REGION 4. The Mallee
This far north-western corner of Victoria, some 400kms from Melbourne, has the state's lowest rainfall and highest average temperatures. It is a region where agriculture is at its limits of viability with large tracts of land remaining uncleared and pristine making it one of Victoria's birding highlights.
The word mallee is an aboriginal word for the varieties of eucalyptus trees dominant in this landscape, which are multi stemmed and low growing, creating the distinctive semi-arid woodland- “the mallee”.
An important feature of the region is the lack of surface water across large areas and for most of the year. This has led to a high degree of specialization in the fauna.
Hazards when visiting the mallee region include the chance of extreme heat in summer (Dec to Feb) when birding may only be possible in the early mornings, the remoteness, and the bush tracks where it is easy to become bogged in deep sand. When walking in mallee country it is extremely easy to become disorientated especially on a cloudy day without the sun to guide you. It is strongly recommended that you either stay to formed tracks, or if you do wander into the scrub take a GPS or mark your way.
The mallee regions of southern Australia constitute a truly unique ecosystem. At any time of the year a visit will be productive for birds. A number of the Victoria’s most stunningly beautiful species occur here.
Wyperfeld National Park
Getting there: There are two main access points. Via Hopetoun and Yaapeet in the south, or via Patchewollock in the north. Both are well signposted.
Key sites: On entering the southern part of the park, the main entrance road follows the nearly always dry Outlet creek, through Black Box woodland and surrounding dunes with Cypress pine. Many Kangaroos and a range of dry country woodland birds may be seen including Regent Parrots.
The Discovery walk starts at the Wonga campground and travels over high dunes covered in heathland with scattered mallee trees. Good for Redthroat, Shy Heathwren, Inland Thornbill, Splendid Fairy-wren, Gilberts Whistler and Southern Scrub-robin, but avoid the heat of the day in summer.
Eastern Lookout drive takes you to typical mallee eucalypt woodland, home to Chestnut Quail-thrush and Malleefowl. Try walking along Lowan track or Dattuck track which are both 4wd only.
Desert Walk is also dune heathland with similar species to the Discovery walk
In the north the open country with Cypress Pine and Casuarina is great for Emu, Western Grey and Red Kangaroos, and Major Mitchells Cockatoo. Try Mt Jenkins track, Outlet Creek track or Snowdrift Picnic area.
Meridian track heading south travels through an open shrubby Cypress pine and Casuarina woodland with Gilberts Whistler, Splendid Fairy-wren, White-browed Treecreeper, Striped Honeyeater and Mulga Parrot. Moonah track (4wd) takes you to a mallee ridge with Shy Heathwren, Southern Scrub-Robin and Malleefowl.
Key Species: Emu, Regent Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Major Mitchells Cockatoo, Malleefowl, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Striped Honeyeater, Shy Heathwren, Southern Scrub-robin, White-browed Treecreeper, Gilberts Whistler, Black-eared Cuckoo, Redthroat.
Murray-Sunset National Park
Getting there: From Ouyen either drive west on the Mallee Hwy towards Adelaide for access to the southern sections of the park, or continue north on the Calder Hwy for access to eastern and then northern sections. This is big country and quite remote, so be well prepared. It is always advisable to let the ranger know of your visit.
Key sites: The whole of the park is worth exploring, but distances and road conditions are the limiting factor.
The Wymlet tank area can be accessed by driving north on Meridian road from Walpeup. Close to Walpeup roadsides can be very birdy with pine, mallee and emubush habitat. Once you reach the park you arrive in mallee vegetation. Turning right takes you down to the site of Wymlet Tank, a permanent water source, where birds come to drink in the heat of summer. The mallee woodland here is good for Emu, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Mulga Parrot and Australian Ringneck plus many other woodland species. Turning left at the end of Meridian road takes you onto Honeymoon Hut track which eventually ends up close to Pink Lakes. This is 4wd only, but the first 6 or 7 kms can be driven in 2wd with care (beware a sandy section early on). This stretch of road can produce many of the mallee specialities including the rare Red-lored Whistler, and Black-eared Miner (potentially no pure bred birds remaining), although both of these species are a challenge to see. Along the way look for Mulga Parrot, Striped Honeyeater, Crested Bellbird, Masked Woodswallow and Chestnut Quail-thrush. Malleefowl may be spotted on the track early morning, and the denser spots have Shy Heathwren and Southern Scrub-robin. Both Spotted Nightjar and Australian Owlet-Nightjar are present through the area.
Pink Lakes is a drive north from Linga just west of Underbool. The well maintained tracks here take you through open country around the salt lakes where Black-faced Woodswallow, Major Mitchell Cockatoo, Blue Bonnet etc may be sighted. The more open mallee woodlands have Crested Bellbird, Mulga Parrot, Southern Whiteface etc, and the denser mallee spinifex woodlands along Pioneer drive hold populations of Striated Grasswren, Mallee Emu-wren, Striped Honeyeater and Mulga Parrot. The 4WD Salt Bush Flat track runs off Pioneer Drive and takes you through some quality mallee woodland where Malleefowl and Chestnut Quail-thrush are scarce residents.
The Raak plain is an area between the Calder highway and the National Park, and can be accessed by driving west from Hattah along Last Hope track. This drive takes you through a range of habitats including gypseous flats ( look out for Blue Bonnet and White-backed Swallow), mallee spinifex woodland ( possible Mallee Emu-wren) and open grassy plains ( a chance for Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo).
Rocket Lake track in from the north of the park is accessible with care in 2WD, except perhaps in wet weather taking you to Rocket lake, a dry salt lake surrounded by mallee and Casuarina woodland. Further down Rocket Lake track Mallee Emu-wren occur.
Key Species: Striated Grasswren, Mallee Emu-wren, Red-lored Whistler, Black-eared Miner, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Malleefowl, Major Mitchells Cockatoo
This vast salt lake north of Sea Lake is a good stop off on the way to the mallee. There are rarely any waterbirds present, it is the saltbush vegetation surround the lake that provides the interest.|
Getting there: The lookout, a few kms north of Sea lake on the Calder hwy is a good place to start. In dry weather it is possible to drive right around the lake, but any rain at all and it’s walking only as the salty clay quickly turns into a sticky ice rink. Access is also possible from the Robinvale Sea lake road where the Tyrrell creek runs into the lake.
Key sites: Extensive areas of saltbush habitat are found right around the lake, especially on the eastern side, with the key species occurring widely. For a quick stop the lookout is convenient. To spend a bit more time try driving up the eastern side of the lake.
Key Species: Rufous Fieldwren, White-winged Fairy-wren, Orange Chat, Black-faced Woodswallow
Timberoo Flora and Fauna reserve
This fairly small reserve south-west of Ouyen preserves some good quality cypress pine and casuarina habitat, which is now much depleted in north-west Victoria. There are no facilities, just a quiet and beautiful piece of pine woodland to wander in.
Getting there: Take the Ouyen-Patchewollock road south-west from Ouyen and after around 14kms turn right onto Scott Road. This takes you through the north-eastern part of the reserve. At the five way junction turn left heading south to join McIlvena road where you can turn right and eventually come out on the Walpeup lake road near Lake Walpeup which is usually dry. This route will take you through some of the best birding spots
Key Species: White-browed Treecreeper (rare but scattered throughout), Mulga Parrot, Splendid Fairy-wren, Little Eagle, Gilberts Whistler, Apostlebird (sometimes seen along Scott road)
Wandown Wildlife Reserve
One of a number of undeveloped mallee woodland reserves with no facilities and just a few sandy 4WD tracks. Wandown is a quality bit of mallee country on deep sandy dunes with a healthy population of Malleefowl plus other mallee specialities. The nearby Menzies block, just east of Marshell road is very similar country
Getting there: Wandown reserve is south-west of Boundary bend. Access from Koorkab road which runs between Annuello in the west and Haysdale in the east. The roads to get there, and those which go right around the perimeter, are kept in good condition, as are many mallee roads made for large agricultural machinery. Inside the reserve is definitely 4WD only, and it’s possibly just as good to wander in on foot. As with any mallee reserve, it is easy to become disorientated so never take chances on finding your way back to where you started.
Key Species: Emu, Malleefowl, Regent Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Splendid Fairy-wren, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Crested Bellbird
Bronzewing Flora and Fauna reserve
As with Wandown, Bronzewing has no facilities and only 4WD tracks within the reserve, and as with Wandown it is a pristine expanse of mallee woodland well worth spending time in.
Unfortunately in early 2014 an extensive naturally occurring bushfire raised large parts of the reserve, which will take many years to recover.
Getting there: The Sunraysia highway runs through the reserve from 10 to 20 kms south of Ouyen. Merrett road runs along the northern boundary and there are any number of access points.
It is also possible to access the reserve from the highway itself or from the track running west from Gypsum on the highway.
Key Species: Emu, Malleefowl, Regent Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Splendid Fairy-wren, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Striped Honeyeater, Shy Heathwren, Southern Scrub-robin
REGION 5. The Victorian Riverina
This area is mostly low lying alluvial plains close to the Murray river which forms the border between Victoria and NSW. Extending from roughly Swan Hill in the north-west, south to Boort and then east to Elmore, Shepparton and Albury. It is a land of drought and flooding rains, with many wetland areas after high rainfall. Irrigation schemes have channelled water right across the plains, and some areas have saline soils. With its diversity of habitats including woodlands, grasslands and wetlands this rich region holds a lot of bird species in a relatively small area.
Terrick Terrick National Park
The recently expanded Terrick Terrick NP preserves three quite different habitats which are all now linked together. The original park occurs on a granite ridge and is one of the largest remaining cypress pine/eucalypt woodlands in Victoria, native grasslands are preserved to the north-east, and the Bendigo creek frontage forms the third section. The pine woodlands are the best known and birdiest parts of the park
Situated some 80 kms directly north of Bendigo, take the Bendigo Pyramid road to Mitiamo and continue north from there on gravel roads. The tracks within the park are good for 2WD, even after rain with care
Key sites: A good place to start is the picnic ground at the base of Mt Terrick Terrick. Many of the park’s birds may be seen in this area including Australian Ringneck and Gilberts Whistler.
Allen track which gets you there takes you through typical pine woodland with Red-capped Robin and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill.
Reigels rock in the north-east of the forest is also interesting, and can attract Painted and Black Honeyeaters in spring and summer depending on the year.
Rodgers track runs through the western part of the forest, and makes for a nice drive with plenty of possibilities.
Foot access to the grasslands is easiest from the Mitiamo Kow Swamp road near the Old Davies Homestead. Walk past the Davies homestead and out into Possum paddock, and down through Creek paddock until eventually you reach the Bendigo creek. Both Fabians and Yarran paddocks to the west of the road have never been ploughed and are worth a walk also. Best time for the grasslands is early spring for wildflowers and spring/summer for birds
East of the Bendigo creek is a vast treeless plain ( the Patho plains) where a lot of land has recently been acquired to add to the TTNP. Foot access is allowed in these areas where in the right season a wide range of grassland species may be seen. In times of above average rainfall or flash flooding ephemeral swamps spring up in the lower lying spots attracting all sorts of waterbirds. These can include rare species such as Brolga, Australian Painted Snipe, Australasian Bittern and Plumed Whistling Duck.
One such swamp is called The Meadows (part of the National Park) access from Davis road. Another in the park is along Ferris road just north-west of the Davies homestead ruin, and another on private land can be viewed from Aird road (at the northern end of the road).
Key Species: In the forest: Australian Ringneck, Gilberts Whistler, Painted Button-quail, Crested Shrike-tit, Red-capped Robin, Hooded Robin, Western Gerygone (spring and summer), Southern Whiteface, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill
In the grasslands:Spotted Harrier, Black Falcon, Brolga, Banded Lapwing, Australian Pratincole (only on the barest paddocks), Plains Wanderer (rare since floods in 2010), Stubble Quail, Little Button-quail, Red-chested Button-quail (some years), Brown Songlark, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Zebra Finch, White-winged Fairy-wren
and along the creek: Black Falcon, Spotted Harrier, Black-tailed Nativehen, Grey-crowned Babbler, Crested Shrike-tit, Southern Whiteface
This map displays the past and present extent of native grasslands in Victoria
Murray River Red Gum forests (Gunbower island and Barmah Forest)
The extensive River Red gum forests of Gunbower and Barmah have both been recently declared National Parks. Naturally they would have flooded on a regular basis. This has been much reduced in recent times through water diversions for agriculture, but environmental allocations now see more regular inflows to these forests again. Both have an extensive network of bush tracks to explore, however after rain or flooding access is drastically reduced. Park webpages give up to date track information. Camping is still allowed along some sections of the river
Getting there: The Gunbower island, west of Echuca, runs from Torrumbarry in the south to Koondrook in the north, with many access points in between. Some more reliable well maintained access points include Spences bridge road, NW of Cohuna, the signposted Forest Drive from Cohuna, Brereton road near Gunbower and Lock road out to Torrumbarry weir. One of the nicest stretches is out of Leitchville, access the forest on O’Reilly road, across Holmes bridge and take Broken Axle track towards the river and River track along the river.
The Barmah forest, east of Echuca, runs from Barmah in the west to Tocumwal in the east. Again there are many access points and the park map is essential.
Key sites: Gunbower island: Obtaining a map of the island is highly recommended as there are so many tracks formed in past logging times. The quality of the forest varies depending on how regular the flooding is and the logging history. As you enter the forest, furthest from the Murray river, the habitat is mostly Black Box and Grey Box grassy woodland, where birds such as Red-capped Robin, Diamond Firetail, Western Gerygone and Painted Button-quail may be looked for. Along the banks of the Murray and around the more regular swamps such as Charcoal swamp, Little Reedy Lagoon and Corduroy swamp you will find the healthiest Red Gum trees, and birds such as Noisy and Little Friarbirds, Sacred Kingfishers and Yellow Rosellas.
