Birding Victoria - Latest News

2017 VICTORIAN MEGATOUR is now over, a very successful 10 day trip, full Trip Report available here to download

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Melbourne Bird Tour Image 1

In the bird world spring starts early. Although the weather remained icy until mid-September, our birds were well and truly gearing up for spring as soon as the winter solstice was out of the way. With local species nest building and becoming territorial, the various cuckoos need to be around and watching what is going on. This year’s influx has been significantly greater than normal. Particularly of Pallid and Black-eared Cuckoos which are present in high numbers.
And then in the third week of September the cold weather switched to a northerly air flow with strong winds and warm to hot conditions. Combined with dry conditions further inland we have encountered a significant influx of inland nomadic birds such as White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, Trillers and Songlarks, Black Honeyeaters and Orange Chats. Numbers of these species are higher than in many preceding years, a bumper spring has begun! Rarer migrants such as Red-backed Kingfishers and Pied Honeyeaters are already being seen in Victoria, and it’s still only September. Surely Crimson Chats are to follow, and who knows what else. Further afield Australian Pratincoles and Oriental Plovers are also making their way south so it’s quite possible some will get found in Vic in the near future.
October is typically the month with the greatest arrivals of summer migrants, so things will really be hotting up in the coming weeks. The widespread patches of Long-leaved Emubush found in the north west of Victoria tend to flower from October to December /January, and attract the nomadic Honeyeaters to settle and breed. No doubt when this occurs White-fronted, Black and Pied Honeyeaters will be taking full advantage.
Meanwhile some late winter storms have produced some interesting seabird sightings offshore including flocks of White-fronted Terns which may be seen into October. An early invasion of Scarlet Honeyeaters across the southern and eastern coastline seems to suggest that this species increase in Victoria is set to continue.

Melbourne Bird Tour Image 2


Despite the shorter days and colder weather, there is plenty to keep the birding interesting here in the deep south of Australia. This photo of the beautifully cryptic Bassian Thrush found near Melbourne this week proves that a winter walk can be very rewarding. Albatross numbers reach their peak off the coast in winter and may be readily seen from land. The occasional Brown Skua and Giant-Petrel can add some spice.

A beach-washed Prion found near Barwon heads started another round of prion identification meanderings. Latericorns, maxillary unguis and lamellae were discussed, and with prion taxonomy very complicated, the suggestions fluctuated between Antarctic, Salvins and MacGillvray's.

Salvins and MacGillvrays came out on top without a final confirmation!

Aussie Bitterns continue to pop up here and there, and there has been a run of winter records of birds which if they had more sense would be up in warmer climes. Western Gerygone, Black Honeyeater, Pallid Cuckoo and Azure Kingfishers have been appearing around the traps.

On the Orange-bellied Parrot front the recently released birds continue to mix it with a handful of wild birds in the Werribee area, Incredible news. Blue Black F, the oldest OBP in the wild population, has completed his 19th crossing of Bass Strait! He turned up at the Western Treatment Plant and found the captive-bred, released birds.

Captive bred Regent Honeyeaters are also hanging around the Chiltern area, and one of last year's releases has reappeared after making a long journey to Gippsland and back plus who knows where inbetween.

Swift Parrots have typically dispersed widely across the landscape. Some have taken up residence again in the outer Melbourne suburbs, whilst possibly the best flowering of Ironbark trees for many a year has enticed many to remain in Victoria. Even Red Ironbarks on the coast are flowering well and attracting some large concentrations of Honeyeaters. A winter feast for sure.

The duck shooting season has finally come to an end, with unnecessary carnage inflicted on our native waterbirds. Thankfully this activity is declining. Some wetlands where shooting is not allowed have seen bird numbers increase, with many hundreds of Freckled Duck seen at Lake Cooper in northern Vic and Lake Lorne in the south.

Last but not least, a duo of mega rarities have been hanging around the same area of Westernport Bay south-east of Melbourne. A South Island Pied Oystercatcher was located there and the ensuing throngs of visitors lead to the finding of another national rarity , a Little Stint showing significant breeding plumage. A decent antidote to the winter blues !

