Australia - Lyndhurst, Flinders Rangers, Yorke Peninsular, SA, 1st - 4th September 2006.

Published by Graham Etherington (etherington AT hotmail.com)

Participants: Graham Etherington

Comments

Following a conference at Victor Harbor I did a whistle-stop tour of the above sites. All the sites I mention were reached (with care) in a Toyota Yaris (rented).

Brief itinerary:

1 Sep - Strzelecki Track (Mt. Lyndhurst) and Aroona Dam.
2 Sep - Flinders Ranges (Stokes Hill Lookout and Bunyeroo Gorge) and Port Augusta
3 Sep - Yorke Peninsular (Innes National Park)
4 Sep - Yorke Peninsular (Innes National Park) and Port Gawler

Detailed itinerary, site info and birds:

31 Aug - Drive from Victor Harbor to Lyndhurst. Stopped c200 km south of Lyndhurst at 10.30 pm as driving was getting 'hazardous', to say the least.

1 Sep - Strzelecki Track (Mt. Lyndhurst).
Target birds: Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, Thick-billed Grasswren.

Site info: It is necessary to contact the landowners of Mt Lyndhurst before you head out there to obtain permission. Their number is 08 8675 7796. They will probably charge you $20 for entry onto their land that you can either drop off at their homestead or the roadhouse (petrol station) in Lyndhurst.

27.2 km 'rusty car' site. Look for the small track that runs north (left) from the road which forks into two after about 20 metres. Take the left-hand fork, past the rusty car (it's about 50 metres from the track), and park by the 'no pubic access' sign. Check the flatter area to the west of the mine entrance. I searched for 6 hours (8am - 2 pm) for Chestnut-breasted Whiteface but saw none.

Birds (total seen in brackets): Thick-billed Grasswren (8) Rufous Fieldwren (4), Cinamon Quail-Thrush (2) (plus 4 along the side of the Strzelecki Track on the way), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (2), White-winged Fairy-wren (common), Chirping Wedgebill (2), Emu (2), White-backed Swallow (1).

25.7 km 'two gates' site*. After 25.7 km you'll come to 2 gates about 100 metres apart, in the fence on the south (right) side of the road. Park by the second gate and walk through the gate. Check the hills (and gullys) to your left.
Birds: Chestnut-breasted Whiteface (3 birds, 200 metres along 3rd gully from left).

Aroona Dam (dusk).
Birds: Musk Duck (10), Hoary-headed Grebe (c20), Variegated Fairy-wren (common below the dam)

Evening drive to Hawker.

*I'd noticed a bit of confusion over the distance from Lyndhurst to the 2-gates site, so on the way back I measured it. From the 2nd gate (furthest from Lyndhurst) to the junction of the Strzelecki Track/Leigh Creek main road is 25.7km. I'd seen it written that it was 27 km (and not 26 as quoted in Thomas and Thomas), but this obviously can't be true as the rusty car site is 27.2 km and it's definitely much more than 200 metres between the two sites!

2 Sep - Flinders Ranges (Stokes Hill Lookout and Bunyeroo Gorge), Port Augusta.

Target birds: Short-tailed Grasswren (STGW), Elegant Parrot, Banded Stilt.

Site info: Stokes Hill Lookout - From the 3D map in the car park look south-west. You will notice that ranges in the background disappear behind a ridge/hill about 1km away from the car park. This is where you want to be heading. On the way you go over a fence where you should see 2 well grown trees about 15 metres apart from each other. The left-hand tree is a eucalyptus, the right-hand one a pine. There were 2-3 STGW's in this area. Continue up the hill in front of you. When you get a bit of height, align yourself with Stokes Hill Lookout car park with the gap between the 2 trees and head up to the Yacca's on top of the hill (Yacca is a grassy plant with a big spike growing out the top of it).

Strategy - I got really good views of STGW here by squeaking them out with Audubon bird caller/scarer(!). When you hear their high pitch calls, crouch down and start squeaking as high-pitched as possible. The birds often climb up isolated higher rocks to see where the squeaking is coming from.

Continue straight on through a small eucalyptus glade and you come to a valley running away from you with a fence running down the right-hand side of it. Start at the top of the valley and walk down the valley along the fence. I had about 8 birds along this stretch.

Birds: Short-tailed Grasswren (about 10 birds in total), Elegant Parrot (a pair at the car park, plus about 4 more in the area), Red-capped Robin (1 pair), Australian Ringneck (race zonarius), Weebill (common), Inland Thornbill.

Bunyeroo Gorge - Between Wilpena and Stokes Lookout, take the road to Bunyeroo Gorge. As you enter the gorge, park in the car park on the right, walk down to the stream and head left. This is where the best habitat is (there was hardly any water in the stream when I visited, and the little water present was along this stretch).
Birds: Diamond Dove (1), Yellow-throated Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater (common), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (2), Emu (2), Red-rumped Parrot (6), Australian Ringneck (race zonarius) (10), White-crowned Babbler (5), Little Eagle (1).

Port Augusta - At the junction of the A1/B83 (to Quorn/Hawker) go west (towards Port Augusta). Go over the causeway which crosses the saltflats (still on the A1), then take the 1st road to the left immediately after the end of the causeway. After about 100 metres, turn into the public BBQ/toilet area and view the salt lagoon from there.
Birds: Banded Stilt (125)

Evening drive to Yorke Peninsular (Innes National Park).

3 + 4 Sep - Innes National Park (entry fee $7 per day)

Target birds: Western Whipbird, Malleefowl, Rock Parrot, Brush Bronzewing, any 'western' birds.

Pick up a free map from the self-registration point. All the places mentioned below are on the map. All directions are given taking you are driving from the visitors centre towards Browns Beach (the end of the park road).

Birds found in various places around the park: Grey Currawong, Brush Bronzewing, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Pacific Gull, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, White-browed Scrubwren, Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo, Emu.

Site info: West Cape Road. Thomas and Thomas mention a site for Western Whipbird that involves climbing the dunes after about 300 metres and looking down on a big bush. I did this and found lots of big bushes, and no sound of any whipbirds. The Cape proved to be quite a good place for sea watching (stiff south-westerly wind).
Birds: Rock Parrot (10+). Seawatch: Giant Petrel sp. (1), Australian Gannet (100+), Fluttering Shearwater (20), Pacific Gull (10), probable Flesh-footed Shearwater (10).

3.3 km past West Cape road. From the start of West Cape Road, continue towards Browns Beach and after 3.3km park near the left-hand bend by the big eucalyptus tree (just after a left-hand bend with a fenced off area to the right of the road) - I found this area to be very productive and had a number of Western Whipbirds singing, plus plenty of other stuff.

Birds: Southern Scrub Robin (common), Crested Bellbird (1), Fan-tailed Cuckoo (2), White-browed Babbler (3), Western Whipbird (3+ heard but not seen well).

Pondalowie Bay/Campground.

Birds: Bay - Hooded Plover (2), Turnstone (15), Pacific Gull (7).
Campsite: White-browed Babbler (10).

Finally, although Thomas and Thomas describe Malleefowl as common, I only saw 1 bird. Just before the turning to Inneston, pull over to the left side of the road where you will find a plaque dedicated to the Cape Spencer Cookhouse. 30 metres along from this (in the direction of the Inneston turning) there was a Malleefowl tending to what looked like the start of a mound.

4 Sep - Port Gawler

Target birds: Slender-billed Thornbill

Site info: Head North from Adelaide on the A1 towards Port Wakefield. 5 km north of Virginia, take the left-hand turn to Port Gawler. After a couple of kms you will reach the saltmarsh. I stopped at the junction by the 'Port Gawler Conservation Area' sign. The road that runs straight ahead leads you to the mangroves. I was pushed for time at this site, so only had about 20 minutes to look around.

Birds: White-fronted Chat (3), Whiskered Tern (19), Greenshank (1).Didn't see any thornbills (look in the samphire flats).

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Rohan Clarke, Laurie Knight, Tony Russell, David Parker, Clive Garland, Keith Brandwood, John Turner, and (especially) Peter Waanders, all of whom responded to my RFI on Birding-AUS.

Graham Etherington,
Brisbane, Queensland.