Fran & Alan, from Wellington in New Zealand were over for a bit of a break in Melbourne, and had set aside two days for birding with The Melbourne Birder. The couple were here to catch up with a good variety of birds, but hoped specifically to try and track down a couple of species they had long wished to see. First and foremost was Superb Lyrebird, the second being Turquoise Parrot. So having mapped out a rough and fairly loose itinerary that would take in quite a few sites in central and north-east Victoria, we set off. First stop was Toolangi State Forest, where cold and calm conditions greeted us. Many lyrebirds were heard singing heartily, but there was only one that was within range so to speak, and we had some trouble tracking the bird. Eventually Alan was only able to stalk up on it and briefly glimpse the bird, but it was just too furtive and satisfactory views were not had. Alan did however obatin a great sound recording of the bird as it sang full throttle. Time was pressing and unfortunately we had to move on. We also had nice views of an Olive Whistler here, three Brush Bronzewing, Lewin's Honeyeater and singing Pilotbiord and Large-billed Scrubwren. Leaving the wet forests we headed down towards Yea, where at the Yea River Park we had lunch and watched several Bell Miner cavorting about. We moved on toward Benalla where we were to stay the night, but I had made provision to stop in at the Lurg area where an individual Regent Honeyeater had been discovered the week prior. This is becoming a seriously rare species anywhere so we decided to have a crack at finding the bird. The Lurg Hills have benefited in recent years from the fantastic efforts of a team of dedicated volunteers and planners who have undertaken large-scale revegetation works. These works have involved planting out several roadsides and reserves in the region with native trees and shrubs of local provenance to provide long-term habitat for the Regent Honeyeater and several other woodland dependant birds such as Grey-crowned Babbler.
In any event we didn't see the bird as the evening set in, but agreed we would try again first thing in the morning.
The forest was alive with birds as we arrived at the hoped-for Regent HE site the following morn, with Grey-crowned Babbler, Purple-crowned, Little & Musk Lorikeet, Yellow-tufted, Fuscous, Yellow-faced, Brown-headed & White-naped Honeyeater all present in good numbers. There was abundant flowering on the Red Ironbarks and Grey Box, and in one particular ironbark we first heard then found our quarry, a captivatingly spectacular adult Regent Honeyeater. This was a bird I had only seen once before, way back in 1985. Subsequent searches had failed to find me another, until now, and it felt like I was seeing a new bird after 26 odd years!
For Fran & Alan it was even better, because it was a new bird, and we enjoyed wonderful and sustained views as the bird fed, preened and sang. We even managed several photos and sound recordings of its unusual vocal range and mimicry skills.To say we were privileged is an understatement, and the gravity of the situation was not lost on us as we were extremely fortunate to observe a species in serious decline.
Alas, we had to continue on as there was more to see, and so we headed over toward the Lake Mokoan area. This area has been renamed the Winton Wetlands and is now very much managed for wildlife; it has always been great for birds and today was no exception. Sightings here ranged from a 1000-strong flock of deafening Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, to White-browed Babblers, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and an over-wintering Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, through to the bright, shocking red of Flame Robins, Mistletoebirds and Diamond Firetails.After a brief stop for lunch we headed up into the Warby Ranges, hoping to connect with Turquoise Parrots.There were not a lot of birds about here disappointingly, apart from the abundant Noisy Friarbirds and Red Wattlebirds which were moving through the area en masse.We did manage to see a few Speckled Warbler, an over-wintering Rufous Whistler, Peaceful Dove and the far-off wailing of an Australian Raven to end the day. No Turks unfortunately...
We managed a respectable 115 species for the two days, no mean feat in the middle of winter!Thanks Fran & Alan for the widely ranging and topical conversation, and for politely humoring my frantic antics when the Regent Honeyeater turned up...
26th June 2011
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to seek out the now quite famous Regent Honeyeater in the Lurg Hills again; James from Bentleigh insisted I pick him up as he was keen to have a crackat the bird for himself. We drove out of Melbourne via Healesville and the Maroondah Highway over the Black Spur, through Buxton and on to the north via the Cathedral Ranges. En route we saw some nice birds and James managed some nice photos. Interesting sightings were Olive Whistler, Satin Bowerbirds and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater at Buxton while Red-browed Treecreeper, Grey Currawong and crippling views of several Superb Lyrebird at Cathedral Range State Park were equally welcome. In the Lurg area we connected with the Regent Honeyeater which was just great to experience again. We also had fantastic looks at Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, several Little Lorikeet and James even managed a brilliant shot of a Purple-crowned Lorikeet in flight. As in the previous visit, the place was jumping with birds, especially honeyeaters, and it was a sensational way to end the day with some great birding and an awesome sunset.