Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), Saturday 4 November 1905, page 46


[By Naturalist.]

Image courtesy State Library SA B-32245

The fifth congress of the Australasian Ornithologists' Union, recently held in Adelaide, has been pronounced by those taking part in it as the most successful which has taken place, and the 10 days' camp on Kangaroo Island, from October 14 to October 24, was by no means an uninteresting item on the programme of events, and with the valuable aid of the Marine Board, through the courtesy of its President (Mr. Arthur Searcy), the party were conveyed in the Governor Musgrave to and from the camp at Middle River. The party, numbering 22 in all, under the leadership of Mr. J. W. Mellor, were taken on board at Henley Beach, and landed at Middle River next morning, as the risk of transferring the luggage and passengers to the boats in a rough sea, on a rock-bound coast, and in the dark was considered too great, so Capt. Weir courteously fixed impromptu bunks, and we lay-to. Camp was formed so soon as a landing was effected, and a picturesque spot it was, an ideal one for the naturalist to study his calling, far from the madding crowd.

Sourced from The State Library Victoria, The LaTrobe Journal, No 38 Spring 1986 http://www3.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-38/fig-latrobe-38-048b.html

In the daytime parties were organized to search out the country round about the camp, while others went further afield, and so an extremely happy and profitable time was spent. One party, under the guidance of Dr. G. Horne, of Melbourne, set out on a four days' trip to Cape Borda and back, a distance by land of about 100 miles through the scrub. Here the lighthouse reserve was inspected, and the nature of the soil noted. Another party left on a two days' tramp to Stokes Bay, towards the eastern end of the island, while another, under the leadership of Mr. A. G. Campbell penetrated into the interior of the island beyond the telegraph line in this trip. A start was made from Western River, taking a course due south and exploring the country around the fresh water lagoons beyond the telegraph line, which are situated upon a plateau forming a watershed and dividing the waters, which run to the north and south. From here the head waters of the Middle River were struck and followed down to the mouth. This proved a rough trip. The whole party travelled to Western River, a distance of about nine miles by land, for a single day's excursion, and on another occasion the falls on the Middle River, about six or eight miles from its mouth, were visited by a large party.

The photograph below has been sourced from Island to Island, Kathy Stove, https://thedirtsa.com.au/plating-up/ Rough concept by Caroline Taylor on a glass plate photograph, from an original held by the State Library SA B-32246.

Exceedingly rough and precipitous climbing had to be undertaken to reach the locality, where the river bed is very rocky, and forms several rapids ere the water leaps over huge rocky eminences and falls with two or three breaks into some deep pools over a hundred feet below, and then rushes on over its stony bed. The scene was well worth the long and tedious walk, and as these beautiful falls were apparently nameless it was decided to call them the ''Strepera Falls," after the generic name of the species of crowshrike found on the island, examples of which were the only birds discovered nesting in the locality. The waters of the falls are beautifully fresh, and the al fresco meal was much appreciated after the rough journey, several ladies having braved the undertaking to the last.

—The Birds of the Island.—

The birds observed during the various excursions were fairly numerous, but had the weather been warmer and less rain during the day greater numbers would have been seen. Seventy species were observed in the various localities visited, which makes the most complete list of avifauna [birds] yet compiled for Kangaroo Island, as previous identifications had contained only about 50 species. Had the time for observation been longer many more species would have been observed. It is not yet found that any of the birds collected are new species, but there certainly seems to be a decided difference in some of the island species, as compared with those of the same kind as found on the mainland. These may be only local characteristics, and not of sufficient remove to be classed more than as a sub-species. The breeding seemed to be somewhat erratic, which may have been caused by the long, wet winter and protracted spring. Some species had brought forth their young, while others were just beginning to build, and very few nests were observed, although a close watch was kept by all those in camp, as several of the party were bent on taking snapshots of the bird-life in the breeding stages. More than one enthusiastic photographer had supplied himself with an extensive outfit to this end. A Melbourne visitor, in particular, was somewhat successful in getting photos of the birds and their young by having a snapshot shutter attached to his camera, and 40 or 50 feet of small indiarubber tubing leading from this, with a pressing bulb at the end. The camera was fixed in the tree or by a bush in which the nest was situated. The operator lay concealed at the other end of the tubing, and directly the parent bird came with food for its young the bulb was pressed, and the photo was taken from life. Very interesting some of these pictures prove, as they settle many disputed and knotty questions upon the identification of the birds.

Middle River camp was the best spot for the birds of any locality that the naturalists visited during their 10 days' sojourn. The place was somewhat secluded, the little feathered friends were comparatively free from molestation, and as there was plenty of scrub and natural cover near they were quite at home and very tame. Perhaps the most conspicuous was the beautiful crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans), often known as the blood rosella, on account of its blood red plumage when in the adult stage. These birds were numerous along the river and on the grassy flats, where they were busily engaged in eating the flower buds of the dandelion plants. As several of them would rise together and perch on an adjacent tree the glaring effect was superb. The blue mountain lorikeets (Trichoglossus Novae Hollandiae) were plentiful in the eucalypts that were flowering, and could be traced by their harsh grating notes as they clung to the flowers and sucked the honey. The little lorikeet (Glossopsittacus pusillus) were also noted. The sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) was seen in several localities, and a pair had taken up their quarters nesting in an old dead gum. The black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funerus) was seen in the interior feeding in the dwarfed scrub. This bird is known from C. viridis which is the rarer black cockatoo found on the island, by the former having the tail marked with yellow, while the latter has red. The rosella parrot (Platycercus exemius) was seen once, and was noted as a bird not generally found on the island. Honeyeaters of various descriptions were plentiful. This cannot be wondered at, considering the abundance of flowers of all varieties and hues that bedeck both scrub-land and forest. The white-eared honey-eater (Ptilotis leucotis) was seen in a variety of localities, especially in the forest land where the sugar gum abounds, while the wattled-checked variety (P. cratitia), a rare species, was seen chiefly in the lower eucalypts near the sea coast. Several of this bird's young were observed, but its nesting haunts were never found. Out on the low and lonely small scrub country the tawny-fronted honey eater (Glyciphila fulvifrons) piped its plaintive note. The cresent honey eater (Melioruis Australasianus) was found in all localities, while its nearest ally (M. Novae Hollandiae) was seen plentifully near Borda. The wattle bird (Anthochaera carunculata) was fairly plentiful, but the brush wattle bird (A. Mellivora) was not so common. The sharp ringing note of the pretty little spine bill (Acanthorhynchus superciliosus) was often heard, and the birds were seen rearing their young. Among the flycatchers the white shafted (Rhipidura albiscapa) was the commonest, while the Restless (Seisura inquieta) could be heard from its incessant notes resembling the grinding of a pair of scissors. Two robins were seen, the scarlet-breasted (Petroica leggi) and the yellow-breasted (Eopsaltria Australis). The latter is found inland, and the former near the coast. One Thickhead was identified, as the western (Pachycephala occidentalis) but it was rare.

The blue wren (Malurus superbus) was plentiful everywhere, and the bright blue of the male was conspicuous in the low green bushes where the nests of this little bird was found on several occasions. The tit family, whose minute form and sombre garb make them difficult to distinguish in the leaves of the trees where they search out insects, were identified in two species, the brown tit (Acanthiza pusilla) and the striped tit (A. Lineata). The welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxina) was found nesting in sheltered nooks in the cliffs, and the tree martin (Petrochelidon nigricans) was seen. The chucky-chuck note of the striped diamond bird (Pardalotus ornatus) was heard as the birds kept company in pairs, apparently seeking suitable places in the hollow limbs or a hole in the bank wherein to nest; the yellow-rumped species (P. Xanthopygius) was less plentiful. The little grass bird (Megalurus gramineus) kept to the banks of the stream where grass was abundant, and on the more open flats the pipit (Anthus Australis) took up its abode. The other small ground-loving birds seen were the chestnut rumped ground wren (Hylacola pyrrhopygia), found in the thick low scrub country, where it builds its nest in low bush, or beneath fallen boughs. The spotted scrub wren (Sericornis maculata) lived in a similar locality, while the white-fronted tin-tac or chatt (Epthianura albifrons) roamed the more open grounds. In nearly every situation the silver eye (Zostrops cernlescens) was to be found. The wood swallow (Artamus sordidus) had just arrived from its migratory movements, but had not yet started to nest. The call of several cuckoos could be heard in the woods, the fantailed (Cacomantis flabelliformis), and the bronze (Chalcococcyx plagosus) were identified. The large-billed melithreptus (Melithreptus magnirostris), lately discovered by Mr. F. R. Zietz, of Adelaide, was quite tame near the camp, sucking honey from the flowers.

In the teatree scrub the musical note of the grey shrike thrush (Colluricincla harmonica) could be heard in the clear morning air, and its nest was found hard by, while the black-faced cuckoo shrike (Graucalus melanops) was rearing its young near the camp. The mountain thrush (Geocichla Lunulata) was scarce, and seen towards the rocky country on the upper reaches of the river. On the open flats of the river the spur-wing plover (Lobivanellus lobatus) had its young, and every one who passed by was aware of it, as the parent birds were extremely energetic in wadding intruders off if they chanced to come near. The black-breasted plover (Lonifer tricolor) was also present. The scrub curlew (Oedicnemus Grallarius) piped its mounrful note of curle-ew as the shades of night set in, and the boobook owl (Ninox boobook) accompanied the lay with its equally doleful song of more-pork, repeated in slow but regular succession. The bronzewing pigeon (Phaps chalcoptera) inhabited the wooded slopes, and were seen in pairs, while on the more level country the painted quail (Turnix varia) was now and again flushed. White-backed magpies (Gymnorhina leucenota) were plentiful, rearing their young, and the raven (Corone Australis) was fairly numerous, also rearing its offspring.

One species of crow shrike is found on the island, the black-winged (Strepera Melanoptera), and the party watched with great interest the energetic way in which the parent birds searched out insects and titbits for their young, which they were rearing in a nest close to the camp, heedless of the presence of the visitors about them. Several snapshots were obtained of these birds in their wild state. Only two finches were seen, the firetailed (Zonaeginthus Bellus) and the redbrowed (Aegintha temporalis) both of which were breeding. The hawk family were well represented in the wedge tailed eagle (Aquila audax), the white bellied sea eagle (Haliaetus lencogaster), little falcon (Falco lunulatus), kestrel (Tinnunculus cenchroides), and the osprey (Pandion leucocephalus); the lastnamed was breeding in a precepitous rock on the seacoast, where a pair of eggs were obtained after a somewhat perilous climb, in which one of the party paid a dear penalty by getting half-drowned in the sea at the risk of his life.

Sea and shore birds were moderatly plentiful. The Pacific gull (Gabianus Pacificus) was seen, also, the silver gull (Larus Novae Hollandiae), and the crested tern (Sterna bergi). The lititle penguin (Eudyptula minor) was starting to breed in the rocks towards Borda, and the black oyster catcher (Haematopus unicolor) also had eggs. The hooded dottrel (Aegialites cucullata) were seen at times on the shore perambulating on the sandy patches. In the swamps and inland waters the black duck (Anas superciliosus) was rearing its young in safety, and several species of herons resorted to these places for food supplies, notably the nankeen (Nyetfcorax Caledonicus), white-fronted (Notophoyx Novae Hollandiae), and the reef heron (Demiegretta sacra), the lastnamed breeding on the cliffs. Along the river several cormorants were identified, viz., the black (Phalacrocorax carbo) and the white breasted (P. Gouldi). The bald coot (Porphyrio Melanotus) was scarce on the swamps, as was also the moor hen (Gallinula tenebrosa).

With the splendid results thus achieved in identifying in such a short time so many species it is recognised that in due course many more will he added; and to this end, and for the purpose of determining the migration and course taken by the birds as they leave and return to our shores, the light-house keepers have been specially asked to take careful notes regarding the birds that strike the lanterns at night. For this purpose forms have been supplied, to be filled in, and returned periodically. Many interesting notes were made in connection with other branches of natural history, records of which will be forthcoming in due course — botany, entomology, conchology, and geology had each their specialists, and good work was performed in the respective divisions.

Camp was struck on Monday, October 14. In the afternoon the Governor Musgrave hove in sight, and after four or five boatloads of merchandise, specimens, luggage, and passengers had been conveyed aboard, the party heaved a sigh of relief as the steamer once more headed towards home, although the naturalists could have very profitably put in at least double the time with good results. Port Adelaide was reached early next morning. Hearty thanks are due to the Marine Board for their large share in the trip, and a special vote of thanks to the President was passed. Mr. B. H. Bell and Mr. E. J. Clark also greatly assisted the party, while Mr. Hurst, of Snug Cove, Capt. Sheridan, of Western River, and the Cape Borda Lighthouse keeper, and Mr. Bell, of Stokes Bay, also lent valuable assistance to the Expedition.

WITH THE ORNITHOLOGISTS. ON KANGAROO ISLAND. (1905, November 4). Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), p. 46. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162442651

See contemporary website on where to find birdlife on Kangaroo Island.

See press article of book launch "Birds of Kangaroo Island" by Chris Baxter.