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Eyre Peninsula Trip Report
Sturt’s Desert Pea
Day 1 Arrive Adelaide: The park behind the hotel provided some welcome leg-stretching activity for those who had flown in from Sydney. There were Musk Lorikeets competing for blossom with Red Wattlebirds, and down the narrow laneways, New Holland Honeyeaters and Adelaide Rosellas were feeding in backyards. The group – Judy, Margaret, Pam, leader Janene and guide Tiff all met up for dinner, with Judy’s husband Hans making a guest appearance.

Day 2 Adelaide to Port Augusta: We headed north, spotting Magpies, Rainbow Lorikeets and Adelaide Rosellas along the way. Turning onto Port Gawler Road we had our first great sighting of the trip: a pair of Australian Shelducks, their beautiful red-brown plumage almost glistening in the sun. We charged on, destination Port Gawler Conservation Park, looking intently for small, bouncing birds (Slender-billed Thornbills) in the samphire. No thornbills emerged, but we had good views of White-winged Fairy-wrens, including a male in breeding plumage. Doubling back on our tracks, Red-necked Avocet were spotted in a wetland adjacent to the road, then a shout of “Elegant Parrot!” from Janene. Leaping out of the car for a closer look, a red rump came into view…Red-rumped Parrot: not so elegant after all. The quiet seaside town of Port Wakefield provided a short diversion, netting us Swamp Harrier on our return to the highway.

After lunch at the Redhill Roadhouse, it was on to Solomontown Beach for Musk Duck, Pied Oystercatcher, Little Pied and Pied Cormorants and Eastern Great Egret on the estuary. We left Port Pirie behind and headed for the hills and Nelshaby Nature Reserve. Here we were greeted by Diamond Firetail and Rufous Songlark (singing from the top of a shrub), both of which held us in thrall (the views were excellent). Judy found a Spider Orchid and we chased calling Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and White-browed Babblers for a glimpse before moving on towards Mount Remarkable National Park.

Euros were bounding by the road as we entered. The Davy’s Gully walk gave us views of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (at last!) and a Grey Butcherbird hunting on the ground. A sweet call alerted us to something hiding in the shrubs…it flew off, giving Janene a glimpse of a rufous rump: Shy Heathwren.

Group at Wanilla by Judy Fander
Group at Wanilla by Judy Fander
Day 3 Port Augusta: Our pre-breakfast walk took us around the Port Augusta golf course, with plenty of Magpie Larks on hand to practise differentiating between the sexes. Crested Pigeons, Magpies and Galahs were also out in force. After breakfast, we headed to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden. Driving in, we heard and saw Chirruping Wedgebill, Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo and White-browed Babblers in the carpark. We donned a few more layers to combat the chilly wind and then braved a walk to the Bluebush Bird Hide. On the way, a pair of Spotted Harriers flapped low and slow across the top of the chenopods, searching for prey. The views provided everyone with a chance to observe the characteristics of the species, including its black ‘fingers’ and grey back. Not much was seen from the hide, so we kept walking, accompanied by the weird, electronic buzz-like calls of Brown Songlarks. There was no sign or sound of Redthroat or Fieldwren (our targets in the saltbush), but plenty of invertebrates on show: Saltbush Blue butterflies and a host of grasshoppers, hairy caterpillars and katydids. Heading through the Eremophila Garden we found numbers of the very noisy and large Teddy Bear Bee, intoxicating themselves on the sweet nectar.

After lunch we continued walking around the gardens (the wind precluding much bird activity, but allowing much appreciation of arid land flora) then drove to the Red Cliff Lookout overlooking the mangrove forests. A friend of the garden had told us that we might see Rufous Fieldwren here, but we only found cinnamon-striped hairy caterpillars.

Next stop was the Port Augusta power station. Here we had great views through the scope of a flock of about 300 Banded Stilt, as well as Red-necked Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Red-capped Plover. We headed back to town, dropping Pam off at the newsagent and heading to the river to see Eastern Great Egret, Crested Tern and Pied and Little Pied Cormorants. We were reunited with Pam in time for dinner!

Gate Iron Knob by Judy Fander
Day 4 Port Augusta to Gawler Ranges: Out on the golf course again before breakfast, this time among the larger trees to try and catch Purple-crowned Lorikeets, which Janene had seen yesterday outside her hotel room door. Margaret and Tiff had a brief glimpse of three birds flying overhead, one of which peeled off and appeared to land in nearby treetops. Despite a concerted effort, however, it could not be found.

After breakfast, we continued our journey (seeing Fairy Martins on the way), stopping at Iron Knob for a walk around the town. The colour of the soil, stained by iron, had been adopted by all the birds, so we saw an orange Red Wattlebird, an orange Nankeen Kestrel, etc… As we were walking through the saltbush, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills popped up and we also caught a glimpse of a male Splendid Fairy-wren, resplendent in blue (not orange)!

At Lake Gillies Conservation Park, we were accompanied on our walk through the mallee by White-eared Honeyeaters, Weebills and Spotted Pardalotes. A tantalisingly brief glimpse of a Chestnut Quail-thrush was had by Janene and Tiff. We headed to Kimba for lunch at the eclectic community hotel.

At Pinkawillinie Conservation Park we climbed a sandhill to find Inland Thornbill (its deep chestnut-coloured rump initially giving hopes of Shy Heathwren, despite the habitat…) and a beautiful hakea in glorious crimson flower. As a reward for the sandhill-climbing activity, we had a late afternoon ice cream at Kyancutta before arriving at Wudinna for dinner. Spotlighting (a solo effort by Tiff) later in the evening added Tawny Frogmouth (which was seen) and Australian Owlet-nightjar (heard) to the list, as well as three White-striped Mastiff Bats (chasing insects under the street lights) for the mammal list.

Bearded Dragon by Judy Fander
Day 5 Gawler Ranges to Ceduna: The morning walk at Wudinna followed the pipeline into town. Yellow-rumped Thornbills were up and busy, as were the Weebills. After breakfast, we headed out to the Gawler Ranges National Park. On the way, we stopped for Pallid Cuckoo (heard calling and then seen) and a glimpse of Mulga Parrot. We drove through Pinkawillinie Conservation Park again and a stop between the saltbush and the mallee proved very productive, with good views of Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (with its fine yellow moustachios), White-fronted Honeyeater (with its maniacally eccentric call) and the call of the Crested Bellbird. A pair of Rufous Treecreepers tormented us by flying in circles around us (or so it seemed), but never stopping long enough in plain view for a really good look. What we saw of their plumage, however, was stunning. A little further along we stopped at a patch of Belah where Rufous Whistler called and we spotted another male Splendid Fairy-wren as well as more Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. There were a number of Rain Moth cacoons on the ground here, as well.

As we traversed the Gawler Ranges National Park we saw the Grey Currawong and stopped for Southern Whiteface hopping across the track. Alighting from the car, we tracked down a male Red-capped Robin and a Brown Goshawk flew overhead. A lunch spot was chosen on the basis of the number of seats (fallen logs) and we munched our sandwiches to a soundtrack of Grey Butcherbird and Crested Bellbird. A small flock of Varied Sittellas (the black-capped race) flew in for the crusts.

After a short stop to visit the homestead at Policeman’s Point (where the introduced Dune Snail had taken over the garden), the piercing call of the Southern Scrub-robin was heard and we stopped to investigate. The robins tormented us with their calls and we couldn’t track them down. We did, however, see Grey-fronted Honeyeater and got great views of an Elegant Parrot at the top of a dead tree. Janene, who had been waiting at the car, swallowed a pistachio whole when a Black-eared Cuckoo sat beside her at eye-level in a dead tree called in her ear!

We left the park behind, heading for Ceduna (with an ice cream stop at Poochera), Common (although there was some contention here and it was argued that they were Brush) Bronzewings exploding up from the side of the road in the late afternoon sun.

Watching Crested Terns bathe Point Labatt
by Judy Fanders
Day 6 Ceduna: The esplanade gave us great views of the shoreline before breakfast, where both Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers could be seen pottering along the beach. An Eastern Reef Egret, hunched over in the shallow waters, ignored us. Pacific Gulls sailed overhead.

After breakfast, we left Pam in town and headed to Denial Bay, and once off the highway, leapt out of the car for fantastic views of two male Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens perched on top of a small shrub less than 5 metres from where we stood. A friendly passer-by stopped, concerned that we were having some sort of emergency, prompted by Janene’s whooping (and arm-waving) for joy at the sight of the fairy-wrens! Once our would-be Samaritan was satisfied we settled down, we strode out across the sandflats, chasing small waders – Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints – around the mangroves.

At Denial Bay itself, a Fairy Tern flew by, battling the wind as it headed east up the beach. Towards Davenport Creek Road, a large flock (at least 12 birds, most unusual) of White-faced Herons was seen in the distance. Cresting the fore-dunes, we gazed out across the oyster leases… a single Banded Stilt flew in; Hoary-headed Grebes in a small flotilla floated by. An Osprey was nesting on a platform 300 metres offshore (although it was some time before we noticed it!) There was a cry of “Chat!”, closely followed by “Crimson Chat!” as a pair of these beautiful birds flew over, chirping as they went. Heading back to Ceduna, we spotted some more Crimson Chats, plus White-fronted Chats as well (the Orange ones, however, remained unseen the whole trip). Just before town, on a small wetland, we got a bonus: Double-banded Plover in breeding plumage. In town, we picked up Pam and asked a friendly local hair-dresser the whereabouts of the ‘Oyster Bar’. We were directed out of town, to the shack by the very wetland we had just visited (to get the Double-banded Plover). Lunch (mainly oysters) was eaten on top of the shack, overlooking our new favourite wetland and being entertained by a Nankeen Kestrel attacking a Masked Lapwing.

Once the oysters had been disposed of, we headed back out towards Davenport Creek, spying a Port Lincoln version of the Australian Ringneck on the way. A small wetland on the side of the road looked promising, and we braved the unrelenting wind for a look. Huddled on its edge amongst the saltbush was a lone Red-kneed Dotterel.

At Davenport Creek Reserve, a great number (at least 50) of Reef Egrets were all huddled together behind the dunes; a decent photograph was almost impossible as they were reflecting so much light! On the beach, an Osprey was dive-bombing a White-bellied Sea-Eagle (perhaps it had just had its catch stolen) – a very unusual sight. Virga clouds drifted over the beach like giant aerial jellyfish. As we drove back to town, two Swamp Harriers flew past.

West of Ceduna
Day 7 Ceduna to Streaky Bay: The morning walk along the jetty brought us an immature Pacific Gull, sitting on a light post, posing cooperatively for a photo in the early morning sun.

Our first post-breakfast stop was at Pinkie Point (via the ‘Ceduna Wind Farm’ owned by 90 year old Clarrie – providing an unmissable photo opportunity) where there were cormorants galore, including our first Black-faced of the trip. Away on the horizon we caught sight of the unmistakable blows of Southern Right Whale. Back in the car and Pam was relieved to be able to plant both buttocks firmly on the seat at last: we’d passed the honeymoon stage and could finally relax in the back of the vehicle…the guide composed a limerick to commemorate this momentous occasion:

At Ceduna, where oysters come racked
On the shoreline the waders were stacked
We saw an osprey
Chase Sea-eagles away
In the car, both Pam’s cheeks were intact…

At Decres Bay we were treated to brief sightings of Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens, as well as the ubiquitous Red-capped Plover. Laura Bay Headland was a haven for cormorants. On the road to Streaky Bay we nearly caused the early demise of a Banded Lapwing which flew straight for us (perhaps slightly concussed, having come off worse in an altercation with another motorist). With the scope the bird’s striking head markings were clear to see. Fortunately, its mate called from the adjacent paddock and our bird with the death wish flew over the fence for a reunion.

A little further on, a large lake next to the roadworks yielded huge numbers of Pink-eared Ducks and Grey Teal, as well as Banded Stilts and Black Swans. A second lake was home to Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stint. The road brought us back to the coastline again, with Caspian Terns on a spit and Musk Duck bobbing on the choppy waves.

At Point Labatt, Crested Terns were bathing in a pool on the rock platform while Australian Sea-lions sunbathed close by. An Osprey flew past as we headed back to the car. On the roadside, another, more road-savvy Banded Lapwing was seen – a nice close-up view.

At Calapatanna Conservation Park, Weebills, Brown and Rufous Songlarks called, and a Grey Butcherbird posed for photos. On the road into Streaky Bay, Bronzewings teased us: Common or Brush? The scalloping pattern on their backs gave their identity away: still Common, no Brush!

Streaky Bay eccentric windmill
Day 8 Streaky Bay To Coffin Bay: Margaret and Judy braved the morning walk along the jetty. Pacific Black Duck and Black-winged Stilt were poking along the shore. It was cool in the shade and the Pelicans, loafing on the edge of the swimming pool fencing, remained unmoved as we strolled past. Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers flew past, Rock Doves cooed from beneath the jetty planks and dolphins swam by.

After breakfast we headed around the bay for more oystercatchers, pelicans, cormorants and dolphins. At Eyre’s Waterhole Striated Pardalotes were singing heartily. A little further down the road, we screeched to a halt for a pair of Mulga Parrots, who obligingly played on a nearby fence as we got our binoculars onto them.

At Murphy’s Haystacks there was plenty of birdsong, mostly from Horsfield’s Bushlark mimicking from the wheatfield, as well as Rufous Songlark, Grey Shrike-thrush and the ever-present Striated Pardalote.

Our next stop was Venus Bay where we checked out the architecture (and, some of us, the architect) as well as the birds: Sooty Oystercatcher, Red-necked Stint, Red-necked Plover, Pelicans and Hoary-headed Grebes. Kestrels were making good use of the wind deflected up the cliffs on the headland – three of them hovering over our heads. The squid fishers arrived with their fluffy white dog as we departed.

emu and chicks
Emu and Chicks by Judy Fander
We passed through Point Kenny, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters calling from the park and Banded Stilt on the outskirts of town. We stopped in Elliston for lunch then had a quick look around the wetlands (after a long look in the visitors’ centre): good views of Black-winged Stilt, Chestnut Teal and a Golden Whistler.

South of Elliston, it was a long drive with not much to break the monotony except a change in the scenery: lumps of limestone littered the landscape, which became greener, and sheep appeared. There was some impressive dry-stone wall work to admire, but little in the way of birdlife. Turning off the highway, we suddenly found the birds: Swamp Harrier, then Shelduck and ducklings on the suitably-named Duck Lake Road, plus Splendid Fairy-wren and New Holland Honeyeater.

Janene took the wheel and found an exciting dirt road with water-crossings and other diversions. On the edge of the Murrunatta Conservation Park in the late afternoon sun it was non-stop action! New Holland Honeyeaters, Rufous Songlarks and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were all darting between the mallee and the wheatfield. Purple-crowned Lorikeets teased us with silhouettes only as they sped overhead. Dusky Woodswallows, White-fronted Chats and Silvereyes whizzed past in a frenzy of pre-dusk feeding. We dragged ourselves away and headed to Coffin Bay for dinner.

Southern Scrub-robin by Judy Fander
Day 9 Coffin Bay: We had excellent views of Port Lincoln Parrots on the morning walk to the boat ramp as they sunned themselves on the power lines. There were Striated Pardalotes at the park, plus Pied and Little Pied Cormorants over the water. Breakfast back in our rooms came with a view of dad Emu taking the chicks for a walk.

We headed into Coffin Bay National Park and began chasing a calling Mallee Whipbird, to no avail: it refused to be spotted. A Red-capped Robin started up its ringing song and we got a far-off view of a Southern Scrub-robin, perched and calling from the top of a dead shrub.

It was windy and birdless at Templetonia Lookout, but some of the Templetonia was flowering, the red pea flowers vivid amongst the greenery. At Avoid Bay, Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were flying back and forth, despite the wind.

At Yangie Bay the Silvereyes came in to share our lunch, one bird in particular taking a fancy to Judy’s banana. White-browed Scrubwrens (with streaked breasts) and Superb Fairy-wrens were also hanging around, and, typical of picnic ground birds the world over, almost totally unconcerned by our presence. Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Shining Bronze-Cuckoo provided another layer to the lunchtime soundtrack.

Judy and Tiff then went in search of Splendid Fairy-wren in the swampy gully (which smelt like the Coorong) while the others ALLEGEDLY saw Rock Parrots in the heath… an amazingly good view, so they said, with three birds perched almost next to the car. Once the group was united we headed out to Kellidie Conservation Park, which was rather quiet… Black Swans and Black-shouldered Kite the only birds around. We descended to Wanilla Flora Reserve and a beautiful hour was spent in the late afternoon sun, searching for orchids and surrounded by birds: Brown-headed and New Holland Honeyeaters, Silvereyes feeding on the flowering Xanthorrhea stalks, Superb Fairy-wrens, a calling Western Gerygone (briefly glimpsed gleaning the eucalypt foliage), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, Striated Pardalotes and a Golden Whistler. It was time to return to Coffin Bay for dinner.

Point Avoid by Judy Fander
Day 10 Coffin Bay to Port Lincoln: The morning walk was quiet, despite leaving the road to bush-bash although we did pick up Silvereyes, Red Wattlebird, Grey Fantail and Port Lincolns. Heading out of Coffin Bay after breakfast, we stopped at the patch of flooded River Red Gums (the spotlighting spot that wasn’t!) for Chestnut Teal. On to Big Swamp and an emergency stop at the roadside for a swag of birds: Shovellers, a Black Swan on a nest, Musk Duck and three waders, quite close to the road, which turned out to be Wood Sandpipers, with their distinctive black-patterned backs (a very lucky sighting as this species is considered scarce in southern Australia).

We drove on to the bird hide, which had been built on the windiest, most exposed side of the swamp… before reaching it, we had great views of Shovellers in the scope, admiring the males’ striking colouring – their blue-grey heads, rusty bellies and yellow eyes. Once in the hide, an icy blast cut through the viewing slot, freezing our eyeballs into their sockets… we beat a hasty retreat to the warmth of the car and got back on the road to Port Lincoln.

We headed straight to Lincoln National Park, stopping only for a brief spell on the walking track between the road and the bay. Once inside the park boundary, things picked up as we tracked the call of the Western Whipbird (which remained elusive), stumbled over a Morel mushroom, and saw in the distance a Southern Scrub-robin eyed us from a vantage point at the top of a dead tree. At morning tea we encountered Superb and Variegated Fairy-wrens, Silvereyes and Helmet Orchids. As we headed towards Fisherman’s Point the guide called “Stop! Purple-gaped Honeyeater!” and the search was on: the honeyeaters had a great game of it, playing a sort of tag-team ‘peak-a-boo’ with us, first one darting from the mallee, then another further down the road. It quickly became tiresome with only fleeting glimpses gained of this pretty species.