Melbourne Bird Tour Image 3

May 2017

Autumn gives way to winter in May, with the first cold weather. There has been plenty of rainfall across the state this autumn especially in the north which averages drier than the south, a little upside down. Some wetlands in the north are still holding large numbers of waterbirds following the bumper summer. A very high count of 870 Freckled Duck was exceptional at Lake Cooper, and a report of 16 endangered Australasian Bittern at Cullens Lake was also a very high count for one site. Aussie Bitterns have been turning up at a number of sites in southern Victoria which is typical for the time of year. Nearly any significant wetland with reedbeds around the southern coast can host this species as they leave their inland breeding sites. The Orange-bellied Parrot recovery team have been busy releasing captive bred birds at a wintering site on the mainland at Werribee. Two juveniles which were raised in Tasmania this year have appeared under their own steam at the same site. With fewer than 20 remaining wild birds, these efforts are a last ditch attempt to bring this species back from the brink of extinction. Blue-winged Parrot flocks are also being seen along the coastal saltmarshes, likely wintering birds from Tasmania. A pelagic seabirding trip from Port Fairy mid month produced a mega in the form of Victoria’s first live sighting of a Westland Petrel. Swift Parrots are being seen here and there, without any large numbers yet reported, perhaps many have flown further into NSW. Winter is breeding time for some iconic local specialities. Superb Lyrebirds are starting to display, whilst both Powerful and Sooty Owls are highly territorial at this time of year Finally another Australian state, bringing the total to 3, has now laid claim to confirmed Night Parrot record. The species has been recorded calling in the Northern Territory. Surely South Australia will be next, and then who knows, perhaps Victoria !!

April 2017 In the course of a number of bird tours and reconnaissance trips across southern and northern Victoria in the last few weeks a mighty range of birds have been encountered with my year list already approaching 270 species. What's more I have located a number of local rarities such as Australian Painted Snipe and Australian Bustard. Wetlands in their drying phase continue to attract large numbers of waterbirds. The grasslands of the northern plains are full of birds of prey as mice numbers increase. Swift Parrots have arrived back on the mainland from Tasmania, and bush birds are on the move as the weather cools and winter approaches. Spotlighting adventures have recently chalked up an impressive list of night birds, but perhaps the highlight of the lot was a sighting of a Letter-winged Kite on the northern plains of Victoria, probably the first sighting since 1981

Melbourne Bird Tour Image 4

FEBRUARY 2017This male Flame Robin was observed on a recent visit into the mountains east of Melbourne. A tame individual whom even hopped on the car's wing mirror

Melbourne Bird Tour Image 6

January 2017 -  Breaking news is of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Lake Murdeduke near Winchelsea, west of Melbourne. This is a national rarity, and does not occur every year. Remarkably Lake Murdeduke played host to the very same species way back in 1987 ! 

Even more remarkable is the sighting of a leg flagged South Island Pied Oystercatcher, a New Zealand species, at Broadwater in coastal NSW. On investigation it turns out that the bird was banded in Westernport Bay, Victoria in August 2016 but was logged as an Australian Pied Oystercatcher. Thus it has turned into a first record for the Victorian list !   

Other wader reports have included the long staying Red-necked Phalarope at Werribee, Pectoral Sandpiper at Swan Hill, and Wood Sandpiper at Edithvale wetlands. As happened in the last couple of years, reports of Eastern Koel are coming in from many parts of southern and eastern Victoria. They have gone from being a rarity to a regular summer migrant in just a few years.

Melbourne Bird Tour Image 7

December 2016

After a long cool and wet spring, summer is definitely here in Victoria. Rare waders are popping up, the first White-throated Needletails have been sighted, and there are young birds of most species everywhere after such a good breeding season.

Most wetlands in the state were replenished with the winter rains, and although waterbirds are fairly dispersed, there are plenty to be seen, and it is likely to get better as the waterways further inland dry up. Little Button-quail arrived in good numbers mostly in the north of the state, and have been breeding, as have Plumed Whistling Ducks. It's great to see our resident bird numbers on the rise

Winter 2016 

Sightings of Plains Wanderers between April and June on the northern plains of Victoria. Unfortunately conditions for this bird deteriorated through spring after high rainfall.

Melbourne Bird Tour Image 8

Meanwhile some wild weather over the last month has led to some remarkable seabird sightings along the Victoria coast. At the end of May three pelagic sea-birding boat trips ran on the same weekend, from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and all recorded a range of normally very rare cold water southern ocean specialities, including Grey-headed, Sooty and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses.  Then just a mere two weeks later an east coast low pressure system pushed some tropical seabirds way down south, with both Lesser and Greater Frigatebirds being recorded. The latter was the first seen in Victoria for over 100 years. Remarkable stuff Firetail Birdwatching Tours goes Carbon Neutral

Using a carbon calculator, each year Firetail Birdwatching Tours has made the commitment to plant enough trees on our property in northern Victoria to sequester the carbon emitted by our activities. In fact we will be planting more trees than that, as they also create a home for birds.

