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> Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2003 09:33:38 -0700
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> Subject: Big Bird Trip Report - Outback NSW/Qld -FNQ -East Coast  
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> The "Big Bird Trip" report. Outback NSW/QLD - FNQ - East Coast
> The Big Bird Trip is over. The local post office was pleased to see us
> back as they handed over
> two big bags of mail that were cluttering up their lunch room. My local
> ISP was pleased to see us
> back as we downloaded and cleared several thousand emails off their
> servers. The farmers of NSW
> and QLD were not pleased to see us go, as we continued a long tradition
> of bringing rain wherever
> we ventured.
> Named the Big Bird Trip not only because it was a big trip, but because
> we were also targeting a
> bunch of Big Birds that were missing from our life lists. Over 8,500 
> kms
> covered in just 5 weeks.
> The car performed faultlessly, no punctures, slight fridge problems and
> one emergency trip to
> hospital. Despite losing a few days with this adventure and my 
> carefully
> planned schedule being
> blown out of the water, we notched up a creditable 286 species not
> counting the ferals and the
> "heard onlys". A fair whack of these were new for us, I'm sure you
> remember the excitement of
> your first trip to FNQ.
> I haven't mentioned all the birds we saw. Just some of the special ones
> and a few interesting places
> we found. Feel free to contact us if you would like more details on
> something specific.
> Our trip was originally planned as a big visit to Newhaven Station
> travelling out over the Plenty Hwy.
> Our travelling companions ( Jill & Mick Dark) unfortunately due to
> family circumstances had to pull
> out at the last minute. Yikes. We rapidly changed plans and started
> preparing a FNQ trip, but travelling
> up via outback NSW/QLD. This would allow us to revisit some of the
> outback birds we had seen on
> the Outback Twitchathon, do some touristy things in inland Qld, get a
> taste of the Gulf Savannah and
> then hit the Atherton Tablelands just after school holidays. As well as
> the Big Birds, we were targeting
> some of the FNQ Endemics and some of the Pigeons and Fruit Doves that
> would be new tous.
> Big thanks to some of you who chipped in with some ideas and advice
> before we got going. For those
> interested we travelled in a Land Rover Defender, with a roof-top tent,
> dual battery system, Waeco
> fridge, UHF radio. We camped out over half the nights, Nat Parks, State
> Forests, a few whacky
> caravan parks, a few motels and a B&B or two.
> Luckily Jill and Mick decided they could spare a few days and headed up
> the road with us towards
> Cunnamulla. Did I mention it rained? There's a moment on every trip out
> west from the Mountains
> when you know you've left familiar territory. It comes at different
> spots on different trips, but it happens
> for me when your trip list suddenly reads, Emu, Cockatiel, Blue Bonnet,
> Apostle Bird. Suddenly the
> sky is a different shade of blue and you relax into an inland frame of
> mind. Our trip list had nearly hit 60
> by the time we drove into Nyngan on our first night. The Riverside
> Caravan Park is not one of the
> whacky caravan parks, it's actually quite nice, and for those of us
> camping, we get to choose our
> own spot on the banks of the river. We haven't explored Nyngan fully
> yet, but there's plenty to see.
> A Barking Owl seems to be in the tree by our tent that night, but we
> fail to find him the next morning.
> Our destination next day is Bowra Station, but we stop off just an hour
> up the road at Byrock. Next
> time we visit we are going to camp there as well. There is an extensive
> camping ground out the back
> of the pub. Alan Morris has compiled a Bird List for the area which can
> be found in the archive. The
> publican seems to be "bird friendly". (We made it a point every where 
> we
> spent money, to mention
> that we were there to see their birds.)
> I've written up our visit to Bowra before on this list and Jill also.
> Did I mention it rained? A fantastic spot
> for a range of birds and a taste of outback life on a working property.
> Every day was different and
> highlights included, Black Breasted Buzzard , Budgerigars, Brolgas,
> Bourkes Parrots, Crimson Chats,
> Halls Babblers and a big but finally successful hunt for the Chestnut
> Breasted Quail Thrush. We're looking
> forward to getting back there.
> Leaving Bowra after three days we part company with Jill & Mick and 
> head
> North. Bustard was at the top
> of the days target list and we spotted several on our way to Tambo.
> Driving into the tiny caravan park there we ticked Pale Headed Rosella
> and were also pleasantly surprised
> to see a stack of bird books at the reception desk and a home made bird
> list for the area. A very cold
> night but an incredible sunset against the bottle trees.
> Touristy stuff seems to take up the next part of the trip. Blackall to
> see the impressive Wool Scour,
> Barcaldine for the Tree of Knowledge and it's great collection of
> outback pub architecture. Not to
> mention a fantastic Masonic Lodge. Then Longreach and the Hall of Fame.
> I was ready to be disappointed
> as I had read differing reports, but found it to be excellent. We timed
> our run to hit Winton early afternoon,
> pick up some local knowledge and supplies and then get down into
> Bladensburg NP.
> The most amazing flock of Budgies swarmed out of the Mitchell Grass as
> we drove in and it looked like we
> were in for an exciting time. Unfortunately it was here that the wheels
> started to fall off the trip, and as we
> were setting up at the beautiful camp ground Lynda started suffering. I
> won't go into the gory details but while
> I was enjoying an idyllic, friendly waterhole campsite with frisky
> budgies in every tree and a glorious outback
> light, Lynda wasn't. Next morning we decided to leave most of our camp
> gear and proceed down to Lark Quarry
> and the Dinosaur footprints. It was a bit further and a bit rougher 
> than
> we expected and by the time we started on
> the return trip, I made the decision to head straight back to Winton 
> and
> visit the Doctor. (Lark Quarry by the way
> is well worth the trip and I'm sure there were some great birds to be
> found in the Spinifex covered hillsides
> surrounding the impressive structure they have built to preserve the
> tracks.)
> Reaching Winton, I made the decision to bypass the Doctor and head
> straight to the hospital. They gave us
> two choices. Surgery at Mt Isa or Townsville. We choose the later and
> after staying in a motel in town that night,
> drove there the next day. I did however get up very early the next
> morning to shoot back down to Bladensburg
> to recover the camping gear, thank our camping neighbours who were 
> about
> to report us missing to the ranger,
> (I had rung him the previous night) and of course have a quick search
> for the Rufous Crowned Emu Wren.
> Well, what's a guy to do! Following detailed instructions (check the
> archive) and clutching a GPS I ventured into
> the scrub and quickly found the correct spot. I'd love to tell you I 
> saw
> them, but if I had Lynda would never forgiven
> me (or possibly believed me) but I could certainly hear a bird that I
> never heard before in my life and that seemed to
> fit the description. I didn't linger, as no one knew I was there and I
> returned past the Skull Rock waterhole and great
> bunch of Spinifex pigeons, back to town to pick up the patient and to
> get cracking on the 600 kms to the coast.
> All better now. Just a glitch in the system. These things are sent to
> test travellers. Nothing too strenuous today.
> Townsville Common. What a great spot. Blue Winged Kookaburras, 
> Sunbirds,
> Ospreys and Jacunas cheered
> the patient up no end. I had a very close encounter with a Barking Owl
> having a scrap with a Drongo at the
> bird hide the previous day. Very little water in the system, but the
> potential for great birding there and at the
> adjacent quarantine station.
> Just up the road Paluma calls. Of course we visit the famed Ivy Cottage
> Tea Rooms for morning tea. It's not
> open when we arrive and in the 30 minutes we have to fill in, quickly
> spot in a rush of excitement - Bowers
> Shrike Thrush, Bridled and Macleays Honeyeater, Spotted Cat Bird and of
> course the Victorias Riflebird.
> We needed the cuppa after that and got to see most of those birds again
> close up. Back down the hill we
> proceeded to Jourama Falls camping area, part of Paluma Range NP. A
> small but well set out ground with
> toilets and free gas BBQ. White Rumped Swiftlets, Emerald Doves, Little
> Shrike Thrush, White Browed Robins,
> Pacific Bazza and great views of the impressive Boatbills made this an
> excellent stop. That night a full moon
> created a bit of a frenzy in birdland with Large Tailed Nightjars,
> Barking Owls & Bush Curlews going off all
> night and excitingly the call of a Lesser Sooty Owl.
> Next stop was Murray Falls State Forest, a much larger campsite, but
> very pleasant. With flushing toilets and
> firewood supplied the site attracted campervan backpackers and grey
> nomads in waves, but it seemed to
> swallow every one up and we had a great night.. Big Bird alert. The 
> next
> morning we spent hours tramping
> around the steep walking track looking for the Orange Footed Scrub 
> Fowl,
> to no avail. But the hunt was fun,
> turning up Noisy Pitta, Superb and Woompoo Fruit Doves instead.
> We try our luck for Cassowaries at Mission Beach but all we found was a
> huge plop. Lynda didn't believe it
> was real, feeling the rangers must leave one out each morning to
> encourage the Big Bird seekers. We leave
> after trying both Licuala and Lacey Creek, but know we have another
> chance coming back. Yikes, I realise
> suddenly we are heading into week three. I ring Ron at Kingfisher Park
> and we are on our way up to Julatten.
> Driving into Kingfisher Park we narrowly avoid running over a Big
> prehistoric looking orange footed bird that
> we had spent hours trying to find a few days before and quickly made
> ourselves at home. I even went big time
> and paid an extra dollar to get power run into the tent. Hit the laptop
> and backed up and burnt off copies of all
> our digital photos so far and planned our days to come. Andrew the
> resident guide was running a mammal,
> spotlight walk that night so we decided to join in and meet some of the
> other guests and see what was around.
> There wasn't a lot. He was getting very interested in some very small
> things, but we did have good but fleeting
> views of the resident Platypus, Barn owl and Bush Curlew.
> A lazy morning around the park catching up on paperwork and discovering
> the nooks and crannies of the property
> and it's great wildlife. Highlights included - Grey Headed Robin,
> Northern Fantail, Paid Monarch, Buff Banded
> Rail, Grey Goshawk, Grey Whistler & Papuan Fromouth.
> The Marrebra Wetlands doesn't turn up the expected Black Necked Stork,
> but great views of the two Pygmy
> Geese, Green & Cotton side by side makes up for it. What a marvellous
> sight and something we've lusted after.
> Lynda gets a Squatter Pigeon on the drive out, I just get a flash.
> Mount Lewis beckons. We get a mud-map from Ron, and make the drive up
> the mountain one morning. Did I
> mention it rained? The further up the mountain we went the windier,
> cloudier and eventually wetter it got. Hmm.
> A slight pause in the wet and we head off up the track. Wow, Atherton
> Scrubwren, Fern Wren, Mountain
> Thornbill & Chowchilla in the first 20 minutes!! By the time we've made
> it to the Golden Bower Bird's bower
> the wind has really picked up again. Branches are dropping around us 
> and
> several trees look like they could
> join us for a close encounter. The bower is amazing, but we are not
> hanging round to meet the locals.
> On our last morning we decide to join Andrew on his morning walk and
> return exhausted several hours later after
> notching up around 70 birds for the morning. Everything they say about
> Kingfisher Park is true and we look forward
> to returning in the wet season.
> Our plan was always to visit the Daintree River after Julatten, do the
> morning river cruise with Chris Dahlberg and
> then start heading back down the coast. We had heard at this point that
> our chances of seeing the Great Billed Heron
> were not very good with Chris at the moment, and that we would have a
> much better chance on the Mossman river
> with the Mangrove Man. Well, even though the Heron was obviously one of
> the Big Bird targets we decide to stick
> to the Daintree. We had done the river cruise many years previously 
> when
> we had been performing on a cruise
> ship that called into Cairns. We hired a car on the port day, shot up 
> to
> the river and had done a midday cruise.
> Unfortunately it had been flooding the previous few days and the river
> was a mess. No crocs to be seen and we
> didn't really know much about the birds at the time.
