Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bunyip State Park with Steve, January 3rd 2010

When he said 5:30am sharp he wasn't kidding, and when I saw how dark it was I was half-expecting to be glimpsing shadows in the twilight. On the way it brightened up considerably, and the sun was around just before 6. The only birds seen along the way were Little Raven and Common Myna, with a couple of Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks here and there. Steve had then turned down a road, saying that this was the way to Bunyip; it appeared that it was not very well signposted as there was no indication off the main road. Near the start we pulled over to hear Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.

A bit further down the road into more farm/ranch-like territory he pulled the car over on the side of the road and suggested we "had a look around". Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, a pair of Crimson Rosellas, a few distant King-parrots, White-browed Scrub-wrens, Grey Fantails and Brown Thornbills were probably the most abundant birds here. A few more seconds down the round and Steve mentioned how there had been a Scarlet Honeyeater here has been present for many summers. When he asked me if I "heard that" I answered that I heard a Silvereye. Funny thing was, said silvereye was actually the scarlet honeyeater itself! Some good views in the dull light, my camera was not a fan of being held still though!

On the way back to the char Steve pointed out a Rufous Fantail high-pitched call, and after my previous encounters with chasing “high-pitched fantail calls” and ending up with Willie Wagtails, I doubt I would had the resolve to chase it if Steve were not here. The bird soon appeared on a branch near us, and promptly flitted off into the trees as soon as I touched my camera. If I didn’t get this one today I would likely be holding a grudge until I do, as this is one of the birds I have wanted to see for ages.
After calling a Yellow-faced Honeyeater for a better look, we returned to the car.
After a short drive the sign “Bunyip State Park” finally coalesced on the horizon, heralding our arrival into the destination. Along Camp Road we heard Southern Emuwren, but unfortunately they didn't fancy showing more than subtle shadowy flashes between the dense grasses. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was noted before we moved on.
The remainder of the road was oddly quiet. Near the end of this road we did a stop to check for interesting species. Striated thornbills were elusive, but suddenly confiding when their calls were played at them. We then heard and called in a spotted pardalote, an invidual so curious it came within an arm's grasp of Steve, who was holding the tape recorder in his hands. After this bird dispersed, we were alerted to a few Scarlet Robins, which did not venture too close, with the male hanging out only in the darker reaches.  Pallid cuckoo was a new bird for me, circling in with a falcon-like profile, barely stopping. Fan-tailed cuckoo, another new bird for me, unfortunately was seen only as short glimpses as they dashed overhead and into dense cover well into the distance.

With more trees we stopped off again, and started to hear different birds such as White-throated Treecreeper, Golden Whistlers, Rufous Whistlers, White-naped Honeyeaters and Eastern Whipbirds. Without much more, we continued on, and stopped again at a place where Sacred Kingfishers were known to nest. This I think was along Gembrook round, opposite the start of Burts Firetrail. There was a large sloping descent into a dense fern habitat. Steve had expected to see Satin Flycatcher here, and it was here, but we never really saw it, with the only evidence being a few calls. One of the Kingfishers was heard up in the treetops, Red Wattlebirds all around and a nearby Grey Butcherbird was present. Steve then noted an Olive-backed Oriole, and he seemed surprised that I had not yet seen such a common bird. This one was not so easy, but eventually it came a little bit lower and we could see its true colours (literally).
At the next stop Steve mentioned how this was a regular Lyrebird spot, and soon we heard the varied song, but it was not seen through the dense vegetation. A female Golden Whistler appeared behind us, and then Steve commented on the presence of Rose Robins up in the tree tops. With the call played, a female soon showed up, a few minutes later followed by a male which, like the earlier Scarlet male, liked to hang in the shady areas.

Determined to nail the Lyrebird we missed earlier, Steve suggested a little trail that went by its display post. Sure enough the calls were heard, and I set off in pursuit. Normally when a stray twig would set a bird off, this one kept on as if it never happened. Soon the views became clearer, and the shots were taken. In my attempt to “escape” I managed to scare it off; here I was hoping that I could make this “clean” as people call it. A skulking bird seemed to be a Bassian Thrush, but Steve never saw it.

Back at the car Brown-headed Honeyeaters were present, along with a few Crescents. Lewin’s also appeared briefly, and when Steve played the call it flew straight to the tree infront of us. So much for it being an elusive tree-top dweller. To top it off the Rufous Fantail made an appearance too, albeit a jumpy one, but it was enough to get some decent shots.

From then on it was rather quiet as it approached 12pm, with more attempts at Satin Flycatcher not resulting in more than brief glimpses up in the canopy. Steve commented on how surprised he was at the lack of Pilotbird, which had not been heard even once during the trip here. A flock of Scrub-wrens nearby showed themselves to be Large-billed, which was another new bird for me. Yellow-tailed Cockatoo, Red-browed Firetail and Pied Currawong was heard here before we moved on. Further on when we tried for Brush Cuckoo, which ended in silence. We started heading back at this point, and made one stop for Red-browed Treecreeper, which did not come either. The final bird was a Beautiful Firetail, which flitted over the road on the drive back, its distinctive red rump noticeable. After a short pursuit it perched momentarily on a branch at chest height, where I got the winning shots.

On the way back a Kestrel was seen very briefly on the highway. And we were dropped off at home. We said our thanks and goodbyes, and then he left me to pursue those remaining birds that I had seen and missed, namely the Emu-wren, Satin Flycatcher and Fan-tailed Cuckoo.

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