Sundown Nat Park, Southern Qld

Subject: Sundown Nat Park, Southern Qld
From: "Colin R" <>
Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2004 12:36:13 +1000
A Waterhole kind of Weekend

Last weekend ? Friday 27.8 to Sunday 29.8 ? I headed out to Sundown NP
again (west of Stanthorpe, southern Qld) I decided to ?enlarge? the trip
by (1) taking a different route and (2) calling in at Duraki SF on the
I chose the road via Beaudesert/Rathdowney/Woodenbong/Legume to get to
Warwick. Interesting route ? if you have the time to spare and the
suspension to cope! Some terrific scenery and it certainly beats the
traffic blues of the Ipswich road, but it?s long and winding, almost
rally car stuff at times, and the surface between Woodenbong and Legume
is horrific. The Suzuki bounced along from ridge to ridge and hole to
hole until, finally, just before 11.00, (having left Brisbane at 7.30),
I reached Warwick.
Topped up with fuel and headed west on the 41 km trip to Duraki and had
lunch beside the waterhole. The usual Yellow-plumed, Yellow-faced,
Brown-headed, White-naped, Scarlet and Striped Honeyeaters came to
drink. I added Fuscous and White-eared Hes to my personal list for the
spot as well as Plum-headed Finch (1).
After a very pleasant hour and a half sitting beside the water with the
birds coming to me, I repacked the car and took off ?cross country?, so
to speak, from Gore to the Sundown rd. The road was good ? narrow but
sealed and virtually empty. Didn?t see much on the way and did get a
little ?mixed up? when faced with one junction where my map showed
sealed roads where they definitely weren?t?.
However, arrived at Sundown (Broadwater camp site) at 3.30 to find it
completely empty ? and it stayed that way for the whole weekend?
After setting up camp I walked back up to the fields around the Park
headquarters ? where else is there to be at Sundown? Small flocks of
Turquoise Parrots flew whistling into the trees, Double-barred Finches,
Brown Treecreepers and Speckled Warblers foraged over a (deliberately?)
burnt area beside the track.
Reaching the fields a pair of Hooded Robins showed well and a couple of
Diamond Firetails dived through the trees. Jacky Winters sported their
tails and I spotted a Fuscous Honeyeater in the trees closest to the
buildings (I must have overlooked this species on previous visits). As
dusk descended I returned to camp and a quiet, calm, full-mooned evening
by the campfire.
Up and at ?em as early as possible ? a beautiful clear, crisp, sunny
winter?s morning ? perfect for a bit o? birdin?!  I walked back up to
the fields again, passing Buff-rumped Thornbills, Peaceful Doves, the
same flocks of Turks and finches, warblers and Jacky Winters and adding
Golden and Rufous Whistlers and Striated and Spotted Pardalotes. No sign
of the Hooded Robins in the field but Eastern and Pale-headed Rosellas,
Aust Pipits, Willy Wagtails, a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Welcome
Swallows, Fairy Martins, Common Bronzewings and a flock of wobbly tailed
White-winged Choughs maintained interest. Choughs the world over are
real character birds and these guys are no exception, wandering around
croaking to each other, their tails perpetually threatening to get out
of control! Love it!
I went past the house and into the bush beyond. I had a vague
recollection of a waterhole in the, otherwise dry, riverbed below a clay
cliff, from my last visit and, working on the premise that everything
has to drink and water is pretty scarce in Sundown right now, I figured
it would be a good place to check out. I found it as I remembered it,
although lower than it was, of course, but still deep enough to hide
turtles and big enough to provide several spots for birds to drink and
bathe. I settled down on the top of the ?cliff? and watched (in the end)
a total of 27 species arrive to drink and bathe and flirt around the
edge of this precious necessity. 
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters chased each other while Restless Flycatchers
buzzed and demonstrated. Peaceful and Bar-shouldered Doves used the
rocky area ? almost disappearing against the grey boulders. Bronzewings
landed nervously and, head bobbing, moved cautiously down to drink
before flying off with a wing clap or two. White-plumed honeyeaters were
the commonest species, always 2 or 3 in attendance, and with Swallows
and Fairy Martins continuously zooming around it was always busy.
White-eared and White-naped Honeyeaters slipped in quietly and Fuscous
came in small numbers. One Diamond Firetail, a couple of Double-barred
and Red-browed Finches appeared below me and Noisy and Little and Noisy
Friarbirds charged in and out. Most birds only drank, a few splashed
into the middle of the pond  - especially the White-plumed Honeyeaters,
others, like the Yellow Robin, quietly bathed at the edge.
 Leaving the waterhole after a couple of hours I walked on through the
 bush. Alarm calls prompted me to look skywards to find a Little Eagle
 (light morph) circling directly overhead ? views to die for!
I turned a complete circuit back to the upper side of the warden?s
fields adding only Dusky Woodswallow and Weebill to my weekend list.
Lunch at camp and rest till 2pm then off again - this time up river into
the main park. Peter the warden had advised, on a previous visit, that
the fields and bush near the park headquarters were better for birding
than the thick bush in and around the riverbed. He wasn?t kidding! An
hour upstream and I had added only Fan-tailed Cuckoo and a Goanna to my
list when thunder rumbled in the distance. Looking back I saw that the
sky had turned grey and watery looking, and the tree tops began to sway
in the increasing wind. Being a team leader in the Energex call centre
you can imagine my first thoughts were for the guys back in Brisbane!
Under the present circumstances storms are not the most welcome of
incidents! My second thoughts were of my tent and campsite ? high winds
and torrential rain, mmmmmmmmm - I decided to head back, and did so.
A light shower later and a few more drops over the rest of the afternoon
were all Sundown received, the wind backed off with no ill effects, so
at 4pm I headed back to the waterhole for the evening drink.
White-plumed Hes and Peaceful Doves drank quietly and 5 Plum-headed
Finches landed in a bare tree opposite me for a few seconds before
?blowing? on up the river bed. Then, suddenly, the Bee-eaters arrived  -
chaos ensued! Seven Rainbow Bee-eaters zipping around calling madly,
diving into the water like flaming rockets, honeyeaters darting hither
and thither, swallows and martins in and out, Friarbirds calling madly
and then the Restless Flycatchers got in on the act demanding the rest
listen to them! It all lasted about 5 minutes, then the bee-eaters were
gone as quickly as they had arrived and peace descended, along with the
I made my way back to the waterhole next morning yet again ? figuring it
was as good a place as any.
A flock of White-browed Babblers at close quarters on the way was
Nothing ?new? turned up and so, after an hour or two, I crossed the
river bed and wandered through new territory. I was watching 3 Crested
Shrike-tits feeding busily when, with a grunt, a large black feral pig
trundled into view followed closely by 2 piglets and a large sow.
Happily (for me) they moved away from me, but not overly fast, so I
decided that the opposite direction looked good and moved there!
Wandering on I circled back to camp and basically packed up and left.  
Heading back to Brisbane I reflected on the importance of water and how
useful waterholes can be. In both situations I, of course, kept well
back from the water and, at no time, did my presence interfere with the
passage of birds to the water ? I think that?s something one should be
aware of. Other than that it?s an excellent way to see lots of different
species and makes for very comfortable birding!
  Colin Reid
So many birds, so little time...... 

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