Brisbane-Coopers Crossing birding trip for another look at the Grey Gras

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Brisbane-Coopers Crossing birding trip for another look at the Grey Grasswren
From: Carl Billingham <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 23:31:14 -0700 (PDT)
I have just returned from another camping trip out west from Brisbane to 
Coopers Crossing.  All up 2,800km in 4 days - so a lot of driving.  The weather 
was quite different to the trip I did out to Innamincka and down the Strzelecki 
in late April.  We had rain for a day at Bowra and the temperature rarely got 
into double figures.  Along with the wind chill I suspect the perceived 
temperature whilst camping at Coopers Crossing was below zero.
This trip was primarily to get a better view of the Grey Grasswren that I had 
very briefly spotted just before the Coopers Crossing in April.  I personally 
couldn't categorically say I had identified it's salient features (to use other 
peoples terminology) but my mate Andrew had convinced me it was a Grey 
The first day involved driving to Cunnamulla and in particular Bowra Station 
(contact details for Ian and Julie McLaren - 07 4655 1238).  I stopped off to 
check out Stuart Pell's site for Little Button-quail approx 30km from 
Cunnamulla at S28 01.734 E145 57.551.  I was successful at flushing at least a 
half dozen Bq (some of them repeatedly) and a lone Budgie.   
The Bq really confused me as two of them seemed to show a rufous ventral 
'stripe' underneath as they flew away.  I did not notice any difference in 
colour on the tops of the wings nor the white flanks I have noticed with my 
previous sighting of Little Bq.  I wonder if I was seeing Red-chested 
Button-quail instead of LBq.  I haven't had a definite sighting of the RcBq yet 
so I would appreciate assistance on this one. Any ideas any one?
In case you are arriving at Bowra late in the day, like I was, directions to 
get there are as follows:  Pass through Cunnamulla, across the Worrego River 
and turn right at the T-intersection at S28 04.036 E145 40.279.  Follow the 
road until you see on the left hand side the white gate and letter box with 
Bowra painted on it (S27 59.549 E145 40.394).   Pass through and continue on 
down the dirt track until you see the turn off on the left to the homestead.  
The camp site is behind the homestead beside the shearers quarters (S27 59.380 
E145 36.588) and in front of the wetland from the bore overflow.
According to Ian and Julie Painted Honeyeaters had been seen around the 
property in the last few weeks but unfortunately none revealed themselves for 
the short time I was there.  The high wind and rain didn't help matters though. 
 According to them the Grey Falcon hasn't been seen so far this year.
The following morning I headed off and managed to find a Hall's Babbler colony 
(I think the collective for Babblers should be a 'posse', considering their 
antics) at S27 58.531 E145 34.270 and Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush crossing 
the track up toward the top of the stony hill at S27 58.839 E145 32.731.  
Apparently this is also a good spot for Redthroat, although I didn't see any 
this time.
Because it was raining I decided to continue on to Coopers Crossing later on 
that morning.  The road is sealed the whole way and is in good condition - it 
is definitely ok for a standard two wheel drive. 
Along the way I saw a few flocks of a dozen or so Major Mitchells which are 
always a treat.  Other sights included a possible Black Falcon, possible 
Black-breasted Buzzard, Bourkes Parrots, a large group of Chestnut-breasted 
Quail-thrush, Blue-Bonnets, A pair of Brolga and a pair of Hobbies making mock 
attacks on a flock of Galahs just for the fun of it. 
Arriving at Coopers Crossing at dusk I did a cursory check of the previous 
position where I had seen the Grey Grasswren (S27 30.213 E141 56.553).  All I 
managed to flush in half an hour was about a dozen Little Button-quail, which 
appeared to use the deep dried out cattle hoof prints to hide in which meant 
they didn't flush sometimes until I was nearly standing on them - most 
disconcerting!  Some flew off with a few squeaks, showed the distinctive white 
flanks, rufous coverts contrasting with the darker flight feathers and appeared 
smaller than the mystery Bq I had noticed the previous day east of Cunnamulla. 
At this stage I had to give up birding to concentrate on finding a site to set 
up my tent which isn't easy given the very rocky terrain in the area.  In the 
end I decided on a section of disused road on the west side of the crossing 
that had obviously been used as a diversion track during the building of the 
bridge.  Unfortunately the road base was hell to drive pegs into - heavy duty 
steel pegs are the order of the day as aluminium ones wont last five seconds!
The next morning after a beautiful sunset, clear star filled sky but freezing 
cold night (it was still only 4degC at 8am the following morning) I set out to 
look for Grey Grasswren in earnest.  There is plenty of lignum at the Crossing 
and I was trying to figure out my plan of campaign as I wiped the sleep out of 
my eyes walking across the bridge when a Grey Grasswren climbed up through a 
clump of lignum made his morning call and then flew off across the creek - my 
first bird for the day!  (S27 30.081 E141 56.030) I spent another hour 
searching the lignum and using some call back later on but I didn't see another 
thing.  Guess you have to be lucky sometimes!  One thing I did notice later was 
that his call was nothing like those on the BOCA recording (but please don't 
ask me to recall it).
Having been successful I decamped (leaving one tent peg buried in the roadbase 
as an offering to the camping gods) and headed back to Cunnamulla.   Along the 
way I stopped off briefly at Lake Bindegolly (S28 05.548 E144 12.112) for lunch 
which appeared to be quite full as far as I could see from the rest stop (I 
didn't have time to walk to it).  
I also stopped at the Eulo Bore (S28 07.016 E145 11.665) which had definitely 
been over grazed and looked pretty ratty considering its promotion in the area 
as a birding highlight.  I didn't stick around there for long...
Arriving at Cunnumulla, I had some light left and so visited the site 20km east 
of Cunnamulla near the SG 280 sign (S28 03.140 E145 49.725) recently noted by 
Stuart Pell for Red-chested Button-quail, with no success, however on the way 
there I had half a dozen very large and majestic Bustards cross the road in 
front of me (S28 03.947 E145 47.358).
That evening was spent in the Shearers quarters over a few glasses of wine 
talking about recent sightings with 4 other birders staying at Bowra.  Even 
with my Grey Grass-wren that morning I was still out gripped by Elsa with her 
sighting earlier in the year of the Painted Snipe - nice work!
The return trip was a fairly uneventful but long drive which allowed me to 
start planning my next birding trip...  

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