Sunday, January 31, 2010

St. Kilda saltfields

When I got back from Gluepot, I had enough time for a short visit to the St. Kilda Saltfields. It wasn't the best time of day, low tide and in the heat of the day, but I still hoped to see a few waders (Shorebirds). I was surprised to find I was first in, and once again disturbed the cormorant roost. these are mainly Little Black Cormorants. As I made my way along the main track, I started seeing all of the usual waders. There were plenty of visiting Common Greenshanks and also a few resident White-headed Stilts There is one spot that is a favourite of Terek Sandpiper, and true to form, one was there accompanied by the only Banded Stilt I saw. This pair amused me, and I just had to get a photo of them. The size differential is amazing. This is Masked Lapwing and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. On one of the main evaporation ponds there was a real commotion as Royal spoonbills and Little egrets fought over a very localised food source. A little further on, there is a freshwater stream that bisects the saltfields. From the bridge I saw a feeding group of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints. These two species are by far the most numerous summer visitors here. Whether it was the heat, or the fact that they were resting, some of the birds were very confiding. So using the car as a hide I managed to get close to three species that are normally pretty timid, so I'll finish with a few studies of them starting with Red-capped Plover, one of our common resident waders. Next is the Red-necked Stint. And finally Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Skywatch Friday

Early Evening, Gluepot Reserve, Riverland, South Australia.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gluepot - Part 3

On the final morning, I was up again as the sun was rising. The clouds made for a stunning sunrise. I was heading back to the same area of Mallee for another try at the Red-lored Whistler. As I crossed the burnt area, I could hear the Whistler calling from just inside the pristine habitat. I slowly stalked the bird, but it always kept a bush or two ahead of me. Then another joined in. One calling left and the other from the right. I had great views of both birds, but only mediocre results with the camera. After packing up my tent, I slowly headed out of the reserve, stopping where I saw or heard birds. At one spot I stopped as a Chestnut Quail-thrush crossed in front of me, only to then hear a Pied Honeyeater calling. There were two feeding high up in a gum tree. This highly cropped shot is the best I could get of this irruptive species. My last stop was at another of the hides. Yesterday I waited here for 20 minutes and saw nothing. Today was just as different. There were a few birds in the trees, and one by one they came forward for water. First, a couple of Southern Whitefaces, and a few Weebills - our smallest thornbill. Then, a flash of blue, a male Splendid Fairywren with a female in close company. Then there was a lull, and just as I was going to leave, a Red-capped Robin stopped in the top of the tree. Soon followed by a group of Inland Thornbills foraging for insects. A great end to a great trip.

Gluepot - Part 2

I was up at dawn the next morning, off to an area of Mallee with Spinifex understory that is habitat for one of Gluepot's key species, Red-lored Whistler. This bird is critically endangered due to habitat loss from clearance and also from bushfire. The two photos below were taken 200 metres (220 yards) apart and show an unburnt area and an area regenerating from the fire in 2008. Before the fire the photos would have been almost identical. I did glimpse the whistler, but didn't get close to a photo. As I got to the end of the track, I spotted a Striated Grasswren dart across the path. I slowly crept forward, but each time I got close it darted to the next clump of Spinifex. I decided to try my Audubon Bird Call - and the grasswren immediately called back. Over the next few minutes I called and clicked, and got some great shots of this stunning little bird. Again there were mixed flocks of woodswallows overhead, this time mainly White-browed Woodswallow. There are a number of hides (blinds) around the reserve, and each one has a small supply of water for the birds. At one, there was a pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters dueting. As I passed the Rangers quarters, I spotted a movement at the base of a tree and found one of Australia's largest lizards Gould's Goanna. This chap was about 1 metre (3 ft) long, and was quite happy to pose for me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gluepot - Part 1

Gluepot is about a three hour drive from home. However, if I am in "birding mode" all reference to times are null and void. I hadn't even left my suburb before I made my first stop. This roadside pool rarely has any water, but today had a Great Egret and a couple of Australian White Ibis. To get to the reserve, I had to cross Goyder's Line, and also cross the River Murray twice . In 1865 Goyder suggested that agriculture would be marginal above this line, and he has been proved right many times over. The bridge at Blanchetown has great views of the Murray, and also usually has a few birds as well. This wing-tagged Pelican circled overhead whilst Great Cormorants flew over the bridge (never under it!). In the big River Red Gums nearby were a couple of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. The second crossing is by cable ferry, this one is called Heron. Access to Gluepot is 50Km (30 Miles) along a sandy track. The reserve is predominantly old growth Mallee, now a very rare habitat in Australia. Many endanged bird species require Mallee that has not been burnt for 50 years. Mallee is very prone to bushfires, and in 2008 a huge area, including part of Gluepot, was burned following lightning strikes on an adjacent property. After putting up my tent, I went for a walk in the area behind the campsite, This is Mallee with Saltbush understorey. As I walked through, I came across small flocks of birds including Varied Sitella (related to Nuthatches) and Brown-headed Honeyeaters. Feeding overhead were Rainbow Bee-eaters and mixed groups of woodswallows. This one is a Masked Woodswallow. I saw numerous (unidentified) small lizards on this walk. The day finished with a lovely sunset.