Rare rainforest pigeons around Mallacoota

Rare rainforest pigeons around Mallacoota

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.

warm temperate rainforest Dowell Creek Croajingolong
Warm temperate rainforest in Dowell Creek covered in vines

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).

Dowell Creek rainforest map Mallacoota East Gippsland

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.

Dowell Creek rainforest Mallacoota Victoria

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.

Dowell Creek rainforest walk map Croajingolong East Gippsland

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.

Dowell Creek mature warm temperate rainforest East Gippsland

Dowell Creek rainforest Victoria

mature warm temperate rainforest Mallacoota East Gippsland

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.

dowell-creek-text-overlays

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.

Ficus coronata fruit Dowell Creek Mallacoota
Sandpaper Fig covered in fruit in November 2018

sandpaper fig ficus coronata east gippsland victoria

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 janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au – you will be credited.

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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

 

Read our latest Trip Report here for a list of sightings and flowering/fruiting. 

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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

Mallacoota Pelagic 14 May 2019

Mallacoota Pelagic 14 May 2019

Trip Report: Mallacoota Pelagic 14 May 2019

An exploratory first trip out to the shelf on a small Mallacoota-based charter boat. [Some extra information included here for any birders planning to organise a similar trip themselves, which I recommend]. 

Observers: Rohan Clarke, Roger Smith, Janine Duffy (organiser/report writer).

Boat: Gabo Island Escapes 28 foot boat with twin 225 hp outboard motors and small cabin. Boat licensed for 7+2, skipper happy to take 6 passengers on a trip like this. Skipper: Kevin Lott; Deckhand: also a Kevin. Outfit were very professional and safe, and are fully licensed for trips to the shelf.

https://www.gaboislandescapes.com/ Phone: 0437221694

Cost: $770 total for charter. Berley included. May vary in high season or with higher numbers – I didn’t ask.

Weather: Clear, bright and sunny. Primary swell from south west to 2m. Wind from west at around 10 knots (at Gabo). Skipper was unconcerned and confident in these conditions, and boat could handle worse.

yellow-nosed albatross mallacoota pelagic
A Yellow-nosed Albatross

Activity: Departed Bastion Point boat ramp at 07.30. Headed southeast at a good speed. First stop at 09.15 at depth 207m. Moved on southeast after 45 minutes. Stopped again at 10.35 at 518m depth. Stayed about an hour, drifted to 570m depth. Started return journey at +/-11.30, headed for Tullaberga Island. Circumnavigated Tullaberga from 13.10-13.15, then headed back, arriving Bastion Point at 13.30.

Route: Southeast from Mallacoota to first stop: 37°44’51.3″S 150°05’39.4″E, second stop: 37°49’16.1″S 150°06’31.1″E
Returned via Tullaberga Island (did not land).

mallacoota pelagic birds 14 may 2019

[note: location of Merimbula – Mallacoota Pelagic March 2018 shown – that trip had slightly higher bird diversity, a great albatross, one more storm-petrel, a pterodroma and a procellaria petrel.  See eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46867738]

Birds: 21 species, thanks mostly to Rohan. Many were distant and quick.

Arctic Jaeger: 1 flew past at distance.

Sooty Oystercatcher: 2 on Tullaberga Island

Silver Gull: 8 at sea, another 7 Tullaberga Island

Crested Tern: 10, seen throughout.

Little Penguin: 5,  close to shore.

Yellow-nosed Albatross: 16, first few albatross we saw closest to shore.

Shy Albatross: 60, seen throughout trip.

Black-browed Albatross: 2, on way back in.

Bullers Albatross: 2, quick flybys

Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 12, several stayed near boat for extended periods.

Fairy Prion: 90

Antarctic Prion: 1

Sooty Shearwater: 1 on way back in

Short-tailed Shearwater: 1 on way back in.

Fluttering Shearwater: 1 pelagic at 2nd stop

Australian Gannet: 65 at sea, another 6 near Tullaberga Island. Several juveniles.

Black-faced Cormorant: 2 at sea, another 130 off Tullaberga Island

Great Cormorant: 1 at sea, another 8 Tullaberga Island

Little Pied Cormorant: 3 at Tullaberga Island

White-bellied Sea-Eagle: 1 immature at Tullaberga Island

white-bellied sea eagle
Immature White-bellied Sea-eagle on the rocks at Tullaberga Island

Mammals:

Australian Fur-seals: 2, cavorted in berley slick for a bit.

