Flinders Ranges Trip Report
The first Flinders Ranges & SA Outback Trip organised by ‘Follow That Bird’ was a great success with a quality bird species in a very interesting landscape. Highlight were:
White-browed Babbler by Rae Clark
Slender-billed Thornbills, Pt Gawler
Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Telowie Gorge
Elegant Parrot, many places
Redthroat, Arid Lands Bot. Gdns, Pt Augusta
Chirruping Wedgebill, many places
White-winged Fairy-wren, many places
Short-tailed Grasswren, Stokes Hill
Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, Mt Lyndhurst Station
Thick-billed Grasswrens, Mt Lyndhurst Station
Inland Dottererel, Strezlecki Track
Cinnamon Quail-thrushes, many places
Orange Chat, Strzelecki Track
White-backed Swallow, Strzelecki Track
Pied Honeyeaters, Arid Lands Botanical Gardens, Pt Augusta
The weather was cool and at times windy with a few showers. The country was in good condition with many native shrubs in flower and most creeks were flowing, some brimming full. There was reasonable, green groundcover in the Flinders Ranges while further north, in the Strezelecki area, things were a bit drier. Exceptionally good food and decent accommodation, as well as a well-organised itinerary, knowledgeable guide and skilled driver made this trip a success.
Monday 18 August : It started out crisp with some small fog patches as we went for a short walk through the parklands of North Adelaide. After an initial absence of anything interesting, we finally found a flock of Long-billed Corellas, two Eastern Rosellas, a Musk Lorikeet and four Adelaide Rosellas – new for many. After breakfast some wetlands to the north of the city were visited where a variety of waterbirds were present as well as recently returned Australasian Reed-warblers and Little Grassbirds. At St Kilda where no less than 10 Sooty Oystercatchers were present on the mudflats and in the mangroves White-faced Herons and Little Pied and Great Cormorants were present. At least 20 Black-tailed Native Hens were feeding on the shore below them. A little further up the road, at Pt Gawler, Slender-billed Thornbills came in close after a while and allowed good scope views.
Dark rainclouds were threatening the walk through Telowie Gorge where the creek was flowing fast and noisily but still a Fan-tailed Cuckoo was heard calling from nearby. After a brief search a Grey-fronted Honeyeater was very obliging. Along a nearby dirt road a good number of Elegant Parrots were present and allowed close-up views. Just before dark a lone Banded Stilt was found in the appropriately named “Bird Lake” at Pt Augusta. On the island in the middle of the lake a small colony of Australian Pelicans had fairly advanced chicks.
Chirruping Wedgebill by Rae Clark
Tuesday 19 August: A pre-breakfast stroll across the frosty golf course resulted in a pair of White-browed Babblers. The morning was spent in the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens where the first of many to come White-winged Fairy-wrens was observed. A nice male Redthroat was singing providing good scope views and Chirruping Wedgebills were seemingly everywhere. Good numbers of Pied Honeyeaters were present, allowing great views in the top of flowering bushes against the clear blue sky. Lunch was had at Jarvis Lookout near Hawker with two Inland Thornbills foraging in the surrouding native pines. The wind started picking up when we arrived in the Flinders Ranges and by the time we arrived at Stokes Hill conditions were not favourable for finding Short-tailed Grasswren. We nevertheless gave it a try and unexpectedly found two grasswrens in the bare spinifex covered hills. Unfortunately they were only seen running and flying low, and did not want to pose. All three resident species of Kangaroo were observed (Euro, Red and Western Grey). That evening a well-deserved dinner was had by the logfire in the Wilpena Pound restaurant.
Wednesday 20 August: Another try for the Grasswrens but it was still windy. One Short-tailed Grasswren was seen running. After a scenic drive including a creek crossing through the Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies were found at the usual location. A lunch stop at Aroona Dam near Leigh Creek resulted in three Musk Duck and a Grey Butcherbird. We then headed off to the start of the Strzelecki track at the Mt Lyndhurst area. The landscape here was reminiscent of Mars in places and with the wind still quite strong the prospects of finding any birds seemed low. However as soon as people had alighted from the bus they were presented with excellent scope views of a pair of brilliant Orange Chats. A few minutes later a pair of Banded Lapwing were located after which the search for Chestnut-breasted Whiteface commenced. In the process we found two Thick-billed Grasswrens and 2 Cinnamon Quail-thrush, and after almost an hour 2 Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces were showing well perched atop a saltbush in a wind-protected gully. All these species were ticks for all participants! Around sunset the airstrip near Lyndhurst was searched for Inland Dotterel, however no such luck: you can’t win them all!
Flinders Ranges by Ian Hamilton
Thursday 21 August: A big day as we went as far as 220 km up the Strzelecki Track before turning around taking the scenic route back behind and through the Gammon Ranges. Another visit to the Mt Lyndhurst area resulted in the same species as yesterday afternoon including closer views of the endemic Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces. The landscape along the Strzelecki Track, while desolate, was very interesting, ranging from sparsely vegetated undulating plains, to gibber plains devoid of any vegetation, to white sand dunes topped with prickly bushes and cane grass. Along the way there were tree-lined dry watercourses every few kilometers and many of these were checked for birds. That way we found many emus roaming the plains, as well as Black-faced Woodswallows and some more beautiful Orange Chats. Each Australasian Pipit flying off from the track was checked carefully but alas, no Gibberbird. At Montecollina Bore, a small oasis in the desert, a pair each of Black-winged Stil and Australian Shelduck were present, as were a few Zebra Finches. Highlight here were small numbers of White-backed Swallows. A few Little Corellas were sheltering under bushes from the ever-present wind while quite a few Black Kites were soaring overhead. After lunch, a search of the surrounding dunes yielded a single Eyrean Grasswren which, like the Short-tailed Grasswrens, refused to sit still and was soon lost amongst the many White-winged Fairy-wrens present. The search was abandoned as the wind had started blowing the fine white beach-like sand around and we set off on the journey back, which was to take us around the back of the spectacular rock formations of the Gammon Ranges. This yielded in an Inland Dotterel, another tick for many, making up for not finding it yesterday. As the sun started to set we cut through the Gammon Ranges, following an impressive gorge. A few rain showers announced a weather change and reminded us that it was still winter. As we approached Leigh Creek, a Southern Boobook was flushed in the vehicle’s headlights.
Mulga Parrots by David Simpson
Friday 22 August: As early morning frost covered the hills surrounding Leigh Creek, a pre-breakfast walk resulted in great views of a Collared Sparrowhawk trying to warm up as well as some Mistletoebirds in the gum trees. We then set off for the trip south, stopping at a few places along the way. We saw more Chirruping Wedgebills and a pair of Redthroat, a small flock of Zebra Finches, and quite a few raptors including close-up views of Wedge-tailed Eagles feeding on a dead kangaroo, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon and countless Nankeen Kestrels. We also picked up yet more Elegant Parrots. As we travelled further south the landscape became greener and near Wilmington all of a sudden we were back in the vivid green wheatfields and gum forests of the Mt Remarkable ranges. A lunch stop at pretty Melrose was timely as a freezing wind brought in more rain showers. Fortunately it cleared up soon and a walk around yielded both Tree and Fairy Martins and the first Brown Treecreeper of the trip. A few Adelaide Rosellas were present and we moved on to Beetaloo Reservoir where we picked up a Grey Currawong. The final leg of the trip was to the Clare Valley with not much else but Starlings, House Sparrows and Feral Pigeons. Over a sumptous dinner in Auburn the final birdlist was compiled: 119 species and all participants had new ticks (some as many as 12).
Flinders Birdwaters by Ian Hamilton
Thanks to Helen, Rae, Jean, Joan and Ian.
Please ask for a list of birds seen from the FTB office.
By Peter Waanders guiding for FTB