Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hunting Skulkers

The grasswren was just north of Whyalla and Secret Rocks is about 15 km east of Kimba on the road to Whyalla. 

Last week I chased two more species for my Australian list, Western Grasswren and Copper-backed Quail-thrush. They have been sitting over the boarder in South Australia waiting for me for a while now so I packed the car and headed west. I left home on Tuesday morning and spent the night at Waikerie in SA. I could have gone further but being school holidays I decided to use a motel I had stayed in before when I have been going to Gluepot. On Wednesday I got to Whyalla at about 1300 and drove straight into Wild Dog Hill Park to have some lunch and a first hunt for the Western Grasswren. I stopped beside the entry road, got out of my car (luckily with my camera) and squeaked once. The grasswren jumped out of a bush, looked at me, ran along the track for 5 metres and disappeared. I spent the next hour looking for it or another one and only found a few fairy wrens.
Not the best photo but it was on the run

With the grasswren under my belt I decided to head straight for Lake Gillies where the Copper-backed Quail-thrush live. Along the way I stopped at Secret Rocks which was another place that Birdata said that quail-thrush had been found in the past. I walked around for about an hour but the place was dead. Next was to get to Kimba and look for somewhere to stay. I got a room at the caravan park motel and it is a great spot with nice rooms and a friendly group of people who run it. Thursday morning I went straight down to Lake Gillies and spent 1/2 the day beating every bush I could find but no quail-thrush. I trudged all over and movements caught my eye, a lizard, babblers, butterflies, but none of them morphed into a quail-thrush. Bother.
Crested Dragon, Ctenophores cristatus. In the one second view I had with peripheral vision as it headed for cover the colour was good and the run was good ... but when I got the binoculars on it my hoped for quail-thrush had morphed into a lizard, sigh

White-browed Babblers were everywhere.

I then drove out at about 10 kph back to the highway, looking and listening, with no luck and headed back to Secret Rocks for the afternoon. Finally at about 1700 I saw a quail-thrush flush from the base of a dead tree. Sigh, not a great look but hey it was a look. And the bush flies!!!!!!!!! Zillions of them all around me every time I got out of the car.
Every now and then my concentration would waver and I found other things to photograph

Female Mistletoe Bird

On Friday morning I tried a new quail-thrush site from Birdata about 22 km east of Kimba at a really filthy, toilet paper strewn highway pull off. Sigh, why couldn't people have hung on until Kimba? On the map above it is on the highway about 5 km from the west edge of the green rectangle marking the park boundary.

Anyway there I was at about 0515 and I could hear quail-thrush calling so I wandered into the Mallee. It took me about 3/4 of an hour of twisting and turning as I chased down calling birds but finally I saw one just before it jumped from a branch and disappeared. I then spent about 2 hours searching the mallee with no further luck. They are there, I know, I saw one, I heard more than one calling, but once they stop calling the ground cover is so thick they are totally invisible.  I considered staying another night and trying the next morning but the forecast was for thunder storms and wind. I gave up and pointed the car east for home.
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Rufous Treecreeper

On the drive home I was amazed at the number of men in their forties and older who were seeing Australia by pushbike. Their bikes had large saddlebags and panniers and one man even had one of those prone bikes that he was peddling steadfastly toward Horrock's Pass, one of the steepest windingist bits of road I have seen in a long time. Perhaps the most determined tourist though was the guy walking down the road pushing a large, rectangular cart. As I drove past he gave me a big smile and waved. Good on him, I admire his effort and I hope he has a wonderful time.

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