The Pelagic that never was!!

The Big Year had been on hiatus for two weeks as I had to honor work commitments over the previous weekend which is not conducive to birding. So with that out of the way Sue and I were looking forward to the first pelagic trip of the year from Port MacDonnell in the States far South-east. By Wednesday it was becoming apparent that the weather was not going to play ball and we learnt it was likely there would be a front with associated 5m swells on the Sunday. It came as no surprise then that it was called off. No matter, we decided to head down the South-east anyway as that's where we still have quite a few seasonal birds to chase

Saturday morning saw us head out to Whicker Rd Wetlands first thing as we were still after some normally common wetland species that were proving elusive so far. Fortunately about 35 Red-kneed Dotterels and a lone Wood Sandpiper decided to show up this time. Happy with the good start we moved on to Greenfields Wetlands but the water levels are still quite high and despite seeing another 3 Wood Sandpipers and some Sharpies there wasn't much on offer

Whicker Road Wetlands 

Royal Spoonbills at Whicker Rd Wetlands

We then headed South to Bordertown to try and connect with Bush Stone-curlews. Apart from Kangaroo Island and some of the Gulf Islands this species has sadly declined on the mainland in the southern settled districts of SA to the point it is considered endangered. After some searching around Possum Park and the Cemetery in town, we finally located one bird seeking refuge in the Wildlife Park.

The highly endangered Bush Stone-curlew

We moved on from Bordertown to camp for the night along the Northern boundary of Bangham Conservation Park with the promise of some good birds in the morning.  We woke to rain drizzling on the tent and a cool morning.  The rain cleared quickly and the only new birds added to the year list here was a juvenile Shining Bronze Cuckoo and Brown Treecreeper.  There were quite a few pairs of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying about but we were keen to see Red-tailed Black Cockatoos that frequent this area. We got on to a good candidate but it was already some distance away when we picked it up and unfortunately flying away from us! There's always next time

Bangham Conservation Park 

Juvenile Shining Bronze Cuckoo

On our way down to the far south coast we did some exploring of Glen Roy Conservation Park which seemed almost devoid of birds so we headed straight to Pick Swamp.  Again we missed Australian Bittern that frequents this wetland in what had become awfully windy conditions so we moved on along the coast stopping in at some of the reefs to see what was around. Our next year tick was Sanderling at Danger Point that had been reported from there several weeks ago but were not in evidence when we last visited. Again this area had good numbers of Red-necked Stints, Curlew and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Turnstone that were voraciously feeding on the invertebrates attracted to the rotting seaweed heap on the beach.  Further on towards Port MacDonnell Golden Plover were at their usual haunt at French Point.

As we made our from there towards Cape Northumberland it became apparent why the pelagic was cancelled.  It was very windy and the sea was lumpy and dotted with white caps.  A short seawatch here at least allowed us to add one seabird this weekend, quite a few Short-tailed Shearwaters were cruising along just offshore beyond the breakers.  It was very disappointing to read the signs here indicating that the resident Little Penguin population had been decimated due to predation.

Seawatching at Cape Northumberland 

Fairy Penguins no longer at Cape Northumberland

After a hot mug of Latte at Periwinkles Cafe to warm us up we decided to move back up to Mt Gambier to try for a White Goshawk that's been reported on and off over the last few weeks at Valley Lake. Nothing doing there despite watching for a while from a viewpoint over the Lake so we called it a day and ended up in a cabin with a bottle of Red for the night and some Netflix

Monday morning we headed out towards Southend along the coast via Mt Burr seeing not much of any interest. Despite hearing a Rufous Bristlebird in the coastal scrub here it failed to show so we'll have to have another crack at this bird at a later date. Moving on to Beachport we had a quick look around town before driving out to Drain M where it empties in to Lake George. We were lucky to locate an Intermediate Egret feeding in the drain near an Eastern Great Egret which afforded us a good opportunity to see the main differences between them. Apart from the obvious size difference and neck length we noted the birds gape did not extend behind the eye and despite the bird having some black tones in the bill its legs were black lacking any yellow to the soles of the feet that Little Egrets do.

Intermediate Egret Drain M Beachport

Happy with that we drove on to Robe stopping on the way to watch two White-throated Needletails hawking low over the road. Fox Lake in Robe again proved disappointing with not much in evidence, certainly not the Lathams Snipe that normally frequent this spot. Although we did bump in to another birder here who told us there were three birds in the early morning. I guess we cant be everywhere at dawn but it seems we need to!!. After sitting patiently near the Malleefowl mound near Salt Creek with neither bird showing we decided the weekend was pretty much over so at this point we decided to drive straight through to the ever popular Laratinga Wetlands in Mt Barker. This proved to be a good move as some good birds had been reported from here over the previous week. We managed to get good views after all of a single Lathams Snipe and picked up both Australian Spotted Crake and Spotless Crake in quick succession.

This weekend we're taking a break from the Big Year to go on a short holiday to Thailand for two weeks.