Barmah Forest: There is a network of better maintained tracks to take to be sure of access, whilst in dry weather many others become an option. Large parts of the forest may be closed in times of flooding. During winter and spring Superb Parrots return to breed in the forest. They are often to be found feeding in the drier Grey Box woodlands and roadside areas at the edges of the park, in the Picola and Yielima areas. The Barmah forest is continuous with the Moira state forest in NSW, where there are some worthwhile birding sites as well. Take the Cobb highway north from Echuca. At Mathoura the Picnic Point road takes you past the Reedbeds bird hide ( possible Australasian and Black-backed Bitterns), through some Grey Box grassy woodland ( Diamond Dove) to Picnic Point ( Friarbirds, Night Herons).
Gulpa island north of Mathoura is also an excellent stretch of riverine forest, with Superb Parrots in winter/spring, and many bush birds. Access from Mathoura or from the Cobb highway further north.
Key Species: Emu, Yellow Rosella, Superb Parrot, Diamond Firetail, Friarbirds, colonial nesting waterbirds, Rainbow Bee-eater, Western Gerygone, Dollarbird, Azure Kingfisher
The Mid Murray Valley and Kerang Wetlands
This section of the Murray valley between Swan Hill and Cohuna is a region where many rivers and creeks from further afield converge to fill wetlands or run into the Murray. Much of the water in the region is regulated, but natural flood events when they occur can fill many of the ephemeral wetlands at which time bird numbers increase dramatically. A number of lakes hold water continually for irrigation purposes, and environmental water allocations are used in most years to fill wetlands for wildlife. Each year and indeed every season is different, with birds moving between lakes depending on where the best conditions are.
To get up to date information on which wetlands are receiving environmental watering visit the North Central Catchment Management Authority website at http://www.nccma.vic.gov.au
Getting there: Kerang is some 300 kms north of Melbourne, via the Calder Freeway to Bendigo and then the Loddon Valley Highway. Daily trains run from Melbourne but public transport in the area is very limited. Most sites can be reached via all weather roads. Many wetlands have dirt tracks going right around them allowing good access and viewing however these are most definitely dry weather only
1. Ephemeral wetlands. Many of the wetlands in the region are temporary and require flooding rains. This cycle of flooding and drying produces the best conditions for waterbirds and large numbers of birds appear as if from nowhere with many breeding. Tragowel swamp, Lake Murphy, Sandhill Lake, Lake Bael Bael and The Marshes, the Avoca floodway (between Lake Tutchewop and the Loddon Valley Highway) and the many rivers,creeks and depressions in the region all provide great habitat in these wetter times. In the late 1990’s all contained water. In the early 2000’s all were dry. A megaflood in 2010 filled them all again. By 2014 most are once again dry. Swamps that have been filled with environmental allocations in recent years include Hird’s Swamp, Johnson’s swamp and McDonald’s swamp (all near Cohuna), Lake Murphy, Cullens Lake, Robertson’s lagoon (near Gunbower), and more recently Lake Elizabeth. It is planned that at least one of Hird’s or Johnson’s swamps will have water each year. These areas are all different in their ecology and thus attract a different range of species. Hird’s, Johnson’s and McDonalds swamps are all freshwater swamps with tangled lignum and reedbeds aswell as open areas. Typical species for these areas are Black-tailed Nativehens and Red-kneed Dotterels, Glossy Ibis, White-breasted Sea-Eagles, many ducks species including Freckled, Blue-billed and Musk Duck, Egrets and Spoonbills, Brolga, Crakes, Australasian and Black-backed Bittern, and in the past Australian Painted Snipe.
Migratory waders can also be present particularly as the swamps dry up, with Wood Sandpipers being annual in small numbers, plus Ruff and Long-toed Stint being recorded. Lake Murphy and Cullens Lake are both slightly saline, without the dense vegetation, although both have reedbeds at their northern ends. Vast numbers of birds can occur with many thousands of duck, swans, terns and waders. Freckled Duck, Brolga and Glossy Ibis all occur, and both lakes have White-winged Fairy-wrens nearby. Rarer waders have been found such as Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-toed Stint, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Wood Sandpipers, and Little Stint
2. Permanent wetlands.
Kow Swamp south of Cohuna is a large water storage with extensive reedbeds. Species which may be observed here include Spoonbills, large flocks of Straw-necked and White Ibis, Swamp Harriers, Sea-Eagles, Brolga in the surrounding farmland, Black-tailed Nativehen, Whiskered and Caspian Terns, Yellow Rosella, Pied Butcherbird and White-breasted Woodswallow amongst others. There is a pull in/fishing spot near the weir in the north with some views of reedbeds etc . Also the road along the east side of the swamp provides some viewing.
Middle Lake is part of the irrigation system and has the largest Ibis rookery in the southern hemisphere. Just off the Murray valley highway north of Kerang there are good facilities here including a bird hide. Also good for Darters, Swamp Harriers, Spoonbills and sometimes Sea-Eagle. The Ibis nest in spring and summer.
The Loddon river at Kerang and the Kerang town swamp just to the west and north of the township of Kerang have some well marked walking tracks, wetland areas plus red gum woodlands and a bird hide. A nice selection of commoner waterbirds can be present, and rarer species may include Latham’s snipe, Crakes, Glossy Ibis, and Grey-crowned Babblers.
Lake Boga and Round Lake are both near the township of Lake Boga and accessible by all weather roads. Lake Boga itself is usually kept quite full and can attract large numbers of Whiskered Terns in season as well as Gull-billed and Caspian Terns, Cormorants, Pelicans and Great Crested Grebe. If water levels drop the edges can attract a variety of waders. White-breasted Woodswallows and Blue-faced Honeyeaters are often nearby. Round Lake just west of town on the Lalbert road is more productuvie wetland and a good site for duck species particularly Blue-billed and Musk Ducks. A small number of waders are present here, mainly in summer.
3. Saline Wetlands.
A number of saline and hyper-saline wetlands occur in the region with most of these only holding birds in winter and spring following rainfall and fresher water inflows. At these times many thousands of birds can arrive providing some spectacular birding, but once salinity levels increase again during summer the birds will move on.
The largest of these lakes is Lake Tutchewop. At the right time many thousands of grebes, duck, terns and waders can occur. Some years large flocks of Red-necked Avocet, or Banded stilt may form. The saline shrublands surrounding these lakes are regular haunts for White-winged Fairy Wrens (all year), Zebra Finch, Brown Songlark, Orange Chats (spring and summer), and Blue-winged Parrots (spring). Lake Kelly to the south-east of Lake Tutchewop is a similar lake though smaller, and host the same species. White-backed Swallows and Rainbow Bee-eaters occur near the northern end of Lake Kelly.
Foster’s Swamp is a saline wetland just east of Kerang township. It fills with winter rains and retains some town run-off water through summer. A rough dry weather track runs around the lake but the adjacent sewage works is out of bounds. Quite large numbers of duck and waders can occur here, with Red-necked Stints, Stilts, Avocets and Red-kneed Dotterels all being quite regular. Rarer sightings have included Gull-billed Tern, Banded Stilts and Pacific Golden Plover. White-winged Fairy-wrens live in the surrounds.
Dry weather only tracks provide access right around these lakes.
Other saline lakes which can be worth visiting in wetter years include Lake William, Duck Lake and Lake Wandella.
4. Grasslands and woodlands
The Tresco West Bushland reserve to the south of Round Lake is a quality remnant of the mallee woodlands that have largely been cleared in this district. Blue Bonnet, Yellow-throated Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Hooded Robin, White-browed Babbler and Variegated Fairy-wrens are present year round. Rainbow Bee-eaters, various Woodswallows, Songlarks and Trillers visit in spring and summer. Roadside stands of Emubush along Long Lake road just north of Round Lake can attract Black Honeyeaters in spring/summer.
The Avoca plains, west of the Avoca river and north-west of Kerang is a mostly treeless region where some good quality native grassland survives, some now preserved. Plains Wanderers occur here in low numbers but as with the Patho plains have become harder to find since the 2010 floods. Other species seen in the grasslands here include Black Falcon, Spotted Harrier, Inland Dotterel and Australian Pratincole (both more likely in dry times when paddocks are barer), Little Button-quail, Stubble Quail, Orange Chat, White-winged Fairy-wren and Zebra Finch.
Black Box tree lined waterways through the district have good numbers of Blue Bonnet and Cockatiel, plus Yellow-throated Miner, Variegated Fairy-wren and smaller numbers of Grey-crowned Babbler. This is mostly on private land but much can be seen along various roadsides. Try Gillies Road, Ford Road, Lake Lookout Road, O'Loughlin Road and Bael Bael- Boga road.
Key Species: Australasian Bittern, Little Bittern, Blue-billed Duck, Freckled Duck, Glossy Ibis, Brolga, Little Button-quail, Plains Wanderer, Stubble Quail, Spotted Crake, Baillon’s Crake, Australian Painted Snipe, Latham’s Snipe, Banded Stilt, Blue Bonnet, Cockatiel, Blue-winged Parrot (in spring), Grey-crowned Babbler, White-winged Fairy-wren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Orange Chat, Zebra Finch, White-breasted Woodswallow, White-backed Swallow
Boort and the Loddon River floodplain
The small town of Boort lies at the south-western edge of the riverina country close to the Loddon river. A wide range of birds can be seen in the immediate area
Getting there: Boort lies between Bendigo and Kerang, some 15 kms west of the highway ( turn left at Durham Ox)
Key sites: Little Lake Boort. This small lake next to town has water year round. The southern side has the best habitat, and if water levels are right can be good for Crakes, Rails and Snipe.
The surrounding woodland and flowering trees planted in town attract Musk and Purple-crowned Lorikeets and Blue-faced Honeyeaters. In summer regular birds include Little Friarbird, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater and White-breasted Woodswallow.
Boort Salt Lake. Just west of town along the Wycheproof road is a salt lake which is best in winter and spring. Red-necked Avocet are regular there.
Woolshed Swamp, Lake Boort, Lake Lyndger, Lake Yando and Lake Leaghur. All of these ephemeral swamps are fringed by River Red Gums and fill in times of flooding. In recent years environmental watering has been taking place as well, check http://www.nccma.vic.gov.au for details.
Black Box woodlands. The country between Boort and Kerang, such as around Yando, is mostly flood prone and is a Victorian stronghold for the Grey-crowned Babbler and the Bush Stone-Curlew ( the Curlews are sadly now quite rare)
Key Species: Australian Spotted and Baillon’s Crakes, Latham’s Snipe, Red-necked Avocet and a wide range of waterbirds in season, Grey-crowned Babbler
REGION 6. The Box-Ironbark Country
Wychitella Flora and Fauna Reserve
Situated between Boort and Wedderburn in north-central Victoria, the low hills of Wychitella are the last of the ranges as you head north before reaching the flat plains of the riverina country. These dry woodlands are a mix of Box-Ironbark forests, granite outcrops and mallee woodlands. The reserve is in several discrete blocks, with cleared land in between, however in recent years several properties have been returned to conservation and are regenerating. This is one of only a few mallee areas in central Victoria, where birds such as Shy Heathwren and Southern Scrub-robin may be found without having to drive further out to north-west Victoria.
Getting there: The Calder highway runs through Wedderburn which lies just to the south of the best areas. Then either take the Wedderburn Boort road to access the Korong Vale block, the Old Boort road to access the Granites, or take the Wedderburn Wychitella road for access to the Wychitella block. The Skinners Flat block is accessed off the Calder highway north-west of Wedderburn on the Skinners Flat/Mt Kerang road
Key sites: The Skinners Flat block preserves box-ironbark forest in the south and mallee in the north, with the Mt Kerang road providing access. To the north-west of this block is Mt Kerang and the Nardoo Hills reserve, now owned by private conservation organisations, thus extending the area.
The northern Wychitella block is mostly mallee as well, with Wattle track providing some access to some nice mallee heath.
The Korong Vale block is accessed from near Korong Vale along Eucy road and then left into Fahey road which takes you to the old reservoir. The birding around the reservoir is excellent and from there tracks lead to mallee woodlands and mallee heaths.
The Granites (Mt Egbert) accessed off the Old Boort road
Key Species: Malleefowl (rare and very hard to find), Brush Bronzewing, Variegated Fairy-wren, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, Purple-gaped Honeyeater (rare) Black-chinned Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater (some years at the Granites), Shy Heathwren, Inland Thornbill, Red-capped Robin, Hooded Robin, Gilbert’s Whistler, Southern Scrub-Robin, Diamond Firetail
Kooyoora State Park
A little further south and receiving a little more rain than Wychitella, Kooyoora state park does have some mallee areas, but mostly consists of Box-Ironbark forests, and granite outcrops with Blakeleys Red Gum. This is an area where some dry country birds overlap with species from further south, and is a regular wintering area for Swift Parrots
Getting there: From Melbourne take the Calder towards Bendigo, turning off to bypass the city and reach Marong. From near Marong take the St Arnaud road (Wimmera highway) through Tarnagulla and Moliagul (good forests through here too) and then up to Rheola and Kooyoora
Key sites: The main block north-west of Kingower includes the Melvilles caves area and Mt Kooyoora itself. This is mostly Blakeleys red gum woodland with a wattle understory on granite hills. Lower down the slopes Grey Box and Yellow Gum forests dominate. The granite areas are great for smaller bush birds such as Thornbills and Robins. Both Gilberts Whistler and Speckled Warbler are a good chance here.
The Wehla block further west is an extensive area of Box ironbark forest, particularly lively in winter and spring when there is more flowering and nectar. Swift Parrots use the area most winters along with many other lorikeets and honeyeaters. Grassy Flat track, White Box track the Bealiba-Wehla road and the Burkes Flat- Wehla road are all good places to try.
The Glenalbyn block and Sunday Morning Hills block include a range of habitats. The mallee areas along the Sunday Morning Hills road are harvested for Eucalyptus oil and can be good for Tawny-crowned Honeyeater.
Kingower State forest just south of Kingower is another Swift Parrot wintering area, with Gap road and the southern parts of the forest along Pigeon road being the most productive
Key Species: Swift Parrot, Little Lorikeet, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Gilberts Whistler, Speckled Warbler, Scarlet Robin, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
Greater Bendigo National Park and Bendigo Regional Park
The recently declared National Park, and the Bendigo Regional Park includes hilly country right around the city of Bendigo, north, south, east and west. Much of these parks consists of regrowth forest, with the country not being permanently cleared for agriculture due to the 1850’s gold rush around the Bendigo region and the need for timber. Current threats include regular controlled burns and grazing pressure from Kangaroos damaging the understory, however there are many pockets of excellent habitat remaining.