Comfort: trip was very comfortable on way out, but quite rough and wet on way back in. If full (6+2) the cabin would have been cramped and some passengers might have got quite wet. Bring wet weather gear.

Berley: supplied by boat operator and distributed by deckhand. They had a range of frozen fish and tuna oil. Rohan gave them a few tips for future: small pieces, less often. Chicken skin may be good to include.

Conclusion: It was a quiet day for birding but species richness was not bad. Trip is worth repeating a few times in different seasons to see if birding improves. Considering that the location was just 5-15km south of location reached on March 2018 Merimbula-Mallacoota Pelagic, and at similar depth, and bird diversity on that trip was a bit higher, this trip may reflect a slow time of year.

Rohan recommended we try again, and December-January may be a good time.

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Please feel welcome to contact me if you need more information: janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au

black-faced  great cormorants Tullaberga near Mallacoota Pelagic
Black-faced and Great Cormorants on Tullaberga Island

The Honeyeaters of Mallacoota

The Honeyeaters of Mallacoota
Mallacoota in far East Gippsland is Victoria’s most diverse region for plants, especially flowering plants. Where there are flowers, there are honeyeater birds: a group of noisy, colourful Australian birds adapted to feeding on flower nectar.

In the Mallacoota region it is possible to see 21 species of honeyeater.

Most of the common Victorian species are here: Red & Little Wattlebird, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland & Yellow-faced Honeyeater; but there are also special ones: Tawny-crowned, Crescent, Lewin’s Honeyeater; some are summer visitors: Scarlet Honeyeater; and some are real rarities from NSW and Qld: Noisy and Little Friarbird, White-cheeked Honeyeater.

The Mallacoota region has hills and mountains, coast and heathlands, estuaries and rivers, rainforests and dry woodland, each home to a different group of honeyeater birds.

Here’s a list and description of all the honeyeaters recorded in recent years around Mallacoota.

Eastern Spinebill   Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

Eastern Spinebill Honeyeater

Description: small, colourful honeyeater with long curved beak.  

Where to see: Can be seen almost anywhere in Mallacoota region where native trees or shrubs or garden plants are flowering.

Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata

Red Wattlebird front view adult

Description: Large, streaky grey honeyeater with yellow patch on belly. Very noisy.

Where to see: can be seen almost everywhere in Mallacoota including gardens, all year round

Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera

Little Wattlebird in Coast Banksia Mallacoota

Description: Similar to Red Wattlebird but lacks yellow patch. Very noisy.

Where to see: Mostly near the coast, all around the region.

White-fronted Chat Epthianura albifrons

white-fronted-chat-231017p03lowres

Description: a small black and white bird that is most often seen on or near the ground in open areas. Chats are considered honeyeaters, but they are quite different to the rest of the group, both in shape and habits.

Where to see: Not common, best chance is near the coast in open areas – Bastion Point, Mallacoota airport.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater Gliciphila melanops

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
By Francesco Veronesi from Italy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Description: an elegant brown, tan and white honeyeater with curved long beak. They are not easy to see, they often stay low and quiet in thick heath.

The Mallacoota region is one of the best places to see this bird in all of Australia.

Where to see: Mostly along the coast in heathlands south of Mallacoota – Shipwreck Ck, Mallacoota airport.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops

Croajingolong Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Description: A small green-olive honeyeater with yellow patch on face.

Where to see: Almost everywhere around Mallacoota region in forests and gardens. Possibly the most common small honeyeater in region.

Fuscous Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus

Fuscous Honeyeaters
By Aviceda (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Description: a small, yellow-olive honeyeater a bit like the Yellow-faced but lacking the large yellow patch.

Where to see: Not often seen in region, they seem to prefer drier forests. One reported on north side of Inlet in 2013, another found north of Wangarabell in 2012, another in Mallacoota in 2010 (source: Birdata)

White-eared Honeyeater Lichenostomus leucotis

Mallacoota honeyeater

Description: Medium-sized dark green and black honeyeater with white patch on face

Where to see: in forests – Wallagaraugh, Mallacoota (Shady Gully, Casuarina Walk), Genoa Falls.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops

Yellow-tufted_Honeyeater_(Lichenostomus_melanops)_-_Flickr_-_Lip_Kee
By Lip Kee from Singapore, Republic of Singapore (Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Description: a beautiful yellow and black, medium-sized honeyeater with dramatic facial markings.

