21-26 November 2011 Highlights of SA tour

Monday November 21, 2011

Daily account

Day 1. The tour started in the  morning of  21 November. While leaving the city we saw Long-billed Corellas and Musk Lorikeet. At the top of Mt Lofty it took some effort to find White-throated Treecreeper. Adelaide Rosellas where omnipresent. We explored tall dense eucalypt forest habitats nearby and, apart from a variety of Honeyeater species, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Scarlet Robin and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, saw a two Koalas. East of the hills in drier woodland we located three Purple-crowned Lorikeets foraging in flowering eucalyptus trees, and we had great views of an Owlet-nightjar and the rare Diamond Firetail. After lunch near the Murray River we checked out some local wetlands, with notable species being Blue-billed Duck and many Black-tailed Native-hens. At one of these wetlands we saw a native Water-rat foraging. We  followed the  Murray river upstream, stopping at a mallee reserve on the way where we saw Crested Bellbird, Mallee Ringnecks, Blue Bonnets and White-winged- and Variegated Fairy-wrens.

Day 2. A full day at Birds Australia’s Gluepot reserve. We arrived  at Gluepot around sunrise and spent considerable time in the first area, ticking off species such as Red-backed Kingfisher,  White-eared Honeyeater, Gilbert’s Whistler, Chestnut Quail-thrushSouthern Scrubrobins and Crested Bellbird. A fairly long walk led us to an expansive patch of spinifex grass where we had good views of a male Red-lored Whistler and a pair of Striated Grasswrens. Later in the day we were lucky to find a pair of Major Mitchell Cockatoos allowing prolonged views as they were feeding on fruiting bushes. The main drawcard of Gluepot, Black-eared Miner, kept us waiting till the very end, when we found a largish flock of hybrids x Yellow-throated Miners containing at least 2 Black-eared Miners. Other good species seen today included  Mallee Ringneck, Mulga Parrot,  White-browed Treecreeper,  Chestnut-rumped  Thornbill,  Varied SittellaChestnut-crowned and White-browed Babblers and Budgerigar. Back in Waikerie we saw White-breasted Woodswallows on wires.

Day 3. From Waikerie we spent some more time along the Murray river, notably at a Regent Parrot colony and other wetlands obtaining close-up views of an Australian Spotted Crake various species of waterfowl. We also saw a group of gregarious Apostlebirds. Via the historic township of Burra we drove towards the Flinders Ranges. After arriving in the spectacular Flinders Ranges we saw a Peregrine Falcon, a number of Inland Thornbill, a beautiful male Red-capped Robin, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and a White-eared Honeyeater. Three species of Kangaroo were seen: Red, Western Grey and Euro, alongside many Emus. In the evening we went spotlighting which resulted in a single Southern Boobook.

Day 4. After breakfast it was off to the nearby Short-tailed Grasswren site. It was cold, overcast and threatening to rain. At the grasswren site we saw glimpses of two birds and after a frustrating search of over an hour we went to another site nearby, where in the rain we had good views of one Short-tailed Grasswren.  We then proceeded through the very scenic Flinders Ranges to pick up Grey-fronted Honeyeater and Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, both showing well, allowing us time to observe some of the geological features of the region, including fossilised stromatolites and the fossil site of the Ediacaran fauna. It was cool and rainy at times. We had lunch at the sheltered Aroona Dam but once we’d left there it started pouring down. A bit further up the road, at the Leigh Creek coalmine lake we saw White-backed Swallows and Australian, Hoary-headed and Great Crested Grebes. Closer to Lyndhurst the weather finally started to clear up and we proceeded to Mt Lyndhurst Station, where we quickly located a pair of Thick-billed Grasswrens, along with other good species such as Chirruping WedgebillWhite-winged Fairy-wren and Zebra Finch.  

Day 5. An early start this morning to explore the Strzelecki desert.The weather was good and we soon found a pair of Cinnamon Quail-thrush. After about an hour we found 3 Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces  and then drove up the Strzelecki track looking for Gibberbird, which was promptly found! Then we decided to make a detour via Marree to go to a nearby lake. This proved a good choice as on the shore of the drying-out lake we discovered a family party of 6 Inland Dotterels while on the lake itself were thousands of waterfowl, among which we eventually scoped at least 15 Freckled Ducks. On the way back we checked out the ruins of the ghost town at Farina. Other good birds seen today included Rufous Fieldwren, Orange Chat, Black-faced Woodswallow, Little Crow and Zebra Finch.  

Day 6. The last day and we departed early yet againfollowing the Flinders Ranges south. The weather was fine and we soon found ourselves in Port Augusta where a large flock of over 3,000 Banded Stilts were a highlight. Main focus for the morning was the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. Here more Chirruping WedgebillWhite-fronted Honeyeater and good numbers of Zebra Finches. We then followed the coast of the Gulf St Vincent and closer to Adelaide stopped in at Port Gawler, where a search of the coastal samphire marshes resulted in two much obliging Slender-billed Thornbills (race rosinae), and a flat tyre! Participants were dropped off back in Adelaide early in the evening, agreeing this had been a successful ‘Highlights’ tour! (Some people decided to come along the next morning to visit a pair of nesting Square-tailed Kites with two maturing young on the nest: a good decision!).