Back in 2010 my good mate Michael Warnes and I decided to do a drive up the Strzelecki Track which can be found here & here. We had been up that way a few times before but always with mates who don't bird... so birding opportunities were limited! This time it was pure birding all the way! It was a wonderful trip and we came across many new species including the highlight bird for me the Letter-winged Kite! A bird I had wanted for a long time! What this trip also did to me was light a fire inside me that always had me wanting to go back and experience more! So when we got home from that trip we both agreed that we should make a run like this an annual event! Well with both of us having real young children... it would be another three years before we could attempt it again!
So with the fire still burning as bright as ever.. sometime around May I mentioned to Mike I wouldn't mind trying to get up into the outback again sometime this year! I didn't have to do any arm-twisting as I think the fire was burning on Mike's side as well! With that in mind we decided September would be a good time of the year to go and we set about deciding where to go and working out the best way to tell our wives of our plans!! This time we thought rather than redo the same run as last time, the Birdsville track was calling... Plans were starting to come to fruition with about three weeks to go when Mike worked out the Birdsville races were being held on the same weekend! Now Birdsville's population reportedly goes from around 600 to 6000 over this weekend... Hmm... that meant a lot of traffic up the track... not quite the birding serenity we were after! So alternate plans to go back up the Strez were made. Although this time to make it feel a little different we decided to go across to Cameron's Corner and through the Sturt NP and come home through Broken Hill for something different.
It was about 7am on the Friday morning when we got underway... buzzing with excitement as always when undertaking a trip like this! We headed up through Clare and Jamestown on our way to Hawker, our first fuel stop on the way up! We picked up some nice birds along the way including a paddock which had seven Wedge-tailed Eagles sitting in it feeding on dead sheep, a single Peregrine Falcon, a few White-winged Trillers and a White-backed Swallow being the highlights of this first part of the run!
After Hawker we made our way towards Parachilna.. along this stretch of road is a spot where on the last trip we had pulled up to photograph some Chirruping Wedgebills and found a Rufous Fieldwren and a Little Button-quail! These sightings from our last trip made a stop this time mandatory... so we made our way to the spot, which looks quite un-interesting... and got out to see what was around. Within no time some White-winged Fairy-wrens were calling, so I thought I might try for a few images and let Mike walk around and see what else he could find?
|An eclipse male White-winged Fairy-wren at our little golden spot about 20km's up from Hawker.|
|They would have to get sick of this!|
Moving along it was lunch at Leigh Creek and then onto Lyndhurst to fill up with fuel for the last time before Cameron's Corner. On the last trip just as you head out of Lyndhurst along the Strezlecki Track we had a Falcon fly low and fast across the front of our 4wd and crest a hill and go out of sight towards the Lyndhurst dump... we chased it but never saw it again... at the dump were many Little Crows and Black Kites but no Falcon! Can't be sure what it was.. but I feel it may have been the closest I have come to the elusive Grey Falcon and yet didn't get a good enough look to confirm it! We went in again on this trip.... not a bird to be seen this time... it really was just clutching at hope!
Not too much further up the track we found another Wedge-tailed Eagle sitting on the ground so we stopped so I could try to photograph it... typically it flew pretty quick and all I got were flying away shots! A bonus of this stop though was a pair of Chirruping Wedgebills on the opposite side of the road which allowed me the closest approach to them as I have had with this normally tough wary species.
|Easily my best image I have of this wary species - Chirruping Wedgebill|
After that our next stop was at Yeralina Creek further up the track just to see what was around. We went for a small walk along the edge of the creek, a few of the birds we saw here were: Variegated Fairy-wrens, Zebra Finches, nesting Little Corella's, a Rainbow Bee-eater and nesting Elegant Parrots! One of the adults came in and fed the unfledged but nearly fully feathered youngsters right in front of us! Very cool to see Elegants right up there!
|One of the male Variegated Fairy-wrens at Yeralina Creek|
|Galah's come in to drink|
|Little Corella in the warm evening sun!|
|Cockatiels - two pairs|
|Dawn campfire at Pelican Creek|
|Dawn over the Strezlecki Track, Pelican Creek|
We stopped at a site near the dog fence where we got Gibberbird last trip.. none there this time but we did pick up more Orange Chats and a pair of Little Button-quail which was cool!
|Orange Chat (male)|
This bore really is like an Oasis in the outback and when we got back to the car the binoculars and cameras were put back in the car and Mike and I were straight in that bore... and wow did it feel good! In the shrubs along one corner of the bore there were many Corella's sitting in the branches over the waters edge... when approached on land they would fly at about 20m but swimming up to them slowly like a Croc... well they just didn't seem to care! and they let me with 2m of them... very cool!
Refreshed and with one target species in the bag.. we headed off in the direction of our next target.. the Letter-winged Kite!
|Little Corella's hiding from the suns midday heat..|
|I photographed this Wedge-tailed Eagle just north of Montecollina Bore|
Now for the Letter-wings....
|Letter-winged Kite in full banking pose|
|One of my real close chopped shots.... D'oh!|
|Another from when they landed mega close!|
|Such fantastic birds to encounter!|
|Letter-winged Kites X 4|
By around 8pm we were starting to think about spotlighting again. Mike mentioned we should probably clean up a little just in-case a Dingo came in to see what it could find! I said nah I wouldn't be too worried about it... don't reckon they will come in.. their pretty skittish around here! So we hooked up the spotlight and of course there not 50m from where we were was a Dingo staring straight at us! You have got to be joking!! Damn you Michael Warnes... proving me wrong again! Ha-ha...
This dog ended up doing a half circle around us then headed off towards the crossing... luckily it never came back and our camp stayed intact whilst we were spotting!
Plenty of Dusky Hopping mice were about and we also picked up another small marsupial about the size of a tennis ball... we think was either a Fan-tailed Dunnart or Ampurta? Not quite sure as the sighting was fairly quick and I didn't manage a photo.. As you will see by my image below the DHM were tough little critters to photograph too!
What a fantastic day! Seven Letter-winged Kites and nine Eyrean Grasswrens! Plus lots of other outback delights! Slept well that night!
|The Dingo that came in and proved my theory wrong at our Strzelecki creek crossing campsite!|
|My only half decent Dusky Hopping Mouse image from the night!|
Part two coming soon! :-)