Sunday, 13 December 2015

Second AOC field trip to wetlands North Adelaide

Barker Inlet Wetlands
On Sunday November 29 Brian Walker led a small group from the AOC (Elliot Leach, Janice Mentiplay-Smith and Val and me) on a tour of wetlands at North Adelaide.  Our first stop was at Barker Inlet Wetlands where the highlight was seeing approximately 55 Banded Stilts.  I had only seen the species once before, a single specimen at Lake Nearie near Wentworth, New South Wales, many years ago.  An Australian Spotted Crake ran into cover and then proceeded to emerge again to give us all great views.  A single Black-tailed Godwit and a group of Black-tailed Native-hens were other species of interest.

Flock of Banded Stilts Barker Inlet Wetlands

Banded Stilts at Barker Inlet Wetlands

The next location was at Magazine Road Wetlands (Dry Creek) where some Long-toed Stints had been seen earlier in the week.  We checked out every small Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and finally Elliot saw a bird that he was happy was a Long-toed Stint.  It certainly was smaller than the other Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and the markings were quite different.  It would have been a new species for both of us but after doing some research after the trip Elliot realized that it was, in fact, an unusually marked Sharpie!!  That species is quite variable and often causes identification problems.  Twenty Wood Sandpipers were a highlight though.  I had only seen the species twice before and both times involved single birds.  A group of twenty Black-tailed Native-hens scurried for cover as we walked around the track.

Moving on to the Whites Road Wetland (Bolivar) Brian told us that the White-winged Fairy-wren occurs there.  He showed us the general area where they occur and I spotted an adult male perched on a fence post.  It is a beautiful little gem of a bird.  An Eastern Great Egret made a meal of a crayfish working it in its bill for some time, attempting to swallow it and then moving it out to its bill for further crushing.  It eventually swallowed it whole.  Thirty Chestnut Teal, 6 Pink-eared Ducks and a Yellow-billed Spoonbill and a Royal Spoonbill were on and around the sand flat in one of the ponds.

Eastern Great Egret eating crayfish Whites Road Wetland (Bolivar)

At St Kilda Elliot and I found out the hard way how soft the mud was in a drain adjacent to the saltworks.  The water in the saltworks was covered in Banded Stilts and we both wanted to get some photographs.  There were a couple of access points above the drain but we wanted to sneak up on the birds in the hope of getting some great photos so took the more direct route.  As I sank into the black ooze I was hoping that there was a bottom to the drain.  Luckily there was but I still had my boots and the bottom of my jeans totally caked in black ooze. Elliot followed me in and collected even more black ooze than I did.  We spent quite a while washing the ooze off our boots and jeans and we were worried about staining the seats of Brian's immaculate vehicle but a plastic floor mat and another piece of plastic prevented any problems.   There would have been 300+ Banded Stilts at the site - an incredible spectable.  I managed a few photos but lacking my spotting scope and camera adaptor the shots were fairly distant.  Nevertheless I was happy with a few of them.  A we were cleaning up a restored tram rattled past on the opposite side of the road.

Large flock of Banded Stilts at St Kilda saltworks

Banded Stilts St Kilda

Banded Stilts St Kilda

Restored tram, St Kilda

Not too far from the saltworks we parked near a very popular fun park which was full of children and their parents.  We walked in the opposite direction to check out the birds in the bay.  Another flock of Banded Stilts was foraging just offshore and 3,000+ Black Swans were scattered around the bay.  Six Sooty Oystercatchers, 10 Common Greenshanks and 20 Whiskered Terns were other birds of interest.

Brian and Elliot off to find some good birds!!! St Kilda

Flock of Banded Stilts on mudflats at St Kilda (Black Swans in background)

Little Pied Cormorant, St Kilda
Black Swans in flight and on the water, St Kilda

After a longish half day with the excitement of nearly drowning in black ooze Brian dropped us back to our respective places of accommodation.  Another really enjoyable trip.

Monday, 7 December 2015

AOC field trip to the Coorong and Murray Mouth, South Australia

A small group of delegates from the Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC) went on a tour to the Coorong and Murray Mouth on Saturday November 29.  The tour was led by the well-known South Australian ornithologist and scientist David Paton.  David had presented a talk at the conference on the Coorong and the problems created by the over-extraction of water from the Murray-Darling system and the effects of drought.  Our bus driver was Colin Bailey who was a co-author of a couple of the talks at the conference.

Straw-necked Ibis Tolderol Game Reserve

Our first stop was at the Tolderol Game Reserve, where duck shooting is permitted seasonally in one section of the Reserve.  A number of Whiskered Terns were hunting over the ponds where groups of of ducks were feeding and loafing.  A Swamp Harrier caused some alarm among the feeding birds.  A juvenile Black-shouldered Kite was being attended by an adult and higher up a Black Kite glided over.

Adult Whiskered Tern in breeding plumage Tolderol Game Reserve

Whiskered Tern Tolderol Game Reserve

Next stop was at Milang, on the banks of Lake Alexandrina, where the local shop was popular for  morning tea.  I had my own food with me so I wandered off to photograph some Whiskered Terns and another Black Kite.  A Caspian Tern was not obliging and flew off when I approached to get a few photos.  I had to get close to the birds as I was shooting with my 28-105 mm lens as I decided to leave my spotting scope and 800 mm adapter at home to reduce the amount of carry on luggage on the flights.

Milang, on Lake Alexandrina

Whiskered Tern on wharf at Milang

Whiskered Tern Milang

Black Kite, Milang

Along the Milang-Clayton Road we spotted small groups of Cape Barren Geese.  I did not see the first group when they were called from inside the bus but we came across another scattered group just up the road.  I was very happy as it was a lifer for me, having seen them before only in zoos.  I had always admired their pastel beauty with the yellow-green bills contrasting with their grey plumage.

Cape Barren Geese, Milang-Clayton Road

Cape Barren Geese

A small wetland at Kindaruar was graced with a flotilla of 30 Hoary-headed Grebes and four Australasian Grebes.  On to the Goolwa Barrage where a great diversity of waterfowl and shorebirds was encountered including 150 Black Swans, 50 Red-necked Avocets, 9 Curlew Sandpipers, an adult and a juvenile Pacific Gull and a Little Tern. A Common Sandpiper was also present.  There was one bird foraging along the banks of the River.  Despite its name it is rather uncommon in southern Australia.

Shorebirds and ducks at the Goolwa Barrage

Adult Little Raven, Goolwa Barrage

Australian Pelican, Goolwa Barrage

A fledgling Nankeen Kestrel was perched at the entrance to its nest hole in a building nearby.  It was hard to tell whether the second bird inside the nest was another fledgling or one of the adults.

On to the Murray mouth where the sand extraction to open the silted up mouth was observed. A pair of Australian Pied Oystercatchers was seen in the distance through the heat haze while Singing Honeaters were calling loudly.  These honeyeaters were seen or heard at a number of locations during the day.  A small group of New Holland Honeyeaters was attracted to a eucalypt with large cream-white flowers.  David said that it was most likely a native of Western Australia.

Sand extraction Murray River Mouth

Flowering eucalypt Murray Mouth

 On the return to Adelaide we stopped off at the Laratinga Wetlands and were rewarded with great views of an Australian Spotted Crake, a Baillon's Crake, a Black-fronted Dotterel, 3 Yellow-billed Spoonbills, two Freckled Ducks and a Little Grassbird.

Australian Spotted Crake, Laratinga Wetlands

Pair of Freckled Ducks, Laratinga Wetlands

We all arrived back at our varying destinations in Adelaide feeling satisfied that we had seen a good diversity of birds under the expert leadership of David Paton and Colin Bailey. Close to our accommodation at Glenelg South we spotted an adult Peregrine Falcon feeding a juvenile in a Norfolk Island Pine Tree.  At the motel a group of Musk Lorikeets was feeding in a flowering Brush Box, reminding us of the north coast of New South Wales where this tree is found naturally.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon in Norfolk Island Pine Glenelg South

Musk Lorikeet feeding on blossoms of Brush Box, Glenelg South     

I will report on the second AOC field trip, a half day trip on Sunday November 29 to north Adelaide, in the next blog post.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Australasian Ornithological Conference Adelaide November 25-29 2015

Val and I flew to Adelaide to attend the Australasian Ornithological Conference at Flinders University from November 25 to November 27.  We also attended two field trips on the weekend.  We arrived a day early so investigated the bus pick up point where we would need to meet the bus the following morning.  We were staying at Glenelg South but the pick up point was at Glenelg.  In the park opposite there was a replica of the HMS Buffalo which had been used as a restaurant but was now in a state of disrepair.

HMS Buffalo - Glenelg, Adelaide

HMS Buffalo

  The following information was published on

"The HMS Buffalo was built as the Hindostan in Calcutta in 1813. She was subsequently purchased by the Royal Navy as a storeship and renamed HMS Buffalo. Prior to the event for which she is remembered in Glenelg, the Buffalo, after service in the Napoleonic Wars had made a number of trips to Australia and New Zealand as a freighter, quarantine ship and perhaps most notably as a convict ship (to Australia) in the early 1830s.

The trip for which she is remembered here in Glenelg is the one on which she (though described as “an old tub” totally unfit for surveying work) departed Portsmouth on 23 July 1836 carrying 176 colonists. These included Captain John Hindmarsh, who was to become the first Governor of the new colony of South Australia following his proclamation of the colony on 28 December 1836 – the day he arrived here in Holdfast Bay.  Hindmarsh was not a particularly good Governor or administrator and was replaced eighteen months later on 16 July 1838, by Governor Gawler.

The ship is in the Patawalonga River and is a replica of the Buffalo which operated as a restaurant though the ship is owned by the local council.

The ship is in a very bad state of repair and the council is actually considering destroying it as neither the restaurant owners nor other developers have shown any interest in restoring it due to the cost involved.

The original HMS Buffalo was wrecked on 28 July 1840 by a storm while anchored in Mercury Bay off Whitianga on the North Island of New Zealand. The wreck was located in 1986".


Near the replica of the HMS Buffalo is an anchor with a plaque that reads "Good luck anchor - just rub the fluke and luck you'll hook for all next week hae' what you seek.  This anchor is believed to have been left in Holdfast Bay by HMS Buffalo.  It brought good luck to the early settlers."

Why an anchor would be left behind is a mystery. 

The conference consisted of a full program of talks, both lengthy plenary and short 10-12 minute sessions covering all aspects of Australian and New Zealand birds.  There were  also a couple of talks on birds from other countries.  I presented a short talk on the Common Myna survey that I had carried out, with Russell Jago, in the Clarence Valley local government area.  All of the talks were interesting and it was good to catch up with old birding friends and to make a few new ones.  What was shared by all of the conference delegates was a real concern for Australasian birds and the plight that many were in.  There were a few good news stories, such as the recent work on the Night Parrot by Steve Murphy, but many talks highlighted declines and on-going threats to many species.

In the next blog I will report on the two field trips that followed the conference.