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
Getting there:
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 

 

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


Key sites
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