REGION 2. WESTERN Victoria
The Bellarine Peninsula
As with the coastline closer to Melbourne, the Bellarine peninsula has many worthwhile birding sites within a small area. It is an excellent area for waders with a wide diversity present at various sites. It also has some excellent freshwater marshes where in season rails, crakes and Bitterns may be seen. On top of this coastal lookouts will reward with ocean going seabirds such as Shy and Black-browed Albatross.
Getting there: It takes one hour to drive to Geelong from Melbourne on the Princes freeway. From Geelong either head south on the Barwon Heads road, or south east on the Bellarine highway.
Key sites: Belmont common in Geelong is a good place to try for some of the trickier marshland birds, such as Latham’s Snipe and Spotless Crake especially when water levels are down usually in summer.
Breamlea to Barwon Heads. The coastline and adjacent marshes here are good wader habitat. Point Impossible, Black Rock and Thirteenth beach are all interesting with localised coastal species such as Pacific Golden Plover, Hooded Plover and Sanderling all regular. Seabirds may be seen off shore and Black-faced Cormorants can be in the area. The marshes adjacent to Blackgate road and Minya road hold a range of waterbirds when water levels are right. Seabirds may be seen especially from Barwon heads bluff.
Lake Connewarre is a complex of wetlands at the end of the Barwon river, some of which is tidal. Waders are found in the estuary at Barwon heads and particularly in the lower reaches of the lake. Either access from Taits road or Brinsmead lane on the northern shore. The saltmarsh also has some interesting birds such as Blue-winged Parrot and Southern Emu-wren. Reedy lake is the freshwater part of the system further upstream. Hospital swamp, accessed from Hospital swamp road is a good wader hotspot in the south, or access from Moolap station road, Woods road or O’Halloran road in the north.
Lonsdale lakes are two shallow lakes that can hold large numbers of waders especially when water levels drop through summer. Access from Emily st or Clows lane. This is one of the only places in Victoria where Hooded Plovers may be seen away from the beach.
Edwards Point and Swan Bay on the eastern end of the peninsula are also excellent for waders and various coastal birds, with saltmarsh and mudflats exposed at low tide. Allow two or three hours for the return walk to the point, access from the east end of Beach road, St Leonards.
Lake Lorne, adjacent to the Geelong-Port Arlington road in Drysdale is an exceptional freshwater lake which regularly holds numbers of Freckled Duck, especially in summer.
Key Species: Brolga, Australasian Bittern, Black-faced Cormorant, Shy Albatross, Hooded Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Sanderling, Wood Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Spotless Crake, Latham’s Snipe, Fairy Tern, Double-banded Plover, Freckled Duck, Blue-billed Duck
Great Otway National Park and The Great Ocean Road
With moisture laden air coming in off the Great Southern Ocean meeting steep mountain ranges which go right down to the coast, the Otways region receives some of the highest rainfall in the state. The resulting forest of Blue Gum and Mountain Ash is magnificent, and in the higher areas temperate rainforest and spectacular waterfalls complete the scene. Add to that the coastal heathlands that occur around Anglesea and Aireys Inlet as well as along the Port Campbell and Twelve Apostles sections of the coastline, and you have a tremendously diverse birding area, complete with its own speciality, the very localised endemic Rufous Bristlebird.
Getting there: Driving from Melbourne there is now a bypass around the city of Geelong, which means you can be on the coast near Torquay in not much over an hour. Then simply follow the scenic coast road, remembering to keep looking ahead at the road and not get too distracted by the spectacular scenery. There are many tourist coaches passing through every day, but little in the way of public transport.
Key sites: In order, from the Melbourne end of the coast road, through to Port Campbell, the first worthwhile stop is Point Addis. A short drive off the main road takes you out to a scenic lookout which is a handy sea watching site with Shy Albatross almost guaranteed and many other possibilities depending on the time of year and the weather. Rufous Bristlebird and Brush Bronzewing are found here. It is also worth stopping at the small car park not far off the road where a walking track takes you along the ridge or down into Ironbark basin. The Ironbark and Stringybark woodland here has lots of birds such as Cuckoos, Scarlet Robin, Leaden Flycatcher, Olive-backed Oriole etc.
