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The Forests of Chiltern Trip Report
Alan Morris with his Birding Harem
Follow That Bird ran its first trip to Chiltern in Victoria 12-16 October and it was an outstanding success. This successful trip was despite the very dry conditions that are prevailing over eastern Australia at the present and despite the varying weather conditions that we encountered during our trip. One day we had very hot dry heat-wave conditions, another was all hot dry winds while another was drizzling rain, over-cast, cold and cloudy but there were also two perfect spring days so providing top birding conditions. While on the hot dry days, birds were somewhat difficult to find, on the other days, we had great birding at each stop made.

On the first day our route took us down the Hume Highway to Yass, stopping enroute at Vickers VC Rest Area and that gave us a chance to see the Towrang Convict Camp and do our first birding, with plenty of bushbirds to see like Yellow-rumped & Buff-rumped Thornbills. After Yass, we took the Hume & Hovell Track down to Burrinjuck Dam, stopping off at Captains Camp, where nesting Buff-rumped Thornbill & Noisy Friarbird and many calling White-throated Gerygones, delighted us during lunch. At Burrinjuck Dam, nesting Brown Goshawks, and Rufous Whistlers, Leaden Flycatchers, New Holland & Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were easy to find. We finally reached Gundagai where our stay at the Garden Motel at the top of the town gave us great views over the area and we enjoyed the most beautiful rose garden backed by many Australian trees and scrubs. Lurking in the garden were Superb Fairy-wrens, Brown Thornbills and Double-barred Finches, while Eastern, Crimson & Yellow Rosellas visited the garden as well!

Superb Parrots, missed this time
by David Simpson
After the usual hours early morning walk around north Gundagai, and seeing both Collared Sparrowhawk and Nankeen Kestrel, we were off to Mates Gully TSR, near Tarcutta, a White Box/Ironbark woodland vegetation community well known for its wintering Swift Parrots. All the Swifties had departed for Tasmania by now, but we found plenty of other good birds here including Choughs, Peaceful Dove, White-browed Woodswallows, Black-chinned & Fuscous (nesting) Honeyeaters. Our stop in Holbrook along the River Walk yielded returning summer migrants like Sacred Kingfisher, Rufous Whistler and White-throated Gerygones, all calling well. One of the highlights of the trip was the two hours we spent at the Wonga Wetlands at Albury, managed by Albury City Council. Top birds were female Musk Duck with 2 little ducklings, 6 Glossy Ibis, Intermediate & Great Egrets, Shoveler, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Restless Flycatcher, Grey-crowned Babblers, Whistling Kite, Bee-eater & Little Frairbird. Good bird hides, excellent walking tracks and varying water levels and wetland types added to the great wetland experience. We reached Chiltern at dusk.

Next morning our pre breakfast walk took us down to the Lake at Chiltern, near where Henry Handel Richardson’s former home “Lake View” looks over the wetland. Plenty of birds to see, with House Sparrows, Starlings and Blackbirds in the gardens of Lake View, and Royal Spoonbills, White Ibis and Cormorants roosting on an island in the Lake. The air was full of the sound of White-browed Woodswallows, and calling Reed Warblers, Little Friarbirds & White-winged Trillers. That day we visited a number of sites within Chiltern National Park at Frog Hollow, Omega Mine, Indigo Goldfield Cemetery, Honeyeater Picnic Area, Ballarat Rd & Lancastershire road and Lappina Track areas. The next morning we extended our sites to include Chiltern Cemetery & adjoining Bushland and Bartleys Block. The highlights from our visit to the National Park included seeing and hearing Painted Honeyaters at Indigo Cemetery and Bartleys Block, finding Black-chinned and Fuscous Honeyeaters wherever we went, White-browed & Dusky Woodswallows at many places both nesting and feeding young, seeing Turquoise Parrots at Honeyeater Picnic Area as well as a Yellow Robin on a nest and Brown Treecreeper with 2 young, Little Lorikeets were seen feeding three young, and Leaden Flycatchers and White-browed Babblers were located at many spots. Raptors included Wedge-tailed Eagle and Collared Sparrowhawks at 2 sites, while Yellow-tufted and Brown-headed Honeyeaters were common , the latter also seen feeding young. We topped off our stay in Chiltern by attending the annual Ironbark Fair for two hours on the Saturday morning and became engrossed in all the rural activites of the Region.

Woodland Wonders
We reluctantly departed from Chiltern late morning making our way first to Howlong, on the Murray River, where we lunched at a riverside park and watched the nesting Sacred Kingfisher, Noisy Miner and Welcome Swallows, while Yellow Rosellas commuted across from Victoria to NSW and back again. We spent an hour at The Rock Nature Reserve, where Weebill, Yellow, Chestnut-rumped & Inland Thornbills were soon located and Western Gerygone, Rufous Whistler& Brown Treecreepers were calling strongly. Back to Gundagai, checking out the lagoons along the Murrumbidgee River for waterbirds. Our early morning walk at north Gundagai on the final morning yielded Goldfinch and Shining Bronze-cuckoo, new for our list and then off to Colac, Adjunbilly & Wee Jasper for the morning. While this area really was the most drought affected that we had passed through in the five days we were away, we still managed to see more White-browed & Dusky Woodswallows, calling Rufous Songlarks, and plenty of Brown Falcons and Kestrels. In Buccleuch SF near Wee Jasper there was a Brush Cuckoo and Striated & Brown Thornbills, while at Wee Jasper, we saw King Parrot and plenty of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. We arrived back in Sydney about 6 pm, having located over 130 species of birds and experienced a lovely part of southern NSW, parts of the upper Riverina and and the Chiltern Box/Ironbark forests. Evryone experienced great company, great birding and we visited some lovely old towns of that Region.

By Alan Morris guiding for FTB

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
3/59 Central Road
Avalon NSW 2107
Sydney Australia
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer