The Big Year welcomes back the Waders

With all the big away trips done and dusted for the year we can now focus on birds closer to home we can find on the weekends we have left. Most of the bush birds have been accounted for bar a few, but we still need quite a few of the rarer shorebirds. November marks the start of Shorebird season as the birds return to us in numbers from their Northern Hemisphere summer breeding season. It's a good time to be out looking for them so we've opted to spend a few weekends trying to add  the missing birds from earlier in the year to our lists. Already in the very beginning of this month we picked up Greater Sand Plovers at Port Clinton but we still need a few more like that.

Last weekend on the Saturday we decided to go on a Port River cruise organised by DEWNR. This would get us access to the mudflats at the mouth of the river and give us a slim chance of finding Whimbrel. Strangely enough this species is generally present in small numbers every year but we've lost access to two of the best sites for them in the State so they are proving very difficult to get.

Firstly we opted to call in to Magazine Rd wetlands where a few interesting species had been reported of late. The water levels here were just right for small freshwater shorebirds and can be a good spot for Pectoral Sandpiper that Sue still needs, as well as Long-toed Stints. Ruff has also been seen here in the past so you never quite know what you're going to get.

Scanning the mudflats of the northern most pond at Magazine Rd

There were good numbers of birds present including a nice count of seven Wood Sandpipers and lots of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints but no sign of Sues Pec. Even a lone Marsh Sandpiper put in an appearance despite their virtual absence earlier in the year.

A voracious Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

One of seven Wood Sandpipers present doing some wing stretching exercises

It seemed despite the good numbers of shorebirds present there was no sign of any Pectoral Sandpipers or Long-toed Stints, which was a shame but it was still a nice mornings birding. We headed in to Port Adelaide for lunch via a quick call in to the virtually birdless Whicker Rd wetlands before heading to the wharf to join the boat cruise. This cruise was heavily promoted as part of  Shorebird week and the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary. We were pleased to bump in to a friend with two of her children who are just getting started with birding, so we opted to hang out with them on the boat.

The boat was packed

We cruised past the upper Port infrastructure areas seeing a perched up Peregrine Falcon along the way as well as some Southern Bottle-nosed Dolphins that inhabit the river. As we arrived at the mouth it was evident the tide was out exposing large areas of mud flats. We scanned intently but couldn't find the bird we were seeking. Lots of birds inhabit this area though and we saw lots of Pelicans, Black-faced Cormorants, Ibis, White-faced Herons and both Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers. Loafing on the edge of the water was a good flock of medium sized shorebirds but they were just too far away to identify.

Black Swans at the Port River mouth with mystery waders on the shore
Pelicans nest on Bird Island

We turned around at Outer Harbour and headed back towards our starting point. Just as we did I picked up a second calendar year White-bellied Sea-eagle being harassed by a Little Raven, quite a rare bird around the metropolitan coastline.........nice. The trip was over before it started and we failed to come to grips with the bird we were really hoping for. Never mind.

A young White-bellied Sea-eagle, a rare sight near Adelaide these days

We'd had a nice day but resolved to try again the following day. Late Sunday was a good high tide in the upper Gulf of St Vincent on which Adelaide lies and we decided to try at one of the good wader spots that we had seen nice birds earlier in the year. This time we invited Sam and Sam, two young up and comers that are really starting to get in to birding in a big way. Neither had seen Terek Sandpiper before and that was the spot we were going to where we had seen them back in March. They were both very keen to tag along and we were happy for the company of two more pairs of keen eyes.

After meeting up in Port Wakefield we carried on to the head of the Gulf and walked out towards the mudflats. The tide was still a fair way out but it comes in very quickly here. A very strong south-easterly wind was blowing driving the water before it and conditions weren't very conducive for scanning distant waders with a scope.

Heaps of seaweed at the top of the Gulf with the tide a long way out.
An hour later the water laps at our feet.

We enjoyed good numbers of Stints and Red-capped Plovers and further around we came across a good flock of Grey Plover. The wind was howling at this stage and viewing conditions were difficult but we kept working the roosting flocks of birds. At that point a group of birds took off from the far end of the beach and flew past behind us and I picked out two Tereks. Fortunately they didn't go far and both birds perched up on a low mangrove out in the water and both Sams got good scope views of their lifer.

Terek Sandpipers in the bag. Happy tickers

I did manage to pick up a distant Sand Plover in the scope but it was right on the limit of my scopes power and I kept losing it in the crowds. I couldn't be sure which species it was but we still needed Lesser. In the end we lost it completely and never fully resolved what it was. With that we headed back out as the weather was worsening and the light was fading. While the tide was still high we opted to drive around to Port Clinton in the fading light to see what was roosting there but the waves were pummelling the coast and we realised there was nothing around. So we bid farewell and made our own ways back to Adelaide.

This weekend we had some social commitments but still had time to check out the upper gulf again on an early Saturday morning high tide. This time we'd be joined by Mike Potter who is doing a Big Year of sorts of his own. He'd come to the realisation that during his travels this year around the country he'd seen over four hundred species and was hoping to achieve four hundred and fifty. There were a few species he might see with us so we made that a focus for the day while we looked for the ever elusive Whimbrel. We picked Mike up at 6:00am and drove straight up to the head of the gulf. One of the birds Mike wanted was Terek Sandpiper.......well we know where they are! Conditions were much better today although overcast it was quite warm as we wandered around the edge of the beach. We started scanning the birds along the shore and it wasn't long before we picked up the two Tereks again. They were a bit wary and flew to a submerged mangrove a preferred roosting spot for them.

A pair of Terek Sandpipers. A rare visitor to South Australia

Sue and Mike enjoying the Terek Sandpipers

The change in species composition from the previous weekend was quite marked. This time there were less Grey Plover and virtually no Curlew Sandpipers or Common Greenshanks. Instead there was a big flock of thirty four Far Eastern Curlew. These birds had been reported from several spots around the gulf already this season and it was good to catch up with them ourselves. Our best chance of Whimbrel is for one to be hanging out with these birds but sadly for us not this time.

Far Eastern Curlews in heavy primary moult

Amongst the shorebirds on the mud flats were a number of Terns including Caspians, Whiskered and Gull-billed. Amongst those were at least three or four Gull-billed Terns of the migratory Asian race affinis. It is only in comparatively recent times that this race has been recognised as occurring in Australia. At least a third smaller than our local Gull-billeds they are relatively easy to identify as they are always in winter plumage when our birds are in full breeding.

Gull-billed Terns. The three nearest birds are of the race affinis.

We left here and drove over to Port Clinton briefly to see what was around. With the tide still quite high we managed to find the three Grey-tailed Tattlers that seem to hang around here each summer and further round in front of the southern most shacks we found four Greater Sand plovers. Last time we saw these birds there were only three, so was this fourth bird our "missing" Sand Plover from the previous weekend? Also here were a flock of thirty two Far Eastern Curlew. These birds were not in such heavy wing moult as the birds we had left at the head of the gulf so we were confident they were not the same birds. Probably the most Far Eastern Curlews to be seen in the Gulf in recent years and very encouraging. Unfortunately there was no sign of a Whimbrel loafing with them.

A second flock of Far Eastern Curlew on the shore at Port Clinton

From here we carried on south to Macs Beach. Again it was thronged with impressive numbers of shorebirds from one end of the beach to the other with good numbers of Red Knot, Great Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits Turnstones and others. One bird Mike needed for his year list was loafing on the seaweed in the form of seven Pacific Golden Plover so he enjoyed good scope views of those.

The whole length of the beach at Macs Beach south of Price was thronged with shorebirds

Nothing else of note though and certainly nothing new for Sue and I so after lunch in Maitland we moved over to the other side of the peninsula to Chinaman Wells. Not a lot of birds here but certainly more than two weeks ago with over thirty Red Knot this time amongst others. Apart from an unusually plumaged Sharp-tailed Sandpiper with a white head and neatly fringed mantle and wing covert feathers that had me going for a while there was nothing more for any of us.

We spent the afternoon hours driving the back country roads looking for Banded Lapwings and Brown Songlarks for Mike. We failed on the former but eventually encountered the latter just outside of Port Wakefield along with a nicely posed Singing Bushlark.

Singing Bushlark near Port Wakefield.

With that we were pretty much done. As we dropped Mike off at home he gave us the heads up on a site for Barbary Dove. I had seen this earlier in the year while driving around for work but Sue still needed it, so on our way home we called in and low and behold there one was right where Mike said it would be.

Barbary Dove. Finally on Sues list.

We wait with baited breath now as to whether the pelagic scheduled for next weekend will actually go. Either way we'll be down the south-east again with a three day break to utilise so here's hoping for something new.

Plovers on the sand and Kites in the wind

The last few days of our holidays we spent down the South-east. Despite the fact the pelagic trip had been called off we thought we needed to give ourselves the chance for some of the key difficult species we still need down there. Bob Green had messaged me to say he had White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes at two different locations the previous weekend, so we started there, in Bangham Conservation Park and also in Geegeela Conservation Park. No sign of our quarry at all and we opted to move off down to the forests near the border to try once again for Powerful Owl. A spotlighting session resulted in lots of Ring-tailed and Brush-tailed Possums with a handful of Koalas but not a sniff of the Owl. A stop off at Telford Scrub to try for non showing Satin Flycatchers on the way home and that was all she wrote.........our first tickless weekend. Given how much we've seen so far this year and despite the amount of species still to search for we knew this would happen eventually but it did put a downer on the end of the holiday.

On the way home we were contacted by Paul Taylor who's been keeping tabs on the shorebirds of the upper Gulf St Vincent. He'd just picked up a few Greater Sand Plovers at a regular spot he watches. With us still four hours away from home and the Sand Plovers another hour beyond that we knew we'd never make it by the end of the day. We got home and vowed to have a go the following weekend and hope they stayed. In the interim we had to go back to work.

During the week we also received some intel about the whereabouts of Square-tailed Kites. We'd put out an appeal for info on this species after failing to find any sign of them at a spot north of where we live. There had been several sight records already this spring but no one seemed to have pinned them down to any one spot. This time our information was about a breeding pair so we knew we'd have a much better chance of connecting with them so we decided to do shorebirds on the Saturday and try for the Kite on the Sunday.

Early Saturday morning saw us up well before dawn with an intention to make the most of the early morning high tide predicted for the upper gulf. We got to Port Clnton by 6:45am and we started to scan the birds coming in with the tide. Initially we scoped quite a few Red-necked Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Red-capped Plovers. Despite the presence of a few Turnstone, Grey Plover and a single Bar-tailed Godwit and Far Eastern Curlew there appeared to be no sign of our target. Paul had mentioned they only seem to occur on passage in this area and don't hang around all summer like some of the other birds do and we wondered if they'd moved on already. I scoped out further around the bay and noticed another concentration of birds in front of some shacks, so we moved camp to there. Getting out of the vehicle and walking along the track to view the beach the first bird I clapped eyes on was a single Greater Sand Plover.........our target bird!! Sue came over and we had a more thorough look through the birds gathered on the beach and located another two individuals......nice!

Greater Sand Plover on the beach at Port Clinton
Two of the three birds present with Red-necked Stints for scale!

There were quite a lot of birds just here and we enjoyed scanning through the mixed flocks to see if we could winkle out anything else of note. In the end it appeared the Sand Plovers were the only new bird for the year but a very good one to get. They appear very sporadically in SA these days and usually in very low numbers.

A single Far Eastern Curlew dwarfs the other shorebirds it's sharing a roost site with

With that we continued back towards town near the boat ramp to see if any other Shorebirds were roosting here. Closer to the Mangroves provides a slightly different habitat type and so attracts some different Shorebirds. Firstly we found a small flock of Common Greenshanks and in with them were three Grey-tailed Tattlers and several Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. None of which we had seen on the open beach. From here we decided to check out Chinamen Wells again on the west coast of Yorke Peninsula and drove for half an hour or so to get there. Earlier in the year we had seen good numbers of Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits there and the place impressed me as having good potential for other species like Sand Plovers. We now had Greater but still needed Lesser but none had been reported anywhere so far this season. On arrival the tide was still quite high despite having turned already and we found some Red Knots quite quickly along with more Grey Plover. There weren't big numbers of waders here though and it didn't take long to go through all that was there. Just as well really as a family on Quad bikes rode past along the beach and flushed everything any way!!

 Red Knots and Grey Plover at Chinamen Wells

Pied Oystercatchers on the beach at Chinamens

With a  view to exploring more potential shorebird habitat we opted to drive back across the peninsula to Macs Beach south of Price. Neither of us had been there before but had heard it can be good for Shorebirds. On arrival I casually walked down to the top of the beach and was blown away by the sheer number of birds along the tide line. Despite the fact the tide was already dropping there were thousands of birds as far as the eye could see to the north and to the south towards Ardrossan. With the scope out we found good numbers of Great Knots, Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstones, Red-necked Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. A very impressive array of birds.

Scoping out Macs Beach on the falling tide

Despite that though we couldn't find anything we had not already seen this year. We made a mental note to check this site regularly over the next few weeks to see if we can pick up any of the other missing difficult birds we need like Lesser Sand Plovers, Broad-billed Sandpipers and Whimbrel. After calling in to Bald Hill Beach on the way home we called it a day satisfied with picking up another bird for the year.

A lazy Sunday sleep in was pleasant and we leisurely had breakfast together. The forecast weather for the day was for strengthening winds ahead of a front coming in by the end of the day. It was already blowing a bit during breakfast so we opted to get moving to try for the Square-tailed Kites we'd been told about during the week before conditions deteriorated too much.

We arrived at the site not too long after and followed the instructions we'd been given. A short walk down an ashphalt track and we were to stop at a designated spot and look up. We did as instructed and looked up directly at a stick nest high up in the fork of a tree still some distance in front of us. A quick scan with the bins and sitting hunkered down was a single female Square-tailed Kite. Most excellent!!! The wind was really starting to pick up and small branches of the trees around us were snapping off and falling to the ground. I set the scope up and we viewed the bird from a distance. Sue remarked that watching the nest sway around in the image almost made her feel sea sick! At that point the male flew in.

 The male Square-tailed Kite being buffeted by the wind

He struggled to settle with the wind whipping up around him and he constantly shifted spots to try to find a more comfortable perch.

A battle with the wind caused the bird to constantly preen. It's long wings
seeming to be more of a hindrance than anything else

Constantly shifting to find a less exposed perch

Every time he moved he was constantly harassed by nearby Australian Magpies and a male Kestrel. At least we appreciated the birds presence even if they didn't. In fact we really appreciated the birds as they represented the last species of Birds of Prey that we needed to see in South Australia this year. We'd managed to see every other species up to this point and that fact wasn't lost on us. High fives all around.

Sue enjoying crippling views of our quarry

With that we were done. We had no plans for the rest of the day so we went home and enjoyed the rest of the weekend relaxing at home. We won't be relaxed for long though as we'll be hitting the northern Gulf of St Vincent again next weekend. Some of the other birds we need will have to wait until we can return to the south-east where the majority of them reside. Hopefully that will happen when we go down for the two remaining pelagic trips for the year..........hopefully!!!

Once again our success comes down to the generosity of the greater birding community in passing on site gen. We've been in the field a lot this year and found a lot of birds ourselves for the Big Year but we can't be everywhere and it would be folly to think we could achieve this without help. So thanks to all who have, and are, helping us along the way.

That takes me to the heady heights of 369 species and Sue on 367. The discrepancy can be attributed to Barbary Dove and Pectoral Sandpiper. We'll make sure Sue picks those up before the end of the year. We'd really love to see this thing through to the end on the same total whatever that ends up being. See you next time.

The Big Year and the last great Mallee trip

Having enjoyed the four Australian Painted Snipe at White's Road Wetlands we decided to have the rest of the weekend off. It was good to catch up with the kids and we were able to get some much needed cleaning and sorting done before repacking the car for another get away. We had originally intended to go to Danggali Conservation Park straight after coming out of the desert but were waylaid by the arrival of the Snipe. Such is the way of Big Year birding, you have to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.

Neither of us had been in Danggali for a very long time and we were both looking forward to returning. It's just a bit too far from Adelaide for a comfortable weekender and to be fair there are areas closer to town with a similar species mix, but it's always nice visiting places you've hardly ever visited before. We drove up directly to Renmark apart from a brief detour via Para Wirra Recreation Park north of Adelaide. A pair of  Square-tailed Kites have nested in the vicinity of the park the last few years running and we still needed that for our year lists. In fact Square-tailed Kite is the last of the birds of prey we need to see that are found in South Australia so it would be nice to see one to complete the full collection. We tried in very early January at the beginning of the year but the young birds had already fledged and had left the area so we've had to wait until Spring for another opportunity. Unfortunately there was no sign of any recent activity at the nest site nor where there any signs of birds in the area. We'll have to think hard about where to get this one in the weeks remaining.

From Renmark we drove up to Hypurna, the old homestead on the southern edge of Danggali without having seen much of note. Once we passed Hypurna we headed out on a track up towards the border through some extensive Black Oak woodland that eventually turned in to Mallee with Spinifex as a major component of the understorey. We were here for two reasons. Firstly there was some survey work going on for Striated Grasswrens in the park by DENWR staff and teams of volunteers. Through communication with the organiser Chris we had indicated we were going to be in the park during the survey period and would contribute any sightings we encountered. Secondly we still needed Red-lored Whistler and Scarlet-chested Parrot, both of which we'd seen here before. The Whistler can be found closer to Adelaide but we've failed to find any so far despite searches in Gluepot and Billiat CP. The Parrot has bred in Gluepot over successive years in recent times but seems to have decided this year to not bother!!

We found a nice spot to set up camp having found some decent habitat for both Whistlers and Grasswrens,  but we were dismayed at the amount of habitat that had been burnt within the last few years or so. As the sun sunk low to the horizon we were visited by two pairs of lovely Chestnut-backed Quailthrush.

Male Chestnut-backed Quailthrush investigates our camp

A few cold beers and dinner done and dusted we thought we'd do a short night drive to see if we could find anything after dark on the sandy tracks. We hadn't gone very far when a Gecko appeared on the track in the car spotlights. It turned out to be a Beaded Gecko, quite a common species in the Mallee especially where there is spinifex in the understorey.

Common Beaded Gecko in the throws of shedding its skin

After seeing another couple of the same species we turned around and headed in the other direction. Just past camp I caught movement just off the side of the track so stopped the car to investigate. This turned out to be an exquisitely marked Jewelled Gecko and one both Sue and I had only ever seen once before...........awesome!

Sparkling in the light of the camera flash the Jewelled Gecko is aptly named

With little else on offer we headed back to camp and hit the sack. The next morning the predawn chorus started early. It's funny how some of the birds we're familiar with seem to sound different when they start calling first thing in the morning. I was listening intently from the depths of my swag for one species in particular. We'd camped here specifically because the habitat looked good for Red-lored Whistler as well as Grasswrens. They are an early caller and tend to be most vocal at dawn. Try as I might, even straining my ears, I didn't hear anything that sounded familiar that I could attribute to that species. Eventually it was time to rise so we could go for a walk and see what we could find. At that moment a 4WD approached from the south and I think the occupants were as dismayed to find us camped out as we were at being "discovered" . Pulling up we exchanged pleasantries to find out Simon and Beau were here to do some transect survey work for Grasswrens and we just happened to be camped right on top of their site!!!. At least I felt vindicated on choosing the right spot to camp. We chatted for quite some time before going our separate ways but before going Simon gave me a map that laid out the transect sites that the rest of the teams would be surveying.

We went for a walk up the track and we passed through some nice stands of mature spinifex but didn't encounter any Grasswrens or in fact any Whistlers. There were birds around though but it was evident there had not been much rainfall out here this year. With that we came back and packed everything up before driving deeper into the park. After visiting Mulga Bore and finding two delightful Major Mitchell Cockatoos we stopped on the side of the track to check the maps to see where we were and where we were going. At that point another vehicle approached from the other direction and pulled up. It was Chris the organiser of the surveys. We chatted for some time and he told us his team had found up to four different groups of Grasswrens at a site further up the road. By the time we got there it was already midday and a hot northerly was blowing and bird activity had ceased to exist. We decided to have some lunch and just chill out for a few hours until conditions improved or at least late afternoon approached, whichever came first! We eventually carried on down the road until we found some suitable looking habitat that might be good for the Whistler so we set up camp in the late afternoon light.

No spotlighting this time just dinner and star gazing. With no moon the stars were very brilliant that night. The predawn light came up fast and again I listened intently from the depths of my swag for any sign of the bird we were seeking............and there it was!!!!! Unmistakable two note whistle that was not only convincing as our target bird but was calling from no more than thirty metres away. I nudged Sue awake and we both got up in a big hurry. Walking down towards the now earnestly calling bird the first rays of the sun were starting to peek over the eastern horizon. We located the bird calling within some regenerating scrub but it wasn't going to give itself up for good views easily. Eventually we both got enough on it to establish it was in fact an uncolored young male Red-lored Whistler. Just the bird we were looking for. In our efforts to get to grips with this individual a little better it was evident the bird wasn't just calling to hear the sound of his own voice but was actually "talking" to another bird behind us up on the dune. Well if this one won't give itself up for better views and photographs perhaps the other one will. With that we headed over to the dune behind our tent and discovered an adult pair calling away. We presumed the young male belonged to them but had already been kicked out of the territory and was trying to establish his own place?

Red-lored Whistler in the early dawn light

Much more obliging than its offspring

The young male eventually gave himself up for a photo

We spent most of the morning watching these birds as its been a few years since we've seen any. No doubt it'll be a while before we see any again as they are sadly slowly declining in range and numbers. They prefer dune country where there is spinifex under Mallee with a reasonable shrub layer, except this site had very little spinifex at all.

Not your "classic" Red-lored Whistler habitat yet there were at least four birds in this one area
Happy with our efforts in seeing the one major target for us here we opted to drive back out towards Renmark passing from the "Wilderness" zone and back through the designated Conservation Park southern section of the park.

The whole park is divided into two sections. The northern Wilderness zone and the
Southern Conservation Park section

We were due to go on a pelagic on the Sunday so we thought we'd travel down towards the south-east stopping off to try and find what few species we had left to find down there before going on the boat. As we hit civilization our phones started pinging and dinging again only this time mixed news. Sue had an e-mail informing us the boat was cancelled yet again!!! This time for some mechanical issue.............. we're destined not to get back out to sea this year so frustrating. That put a big dampener on our plans. I also had a message from Bernie O'Keefe telling me about a reported Pacific Koel that had been recorded calling from the southern suburbs of Adelaide. This is a notoriously difficult bird to connect with in SA with sporadic records over the last ten years or so. Usually involving no more than single individuals that call for a period of a few weeks then fall silent and disappear. We couldn't let that opportunity slip, so after having lunch in town we made the mutual decision to go home yet again mid trip and give it a try.

Getting back to Adelaide and trying to negotiate peak hour traffic to get to the other side of town was no fun and it took us more than four hours to accomplish it having opted to drive directly to the area the bird had been reported from. We sat in the car for a while listening intently. Nothing........not a thing.........not a single recognizeable note from a Koel. In fact this bird was never heard from again, despite a friend having another look the following morning it was just gone. I'm sure its loafing around down there somewhere at the time of writing but more often than not they're never in ear shot of birders!

Well that was all she wrote for this trip. We'd successfully found Red-lored Whistlers for another year tick but failed to come across any Scarlet-chested Parrots and fear that one will probably elude us now. We simply have no time left to go find them over on northern Eyre Peninsula where we'd stand a much better chance in the latter half of the year. So that leaves two more scheduled pelagic trips if we can rely on them going and ten weekends left to find a handful of species. How will the rest of the year pan out?. Stay with us and find out. Till next time. 

The Great Australian Painted Snipe Twitch of 2017

Sue and I sat over dinner in the Yunta Pub contemplating what we should do. We'd just found out from our friend Colin Rogers that four Australian Painted Snipe had been seen at a wetland near Adelaide not far from home just that morning and had been reported on E-Bird. We still had a week of holidays to go and were in spitting distance of our next birding destination in Danggali Conservation Park but only three hours drive from home. Would the birds hang around. Would we even know where to look if we tried. Should we change our plans and go for it? All of these questions we mulled over as we devoured our Chicken Schnitzels while watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the front bar TV. Ah Saturday night in Yunta!

In the end we decided to sleep on it but I already had an inkling of what we should do. First thing in the morning we packed the car topped up the tank and headed straight down the road towards home. When in doubt always follow the number one rule in twitching.....Don't hesitate just go for it! As we travelled ever further south we found it strange that the general birding community where rather  silent on the provenance of these rare wetland denizens. What should we make of that? With the advent of digital social media its easy to keep tabs on whats happening in the birding world as updates are immediate yet we were seeing no traffic at all to do with these birds. Surely a species as attractive and rare as an Australian Painted Snipe would garner a lot of attention? We thought the worst that people had been searching since dawn but not connecting with them. Had they flown the coop? All of these things play on your mind when you commit to a twitch.

Rather than pop in to home we opted to drive directly to the site and in a little over three hours we pulled up at the end of Whites Road adjacent to the wetlands the birds had been reported from. There were two 4WD's parked up already and we immediately thought "Birders" As we walked towards the first pond we saw two presumed birders up ahead of us and they turned left around the edge of the northern edge of the pond. We wondered if they knew where the birds where but opted not to pursue them in favour of looking over the second pond in from the road. Lots of birds here including several Freckled Duck which was nice to see. We carefully circumnavigated this pond checking the edges for the Snipe without luck. In reality we had no specific information where exactly the birds had been seen and Whites Road Wetlands is rather a large place. We headed towards the inlet pond near the trash rack scattering Black-tailed Native-hens before us as we went. This looked much better. Plenty of exposed mud and lots of rubbish around. We immediately thought of our experience with these birds in India where we were fortunate to have seen the closely related Greater Painted Snipe. Often found in areas overflowing with rubbish they seemed to thrive in the squalid conditions. A small patch of broken down sedge in the middle of a rubbish strewn mud flat seemed a likely place. We paid it careful scrutiny seeing no sign of the birds presence, but surely the birds couldn't hide in that? We circumnavigated the patch of sedge and just as we were about to do another circuit I thought I saw something...... a tiny patch of white that didn't quite fit. I got the scope on it and there in amongst the sedge and in perfect camouflage emerged the unmistakable shape of two Australian Painted Snipe the white "horse collars" gleaming in the light that had betrayed their presence. They were immediately aware of our presence as well and moved through the cover revealing all four birds. Three females and a single male...............fantastic. I managed to get a quick phone scoped image but knew I'd like to get some proper photos. I carefully stalked the birds while they were in cover and surprisingly they allowed me a close approach. Despite being obviously wary they seemed comfortable enough with my presence, so I took the shots and just as quickly retraced my steps leaving the birds in peace for others to come and see.

Three female and a single male Australian Painted Snipe

Of course we had no idea whether the birds were going to hang around or not so we were keen to document them. Not only for our Big Year but also to document the record in case they did move on quickly.

Probably a sub adult female

This species is so secretive and there is still so very little known about them. They seem to be a Spring/Summer migrant to the south-east of the country with most records during that period. There is some merit to believing they take advantage of the temporary food abundance available during inland flooding events. When these areas again dry out they disperse to wetter areas of the coast but there is no real pattern to their occurrence so when they do appear they're a big hit with the birding community. If I was to give any advice on how to search for them? Don't look in the pretty pristine wetlands for them but in the filthiest piece of muddy rubbish strewn mud hole you can find!! Half submerged shopping trolleys are almost a prerequisite!

A pair of Greater Painted Snipe in similar habitat we saw in India in 2016

A female Greater Painted Snipe near Delhi. They thrive in rubbish strewn environments

We'd managed to get some great views and some nice photos of the birds and we were feeling pretty happy with ourselves. So we headed out towards the car but failed to find the other birders as they seemed to have left already. We went straight past a sign the Salisbury Council had erected near the second pond. It's as if the birds knew they were home! Once we were in the car and on our way I noticed a small passerine with a yellowish wingbar fly in to a nearby tree so I stopped. It was the Greenfinch Sue had been looking for all year, giving her a much needed catch up bird........excellent!

A successful twitch and decision vindicated

With that we drove home before posting up on Facebook. Then the rush was on! We had alerted the greater community to these birds presence and at the time of writing lots of people have enjoyed these birds since as they've kindly stuck around. So our decision to twitch was vindicated. It doesn't always work out like that but this time we were glad it did. Now time to head back up to the Riverland and resume our journey in to Danggali Conservation Park. Look for that blog post soon

Big Year birding the Birdsville Track 2.0

Sorry for the delay between blog posts this month. Things have been quite manic with quick turn arounds on trips, trying to organise domestic things and still trying to hold down a paying job. Sue had managed to get hold of replacement binocular eye cups after her disaster on the last trip with a bit of Andy's help. We also got new tyres all around on the command vehicle with another full spare secured and even a replacement windscreen.  But back to the birding. This'll be another long one folks so sit down, strap in and hold on.

Just to recap we'd had an epic time away on our second major trip of the year amassing quite an unexpected number of year ticks between us and effectively breaking the back of the Big Year. It's all down hill from here! However we weren't done just yet and we were looking forward to doing it all again come October. Our friend Andy had stayed on for another week after we got back in the vain hope we''d get to go out on another pelagic trip from Port MacDonnell in the far south-east. As it turned out it was cancelled yet again due to bad weather. We really are starting to get a bit frustrated with the lack of pelagic time as there's still a number of species out there we need. To appease Andy a bit we tried to see if we could get him some year ticks so we did a drive up to Morgan to see what we could find. We stopped off at the flowering Eremophila bushes just out of town but alas still no Black or Pied Honeyeaters. He did pick up a few birds and we had a good time but Sue and I didn't get anything new at all. After the weekend we said our farewells to Andy who was off home to the UK briefly before picking up another tour to India and we settled in to a week of work. I spent the following weekend on 24hr callout and we didn't get to do much at all. We did manage to watch the AFL Grand Final on the Saturday afternoon with my beloved team the Adelaide Crows going down to a much more desperate Richmond Tigers. That was hard to take and I was a bit low after that. Still our October trip loomed large and it was time to prepare our final assault on the far north.

There wasn't that many species left to chase up in the far north -east which meant the pressure was off from the start. We knew if we picked up the birds as we went around we'd have time to relax and actually enjoy our time away a bit more and perhaps indulge in our favourite nocturnal pastime of spotlighting . There's some really cool stuff up there worth seeking out. This time we'd be joined by our long time friend Stephen who really wanted to see a Grey Falcon. He only had a few days so travelled with us up the track as far as Tippapila Creek on Clifton Hills Station before heading home. There had also been some rain since our last visit and the track itself had been closed for some time. Having driven up to Stephens place in the mid north after work we were ready to hit the road the next day. With the head start we drove straight through to Mungerannie, stopping on the way only to pay homage to the Grey Falcons coming in to roost yet again. Needless to say Stephen was a very happy boy. It was here in the evening at the pub we bumped in to British birding royalty Nik Borrow and Sabine. They'd been on a massive first trip to Oz  that had carried them up this far into the desert in a search for elusive Grasswrens. So far they hadn't had a lot of success having only connected with Striated and Eyrean, so we formed a plan for the next morning.

While waiting for Nik to get his vehicles spare tyre attended to we checked out a few birds near where we were camped, including Red-backed Kingfishers and several Bluebonnets that were flying about. These birds are much more tame than the ones in the mallee and allow a closer approach. I managed to get a few nice pics of this northern race.

Bluebonnet race pallescens found in the north-eastern deserts of SA

With Niks spare fixed and back in place securely under the vehicle we all drove out in convoy towards Cowarie, stopping near the microwave tower to search for a bird we both needed. Heading out over the desert towards the end of a dune system I picked up some small birds on the ground just on a broken gibber ridge line that proved to be a group of nearly half a dozen Banded Whiteface. This was the last of the Whiteface species we needed to complete the collection and we were all very happy with ourselves. Especially as we missed this bird on our last visit here. Smiles and high fives all around.

These Banded Whiteface gave themselves up to the Swarovskis but didn't allow a close approach

Nik and Sabine were keen to see at least one other species of Grasswren having dipped Short-tailed Thick-billed and Grey so far. Despite needing to head back down the track we convinced them to carry on with us up to where we had seen the Thick-billeds on our last trip. It was a bit further than I had anticipated but fortunately Nik and Sabine stuck with us and just as well they did. We arrived at the site and set off independently to see if we could relocate the birds we had seen previously. There wasn't much else on offer but after a while Nik called out "It's here". I circled around the opposite side of where he and Sabine had seen the birds and we approached each other quietly. The birds are masters of vanishing and completely slipped the net, never mind. Despite only brief views of a bird perched up that looked back at them they were satisfied with what they had seen but needed to hit the road south. With that we parted company, imparting some gen on where to find Banded Stilts and wishing them well for the rest of their trip. We vowed to catch up in the field again some day.

Happy tickers Me Sue Sabine Stephen and Nik

The three of us remaining continued on our journey north and not long after leaving the Grasswrens we came across another spot that contained a nesting Grey Falcon no less!!. So Stephen was over the moon having gone from zero Grey Falcons in his life to now having seen three! Such gluttony!! We moved on from here up to Tippipila Creek and the start of the inside track of the Birdsville Track. This had been closed for years and almost always has a road closed sign across it, but had been declared open despite the recent rain. We nosed down here towards the flood plain and came across some extensive areas of flooded track and mud. We parked up and walked out across the lignum floodplain in a vain attempt to find Grey Grasswrens. We ultimately failed in that regard but could go no further due to flood waters. Not sure what office jockey back in Adelaide decided to open the track but it should have remained closed. We backed out and as it was getting late we headed back to camp in Tippipila Creek only this time noticing a green flush about the place compared to when we were up here last. There were more birds around too, no doubt in response to the recent rain.

In the morning we had decided not to bother trying to get out to Pandiburra Bore given the amount of water laying about on the gibber, so Sue and I headed off towards the famous Grey Grasswren site south of Birdsville while Stephen departed for home. We arrived in the early part of mid morning and it was already hot. The habitat for those that haven't been before can only be described as arid and crispy. Certainly not a place you would consider birding in if you were passing by on the track and I'm sure most people drive straight past oblivious to the the rare bird that resides there. It had been over twenty years since either of us had seen this species and given Nik and Sabine had dipped we weren't very confident. Walking out across the landscape we moved around in ever increasing circles away from the car until eventually I got a glimpse of the back end of a Grasswren disappearing into the distance!. We followed up but it had vanished. We persisted and kept looking until eventually we did encounter a pair of the enigmatic and arguably the most distinctive of all the Grasswren family the Grey Grasswren. They were very difficult to get anything on them at all and I take my hat off to those that have taken any pics at all of this species at this site. I got some horrible distant heat hazy shots after one of the pair decided to peer back at us after climbing up inside an Old Man Saltbush

Brief and heat hazy but Grey Grasswrens are unmistakable once seen

Sue in the distance following up our target. This gives you an idea of how salubrious the habitat is

We decided the views we had would have to do and we were happy to add them to our year lists in the end but it was time to get out of here and move on to better looking habitat. With nothing left to search for at the top end of the track we continued on and over the border into Queensland so we could stay in Birdsville. This was a necessary evil in order for us to be able to once again connect with the Cordillo Downs track that winds down from the Birdsville development road and back in to SA.

Another State border photo op

While staying in Birdsville we opted to have a room in the onsite units in the caravan park so we could clean up and have a proper bed. An evening meal in the famous pub and then it was off to do some spotlighting on the road north towards Bedourie. Obviously any new birds we might have seen would not be allowed on our Big Year lists but the chances of that were slim anyway. We hadn't gone a single kilometre out of town and just as the bitumen ends an animal appeared in the spotlights shuffling around in middle of the road. We stopped and got bins on it only for it to start trotting off. I wasn't sure what I was really seeing and in our state of shock we never got out our cameras but in front of us for the third time in our lives now was a wild Bilby..........unbelievable! Well now that's how you start a spotlighting session by seeing one of Australias rarest and most iconic marsupials. We carried on after the Bilby disappeared down a hole towards a long stretch of bitumen and we find its these areas that attract nocturnal critters. It was a nice warm night too but the bitumen stays warmer for longer. It wasn't long before we started encountering reptiles on the road and we ended up with five different snakes of up to four different species that included Mulga, Curl Snake, a Gwardar that had us initially thinking Inland Taipan and another we've yet to determine to species. We also had Smooth Knob-tailed Gecko, Gibber Gecko and on the way back a nice Sandplain Gecko.

Not sure what this snake species actually is but probably belongs to the Pseudonaja family

Smooth Knob-tailed Geckos are actually quite big......and awesome

This snake had us going but turned out to be a Gwardar or Western Brown

A Sandplain Gecko equally at home on the road as on a "sandplain"

Reptiles are very cool and we love finding them, especially at night, but its the small mammals you hope to encounter. Especially those that are rarely seen by the average person which includes most of them out here. So it was nice to come across a Hopping Mouse that actually allowed itself to be photographed. Based on location we came to the conclusion that this animal was a Fawn Hopping Mouse.

Probable Fawn Hopping Mouse caught in the car spotlights.

Having stopped the car on the road to get out for yet another reptile it wasn't until I tried to restart the engine I realised the spotlights had drained the battery enough for it to fail to turn over.........oops. The middle of the night 30km's north of Birdsville with a dead car......hmmmmm. OK no probs lets empty out the back and I'll pinch the second battery that runs the fridge. Got that out and jumped the car off of it. Back on the road...... yay. We turned around at this point and picked up the pace a bit as we were going over ground we'd already covered. Should not of done that! Caught a smallish mammal in the spotlights just on the edge of the road that took off in a flash. No mistaking the big toilet brush tail of a Kowarri, another rare carnivorous marsupial of the channel country. We managed to follow it in the spotlight and it stopped briefly about 30m away out on the gibber giving us a bit of a profile view. Best looks we've ever had but sadly no pictures, maybe next time. We got back quite late and crawled into bed having enjoyed a great session of spotlighting.

The next day we drove the short distance east to pick up the southward bound Cordillo Downs Rd, stopping at the border long enough for a selfie We had intended to stay the night at Cadelga Outstation just across the border where we had photographed Spinifex Pigeon last year, but it was a wasteland. Not a drop of water in the waterhole to be seen anywhere. With that we decided to carry on down the track with the intention of camping off the track somewhere.

Can start ticking again now!!

It was soon evident there had been quite a bit of rain up here at least at a local level and we dodged mud puddles all the way to Cordillo Downs. On the way we stopped to photograph some locals that were trying to cool themselves off by standing next to a puddle.

One of fourteen Inland Dotterels next to the track

Inland Dotterels next to the swimming pool they just had installed

Another species that seems to be quite prevalent along this track as well is Gibberbirds. We came across several pairs and individuals including a pair that were foraging around the edge of one of the larger pools of water on the road. We never saw them drink or actually enter the water but normally these birds are far from such surroundings enduring searing summer temperatures on their favoured gibber habitat. It was quite a refreshing surprise to see them in that sort of environment for a change and I guess they take advantage of the increased insect activity when water is available in the landscape as we saw these birds actively foraging on the waters edge.

Rarely encountering humans, sometimes Gibberbirds will allow a close approach

We carried on passing several creek lines that had been very flush with water and growth last year but now much drier. The odd one still had some water and it was at one of these we encountered several Bourkes Parrots and Diamond Doves, the only ones we would see up here this year. We came across a good camp site amongst some dunes and set up camp. With a few frothies under the belt and dinner cooked and consumed we opted to do a small spotlighting drive. Not much to report except for several Geckos of one species that we determined to be one we'd not seen before. Burrow plug Geckos. Apparently they live in abandoned spider burrows and block the entrance with their tails!

A nice Burrow plug Gecko. New one for both Sue and I

All good fun but not the birds we were looking for so the next day it was onwards to Innamincka. We were hoping to get out to Coongie Lakes but the recent rain had knocked out the track. We really needed to get out there but it is what it is. The Rangers were hopeful of opening the track the following day so we opted to camp out at Cullyamurra waterhole on the Cooper Creek out of town in the meantime. It was quite hot and rain was forecast for the next day although not expected to be much the increased humidity was already evident by late in the day. It was at this point having set up camp I was alerted by the alarm calls of Black-faced Woodswallows and White-plumed Honeyeaters. Having seen this behaviour many times before I knew what I was looking for and it wasn't long before I found the cause of their dismay. A five foot Mulga Snake not twenty metres behind our tent in fading light............oh great!!! Now Sue and I love snakes but there is a limit to that love especially when dealing with such a large specimen of what is a sometimes aggressive but highly venomous one! We watched it for a while by torchlight as it seemed intent on looking for something as it constantly investigated low hanging branches of the Black Box trees. Eventually it settled on a bough with its head adjacent to a small knot hole in the tree and there it stayed.

Believe me when I tell you that snake was five Subways long!!

We realised the snake was actively hunting so with no point in worrying about it we decided to go and do some spotlighting on foot over by some big tumbled down boulders. We started seeing a few Geckos that seemed to just be Variegated Dtellas but there was the odd one that looked more like Gehyra purpurescens. As I was trying to get a better look at one of those a thin tail disappeared behind a rock in a crevice between two large boulders. I called Sue over and she relocated it soon after. A tiny thin snake with black head and bright orangey red nape slid over the leaf litter and we got great looks at this tiny marvel A Red-naped Snake is something I've known existed since I was a kid but never ever thought I'd see in the wild..........very awesome.

As thin as a pencil and no more than 250mm long. An awesome Red-naped Snake

Having run out of things to spotlight we moved back to camp mindful of the whereabouts of the Mulga but he was now not on the tree. A quick scan around and we found him on the ground with a giant Green Tree Frog in his mouth........ amazing, so that was what he was hunting so patiently. Both Sue and I have been up this way many times and neither of us where even aware that Green Tree Frogs even occurred in SA. It seems they do but only along the upper Cooper System and here we were. We moved down to the waterhole and quickly found several frogs of different colour morphs. It was refreshing to see them in their natural habitat rather than in someones toilet as they frequently do in the Northern Territory.

Green Tree Frog in it's natural habitat

We got a reasonable nights sleep but the humidity and drops and spots of rain during the night were a bit disconcerting and when we got up it was very light but still inconvenient drizzle. Knowing how any amount of rain can put the tracks out we were just about to pack up camp when the Rangers pulled in to camp. We had a long chat about the wildlife we'd encountered the night before but the conversation turned to the Coongie Track. They were satisfied there was nothing in this rain and they were going to let us out to Coongie Lakes.....woohoo. We hadn't been out there for years as its often closed to the public due to track washouts etc especially in flood years, but this time we were going. With that we packed up and headed in to town for resupply and a fuel top up etc before heading out up the road. The drizzle was constant and the track was slushy in places but once we got to Kudrimitchie Outstation that's where the track got a bit more interesting. In the end it wasnt too bad and we arrived unscathed albeit with a mud caked vehicle!

We selected a suitable campsite and set up before nosing back down the track and over the dunes to see what condition the Lake was in. It was full and the "Lagoon" on the southern shore was choked with waterbirds of numerous species. We saw Pelicans, Black Swans, Glossy Ibis, numerous Duck species like Grey Teal, Black Duck, Maned Duck, Hardhead, Pink-eared Ducks and about fifty Freckled Ducks. Offshore there were even more Hardhead and about half a dozen Musk Duck. On the shallow mudflats we found over a hundred Sharp-tailed Sandpipers most of which were in fresh juvenile plumage and a single Greenshank. In the Creek itself there were Cormorants Darters Whistling Kites and numerous other species. With all that though we were here for just one species and we'd have to wait for nightfall for that. With a few late afternoon frothies we cooked ourselves a nice dinner before settling down in the gathering dark to listen with cameras and binoculars armed and ready. It was at least half an hour after sunset before the nearby raucous Little Corellas settled down for bed and all was quiet enough to hear. I heard it first way off in the distance but couldn't be a hundred percent sure. Sue couldn't hear it at all. At first it was very faint but then after a brief interlude it started again only somewhat closer. I tried a loud imitation of its call...........WOOK WOOK ...........WOOK WOOK. At first nothing as we strained our ears to listen. Then unmistakably and a lot closer came the reply.......WOOK WOOK.............WOOK WOOK!! I again imitated the call and again there was silence before now only thirty metres or so away and in nearby trees came the distinctive reply. Sue and I moved around in the pitch black to where we thought the bird was calling from. We took a punt and turned on the torch. We immediately got eye shine but still deep in the trees so we moved closer still until finally the bird was revealed in all its glory. A single Barking Owl calling to us on the north-west branch of the Cooper Creek system deep in the heart of the northern deserts.......amazing.

Stunning and extremely rare in South Australia this Barking Owl was a privilege to see

He was unconcerned by our presence despite the swearing and cursing because the flash wasnt working properly but the little darling just sat and stared at us unperturbed. We eventually had our fill of him and left him in peace but he continued to call around us for the rest of the night before moving off down the creek. A fantastic experience and a definite Big Year highlight.

We got up the next morning happy with the fact we'd seen what we came for and also got to enjoy this rare desert oasis once again. Time to move on. After scoping out the lagoon once again, finding some Australian Pratincoles that had dropped in, we headed back down the track to Innamincka

Scoping out the waders we found at Coongie Lakes

As we approached the main track down from Cordillo Downs just out of town, we noticed a tight flock of fifteen or so birds flying slightly ahead of us that alighted in a large flowering Grevillia species. Some of them resplendent in black and white plumage that gave us no problems as to their identity. Pied Honeyeaters. They virtually disappeared inside the bush  so I got out with the camera in hand to see if I could get some pics. With that the entire flock moved off to the next flowering bush and again to the next. It was evident these birds were on the move and heading south to greener pastures. Fortunately we connected with them when we did as we failed to see another one on the rest of the trip.

The only photo I managed of Pied Honeyeater before the whole flock took off

With that we headed on down the Strzelecki Track towards Montecollina Bore where we intended to camp for the night. On the drive down I had to stop to check something I could see from the moving car sitting in a birds nest in the top of a Coolibah Tree.

Public enemy number one. None to pleased with having been discovered

I've seen feral cats out in the desert before exert this kind of behaviour whereby they roost in old stick nests in trees during the day. Presumably its a bit cooler for them up there as they might catch any breeze that comes along. I genuinely like Cats as I grew up with them as a kid but I would have had no qualms about shooting this one right there and then if I carried a firearm. These beasts are so destructive to native wildlife especially in these arid environments, they have no business being here. In the end I hurled abuse at him, it made me feel better and he at least didn't enjoy being scolded as evident by the picture!

We decided to shoot past Montecollina a bit to see if another of the deserts spectacular species that we needed was in residence. It was!! We wandered around a site that has had nesting Letter-winged Kites in the past and the birds had done so again this year. We just caught the tail end of it as the chicks had fledged and we were fortunate enough to encounter four birds late in the day as they soared around into the wind over our heads. Spectacular.

Gorgeous clean white black and grey in the late afternoon

Only thing better than one Letter-winged Kite in the frame is two

Kites nest in Colibah trees in remote deserts of northernSA

We returned to Montecollina to camp. A wander around the bore overflow is always entertaining here and you never know what you're going to encounter.

A single Whiskered Tern hawks for insects over the tiny bore

Black-fronted Dotterel..... where ever there is water

This Dingo wished he had floaties on as he hungrily eyes three of four White-necked Herons

Six Australian Spotted Crakes provided entertainment with their antics

We love to go spotlighting out from Montecollina as there are now two stretches of bitumen within easy reach of camp that provide good opportunities. As there was a cooling wind in the early evening we opted to go to the nearest one before it got too cold. Actually not much doing up that way so we headed off down the road towards Murnpeowie Station where the next stretch lies. This one goes through loamy gibber plains that had a fair bit of drying grass and proved immediately to be more productive. We had several rodents run across the road in front of us and we failed to get on to them with any certainty except for one. We managed to get out the vehicle and track this one down. A new mammal for us to photograph as it sat quietly hoping we'd just go away. A nice Plains Mouse, much larger than I expected them to be. Thanks to Rohan Clarke for the ID help on that one.

Plains Mouse. One of several we encountered on Murnpeowie Station

On the way back to camp we came across a nice Tessellated Gecko that was starting to cool down now the breeze was picking up.

Tessellated Gecko on the road

We got a good nights sleep and woke the next morning to find the White-necked Herons had disappeared overnight. With breakfast under our belts we headed down the track with the idea of camping out a Morrow Gorge on the Eastern side of the Northern Flinders Ranges. No new birds there but a place we hadn't been to for quite some time.

The turn off from the Strzelecki Track to the Flinders Ranges

As we got to the turn off the track was badly worn and overgrown and with a long way to drive to get in to the gorge and only one spare left we opted not to go in. Instead a revised plan of driving to Yunta on the Barrier Highway and staying in the pub so as to clean up and sleep in a proper bed was formulated. We were heading in to Danggali Conservation Park from there in the morning and that would give us a good starting point. On our approach to Yunta our phones started pinging and dinging as incoming messages were being received after having been out of phone range for so long. One of them was from Colin Rogers and it read..........."Painted Snipe Whites Road Wetlands now!" Baaaaaah we needed that!..... That's the kind of bird you cant plan for and although hoping they might turn up this year is a different thing to the reality. Especially seeing as how we were miles from them with several more days of camping planned to go. We checked in to the Pub as it was getting late in the day regardless and we were tired from driving all day. I phoned Colin. "what do you think we should do?"...."Well they might hang around till you get back later in the week"........... and they bloody might not either!!! During dinner that night Sue and I discussed the possibilities and devised a plan. You'll have to wait till the next entry to read what that plan was, so stay tuned folks!!

We finished this leg with me on 365 and Sue on 362. Thanks to Sue for supplying the images of all the nocturnal critters in this blog post.