The October 2011 Southern Birding Services 6-day Five Grasswren tour consisted of 6 participants in two vehicles. As our private Grasswren tours up the Birdsville track had been highly successful in recent weeks, the itinerary took us there once again. The tour was guided by Peter Waanders, assisted by Helga Kieskamp. A total of 191 species were seen, including good views of all 5 Grasswrens. An early departure from Adelaide. Introductions were made at our first stop on the samphire coast a little way north, where a pair of Slender-billed Thornbills showed on cue. In similar habitat further along the coast we had brilliant views of Blue-winged Parrots. Coastal saltpans at Pt Augusta held an estimated 3,000 Banded Stilts while near Hawker we enjoyed our first of many Orange Chats, White-winged Fairy-wrens, Brown and Rufous Songlarks. Travelling along the edge of the Flinders Ranges we had views of Zebra Finch, Chirruping Wedgebill and Black-faded Woodswallow. We arrived in Lyndhurst late in the afternoon and after some effort saw a pair of Thick-billed Grasswrens.

 

The June 2011 Southern Birding Services 6-day Five Grasswren tour consisted of 7 participants in two vehicles. Guided by Peter Waanders and co-led by Tonia Cochran the itinerary took us up the famous Birdsville track where conditions were excellent following high rainfall in preceding seasons. A total of 176 species were seen, including good views of all 5 grasswrens. Foggy and frosty winter conditions didn’t deter a small flock of Slender-billed Thornbills from putting on a show on the samphire coast north of Adelaide. After some solid driving we arrived in the beautiful Flinders Ranges after lunch to search for Short-tailed Grasswren. Despite windy conditions we located 2 individuals that eventually provided great views and photographic opportunities. A family group of Cinnamon Quail-thrush was observed for some time while other good birds such as Zebra Finches, White-winged Fairy-wrens and Black-faced Woodswallows were omnipresent.

 

The year 2010 will long remain in birders’ memories as one of the best years ever for outback birding. Following years of drought, rain had been falling in the outback since November ’09 and seemingly didn’t stop. Every few weeks another major front dumped inches and inches of rain in the parched deserts resulting in conditions, described by one Aboriginal elder, as ‘never seen before by white people’. Creeks flowing for months on end; inter-dunal swales retaining water well into spring; carpets of purple, pink, yellow, white and red wildflowers; and of course, bird activity second to none. The downfall of all this water was that many of our tours had to have last-minute changes to the itinerary due to road closures and flooding. Nevertheless, thanks to the ingenuity of our staff we almost always found a way to the birds! The October Southern Birding Services Five Grasswren tour, with 8 participants and 2 guides, departed from Adelaide in the morning of 11 October and again, the threat of rain was looming in coming days. We were forced to compress the outback component of the tour by one day but nevertheless this trip was, according to the participants, ‘fantastic’ – ‘fabulous’ – ‘amazing’ etc…! Highlights were all five Grasswrens (yes including Grey!), Inland Dotterel, Australian Pratincole, Letter-winged Kite, Bourke’s Parrot, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Ground Cuckoo shrike, Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, 4 chats including Gibberbird, etc etc….

 

This was the second 2009 ‘Five Grasswren’ birding tour run by Southern Birding Services. The first one (22-27 Oct.) ran the standard itinerary (Strzelecki track – Cameron Corner – Tibooburra) with views of all 5 target species of grasswren, but due to excellent conditions being reported from the Birdsville track, I decided to focus the second ‘Five Grasswren’ tour on that area for a change. The trip turned out to be the experience of a lifetime for the participants with everything from 45°C (113°F) heat to flooding to be contended with and a true outback birding bonanza, with sightings of Brolga, Bustard, Flock Bronzewing, Australian Pratincole, Inland Dotterel, Letter-winged Kite, Black Falcon, all 5 Grasswrens, all 5 chats, Banded Whiteface, Ruff, Oriental Plover etc etc…

 

This was the second ‘Five Grasswren’ birding tour run by Southern Birding Services, with slight modifications to the itinerary – the main one being the addition of an extra day to reduce the amount of daily driving. The aim was to find half of all of Australia’s current Grasswren species in South Australia’s mallee and the remote Corner Country: Striated Grasswren, Short-tailed Grasswren, Thick-billed Grasswren, Eyrean Grasswren and Grey Grasswren. Unusually high rainfall over the past few weeks, and indeed during the day before the tour, had left the outback landscape in excellent condition, with green vegetation and water all around. All target species were found, as were a good number of other rare, specialised or endangered outback species.

 

This was the inagural ‘Five Grasswren’ birding tour run by Southern Birding Services. The aim was to find half of all of Australia’s current Grasswren species in South Australia’s mallee and the remote Corner Country: Striated Grasswren, Short-tailed Grasswren, Thick-billed Grasswren, Eyrean Grasswren and Grey Grasswren. All of these were found, as were a good number of other rare, specialised or endangered outback species. We left well before sunrise for the drive to the Grey Grasswren site, along the Queensland – NSW border. While driving we came across a small flock of Orange Chats: beautiful birds to see and the first for this trip! We also found several more Bourke’s Parrots and Red-backed Kingfishers. Once we entered the rather dry-looking lignum swamp, home to the Grey Grasswren, we mentally prepared ourselves for a long and hot search.