Getting there: Bendigo is only 150 kms north of Melbourne via the Calder Freeway. Some good forest areas reach close in to the city whilst other parts of the park extend some 25 kms or more from Bendigo’s CBD.
Key sites: There are many tracks to explore in this park, and due to the hard stony ground many are fine to drive in all weather.
To the south in the One Tree Hill, Sedgewick and Mandurang areas are some of the healthiest forests of Grey, Yellow and Long-leaved Box, Stringybark and Yellow Gum with a mostly intact ground cover of native shrubs and forbs. As is typical in these drier woodlands, honeyeater species tend to dominate in areas of taller older trees in the gullies where nectar is more abundant. Smaller less aggressive bush birds such as thornbills, fantails and robins are found in the tougher conditions on the ridges and where the soils are poorer and the trees more stunted. The Chestnut-rumped Heathwren is to be found here especially where there is a good layer of low heathy shrubs. A wide range of other woodland species are present. Swift Parrots often visit especially in autumn, Painted Button-quail favour the drier ridges, and Scarlet Robins are quite common. Crusoe Reservoir No.7 park is part of Bendigo State forests, and easily accessed off the Calder highway just south west of Bendigo near Kangaroo flat. Some nice woodland combined with the reservoirs can add up to a healthy bird list in a relatively short time.
To the north of Bendigo in the “Whipstick” forest Grey Box and Yellow Gum trees dominate, but after a few kms this gives way to mostly Red Ironbark and the lower growing mallee vegetation where the soils are their poorest. The birding is worthwhile throughout, with the mallee areas of the northern Whipstick forest and the Kamarooka section holding some of the scarcer sought after specialities such as Shy Heathwren, Purple-gaped Honeyeater and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. Areas of particular note include around Skylark road, Blandfords road, Mellotes road, Burnside Road and Campbells road. A few hundred metres west along Campbells road is an old distillery dam which is used by many birds in hot weather.
In the very northern parts of the Kamarooka section of the park such as along Camp road, the land gradually descends back down onto the plains, and as the soils improve , Grey Box and Yellow Gum forests return. These can be good for Honeyeaters and Lorikeets when in flower.
Key Species: Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Shy Heathwren, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Gilberts Whistler, Crested Bellbird
Heathcote-Graytown National Park and Rushworth State Forest
From Heathcote to Rushworth, Nagambie and Puckapunyal lies a region with extensive box-ironbark forest much of it now protected. Unlike the Bendigo region, there are no extensive mallee woodlands here, but the slightly higher rainfall, variety of vegetation and interconnectedness of this large area make it an important refuge for a wide range of threatened box-ironbark species
Getting there: Heathcote is around 100kms north of Melbourne. Take the Hume freeway to Wallan and then the Northern highway through Kilmore and on to Heathcote
Key sites: Mt Ida is accessed from the Northern highway just north of Heathcote. Around its base larger trees are a good habitat for nectivorous birds. Once driving up the fairly steep slopes the vegetation becomes more stunted, with a heathy understory. A good site for Speckled Warbler and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren
Forest Drive, accessed a few hundred metres along the Nagambie road, follows a creek along the base of the McIvor range and has a wide range of species including Painted Button-quail and Speckled Warbler.
Graytown, Mt Black and Spring Creek are accessed further along the Nagambie road. Ironbark, Box and Stringybark trees grow on the ridges, Yellow Box and River Red Gum grow along the drainage lines, and Grey Box and Yellow Gum is to be found on the flats and slopes. The diversity of trees supports a good diversity of nectivorous species with Swift Parrots present each winter.
Baillieston just east of the National Park has quality roadside vegetation, uncleared private lands and sections preserved in historic reserves and is a superb area for birding. The Rushworth Nagambie road runs through the area providing access to the Historic reserves where Gilberts Whistler and Crested Bellbird may be seen. Swift Parots may be found in winter, and Painted Honeyeaters in spring. Pontings lane is one site to try for this localised bird. A feature of this area are the stands of
Rushworth State Forest just to the north contains large areas of Red Ironbark, with flower less frequently than some eucalypts, but when they do are magnets for nectar feeders. There are also some small mallee areas here which were used for oil production but too small and isolated to regularly support the mallee specialities
Key Species: Painted Button-quail, Swift Parrot, Little Lorikeet, Black-eared Cuckoo, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Crested Bellbird, Gilberts Whistler, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater(rare), Speckled Warbler, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Diamond Firetail
Warby-Ovens National Park
This park in north-east Victoria preserves three distinct areas. The granitic hills of the Warby Ranges, the Ironbark forests of Killawarra, and the River Red Gum forests and wetlands of the Ovens river, one of very few unregulated rivers in Victoria.
