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SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA

Sunday 13th October - Monday 4th November 2013

Simon Mitchell

Plains-wanderer (Simon Mitchell)

Plains-wanderer (Simon Mitchell)

Once you’ve visited Australia it becomes a mystery as to why the region does not appear at the very top of many ‘most-wanted’ birding destinations for more birders. Perhaps, since there is little cross-over with Palearctic and Nearctic species it’s avifauna remains ‘off the radar’ of many European and American birders. One suspects that there is also a perception that, with Western infrastructure, healthcare and amenities combined with many open-habitat birds, much of the region consists of ‘easy birding’ – try explaining that to a Grasswren! However, for the sheer variety of habitats, climates, genera and different types of birding the Southern Australian loop matches anything in even the most diverse parts of South America, Africa and Asia have to offer.

Our three week tour traversed such an amazing range of habitats that it is difficult to think of another tour that concentrates so many biomes and types of birding into one trip. Many habitats required different approaches to see the target birds, so one day we would spend time pottering around open wetlands, then next walking in organised lines across thick spinifex and the next scanning deserted stony gibber plains from the vehicles, each time finding a new community of birds in the process.

In the damp temperate rainforests, we found Superb Lyrebirds, Pilotbirds, Eastern Whipbirds and a variety of brightly coloured and very tame robin species. Along the sandy beaches open pastures of Phillip Island we found Cape Barren Geese, Hooded Dotterels and Little Penguins and rocky shores near Adelaide held Sooty and Australian Pied Oystercatchers. The montane heaths held Southern Emu-wrens, Striated Fieldwren, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and White-eared Honeyeaters. Dry mallee forests further inland held a variety of Honeyeaters as well as difficult target birds such as Striated Grasswren, Mallee Emu-wren, Hooded Robin, Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Black-eared Miner and Gilbert’s Whistler. Visiting mature dry woodlands also produced species like Painted and Lewin’s Honeyeaters as well as other tough species like White-browed and Red-browed Treecreeper, Regent and Superb Parrots. Swamp Harriers and even a brief Australasian Bittern were seen in the expansive reedbeds and sub-urban wetlands held Freckled and Pink-eared Ducks, Australian Spotted Crake, Baillon’s Crake and even Latham’s Snipe. On the spiky spinifex hillsides we found Stubble Quails and Elegant Parrots and spot-lighting on the rolling agricultural plains produced Inland Dotterel, Little Button-quail and the bizarre and unique Plains Wanderer. Further inland Eyrean Grasswrens were found on the scrubby sand-dunes, with Thick-billed Grasswren located in nearby desert creek beds. A Grey Falcon held sentry on a radio mast, whilst Gibberbirds, Orange, Yellow and Crimson Chats were also located. Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Redthroat, Southern Whiteface, Flock Bronzewings, Chirruping Wedgebills were also found in these areas. A visit to dried out lignum swamps produced Grey Grasswrens and Pied Honeyeaters. In the acidic bogs and forests of Tasmania we found Orange-bellied and Eastern Ground Parrots and seeing all twelve endemic species was further augmented by the when we connected with the unique races of Masked Owl and Morepork. No doubt future ‘armchair ticks’ for the whole group!

As well as an unimportant, but impressive list of 319 species we were very pleased to connect with the majority of the target species, some of them very difficult following the continuing drought. Of five species of Grasswren we recorded, four we seen extremely well an amazing 35 Honeyeater species included just about every conceivable species in the areas we visited. As well as the very many ‘difficult’ we were able to find, we also took time to appreciate the commoner species. Mammals too, were a prominent feature, with a number of kangaroos and wallabies seen almost every day. Of particular note were the fantastic views of

Koalas.

Beautiful Firetail (Simon MItchell)

Beautiful Firetail (Simon MItchell)