Easter Birding in the SA Outback

Subject: Easter Birding in the SA Outback
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2004 09:25:23 +1000
Dear Birding-Ausers,

My wife, Rosemary, and I spent 10 days over Easter in some of the South
Australian outback (or nearly in the outback, anyway).  We had an excellent

We went to the Flinders Ranges, the Gammon Ranges, Lyndhurst at the bottom
of the Strzelecki Track, Marree at the bottom of the Birdsville Track and
the area just north of Port Augusta.

In our planning, we had targeted a few key species.  We searched fairly
hard for the Short-tailed Grasswren (which will be a split from Striated
Grasswren in the near future).  We couldn't find one at the highly
recommended Stokes Hill Lookout (just outside the Flinders Ranges National
Park), even though we searched for five hours one evening and the next
morning.  We eventually saw one after an additional hour searching near the
track into the Appealinna ruins.

We spent a morning looking for Painted Finch at Weetootla Gorge in the
Gammon Ranges.  The walk into the gorge was very pleasant, but we couldn't
find any finches other than Zebra.

We also searched long and hard for Thick-billed Grasswren and
Chestnut-breasted Whiteface at Mount Lyndhurst, finally finding two of the
former and four of the latter.  We spent two evenings and two mornings at
the traditional sites on Mount Lyndhurst station - a total of about 10 or
12 hours with poor views of a single grasswren on the first and morning and
another on the second morning and excellent views of a group of 4
whitefaces on the second morning.  It was lovely scenery with reasonably
pleasant conditions (ie only a modest breeze and coolish in the mornings
and evenings) but pretty hard work for the occasional reward.

Other good birds we saw in these areas were Elegant Parrot, Cinnamon
Quail-thrush, Rufous Fieldwren, Grey-headed Honeyeater, Chirruping
Wedgebill, White-backed Swallow (all of which seemed reasonably common) and
one juvenile Grey Falcon at a water retention basin near the Leigh Creek
Coalmine (which is south of Lyndhurst).  Birds we missed were Inland
Dotterel (which I thought we would eventually bump into, but didn't) and
expected species like Crimson and Orange Chats, Budgerigar and Redthroat.
We also saw a pair of Black Falcons on the way home and lots of Banded
Stilts at Port Augusta.  The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens at Port
Augusta, while big on reputation, were very quiet, with only White-fronted
Honeyeaters of much interest.  In fact, it was very dry and dusty in the
whole outback we visited and obviously has been for some time, which
probably accounts for the low numbers of birds and our difficulty in
finding them.

Finally, we took the opportunity to look for Ostrich near Port Augusta.
There have been feral birds in the area since, apparently, the 1920's,
which were from the end of the first Ostrich boom.  Many of these were
rounded up in the early 1990's at the start of the second Ostrich boom, but
apparently some still roamed free.  It is probable that more birds have
been released into these farms at the end of this second boom, augmenting
the small existing population.  Using some Birding-Aus information, we
found out the properties that still had some birds and organised with an
owner to be allowed to look for them.  We spent an interesting morning
trying to find some Ostriches among the Emus roaming on this property and
eventually found a small flock of 6, one adult (presumably male) and five

The weather was interesting.  It was quite warm to hot for most of our time
away.  For the three days at Lyndhurst, the top temperature was 35 or 36
degrees C, which was a fair bit hotter than I expected.  We were forced to
sit in the shade and read for a few hours after lunch and to drink a few
beers at sundown because of the heat.  However, the nights were very
pleasantly warm.  It was quite a contrast with Ballarat on the way home to
Melbourne last Sunday, where the temperature was 11 degrees C at 4 pm.

We ultimately saw 124 species from the departure door in Melbourne to the
return door, also in Melbourne.

The new Subaru Outback went very well.  It came back with lots of extra
dust that I am hoping Ro will clean off in the near future.



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