Big Year Sunday filler

This time of year the birding tends to slow down a bit. All the waders have gone back to the Northern Hemisphere, the majority of local species are no longer breeding and the bush goes a bit quiet. Autumn and winter does have a few birds to chase though mostly made up of interstate migrants that make sporadic but unpredictable appearances, but there aren't really many of those.

Seabirds are worth spending the time on but pelagic trips only take up one day and only go once a month. So what to do? Answer? Start looking to fill holes in our lists. There are always some birds that slip through the net in the initial mad rush at the start of a Big Year so we decided to chase a couple of birds that we still needed that are available year round. So after spending Saturday on domestic chores and purchasing a new camera body for me after drowning mine on a boat trip, we decided to head down to Victor Harbour on the Sunday.

Arriving early morning we first headed over the causeway out to Granite Island in bright sunshine and warm conditions

Heading over to Granite Island

Granite Island is a popular tourist destination that used to have a thriving Little Penguin colony, but as is so common these days the colony has suffered from predation and vandalism. Such a shame but that's not why we where there. Another normally secretive and furtive bird, that for some strange reason, can be seen with relative ease on the Island in the cooler months was our target. Once on the Island we headed around to the right, away from the breakwater and cafe to the western side. We climbed up to a more secluded track that cuts through a group of shrubs and seaberry saltbush understorey and it wasn't long before Sue noticed some birds feeding in the shade on the side of the track. A pair of Brown Quail were foraging without any fear in the open just a few metres in front of us. These birds used to be super rare in SA but recent good seasons has seen their numbers build up and we seem to be bumping in to them all over the place.

The ubiquitous Brown Quail

While watching the quail I heard the unmistakable call of our target bird but back in the scrub off the track. We couldn't see it at all even after waiting a while, so we moved off to see if we could find another more cooperative bird somewhere else. Despite hearing another bird at a spot further up the hill we ended up going back to where we saw the Quail. This time we decided to give a short burst of the call on Sues phone. Initially nothing, but after a relatively short interval out popped a Buff-banded Rail on to the track. Strutting around like a small bantam chicken it casually crossed over in front of us then decided to come over and check us out as bold as brass.......nice! That constitutes the last of the Crakes and Rails for us to see in SA now.

The "highly secretive and furtive" Buff-banded Rail

Happy with that it was time to head off to look for another bird that can be found in this area So after a spot of lunch we ended up at one of those great birding destinations that can be found throughout the world and arguably attracts more birders than birds themselves.........sewage ponds!! Only this time we weren't looking for shorebirds or any other kind of "waterbird" normally associated with such salubrious habitat but instead we were looking for a Honeyeater. A very rare one at that. Needless to say we drew a blank despite searching the surrounding district and the lower Inman River Valley.

Sue on the lower Inman River failing to find a Black-chinned Honeyeater

Never fear we knew another spot where people had seen a bird recently in some street trees right in the suburbs of Port Elliot. Parking the car on a side street we played the call once or twice to see if it had any effect on any birds nearby. Almost immediately a juvenile Black-chinned Honeyeater marked by the green skin above its eye flew in to an adjacent tree. Before I could get a decent photograph it was seen off by the far more aggressive New Holland Honeyeaters.

Still a nice day out with two more birds for our Big Year lists putting me on 304. Next weekend promises to be another belter if we can get out on the pelagic, so tune in next week to see how we get on. Don't forget you can get live updates from the field by following along on Twitter at Sue@Tytoalba

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