Kingfisher Camp, Burketown and the bushfire

To: "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Kingfisher Camp, Burketown and the bushfire
From: "Bob Forsyth" <>
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 13:51:00 +1000
g'day all,
I recently spent 1-1/2 weeks birding in the far NW corner of Qld
Our overnight stop from the Isa was at Chinaman's Gardens on the spring fed Louie Ck. This location is 8km SE of the Lawn Hill NP headquarters.
42 species were recorded including Northern Rosella, Aust Bustard, Azure Kingfisher, Channel-billed Cuckoo (my first for the season) and a Northern Fantail (a tick) plus Bush Stone-curlews that called all night. The 4 clans of  Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens that I saw 2 months previously were missing
Readers may have read of the 2 million hectare fire that swept thru NW Qld.  Well in the morning the fire which started the previous day came straight towards our camp, which was in a small patch of open lightly grassed area. The only way out was to exit thru the flames. So we used an old blanket to beat out the flames. We were able to stop the fire 50 metres from our vehicles . The fire went around us up the gorge into the NP.  When the fire lit the spinifex in the gorge the flames were 4 m high. The NSW FOC group advised me that the NP camping birding areas were generally saved.  Adels Grove was saved by people from Century Mine and the NP rangers.
We continued up thru Lawn Hill Stn to Bowthorn Stn to their outstation on the Nicholson River ( 139 km due west of Burketown) called Kingfisher Camp. (Azure K/f)
I was more than impressed. Water and fireplaces at all sites..soft  green grass under shady trees. Toilets/showers were spotless.
The wide water hole is 6km long. About 1-1/2 km away is Goose Swamp (named after Magpie Geese that have breed there.) It is a natural water storage (4+  km around) and teeming with birds. And because this is the end of the tourist season we often had the grounds to ourselves.
In the 6 days I observed 113 species including Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens that passed close by our camp twice each day. (Did not have to leave our chairs) We hired a small outboard to get views of the water birds and to reach the upper part of the hole to see the Spinifex Pigeons, Black-tailed Treecreepers etc. We were lucky to see from our boat a Azure Kingfisher having its afternoon bath. Unexpected sightings were Striated Bittern (tick) and Pied Heron (tick). Both Aust Ravens and Torresian Crows are present (I think) to test out the Corvid experts.
Lots of Sandstone hills, but no Shrike-thrush's. Is this species a cruel hoax ?
Leaving KFC I stopped at Doomadgee sewage ponds on my way to Burketown. 29 expected species recorded (in the rain)
A Jabiru (Black-necked Stork) was gazing at its reflection at a pool of water in the middle of the road just out of town.
There were 31 species for the 500m radius around Burketown that includes its artesian bore. Interesting birds were Magpie-Goose, Radjah (Burdekin) Duck, Pied Heron, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.
At the sewage ponds were a pair of Black-tailed Native-hens and amongst the Brolgas a pair of Sarus Cranes (tick)
The Cemetery hosted Nankeen Kestrel, Brolga, Singing Bushlark and Richard's Pipit which were not seen elsewhere in the immediate area.
The Escott Weir turned up Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens a few metres from the causeway
In the mangroves at the edge of the Albert River I heard ,but could not see a Mangrove-golden Whistler. I reckon it was only 2m away from me each time it moved. And pushing thru dense mangroves in thick mud aint my idea of a pleasant 35 C afternoons birding !!
At Truganini landing a Jabiru allowed me to take photos from 2 m. (These birds do not appear to be endangered in my part of Qld)
I did not venture out to the Albert Riv mouth over the salt flats, because of the high tides.
I returned via the Burke & Wills roadhouse at 3 (now 4) ways on the Cloncurry/Normanton Road. Nearby I saw about 8 Plum-head Finches feeding with a group of Zebra Finches. These are well outside their published territory.
Regards, Bob Forsyth, Mount Isa, NW Qld.
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