Monday, January 10, 2011

Kangaroo Island Trip Report

My girlfriend Simone and I recently spend a week on Kangaroo Island from the 26th of December to the 2nd of January on Kangaroo Island. We had wanted to visit for a while and were looking for a good place to relax after a hard year of work. The fact that there were a few birds I wanted to see there of course did not come into it. I would like to start by thanking those who responded to my RFI, particularly Steve Potter, Tim Dolby, Dave Torr and Gil Langfield. I would also like to thank those who have written trip reports that have gone before, such a very good resource at one’s fingertips.

We drove from Barwon Downs early on Boxing Day and ended up at Cape Jervis around 4:00 pm for the 6 pm ferry. Not much of note on the trip there and the best pre-KI bird was a Peregrine Falcon that repeatedly tried to get the jump on the Rock Doves roosting in the harbour at Cape Jervis while we waited for the ferry. Alas it was unsuccessful. I also had the misfortune of listening to the cricket the whole way….. 98 all out…. Enough said. I was firing myself up for the ferry crossing hoping for something interesting but the best I could do was a couple of West End cans….

We spent 7 nights on KI, the first in the Ozone Hotel in Kingscote and the remaining 6 camping at West Kangaroo Island Caravan Park. The hotel was adequate, if expensive and the caravan park cheap and a great place for what I call tourist wildlife watching – piles of wallabies, kangaroos and koalas with plenty of other large visible species like geese, galahs and rosellas. The nights were particularly raucous and amusing with the Stone-curlews starting straight after dark followed by snorting kangaroos, bugling koalas and shrieking Barn owls…. The reactions from the German tourists the next morning after hearing that racket then finding their food stocks pillaged by possums and wallabies was priceless. Probably my only complaint about that caravan park was the toilet facilities when the park is full…. I don’t mind waiting for a shower but a 10 person queue for unisex toilets is a little bit much, particularly after a few beers or more.

I had three main targets on KI, namely Western Whipbird, Glossy Black-cockatoo and Rock Parrot and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that we saw all three very well on our first attempt. Following a very good lead we went on the first morning to American River to the area just above the abandoned motel at the end of town and straight away saw a very amorous pair of Glossy Black-cockatoos… We watched them for about a half hour during which time we got a very good insight into the sex life of a male glossy black…. It would appear that quantity certainly wins over quality. Apparently bobbing your head and a quick kiss also counts as foreplay. We also found a second pair quietly feeding in she-oak in town so it is well worth a look around when going there. Two further visits to AR came up negative. After swimming at Stokes Bay one afternoon we stopped at the car park at Lathami CP and I could hear them calling down the ravine. Being mid 30’s and the fact I was slightly knackered I did not bother to go chasing them.

Western Whipbird we both got up at 5 am and headed to Cape de Couedic, Simone is not a serious birder and this would be her only early morning rise for birds…. As soon as we parked the car in the car park near the cottages I could hear whipbirds calling, the first couple were out in the scrub but one was near the road right on the Weir Cove turnoff… I tiptoed up and then pished and was immediately rewarded with the bird jumping up and scolding me. A little game followed of pishing, hiding and scolding which gave Simone time to sneak up and also get excellent views of the bird. It then decided to run across the road and continue to watch us from the other side. Later that morning I saw another bird singing from the top of a branch. I went back to CdC another 4 times and each time got great views of different birds in various places including the Sewer Track and behind the Weir Cove ruins. I did try tape playback at various times but got rather ambivalent results… clearly Christmas is a good time to visit and pishing was always the key. Judging by where they were calling in relation to other birds I judge I got sightings of around 8 individual birds. In addition to the birds at CdC and Weir Cove, I also heard Western Whipbird in a number of places on the entrance road to Seal Bay and to Remarkable Rocks but could not rustle up a sighting. Perhaps the most significant hearing was about 500 meters from the Turnaround number 6 on the road to CdC which was clearly in regrowth habitat following the bushfires. I would certainly recommend a visit to CdC and Remarkable Rocks as early as you can because once we saw the whipbird we still had the place to ourselves for a good couple of hours before the underwhelming tourist hordes arrived.

Rock Parrot was my final main target and we ended up seeing it on the road to the Remarkable Rocks on the morning after seeing the first Western Whipbird. A flock of four birds were feeding in a small gully just before the carpark. When getting out of the car another bird was flying high overhead calling. Another flock was seen at the back of Weir Cove ruins later in the week when following down another calling whipbird.

At this stage I would like to add an honourable mention to the Hooded Plover. It was fantastic to see this bird at almost every open water beach on the island, sometimes in quite good numbers. This is despite the ridiculous fetish that the average South Australian on KI seems to have for letting their dog run unleashed and for driving their 4wd onto the beach and then parking to fish. Apparently it is quite important to drive that extra 100 meters from the carpark onto the beach and definitely added to the number of undersized whiting they had in their buckets. My kingdom for a fisheries officer with any kind of balls.

As I had seen my targets in the first real attempts at looking I was actually able to spend the rest of the trip relaxing and being a tourist (albeit one who had a binocular growth and a strangely weird neck angle) I still managed to spend a lot of time birdwatching and probably the only bird I spent any time looking for and didn’t see was the local race of the Shy Heathwren. I spent quite a few hours in largely regrowth areas of FCNP looking for this but never got more than a possible distant call. The burnt habitat still looks largely a couple of years off again good habitat for this bird. Regrowth following the recent fires seems to be progressing well but certainly has a sameness about it considering such a large percentage of FCNP was burnt.

Kangaroo Island is surprisingly large and we ended up driving over 2000 km for the week on the island itself….. petrol is upto $1.70 in some parts of the island. I think it was fair to say we gave the tourist side a real bashing. Amongst the dross I would heartily recommend buying a KI park’s pass… at $61 per adult we got really good value from this, at least one visit to Seal Bay and doing the beach tour, swimming at Stoke’s Bay and any other northern beach you can find quiet. Probably the only thing I wanted to do and missed was the Hanson Bay walk from the caves. I also spent a considerable time seawatching and got bugger all…

As a final point I will add before moving into the annotated list that I find so useful in trip reports I will have to comment on the amount of roadkill on KI. There is a SERIOUS LACK of signs on KI warning tourists to be careful of wildlife… you get one as you leave the ferry and maybe another one when you enter Flinders Chase NP 100+ km later. It is a pretty sad indictment that it was 18 roadkilled goannas until I saw my first live one…. And I had lost count of how many roadkilled snakes until I had to shuffle my first live suicidal snake off the road.

In the end we saw 108 species for the week with a couple of extra mingers. I have dumped Simone in Adelaide where she caught a flight home and am currently in Port Augusta before heading further out… report from this week will follow.

Annotated bird list

1. Brush-turkey – Single bird seen early in the morning on the road to Cape du Couedic. Was somewhat surprised to see that it didn’t have 3 heads as they are supposedly descended from a single introduced pair in about 1930!!

2. Stubble Quail – Many calling in grassland near Murray Lagoon. Single bird flushed.

3. Black Swan – Common in any wetland of size, particularly Murray Lagoon and American River

4. Musk Duck – WKI Caravan Park Lagoon, Duck Lagoon

5. Australian Shelduck – Many 100’s at Murray Lagoon. Some quite large flocks seen flying on roads nearby.
6. Hardhead – Single bird at WKI Caravan Park Lagoon

7. Grey Teal – Murray Lagoon, WKI Caravan Park Lagoon, Duck Lagoon

8. Chestnut Teal – Murray Lagoon, WKI Caravan Park Lagoon, Duck Lagoon

9. Pacific Black Duck – Odd birds on farm dams and most larger bodies of water

10. Cape Barren Goose – First seen in paddocks near American River, very common on west of island particularly at WKI Caravan Park and Rock River

11. Wood Duck – Seen most days on farm dams

12. Little Penguin – Seen in and around burrows at Penneshaw rookery

13. Short-tailed Shearwater – Very occasional birds seen at sea, many derelicts on most beaches

14. Australasian Gannet – Finally one bird seen at Admiral’s Arch, surprisingly scarce.

15. Australian Pelican – Impressive sight of 20 birds soaring at American River, odd birds elsewhere particularly where fish are cleaned.

