Mallacoota & Gipsy Point
It has been five years since Follow That Bird had run a trip to Gipsy Point and Mallacoota in north-eastern Victoria, so expectations were high and were soon justified. While the first day of our trip started with drizzling rain, mist and fog, it gradually got better and for the rest of the five days we were blessed with amazingly pleasant spring weather and great birding experiences. Who can forget the thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters streaming past Green Cape Lighthouse heading for their breeding grounds on the offshore islands of southern Australia, while the Australian Gannets were pushing northwards around the same Cape! The many waders at Lake Conjola and Narooma; the Waterbirds at Mallacoota inlet sandbar; The parrots and Wonga Pigeons around Gipsy Point Lodge; the bushbirds in the forests around Mallacoota,; the wilderness experience of Wingen Inlet; and the enjoyable birding time we had at the Platypus Reserve, Bombala! Great birding experiences!
Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens
The fog and drizzling rain meant that our first scheduled stop at Sublime Point did not eventuate and so we continued south to the Wollongong Botanic Gardens, where one of the staff, Karen Holmes, invited us to see some of the nesting birds in the Gardens and we saw a Tawny Frogmouth with young in the nest, a Grey Butcherbird feeding young, a male Satin Bowerbird and its bower and nearby, a Buff-banded Rail & pair of Green Catbirds! That cheered us up a lot and so we off to the Jervis Bay area and lunched at the Huskisson Heritage Museum where on the boardwalk in the mangroves we had good views of Scarlet & yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Sacred Kingfishes and White-breasted Woodswallows! The weather gradually improved further south and by the time we had reached Lake Conjola, things were looking good and we had fine weather for the rest of the tip. There were plenty of waders on the sandbars at the eastern end of the Lake, including Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels, Eastern Curlews & Pied Oystercatchers, while a walk down the beach to the inlet, saw some beachcast Short-tailed Shearwaters and a lone Fairy Prion where the water was entering the sea, plenty of Red-necked Stints, Red-capped Plovers, some Common & Little Terns, and a Sanderling! Great stuff! Crimson Rosellas & King Parrots were there to welcome us to the Bayswater Motel on our arrival in Batemans Bay.
New Holland Honeyeater by Rae Clark
Next morning an early morning walk around the Motel and shores of the Bay found Pied Oystercatchers, Eastern Curlews, Striated Herons and bushbirds like Yellow Robins, Brown & Striated Thornbills, a Koel and Spotted Pardalotes. Soon we were off to enjoy trhe bushbirds at the Eurobodalla Botanical Gardens where a feast of birds awaited us, notably Brush Cuckoo, Rufous Whisler, Olive-backed Oriole & White-naped Honeyeaters, while just south at Dalmeny another Buff-banded Rail was feeding amongst a group of Grey and Chestnut Teal. A good find at Narooma River Bar was a large flock of over 300 Bar-tailed Godwits in which was embedded 12 Red Knots, and great views of White-breasted Sea-eagles. A highlight of the trip was a half hour spent at Green Cape Light House, where it was estimated 20,000 Short-tailed Shearwaters passed close by frantically headed south round the Cape! Good views of Gannets, c. 18 Shy Albatross and a mob of 20 Seals fed close to the rocks while Humpback Whales passed by further out!. We arrived at Gypsy Point to be welcomed by a Wonga Pigeon flying across the road and King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas waiting for us to feed them!
