Flinders Ranges Spring 2010 Trip Report

To: "" <>
Subject: Flinders Ranges Spring 2010 Trip Report
From: Tim Dolby <>
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 2010 23:47:45 +0000
Hi all,

I've just returned from a family trip to the Flinders Ranges, see below a 
report of the trip. For the report with photos see my web site at (Big thanks to Jon Thornton and Geoff Jones for 
the use of a couple of excellent photos.)

IN SPRING 2010 with family and friends I visited the Flinders Ranges in South 
Australia. Just prior to this trip I'd just been the Alice Springs in the 
Northern Territory (see my report Alice 2010) and I was intrigued to see how 
the Flinders Ranges compared with the MacDonnell Ranges, especially considering 
all the rain that the arid lands of central Australia had been having. I wasn't 
let down. This trip also contrasted sharply with a previous trip to the area, 
mainly because the Flinders Ranges were totally green! And purple. Due to large 
areas of the invasive Salvation Jane (Echium plantagineum). Salvation Jane is a 
name particularly used in South Australia, while Victoria we tend to call this 
plant Patterson's Curse, and in its native Europe it's known as Purple Viper's 

The Flinders Ranges are located 450 km north of Adelaide, and have a wide range 
of habitats including dry woodlands, mallee, and rivers and creeks lined with 
River Red Gums. We had driven in from Melbourne stopping at Hattah-Kulkyne 
National Park and then Broken Hill on the way up; and on the way back the Clare 
Valley and northern Wyperfeld National Park.

Like the MacDonnell's the Flinders were similarly stunning, particularly in 
terms of the greenness of the place, and the wildflowers. The native pine 
forests before Wilpena Pound were carpeted in green grass, looking more like a 
pine forest in Germany, and the Triodia grasslands were all flowering. I found 
flowering Sturt's Desert Pea at Wilkawillina Gorge. It's an amazing experience 
to stumble across this plant in the wild in an unexpected situation. Spring had 
bought a carnival of colour to the ranges, with many flowering plants and birds 
celebrating another breeding season. Although I'd visited the area a few times 
before I thought I'd chase down some of the Parks specialist species such a 
Short-tailed Grasswren, Elegant Parrot, Redthroat and Chirruping Wedgebill to 
name a few.

While in the Flinders (once again) I stayed at Willow Springs Station, 21km 
north east of Wilpena Pound. A great camping site, all the campgrounds here are 
without exception excellent. I remember Graeme Chapman once writing that it was 
the 'preferred' campsite in the Flinders - which sums it up. We stayed in the 
campground at the end of a line of five campgrounds, space about 300 metres 
apart. There's also a campground situated at the base of the Stokes Hill 
appropriately called the Grasswren Campground (can it get any better than 
that!). Willow Springs is an excellent place to base oneself to see 
Short-tailed Grasswren. (For further information see

The bare spinifex covered slopes at the Stokes Hill Lookout is one of the most 
reliable places to look for Short-tailed Grasswren - sometimes (locally) known 
as 'Flinders Ranges Grasswren'. Once considered a sub-species of the Striated 
Grasswren, it has evolved sufficiently to be considered a separate species, 
differing by having a shorter tail and the black moustache is broken by 
white-streaking. The turn-off to the lookout is 13 km north of Wilpena and then 
another 2 km to the lookout. Short-tailed Grasswren is found over most of 
Stokes Hill, although they are reliably seen west of the ridge-line northwest 
of the car park. From the top of the lookout I headed south-east to a fence 
line 200 m from the top and the walk down and followed the fence east for about 
500 m. On the north side there is a small valley sloping down (you can see the 
top of the hill on your left side). Search amongst the spinifex and 
Xanthorrhoea grasstrees in the gullies 50 m to 200 m from the fence I found a 
pair within 30 min or so.

This year Short-tailed Grasswren seem to having a great year, being present in 
far more numbers that previous years. For example, on the way back to lookout I 
found a pair of Short-tailed Grasswren in the small gully just 20 metres north 
of the lookout. I returned to this gully the next day to show my family the 
Grasswren and found them within a minute of arriving at the lookout. I can't 
remember a time when I could show off Grasswren with so little effort.

I also got onto Short-tailed Grasswren nearby on the Appealina Ruins Track, 
which is north of the turnoff to Willow Springs / 5.5 km north of the Stokes 
Hill turn-off. They were in the flatland immediately beside the road about a 
kilometre from the turn-off. They were extremely forthcoming and at one point a 
family of Grasswren even crossed the road. This is the area immediately in 
front of the 'Bounceback: Bush Bird Barometre' sign. Along the creek near the 
ruins I also saw Redthroat, and at both Stokes Hill and the Ruins, several 
flocks of Elegant Parrot flew through.

At Willow Springs there were a couple of birds of interest. One was Crimson 
Rosella, here there was an interesting subspecies known as subadelaidae, a 
yellowy-orange mix between the yellow race flaveolus and Adelaide race 
Adelaidae. The Australian Ringneck in the Flinders is also fascinating, being 
in the hybrid zone between Port Lincoln race zonarius and Mallee race barnardi, 
having features of both, being slightly dull, but having as black head.

Also around the campsite and up and down the creekline was (in no particular 
order) Southern Whiteface, Variegated Fairy-wren, Rufous Whistler, Collared 
Sparrowhawk and Brown Goshawk, and at night Southern Boobook and Australian 
Owlet-nightjar, Inland and Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Weebill, Southern 
Whiteface, Little Corella, Striated Pardalote, Red-capped Robin, Tree Martin 
and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. Red Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Euro (a 
short-stocky kangaroo) were also found around Willow Springs and Stokes Hill. 
Euro preferring upper-slopes, Red Kangaroo the open plains, and Western Grey 
Kangaroo lightly wooded areas. At the start of the drive into Stokes Hill and 
Willow Springs you'd usually see Brown Songlark and Emu were common.

3 km north of Willow Springs is the turn-off to Wilkawillina Gorge - along 
Wirrealpa Rd and then Wilkawillina Gorge Rd. Wilkawillina Gorge is a Red-gum 
lined creek-bed and gorge, surrounded by ridges and hills covered in Callitris 
pines. Along the river before the gorge there were large pools of water after 
the rain. The birds here were excellent, reminiscent of the gorges of central 
Australia, and a number of similar species. Birds around a large waterhole 
between the carpark and the beginning of the gorge included Red-backed 
Kingfisher, Elegant Parrot, Rainbow Bee-eater, Peaceful and less commonly 
Diamond Dove, Little Corella, Rufous Songlark and Striated Pardalote. Little 
Woodswallow was common, at the beginning of the gorge, along with Tree Martin 
hawking at the top of the cliff faces. Little Woodswallow is uncommon this far 
south, being the southern extreme of its range. It was really nice to link up 
with this bird - it was a feature of the gorges of the MacDonnell Ranges. 
White-winged Fairy-wren was seen in the moonscape area just north west of the 
creek-line just before enter the gorge.

There's an easy 10.8 km walk along the gorge, called the Mt Billy Creek 
Trailhead. Bird seen along here included a few Grey-fronted Honeyeater and 
Redthroat; as well a single Yellow-footed Rock-Wallaby, some Red Kangaroo and 
Euro were common. Other birds seen include Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australian 
Raven, White-browed Babbler, Grey Shrike-thrush (there wonderful call 
reverberating up and down the gorge), Yellow-throated Miner, Spiny-cheeked and 
White-plumed Honeyeater. Also Along the gorge, on a small ridge line I came 
across flowering Sturt Desert-Pea - as mentioned it was great to stumble across 
this plant in the wild.

In the area between 8 km and 12 km from the turnoff to Wilkawillina Gorge 
there's a nice section of mallee with some patches of Eremophila, with a 
particularly good area for birding between the two crossings of Mt Billy Creek. 
Birds seen here include Mallee Ringneck, Mulga Parrot, Grey-fronted, 
Yellow-plumed, White-plumed, Variegated Fairy-wren, Crimson Chat, Weebill, 
Masked and White-browed Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird and Red-capped Robin. I 
also found Chirruping Wedgebill 5 km down the 7 km Wilkawillina Gorge Track, in 
areas of scattered bluebush, wattle and saltbush, as well as Southern 
Whiteface, White-winged Fairy-wren and some Crimson Chat.

Wilpena Pound is dominated by areas of native pine, mallee woodland, heathland 
and River Red Gums along creeks. Surprisingly one of the best areas for birds 
is near the information centre, where there were Apostlebird, Yellow-throated 
Miner, Striated Pardalote, Australian Ringneck, Crimson Rosella (race 
subadelaidae) and Red-rumped Parrot. The Mount Ohlssen Bagge and Drought 
Busters walks were particularly rewarding, with unexpected finds being Shy 
Heathwren and White-fronted and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater (the northern South 
Australian limit for this species), seen when taking a wrong turn in the track, 
and heading into some scrub on the wide of the gorge. Also along here were 
Inland, Chestnut-rumped and Yellow Thornbill, Red-capped Robin, Singing, 
White-plumed, Brown-headed, Spiny-cheeked, Yellow-throated Miner and Red 
Wattlebird White-winged Triller, Brown Treecreeper, Spotted and Striated 
Pardalote, White-browed Babbler, and Grey Butcherbird.

Brachina Gorge was washed out when we were there, however a brief stop at the 
eastern end produced Elegant Parrot, Redthroat and Variegated Fairy-wren, 
White-browed Babbler, Southern Whiteface, and honeyeaters such as Spiny-cheeked 
and White-plumed. Parachilna Gorge, 10 km east of Parachilna, produced 
Redthroat, Variegated Fairy-wren, White-browed Babbler, Spiny-cheeked and 
Singing Honeyeater, Zebra Finch, Peregrine Falcon and Black-fronted Dotterel, 
Dusky Woodswallow, Rainbow Bee-eater, and in the flat areas on Wilpena Road 
just 2 km east of Parachilna and Blinman there was Chirruping Wedgebill.

The trip back to Melbourne was via the Clare Valley, known for its Riesling. It 
was also where I watch the 2010 Grand Final draw - disappointing, but only for 
a week, when the mighty Pies stormed home. Of real interest in Clare was the 
number of parrots - if anyone had wondered where they'd gone in Victoria it's 
here, in South Australia. Some of the parrot seen included Purple-crowned, Musk 
and Little Lorikeet, Red-rumped Parrot, Australian Ringneck, and the Adelaide 
subspecies of the Crimson Rosella (race fleurieuensis). Interestingly this was 
the fourth significant subspecies of the Crimson Rosella I'd seen for the trip 
- which include 'Adelaide' (two races  - fleurieuensis and subadelaidae), 
'Yellow' (race flaveolus), and of course Crimson Rosella (nominate race 

The next stop on the way home was northern Wyperfeld, where again parrots were 
on the birding agenda, with all the wonderful mallee parrot seen around the 
Casuarina Campground - 9 in total: Galah, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Little 
Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Mallee Ringneck, Mulga Parrot, Red-rumped 
Parrot, Blue Bonnet and Regent Parrot.

In the last month I'd done trips to two of the great mountain ranges in 
Australia, the Flinders and the MacDonnell's. Both were green, with the rivers 
full of water. There was also an abundance of native grasses and wild flowers, 
such as the wonderful Sturt' Desert Pea in the Flinders and the Upside Down 
Plant in the Red Centre. As a result there was lots of wonderful birds linked 
to this type of habitat, such as Grasswren and ground feeding parrots.

>From a natural history viewpoint, if you have the time and the inclination you 
>need to get inland as soon as possible.


Tim Dolby

This email, including any attachment, is intended solely for the use of the 
intended recipient. It is confidential and may contain personal information or 
be subject to legal professional privilege. If you are not the intended 
recipient any use, disclosure, reproduction or storage of it is unauthorised. 
If you have received this email in error, please advise the sender via return 
email and delete it from your system immediately. Victoria University does not 
warrant that this email is free from viruses or defects and accepts no 
liability for any damage caused by such viruses or defects.
To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU