Last week we drove up the Birdsville track as far as Mungarannie. The track was
closed from there to Birdsville. There were heavy rains when we left Adelaide
and when we arrived at Lyndhurst both the Strzelecki and Birdsville Tracks were
closed so we headed back into the Flinders Ranges for two terrific days of
birding while we waited for the roads to open.
Thanks to a local tip we had fantastic views of a fully fledged Wedge-tailed
Eagle juvenile still on the nest, but testing its wings and ready to fly off at
any moment. Another highlight was Stokes Hill on a still, sunny morning with
glorious scenery made even more wonderful by views of Short-tailed Grasswren
sitting up and singing on the spinifex bushes. The spinifex is very lush this
year with all the rain. It even seems less prickly!
When we returned to Lyndhurst the Strzelecki was open for 4WD so we camped
overnight at Mt Lyndhurst Station and had great views of Thick-billed
Grasswren, Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, Cinnamon Quail-thrush and Orange Chat
at the old car and gate sites and at various places along the road. There were
plenty of Zebra Finches everywhere and Chirruping Wedgebill was common. During
our whole trip Orange Chats were quite numerous but there were very few Crimson
The Birdsville Track was open the next day for 4WD so we headed north and saw
several Gibberbirds , numerous Orange Chats and all the way along were
Australian Pratincoles. The commonest raptors were Whistling Kites but we did
see several Wedge-tailed Eagles, one Hobby and one Spotted Harrier about 300kms
up the track and plenty of Nankeen Kestrels. One pair of Kestrels had three
well-fledged chicks bobbing about in the nest.
The desert is a garden at the moment and the roads have become rivers in
places. After camping at Clayton Wetlands which was flocking with Budgies,
Cockatiels, Black-faced Woodswallows , White-winged Trillers and mosquitoes, we
headed north towards Cooper Creek Crossing.
16kms north of Dulkaninna Creek is the most wonderful wetlands with swampy,
reed fringed lagoons to the east and a broad swathe of water running along for
about 3kms on the west side of the road. The lagoons had Plumed Whistling Duck,
Pink-eared Duck, Blue billed Duck, Straw-necked Ibis, Purple Swamp-hen,
Australian Native Hen, Little Grassbird and White-necked Heron. A flock of
about forty Flock Bronzewings flew in and pecked around the grassy fringes of
the water. A couple of days later we checked this site again and smaller flocks
were still using the area. The views from the road are great because you can
stand on the sand hills. Another good thing about the sand hills was the cane
grass habitat where we saw Eyrean Grasswren and Cinnamon Quail-thrush.
It was a terrific experience to cross the mighty Cooper Creek on the ferry and
watch Gull-billed Terns swooping over. The detour road to the crossing was
another thing entirely!
Plenty of Bluebonnets in the trees alongside the creek and we saw Eyrean
Grasswren again in the sandhills behind the bore at Mungarannie. The bore
overflow was full of water birds and the dawn chorus was ear shattering. Sadly
we had to turn back from there as they weren't opening the roads north. It's
great to see the inland looking like this with the rains continuing. The only
downside is the locusts splatting like fried eggs on the windscreen and
devouring the crops.
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