Eyre Peninsula trip summary (longish)

Subject: Eyre Peninsula trip summary (longish)
From: Chris Tzaros <>
Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2002 08:51:44 +1100
G'day all,

For those interested in reading about, visiting or have already visited the
Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, this may be of interest.

My partner and I wanted to get away somewhere coastal for the Christmas/New
Year break, and to some place that didn't attract countless thousands of
beach loving non-birdwatching people.  This virtually put Victoria out of
the equation and anywhere remotely drivable in NSW.  So we headed west, to
good old SA.  I've heard some really nice reports of the Eyre Peninsula,
and Tony Russell is always ranting and raving about how good birding in SA
is, so after checking the  birding-aus archives and digging-out some juicy
trip reports, we were on our way.  National Parks staff in Port Lincoln
were also tremendously helpful, and even gave precise directions to
localities of special interest for particular species.

It was very tempting to spent a little time around Adelaide to check-out
all the Painted Snipe at various wetlands, but we were pushed for time and
really wanted to head further west.  In hindsight, we should have spent at
least a day in Adelaide, especially now having returned to my computer and
seeing the birding-aus report of Long-toed Stint in one of the suburbs.  

Anyway, we made the drive from Melbourne to Port Augusta comfortably in day
1, though all birding was conducted from the drivers seat at speeds of at
least 100 kph.  

Day 2 began with a visit to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens in Pt. Augusta -
close to the caravan park and supposedly a good spot for Elephant (Elegant)
Parrots and Redthroat.  Within a couple of minutes, had great views of a
pair of Redthroat, but we failed to tick Elegants for the entire trip.
Luckily, they occur in Vic. so they'll keep.  Other good birds were Little
Crows, Chirruping Wedgebills and Rufous Fieldwren, along with stacks of
White-winged Wrens and White-browed Babblers.  

We then departed for Coffin Bay, right at the south-west tip of the
peninsula, where we spent the next 6 days.  On the way however, we stopped
at Whyalla wetlands for a coffee break and I was surprised to see some good
birds in what looked like recently constructed wetlands.  Good birds
comprised 6 Common Sandpipers (actually common for a change), a Glossy
Ibis, several Banded and Black-winged Stilts, and lots of Red-kneed Dotterels.

On arrival at Coffin Bay, we thought our hopes of finding a quite place
would be shattered as the caravan park was absolutely packed and the town
as busy as an ant nest.  We followed the signs to the National Park and
headed towards the Black Springs camp site.  Though only about 13
kilometres from the township, this drive took an hour, in low range 4WD in
soft deep sand - interesting experience!  We reached the camp ground at
set-up in the most picturesque place available right on the beach
overlooking the blue waters of Port Douglas.  There were surprisingly few
people in the national park, especially at this camp site.

Much of Coffin Bay NP, along with Lincoln NP, has been recently burnt in
bushfires.  There is very little unburnt vegetation so I thought my chances
of finding the elusive Western Bird would be slim......and they were!  It
was the one species I really wanted to 'tick' but after hours of crawling
through thick mallee and sitting and playing calls, I failed to locate any.

Other species I did manage to 'tick' were Rock Parrots at Point Avoid on
the south end of the park (the site mentioned in Thomas and Thomas) and
also a bigger flock at the beginning of the seven mile beach track on the
northern side of the park.  A pair of Western Yellow Robins were seen
constructing a nest in one patch of thick unburnt mallee, and we had great
views of a dark phase Eastern Reef Egret 'fishing' along the beach.  Other
good birds seen were Hooded Plovers, Grey Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Osprey,
Pied and Sooty Oycs. and lots of seabirds casually watched from camp
(Fluttering and Short-tailed Shearwaters, Aust. Gannets, Pacific Gulls
etc.).  The most common birds were Silvereye, White-browed Scrubwrens (the
very pretty race maculata) and Brush Bronzewing.

We decided to spent some time in Lincoln NP but the windy conditions only
saw us there for a few hours, which was enough time to find two groups of
Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens.  These were at Taylors Landing on the edge of
mallee vegetation.  I was aware that other observers had spotted Variegated
FW close to this area, so I was very cautious in making the ID, but I
obtained great views and called them in to just a couple of metres away,
viewing the male bird in full sunlight and confirming a positive ID.  No

We reluctantly left Coffin Bay and headed back to Pt. Augusta where we
wanted to search for a few more arid land birds.  We caught up with Peter
Langdon who knows the country west of town very well, and he showed us some
sites where we looked for Thick-billed Grasswren among other things.  While
with Peter, I 'ticked' Ground Cuckoo-shrike ( a flock of 7) and while
having lunch, I spotted a group of small groups in the distance which
turned-out to be Slender-billed Thornbills ('tick' again).  We saw 4
Freckled Duck on one small dam on Pandurra Station which was also nice. We
dipped on the Grasswren that day, but Julie and I returned the following
day (much earlier in the morning) to one particular site accessible from a
public road, and we managed to see three Grasswrens within about an hour.
Very shy and frustrating little birds to get a decent look at.

We also drove further west past Iron Knob on the road to Ceduna, heading
for Lake Gilles CP to try for Rufous Treecreeper.  While driving, a
treecreeper flew in front of the car and we stopped to find a group of 5
Rufous TC in roadside and adjacent private mallee.  'Tick'.  We also got a
great look at Port Lincoln (Australian) Ringneck.

All in all, it was a fantastic and memorable trip.  Great birds and even
better beaches, and I got 9 lifers among 170 species all up.  Tony - I
think you're right mate!


Chris Tzaros
Co-ordinator, Threatened Bird Network
Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union) 
National Office
415 Riversdale Rd
Hawthorn East, Vic., 3123
Ph: 03-9882-2622
Fax: 03-9882-2677
Website address:

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