I attended the 2 day Southern Gulf Birds and Wetlands Forum at Karumba
5&6/5/2004. Karumba is the only location in the southern Gulf of
Carpentaria that can be easily accessed.
I will not try to summarise the excellent talks by the various
speakers except to say that Bird life can be used to monitor the
health of the country.
Much of the time covered
- weed and fire control
- pig control
- grazing control (including riverine fencing)
- climate changes
- water resources
One hour wetland aeroplane flights guided by either Stephen Garnett or
Peter Driscoll were available.
We travelled 50km up the coast to view Pelican Island which was then
resident to many Pelicans and 1000s of Waders (including presumably
Great Knots) and 20km to the west past the Bynoe River. We returned
over wetlands hosting several Egret colonies The spread of the dreaded
Rubber Vine is horrific.
I stayed on a few extra days, revisiting the
- Sand and Gravel pits (to the south-east of Yappar St & Allen Howie
- Cemetery area (leading off to the left approaching Karumba Point)
& again a good variety of birds
- the beach adjacent the Airstrip (Karumba Point) where I was
surprised to see 4 Radjah Shelduck
- the mangroves upstream from the boat ramp at Karumba Point
- Rubbish tip, (well sign posted) to check out the corvids.
But I made several visits to the junction of the Karumba Road &
Karumba Point Road. In a heavily wooded area to the NW, I was lucky to
record a Yellow Honeyeater
And on my last night (9/5/04), from 4.15 to 5.45pm, standing at the
Ferryman's Sign on the SE side of the junction, I was lucky enough to
observe about 300 Star Finches either feeding on the grasses or
absorbing the late afternoon sun . At no time did they appear to drink
at a nearby pool. 10% only were in Adult plumage
Karumba is the outer limit for both the Yellow Honeyeater & Star Finch
and were both lifers.
New areas I visited were:
- the area upstream from the end of Riverside Avenue, which continues
on from Yappar St. This was 4wd territory & only then in the dry
- Along the rivers edge behind Karumba Lodge Hotel, Sunderland Park,
Norman Street to Shelley Beach
- the hill overlooking the ponds alongside Clarina St. The ponds were
hosting 100s of Plumed and Wandering Whistling-ducks. Several pairs
of Wandering W-d were shepherding up to 14 ducklings each.
Because of the high tide at the time, I was unable to explore the
remains of the old tracks leading north from the end of Carron Street
towards Karumba Point. This is Zitting Cisticola territory. The
mangroves in the area looked encouraging.
I took the opportunity of taking another cruise with the Ferryman,
Russell Holt. Unfortunately the Great-billed Heron and male Mangrove
Whistler still escape me. Russell told me he saw 3 males the following
day. But we did see the crocodile NP&WS were trying to trap. It was
making short work of an Egret that had ignored its presence. A pair of
Ospreys were nesting on a Channel marker light. Russell said that if
they are on a red light when it comes on in the evening they fly off.
This time I saw about 20 Brolga and 9 Sarus Crane including a pair
with a 3/4 grown immature. It had a light orangey/buff coloured neck
.. similiar to that of a breeding Cattle Egret.
Australian Pratincoles have returned to the plains on the way at
Normanton. And the lagoons near the Norman River bridge was occupied
by 100s of Magpie Goose. And I was able to photograph a pair of Sarus
Crane flying overhead
I will time my next visit later in the year after the Waders return.
It will coincide with a morning low tide (one tide a day in the Gulf)
when I will use a small boat to get out to the sandbanks including
those opposite "The Oaks" where the waders congregate.
Karumba has a variety of Birding habitats that provide shelter to a
surprising number of birds .. but numbers can vary tremendously during
I hope the above give first time visitors to Karumba a clue to some of
the various birding locations available in this area.
Bob Forsyth, Mount Isa, NW Qld.
ps I have available on request a 213 species List of Bird Lists for
Normanton > Karumba (Excel format)
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