Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Arthur River II--The Emu Wrens

John Tongue writes: Having had such a good outcome from our Kingfisher search, we thought we'd really put our guides to the test and see if they could suggest where we might see Southern Emu Wrens. Despite trying many likely places, this was still one lifetime species that eluded Shirley and myself. Our cruise guides said they didn't know, but suggested a local contact--Geoff King--who they reckoned knew all there was to know about local birding. We gave Geoff a call, and he was a bit hesitant, but suggested we try along a fire break only a km or so North of Arthur River. He said others he'd sent there reported getting good views of Emu Wrens.

We set off along the fire break, which was pretty swampy in places, through Button Grass and Ti-tree plains, with stands of stunted eucalypts here and there. We saw lots of Superb Blue Wrens, White-fronted Chats and Blue-winged Parrots, but no Emu Wrens. Geoff said that others had seen them "about where the fire break turns a bend". I guess we walked for an hour or so, skirting a number of flooded patches of track, through the Button Grass, before coming to the bend. We were starting to worry again that this search may prove fruitless, when just around the bend, we heard unfamiliar, insect-like calls coming from the Ti-tree thickets. We waited and watched until a male Emu Wren finally popped up, and ended up putting on quite a show for us. Sadly, because of the distance from the track, and the shyness of the bird about any movement, the photos are not brilliant. At least three other individuals were also heard calling in that location, but none spotted.

We cut back to the main road along a dis-used 4WD track, hoping to flush Ground Parrots, but this time we really were unsuccessful (apart from the Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, three more Emu Wrens and a Striated Field Wren). At least we had seen the Ground Parrots before, and we'd achieved our goal of seeing the Emu Wrens! We can recommend the Arthur River Cruise for the Kingfishers (we went on the 'George Robinson', but are told either boat is good), and Geoff King as a local contact. Geoff also runs wildlife and birding tours in the area.

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