The Iron Triangle

September 16, 2014

Not known for its scenic beauty, the ‘Iron Triangle’ (because of the metal smelters) contains the uninspiring towns of Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla. They’re mainly stopover points for people en-route to more exciting areas, but the area contains a few excellent birding sites which make it worthwhile spending a day or two in this region.

Heading north from Adelaide, the first town you pass is Pt Pirie. There’s not much reason to stop here but if you do find yourself here it's worth checking out the Port Pirie wetlands next to the town oval and opposite the shopping centre for Australian Spotted Crake, Buff-banded Rail, Black tailed Native Hen and other species. Access is off The Terrace.

 

Continuing north you’ll notice the Remarkable Ranges on your right. This National Park is located about 2 hrs drive north of Adelaide, although a more scenic route from Adelaide is Main North Road via the Clare Valley wine region. The Remarkable Ranges NP offers spectacular scenery although parts of it were affected by bushfires in January 2014. There is an intriguing mix of flora and fauna, ranging from those adapted to the wetter southern regions of SA through to species more typical of the arid north. At last count, 124 bird species had been recorded in the park. Worth a visit is the Alligator Gorge, where you can expect to find Chestnut-rumped Heathwren (pedleri), Yellow-rumped and Brown (pusilla) Thornbill and Southern Boobook. Painted Buttonquail are regularly recorded along the Gorge Circuit Hike (2 km return) and the southern section of the Ring Route Track. A good strategy for finding them is to search for fresh platelets (circular saucer-like scrapes on the ground) in woodland with a closed canopy, some understory, and leaf-litter. Chestnut-rumped Heathwren (race pedleri), an isolated subspecies limited to the southern section of the Flinders Ranges, is found in the heathy woodland above Alligator Gorge. Also watch for Peregrine Falcon, Inland Thornbill and Diamond Firetail. The Daveys Gully Hike (2.4 km return) and Sugar Gum Lookout Hike (8 km return) start near the Mambray Creek campground. Watch for parrots such as Elegant Parrot, Australina Ringneck and Adelaide Rosella; the latter reaches the northernmost limit of its range here.  Nearby sites of interest include Beeteloo Reservoir where Diamond Firetail is regularly seen; and at the pretty historic village of Melrose the woodland behind the oval is worth checking out. Stubble Quail and Brown Songlark inhabit the large-scale wheatfields during spring and early summer.

Grey-fronted Honeyeater is another specialty of the area. It is easier found in gorges that cut into the western side of these ranges, such as Telowie Gorge and at Nelshaby. On this side of the ranges, Telowie Gorge is a very scenic little reserve some 25 km north of Port Pirie where a small colony of Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby exists. Also present in Telowie Gorge are Grey-fronted Honeyeater (one of the southern-most locations for this species), Southern Scrub-robin, Diamond Firetail, Inland Thornbill and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill.

Continuing north you’ll drive into Port Augusta. Just past the Shell is a salt lagoon named ‘Bird Lake’ where Banded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet are often found. There’s a small bird hide and picnic area here. If you can’t find them, continue towards the power station and park at the no-entry sign, scan the back lagoons from here. They often hide here when there is a strong wind blowing.

Just outside Port Augusta, the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens are not to be missed. Containing a large collection of inland native plants, shrubs and trees as well as natural bush and shrubland, this garden attracts many good bird species. It is found just north of Port Augusta at the start of the Stuart Highway. Some of the better species that can be found in the gardens (including surrounding native vegetation) are Redthroat, Elegant Parrot, Pallid and Black-eared Cuckoo, Rufous Fieldwren, Variegated and White-winged Fairy Wren, Singing-, White-fronted-, White-plumed and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, White-fronted Chat, Red-capped Robin, Chirruping Wedgebill, Black-faced Woodswallow, White-backed Swallow, Zebra Finch and Brown Songlark occur here, while Pied and Black Honeyeater and Crimson Chats turn up in spring during good seasons. There is a nice cafeteria here from where you can enjoy a coffee or lunch, overlooking the small pond to which many birds are attracted for a drink.

A population of feral Ostriches exists on Mt Arden Station, just north of Pt Augusta. This property is currently not accessible and the Ostriches at Barham (NSW) are easier to see.

Heading towards Whyalla, you’ll enter Western Grasswren country. The vast bluebush plains, interspersed by usually dry, vegetated creekbeds, and stands of Western Myall, are home to this species. It inhabits bluebush plains where there are prickly acacia (“Wait-a-while”), bullock bush and native boxthorn, in which it likes to hide. This taxon (now Amytornis textilis myall) was split from Thick-billed Grasswren (now Amytornis modestus) into ‘Western Grasswren’ and occurs in many places within the Iron Triangle. Spots to look for them are the Whyalla – Iron Knob road; the Myall creek crossing on the Pt Augusta – Whyalla road and the Myall creek crossing on the Pt Augusta – Ceduna road, and the Whyalla Conservation Park just outside of Whyalla, particularly around Wild Dog Hill.


Not known for its scenic beauty, the ‘Iron Triangle’ (because of the metal smelters) contains the uninspiring towns of Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla. They’re mainly stopover points for people en-route to more exciting areas, but the area contains a few excellent birding sites which make it worthwhile spending a day or two in this region.

Locations visited

mount remarkable ranges

Comments

Add


Make a Travel Enquiry


FREE e-Magazine





Help Us Avoid Spam. What is this? FISH or DOG?

TYPE YOUR ANSWER BEFORE HITTING "SUBSCRIBE"