Friday, January 27, 2012

Storms on the Strzelecki Track, SA

Chestnut-breasted Whiteface

Having 4 days off work is a luxury that cannot be wasted.  It allows a birder to travel further and get those harder to get outback birds! So, finishing work on Wednesday I rushed home and threw the basic essentials in the car before heading north.
7 hrs later I was at Lyndhurst in outback of South Australia. It was 38C and blowing a gale. Not exactly good weather to be out on the Strzelecki track so I booked into the pub and cooled off before heading out to Mt Lyndhurst Station about 5pm.  I caught up with the station manager, Thomas for a quick chat before heading to the Rusty car.
2 hrs of dusty hot birding provided a few year ticks but it really was hopeless. Far too windy to get decent photos. I finally got a fleeting glimpse of 4 Chestnut-breasted Whiteface before they took off with a tail wind, travelling at the speed of light. They disappeared into a gully never to be seen again.
I gave up and headed back to the pub for a shower. I was buggered….
Friday morning I was up at 5am and on the road by 5.30am. Driving up the track the sky was black. Not only because the sun hadn’t risen yet, but because there was a heavy electrical storm. My little metal 4WD was driving straight into the middle of it. Lightning bolts were striking the ground directly in front of me and this storm was sitting right over the top of where I needed to go birding! AAAGGGHH!

Sunrise after the storm passed

I pulled up wondering what to do. The bolts were striking the ground so I sat and watched for 15 min before deciding I simply HAD to get these birds. The sun was rising and I’d only have about 3 hrs before it got  too hot. So I continued through the storm.  Thankfully it moved on quickly without hitting my car.
I hiked from 6am to 11am zigzagging between the Rusty Car, mine site and the 2 Gates. Back and forth through the gullies and over the bare hills.

Two gates site

Old Mine

The Rusty Car

Highlights included lots of Thick-billed Grasswren, Rufous Calamanthus, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Chirruping Wedgebill, White-backed Swallow and heaps of Zebra Finch.

Thick-billed Grasswren

The usual view of Thick-billed Grasswren

Zebra Finch were everywhere

Rainbow Bee-eater


Usual view of Redthroat

Finally, after nearly giving up on photographing the Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, I walked up the gully that the flock of CB whitefaces had disappeared into the day before. I’d only hiked 200metres in and there they were, sitting quietly in a bush. They were very obliging until I spooked a Roo which, in turn, spooked them.  Bugger!!

By midday it was too hot to keep birding so I went back to the pub to eat and shower. Another storm set in at 1pm and it poured with rain all afternoon with ongoing lightening.

The pub lost power due to the lightning so I sat on the verandah watching the storm, although humid at least had cooled down a bit.  By 5pm the creeks were up and rising fast and it was still raining, it had set in for the long haul.

Lyndhurst Hotel

Summer at the Lyndhurst Hotel

The Strz track was closed due to the rain in the east and the creeks were filling fast.

I was advised that it could be risky to stay overnight as the rain was going to continue and the creeks may become impassable. So with disappointment I packed up (in the dark as the power was still off) and headed back to Hawker.

An interesting day indeed! I find it ironic that I get rained out in Lyndhurst in January, but apparently that is when they get most of their annual rainfall!
Again the Strz delivers and I have a few more photos to add to my collection.