Kimberleys & Mitchell Plateau / Black Grasswren (Hope not too long)

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Subject: Kimberleys & Mitchell Plateau / Black Grasswren (Hope not too long)
From: "Brian and Meg" <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 2010 15:32:49 +0800
Hi to all those who are interested in the area.
Have just finished a 47 day tour through the Kimberleys - did all the main 
tourist places - thought I'd give you some info from the trip. We were really 
targeting only a few of the endemics for this area.
Kununurra - at the beginning of the trip (>47days ago)- water still lying 
around in many places - found lots (30+) of Yellow-rumped Mannikins out on the 
east side - took dump turnoff - excellent close views over a couple of days. 
Visited there today, no Mannikins seen but many mixed flocks of mainly 
Wyndham - about 10 coloured Gouldians - black & red headed - at various pools 
about 5-7 km along King R. Rd
Derby - 4 Mangrove Golden Whistlers - all males (could not find a female 
anywhere). Same at Broome - 2 males, 0 females.
Gibb R. Rd - Mt Hart Station - a flock of approx 150 imm. Gouldians about 12 km 
from the homestead on the road in. Only a couple of mature black-headed with 
them. At Matthew Gorge there, saw our 1st Variegated Fairy-Wrens, r: rogersi - 
what a beautiful female; male very brightly coloured.
Mornington Wilderness Sanctuary - very disappointing - a few Purple-crowned 
Fairy-Wrens with all males in eclipse. No Red Goshawks anywhere and no 
Gouldians seen until 3rd morning as we left - about 10km north - tracked down a 
couple of Red-headed adults with a approx 15 imm. in mixed company with 
Bell Gorge & Silent Grove - saw glimpses of what we believe were White-Lined 
(Kimberley) Honeyeaters - not good enough to tick off - stupid me, we should 
have kept looking around there, but I felt we'd see them elsewhere - not the 
case - searched hard - we dipped out.
Mitchell R. Falls area - the elusive Black Grasswren not seen - tried all the 
places mentioned on Birding-aus website - we had their call on MP3 - tried that 
as well but only after 2 full days of searching. Found every r: rogersi in the 
area, climbed 100s of rocks, waded thru heaps of spinifex, sat & waited at dawn 
3 mornings - not a squeak. I asked the Rangers - no one has reported any so far 
this year. The area near the campground has been burnt out - closer to the 
Little Merton Falls was OK, but I suspect that area no longer viable. We will 
be very interested to hear if anyone finds them this year. On a more positive 
note, talking to some anthropologists doing a 'dig' nearby (approx. 6km away & 
only by helicopter), a young WA Uni. student who was with them (studying botany 
out at the dig) told us of seeing 5 or 6 "Rock Wrens" hopping along the rocks 
near the dig. When I asked him to describe colour, etc., he described BGWs 
accurately. So, they are around - just not where I wanted them to be. Of 
course, the Partridge Pigeons, r:blaauwi were all over the campground, even 
around our feet and nearly inside the tent, so that was a good tick.
    On a general note, we found White-quilled Rock-Pigeons everywhere - on 
nearly every property. Yesterday, we also found our 1st White-browed Crake here 
on the lake near town - yet 7 weeks ago, we searched every day and none seen.
     Road Conditions:  Gibb R. Rd - a city person might say a bit rough, a 
country person like me would call it a hwy - at least the western half. After 
the turnoff N. to Drysdale, the Gibb begins a lot of bends, floodways, dips & 
gullies, etc. which lowers the speed so the eastern half is like any typical 
Aussie gravel country road - slower but still very good to me.
However, from the turn N. to Drysdale, there's full road-width corrugations at 
least 6 inches deep in places and long stretches of bone-shaking lesser 
corrugations - that 60 km will take over one & half hours. The 100 km north to 
the Mitchell turnoff takes about 2 hours with about half being excellent smooth 
travel and half being severe corrugations. The 7 km in to King Edward R. is 
very slow and extremely rough. Past there, the 40 km climb up on to the 
Mitchell Plateau is continuous corrugations - so bad, in fact, that both my 
front shock absorbers died and I had to limp back to Drysdale for new ones. 
Anyway , up again, passed another car broken down on the same section (he had 
help already). Once up on top, the road improved somewhat - it still took 
approx 4 hours of constant battering to do the whole 87 km. The last 14 km down 
to the campground had the full 4WD range - stretches of deep fluid mud, many 
water crossings, lots of washouts - slow and slower were the orders.  We heard 
that "they" might grade the main track up to Kalumburu "later" and that "they" 
might even get on to the Mitchell Track. The country grapevine was full of 
gossip but no one seemed definite about anything.
Good luck to anyone going there this year.
Brian & Meg
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