Great Grasswren trip Sept 06

Subject: Great Grasswren trip Sept 06
From: <>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 20:22:34 +1000
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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