A Raptorous Trip

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: A Raptorous Trip
From: jenny spry <>
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 2010 14:24:48 +1000
The trip through Vic was uneventful with a gentle rain and strong wind. The
only excitement was getting to Heathcote and finding myself stuck behind
half a house. I finally got by and from there on the rain grew less until at
Deni it stopped altogether.

The land from Deni to Hay is quite spectacular, just like it used to be in
the early ‘70s. The growth is bright and lush, all shades of green, bright
browns and blue-greys. Raptors are everywhere with lots of Kestrel,
Black-shouldered Kites, Whistling Kites, Wedgies and Black Kites all along
the road.

At Bourke I joined up with Patrick at the Kidman’s Camp Caravan Park, about
6 kms north of town beside the Darling. It is great spot and probably worth
a stay for birding with everything from Apostlebirds and Bluebonnets to
Blue-faced Honeyeaters, and even a Blackbird singing at the break of day.
You can even do a riverboat cruise along the Darling.

Next stop was Bowra, and then over to Kilcowera, south of Thargominda.
Bowera was excellent, as always, and Kilcowera was as good, but in a very
different way. The land is undulating gibber plains and rocky gullies mainly
covered in Mulga. The camping area is developed with lawns for tents, well
maintained toilets, showers and shearers quarters accommodation. It is
definitely 2 wheel drive access, as are some of the internal tracks. It
borders Currawinya NP and Lake Wyara and you can drive to the shore of the
lake. On the islands in the middle there are currently 20 to 30 thousand
Pelicans nesting. The sight is unreal with thousands of birds spiralling up
and the soft background roar of wings and voices is continuous and very

And it is the flocks of birds that are so spectacular. At Kilcowera the
Pelican rookery is many kilometres long; On the Bulloo and along every creek
and water hole Intermediate Egrets, Great Egrets and White-necked Herons
stand almost shoulder to shoulder; Apostlebirds have given up being in
groups of 12 and instead loads trees in flocks of up to 100; Budgerigars,
Zebra Finches and Diamond Doves litter the country by the uncountable
thousands; Plumed Whistling Ducks sit beside dams in their hundreds; Lake
Bindegolly has dozens of Great Crested Grebes and huge flocks of Little
Corella. Over all this bird life hang the raptors. Spotted Harriers are
common. Black Kites, Whistling Kites, Kestrels, Brown Falcon and Wedgies are
everywhere. It is not possible to scan the sky without seeing them.

The Cooper flood plain is all lush green foliage, heavily spotted with wild
flowers and golden grasslands cover the gibber plains between the Cooper and
Thargominda so that barely a rock is showing. In many places water lies
along the road and getting off to stop is often impossible, and yet away
from the watercourses the land itself is still dry.

But what made the trip truly “raptorous” for me was that I finally saw a
Grey Falcon, two in fact. The first was a fleeting glimpse of one at
Kilcowera as we drove across a wooded watercourse, and then another one at
Bowra. I have chased the Bowra birds for 4 years over five visits and was
convinced that they were a myth. The story was always “yesterday” or “over
the camp, just after you drove off” or “taking prey at the far back of the

This time however the goddesses were smiling and the myth turned to reality.
As I drove from the homestead I slowed for an Emu approached the road from
the left. Then I came almost to a stop as cow in the middle of the road
refused to move. Now that I had been put in the right position the Grey
Falcon appeared, gliding in from my right, passing between me and the cow
just above car height, turning without a wing movement and drifting
diagonally into the trees on the left. The yellow bill flashed and the soft
grey body and wings seemed like a wisp of smoke. From behind, the bird
reduced itself to a straight grey line with a little turn-up at each end.

I am sure that this bird knew it was beautiful. What I hade expected to see
was something like the blatant excitement of a V8 Black Falcon but this was
just pure, restrained, elegance; a Grey Maserati, with wings. Oh, and I
think I saw it wink at me as it went by, sort of acknowledging that I had
put in the hours and was now allowed to have a look; and tick it off my
list. Smile.

What a wonderful trip. Everyone needs to get into the outback this year,
especially if you remember what it was like before the drought.



ps: THIS IS NOT a recommendation but for those interested in the road
conditions (when dry) I met a guy who had driven up the Birdsville Track,
down to Innamincka, then through Nappa Marrie to Thargominda - in a Honda
Jazz!! He did say he had to use his shovel at one creek crossing to get rid
of a hump in the middle of the approach ..... road conditions have sure
changed since I first went up there in 1966.
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