Tag Archives: Mallacoota

Eastern Ground Parrot, the movie

Once I had taken a few shots of the Eastern Ground Parrot, I thought I would try and use a different camera (my Canon powershot 60) and see if I could get a bit of video. I took several short videos and this one shows just how difficult it can be to find and see these small, well camouflaged parrots in the low heathland scrub.

The video is at full zoom and handheld so becomes a little unstable in the windy conditions.

Tough nut to crack…

I have been to Mallacoota each December for the last 4 years looking for birds that don’t often make it into Victoria or live anywhere near Melbourne. Some of the birds are resident in the Mallacoota area like the Southern Emu-wren, the Eastern Bristlebird and the Eastern Ground Parrot. I have seen the rare Ground Parrot several times early in the morning at Shipwreck Creek – about 15kms outside of Mallacoota. On previous occasions the bird/s flushed and were gone, and going off track into the snake infested heathland did not help me re-find them. On this trip I thought I would just go early every morning until I had a chance to photograph this rare and shy parrot. On the first attempt I stalked so slowly and carefully along the path that I startled a large deer that was only a few metres off the track behind a thick bush. I am not sure who was more frightened. I thought I had no chance of finding the parrot with all the noise the deer made taking off through the undergrowth but about 50m further on a parrot flushed from the opposite side of the track where I was expecting to see it and instead of trying to photograph it in a mad panic, I carefully watched where it flew and stalked it further into the scrub. Taking a lot of time and winding my way through all the heath I found a small over-grown track and whilst surveying the path for likely spots I found the small parrot just sitting on branch watching me. I took a series of shots and moved closer and around the parrot trying to get better angles. Eventually it ducked down onto the path and disappeared into the thick heath.

Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016.JPG

Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria

Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016.JPG

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Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016.JPG

with a beautiful long tail almost hidden by the grass

Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016.JPG

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Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016.JPG

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Eastern Ground Parrot, Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016.JPG

Eastern Ground Parrot camouflaged in the heath foliage…

Scarlet Honeyeaters of Mallacoota

I have only seen a Scarlet Honeyeater once before and that was on a previous visit to Mallacoota a few years ago. On the latest trip to Mallacoota I saw many of them in a number of locations. After so much spring rain the local plants and trees are flowering and with the abundance of nectar and insects this has brought down many birds from the north. The Scarlet Honeyeater is a stunning tiny bird that rarely stays still and is often fighting with other local honeyeaters particularly the New Holland Honeyeaters.

Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016

Male Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria

Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016

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Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016

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Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016

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Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016

Female Scarlet Honeyeater 

Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria, 18 Dec 2016

Scarlet Honeyeater, Mallacoota, Victoria

Shipwreck Creek Rock Art

Recently I completed my annual pilgrimage to the wilderness areas around Mallacoota. It is a 6 hour drive east of Melbourne and close to the NSW border. Mallacoota is a small town surrounded by the Croagingolong National Park and Wilderness Areas. I visit for about a week and explore along the coast and nearby forests, looking for the locals birds and animals. One of my favourite bush walks is from Shipwreck Creek to Seal Creek. On the beach at Shipwreck Creek I found an area of rock cairns where visitors have made their mark with local weather -worn rocks. Over the last few years I have found a few of these temporary expressions of rock art including the Great Ocean Road and in New Zealand.

Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, 18 Dec 2016

Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota

Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, 18 Dec 2016

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Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, 18 Dec 2016

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Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, 18 Dec 2016

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Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, 18 Dec 2016

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Rock Art of Shipwreck Creek, Mallacoota, 18 Dec 2016

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The Rufous Bristlebird of Point Addis

There are two species of Bristlebirds found in Victoria – the Rufous and the Eastern. The Rufous can be seen along the Great Ocean Road from Anglesea to the border, while the Eastern Bristlebird is found in only a few areas of far eastern Victoria. I have attempted to photograph these species 6 times in the last few years and while I was successful the first time I tried for the Eastern I have not had much success with the Rufous. I have glimpsed it a few times at various locations but I have not got a good look at it or managed to even get close to taking a decent image. It is a shy, ground feeding bird that hides for much of the day. The photographs below were taken on my last trip to Point Addis. I finally worked out where they can be easily photographed and scored a few nice images.

Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

A furtive bird with some interesting colours and feather patterns

Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

The Bristlebird hunted along the ground and allowed us to get quite close – as long as we stayed low as well. 

Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

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Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

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Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

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Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

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Rufous Bristlebird, Point Addis, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria

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Mallacoota colours

The last few days I stayed at Mallacoota I drove around to my favourite spots looking for a bit of natural local colour. Early summer is the best time to visit, you have the place to yourself as the holidays crowds don’t arrive until Xmas.

Secret Beach, Mallacoota, Victoria

Secret Beach, Mallacoota, Victoria

Bekta Point, Victoria

Bekta Point, Mallacoota, Victoria

wallagaraugh river, Victoria

Wallagaraugh River, Victoria

Mallacoota Inlet, Victoria

Mallacoota Inlet, Victoria

Mallacoota Inlet, Victoria

Mallacoota Inlet

Mallacoota Inlet, Victoria

Mallacoota Inlet from Captain Stevenson’s Point. 

W marks the spot

A common sound heard on the edges of the Mallacoota township belong to a large solid bird called a Wonga Pigeon. It is a bird that prefers dense scrub and rainforest. It has distinctive markings – blue grey upper body, and spotted white belly. The markings on the chest help with camouflage, imitating shadows amongst the trees. To me it looks like a large W. It will try and stay still and hide when you walk to close but when it flushes it is a loud clatter of wings and a mad dash through the branches and away. When several flush at the same time it is loud and generally spooks everything else nearby. The one below I found on an early morning walk near my campsite. It was not overly concerned by my presence and for the first time I managed to get a few images of this species.

Wonga Pigeon, Shady Gully Reserve, Mallacotta

Wonga Pigeon, Shady Gully Reserve, Mallacoota

Wonga Pigeon, Shady Gully Reserve, Mallacotta

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Wonga Pigeon, Shady Gully Reserve, Mallacotta

Looking for a bit of breakfast…

Wonga Pigeon, Shady Gully Reserve, Mallacotta

An early morning stretch – showing the white and spots under the wings and belly – help to blend into shadows and a bright sky when flying through the tops of trees

The Robins and the Owl

There is a walk along the inlet from Captain Stevenson’s Lookout around the coast to Bastion Point. It runs along the edge of the camp grounds through tall banksia trees and coastal scrub and into a Pittosporum forest. The track leads on to the new Bastion Point boat ramp facility and the nearby swimming beaches now protected by the new sea wall. I met a couple who were going for stroll along the path who said that a large Caspian tern was fishing with the Silver Gulls in the shallows at the beach. Not having photographed a Caspian Tern before I headed down to find and hopefully photograph the tern. While walking through one of the deeper darker patches of Pittosporum Forest I came across a family of Rose Robins in quite a fluster. Several pink chested males and a number of females and juveniles seemed to flying back and forth across the path and into various low trees and bushes. I stopped to watch for a while and take a few photographs of these elusive tiny birds and noticed a pile of feathers at my feet. It took me a few moments to figure out what they were from – a juvenile Kookaburra. I looked straight up and into the eyes of a large Powerful Owl. This type of Owl prefers a daytime roost in trees located in cool, dark forest gullies. If it makes a kill during the night it hangs onto the kill all day and feeds at the start of the following night. Hanging from the Owl’s talons was the previous night’s kill.

Rose Robin, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Rose Robin, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Rose Robin, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Rose Robin, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Powerful Owl, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Powerful Owl, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

After taking a few shots of the Owl I walked down to the beach and watched the Caspian Tern dive into the water and catch a good sized bait fish and fly off across the inlet. That left me with the hunting Silver Gulls to photograph. It was a nice change to watch them hunting for fish rather than begging for potato fries and digging through rubbish.

Silver Gull, Bastion Point, Mallacoota

Silver Gull, Bastion Point, Mallacoota

Silver Gull, Bastion Point, Mallacoota

looking for bait fish in the shallows

Silver Gull, Bastion Point, Mallacoota

whoops, cut that a bit fine

Silver Gull, Bastion Point, Mallacoota

shaking off the water…

Silver Gull, Bastion Point, Mallacoota

finally scored a fish…

I found another Antechinus in the forest but I am not sure what sort it is, I think a Brown Antechinus but I will have to research it…going by the girth I am guessing that this is a pregnant female. By this time of year the males have mostly died off after a vigorous mating season.

Antechinus, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Antechinus, Pittosporum Walk, Mallacoota

Frogmouth, Whipbirds and a Pure White Raptor

Whenever I visit Mallacoota I try to get to the Double Creek area several times a day. There is always a good variety of bird species (local and migrating through) and several vegetation types to explore from creek side vegetation, wetlands, woodlands, rain-forest and ridge-lines with tall forests. It is a compact site with four paths to wander down.

Along one of the creek sides I found a pair of Leaden Flycatchers singing away declaring their territory while above I spotted a white morph Grey Goshawk. The white/grey Goshawk is the only pure white raptor in the world. I knew that a raptor was cruising above by the danger calls of all the nearby birds. The bird alarm gave me just enough time to get the camera pointed skywards and set for a bright sky. The Goshawk cruised just above the trees.

Male Leaden Flycatcher, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Male Leaden Flycatcher, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Female Leaden Flycatcher, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Female Leaden Flycatcher

Grey Goshawk, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoot

Grey Goshawk (white Morph), Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

I found the Tawny Frogmouth when I stopped at the small carpark to have some lunch and was staring into the trees when I noticed someone staring back….

Tawny Frogmouth, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Tawny Frogmouth, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

White Browed Scrubwren Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

White Browed Scrubwren Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

White Browed Scrubwren Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

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Lewin's Honeyeater, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Lewin’s Honeyeater, trying to stay cool along the creek on a very hot day

Eastern Whipbird, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Eastern Whipbird working hard to feed two chicks that were following closely

As I watched the Whipbirds move around the undergrowth I spotted the little Antechinus hunting. It is a fearless tiny marsupial hunter, and given its mouselike size I am always surprised to see them out and about hunting in daylight.

Antechinus, Double Creek Nature walk, Mallacoota

Antechinus, I have not worked out the local species yet  – could be Shy, Brown or Swamp. 

Sun baking at Double Creek

On an early morning walk around the Double Creek Nature Walk, near Mallacoota, I came across several birds having a dust bath and soaking in some sun. I watched Eastern Yellow Robins dust bathing followed by a spot of sun baking. It was a prime spot amongst the thick forest and the Robins were moved along by a pair of Lewin’s Honeyeater who spent a bit more time at the baking spot. Normally Lewin’s are a little hard to get near and photograph but as I was slow moving and crouched down they were happy to ignore me and just get on with soaking up the rays.

I have seen several bird species at different locations sun baking: magpies actually lying on their backs in sand on the edge of a golf sand bunker – I thought they were dead until I walked up to have a closer look….not sure who got the bigger fright. I have seen pigeons with a wing in the air lying on the ground and then the Robins and Lewin’s honeyeater at Double Creek. It is not fully understood why birds do this: part of feather maintenance, drying off after a bath (though I watched these birds have a dust bath and not use water), irritating feather mites to help find and remove them, just enjoying the sun on a cool morning. Whatever the reason it was interesting to watch and photograph.

Lewin's Honeyeater Sun-baking, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota

Lewin’s Honeyeater Sun-baking, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota

Lewin's Honeyeaters Sun-baking, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota

Lewin’s Honeyeaters sun-baking

Lewin's Honeyeaters Sun-baking, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota

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Lewin's Honeyeaters Sun-baking, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota

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A favourite little friend

On my yearly trip to Mallacoota I always plan to drive down to Shipwreck Creek and walk the track to Seal Creek. Along the way I expect to see a good range of rare birds, including Southern Emu-wren and the very rare Ground Parrot. I actually did see a Ground Parrot but it flushed and took off in a wild zig zag flight that made it impossible to film: video or photos. I will try again next year. What I managed to photograph was one of my favourite little birds – the Southern Emu-wren: a feisty tiny bird the size of a fairy-wren but with a much longer tail and very small wings that allow for short hops of flight. The Emu-wren requires a good expanse of knee to thigh-high heathland clear of foxes and cats. Very few exist now close to urban areas. I have only seen them at Shipwreck Creek and Cape Howe Wilderness  Areas and at Anglesea Heath.

 I found these guys fairly early in the morning along the track to Seal Creek but on the way back they had all disappeared back into the heathland scrub. The males will fly up to a dead bit of scrub in the heath and look at the intruders coming into his patch.

Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland

Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland

Southern Emu-wren, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland,

Male Southern Emu-wren, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland,

Southern Emu-wren, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland,

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Southern Emu-wren, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland,

Tiny wings and a long tail means that it is not a great flyer…

Southern Emu-wren, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland,

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Southern Emu-wren, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland,

Showing the delicate feathers of a very long tail

Heathland, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland

Heathland, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland

Heathland, Shipwreck Creek, Far East Gippsland

Along with birds it is also full of Tiger and Red Bellied Black Snakes…

The Genoa River Sea Eagles (Part 2)

Trying to take photographs of Eagles in flight is a great challenge that can test your camera skills, fieldcraft, manners and reflexes.

The first trip up the Genoa River had resulted in some nice images of an Azure Kingfisher and a few nice images of the hunting and roosting White Bellied Sea Eagles. On my second trip up the Genoa River during my 2015 Dec trip to Mallacoota, I gave myself a better chance of taking a few good images of the diving Sea Eagles. I arrived early and claimed what I had learnt was the best spot to sit on the boat (front left corner), I knew that I had to pan the camera while the eagle made its approach and start shooting early, I had to remember to adjust or verify my settings constantly (sky shots vs shots against the dark water or forest) and I had to shoot rapidly and with a high shutter speed to make sure I got plenty of clear action shots. Generally it worked. Occasionally I forgot to adjust the exposure and IOS settings which resulted in over-exposed images.

