Making something out of nothing

Another cancelled pelagic trip was not the news we were hoping for at the end of last week. When we started out on our S.A. Big Year quest we put our names down for every trip that was going, knowing that boat trips can be a big game changer. The shear amount of species that can potentially be seen is quite phenomenal.  Neither of us had done many boat trips up to this point in time and so we took it as a good opportunity to perhaps get some lifers as well as birds for the year list. As a consequence pelagic weekends during the year are basically preplanned and we dont have to think too hard about what birds we need to chase or where we need to go as its its all laid on, so when a trip is cancelled it forces us to think on the fly and come up with an alternative plan.

With very few birds left to chase within easy day tripping of Adelaide, coming up with a plan was quite a challenge. Spring and the birds that it brings is still so far away, as is our planned holidays for later in the year when we get to travel further what to do? A quick look through our lists identified a couple of species we still needed that we could look for very close to Adelaide. Not only that, Sue still needed a few birds I'd already seen due to opportunities through my work. It wasn't long before we came up with a plan

First on the agenda for Saturday was a visit to a site in suburban Adelaide that has played host to a very special visitor over the past two years. The only problem was no one had reported it this year.......... but then again we didn't think anyone had actually looked for it either. Arriving in the early morning sunshine a walk through a local reserve near Belair National Park failed to find the celebrity Rose Robin that visited here for the last two winters in a row. Apparently three in a row was too big a stretch! Not really a dip given it hasn't actually been seen this year but disappointing all the same as this is a very difficult Winter visitor to get in SA.. Next up was a walk through the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens. Again, another species that had been recorded here but not since last year as the target. Up hill and down dale the terrain was quite steep but very scenic but we failed to find our quarry!......hmmmmmm not going well.

Silver Birch and deep leaf litter......but no target bird!!

Lunch in Mt Barker before popping in to a favourite birding location famous amongst South Aussies. Laratinga Wetlands has rapidly become a really good place to visit for birding and especially so because of the photographic opportunities it presents. Birds here seem to have little fear of people and seem to allow a close approach. We wandered around the tracks that circumnavigate the ponds but despite our third target of the day having been reported from here just last week, we again failed to find it!!. Plenty of other birds to look at though, and I'm not sure I've seen so many Spotless Crakes in the one place at the one time as what we did that day.

Very photogenic at times Spotless Crakes are easy to see at Laratinga
Lots of Shovelers around at the moment too

With two thirds of the day gone and nothing to show for it we thought we'd have another go near Mt Lofty for the bird we missed in the Botanic Gardens earlier. Last week when we bumped in to Ed and Jenni chasing the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ed had mentioned an area he had seen our target not far from the Botanic Gardens. Of course I couldn't remember where that was but thought near enough might be good enough. We parked up just near the entrance to Cleland Conservation Park and headed down the Warre track through old Stringybark near the summit of Mt Lofty itself. Emerging from around a corner to the junction of the Eullie Track I noticed movement on the ground in a small open patch of leaf litter amongst the Flame Heath and Bracken Fern understory. I knew what it was immediately and got Sue on to it straight away. Bassian Thrush feeding in the open not 10 metres in front of us............excellent!

Superbly camouflaged in its leaf litter surrounds the Bassian
Thrush is more rarely seen than genuinely rare

Sue "having"a Bassian Thrush

With at least one target bird down for the weekend we headed home for Lamb Roast and a few glasses of Red.

Sunday came with a different plan and we headed out to Brookfield Conservation Park in the mallee again. Not with any particular target in mind but it was a clear bright morning. We did some general birding and came a cross a nice feeding association of Rufous and Golden Whistler, Sittellas, Pardalotes, Brown-headed and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and a lone Grey Fantail. Never really understood what the benefits are for the birds in these mixed feeding flocks? Perhaps they just like the company?....... but if was nice watching them going about their business. Another male Chestnut-backed Quailthrush was very nice to see and a single flock of over 50 White-winged Choughs was impressive.

Having spent the morning in the mallee we headed back towards Adelaide via the Barossa Valley to give ourselves enough time to look for our other target that we missed in Laratinga. After lunch at Tanunda Sewage ya do!..... which was covered in Pink-eared Ducks, we drove down to St Hallett Winery. Set on the banks of the North Para River the winery has its own woodlot that sometimes has the bird we were looking for, but first a nasal "beeping"type call drew my attention to some nearby bushes. Sitting on top was a pair of Zebra Finch, a nice pick up for Sue and there were others nearby. Standing near the bike track that parallels the river we scanned for several minutes and listened intently for any sign of our quarry. After a while of not seeing or hearing anything Sue hit a brief burst of playback to see any of the birds were in earshot. Initially nothing, but as we walked down the bike path Sue saw a flash of green and yellow and there they were, three Crested Shrike-tits high up in a river Red Gum along the creek......most excellent!

Chuckling calls often give this birds presence away

Nothing else to do but sample the wines and this we duly did. The best way to thank Chris Steeles for the site info was to buy a couple of bottles of wine he so lovingly makes. Next time you're in the Barossa make sure to pop in and look for the Shrike-tits and have a sample when you do

A successful weekend

One more stop on the way back home down the Valley. Sue was still in need of Yellow Thornbill and so we popped in to Altona Landcare Reserve. Almost didn't even need to get out of the car for that one as they are easily seen in the trees in the car park and so Sue got another catch up bird....nice.
So we got home having made something out of nothing, giving me another two year ticks and putting me on 310, tantalisingly close to my old record. Sue another four.

Now we hope that the pelagic will go next weekend so we dont have to think what else to do!!!

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