Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BROOME - A Clean Sweep!

A whirlwind trip to Broome to get the Yellow Chat started at Adelaide airport at 7.45am on Easter Saturday when I discovered the long term car park full. Thankfully the staff carpark had been converted into an overflow park for longterm travellers and after parking I then dropped off my bag, went through the usual security process before making a b-line for Cibo coffee!!!  2 coffees later I felt much better and had updated my Facebook status, turned on my ipod and was ready to board the plane and fly the approx 4000 km to tick as many birds as possible in 2 days.
On arrival at Broome and after checking in at the Mangrove Resort I walked to Streeters Jetty. 

Mangrove Resort

Streeters Jetty

It was hot and the sun was directly over head, not good birding weather but I still managed to get a few nice birds. Yellow White-eye were feeding happily and Red Headed Honeyeaters were chasing each other noisily through the mangroves.

Mangroves at Streeters Jetty

A Spotted Harrier soared overhead and a few Torresian Crows  were hopping around in the dirt.
Red Headed Honeyeater

It was getting hotter and I was in need of a cool drink and some shade so I walked back to the hotel but got distracted by movement in the vegetation on a sandhill next door. So, after climbing the hill I was rewarded with Pheasant Coucal who was clumsily flopping from bush to bush.

This little piece of bush also produced Brown Honeyeater, Singing Honeyeater, Blue Winged Kookaburra, Osprey, Whistling Kite, Black Kite and White Wing Triller.  A few Little Friarbirds, Black faced Cuckooshrike and White Bellied Cuckooshrike and Peaceful Dove were sitting on the powerline as I emerged back out of the bush.
Little Friarbird

I then headed into my hotel and from my balcony got 2 Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Varigated Fairywren, Swamp Harrier and Red Winged Parrot.
Black Kite

Satisfied with my afternoons birds I then relaxed, went for a swim and had an early night.

View from my front door

Relaxing at sunset
Saturday morning I walked through the  Mangroves  and got some lovely birds before catching up with my friend George in the afternoon. We went birding together for a couple of hours. Highlights included White Winged Black Tern, Australian Pratincole, White Gaped Honeyeater & Yellow Tinted Honeyeater.

White Winged Black Tern

Yellow Tinted Honeyeater

At the top of a large sand dune, where we were enjoying the view, a Square Tailed Kite soared below us giving us a great view!

Square Tailed Kite

On Sunday we went out birding for the whole day. We checked the Poo Ponds for snipe but no cigar so moved onto some mangroves in the north shores of Roebuck Bay and enjoyed excellent views of Mangrove Golden whistler – both male and female, White Breasted Whistler then gave me the full set of Whistlers! Nice!! STOKED!
Mangrove Golden Whistler

White Breasted Whistler

Broad-billed Flycatchers were curious and playful, Dusky Gerygone, Kimberley Flycatcher and Red Headed Honeyeaters were also hanging around. On the way out we were graced with Double Barred Finch.
Broad Billed Flycatcher

We then went to a flooded Samphire plain near the Bird Observatory were we decided to look for my main target species. The Yellow Chat. When I say flooded, I mean FLOODED!

We started walking out and started sinking into the slippery mud, then, as we continued our boots were in 4 inch deep mud. Scanning with our bins produced bugger all, so we continued. Another kilometre and we were in shin deep water and our boots were like suction cups. It took great effort to take each step and the samphire meant lifting each foot high to step over each bush resulting in a great workout.
Scanning – nothing. Move on. As I was cursing myself for forgetting to bring my flippers and snorkel we noticed movement at our feet. On closer inspection we realised it was a Sea Snake!

Sea snake spitting venom

Now please, do not try this if you ever find a snake.

Sea Snake are the most venomous snakes in the world!! They are not aggressive and prefer to avoid striking people and usually people do not come across them anyway but their venom is more toxic than an Inland Taipan!

As we both love snakes and have been trained in snake handling we carefully picked it up to try and identify it. He was a gentle little sweetheart. We let him go quickly so he would not get stressed and he swam off calmly.

So you see, when I say flooded I mean it! I started wondering when we would encounter a dolphin or whale…
Another 500m we finally saw movement up ahead. We scoped it and YES – finally a gorgeous male Yellow Chat.

Yellow Chat

At this point George said something that some readers who have sensitive eyes may wish to not read, so, if that is you, please skip the next line and I apologize if I offend anyone.
He said “Yellow Chat! F*#@ yeah!  We nailed the pr&*#k!! ”.
It was such an unexpected reaction from him that I laughed my head off!   I’d been thinking almost the exact same thing when he said it.  Sorry George when you read this but you were so funny and I told you that I simply had to include it!
We got closer and took the obligatory photos and then discovered they were actually building a nest! A tiny little bowl shaped accumulation of thin grass in a small samphire bush. Nice!

Yellow Chat nest

Yellow Chat

We then waded back to the car – well, I kind of floated after getting that Lifer! Another set under my belt – the Chats are sorted!
At the car we were totally stuffed so we had a cuppa tea while watching a Black Breasted Buzzard soar over head and an Osprey resting quietly in the distance. I really felt like a BEX and a good lie down but there wasn’t time. It was off to the Bird Obs to check it out & buy a car sticker.

We then went to look at a nice little wetland nearby.

We had to be careful for Salties here!! No wading!!
We rested quietly in the shade, sitting on the bank of  billabong and chatting after enjoying a cheeky Northern Fantail who followed us through the trees.
Northern Fantail

We were about to leave this area when a Juvenile Sea Eagle soared directly over us giving us a great view! It was very thoughtful of him.

Remembering the tide time it was then a mad dash to get the waders! Armed with scopes we ran up the hill jumping the deep wash outs before suddenly I found myself standing on the cliff top, open mouthed in rapturous wonder at the scene below.

It was stunning. Numerous wader species, many in full breeding plumage, made up the thousands of birds on the beach below.
Asian Dowitcher, Lesser and Greater Sand plover, Red Knot, Great Knot, Whimbrel, Black Tailed and Bar Tailed Godwits, Terek Sandpiper, Grey Tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper, Red Necked Stints, Sharpies along with Lesser Crested Tern were some of the birds there.

As I openly admit I am lousy at waders it was fantastic to spend time practising my identification skills with George. He is an expert and he ensured I was able to accurately identify every species for him before we moved on. His patience, skill and ability to teach useful tips is to be commended!

Assorted waders at Roebuck Bay

While we were working through one group of waders suddenly they did a massive fly off. As we looked to see why suddenly 2 Brahminy Kites swooped in and grabbed a Ruddy Turnstone right in front of us! The 2 Kites flew down low along the beach with the Turnstone in the one of the Kite's talons, but then as they went out over the water’s edge the Kite dropped it.
Brahminy Kites grab a Ruddy Turnstone

He drops the Turnstone

The Turnstones lucky day!

The Turnstone flew onto the beach and sat stunned at its lucky escape – it appeared shocked but surprising unharmed!
After enjoying the waders we found a shady location and had lunch – it was nearly 4pm but being in The Birding Zone we had both forgotten we need to eat and drink!
When refreshed we looked around the area and found 2 Sea Eagles perched near their old nest. Looking more closely we discovered their new nest was further back in the trees.
Sea Eagles

We also got good views of Red Throated Honeyeaters here and a bit further along a flock of Red Winged Parrots put on a good show.

Red Throated Honeyeater

Stunning Red Winged Parrot

We tried for Bustard but no cigar but we did flush Singing Bushlarks and Brown Quails.
We were both feeling pretty tired so we then called it a day.
If you are planning to go to Broome I suggest booking to go out with George Swann. He is a local expert. His knowledge of birds, plants and wildlife is brilliant. He also happens to be extremely nice, thoughtful and very good company!  
Last night before I went to sleep I went for a walk outside to enjoy the balmy weather and found a Barking Owl sitting on a table! I was kicking myself as I did not have my camera on me! Bugger it! He was only 2 metres from me and did not seem to give a stuff that I was standing right next to him.  I left him to it as I didn’t want to draw attention to him (although, no one else was around anyway). So I happily went to bed, a great finish to a great day!
This morning I walked down through the mangroves to the rocky waters edge and flushed a Striated Heron. I was very pleased as we had not managed to get one yesterday. It was a nice bird to finish on as that was the end of my birding in Broome.
As I had about 2 hrs to kill before going to the airport I figured I’d go and look at Cable Beach. I felt the need to prove to my non-birding friends that I can actually do something other than birding! So, I went on a camel ride for 40 minutes!

Harley - the camel

AAAAGGGGGH Get off me!!!!!
Now, don’t tell them but, here is my” Secret” Camel ride bird list!
Pied Oystercatcher
Masked Lapwing
Great Knot
Whistling Kite
Black Kite
Torresian Crow
Reef Egret

Yeah, I know, its short but hey, I didn’t have my bins on me and I was on a Camel!

Riding a Harley down the beach!

So that was my whirlwind Broome twitch. I’m tempted to say I gave Broome a “clean sweep” but that would just be a terrible way to end this posting now wouldn’t it?

Great Knot

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rock Parrots - and a few cows!

This morning my friend Teresa and I decided to go to Hindmarsh Island for a couple hours to check on the Rock Parrots.

First stop was On The Run to stock up on the essential - Coffee, coffee and more coffee. With our most pressing needs met we were off.

Hindmarsh Island is just out of Goolwa  and it is a beautiful drive through the lush green countryside and many dairy farms.

Teresa and I went to the Murray Mouth lookout on Sugars Ave and walked through the samphire.

 Our efforts were quickly rewarded. We observed 10 Rock Parrots in about 45 minutes.

Rock Parrot

They are tricky because they hide in the samphire and are easily flushed but they can be accomodating if you follow them and move slowly and quietly.

When you flush them....

.... keep an eye on where they land!

Also present were plenty of Welcome Swallow, Singing Honeyeaters, White Fronted Chat and Sacred Ibis along with Pelicans, Sooty Oystercatchers, Bar Tailed Godwit, Crested and Caspian Tern and Great Cormorant.

Sacred Ibis

Singing Honeyeater and Welcome Swallow

Singing Honeyeater

A short drive around the island also produced over 100 Cape Barron Geese, Swamp Harrier, Black Faced Cuckooshrike, about 20 Banded Lapwing, Whistling Kite, European Goldfinch and Black Swan.
For such a short drive from Adelaide, Hindmarsh Island is always a great place to go birding and the scenery of the Coorong is gorgeous.

Rock Parrot

Looking at the cows around this area reminded me of just how many different breeds there are and that I have no idea about them. So, being the "obsessive compulsive" that I am, I made a life changing decision. I am going to start ticking cows as well!

This will mean I need to photograph and identify them first. How do I do this? I do not think there is a field guide to "cows of Australia". I will need to make myself one!  In the mean time Teresa was a wealth of knowledge and google was also very handy!

Here are my first cows for you to enjoy!

Aberdeen Angus



Murray Grey

Murray Grey

OK, so it's not a cow...