I was much happier with the second trip and look forward to going again at the end of this year for more improvements

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

A majestic female White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

White Bellied Sea Eagles, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Larger Female at right…

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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The Genoa River Sea-Eagles (Part 1)

On my yearly pilgrimage to Mallacoota, I look forward to the certainty of finding and watching White Bellied Sea-Eagles. Even across the other side of the Mallacoota Inlet they are easy to spot with their bright white body, large v-shaped wingspan and easy flight. One of the better places to observe these large Eagles up close, is along the Genoa River where several pairs have claimed feeding and breeding territories. The nests are reused and built upon year after year for decades until it becomes so heavy that it breaks the tree.  Access to the Genoa River is via Gypsy Point where a canoe can be hired (or launch your own) or can you join one of the regular boat cruises that head up the river for several kilometres. Each year I join one of the boat cruises and try and photograph these astounding birds of prey. The boat captain has got to know the local eagles and if they are in the area can call them in with a screech and a promise of raw chicken wings.
The photos below are from the first of two boat trips I took – I enjoyed the cruise so much that I booked myself onto another one a few days later. You can never have enough practice in shooting birds of prey in action.

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

The White Bellied Sea Eagle has spotted the food and starts its dive keeping its head aligned with the target…

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Still watching the target…

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Angling to keep facing into the wind for lift…

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Lining up, talons starting to unfurl…

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Extending legs and talons opening

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Legs extended, talons open, eyes fixed on the target…

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Impact…

Observing the little master fisherman…

Gypsy Point, on the Genoa River, north of Mallacoota, is a small quiet village visited by people interested in nature and those wanting to get away from it all. I visited a few times during my recent stay in Mallacoota. Not only is it a good location for Sea-eagles it is also well known for a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. While photographing the Sea-eagles from the small cruise boat, we came across a tiny Azure Kingfisher – a stunning looking little ambush hunter that works its way along the water’s edge, diving from an over-hanging tree branch down into the shallow water and taking small fish, frogs and aquatic insects.
The Kingfisher photographed below was not overly bothered by the boat and kept hunting along the river’s edge while the Captain tried to ease up and allow me a closer view.

Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

Looking for prey along the water’s edge

Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

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Azure Kingfisher, Genoa River, Gypsy Pt

The beautiful colours of the Azure Kingfisher

A journey into the wilderness

As part of of my recent stay at Mallacoota, I had planned to drive into the Cape Wilderness area and look for the Eastern Bristlebird – a rare bird on the Victorian side of the border. A location known to have a small population is Howe Flat, a coastal paperbark swamp near the wilderness coast. To find your way into the right area you need to drive into NSW and then loop back into Victoria via long narrow bush tracks. The area is not far from Mallacoota as the crow flies but it is on the other side of the inlet with no easy or direct access. It can take several hours of tough AWD/4WD driving through rainforest and tall trees. The last part of the track is quite narrow but winds through some beautiful country. I actually found a Bristlebird on the NSW side of the border while looping back into Victoria  They have a distinctive call, but can be quite shy. It ran in front of the car, called a few times and then disappeared.

Arriving at Cape Howe Flat, I found the bird along the track to the coast fairly quickly – it was quite shy and stayed back in the vegetation but I did get a few shots.

It was a long but very rewarding day.

Cape Howe Wilderness vehicle track

Cape Howe Wilderness vehicle track – I had to drive through several creeks and rainforest gullies to get to Howe Flat.

Cape Howe Wilderness vehicle track

Cape Howe Wilderness vehicle track

Driving through creeks to get to the Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Driving through creeks to get to the Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Driving through creeks to get to the Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Cape Howe Wilderness, Howe Flat

Cape Howe Wilderness, Howe Flat

Cape Howe Wilderness, Howe Flat, track to the coast and Eastern Bristlebird

Cape Howe Wilderness, Howe Flat, track to the coast and Eastern Bristlebird – the area was a bit swampy, the track under water or muddy in many parts.

Eastern Bristlebird, Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Eastern Bristlebird, Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Eastern Bristlebird, Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Quite a vocal bird, with a lovely distinctive call

Eastern Bristlebird, Cape Howe Wilderness Area

Eastern Bristlebird – a nice view of the layered tail feathers

Cape Howe Wilderness Coast Line

Cape Howe Wilderness Coast Line

Southern Emu Wren, Cape Howe Wilderness Area

On the way back from the coast, I came across a little colony of Southern Emu Wrens – a very nice surprise. I did not know that Wrens were found here as well. 

Southern Emu Wren, Cape Howe Wilderness Area

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