.gov.au gives details of current conditions in specific National Parks and reserves.    

UV levels regularly reach extreme levels so covering up and/or wearing sun cream is essential. A wide brimmed hat is very useful, and carrying a water bottle is normal. Parts of Victoria are quite remote, and mobile phone coverage can be lacking. It is best to be well prepared if travelling well off the beaten track, and to let someone know where you are going. When out in the bush there are a few critters to be aware of. In the wetter, mountainous areas, especially in summer, leeches can be lively. They are generally small, and salt will make them drop off. Do not pick them off as it can turn to an infection.

Poisonous snakes are common, but rarely seen and usually have departed long before you get near. Avoid walking where you cannot see where you are treading. Walking slowly through grass or scrub is pretty safe, just don’t race around. Knowing what to do in the event of snakebite is advisable. Spiders are rarely an issue as they tend to stay hidden away, just take common sense precautions. Mosquitos can be locally common at certain times, and it is best to use insect repellent and/or cover up when they are around. Bush flies can be in plague proportions, especially in the north of the state in summer. They can be annoying but are harmless. Fly nets are not really practical for birding, and insect repellents don’t work against them. A sprig of leaves to swish like a horses tail helps reduce the numbers hitching a ride on your back as you walk, but learning to accept their presence and ignore them is the best way, as they only tickle when they land on you !

ABOUT ME:

I have been fascinated by wildlife, and particularly birds from a young age. 

I began my birding in the southeast of England, and as I got older travelled all over the British Isles, a wonderful place to be a birder. My passion for the natural world lead me to study Ecology following which I visited and worked at a number of Bird Observatories, in the UK, Canada and Australia. My local birding patch was the salubrious Beddington Sewage Farm in south London, and along with two birding mates we produced the first ever bird report for the farm. The focus on this area by amateur naturalists has developed and today conservation programs are operating there.

After a variety of jobs interspersed with travel to a number of exciting birding destinations connecting with over 2,500 of our planet’s avian wonders, I eventually married and settled in Australia age 28. This started a whole new and exciting chapter in my life as we started up a horticultural business in northern Victoria, and raised two children. Discovering the birdlife in my new “backyard” was a bit like starting birding all over again, and what a backyard Victoria turned out to be. I quickly realized that many of the fantastic birding sites I was finding were rarely if ever visited by others. As a member of Birdlife Australia I assisted with organizing and leading a few campouts which were very successful and sparked the passion in me to share my knowledge of birds and the many special places I had found with others.

As well as operating Victoria’s longest running bird tour company, I am a moderator for Birdline Victoria, a site for the reporting of rare bird sightings, I am conservation officer and treasurer of the Echuca and district branch of Birdlife Australia, representing our group on many issues affecting birdlife in the region. I am a member of the Friends of Terrick Terrick National Park and was their secretary for a number of years. I am also a member of Landcare, a grass roots organization committed to improving the health of our environment. During my year as president of the Loddonvale Landcare group I was able with much assistance to protect an important wetland and Brolga nesting site, as well as contribute to the planting of many thousands of locally indigenous plants. I was a contributor to the book “Where to find birds in Victoria” and am involved with the recently formed Victorian Recovery Group for the Plains-wanderer, which aims to see an end to the recent dramatic decline in numbers of this bird. Spending time in the field will always be my favorite pastime, and sharing it with others gives me enormous pleasure.