Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Around Oz Part 36 - Victoria's Mallee: Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

Following our visit to Adelaide (see previous post) we moved eastwards across the South Australian border to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in north-west Victoria. I had been to Hattah several times but not to our destination this time for a three-night stay – Lake Mournpull camping ground.

Mallee - Hattah-Kulkyne 
Due to Murray River flooding for environmental management, most major roads in Hattah (and the main camping ground at Lake Hattah) were closed so we had to get there via the somewhat rickety Konardin Track. It was fortunate that the store owner in the roadside hamlet of Hattah knew this, because there was nothing on Victorian National Parks websites to indicate it.

Flooded River Red Gum
The camping ground is nicely laid out around the shores of Lake Mournpull, now extensively flooded. The cost here, however, of $30 a night for an unpowered site with no facilities but a pit toilet is manifestly excessive by interstate standards.

Great Crested Grebe
The first afternoon I hiked a bit of the Mournpull Track. Displaying pairs of Great Crested Grebe were in the water about the campsite and Yellow (Crimson) Rosellas were common.
Yellow Rosella
Other birds noted included Nankeen Night-Heron, Pink Cockatoo, Mulga Parrot, Inland Thornbill, Chesnut-rumped Thornbill, Splendid Fairy-wren, Red-capped Robin, Southern Whiteface, White-eared Honeyeater and White-browed Babbler.  There were lots of frogs calling, although the nights were cold.

Splended Fairy-wren

Mulga Parrot male
Mulga Parrot female

Pink Cockatoo
The first morning we hiked the Warepil Lookout circuit together and I repeated the walk later in the morning. Fresh tracks from Malleefowl were seen but no birds. Birds about included Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Spotted (Yellow-rumped) Pardalote, White-winged Triller, Pallid Cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo.

Spotted (Yellow-rumped) Pardalote
In the afternoon I walked a few kilometres up the Konardin Track; extras for the local list included Jacky Winter, Hooded Robin and White-browed Treecreeper. We are again plagued by heavy winds during the day which severely limits the ability to find stuff.

Malleefowl tracks
On the second morning I left early for a 16-km hike, heading west up the Konardin Track to Nowingi Track, then south to the Old Calder Highway and back to the camp ground via Warepil Lookout. Along Konardin I found fresh Malleefowl tracks which had crossed my boot prints from the afternoon before. Then along Nowingi Track I had a Malleefowl scratching about just 20m from me. It did not seem too perturbed by my presence as I watched it for about 20 minutes; this was the same area where I had previously seen Mallee Emu-wren. I've seen Malleefowl 3 or 4 times previously but this was my closest encounter.



I also saw a single Chesnut Quail-Thrush, at the junction of Nowingi and the Old Calder. Other birds for the local list today include White-fronted Honeyeater and Little Crow, while Emu and a nice flock of Regent Parrots were about the camp ground. Hattah is renowned for its variety of parrots.

Regent Parrot

Regent Parrot
White-eared Honeyeater
The sole quail-thrush and malleefowl aside, I’ve not seen or heard other terrestrial specialties of the region on this trip - Southern Scrub-Robin, Mallee Emu-wren, Striated Grasswren, Shy Heath-wren. Although mid-September, it is cold and birds generally are quiet; it could be that they are still in winter behaviour mode. However, I would have expected more encounters; I’ve seen these species on previous visits to Hattah. It has been suggested that grasswrens and other small terrestrial birds in South Australia have suffered as a result of an explosion of feral cat numbers in recent years - due to a series of good weather seasons in southern inland Australia.
Cat paw imprint - Hattah
It has also been suggested that cat numbers have increased in south-west Western Australia due to the success of fox control programs in reserves such as Dryandra; the assumption is that foxes are efficient predators of kittens. This may be why the endangered Brush-tailed Bettong and Numbat have declined in recent years at Dryandra and elsewhere after initially doing well in response to the fox control measures.

Certainly I saw plenty of fresh cat paw marks on the trails at Hattah, as indeed I did at Dryandra and other reserves we visited recently in South Australia and Western Australia.

On the last morning I walked part of the Mournpull Track, encountering an excellent pair of Gilbert's Whistlers; this is another species I would have expected to see more of.

Gilbert's Whistler

Gilbert's Whistler


  1. Another great post Greg and as always wonderful photos. Finding the Mallefowl must have been a thrill. I'm yet to see a Spotted Pardalote.

  2. Great set of pictures - I think I should take a trip back to that part of Victoria soon.

    I run a birding blog link up on Wednesdays to Saturday on my photo blog and it would be great if you could join in - we need a few more Australia blogs!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  3. Thanks Stewart. Happy to join your blog.Greg

  4. Hey Greg, great shots and story as always. I was hoping to camp at Hattah-Kulkyne myself in next few weeks. Only have conventional vehicle (Subaru impreza - AWD but no clearance). I am guessing that counts me out - that Konardin Track is 4WD only do you think?