Watch this space for updates on the birdlife using our current revegetation area which began life some twenty years ago as well as progress with new plantings. The property is on the northern plains of Victoria, and the indigenous tree species to the area include Black Box, Buloke, River Red Gum, Grey Box, Willow Wattle and Yellow Box. Some of our original trees are now 10 metres or more high and at their most productive stage of life for sequestering carbon.   

Autumn 2016

The dry of summer continued on into autumn, with finally some good rains arriving in the south of the state in early April, but the mallee missed out, as it often does. Despite the conditions the State Government declared a duck shooting season again this year.

I have led some survey efforts in some of the few remaining northern Victorian wetlands, and three wetlands have been closed to shooting due to the presence of threatened species. Not surprising that they are there with so few other options in the landscape.  The up side of this survey effort has been great views of a wide range of waterbirds including Black-backed and Australasian Bitterns.

Swift Parrots began to arrive in Victoria quite early in March, and are already spread far and wide across south-eastern Australia.

And the recent rain coming into the cooler months has sparked some display activity with the Superb Lyrebirds in the mountain ranges. This is a great time of year to observe this bird, and perhaps even see it in display as well.

With time off through Easter I spent some “quality time” with a local population of White-winged Fairy-wrens on the northern plains near Pyramid Hill. The female wrens are real show-offs approaching very close and perching in the open on the tops of bushes. However the dazzling males are not as showy, though I did finally manage to get a few reasonable photos to share, enjoy !

Summer 2015/2016

A lot of action this summer has been focussed around the coastline, especially Werribee, and scarcer coastal waders. Some good records have included a Red-necked Phalarope, a number of Great Knot, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Cox’s Sandpipers (a hybrid between Pectoral and Curlew), Pectoral Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers and further east in Gippsland Victoria’s first record of Wandering Tattler. Pacific Koel continue their range expansion into Victoria with numerous birds present, and a smaller number of Channel-billed Cuckoo also appearing.

A number of tours around the Melbourne area this summer have recorded well over 100 species for the day, whilst despite dry conditions north of the divide, the birding in northern Victoria remains excellent.

A recent 4 day tour recorded 185 species and a trip report can be seen here.

4 day personal tour around north-central and southern Victorian
TRIP REPORT 17th to 20th Feb 2016.docx (4.37MB)               

Spring 2015

November 2015 eight day Victorian tour

TRIP REPORT 2015 Off with the Birds_1.docx

NWVictoria Sept 2015

Trip report 24 to 26 Sept 2015.docx (4.66MB)               

The annual eight day "Off with the Birds" Victorian Megatour has been highly successful once again with 232 bird species recorded as well as 14 mammal species. See attached for a detailed trip report.

An early spring 3 day tour into north-west Victoria with a long target list was very successful. See attached trip report for details and some photos taken on the trip

Winter 2015 

Some positive news this season with evidence of successful breeding by the few remaining Plains Wanderers hanging on in Northern Victoria. Sightings on regular surveys have jumped, with 80 percent of the birds located being juveniles. With the species recently upgraded from vulnerable to critically endangered this is a welcome reprieve.

Mid-winter birding has its up sides despite the cold and shorter days. Australasian Bitterns are a feature of the southern swamps in winter, and a number of birds are hanging out at swamps close to Melbourne.
As they usually do, most Swift Parrots are wintering further inland in the box-ironbark belt and cruising these woodlands in winter checking for patches of flowering trees and Swifties is a real treat. Some years small numbers remain close to Melbourne and this year a flock of around thirty of these endangered birds have made the outer suburb of Macleod their temporary home.

Pelagic trips have been highly successful off Victoria and Tasmania in recent weeks with Blue Petrels, Grey Petrels and Sooty Albatross being some of the highlights.

Being past the shortest day, the resident birds are already preparing for spring, even if it does feel some way off for us mere humans. One or two spaces remain on the upcoming 8 day Victoria "Off With The Birds" tour in November which aims to connect with as much of Victoria’s amazing birdlife as possible at the very peak of the spring season. Many of the states rarest breeding species will be targeted.

30 March to 4th April 2015 TRIP REPORT
7 days and two hundred and eighteen species around Victoria
Trip Report 30 March to 4th April 2015.docx (7.08MB) 

March 2015 Melbourne’s amazing wildlife

Recent tours around the Melbourne area have once again proved what a world class destination it is for wildlife viewing. The incredible Superb Lyrebird in the Dandenong Ranges are cranking up for the upcoming winter breeding season and after considerable searching Powerful Owls were re-found at one of their ever-changing daytime roosts.  

Summer 2014 2015, The fly season!

