Cann River in far eastern Victoria, Australia could be a productive spot for birds, in a region known for bird richness. Locals have hinted that there are good birds around – including Channel-billed Cuckoos regularly – but the localities of Cann River and Noorinbee seem under-birded, probably for a number of reasons.
Only one eBird hotspot existed for all of Cann River, but with 113 species & 57 checklists. From there north to the Victorian border there were just another 3 hotspots, all with 1 checklist each.
Birdata doesn’t have much more: a wide area around Noorinbee has eight surveys with an impressive 142 species; Noorinbee North has just four surveys, but 109 species.
In a town where you can see Channel-billed Cuckoos and White-winged Choughs, Black-faced Monarchs and Jacky Winters, I felt that the area was worth a bit of my time. Also there is now an excellent cafe in Cann River: Wild Rye’s Bakery, offering top notch coffee, pastries and toasties. They even have soy and vegan options.
For years I drove past the Cann River Bushland Reserve, partly because the name didn’t appeal or inform – I’ve seen plenty of very ordinary bushland reserves near towns – and partly because I was always on my way to Mallacoota.
Then Joe Stephens & Sally Cantrill, and Adelaide Kraina from Cann River started sharing some nice pics and interesting bird highlights on the facebook group Mallacoota Birds. Chatting with Joe over cappuccino at Wild Rye’s Bakery, he said that the Cann River bushland reserve rainforest walk was every bit as good as the Cabbage Tree Palms walk near Orbost. That’s a big call. I had to check it out then.
Cann River turned out to be worth every minute I spent, and much more. I’ll be back.
Here’s some of the birding we did around Cann River & Noorinbee in December 2020, with Martin & Frances Butterfield from Mallacoota.
Site: Cann River Rainforest Walk (Bushland Reserve)
This is really an extraordinary walk. Based on one visit, I think Joe could be right that it rivals the Palms.
The walk goes through mature Lilly Pilly rainforest, open wet schlerophyll forest, visits the reed and cumbungi-lined river bank and has views across the river flats. Most of the walk isn’t burnt.
Highlights were Black-faced Monarch, Brown Gerygone, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Shining Bronze and Fan-tailed Cuckoos, Olive-backed Oriole, Brown Goshawk and Scarlet Honeyeater.
There is, and will be, plenty of rainforest fruit for birds. Muttonwood is present and forming fruit in December 2020. Prickly Currant-bush was heavy with ripe fruit. Lilly Pilly was flowering.
Enter the walk from the caravan park entry road just west of Cann River town. Toilets are available at the caravan park, and there’s a few picnic tables at the carpark.
I’ve made a specific hotspot for this walk, as previously the only hotspot in the area was the generic Cann River, which really doesn’t guide visitors.
eBird Hotspot: Cann River Bushland Reserve — Rainforest Walk https://ebird.org/hotspot/L12965632
7km north of Cann River the locality of Noorinbee has some very promising sites. The river flats here are/were dominated by Gippsland (Coast) Grey Box Eucalyptus bosistoana – an elegant, large tree. Seeing these is worth the drive. The scenery in places is stunning, with huge paddock trees scattered across the floodplain and rugged mountains framing the view. The contrast between fairly dry woodland and rainforest beside the river offers some possibilities.
I understand there is a Grey Box Reserve, which I believe is just south-east of Noorinbee. It was burnt in the Black Summer megafires, and would be worth exploring as the trees recover.
Driving through Noorinbee, passing West Cann Rd, I heard the distinctive call of a Rufous Songlark – not a common sighting in East Gippsland. We returned to this site later and found two songlarks and other open country birds.
Site: Monaro Hwy at West Cann Rd south, Noorinbee
Bird highlights were a singing pair of Rufous Songlarks that attracted us to stop. Many Jacky Winters were present and calling, doing song flights back and forth across the farmland and house garden. Dusky Woodswallows, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and a Restless Flycatcher were present in the house garden and adjacent paddock.
In the drainage line that fills a small waterhole a Grey Teal and a pair of Pacific Black Ducks, plus several Willie Wagtails and more Jacky Winters.
The site comprises open farmland, a house garden with fruit trees, a drainage line, and remnant bushland along the highway. Please be cautious of invading the privacy of the landowners.
eBird Hotspot: Monaro Hwy at West Cann Rd south… I suggested as public hotspot, but not accepted by eBird (yet?)
Site: Reedbed Creek Rd at West Cann Road, Noorinbee
The West Cann Road (south end) is worth a drive – it crosses the floodplain and then a bridge over the Cann River, where it joins Reedbed Creek Road. Continue onto Reedbed Creek Road to a small bridge over a creek (see bridge on map below). The rainforest is spectacular, mature and vine-rich (shown in blue on map below). A walk along the roadside towards Combienbar Trail is well worthwhile (see yellow dotted line below). The Cann Valley State Forest joins Reedbed Creek Road for about 500m immediately south of the junction with Combienbar Trail. I imagine it would be possible to walk into the rainforest here from any point on Reedbed Ck or Combienbar Trail. There is also a cleared strip for the gas pipeline about 250m up Combienbar Trail, but its on the top of the hill. I will check it out next time.
