31st December, 2020
- Food + spare food – check
- Esky full of ice – check
- 20L jerry can full of water – check
- a car full of petrol – check
- personal locator beacon, GPS, maps, clothes, toiletries, camping gear, binoculars, bird books, vague plans about where I was going and what I hoped to see – all check
- Way too much recovery gear for the driving I planned to do – also check
There was still a bit of space on the front seat of the car by the time I’d crammed all of my
1894km on the odometer (roughly 1800km of solo driving experience) – time to say goodbye to my family, roll down the driveway, and head off on my first solo adventure.
I decided to start my year off in northwest Victoria. Not the ideal place – the conventional wisdom is that if you plan to do any sort of big birding year, you start at Mallacoota for spring/summer migrants and leave the desert until spring when everything is calling and the temperatures are much milder.
I had other ideas – a family of Ground cuckoo-shrikes, rare birds for Victoria, had been at Gunners Track up at Wyperfeld National Park and I was keen to see them. They were a species I’d never seen before, and I thought they’d also be a great vagrant species to have on the list for the year. There were a bunch of other desert birds that were potential lifers as well.
My plan was to start the new year off at Wyperfeld National Park, work my way across to Hattah NP via Lake Tyrell at Sea Lake, then Goschen, Kerang, Wunghnu, Wangaratta, then up over the Great Dividing Range and high country to Mallacoota and Orbost, arriving home on the 9th or 10th of January in time to start work on the 11th of January. I had a rough list of where I wanted to go and what I wanted or needed to find at each spot and a rough idea of where I’d stay each night – fairly fixed for the first few nights and then open-ended after that. This would be a semi-circumnavigation of the state missing only the SW of Victoria and Little Desert. Looking back, I shudder to think how naive I was at the time – I’m sure those sorts of trips are doable but not with the level of driving experience I had at the time.
The drive to Wyperfeld was relatively uneventful, up through the grasslands west of Geelong, past the Grampians (with a brief stop at Bests winery to pick up a bottle of wine to toast the new year), and up through the Wimmera (Rupanyup, Warracknabeal, Hopetoun and Patchewollock). I didn’t stop to go birding, but I did spot a few birds on the way up, most notably a spotted harrier soaring low and close to the road just north of Beulah.
I arrived at the gate into North Wyperfeld (west of Patchewollock) just as the sun was setting and set up camp at casuarina camp ground.