Lynn Pedler in his 1992 review (see Note 1) of all Chestnut-breasted
Whiteface sightings reported a new site 12 km south-east or south (both
directions were given) of Coober Pedy in northern SA where three birds were
seen in 1990. Finding myself spending a night in this spot bizarrely
described by locals as beautiful, I went for the birds at dawn on 16 August
2002 with no great expectation of finding the site, let alone the birds.
Here is what I found.
There is a conspicuous signpost to a monument (see Note 2) 12 km south of
Coober Pedy on the Stuart Highway. The memorial is set back from the road
and parking is easy. Looking east from the monument, one sees a flat and
reasonably well vegetated gibber plain with two conical hills about 2 km
away, The Pyramid on the left and the Crater to the right. The plain is
bounded on the left by three unnamed low hills at about 1 to 1.5 km. The
plain immediately in front of the memorial is obviously well frequented by
people and vehicles. An hour searching this area turned up nothing. Within
five minutes of leaving this plain, I turned up four Chestnut-breasted
Whiteface which arrived as two separate pairs. Directions to the area where
they were seen are given for someone starting at the monument.
In the line of sight from the monument to the gap between the rightmost low
hill and the Pyramid, there is a low, largely bare gibbery ridge with very
little vegetation, just a few stunted trees. The closest point of the ridge
to the monument is half a kilometre away. Between the three hills and the
ridge is an area, maybe two to four sq km in extent, of suitable
Chestnut-breasted Whiteface habitat as described by Pedler. There was little
evidence of human traffic here except for one reasonably well used vehicular
track in the direction of the Pyramid. The birds appeared
within seconds of playing the BOC taped calls for about 15 seconds and posed
beautifully on the tops of the vegetation giving perfect views at close
distance for maybe 5 minutes. I have no idea how many birds were in the
whole area as I left shortly after the sighting.
Maybe the locals are right after all about the place being beautiful.
Yip yip yip,
(1) Pedler, L. 1992. Review of the status and distribution of the
Chestnut-breasted Whiteface Aphelocaphala pecotralis. South Australian
(2) The monument is to Will Hutchinson, a 14 year old who found the first
opal in the Coober Pedy area near here. The opal mines are not too far away;
at the Pyramid and the Crater certainly and leases by the Stuart Highway
are only 5 km away. What with that and the human traffic, this site could be
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