East Gippsland Wildlife Tour, Victoria, Australia, March 17-23, 2005
In 2005, I was able to do a wildlife tour of East Gippsland in the SE corner of Australia east of Melbourne. There is very little published information on the avifauna of that area. Although the wildlife tour was not specific to birds, I spent the majority of time identifying birds species.
Major locations – Stratford City Park, Buchan Caves Park Reserve, Snowy River National Park, Errinundra National Park, Croajingalong National Park, Raymond Island, Cape Conran, Bemm River area, Cabbage Tree Palms Reserve, and various smaller parks, reserves, picnic areas and beach environments.
List of Birds
Emu – Three separate observations of
birds in pastureland from the side of the road on the return trip to
Australian Pelican – Commonly seen on
wetlands and coastal areas.
Australasian Gannet – A fairly common
species off beaches around Cape Conran. This large-winged seabird was
identifiable even without a scope.
Darter – One bird observed flying
overhead in a low-elevation rainforest.
Pied Cormorant – There were at least
two sightings, one on the Raymond Island ferry and one on a beach coastal walk
at Cape Conran. Other cormorants out to sea were not identified but were likely
this species. Unlike Little Pied Cormorant, this species is more
habitat-specific to coastal areas. This bird is larger than Little Pied
Cormorant with bright yellow spot in front of the eye.
Little Pied Cormorant – Common on
inland lakes, estuaries, and coastland. This species was the most commonly
observed cormorant at most locations.
Great Cormorant – Fairly Common on
wetlands, rivers, and coastal areas. Yellow beak and white flank patch in flight
will easily distinguish it from Little Black Cormorant.
Little Black Cormorant - Common on
inland lakes, estuaries, and coastland. One even observed on the Snowy River
very high in Snowy River National Park.
White-faced Heron – This heron was
fairly common on billabongs everywhere. One bird was actually seen on a coastal
beach. Most were observed from the vehicle windows when passing small
Cattle Egret – a few seen in fields
on the drive to East Gippsland. Not observed anywhere after that.
Great Egret – A single individual was
observed from the Lakes Lookout car park. One other ardea sp. was
observed at the Snowy River estuary wetlands, but distance made identification
impossible even with a scope.
Australian White Ibis – Common in
fields and wetlands.
Straw-necked Ibis – Common in fields
and wetlands, sometimes in large groups. More common inland than the previous
Royal Spoonbill – Several seen on
Snowy River estuary wetland. No other sightings.
Black Swan – This species was very
common on even small lakes and billabongs. It was seen every day of the
Maned Duck – This bird was seen
regularly even on farm land and around wet gullies. Although this species was
hardly tame, it seemed less likely to fly on approach by humans.
Musk Duck – one bird (male) was seen
fairly well skittering away at the sound of our boat on the Bemm River boat
trip. The bird quickly found its way into the bordering snags on this coastal
lagoon and was not re-found. I was the only one to see the bird.
Australian Shelduck - Several seen on
Snowy River estuary wetland. No other sightings.
Hardhead – one all-dark bird observed
at a billabong across from the Bairnsdale airport was almost certainly of this
species based on profile, although the mid-day sun is not a good way to observe
this bird even through a scope.
Pacific Black Duck – One seen at
Snowy River estuary wetlands and others observed at a billabong across from
Bairnsdale airport. This is sometimes the most common duck seen in eastern
Australia, but not many observed well on this trip.
Australasian Shoveler –A few birds
seen at Snowy River estuary wetlands. Not observed elsewhere.
Grey Teal – A few birds observed at
the Snowy River wetlands estuary. This was the only time we identified this
species as there were many female Chestnut Teals as individuals and in groups
throughout the trip.
Chestnut Teal – Males and females
were seen frequently but were most common at lower elevations. Along with the
Maned Duck, this was the most common duck observed.
Black-shouldered Kite – One bird
perched on a snag on the road out of Errinundra NP.
Whistling Kite – There were at least
three separate sightings of this species at scattered locations. The under-wing
pattern makes it easily identifiable from all other kites.
Collared Sparrowhawk – One individual
flying low over our gas stop at a station near Bairnsdale.
White-bellied Sea Eagle – Two adults
were seen well on the Bemm River boat trip. One immature bird was seen by
several observers on a coastal beach walk on the last day. A startling bird when
Wedge-tailed Eagle - There were at
least three sightings of fly-overs, but one bird was kind enough to pose
conspicuously on a snag on our way to the Bemm River boat launch. The wedge tail
is conspicuous even in flight.
Nankeen Kestrel – This bird was
observed hovering at least twice in farm lands along the trip. One similar-sized
dark falcon was observed in pastureland which may have been an Australian Hobby,
but identification of that bird could not be confirmed.
