Sunday, March 20, 2016

Grey Honeyeater Joy

We drove out to the Tom Price area of WA really for only one reason, the possibility of finally seeing Grey Honeyeater. It is a hard bird and one that we had put a bit of time into already without success. We had some good info on where to look out here and we headed off yesterday morning to look (and listen. They have a very distinctive call).

We got a late start, but one of the odd things about Grey Honeyeaters is that they tend to call later in the morning, like after 10am. We figured to be out in the area where we were going to be looking by about then. On the way out, I saw a flock of finches (we are still looking for Painted Finch) and pulled Troopi off onto the “shoulder.” A note on driving a Landcruiser… it’s all “shoulder.” Not really, but your ‘pulling off the road’ options are greatly expanded. Anyway, they were Zebbies, surprise, surprise. But whilst we were looking through them, Lynn noticed a bird perched-up and asked, “What’s that bird?” And I believe I said, “I think that’s a Spinifexbird!” A lifer for us both (and a bird that we would see 3 or 4 more times before the day was over). But I was very grateful indeed.


I like this photo... the Spinifexbird and its bug and the background and all.
We continued along the sun-baked (it was about 35C, no clouds), red-dust roads further out near Mount Sheila. It was in this general area that it was suggested we look. So we looked and listened. Early on, we thought we might have had one, but it just wasn’t quite right and we figured it was possibly a Western Gerygone. We kept looking as we worked our way back toward Rt. 136 (unsealed as well) that runs along the western side of Karijini NP. I spoke with my friend Tim and he was very encouraging. He said that we were in the right habitat and to just “keep going.” I did.

Lynn had had her dose of Aussie-early-arvo sun, so I was mostly doing the getting out to look and listen. And I kept doing it, and doing it, and yes, well, doing it. And then about 2pm I was amongst the now so familiar mulga and I heard the call! It was that wondrously, magical moment when you realize there is a living bird that can make a sound JUST like your app! My heart soared.

As I said, at this point, I was doing the reconnaissance and as soon as I heard that distinctive call, I waved to Lynn to COME HERE! She bolted from Troopi to where I was, about 100 meters in. I had not played the call since I had heard the honeyeater, but as soon as she was with me I played it once and a pair of Grey Honeyeaters flew straight in, answering back. I thought my head would explode. Finally. For sure! Seeing, while hearing them! I took a few very mediocre recording shots (see below) but I was absolutely thrilled to get those. They moved off a bit and I considered trying to get them to come in again, but they seemed so excited and responsive to the first playback, that I decided not to do it. I saw them, heard them and got some photos. They owed me nothing more. I am ridiculously grateful!

Grey Honeyeater!

Lifer high reigned the rest of the day and I had potato chips with my sandwich at supper as my “Lifer Pie” treat (it can be anything you know). They were delicious and special I am grateful.

"Crazy Mulga Man." That's me in my shorts and gators after a day in the sun, mulga, and spinifex and finding the Grey Honeyeater! Do I look happy? I am about as happy as I get.
So, for the few last lifers... the Spinifex Pigeons were all Lynn. She found them and she showed me. And… she was the one who spotted the Spinifexbird yesterday morning. But those Grey Honeyeaters? I kept going, and searching and found them, and that feels SO damn good. I am grateful.

By the way, for birders who are interested, the coordinates of where we found them are: -22.2423 x 117.9245. Or just have a look at the map on our eBird list. We were about 100 meters in on the south side of the road from that point. And please, use eBird. For all its frustrations, it is an awesome resource for us, but only if we use it!

Birds. Peace. Love.

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