Monday, 20 July 2015

Eyre Creek

The large waterhole with copious lignum, located on the Eyre Development Road about 40km south of Bedourie (or 125km north of Birdsville), is another place where Grey Grasswrens (Amytornis barbatus) have been recorded.
The waterhole is on Eyre Creek, which runs west and then south from the water hole eventually disappearing into the Simpson Desert. This watercourse probably once discharged into Lake Eyre before drifting sand dunes, which are now stable, cut off its course.
We camped on Eyre Creek for a night and searched again for GGW in the afternoon and the morning - once again without success.
Campsite on Eyre Creek under an ancient spreading Coolibah tree.
There were a number of water birds on the creek/waterhole including Pelican, Darter, White-necked and White-faced Heron, Yellow Spoonbill the odd Eurasian Coot and Masked Lapwings.
View upstream from our campsite – note the fringing lignum.
This site had the most extensive lignum stands we have encountered so far and the lignum was in good condition with fresh green growth following recent rains. So one would expect that conditions were ideal for Grey Grasswrens. However these birds are reputed to be very shy and hard to find even when it is known they are present.
We found it hard to know how to go about looking for them in such a vast area of lignum. In the end we adopted the strategy of walking slowly by as many large lignum clumps as possible, stopping frequently to listen for their calls which we thought they would make in response to our presence, and thereby giving us a location where we might concentrate our search.
At the same time we were also hoping we would luck onto a bird that popped up to take a look at the intruders. Once again all to no avail with not one single hint of a GGW after several hours searching.
We did however find other species at the location to enjoy and photograph.
White-necked Heron taking flight at my sudden presence.
First it flew one way – note the lignum in background.
Then it flew the other way eventually landing some distance downstream
Some Pelicans having a break from fishing.
Caspian Terns, our largest tern, are often found on arid inland waterways and lakes, perhaps surprisingly for a bird we think of as a seabird.
There were also a good number of raptor species at the water hole.
At first I thought this bird might be the rare Letter-winged Kite as we were within its core range however when it flew I could see no under wing black W marking so it was a Black-shouldered Kite.
Photo of a Letter-winged Kite, which look very similar to the Black-shouldered Kite, taken near the Birdsville Track in August 2012.
Female Nankeen Kestrel perched above waterhole.
Some of the 40 - 50 Black Kites in the area. Unlike other raptors, this species seems to often gather in large flocks to feed and roost.
This Black Kite came in for a close look at me.
Curiosity satisfied the Black Kite soon departed. The distinct shallow V tail, an easy ID feature, is clearly showing in this shot.
While searching lignum in the early morning we came across a Wedge-tailed Eagle resting in the top of an acacia tree amongst a parasitic growth, perhaps a mistletoe species, which afforded good cover and might explain why this bird did not move even when I approached quite closely with the camera. The chance encounter briefly interrupted the GGW search while I took some close up portraits of the Eagle.
Enjoying the early morning sun.
The Eagle kept an eye on me but would not be budged from its perch.
The Eagle was still there when we passed by half an hour later.
We crossed paths on a number of occasions with fast moving small flocks of Flock Bronzewing (a pigeon species). While hunting for the Grey Grasswren at Eyre Creek two small flocks flew past with a couple of distant photos captured. I would like to get some closer shots of this elusive species one day.
A few of the Flock Bronzewings from one small flock of about 15 birds.
In the end, not knowing for sure if Grey Grasswrens were present in the area we decided to give up on the search, after our third unsuccessful attempt to find them. So our next move was north to Boulia to stock up on fuel, water and food before heading west on the Plenty Highway to Alice Springs.

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