Saturday, 12 August 2017

Snowy River Estuary Walk

Snowy River Estuary Walk

The Snowy River Estuary is formed where the Snowy River flows into the Tasman Sea. The lake system that has formed here harbors many types of birds. The beaches and sand-flats are a favourite spot for migrating waders, terns and oystercatchers, while honeyeaters, Eastern Whipbird, Bassian Thrush and thornbills inhabit the gullies around the lakes.

Pelicans in flight

The bird-life around Marlo is well described in the Emu in 1919. "On the points and headlands of these great sands great numbers of water loving birds assemble. Hooded and Red Capped Dotterals and Pied Oyster-catchers patrol them; every submerged bank has its quota of Black Duck and Teal; cormorants and Darter ply ceaselessly to and fro, and Gulls and Terns circle overhead. Curlews cry plaintively along the muddy margins of the river, and the barking of the Little Penguin is hear further out, and at dusk long lines of Black Swan "honk" their way to their feeding-grounds."  [ Dr. Brooke Nicholls , F. Nicholls , W. B. Alexander & Tom Tregellas  (1919) "Down Marlo Way. " Emu-Australian Ornithology, 18:4, 265-272.  http://www.publish.csiro.au/mu/MU918265 ].

Today, some of this wonderful bird-life can be seen from the Snowy River Estuary Walk. This walk starts at Marlo, and ends at Mots Beach Car Park, though you can keep walking until you come to French Narrows. The Walk is 5.1km, and takes around 1 hour 40 minuets one way. (Parks Victoria)

Map of the walk
Imm Pacific Gull

Along the walk, there is a lookout that gives excellent views over the lake and beach. From here you can see many birds feeding and resting on the sands below. 

The lookout

View from the lookout
A good place to start the walk is Sampson Lookout. There you can park your car, and then either head down the steps to the water, or walk along the cliff top on the Snowy River Estuary Walk. This walk soon crosses the Marlo-Conran Rd. You then walk though a stand of Mahogany, Banksia and Wattle. This is a popular location for White Throated Treecreeper, Eastern Spinebill and thornbills. The walking track then crossed over the Marlo-Conran Rd again, and runs along the cliff top again.

The track ends at Motts Beach carpark, but there are steps going down to the lake, and a boardwalk/walking track that continues to French Narrows. This walk is definitely worth doing, as here you can see Egrets, Azure Kingfisher, cormorants and spoonbills.



There are a number of informative signs along the way. 



Pelicans

Great Egrets

Great Egret
Little Egret

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Black-tailed Godwits in East Gippsland

Black-tailed Godwits in East Gippsland

Black-tailed Godwits are a very rare visitor to East Gippsland. There are no eBird reports, and only a handful of Birdata reports. In fact, I didn't know they even occurred  in East Gippsland until local birders told me.  Therefore, when John Hutchison ( Avithera ) informed me of a small flock that had turned up, at the end of July, in East Gippsland, I made it a priority to have a look. 

Black-tailed Godwits
The godwits had been reported on the sand island at The Cut, one of my favorite birding places.  I wasn't able to make it until nearly a week after they were originally sighted, but I wasn't disappointed. Through the spotting scope, I saw three godwits feeding some distance from me. It was early morning, so I had to work my way around the birds so that I could get some decent lighting.  Thankfully the godwits were engrossed with feeding and preening, so I was able to move into position. It was then that I discovered that there was actually five godwits. 



The godwits allowed me to approach within 10 metres without even moving, which allowed for good photographing. They were very sedentary, and only moved a few metres the whole time I was there. 

Azure Kingfisher
There were many other birds around, including an Azure Kingfisher that allowed me to get quite close. 

Little Pied Cormorant

Royal Spoonbills in morning light
The next day, I decided to got back for another look. This time it was late afternoon, with a stiff breeze. 

The five godwits together

The godwits in flight
Seeing the Black Tailed Godwits was a great experience, especially in East Gippsland and it makes a great break during the winter months while waiting for the migratory shorebirds to come back.

Friday, 28 July 2017

A Winter Afternoon in East Gippsland

A Winter Afternoon in East Gippsland

Lately I have been unable to get out birding, so I haven't had any new blog posts coming out. However, I was able to do a bit of birding on Saturday, 22 July, so I headed down to Eagle Point for a look.

The first place I headed for was Eagle Point Reserve. The reserve is located off Rivermouth Rd, which comes off Forge Creek Rd.

Eagle Point Reserve - Google Maps

Eagle Point Reserve - Google Maps

I arrived at the Eagle Point Reserve around lunch time, and started at Gate 4. The bird-life was quite prolific, with Grey Fantail, Golden Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, Black-Faced Cuckoo Shrike and Silvereye. ( eBird Checklist )

A nest

Male Golden Whistler

After walking though the Reserve, I headed to The Cut.  The Cut is one of my favorite birding places, and as usual, it did not disappoint.  There were a number of Red Kneed Dotterals, Australasian Shoveler, thousands of Coots and hundreds of Black Swans.

Great Egret

Red Kneed Dotteral


Eagle Point Reserve and The Cut are both great places for birding. They are less than 25 minutes apart and cover a good range of species.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Bendoc

Bendoc

Ice in morning sun


Bendoc is a small town 10km kilometers from the Vic/NSW border. In the 1800's, Bendoc was a mining centre, but today it is primarily farming and forestry.

Bendoc is 103Km from Orbost, along the Bonang Hwy. Bendoc can also be accessed from Bombala in NSW.

Routes to Bendoc

While the Bendoc area is not noted for its bird-life, there is a considerable range of bush species. Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo are quite common in the area, as are Satin Bowerbirds and Lyrebirds. Brown Thornbill can be abundant in the right habitat, as well as White Browed Scrubwrens, Superb Fairwrens and Flame Robin.




The Bonang Hwy is  also a good spot for birding. White Throated Nightjar and Barn Owl can be seen in the early morning, and Wonga Pigeon, Eastern Yellow Robin and Lyrebird during the day.

Crimson Rosella

Eastern Yellow Robin
The Bendoc area is definitely worth checking out for birds. Try driving on the bush tracks, and stopping regularly and listen for bird calls.  Log trucks operate in the area, so pay attention to signs and keep you UHF radio on channel 40.

Frosty morning near Bendoc

*I haven't actually taken my big camera to the Bendoc area, so the bird photos are from other locations.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Syd The SIPO

Syd the SIPO


The South Island Oystercatcher , (SIPO) is an oystercatcher from New Zealand. It is quite similar to our Australian Pied Oystercatcher (APO), but the SIPO has a slightly larger bill and shorter legs. SIPO's are endemic to NZ, but occasionally a lone individual turns up on the East Coast of Australia. SIPO's have now been recorded 10 times in Australia since 1998.

Last year, an oystercatcher was banded at Stockyard Point. It was identified as an APO and given a red leg flag of 1N. This oystercatcher then flew to Ballina, where it was identified in late December as a South Island Pied Oystercatcher. 

June came around, and on the 18th, Simon Star went to Stockyard Point, where the SIPO had been banded. After some searching, lo and behold, there was 1N! Birders rushed to Stockyard Point, to add a SIPO to their Vic list. I wasn't able to make it until the 22nd, but I got there eventually.

Stockyard Point is a point of land on the eastern side of Western Port Bay, near Jam Jerrup. It is a popular location for shorebirds, with its large tidal mudflats.

A variety of shorebirds coming into land  - Stockyard Point

Stockyard Point, Google Maps
Stockyard Point
The beach, western side of Stockyard Point

It took 3 hours to get to Stockyard Point from Bairnsdale, and we arrived around 8 AM. It was overcast, but calm. High tide was due at 11 AM, so we had a bit of time to wait. As we were waiting, we saw some Cape Barren Geese in the distance, two Terek Sandpipers, a Gull Billed Tern, numerous APOs and lots of ducks.

Shelduck

APO
 It got closer to 11AM, and more birders turned up. Eventually there was about 11 birders, all peering through scopes and cameras, waiting....

Don't know where everyone went..

Oystercatchers were flying in, two or three at a time. There was a medium sized flock, right in front of us, feeding and preening.

Then, someone called out, there it is! A oystercatcher flew in, bearing the tag 1N. The larger bill and shorter legs, were noticeable, but only just.

Syd is the 2nd on from the left


Syd is the 4th from the left
Syd seemed to mix in well with the APOs, and I would have lost it if it hadn't been for the other birders calling out its position.

After some time, we turned our attention to the shorebirds that had flown in.


Double Banded and Red Capped Plovers, Curlew Sandpiper, Red Necked Stint

Red Knot, Red necked Stint, Double Banded Plover


There was around 60 Red Knots, many Curlew Sandpipers, Red Necked Stints and Red Capped Plovers.

