Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Orbost to Cape Conran

Australia Day 2012 was in the last week before the Victorian schools went back and as it fell on a Thursday many people made it a long weekend away. For this reason we decided on a late start on the Thursday and a return on Saturday, to keep away from all the caravans and boats winding slowly back from east Gippsland on the Sunday.

And a beautiful weekend it was, despite not finding our target bird, Masked Owl, again. Pilotbirds were very busy and vocal around the West Cape boat launch but the surprise here was a Buff-banded Rail that jumped high above the heath, did a quick arc, just long enough for us to see it, before dropping back into the dense cover and out of sight.

The heath-land just on the east side of the Yeerung bridge seems to have lost its resident Ground Parrots but the Southern Emu-wrens were everywhere and very easy to see. It is also a great place for fly-over views as it is on a rise and the land to the west is lower, and to the south there is the sea. This time we had Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, Little Ravens and Black Cormorants.
Southern Emu-wren

The Yeerung river is good for cormorants and the Black Cormorants we saw were shining in the sun with their yellow face patch positively glowing. The low gum trees along the edge of the heath gave us Crescent Honeyeaters, a young Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Supurb Fairy-wren, Eastern Yellow Robin, Striated Pardalote, Welcome Swallow, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds.
Eastern Yellow Robin with dinner

If you drive over the Yeerung River bridge you can continue on to the Old Coast Road and then back to the Cape Conran Road. This loop is always interesting and gave us Beautiful Firetail and Turquoise Parrot at a creek crossing.
Beautiful Firetail

One spot that can never be missed is the Cabbage Tree Palms Reserve. This area of Cabbage Palms and rainforest is totally alive with birds. On our night visit the resident Sooty Owls came and saw us and during the day Topknot Pigeons fed on the ripe palm fruit, Bassian Thrush scuttled down the road, Eastern Whipbirds called loudly and scrub-wrens, silvereyes, honeyeaters and fantails festooned the bracken and dense vines.
Topknot Pigeon

As we were intent on finding a Masked Owl we spent some 4 hours each night prowling the roads listening for a call. While we missed the MO we did get a major bonus. A pair of White-throated Nightjar were working one particular stretch of road and showed off beautifully by making three or four low level passes, flying straight down the road and over our heads.

There were not many White-throated Needletails around but we had about 6 flying west (19/01) while we were parked at the corner of the coast road and the Cape Conran Rd, 6 flying west while we were at the Yeerung ridge early on 20/01 and then again on 20/01 in the middle of the day there were at least 20 flying around while we were in the Cabbage Tree Palms reserve. These last ones were hard to count as we were watching them through gaps in the tall trees of the reserve.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Sword-grass Brown Butterfly

Sacred Kingfisher

Bassian Thrush

1.5 metre Lace Monitor
East Gippsland and the coastal parks are one of my favourite places so it will be no hardship to go back and chase down the elusive Masked Owls, again.

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