Where to see: in forests, mostly in the hills – Wangarabell, Genoa Falls, Maramingo.

White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus

WHITE-plumed-Honeyeater230714srlong

Description: a small green-yellow honeyeater with a white plume on cheek.

Where to see: Not often seen this far east, more a bird of western Victoria, but some recent records at Genoa Peak and Shipwreck Ck.

Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala

Noisy Miner
By Mike Prince from Bangalore, India (Noisy Miner) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Description: a medium-sized miner, grey with yellow and black markings around the face. Miners are a group within the honeyeaters – they are chunky-bodied, have bare skin behind their eyes and quite short beaks. They are not related to the introduced Common (Indian) Myna, though they look a bit similar.

Where to see: Occasionally recorded in Mallacoota town area.

Bell Miner (Bellbird) Manorina melanophrys

Bellbird Mallacoota

Description: a small miner, green-olive with red patch behind eye and bright gold beak. Their bell-like call is well-known and much loved.

Where to see: Common, heard in almost every rainforest or wet forest. They can be hard to see at first, simply because they are hidden in thick foliage, but with patience you can usually see one. 

Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii

Lewin's Honeyeater East Gippsland

Description: a beautiful, medium-sized green-olive honeyeater with yellow crescent on the cheek. Their call is very distinctive – a bit like a machine gun.

Where to see: Common, often in slightly wetter forests but also along the coast.

Brown-headed Honeyeater Melithreptus brevirostris

brown-Headed-Honeyeater130116long

Description: a small brown, olive and white honeyeater.

Where to see: Scattered records throughout region, often in dry forests, high in canopy.

White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus

White-naped Honeyeater Mallacoota region

Description: small, green and white honeyeater with a black head and a red eyebrow.

Where to see: Common in most forest types – usually seen high in canopy.

Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta

Scarlet Honeyeater East Gippsland bird

Description: a small red, black and white honeyeater with a curved beak.

This bird is one of the reasons birdwatchers come to Mallacoota – these tiny birds fly down from the north in Spring and East Gippsland is their first stop in Victoria. Sometimes they spread throughout the state (as they are doing this year – 2017), but Mallacoota is always a reliable site to see Scarlet Honeyeaters in Spring and Summer.

Where to see: They are usually seen along the coastal forests – Shipwreck Ck, Betka Beach, Heathland Walk – but also up Genoa and Wallagaraugh Rivers at Gipsy Point, Wallagaraugh.

Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis

Little Friarbird, Wentworth NSW

Description: a medium-sized light grey friarbird with blue skin around face. Friarbirds are a group among the honeyeaters that are large, noisy and usually have bare, unfeathered heads – the Little Friarbird doesn’t have a totally bare head, but does have a lot of bare skin.

Where to see: one seen in 2014 at Gipsy Point (source: eBird)

Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus

noisy-Friarbird-220515p02lowres

Description: a large light grey friarbird with a bare black head like a tiny vulture.

Where to see: Not common, but several recent sightings from Karbeethong, Gipsy Point, Mallacoota, Wallagaraugh

White-cheeked Honeyeater Phylidonyris nigra

white-Cheeked-Honeyeater-090716p09lowres

Description: a medium-sized black, white and yellow honeyeater, very similar to the common New Holland Honeyeater, but does not have the white eye.

Where to see: This bird is mostly found in NSW and Qld, but there are two records from Cape Howe Wilderness north of inlet in 2014

 New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae

East Gippsland honeyeater

Description: a medium-sized black, white and yellow honeyeater with a streaky breast and white eye.

Where to see: Common in gardens and forests all around Mallacoota region.

Crescent Honeyeater Phylidonyris pyrrhoptera

Crescent Honeyeater Birds of Mallacoota
By JKMelville (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Description: a medium-sized black, white and yellow honeyeater with two black bars forming a broken crescent on chest

Where to see: Can be seen all over Mallacoota region in forests, but do not seem to be as common this year (2017). They do have a tendency to come down to coast in winter and go up to the mountains in summer. Recent records from Genoa Peak and Shipwreck Creek. 

Come and see some of Mallacoota’s gorgeous honeyeaters on our 15 or 21 day Maximum Wildlife trips. 

Read more about the wildlife of East Gippsland here: Mammals of East Gippsland