We have good friends who invited us to stay on Kangaroo Island recently. KI, as it's affectionately known, is Australia’s third largest island and is located a couple of hours SE of Adelaide, South Australia. Amidst ideas of getting reference for a long planned painting of Glossy Black Cockatoos we drove across to Cape Jervis, took the world’s most expensive car ferry and drove to American River. This part of the island is home to a handful of the endangered SA glossy black-cockatoo. Only found on KI, American River with its abundance of She-Oak food trees is this species epicentre.
For 10 days I was up at dawn staking out the Glossy’s food trees, then again towards dusk doing laps of the area for another try. Steve Garnett and Gay Crowley (friends of Nicky’s) had worked on this species on KI in the 1990s to aid their recovery. Then there were only about 200 birds remaining. At that time this subspecies was relatively unknown and its' status was dire. Since then there has been a lot of effort by locals and conservation agencies to protect and increase the copses of She-Oak, protect nesting sites and raise awareness of the plight of this large cockatoo. The population has now grown to about 360 birds….and I soon found that they are all well-schooled in behaving furtively.
Glossies practice being particularly annoying to observe and photograph…. They turn their habit of lurking behind any stray bit of foliage into an art-form. While they feed on the She-Oak seed capsules you can get very close, thus lulling you into the false impression that getting reference material will be a snap - but it’s always through a veil of foliage, or into the sun, or on the far side of the forest. Murphy’s Law works well for Glossy Black Cockatoos!!
To distract me from the problem cockatoos I had a good look around this beautiful island. With over a third of the island protected, it’s largely unspoilt environment and diversity of interesting species make KI a great place to explore. We watched sea lions bask with their pups at Seal Bay, Tammar Wallabies bounce around our yard at dusk, and a New Zealand Fur Seal eyed us curiously from the American River jetty while we had our morning coffee. Then to top it off we followed Chris Hemsworth’s example of the previous week and spent a day swimming with dolphins on the north side of the island. Although I sat in Chris’s seat for the day it unfortunately did not translate into me gaining his super powers or chiselled good looks…..However I am taller than he is!
Now back to painting those pesky cockatoos.