Dowell Creek is the largest expanse of warm temperate rainforest accessible from Mallacoota.
It is possibly the most likely site for rare rainforest pigeons in Victoria. Dowell Creek rainforest contains several plants that Rose-crowned & Superb Fruit-doves, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Topknot Pigeon & Pacific Emerald Dove are known to eat elsewhere in their range: Lilly Pilly Syzygium smithii; Sandpaper Fig Ficus coronata; Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca; Native Bramble Rubus sp., Muttonwood Myrsine howittiana & Sweet Pittosporum Pittosporum undulatum. Dowell Creek may contain some southern species that may be a food source: Pencilwood* Polyscias murrayi, Yellow wood* Acronychia oblongifolia and Blue Olive-berry* Eleocarpus reticulatus.
More information about fruits eaten by Australian rainforest pigeons:
Some species of rainforest pigeon have been recorded in East Gippsland in the past (Rose-crowned & Superb Fruit-dove, Emerald Dove), and others seem to be becoming more frequent: Topknot Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-dove.
The bird diversity at the site is already impressive in just four visits: 73 species in 4 checklists. Both rainforest and dry woodland species seem to be present. Channel-billed Cuckoo was heard on our first visit in November 2018, along with typical wet forest birds like Black-faced Monarch, Superb Lyrebird, Satin Bowerbird, Rose Robin, Brown Gerygone, Olive Whistler and Wonga Pigeon. In contrast, Rufous Whistler, White-winged Triller, Jacky Winter and Australian Pipit – all dry woodland or open country birds – are also seen.
About Dowell Creek:
Dowell Creek is located on the northern side of Mallacoota Inlet, East Gippsland Victoria, and is part of Croajingolong National Park. The creek starts just over the border in New South Wales, just south of Royd’s Creek Road and Mines Road, in Nadgee Nature Reserve. The entire catchment of Dowell Creek is contained within Nadgee Nature Reserve (NSW) and Croajingolong National Park (VIC).
The area is managed as a Special Protection Area within Croajingolong NP (according to the 1996 Croajingolong Management Plan) but walking is allowed, with conditions (that I can’t find). As there are no signs restricting access, I think its safe to assume you can walk carefully along formed tracks.
There is a small private property on the western side of Dowell Creek near its mouth, but a strip of creek reserve can be accessed easily by boat, and there’s no need to trespass on private land. The rainforest is all within Croajingolong National Park.
How to get there:
Hire a boat from Mallacoota Hire Boats (Grant Cockburn): http://mallacootahireboats.com/ T: 0438 447 558
The 5m powerboat (does not require a boat license) costs $180 for 8 hours. Best to call the day before to check availability and arrange the earliest start.
Earliest hire starts at 8am. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Dowell Creek. From the jetty at Coull’s Inlet head north-east towards Fairhaven, past Allen Head. Continue up to Dowell Creek – when you see the twin white posts leading to Marshmead (Harrisons Creek) you’re nearly there.
Dowell Creek mouth is supposedly permanently open. It was open and navigable at low tide in May 2019, with the Inlet open to the sea. Cruise gently and carefully along Dowell Creek – there are some trees and snags in the creek.
About 1km along you will see open farmland and a low marshland on the west bank. You can pull in and tie up anywhere along here.
About the walk:
Walk total: about 1.5km each way. Grade: very easy, but with some wet patches after rain.
Walk north on the creek side of the fence as far as you can go. There is a boggy patch, but there is a stile over the fence if you need it. After one kilometre the creek and the fence turns suddenly west. You can walk along the fenceline to a ford across the creek. The first rainforest trees appear along the creek here.
Heading north again there is a vehicle track – you are now in national park. Dowell Creek curves around in a big westerly arc and after a few hundred metres you cross it again (there are stepping stones in the gully). Ahead there is an area of cleared land that has trees planted through it, and the main rainforest is to the north east.
On the map the rough location of a large Sandpaper Fig is shown – this huge tree was covered in undeveloped fruit in November 2018 and December 2019. You can see the top of it from the cleared land and vehicle track.
Best time to visit Dowell Creek Rainforest:
Best time to visit for rainforest pigeons would presumably be when the best fruit is available. But other factors (availability of fruit on their migration route, drought elsewhere) may also come into play. Past records of RCFC, SFD & PED are few, and seem to have no pattern, but BCD have been observed more often in Spring (Aug-Nov) in East Gippsland. But observations occur in all months in southern New South Wales.
Warm temperate rainforest plants in this region can flower and fruit at almost any time of year, and each species has a different period from flower to ripe fruit, which adds to the complexity.
I am trying to keep a record of flowering and fruiting times of some potential feed plants in East Gippsland in the hope of predicting good times to visit:
I would welcome other’s observations of flowering and fruiting of these plants to add to the spreadsheet. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org – you will be credited.
At this stage, I am guessing that the best time to visit Dowell Creek in search of rainforest pigeons and special vagrants would be January-February when the Sandpaper Fig is in full fruit. Also April-May-June when Lilly Pilly, Water Vine & Jasmine Morinda are in fruit.
But any time could be good, and sightings (especially if entered on eBird.org, Victorian Biodiversity Atlas or Birdata) would add to our knowledge of this area.
eBird Hotspot: Croajingolong National Park–Dowell Creek https://ebird.org/hotspot/L8144582
NOTES & REFERENCES:
* We have not yet identified Pencilwood & Yellow wood in Dowell Creek – Pencilwood is known to occur there, Yellow wood is not recorded but may be present. Blue Olive-berry is almost certainly present, but its not known if rainforest pigeons eat it.
Victorian Heritage Listing of Sandpaper Fig Ficus coronata on Harrisons Creek (Marshmead), Croajingolong: https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/70546/download-report
Results of “Bush Blitz” November/December 2016 at sites east of Mallacoota including Dowell Creek: http://bushblitz.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Report-Compiled-Croajingolong.pdf
Croajingolong National Park Management Plan: https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/313263/Croajingolong-National-Park-Plan-.pdf
Mallacoota Inlet boat cruising guide: http://www.gtyc.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Mallacoota-Inlet-Cruising-Guide.pdf