3-day Flinders Ranges birding tour
Sunday August 5, 2012
[From the trip 3-day Flinders Ranges birding tour]
Day 1. We left Adelaide early in the morning during a wild thunderstorm and downpours. We followed the coastline north and the weather soon started to clear up. At one of the first sites we visited, a coastal samphire mudflat, we quickly located a pair of Slender-billed Thornbills. We then drove through the famous Clare Valley wine region and arrived in the Flinders Ranges around lunchtime. A picknick lunch was enjoyed in a woodland at the base of a huge cliff, while we enjoyed watching Southern Scrubrobin, Inland Thornbills, Red-capped Robins and Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo. Re-energised we searched the spinifex-grass covered slopes for the elusive Short-tailed Grasswren, a recent split from the Striated Grasswren and one of SA's endemic species. We found one bird and also plenty of Red, Western Grey and Euro Kangaroos.
The rocky outcrops in the Flinders Ranges are home to Southern Scrubrobin, Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle. We proceeded along creekbeds and through narrow gorges cut deeply into geological layers that date back 800 million years. A pair of Grey-fronted Honeyeaters provided excellent views. We visited the fossil site of the Ediacaran fauna, which lived a little before the great explosion of multicellular life at the beginning of the Cambrian Period, and nearby we enjoyed watching the rock-clambering antics of the endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby. We departed the Flinders Ranges and drove a little way further north still, where we arrived at the hamlet of Lyndhurst, on the edge of the Strzelecki desert, at the end of the day.
Day 2. We departed around sunrise and drove a little way up the famous Strzelecki track which traverses the outback for almost 500 km. At Mt Lyndhurst we found a pair of Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, one of SA’s few endemic bird species, as some Thick-billed Grasswrens, Chirruping Wedgebills and Rufous Fieldwrens.
The endless open stony plains of the Strzelecki desert are traversed by mostly dry watercourses. We explored the Strzelecki Track across the desert for part of the day, enjoying seeing bird species such as Budgerigar, Crimson and Orange Chat, Cinnamon Quail-thrush and after searching the stony plains, we found a beautiful male Gibberbird (Gibber Chat). We returned to Lyndhurst around sunset where we located a pair of Inland Dotterels with a young, just after dark.
Day 3. Another early start for our journey back to Adelaide. Our first stop was at the coastal mudflats near Pt Augusta, where we observed a flock of over 1,000 Banded Stilts. These desert-dwelling nomads only breed during the rare times when outback salt lakes contain water; at other times, they can be found along the coast here. We then moved on to an area of Bluebush surrounding rocky outcrops near Whyalla, where despite the windy conditions we located a single Western Grasswren (recently split from Thick-billed Graswren). Back at Pt Augusta, the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens contain a superb collection of indigenous plants, shrubs and flowers adapted to the semi-arid landscape. Set against a backdrop of red sand dunes and the coast of the Spencer Gulf, the flowering plants here attract many birds, and we observed many species of Honeyeater, as well as Chirruping Wedgebill, White-winged Fairy-wren and Mulga Parrot. As the day was coming to an end we drove south and returned back to Adelaide in the evening.