A pre-prandial perambulation at Fisherman’s Point yielded plenty of Dusky Woodswallows plus White-browed Scrubwren, Crested Terns and a dead seal on the beach. As we ate lunch, three Rock Parrots flew in to watch (alleged no more – this time Tiff saw them!). As we digested, scoping the rocks below, a Common Sandpiper flew in and we were able to get good views of this very singular species as it bobbed over the rocks, searching for food. (Another great wader sighting; the Australian population is estimated at a mere 3,000 individuals.)

After lunch we headed for the lighthouse, seeing Emus on the way. There were plenty of Rock Parrots on arrival plus Sooty Oystercatcher, Gannet, Sea-lions and Dolphins. Cream-lined Shining-skinks were cavorting on the wooden railings. On the way out we passed a single male Emu with no less than 12 chicks in tow.

At Taylor’s Landing, a Southern Scrub-robin bounced across the car park on lovely long legs, while what seemed like hundreds of New Holland Honeyeaters darted around our heads. We had more good views of Rock Parrots and heard Brown-headed Honeyeaters calling. Unfortunately, a vehicle had bisected a Southern Scaly-foot (legless lizard) on the road and although it was clearly dead, its tail thrashed eerily. Shelducks were seen on the nearby lagoon but not a squeak was heard from the Western Whipbird. As we were heading back to town a Swamp Harrier flew overhead, giving everyone great views of its distinctive white rump.

“Candy-strip Orchid” by Judy Fander
Day 11 Port Lincoln: An early start in order to catch the Western Whipbird had us out at Taylor’s Landing again at 6.30am for the sunrise. As we walked along the beach (the whipbird yet to wake up, apparently), a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins swam by. The New Holland Honeyeaters were out in force again, as was the Scrub-robin. Port Lincoln Ringnecks and Rock Parrots (ho hum) looked on inquisitively while Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo called. We had no luck with the Whipbird, so headed back to town, stopping next to the pipeline for Diamond Firetail and Swamp Harrier. A quick walk along a track perpendicular to the road gave us great views of the cuckoos – Judy’s first really good look at the Fan-tailed. We headed back to town for a well-deserved breakfast followed by a few hours at the Port Lincoln Show (where the highlights were the Bavarian dancers and the Greek sweets).

After a sustaining afternoon tea of baklava et al. washed down by an invigorating cuppa, we headed out for one final stab at the (recalcitrant) Western Whipbird. A lap of the car park and campsite proved fruitless… slightly crestfallen, we headed back to town, but screeched to a halt not 500m later as the call of the Whipbird was heard from the car. Some dogged bush-bashing and unrelenting playback finally brought glimpses of the bird to both Pam and Margaret. Hoorah!

Day 12 Port Lincoln to Whyalla: Our early morning walk to the Maritime Museum was fairly quiet, the highlight being a Sooty Oystercatcher. After breakfast it was time to head north. At the airport, hoping for Cape Barren Geese, we picked up Rainbow Lorikeet instead. As we turned off for Lispon Cove a Brown Falcon perched conveniently near the road for us to goggle at. Once at the Cove, we (minus Judy, who stayed by the car) headed for the beach hoping for Hooded Plover. There were plenty of Red-capped Plovers skittering across the sand and coming to sudden halts on the sea grass strands, hoping to fool the predators with their camouflage. Turning towards the rocky headland, we were lucky enough to see a Hooded Plover quartering the sand in search of prey. It came closer and closer to us until the moment when Janene turned back to the car to fetch Judy, at which point it decided that we’d had quite enough for one day and flew off around the headland.

Back at the car, Judy had seen Horsfield’s Bushlark. Brown Songlarks and Eurasian Skylarks were calling, and we found more Bushlarks a little further down the road. Just before we reached the highway, a Hobby was spotted, sitting on the fence next to the road – perfect photo opportunity!

There were wetlands just up the highway and a flock of Red-necked Stints flew out as we drove in. The ubiquitous Red-capped Plover was here, as were White-fronted Chats. We headed on for lunch at Arno Bay before searching the samphire for Slender-billed Thornbills but there were, of course, Red-capped Plovers with an additional surprise: two fluffy chicks chasing mum and dad across the sandflats! At the boardwalk, a Little Egret displayed its breeding plumage.

An afternoon walk in the mallee gave us a very vocal Rufous Whistler (later known as the Rufous Whistler Shop), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Weebill and Grey Shrike-thrush. A Small Grass Yellow butterfly made an appearance. In the paddock over the road, in the middle of a crop, a single train carriage sat, forlornly falling to pieces.

We had an emergency stop for Bearded Dragon rescue (moving it off the highway) then a roadside rest stop which, in the late afternoon, was buzzing with small birds: Southern Whiteface, White-winged Fairy-wrens and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. Finally, into Whyalla and a quick squiz at the recently engineered wetlands for Black-winged Stilt, Chestnut Teal and Hoary-headed Grebe.

Lace Monitor by Judy Fander
Day 13 Whyalla: A foggy morning made most of us glad that the pre-breakfast walk had been abandoned. After breakfast, we headed to Whyalla Conservation Park (we left Judy at the hotel, nursing her cold). Through the mist, Crested Bellbird could be heard… despite the conditions, the small birds were very active: Southern Whiteface were hopping around in search of insects, Inland Thornbills were calling from the shrubs and a male Red-capped Robin was seen, his bright colours in high contrast to the washed out landscape. Shortly afterwards, we found his mate feeding two young. Then a male Redthroat made a brief appearance – just long enough for us to catch a flash of red and the distinctive white-tipped black tail. We followed a stocky bird through the scrub without getting much of a look at it, except that it was the size of a Grey Shrike-thrush (was it a GST?) with a buff-coloured vent. We later concluded that it must have been the elusive Crested Bellbird, so often heard but so rarely seen. As we returned to the car, we picked up Black-eared Cuckoo (on an exposed perch, so we were treated to excellent views) and White-winged Triller with a beak-full of caterpillar.

While we drove along the track the mist began to burn off and Rufous Whistler and Singing Honeyeater celebrated the appearance of the sun (at 10 o’clock) with some strident calling. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles were spotted away off in the distance, being mobbed by Magpies. Stopping for a better look, we also got our first really good view of a Crested Bellbird as a female sat preening at the top of a tree.

At Wild Dog Hill we took the track up the rock with ears and eyes open for Western (Thick-billed) Grasswren. The longest, fattest Blue-tongue that Janene had ever seen made quick its escape as we approached the climb. A Gidgee Skink was sunning itself among the White-winged Fairy-wrens, Inland Thornbills and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. Traversing the hill, we had plenty of small bird activity, but not the species we had come for. The panoramic views were spectacular, however, with the saltbush and Western Myall plains rolling away into the distant Spencer Gulf. On our way back to the car, the reptile count was further augmented by a Bearded Dragon, sunning itself in a tree.

After a mighty carb-loaded lunch at the Eyre Hotel in Whyalla, we set out in search of something a little different: Giant Cuttlefish. After a couple of false starts – spotting our first White-necked Heron of the trip on the way – we arrived at Port Lowly where some local fishers told us to try the other side of the Santos fence (Fairy Martins and Dusky Woodswallows swooped here): we found some good interpretative signs, but no signs of the beasts themselves. It seemed that the season was over. Heading back, we counted over 80 Grey Teal at the puddle where the Heron had been seen only an hour before.

A final stop at Wild Dog Hill and the fairy-wrens (Variegated and White-winged) were still active, but the Grasswrens had moved on. Pam retired to the carpark to rest her feet while Tiff took the long way round, just to be sure the Grasswrens weren’t hiding on the other side of the hill. No luck, however, and we headed back to town with only one pause for a Bearded Dragon photo opportunity.

Venus Bay
Day 14 Whyalla to Clare Valley: A pre-breakfast walk around the Whyalla Wetlands proved very productive, with a swag of waders, ducks and other water-loving species including Black-tailed Native Hen, Purple Swamphen, Red-kneed Dotterel, Australian Reed-warbler and Little Grassbird.

It was time to head away from the peninsula, through Port Augusta, on to the edge of the Flinders Ranges where we picked up a few raptors: Wedge-tailed Eagle and Black Kite. Then on through Horrocks Pass and rapidly changing scenery on the eastern side of the ranges. As the average rainfall increased, so did the size of the trees. Mighty River Red Gums began to dominate the landscape. We passed through Wilmington (pausing only for a quick snap of Pam next to the town sign) and on to the Remarkables Conservation Park.

A beautiful patch of White Box grassy woodland was pumping with birdy action: Grey Shrike-thrush, Rufous Songlark and Rufous Whistler called, Diamond Firetails and Red-rumped Parrots hopped through the grass, White-browed Babblers played hide-and-seek through the Callitris Pines, Dusky Woodswallows and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes flew overhead, and Mistletoebirds were taking advantage of the Box Mistletoe. A Lace Monitor was flat out on a tree branch, enjoying the sun (and perhaps the birdsong!), the perfect pose for a photo. Back at the entrance gate, a Brown Goshawk flew overhead, its broad wings and rounded tail clearly visible.

A little further on was the Melrose Showground, where a Peaceful Dove wandered across the road in front of us and remained close enough for everyone to admire this exquisite bird and its sky-blue eye-ring. On through some massive River Red Gums and the Tree Martins were living up to their name, perching on high branches, apparently checking out the tree hollows. Adelaide Rosellas, Galahs and a Kookaburra flew by.

We stopped in Melrose for lunch. While we deliberated on which venue looked best, a Purple-crowned Lorikeet called from the street trees. Searching was frustrated by the thick foliage, then, all of a sudden, it appeared on a telegraph wire giving us fantastic views and a very palpable tick! After lunch at the Melrose Pub (and another good look at the Purple-crowned Lorikeet, plus some local craft – the nun tea-cosy was particularly memorable), we headed south.

Just outside Jamestown, we discovered their Sewage Treatment Works and drove in for a look (after getting permission from the men in high-vis): Pink-eared and Pacific Black Ducks, Hardheads, Grey Teal, Coot and Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes were all enjoying the water.BR>
We picked up yet more raptors on the road, stopping for another fine view of a Spotted Harrier, and later a Black-shouldered Kite hovering over a paddock. At Bundaleer State Forest the trees were impressive but the birdlife was a little sparse, despite the fact that we picked up a trip bird here: the Noisy Miner!BR>
We entered the Clare Valley and had a reviving ice cream/slice/lamington/tea before the late afternoon walk at Spring Gully Conservation Area: Brown-headed Honeyeaters called, as did half South Australia’s population of Striated Pardalotes. Donkey Orchids and Creamy Candles were flowering and made a beautiful embroidered carpet of yellow and white. Dinner and wine were exceptional at the Rising Sun Hotel.

Melrose by Pamela Saul aka Miss Hampson
Day 15 Clare Valley to Adelaide & Home: After a leisurely breakfast, we walked around Auburn, accompanied by the song of Rufous Whistler, admiring the restoration work on the old stone cottages. There were great views of a group of Musk Lorikeets feeding on the buds of a deciduous tree (no foliage to hide behind) plus a new bird: the Little Raven, its deep call setting it apart from the Australian Raven. At the church, Rosellas were contemplating the suitability of the bell tower as nesting site. It was time to get back into the car for our final leg of the journey, into Adelaide, through Greenfields (White-necked and White-faced Herons) and into the city for a final farewell coffee. We had travelled 3,800kms, seen 168 bird species and lived to tell the tale!

By Tiffany Mason

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
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Avalon NSW 2107
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer