South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia Header - Red-backed Fairy-wren
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TOTAL TRIP SPECIES : 339 NEW "LIFERS": 43
14/11/15 - Port Augusta, Adelaide to home After another look at the gardens at Port Augusta, we caught up with friends Colin and Tina in Adelaide, firstly a days birding with Colin then a congenial meal with both in the evening. On leaving Adelaide we chose to head home as we decided that we had tired of the constant setting up and packing up. Altogether, we were on the road for 17 weeks, covered 18,218 kms and had a wonderful time. I will continue to upload images from outings until our next trip.
08/11/15 - Ceduna and Kimba After 2 nights at Ceduna and an overnighter at Kimba, we are back in Port Augusta after 4 months. Ceduna had some pretty coastal scenery but is mainly wheat belt country as is Kimba. The Tawny Frogmouth is the second we have seen this trip sitting on a nest - Derby on Sep 9th and Kimba on Nov 6th. The White-fronted Honeyeater is the latest trip sighting. We are off to have another look at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden then leaving Tuesday for Adelaide and a catch up with friends we met on our Bowra trip in 2010.
05/11/15 Norseman to Ceduna Our crossing of the Nullarbor consisted mainly of driving through showers and heavy rain. We managed to get some scenes through the window of the car and by taking advantage of brief interludes to view the Bight from the lookouts. The weather also prevented the chance to do any birding along the way until this morning, at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, before leaving for Ceduna. We were surprised to find 3 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at a small pool about 300 metres behind the camping area.
01/11/15 - Esperance and Cape Le Grand The mix of rugged coastline dotted with white sandy beaches, Pink Lake, an IBA, and the RAMSAR listed Lake Warden Recovery Catchment together with the Cape Le Grand N.P. provided us with plenty to occupy ourselves. A bit disappointing was the lack of walking tracks in some of the habitats we would have liked to explore more. Next stop Norseman then across the Nullarbor and back into SA.
30/10/15 - Ravensthorpe We based ourselves at Ravensthorpe to visit the Fitzgerald River N.P. and Cocanarup Timber Reserve. Rain and showers curtailed our activities a bit, but we still managed to get around. The Hamersley Drive out of Hopetoun would have been spectacular had it been fine but was still impressive. The Cocanarup Timber Reserve (yes, the name is right) was set up to protect stands of Salmon Gum from logging and also protects good mallee vegetation. Finally got a picture (could be better) of a pair of Western Whipbird. The Spotted Pardalote was initially digging near the spot the picture was taken - hopefully a nesting hole resulted. We are currenty in Esperence, moving on Monday morning.
25/10/15 - Cheynes Beach - Waychinicup N.P. The national park consists mainly of coastal heath with wildflowers spread abundantly throughout. Many species of hakea and banksia complement the heath with their brilliant colours also providing plentiful food for the numerous honeyeaters. There is no shortage of food for the ground dwellers and insectivores to which we can attest. The worst place we have been for flies during the trip. Cheynes Beach is known as one of the best sites to see the Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Whipbird and Western Bristlebird. We managed to identify all three whilst there but, unfortuately, were not able to get a photo. Other birds did oblige, some nearly too close to focus on!
21/10/15 - Albany. Torndirrup, Gull Rock and Walpole-Nornalup National Parks Basing ourselves in Albany for a week, we experienced the town and some of the surrounding national parks. The scenery in the south-west of WA constantly amazes with the ruggedness and brilliant changes of colour. The towering trees of the Walpole-Nornalup N.P. were a lovely change and a reminder of the tall forests of the Dandenongs and Yarra Ranges. We added 4 more 'lifers' and managed to photograph all, Red-winged Fairy-wren, Red-eared Firetail, Western Spinebill and Baudin's (Long-billed) Black-Cockatoo.
