Due to Covid-19 and state border restrictions we had to juggle the usual tour itinerary around quite a bit to accommodate participants from various states. We ended up foregoing the usual Strzelecki track itinerary, which traverses 4 states, instead birding the Birdsville track and splitting the group in two, with one group starting in Mount Isa, Qld and heading south to Adelaide, led by Peter Waanders, and the other group starting in Adelaide, SA and heading north, led by Michael Greenshields, meeting up with the first group on the Birdsville track in SA, and from there on we birded together on our way and eventually back to Adelaide. A total of 155 outback species were seen by Michael’s group including 5 Grasswren species, and 206 species were seen by Peter’s group including 7 Grasswren species.
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 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 October 2012 Southern Birding Services Grasswren tour took the popular Strzelecki track route. Taking 8 participants in two 4WD vehicles, the tour was guided by Peter Waanders, assisted by Helga Kieskamp. A total of 169 species were seen (very few waterbirds), including 5 Grasswrens and other highlights such as Scarlet-chested Parrot, Ground Cuckoo-shrike and nesting Black-breasted Buzzards and Letter-winged Kites. Following a succesful pre-tour extension in the Adelaide area (with daytime temperatures of 4C and sleet!) where we saw Freckled Ducks, Purple-gaped Honeyeaters, an Australian Spotted Crake and an Owlet-nightjar, we picked up the remaining participants from Adelaide and drove to Waikerie for the night. We set off early to Birdlife Australia’s Gluepot Reserve. We spent the entire morning in the reserve and soon found ourselves observing Chestnut Quail-thrush, Southern Scrubrobin, Gilbert’s Whistler and Shy Heathwren. Not long thereafter we commenced the search for Scarlet-chested Parrot and luck was with us: within minutes we had a male flying right overhead! Of course longer and better views were desired while we started searching the spinifex for Striated Grasswren. After considerable effort we turned up a pair of them, our first Grasswren for the trip. Returning to the car we found a pair of Scarlet-chested Parrots foraging, then perched, allowing great views for everyone.
Following the recent split of Western from Thick-billed Grasswren, the June 2012 Southern Birding Services Grasswren tour included this species for the first time. The tour took 8 participants in two 4WD vehicles up the Birdsville track. The tour was guided by Peter Waanders, assisted by Helga Kieskamp. A total of 148 species were seen (very few waterbirds), including all Grasswrens (though fog prevented good views of Short-tailed). It was a cold, overcast morning and the birds took some time to become active but after a while we were looking at a Southern Scrubrobin singing from a bare branch. Its partner was foraging on the ground below. A very inquisitive family of Emu amused us and a Chestnut Quail-thrush was heard singing, and located with some effort, after which great views of a pair were had by all. Other birds present included White-fronted Honeyeater, Gilbert’s Whistler, Mulga Parrot, Spotted and Striated Pardalote, 7 species of Honeyeater, White-browed and Chestnut-crowned babblers, Restless Flycatcher, Red-capped and Hooded Robins. After a successful first stop we set off in search of our first Grasswren species: Striated. These ground-dwelling birds inhabit large patches of the spiky spinifex grass. At the first site we tried one was heard briefly, but disappeared without a trace. To make up for that we had great views of Shy Heathwren, proving not shy at all. We checked another large patch of spinifex where we soon heard, then saw, a Striated Grasswren.