Where to watch the birdies

Parks Victoria provides its top 10 birdwatching spots within three hours of Melbourne

Domestic travel
Keep a look out for spoonbills and cormorants.

Keep a look out for spoonbills and cormorants.

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Grab the binoculars and head to these Victorian parks for some great birdwatching.

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WHETHER you’re an ardent twitcher or just a casual birdwatcher, Parks Victoria has come up with a list of what it says are the 10 best parks near Melbourne for birdwatching.

So grab your field guide, binoculars and backpack, and here you go…

Point Cook Coastal Park – 30 minute drive from the CBD: Great to explore with the family, featuring abundant birdlife, a historic bluestone homestead and intertidal sandbanks. The natural waterbodies in the park provide perfect habitat for species such as black swans, singing honeyeaters and white-fronted chats. Some birds like the Hudsonian godwit and little stint travel from Siberia and Alaska each spring.

Coolart Historic Area –  an hour’s drive from Melbourne: Features many well-planned walking routes, perfect for easy walks and spotting birds. The Observatory, below the main homestead overlooking the wetlands, offers a comfortable viewing position for birdwatching in all weathers. More than 125 species of birds can be spotted, from swamp hens and white ibis (also referred to as “bin chickens”) to kookaburras and magpies, and many species of ducks. From the hides there’s a good chance of spotting elusive crakes and rails along the edge of the water and reeds.

Serendip Sanctuary – an hour’s drive from Melbourne: A perfect place to experience native wildlife with a dedicated Wildlife Walk, specially designed bird hides and flight aviaries. More than 150 species of birds call Serendip home including emus, brolgas, whistling kites, yellow-headed spoonbills and the masters of camouflage  – tawny frogmouths.

Kinglake National Park – 90 minutes from Melbourne: Positioned on the slopes of the Great Dividing Range, it’s a beautiful park perfect for picnicking, birdwatching, bushwalking and camping. While you’re soaking up the serenity you’re sure to see and hear a range of birds including eastern whipbirds, gang-gang cockatoos, superb lyrebirds, scarlet robins and silvereyes.

Greater Bendigo National Park – two hours’ drive from Melbourne: This park protects some of the highest quality box-ironbark forest in north-central Victoria, along with mallee and grassy woodlands. It’s ideal for nature study, birdwatching, bushwalking, picnics, horse riding and camping. Birds you’ll find here include box-ironbark woodland species such as speckled warblers, yellow-tufted honeyeater and swift parrots, and mallee species such as purple-gaped honeyeaters, shy heathwrens, Gilbert's whistler and the crested bellbird.

You might spot a tawny frogmouth. Photo: Stephanie Zilles.

You might spot a tawny frogmouth. Photo: Stephanie Zilles.

Tyers Park – two hours from Melbourne: Set in the foothills to the north of the Latrobe Valley, the park has an abundance of diverse birdlife and wildflowers, making it a great destination for a road trip. If you stay until dark you might be lucky enough to see powerful owls and sooty owls. Yellow-tufted honeyeaters, rose robins and thornbills will be out and about during daylight.

Barmah National Park – three hours from Melbourne: Together with the adjoining Millewa forest in NSW, the park forms the largest river red gum forest in the world. The forest’s complex ecology is closely linked to the Murray River and its flooding regime, creating a diverse natural habitat for a variety of wildlife, particularly waterbirds. The wetlands are popular with spoonbills, egrets, cormorants and ibis. Barmah-Millewa is an important breeding area for rare species such as the superb parrot and Latham’s snipe.

Warby-Ovens National Park – three hours from Melbourne: One of the few places in Victoria where the turquoise parrot can be found. The ground-feeders are mostly seen in late summer and autumn in the open grasslands. Migratory birds including wood-swallows, cuckoos, rainbow bee-eaters and white-winged trillers visit in season. Nectar-feeding birds such as honey-eaters are common. The powerful owl, barking owl and other raptors, including the peregrine falcon, inhabit the park.

Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve  – three hours from Melbourne: Forms part of the Bataluk Cultural Trail and boasts over 300 hectares of Ramsar-listed freshwater wetland, a large network of trails and boardwalks with an extensive variety of birdlife, insects and amphibians. Be on the lookout for whistling kite, swamp harrier, white-bellied sea eagle, spoonbills, herons, coots, swans, cormorants, ibis and many migratory birds.

Great Otway National Park – three hours from Melbourne: The park stretches from Torquay to Princetown and up through the Otways hinterland towards Colac. It has a huge range of habitats –  from rugged coastlines and windswept heathland to ferny gullies and magnificent waterfalls – where you can spot birds like southern emu-wrens, tawny-crowned honeyeaters, pink robins and satin bowerbirds. Stop by the Aireys Inlet lighthouse and you’re likely to see one of the Otway’s most special birds, the rufous bristlebird.

More details at Parks Victoria.

Things to remember

When observing birds, it is important to:

REMEMBER that you are in their natural habitat. Take your rubbish and leave the area as you find it.

KEEP a safe distance, avoid making loud noises and keep flash photography to a minimum.

DO NOT approach nesting birds and don’t use call playback devices as this can stress birds.

WEAR suitable clothing for the weather conditions. Take a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent, especially if visiting wetland areas where insects are rife.

MAKE sure you have a charged mobile phone in case of emergency. If heading to remote areas, be aware that mobile reception may be unavailable, so plan ahead and let someone know where you are going before you leave.

TAKE binoculars and/or a camera with a zoom lens.

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