Day 1. The tour started in Adelaidw with a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the museum, which included a visit to the mineral and Ediacaran collections and the geology collection. We were able to see one of the most pure opal specimens ever found, lucky enough to view and hold a meteorite, and a rock that was as old as the earth itself: 4.5 billion years! We were also able to hold some rocks originating from Mars. We then returned to the hotel for our welcome dinner.
Day 2. After departing Adelaide we visited the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary where we observed a wide variety of shorebirds and waterfowl including Banded Stilts, Black-tailed Native-hens, Royal Spoonbill. Following the coast north, we had good views of a dozen or more Slender-billed Thornbills, a Fairy Tern and a small flock of overwintering White-fronted Terns. At Port Augusta we had a scrumptious lunch at the beautiful Arid Lands Botanical Gardens, where an array of native flowers and shrubs were host to a variety of Honeyeaters, White-winged Fairy-wren and White-browed Babblers. At the end of the day we explored the Bluebush plains where we had good views of Redthroat, Southern Whiteface, White-fronted Chats and a lone Copperback Quail-thrush was seen foraging on the side of the road.
Day 3. Sunday 22 July 2018. Lake Gilles Conservation Park – Gawler Ranges. This morning we explored around Lake Gilles where we saw Western Yellow Robin and Rufous Treecreeper, while later in the day we visited the amazing Pildappa rock, a worthy competitor to WA’s wave rock, before entering the rugged Gawler Ranges. The scenic park provided us with good birds such as Crested Bellbird, Shy Heathwren and White-eared Honeyeater while at the unique “organ pipes” we were lucky enough to obtain great views of a rare Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby. Exploring the various habitats of the park we counted over 300 West Grey Kangaroos, as well as a few Red Kangaroos and Euros, while a highlight was no doubt a Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Our final destination for the day was Mt Ive Station, a working sheep station where we saw a small flock of Elegant Parrots before enjoying a delicious home-cooked dinner.
Day 4. This morning we explored the habitats around Mt Ive, where we saw Redthroats, 3 Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos and both Splendid and White-winged Fairy-wrens. We then set off on a journey across the outback through an ancient landscape of spectacular scenery, exploring little-used bush tracks along the edge of the stunning Lake Gairdner. As dark clouds started rolling in, we were treated to spectacular vistas of South Australia’s vast outback salt lakes, complete with a rainbow, and then the rain came down heavily. The stark beauty of the landscape – expanses of salt lakes, white sand dunes, gnarly old trees, and seemingly endless gibber plains was full of contrasts and offered great photographic opportunities. We photographed old ruins, fields of native yellow daisies, and Red Kangaroos, while birds we saw included Southern Whiteface, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Hooded and Red-capped Robins. At the end of the day we finally emerged from this remote area onto the Stuart Highway, which cuts through the centre of Australia, linking the south coast (Adelaide) with the north coast (Darwin) to reach our destination for the night in the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy.