There are a number of places where you can view lyrebirds in Victoria, and local areas close to Melbourne include the Dandenong Ranges. So, if you want to make a day of it, pack a picnic or barbeque lunch, and use one of the great picnic areas surrounded by ferns and forest-and have a fun day.
There are a few fine points to remember, and they will help make it a successful trip. Firstly, I have found a few areas where the males sing and feed along the sides of the track regularly. The females are a little more shy and are generally not seen. The best time to catch them feeding along the side of the track is about an hour before dark, and any time of year. In particular, there is one male who does not seem to care that you are close by, but I have always been by myself on these occasions, so being quiet is a good policy. In the area at least 3 others are heard singing, or sometimes seen too. Please don't try and feed them, our wildlife may not be able to eat human food without ill-effect. Even though they can be approached and look cute, never try and handle wildlife. The term 'wild' means they may not like it, and may defend themselves out of fear.
Olinda Falls; another place to view lyre birds when quiet.
Repeated visits seem to indicate they have a territory within a few hundred metres square, where they roam or are encountered most often. The best track is Bartlett Road, which is a walking track closed to traffic. I STRESS... at this time of year, near the parks gate, walk to the side of the track in the leaves and bark. The compacted red clay is slippery, and if you walk on it, you WILL end up on your botty.
From the parks gate on the roadside, proceed up the hill for about 15 or 20 minutes. Attune your ears and eyes as soon as you start to see treeferns on the track's sides. Soon you should hear signing birds, and they are loud, and can be heard from up to a kilometre away. Lyrebirds are the greatest of the bush mimics, and can reproduce sounds of many other species, cameras, saws, farm machinery or anything they hear. The scientific community believe it is to do with attracting a mate. The theory being that the greater a male's repertoire, the better his chances of attracting a female. Here is a map to find the walking tracks and picnic grounds.
So, as you walk and start to see treeferns, proceed and notice all the bark and leaves on the track's edges have been scratched over in patches; this is where a bird has been feeding and it may continue for a while. As the track levels out, you will pass a track on the right, then the left, and just as the track starts to climb again, walk very slowly and look around for our favorite bird.
Eagles Nest Picnic Ground a quiet spot with a couple of picnic tales and a fire place.
Some days he may not be present, other days he will walk out in front of you without warning. The birds lower down seem to sing more often. I often here human voices in the area at this point, and looking at the map, Olinda falls is about 200 metres away. Our favorite might wander over there too, as I have seen one there that is just as oblivious to onlookers, of course that is mere speculation.
The most secluded picnic grounds in the area are Eagles Nest and Valley Picnic Ground, they are have a few picnic tables, a fire place at' Eagles Nest', fire places and wood barbeques, and amenities at the 'Valley'. The amenities may not be open in winter. The R.J Hamer Aboretum has amenities open all year round and coin operated barbeques too.
Picnic tables and a fire place; Eagles Nest Picnic Ground.
Either of the 3 picnic grounds are suitable for a base to see lyrebirds, and they are all within a few kilometres of each other too. The best way to find them is access the area from Canterbury Road, out of Ringwood if you are coming from Melbourne. Turn up York Road to Mount Evelyn and then head for Silvan Reservoir, which also has a picnic ground, but usually has more people. Shortly after the road becomes gravel the is a fork. Left will lead you past the 3 picnic grounds described, and right will take you to Bartlett Road.
An interesting fact which has been researched by the CSIRO and Latrobe University, is that the feeding habits of the lyrebird, which is like a chicken scratching for food, speeds up composting of leaves and bark. The result is a tremendous fuel reduction-that's right. Scientists have noticed unburnt areas in zones of bushland where moderate fires have past, are feeding areas of lyrebirds and provide 'shelter' during such times for other animals to survive. Would you believe the fuel reduction is estimated at 1.6 tonnes per year per lyrebird, just ask Maxwell Smart. However, high intensity fires destroy everything regardless. For more complete information see the ABC Science article.
Invigorate yourself with a walk in stunning forests, and be thrilled by nature. There is always the opportunity to extend your visit and follow the attraction trail around the Dandenong Ranges. If you drive past the picnic grounds from Silvan Reservoir, you will at arrive in Olinda inside of 10 minutes, so a cafe stop and a browse through the shops could be a possibility too. How ever you look at it, it is a grand adventure to see one of our most interesting and well known creatures. Here is a link for local attractions and accommodation, you may wish to stay longer and see more of Melbourne's premier playground.