The Flinders Ranges
Monday July 2, 2012
[From the trip Up the Birdsville and Back]
We began and ended our trip in the Flinders Ranges area. Our first survey site was a dried out creek bed surrounded by the rocky, scrubby habitat that is typical of the western side of the Flinders, but looks completely desolate when you first lay eyes on it. Far from it, our first morning of surveys had Elegant Parrots, Australian Ringnecks, Cinnamon Quail-thrush and Redthroat. As we pushed further north we began seeing more raptors, particularly Brown Falcons and Black Kites, and other inland birds became more common, such as the abundant Orange Chats. A single White-fronted Chat and a pair of Rufous Fieldwrens were a final prize as we left the Flinders on our way north.
On returning, we had completed our surveys, and allowed for some quality time to be spent checking out the area. Having helped the others on the trip to see many new birds, I was able to set the itinerary for our visit. We had just enough time to do two things I'd wanted to do in the Flinders Range for a long time. The first was to see Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies, and the second was to find the fossil stromatolites for which the park is famous. If you are ever in the northern Flinders Ranges, I can't recommend the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail enough. The fossil stromatolites were well signed and easy to find. They may not look like much, but they are among the oldest known fossils in the world. These particular ones are about 650 million years old, but some stromatolites date back to 3.45 billion years ago! There are plenty of other things for the geologically-minded traveller to salivate over on the trail, but for those who favour more recent life forms, the Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies are another definite highlight.
On entering Brachina Gorge, and knowing that the wallabies should be around, it took us about 5 minutes to find our first group. We thought we had pretty special views of these animals, but a little further down the trail, and we came across another area with a fence and some interpretive signs. The fence said don't cross so as to not disturb the rock-wallabies. We said "what rock-wallabies" as we scanned the hilltops. Then something moved about five metres away from us. Wow, there were about twenty Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies right by the road, completely oblivious to our presence!
The rest of our time at the Flinders Ranges was productive, with lots of other macropods (Common Wallaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Red Kangaroo all together), Redthroat, Elegant Parrots and lots of woodland birds. Sadly we missed out on the Short-tailed Grasswren at Stokes' Hill, a surprise as most people seem to get them fairly easily. The rainy, foggy morning probably didn't help, but it did allow for some spectacular photography, and some great views of Wedge-tailed Eagles drifting through the mist.