Gluepot & Billiatt Trip Report

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: Gluepot & Billiatt Trip Report
From: Tim Dolby <>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2011 12:06:02 +0000
Hi birders,

A couple of weeks ago I visited Gluepot Reserve and Billaitt CP. See below a 
trip report. To view the full report with images see


Tim Dolby

This report covers a winter trip (early July) to Birds Australia's Gluepot 
Reserve. Part of the Riverland Biosphere Reserve on the South Australia and NSW 
border, it is located in the centre of the largest block of intact Mallee 
woodlands in Australia. On the way home from Gluepot we stopped at Billiatt 
Conservation Park, another Mallee reserve 150 south of Gluepot. BIG thanks to 
Greg Oakley for the use of some of his images in this report, Kay Parkin for 
her images of a Red-lored Whistler, and to Ian Montgomery for the use of his 
Scarlet-chested Parrot images. To see more of Ian's superb photography visit 
Birdway at

Despite being the middle of winter I somehow managed to convince a couple of 
friends of mine - Greg Oakley and Fiona Parkin - to join me, with a vague (but 
obviously convincing) promise of seeing Scarlet-chested Parrot! Being a 
mid-winter trip I was also interest to compare the birdlife on the reserve with 
previous spring visits.

Getting There
Gluepot's located 64 km north of Waikerie. The turn-off to Gluepot is from 
Morgan Rd, 30 km east of Morgan, 84 km west of Renmark (17 km north Waikerie). 
The Reserve is signposted – from Morgan Rd travel 1.5 km to the first gate and 
follows the signs. The last 50 km into the reserve is via a well-maintained 
dirt track traversable by conventional 2WD and caravans, although I'd recommend 
AWD or 4WD, particularly after rain.

While at Gluepot we camped at the Babbler Campsite, 3 km east from the Visitor 
Centre. No wood fires are permitted on the Reserve, not good if you're visiting 
in Winter! Although we brought in a little gas heater (which attached the top 
of a gas bottle), perfect for cold evenings. When visiting Gluepot you also 
need to be self-sufficient, bring in all your water and food.There is an entry 
fee of $5 per day per vehicle, campers $10 per night per vehicle.

Another thing worth noting is that Gluepot's located in a fruit fly control 
zone (linked to the Riverland district). There's a checkpoint at the South 
Australia border, where you'll have to discard all our fresh fruit and 
vegetables. Here we quickly at most of our apples, and then restocked in 

On the way up to Gluepot the signs were looking good for some good winter 
birding. Near Wycheproof we came across a flock of 15 Brown Quail feeding on 
the roadside. It's been a great year for this species with a very high report 
rate across south-east Australia. A stop-off at Terrick Terrick National Park 
produced large number of open woodland birds, include large numbers of Rufous 
Songlark - a species that usually migrates north during winter. In an area just 
south of Reigal's Rock we counted at least 20 birds. We also got onto Spotted 
Harrier, another migrant that usually heads north during winter.

Lunn Road (the road to Gluepot)
The drive into Gluepot is always interesting. On the ferry across the Murray 
River from Waikerie you can usually see waterbirds such as Australian Darter, 
White-faced and White-necked Heron, Great and Intermediate Egret, and in the 
trees along the Murray, Little Corella, Blue-faced Honeyeater and Pied 
Butcherbird. Once you turn into Lunn Rd, the road into Gluepot, large numbers 
of Yellow Rosella (race flaveolus of the Crimson) start to appear, as well as 
Common Bronzewing, and Crested Pigeon.

As you drive further north the Yellow Rosella start to disappear, to be 
replaced Australian Ringneck ('Mallee' race barnardi), Blue Bonnet (yellow 
vented race haematogaster), and Mulga Parrot. A particularly good spot to see 
these parrots is a cattle drinking tray about 10 km from the turn-off. Once you 
reach Taylorville Station and then Gluepot, the habitat starts to become pure 
Mallee. tThe roadside along here is perfect for Chestnut-quail Thrush. I've 
never failed to see them on the way in, usually running into the bush from the 
roadside. On a trip to Gluepot in 2001 I remember seeing 6 Quail-thrush before 
I'd reached the Gluepot's Information Centre. Also along the track you can also 
see Emu, Western Grey and Red Kangaroo.

The Babbler Campsite and Surrounding Woodlands
One of the great experiences at Gluepot is waking up on a sunny morning at the 
Babbler Campsite after a cold night. During the night the temperature dropped 
to minus 5 - and our tents were completely covered  in ice. Fortunately I'd 
planned for this. I deliberately packed two sleeping bags and two 
self-inflating air mattress. During the night I was actually warm.

The open woodlands around the Babbler Campsite provide some of the best birding 
at Gluepot. There are two walks from the Babbler Campsite - a south walk and 
north walk.

The Babbler Camp South Walk, about 3 km long, passes through an excellent Black 
Oak (Casuarina pauper) open woodlands, with a nice range of shrubs as an 
understorey, such as Wait-a-while (Acacia colletioides), Spinebush (Acacia 
nysophylla), Bullock Bush (Alectryon oleifolius), and Desert Cassia (Senna 

Along the track there was also a nice range of flowering Eremophila, including 
the purple flowered Silver Emu-bush (E. scoparia), red-floweried Tar Bush (E. 
glabra glabra) and Small Tar Bush (E. glabra murrayeana), Turpentine (E. 
sturtii), an the delightful Twin-leaf Emu-bush (E. oppositifolia), which was 
flowering profusely, attracting nectar feeding honeyeaters such as 
Spiny-cheeked and White-fronted.

Many of the arid woodland species that are uncommon at other areas of Australia 
are surprisingly common at Gluepot - testifying to the wilderness quality of 
the reserve. This is particularly evident along the South Walk. In one 
particular spot, just 200 metres from the campground, we had a mixed-species 
feeding flock of Gilbert's Whistler, Crested Bellbird, White-browed 
Treecreeper, Chestnut Quail-thrush Splendid Fairy-wren (with a male in full 
breeding plumage, unusual for this time of year), Red-capped Robin and 
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill. Not bad. Further, all these birds showed no sign of 
being particularly shy, and we could have birded with them for as long as we 

Similar species were seen along the start of the North Walk, with the addition 
of Striped Honeyeater. Striated Grasswren and Shy Heathwren are also found 
along this walk; on a ridge with Mallee with an understorey of Spinifex 
(Triodia scariosa scariosa) halfway along the walk.

Due to recent rains, the ground surface along the both walks were covered with 
an extremely complex cryptogamic crust. Microscopic plants, such as small 
mosses, lichens and algae together with slime from bacteria and fungi, formed a 
fantastic skin-like coating over the ground at Gluepot, literally holding the 
soil together. Out of interest, I've read somewhere the greatest biodiversity 
on Earth is within 2 cm of the soil surface.

Other birds seen around the Babbler Campsite included Inland Thornbill, Hooded 
Robin, Grey Butcherbird, Grey Shrike-thrush, White-browed Babbler, Jacky 
Winter, Grey Butcherbird, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Pallid Cuckoo, Restless 
Flycatcher, Hooded and Red-capped Robin, while Regent and Mulga Parrot flew 
through the campsite itself. Nocturnal birds at the campsite included Southern 
Boobook and Australian Owlet-nightjar. Although not recorded on this trip, 
around the campsite I'd previously recorded Chestnut-crowned Babbler, 
Black-eared Cuckoo and Spotted Nightjar.

Track 8 T-section
The T-section is about 9 km east of the Information Centre (4 km east of the 
Babbler Campsite) at the end of Track 8, at the beginning of the Malleefowl 
Walk. This is a well-known site for Black-eared Miner. The key features to look 
for when distinguishing the level of hybridisation between Black-eared Miner 
and Yellow-throated Miner:

1. The darkness of the rump - the darker the rump, the less hybridization. It 
is worth noting that the local Yellow-throated Miner is often referred to as 
White-rumped Miner (race flavigula).

2. The darkness of the feathers under the chin/lower jaw. Again the darker the 
colour, the less hybridized the bird is. In essence, true Black-eared Miner the 
colour of feathers on the chin are darker than the feathers on the throat.

I'd seen Black-eared Miner at the T-section on my first visit to Gluepot. At 
the time I wasn't actually looking for them. I'd parked here to walk south 
along the Birdseye Border Track to look for Striated Grasswren. After getting 
some excellent views of the Grasswren (at one point I was surrounded by 4 
birds, only several metres away, and all calling), I returned to the T-section 
only to find a flock of Black-eared Miner sitting in a tree above where I'd 
parked the car. The area around the T-section has since been burnt out in fire 
in 2006. However the Black-eared Miner are still here. On this trip we saw a 
flock of 20 birds plus, most of which were hybrids.

