Stories and comments from past participants
The Mallee, the Murray & more by Lana Tinsley
The harsh beauty of Mallee country has always had a special meaning for me, having been lucky enough to see it in many States of Australia. This combined with our cosy cottage at Nangiloc, right on the Murray River, meant we were surely in for some treats.
The birds did not disappoint, and many of the iconic Mallee birds were sighted, including Mallee fowl, Mallee Emu-wren, Regent, Blue-bonnet and Red-rumped Parrots, Pink Cockatoo, Chestnut-backed Quail Thrush, Southern Whiteface, Crimson Chat, Crested Bellbird, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill and Splendid, White-winged and Variegated Fairy-wrens were favourites.
Having time to sit and observe the bush and all creatures who live there, is one of the highlights of touring with Jenny. Time to look, discuss and refer to guidebooks, all add up to a wonderful learning experience. Sharing this with a small group who have the same interest meant we could bounce ideas off each other, and pool our combined knowledge. In spring there is so much happening:
Finding a mate; Yellow Rosellas displaying with much tail wagging, chattering musically all the while, The female repeatedly inspecting a hollow to make sure it would be the right home. Three male Splendid Fairy-wrens, in full breeding plumage, on the one branch, competing for the attention of females. They certainly held our attention.
Building a home; Whistling Kites, one stick at a time. White-browed Babblers, with a communal working bee in full swing. Would this nest ever be just right? Chestnut-rumped Thornbills bringing the tiniest twigs and feathers to complete their nest in the top of an old hollow log.
Feeding young; Weebills using the side entry in their beautifully woven pendulous nest, so well camouflaged in outer foliage. A male Kestrel bringing his mate prey, possibly to feed herself and chicks, as only the female incubates.
Protecting young; Wood duck, with 16 ducklings, being led by the male and shepherded by the female, as they swam across the wide Murray River. How did they not get swept downstream?
While we sat and had a cuppa and Jenny's famous fruit cake, the water birds showed their different methods of feeding. Grey Teal, typical of dabbling ducks, upending and dredging. Yellow-billed Spoonbills side-sweeping, stirring debris and organisms from the bottom. Black-winged Stilts, who rarely swim, but wade on their long legs, picking up food from the surface and in mud. Red-necked Avocets who swim readily, feeding by wading and sweeping through shallow water and soft mud. Darters sink to hunt their prey underwater. Cormorants dive to capture their food by underwater pursuit. Australasian Grebe deep dive and also surface chase to capture their prey. The last 3 had us trying to guess where they would pop up, as only tiny ripples show on the surface.
Finding the sliver of new moon was also a challenge, well worth the effort. The night sky was brilliant and Venus shining like a beacon in the early morning was magical.
So much more I could add, Shingleback, Mallee and Bearded Dragon lizards, Western Grey and Red kangaroos. Wildflowers I particularly remember were a soft lemon Stackhousia, Mulla Mullas and a stunning red-flowering Eremophila which attracted a little Friarbird. There was time to enjoy everything that took our fancy.
The Birds of Hattah Kulkyne & Murray Sunset Trip left all of us wondering at the adaptability of birds who inhabit the many environments we travelled through, and left many questions unanswered. Thank you Jenny for a fabulous trip.
As always with your tours, I loved seeing so many things (especially birds) more than I would have alone. The citrus and avocados were a bonus. My highlights? Hard to pick, but so many… Regent Parrot, White-winged Fairy Wren, Mallee Fowl (and mounds), lakes, stretches of dry mallee etc…etc… Our tour really brought home to me the continuity of the arid stretch across Southern Australian. Seeing things like desert poplars, red earth, spinifex/porcupine grass, Pied Butcherbirds that I had all seen in SA, the Centre and WA and learning that the Mallee Fowl is distributed across this area too.
As always Jenny, super trip.
Your tours are all so well organised and as usual, your knowledge added so much to my enjoyment, especially as a very novice birdwatcher (I received help and so much information). I loved seeing such an interesting and diverse landscape, but my three “magic moments” – Pied Butcherbird at dawn, Mallee Fowls at Murray Sunset, Splendid Fairy Wren at the river. A wonderful trip and a chance to take a close look at a fascinating part of Victoria.