Monday, February 21, 2011

One door closes, another opens = Cancelled Pelagic results in great find!!

This weekend we were meant to be going on another Pelagic out of Port MacDonnell. We had all been focussed on the weather and I was checking my Weatherzone App on my Iphone regularly for updates as the reported 30 knot winds were not looking very helpful.

Friday we were told, yes we will still be going out, but the trip was changed to Saturday instead of sunday. This meant that I'd need to get to Stuart's house by 4.30am (thus leaving home at 3.15am).  So I was up at 2.30am and drove half asleep to Stuart's. Colin arrived just after I did and we all piled into Stuarts car and we were off.

We were making good time and had passed Padthaway by the time Jamie Moody phoned to say the weather was dreadful and he could not take us out. The boat trip was off. Poor Jamie, he knows how much we love these trips. He souded like he was scared to tell us and he appeared relieved that I answered the phone!! I relayed the info to Colin who was driving. We then had to tell everyone else who had booked so phone calls were made, messages left where necessary. Every one told, now what do we do??

Colin and Stuart looked like  they both might cry so I suggested that seeing as we were almost at Naracourte we go there and I'd introduce them to one of my former work mates and housemate Herman Bakker, a retired Park Ranger who managed Bool Lagoon for over 30 years.

Herman and I at Bool Lagoon

With the largest breakfast I've ever seen in my life we were entertained by Herman's tales of birding experiences for over an hour. He then invited us to join him on sunday at Bool Lagoon as there was an Open Day planned. The offer of free sausage sizzle did it for the boys so it was a date!

We then left Herman to have his coffee and we were back on the road. At Nangwarry we encountered 50+ White Throated Needletails enjoying the strong winds.

White Throated Needletails

Trying to photograph them was an extreme sport however and although almost impossible due to their speed and height it sure was fun trying! Colin managed to fill an entire memory card in 30 minutes!
Colin enjoying his photography

We then turned onto the Joanna-Wongary rd which follows Mosquito Creek. We found many Whistling Kites, Brown Falcon, Wedge Tailed Eagles - the wind is good for Raptors, but not good for most other birding.

There were Goldfinches, Musk Lorikeets, Cockatoos, Red Rumped Parrots, Galahs, Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos and Shellducks in the swampy fields as we passed the back entrance into Naracourte Caves CP. We continued along North Settlement Rd watching Tree Martins taking a free ride in the wind and encountered a large flock of Long Billed Corellas.

Long Billed Corellas

Then we turned Right into East Settlement Rd which is good Owling country before heading to Penola.

We decided to try Magpie Swamp. To get there from Tarpena turn left into McEncroe Rd, then right into Paltridge Rd, left to Mingbool rd  and right into  Magpie Swamp road, which is just after the CFS.  This road can deliver good birding for SA as its right on the border. Last year Colin, Stuart and I had large flocks  of Brolga but we noticed that most of the fields have not been plowed this year. We did get 2 Brolga - I think if there had been piles of potatoes about there would have been alot more Brolga.

Then we got excellent views of Striated Fieldwrens, Golden Headed Cisticola, Grey Shrike Thrush, Superb Fairywren and Red Rumped Parrots. At the swamp we found Forest Ravens, White Fronted Chats and Masked Lapwing.

Striated Calamanthis

We continued along the Border Track then turned right and head back to Mount Gambier.

We checked Dry Creek Reserve where we observed a few Emu foraging in a freshly cut plantation and a Yellow Faced Honeyeater feeding on some blossums. We looked where I had found Powerful Owls a few months ago but none to be seen in the middle of the day so we decided to head to Picks Swamp and then onto Port MacDonnell.

We checked into our accomodation before searching Cape Douglas and Cape Northumberland in case any penguins had been washed in. We found Aust Gannet and Fairy Penguins before calling it a day.

Little Penguin

Periwinkles Cafe enticed us and we were not disppointed! A dozen Oyster Kilpatrick went down well before Prawn Penne (the most delicious meal I've ever eaten). We shared a choc honeycomb pudding - with coffee. YUM! The view with large glass windows overlooking the ocean, made the evening even better. We were able to keep an eye out for any stray Pelagic birds whist enjoying our wine! We noticed a photo on the wall incorrectly labelled "Wandering Albatross" which was clearly a Royal Albatross - most probably a Northern. We can tell them next time...  What a great way to conclude the day.

It was then time for bed and we were all in a coma before our heads hit the pillow!

Sunday morning we checked for Rufous Bristlebirds and also another quick scan for any lost Penguins at Cape Northumberland before the boys wanted Macca's in Mt G.

Cape Northumberland

Then it was back to Nangwarry and another shot at the Needletails and a very curious Grey Currawong before meeting up with Herman at Bool Lagoon.

Grey Currawong

On arrival we noticed instantly the large number of visitors. This immediately had me wanting to turn around and leave. But, we promised Herman so we stayed. We had good views of Magpie Geese, Australian and Strawnecked Ibis, Great Egret, Hard Heads, Royal Spoonbill and Musk Duck.

Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose

I then walked on ahead to get away from the people and also to look for Bittern with Colin.This was a half hearted attempt as all the cars would surely have sent them packing. Giving up I thought I'd look for Crakes so scoured the shadows on the dry islands. I got onto movement under some tea-tree. Colin got onto it as well but it had its back to us. Then it then turned around and we realised then it was a Plumed Whistling Duck!! AWESOME! It was alone and resting on the dry dirt. Probably unimpressed with all the visitors and it may have also been feeling overwhelmed without any other Plumed WD around. Stuart had been in the car so I called him over and he got onto it. He was stoked - it was a lifer for him! It was a new SA tick for me! 

Plumed Whistling Duck

Plumed Whistling Duck

I told Herman and he said the last time he had one at Bool Lagoon was in the early 1980's when he observed 3 of them. Colin had some up north on the Birdsville Track late last year.

We then walked about and got a Male Musk Duck displaying and some Swamp Harriers. There were simply too many people to make it enjoyable and I couldnt get away fast enough. So we had a sausage and coke, kissed Herman goodbye and we were off.

Bool Lagoon

A quick stop in Keith to look for the Bluefaced Honeyeaters on the way home then back to Adelaide.

So, even though we were disappointed at not being able to get out on the boat (and the almost certain dip on a great tick like Mottled Petrel) we still had a fun 2 days.  We got to see Dear old Herman and were priviliged to share some of his stories. We were certainly rewarded with the Plumed Whistling Duck. Great company, good food and some great birds = a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.