Thursday, November 20, 2014

The double Twitch - Semi-palmated Plover and Long-billed Dowitcher

Last weekend I decided to try and photograph the Semi-palmated Plover in SE SA.  I drove for 6 hours and on arrival met some of my friends, Kevin, Scott and James at Carpenter Rocks . We searched the area, locating the bird after about an hour – This bird was easy to ID  with yellow eye-ring, tons of webbing between outside toes on bird's right foot, stubby dark bill with small orange base, plenty of white extension into lores above the gape and  thick black fore head band.

 It was windy and overcast but thankfully that did not stop us getting some photos. We all had good views and enjoyed some time exploring the reef. 

They  then talked me into twitching the Long-billed Dowitcher at Lake Tuchewop, Vic - this bird Is a first for Australia so I did not need much persuading and I was soon on the road again.


Semi-palmated Plover










Fairy Tern

I phoned my friend Vik for more details as I was not prepared for this part of the journey, thankfully he generously looked up some details for me and I made some quick notes. I also contacted my birder mates Ruth and Paul who decided to meet me there. My friends arrived a few hours before me and they located the Long-billed Dowitcher. They texted  me which I appreciated but it  added to my pre-birding tension! I finally arrived after driving for nearly 7 hours but the bird had flown 30 minutes before I got there. 

Ruth, Paul Tim and I all booked into a motel nearby and went out to a lovely restaurant to celebrate their success (and to drown my sorrows).  They tried to reassure me that I’d find it the following morning and I tried to believe them… It was an enjoyable evening with good company which did make me feel better.

Tim, Paul & Ruth

6am Sunday morning I headed back to the lake & met up with Ian, Fiona and Tom, followed by Mark. We hiked half way around the lake before Ian and I decided to turn back.

We had walked about half way back to where we had started when we stumbled across the bird – we got brief scope views where the breeding plumage was obvious. I immediately phoned the others, just as the bird flushed flying back towards them. Much scampering resulted in us all meeting in the middle where by this time the bird was happily feeding on the waters edge, seemingly unaware of all the fuss it was creating.

Scope views ensued of the bird feeding before Mark and I decided to try and crawl a little closer to try for a photo. By this time the Dowitcher had decided to take a nap and continued to sleep for the remainder of my visit.
Long-billed Dowitcher

After crouching in the mud for a good 40 minutes I decided to crawl back to the others (not wishing to risk standing up and flushing the birds,  as other Twitchers were still on their way from interstate).  As I turned I saw a row of at least 25 birders who had arrived with cameras and scopes – it made for a very amusing sight – I’m sure I did too all covered in salty mud!!


I had crawled quite a way to manage a photo but was still too far to be able to take a decent photo


Ian and Tom enjoying their lifer!

I drove back to Adelaide covered in mud and exhausted but a very happy birder. My Australian Life List is now on 712.



Friday, October 10, 2014

A weekend with the Devil

The Eyre Peninsula in South Australia is a great place to visit. Large stands of old growth mallee from Kimba across to Iron Knob and through to Whyalla  is home to some excellent bird species along with exciting reptiles and mammals.
I spent a couple of days exploring the Middleback Range between Whyalla and Kimba. I unexpectedly ran into my friends Dave and Sue who had also planned a weekend here so that was a very pleasant surprise and it was one of the most social weekends I’ve had in a long time.  Although the weekend was very windy, which made birding difficult we were still able to locate the areas specialities, Blue-breasted Fairy-wren and Western Yellow Robin, along with Pipits who were very active in the heat of day, Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Slender-billed Thornbill who favoured saltbush areas as well as one of the mallee's most precious jewels, Splendid Fairy-wren.

Blue-breasted Fairy-wren

Western Yellow Robin

Australasian Pipit

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbll

Splendid Fairywren

Splendid Fairy-wren

Sue and Dave
Old growth mallee as far as you can see

Reptiles were the main highlights for me over the weekend. This area is well known for Peninsula Dragon. A trip to Secret Rocks provided great views of both the well coloured male and the plainer female.

Gravid Female Peninsula Dragon
Peninsula Dragon - female
Peninsula Dragon - Male


Crested Dragon, which are also known as Bicycle Lizard because they stand up and run on their hind legs when disturbed were seen basking on the side of the track.

Crested Dragon

Mallee Military Dragon favour the old growth mallee and are dwarfed by the Common Bearded Dragon. 

Common Bearded Dragon
Bearded Dragon climb saltbush to sunbake
Western Blue-tongue Lizard

Sand Goanna were seen in a few locations especially in Spinifex dominated understorey.

Sand Goanna

I had driven back to Whyalla when I received an sms from Sue stating they had seen my most wanted target species – Thorny Devil, so the following morning I returned again to Middleback Range searching a 30km stretch of mallee in the hope of finding one for myself. Thankfully I was successful. 

Moloch horridus - Thorny Devil - also known as Thorny Dragon
This species have a fake head behind their real head, if a predator approaches they bend their real head forward leaving the fake head in its place!
Thorny Devil look prehistoric

To say I was STOKED would be an understatement!  This gorgeous reptile has the unfortunate name of Moloch horridus which I think is rather unkind. Interestingly though, this is the only species in the Genus Moloch.
If you look closely it’s head resembles the prehistoric Triceratops! These amazing creatures move very slowly, they only eat ants, up to 5000 of them a day! They conserve energy by waiting for the ants to come to them and then use their tongue to catch them.

 I drove the 7 hrs back to Adelaide a VERY happy camper! Thank you Sue and Dave for encouraging me to get back out there to search – weekend made!!
Getting out and about on weekends is definitely worth it. It really is amazing what you can fit into a weekend and what you can find within a days drive from home, so go on, what are you waiting for? GET OUTSIDE and start looking!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spring has Sprung

You don't have to travel far to find birds, just go to your local park, wetland or even sit outside in your back yard! They will come to you. It is spring and the birds are breeding, love is in the air and there is a lot of activity going on. They are building nests, eggs are hatching and little birds need to be fed by exhausted parents.

It was warm and sunny today so I decided to head to the local wetland for a little while.

The Australian Wood Ducks were busy with lots of young about. One pair had 14 ducklings keeping them busy.

Australian Wood Duckling

Australian Wood Duckling

Australian Wood Duck keeping guard

Australian Wood Duckling
Look closely and you can see razor sharp edge to the bill. Don't get to close to the ducklings or he will pounce! Ha ha ha

There was a fairly tame Hardhead on the pond along with plenty of Pacific Black Duck.


Hardhead - also sometimes called White-eyed Duck but note only the male has a white eye!
So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself a note book, bird field guide and a pair of binoculars and get yourself outside! See how many different birds you can find!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cape Gannet in Australia - or how to play Wheres Wally!

When my friends invited me to meet them at the Gannet Colony in Portland Victoria on Saturday morning to have another crack at ticking the lone Cape Gannet how could I refuse?

So, on Friday evening I left Adelaide, SA and drove through the night.
Just after 6am my friends Rob and John arrived and we started searching. The next thirty minutes was like playing Where’s Wally to spot the almost identical Cape Gannet from the thousands of Australasian Gannets, having to pain-stakingly wait for each bird to lift it’s head to check for the distinctly longer black, featherless gular stripe, stretching from the base of the lower mandible down to the middle of the throat as well as checking for the all black tail.

Finally we had success, Rob got the bird in the scope and we got great views and photos- hi fives all round!  My other birding mate arrived and was able to get straight onto the bird so we were all very happy!
The bird stayed around for about 30 minutes before flying out to sea to go fishing for the day oblivious to the small group of dancing birders nearby!







Thanks to Rob, John and Bernie for convincing me to make the journey!
With the bird ticked all was well in the world once more until I realized I then had to drive all the way back to Adelaide again…. This time I broke up the journey, got some sleep and then did some birding around Bool Lagoon in South East SA which is always worth a visit!
Australian Reed-warbler

White-browed Scrubwren

Swamp Harrier

Swamp Harrier
Swamp Harrier