Koala by Rae Clark
For the next two days, based at Gipsy Point Lodge, on the upper reaches of Mallacoota Inlet, we combed the area around Mallacoota Inlet, while enjoying the food and camaraderie at the Lodge! Some highlights were finding nesting Red-capped Plovers & White-fronted Chats in the sand dunes of Mallacoota Beach, seeing a Hooded Plover, Whiskered Terns, Sharp-tailed & Curlew Sandpipers hiding in the salt marsh of the Inlet, a Reef Egret at Bastian Point, Figbirds in the trees at the Mallacoota Shopping area; and more Scarlet Honeyeaters & Pied Oystercatchers at Betka River. In the rainforest along Double Creek walking tracks we located Rufous Fantails, Rose Robins, Fan-tailed Cuckoos, Leaden Flycatchers and Black-faced Monarchs and we had fleeting views of Glossy Black Cockatoos; New Holland & Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, Pipits and Skylarks were in and around the airport! A drive westwards to Wongarbell, yielded Choughs, our only White-winged Trillers and nesting Jacky Winters; while walks around the Lodge found Striated Herons and a Nankeen Night Heron. A Sparrowhawk harassed the Wonga Pigeons and parrots at the Lodge’s bird feeder and on our boat trip up the reaches of the Genoa River, we saw Topknot Pigeons, Azure Kingfisher, Sea-Eagle, Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kite. Our bird list for the Mallacoota area was 113 species!
Ring-tailed Possum by Rae Clark
It was with great reluctance we left Mallacoota on the 5th day and headed for Wingen Inlet but after the long drive through the forest we were amazed at the noisy welcome all the birds gave us as we drove into the camping grounds at the Inlet. Brown Gerygones, Golden Whistlers, Lewin’s & Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Whipbirds and Fantailed & Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were making an incredible noise as we quickly had our morning tea!! Soon we were off through the forest heading for Wingen Beach and the estuary! The birds continued to call loudly on our walk through the forest, with noisy Rainbow Lorikeets adding to sound. We were lucky to find Large-billed Scrub-wren, Varied Sitellas & White-throated Treecreepers, Leaden Flycatchers, Rufous Fantails and fleeting views of Bassian Thrushes. In the inlet were Eastern Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits, brown juvenile Pacific Gulls and Pied Oystercatchers. On the beach were Crested Terns, and Hooded Plover were hiding amongst the kelp while adult Pacific Gulls & Black-faced Cormorants were roosting on the nearby rocky islands amongst the seal colony! On our return to the coach, we all had better views of Bassian Thrushes amongst the leaf litter! From here we headed to Cann River and then along the Monaro Highway to the Playtpus Reserve at Bombala.
Gang-gang Cockatoo by Hans Fander
Apart from being a great place to watch Platypus, the woodland on this Reserve is a great place to see Diamond Firetails, Dusky Woodswallows, Striated pardalotes, Goldfinc, Rufous Whistler, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and lots of other goodies, and we did! We also found nesting Dusky Woodswallows, Diamond Firetails and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. The drive across the Monaro Plains from here yielded Kestrels, Brown Falcons and more Pipits, and soon we were in Cooma! An early morning walk around the streets and a little bush reserve at Cooma located 27 species including new ones like Pallid Cuckoo, Little Raven &White-eared; Honeyeater and while on the drive through to Canberra there were more Brown Falcons and Kestrels, Skylarks and Pipits. In Canberra, our first stop was at Jerrabomborra Wetlands, where Latham’s Snipe, Australian Shoveler, White-plumed Honeyeater, Red-rumped Parrots were new birds for our list while Royal Spoonbills,, Hardheads & Black-shouldered Kites were seen, and then onto the Canberra Botanic Gardens for a well earned cup of tea, and the opportunity to have a final serious birding experience! And we did well, John Brooke located a male Gang-gang Cockatoo guarding a hollow and great views and photo opportunities were had! Although we dipped on the Powerful Owl, reported to be present in the rainforest section until quite recently, we did see Weebills, Striated & Spotted Pardalotes, Common Bronzewing, Nosy Friarbird etc, 30 species in all.
John & Hil on the Genoa River
by Hans Fander
We parted company from two of our party in Canberra so it was a more subdued group who journey back to Sydney and the end of a fabulous trip to Mallacoota, and seeing 171 species of birds in the six days. Many thanks to Hilary & John, Hans and Judy, Rae, Belinda & Wendy for being great company and good birders, and to Chris and Janene, who drove the new coach with such skill, along those winding wilderness roads!
By Alan Morris, guiding for Follow That Bird.