Outback Birds Part 8

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Subject: Outback Birds Part 8
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 96 9:06:56 +60000
OUTBACK BIRDS - PART 8 - 10 October - 12 October

As per the last week or so, dawn was coming early, about 5.15am and so 
Thursday 10 October we awoke early at Currawinya National Park to a clear warm 
day.  A storm was predicted but didn't come, but the heat and humidity build 
up told us it was on its way.

An early morning walk to the waterhole near the shearers' quarters, the water 
looking muddy and the soil here being brown rather than red.  The Willie 
Wagtails were fearlessly chasing Australian Ravens, heard Fan-tailed Cuckoo 
and Pied Butcherbird, and we saw Blue Bonnets, Grey-crowned Babblers (a very 
nasal babbling) and a male/female pair of Variegated Fairy-wren.

After breakfast into the bus to go to Lake Wyara.  Currawinya comprises this 
saltwater lake, and only five kilometres away is Lake Numalla which is 
freshwater, giving the birds quite a choice.  Firstly Lake Wyara:  lots of 
water, unfortunately allowing the birds to move away from us and the heat 
caused shimmer so we couldn't see them all, even with telescopes.  
Nevertheless we could see Australian Wood Duck, 11 Great Cormorant, at least 
60 Black Swan including about eight cygnets, and possibly 160 more swan in the 
heat shimmer, at least 120 Grey Teal and possibly 400 more, at least 30 
Eurasian Coot and possibly hundreds more, one Marsh Sandpiper, six Pink-eared 
Duck, 10 Red-necked Avocets, 20 Black-winged Stilts, five Gull-Billed Terns 
and Whiskered Tern including a dark breeding plumage breast.

Also two Spotted Bowerbirds and a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo.  On the way to 
Lake Wyara, four adult Emus ran alongside the bus and we clocked them at 25 
kilometres per hour.

Lake Numalla gave us about 20 Australian Pelicans, Rufous Whistler and a very 
light Whistling Kite.  Nearby were Common Bronzewing and Rufous Whistler.

At the Lake I also saw Chestnut-rumped Thornbills chasing each other in what 
was possibly a territory fight, fluffing up their head feathers and appearing 
quite aggressive.  Also Southern Whiteface in full Slater plumage of pristine 
white on the face - all whitefaces seen to this time were rather grey on the 

Friday 11 October we got up early to go to Hoods Range (really just a slight 
incline in the landscape).  Objective:  Hall's Babbler, Red-browed Treecreeper 
and Chestnust-breasted Quail-thrush - on previous visits, Richard Jordan 
always achieved two of the three and today was the same.  We lined up to go 
through the mulga with the instruction to call out coo-ee if we saw any 
unusual birds (as calling out the name of the bird or "there it is" scares 
away the bird).  This might sound like folklore but it really did seem to 
work.  Beware too - the mulga all looks the same and we were warned to watch 
out for our shadow direction and stay in contact with each other as it's easy 
to get lost here, and I believe it as myself and another person got separated 
from the main group and sure enough, with no real landmarks and the mulga 
looking the same, it was indeed our shadow that got us going in the right 

Anyway, away we go and we got some fleeting glimpses of a quail-thrush which 
was running away, with Richard getting a side on view that made him 90% sure 
he'd seen a Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush.  But that's not as good as a 100% 

No sign of our other birds and we've gone a fair way in, so it's conference 
time.  We decide to line up again and return to the road, and now I spy just a 
flash of a babbler.  That's worth following up, so we head for it and sure 
enough Lifer No. 37, Hall's Babbler.  Yahoo.  We stayed back while everyone 
got a look at them, and then took chances on approaching closer and in fact 
get pretty close, as the birds were foraging on the ground and were quite keen 
on the one spot.  We thought there might have been an ants' nest but when we 
subsequently investigated, the bird had pushed all the leaves aside and was 
digging into the ground.

The field guides are inconsistent in depicting Hall's Babbler tails, and the 
birds we saw had both varieties, i.e. dark tail with white tip, and all dark 
tail.  Another bird displayed a stray white dot in the middle of his tail when 
he flew.  I say "he" but the bird may well have been a female and I wonder 
whether the state of the tail indicates male versus female, or adult versus 

All the way back to the road and then two of our group see Chestnut-breasted 
Quail-Thrush and coo-ee the rest of us over.  Good views of a male and female 
on and off for some five minutes, with the male clearly having a chestnut 
breast.  Lifer No. 38.

On the way to Hoods Range I got Lifer No. 39 - Bourke's Parrot.  We found two 
birds on the ground foraging and they cheekily hid every so often behind logs, 
but with patience we all saw these birds, including in flight with a great 
powder blue on the trailing edge of their wings.

Went to Hungerford Pub for fuel for the bus, and ourselves in the form of a 
good cold drink.  Having a group of 17 people meant we doubled Hungerford's 
population!  By now the temperature has soared to 33 degrees with very high 
humidity, the rain finally coming at 7.00 pm.  We had a long lunch break and 
at 4.00 pm about half the group went to the camping ground for a bit more 
birdwatching.  I stayed near the waterhole at the camping ground and enjoyed 
seeing birds having a bath, including Spotted Bowerbirds splashing water right 
over their back, and Rainbow Bee-eaters and Restless Flycatchers dipping into 
the water whilst on the wing.  The flycatchers also had a nest on a bare tree 
branch overhanging the water.  A newly fledged Brown Treecreeper was foraging 
with a parent, the immature having a light bill and gape, grey head with no 
eyebrow, fluffy blanks and an incomplete tail, but huge feet and already 
foraging on treetrunks.  Diamond Doves were once again very confiding.

Two other highlights in Currawinya were (a) at another pond near the camping 
ground waterhole:  two adult Australian Wood Ducks with no less than 11 
ducklings and (b) near the shearer's quarters were a male and female 
Variegated Fairy-wren feeding three immatures, which were virtually adult in 
body but their tails were only one third-length.

Well it's rained during the night and we wake up on Saturday 12 October to a 
flood warning for the Paroo River at Hungerford.  So no rush to leave 
Currawinya until we can get more news, and the sunny conditions help to dry 
roads out a bit.

Nearly at the end of the trip.

Happy birding to you all
(I know it makes me happy)

Irene Denton
Sydney   NSW    Australia

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