Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gluepot delivers again!

A day at Gluepot is always a pleasure and this weekend was no exception.
Leaving home at 4am can be a struggle though and even though I had 1.5 litres of iced coffee and 15 cans of pepsi max in the vehicle I still struggled to function for the first few hours. This may also be due to the weather still being minus 3 even at 7am!
The main reason for this trip was to help my friend get his 500th tick. There were only 2 target species for him – Red-lored Whistler and Black-eared Miner. So we decided to go and visit my little mate Bluey, a friendly Red-lored Whistler who is always happy to have a short visit. I do not use playback with Bluey, he responds to my simple whistling and again,  sure enough, Bluey was waiting for us to arrive. He is a peceptive little bird and realising Stu’s levels of pre-tick anxiety he put on a great show. He sat out in the open, in the sun, posed at all angles, called happily, hopped along the ground, flew closer to us and was still juggling 5 tennis balls and jumping through rings of fire when we left.
Crippling views of my favourite little bird and by 7.45am Bluey became bird # 500 for my friend. Bluey was well & truly ticked.
Red-lored Whistler

It took a few hrs of casual birding and exploring the mallee before we got onto our first large flock of miners. By this time my birding mates pre-tick anxiety levels were at extreme levels again. No amount of reassurance, offers of valium & alcohol, chocolate or therapy helped. It was a good thing the Miners arrived when they did or I think I could have had a medical emergancy on my hands!
This flock of approx 20 birds, like the others I've observed in this area recently were made up of approx 50% Yellow Throats, 30% hybrids and the rest Black-eared. Good views of 3 individual Blacked Eared identifying the main distinguishing features. TICK # 501
Another satisfied K-os Birding customer….my work here is done.
We then said hi to one of our friends who was also visiting the park and compared birding notes.  She had just photographed a couple of Scarlet Chested Parrots so we decided to go and have a look around in that area.

At this stage it was my anxiety levels going through the roof. This is because I got a flock of 20 of them a few weeks ago yet as they were too far away I felt it was not a tickable view. Therefore I am keen to improve the view ASAP. However this did not happen. I was on the verge of a melt down when we suddenly got my other Bogey Bird, GREY FALCON!!
We had been sitting stationary in my car scanning the area when a large white raptor soared towards us and then went right over the car. It was only 2 metres above us so we had a great close up view! Stunned we jumped out of the car and watched it soaring below canopy level before carelessly soaring away into the distance. It was awesome!!  It looked totally different to any raptor I’ve ever seen before and after studying all the distinguishing features we are certain it  was indeed a Grey Falcon. We discussed all other possibilities and all were discounted.  Interestingly one had been reported in this location only a few weeks ago!!
So, the mythical Grey Falcon does exist after all!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The good, the bad and the July pelagic

I don't know about you but when I think about pelagics in July I think rarities for SA -  Blue Petrel, Grey Petrel and the ultimate in Pelagic Holy Grails - Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross.... the opportunities are endless... So we were determined to get out past the Shelf this weekend no matter what.

Carefully we scanned the weather reports and discussed the possibilities of dodging yet another cancelled trip due to bad weather and decided Saturday would be the better of the 2 days. So, a mad dash was made by all the get to Port Mac and out onto the water by 7am Saturday morning. Stu and I travelled together and met Colin, Grant,Peter & the others there.

I was particularly excited at going on this trip as I would get to see my dear friend Vik who was finally going to get a bucketful of ticks promised to him by Stuart and myself. This trip would be Viks first pelagic so surely he would get at least 12 lifers! I rarely get to see Vik who lives interstate so it was a mega treat for me to actually be able to spend some time with him and I was really looking forward to it.

Saturday morning was FREEZING! Armed with thermals, wet weather gear, bins, cameras and Kwells there was no stopping us!

So onto the Remarkable we went with hopes soaring at the clear skies, 11 degree water temperature and northly breeze. Black-faced Cormorants watched from the rocks on the way out...

2 hrs of cruising out on a flat ocean we thought about all of the rarities we were about to find. Then we stopped the boat and started the burleying.

We excitedly waited to be inundated with mega rarities......

We waited, and waited...

and waited.......

We are still waiting....

are we there yet???

To kill the bordom we started eating.....

We had a cuppa tea....

We did the dishes....

We slept.....

We thought about crying.........

Hours at sea in July and we only got the following species:
Shy Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Northern Giant Petrel
Great-winged Petrel
Grey-backed Storm-Petrel
Fairy Prion
Antarctic Prion
Fluttering Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Shy Albatross

Northern Giant Petrel

Grey-backed Storm Petrels

Antarctic Prion

Shy (White-capped) Albatross

Fairy Prion

Northern Giant Petrel

It was so pathetic that we eventually gave up and came in early and went birding around Port Mac instead! The highlight of the day was 40 Cattle Egrets in a tree which to me was far more exciting than anything on the boat and we also got a field of Magpie Geese, Swamp harriers hunting Teal, about 6 Buff-banded Rail, Double Banded Plovers in breeding plumage and a Kelp Gull.

Cattle Egrets

Double-banded Plovers

We went to Periwinkles for dinner and drowned our sorrows... Prawn Penne & Chardy followed by Honeycomb Chocolate Pudding & Coffee with wonderful friends Stu, Vik, Colin, Peter and Grant - the day was salvaged....

Today we went to Dry Creek Reserve as Colin wanted Pied Currawongs in SA then headed home.

This weekend the birding left a lot to be desired but it was a great weekend because I shared it with my friends. A weekend with them is always wonderful.

My dear friend Vik & I  (still hoping for a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paiwalla Wetland - Conservation in action!

Former dairy farm land, this wetland on the Lower River Murray in SA has been restored by the hard working managers of Paiwalla.

Today I enjoyed a mornings birding with my friend Peter Koch, one of the managers of Paiwalla Wetland.
We enjoyed a walk and the highlights of today were a Buff-banded Rail who walked along the track in front of us. We could also hear Spotless and Spotted Crakes right next to us.

At least 3 pairs of Sacred Kingfisher followed us around the wetland.

A displaying Musk Duck caught the attention of another Musk Duck, amusingly the other duck was a young Male!!

A water rat was feeding and diving.

Hard-heads, Australasian Shoveller, Grebes, Darter along with Swamp Harrier, Kestrel and Whistling Kite were some of the numerous species around. 

This wetland is a wonderful example of conservation in action and a safe haven for so many birds. Always an enjoyable place to visit.

Gluepot in Winter

Going to Gluepot in mid winter has many advantages. The main one being that you are almost guaranteed to not see another visitor for your entire visit. The cool fresh weather also means no flies.

I spent 2 days birding at Gluepot this weekend and enjoyed great views of many mallee birds. Chestnut Quail-thrush were calling on Eric Straight at first light and one seemed oblivious to my approach until it heard my camera trying to focus in the poor light.

Mulga Parrots were common as were Red-capped Robin, Hooded Robin, Gilbert’s Whistler, Crested Bellbird, Southern Scrub-robin, Jacky Winter, Southern Whiteface and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Brown Treecreeper, Weebill and Pardelotes.

Crested Bellbird

The grinding scissor call of a Restless Flycatcher caught my attention with it's behaviour interesting. It was feeding at a Spiders web. While following it I flushed a Spotted Nightjar.

LUNCH....But for which one?

Plenty of Honeyeaters were feeding at Kangaroo Dam which had me running in circles for a while and I flushed a Brown Quail.

White-fronted Honeyeater

Cheeky White-browed Babblers were prevalent and there were also a group of timid Chestnut-crowned Babblers at the Old Gluepot Dams.

Chestnut-crowned Babbler

White-browed Babbler

At Homestead Dam a couple of Australasian Grebe had the dam to themselves.

3 big flocks of miners were seen. One flock on track 1 had at least 28 individuals including a mixture of Yellow-throated, Hybrids and Black-eared. Along with another flock on track 8.

Yellow-throated Miner

The most unusual sighting of the weekend would have to be the White-faced Heron I had standing in the middle of Track 8! This is the first time I have ever seen one at Gluepot!

If you are planning a trip to Gluepot in winter just remember to keep an eye on the predicted rain forecast and ring the rangers before you head there to check on the track conditions so you don't get stuck! It isn't called Gluepot for nothing.  Also pack warm bedding as Gluepot if a gas fire only zone so no campfires!!! FREEZING overnight!

A short stop at the river in Waikerie on the way home is always worth a look. Plenty of Grebes, Egrets, Cormorants were enjoying the sunshine...

Lunch is served...