Eyre Peninsula Tour Report
Day 1: An afternoon by the Torrens River for some, enjoying the parklands and numerous waterfowl, pelicans and assorted honeyeaters.
Major Mitchell Cockatoo
Day 2: A morning walk to Nantu Wama, one of the six parks surrounding North Adelaide, gave us our first glimpses of Adelaide Rosellas. Along with Rainbow Lorikeets, Musk Lorikeets were also heard and briefly seen, burning off a sugary breakfast in frantic flight. Through the terraced back lanes we picked up some exotics: Spotted Dove and Blackbird. An unusually coloured Rosella gave us pause to speculate on the possible hybridisation between Crimson and Eastern: a red (clearly delineated) hood and yellow belly. (Plus a chat with a local about her morning newspaper reading habits!)
A leisurely drive out of Adelaide gave us great birding opportunities: two Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Superb Fairy-wrens, a pair of Chestnut Teal and Little Corellas were all viewed easily from the car. On the Port Gawler Road, we heard Goldfinches, saw perched Dusky Woodswallows and a lawn bedecked with Eastern Rosellas. A raised dam on our right provided beautiful views of an Australian Shelduck, along with a swathe of other duck species and Hoary-headed Grebe. Soon afterwards, a stop to admire another lawnful of Rosellas (this time Adelaide) proved exciting when a truck roared up, its driver keen to know why we were looking at his house…his suspicion (and concern for his wife) was only partially abated when we all waved our binoculars at him.
Further on, a paddockful of Black-tailed Native-hens gave us the first of many opportunities to practise our flock number estimation techniques! We reckoned about 140 birds here, flapping out across the newly-sprouted crop. A young Spotted Harrier flew over the car and then we alighted in search of Slender-billed Thornbills. There were 5 Red-kneed Dotterels skittering up the drainage channels on either side of the road, and 3 Black-winged Stilts. A body of water behind the ditches sported a Musk Duck, and White-fronted Chats (but sadly no thornbills) bounded across the saltbush. On our way out, a Little Egret flew overhead.
Lunch at Solomontown Beach was accompanied by Silver Gulls and a family group (human) returning from holidays in WA. Heading away from the coast, we finally hit some mallee and Australian Ringnecks, along with Brown Falcon and Black Kite near Bute. A gentle stroll at Nelshaby provided a close-up look at a Grey Butcherbird, glimpses of Variegated Fairy-wrens, Spiny-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters, and a soundtrack of Silvereyes, White-browed Babblers and Weebills.
Our final stop of the day was at Mount Remarkable Conservation Park. A stroll up Davey’s Gully was very rewarding: Snake-eyed Skink hiding behind the peeling bark of a dead tree, Yellow-throated Miners were out in force, an Emu chick wandered onto the track ahead of us, stripes glowing in the late afternoon sun, closely followed by Dad and 2 siblings, a Wallaroo gently munched on the slopes above us and an elusive Chestnut-rumped Heathwren called from the shrubs. Western Grey Kangaroos and Emus dotted the hillside as we left the park heading for Port Augusta.
Day 3: Large eucalypts in flower on the edge of the golf course provided much excitement on our morning walk: Purple-crowned Lorikeets were calling and whizzing back and forth overhead, proving challenging to view. Red Wattlebirds and Yellow-throated Miners were competing for the nectar, as were White-plumed Honeyeaters.
Glorious Sand Hills
After breakfast, we headed to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens’ Red Cliff Lookout. A spectacular view over the mangroves gave us our first look at an immature Pacific Gull, almost three times the size of the more delicate Silver Gull. A Sacred Kingfisher perched on a fencepost by the beach behind the mangroves and a Common Tern flew by. We began walking through the saltbush and soon found our first White-winged Fairy-wrens as well as a brief glance of a Rufous Fieldwren. Australian Pipits and Chiming Wedgebills called; we tracked the latter to the northern boundary fence, which proved very popular with some interesting species, including a preening male Pied Honeyeater. White-backed Swallows swooped overhead and as we walked westward past some piles of timber, the Chiming Wedgebill’s call became louder: finally, it was seen, perched on top of the woodpile – beautiful clear views! Soon afterwards, we got splendid views of 3 male Orange Chats, vying for the best position on one saltbush.
After lunch (and admiring the Sturt’s Desert Pea and flowering Eremophilas with accompanying Teddy-bear Bees), we walked to the pagoda in search of Redthroat. There were plenty of White-winged Fairy-wrens here and a Kestrel flew in with some lizard prey, but our target bird was missed. From here, we commenced a tour of Port Augusta, spotting Eastern Great Egret from the wharf. At Bird Lake, there were Silver Gulls and a pair of Red-necked Avocets. In the late afternoon sun, we made our way to Matthew Flinders Lookout. There was plenty of activity in the saltbush and we got obscured but lengthy views of Rufous Fieldwren through the scope. Pallid Cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo posed along the fencelines, as did a male Red-capped Robin, a beautiful bird with which to conclude the day.
Day 4: Our day began once again at the golf course, with honeyeaters and Purple-crowned Lorikeets aplenty in the flowering eucalypts! We returned to breakfast via the saltbush where the White-fronted Chats and White-winged Fairy-wrens were busily chasing insects.
En route to Iron Knob, we made a stop to admire the architecture of an Australian Raven’s nest on top of an antenna. At Iron Knob there were plenty of Sparrows and Starlings, but we found the good stuff at the southern end of town: 3 Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos sparring with Little Corellas in a dead tree. Janene picked up a Collared Sparrowhawk, skulking in a pine tree, which made ID challenging as its tail wasn’t visible: the grey cere and slightly surprised expression told us what we needed to know!
At Lake Gillies Conservation Park, we walked through the mallee accompanied by clouds of Weebills. Further on, we found a more diverse patch with Chestnut-rumped Thornbills darting through the chenopods, Crested Bellbird calling, Mulga Parrots flying through, a mix of Honeyeaters (Spiny-cheeked, Brown-headed and White-eared), Inland Thornbill, Golden Whistler, Jacky Winter and Grey Fantail all competing for our attention.
Heading west, the skies sported a magnificent array of clouds (chevrons, mackerel and lenticularis) and the road a lonely unicyclist. We stopped at Pinkawillinie Conservation Park and walked in the direction of calling Grey Currawongs, but they remained unseen. We tracked down Splendid Fairy-wrens here, playing hard to see amongst the low-growing shrubs. A total of 7 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes flew overhead as we headed to our final stop of the day at Corrobbinnie Hill, where we watched a pair of Mulga Parrots feeding on paddy melons and found some Echidna scats, with their distinctive U-shaped form. Two Common Bronzewings were waiting for us on our descent to the car.
Day 5: Our morning walk at Wudinna took us through roadside mallee, along the water pipe. Weebills were again present in abundance and we had good views of a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater low down in the foliage. On our way out of town, passing the ‘Australian Farmer’ statue in granite and a small playground, Yellow-rumped Thornbills were spotted and Striated Pardalotes and Pallid Cuckoo were heard as we headed to the Gawler Ranges.
A family of White-browed Babblers were cause for a brief stop, followed shortly afterwards by a Wedge-tailed Eagle which flew up from the road and low across the wheat fields. A patch of samphire next to a sandhill was our first major stop: here, we searched for Rufous Treecreeper and found the ubiquitous Weebill instead! A little further on, Red-capped Robins, 2 Jacky Winters and some Ringnecks finally led us to a pair of Rufous Treecreepers! The female sat on a branch in front of us for a good 5 minutes, all fluffed up in the chill morning air. It was a privileged viewing! Returning to the vehicle, we saw Tree Martins, Dusky Woodswallows and a Restless Flycatcher.
Elisabeth spotted a Grey Currawong, which immediately flew off, and then we alighted for a quick chase through the bush after a mysterious call…was it a whistler? Or a Crested Bellbird? Alas, we were not to find out, but our subsequent stop was a real bonus: Splendid Fairy-wrens were relatively confiding, we had great views of Gilbert’s Whistler, and Southern Whiteface hopped around, feeding between the shrubs. There was something for the lepidopterists here, too, with bushes full of Two-spotted Lined-blues flashing in the sun.
We followed an Emu, walking down the middle of the road, and there were plenty more at the Shearer’s Quarters, as well as Western Grey and a handful of Red Kangaroos. On our way to the designated lunch stop we saw 2 Wedge-tailed Eagles being harassed by 3 Mapgies; we also picked up an Australian Pipit scooting along the verge and emergency-stopped for a Grey Butcherbird! There were more emus, including 3 chicks and 6 juveniles.
We ate our sandwiches to the sounds of Weebills, Crested Bellbird, Grey Shrike-thrush and Striated Pardalote. A brief walk through the Belah yielded Ghost Moth pupae cases and a pile of Quandong seeds – all that was left of an Emu’s lunch! At the Pavey Homestead, White-browed Babblers called and further down the track we stopped at a spinifex-covered hill to look for any sort of wren: Variegated Fairy-wrens answered the call, as did Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills. Almost immediately afterwards, there was a cry of “Elegant Parrots!” and we leapt from the car to spend over 20 minutes observing these very pretty birds feeding on berries in the shrubs.
At Poochera, we stopped to admire Pete Sheridan’s shack, constructed entirely of kerosene tins, and then it was the long road to Ceduna, with Ringnecks and Mulga Parrots adding occasional excitement as they flew up from the side of the road.
Day 6: A leisurely pre-breakfast stroll along the pier gave us the opportunity to blow away some overnight cobwebs and admire oystercatchers, gulls and pelicans. There were ducks swimming near the shoreline and a Crested Tern alighted on the railing as we turned back towards the hotel.
At Pinky Point, despite the wind, there were fabulous opportunities to get to grips with our cormorant identification skills: Little Pied, Great, Pied and Black-faced were all huddled together on the rock platform. Below them, a flotilla of 24 Hoary-headed Grebes was braving the choppy surf. From here, we headed west of town and found a large flock of Grey Teal harbouring five Ruddy Turnstones in their midst; a cry of “Pink-eared Duck!” from Elisabeth was met with cynicism until an individual finally swam into the open from behind the mangroves. On the nearby heathy headland, we tracked White-browed Scrubwrens through the bushes and heard a Brown Songlark’s electronic-like call.
Our next stop was for lunch at the Oyster Shack. We set up the scopes at the back of the shack, looking over a group of large pools among the saltbush and soon found a Common Greenshank as well as Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers. The owner emerged, saw the scopes and laughingly asked us if we were looking for a good-looking bloke…
On to Denial Bay and a search for Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens in the rain resulted in a tick for Variegated and some damp birders! A discrete wetland huddled in between the wine-dark saltbush revealed a flock of 57 Curlew Sandpipers furiously dipping for invertebrates, and some White-fronted Chats in the saltbush. At Denial Bay itself, we found Black-faced Woodswallows, and, descending to the beach, saw a swag of black and white seabirds perched on a pontoon. An Eastern Reef Egret was hunting crabs among the mangroves. Heading to Nadia Landing, at least 100 Tree Martins filled the air and as we returned to Ceduna, a Swamp Harrier flew over, chased by Masked Lapwings.
Day 7: A morning walk around town to the old railway station bagged us the usual suspects: Silver Gull, Spotted Dove, Blackbird, Crested Pigeon and Crested Tern. At Wittelbee, we walked through coastal scrub to the top of the dunes, hearing Weebills and White-browed Scrubwren on the way. From our vantage point overlooking the beach we spotted a group of Sanderlings at the water’s edge. A couple of Bottlenose Dolphins were spied further out in the surf, occasionally breaking the surface.
There was a short walk along the cliffs at Decres Bay to admire the spectacular cliff lines then on to Laura Bay where the local bloke was attempting to control the (feral) Dune Snails, collecting them from the Pig Face in a bucket for his chooks. We stopped for a chat and Janene told him that we enjoyed watching the pigeons feeding by the roadside in the late afternoon and he said “You mean the Bronzewings?” after which we paid more attention to the avian wisdom he imparted, particularly some interesting local knowledge about the decline of Ringnecks in the area over the past decade.
After lunch at Smoky Bay, with its superb examples of front yard kitsch, there was a brief stop for a Shingleback, ambling across the road. On the way to Point Labatt, we stopped at a large pool to admire a Shoveller, then scanned the water’s edge for more birds, picking up Red-capped Plovers and Black-winged Stilts. An “Oom-oom-oom” coming from across the road was identified as a Painted Button-quail, as the call gradually accelerated and approaching the sound did not result in a Bronzewing flying up in an explosive flutter!
We had some difficulty getting out of the car at Point Labatt due to the phenomenal strength of the wind (no Kestrels hovering here!). Struggling down the steps to the viewing platform, we grabbed the railing and attempted to observe the Australian Sealions, New Zealand Fur Seal, Crested Terns, Great Cormorants, Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers on the rocks below. The winds were blasting so hard that it was almost impossible to stand upright and use binoculars.
On our return to Streaky Bay, we caught sight of three Banded Lapwings lit up by the late afternoon sun in the samphire.
Day 8: Our morning walk took us along the beachfront, spotting Grey Teal, a White-faced Heron, Pacific and Silver Gulls, and Pied Oystercatchers. We discovered a fenced-off wetland, part of a rehabilitation project by the local school, and its attendant Pacific Black Duck and Eurasian Coot!
At Venus Bay Conservation Park, opposite the grain silos, we found a fantastically busy corner of mallee: there were New Holland Honeyeaters bathing in a puddle, White-fronted Honeyeaters buzzing back and forth, Golden Whistler and Crested Bellbirds belting out songs, and a host of smaller birds including flocks of Silvereyes, Weebills and Brown-headed Honeyeaters. There was even something for the botanically minded, with a beautiful red-flowering Correa on display. As we left this great spot, a Swamp Harrier flew over.
The secluded bay at Thalinappe was a gem: walking across the seaweed, we discovered Red-necked Stints, Red-capped Plovers, Intermediated Egret and a group of 8 Grey Plovers standing quietly by the water. To be sure of their identity, Janene walked stealthily towards them, but was almost on top of the birds before they took flight, flashing their black ‘wing-pits’ at us. They wheeled around and settled back in the same spot, which we left them to enjoy in peace once again. As we returned to the car, we could hear Bushlarks calling and caught a glimpse of one and its ungainly flapping through the bluebush.
At Port Kenny, in the drizzle, an unusual sight met us: 6 Pied Oystercatchers on the grass of a local park pulling earthworms from the soil! They seem to have usurped the normal black and white birds typically found in these situations (i.e. Magpies) and were taking full advantage of the prey.
The Caravan Park at Venus Bay gave us a great opportunity to compare the sizes of Silver and Pacific Gulls: an immature of the latter species was loafing among a flock of the former, which looked positively petite by comparison!
As we headed to Elliston the geology began to change, with clumps of white limestone outcropping on the green paddocks. After lunch and a brief look at Elliston wetlands (Silvereyes and Grey Fantail flitting through the shrubs; Grey Teal on the water) we retraced our steps to have a look at Lake Newland. After struggling with the first gate (and partially dismantling a fence in the process), the guide attempted to make up for her lack of mechanical skills by pointing out Black-tailed Native Hens and a Brush Bronzewing along the fenceline. With water across the track, and a warning notice not to attempt a crossing under such conditions, we first turned north (finding a second Brush Bronzewing) then south, to a small dam. The track looked a little boggy and it proved very boggy, but fortunately the limestone came to the rescue! The dam was very productive with Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and yet another Brush Bronzewing. As we headed back, Emus charged through the shallow water at the lake’s edge, sending up a picturesque spray behind them.
On the way to Coffin Bay we found ourselves in need of petrol and a little shop in the middle of nowhere came to the rescue with not only fuel, but a pair of Ringnecks (the Port Lincoln race) feeding in the olive providing superb views without our having to leave the car. A real treat at Coffin Bay was seeing an Emu with 18 juveniles under his care crossing the road to the caravan park.
Day 9: The morning walk at Coffin Bay turned into a bit of a bush bash as we left the road in search of something other than Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters! There were plenty of Silvereyes, a White-browed Scrubwren or two and the calls of Fantail Cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo. We emerged from the bush to find ourselves in a proposed sub-division right on the shore and followed the road back for breakfast (accompanied by Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets).
Dawn Port Lincoln NP
En route to Coffin Bay National Park, a quick beach stop brought Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, gulls, magpies and a Caspian Tern. Inside the park gate, a small band of White-browed Babblers greeted us and then a Swamp Harrier was spotted flying leisurely over a recently burnt patch, heading for the horizon.
We stopped for the resonant call of a Western Whipbird, searching up and down the road to no avail (at least, no visual avail!). Templetonia lookout was Silvereye heaven and the scarlet pea flowers of the Templetonias were very appealing. Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters popped up here and a little further along the road; there was plenty of nectar around to take advantage of.
At the Point Avoid boat ramp, more Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were seen and, descending to the beach, we got a lovely surprise: three Hooded Plovers were gleaning insects from the stranded seaweed. We set up the scope and spent a while just watching them making their way, unconcerned by our presence, up the shoreline.
At Golden Island, where two lines of waves met at right angles, there were 200 Crested Terns on the beach, so we left them to it, thinking it a shame to put them all to flight.
After lunch (at the General Store in Coffin Bay), we walked around the camping area at Yangie Bay. An unfamiliar call brought us into very close contact with the yellow-rumped (xanthopyge) race of the Spotted Pardalote. From here we headed to Almonta Beach and got our first glimpse of Rock Parrots! Three birds flew away from us through the heath and landed below the bushes. Stalking them from further up the hill, we discovered they had landed in a small open grassy patch giving a perfect (if brief) view of one individual, living up to its name, perching on a lump of limestone.
We stopped once again at the spot where the Western Whipbird had called that morning and heard two birds calling. There followed a lengthy scouting of the scrub, with ample opportunity to get very familiar with the repertoire of the Whipbird, but despite our best efforts only a fleeting view of (at best) a greyish smudge disappearing through the bushes. A Brush Bronzewing was our consolation prize, waiting for us at the park gates as we headed back to town.
Day 10: We took the Oyster Walk first thing, with views of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo one of the highlights. After breakfast we headed back to Coffin Bay National Park to track down the elusive Western Whipbird but it appeared to have moved on. We had fabulous views of a Southern Scrub-robin calling from an exposed perch, apparently duetting with Grey Currawongs!
On the road to Port Lincoln, we stopped at Big Swamp. There were 3 other birders already installed at the roadside, counting ducks, so we moved further down the guard rail and set up the scope next to 8 Wood Sandpipers happily probing in the mud. There was a fine selection of waterfowl, including a Black Swan on a nest (just behind the Sandpipers), Shovellers, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Musk and Pink-eared Ducks, and Black-winged Stilts far away across the other side of the water.
The tuna cages at Port Lincoln provided a perfect spot for sitting and digesting, especially for Pelicans, Little Pied and Black-faced Cormorants and Pacific Gulls. Along the ‘Encounter 2002’ walk, we heard Shining Bronze-cuckoo calling and at the bird hide a family of Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens were bouncing around in the samphire. We had the opportunity here to really get to grips with the differences between female Variegated, Superb and Blue-breasted, noting the blue tails and lack of eye mask in the latter species.
At Lincoln National Park there were New Holland Honeyeaters galore! A Brush Bronzewing ducked under the water pipeline, as did we shortly afterwards, following the unmistakeable call of a Western Whipbird. Leaving the invisible whipbird behind, at Woodcutters Beach there were calls of Purple-gaped Honeyeaters, so we walked along the road trying to get a glimpse. These honeyeaters had a habit of flying into a eucalypt and swiftly darting into the densest patch of foliage – it was a real challenge getting the binoculars on them.
At Taylor’s Landing, a pair of White-browed Scrubwrens took pity on us (after the difficult whipbird/Purple-gaped Honeyeater experiences) and hopped across the carpark until they nearly landed on our shoes! At the beach, we saw our first White-bellied Sea-eagle of the trip, flapping majestically away along the coastline.
Heading back to town, we stopped once again at the pipeline (for the by now compulsory Western Whipbird wild goose chase!) and then near the exit to admire a Swamp Harrier’s lazy flight in the perfect afternoon light.
Day 11: An early start found us back at Taylor’s Landing for sunrise, which was an eye-popping magenta and lit up the ocean gloriously. A Southern Scrub-robin was hanging around the car park and we admired it for a while along with a Golden Whistler. The Western Whipbird did not call, so we headed back along the road, stopping at the T-intersection when Elisabeth spotted something different…not a Singing Honeyeater after all, but Purple-gaped, out in the open! We had beautiful views of numerous birds as they perched on exposed branches (most untypical), warming up in the morning sun.
