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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

SA Invasion 2017

Well the trip of the year has finally come to an end, a massive 12 days in the bush starting at Hattah- Kulkyne National Park and finishing there again last night. A circle round trip of nearly 5500kms which meant some serious driving was done and some absolutely stunning scenery seen and the birds weren’t to shabby either.
   Jigsaw Puzzle- It all Fit!

We started at Lake Tyrell on Wednesday morning where we picked up the regular species with Rufous Fieldwren, Eastern Blue bonnet, Black-faced Woodswallow and White-winged Fairywren. 
    Lake Tyrell
    The boys at Lake Tyrell

    Lake Tyrell

   Surveying the Corkers at Lake Tyrell

   White-winged Fairywren- Lake Tyrell

   White-winged Fairywren - Lake Tyrell 

    Rufous Fieldwren - Lake Tyrell

   Rufous Fieldwren - Lake Tyrell 

   Black-faced Woodswallow - Lake Tyrell

Then we headed to Hattah and tried the Old Calder Hwy hoping for Chestnut-crowned Babbler but missed out but picked up Regent Parrot and Splendid Fairywren along the road.

   Old Calder Hwy - Hattah- Kulkyne NP 

    The Beast! Old Calder Hwy - Hattah-Kulkyne NP

We set up Camp at Lake Hattah and checked out the area with a few waterbirds around. The family party of Apostlebirds in the campground are always awesome to watch and we had awesome views.
   Apostlebird - Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

   Apostlebird- Hattah Kulkyne National Park

We then decided to drive Konardin Tk and onto Nowingi Tk. Along the way to Konardin Tk we found our first Emu and a small group of Chestnut-crowned Babbler not far from lake Mournpall.
   Chestnut-crowned Babbler- Mournpall Tk 

 We had 3 targets along Konardin Tk, Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush, Mallee Emu-wren and Striated Grasswren which were all lifers for Jack Winterbottom. We stopped a couple of times along the the track, and finally Owen Lishmund heard a seeping call and stopped, as we got out of the car we had a pair of Quail-thrush calling and Brad White saw a party of Mallee Emu-wrens only 3 metres from the car. The decision on what to chase first came up, my thinking was that the Emu-wren would be easier so we chased the Quail-thrush and this was certainly the right decision.
    Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush - Konardin Tk 

We had a male and female Quail-thrush parading only a few metres from us and at points singing openly on low branches.
    Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush - Konardin Tk 

We then focused our attention on the party of Mallee Emu-wrens which weren’t overly confiding but gave a few good views at least being able to tick 2 new birds for Jack.
We headed to Nowingi Tk to try our luck for Striated Grasswren, the sun was fading fast but had at least 20 Mallee Emu-wrens along Nowingi, at least 10 birds seen all together only a few metres off the road. 
    Mallee Emu-wren - Nowingi Tk  

    Mallee Emu-wren - Nowingi Tk  

No Grasswrens were seen or heard, so we headed back to camp. We picked up Australian Owlet-nightjar and Southern Boobook in the campsite, we chased the Boobook along the lakes edge, and silly for me I hadn’t taken a torch and wasn’t paying attention I walked straight into a fallen tree which decided to rip a few holes into my legs!
                       Silly Silly Me

We woke early and packed camp and headed back to Nowingi Tk to try again to find the Striated Grasswren, and after a few hours we finally got to see some glimpses of this real tough bird! Another Lifer for Jack and Brad.
   Striated Grasswren- Nowingi Tk

We got notification from Jack Parrington, Alison Nisbett, Pete Gardner, Dan Ashdown and Tim Nickholds that they had found Diamond Dove and Orange Chat at Ned’s Corner, and as we headed there we had high hopes of nailing down these two species. No luck though on this front, but was lovely around Ned's. Lake Wallawalla was very interesting and some lovely species seen just not the birds we were after.
                            Road into Neds Corner Homestead

    THe sign says it all! We are HERE

   Shearers Quarters- Neds Corner Station

    Shearers Cottage- Neds Corner Station

   Shearing Sheds - Neds Corner Station

That night at Ned’s we got a bit of rain and made the roads a little slippery and brought out the frogs!
    Perons Treefrog - Neds Corner Station

With the forecasted rain and the road quality not conducive to good birding we were heading to Gluepot Reserve, but as Alison and Co already leaving Gluepot because of the risk of getting stuck we decided against that and headed to South Flinders Ranges hoping to try for Short-tailed Grasswren at Stoke’s Hill.
We arrived just after 4pm and finally caught up with nearly everyone. We drove into the National Park and headed straight to Willow Springs Station where we planned on camping. 
   Entry into the Station

After chatting to the station managers we headed to camp with the recent sightings on a map for the following mornings expedition.
We arrived at Stokes Hill just after sunrise and headed towards the one-tree hill where the start of the search begun. 

