Hi and thanks to all who replied to my RFI for Grasswren information.
Thanks also to those we met along the way and added to our knowledge and
We got back a week ago but it has taken me until now to get around to doing an
email. It also took me until yesterday to get the car back to an almost clean
condition and it will be another few days before all the laundry is finished.
Amazing isn’t it how a trip goes much longer than the actual event?
This trip actually started over a year ago while we were on a trip to Iron
Range and FNQ. As we were driving one day some one said “Well, what’s next?”
The answer that came from the question was that we should find all the
grasswren species east of the NT border.
We got back to Melbourne and started reading and planning. Guides came out and
a general route was picked. First up, we all agreed, was Bowra. No Grasswrens
but it was between Melbourne and Mt Isa and everyone agreed it was a must, and
none of us were disappointed. It also proved useful as we bumped into Bill and
Shirley Ramsey and, even though they saw the Grey Falcon twice and we totally
dipped, we still think they are very nice people.
Chatting it looked like our trips might cross again and as they headed out west
we headed north to Mt Isa and Bob Forsyth. The first grasswren we tried for was
the Ballara (Kalkadoon). We read Bob’s directions and tried Pamela Street, and
then Mica Creek with no success. Next stop was Sybella Creek. After a walk in
the Spinifex for about an hour Helen heard one calling and we finally tracked
it to a creek bed where it gave itself up and jumped into a bush for all of us
to have a good look. One down, six to go. This grasswren hunting, we thought
was easier than we had expected – just over 24 hours for the first sighting.
Next on our list was the Carpentarian. Three days later and after many
kilometres of walking through Spinifex at all the approved spots we declared
that species a myth and admitted that, if we wanted a chance at the rest, we
needed to be on the road. It was sad to think that we had come all this way and
dipped on one of the two species we most wanted. We did find a Peregrine Falcon
though for Bob to add to his Mt Isa list and had the pleasure of dinner at the
Irish club. Mt Isa was a lot more beautiful than we had expected and it was
hard to leave.
Ian joined us here and now we were 5 for the trip south and the next
grasswrens. We drove the road to Birdsville, us in the Forester and Ian in his
Astra and had no trouble at all. I have been on worse roads in Victoria, but
certainly not for as long.
In Birdsville we headed out to Big Red in a sandstorm to look for the Eyreans.
We did not find them but when we got back we did find the Ramseys. We also
drove back up toward Boulia a bit and Helen found her boogie bird, a
Gibberbird. Of course, as is always the case, we then saw them everywhere.
Next day the weather was better and we headed out for the Eyreans again while
the Ramsays headed south for the Greys at Goyder’s Lagoon. We finally found a
group of Eyreans that led us a merry but not unpleasant dance across the dunes.
In the freshly wind swept sand there were tracks of lizards, birds, insects and
grasswrens everywhere, weaving patterns more beautiful than many a modernist
painting. The biggest surprise though was to have breakfast in the shade of a
very small tree in which there was a Grey Fantail.
Back in Birdsville we swapped GPS positions with the Ramseys who had found the
Greys and we headed south. The spot they suggested looked totally dry and
desolate but we trusted them and walked in until we found a slightly damp mud
patch, and the Grasswrens. Two species in one day!! And three out of four. This
was too easy.
At dinner at the Birdsville Pub we reconsidered and replanned and decided to
head south on the Birdsville track and look for the Short-tailed Grasswren in
the Flinders Ranges. The Thick-billed we sacraficed due to lack of time.
The drive down the Birdsville track was done in another dust storm but it blew
out in time for us to have a good camp night and then into Marree and a cabin
with a shower. We got into the Flinders Range in time to get to Stokes Hill for
what was planned to be a quick look before the major assault the next day. A
quick wander around though and after about 10 minutes there it was, one bird
that, after leading us a quick dash between the Spinifex, suddenly stopped
looked at us, turned to show the left profile, then the right, waved good bye
and disappeared. Four out of five!
That night we were blown out of our tents by a gale and in the morning on top
of Stokes Hill it was blowing so hard that the Wedgies flew without moving
forward and the Ravens were flying backwards. Really!!
Time to reschedule again. We had three days to spare. OK, Gluepot for a
Striated. We stayed at Wakerie and drove in to what must be one of Australia’s
most magnificent Bird Sanctuaries. We stopped at the information centre, signed
in and read the board to see where the grasswrens were. Back in the car with
visions of grasswrens dancing in our eyes, we headed for our campsite. Two
kilometres down the track Joy screamed and the breaks went on. A Striated
Grasswren was running down the track. Out we got and for about ten minutes 2 or
3 of them danced all over our toes before they got sick of us and disappeared
into the bushes. Five out of six. The trip was declared a success!
Were there any down sides? Well, we missed the Grey Falcon and the
Letter-winged Kite. And I did not find my Night Parrot. The Subaru did very
well but I could not get any off road tyres for it so we destroyed two tyres
and one has a slow leak. Such a shame that Subaru could sell a 4X4 that no one
makes off road tyres for!
And I did make light of finding the grasswrens in this report. We in fact put
in many hours of very prickly and sandy walking to get them. The planning and
help all paid off though and I thank you all on Birding Aus again for your
emails in the archives and help in reply to my RFI. On average between us we
saw about 240 species for the trip.
All the best
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