Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One day.... Five Birders/Photographers.... 542km later.....

About a month ago I got a message from a couple of fellow bird photographers from over in WA. They were coming over to SA soon and were keen to catch up and get out for a day's birding. Always keen to get out if I can we set about organising a day to get out! Luckily for me their visit coincided with my couple of weeks of long service leave I was taking at the time, so it worked out well.
An early start was mandatory and with a couple of quick stops to pick up my mates Lisa and Craig who were coming along as well... we pulled up in Heather and Shelley's driveway at about 6am! The weather didn't look like it would be our friend and it was drizzling as we loaded all the camera gear. It kept drizzling all the way to our first stop... Laratinga Wetlands! I would've never picked it... but as we pulled into the wetlands carpark the clouds parted and the sun shown through!
Laratinga proved to be fairly quiet and apart from a quick session for Lisa and I with a group of feeding Australasian Shovelers... and a backlit Little Pied Cormorant and some Superb Fairy-wrens for the whole group... the photographic opportunities were limited. 
Australasian Shoveler - Laratinga Wetlands
Our next stop was a place new to me... The Browns Road Mallee block up at Monarto. We where heading there with the intention of finding Diamond Firetails... but as always looking for whatever we could find! We left the car in what had become fairly average light unfortunately... This would be the standard for the first half of the day with all four seasons being represented in that time! Frustrating a little when you have a camera in your hand!
We spent around two hours in this spot and had some fun with quite a few species, highlights would of been finding the Diamond Firetails in fairly good numbers, a co-operative Australian Owlet-nightjar, a Restless Flycatcher, a Southern Boobook and plenty of other cool birds like Purple-crowned Lorikeets, White-winged Choughs etc...

White-winged Chough - Browns Rd, Monarto

Immature Diamond Firetail - Browns Rd, Monarto

Southern Boobook - Browns Rd, Monarto
Diamond Firetail - Browns Rd, Monarto

Australian Owlet-nightjar - Browns Rd, Monarto
Lisa, Shelley, Craig and Heather slowly sneak up on the little AONJ watching from it's hollow!
We headed to Mannum for lunch at the pub and a discussion on where to head next. A nice meal and a refreshing drink and we were back on the road heading for Brookfield Conservation Park... a great mallee birding spot full of some pretty cool birds. It meant for a big day, but would hopefully be worth it with the clouds starting to disperse and a nice afternoon of photography looked promising!
Once in the gate we had only gone about 150m in when we came across a female Hooded Robin sitting up high on an exposed branch.. We stopped as Shelley wanted a chance to photograph it. As I got out the car I spotted a bunch of Sittella's in another tree! Typically busy they were proving hard to photograph... but eventually we all managed some pretty reasonable shots :-)

Varied Sittella - Brookfield Conservation Park
Lisa, Shelley and Heather returning to the car after the Sittella session! By this stage as you can see the weather was lovely :-)
A little further on we stopped at one of my favourite spots for Chestnut-crowned Babblers... we searched out to the west for about 20mins and saw nothing, so leaving the others to keep searching I doubled back to search another territory out to the east of the track. As always happens I found the birds when I was out by myself! I rang the others to come over and eventually everyone got views of these super wary birds. Image wise I only got some poor shots... but better than nothing I guess!

Chestnut-crowned Babblers  - Brookfield Conservation Park
Next stop was an area where the proper Mallee joins the open country. I have birded in this spot for many years and it always provides something of interest. We all headed off in the same direction but started finding birds immediately and we all seemed to move off in different directions chasing one thing or another! I followed a pair of Mulga Parrots off to the west but failed to get close. Heading back in the direction of the others I came across Lisa trying to sort one Honeyeater out from another. Not far after we came across some lovely little Splendid Fairy-wrens which posed nicely for some shots!

Splendid Fairy-wren  - Brookfield Conservation Park
More Mulgas were next... We came across quite a few pairs feeding in the midst of the trees. I crawled up to them over some pretty rough ground and eventually pinned a nice male in good light on top of a small bush... pretty happy with that as Mulgas are one of my favourite birds! Very beautiful!
Mulga Parrot  - Brookfield Conservation Park
Whilst I was crawling after the Mulgas... Lisa was looking over my shoulder trying to work out what the mid sized grey bird was hopping around in the clearing up ahead. Once I had flushed the parrots.. Lisa showed me the bird and we set about getting close! It was a little difficult and we danced with it around little bushes for a while... eventually we got a few ok images before it got sick of us! It was a lovely male Gilbert's Whistler :-)

Gilberts Whistler - Brookfield Conservation Park
We found a few more species as we headed towards where we guessed the others were. But by now the light was fading fast and it was time to head back to the car. I put the call out to the others and we all got there about the same time! Everyone had found a few species in this spot and it had been a good way to finish the birding for the day! We drove around the Bluebush track just for the hell of it and watched an amazingly beautiful sky as the sun set on another day! Next was the long haul all the way back down to Hawthorndene where Shelley and Heather were staying... and then all the way back home to Freeling! It was a big day but totally worth it for the good fun birding and great company of four other like minded people! Hopefully everyone come away with some nice shots and I for one had a great time! I'm sure the others did too :-)

Heather, Lisa, Shelley and me! image by Craig :-)
Craig missed the group shot so here's a shot of him trying to photograph White-fronted Chats :-)
Thanks everyone for a good fun day full of birds and great company! Till next time :-)