Some of the Curlew Sandpipers and Red Knots were in spectacular breeding plumage.

Curlew Sandpiper in red breeding plumage
Apparently these birds will probably overwinter here.

After photographing the waders, we started to head back. It was a 1.3Km walk back to the carpark, but a Brown Goshawk being attacked by a raven added some interest.


We then headed over to Reef Island, but that's another story.

All up, we got 6 lifers, and 10 new species for 2017.  Lifer pie consisted of a piece of Apple Slice from the Rosedale bakery.


Monday, 5 June 2017

The Haunted Stream (Stirling)

The Haunted Stream (Stirling)


The Haunted Stream is a small river that winds its way down the Tambo Valley into the Tambo River. The countryside is steep and rugged, and there are no major roads for access. 

Today there are only a few campsites and some mine shafts, but around 100 years ago, the Haunted Stream was a hive of activity. Over 800 people lived and worked in and around the town of Stirling. 100 gold stampers crushed the quartz from dozens of mines. There was a hotel, school, store and police station. Today is are only a few remaining bricks and mineshafts that dot the hills.

The name Haunted Stream is of a slightly unclear origin. The general opinion is that it stems from the murder of “Ballarat Harry” ( Roger Tichbourne) by Tom Toke in the Haunted Stream headwaters.  Keith McD Fairweather says, “One other suggestion as to how the stream became known as haunted has been put to me, but in view of the weight of the evidence supporting the murder aspect, it cannot be correct, although interesting. When the stream was first opened up, there was a colony of Powerful Owls there. This bird is known as the screech owl to many, because its cry has been known to send men rushing off into the night to rescue a woman being murdered.” ( Fairweather, Keith McDonald. Time To Remember. 1st ed. [Doctor's Flat, Vic.]: [Keith McD. Fairweather], 1975.  Page 208).   However, I have been reliably informed that Powerful Owls do not screech,  so the screeching was most likely from a Sooty Owl.

Gold was discovered in 1863, and the rush began in 1865. A Hungarian digger by the name of John Polich opened the Passover mine in 1882.  Many more mines followed.

https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/773815
 In 1882, the town that had sprung up at Haunted Stream was to be named Nelson. However, it was actually called Stirling, after James Stirling who was a geologist in the area.

A state school was opened in 1887, with a maximum attendance of 80. 

https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/767950

However, Stirling had no agriculture or any other way of surviving other than gold. So, by the early 1900's, the town was dwindling.  According to Keith McD Fairweather, a potato farmer and some friends attempted to drive a tunnel though Hans Hill in the 1930's, but it never eventuated. 

https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/767952
 
https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/767950
Today, the Haunted Stream is a popular 4X4 destination, with its many creek crossings and steep hills. 

During the winter, gates block access into the Haunted Stream, though the old town site of Stirling is still accessible. 

Birding wise, there is nothing special. Azure Kingfisher in the river, Yellow Tufted Honeyeater, Grey Shrike Thrush, Bassian Thrush and currawong are the main birds to be seen. 


Bassian Thrush

Azure Kingfisher

The track into the Haunted Stream is quite rough and slippery when wet. Only 4X4 or All Wheel Drives should be driven in there. 

Straight down

Haunted Stream track

A small tunnel.
The Haunted Stream is a great spot to visit, whether you are bird-watching, 4X4ing, picnicking, or interested in local history. 




References

"Explore Museums Victoria's Humanities And Natural Sciences Collections". Museums Victoria Collections. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 June 2017.

Fairweather, Keith McDonald. Time To Remember. 1st ed. [Doctor's Flat, Vic.]: [Keith McD. Fairweather], 1975. Print.

Fleet, James. The History Of Gold Discovery In Victoria. 1st ed. Print.

Gardner, P. D. Names Of The Great Alpine Road Between Bairnsdale And Omeo. 1st ed. Ensay, Vic: Ngarak, 1997. Print.

"Home". Trove. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 June 2017.

Shire Of Tambo, 1882-1982. 1st ed. [Lakes Entrance, Vic.]: [The Shire], 1982. Print.

Steenhuis, Luke. Secrets Of Ghost Towns Of The High Country. 1st ed. Vermont, Vic.: Research, 1998. Print.

Watson, Angus B. Lost & Almost Forgotten Towns Of Colonial Victoria. 1st ed. [Victoria, Australia]: Angus B. Watson and Andrew MacMillan Art & Design, 2003. Print.