I just did what was effectively a nine day trip to Qld (excluding flights)
returning yesterday. If anyone wants a full report, let me know, it comes (will
come) in the form of an excel spreadsheet. I flew to Mount Isa, hired a dual
cab ute and basically covered a day and a half around Mount Isa, travelled to
Lawn Hill (Adel's Grove) staying one night, then from Lawn Hill to Karumba with
two nights there, then Karumba to Cloncurry (one night), Cloncurry to Bedourie
(one night), Bedourie to Birdsville (one night), a trip down to Koonchera Dune
in SA and back for another night in Bedourie, and last afternoon and night in
Mount Isa. I covered over 4,000 kilometres and did this all solo. I have to say
I had an absolutely brilliant time, not least the last night before ANZAC day
drinking in the Bedourie Hotel - not the best preparation for a 550 km drive
the next day followed by tramping spinifex covered hills all afternoon!
I hired the ute from Sargent vehicle hire and they (Pat and Troy at Sargent in
Mt Isa) were really nice people - they upgraded me to a Landcruiser Ute with no
extra charge when they realised the distances I was covering (because of the
extra diesel tank) and included an extra spare wheel and a UHF radio - and the
fact I had a tray on the back was very handy one night when I couldn't get
accommodation on my first night in Bedourie - Jim, the landlord of the Bedourie
Hotel, lent me some bedding and I slept in the tray and consequently saved on
one night's accommodation!
I met some great people on the trip, including Glenn and Alison Newton, who run
the Ferryman in Karumba and helped me with some local birds - Glenn,
particularly, seems to know his stuff. Karumba is a lovely place and chock-full
Some of the key birds (not all ticks - I had 11) I saw are as follows:
Great-billed Heron - on the Ferryman's evening croc trip (missed it on a bird
trip up the Norman river in the morning, but got fantastic spotlight views of
one in the eve).
Radjah Shelduck - two in the wetlands just beyond Normanton
Black-breasted Buzzard - a couple seen in flight south of Mt Isa early in the
Black Falcon - one seen brilliantly close chasing a small bird, then perched
several times, upsetting the local Galahs, right by Big Red on the edge of the
Australian Bustard - one in a paddock just outside Karumba
Red-chested Buttonquail - one flushed between Lawn Hill and Karumba in an area
of tall grasslands and another just outside Karumba
White-browed Crake - one in the swamp at the back of Karumba
Squatter Pigeon - two at the side of the road right by the main road junction
Flock Bronzewing - a group of probably twenty or so at the reservoir on the
north side of Bedourie in the evening. Also groups of eight and four as I
proceeded south the next morning.
Spinifex Pigeon - many seen at most bores I visited en route in the drier areas.
White-backed Swallow (my favourite birds) - pairs seen at Big Red and also at
the Bedourie reservoir.
Sandstone Shrike-thrush - one seen brilliantly close at the Lawn Hill Gorge
late on the day I arrived at Adel's Grove after a hasty ascent to the top.
Spinifexbird - seen very well first morning just south of Mica Creek, Mt Isa,
then also at the T&T Carpentarian Grasswren site and at Little Red (South of
Purple-crowned Fairy-wren - first at Gregory River then at virtually all the
major river crossings around the Lawn Hill area.
Kalkadoon Grasswren - a nightmare bird - I probably spent 8 hours solid in
total looking for this bird for one brief view in the bins.
Carpentarian Grasswren - again about 4 hours searching first day. Seen the next
morning just of the Barkly Highway, probably somewhere near the recent record
from Bob Forsyth and Phil Venables 30 km north- just found some likely habitat
and saw one as I stepped out of the car, but again only a very brief view and
then a couple of hours searching failed to turn up any more sightings.
Eyrean Grasswren - a lot of searching at Big and Little Red resulted in failure
(but a lot of other good birds). However, I took the opportunity of going south
from Birdsville to Koonchera dune (T&T site in SA) and a male showed really
well there atop the dune. NB this site has changed a fair bit from the T&T
instructions - you need to follow the entry sign for Pandieburra (on a big
tyre) and the track by the dune is relatively indistinct where the main track
branches off towards Pandiburra. There is nothing indicating "Koonchera Dune".
Also there is a fence half way along the dune which was padlocked and it would
be quite arduous to walk the rest of the way to the end, so I stayed there and
birded the top of the dune, where I saw the Eyrean (see also later re Grey
Gibber Chat - I saw a few roadside birds between Bedourie and Birdsville, a
couple of them really nice and close to the car so that I didn't have to get
Orange Chat - a nice group of 10 at Clem Walton Park just outside Cloncurry
which included 3 stunning males. Also seen at quite a few open country areas in
the SW and a lot at Big and Little Reds.
Crimson Chat - regular parties of birds over most of the trip.
Pictorella Mannikin - a 'colony' of 5 birds, of which two pairs nest building
23km (NE) beyond Adelaide falls along the road in good grassy habitat.
Star Finch - a group of 30 in the swamp behind Karumba town, including some
stunning scope views along with Chestnut-breasted Mannikins and Zebra and
Double-barred Finches (wish I had the patience to do photos).
Spotted Bowerbird - common around Mt Isa
Zitting Cisticola - managed to pick out 2 amongst Golden -headed Cisticolas in
the same swamp and also in damp grasslands about 20 km before entering Karumba.
Other tips - I hired an Iridium GPS unit which was great and took all fear out
of wandering in the bush (well, maybe not the fear of snakes), and the fly net
I bought at Birdsville certainly made things a lot more comfortable and was
quite possible to use my bins with.
Grey Grasswren - searched at a few lignum locations as per previous material on
Birding Aus, but despite extensive searching it was all dry and of course no
birds. At the T&T Koonchera Dune site I could have possibly walked right to the
end of the dune to look for them, but the area looked so parched it was clearly
not worth the effort of at least a 10K walk.
Ground Cuckoo-shrike - from the car I saw what was probably one of these
perched in a bare tree between Dajarra and Mt Isa but as I reached for my bins
it must have moved and I saw the bird disappear behind an area of spinifex, and
this flight view made me feel more positive about the ID, but not enough for a
tick. I got out to search but couldn't find it after that.
Varied Lorikeet - I forgot to look in earnest for these!
No news from anywhere of Letter-winged Kite sightings. Grey Falcon would have
been pure fantasy, but we can all dream.
I also took an EPIRB and a satellite phone. The latter was useful to keep in
touch with home when elsewhere than in Mt Isa, but the former may have been
overkill as I really didn't go into the Simpson or Diamantina. Still, better
safe than sorry.
As I say, if anyone wants the full report, let me know and I'll email the
spreadsheet to you.
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