Usually we leave early for a weekend in Nhill because it is a drive of about 4 hours from Melbourne. This time we couldn't get away until about 11 am, and even then had to go back for a pair of sunglasses. Then, when we did finally hit the freeway to Ballarat, there was a massive traffic jam. Joy checked the internet on her phone (one day I too will buy a smart phone and learn how to use it) and found out that there were road works AND a bicycle race – the traffic jam was 0 to 20 kph and over 20 km long!! We took a side road and past the worst of it but we were way behind schedule, we thought.
Once past Ballarat the traffic did free up but by the time we got to my favourite pie shop in Ararat it was closed so lunch for me was a scratch job of what I had in the car, not much. Then, by the time we got to Dimboola it was getting late in the afternoon and we decided we had to moderate our plans for birding before we got to Nhill. All in all it was becoming a bothersome drive.
We did, however, take our normal longer "short cut" from Dimboola to Nhill. We do this by turning off the highway and onto Coker Dam Road, just after Dimboola. This road parallels the highway but lets you dip into the top of the Little Desert along the way. It is also a road that is much better for birding than the highway.
|Sunrise through the fog, Nhill – Harrow Road|
|Dusky Woodswallows huddled in the 3º C foggy cold|
|Crested Pigeon sunning on the fence|
Along this road we found out why the Birding Goddess had delayed us; just after turning on to the Kiata South Rd we slowed down because there were two suspicious brown lumps on the road a couple of hundred metres ahead. We put the binoculars on the lumps and they turned into two Malleefowl. Not only were they Mallefowl but they seemed to be used to traffic and allowed a reasonably close approach. Our trip had obviously been delayed by the Birding Goddess so that we would arrive at this spot just as the Malleefowl came out for their evening roadside snack (smile).
The next morning, Sunday, was cold with a heavy fog that didn't totally burn off until about midday. This made birding slow as most birds seemed to be huddled up waiting for the sun. We headed to our favourite spot that is a track that goes off the Nhill – Harrow Road just at the south edge of the Little Desert Nature Lodge. It is a good track to walk and most of the local birds can be found in the heath, over the farmland or in the stands of woodland bordering the track.
In the afternoon we headed north of Nhill to Yanac and Millers Road where Australian Bustards had been reported. We chatted to a local farmer who told us that they are always in the area and seen in ones and twos but each year, usually in early to mid July they chose a local paddock and can be seen in groups of 20 or 30. We didn't see any but are planning to go back next June.
|Mulga Parrot pair|
|Female looking for a nest cavity|
|Male – the female was inside checking out the hole|
|Broken Bucket Tank|
|Sunset over the southern edge of the Big Desert|
On Sunday we had to get home at a reasonable hour so headed south on the Nhill – Harrow road, with a few birding stops along the way, then over to Horsham to visit with our friend the Bush Stone-curlew. It took a while to find him, or her, but sadly we also found the well-picked skeleton and part of the wing of a second bird. It is just a small bush reserve in the middle of town with lots of people and dogs off lead so it is to be expected, but it was sad to see.
All text & images © Jenny Spry