   The Sunrise was stunning



   The Fear begun.... those hills..... look at those hills!

    Lovely habitat..... Prickly and severe!

   Looking back at our cars and thinking about the big dip!


We walked up and down the slopes of the hills, no luck after an hour. Finally Owen checked the last gps co-ordinates and followed them and he found them, at this point the 15 of us had spread over 3 or 4 hillsides and when the call went out we all rushed towards Owen. It was the toughest walk I have done In a long time, at points even thinking I wouldn’t make it in time.
My bad luck I was 3 hills away and by the time I got to the last hill I was exhausted. I can scale down a rock face fast and overtook a few on the way down but wholly molly it was tough!
We were rewarded with at least 4 if not more Short-tailed Grasswrens and were able to watch them for a good 30 minutes. 
   Short-tailed Grasswren! 

   Short-tailed Grasswren

This was my second lifer of the day as we had a few incidental flyovers from Elegant Parrots. 2 lifer morning was a great way to start the day. We slowly and I mean slowly made our way back to the top of the hillside where we walked back to our cars.
Back to camp to pack up and head to Brachina Gorge to look for Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby and hopefully jag a Grey-fronted Honeyeater. We arrived at the Rock-wallaby spot and found a few ( maybe 6-10) along the rocky slopes of the gorge! Way easier than I had envisaged.
   Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby- Brachina Gorge Flinders Ranges National Park

    Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby- Brachina Gorge Flinders Ranges National Park

After some record shots we headed on the road out, stopping along the gorge every few hundred metres listening and hoping for honeyeaters. 
   Road through Brachina Gorge 

    Brachina Gorge

We stopped off at a toilet block for those that needed and Tim, Dan and Angus headed off without us. As we pulled up to them about a km away Dan was running back to the car for his camera, Tim had found the Grey-fronted Honeyeaters, everyone was out of the car and getting photos of these actually very stunning birds.
    Grey-fronted Honeyeater

    Grey-fronted Honeyeater

As we continued out of the Gorge, Owen picked up a flock of roosting Elegant Parrots which gave awesome views.
    Elegant Parrot

    Elegant Parrot

Along the road to Lyndhurst we stopped a few times, one time for Chirruping Wedgebills which only a handful of people saw and the second was a spot about 5kms from Lyndhurst where we picked up Crimson and Orange Chat, Chirruping Wedgebills. Was a great little stop.
    Chirruping Wedgebill
  
   Orange Chat

    Crimson Chat 

We arrived at Lyndhurst just after 4pm and Greg and Janice Mackay were a few hours in front of us and had said they had seen some awesome birds at the first river crossing heading up the Strezlecki Track about 15kms. The main birds of interest were Black Honeyeater ( which on review of photos were Pied Honeyeater), Crimson Chat, Red-backed Kingfisher.
When we arrived the area was hot, we picked up our first big flock of Budgerigars with about 20+ strong, Rufous Songlark, Red-backed Kingfishers the main highlights.
    Budgerigars

    So cool seeing flocks of Budgerigars

    Red-backed Kingfisher..... So Outback Australia

   Red-backed Kingfisher

Was back to the Lyndhurst Pub for dinner, we spoke to Laurie about My Lyndhurst Station, and all the contact numbers for them are disconnected, I had fears we would not get access, but Laurie pulled through, contacting the landowners and asking them for permission which was given, meaning we could hit up the rusty car site. After a few dollars spend on dinner and drinks and cabins/ camping we would have spent well over $1k. I felt we did a good deed and felt happy leaving there the following morning.
    Lyndhurst Pub

Again an early start, we first checked out the river crossing again, the same quality of birds.
We then drove the extra 12kms from there to the rusty car site. 
   The famous Rusty Car site for Thick-billed Grasswren and Chestnut-breasted Whiteface! DIPPED

   The famous Rusty Car site for Thick-billed Grasswren and Chestnut-breasted Whiteface! DIPPED

The birding was okay here, we picked up Diamond Dove, Chirruping Wedgebills, Rufous Fieldwren but no Thick-billed Grasswren, Cinnamon Quail-thrush or Chestnut-breasted Whiteface. 
   Chirruping Wedgebill and Chestnut-crowned Babbler

