Sunday, July 15, 2012


After our Murray-Sunset encounter in early March, we continued on north and west along the Murray River into South Australia with the aim of a visit to Gluepot Reserve, part of a huge area of intact mallee bushland, and managed by Birdlife Australia. 
On our way there one of our overnight stays was in a public park next to the rail line at a little town called Underbool, where we watched the sunset over the grain silos nearby.   

Underbool sunset

A few encounters with some locals gave me a couple of of photo opportunities.   

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

Apostle Birds

Black Kite

After the drive in along the 50km of rough and in parts sandy road, we arrived at the reserve
and got our bearings at the fantastic information centre near the rangers residence.

Gluepot information centre

After finding a suitable camp site we settled in, and made the most of the glorious weather over the next few days, driving the tracks and walking the numerous trails looking for birds and enjoying the unique beauty of our surrounds. 

At the "Babbler" camp site

The watering points scattered through the 126,000 acre reserve are a great way to spot some of the resident bird life and the pigeons below were one of the more prevalent attendees.  

Common Bronze-wings

Grey Currawong

This native shrub was one of the few plants flowering at the time of our visit. 

Unidentified Mallee shrub

A sunning Bearded Dragon is usually an easy subject to photograph, not like some of those pesky things with wings.

Although the two birds below behaved themselves and stayed within range.

Red-Capped Robin - male

Jacky Winter

While we were unsuccessful in locating some of our target species such as the enigmatic Scarlet-chested Parrots that had been seen here in recent times, and the rare Mallee Fowl (not for lack of trying!), a bonus was a small flock of Regent Parrots that landed in a tree close to where I was searching for the SCP's, on our last morning there. Not a tick for the life list, but a bird I had seen only at a distance previously. This race (the other being found in south west WA) is classed as an endangered species and I felt privileged to get a good look at these lovely birds.

Regent Parrots

We had a great stay here and observed close to 50 species all up including 3 lifers: Chestnut Quail-Thrush, White-browed Treecreeper and Gilbert's Whistler. Some great information available at this site:

Monday, July 9, 2012


From Deniliquin we crossed the border back into Victoria and on to Murray-Sunset National Park. Not far from Manangatang we pulled up along the Mallee Highway after spotting a flock of waders in a water filled salt lake beside the road. After walking back about 200 metres, we got a better look at them through our binos and found a new bird for us both, about 20 Banded Stilts. One of the easiest lifers I've ever picked up!

Banded Stilts

These were a mix of immature or non-breeding adults (white breast) and breeding adults (chestnut breast band). The population of this distinct endemic would hopefully have increased after the good inland rainfall in recent years.   

We set up our van at the Lake Crosbie campground alongside the largest of the Pink Lakes in the Murray-Sunset National Park. The lakes get their amazing colour from the red algae in the salt beds under the clear water.

Lake Crosbie

One of the more common species around the camp were small flocks of Yellow-throated Miners that were nowhere near as rambunctious as their east cost cousins, the Noisy Miners.

These pigeons were playing follow the leader on a dead branch.

Crested Pigeons

And these inquisitive kangaroos didn't mind hanging around for a photo opportunity

Western Grey Kangaroos

We managed a couple of walks around the lakes and through the mallee scrub along some well defined tracks, stumbling across a pair of Mallee Emu-Wrens on one trek, feeding in the triodia (spinifex) grass prevalent in the area. This gorgeous little bird is a range restricted, vulnerable species and an unexpected lifer. We knew they were in the National Park but didn't rate our chances because of their rarity. No pictures unfortunately but I have added a link here: with superb images and info on this amazing little bird. A couple of Striated Grass-wrens were also a first for us, spotted from the car along Pioneer Drive, a maintained road that takes you past all four lakes.

Lake Kenyon

Another fairly common but multi-hued bird was the Mallee Ringneck, a form (or sub-species) of the Australian Ringneck that also occurs as three other geographic forms across the inland. 

Mallee Ringneck

Lake Hardy

This member of the colourful Psephotus genus (which includes the extinct Paradise Parrot) was alive and well and feeding contentedly on the fruit of a low growing shrub beside our campsite. I think it's one of the most beautiful parrots in our "land of of parrots", but I have yet to clap eyes on some of the rarer and equally stunning members of the family Psittacidae in Australia. 
One gentleman wrote a  fascinating account of his encounter with the mythical Paradise Parrot ninety years ago and the link here:  is well worth a read.

Mulga Parrot - male

Sunset over Murray-Sunset

The lakes were utilized for commercial salt harvesting between 1916 and 1979. The remnants of this era can still be found rusting away beneath azure skies. 

Lake Kenyon

Red algae in salt crystals

Old salt stockpile

This most colourful member of the woodswallow family was making the most of the plentiful supply of flying insects in the hot, dry weather. They also have brush-like tongues for feeding on blossom nectar and are apparently one of the few passerines that soar in flight.

White-browed  Woodswallows

The animal emblems on our coat of arms were also sighted in the park.

Red Kangaroo - male (boomer)


The Spiny-cheeks were active and conspicious even through the heat of the day, their gurgling, pleasant calls a constant part of our time in this semi-arid eco-system. A wonderful place and a must see for any nature lovers travelling through northern Victoria.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

I forgot to mention the superb night skies.

Dusk over Lake Crosbie

Full moon over the campground

Monday, July 2, 2012


In early March while staying at a van park near Echuca on the Murray river, I contacted  well known birding guide Phil Maher of Australian Ornithological Services, based in Deniliquin, New South Wales. The main reason for my first time use of a guide was to find the Plains Wanderer and Phil was the man, having access to a property where he has been studying these enigmatic birds since 1980. On short notice I was able to join up with him on a full day and night tour with a couple also from Queensland, Jim and Sue Sneddon. Jim is a keen photographer (with some nice camera gear!) and allowed me the use of his great photos, so I have included some on this post.
The highlight of the morning was a couple of small flocks of Superb Parrots, a beautiful Aussie endemic, and a bird that I had only seen once before, in flight, from a fast moving car.  

Superb Parrot - male

At Phil's place we were treated to the sight of an Owlet-Nightjar flying from it's roosting hollow after he tapped the trunk. It flew to a nearby hollow, one of several close by where we left it in peace. Phil has done a lot of re-planting on his property over the years and also grown thousands of native seedlings that have been planted in various areas of the shire.

Australian Owlet-Nightjar  

Not far from the Deniliquin town centre we explored the River Red Gum forest where a single  Button-Quail was trying hard to blend in with the scenery. I am amazed by the ability of these ground dwelling species and others like them, to survive and thrive despite their vulnerability to the depredations of feral cats and foxes. Maybe they're smarter than we think?  

Painted Button-Quail - male (photo - J.Sneddon)

Same bird

Along the river flats were some patches of  lovely native lilies that Phil named but I have totally forgotten. If it was a new bird species it would have been imprinted on my brain for all time!  
I do remember seeing a mauve version of the same plant in a paddock later that day.

Lilies on the Edward River flats.

Lily sp???

There were quite a few bush birds buzzing around including these little insect eating species below.
The first one is the Orange-winged race of the Varied Sittella, one of five distinct geographic forms in Australia.   

Varied Sittella - male (photo - J.Sneddon)  

Varied Sittella

The next is Australia's smallest bird at 8-9cm long, the Weebill. This has been one of the most common birds in our travels to date, it's far carrying call constantly in the background, but usually  difficult to pick up in the leafy foliage they inhabit. These ones were quite obliging! 


Weebill x 2

On our way north of Deniliquin we passed a couple of side roads that had been cut by the recent heavy rainfall and in some areas the water was still slowly rising, inundating parts of the grasslands through the region.

Just on dusk we started the search for the Plains Wanderer, walking the paddocks of the property because it was too wet in places to drive, which is the preferred method of searching because it covers the area a lot quicker. 

Moon rise over the plains

After a few hours and with a some help later in the evening from a couple of locals who were able to negotiate the wet terrain by motorbike and small ute, a juvenile male was finally located. The things that struck me most about this enigmatic bird was its size, being only about 15cm long, and the beautifully cryptic plumage.

Plains Wanderer - male (photo - J.Sneddon)

A couple of other birds of note that night were a lone Inland Dotterel, an uncommon endemic of southern and central Australia and another first for me, and an Eastern Barn Owl, a sub-species of  Tyto alba with it's worldwide distribution.

Inland Dotterel (photo - J.Sneddon)

Eastern Barn Owl (photo - J.Sneddon)

I had a great day out with Phil, a laconic and highly knowledgeable guide, and would recommend him  for anyone interested in using his services. A big thank you also to Jim and Sue for the opportunity to join them on their pre-booked tour and allowing me to include their photos. 

For more information on the Plains Wanderer and Australian Ornithological Services visit the link: