Saturday, 23 June 2018

2017 Outback Queensland trip - Birds - Birdsville & the Channel Country

We arrived in Birdsville late June. We would spend the next 8 weeks traipsing around the Channel Country to bide time until South Australia might be warmer temperatures.
The bird photos in this blog are just a sample of all the birds I saw during this trip.
2/3 of the roads travelled during the next 8 wks were gravel. It was a very dry & dusty trip.

I found 2 pairs of Eyrean Grasswrens on Little Red Sand Dune, 30 kms west of Birdsville. The road out to Little Red & Big Red Sand Dunes is good 2 WD gravel road. My 1st pair of Eyreans were near the bottom of the sand dune, but they quickly retreated to the upper parts & disappeared.
I located the 2nd pair amongst cane grass 100m further along the top of the sand dune.

Same photo heavily cropped.

Whilst there I found Black-faced Woodswallows.

I walked around the Birdsville Billabong precinct.
Birdsville Billabong is fed by a bore just several hundred metres away in town.

 A single Spinifex Pigeon was seen, but these birds are usually in family groups.

Hoary headed Grebe.

White-faced Heron chilling out.

Red-browed Pardolote

Whilst walking the track on the other side of the billabong, I flushed a pair of Bluebonnets. They didn't go too far & just hopped onto a rock giving me the most perfect photo opportunity I've ever had of Bluebonnets. These birds are a different sub specie to the ssp I see near south east Qld.

Also hanging around the series of ponds was a Red-backed Kingfisher.

Black-fronted Dotteral like muddy margins of wetlands.

Late in the afternoon I had an amazing surprise sighting. 2 Grey Falcons flew into 1 of the telecommunication towers in town. 1 bird was quite high up, so getting a decent photo was difficult.

We travelled north & stayed at Carcoory Ruins. Walking around the creek wetland I located a Black-eared Cuckoo.

 A Brown Falcon takes off to search for more prey.

Carcoory Ruins has a bore that feeds the wetland creek.

We arrived at Cuttaburra Crossing. The crossing is a free camp on the Eyre Creek that crosses the Eyre Development Road - Birdsville - Boulia.
Cuttaburra Crossing is a permanent wetland, but parts of it had dried up, leaving the main water channels along Eyre Creek with plenty of water.
I was surprised to find Caspian Tern - red billed, & Gull-billed Terns there - the smaller bird on the right.

White-necked Heron.

A flock of Flock Bronzewings take off from a drink at the creek

A young Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

My 1st ever views of Orange Chats. This is a female bird.

Male Orange Chats have a black mask from their eyes down.

Red-necked Avocets love wetlands.

Diamond Dove

Yellow-billed Spoonbill.

I knew there had been Yellow Chats in the area 2 wks earlier. I finally found a single bird at 1st light 1 morning coming into the wetland area. These Yellow Chats are a different sub species to the group I've seen around Rockhampton in Qld. This is a male bird.

I finally get a reasonably focused though distant  photo of a White-backed Swallow. I saw my 1st bird a week earlier in Birdsville.

White-winged Fairwwren trying to hide from me at Bedourie.

Bedourie had Waste Water Treatment ponds where waterfowl congregate.

Hoary-headed Grebe.

Driving further north I managed to get a photo of these Wedge-tailed Eagle through the car windscreen as they take off from a road kill. Thankfully they flew off to the right & not in front of our moving vehicle.

We were to spend a week in Boulia to attend Camel Races in 5 days time. I drove around to many potential birding spots.
Right in town at 1st light were almost 1,000 Galahs. This tree is 1 of 3 trees, plus power lines loaded with noisy Galahs.

A family of Brolga hang around town.

I visited the Waste Water Treatment dams outside town. I found a large group of Spinifex Pigeons.

Also on the water were Pink-eared Ducks.

Birding along a different road I found this Black-breasted Buzzard overhead.

Another road kill & I came across a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles, along with about 20 - 30 Corvids....there was a mixture of Aust Ravens & Toressian Crows.

Hubby had a game of golf on a very different golf course. There was no grass greens as you see on most golf courses. I joined him for the 1st hole & left him to play the rest of the 9 hole course whilst I traipsed around the back of the golf course. The birding was wonderful at the back amongst the bush.

Black-tailed Treecreeper. This group is on the lower edge of their range.

We spent 4 nights in Diamantina National Park. We entered the NP from Boulia. The road to the NP boundary was in fairly good condition, driving along private property access roads.
Once we reached the boundary grid the road deteriorated somewhat & more care had to be taken to not get a cut tyre or puncture.
We spent 2 night at Gum Holes & 2 nights at Hunters Gorge. We had a map of the National Park to take several routes through the NP as 1 of the loops was approximately 40 kms.
Gum Holes has up to a dozen camp spots, but most of them aren't suitable for caravans due to overhanging branches etc. We managed to squeeze our caravan in to the 1st spot. The camp spots here are more bushy too as apposed to Hunters Gorge that is open. Gum Holes camp ground sits beside the water course known as Gum Holes. It's a great base here to explore the tracks on the eastern 1/2 of Diamantina NP.

Rufous Songlarks were hiding in the long grass near some old cattle yards & occasionally popped up to see around them.

Diamantine NP has 2 relatively permanent wetlands. Warracoota Lake didn't have too many birds on it, but Lake Constance was full of waterfowl.

At lake Constance I was surprised to see a pair of Musk Ducks, though in the distance near the other side of the lake.

Using my spotting scope, I was enjoying the hundreds of Ducks, Pelicans, Cormornats,  Black-tailed Native-hens, Dotterels & other waterfowl when I heard a helicopter approaching the lake.
Alas & to my utter disgust the helicopter landed & 6 tourists walked about on the other side of the lake for 30 mins or more.
Suffice to say all the waterfowl that had been up my end of the more than 1 km in length lake flew hundreds of metres away towards the other end.

Walking along the creek that feeds Gum Holes not far from our camp spot I found a pair of Barn Owls roosting beside the creek.

After exploring tracks of the eastern 1/2 of the Diamantina NP, we moved camp to Hunters Gorge. This camp ground is more open & more dusty. It is the more popular of the 2 camp grounds due to easier caravan access. Hunters Gorge is on the Diamantina River. The river is slowly drying up & we were able to cross the river just 150m west of the camp ground to explore the other side & climb that hill that forms the narrow gorge the Diamantina River flows through.

These are our views from our camp spot.

That's the hill we climbed 1 morning.

On the northern side of the camp ground is this rocky range that is worth exploring for birds including Spinifex Pigeons & Painted Finchs.

I walked east along the river edge track & then down into the river where the water is receding.
I looked up to locate a Woodswallow I heard calling & saw these 2 little beauties sitting a rocky ledge 50 m up  - Painted Finch. They had come in for a lunch time drink.

I also found Red-backed Kingfisher as well.

I went night spotting from Gum Holes camp ground 1 evening in the hope to find Inland Dotterels.
I flushed a Spotted Night-jar that evening, but no Inland Dotterels. I had been on the lookout for the birds during the 4 days we were in the NP & along the road from Birdsville to Boulia.
It was on our drive out of the National Park NE of the ranger station that I finally saw my 1st Inland Dotterels. There were about 15 in the group, but they were quite timid for photos.

At the bore on the NE edge of the NP I found a single Pink-eared Duck

On our drive NE we encountered dozens of Crimson Chats in smaller groups.
We next stopped Old Cork Station free camp. The camp sits beside the Diamantina River. There were a couple of Western Bloodwoods coming into flower & I found this Singing Honeyeater enjoying the flowers nectar.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.

Our next camp stop was in Winton. We had been on dusty gravel roads now for nearly 4 wks apart form the bitumen roads in the small towns of Birdsville, Bedourie & Boulia. It was nice to chill out in a bigger town again. We spent 3 nights in Winton.

Winton has 3 sets of ponds / dams. 2 are related to sewerage on the western side of town & the 3rd is the bore water Cooling ponds where the hot bore water settles & cools in dams before being treated & used for consumption. All 3 places are worth visiting for birds.

The Waste Water Treatment Plant dams & the Sewerage ponds are a few hundred metres apart.
The sewerage ponds off Dump Rd were near the Cattle sales yards.
I found a Rufous Songlark singing his heart out near the cattle yards.

I found more bird life at the Waste Water Treatment Works. There are a series of at least 4 dams to walk around.
White-plumed Honeyeaters at their nest.

There were several Duck species, Swans & Dotterels there.
Later in the day I went back to see if I could locate the Aust Spotted Crake that had been reported there weeks earlier.
I found just the 1 bird feeding on the edge of the reeds.

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo sitting on a fence in the late afternoon.

We next stayed 2 nights at Bladensburg National Park. There is a good camp ground at Bladensburg NP called Bough Shed. Bough Shed sits beside Surprise Creek which was mostly dry.

I found more flowering Western Bloodwoods when walking along the dry creek.
The Honeyeaters were loving the flowers nectar.

A few Black Honeyeaters were there - life bird.

Grey-headed Honeyeater

I went walking from Skull Hole hoping to find these birds & any others. I was in search of a patch of Spinifex in the hope of seeing Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens, but didn't see the birds.

Whilst traipsing around I found 2 Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush.  This is the female bird. The male was more cautious & hid behind dead timber.

A family of Halls Babblers were there too.

We always had a large family of Apostlebirds around the camp ground.

Driving through the NP to Scrammy's Lookout we encountered many other birds.
Aust Hobby.

Varied Sittells. There are 5 ssp of Varied Sittella in Australia. This is the ssp pileata or Black-capped Sittella.

Back at the camp ground Western Bloodwoods area I found this Pied Honeyeater in a nearby tree. It was another lifer for me.

We drove down to Lark Quarry Road. I was after a couple of birds along that road.
I saw 2 Grey Falcons on the tower at the turnoff in the early morning light.

I then went in search for 2 spinifex habitat birds.
I located a single Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, male bird here. I heard more in other areas.

I next located my other target specie - the newly split Rusty Grasswren. IOC has yet to recognise this as a split (June 2018)  but it is coming. 2 difficult lifers in a short time. I had a happy dance.

We went into Lark Quarry for me to walk the tracks around the dinosaur stampede display centre.
I was in search of more Emu-wrens or Grasswrens. I think I found a group of Emu-wrens, but I only heard their tiny calls coming from the Spinifex.

I did locate a family of newly split Variegated Fairywrens.
This bird has had a recent split west of the Great dividing Range & is renamed Purple-backed Fairywren.

Female Purple-backed Fairywren.

As we were driving back along the Winton-Jundah Road (a good gravel road) I saw lots of Western Bloodwoods in full flower. I saw dozens of Masked & White-browed Woodswallows, Crimson Chats, several Honeyeater species including Black Honeyeater.
This is a Crimson Chat at a distance.

We drove SE to Longreach to stay 5 nights there.
I visited the Wastewater Treatment ponds south of town. There were plenty of waterfowl on the 3 ponds plus a wetland of water run off with reeds further back. In the reeds at the back I could hear Spotless Crake & Spotted Crakes.

There was a family of White-winged Fairywrens near the fence.

A flowering bush near the wetland section

White-breasted Woodswallow

I heard about a lovely wetland called Lara Wetlands & Cattle Station. It is about 12 kms off the Landsborough Hwy on a good dirt road, or 28kms SW of Barcaldine. Lara Wetlandsd is a bore filled lagoon that is a haven for waterfowl & bush birds. Campers can stay on grassy spots right next to the lagoon.

This Tawny Frogmouth was camouflaged really well & was unfazed by all the campers looking at it every day.

Red-tailed Black-cockatoo drink at the waters edge just metres from caravans & campers.

Red-kneed Dotterel. I counted about 8 of these birds around the lagoons muddy margins

There were at least 40 Black-tailed Native-hens wandering about the lagoon

Tree Martin

Laughing Kookaburra

Australian Ringneck - Mallee or ssp barnardi. There are 5 sub species throughout inland Australia.

Pale-headed Rosella

Male Rufous Whistler

I drove down the entry road to wander about the bush looking for more birds.
There were more Western Bloodwoods in flower.

Yellow Thornbill

Double-barred Finch

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped thornbill

Male Red-winged Parrot

White-browed Treecreeper

The Western Gerygone in my opinion are in the top 10 for Australia's prettiest bird calls.

Female Red-capped Robin

Common Bronzewing

Male Purple-backed Fairywren (Variegated)

We drove through Blackall, Isisford & down to Yaraka. We came across this dad Emu & his brood of 8 chicks wandering across the road.

We stayed a couple of nights at Yaraka as the hospitality from the pub staff was fabulous.
The town only has a population of 12.

Wandering around the back of the township looking for birds, I was surprised to see Grey Fantails were this far west. These birds migrate NW from the SE of Australia during the winter months.

Crested Bellbird

Bourke's Parrot

I found a group of Zebra Finches in a bush next to the towns dam water.

Crimson Chat

We next drove into Welford NP for 2 nights stay in the camp ground right next to the Cooper Creek. The tracks in the National Park are good gravel roads, but would be impassable with rain.

White-browed Woodswllow

Another better coloured Crimson Chat

Little Woodswallow

Australian Bustard

Red Kangaroos are the largest marsupial in the world. The males are red &  females are blue.

Brown Falcon, a dark morph.

Boutke's Parrot

Black-fronted Dotterel

The national park toilets in the entire region we have been travelling have been clean drop / pit toilets. Fairy Martins have made mud nests in most of the toilets we've visited in the previous 4 wks. They build their nests from wet mud, & form small hollow canals to breed.

Masked Woodswallow.

Another White-browed Woodswallow.

We drove through Jundah to Stonehenge. There was a Rodeo & Gymkhana on that coming weekend at the sports ground.
Another Crimson Chat in a Western Bloodwood.

White-winged Triller.

Rainbow Bee-eater

After the Gymkhana we drove south again. We didn't drive far when we discovered friends were camping at a free camp spot atop a meza 20 kms south of Stondhenge.

Wandering around our caravan were a pair of Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush. They are so used to having people around them that I could stand within 2 metres of these birds without them being worried by my presence. This is the male bird.

Plainer female bird

Halls Babbler.

We drove south & stayed a night in Windorah & camped with our friends again. We then headed west back to Birdsville . At a lunch stop I had this Brown Falcon come in, perhaps looking for a rodent for lunch too.

I drove 20kms north of Birdsville looking for a Gibberbird that I missed on seeing when on this road 8 wks earlier. Sadly I didn't see any Gibberbird, but for a consolation prize I flushed a Cinnamon Quail-thrush from a drain beside the road. Still a life bird & most unexpected.

This ends our 2017 Outback Qld trip. I had a wonderful time discovering the birds of the Channel Country during that 8 wk period.
The next day we started driving down the Birdsville Track to explore South Australia for thenext 3 months.