Heading out of the park, there were 2 Western Grey Kangaroos sitting on the road and 7 Dusky Woodswallows up a side track behind the pipeline. At the exit, we did two laps of the information sign to maximise our views of Diamond Firetails feeding in the grass.
After breakfast, we drove to Sleaford Bay and the early morning fine weather began to change. In rain and wind, we circled (on foot) a prickly bush hoping for a view of Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens. From the cliff-top, we spotted a pod of about 12 Common Bottlenose Dolphins cruising in the surf. Retracing our steps, Janene called out “Swan!” and we stopped by a small wetland to see 2 Cape Barren Geese posing at the water’s edge.
After lunch, we headed to Fisherman’s Point where the wind was quite brisk! There were Dusky Woodswallows seeking shelter and a Southern Scrub-robin darting along the track. Something very yellow flew past – was it a Western Yellow Robin? Unfortunately, whatever the bird was, it vanished almost immediately and was never properly identified. The south side of the point was sheltered from the wind: oystercatchers and cormorants were taking advantage of this fact and loafing on the tranquil beach.
Driving towards Point Donnington we disturbed some Rock Parrots and alighted from the car to pursue them. By this time it had begun to rain, but we were not deterred and got several glimpses of this neat little parrot (by no means dull!) before returning to the welcome dry of the vehicle. At Point Donnington itself the weather was inclement (to say the least), so we observed the fauna of Donnington Island from the comfort of the car: there were a couple of Fur Seals to the left and a Sealion almost directly in front of us, but it was so still that we took it for a rock at first. To the right, a large flock of cormorants was gathered, but it was almost impossible to make out which species through the driving rain.
We drove out to Wanna, chasing a double rainbow, and got spectacular coastal views for our efforts as well as one Emu and some remarkable cloud formations.
Day 12: We ascended the hill behind the motel to Puckenridge Reserve, where Rufous and Golden Whistlers were singing and other small bush birds were enjoying the drier conditions: Silvereyes, Grey Fantail, Inland Thornbill and White-browed Scrubwren were all seen here.
On the road to Lipsom Cove, Kestrels were out in force as were Eurasian Skylarks. At the cove itself things were rather quiet, with a single Red-capped Plover on the beach. The rocky point was host to all the cormorants plus a Caspian Tern and Janene spotted Bottlenose Dolphins just off-shore.
The mangrove boardwalk at Arno Bay provided an excellent vantage point to observe Pied Oystercatchers and White-faced Herons fishing in the shallows. Through the samphire, we spied White-fronted Chat, then back through the mangrove canopy, two Sacred Kingfishers patiently sat, watching for likely prey.
We stopped at Cowall for an icecream, then a short mallee walk, accompanied by Weebills. About 40kms south of Whyalla, a rest stop amongst the bluebush turned out to be a birding hot spot! Chestnut-rumped Thornbills chirped at us, then Yellow-rumped Thornbills appeared. There were Spiny-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters and Crested Bellbird calling. First a female Red-capped Robin was spotted, then the male, brilliant red in the afternoon sun. Walking down an easement, we had great views of the Crested Bellbird as well as (Port Lincoln) Ringnecks. As we returned to the car a male Splendid Fairy-wren in full breeding plumage burst through a flowering wattle, almost dazzling the onlookers.
Day 13: Whyalla wetlands provided a treasure trove of water birds! On the rather convoluted back streets route to our destination, we spotted 2 Straw-necked Ibis flying overhead. At the wetlands there were Black-tailed Native-hens, Dusky Moorhens, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Muscovy, Pacific Black, Musk and even Freckled Ducks! Red-kneed Dotterels were patrolling the water’s edge, Tree Martins flitting around our heads and Little Grassbird calling from the reeds. A local bloke told us that the site was the old Whyalla airfield; it had certainly been put to good use.
After breakfast, we headed to Whyalla Conservation Park stopping for a quick walk among the Western Myalls to chase Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Variegated Fairy-wrens. In sight of Wild Dog Hill, we spotted a Black-faced Woodswallow perched next to the track and then a Pallid Cuckoo on the fence.
