The Dandenong Ranges is a popular wet temperate forest region only a 50km drive from Melbourne’s CBD. It is much different than the drier forests of the western regions of Victoria and is well worth a look. Of course, its main highlight is probably the Superb Lyrebird, but there are plenty of other fascinating creatures in this forest, as well as a beautiful tall tree forest that makes me feel like I’ve stepped back into a prehistoric time.
We will be concentrating on the following area just north of Belgrave:
There are two areas to check out. The first is the main parking lot as indicated by the arrow here:
It is on Coles Ridge Track just off Monbulk Road. It gives you the option of several walks throughout the forest including the Lyrebird Walk. Don’t let that name fool you. Although Superb Lyrebirds are spotted here, they can also be spotted on the other side of the park, which I will get to later.
This eastern half is more popular and has spots for tour buses, and it also has a gift shop and sadly, a place to feed parrots. I disagree with this practice and I think a lot of people along Great Ocean Road do as well, because parrots are very intelligent and feeding them makes them bored, so they go yank out nails on people’s houses. Also, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Crimson Rosellas, and Laughing Kookaburras are very successful and more than capable of finding all the food they need. Also, many Australian birds are specialists, don’t respond to food, and they could be put at a disadvantage here.
Anyway, if you go during a weekday, even this popular area should not be too crowded, and you can use a barbecue here or eat your packed lunch.
The western half of the park is superior in my opinion. It has more varied and longer walking tracks, as well as a bathroom and a quieter spot to eat. The best access point is O’Donohue picnic ground:
As you walk through the beautiful cool wet forests, you may be lucky enough to hear a Lyrebird imitating bird calls. How do you know whether it’s actually the Lyrebird and not the actual bird it’s imitating? It’s not because the imitation is not good. The Superb Lyrebird is truly a superb imitator. It’s actually because the Lyrebird cycles through different bird calls very rapidly. So if you here a quick play of a bunch of different bird calls coming from the same place, it’s the Superb Lyrebird showing off it’s awesome mimicry skills.
The Dandenongs is a good place to see other birds as well. It seems to be a good site for Lewin’s Honeyeater. Unlike the Graceful and Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters of the north, there is only one bird that looks like Lewin’s and it’s Lewin’s, so you won’t get frustrated. Brown Treecreeper and Eastern Yellow Robin are also easily found. According to Dolby and Clarke’s book, Rose and Pink Robin are key species as well as the (in)famous Sooty owl, but of course we just don’t see owls.
We found an Echidna here as well as a Swamp Wallaby. I would say it is one of the nicest places for a walk so close to Melbourne, especially on a hot day where the cooler air of the wet forest just might be the thing you need to get you in the birding zone.