We’ve just completed an extremely successful trip through the Channel Country,
with highlights including Rowley’s Striated Grasswren, Grey Grasswren, many
thousands of Flock Bronzewings, Rufous-crowned Emu-Wren, Grey Falcons, and most
notably Letter-winged Kite. The latter was the primary target of the trip,
while Rowley’s Grasswren was the only taxon of grasswren that we had not seen
in this calendar year.
A good supporting cast included several Black Falcons, Hall’s Babbler,
Chestnut-breasted and Cinnamon quail-thrushes, Spinifexbird, and arguably most
interesting of all was a massive southward movement of tens of thousands of
Budgies over several days across large parts of the Channel Country.
Grey Grasswrens were abundant and very easy to see around Goyder’s Lagoon, off
the Birdsville Track, on 10th and 11th December. We also found nesting Black
While sitting on a bench at the pub in Bedourie at 2pm on 12th December a flock
of pigeons flew overhead, and it took a couple of seconds to sink in that they
were Flock Bronzewings! They proceeded to land on what we subsequently learned
was the town common, 200m E of the pub. That afternoon, about 3700 accumulated
here, before moving east to roost. The following morning we counted 10,450
here, and 300 more at the abandoned golf course. Partly to sit out some passing
rain but largely to enjoy the Flockie spectacle some more, we stayed at
Bedourie until 14th. That morning we counted at least 11,700 on the town
common, but by 1145 all those birds had joined others 1km south of town to
feed. Here we found huge flocks carpeting the road and surrounding fields, and
estimated at least 13,000.
It was a superb spectacle with flocks flying back and forth around town all day
while we were there, and even during the heavy rain - apparently spin off from
the very distant cyclone - being able to watch them from shelter around the
back of the pub. The hotel owner commented how after many years absence
Flockies had shown up in the past year or so, but that this was currently by
far the most he had seen around. This fit with our experience of having seen
them in great numbers throughout the Channel Country and Barkly Tablelands this
On the evening of 14th December we found one, then several, Letter-winged Kites
at a site south of Diamantina National Park. We camped there, and early the
following morning at least 27 came in to roost just before sunrise at 0540. The
morning of the 16th, we had 37 together in the air pre-sunrise. On both
mornings and evenings, several birds hung around the treetops for a couple of
hours after sunrise, and for a couple of hours prior to sunset.
On the afternoon of 17th December we camped next to the Winton-Jundah road
161.5km N of the junction with the Windorah-Jundah road (about 91km S of the
turning to Lark Quarry), at S 23d 43m 52.7s, E 142d 25m 15.9s. Great mature and
lush spinifex habitat here. That evening we easily found a pair of _rowleyi_
Striated Grasswrens with a mob of Variegated Fairy Wrens, several extremely
confiding Rufous-crowned Emu-Wrens that responded very well to pishing, and
Spinifexbird was abundant and very easy to see here. Early the next morning we
had more emu-wrens, and a couple of small mobs of Hall’s Babblers. All of these
birds were 100-250m north or north-east of camp, but most could be heard from
or near camp. We also had RCEWs and Spinifexbird on the 18th at and near Lark
Quarry Conservation Park (heard both from the car park!). We didn’t
specifically look, but the grasswren must be in this area too.
Later in the trip near Winton, we watched a family party of Grey Falcons for an
evening, camped nearby, and watched them again the following morning.
Hopefully it goes without saying that midsummer in the Channel Country is not
for the faint-hearted. We saw no other vehicles at all on any of the roads or
tracks during ten days in the area. Flexibility in schedule is also needed, as
routes can be (and were) suddenly impassable at any time. That said, the
birding is potentially very rewarding, with great opportunities to find lots of
good birds yourself. This was our third time criss-crossing parts of this
region this year, and we noted that several species we had seen in winter or
spring were much more visible and vocal in summer.
Cheers, Jon and Anne.
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