Yellow Chats @ Mount Isa, NW Qld ( + a few others)

To: "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Yellow Chats @ Mount Isa, NW Qld ( + a few others)
From: "Bob Forsyth" <>
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 11:24:50 +1000
G'day all,
Yesterday local bird watching enthusiasts Ian Fox, Trish Hammond & I, (with my useless dog Keisha) put in almost 8 hours checking out the 3.4 km perimeter of Wide Bay + a quick check of the rarely visited South Bay.    (Both are on the western shores of Mount Isa's Lake Moondarra)
As we drove down to the waters edge we drove around a dead 2.3 metre Fresh Water Crocodile and shortly afterwards flushed a fully grown one back into the lake. Two more were floating on the water, further out, keeping a beady eye on us .
The numbers of waders seemed a bit down, compared to 8 days previously. But we soon picked up a couple of non-breeding plumaged Long-toed Stints. The birds would fly off down the shore for no apparent reason. We were chuffed to pick up probably the same birds again & at one time we saw 3 together. We were fortunate to have plenty of Red-kneed Dotterel, Red-capped plover & Sharp-tailed Sandpipers to get a size comparison to these midgets.
We did NOT find any Red-necked Stints which were at the same location 8 days previously.  Likewise, some other birds seen then, such as Curlew-Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit had also departed.
A dozen Oriental Plover were standing motionless, no doubt pondering the meaning of life in their cryptic pastel coloured plumage, about 50 metres from the shore.
We continued to repetitively "drive, stop, pull out the scopes & look" at the 1000s of waterfowl & waders.
As we were approaching a spot targeted for a lunch break, Trish (who was jammed into the back seat of my twin-cab Mazda 4wd) cried out loudly "Orange Chat"  But bad news & good news ! The bad news was they were not Orange Chats ! The good news were they were Yellow Chats ! !  Who says "only the people in the front seat get the best birds" ?
The first record at Mount Isa, was "one sighting when the Leichhardt River Dam commenced filling, 24th March 1958" by the Horton's who subsequently "found" the Ballara Grasswren in 1966. And I believe, the last record of a sighting of this species was by ex Mount Isan, Gloria Glass in 1978 and 1979.
Ian Fox writes >
The area is on the shallow margins of the lake and as such has a variety of micro-habitats apparently favoured by the Yellow Chat. The aquatic grass Pseudoraphis spinescens (mudgrass) and the grass Cynodon dactylon (green couch) occur in dense mats along the margins of the lake. As it dries, this dense mat of grass leaves an uneven surface of low dips and hollows behind which birds frequently disappeared. Amongst this grassy mat are areas of bare dried mud, often with surface salt, that favours the growth of succulent plants such as Portulacca and various small Chenopods. These areas were frequented by the birds. One feature of note is the abundance of driftwood in the area. This is largely from dead shrubs of the weed Parkinsonia aculeata which is common around the lake. In the area where the Yellow Chats were seen, the driftwood sits in very shallow water and has been wind-driven into extensive tangles parallel to the shoreline. These tangles are up to 20 metres wide and one and half metres high. When disturbed, the birds rapidly flew across the shallow water and sheltered in the driftwood. 
There were at least a dozen birds actively feeding and were spread out over about 30 X 100 metres. They stayed within this area unless we accidentally flushed them trying to get better photos. We were able to ID (& photograph) Males, Females and Immatures.
We then moved further around the shores to a rarely visited bay where early this year Helen Morgan & I had recorded Painted Snipe. But no luck this time although a pair of Freckled Duck was some consolation.
We then checked out South Bay adding a couple of foliage birds to make a total of 77 species for a pleasant day.
Regards from
Bob Forsyth
Mount Isa, NW Qld.
For directions to Wide Bay see gazetteer pages of
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