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Victoria Bird Watching

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Date of Trip: February 2007

In 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin — 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.

This Trip Report covers the 18-days we spent bird watching in Victoria in January & February 2007 — Wilson’s Prom, Dandenong Ranges NP, Great Otway NP, and Apostle Bay.

We saw 118 bird species at 11 parks. The parks where we saw the most bird species were: Corner Inlet Marine NP = 46, Great Otway NP = 37, Chudleig Cottage = 36, Wilson’s Prom = 33, Bald Hills Wetland = 30, Cottage Flower B&B = 28, Apostle Bay = 26, Sherbrooke Forest = 23, Griffith Island = 23, Dandenong Ranges NP = 18.

The cities were we saw the most birds: 4 days in Yanakie = 71, 4 days in Lavers Hill = 63, 9 days in Sassafras = 44, & 1 day in Port Fairy = 29.


Yanakie – We stayed at the Black Cockatoo Cottages ( 38.835S 146.249E). We had a great view of the Corner Inlet. Massive flocks of Straw-neck and White Ibis were around the property.

If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.

Sassafras — We stayed at Jackson’s of Chudleigh Park 37.860S 145.353E). This was a last minute change of plans since no one was around at the cottage we had reserved. We found Jackson’s of Chudleigh Park thru the Visitor’s Center that was a booking agent for local properties. This is the most luscious property we have stayed in on the trip. The grounds were covered in tall trees including American Sequoias. The 6-acre property was a nursery a 100 years ago. Now there are massive old fashion hydrangea bushes (Wilma brushed up against one and got a shower), Japanese Anemones, Fox Gloves, Shasta Daises, and a lot more.

Lavers Hill — We stayed at the Melba Gully Cottage Flower Farm B&B in Lavers Hill ({079B8BF6-1D99-47CD-9023-BB6E149D14C5}&eAddr=&eSb 38.692S 143.368E). We were stunned by the array of flowers that greeted us — snowball dahlias, football dahlias, dinner plate dahlias, etc. And Birds — we saw 2 new ones the first evening; i.e. Gang-gang Cockatoos and Rufous Bristlebirds. Both birds are rare and normally very hard to find, but they are residents here (I guess they like the flowers too; plus, there is no cat).

Port Fairy — We stayed at the Port Fairy Motel ( 38.376S 143.230E). This was a last minute substitution, but worked out fine. The morning we left there were hundreds of Long-billed Corellas in the tall pine tree outside our motel window.

Highlights of the Region:

Seeing Southern Emu-wrens at Castle Cove Beach.

Getting a brief glimpse of a Superb Lyrebird at the Sherbrooke Forest.

Seeing 16 Koalas hanging-out in Trees at Cape Otway NP.

Naming new dahlias species at the Melba Gully Flower Farm.

Seeing the Aborigine clay sculptures at the Rickett’s Sanctuary in Olinda.

Hiking the tracks at Apostle Bay.

Seeing the red Owl eyes of a Varied Sword-grass Brown Nymph Butterfly at Wilson’s Promontory.


Not seeing hundreds-of-thousands of Short-tailed Sherwaters return in the evening to Port Fairy.

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Spend 3 nights in the Sassafras area, not 9 nights. The Cottage was really nice, but there was not that much birding available.

Spend a week in Lavers Hill — lots of birding locations plus a great place to stay.

Birding Summary

Of the 118 bird species we saw in Victoria, 57 were endemic to Australia. Most of the 61 non-Australian Endemic bird species we saw in Victoria were new for us. 8 bird species from Vic were never seen again during the 255-day trip around Australia; that is: Arafura Fantail, Red Goshawk, Buff-sided Robin, Rufous Owl, Geney Fowel, Sandstone Shrike-Thrush, Pied Honeyeater, & Zitting Cisticola.

Special Comments:

On Jan 18 we were off at 6am heading toward Melbourne. As soon as we crossed into Victoria we saw a dead Koala in the road.

We had good roads going south, but it rained most of the way. As expected, there was no good connection between the main N-S Freeway and the main Freeway going East. Fortunately, we had detail driving directions from and 2 Atlases. No one should consider coming to Australia without bring detail driving directions for their itinerary with them.

We picked our way thru the city streets and dodged the streetcars that shared the road. Finally, we were on the Monash Freeway going East (none of our maps used that name). We took a short cut, which resulted in seeing another dead Koala and a dead Wombat, and a Koala in a tree. We arrived at our cottage in Yanakie at 2pm.

About 3:30pm we drove down to Duck Point on the Corner Inlet Marine NP (38.807S 146.269E). The tide was out, so a lot of the water birds were too far out to ID. We went of a walk thru the heath. We found several Little Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters in the Bottle-brush Tree blossoms. The flies were horrid. On the way home we saw 5 Bright-eyed Brown Butterflies.

On Jan 19 it was raining. Late morning we drove down to Toora (38.691S 146.335E) where we were told we could see water birds. Sure enough, there were heaps of Black Swans, Black-tailed Godwits, Eastern Curlews, Whimbrels, and a few Sooty Oystercatchers.

On Jan 20 we headed south this morning to Wilson’s Promontory (or Prom for short 39.034S 146.327E) — as far south as you can go in continental Australia. Our first stop was at Whiskey Beach (39.013S 146.291E) for a walk thru the coastal heath. We saw mobs of Little and Red Wattlebirds. The area was covered by sand dunes and the dunes were capped with Spurge plants. On the walk back to the car a pair of Beautiful Firetails landed in front of us.

Our next stop was Squeaky Beach (39.022S 146.304E) where a Varied Sword-grass Brown Nymph Butterfly landed on a flower near us. It wasn’t hard to ID the Nymph — it was the only one with red Owl eyes in the butterfly book.

We finally reached the Tidal River area (39.031S 146.316E). There were thousands of people camping here (most were in tents). We found a boardwalk along the river that went thru a wetland.

On our drive home we saw an Emu on the road. As we approached, it stepped into the dense bush and disappeared.

On Jan 21 we left at 7:47am for Cockatoo in the far-east Melbourne suburbs. Our first stop was at the Bald Hills Wetlands (38.734S 145.939E The hike to the wetlands went thru a fern forest with heaps of Common Brown Nymph Butterflies. The wetland was beautiful, but not a lot of water birds. On the way back we saw a White-eared Honeyeater.

The drive west went along the coast. We stopped several time to take in the ocean views and walk on the beach. We used our detail driving instructions to find the Cockatoo Cottage in Cockatoo, but no one was home. We waited around till 3pm. When no one returned we decided they must have forgotten we were coming. We left a note telling them we had been there, and left to look for other accommodations before it got dark.

We drove 25Km east and found the Ferntree Gully Motel and Casino. We had dinner at the casino. I had a porterhouse steak covered with pepper sauce with potatoes and salad. My wife had a chicken breast wrapped around an asparagus spear with chips and veggies.

On Jan 22 we went to the Visitors Center/Booking Office in Ferntree Gully and reserved a cottage for the next 7 days.

On Jan 23 we arrived at the cottage at 9:30am. After totally unpacking the car, we went for a long bush walk on the fire road thru the forest behind the cottage. We were surprised at how many other people were out walking the steep track. We saw heaps of butterflies and little birds including a Brown-headed Honeyeater. We ended up in the small town of Olinda. We backtracked thru the woods so as not to have to walk on the narrow road with cars and trucks whizzing past.

On Jan 24 we stopped at the outdoors Rickett’s Sanctuary in Olinda (37.833S 145.357E). William Rickett explored the connection between Aborigines and the Earth in clay sculptures framed in the rocks and native bush. Rickett’s totem was the Superb Lyrebird. We especially enjoyed the video they had of the Lyrebird’s dance.

On Jan 25 we went to the Dandenong Ranges NP (37.886S 145.352E) for a 3-hour bush walk. We were excited to see a Pilotbird because they travel with Superb Lyrebirds. Unfortunately, the only Lyrebird we saw was a stuffed one in the VC. We did find a swarm of Ringed Xenica Nymph Butterflies.

By 7am on Jan 26 we were at the nearby Sherbrooke Forest (37.874S 145.362E) to search for Lyrebirds. The forest was alive with hundreds of Crimson Rosellas and Sulphur Crested-cockatoos, and 4 Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos. The forest was pretty open with heaps of Mt Ash Eucalyptus trees — they are the tallest hardwoods in the world reaching over 300 ft tall in 500 years. These trees were only 80 years old, but were well over 200 ft tall.

On our first 3-hour bush walk we saw Superb Lyrebird scratchings everywhere, stacks of Eastern Whipbirds, a Swamp Wallaby, and a sprinkling of Tree Ferns.

On our second 2-hour track we saw even more Lyrebird scratchings in the Eucalyptus bark and leaf litter. Then I saw a big black bird at the base of a tree. When we got our binoculars on the bird it started to walk away allowing us to see its very long peacock-like tail. We were really fortunate to see one. People spend weeks here looking for them and never see one.

For dinner we went to the Flipin’ Pancake. My wife had a Filet Migon smothered in peppercorn sauce with boiled potatoes. I had lamb strips over cooked spinach topped with sun-dried potatoes. Beautiful!

On Jan 28 we left at 10am for the Tarrawarra Art Museum near Healsville (37.660S 145.469E). The museum featured modern art since 1950. Many of the pieces looked like non-art to us (if this is art everyone is a world class artist). There was an interesting metal sculpture of 2 interlocking wire loops.

We stopped at the Pig and Whistle Restaurant in Olinda for lunch. We started with a pone of Cob Bread followed by Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Soup (very thick with a few onion greens). My wife had Wild Mushroom Risotto (rice with mushrooms). I had battered white fish and chips. Good food, but slow service.

It’s amazing how your stuff expands over time. When we came to Australia we had 2 duffel bags (60 and 65 lbs), 2 carry on bags, and a computer bag. Today we had to get everything back in those bags. We left about a duffel bag of stuff for our hosts to use or give away including 12 books, 2 insulated picnic bags, 2 beach towels, 2 green eco-shopping bags, 2 umbrellas and ponchos, clothes, and all our cooking utensils, storage boxes, and unused food items. We also threw away about a duffel bag full of stuff. Where does it all come from? It still took us both to get the bags zipped.

On Feb 13 we got our new Toyota Camry from Apollo near the Melbourne Airport and were off by 1:30pm. Somehow we managed to blunder thru a maze of traffic circles and get on the Western Ring Road going SW. The rest of the drive was uneventful, except for some heavy rain. We stopped at a Safeway somewhere along the road to begin restocking for the rest of the trip. We arrived at the Melba Gully Cottage Flower Farm B&B in Lavers Hill at 5:30pm. We were stunned by the array of flowers that greeted us — heaps and stacks of dahlias — snowball dahlias, football dahlias, dinner plate dahlias, etc — you would have to see it to believe it. And Birds — we saw 2 new ones this evening; i.e. Gang-gang Cockatoos, and Rufous Bristlebirds. Both birds are rare and normally very hard to find, but they are residents here. The B&B has an eclectic assortment of antiques. Most of it has been passed down thru Virginia’s family. Their oldest pieces are two William the 4th chairs and a Chiffonier. We drove back to town for dinner at the local Pub (the only place with food around here). We started with a thick and hearty Pumpkin & Fennel soup, and Turkish bread with cheese and pine nut pesto. For the main event my wife had fried Calamari with chips (the Calamari was huge — they looked like jumbo onion rings). The Calamari was local and tasted great. They had a mango sauce for dipping the Calamari. I had a steak with peppercorn sauce resting on mashed potatoes, field corn and broccoli. Beautiful!

The rest of the evening was spent unpacking and repacking — interrupted by a few trips to the gardens for flower and bird watching with our hosts Bob and Virginia.

On Feb 14 we woke-up in a dense fog. We watched the Rufous Bristlebirds dart around the dahlia beds picking off bugs and scratching for worms.

For Br we had jam tasting. Virginia makes homemade jam from the berries and fruit on the farm. We had Red Current Jelly, Red Raspberry Jam, Crabapple Jelly, Jostaberry Jam, and Brambleberry Jam. For my tea Virginia had raw honey from her Father’s beehives. The milk came fresh from a local farmer.

The B&B generates all their electricity from solar panels and a windmill. The water comes from two gigantic water tanks — both are full from the recent rains.

About 11am we headed down the road to Johanna Beach (38.763S 143.378E) in the Great Otway NP (Virginia said it probably wouldn’t be as foggy there). Along the way we saw a pair of Brush Bronzewings, Hooded Plovers, Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, and Singing Honeyeaters.

About 2pm we drove to Castle Cove Beach (38.783S 143.428E). We walked down the steep trail to the beach. The sand was really deep here, so we soon headed back up the track. We took a wrong turn at the top that resulted in us seeing the very rare Southern Emu-wren — 3 of them. The male tried to lead us away from the nest by jumping from bush to bush. Emu-Wren is an oxymoron for this 7-inch bird, 4 inches of which is filament tail.

For Jam Tasting on Feb 15 we had Gooseberry Jam, Black Plum Jam, Black Current Jam, Apricot Jam, and Crabapple Jelly. We finished with Weet Bix cereal (an Australian Icon) with poached strawberries and fresh Jersey milk.

As we finished Br there was a thud on the kitchen window. We went outside to find a small bird lying on the rocks. It wasn’t dead, so Virginia picked it up. It promptly piddled in her hand. I got some pictures before the bird flew away. We ID’ed it as the Crescent Honeyeater — a new bird for us.

About 9:30am we walked down to the Melba Gully section (38.698S 143.370E) of the Great Otway NP. There was heaps of wild Lucifer growing along the road. We stopped to look at some Thornbills. After a few minutes 2 Gang Gang Cockatoos bolted from the trees behind us. I whirled around and saw a male Gang Gang sitting in a tree with its red crest erect.

In the afternoon we drove to Triplet Falls (38.668S 143.492E). The 2Km track wound thru 200 ft tall Shaggy Bark Eucalyptus Trees before reaching the spectacular cascading falls. We saw a Pink Robin — cherry pink chest and black head. For dinner at the Pub I had Calamari and chips. My wife ordered Beer Battered Flake, which we were told was School Shark. The waitress assured us it was very good, so we got it. We split the orders. The Shark was Beautiful!!!

After Jam Tasting on Feb 16 we headed out for a loop drive. Our first stop was Triplet Falls, but we couldn’t find the advertised Pink Robin. Next we stopped at Hopetoun Falls (38.649S 143.556E) for a walk thru the Tree Ferns and down the steep track to the bottom of the gorge where we could see the falls.

By early afternoon we had driven to Cape Otway (38.851S 143.529E). We stopped in a grove of Eucalyptus Trees and found Koalas sleeping everywhere. In our brief walkabout we spotted 16 Koalas. Some would look down at us as we took pictures. Others were simply passed-out from too much fermented Eucalyptus leaves.

Virginia had invited us to have dinner with them and some friends from town — Julie and Alistair. Bob made the spaghetti noodles from flour and eggs, and used a machine to produce the soft flat noodles. The spaghetti sauce was also made from scratch with fresh zucchini on top. The lettuce and tomato salad was fresh from the garden. Julie brought homemade bread. For dessert Virginia made Tiramisu.

After Jam Tasting, we left at 9am on Feb 17. The route this morning is called the Great Ocean Road. It parallels the south sandstone bluff coastline for many miles.

Our first stop was at Apostle Bay (38.667S 143.104E a.k.a. Port Campbell NP) where differential erosion of the 300-foot high bluff has resulted it a group of rocky masses stranded in the ocean called Apostles. Originally there were 15 Apostles (although they were called the 12 Apostles). Due to continuing erosion, they have been downsized to 8. More downsizing is expected. But, a whole new crop of Apostles is expected in the future as more gulches turn into islands and finally Apostles.

This area has an extensive network of lookouts and hiking trails. What they don’t have is places to eat. For lunch we split a Lemon Slice bar we bought yesterday.

It was 95F in the shade today, but felt like 115F on the tracks. It was so hot that the Singing Honeyeaters were hiding in the heath bushes panting to keep cool. It was so hot that people were swimming in the 60F ocean water. It was so hot that our birding pants looked like we had been swimming in the ocean.

We got to Port Fairy (38.376S 143.230E) at 3pm. We had a reservation at the “B by the Sea”, but the lady that ownes the place had failed to record we were coming. She called the Visitor Center and got us into the Port Fairy Motel. In the evening we walked around the nesting area for Short-tailed Sherwaters (38.391S 142.251E) on Griffith Island. We waited around till dusk when several hundred thousand Sherwaters were supposed to feed their chicks. We could hear the chicks inside the burrows, and saw a dozen dead chicks along the track, but we got tired and had to leave before the mob arrived.

E-mail if you would like a file with the specific birds we saw each day.

Carl & Wilma Ball

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