Monday, May 21, 2012

Princess Parrots - Newhaven NT birding

When I read that Princess Parrots were at Newhaven my friend Carl and I decided to head to the Alice and travel north for a long weekend. A long anxious week followed and I suffered the worst case of PBT (Pre Birding Tension) that I've ever had! Sleepless nights, nausea, anxiety, heart racing, cold sweats, breathlessness and irritability are just some of the symptoms of this incurable disease....

Finally the day arrived and we were flying to Alice. On arrival we hired a Nissan Patrol and headed north. We stopped at a few locations along the way and we were beside ourselves with excitement when we found Grey Honeyeater! These honeyeaters are very small and conceal themselves well in the vegetation!

We enjoyed some lovely views along the way and some lovely wildlife.


We arrived after sunset & got nice views of Spotted Nightjars on the track on the way in. 

After signing in and speaking to the rangers we set up camp before getting an early night.

Sunday morning we were up before sunrise, packed up camp and met our guides who lead us out to the site where the Princess Parrots had been seen. I was nervous as the day before the parrots had not been seen! While we waited quietly Carl and I spotted a Striated Grasswren hopping in the spinifex! Nice!

Finally, after a painful wait we heard the parrots off in the distance before finally seeing one fly and land in a distant tree. It was a long way off and the sun was only just rising so it was only a silhouette but, it was a start.

Later a few more arrived but still, a long way off. Carl and I walked along the track with the scope and stopped when we heard their call again. A small flock landed in a tree a little closer and we had time to get the scope on them. Gorgeous views! AWESOME!

Suddenly a flock of 42 birds took off and flew over our heads before disappearing over a sand dune and they were gone. It happened so fast but WOW! What an experience! It was worth all the effort and expense for that few seconds!!

Hardly any information is available on these birds. They are a mystery so I asked our guide about them as he is recording their behaviours. What are they eating? We don't know. Where are they flying to? We don't know. Where do they roost? We don't know. Why are they here? We don't know. He then followed on to state that they are most probably one of the world's experts on Princess Parrots! Hilarious but he is probably right! There is hardly any data on these birds. We are so lucky to have been able to see them.

We decided to spend some time looking around the reserve after out wonderful morning with the parrots. We found a family of Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens in a dry creek bed. Stunning little birds!

We were visited by a healthy looking Dingo and also a Camel.

Camel Tracks

Dingo Tracks

Masterchef Carl

After lunch we headed back to the Alice, stopping for a couple of Bustards on the track.

We celebrated our day with a nice bottle of Chardy and enjoyed some Black-footed Rock -Wallabies before falling into bed exhausted!

This morning we hiked a rocky embankment and found a family of Dusky Grasswrens!!

A very short weekend but it goes to show just how much we can cram into life if we make an effort!!

Newhaven is looking fantastic and next time we will spend at least a week in this beautiful place!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Follow that Bird through the Coorong

Last weekend I lead a tour group through the Coorong for Follow That Bird who were visiting from the Eastern states.

the Coorong is separated from the Southern Ocean by a peninsula of sand dunes. It is approximately hundred kilometres of salt water lagoons which are of international significance. Sadly this vital habitat is in serious danger due to the lack of water flow being released in river Murray from upstream. The lack of flow reaching the Murray Mouth and lower lakes is having a significant impact on the bird life, especially the migratory waders.

Our group explored various locations between Meningie and Salt Creek. Apart from the birding we also enjoyed a meal of Coorong Mullet and damper with Muntries jam at the Wilderness Lodge.

It was also a privilege to be able to spend more time with Uncle Tom, an Aboriginal Elder, learning about the Ngarrindjeri, an Aboriginal nation of 18 language groups who inhabit the Lower Murray & Coorong. They are the descendants of Ngurunderi, one of the main ancestors of the Dreaming, and their totem is the Australian Pelican. Therefore they take protecting the Pelican and their other totems very seriously, hence their passion to protect the Coorong.

Halite Lake at Salt Creek

The samphire vegetation is beautiful and we enjoyed exploring the various plants.

The birds of the Coorong never fail to deliver. Some highlights included nesting pelicans, thousands of Little Black Cormorants, Great Crested & hoary-headed Grebe, Grey Currawong, Peaceful Dove, White-fronted Chats, Barn Owl, White-browed Babbler, Southern Emu-wren, Beautiful Firetail, Purple-gaped Honeyeater,  Scarlet Robin, Brown Goshawk and Australian Hobby.

While birding at Salt Creek a flock of over 200 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo flew overhead. A magnificent sight!

21 Hooded Plover were seen on a salt lake which was magnificent!

The Coorong is a very special place which really needs to be protected.  If you also care about it, please write to the Minister for Environment and voice your concerns about the lack of water being allocated to reach the Murray Mouth and Lower Lakes!