Along the Malleefowl Walk, which walks south from the T-section, look in the 
larger clumps of Spinifex for Striated Grasswren. Halfway along the walk 
there's a seat to view a Malleefowl mound. The end of the walk is also reliable 
place to see the Red-lored Whistler, favouring the low mallee on low sand dunes.

Mallee Bordering Track 8
One of the best areas of Mallee bushland at Gluepot is north of Track 8, 
particularly the area just north and northwest of the T-section. A good way to 
access this area is via the  Birdseye Border Track, parking between the 
T-section and Grasswren Tank. Stop on the any of the decent sand-dune 
ridgelines that runs east to west (there's a nice dune about 700 m from the 
T-section) and then walk west into the Mallee.

The best birding is about 500 metres in from the track, where the main trees 
are White Mallee (Eucalyptus dumosa), Red Mallee (E. oleosa), Yorrell (E. 
gracilis) particularly on the brown soils, and on the sand dunes Ridge-fruited 
Mallee (E. incrassata), and there is a nice understorey mosaic of Spinifex 
(Triodia scariosa scariosa). Don't forget to take a compass and water - you 
don't want to get lost here. With a relatively open canopy, the bush here 
exhibits a post fire age of at least fifty years, perfect habitat for rare 
Red-lored Whistler. The main trees here are White Mallee (Eucalyptus dumosa), 
Red Mallee (E. oleosa), Yorrell (E. gracilis), particularly on the brown soils, 
and on the sand dunes Ridge-fruited Mallee (E. incrassata). There is a also 
nice understorey mosaic of Spinifex (Triodia scariosa scariosa).

We got onto one (perhaps two) Red-lored Whistler. When we approached the bird 
(s) came in for a quick look, and then disappeared - pretty standard behaviour 
for Red-lored Whistler. Every other times I seen them they've behaved in 
exactly the same way. A brief appearance, and then gone. Other birds recorded 
here were Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (the most common birds on the reserve), 
Brown-headed Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, White-browed Babbler, Inland Thornbill, 
Weebill, and we located disused Malleefowl mound.

Scarlet-chested Parrot
A major part of my logic for visiting Gluepot in winter was the possibility of 
seeing extremely rare Scarlet-chested Parrot, a potential new life tick for me. 
It wasn't good logic (i.e. visiting Gluepot on the smell of an oily rage in 
winter to see Scarlet-chested Parrot), but at least it was logic. I had also 
planned to visit Danggali Conservation Reserve, north of Gluepot, where the 
chance of seeing Scarlet-chested Parrot is probably higher, however the road 
from Canopus Dam to Tipperary Hut was closed.

The chances of seeing this rare bird in the Gluepot are always pretty slim, if 
not zero - with only a few sightings a year. However surprisingly most 
Scarlet-chested Parrot reports are made in mid-winter, and there had been a 
report of a large flock being seen three weeks earlier. My feeling twas that it 
was a good time to see parrots, particularly cohorts of post breeding immature 
birds dispersing out of their normal range looking for food. There had also 
been some good fantastic recent rain throughout much of inland Australia, 
extending back to spring 2010. This turned the vast arid areas of inland 
Australia from dry and drought stricken landscapes into lush green pastures and 
forests. In the last six months I had traveled across much of inland Australia, 
visiting the Red Centre around Alice Springs, the Flinders Ranges, the Albany 
district in Western Australia, and Kangaroo Island. With the exception of 
Western Australia, all theses sites were green and lush, with superb birding. 
Gluepot was the same; to put it mildly Gluepot is currently looking superb! 
There was plenty of plant growth, flowering gums and shrubs everywhere, and 
lots of food for hungry birds.

We were fortunate to see a large flock of approximately 20 Scarlet-chested 
Parrot, mostly immature and female birds, with a couple showing reddish 
coloring on the chest. We got these on a track east of the Information Centre. 
As mentioned, they'd also been seen at the same site three weeks earlier, 
however the observer had informed us that he'd looked for them many times since 
and they'd obviously left the area. While driving to the site I joked "What we 
need right now is a large flock of Scarlet-chested Parrot on the road directly 
in front of us." A minute later a large flock of Scarlet-chested Parrot came 
screaming down the track directly in front of us, and then flew around the car, 
some so close that I had to check the grill to see if we'd cleaned any up.

[As an aside, over the year I've unfortunately (never intentionally) hit quite 
a few birds with my car. It pains to me to mention this, the more interesting 
birds I've hit list include Red-backed Kingfisher (stupid bird few straight 
into the car door), Budgerigar, Crimson Chat, Diamond Dove, Zebra Finch, and 
White-browed Woodswallow, Australian Magpie, Galah, and Australian Raven, and a 
few others. It would have pained me to add Scarlet-chested Parrot to the list, 
although I would probably have had the best my "hit-by-car" list in Australia!]

To meet much of their fluid requirement Scarlet-chested Parrot has been linked 
to a number of plant species such as the succulent Broad-Leaf Parakeelya 
(Calandrinia balonensis), a plant found at Gluepot. Interestingly the succulent 
doing well at Gluepot at the moment is a Grasswort species - not only 
dominating Mallee landscape at Gluepot, but also across much of the 
Murray-Sunset and Hattah-Kylkyne. I've never noticed this plant before, and as 
yet I haven't been able to identify it. My feeling is that the Scarlet-chested 
Parrot are feeding on this plant, possibly explaining the large flock at 

The other thing I noted about the Scarlet-chested Parrot was their call. As 
they flew past the car I noticed their call was quite unlike any other Neophema 
I'd heard, the closest being Turquoise Parrot. There was no tsiting or buzzing. 
Their call was a far-more mellow tweeting. This surprised me. When I'd looked 
for them previously I'd been listening for a classic Neophema call. It may well 
be there, but I certainly couldn't hear it.

At the Scarlet-chested Parrot site we also came across the track of 
Short-beaked Echidna. They are found at Gluepot, indeed their image appear on 
the Gluepot banner. However they are not often seen

Other Sites at Gluepot
There are a few walks that I didn't do on this visit, but which are worth 
mentioning here. The Whistler Tank Walk (about 6 km long - so give yourself 
time) commences from the car park on Track 8 (1.5 km from the Visitor Centre). 
It takes you through a range of habitats including Mallee with an understory of 
Spinifex, Black Oak, and stands of Senna and Acacia. Keep a look out for 
Striated Grasswren, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Southern Scrub-robin, Chestnut 
crowned Babbler, White-browed Treecreeper, and Spotted Nightjar (sometimes 
flush along the track). A hide (at 2.5 km) overlooks a watering point provides 
an opportunity to see birds such as Regent Parrot, Gilbert's and Rufous 
Whistler, Striped and Pied (nomadic) Honeyeater. This walk is usually regarded 
as best place to Scarlet-chested Parrot; look for them being around the carpark 
area near Whistler Tank.

Around the Grasswren Tank, located in the northeast corner of the reserve, you 
might see include Regent Parrot, White-browed Treecreeper, Gilbert's Whistler, 
Shy Heathwren, Crested Bellbird and occasionally Black-eared Miner. 
White-browed and Brown Treecreeper are found near the near the Homestead Dam, 
and Scarlet-chested Parrot have occasionally visited the dam. The Gypsum 
lunette Walk, which starts from the main Waikerie to Gluepot road about 6 km 
south of Emu Tank, can be very active in birdlife, and is a good walk for 
Black-eared Miner and Striated Grasswren.

Billiatt Conservation Park
A brilliant little Mallee reserve, the habitat of Billiatt Conservation Park is 
comprised of sand plains and hills covered with Mallee. Running north to south 
through the Park, access is restricted to the Lameroo-Alawoona Rd. Despite 
this, there is excellent birding location along this road. The southern 
entrance to the Park is 35 km north of Lameroo. A good site for extremely rare 
Western Whipbird (race leucogaster) is on the west side of the road 42 km north 
of Lameroo (30 km south of Alawoona). Here there is a roadside pull-in (located 
400 m before the road turns east). Red-lored Whistler and Striated Grasswren 
prefer the habitat 2 to 3 km further north of here, between 43.5 and 46.5 km 
from Lameroo (around 25.5 to 28.5 km from Alawoona). Black-eared Miner (mostly 
hybridized) are also found here.

36 from Lameroo (1 km after you enter the park from the south) turn west onto a 
small bush track and pull off the road; this is a good area for birding, and it 
is well worth climbing to the near Trig Point (133 m), providing views over the 

At Billiatt Conservation Park keep a look out for birds such as Malleefowl, 
Regent Parrot, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Golden and Gilbert's Whistler, 
Southern Scrub-robin, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Black-eared 
Cuckoo, White-eared, Purple-gaped, Tawny-crowned, Spiny-cheeked, White-fronted 
and Yellow-plumed Honeyeater. While driving through the park along 
Lameroo-Alawoona Rd there's plenty of areas that are worth stopping and 
investigating, looking, and listening for bird activity.

Tim Dolby

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