Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coorong and the Lower Lakes

Yesterday, I took a short trip to the northern end of the Coorong National Park, and the Lower Lakes. There were two reasons for my trip. Firstly, three rare and endangered Orange-bellied Parrots had been seen there on the last OBP survey a couple of weeks ago, and secondly, the bund wall between Lakes Alexandrina and Albert is going to be breached this week, as it is in danger of being washed away by flood water. On the way, there was a very confiding Nankeen Kestrel. They usually fly away if you stop anywhere close, but this one let me reposition the car three times before I overstepped the mark!! I started at Long Point where there were a couple of Pied Oystercatchers just off shore from the campsite. There were lots of Welcome Swallows flying around, and my many attempts at flight shots were all dismal, so I compensated with some nice perched ones. Around the car park there were a few Singing Honeyeaters, busy competing for the best song perch. This one decided a bush close to my car was a good spot.......I agree. This area is known as the Limestone Coast, and a little further on I came across an area of limestone interspersed with plants. I kept seeing movement, but could only see plants, until I spotted this Australian Pipit playing hide and seek. Amongst the plants were a lot of blue flowers that look like Lupins to me. The limestone made a cliff against the lagoon, and there were a number of Galahs resting there. Then a commotion in the bushes behind me gave away the location of a party of White-browed Babblers. A Grey Shrike-thrush was singing away, so I replied with a whistle, and he soon came to investigate. Further on again, and the track headed over a ridge and showed the full beauty of the Coorong, a series of lagoons separated from the sea by sand dunes. There had been no sign of any Orange-bellied Parrots, or of any other Neophema parrots, and I was almost at the end of the park. I noticed a sheltered area of saltmarsh just off the track and started scanning. Nothing at first, but as I got my eye in I spotted a small parrot, then another. I was straining to identify them. Was it an Orange-bellied? No, eventually I decided they were Elegant Parrots, much more common cousins. In the end I counted about 8 parrots foraging in the Samphire and couldn't turn any of them into Orange-bellied. Once out of the National Park, I headed to the ferry at Narrung, and the bund wall. This was put in to stop water draining from Lake Alexandrina into Lake Albert, but with the increased flows down the River Murray, Lake Alexandrina is almost full, and the water level is threatening to flow over the bund. There was a White-faced Heron feeding along the bund, and on a small sand bar behind it, a group of Pelicans with a Great Egret and Little Black Cormorant. I was hearing a lot of Reed Warblers along the edge of the lake, and this one popped into view allowing me to grab a couple of shots.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Skywatch Friday

Outback Australia.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Royal Adelaide Show

The Royal Adelaide Show is held in early September every year. It is the highlight of the agricultural and horticultural year. There are many events, and people come from all over the state, and some from inter-state to compete or spectate. The agricultural and horticultural judging classes are very well supported, as are the dog and cat classes. One of the most popular sports on show is the wood-cutting where the three main events are the "underarm", the "standing block" and "tree felling". There is great competition between the various states. For the kids, there is a huge fun fair area with many rides and lots of sideshows and other entertainments. In the main arena were the showjumping, the daily grand parade, and a motor cycle stunt team that provided great entertainment.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Outback - Part 5

So we said goodbye to "the Alice" and headed South on the Stuart Highway. We stopped at a few likely looking spots but didn't find anything of interest until we tried a site near Erlunda. We had tried this site on the way up without success. We could hear a few birds in the scrub, and with some pishing and squeaks from the Audobon bird call we soon had an audience as first Southern Whiteface, and then Banded Whiteface, (our target for this site) posed briefly. We stopped the night in Coober Pedy, and just had time to look for Cinnamon Quail-thrush at the eastern end of town. Light was fading fast, so the ISO had to be cranked up to the detriment of quality. In near darkness, we noticed a small ditch with a Spotted Crake on it, so determined to return at first light to investigate. This we did, and found 7 Spotted Crakes along a 15M (50ft) stretch. We also saw a Black-fronted Dotterel there. Continuing South we stopped at an area of Gibber. We had been tipped off that there was a small population of Chestnut-breasted Whiteface here. This was one of the key birds we were looking for on our original itinerary. After walking for a while, we spotted one creeping around a scrubby area. Not an easy task, as they are very well camouflaged. Keeping South we entered the desert area of the Woomera Rocket Range, and even in the few days since we last passed through we could see a difference. More flowers, and the scrub seemed alive with large grasshoppers. Once again South, this time moving into an area of sparsely wooded sand dunes. Here there were some beautiful daisy type flowers, and the trees were alive with White-winged Trillers and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. Just as we were leaving I noticed a Spotted Jezebel butterfly. Final birding was back in Port Augusta, at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. No Cuckoo this time, but I did see this cuckoo Bee, so called because it lays it's in other bees nesting chambers. There was a noisy pair of Nankeen Kestrels on the roof of the cafe, and in the courtyard a beautiful display of more Sturt's Desert Peas. Irresistible!! And so to the stats. Over the 8 days we travelled 4,700Km (2,800 Miles) saw 132 species (but this is liable to change as I keep remembering others!) of which 10 were new for me. The outback is in totally stunning condition at the moment, and if you get a chance to see it, do not delay!!