Sydney to Adelaide via Gluepot SA Tour Report
Day 1 Sunday 20 September 2020 Sydney Ingalbah NR Leeton
Blue-faced Honeyeater by participant Anne Brophy
After a pick-up at Killara due to marathon racing in Sydney CBD we managed an expressway stop for splendid views of a Little Eagle and further along two Brown Goshawks, one noticeably larger than the other, most likely the female with a bit of hanky-panky in mid-flight. Driving was a joy as there was one Fairy Martin, Dusky Moorhens, Nankeen Kestrels and canola in full bloom. We winged our way to Derek VC where we had glorious views of Yellow Thornbills in bright morning sunlight and some beautifully plumaged Superb Fairy-wrens on the ground. Spring had sprung and we were entertained with duelling continuous calls of two White-browed Scrubwrens. Young Crimson Rosellas were on the ground feeding. At Binalong there were Noisy Friarbirds in the flowering WA eucalypt, a Rufous Whistler called and a Guinea Fowl was hanging dead but intact from a tree seemingly untouched…a bit of mystery.
At Murrumburrah we feasted after an early brekkie. Not far from there 5 Ground Cuckoo-shrikes caught our attention as did our first White-plumed Honeyeaters, Red-rumped Parrots and 20 Eastern Rosellas in dribs and drabs. We stopped frequently for birds like White-winged Choughs, Grey-crowned Babblers, Brown Falcons and Goshawks and many Rufous Songlarks. On a little pond there were two Pink-eared Ducks.
In the afternoon we reached Junee STW where not all managed the fence but some saw two Musk Ducks, male and female, two Australasian Shovelers, 30 Pink-eared Ducks, Hoary-headed Grebe, Black Swans. An Australian Reed-Warbler charmed and showed well, and 10 Straw-necked Ibis were in the paddocks.
As the sun set we reached the lovely Historic Hydro Motor Inn and supped on the best pizza I’ve ever had. Standards of food and wine are very high in Leeton.
Day 2 Monday 21 September Leeton Hay Balranald
Mallee Dragon by participant Anne Brophy
An early morning walk at 6.30am to the oval caught a Mistletoebird, lots of Blue-faced Honeyeaters, a very beautiful Royal Spoonbill and a Great Egret. In the white blossoms Bernice had Little Friarbirds and there was a Pacific Black Duck on the roof of the Hydro, looking like a weather vane. Sacred Ibis and flocks of White-plumed Honeyeaters delayed a great breakfast by Anthony.
Fivebough Swamp with a bit less water than expected still dripped with flowering acacias. The channel had two Yellow-billed Spoonbills and the woodland on first entry had very good views of Variegated Fairy-wrens, many Weebills and Yellow Thornbills full of fast-moving sugar. We had Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier, 6 Glossy Ibis, 30 Red-necked Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Red-kneed Dotterels, one Black-fronted Dotterel, 20 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Black Swans, one Australian Pelican, Purple Swamphens, wall-to-wall Australian Reed-Warblers, Little Grassbirds and Golden-headed Cisticolas, but the best was 130 Whiskered Terns in breeding plumage, quite a spectacle, on the far swamp. Four Cockatiels flew over. Later, on the way out, two Stubble Quails called back and forth.
Sexy Brown Falcons pulled us up on the way to Darlington. At Yarada Rest Stop at the start of Hay Plain the paddocks were littered with cream wildflowers and Bernice spotted a Superb Parrot which glowed with the light behind us. We hunted down Grey-crowned Babblers.
During lunch on the lush Hay Plain, everyone except the leader – who was catching up on bus paperwork – saw a Black Falcon and a Little Eagle, and afterwards we stopped for Brown Songlarks displaying. As we departed a full lake at Yanga Homestead, two small parrots flew across into the saltbush. We searched them out and had exciting views of Blue-winged Parrots with White-winged Fairy-wrens and lots of Southern Whiteface in the same binocular view. Big Red Kangaroos grew more colourful as we headed back to Willow Creek Campground and there were lots of Black Kites and Whistling Kites along the road. A walk in the belah showed Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, Pallid Cuckoos calling, with Black-faced, White-browed and White-breasted Woodswallows. There was plenty of activity between the two immature Pallid Cuckoos, and later a mature Pallid showed the completely different plumage. A Singing Honeyeater eluded our keenest viewer but we promised her there’d be more. Southern Whiteface, a couple of White-winged Trillers and two-by-two Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoos. It was that time of year. Many wildflowers underlined the amount of recent rain received in the whole of south western NSW.
On the drive out, four Banded Lapwings curtailed our speed to Balranald.
Day 3 Tuesday 22 September Mungo Lake
A lovely walk to Balranald Oval in welcoming warm sunlight saw Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosella (Yellow subspecies) and heard Pallid Cuckoo calling. The gardens were a delight and Sydney should take note.
Plenty of Black Kites flew over as we headed to Mungo Lake and we stopped for the numerous Australasian Pipits and White-winged Fairy-wrens, trying to make them into Redthroats but no luck there. A walk within the bright mallee brought Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. Blue bonnets flew two-by-two, as did Australian Ringnecks, but the highlight was 3 White-fronted Chats just before the Mungo turn-off. White-backed Swallows at the lunette – Walls of China dazzled us. A Redthroat called but was never seen in the constant wind howl back at the lunch spot beside the Tourist Centre.
Driving towards Redbank Weir on the return journey we had great views of a Red-capped Robin with a young male looking a bit orange. Our first Brown Treecreeper appeared in the older trees and on the drive home Brown Falcons were spectacular with their wizardry of flight.
Day 4 Wednesday 23 September Wyperfeld NP
Red-capped Robin by participant Anne Brophy
Down the road for a walk to the Murrumbidgee river at 2° which was highlighted by two Collared Sparrowhawks, a male and an obviously much larger female, sitting at the top of the River Red Gum in the sun. Memorable views with the deep white-brown river behind made for quintessential Australiana. There were also Yellow/Crimson Rosellas, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and the usual birdlife fare.
After our huge breakfast, Benaree Lake brought some Pelicans and cuddling White-breasted Woodswallows.
70 Regent Parrots delayed and wowed the party, whizzing back and forth, glowing in the morning light. A Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater took second place.
Hattah NP showed a Great Crested Grebe, Australasian Grebes, Grey Teal, Black-tailed Native Hens, Apostlebirds and White-winged Choughs. The flowering mallee at the park’s entrance was fantastic. A Crested Bellbird with wonderful red/orange eye showed well, plus Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, Little Friarbirds and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills; Mallee dragons amused us catching ants.
The entrance to Wyperfield welcomed us with a Major Mitchell Cockatoo, and turned out to have two pairs that kept us company during lunch and walks. A pair of Striped Honeyeaters had the most extraordinary nest made from feathers like a doona; pink Galah and long Emu feathers made it the cosiest nest seen. A party of Emu ran over the hills, probably from the Striped Honeyeaters! Four Brown Treecreepers and the now obligatory Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and Southern Whiteface appeared.
On arrival at Pinaroo’s lagoon there was a dear Australasian Grebe chick and some Hardhead Ducks. Another great day.
Day 5 Thursday 24 September Pinnaroo Karte Billiat Waikerie
It was a balmy 6° this morning, what a delight beside the Pinnaroo Wetlands walkways where the highlight was an Australian Spotted Crake looking brilliant foraging along the water’s edge. There was also a Black-tailed Native Hen, and an Australian Reed Warbler sang the glory of the “warm” weather, in the sun of course!
On the way out to Karte Conservation Park, Blue Bonnets stopped the bus and a Purple-crowned Lorikeet held us up for a fleeting view by the leader only. The mallee was flowering at Karte and 60 White-breasted Woodswallows chirped and swooped, together with a few Masked and Black-faced. A White-fronted Honeyeater startled us and then followed a deluge of Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, before White-eared Honeyeaters showed and on the ground two White-browed Babblers kept us hunting.
On the way out, two Wedge-tailed Eagles thermalled and brought us to Billiat NP which was mostly burnt but had the most extraordinary wildflowers, breath-takingly unique with Grey Currawongs calling tantalisingly in the background.
After lunch in Loxton we stopped just before Moorook at Yatco Lagoon to languish over Shelducks. The old Waikerie STW had a Whiskered Tern and further on Waikerie’s new STW had more Shelducks and Australasian Grebe, but the star was a Black-shouldered Kite, glorious views of the eye markings wowing the patrons. Ramco Lagoon Nature Reserve was really good, providing two Red-capped Plovers, couple of Black-fronted Dotterels, more Shelducks with striped ducklings that were quite chunky, and the difference between male and female Shelduck was established. Little Grassbirds called and plenty of Coot and Teal were seen.
Day 6 Friday 25 September Waikerie Gluepot
Black-shouldered Kite by participant Anne Brophy
From an early start we drove straight to the much anticipated Gluepot that had not much mallee flowering and not that many wildflowers compared to what we had seen on the journey from Sydney. All the same, the place never fails to deliver and it wasn’t long before Taylorville Station produced two immature, relatively plain, and one adult, perhaps two, heavily striated Shy Heathwrens. We had long lavish views and were suitably impressed. They were quite confiding once they decided we were no threat. We stopped for a round-the-mulberry-bush style chase for the Gilbert’s Whistler, masses of Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters interfered until a flap of wings alerted us to an Owlet Nightjar at eye-level out in the sunshine, my, a 180 degree swivel of the neck and it flew straight back into its shoulder-height hollow, oh the joys of mallee high country! We were humming now.
We sat in the hide as the day warmed and watched Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters up-close and personal.
Lunch was where the well-known Black-eared Cuckoo had been seen but the time of day was all wrong and Brian dipped again. The White-browed Treecreepers were great compensation.
After a rest we walked the cliffs of the Murray River and had two Caspian Terns, Australasian Darters. Two Purple-crowned Lorikeets haunted us but refused to stop. After a gorgeous sunset there was a great pub dinner but hard to keep the eyes open.
Day 7 Saturday 26 September Waikerie Adelaide
Our 6:00am walk along the cliffs saw assorted juvenile Whistling Kite, fleeting views of the evasive Purple-crowned Lorikeets. With breakfast in Nuriootpa we saw Adelaide Rosellas, Musk Lorikeets, Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots; parrot heaven in the carpark, and the best views of a Little Grassbird we had ever seen. A magnificent end to a truly wonderful tour, thanks to Bernice, Anne and Brian.
By Janene Luff guiding for FTB