Chris Coleborn

During February and March I have been able to visit various sites around the area where I live in Cohuna, Northern Victoria. This is an area of great diversity of habitat, ranging from fresh and salt-water lakes and creeks and swamplands, riverine country (the Murray, and a diversity of smaller rivers and creeks), Mallee and associated landforms and vegetation, Box woodlands and open plains grasslands. Because of this diversity we have therefore a great diversity of birds too. Late last year on a day’s outing, we counted over 160 species within 40 km of the town of Cohuna, which is not bad for Victoria.

Hird Swamp and Lake Murphy, two local wetlands, have had a good selection of waterbirds, though Hird Swamp has just been drained to spray for weeds, which are threatening to choke the Swamp. Freckled Duck and a Black-tailed Godwit stand out as good sightings for this area. At Tullakool, just over the border in NSW, along with the usual waders for this time of the year, a Long-toed Stint was a good find.

We also had Australian Pratincoles breed twice near Pyramid Hill, (a nearby small town), into February. One day we saw two adults with half grown young, and were quite excited, for the Pratincoles do not come down this far south from the inland very often, let alone breed when they are here. Then, to top it off, a few weeks later, some newly hatched young with their parents were seen.

A Dollarbird was present the first week of March - a late bird by local standards. Those of our members up north will not find Dollarbirds such unusual Summer visitors, but while regular visitors in the area they are only in very small numbers, and do not stay long. They do not often go further south from this area either.

On Gunbower Island a flock of about 30 Swift Parrots were seen. These birds are also quite rare in this area, being Autumn/Winter visitors from Tasmania, where they breed and live in the Spring and Summer months.

With some passing storms, we have had various sightings of Fork-tailed Swifts in the area - the first in some years. The Spine-tailed Swifts are the variety normally seen in the area.

Recently we had what is almost an annual Plains-wanderer survey at the Terrick Terrick National Park. About 16 local bird watchers gathered with the local National Park Ranger for a night out on the Plains. Though it was drizzling with rain, and some nearly froze to death, we had a great night. We sighted 20 Plains-wanderers, with everything from a dad with four little chicks - balls of fluff on skinny legs, to immatures to adult male and female birds. On the same night we also saw Little Button Quail, and a variety of other birds. Before dark, we also saw some special birds, including a Black Falcon and Black-faced Woodswallows. At first appearance this area looks so desolate, yet it is amazingly rich in flora and fauna.

On the same day as the Plains-wanderer evening, several of us checked out a reported family of pure Black (melanistic) Australian Magpies I had heard about via my son Peter. I was not sure what we really would find, but sure enough the birds we saw were pure black. They had a beauty about them too, and seemed shyer than the ordinary coloured ones nearby. I will never think of Magpies the same way again. Apparently these Magpies have been in the area on a farm since the late 1980’s.

It has been very dry in the area and places like the Terricks National Park have been very dry. (All the more amazing that the Plains Wanderers have obviously just bred).

Despite the dry, there has been a good range of birds around. Whenever I can get out to do some birdwatching, and spend some time in the bush, I find my walk with the Lord that much richer and my appreciation for His handiwork that much more enhanced. I trust that you will find time to spend in His creation too, and know the blessings of "being still, and knowing that He is God" (Psalm 46:10).

The full list of birds I have enjoyed seeing over the last two months is as follows:

Emu Stubble Quail Brown Quail Blue-billed Duck
Musk Duck Freckled Duck Black Swan Aust Shelduck
Aust Wood Duck Pacific Black Duck Aust Shoveler Grey Teal
Chestnut Teal Pink-eared Duck Hardhead Australasian Grebe
H-headed Grebe Great-Crested Grebe Darter  
L.Pied CormorantPied Cormorant L. Black CormorantGreat Cormorant
Aust Pelican White-faced Heron White-necked HeronGreat Egret
Intm. Egret Aust White Ibis Straw-necked IbisRoyal Spoonbill
Y-billed SpoonbillBlack-s Kite Black Kite Whistling Kite
W-bellied Sea-EagleSwamp Harrier Brown Goshawk C.Sparrowhawk
Wedge-tailed EagleLittle Eagle Brown Falcon Australian Hobby
Black Falcon Peregrine Falcon Nankeen KestrelBuff-banded Rail
Baillon’s Crake Aust Spotted CrakePurple SwamphenDusky Moorhen
B-t Native-hen Eurasian Coot L. Button-quailP. Button-quail
Plains-wanderer Black-tailed Godwit Marsh SandpiperC. Greenshank
Red-necked StintLong-toed Stint S-t Sandpiper Curlew Sandpiper
B-winged Stilt Banded Stilt Red-necked AvocetD-banded Plover
B-f Dotterel Red-kneed Dotterel Banded Lapwing Masked Lapwing
Aust Pratincole Silver Gull Gull-billed TernCaspian Tern
Rock Dove Common Bronzewing Crested Pigeon Peaceful Dove
Galah Long-billed Corella S-c Cockatoo Crimson Rosella
Eastern Rosella Australian Ringneck Blue Bonnet Swift Parrot
R-rumped Parrot Southern Boobook Barn Owl Tawny Frogmouth
Fork-tailed SwiftLaughing Kookaburra Sacred KingfisherRainbow Bee-eater
Dollarbird W-t Treecreeper Brown TreecreeperSuperb Fairy-wren
Var. Fairy-wren W-wing Fairy-wren Striated PardaloteWeebill
Western GerygoneY-rumped Thornbill Yellow ThornbillSouthern Whiteface
Red Wattlebird Spiny-cheek H/eater Noisy FriarbirdBlue-faced H/eater
Noisy Miner Yellow-throat Miner Singing H/eaterW-plumed H/eater
B-chinned H/eaterOrange Chat W-fronted Chat Jacky Winter
R-capped Robin Hooded Robin E. Yellow RobinG-crowned Babbler
W-browed BabblerCrested Shrike-titGilbert’s WhistlerRestless Flycatcher
Magpie-lark Grey Fantail Willie Wagtail B-f Cuckoo-shrike
W-b Woodswallow B-faced Woodswallow Dusky W/swallowPied Butcherbird
Australian Magpie (+melanistic form)Australian RavenLittle Raven
W-winged Chough Singing Bushlark Richard’s PipitHouse Sparrow
Zebra Finch Diamond Firetail Euro Goldfinch Welcome Swallow
Tree Martin Fairy Martin C. Reed-WarblerLittle Grassbird
Brown Songlark Silvereye C. Blackbird Common Starling

This article was published in The Christian Bird Observer’s Magazine, April 2002