The weather was.. well.. nice for hiking but not for birding. In fact it was blowing a quite severe gale for most of my 24 hour stay. Nonethless, a few birds poked their heads up bravely.... In no particular order..
Magpie, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (30-40), Galah, Grey Currawong Kestrel, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Blackbird (common in the gullies), Elegant Parrot, Adelaide Rosella (looking very Crimson in this area), Superb Fairy-wren, Brown Thornbill (common), White-browed Scrubwren (common), Little Grebe, Black Duck, Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater, Crescent Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Scarlet Robin (anyone else ever been `mobbed' by one of these birds ??!), Striated Thornbill, Brush Bronzewing (common in the heath), Beautiful Firetail, Grey Fantail, Welcome Swallow, Silvereye, Southern Emu-wren (this one was a real treat as the local subspecies is endangered).
The female Scarlet Robin flew down from her perch and literally swooped in front of our feet, just one metre from where we stood. She repeated this three times, just scraping the ground and then taking off to a perch on the other side of the road. Was she feeding and hoping that we were stirring up insects? Was she warding us off? Has anyone else been seemingly attacked by a robin!?
But the real Twitchathon was competed on two wheels with Hugh Possingham's Cycling Kites sneaking the honours with 140 and our Fahrrad-powered Pedalalots scoring 134. These both proved highly respectable scores, being 4th and 5th respectively. Unfortunately no new cycling record, mainly due to the compulsory finishing point Penrice Saltfields being in a state of low tide which left both teams badly short of waders and shorebirds.
Our route took us from the mallee, where we "cleaned up" birds such as Crested Bellbird, Chestnut Quail-thrush and Southern Scrub-robin, and then a night ride into the Barossa Valley. After four hours sleep we continued east until we reached the coast, 170km later... Highlights included Budgerigar, White- winged Triller, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, a strategically flushed Stubble Quail, and The Lyndoch Bakery (where Jemery very conveniently had a puncture, enabling us to gorge ourselves and locate a Greenfinch). The genuine highlight was seeing a Peregrine Falcon chase a flock of Galahs and then pluck one from the air in a quite masterful piece of aerobatics. The team was allowed 5 minutes off to watch this!
Some lessons certainly emerge from this event. Not only did the cyclists succeed in beating three car teams, who covered considerably more distance than us, but also the cycling team that scored higher was the one that searched fewer areas - but more thoroughly. We only missed a few common chooks such as Red-capped Robin and White-browed Scrub-wren, but the Cycling Kites had practically no misses until reaching the coast.
But of course it's as much fun as competition and money-raising. And we had a great time, even if I am struggling to stay awake at the keyboard!
MOOTWINGEE (about 100kms NE of Broken Hill) - Red-backed Kingfisher, Budgie, Crimson Chat, Apostlebird [more than you could ever want..], Striped Honeyeater [including a flock of 12 in a red gum creek] ** Laughing Kookaburra ** [at the campground and quite unexpected .. are they always there and how much further north does their range extend in western NSW ??]
STURT NAT PK (SA/NSW/QLD border) - about 70+ species, but nothing too unusual Budgies [loads!], Australian Pratincole [100+], Gibberbird, White-breasted and Masked Woodswallow, Collared Sparrowhawk, One small dam held Pink-eared/Wood/Black Duck, Grey Teal, Hardhead Hoary-headed/Australian Grebe. And.. roos, roos, roos, roos,... absoluteley amazing numbers! They just kept bouncing past the car..on and on and on..
MONTECOLINA BORE (250kms N of Lyndhurst) - Red-kneed Dotterel, Black-fronted Dotterel, Diamond Dove, Pied Stilt and a Brown Falcon wading about in the water [as we did.. 43 degrees makes you do things like that]
CAMERON CORNER (the three way border) - a Royal Spoonbill on a tiny dam. [A bizarre splash of white in a sea of red dust]
KOONAMORE (100kms N of Yunta) The BEST New Year's party for ages! White-table cloths, candles, fine wine, fine company and chicken in basil. All accompanied by sheet lightning. I went out of the house at 1pm for a quick watering of the saltbush and slapped Owlet-nightjar firmly at the head of my 1996 list. And 7 Ground Cuckoo-shrikes cured any trace of a hangover later in the morning.
Victoria River Crossing - Purple-Crowned Fairy-Wrens in the campground.. a bargain at $6 a night!
Timber Creek - Now can you beat sitting having breakfast with Gouldians, Pictorella Mannikins and Star Finches almost at your feet ?
Nourlangie Rock - get there before the German tourists do and the Banded Fruit Doves are most obliging..
Mount Isa - found a Spinifexbird at last!
Mission Beach - big flightless chook..
Daintree - the only time I resorted to a tour, but Chris Dahlberg's eccentric river cruise is well worth it. We watched a juvenile Great-billed Heron begging to its parent for food while Chris shook manically at the back of the boat and whispered "my Gawd..we could sell this to Attenborough..." (and he was probably right!)
Lamington - second visit lucky for Albert's Lyrebird
Mount Warning - two Sooty Owls courted all evening. We didn't see much but we could hear them for about 3 hours - a soft descending trill, some grating noises and the incredibly piercing "falling-bomb" call - magic..
Chiltern - always worth calling in to see a Regent Honeyeater.. and this time a flock of 60 Turquoise Parrots.