Anglesea Heath – just before reaching Anglesea it is possible to turn right onto Coalmine road and drive up onto the heath behind town. Another access point is along Harvey street, which climbs the hill behind the west end of town. Once up on the heath Bald Hills road or No.2 road are both good tracks to try Another worthwhile section of heath is the coastline just east of town, park at the end of Purnell st and walk along the cliff top. The heathlandsare very rich botanically, and have some specialist birds such as Southern Emu-wren, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Striated Fieldwren, Blue-winged Parrot, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Beautiful Firetail (rare) , Rufous Bristlebird and Olive Whistler. They are also very good for Gang Gang Cockatoos which regularly come into town.
The mixed habitats behind Aireys Inlet are also excellent, with Bambra road and the Old Coach road particularly good.
The Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet is another headland good for seabirds, and also Rufous Bristlebird. The small pond at the start of the access road can have Lathams Snipe in summer, and also Buff-banded Rail.
The endangered Hooded Plover occurs all along the coastline in small numbers, check any suitable looking ocean beach. Fenced off areas protect the birds when breeding.
Lorne- Drive up into the mountains behind Lorne and you hit the first of the towering eucalypt forests, with Satin Bowerbirds and King Parrots, and a good chance of Koala. Worthwhile sites include the Allenvale road along to Allenvale Mill and the She-Oak picnic ground, Sharps track, the Erskine Falls road up to Blanket Leaf picnic area and the Falls themselves and Five mile track (walking only) accessed off the Deans Marsh road. Species include Bassian Thrush, Forest Raven, Gang Gang Cockatoo, Olive Whistler, Crescent Honeyeater, Satin Bowerbird, Rose Robin etc. The forest here comes alive at night, with many nocturnal mammals to see as well as a chance for Powerful Owl or Masked Owl.
Moving further west into the Otways the township of Kennett river is an excellent place to see Koala, Triplet Falls would be one of the most magnificent walks in a cool temperate rainforest with Pink Robin a real chance, Cape Otway also has a large Koala population and Blanket Bay is well worth the detour with its mix of stringybark woodland and rich coastal heathland, a very birdy spot.
A little more inland between the townships of Gellibrand and Carlisle river, the Old Carlisle Track is a four wheel drive track which is seasonally closed in winter. The sandy nature of the soil here supports a diverse heathland and is an excellent area to look for Southern Emu-wren, Beautiful Firetail, Olive Whistler and lots more. Either drive in with care, or park at either end and walk.
Further west still in the Port Campbell NP, the scenery ramps up even more with eroded sea cliffs, and the famous arches and pillars that make this area famous. It also happens to be excellent for seeing Rufous Bristlebird, at many of the tourist car parks along the way, best in the early morning before all the regular tourists wake up.
There are of course many more worthwhile spots in this rich area, which is great to explore.
Key Species: Black-faced Cormorant, Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Forest Raven, Rufous Bristlebird, Gang Gang Cockatoo, Satin Bowerbird, Pink Robin, Olive Whistler, Southern Emu-wren, Blue-winged Parrot, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Powerful Owl, Masked Owl, Beautiful Firetail, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Bassian Thrush, Brush Bronzewing, Rose Robin and Crescent Honeyeater amongst others
Pelagic Sea-birding Trips
Getting there: Victoria has some of the best pelagic birding in the world. The list of ocean going seabirds seen in Victorian waters is very long, and a day out on the water at any time of the year is sure to produce something of interest.
Monthly boat trips from Portland in far south-west Victoria are organised by volunteers through Birds Australia’s Victoria group. Bookings should be made well in advance, and these trips are very popular. You are also able to put your name down on a waiting list, as frequently when the week comes some cannot make it. Some trips do not get out due to rough weather in which case a second attempt will be made the following weekend.
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The only other regular pelagic seabirding trips organised in Victoria are through Birdswing Wildlife Tours and depart from Port Fairy in season. http://www.birdingwildlifetours.com.au/index.php?page=tours&subpage=portfairy
Key Species: Regular species seen depending on the season include Australasian Gannet, Little Penguin, Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Yellow-nosed Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Southern Giant-Petrel, Northern Giant-Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Wilsons Storm-Petrel, White-faced Storm-Petrel, Grey-backed Storm-Petrel, Cape Petrel, Fairy Prion, Common Diving-Petrel, Fluttering Shearwater, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Huttons Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater and Crested Tern.
Other seabirds recorded each year but less frequently include Sooty Albatross, Buller’s Albatross, Royal Albatross, Gould’s Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, White-headed Petrel, Slender-billed Prion, Antarctic Prion, Brown Skua, Arctic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger and White-fronted Tern.
Then there is a long list of rarer and vagrant seabirds making these trips some of the most exciting pelagics in the world
The south-west corner of Victoria is an under visited region with outstanding natural values, and a high percentage of native vegetation intact. Port Fairy and Portland are well known as coastal towns from which pelagic birding trips leave, however the region offers much much more. The high rainfall has meant this district is valuable farming land, with drainage schemes having reduced the number of wetlands. More recently wetland values are being more recognised with rehabilitation taking place at various sites. Heading away from the coast around the towns of Dartmoor, Casterton and Edenhope, many bushland reserves remain, with this being the stronghold of the endangered South-East Australian Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.
Getting there: The region lies some 380 kms west of Melbourne via the Princes Highway, which continues on to the coast of South Australia.
Key sites: Portland: Cape Nelson is probably the best land based site for viewing seabirds in Victoria. As well as the seabirds that frequent coastal waters, at times pelagic seabirds are observed here especially in rough weather. Add to that prime coastal heathland with Rufous Bristlebird, Beautiful Firetail, Blue-winged Parrot, Brush Bronzewing and Olive Whistler and you have yourself hours of amusement.
Point Danger Gannet colony: A viewing platform just outside the protective fence allows for observation of nesting Australasian Gannets. Individual Cape Gannets have been recorded here on and off for many years.
Portland Harbour may provide close viewing of seabirds, particularly during winter in rough weather.
Fawthrop lagoon in town has some quality wetland values. When water levels are lower Lewins Rail may be observed from the boardwalk. Australasian Bittern may occur in winter.
The newly declared Cobboboonee National park 10 kms north west of Portland is a site with some quality wet forest gullies important for species such as Powerful Owl, Rose Robin, Olive Whistler, Satin Flycatcher, Rufous Fantail, Bassian Thrush and Pink Robin (in winter). In the northern section Spotted Quail-thrush occurs
Port Fairy: Griffiths island has a colony of Short-tailed Shearwaters (try a dusk walk in summer), and Hooded Plover occur on some of the beaches here. Wetlands on the south side of town along Ocean drive, Powling Street and the Moyne river are important for Latham’s Snipe in summer and Australian Spotted Crake is regular here.
From Yambuk, 17kms west of Port Fairy take Lake road and then walk to the Eumerella river mouth, where waders roost at high tide. Hooded Plover and Sanderling may be seen. Ephemeral wetlands along Lake road add further interest.
Deen Maar is an important area for a number of threatened species, with river flats, saltmarsh, and coastal dunes at the west end of Lake Yambuk. For access contact the traditional owners, who run the Eumeralla Backpackers. At times Lewin’s Rail, Australasian Bittern, Lathams Snipe, Southern Emu-wren, Stilts, Avocets and Crakes may be seen. It also was a traditional site for wintering Orange-bellied Parrot, though these have been rarely observed in recent years.
Nelson: Discovery Bay, between Portland and Nelson is a stunning 30+km long ocean beach with Hooded Plovers.
The Glenelg river estuary at Nelson is worth a look for waders and terns. Adjacent coastal dunes have Brush Bronzewing, Olive Whistler and Beautiful Firetail amongst others. Access from Nelson via Beach road.
The Lower Glenelg National Park preserves the lower reaches of this river, where steep gorges are popular for canoeing. Azure Kingfisher, Olive Whistler, Rufous Bristlebird, Gang Gang Cockatoo, Brush Bronzewing, Emu, Blue-winged Parrot and Crescent Honeyeater all occur here. In the eastern section of the park wet heathlands are home to Southern Emu-wren. The near impossible King Quail has been recorded here.
Inland from the coast : between Portland, Dartmoor, Casterton and Edenhope lie large areas of forest and scrub, plus many wetlands with tremendous values. Little visited this section of Victoria is quiet and wild, with a wide range of birds. Sites include Stokes River State Forest and Crawford River Regional park north-east of Dartmoor. Nangeela State Forest, Drujurk SF, Bahgalluh SF and Argyle SF west of Casterton. And between Casterton and Edenhope lies Dergholm State Park, Dorodong SF, Roseneath SF and Tooloy-Lake Mundi Nature reserve.
This region provides important Victorian habitat for Emu, Australasian Bittern, Musk Duck, Swamp Harrier, Brolga, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Blue-winged Parrot, Spotted Quail-thrush, Southern Emu-wren, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and Forest Raven.
Key Species: Emu, pelagic seabirds, Hooded plover, Sanderling, Latham’s Snipe, Lewin’s Rail, Australasian Bittern, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Blue-winged Parrot, Rufous Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren, Olive Whistler, Beautiful Firetail, Forest Raven.