Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks Trip report

Subject: Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks Trip report
From: "Nicholas Talbot" <>
Date: Sun, 03 Aug 2003 19:08:46 +1000
Here's a report from my recent expedition into inland South Australia with
Philip Griffin.
The total species count for the trip was 105 with the count starting at Port
Wakefield Road (on Adelaide's Northern outskirts) on the way out and ending
at Quorn on the way back.

Trip report ? Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks
Philip Griffin and Nick Talbot
Thursday 24 July 2003 ? Monday 28 July 2003

I had the first birding experience of the trip while waiting to be picked up
on Wakefield Street late on Thursday. A Hobby swooping into the Plane trees
in an attempt to catch an Adelaide Rosella.. the pair then took off,
conducting a neat but noisy left hand turn on Frome Road. If I were an
ancient Roman I might have regarded this as an auspicious beginning to the
trip. Sadly the weather wasn?t playing ball and managed to rain for about
half the drive up to our first camp-site which was Willow Springs near
Wilpena Pound. After a wet and windy night we headed off into the hills at
dawn to be battered by a freezing and rather damp wind for most of the
morning. Only slightly deterred we trudged about on the Spinifex covered
hills, hearing the Short-tailed Grasswrens about five times but not catching
a glimpse of them. During the morning we came across a total of four parrots
that looked like a cross between the Port Lincoln form and Mallee form of
the Ringneck Parrot. Common Bronzewings and Red Rumped parrots were
consolations during a rather depressing start to the trip. After packing up
we went and talked to Brendan Reynolds who owns Willow Springs and he
suggested another site on the way to Blinman, which happened to be on our
route to Mt Lyndhurst. On the way we were treated to the spectacle of three
Red Kangaroos standing on their hind-legs and boxing. Something neither of
us had ever seen before. In improved spirits we wandered around this new
location and managed brief views of four Short-tailed Grasswrens that seemed
to follow us around but refused to come out in the open for more than a few
seconds. Another highlight was a pair of Elegant Parrots.

We then drove straight to the Mount Lyndhurst Chestnut Breasted Whiteface
site for about an hour?s birdwatching at dusk. We didn?t find the Whitefaces
but did find some unexpected Little Woodswallows as well as a White-backed
Swallow. I also managed to lose the remains of my binocular case, which had
been falling apart since the Solomons. We then camped at Lyndhurst, which is
an excellent campsite and returned for another go at the Whitefaces early on
Saturday morning. On the Thomas and Thomas ?wrecked car site? (which I?ve
visited twice but never found the wrecked car) we missed the Whitefaces but
had fantastic close up views of Rufous Fieldwren and Chirruping Wedgebill.
After a break we resumed searching later in the morning and almost
immediately tracked down a single Chestnut-breasted Whiteface. We eventually
found six of these lovely birds, including two putting the finishing touches
on a nest; other highlights included Thick-billed Grasswren and Cinnamon
Quail-Thrush. At one stage I?m sure one of the Grasswrens actually half
bounced, half flew for more than five metres, something I?d never seen

We then headed for Mungeranie. On the way we stopped at the Clayton Wetlands
spotting Red-browed Pardalote, Black-eared Cuckoo and a very pale Blue
Bonnet. Other highlights on the journey included a flock of Budgerigar,
Pink-eared Duck, 4 Brolga, 2 Black Falcon before Cooper Creek and two very
dark phase Brown Falcons at Cooper Creek itself. We camped at Mungeranie and
found 28 species at the wetland near dusk, including Little Grassbird, male
and female Pallid Cuckoo and Black-winged Stilt.

The next day we went further up the Birdsville Track, stopping at various
areas of open water including Mirra Mitta Bore. Some of the highlights of
the day included an Inland Taipan, 6 Australian Pratincoles at one
waterhole, Spotted Harrier, lots of Wedge-tailed Eagles included two
spiralling towards the ground with their talons intertwined, Black Kites,
Crimson Chat, Horsefield?s Bronze Cuckoo, Orange Chat, Hoary Headed Grebe,
Rufous Songlark, and White-winged Triller.  We spent dusk back at Mirra
Mitta waiting for Flock Bronzewings and, hopefully, Eastern Grass Owl. Just
before dark the Flock Bronzewings turned up, although we never managed to
see them on the ground. After dark and just as we were giving up hope on the
Grass Owl, a Letter-winged Kite circled the bore and wetland giving its
strange Cockatoo call. This eased the pain of dipping on the Grass Owl.

The next morning at Mungeranie we set off through the sand dunes after
Eyrean Grasswren. The owners of the roadhouse had told us that some had been
seen on the far side of the wetland in an area I had searched unsuccessfully
in the past. As with the Whiteface, this was to be my lucky trip. After
walking for less than fifteen minutes we saw one Eyrean Grasswren, we then
heard two others but didn?t get a look at them. On the way back out we got a
good look at another one scampering across a dune and ducking into cane
grass clumps. It was noticeable that we never managed to see the wrens when
we were on the same dune as them, only if they were on the one ahead of us.
This final wren also appeared to half bounce, half fly to make its final

We then headed for home. The highlights on the way back included Banded
Lapwing, Whistling Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, lots of Emu, an unexpected
Collared Sparrowhawk (bringing the total number of Raptor species for the
trip to 12) roosting on a fence post near Lyndhurst and a very pale Brown
Falcon near Parachilna. We also stopped at the mine dam at Leigh Creek
finding all four Cormorants and all three Grebes as well as Caspian Tern and
five Darter.

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