16. Black-faced Cormorant – Common on rocky coasts

17. Little-pied Cormorant – Kingscote, WKI Caravan Park Lagoon

18. Pied Cormorant – Common on rocky coasts

19. Great Cormorant – A few birds on rocky coasts, pair on the beach every visit to Seal Bay

20. Little-black Cormorant – Single bird Stokes Bay, 6 birds at WKI Caravan Park Lagoon

21. Eurasian Coot – Breeding at WKI Caravan Park Lagoon

22. White-faced Heron – Odd birds at most wetlands of size and flying over

23. White Ibis – Common in cleared land

24. Yellow-billed Spoonbill - WKI Caravan Park Lagoon

25. Royal Spoonbill – 2 birds seen at small wetland at corner of road to American River

26. Pied Oystercatcher – Common on most sandy coastal areas

27. Sooty Oystercatcher – Kingscote, American River

28. Bush Stone-curlew – Heard every night at WKI Caravan Park, was amusing to hear the tourists wondering what was going on each time they started up!!

29. Eastern Curlew – Single bird American River

30. Common Greenshank – 4 birds at American River

31. Ruddy Turnstone – 25+ birds at Wheaton’s Beach hiding in weed at on rocks at south end

32. Red-necked Stint – 100+ birds at Wheaton’s Beach, 100’s seen at one small section of Murray Lagoon, must have been many 1000’s at this site.

33. Black-winged Stilt- Murray Lagoon, American River

34. Black-fronted Dotterel- WKI Caravan Park Lagoon

35. Red-capped Dotterel- 100’s in one small section of Murray Lagoon, breeding

36. Hooded Plover – Single birds or pairs seen at almost all open water beaches. 6 birds including 2 juveniles at Stokes, 4 birds including 1 juvenile at Seal Bay and 5 birds at Wheaton’s Beach notable.

37. Osprey – Single birds seen at Seal Bay and Wheaton’s Beach

38. Wedge-tailed Eagle – Singles and pairs seen regularly over the whole island

39. Swamp Harrier – Single bird only seen near turnoff to Seal Bay

40. Brown Goshawk – Odd birds seen across whole island

41. Collared Sparrowhawk – Single small bird seen on Rocky River walk terrorizing the locals

42. Black-shouldered Kite – Single birds seen outside Kingscote and American River

43. Nankeen Kestrel – Very common everywhere except taller forest like Rocky River

44. Peregrine Falcon – Single birds seen at Cape Du Couedic and American River

45. Silver Gull – Common coastal and wetlands

46. Pacific Gull – Common at all coastal locations

47. Crested Tern – Common at most coastal locations

48. Caspian Tern – Single birds at Kingscote, Emu Bay and American River

49. Rock Dove – Kingscote, Cape Willoughby, Parndana and Penneshaw

50. Common Bronzewing – Common roadsides across island

51. Brush Bronzewing – Quite common Seal Bay, Remarkables and Cape du Couedic

52. Glossy Black-cockatoo – Was quite pleased to see this on the first attempt at American River. Pair mating in tall trees behind the abandoned hotel, second pair feeding in she-oak in town. Also heard in ravine at Lathami CP but did not chase.

53. Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo – Quite common, particularly in western part of the island and near pine plantations

54. Galah – Very common

55. Little Corella – Common around Kingscote, odd birds across most of cleared space on island

56. Gang Gang Cockatoo – 2 pairs seen prospecting hollows near the Rocky River range station

57. Rainbow Lorikeet – Common across the whole island, more so than I had expected from reading previous reports

58. Purple-crowned Lorikeet – Quite commonly encountered around the island, more often heard than seen

59. Crimson Rosella – Quite common in western part of the island, particularly at WKI Caravan Park

60. Rock Parrot – 4 birds seen on Boxer drive on the way to the Remarkable Rocks single bird seen later flying over. 6+ birds seen behind Weir Cove when chasing a whipbird

61. Southern Boobook – Heard every night at WKI Caravan Park, spotlighted one night right above our tent, it even left us a feather.

62. Barn Owl – Heard screaming on a couple of nights at WKI Caravan Park, once again putting the fear of god into some Pommy tourists.

63. Laughing Kookaburra – Single bird at American River the only seen

64. Fan-tailed Cuckoo – heard in FCNP

65. Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo – heard several places in FCNP

66. Superb Fairy-wren – Common and widespred

67. Southern Emu-wren – Cape du Couedic, surprisingly few seen considering the amount of quiet time spent there

68. Striated Thornbill - WKI Caravan Park very good for this species, also FCNP

69. Brown Thornbill – Encountered across the island

70. White-browed Scrubwren – Encountered across the island – quite a nice streaky look

71. Spotted Pardalote – Quite common in west of island

72. Striated Pardalote – Common, nesting in a number of buildings

73. Red Wattlebird – Very common

74. Little Wattlebird - WKI Caravan Park very good for this species, also Rocky River visitor centre

75. New-holland Honeyeater – Very common

76. Crescent Honeyeater – Common, surprisingly large number of juveniles

77. Brown-headed Honeyeater – A small party at WKI Caravan Park were the only seen

78. White-naped Honeyeater – 3 birds at Duck Lagoon were the only seen

79. White-eared Honeyeater – Single bird near Murray Lagoon the only seen

80. Tawny-crowned Honeyeater – Common at Remarkable Rocks, Cape Du Couedic and Seal Bay. A single bird at American River was very oddly out of habitat

81. Purple-gaped Honeyeater – Easily seen fighting for the leaking sprinkler at Seal Bay visitor centre, Quite common throughout FCNP, even in regrowth areas

82. Eastern Spinebill – FCNP, WKI Caravan Park, Kelly Hill

83. White-fronted Chat – Murray Lagoon, also at some arty farty cafĂ© whose name escapes me

84. Scarlet Robin – Common across the island. I had a single male who used to call to me when I was sitting drinking beer of an evening, I think he liked the red cans of pig swill, errr … West End I was drinking.

85. Golden Whistler – Surprisingly only heard and seen in a couple of locations, FCNP and Seal Bay

86. Grey Shrike-thrush – Surprisingly only a few heard and seen

87. Western Whipbird – As discussed earlier, easily seen at Cape du Couedic and Weir Cove with up to 6 birds heard at one time at CdC some mornings. Also heard on road to Remarkable Rocks and Seal Bay

88. Grey Fantail – Common, seemed a bit tatty compared to ones back home

89. Willie Wagtail – Common in cleared habitat

90. Restless Flycatcher – 2 very vocal birds at Duck Lagoon

91. Magpie-lark – Common in cleared habitat

92. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike – Surprisingly only three birds seen in disparate places across the island

93. Dusky Woodswallow – Cape Borda, Shackles Road and Vivonne Bay

94. Magpie – Common in cleared habitat

95. Grey Currawong – This dark subspecies was common across the island

96. Australian Raven – Not heard in the east, heard daily at WKI Caravan Park and Cape du Couedic

97. Little Raven – More common of the ravens

98. Welcome Swallow - Common

99. Tree Martin – Very common across the island, Every martin I bothered to inspect was this species.

100. Australian Pipit – roadside verges behind Stokes Bay and Kingscote

101. Skylark – Quite common in East and around Murray Lagoon

102. European Starling – Very common in any cleared or coastal area

103. Blackbird – Penneshaw, Kingscote and American River

104. Silvereye – Probably the most common and widespread bird on the island

105. House Sparrow – Common around habitation and in cultivated land, also seen at Cape Borda and CdC

106. Goldfinch – Very common around Kingscote, some quite large flocks

107. Red-browed Finch – one small flock near Kingscote

108. Beautiful Firetail – Easily seen at Cape Borda with up to a dozen birds coming in to a leaky tap at the picnic ground. Single bird seen on road to Remarkable Rocks

Other sightings

· Neophema parrots flushed from roadside one morning on South Coast Road were probably Elegant but not seen well enough

· Turkey were seen in a number of paddocks near WKI Caravan Park but probably domestic

· Geese seen at a number of small dams away from habitation including 3 at Duck Lagoon

· Kangaroo Island Kangaroo – Common

· Tammar Wallaby – Common

· Brush-tailed Possum

· Echidna

· Koala – Common at WKI Caravan Park, bloody noisy at night

· Australian Sea-lion – Seal Bay beach experience is well worth doing. A few animals hauled up at CdC

· New Zealand Fur-seal – Well worth spending time watching these at CdC, get there at dawn, see the whipbird then watch these guys before the tourists get there.

· Heath Goanna – ended up seeing quite a few live ones

· Pygmy Copperhead – had to move one individual off the road, extremely docile and kept wanting to slide back on the road. Had to explain the situation in some detail to it.

· Tiger Snake – Many roadkilled unfortunately. Single live one seen.

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