About Us.

On September 1st 2010 retired school Principal, Gary Oliver set off on a 12 month Challenge to break the record for photographing the most Australian bird species in a single year. With his support team of one, (his wife, Glenda) they set off on a journey that would clock up over 55,000 kms and take them to every State in Australia.
The trip was not without incident; sticky swamps, unfriendly crocodiles, seasickness, hot and dusty deserts and devastating floods added to the difficulty of the task. Yet 12 months and six car tyres later they had established a staggering record of 518 different birds photographed.
On the way they met other quirky birding enthusiasts and photographers who helped with local knowledge and suggestions. Told with enthusiasm and a dry sense of humour, this book is the result of that 12 month adventure.
Join Gary and Glenda on their journey, meet some interesting characters, some delightful yet frustratingly unco-operative birds and most importantly, enjoy a trip around this great country from a different perspective, with an outrageous Challenge to ensure that the pace is kept right up to the end.

Contact us at gg.oliver@bigpond.com

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Port Augusta, Waikerie & The Gluepot Reserve

Week 52
Day 358
Wednesday 24th August 2011
Ceduna – Port Augusta

Here we are, the last seven days of the Challenge. We’ve photographed 514 birds (give or take a couple pending investigation) so far with no additions in over a week. It sounds like a radical last ditched effort to find some birds is needed.
We left Ceduna reasonably early at 8.45 a.m. which over the past month has been 7.15 a.m. for those of us travelling W.A. A few stops didn’t bring up much except a female or juvenile Gilbert’s Whistler in the Mallee near Kimba. My photos were inconclusive but the call was either a Gilbert’s or a Red-lored Whistler.
Black Dog
After 470 kms we reached Port Augusta. We had been passed a number of times by bikies heading east and it was interesting to find the caravan park booked out by motorbike enthusiasts from all over. I spoke to a couple of them and they are a part of the “Black Dog Ride”, a gathering for “Depression Awareness and a fund raiser for the Black Dog Institute”. I hope tonight isn’t too depressing….
Support Vehicle
Chirruping Wedgebill
Glenda dropped me off at the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens for a look about. I hoped desperately for a White-fronted Honeyeater but none showed. I managed a shot of a Chirruping Wedgebill before concentrating on the many White-winged Fairy-wrens that were about. Although my photos did capture the colours of a dominant male that I was after he kept a long way off, letting the juveniles and females come in close to do the checking out. Around 5 o’clock I received a call from Alby and Eleanor, the Gypsy Twitchers who have been a great part of this journey. They are in the NT and are heading south with a slim possibility of us catching up at the Gluepot Reserve. It would be a fitting place and the right company to end this challenge with. 
Week 52
Day 359
Thursday 25th August 2011
Port Augusta

The bikies were quiet last night and left reasonably early although a couple warmed their engines for a bit longer than we needed. It’s a good cause so good on the 200 or so doing the run.
We left just before 10 a.m. and drove along the main highway to Crystal Brook. From there it is an easy climb over the foothills in the Southern Flinders Ranges to Burra where we bought Cornish pasties for lunch. Burra is a special place in my family’s history if only for the Cornish miners who worked here and at Moonta further south. Maybe we’ll make a special trip over to this area when this Challenge is over.
houseboats at Waikerie
We arrived at Waikerie mid afternoon and booked in to the only caravan park by the river. Not many birds of interest but tomorrow morning I’m going to a place where Malleefowl can be found. It’s a property 25 kms from here and was used by Sir David Attenborough in his “Life of Birds” series to briefly film this bird. It would be a great find in this eleventh hour but Joe the owner warned me that he hasn’t seen one for months.
Week 52
Day 360
Friday 26th August 2011
Port Augusta - Waikerie

There was a thick fog this morning as I drove west towards West Boundary Rd where Joe’s property is situated. It made for a slow drive out but by the time I arrived around 8 a.m. the sun had begun to shine through.
White-winged Chough - note the red eye.
Joe had left a plastic bag on a tree at the drive into the Malleefowl area. He had invited us to take our lunch out and make a good day of it but this was more a fact finding tour. There was hardly a breeze so I was surprised that few birds were calling. Indeed, I spent an hour and a half searching the scrub for the bird, my only success being a flock of White-winged Choughs that came to check me out rather than me searching for them.
Hooded Robin
We both lazed about the caravan for the rest of the morning, Glenda working out her lists for the Gluepot stay this Sunday while I did a Sudoku or two. I returned to Joe’s place early afternoon for another crack at the Malleefowl but again nothing much was about. A Hooded Robin followed me for a bit as I walked along a track towards a Radio Tower on a nearby hill.
A number of Fairy-wrens were calling excitedly as I entered their territory near the base of the tower. I’m still not sure of the differences in the calls that Fairy-wrens make as they all sound a bit similar. As long as they know I suppose it’s the main thing. It wasn’t until the male showed himself that I realised that they were Variegated Fairy-wrens and not Splendids as I expected.
Variegated Fairy-wren

Ryan phoned late afternoon for a chat. He and some members of our Club are in the State Kendo Championships in Melbourne this weekend. It is the first one I’ve missed for decades but I’d hate to compete in my current state of fitness. Wish I was there in some capacity.

Week 52
Day 361
Saturday 27th August 2011

Today was perfect weather which we made the most of. My birding took me to a conservation park on the Murray River. I drove west along Holder Road which suddenly forked into two new tracks: Holder Top and Holder Bottom! I kid you not!
The Murray River
Try as I may I couldn’t find any new birds but the views and the quiet of the river almost made it acceptable. I considered taking the kayak for a paddle down the river but we had booked lunch at the local hotel which pretty much ended any vigorous activity during the afternoon. Glenda deserved a break from cooking amongst everything else!
We shopped for our three days at the Gluepot Reserve starting tomorrow. It is our hope to photograph the Scarlet-chested Parrot, Red-lored Whistler and at least one new honeyeater. Anything else will be a bonus but the above two are considered rare.
I phoned Tarl at the State Kendo Championships and all is going okay although Ballarat is down on entries as are most clubs at the moment. Here’s hoping they do well in the teams events tomorrow (even without me!).
Week 52
Day 362
Sunday 28th August 2011
Waikerie – Gluepot Reserve

The day started well with beautiful clear sky despite the cold (or because of it). We packed up and were away by 9.15 a.m. on our trek to the Gluepot Reserve.
We arrived around midday and set up at the Sittella Camp which is the closest to the place where the Scarlet-chested Parrot has been seen. We drove into the Info Centre and paid for three nights. While there we checked the white board and were excited that the bird had been seen at the prescribed spot yesterday.
White-fronted Honeyeater

I ventured out to the Gypsum Lunette Track after lunch for a search for the parrot. The day was clear and the walk fairly flat. Honeyeaters were about and Bill from Queensland and his wife assured me that the White-fronted Honeyeater and Black-eared Miner were around as they had been for the last couple of days. Bill soon got me onto my first new bird; a White-fronted Honeyeaters in a distant tree. It broke my drought but the parrot wasn’t so accommodating.
Black-eared Miners mixed with Yellow-throated Miners were moving about vigorously but try as I might I couldn’t get close before they disappeared. Two long shots of a suspected Black-eared Miner are hopeful signs that I might get a definitive shot but I’ll be lucky as most birders tend to call photographs as “hybrids”, that is, the bird is a cross between the Black-eared Miner and the Yellow-throated Miner. It appears that the pure Black-eared Miner is quite endangered and likely to be relegated to “sub-species” status of the invasive Yellow-throated Miner. I’d better get a good photo quick!
Left & Below: Note the lack of white on the tail tip on the bird above. The same bird below has the characteristic grey “moustache” of the pure Black –eared Miner. The bird had a grey rump which I unfortunately didn’t photograph.
As I returned to my car a familiar vehicle and off road caravan ambled to a stop; the Gypsy Twitchers! I couldn’t believe my eyes or our luck. They had been driving down from the NT quickly in the hope of finding the Scarlet-chested Parrot, a bird they haven’t got yet (They have a life list of 661!). We dined together tonight and had some good laughs as the tales of the adventures and people we’d all met unfolded. The next couple of days will be great birding with excellent company, a fitting way to end this 12 month Challenge.
Week 52
Day 363
Monday 29th August 2011                                              
Gluepot Reserve                                                                      

I slept in this morning and didn’t hear Alby and Eleanor head up the track around 6.30 a.m. Indeed, Glenda nudged me into consciousness and informed me that it was 8 o’clock. Bloody Hell!!
Black-eared Cuckoo
By the time I reached the area where the Scarlet-chested Parrot was they had been on watch for nearly two hours. I felt a bit sheepish but soon settled in to some focused birding time. A few people were about and I was very grateful when a Black-eared Cuckoo flew into the tree next to me and began to call. It was spontaneous and unprovoked which always marvels me that you can still sometimes blunder into Nature at its best.
I returned to the caravan by 10.30 a.m. because I was ready for breakfast and Glenda typically was ready for my return. We decided to do the Babbler South Walk where a birder had told me we should find Striped Honeyeater about a km in. Glenda took her ipad for the calls but we didn’t need them for a Striped Honeyeater appeared almost on demand as we reached the one km point. We had good views of Striated Grasswren as well so this was a highlight of the day.
Striped Honeyeater

Someone had claimed a Grey Falcon near the north corner of the Reserve according to the bulletin board at the Information Centre but I figured I had a better chance with the Parrot. Consequently I returned to the Gypsum Lunette Track area around 2.30 p.m. for another search. I came across a White-fronted honeyeater waiting to be fed and fortunately it flitted about on the outer branches of a tree rather than the preferred habit of most to hide inside the foliage. I was really pleased with the photographs, especially as the red mark behind the eye was clearly visible.
White-fronted Honeyeater

Varied Sitella
Varied Sittella were the catch of the day this time and later when Alby and Eleanor arrived, Alby found a Sittella nest which enabled us some good shots of the parents as they flew in and out.
Our happy hour was another delightfully long one with our two friends. We have so much in common apart from birding that it seems uncanny. We’ll try for the Parrot and the Red-lored Whistler tomorrow, the second last day of our Challenge.

Week 52
Day 364
Tuesday 30th August 2011
Gluepot Reserve

Striated Grasswren
I arrived at the Gypsum Lunette Walk car park around 8.30 a.m. The weather was perfect for birding with clear skies and not even a breeze. I made my way along the boundary road for about 15 minutes and checked out all the old Mallee trees on the way. There were lots of birds calling but no parrots.

I ventured in from the road to the place where the Scarlet-chested Parrot (SCP) was seen yesterday and took a long photo of two parrots in one of the more prominent trees. While I was checking on my photo I looked up to see a SCP flying straight towards me. The red chest and blue face of an adult male were unmistakeable.
Habitat where the SCPs are found.

I walked quickly after it as it flew over my head and away to the south-west. To my chagrin it didn’t stop so I was left with the hope that my long photo was of the same bird. I walked around the area for the next two hours without seeing any more parrots except Mulgas. Alby and Eleanor were sitting by my tree when I returned there. They had had good views of the bird but took no photographs as it didn’t stay around. I sat with them for a while before heading back to the car around 11.30. Brunch was calling.
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

The photo of the parrots showed the colouring of a female Mulga Parrot so around 2 p.m. Glenda, Alby and I drove back to the walk and took our chairs to the tree and waited. By 4 p.m. we’d packed up and Alby and I spent 15 minutes at the bird hide near Emu Tank photographing a few regulars. I told Alby I still had hopes of getting a Little Eagle before tomorrow night. He floored me when he said that he’d photographed one at the car park earlier in the day! Things still might happen!

Week 52
Day 365
Wednesday 31st August 2011
Gluepot Reserve -

The trees where the parrrots were seen.
I met Alby and Eleanor at the tree around 8.30 a.m. and began our waiting game. A few people were about and at least one sniggered at my folding chair as I lugged it the km or so to our spot. After an hour of sitting pretty things were looking doubtful but Eleanor suddenly alerted us to a female Scarlet-chested Parrot which had landed on the far side of the tree. Alby and I both managed a few shots before the bird flew off. We had hoped that it would call its mate in as he is by far the more stunning of the two but he didn’t show.
Scarlet-chested Parrot

On the way back a male appeared near the start of the bush and stayed briefly. Alby managed a photograph but I dipped. It doesn’t matter, the female counts equally and being a lifer for me it was a good enough bird to end this Challenge. I said my goodbyes to the Gypsy Twitchers on behalf of Glenda who was packing the caravan up and headed off. They have been superb people to camp with and very supportive of this Challenge.

Glenda was ready and packed when I returned and thrilled on hearing about the SCP. On the way out of the Gluepot we stopped suddenly as a raptor flying very high had a “Little Eagle” look about it. I was convinced until I downloaded my photo. I’m not sure as the colours were not clear so for the moment I’m not counting it. We drove on to Pinnaroo for the night and set up by 4 p.m. I showered and settled in to writing this entry for the blog and catching up on emails etc.

As a celebration we went to the local pub for dinner which was all very nice. We talked about the past few days and what the next few weeks might bring…….

So to conclude this Challenge we must thank all those who have encouraged and supported us in some way. Some people wrote to us regularly and others only once but all were helpful and we greatly appreciated it at the time and now. We were very fortunate to find fellow birders who gave of their own time to show us around their neck of the woods and to those people our most sincere thanks. We’ve tried to acknowledge everyone through this blog as events unfolded so I hope this has been acceptable given the generosity shown to us. Naturally of course our family has been with us in spirit all the way so thanks especially to you guys.

I’ll publish the statistics of the challenge soon i.e. number of flat tyres, kms travelled etc. for this final entry I’ll just claim the main event. In all I believe I’ve personally photographed 518 birds in the 12 months from 1st September 2010 to 31st August 2011. I also claim three other birds on the journey; The Western Grasswren, The Western Crested Shrike-tit and the Swan River Honeyeater. These three birds are currently not on the Christidis and Boles List although various sources and people we met on the way have stated that they are about to be recognised. That would make my total 521 if they were to be included but at this moment in time I’m more than happy with 518!

Thank you everyone, please feel free to email us AND if a book eventuates, please look out for it!