> This time there were no crocs either, but we had great views of the
> Little Kingfisher (a Big Bird in my book) and
> absolutely stunning observation of several Shining Flycatchers pairs.
> What a stunner. Both of them. Did I mention
> it rained? Taking a night off from camping we stayed at Red Mill House
> B&B, very smart and well worth the $$
> with it's hearty breakfast, great library/lounge & charming new hosts..
> Boyd's Forest Dragon, Azure Kingfisher,
> Big orange footed birds and plenty of mozzies made their small garden 
> an
> exciting place to explore.
> It's time to start heading south again. We need to have another look 
> for
> the Cassowaries and explore the southern
> end of the Atherton Tablelands. Just south of Daintree, Lynda just
> happens to glance left as we pass a clump of
> trees and there is our one and only Black Necked Stork. Jabiru. My god
> what a bird! We linger as long as we
> can on the busy road, before heading back up to the Tablelands. We camp
> out at Lake Tinaroo,
> which would have been nice but it started to rain. On and off and then
> really set in. So a few quick calls while
> stocking up at the awesome IGA supermarket in Atherton and we arrange 
> to
> stay at Chambers Rainforest Lodge
> at Lake Eacham. Still very wet, but from there we are able to immerse
> ourselves completely in the rainforest
> environment and explore some of the surrounding area.
> Hasties Swamp, has a great new two level bird hide. Stunning views of
> thousands of Plumed Whistling Ducks
> and hundreds of Magpie Geese. The locals of course said "you should 
> have
> been here yesterday" but it was a
> thrilling sight and site.
> Broomfield Swamp looked very quiet and bleak from the windswept viewing
> platform when we arrived in the
> late afternoon. The view down into the old crater is spectacular with
> promise, so we reposition the truck so
> we can keep warm and keep an eye on proceedings. Attempts to set up the
> spotting scope inside the front
> compartment fail, so we raid the fridge instead and wait. The sound of
> incoming Brolgas is unmistakable.
> We leap out and scope the first wave of what would be hundreds of
> Brolgas as they came in with their extraordinary
> landing procedure. Eventually we start to pick out the Sarus Cranes 
> that
> seemed to be mixed in randomly and
> another Big Bird joins the list. It was a great birding moment. Add to
> this the flocks of Top Knot pigeons that arrived,
> seemingly ready to roost up on the crater edge. We plan to return the
> next evening to see it all again, if it wasn't raining.
> It was.
> Eventually we leave the Tablelands with a quick visit to The Crater on
> the drive out. There is some debate about
> heading inland again to chase the sun but decide that another visit to
> Mission beach is more important. Lacey
> creek again turns up no Cassowaries, the number one target Big Bird on
> our list. Again plenty of signs and we do
> the loop track twice. It doesn't look promising, with quite a few 
> people
> wandering the track and the time getting later.
> We decide to move on to Licuala have a cup of tea and then head south 
> again.
> Pulling into the long narrow track into the picnic spot I scan ahead 
> for
> other cars as it's essentially a one way track.
> There seems to be one person and what looks like a dog coming towards
> us. Hmmm, I'll have a word to him about
> that as we pass. As we get closer it is actually a man pushing a 
> bicycle
> being followed by a Cassowary. It moves off
> the road as we near it, giving great views before vanishing. Just as we
> are getting over that another larger bird crosses
> the road in front of us. Be still my beating heart! We don't bother
> doing the walk after that, but sit happily in the caged
> picnic area, drinking a brew up and feeling rather smug. Perhaps we
> should run back up the coast and book on with
> the Mangrove Man? Get our last target on the list? The GBH. But then we
> wouldn't have a reason to come back.
> The last week and a half is spent toddling down the coast. Revisiting a
> few sites, discovering some new ones. (We
> purposely avoided Cairns despite it's tempting birdspots.) Our return 
> to
> Murray Falls produces little but driving into
> Jourama the next day we find a hotspot of Crimson Finch and Lovely 
> Fairy
> Wren. No sign of them the next day and
> they were the only ones we saw.
> Cape Hillsborough NP is spectacular. We try to get one of the 10 spots
> at the Smalley's Beach area, rather than
> the somewhat crowded main area, with no luck. Mind you for $12 a night
> camping practically on the most impressive
> beach it is a delight anyway. A Bush Curlew wanders around our camp 
> that
> night. An interesting Mangrove Board Walk.
> We've avoided shore birds up to this point, an Achilles heel with us,
> but after we have notched up some that we were
> familiar with, progressed to a few that were new for us.
> As time is running now in our favour we head back into the rainforest
> and put a few days in at Lamington. Lynda is
> related to Dick Church who lives right next to O'Rielly'$ so we thought
> we would visit them, do the Border Track
> up to the Antarctic Beech forest and stay at the Guesthouse. Wow, 
> things
> have certainly changed up there since
> the last time we visited. You can't move for pools, spas and Mercedes.
> Our $200 broom cupboard lost it appeal
> after a few hours, so we relocated the next day to some self contained
> Chalets half way down the mountain, at a
> third of the price, for the next few nights. Luckily for us poor 
> people,
> the birds are still unchanged, though some
> would disagree. Just 15 minutes up the Border track and you've left the
> crowds behind. We had great and
> extended views of Alberts Lyrebirds at several points, Logrunners,
> Regent Bower Birds and Rifle Birds. The top
> of the hill with the extraordinary views and trees was well worth the
> climb. We sat and joked about Dooley doing
> it 4 days in a row. Later, fleeting glimpses of small darkish bird
> scuttling through the leaf litter lead to some thought
> of Rufous Scrub Bird, but it's a sighting we'll have to confirm on
> another visit.
> Brooms Head nestled in the Yuraygir NP is also a chance find. The Park
> offers a range of spots to camp, but we
> settle for the Caravan Park. It was like stepping back into the 1950's.
> A brilliant spot right on the rocky shore,
> dolphin filled waves crashing in all night, Oystercatchers, Ospreys,
> Brahminy Kites and Sea Eagles to watch endlessly. Bliss.
> By now our trip list is looking very impressive. We don't expect to see
> any new lifers from here on, but there are some
> obvious things missing. Nice to add Regent Honeyeater, Plum Headed &
> Diamond FireTails and who can believe we
> haven't seen a Grey Teal by now. So we decide to turn right at Maitland
> and head back via the Capertee Valley.
> (Well actually this had always been the plan if we had the time. Also 
> to
> drop off the camping gear and pick up the
> chickens who were staying with friends.) No luck on the Regents, but a
> long walk over our property confirms the
> Iron Bark is budding up well and should be a massive flowering when it
> eventually kicks. Lynda finds the finches, and
> Black Chinned, Fuscous and White Napped Honey Eaters.
> So 5 weeks after leaving home we are heading back home to the Blue
> Mountains. But not before a stop as we pass
> near Vicki Powys place at the southern end of the valley. We can hear
> crunching in the Casuarinas but fail to find the
> Glossy Blacks that we know must be just over the fence. We aren't in a
> rush, so then turn off the road at Portland to
> check out Lake Wallace. Carol Proberts seems to be about the only other
> birder who regularly visits this lake, just
> off the highway. We find the Grey Teal, Shovelers, Hoary Headed & Great
> Crested Grebes and about 8 magnificent
> Pink Eared Ducks. There's always a chance for Crakes and Rails there
> too. The wind comes up and we realise better
> get home before dark and the post office closes.
> Hmmm, but we haven't seen a Musk Duck and still hoping for Gang Gangs.
> This is getting silly. We turn in at Wentworth
> Falls Lake. No luck. That's it. No more birds. 286 for the trip. I'm 
> happy.
> Pulling into Hazelbrook we debate calling in at Jill Dark's place.
> There's usually a Lyrebird around digging up the garden.
> That would be a nice last bird.
> We go to the post office instead and take possession of the large bags
> of mail.
> Welcome back to the real world.
> Bills, Brochures & the BAS.
> I think I preferred the Brolgas, Bustards and Babblers.
> Timothy Hyde / Lynda Holmes
> Blue Mountains / Capertee Valley NSW
> --
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The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU