BellBird Tours Birding Blog

 

The September 2016 Six Grasswren tour was already the 11th year that we have done these tours. The aim was to see Striated, Short-tailed, Western, Thick-billed, Eyrean and Grey Grasswren and other wonderful outback bird species. The 6.5 day tour took us along the Strzelecki track through the outback of South Australia. It had been a wet winter and spring which means that the conditions were great for birding – probably the best I’d seen it in 5 years. There were plenty of wildflowers and birds breeding wherever we went.

 

The Highlights of South Australia birding tour provides an insight into the range of habitats present in South Australia, which contain some unique bird species including a small number of endemics. From the lush and green Mt Lofty Ranges around Adelaide to the outback deserts with spectacular mountain ranges, the bird-rich wetlands along the Murray River, beautiful coastal scenery and vast expanses of the famous semi-arid mallee scrublands, tour has it all.

 

The “Red Centre”, as Australia’s outback around Alice Springs is named, hosts a variety of exciting bird species. Using Alice Springs as a base, this 4-day tour took daily trips out to different areas targeting enigmatic birds such as Dusky Grasswren, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Spinifexbird, Grey Honeyeater, Western Bowerbird, Painted Finch and more. Guided by Mark Carter, the tour visited the Eastern and Western MacDonnell Ranges, the sewage works, the Old Telegraph Station, the Tanami Road, Kumoth Bore and the Deep Well Road.

 

The 2016 ‘Nine Grasswren tour’ started in Adelaide (SA) and finished in Alice Springs (NT). After visiting Birdlife Australia’s Gluepot Reserve (Black-eared Miner) we explored the bluebush plains around Whyalla (Western Grasswren, Splendid (turquoise) Fairy-wren) and travelled through the scenic Flinders Ranges (Short-tailed Grasswren) up to the Birdsville track where we had both Chestnut-breasted and Banded Whiteface as well as the elusive Grey Falcon and Eyrean Grasswren. Unfortunately the Grey Grasswren site was inaccessible due to flooding but we had great views of Gibberbird and Inland Dotterel.

 

This was a ten day birding trip to Central Thailand by Bruce Wedderburn and Peter Waanders. The trip followed a standard itinerary from Bangkok to Pak Thale for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, followed by visits to the national parks of Kaeng Krachan, Mae Wong and Khao Yai. We also birded at Petchaburi Paddyfields, Bueng Boraphet Wetlands and Wat Phra Phutthabat Noi Temple along the way. The ten days birding in Thailand was successful with 302 birds seen and another 7 birds heard only.

 

In August 2014 I had scheduled a 3-day stopover in Dubai on the way back to Australia from the UK. At first I was worried that birding there in August, the hottest time of the year, would be difficult, but I was encouraged by Ian Reid’s trip report who had done a similar trip a year earlier. Using Ian’s trip report as a starting point, the excellent information available on UAEbirding.com and further information from expats I had designed a 3-day trip around my target species. I had decided to stay in a central location in the small country, to avoid having to worry about hunting around for accommodation, and to have a base where I could retreat to any time if the heat got too much or if I’d get too tired. After some research, I settled on the Hattah Fort hotel.

 

The 2013 ‘Great Southern Tour’ started in Adelaide (SA) and finished in Hobart (Tas). The weather was pretty close to perfect with calm, sunny days, temperatures in the 20-25 Degrees Celsius range, and no rain. A grand total of 301 bird species were seen. Highlights included Oriental Plover, Black-breasted Buzzard, Inland Dotterel, Pilotbird, Plainswanderer, Superb Parrot, Swift Parrot, Freckled Duck, Mallee Emu-wren and all 12 Tasmanian endemics. Mammal sightings of interest included 3 species of Kangaroo, 3 species of Wallaby, Platypus, Eastern Quoll, Echidna, Koala and Australian Fur Seal.

 

The 2013 Six Grasswren tour covered over 3,000 km mostly on outback roads. From Adelaide (SA) we travelled through Gluepot, Broken Hill and Tibooburra to the ‘Corner Country’. From there, the Strezelecki track was followed south, and after a detour via Whyalla we travelled through the Flinders Ranges and back to Adelaide. The weather was quite reasonable with only one hot day. In total 168 bird species were seen. Apart from the Grasswrens, highlights included Flock Bronzewing, Letter-winged Kite, Australian Bustard, Inland Dotterel, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Budgerigar, Banded Whiteface, Black Honeyeater and Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby.

 

The Eyre Peninsula and Gawler Ranges are underexplored areas of South Australia (SA) where birds of the SA outback join their Western Australian counterparts. Taking participants to the beautiful coastal scenery at Pt Lincoln (where we feasted on oysters and tuna) and Fowlers Bay (with views of dolphins), the endless mallee around Ceduna, and the scenic Gawler Ranges NP we ended up with a bird list of no less than 166 species. Apart from one windy morning, we were fortunate with the weather, as cool mornings and mild days allowed for comfortable birding. There were plenty of outstanding sightings, the clear winner no doubt being multiple views of the secretive Western Whipbird. Other highlights included Fairy Tern, Western Grasswren, Rock Parrot, Blue-breasted Fairy-wren, Rufous Treecreeper, Western Yellow Robin, Black-eared Cuckoo, and many more.

 

This was the second full-blown ‘Great Southern Tour’ which concentrates on the many specialties of the southern coastal region of Australia and the South Australian outback. With 7 participants, the tour started in Adelaide (SA) and finished in Hobart (Tas). The weather was quite variable with warm and cooler days alternating, but little rain. Birds were abundant throughout and the total tally was just short of 300 species. Highlights included Painted Snipe, Inland Dotterel, Plains-wanderer, Scarlet-chested Parrot, Swift Parrot, Gibberbird, Mallee Emu-wren and all 12 Tasmanian endemics. We commenced the trip at the Greenfields wetlands, north of Adelaide. Plenty of waterbirds and waders were present here. Good sightings included Australian Spotted and Spotless Crakes. At Pt Gawler we observed Slender-billed Thornbills in the low mangroves. It became quite warm but a walk in the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens in Pt Augusta yielded a good variety of Honeyeaters including White-fronted.