After a well rested night in Adelaide, we headed out eager for birds. And as we travelled down towards the mouth of the Murray there were many stops along the way to see them. Crimson Rosellas, Nankeen Kestrels, White-browed Babblers, Brown Falcons to name a few. We arrived at Ferries McDonald Conservation Park only to be disappointed to see major road works in the normally pristine area. We found a quiet spot with New Holland and Singing Honeyeaters to eat morning tea. And after, we tried a little side path and found a female Gilberts Whistler, some Weebills and other small bush birds.
Gilbert’s Whistler by Christina Port
We continued down and finally arrived in Wellington our lunch spot over looking the wonderful Murray River. It was great to see so much water. Water birds like Darter, Crested Terns and Australian Pelicans flying up and down and over looking the lunch table White-plumed Honeyeaters.
After crossing the mighty Murray, we continued our trip down, stopping at the beautiful Pink Lake and others to add Royal Spoonbill, Great Crested Grebe, Great Egret, Red-necked Stints and many other species to our growing list.
Singing Honeyeater by Christina Port
Finally arriving at Meningie where we met Kay Parkin who would guide us for the next 2 days.
By Kay Parkin
Follow That Bird’s Coorong tour was very enjoyable. With gorgeous scenery in such a unique environment it is easy to understand why this area is such a popular birding destination.
The Coorong is separated from the Southern Ocean by a peninsula of sand dunes. It is approximately hundred kilometres of salt water lagoons which are of international significance. Sadly this vital habitat is in serious danger due to the lack of water flow being released in river Murray from upstream. The lack of flow reaching the Murray Mouth and lower lakes is having a significant impact on the bird life, especially the migratory waders.
Our group explored various locations between Meningie and Salt Creek. Apart from the birding we also enjoyed a meal of Coorong Mullet and damper with Muntries jam at the Wilderness Lodge, whilst watching White-fronted Chats, Pied Oyster-catchers and Swamp Harriers and we were also able to observe a Barn Owl while driving back to our accommodation!
White-fronted Chat by Kay Parkin
It was also a privilege to be able to spend more time with Uncle Tom, an Aboriginal Elder, learning about the Ngarrindjeri, an Aboriginal nation of 18 language groups who inhabit the Lower Murray & Coorong. They are the descendants of Ngurunderi, one of the main ancestors of the Dreaming, and their totem is the Australian Pelican. Therefore they take protecting the Pelican and their other totems very seriously, hence their passion to protect the Coorong.
The birds of the Coorong never fail to deliver. Some highlights included nesting pelicans off Jack’s Point, thousands of Little Black Cormorants, Great Crested and Hoary-headed Grebe at Parnka Point.
Salt Creek is in the heart of the Coorong. Here we enjoyed Beautiful Firetail, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Brown Goshawk, Grey Currawong and Peaceful Dove. This area provided two stand out moments. A flock of over 200 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo flying overhead is a truly magnificent sight along with being able to observe 21 Hooded Plover feeding on a Halite lake. That was truly memorable.
Hooded Plovers by Kay Parkin
Saying goodbye to Kay at the beautiful Salt Creek Loop Road we headed out. A very welcome afternoon tea stop had us racing out to see Grey Currawong before returning to our coffees. Then onto the Little Dip Conservation Park before arriving at Beachport our next stop for 2 nights.
Our morning walk at Beachport was a very brisk stroll out to the end of the Jetty. We had great views of the Black-faced Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Crested Terns and Galahs. Also an Australasian Gannet did a flyby.
We headed out after breakfast to Canunda NP. We took the Sandy Bar walking trail, and saw Beautiful Firetail, Brown Thornbills, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Nankeen Kestrel, before we had to turn back with a blocked path. Not to be thwarted we then took the Coola Lookout trail, giving wonderful views of the NP and a big wind farm. Birds heard and seen here were Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistler, Grey Fantail and other bush birds.
The Group by Christina Port
We then drove to Geltwood Beach. What a wonderful habitat with White-eared Honeyeaters calling and flying. We walked to the beach and great views of the Southern Ocean. Silver Gulls and Red-capped Plovers running along the beach. We returned to a beautiful lunch prepared by Janene only to have a heavy shower dampen things a little.
Heading back to Beachport the cry came out there are birds over there, and we headed in to see the Millicent STW. Lots of species seen including Australian Shelduck, Musk Duck, Chestnut Teals, Hoary-headed Grebes and Straw-necked Ibis. Continuing onto Beachport where we explored some local walks. We stopped at Southend Lookout and finally arriving at Woolly Lake we saw our first Fantail Cuckoo. Along the road 2 Brush Bronzewings flushed, and finally stopping at Lake George. Out came the scope and the birds were in great numbers Black Swans, Australian Shelducks, Stilts, Chestnut Teals, Red-necked Stints and Red kneed Dotterels. With falling light we decided to return in the morning at sunrise, for our early morning ÒwalkÓ.
So next day, on the bus by 7.00am we headed back out to Lake George. The amount of birds estimated Black Swans 7,500. Australian Shelduck 3,500. Banded Stilts 700, Red-necked Stints 250. The lake is teeming with birds! An amazing sight! After breakfast we headed out, stopping for another look at Lake George before heading off inland. Brush Bronzewings, Restless Flycatcher, Red-browed Finch, Australian Pipits, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and Goldfinch seen on the beautiful drive through the countryside.
Beautiful Firetail by Christina Port
We stopped for a walk at Penola Conservation Reserve. A brisk walk out to see if we could see the difficult Southern Emu-wren but although they were calling they didn’t come out to say hello. So we walked back through the beautiful bush with White-naped Honeyeaters, Spotted Pardalotes, Red-rumped Parrots, White-eared H/E, Brown-headed H/E, White-throated Tree-creeper and the first call of a Kookaburra on the trip.
Stopping briefly for more birds along the way we finally arrived at Bool Lagoon. The lagoon looked virtually dry and on first glance very quiet bird wise. We strolled along the drive seeing Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Superb Fairy-wrens and a Willie Wagtail. Who tried it’s best to clean the bus of bugs. While eating lunch a Swamp Harrier flew passed and put up at least 150 Masked Lapwings. Also seen flying in the distance groups of Magpie Geese. After lunch we drove on around the lagoon, and the cry came Brolga. We stopped the bus and piled out and a group of flying birds joined a group already feeding bringing the total to around 30. Further on great groups of flying Australian Shelducks and more Magpie geese. A Golden-headed Cisticola and Purple Swamphen added to the list.
Our drive into Keith continued and we saw Australian Ringneck feeding on the side of the road. And our first Little Eagle was seen flying over the bus.
Superb Fairywren by Christina Port
On our last day we left Keith early heading for Adelaide airport, but with birding stops along the way. We had a wonderful morning walk at Tintinara RSL Walking Trail. Golden Whistlers, Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Weebills in the early morning light. Back on the bus and our next and last stop was Tailem Bend. For a lovely last morning tea down by the Murray River.
I recorded 131 species of birds on the Coorong Trip. Thanks to Margaret, Christine, Dorothy, Bernice, Brian and Jack for being wonderful company. And great thanks to Janene for organising such a great trip in this beautiful part of the world.
By Christina Port assisting ornithologist for FTB