15/10/15 - Stirling Range N.P. From the Stirling Range Retreat, we explored this amazing area with its diverse range of flora and fauna. The Stirling Range is 65 kms long and 10 kms wide. Over 1500 plant species have been recorded so far, including at least 87 species found nowhere else in the world. There are always various species of orchids in flower throughout the year, many not yet in the field guides. The Range is an IBA (Important Bird Area) supporting populations of Short-billed Black-Cockatoo (Carnaby's) and visited by Long-billed Black-Cockatoo (Baudin's) and helps support many habitat restricted species. Western Yellow Robin and Blue-breasted Fairy-wren were added to our birding life lists.
10/10/15 Narrogin - Foxes Lair and Dryandra Woodland Based at Narrogin we explored the bushland across from us - Foxes Lair, and travelled the short distance to Dryandra Woodland. Both spots still had profuse numbers of flowering plants from wildflowers to large gums. A selection of plants and scenes are below. Birding was good with a couple of new ones for us, Elegant and Red-capped Parrot. Other highlights were Western Rosella, Rufous Treecreeper and Western Wattlebird. Next stop is Stirling Range N.P.
07/10/15 - Kumarina to Northam We arrived at Cue, after a bird walk around Lake Nallan about 20km out, to find a lovely historic gold mining town well kept and welcoming. From there we did an overnighter at Paynes Find then through to Northam for 2 nights. A quick journey to the cooler weather but we did have brief stops along the way to appreciate the scenery and the remaining swathes of wildflowers. Northam is known for its small population of Mute Swan that inhabit the Avon River that flows through the town. The birds even have their own warden to look after them!
03/10/15 - Karijini N.P. and Kumarina Roadhouse Karijini is all that we expected after being told by so many people not to miss it. Below is a gallery of some of the photos Denise took while we were out there. The first gallery has a goanna in it, the first we have seen on the trip. With cane toads extending their territory into northern Western Australia, the larger lizards are struggling to survive. Unfortunately, the excessive hot weather (30 deg by 8.00 a.m. then 34-39 max. for the last 6 weeks) has worn us down, so we are heading south to cooler weather. We are at Kumarina Roadhouse overnight and will head south to Cue tomorrow. We had planned to go through there, so will just be earlier than planned. To keep away from the heat we will continue south bypassing Perth to Albany and travel east from there.
30/09/15 Dampier, Karratha & surrounds. This area provides an interesting contrast of the Pilbara, from the old early pearling town and port at Cossack (now a ghost town), the mining and gas exploration developments and port at Dampier and the awe inspiring vistas in Millstream-Chichester N.P. The park was definitely the highlight of our time there, the pictures below don't do it justice. Next stop is Karijini N.P. in the Hamersley Ranges.
25/09/15 - Broome and Port Hedland Requiring a new battery for the caravan we left BBO for Broome and a tour around. Sunrise and sunset were spectacular each day as was the history of Broome and its pearling industry. The birding was still good, with a Brown Booby presenting itself off the Entrance Point boat ramp and an Eastern Osprey on the rocks. Next stop, Port Hedland where, upon arrival, you see a great mound of salt. The salt is mined and used in various industries including the production of steel. A trip around the harbour gives a great insight into the immense size of the ore ships and the complex operations required to manage the port, even with a Lesser Frigatebird distracting me for a moment. Having heard numerous White-breasted Whistler without more than a fleeting glimpse, we finally had good views with a male obligingly perching about 10m from me for a photo.
19/09/15 - Broome Bird Observatory After an overnight stop in Derby we arrived at BBO anticipating a great time viewing the waders arriving from the northern hemisphere. Roebuck Bay is very shallow and the waders take advantage of the low tide to feed as the tide comes in. It is hard to get close enough to photograph the birds as the last 50-60m comes in so quickly the birds are off to roost just as you are getting within range. They are extremely flighty when roosting, the slightest movement sets them wheeling in the air. We did manage some shots and, importantly, were able to see great numbers using the spotting scope. New sightings for us included Mangrove Golden Whistler, Mangrove Grey Fantail, Yellow White-eye and Oriental Plover.
13/09/15 - Fitzroy Crossing The Fitzroy River still flows but sand bars take up much of the river bed, then you get to Geikie Gorge. The gorge was carved through an ancient limestone barrier reef and is full of water all year round. The walls are multi-hued and carved into magnificent shapes and whorls by the annual flooding during the wet. The first gorge pictures are from the 5km return walk along the gorge we did in the morning followed by those taken on the evening cruise. Bird highlights were seeing the Golden-backed Honeyeater (sub-species of the Black-chinned), and flushing a group of King Quail near by. The Northern Blue-tongue was not harmed in being photographed - we moved it from the road into the bush.
Cruise and general gallery
09/09/15 - Kununurra, Wyndham & Keep River N.P. Basing ourselves at Kununurra, we retraced parts of our visit 24 years ago. Again, everything except Keep River N.P. has become more tourist orientated. Kununurra was mostly melon farming but now grows more varied crops such as Sandalwood for export and even has a Mahogany industry. Wyndham still has a semi-deserted feel about it. Due to the 1 1/2 hour time zone change this far north in W.A, the birds wake us at 5.00, 50 kms to the east they wake at 6.30. Crazy! Out towards Parry Lagoons we scored some good sightings of Star Finch and Pictorella Mannikin and Striated Heron at Wyndham - all lifers. We also saw a few new trip birds such as Horsfield's Bushlark , Mangrove Robin and Common Greenshank. We are overnighting at Halls Creek then moving on to Fitzroy Crossing to explore Geikie Gorge N.P.
07/09/15 - Lake Argyle - Part 2 The experience of Lake Argyle is astounding, from the drive in from the Victoria Hwy, the rocky outcrops and the ever changing colours of the background and islands of the lake itself. Below is a small selection of the area.
06/09/15 - Lake Argyle - Part 1 Leaving Katherine we had another change of plans due to our friend Kris. A phone call - can you join us for a special birding boat trip on Lake Argyle on Friday? - of course we could, as we were promised chances of Yellow Chat, Sandstone Shrike-thrush and White-quilled Rock-pigeon. All were delivered giving us new sightings for the first two and a refresher on the Rock-pigeon. A Short-eared Rock-wallaby and a Common Euro were also seen. An overnight stop at Timber Creek gave us another lifer in Buff-sided Robin. This post is for the mammals and birds, scenery photos will follow.
31/08/15 - Katherine We went to the Gorge, as you do, but having visited before, we did a bit of walking rather than the boat trip. We also spent time at lesser known, but quite beautiful, spots around Katherine. An enjoyable couple of hours were spent at the Museum, encompassing local indigenous history, building of the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin, both World Wars and local historical events. Using a locally produced booklet on birding that our friend Kris recommended, we were able to find a few new species for the trip, Gouldian Finch being a particular target we had. Pheasant Coucal have been quite tame, allowing close encounters of the photographic kind. Again, our activities have been curtailed somewhat by the heat and this looks likely to continue until we reach Broome.
26/08/15 - Darwin The following images are from various sites around Darwin. Unfortunately, we didn't get to do as much as we would have liked, the end of the dry season abruptly became an early 'build up' to the wet season with temperatures at 30 deg. and rising and humidity of 60-70% by mid morning. We left Darwin today and are in Katherine, high temperatures forecast but not as humid just yet. A highlight of Darwin was again meeting up with friends, Kris and Kieran, from Maryknoll in Vic.
19/08/15 - Kakadu and Mary River While still in Kakadu, we spent time checking out the accessible billabongs - one was closed due to buffalo in the area - and called in at Ubirr before our arrival at the Mary River Camping Park. The Yellow Waters boardwalk at Cooinda provided us with some lovely scenery and good views of a Great Egret that had just caught a frog. We were watching it as it kept dropping and grabbing the frog numerous times and wondered if it had actually caught more than it could handle but, as the photos below show, down the hatch in the end. Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo were grooming each other appearing quite affectionate. At Burdulba Billabong we had a Cattle Egret that nearly let us pat it on the head, I had to retreat to get a focal range. At the start of the walk at Ubirr we were greeted by Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon, again used to human traffic and quite unconcerned. The views from the top of Ubirr were stunning as is the quantity and quality of the rock art. The Mary River Caravan Park is on the northern section of the Mary River with its own walks providing good views of the river and varied habitats for birding. The day before we left, another birder mentioned that we should do the Bird Lagoon walk in the nearby Mary River NP, so we went immediately. The heat off the baked claypan made it the hottest and most tiring walk of our journey so far but it did allow for an excellent view of an Australian Pratincole as well as views of waterbirds on the remaining water. We arrived at Howard Springs today (23 kms south of Darwin) and have had a shopping and clean up day.
13/08/15 - Kakadu Unfortunately, it gets quite hot each day, 34-35 deg. by lunch, which has curtailed us a bit in our explorations. Our stay in Kakadu started with a walk around the camping area with immediate results, sighting many Rufous-banded Honeyeater to add to our life lists. A Forest Kingfisher obligingly posed for the camera. Next was the Yellow Waters cruise, the billabong water level not yet at its lowest for the dry season, with about another metre to go. Plenty of Estuarine Crocodiles in the water and along the banks and good views of Little Egret, Nankeen Night-Heron and White-bellied Sea-Eagle among many other species. A group of Brumbies were seen in the distance, unfortunately another feral species within the park. Next day was a trip to the South Alligator River and the Mamukala Wetlands doing a 3 km loop. The track never got closer to the waters edge than 50+ metres until we ended up at the bird hide. On the walk there were 4 varieties of Finch: Double-banded, Long-tailed, Crimson and Masked. At the hide we got good views of Magpie Goose flying by and a juvenile feeding in front of us together with many Purple Swamphen (the first we had seen since we set out from home). Wednesday was culture day with a visit to Nourlangie and 3 talks by a park ranger on Country and Dreaming, Rock Art and the social/familial relationships, and the archaeology of the area. Back again today for birding being greeted by a 'lifer', a Partridge Pigeon, as we arrived. Anbangbang Billabong gave excellent views of many water birds on both days.
09/08/15 - Katherine to Kakadu. After our one night stop at Katherine it was off to Pine Creek via a stop at Edith Falls in Nitmiluk NP. We were targeting the Hooded Parrot at Pine Creek and saw it the afternoon we arrived. The following day we visited Copperfield Dam, Pine Creek's water supply, getting our first sighting of Green Pygmy-goose. From there to Umbrawarra Gorge and a walk along the creek. There were many waterholes beside the path but water could be seen flowing at points where it was forced to the surface. A lovely gorge and with water still present, the winter flowering provided great birdwatching allowing us to see two more lifers in Banded and Bar-breasted Honeyeater. Today we arrived at Cooinda for seven nights as a base for re-exploring Kakadu.
07/08/15 - Mataranka to Katherine. On arrival at Mataranka Homestead the first thing we noted (as elsewhere) were the changes since our visit in '91. Everything has been more commercialised, catering for the 'houses' on wheels. The thermal pools are very popular with many day visitors as well as guests utilising them. We did various walks along the Waterhouse River, which is fed by the spring pumping out 30.5 million litres of water per day - incredible. The Waterhouse eventually joins the Little Roper River before feeding into the Roper River. Near our van was a tap that has a slow leak and has built up a calcium growth around the post. Red-collared Lorikeet and White-throated Honeyeater were regular visitors for water, even though the river wasn't far away. A morning out along the Little Roper River was productive for birds. Shining Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Flyrobin were abundant. Denise spotted a 'Rufous Fantail' only for Brian to refer to the distribution maps saying it had to be an Arafura Fantail as the Rufous is not in the N.T. This was great news as it was a new 'lifer' for the three of us. We had a quick walk around Bitter Springs, named by the discoverer due to the taste of the water, before having a last coffee with Brian and going our separate ways. Brian is heading east through Roper Bar and eventually into Qld whilst we continue north to Pine Creek and Kakadu after a one-night stopover in Katherine.
04/08/15 - Alice Springs to Mataranka. Leaving Alice Springs, we drove to Wycliffe Well for an
overnight stay ready to stop at the Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu) the following
morning. This formation of large ‘marbles’ was formed by erosion rather than
eruption, an ‘onion layer’ effect breaking down the outer layer.
From the ‘Marbles', we continued to Renner Springs for lunch
and a quick walk around the springs. A few photos of Brown and Rufous-throated Honeyeater and Whistling Kite, already nesting. Then to Elliot where we
stayed the night at the back of the roadhouse. Upon leaving Elliot, we
immediately turned off the highway and travelled to Longreach Waterhole that
Brian had read about. It’s a free camp area but wasn’t overcrowded. An idyllic
spot to stay for a few days to relax. We have never before seen so many Australasian Darter in one place, there were hundreds. Unfortunately we had plans to get to
Mataranka that day which we achieved only a lot slower than we first thought.
We ended up doing 100+ km following a convoy of army tanks heading north, no
way past except for cars and one idiot truck driver who was lucky not to cause
a major accident. Now at Mataranka - leaving the 6th for Katherine.e also came across our first fires in the N.T. – it seems
like it is ‘light them and leave them’. Brian informed us that the Black Kites
have learned to pick up embers and drop them to start fresh burns to aid their
29/07/15 - Marla to Alice Springs. We left Marla planning to stop where possible on the way to Erldunda (the turn off point for Uluru), then stay the night. The rain didn't stop all morning so we continued through to Alice Springs, arriving a day early. The photo below shows how much rain there was. We met up with our friend Brian, a bit surprised to see us so early because of our change of plans. Our first day out was to the Alice Springs Sewage Works - where else would any self-respecting birder go first. No sooner through the gate and a new 'lifer' - Crimson Chat. The next day took us along the Tanami Rd. to Kunoth Bore and the Hamilton Youth Camp Rd. Eremophila spp. were abundant but birds were hard to find as we were hampered by strong winds. We still managed 2 more lifers for the day, Slaty-backed Thornbill and Black-breasted Buzzard to go with the Gibberbird seen a few days earlier. Next day saw us at the Alice Springs Desert Park for the morning, spectacular with the number of desert plants in flower, once again many Eremophila spp. Lunch in Alice Springs then out to the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, again spectacular flowerings and another new 'lifer' - Western Bowerbird. Today we went in search of a few hard to get species along the Santa Teresa Rd, out past the airport, but were unsuccessful. We did stop for lunch at a dam being used by road construction workers and had amazing sights of at least a thousand or more Zebra Finch, hundreds of Black-faced Woodswallow, app. 160 Cockatiel and a flock of around 50 Diamond Dove, all utilising the water so freely available. Tomorrow is a rest day then we are off to Wycliffe Well, further north on the Stuart Hwy, for an overnighter.
23/07/15 - A pleasant day trip to Whyalla before heading north again. Our next stop was Glendambo overnight with rain arriving with us. The rain cleared by morning, allowing for a pleasant drive to Coober Pedy with a few wayside stops to look at the vast expanses around us. Our plans to go out to the Painted Desert for 2 nights were washed away as heavy rain fell at Coober Pedy all night and most of our travel to Marla today. As we drove past the turn off to the Painted Desert we could see how sticky the red dust had become. We had encountered this in 1991, when we had taken a side trip to Andamooka opal fields and got caught in rain halfway back to the bitumen. Driving with little traction and mud filling the wheel arches with app. 2mm between the tyres and mud is not an experience to repeat. We leave Marla tomorrow with one more overnight stop at Erldunda before we meet up with our friend Brian in Alice Springs on Saturday.
19/07/15 - We left home on Thursday 16th July with our first overnight stop at Nhill. Friday saw us at Bolivar, an outer suburb of Adelaide, then on to Port Augusta next day for a 3 night stay. It now seems that our trip has 'really' started as we have been out discovering our surrounds and the cameras are out. Sunday was spent at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden - a wonderful experience with magnificent views of he surrounding ranges, examples of arid flora, especially Eremophila spp., and a great variety of birds. Tomorrow we head to Whyalla for the day before heading off on Tuesday for a few more 'travel only' days.