Dusky Moorhen – Fairly common
wherever there were wetlands and billabongs.
Purple Swamphen – Two sightings. One
was observed at a billabong across from the Bairnsdale airport and another was
seen at the Snowy River estuary wetland.
Eurasian Coot – Common at the Raymond
Island ferry and a few other locations.
Pied Oystercatcher – Two sightings.
Two were seen at the Lakes Lookout car park and one was observed on a beach
Sooty Oystercatcher – One was
observed on some rocks at the Cape Conran beach.
Masked Lapwing – Very common on farm
land, golf courses, cleared shoulders of roads and any other grassy
Hooded Plover – Three to four
individuals seen on the Bemm River boat trip.
Red-capped Plover – At least four
individuals were seen on the Bemm River boat trip on the same beach as Hooded
Silver Gull – Common in coastal
Pacific Gull – A few seen around
Raymond Island and along coastal beach walks.
Caspian Tern – Several seen on the
Bemm River boat trip and a few along beach walks. The large bright reddish beak
Spotted Turtle-dove – Several seen at
Buchan Caves Park Reserve. Introduced species.
Wonga Pigeon – Seen once in
Errinunudra along the trail, but probably not too uncommon in open areas around
heavy bush and rainforest. A few unidentified birds that flew off quickly as we
turned corners along the trails were presumed to be this species.
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo –
Several sightings from the Snowy River Mountains to coastal rainforest and even
beach scrub. The best sighting was the road going out of the Cabbage Tree Palm
Sanctuary where several birds were feeding close to the vehicle. Their
prehistoric calls were a delight to hear, and they frequently announced their
arrival long before they were seen.
Gang-Gang Cockatoo – At least three
sightings with the best of the observations in Errinundra NP along the Mt.
Morris trail where the birds perched for a few minutes. All other sightings were
of fly-overs including a surprising pair flying over the town of
Galah – Fairly common in pastureland
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – Fairly
common in parks and farmlands. A particularly large flock was observed in
Stratford\Knob Park and again near the Buchan Bed and Breakfast.
Little Corella – Seen well in a mixed
flock in the same Stratford\Knob Park where the Sulphur-cresteds were observed.
Another bird was observed with the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos at the Buchan
B&B. Not observed in coastal East Gippsland.
Rainbow Lorikeet – Conspicuous in
towns and cities. This species was generally not observed very often in the
Musk Lorikeet – a group of five birds
flew into a banksia tree on a beach walk during the last day of our trip and
were easily identified from Little Lorikeet by the red ear patch and blueish
Australian King Parrot – Seen in
scattered locations, usually quite well. A common species at East Gippsland
parrot feeders. King Parrots are an easy bird to look at even when you’ve seen
it a hundred times.
Crimson Rosella – This species was
the most common psittacidae seen and perhaps the most common roadside
bird of the trip. Crimson Rosellas are not as common in towns and cities as the
Rainbow Lorikeet, but are easily found in just about every bush
Eastern Rosella – A couple of birds
were observed along the Deddick River Road on the way to Errinundra, and
beautiful scope views were available for everyone at the Raymond Island picnic
Pallid Cuckoo – One immature bird
cooperated nicely by sitting for several minutes on a fence post while we were
driving on the Deddick River Road.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo – There was at
least one observation along the Deddick River Road not far from our camp site in
Snowy River National Park.
Shining Bronze Cuckoo – One
individual observed well on the Falls Walk at Buchan Caves Reserve.
Powerful Owl – This species was never
observed, but its call was pointed out by the leader of a private reserve in
Nowa-Nowa as we were spotlighting mammals.
White-throated Needletail – Several
birds were observed feeding low over the beach at Cape Conran.
Azure Kingfisher – One bird observed
at close range on the Bemm River boat trip.
Laughing Kookaburra – This species
was seen regularly in bush habitat almost daily. One bird fatally injured was
picked up by the group and examined closely in the hand. It died minutes later.
This is a magnificent bird and one that will represent Australia to me in a most
Superb Lyrebird – There were at least
five sightings of this species, mostly of birds crossing trails and small roads
near the forest edge. However, Superb Lyrebirds seemed almost common along the
Falls Walk at Buchan Caves Reserve Park where many birds were calling and
mimicking various other birds. Two birds at this park were also observed in a
sort of absurd display. One male bird was flashing its tail, walking backwards,
and using a funny “toy-toy-toy” call during the “dance”.
Welcome Swallow – A generally common
bird wherever there was open land.
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike – Observed
several times, mostly in picnic areas and parks.
Flame Robin – One female observed
carefully at Errinundra National Park appeared to be of this species. Most other
sightings (and there were many at Errinundra) were high in the canopy and were
all females or immatures. They remained unidentifiable as to species. Some young
birds were still being fed by the female parent, but male robins were
conspicuously absent. Presumably the males do not aid in the rearing of young
and disperse at this time of year.
Scarlet Robin – One male seen well at
Buchan Caves Park Reserve and another seen at Little River Park on the way up in
Snowy River National Park.
Eastern Yellow Robin – The Eastern
Robin is a very common bird in all types of bush and rainforest. It is
frequently seen at eye level and on the ground, quite unlike most other
Jacky Winter – One bird observed well
along the Snowy River high in that national park.
Golden Whistler – One male observed
singing at a small picnic area lunch stop along the Deddick River
Rufous Whistler – This species was
seen at several stops but was particularly common along the Falls Walk at Buchan
Caves Park Reserve.
Grey Shrike-thrush – Several
individuals seen in a variety of bush habitat. The tour bus stopped for one
unfortunate bird that was struck by a vehicle. Our tour leader retrieved the
bird hoping it could be rescued, but it had died when she arrived. We spent a
few minutes observing the bird in her hand.
Black-faced Monarch – One observed
along a rainforest trail at Errinundra National Park.
Pilotbird – One cooperative bird
observed only a few inches above the ground in a large fern at a picnic area at
Errinundra National Park. The bird was easily attracted by my “pishing” sound
and eventually came so close I could no longer focus with my
Satin Flycatcher – One female
observed along a wet gully at a picnic area on the Deddick River Road near
Errinundra. This species is a deeper, richer color than the similar Leaden
Flycatcher which is apparently more common at lower elevations.
Rufous Fantail – Seen on two
occasions at Errinundra National Park.
Grey Fantail – Seen frequently in
bush habitat at all elevations
Willie Wagtail – a common bird of
parks, farmland, and gardens.
Eastern Whipbird – This bird was
heard more often than seen in rainforest habitat, but it was observed once on
the Falls Walk at Buchan Caves Reserve. Its call is frequently mimicked by the
Superb Lyrebird who performs a “softer” version of its call.
Spotted Quail-thrush – Two birds
observed well on a grassy hillside as we drove up to the Snowy River National
Park. Two more were observed on the way out of Errinundra National Park. This
species is specific to drier wooded slopes with a grassy understory.
Superb Fairy-wren – This species is
common in shrubs everywhere especially along rivers and streams. Most males were
molting this time of year and were a bit ragged looking.
White-browed Scrubwren – This species
was seen regularly in heavy bush and rainforest, particularly where there are
Brown Thornbill – Abundant in most
woody habitat. This species was the most common thornbill and seen every day of
the trip. Thornbill identification can be exasperating to birders from outside
Australia and are problematic even for Australian birders. Over 90% of all
“tiny” birds seen by this observer were thornbills. The other 10% were made up
of fairy-wrens, scrubwrens, and pardalotes.
Buff-rumped Thornbill – Observed at
least once at Little River Park on the edge of Snowy River National
Yellow-rumped Thornbill – Observed
near our camp site at Snowy River National Park.
Striated Thornbill – A couple of
observations at Errinundra National Park.
Weebill – The most easily identified
thornbill with its stubby bill, active habits, and persistent vocalizations.
This bird was seen well at Stratford\Knob Park and again in Snowy River National
Varied Sitella – Seen well at
Stratford\Knob Park and again at Snowy River National Park. Birds seen in East
Gippsland were of the “white-headed” race.
White-throated Treecreeper – Observed
4-5 times in heavy forest including our Snowy River National Park camp site.
This was the only treecreeper I saw in rainforests.
Brown Treecreeper – An apparent
family group was observed well at a stop just past Little River Park in the
Snowy River Mountains.
Red Wattlebird – Observed at
Stratford\Knob Park, around Orbost, and occasionally at Snowy River National
Little Wattlebird – Seen regularly in
coastal habitat usually feeding in banksia and frequently in conjunction with
New Holland Honeyeaters.
Bell Miner – Seen regularly in large groups in bush and suburban parks. This species is highly territorial and was observed chasing away everything from King Parrots to honeyeaters. It was always heard before it was seen.
Noisy Miner – This species was not
particularly common but was observed twice – once along the side of the road and
once at the picnic area on Raymond Island.
Lewin’s Honeyeater – Observed once
very well at Errinunda National Park camp site. Apparently birds in East
Gippsland have darker faces than the birds I’ve seen in Queensland.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater – This
species occurred regularly in several types of bush. It was widespread
throughout the tour.
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater – Most
observations of this species were high in Snowy River National Park where it was
frequently the most common honeyeater. It was also seen a few times in
low-elevation forests. It always responded well to “pishing” as did most
Fuscous Honeyeater – Several birds
were observed in honeyeater feeding flocks high in Snowy River National Park.
This species can be marginally difficult to identify in shaded habitat because
of its lack of distinguishing characteristics.
White-naped Honeyeater – This bird
was probably observed 4-5 times. It was seen well at Buchan Caves Park Reserve,
and at least twice in honeyeater groups in Snowy River National Park.
Crescent Honeyeater – This species
was seen only in honeyeater feeding flocks high in Snowy River National Park
where several birds were seen well. It was not seen in coastal habitat. The
Pizzey Field Guide suggests an altitudinal migration to warmer coastal areas in
New Holland Honeyeater – Only one or
two were observed in high elevations, but this species was abundant in coastal
habitats where beach scrub and banksia were present. It was frequently seen in
the company of Little Wattlebirds.
Eastern Spinebill – Not particularly
common in relationship to other honeyeaters, but this attractive bird was seen
in a variety of habitats and at a variety of altitudes within a single
White-fronted Chat – Two birds were
observed flying from one wet grassy paddock to another in the Snowy River
estuary wetland. I was the only one to observe the birds. I did not see their
faces, but the size, coupled with their gray backs, black napes and
habitat-specific attitude made it impossible for it to be any other known
Spotted Pardalote – A bird that was
fairly common at several locations within Snowy River National Park usually high
in trees. This gorgeous little bird can be a delight to watch if it can be
viewed at eye level.
Striated Pardalote – Seen in mixed
flocks with the above species but less common.
Red-browed Firetail – This bird was
observed 4-5 times at a variety of locations and at all altitudes.
Silvereye – Observed on two
occasions. It was seen once in shrubbery along the Snowy River high in the
mountains and again in beach scrub on a coastal walk.
Olive-backed Oriole – One bird was
seen well at Raymond Island along the road.
Satin Bowerbirds – Fairly common
along forest margins and around some picnic areas. We saw significantly more
females than males. The female of this species was a fascinating study with its
bright blue eye and green scalloping.
White-winged Chough – This was bird
was seen in large family groups at Buchan Caves Reserve picnic area. Viewing was
quite close, and there were several families. It was not observed elsewhere. Its
pottery-like nest was an interesting observation in trees around the
Magpie Lark – Common along roadsides
and in yards in towns and cities.
Dusky Woodswallow – Observed along
the Deddick River Road at the picnic area and on other parts of the same road.
This was the only woodswallow we observed.
Grey Butcherbird – One bird was heard
well by our tour leader at the Deddick River picnic area. However, the bird was
calling from across the river and could not be encouraged to come within visual
Australian Magpie – Abundant in most
habitats. Birds in Victoria are of the “white-backed” race with females having a
Pied Currawong – This species was
very common in most bush habitat, parks, and in rural areas.
Grey Currawong – One bird was
observed well in Snowy River National Park.
Australian Raven – Observed regularly
outside of Melbourne where it’s whining call makes it easily identifiable. It
was heard in a variety of habitats.
Little Raven – Several birds in small
flocks in farm land just outside Melbourne were presumed to be of this species,
but complete identification was not possible.
Common Blackbird – Observed twice but
probably common in gardens and parks. Introduced species.
Bassian Thrush – Seen once on a
rainforest road along the ground.
Common Mynah – Commonly observed in
parks, small towns, and disturbed areas. Introduced species.
European Starling – Common in cities
and around some farms. Introduced species.
House Sparrow – Common in cities and around some farms. Introduced species.
Short-beaked Echidna – One observed
puttering around in a fallow field on Raymond Island.
Koala – Koalas were very common at Raymond Island. On the mainland, they were not so common. We found some evidence of this species in some forests but nothing else.
Yellow-bellied Glider – One animal observed at a private refuge in Nowa Nowa.
Sugar Glider – Observed once at Buchan Caves Park Reserve and on a private refuge at Nowa Nowa where two were seen on a tree.
Greater Glider – Seen approximately
three times at the private refuge in Nowa Nowa.
Common Ringtail Possum – Seen once at
a private refuge in Nowa Nowa.
Common Brushtail Possum – Seen
several times including once at the Buchan Bed and Breakfast.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo – Seen a few
times including close looks at Buchan Caves Park Reserve.
Red-necked Wallaby – Seen a few times
on forest edges.
Swamp Wallaby – Seen several times hopping away through the forest.
Gippsland Water Dragon – Two of
theses big lizards were observed along the shore of the Bemm River boat
Red-bellied Black Snake – One five-foot specimen going across the Bemm River and crawling into a Short-tailed Shearwater burrow. It came out seconds later with nothing. Apparently most birds had left their burrows.