Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Strezlecki Track & Flinders Ranges Pt.1

24/09/10 - 27/09/10
With the outback reportedly in magnificent condition at the moment after all the rain that has fallen, I decided to arrange a trip with good mate Michael Warnes and head up along the lower half of the Strezlecki Track. We chose to go on the last weekend in September as it was AFL grand final weekend and Collingwood were looking ominous, and we wanted to be as far away as we could be, incase they won!! ( turned out to be a draw, so our plan failed and we had to deal with it the next weekend! )
We left at 6.30am and arrived in the Southern Flinders Ranges around 3 hours later. We had travelled around 30km's north of Hawker when we saw a small flock of six Chirruping Wedgebills in a roadside bush, so we pulled over for a look. While standing on the side of the road, not 4m away a Rufous Fieldwren popped up onto the top of a low bush and proceeded to sing it's little heart out, a second bird was hopping around in the same area also. In this spot we also flushed a small Quail, I think it was a Little button-Quail, although it seemed quite pale on it's back compared to other LBQ I often come across further south just north of Adelaide. Has me wondering if it was a Red-chested Button-Quail? Hard to be sure?

Rufous Fieldwren
 Next stop was Mt Lyndhurst Station and the rusty car site. The weather was picture perfect as Mike and I trudged up and down rocky slopes all afternoon, didn't help us find our target: Chestnut-breasted Whiteface! Zebra Finches were in abundance and I saw the only Pied Honeyeater for the trip while straining my eyes looking for the elusive Whitefaces! Highlight of the afternoon was a trio of Thick-billed Grasswrens which were responding beautifully to a little brass squeaker we brought along for just such an occasion!

Three playful Thick-billed Grasswrens!

Prepare for takeoff!!

Thick-billed Grasswren

Great little birds!
 As nightfall approached we had to admit defeat and retire to camp back towards Lyndhurst a little way. In the morning while consuming breakfast a group of 3 Cinnamon Quail-thrush came wandering past fairly well ignoring us as two males had a bit of a dispute over the female which was accompanying them.
After breakfast it was back to the Chestnut-breasted Whiteface site to resume the search. This time after an epiphany during the night where I remembered Dave Kowalick had seen them around 500m north of the rusty car, Mike and I set off with a renewed determination. We took off in different directions with a plan to meet on a distant rigdetop. An hour later we met and other than a few more Cinnamon Quail-thrush each and plenty of Zebra Finches we still hadn't found what we were looking for! Mike lead us back towards the 4wd
down a small gully where he had heard an interesting call earlier, nothing in the gully but as we neared the vehicle a small bird popped up onto the top of a low bush, Chestnut-breasted Whiteface!! Turned out to be a party of 4-6 birds (hard to tell numbers as they hopped about between bushes!) we also stopped in here on the way home and found a flock of 4 birds, which is where these photos came from. It had taken around five hours searching all up! but it was worth it to find the first of the two endemic species only found in SA that we hoped to find on this trip, the other being the Short-tailed Grasswren. Both would be lifer's for me and the CBW would be for Mike!

Chestnut Breasted Whiteface at Mt Lyndhurst Station

Chestnut-breated Whiteface
 Interestingly we didn't see any Wedge-tailed Eagles on the road up to the Strezlecki Track? it wasn't until we were trudging around Mt Lyndhurst Station that we had one circling around on a thermal a little way off in the distance. I would have put good money on seeing a few Eagles through the Flinders on the way up! I would be poorer for it now though!
The most abundant Raptor for the trip was hands down the Black Kite!

Black Kite

Australian Pratincole
  Australian Pratincoles were found at pretty much anywhere with a bit of surface water nearby.

Gibberbird with insect for it's young
  At one spot just past the Dog fence we pulled up on a flat green! gibber plain as Mike had seen a bird off the road a bit that he wanted to check out. When he returned to the car mumbling something about Brown Songlarks! he flushed a Gibberbird off it's nest, which then produced a very convincing broken-wing display to try to distract us from it's nest. The other bird from the pair also came in and did the same, although it wasn't going to give up it's hard earned prey, as can be seen in these photos! After a few photos we left them to tend to their offspring, happy in the knowledge that we had both found another lifer, a bird which can reportedly be hard to find!

  Part 2 coming soon!

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