Little Desert – September 2016

Voxpopuli* this time as John and I had trouble finding the time to write the usual trip reports. Thanks to everyone who responded!

Black-eared Cuckoo - Wilson Lennard

Black-eared Cuckoo – Wilson Lennard

Liked Best

  • After driving through heavy rain, arriving on Friday afternoon in glorious sunshine and finding the Big-M waterhole. Birds everywhere.
  • Alastair the orchid nerd on hands and knees photographing orchids and completely ignoring the birds, almost accosted by a mallee fowl and him being the only one to see one out of the entire group.
  • I enjoyed the company of like-minded people involved in a common pursuit.
  • Being there in that habitat with the birds, plants in flower, calling frogs, and lovely people. Is that several things or one? I think one, because of the synergy.
  • Loved the setting of the lodge, peaceful but not too far from civilisation and with some of the best birdwatching at your doorstep.

Red-capped Robin - Margaret Lacey

Red-capped Robin – Margaret Lacey

  • Standing in the heathland scrub surrounded by small birds with a nankeen kestrel doing circuits overhead
  • I certainly enjoyed seeing and photographing the Black-eared Cuckoo, as I had never seen one before.
  • Being able to have a good walk around the lodge area on Sunday and Monday morning – the rains started midday Monday so there was no point in staying. The area was so rich in birdlife there was really no need to travel elsewhere.
  • I actually enjoyed the food, I know some didn’t, but the serves were generous and what I had was pretty good.
White-fronted Honeyeater - Stephen Garth

White-fronted Honeyeater – Stephen Garth

  • x3 lifers, LD Nature Park as birding venue
  • I enjoyed being in a new environment, ie The Little Desert NP.
  • The lodge site was excellent. I think there were more birds there than the other locations put together.
  • The informal arrangement that let us follow our own paths for good amounts of time, the flexibility to stay in a place if the birds were promising rather than move on to a rigid itinerary.
  • Meeting other people of like minds and sharing knowledge.
Southern Scrub-robin - Peter Bennet

Southern Scrub-robin – Peter Bennet

  • I liked that I could just join the group from a different accommodation arrangement. A previous attempt with another group had been too difficult – I think they were on guided tours and had meals etc to factor in. I liked the independence.
  • I feel so privileged to come along in a relaxing way on something that someone else has organised.
  • Getting terrific views of the Southern Scrub-robin, a newie for me and a gorgeous little performer.
  • Struggling to identify thornbills and then finding that between us we had good enough photos to pick both Inland and Chestnut-rumped.
Southern Whiteface - John Bosworth

Southern Whiteface – John Bosworth

Liked least

  • Not getting photos of the Black-eared Cuckoo and the Variegated Fairy-wren
  • I didn’t enjoy seeing so many birds that I see locally. I thought I would see more variety and different species.
  • The weather could have been better.
  • For those eating in the lodge, the meal organisation was rather poor but the staff remedied the situation for those who stayed an additional night with top service for Sunday dinner and Monday breakfast.
Margaret Bosworth - Sunset at the Lodge

Margaret Bosworth – Sunset at the Lodge

  • getting frozen in the wind
  • Being a budget traveller, I couldn’t afford to pay $35 a night to stay where everyone else was. It’s a shame there wasn’t cheap/free accommodation close by so that I could engage more with the group in the evening.  It also wasn’t easy staying tuned to what was happening re the program.
  • weather (poor light for photography), use of call playback (note to remind people that use of playback to attract birds is forbidden at Birdlife Outings).
Australian Owlet-Nightjar - Ruth Ault

Australian Owlet-Nightjar – Ruth Ault

Something interesting

  • Driving down the Salt Lake track with Andrew Browne. 6k of deep sand track and at the end a Salt lake – with water in the middle of the Little Desert! Sadly the only birds were 2 Masked Lapwings, an Australian Shelduck and a Willie Wagtail.
  • Plenty of honeyeaters about with lots of eucalypts in flower after the good rains.
  • Well I did see two new birds, so that was interesting. I also found the bush settings interesting and different from what I’m used to seeing around Melbourne.
Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo - John Van Doorn

Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo – John Van Doorn

  • Not often you see Shining Bronze, Horsfield’s Bronze and Black-eared Cuckoos all within a 10 metre radius.
  • Listening to the ‘honking’ contact calls of the regent parrots as they flew just over my head; watching how much grass and what sort the emu ate in a beak full
  • It was interesting to talk to other members of the group who actually seemed to know something about the species we came across. I never ceased to be amazed at the in-depth knowledge of some of our members.
  • I loved the area and will certainly go back again – maybe in autumn. It seems anyone can freely access the Lodge area during the day which is great and then there is also Snape Reserve, Hindmarsh and the other parks in the area to explore as well.
Varied Sitella - Margaret Lacey

Varied Sitella – Margaret Lacey

  • generosity of experienced group members sharing their knowledge
  • The new managers at Little Desert Lodge were interesting.
  • I was surprised at the different birds we found here compared to 30kms to the north where I grew up where we just don’t have some of these species. I saw new species and I was only 30kms from my childhood home. Habitat reduced for farming I guess. Plus different soils and plants.
  • a venue I’m looking forward to revisiting
  • The most unusual finds are often by the people who wander off by themselves and sit quietly somewhere; but wandering along in discussion with various different people is so pleasant that I figure we have to remember to do both.
Pyrorchis nigricans - Ruth Ault

Pyrorchis nigricans – Ruth Ault

Something amusing

  • Losing my phone, then finding it about 12 hours later – in my own suitcase – with others watching….
  • my falling asleep at birdcall
  • Creeping towards a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater that was feeding in a Flame Heath and it hiding so well as we approached closer that we were convinced it had magically disappeared, but just when we gave up, it suddenly burst from almost beneath our feet!
Variegated Fairy-wren - Mike Gage

Variegated Fairy-wren – Mike Gage

  • Being outwitted (out-twitted?) by the Shy Heathwren, even though three of us were trying to surround it to get a good view.
  • Starting out in the cold, cold dawn to look for birds, walking round for an hour seeing virtually nothing, then suddenly at 7.45 by Big M dam they all wake in a rush and the place is crawling with them!
White-winged Chough - Peter Bennet

White-winged Chough – Peter Bennet

Suggestions for next time

  • If possible find a local expert to lead the outing or recommend some locations.
  • Bring back the evening bird count.
  • I really liked the different environment we were in and I think that at least one event per year should take us out of the environs closer to Melbourne for destinations further afield. Easier said than done, I know.
  • A suggestion might suggest a change in the way things are organised, but I appreciate things as they are. However, if the burden is too great for responsible people, should we share it more widely?
  • Perhaps a month later for more consistent weather
  • I rather like the idea of getting together on the Saturday night at least as this is when there is the opportunity to get to know others without being distracted by the birds.
Inland Thornbill - John Van Doorn

Inland Thornbill – John Van Doorn

Sites Visited

  • Little Desert Nature Lodge
  • Stringybark track and loop next to the Lodge
  • Lowan Sanctuary
  • Kiata Campground
  • Lake Hindmarsh area (for some)

* a slogan from an obscure Italian anarchopolitical party which proposed to address inequality by replacing the pope with a fox**

** there is a suggestion that this was in fact done, but no one noticed the difference


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