Western Queensland Trip 17th to 26th April 2008 (longish)

To: birding aus <>
Subject: Western Queensland Trip 17th to 26th April 2008 (longish)
From: Tim Jones <>
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:44:45 +0000

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 
of birds.

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 
Simpson Desert

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 
approaching Normanton

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 
Big Red).

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.

'Missed' birds:

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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