Spring is a popular time to go birding in southern Australia and for good reason as the local resident birds are joined by more migratory and nomadic species taking advantage of the excellent conditions as the weather warms up. Recent tours have included short Melbourne based trips as well as targeted tours chasing some of the rarest birds in the state. Mallee Emu-wren, Black-eared Miner, Australasian Bittern, Red-backed Kingfisher, Malleefowl, White-browed Treecreeper and Rufous Bristlebird have all been successfully tracked down. Other cool birds on the way have included Speckled Warbler, Brolga, Southern Emu-wren, Regent Parrot, Pink Cockatoo, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Superb Lyrebird, Shy Albatross, Tawny Frogmouth, Nankeen Night Heron, Southern Scrub-robin, Black Falcon, Spotted Harrier, Australian Koel and lots more.  Some rare grassland birds have not been able to be found including Plains Wanderer and Inland Dotterel. Who knows what may happen before the spring is out. 

August 2014 :Cause for optimism. Three Plains Wanderers seen in one night

During a recent survey of private property on the northern plains of Victoria two adult female and one adult male Plains Wanderer were located and banded. This is the largest number of Plains Wanderers found on a single night in Victoria since the population crash following two wet summers and flooding rains in 2010/2011. The birds were in excellent condition and hopefully will breed successfully this spring/summer after the good winter rains the area has received. Intriguingly none of these birds had bands, despite this being the site where one or two Plains Wanderer have been recorded and banded over the previous three years.
This bird remains on a knife edge in Victoria, and long term strategies are needed to actively manage grasslands to keep them suitable for this unique bird. 

Plains Wanderers in Victoria

A recent report released updating the current state of play for this species in Victoria gives some cause for optimism, however the population, if it can now be called that, remains desperately low. Whereas during 2012/13 there was only one sighting of a single bird during surveys on both national park land and private properties, in 2013/14 a total of 5 birds were recorded, 2 in the national park and 3 on private land. This is still a long way off the 57 recorded in 2009/10.  Despite a significant amount of grassland returning to what is considered a suitable state for Plains Wanderers, these niches have not yet been occupied.
Equally concerning is the similar situation in parts of the NSW riverina. This unique bird is a true survivor, but now requires active management to enable it to persist into the future. This means government providing more funding to make it happen, and better relationships being developed with private landholders so that they are in a better position to do their bit as well. 

Winter 2014

Winter in Victoria can be cold, wet, and some birds certainly have left the state for warmer climes, however there is still plenty to keep the keen birder interested. In fact sightings across the state this winter highlight the fact that it can actually be an awesome time to get out into the wilds. And the reasons why ???? 
Regent Honeyeaters return to Chitern, Orange-bellied Parrots appear at secret sites in southern Vic, Swift Parrots are seen in good numbers in central Victoria, a couple of sightings of Spangled Drongo, Kerguelen Petrels seen during a seawatch from Point Lonsdale, and at least two Beach Stone Curlews lingering along the coastline.

April 2014

With autumn in the air, many birds are on the move. A recent trip across northern Victoria recorded autumn flocks of Turquoise Parrots and Brolga plus many smaller bush birds in the air over the woodlands. Swift Parrots are returning, Flame Robins are popping up everywhere and the weather remains mostly fine and warm. It’s a magic time of the year.

Turquoise Parrots, Zebra Finch, Diamond Firetail, Brolga and Yellow-footed Antechinus all photos Simon Starr 

March 2014

Victoria’s first confirmed Tawny Grassbird has been found at Edithvale wetlands in Melbourne’s south-east late this month. This bird has been extremely skulking, however it has frequented the same patch of rank grass, reeds and tree Lucerne for some days now, and has rewarded the patient birder with bits and pieces views. A great find!

Victorian Duck Shooting season begins
March 15th saw the start of another full Victorian duck shooting season, one which should never have gone ahead as Victoria’s wetlands are concentrating birds escaping the drought conditions in much of NSW and Queensland.
Already on opening day, 33 illegally shot Freckled Ducks were collected at Lake Lonsdale near Stawell in western Victoria.
In some good news, 8 important wetlands were closed to shooting after pressure from Birdlife Australia and its volunteers. Here is a link to a Birdlife media release just prior to duck opening

“Probable” American Golden Plover still being seen at Point Cook
More and more birders are heading to Point Cook to scan through the Golden Plover flock in the hope of sighting an AGP. With the birds starting to acquire summer plumage it is an ever-changing scene, which is leading to some confusion in deciding which bird is which. Here is a photo of a contender for AGP 

Birder sinks in quick-sand
The hazards of chasing birds caught up with a very keen Victorian birder recently, when trying to get better views of the rare SEAsian race affinis of Gull-billed Tern at Stockyard point in Westernport. It was a close shave indeed, and only once shedding multiple layers of optical equipment could said birder escape the gluey sand which was up to his thighs.

February 2014

Twitching fever causes closure of rare bird site.

Access to parts of the Cheetham wetlands at Point Cook just west of Melbourne, the site of the “probable” American Golden Plover for the last few weeks have been refused after
over-exuberant twitchers jumped fences without the permission of the local rangers. Follow the thread on the birding-aus website. 
 The good news is that it may be still possible to see the bird as low tide approaches, feeding in a public area at the point.

January 2014 

Broad-billed Sandpiper, American Golden Plover and Long-toed Stint

Rare waders become common 

An exceptional summer for rare waders in Victoria.
Up to two Broad-billed Sandpipers regular at the WTP Western lagoons.
Two Long-toed Stints have favoured the western lagoon pond 9. Rarer still a "probable" American Golden Plover has been hanging around with a decent sized flock of Pacific Goldens at Cheetham wetlands near Point Coo
Up to six Pectoral Sandpipers have been found at WTP plus others in the west and north of the state.
3 or 4 sightings of Ruff have been reported, both at the WTP and Lake Leaghur near Boort. The first recorded Ruff in Australia was only in 1962 ! 
A report of an Oriental Plover also at the Cheetham wetlands, Point Cook.
Painted Snipe appeared at Mt St Joseph’s pond in Altona just before it completely dried up. This bird shared the space with Lewin’s Rail and Spotless Crake…..quite an incredible trio of impossible to see birds !
Cox’s Sandpiper, also at the WTP kept the run going. Cox’s Sandpiper is incredibly rare, and is considered a hybrid between Curlew and Pectoral Sandpiper.
And from further east at Mots beach near Marlo a Beach Stone-Curlew has appeared.

January 1st 2014

With Firetail Birdwatching tours done and dusted for 2013, it’s a good time to briefly look back before launching into the new year.
313 species were recorded on tour by Firetail Birding Tours for the year, just within Victoria, from 73 bird families.

Many miles were travelled, friendships formed, and experiences shared. Thank you all for your custom, and looking forward to more adventures in 2014. Happy New Year :-) 

20th to 27th November 2013 - Firetail Birdwatching Tours Victorian “Off with the birds” Megatour

Nights were spent in Melbourne-Healesvillle-Cohuna-Ouyen-Little Desert-Port Campbell-Aireys Inlet-Melbourne.
Many birding sites visited along the way. Great weather conditions helped with great views of many rare species. 243 species of bird were recorded with nearly all seen and just a few heard onlys.
Many great sightings, but exceptional ones included a pair of Malleefowl attending their nest mound, a beautiful adult Spotted Harrier gliding past the bus, adult Black-faced Cormorants perched on one of the Twelve Apostles, an Australian Crake with two tiny black furry chicks in tow, majestic Brolgas, Hooded Plovers at two sites, prolonged close views of a female Painted Buttonquail on the ground, a roosting family of Powerful Owls, night time viewing of Spotted Nightjars and Southern Boobook, a Red-backed Kingfisher, a mighty 21 species of Parrot and Cockatoo included Gang Gangs seen down to 3 metres, a huge flock of 200+ Regent Parrot and good numbers of the dainty Blue-winged, good views of Superb Lyrebird, both Southern and Mallee Emu-wrens, crippling views of Striated Grasswren, four species of Fairy-wren, 27 species of Honeyeater and that was without connecting with Yellow-tufted or Black-chinned !!, Rufous and Striated Fieldwrens, a stunning pair of Chestnut Quail-thrush, all 5 Victorian Woodswallow species in one day and all nine Victorian Robin species.  
A long list of mammals and reptiles were also observed, highlights being Southern Brown Bandicoot, Sugar Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider, Koala, Echidna and Sand Goanna. Group from Taiwan, with assistance from Arco. One guest passed 5,400 birds on the trip.


October 2013

A pair of Plains Wanderers have been seen together in the Terrick Terrick National Park grasslands. Since 2011 there have been virtually no sightings of this species in the park, despite the habitat returning to a more normal state since the floods of 2010. This is great news, and hopefully marks the beginning of a recovery. Before the floods the population around the Terricks and the surrounding Patho plains was estimated to be in the hundreds. :-) 

 February 2013.  Newsflash.

Unprecedented numbers of Malleefowl are being observed along roadsides in Victoria's north-west, feeding on spilt grain.

The highest count so far is an amazing 73 birds seen. For a bird that generally occurs in low densities this is heartening news, and shows that they have had some excellent breeding seasons since the drought broke in 2009/10.