Thursday, 27 October 2016

Birding on the East Gippsland Rail Trail

Birding on the East Gippsland Rail Trail

Nicholson to Colquhoun

The East Gippsland Rail Trail runs from Bairnsdale to Orbost, via Nicholson, Bruthen, and Nowa Nowa. The rail trail is where the old train line ran, which opened in 1916 and closed in 1987. The line is now the East Gippsland Rail Trail which is quite popular with cyclists, horse riders and walkers, as well as (unfortunate), the occasional motor bike rider. 

I have rode along the rail trail a number of times now, and have covered Nicholson to the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge, just before Nowa Nowa. Every time I ride on the rail trail, I am struck with the wide variety of bird life that inhabit the varies habitat along the trail. Since there is such a variety of habitats, I have decided to divide this post into a number of segments, each documenting a specific part of the rail trail.

Nicholson to Bumberrah. 

Nicholson (eBird) has quite a good population and range of birds, including comorants, honeyeaters and raptors, such as Whistling Kite and Swamp Harrier.  As you travel further towards Bumberrah, the terrain becomes quiet undulating, with small stands of trees as well as many farm dams. Common Bronzewing, Whistling Kite, White Eared Honeyeater and Grey Butcherbird are abundant, and Wood Duck, Black Duck and Australasian Swamphen frequent the farm dams. Overall, the habitat is quite dry, with lots open farmland, ideal for raptors and other open country birds. 

Bumberrah to Mossiface.

The terrain and habitat change dramatically around Bumberrah. The Flat open farmland gives way to more hilly terrain, with more trees and scrub. Smaller birds thrive in the scrub lined trail, with all of the East Gippsland thornbills being common. Eastern Yellow Robins are also quite common closer to Mossiface. There is a colony of Bell Miners in a gully about half way between Bumberrah and Mossiface, and a Scarlet Honeyeater was sighted there once as well. Golden and Rufous Whistler are common as well as most of the honeyeater species. Again, Wood and Black Duck are common in the farm dams, and occasionally an Australasian Grebe can be sighted. 
Rail Trail between Bumberrah and Mossiface

Mossiface to Bruthen.

The habitat around Bruthen is often quite lush. The Rail Trail runs along the back of Mossiface, crosses the Swan Reach-Mossiface Rd and then the Great Alpine Rd. It then continues towards Bruthen, via the old Bruthen Station. Birds that can be seen in this area are: Ibis, White Faced and White Necked herons, Shelducks, Cockatoos, Swampen, Scarlet Robin, Jacky Winter and many raptors including Nankeen Kestral, Black Shouldered Kite, Wedge Tailes Eagle and Whistling Kite. The rail trail travels behind Bruthen, crosses the Tambo River, runs behind the Bruthen football oval and crossed the Bruthen - Nowa Nowa Rd. Straw Necked Ibis are often particularly abundant in the paddocks behind the football oval. 

Rail Trail, looking towards Mossiface from the Swan Reach-Mossiface Rd

Looking towards Bruthen, Rail Trail

Wood Duck family. Quite common in the spring time.

Bruthen to Colquhoun Forest. 

After crossing the Hwy, the trail again crosses the same road, about 500 metres up. It then travels into Colquhoun forest. The bird species change, with Crested Shrike Tits, many species of cuckoos, Black Cockatoos, Spotted Quail Thrush, White Throated Treecreeper and Lyrebird becoming quite common. The habitat is generally dry open forest, with patches of thick scrub, particularly in the gullies. Most of the grade is a gentle decline towards Nowa Nowa, however, there is a very steep hill coming up out of Stony Creek Trestle Bridge. Yellow Tufted Honeyeaters are reasonably common around the bridge, and Eastern Whipbirds can usually be heard calling.

The East Gippsland Rail Trail is a great way to see lots of birds, in a wide variety of habitats. There are eBird Hotspots along the trail, which is a great way to see what birds will be there at any certain time of year.

Maybe some day I will ride from Nowa Nowa to Orbost, and if I do, I'll post what birds there is to see. In the mean time, get out, enjoy the spring, and most of all, the birds!


  1. nice report! i need to get out this way shortly!

    1. Thanks Philip. I actually rode there today, 24 checklists and 3 new species for my year list.