Steve and Phil's Oz trip, Part Two

To: "birding aus" <>
Subject: Steve and Phil's Oz trip, Part Two
From: "Stephen Keen" <>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 19:12:14 -0000
The second instalment. Another five days, the trip list up to 321, two 
increasingly tired but very happy birders, and by the end of it about as far 
from the sea as we're ever likely to get . . .

2nd November - Up to Mt Lewis early today, we hit the trail with dawn breaking 
and Chowchillas singing either side of the track. With not enough light to look 
for them we pressed on, but it wasn't long before a burst of song was followed 
by a skulking pair of Fernwrens showing well a short way ahead. With that one 
in the bag it was back down again, and with the light improved a bit of a hunt 
revealed a superb family of four Chowchillas feeding a short way off the track. 
An amazing feeding technique, and in time they made their way on to the path, 
giving even better views. Back at the car we checked out a flock of Red-browed 
Firetails and were astonished to find three Blue-faced Parrot-finches! And 
then, when we thought it could get no better, a Bassian Ground-Thrush performed 
brilliantly on the road, running around in the open with an Emerald Dove and an 
Australian Brush-Turkey. Back at Kingfisher Park a quick tour, picking up our 
only Channel-billed Cuckoo sighting, as well as Buff-breasted paradise 
Kingfisher and the nesting Papuan Frogmouth, and then we packed up (a day 
earlier than anticipated) and went twitching. Mowbray State Forest was very 
quiet in the heat (no Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo), so we tried again at Mt Molloy 
for the "obvious" Square-tailed Kite nest. Despite very detailed directions we 
failed again, and left feeling very inadequate. At Big Mitchell Creek TNT 
showed their worth as we connected with the smart White-browed Robin, then it 
was off to Tinarooo Creek Road, where TNT once again worked their magic when 
three Squatter Pigeons were found in the paddocks just beyond Henry Hannam 
Drive. Dashed down to Yorkey's Knob hoping for Radjah Shelduck at the golf 
course pools. There were none there, though three stunning Pied Herons and a 
Crimson Finch were the only trip records. Last stop was Mission Beach, arriving 
with enough time to have a nearby calling cassowary put the frighteners on us, 
but not enough time to see one.

3rd November - Mission Beach until mid morning, walking the Lacey's Creek Trail 
and having a general drive around, but failing to turn up cassowary. Had 
planned at this stage to head south for Eungella Honeyeater, but decided that 
even an endemic wasn't worth such a huge detour, and set off west for Karumba 
instead. Plenty of birds en route, including the ultimate parrot contrast with 
our first records of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and Budgerigar. Stopped off at 
another TNT site, the excellent Cumberland Dam, and were glad we had. There 
were a few waterbirds present, but the highlight were the honeyeaters: large 
numbers of Rufous-throated were bathing in flight, and we also saw Banded, 
Yellow-tinted, Brown and Grey-fronted. A search of the bush produced good 
numbers of Zebra Finches, not exciting in themselves, but accompanied by six 
Black-throated, two Double-barred and, best of all, two Masked. Plenty more was 
seen on the long haul to Karumba, on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast, where we 
arrived at dusk to a camp-site full of fruit bats! The only Rufous Night-Herons 
of the trip were seen in the evening.

4th November - the morning was spent around Karumba, enduring the worst flies 
of the trip, with birding a little hit and miss. Started off at the west end of 
town, struggling to access the mangroves. In the area by the westernmost houses 
were treated to an impressive movement (presumably from roost) of literally 
hundreds of birds. Commonest were Yellow White-eye and Rufous-throated and 
Brown honeyeaters, but good numbers of the striking Red-headed Honeyeater were 
also seen, and a couple of Australian Bustards flew over. The only other local 
speciality seen was a female Broad-billed Flycatcher, so we head off for the 
mangroves behind the airfield on the eastern side of town (head out of town 
then turn left at the dump), picking up a flock of Varied Lorikeets in town. 
This new area was much more profitable and in the mangroves and adjacent scrub 
we saw Mangrove Grey and Arafura fantails, Mangrove Gerygone, Zitting Cisticola 
and a young Spotted Harrier. On the mud flats we got our first Australian 
Pratincole. The afternoon was spent driving to Mt Isa, stopping for the last 
couple of hours at Chinaman's Creek Dam. Good numbers of waterbirds here 
included more Australian Pratincoles and a Freckled Duck. Land birds included 
our only Golden-backed Honeyeater and "Cloncurry Ringneck", our first Spinifex 
Pigeons and a nice Collared Sparrowhawk. Heading towards Mt Isa we got our most 
dubious tick of the trip: a quail which flew up from the side of the road and 
in front of the car was only identified as the trip's only Stubble Quail after 
we'd extricated it's sorry remains from the radiator.

