A wet forest walk that is a continuation (an ‘extra’ detailed in the book) of the West Barwon walk. The path is undulating and can be slippery in wet weather, but you will pass through rich forest habitat.
Robins favour this type of forest and you are likely to see at least three different species.
Originally called Slide Lake as befits its origin in the 1950’s – it was formed by a landslide. Later it was renamed Lake Elizabeth. Situated on the Barwon River East Branch, it is nestled in a deep valley and surrounded by wet forest. The track leading to the lake is a little demanding with some steep pinches and it can be slippery in wet weather. Fortunately there are benches strategically placed along the path for those in need of a rest. The scenery is wonderful with dense, wet forest, water courses and then the lake vista. Platypus can often be seen in the lake if you approach quietly.
It is interesting to view the changes over time. I first visited the lake in 1973 and you can see from the old photo that the flooded tree ferns were still alive back then. In the 1970’s there was no graded walk – you basically just followed the river across quite rough and wet terrain to get the the lake. Imagine our surprise when we arrived to find a canoe! Quite a remarkable cruise across the lake was had – that day there were a lot of platypus active – we counted six individuals as we moved around. On a recent visit I was pleased to see two. The photo below was taken in 1973.
When you are out and about, at times you will find it hard to identify smaller birds as they move through the foliage. Many of these birds are beautiful and it is enjoyable to be able to watch and identify them. However, there are some simple techniques that you can easily apply when faced with a strange bird that will help you to at least narrow down the possibilities. Once you have reduced the number of likely birds it becomes much easier to make an identification.
So – when faced with an unknown bird, how do you go about narrowing down the possibilities?
Size – try and compare it to what you know Colour – uniform shade or does it have markings or patches of colour Bill – short and thick, short and pointy, curved Habitat – on the ground, low foliage, higher up in a tree Behaviour – feeding on flowers, foraging on the ground Call – many species have distinctive calls, best checked via an App
Where to start
Let us take an example. Whilst walking near some dense vegetation you see some small brown birds (often called LBJs or Little Brown Jobs) that you are not sure about. These are often the hardest for beginners and experienced birders alike! Answers to some of the above questions can quickly narrow it down. For example, if the bird is very small (smaller than a sparrow) and the bill is short and thick then you can immediately narrow it down to a pardalote or a weebill but if it is thin and pointy, a thornbill. If it is noisy and active, likely a honeyeater.
The “Thorn bill” is a good name for most – short and pointy like a thorn. Habitat is a good guide – Brown – in foliage often low. Striated – usually higher up in trees
Finch – very solid bill. Seed eater with the strength to crack seeds. Generally on the ground because that is where the seeds are.
Pardalotes and Weebills have a short, solid bill. Spotted – the name says it all. Weebills – in foliage
Honeyeaters have long bills – and if you are lucky, to see their very long brush-like tongues – to assist in collecting nectar from flowers.
Pigeons are also seed eaters and often on the ground. Bill adapted to cracking seeds.
This is a walk through dense, wet forest. The path leads you through a mix of vegetation ranging from tall Messmate and Stringybark trees to stands of Banksia and extensive patches of ferns as well as stream side plants.
Early on in the walk you will enter a grove of Banksias which have beautiful yellow cones when in flower, which tends to be from autumn onwards. Honeyeaters are attracted to the nectar and you are likely to see groups of Crescent, Lewins and New Holland Honeyeaters along with Eastern Spinebills.
In spring and summer you are likely to hear the beautiful calls of Rufous and Golden Whistlers throughout the forest. The males stand out with their distinctive colours, but the females are more subdued and tend to blend in more.
Flitting around the lower foliage you could see our two fantails. The Grey Fantail will often come close to an observer if you stay still as it hawks for insects. They have even been known to grab at your hair for nesting material. The Rufous Fantail is more cautious and you need patience to get good views of this bird as it tends to stay in the denser sections of foliage.
High up in the trees various parrots and cockatoos can be seen and heard. The creaking calls of the Gang Gang Cockatoo can be heard as the move through the forest. Whilst feeding they tend to be quiet and hard to see but gum nuts falling from the trees can be a giveaway. The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo is much easier to see as they make quite a racket as they fly. The Crimson Rosella has a much more musical and varied call and you will see them all though this area.
Gang Gang and Yellow-tailed Cockatoos and Crimson Rosella
All along this walk you you will hear the creek flowing in background. At various points you can descend to the edge and this is always worthwhile to see different birds such as White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills and Superb Fairy Wrens.
More than 40 sites have been selected, and these are divided into 9 regions . The site descriptions for each region are grouped together so that once you are in an area it is easy to check out several sites if you wish. Site descriptions include a site summary, directions, track commentary, level of difficulty and a map. Generally directions to a particular site are given from the centre of the nearest town, the centre usually being the post office.
In any guide, choice of regions can be somewhat arbitrary but I have decided on the regions defined as forecast districts by the Bureau of Meteorology. If you are out and about, it is useful to know the current weather status and any fire warnings in summer. This may influence your choice of sites to visit.
Generally sites selected are reasonably close within a region. Walks are spread out across Victoria but are grouped by proximity so that you can visit multiple sites in a particular area. The book is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all sites – plenty of others have done that. What this book does offer is detailed, commented walks where you can combine activities, but with a bias towards the birds. It is a curated list of birding walks if you like.
You may wonder why some of the ‘big name’ sites are not in this book. They are covered in other guides. Instead I have chosen some of my favourite sites – generally they are less crowded but always have a range of different birds. Yes – it is my personal bias, but hopefully it will broaden your horizons. All of the sites I have walked many times over the years and watched them change over time. None are too demanding – I am over 70 and can still do all of them comfortably.