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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Australia: Victoria and Tasmania

Plains-wanderer, Pardalotes and Penguins

Tour Narrative

Before this year’s tour, many regions had been gripped by a serious drought that had lasted five years or more. Bird populations in many areas had been gradually falling after years of failed breeding.  But finally, in the months leading up to our tour, the drought broke, and stories of flowering deserts, mass breeding of waterbirds at inland lakes, and big colonies of budgies around Alice Springs led us to hope that this might be a bumper tour. 

We started with a day southwest of Melbourne, where a visit to Brisbane Ranges National Park revealed a suitably cute Koala, and in the marshes near Geelong we saw larger numbers than usual of Latham’s Snipe.  Rufous Bristlebirds entertained us in the parking lot at Airey’s Inlet, while a chance sighting of two Blue-winged Parrots was our first encounter in a number of years. 

Then we headed east through the Melbourne suburbs, stopping for two juvenile but massive Powerful Owls and tens of thousands of Gray-headed Flying-foxes. Around Healesville, highlights included a very cooperative Superb Lyrebird, our only Blue-billed Duck of the tour, two sightings of Gang-gang Cockatoo, and a male Satin Bowerbird decorating its bower. 

Next we headed north to Chiltern, where we saw colorful Turquoise Parrots, nesting Speckled Warblers, and very vocal Painted Honeyeaters. Around Deniliquin, Phil Maher had most species well staked out, with no fewer than five Plains-wanderers, Emus, Banded Lapwings, and Stubble Quail. The next morning we found a single male Superb Parrots in nearby Gulpa State Forest, where we also had a pair of Painted Button-quail perform well for us.

Soon after our flight from Melbourne to Hobart we were enjoying some of Tasmania’s very special endemics. Our local contact took us for a walk around her property and showed us her specialyty Forty-spotted Pardalotes, along with the lovely Flame and Scarlet Robins and their duller, but endemic, cousin Dusky Robin. That evening we went to see nesting Little Penguins and Short-tailed Shearwaters at their burrows, an excursion made the more memorable for the fantastic views of Bruny Island’s night sky, so far from any light pollution.  Over the following two days we saw all of Tasmania’s endemics, most of which performed very well.

- David Fisher

Updated: December 2010