Getting there: The Warby‐Ovens National Park is 240km north east of Melbourne and 10km west of Wangaratta. The Warby Range road runs along the eastern side of the hills with various access points. Wangandary road cuts across the middle of the ranges and Boweya road provides access to the Killawarra forest to the north. The Wangaratta Yarrawonga road follows the lower Ovens floodplain up to Yarrawonga
Key sites: In the southern section of the Warby ranges Taafe road, Taminick Gap road, Delloro road and Shanley st all provide access to tracks into the park. Turquoise Parrots may be seen especially around the edges of the park.
Wangandary road which becomes the Thoona road cuts through the middle of the ranges giving access to Ryans lookout and the Pine Gully nature walk. Waterholes along Adams road to the south and Jones Road attract birds to drink. Driving Adams road north which leads onto Tower road takes you through a range of forest types until you come out at the northern end on the Boweya road. Grey Box track follows the edge of the park on the western side and is also a good site for Turquoise Parrot.
The Killawarra forest is largely Red ironbark and is heavily infested with mistletoe. When flowering this forest attracts good numbers of nectivores including Swift Parrots. The mistletoe also attracts Painted Honeyeaters every spring/summer to breed. The camp site in the centre of the forest is quite reliable for this species.
Ovens river: There are many access points along the river, most of which are inaccessible when it floods, which it does with some regularity! It is one of the most natural riverine forests in Victoria with healthy Red Gum forests and associated bird species.
Key Species: Warby Ranges: Turquoise Parrot, Western Gerygone, Scarlet Robin, Red-capped Robin, Speckled Warbler, Gang Gang Cockatoo (autumn/winter)
Killawarra forest: Swift Parrot, Painted Honeyeater, Speckled Warbler
Ovens River: Little and Noisy Friarbird, Scared and Azure Kingfisher, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Brown Quail, Dollarbird and Barking Owl
Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park
This area is probably Victoria’s best known box-ironbark birding site, largely due to the fact that it supports the last population of Regent Honeyeater left in the state. It is also home to many of the other rare and threatened birds found in this habitat type, with specials such as Turquoise Parrot and Painted Honeyeater regularly seen.
A full annotated bird list is available at the Friends of Chiltern website http://friendsofchiltern.org.au/index.php/biodiversity/birdlist-chiltern-mt-pilot-np
And a useful guide for birdwatchers can be found here http://www.tourisminternet.com.au/chbird.htm
Getting there: Around 270 kms north-east of Melbourne via the Hume freeway. Chiltern township is just off the freeway and a good place to start. The Chiltern forest lies north and south of the freeway, the Mt Pilot section is further south again
North of Chiltern: The site of recent release of captive bred Regent Honeyeaters, the forests to the north of town are amongst the most visited. 3kms from Chiltern on the Howlong road is Bartleys block, a cleared area on the west side of the road. Many of Chilterns species are regularly reported here including Turquoise Parrot and Painted Honeyeater and occasionally Regent Honeyeater. Better sites for Regents include Green Hill dam on Green Hill road and Klotz track, however this species is notoriously nomadic and generally only present from April to October. All the other tracks are worth exploring with perhaps Donchi Hill track and Ryans track, Frogs Hollow being of particular interest.
Just outside the park Grey-crowned Babblers may be seen along Fishers road.
South of Chiltern: Drive under the freeway and turn immediately left on to Lancashire Gap road. The Honeyeater picnic ground and Cyanide dam is another potential Regent Honeyeater site, and both Swift (winter only) and Turquoise Parrots are often about. Birds will come to drink here in hot weather. The White Box walking track starts here, a regular place for Painted Button-quail. Skeleton Hill track rises over a dry ridge where smaller bush birds may be seen such as Scarlet Robin and Buff-rumped Thornbill. Chestnut-rumped Heathwren has been seen here but is not easy.
Chiltern Valley Dams (Nos. 1 and 2): West of town along the Chiltern Valley road are a number of wetlands well worth visiting. There are also wetlands on private land, such as the one adjacent to No 1 dam which can also be good, plus the roadside trees are pretty lively.
Mt Pilot: The granitic ranges of the Mt Pilot section of the park are much more extensive, but less visited then the Chiltern section, but well worth the trouble if time allows. Barking Owl, Square-tailed Kite and Spotted Quail-thrush are three good reasons to explore the area, which has slightly higher rainfall. The Old Coach road is a good place to start, with the to the summit of Mt Pilot worth the views.
Key Species: Square-tailed Kite, Painted Button-quail, Gang Gang Cockatoo, Swift Parrot (winter) Turquoise Parrot, Barking Owl, Regent Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater