Monday, August 8, 2011

Scarlet Success! with Painted luck!!

A lifelong birding dream of mine was to find and photograph a Scarlet Chested Parrot in the wild. Common in aviaries but rare and usually inaccessible in the wild due to their liking of arid outback habitats it's been a pipe dream for a long time! I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact I probably wouldn't see them till I could find the time and funds to get over to Ceduna on the west coast of South Australia to find them! The only other reliable? place to find them is in the large Mallee Block (Bookmark Biosphere) just north of the riverland in SA. The accessible area in this block Gluepot Reserve is an old station bought out by Birds Australia to look after the Mallee dependent species which have lost most of there habitat though land clearing for farming. Having said that it's no sure bet you will find SCP's here as they only visit the reserve here and there with no major regularity!
I decided a little while ago (about 2yrs back I think!) that the next time a report came through mentioning a sighting of a Scarlet, I would be on the road looking for it as soon as possible! So when that report came through arrangements were made and I was on the road, after meeting good friend Kay Parkin in Waikerie we were off to Gluepot! Meeting us up there were two other birding enthusiasts Steve and Mike Potter.
These photos are the results of the trip and needless to say I was rapt!!
Scarlet-chested Parrot (male)

Scarlet Chested Parrot (male)

Scarlet Chested Parrot (female) this bird with the male above were checking out hollows looking to nest

Sorry about the blur! but the pair together!

Also reported was a Painted Honeyeater had been sighted in the last few days. A rare (in SA) vagrant it was an opportunity to good to pass up! We searched the area it had been reported for around an hour without any luck and so resigned ourselves to the fact we probably wouldn't find it and went back to the area the Scarlets were in. After another hour of showers and minimal birds we decided to pull the plug and head home. As always good birding can be had on the drive out so anytime we came across a interesting call or sighting we would stop and see what was around that particular area. The four of us were travelling in a convoy of two cars and we had passed the other guys as they searched for something they had seen. A little further down the track we passed where we had searched for the Painted Honeyeater. Around 2-3km later a Chestnut Quail-Thrush was on the road so we pulled up to try to get a photo. Steve and Mike then caught up and pulled over also. Around five minutes had passed and Steve and I were persisting with the elusive Quail-Thrush while Kay and Mike were leaning on the car talking and waiting, when next minute we here Mike casually say and I quote "anyone interested in a Painted Honeyeater...." WHAT THE!!! needless to say Steve and I were there in no time! and there it was a single Painted Honeyeater in a lone Mallee right above the Potters car!! High fives all around! we couldn't believe our luck!! Scarlets and now a Painted HE, in the one day! two of the hardest to find birds in South Australia! Unreal!

Painted Honeyeater

Painted Honeyeater

The Chestnut Quail-Thrush which was on the road and led to the Painted Honeyeater!
An amazing day in an amazing place! If you are ever in SA and looking for a great birding spot head to Gluepot Reserve you cant go wrong!!

A while back I compiled the top ten Aussie birds I want to see before I die! with this trip I managed to tick another one off!
  1. Grey Falcon (not yet)
  2. Night parrot (not yet)
  3. Scarlet Chested Parrot (tick)
  4. Red Goshawk (not yet)
  5. Letter-winged Kite (tick)
  6. Princess Parrot (not yet)
  7. Orange-bellied Parrot (tick)
  8. Wandering Albatross (not yet)
  9. Gouldian Finch (not yet)
  10. Rufous Owl (not yet)
Before you say it yes I like my Raptors and Parrots!!! and it's a little weighted to birds that are found a fair way from where I live! anyway that's my personal list and I reckon at least 9 are achievable before I'm pushing up daisies!! The Night Parrot is more a dream than anything else but you never know!


For another report from the same trip check out Kay Parkins Blog at:


  1. Some great photos of the parrots and I like your list. Same as mine raptor wise. I bet you'd be disappointed if you got it all at once.

  2. Gidday Chris Your top photo of the Male Scarlet-chested Parrot is superb probaly the best photo of that species in the wild
    Regards Geoff Jones

  3. Wow! thanks Geoff! as an avid follower of your Barraimaging website, I appreciate your comments!
    I had crawled up to a pair at about 10 metres when the male actually flew in and closed the gap to around 5 metres and landed beautifully in the sunshine! couldn't believe my luck!
    Also thanks Russell for your comments as well! as to being dissapointed if I got them all at once! that would be ok, I would just make a secondary list! then a third and forth and so on!
    Chris Steeles

  4. just question re Letter winged kite. I was under the presumption that our black and white kites were Black shouldered and the letter winged were eastern states? I know birds dont read the books to say where they are supposed to be!

  5. Hi Jill, Sorry for the late reply!
    Black-shouldered Kites are a worldwide species... found throughout Australia. The Letter-winged Kite is a rare desert wanderer endemic to inland Australia. Both are from the Elanus Kites and very closely related... although habits are quite different with the Letter-wing being a night hunter.
    Hope this helps :-)