Steve and Phil's Oz trip Part Three

To: "birding aus" <>
Subject: Steve and Phil's Oz trip Part Three
From: "Stephen Keen" <>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 21:40:05 -0000
Another instalment. Sorry about the wait but there's been less wet weather to 
stop work and more kids' Christmas activities to divert evenings. 15 days gone, 
the new species slowing down a little, but with trip list now up to 365, 
already more than we'd targetted beforehand. And apparently I said on the last 
bit that we'd spent 21 hours looking for Carpentarian Grasswren. This should 
have been 2 1/2. I think 21 hours would have tested the sanity of even the most 
zealous, and I think that parts of this instalment rather question our zeal!!!

7th November - not the start to the day we'd intended. The plan had been to 
bash up the road west to Sandringham and check out the dunes on the offchance 
of Eyrean Grasswren (we were purely guessing), but first priority was a bit of 
a clear-up after the storm. After a check of the pools on the northern edge of 
town, birds including eight Orange Chats, we did get some time on the 
Sandringham road, but only a cursory check due to concerns about the condition 
of the Windorah road. Certainly no grasswrens, but six Banded Lapwings that 
flew in from the west and the two passing White-backed Swallows were both 
recorded just one other time. Back into town, not sure whether we'd be able to 
get out, and if we did by which route, we were told the Windorah road was 
"passable with care" and decided to set off as soon as we'd got some breakfast 
inside us. The drive took a whopping six and a half hours, but as well as loads 
of mud to slow us down there were lots of birds to stop for. Frustration was 
brought by the almost-certain group of five Inland Dotterel which flew by but 
didn't land in view, though we were more than happy with Spotted Harrier, lots 
of Australian Pratincoles, 20 White-backed Swallows, 2 Gibberbirds and a flock 
of 75 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. 94km short of Windorah a bird flushed from by 
the car had us slamming on the brakes and this time we were treated to cracking 
views of a stunning Inland Dotterel, surely one of the world's most attractive 
"waders". It was around this time that a significant passage of Pacific Swifts 
commenced, and we had them passing north over the road pretty much continuously 
from here until at least the same distance the other side of Windorah, with 
several thousand doubtless involved. After a rest in Windorah and 
desperately-needed fuel for the car (which had been white at the start of the 
day but was now decidedly orange) we set off for the Hall's babbler site east 
of there mentioned in TNT. Good numbers of Cockatiels were noted, and both near 
and at the babbler site we started picking up good numbers of moving Masked 
Woodswallows. The site itself didn't produce the goods, though a pair of Varied 
Sitellas were nice. Set off for Eromanga later than hoped and had an 
entertaining drive with good numbers of parrots before dark and alarming 
numbers of Suicidal kangaroos after dark. The parrots had included 13+ 
Bluebonnets, well over 100 Budgerigars and, best of all, a flock of 12 Bourke's 
Parrots. Relieved to rach Eromanga after an exhausting day, during which we 
felt we'd thoroughly earnt not just our beers but a first night in a proper bed!

8th November - Eromanga first thing, with nothing spectacular seen, we then 
head off for the Grey Grasswren site recently discovered (and documented on 
Birding-aus) by Bill Moorhead. Unfortunately we couldn't marry up his GPS 
reading even vaguely with those we were getting and realised the discrepancy 
too late to look for the Tennaperra Homestead. The area was pretty wet, 
however, and it's likely that had we found the site we may not have been able 
to find any grasswrens. This detour was certainly worthwhile though for our 
only Black-tailed Native-hens, nearly one hundred being seen in all, and a 
short stop also got us Southern Whiteface. Next stop was the Eulo Bore area, 
and despite it being an unfavourable time of day this was to prove far more 
successful. First we tried the Hall's Babbler site described by TNT and saw a 
group of six in almost exactly the spot they did. They responded very well to 
squeaking. Next was a stop at telegraph post 270, where we hadn't even stopped 
the car when a Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush flew up from the side of the road 
and gave us crippling views. Inland Thornbill was also seen here. After a 
provisions stop in Cunnamulla we headed out to Bowra, where we were planning 
two nights' stay - a luxury break by recent standards, though we were of course 
back in the traumatised tents. Had plenty of time for some birding there, 
though never really turned up any of the specialities. Our first White-browed 
Woodswallows were found amongst large numbers of Masked on the move, good 
numbers of Crimson Chats had just arrived and we had endless fun tormenting 
Pallid Cuckoos, but the best record was probably of a family group of five 
Ground Cuckoo-Shrikes.

9th November - all day at Bowra, a welcome rest after the hundreds of miles put 
in over the previous week or so. Redthroat was a big priority, but attempts at 
either end of the day were unsuccessful, the tape only luring in our only 
White-browed Treecreeper. A session in the afternoon with Ian got us our only 
Australian Owlet-Nightjar sighting (he may have been a little over-zealous with 
his tree "tapping" we felt) and a fine trio of raptors on the nest: a female 
Collared Sparrowhawk, an adult Square-tailed Kite (at last) sheltering one or 
two chicks, and an almost full-grown Black-breasted Buzzard, which kept us 
waiting for some time before standing up and stretching its wings. Large 
numbers of Masked Woodswallows (and lesser numbers of White-browed) were still 
much in evidence and other records during the day included a male 
Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush singing in the open, three Bourke's Parrots and 
a group of White-winged Chough.

10th November - Bowra again first thing, hoping to pick up a few species still 
needed. Had a bonus first thing with a Black-eared Cuckoo singing from a dead 
snag at the homestead and then great excitement on the way out to the Redthroat 
site (we missed it again) when a pair of Major Mitchell's Cockatoos was seen at 
close range. The only other lifer was a group of four Mulga Parrots. The rest 
of the day was spent on the long drive east to Rainbow Beach on the coast, with 
high winds keeping the birds down, including Red-browed Pardalote at a 
stake-out east of Cunnamulla. Got to the coast with just enough light to try 
for Ground Parrot on Cooloola way, but despite at least half a dozen singing 
none obliged by flying. Then after dark we tried Bymien Day Use Area for night 
birds. A Southern Boobook was called in, but we had less luck with Marbled 
Frogmouth. Although one was heard calling we didn't get too close and ended up 
completely forgetting about it when a nice big Huntsman spider crawled up the 
inside of the windscreen. By the time we'd got it out of the car (of course it 
didn't look half as big out in the open) we were in such a state we abandoned 
the frogmouth for the comfort of several beers, a pizza and a bed at a hostel 
in Rainbow Beach! Please no mocking from the Aussies, OK. We'll set Freddie 
Flintoff loose in your car and see how you like it.

11th November  -  Cooloola Way again first thing, but the Ground Parrots were 
silent and an intended thrash through the heath was abandoned when Phil nearly 
trod on a large snake (OK, us Poms are wimps). Opted instead for the safety of 
Inskip Point, where we scored with both our targets, Mangrove Honeyeater 
actually in the last car park, and Black-breasted Buttonquail between there and 
the point itself. Good numbers of birds on and around the exposed sandbars 
included a couple of thousand Common Terns, far more than expected. Headed back 
to Cooloola Way, a flock of 40 White-throated Needletails flying over en route. 
Three Brush Bronzewings rescued another otherwise unproductive visit to 
Cooloola Way, and we then drove to Bribie Island, a site for Spotless Crake. A 
couple of hours in the hide were very disappointing, though a Cicadabird seen 
outside was our only sighting of the trip. Next we met up with Tom Tarrant for 
a few hours in the Dayboro/Samsonvale area. First up he showed us White-eared 
Monarch, then took us to Samsonvale Cemetary for a good session. The adult 
Tawny Frogmouths were nowhere to be seen, though two small fluffy chicks were 
sat on the "nest". Tom was frustrated by much of what he was trying to find us, 
but we had a profitable time nevertheless, including our only Peregrine of the 
trip, and also our only Koala. From here we drove up to Lamington National 
Park, getting incredible views of Tawny Frogmouth on and above the road, and 
heard Southern Boobook from our latest campsite home.
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