Our final destination was Victoria, where I intended to visit Wyperfeld National Park in the mallee country, and then swing down to the Grampians to look for southern specialties like Gang-gang Cockatoos and Long-billed Corellas.
We arrived in Melbourne at night, got a hotel room, and headed northwest toward Wyperfeld first thing in the morning. The drive was much longer than I expected, but we stopped at a few tourist attractions along the way. The region we passed through had once produced a lot of gold, and the scenery was pleasant. By the time we got to Wyperfeld, it was nearly dusk. This was fortunate, though, because at dusk all the Eastern Gray Kangaroos and Emus emerged, and we could spot them easily from the road. At the main entrance, there was a grassy area that was hopping with Richard's Pipits. Parrots of all colors and sizes were flying around everywhere! Budgies, Cockatiels, Galahs, Red-rumped Parrots, Leadbeater's Cockatoos! To me, this was paradise, but Tom was not impressed.
It was nearly dark, so we headed back to the nearest town. As we drove along, Tawny Frogmouths kept darting in front of our headlights! It was a little spooky, since this road (unlike most of the others we had encountered) was very narrow and rather rough. Once in a while, a truck would pass us going the other way, and I just hoped I wouldn't have to sacrifice a bird to avoid a head-on collision.
By now, Tom and I had devised a system to keep Tom's birding participation to a minimum: I would bird solo first thing in the morning, and return to meet him for breakfast later on. That would have been the plan again, but this time, well, our accomodations dictated that we both check out as soon as possible. In fact, the comment from the proprietor when we checked in was: "You're not choosy, are you?" After a night of trucks backfiring, drunken revelry and other noises, we were both wide awake at six o'clock, and Tom decided to join me birding that morning.
We returned to Wyperfeld mostly to see if I could find a Malleefowl. These are turkey-sized birds that build mounds to nest in, and there were certainly road signs all over that warned of "Malleefowl crossing". That looked promising. However, it was raining by the time we returned to the park, and so I left Tom at the car while I took a quick stroll into the mallee.
I wasn't able to find one, but I did find a Bronze Cuckoo, Variegated Wrens, Red-capped Robins, an Australian Hobby, and a whole tree full of Budgies (not to mention all the other parrots). As the rain got worse, I finally gave up on the fowl, running back to the car in a downpour, and finding poor Tom looking none too happy.
As we pushed on toward the Grampians, I was wondering if I could somehow salvage the trip. Tom was inventing colorful songs about our adventure thus far, which lightened the mood, at least.
It turned out that the worry was for nothing. The Grampians were unbelievably beautiful, and we both enjoyed hiking around the area. As for birds, I found Long-billed Corellas and Gang-gang cockatoos almost right away! In fact, our hotel was situated in the most beautiful valley, and every morning and evening parades of parrots would fly right over us! A pair of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flew this way, a flock of Purple-crowned Lorikeets flew that way, and a pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos flew over the roof, right over my head!
Hiking around the woods and waterfalls and mountains, we saw tons of honeyeaters and Australian robins. In the evening, Long-billed Corellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos would collect and feed in a field near the village! I could sit right outside the room and observe Red Wattlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets and other birds feeding on one of their flowering bushes, and a pair of Australian Magpies building a nest in a distant tree.
On one hike up to a viewpoint, we encountered an echidna on the trail. Every morning, we could observe Eastern Gray Kangaroos as they emerged from the woods to feed on the lawn around the motel. Superb Fairy Wrens were loudly and prominently defending their territories in the parking lot!
We both had a wonderful time during those last few days. After the Grampians, we returned to Melbourne and went to the zoo before heading for the airport. I did get one more "tick" at the zoo: I noticed a Nankeen Night Heron in an aquatic exhibit, and assumed it was captive. Later, though, I saw the same bird circling over the nocturnal house, and finally flying away. I guess he was just visiting.