At Wild Dog Hill, we followed the track around the base of the rocks and almost immediately heard the call of the Western Grasswren! And then a pair appeared, hopping along the track, then back into the bushes, and then out again in front of us! We had such excellent views that we thought it best not to pursue them, and turned back to the track. Views from the top of the rocks were excellent in the clear morning light: we could see to Spencer Gulf and the start of the Flinders Ranges. A male Crested Bellbird was calling from a small shrub and we had perfect views of his performance; Red-spotted Jezebels (butterflies) were dancing around the flowering wattles, providing an extra challenge for binocular skills.
Descending the hill on the other side, we could hear White-winged Fairy-wrens calling and soon afterwards saw a group of Variegated as well. Heading out of the park, we spotted a male Hooded Robin, perfectly perched on a dead tree.
In the afternoon we turned south towards Point Lowly and discovered a Bearded Dragon perched at the top of a shrub, sunning itself. Following the track past the lighthouse, we saw Bottlenose Dolphins off the point, heard White-winged Fairy-wrens and suddenly a male Redthroat popped up on top of a shrub right next to us! It was clearly agitated, flying away and back several times before we thought it best to walk away. Beyond the Santos fence, we looked for Giant Cuttlefish along the rocky shore, but the season had obviously finished. Instead, we saw Splendid Fairy-wrens along the fenceline, a male with an offering (a yellow feather) for his mate.
Day 14: We had a second look at the wetlands, seeing a few extra species today including a shy and elusive Spotted Crake and 3 Black-fronted Dotterels. A total of 15 Freckled Ducks was counted and deemed worthy of a report to Birddata.
At Port Augusta, Kathleen was most amused by the ‘Car & Dog Wash’ (good water-saving business!) and we passed Bird Lake once again, this time empty. Heading to the Remarkables, there was a sudden change of vegetation from mallee to River Red Gums. We turned off the main drag, heading to Hancock Lookout, which was very productive: first there were Diamond Firetails, then we heard Purple-crowned Lorikeets. At the lookout itself we saw the lorikeets and also Red-rumped Parrots, Striated Pardalote, Yellow Rosella and Weebills. The view to the coast was quite special, too.
At Willowie Forest (part of Mount Remarkable National Park) we had a lovely walk through the White Box woodland, chasing down Yellow Thornbills and Brown-headed Honeyeaters as well as a small group of White-browed Babblers feeding beneath the Callitris. A Jacky Winter was calling and beneath a piece of tin we found a Robust Ctenotus (skink).
A large flowering eucalypt behind the Melrose pub provided a soundscape of Red Wattlebirds, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Purple-crowned Lorikeets over lunch. As we drove south through canola, birds were scarce, until near Murray Town when a Spotted Harrier was seen close to the road. At Ippinitchie Campground, in Wirraburra State Forest, the Mugga Ironbark was in flower and Purple-crowned Lorikeets were taking advantage of it but proved very difficult to see. There were White-winged Choughs hanging around, Striated Pardalotes calling and Dusky Woodswallows flying overhead. We also heard a Mistletoebird and by the creek got good views of a Peaceful Dove and a Grey Shrike-Thrush, the latter searching for tasty morsels among the grass.
We reached the Clare Valley in late afternoon and headed to Spring Gully Conservation Park for a chance to stretch our legs. We were treated to a miniature concert of mimicry by a Mistletoebird (which we never actually saw, but deduced from its height in the tree), then found a patch of sun lighting up a glade of wattles where Yellow-faced and Brown-headed Honeyeaters darted maniacally about, snapping up insects in the day’s last golden glow.
Day 15: Our morning walk around the back streets of Auburn was parrot heaven: Musk Lorikeets, Adelaide and Yellow Rosellas were out and about, sunning themselves or searching for breakfast.
On the drive to Adelaide, we had one and then a second Black-shouldered Kite. Turning off to St. Kilda Lagoon, we peered through the cyclone fence at a large body of water heaving with birds: Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and Little Black Cormorants, then among them all, Whiskered Terns were spotted, including two individuals in breeding plumage, their dark bellies a stunning contrast to white wings and red bills. The gate to the wetlands was locked, but we spotted a few Splendid Fairy-wrens and Singing Honeyeaters through the fence before departing for the airport.
We had experienced dramatic landscapes and coastlines, a remarkable diversity of vegetation communities and detected a very respectable total of 177 bird species!
By Tiffany Mason ornithologist for FTB