Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Invasion of South Australia 03

Days 06-08

Whyalla Conservation Park, Lake Gillies, Venus Bay, Middleback Road

After a second night of leaving money behind at the Lyndhurst Hotel, Motel, Caravan and Camping Park, we headed south through Port Augusta to the Whyalla Conservation Park and quickly found both Slender-billed Thornbill and Western Grasswren. The GW was "baled up" for a short time in a large, prickly acacia and gave excellent views but "reduced" photo opportunities.

Western Grasswren Amytornis textilis

From there we headed west to Lake Gilles near Kimba. The next morning we saw lots. Blue-breasted, Variegated and Splendid Fairy-wrens can be an identification challenge. To say the least. When the males are in eclipse plumage, these are best differentiated on the female plumage. There were several detailed conversations as to the ID of specific birds seen. The knowledge of Phil, Dan, Tim and Owen supplemented by Alison, Pete, David, Angus Brad and Matt was amazing to observe and was equivalent to having a portable new Australian Bird Guide by your elbow. Better actually, as the first four were a walking Shazam for Australian birds. I have no images of FWs, Light too dark; Birds too fast. Western Yellow Robin was another lifer bird for me. But no Copper-backed Quail-thrush.

Splendid Fairy-wren, female Malurus splendens

Western Yellow Robin Eopsaltria griseogularis

Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta

After lunch, the group split as nine of us went further west for 200km to see Chuckles and the others went east to get home a tad early or look in other locations. Chuckles is much better dressed than on my previous visit. He is currently being "managed" by site 55 who gather fish off cuts from the cleaning benches and feed him, on the wing, when birders come. He is very well trained.

Laughing Gull, Chuckles Leucophaeus atricilla

There were plenty of other birds at Venus Bay including this South Australian form of the Pacific Gull, photographed on a caravan roof. It has a white eye and sharp lores.
Pacific Gull Larus pacificus georgii
After being hit by a Tawny Frogmouth on the way east, we camped somewhere in Middleback Range and then made our way first thing to search for the Copper-backed Quail-Thrush. Owen and David had seen a flock the previous day and gave us a GPS reference plus additional information including the fact that it was on a slight curve and they had left a rock on the top of posts on each side of the road and a V-can as well. As we approached the curve we saw the posts with rocks and slowed down further except Phil suddenly yells, "Bird. Bird. Copper-backed QT. There. By the post. Stop. Stop!!". And there they were. Exactly to the centimetre where the others said they would be. Amazing. A short chase into the bush found a family of 8 or so who soon settled down and let us have a really good look and take many photographs. Woo-hoo. My camera battery went flat. Boo-hoo.
Copper-backed Quail-thrush Cinclosoma clarum

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