Everything else is private property, so please be mindful. See map below.
We saw 29 species along here including Superb Lyrebird, Gang-gangs, Black-faced Monarchs and a Wedge-tailed Eagle. https://ebird.org/checklist/S77649127
eBird hotspot: Reedbed Ck Rd at West Cann Rd, Noorinbee (suggested as public hotspot, not accepted yet). Please use this GPS to submit lists: -37.4991564,149.1531438
West Cann Road continues north through farmland and joins the Monaro Hwy again at Noorinbee North at a place called Double Bridges. The farmland is good for Australasian Pipit, Jacky Winter, Grey Teal & Australian Wood Duck. A mob of 14 Eastern Grey Kangaroos were also seen.
Noorinbee North is only 18km north of Cann River, so an easy drive. Coopracambra National Park – one of Victoria’s most remote and barely visited National Parks – appears to the east of the Monaro Highway as you approach Noorinbee North.
The Double Bridges are bridges over the Log Bridge Creek, and the Cann River. We were told about it by a local friend, Glenn Herbert, in Orbost. Most of the land around is seriously fenced-off private farmland, but there is access to the Cann River from below the bridge down a wombat or wallaby track. This is where we saw an Azure Kingfisher.
This site was the least exciting of all the sites we visited, mostly because there’s nowhere to walk except the roadside. It has some good birds though.
Site: Monaro Hwy at Double Bridges (Noorinbee North)
Fairly open vegetation near a river, with river birds: Azure Kingfisher, Australian Reed-warbler, Welcome Swallow, Australian Swamphen. Also open country birds: Nankeen Kestrel, Jacky Winter and forest birds: Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Olive-backed Oriole, Rufous & Golden Whistlers. Surprisingly we heard Brush Cuckoo from the north, though we didn’t find any rainforest there. Basically just birding along roadsides, and along the river reserve.
We parked the car at the red dot (an open area with track junctions) and walked to the rainforest and then doubled back to the Cann River.
eBird Hotspot: Monaro Hwy at Double Bridges (Noorinbee North) https://ebird.org/hotspot/L12969528
The Cann River streamside reserve abuts the Monaro Hwy just 250m north of the West Cann Road junction, just south of Back Creek – this then joins Coopracambra. This area may be worth a look.
Further north along the Monaro Highway near Chandlers Creek locality there was one eBird hotspot for Beehive Ck Falls with one checklist of 8 birds from 2015. In the interests of filling out existing hotspots we made the journey. Sadly it was burnt recently in the Black Summer megafires, but we still saw some birds, and added 12 species to the hotspot.
Site: Beehive Creek Falls, Coopracamba NP
The bush is quite severely burnt at the falls themselves (see area shown hashed on map), but most eucalypts have epicormic growth at December 2020, one year after the mega-fires. The bush along the road before the site, from the highway turnoff to the private property junction, has been burnt but less severely and trees have retained their canopy.
Find site by driving along the WB Line just south of Chandlers Creek. Road and Beehive Falls are signposted from Monaro Hwy. 50m off the highway, before you cross the Cann River you’ll come to a carpark and picnic ground (shown on map with red dot), with a sign pointing to Beehive Creek Falls 2km.
Another 1+km you come to a junction, which is signposted Beehive Creek Falls to right, private property to left. Travel another approx 1km to the falls, which are visible from the road. After you see the very small falls there is a widening of the track where you can park and turn around, and another just a little further (shown as red dots on map). There’s no sign at the site.
eBird Hotspot: Beehive Creek Falls https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2550953
Site: Bellbird Track, Cann River
Another spot worth exploring is Reedbed Creek Road to the Princes Hwy – it is possible to use this route to create a round-trip. Bellbird Track joins Reedbed Ck Rd 4.8km from the Princes Hwy, it is a fairly good 2WD track in most weather. The area surprised me with the calls of several Scarlet Robins – not a really common bird in lowland East Gippsland. I estimated four, saw three, in different locations, but there could have been more as I was hearing them constantly.
We stopped about half way along (~800m), on a big bend and walked into the open forest with very low understory. The bush here was lightly burnt, but has retained canopy.
eBird hotspot: Bellbird Tk, Cann River https://ebird.org/hotspot/L12969549
Thankyou to Roger Smith, Martin & Frances Butterfield for contributing to the explorations, Joe Stephens for tips, and Adelaide Kraina for welcoming us to visit her lovely property.