5th November - possibly the best day of the trip. McNamara's Road first thing, 
we spent 21 hours bashing excruciating spinifex (choosing an area as close as 
possible to Bob Forsyth's description of ideal habitat - see wearing far more clothes than was 
comfortable given the temperature! Black-tailed Treecreeper and  Spinifexbird 
both behaved admirably, but the main target was nowhere to be seen. Got back in 
the car and drove back down the road but soon had the brakes jammed on as a 
fabulous male Carpentarian Grasswren sat up right next to the road (what was 
presumably his mate had flown across the road as we stopped). The spinifex here 
was shorter and altogether untidier than where we'd first tried, so you never 
can tell. This was 8.2km from the Camooweal road. Buoyed by this success we 
headed back to Mt Isa, where we had a less successful couple of hours failing 
to see Kalkadoon (Ballara) Grasswren around the water towers at the end of 
Pamela St. Our first Weebills were the only compensation. Headed out to the 
Wide Bay area of Lake Moondarra (see the birdsqueensland link above) and had an 
excellent afternoon. Hundreds of wildfowl and waders were present, highlights 
including 13 Little Whimbrels, 5 Oriental Plovers, 10 Australian and 12 
Oriental pratincoles, 5 Freckled Ducks, a male Cotton Pygmy-Goose, 2 Red-necked 
Avocets and a total of 486 Pink-eared Ducks. The main target here, and the 
reason we opted to do Mt Isa rather than the Strzelecki Track, was Yellow Chat, 
and at least ten were seen flitting around amongst the brushwood down by the 
lake shore. A check of the eastern shore of Lake Moondarra was largely 
uneventful (one Australian Bustard was the highlight), and then it was down to 
the Mica Creek area for the final couple of hours. This time was spent bashing 
across hillsides through more spinifex, and it was just as the light started to 
fade, having decided to try "just one more hill", that we finally had stonking 
views of a pair of Kalkadoon Grasswrens at close range. The beers went down 
especially well that evening!

6th November - back out to Wide Bay first thing, trying again for the Long-toed 
Stints that had been seen recently. None were seen again though, nor could we 
find Yellow Chat, the best birds being a Pacific Golden Plover, 3 Oriental 
Plovers, and the 13 Little Whimbrels, 2  Red-necked Avocets and male Cotton 
Pygmy-Goose again. A check of the wet area by the booster pump station on the 
eastern road to the lake got us, as hoped, a small flock of Painted Firetails. 
The rest of the day was spent on the long drive south to Bedourie, via Dajarra 
and Boulia. Highlights were many, including (all the following were south of 
Boulia): our first of surprisingly few Emus, Black-tailed Treecreeper, two 
Ground Cuckoo-Shrikes and 5 Cockatiels just before Six Mile Creek; many 
Australian Pratincoles; 5 Gibberbirds (after searching hundreds of acres of 
gibber, four were right by the road just south of Little Thoggamora Creek). The 
most memorable stop was just after the end of the last area of gibber before 
reaching Bedourie. Stopped to admire a pair of Crimson Chats, and were also 
treated to superb views of 9 Orange Chats and our first White-winged 
Fairy-Wrens. The real stars, however, were the pair of Black Falcons that flew 
over calling loudly. The female perched a short distance away allowing us the 
chance to make absolutely sure we'd got the ID right. The main entertainment 
came just before midnight as a violent storm ripped through town, making a 
right mess of the tents. Phil ended up sleeping in the shower block, Steve in 
the car.
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