   Diamond Dove 

We knew that these 3 birds would be excruciatingly hard and we weren’t wrong. We were already a day in advance of schedule so meant we could spend a bit of time searching. We had no luck at all and headed back to the mine site about 500m back towards Lyndhurst to try for Quail-thrush again. At least we got lucky with this species and we had a very flighty individual flying around for 20 or so minutes but giving good views.
    Cinnamon Quail-thrush

As we drove the Track scanning for birds Tim called on the CB that he has a Black-breasted Buzzard, we stopped quickly. To our utter excitement the bird landed in a tree along the creek, we started to follow and realised there was actually 2 Buzzards roosting on a dead tree. The birds allowed ridiculously close approach and we got to with 10 metres.
    Black-breasted Buzzard

Back in the car we headed up the Strezlecki Track stopping at the first real gibber plains trying for Gibberbird, we walked the hot rocks for an hour without luck, so back in the car for the next stop.
   Gibber Plains
   Gibber Plains

We were lucky that Owen had sourced a location from a mate of a Thick-billed Grasswren site along the track and as we pulled up, only 5 minutes later we had surrounded a pair of Thick-billed Grasswrens, really tough to photograph but prolonged views with binoculars through shrubs was had by all.
    Thick-billed Grasswren! Skulker!

The time was gaining on us so we decided to head straight for Strezlecki Creek Crossing and bypass the Montecollina Bore. As we passed the bore by about 20kms we had a walkie talkie message from Greg and Janice who had a pair of Eyrean Grasswren fly in front of the car.
As we pulled up we had a few birds around, it was an insane day of birding with 2 Grasswrens within 3 hours and some memorable views. This made tomorrow much easier as we had envisaged chasing this bird for a few hours.
    Eyrean Grasswren

    Eyrean Grasswren

Just after the Grasswren Angus spotted the first Dingo of the trip and we got great views of 2 dogs, pretty skittish.
   Dingo

From there we continued the 25kms to the creek crossing, arriving just before dark and setting up camp. It looked to be a lovely spot and looked forward to the morning birding.
Dan had wanted to do some mammaling/ spotlighting along the track so Owen, Dan, Angus and I headed out, finding on less than 15 Dusky Hopping Mice and 2 Fat-tailed Dunnarts. The Hopping-mouse was truly beautiful and so glad that I headed out!
    Dusky Hopping-mouse

    Dusky Hopping-mouse

The Morning birding along the Creek, produced Red-browed Pardalote which was a lifer for many.
Red-browed Pardalote 

Then we had a good walk around and separated, I got wonderful views of a pair of Little Eagles ( light and dark morph) and some stunning Eastern Blue-bonnets.
    Eastern Bluebonnet

    Dark Morph Little Eagle

   Light Morph Little Eagle

A quick read of Rohan Clarke and Tim Dolby book said we could find Banded Whiteface 9kms or so north from the creek crossing, so off we headed and low and behold we had a huge flock of Pied Honeyeaters, Chirruping Wedgebills and Orange Chats all around, we had split into two groups and as we chased the Honeyeaters around.
   Pied Honeyeater

The others had found the Banded Whiteface, finally we were lucky that Jack Parrington was nice enough to track us down and everyone got views on a pair of Banded Whiteface, but TIm, Owen Greg and Janice found another 6-10 birds on the next rise.
   Banded Whiteface
    Banded Whiteface

The trip was running to schedule, well actually it had surpassing my expectations and now we actually were 2 days in front of the itinerary, and as we decided we had no reason to stop at Montecollina Bore to camp we had 4 hours to search the gibber plains for the Gibberbird.
    Montecollina Bore

We checked out Montecollina Bore with a few birds but nothing overly exciting, we headed down towards the gibber. We had noticed on the way up that there was an awesome expanse we would focus or energy on and try our hardest for this mega ( my only bird I really wanted on the trip)!.
Owen and David were in the front car and a call over the CB said they had a weird bird fly over the car, we all pulled over and quickly and got out, taking photos of the bird in flight. The initial call from all was Australian Pratincole, but Pete had a good view and corrected the call to Inland Dotterel, I quickly checked my photos which confirmed his call.
    Inland Dotterel

As we started to follow the Inland Dotterel Greg yelled “Gibberbird”, the stampede begun and the bird sat atop the gibber only 4m off the road, unperturbed by our presence we stood watching for 5 minutes before it took flight. This bird brought tears to many a birder and alot of high 5, slaps on the back and cuddles ensued. A few then went and got the Inland Dotterel while Alison, Jack and I headed for the car. Alison then found another Gibberbird which was insane! We then took more photos!
    Gibberbird  

    Gibberbird

   Gibberbird

   Gibberbird

We all were in shock and didn’t have to thrash our legs on the gibber plains as we had thought.
Everyone decided to head back to Lyndhurst Pub for the night and again spending up there to thank them for the services they provide. We were treated to an awesome storm which included an unbelievable lightning show.
   What a show this was!

Also after the storm we were sitting out the front of the pub when a Scorpion came to say hello!
    Spider-hunter Scorpion

The Next morning we packed up and headed to Whyalla, our target was Western Grasswren and Slender-billed Thornbill which we found relatively easy, even though the Grasswren was not playing nicely! We had views but not incredible. We hunted and chased them for a while but eventually gave up.
The Slender-billed Thornbills were way easier here than at Little Desert!
   Western Grasswren

   Slender-billed Thornbill

From Whyalla we then headed to camp at Lake Gilles Conservation Reserve. Our main targets here were Rufous Treecreeper, Blue-breasted Fairywren, Western Yellow Robin and Copperback Quail-thrush. We drove along Lake Gilles Road, we stopped a couple of times until we hit a really good hot spot, we got out and found both Blue-breasted and Variegated Fairywrens, Western Yellow Robin and some other very nice birds. 
   Female Blue-breasted Fairywren

  
   Male Eclipse Blue-breasted Fairywren

    Western Yellow Robin

We were still waiting on a few so we headed just before sunset to a spot for Copperback Quail-thrush which we missed but did however pick up Rufous Treecreeper.
    Rufous Treecreeper

    Rufous Treecreeper

 3 targets under our belts we were still 2 days above schedule so we decided that some of us would head to Chuckles (Laughing Gull) at Venus Bay while the remaining few were going to search for Copperback at Ironstone Hill Conservation Park. We got to Chcuckles just after lunch time and found him rather quickly, the Grey nomads are feeding him everyday with fresh fish they have caught, and this bird now hawks pieces of fish like a black kite! 
   Chuckles the Laughing Gull

    Chuckles!

We watched him for 20 minutes flying around and at the same time picked up the Pacific Gull subspecies which was cool.
   Pacific Gull 

We had a late lunch and brought some merchandise from the general store just to give back there ongoing commitment to birders arriving and allowing them access to see chuckles.
We had a call from Dan and Co. that they had found Copperback Quail-thrush at Ironstone Hill and they gave gps co-ordinates so we could hit it up in the morning.
We camped alongside a road inside Ironstone Hill Conservation Area which was a long drive but well worth it after the views of Chuckles.
We woke early and headed straight to the spot, it was about 30kms around the park but as we pulled up to the spot I was surprised to see the Quail-thrush literally under the post that the others had pinpointed. 
   Copperback Quail-thrush
   Copperback Quail-thrush

We followed these for a good 20 minutes trying to get photos. Such a lovely bird.
We then split up Greg and Janice, Alison, Pete and Jack headed back to Lake Gilles to get better views of the Blue-breasted Fairywrens while Jack Winterbottom, Brad, Matt, Tim, Dan and I headed to Innes National Park to try our luck at Western Whipbird and Rock Parrot. We held barely no hope of finding either of these as both are ridiculously hard to observe. We arrived just before dark and the scenery and ocean was truly spectacular. Tim and Dan had a pair of Malleefowl and a calling Western Whipbird but no sighting.
Alison, Pete and Jack arrived a little later and we all enjoyed a chat around the camp and talked about the prospect of new birds.
We woke early and packed up before heading towards cape Spencer. Along the road we had heard the Western Whipbird and with some perseverance nearly everyone got some photos or a visual except Alison.
   Hell Yes! Western Whipbird

 Tim and I also had a pair of Rock Parrots fly low over our heads here but no one else had seen them. We decided after a good 2 hours here we would head to the rock parrot spots and after speaking to the ranger he said our best spot was the West Cape Area. As we arrived we all split up and headed our own way, Jack Parrington found a pair of Rock Parrots, but as everyone was so far away by the time most got there they had missed them as they flushed and flew down the cliff face and out of sight. We continued to search for the next 40 minutes without luck, we were on the way back to the car when a White-bellied Sea Eagle flew along the coastline, spooking all birds below, Sooty Oystercatcher, White-faced Heron, Chestnut Teal, Pacific and Silver Gulls took flight. We watched in awe as this majestic eagle soared the coast, and then suddenly a dark egret took flight, the calls went out “ Eastern Reef Egret”. A few coo-ees went around thinking it was a lifer for a few.
   Eastern Reef Egret Dark Morph

 Everyone arrived except for Pete and Alison. As I went to search for them at a fast walk I was contemplating where they would be when a pair of Rock Parrots flew over my head and landed on a rock slide area about 300m away. I was now torn what to do, I called and found Pete and Alison who weren’t interested in the Egret, so I decided to chase the Parrots. As I started to walk towards them Dan came along and we both searched the rocks for the Parrots, and finally we found a pair sitting on top of some vegetation. We were able to call everyone over so that we all had cracking views of this tough species. We could not believe our luck!
    Rock Parrot

Here the remaining 9 of us split ways again, Tim, Alison, Pete, Jack headed towards home and we headed for Gluepot Reserve. On the road in that night we got a Spotted Nightjar sitting on the road, we were able to get cracking views at less than 2 metres.
   Spotted Nightjar

We signed in at the Visitor Centre and set camp, hoping for a Southern Scrub-robin and Black-eared Miner. As we woke we quickly had breakfast and was birding just on sunrise where we picked up Southern Scrub-robin with ease. 
   Southern Scrub-robin

The Black-eared Miner however was a nightmare, they were flighty, timid and pretty much had to chase them by running through the bush, while doing this we did get a pair of Pink Cockatoos. Finally on Road 2 in Gluepot we came across a bigger group of Miners. Dan was like a mad man chasing back and forth, then finally he got a beauty. We chased this one for a good 5 minutes, finally get enough id features to be confident on Black-eared Miner.
    Black-eared Miner

   Black-eared Miner

 This was my 17th lifer for the trip and by far exceeded my expectations. We had 1 last chance for Matt to get Striated Grasswren back at Hattah, so we drove from Gluepot just after 1pm and arrived at camp at Hattah just on dusk. While sitting around camp Dan noticed a spider running along the ground, it was a Trapdoor Spider which was extremely cool.


Woke early on the last day and headed out looking for Striated Grasswren which we did find eventually after many Mallee Emu-wrens which posed nicely for us. Not overly great photo opportunities but a great end to the trip!
    Mallee Emu-wrens.... 2 in one photo
   Mallee Emu-wren

We traveled over 5400kms in 12 days, a huge 17 lifers for me, Elegant Parrot, Short-tailed Grasswren, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Thick-billed Grasswren, Eyrean Grasswren, Pied Honeyeater, Banded Whiteface, Gibberbird, Western Grasswren, Blue-breasted Fairywren, Western Yellow Robin, Rufous Treecreeper, Laughing Gull, Copperback Quail-thrush, Rock Parrot, Western Whipbird and Black-eared Miner. The overall tally would be huge for lifers between us all but Brad and Jack finished on 27 lifers each and Greg and Janice the lowest on 8 lifers.



It was an unbelievable trip, many laughs, many lifers, many kms walked searching for birds, but in the end only dipped on a few possible birds but nothing that was expected. The itinerary worked a treat and with everyone’s input along the way made for a smooth and uneventful trip……
Bring on next year’s trip now! Planning has already begun for a trip to Cameron’s Corner, Birdsville, Alice Springs, Copper Pedy chasing the Grey triple and others!
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful company over the last 12 days , a huge thanks to Jack Winterbottom for his great driving, the awesome car and the smooth ride no matter where we went. Also a huge thanks to Brad White for chopping in driving when needed and to all the others who came along for the huge ride, these trips are definitely not for the faint earthed but gees do we get bang for buck!
Also a huge shout out to Dan Ashdown, Tim Nickholds and Owen Lishmund for having wonderful hearing, great birding skills and knowledge which helped us find many of the sort after species!
Also I need to thank Chris Steeles ( huge thanks to you mate ), David Harper, Tim Dolby, Rohan Clarke, Bernie O'Keefe and Ashwin Rudder for helping out along the way either with the book, previous trip reports or up to date info of sightings. Without this help and expertise and willing to share locations trips like these would be hard to orchestrate.
Also huge thanks to David Adam, Alison Nisbett, Brad White, Jack Parrington and Jack Winterbottom for the use of their photos for this blog.
The overall trip tally was over 210 species which was greater than i had thought and shows what birding in a larger group can produce! 
Until next time! Keep Birding!