Nick Livanos, Rob Kilkelly and I had planned a two week birding trip around western Queensland incorporating Mt. Isa, Bedourie and Noccundra. Unfortunately for us the channel country experienced 3 days of rain which closed several roads in the area and had us changing the route mid trip. We decided instead to hit the coast, visiting Karumba, Etty Bay and the rest of the Qld coast down to Nerang. We drove 7500km and saw 280 species.
Our route changed dramatically from the one we posted on birding_aus several weeks ago:
Day 1: Maitland - Mitchell
Day 2: Mitchell - Winton
Day 3: Winton area (Lark Quarry and Opalton)
Day 4: Winton - Mt. Isa
Day 5: Mt. Isa (Lady Loretta and Mica Creek)
Day 6: Mt. Isa (Lake Moondarra)
Day 7: Mt. Isa
Day 8: Mt. Isa - Karumba
Day 9: Karumba (Ferryman cruise)
Day 10: Karumba - Etty Bay (Cumberland Dam and
Day 11: Etty Bay - Sarina (Mission Beach and Tyto Wetlands)
Day 12: Sarina - Nerang (St. Lawrence and Inskip Point)
Day 13: Nerang (Mt. Tamborine, Victoria Point and O'Reilly's)
Day 14: Nerang (O'Reilly's)
Day 15: Nerang - Maitland
I could literally write for days about every awesome location we visited and every feathered friend we saw but I'll try to keep the day reports as short as possible. I've also added our Bird of Prey (BOP) counts at the end.
Day 1: A 950km drive resulted in very little birding being done outside the car. Nankeen Kestrel were very plentiful with 99 seen while driving. It was amazing how they vanished once we got so close to 100.
Our river side lunch stop in St. George added Dusky and White-breasted Woodswallows to the list and a few Red-winged Parrots.
The really cool birding started after St. George when we started seeing Pale-headed Rosella, Red-capped Robin, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Aust. Bustard, Spotted Bowerbird and a single White-browed Treecreeper. Is this at their eastern limit?
Day 2: We headed off early and didn't spare the horses (or speeding fine) as we wanted some birding in Bladensburg before dark. Our 100th Kestrel was ticked up and a Little Eagle was sighted sitting in the sun. Amazingly our first Black Kite was seen at the Giant Meat Ant in Augathella. Do they migrate north in Winter?
We managed two hours in Bladensburg before the sun went down. We saw 20+ Spinifex Pigeon on our first stop but couldn't get close enough for a pic. Further up the road we found a great patch with lots of activity. Budgerigars, Black-faced Woodswallow, Rufous Songlark, Zebra Finch, Peaceful Dove, Singing Honeyeater and Aust. Bustard were all seen together. Our last bird for the day was a single Diamond Dove.
Day 3: We arrived at the Lark Quarry CP just after dawn in the hope of hearing Grasswrens before the wind picked up. Unfortunetly we couldn't find any but did stumble upon three RUFOUS-CROWNED EMU-WREN. What a stunning bird! So much richer in colour then the Southern EW we're accustomed to. Grey-headed Honeyeater and Hooded Robin were seen nearby.
Having dipped on the Grasswrens we decided to head south east to Opalton where they're apparently more common. Around the hamlet we saw a fair sized flock of Crimson Chat, more Grey-headed Honeyeater, a Little Button-quail, Crested Bellbird and a single STRIATED GRASSWREN! He allowed great views as he called from low in a mallee eucalypt and bounced between spinifex clumps. My Grasswren virginity had been broken and I liked it!!
We then commenced the drive back to Winton via Bladensburg seeing White-backed Swallow, Red-backed Kingfisher and more Bustards.
Day 4: As we drove north of Winton large numbers of Horsfield's Bushlark appeared. Seven Brolgas were seen feeding beside the road and a pair of Black Falcon circled over head.
We passed through Cloncurry and stopped briefly at Chinaman Creek Dam. A large flock of mud gathering Fairy Martins allowed a very close approach which delighted the photographer in us. Double-barred Finches and Variegated Fairy-wrens were seen in the water side vegetation. Then at once Nick and I asked each other "did you hear Painteds?" and sure enough there were 10-15 PAINTED FIRETAILS preening in the scrub.
After booking into our accommodation in Mt. Isa we quickly ducked out to Sybella and Mica Creeks hoping for Kalkadoon Grasswren. They didn't show but we did add Varied Lorikeet and Collared Sparrowhawk to the trip list.
Day 5: We started the morning at the water tanks at the end of Pamela Street, Mt. Isa. Varied Lorikeets and Rainbow Bee-eater zoomed overhead and an Owlet-nightjar called once from his well hidden hollow. Then we saw movement. A small dark bird had jumped up onto the spinifex and disappeared quickly. Nick and Rob swear they saw a long stiff tail so we patiently wait for the bird to reappear. Then suddenly the bird reappears right in front of us....a SPINIFEXBIRD! Not what we were hoping for but still a much needed tick.We then drove north to the famous Lady Loretta mining road in the hope of seeing Carpentarian Grasswren. We couldn't find the cairn (at first) so just relied on information given to us and the two creeks described in the new Thomas & Thomas. The area was alive with birds. Black-tailed Treecreeper was first to be seen closely followed by Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Painted Firetail, Spinifexbird and Little Button-quail. After 2hrs of searching we heard a grasswren call. We slowly advanced on the bird until Rob spotted him quite high in a eucalypt. We advanced some more and after a bit of cat and mouse we eventually had great views of a single CARPENTARIAN GRASSWREN.
We then headed back to Mica Creek where we once again dipped on Kalkadoon but saw Black-tailed Treecreeper, Painted Firetail, Grey-headed and Grey-fronted Honeyeater and another Spinifexbird.
Last stop for the day was Pamela Street again. We didn't expect to see anything so all our cameras were left in the car to loosen the load. Of course what happens when cameras are left behind....the bird you want appears. Right beside the first water tank and only metres from the busy walking track there were three KALKADOON GRASSWRENS hopping around the rocks. We had great views as they eventually flew low across the track and down into the valley below. Rob had run back to the car to retrieve the cameras and we managed distant record shots.
Day 6: We spent the day at Lake Moondarra. What a great spot! We recorded 80 species and added a few to our trip and year lists. Highlights included: 50+ Painted Firetail, 7 Pictorella Mannikin, Spinifexbird, Great Bowerbird, Spotted Bowerbird, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Red-backed Kingfisher, Varied Lorikeet, Spinifex Pigeon, Comb-crested Jacana, Brolga, Black-necked Stork, Glossy Ibis and Green Pygmy-goose.Day 7: We had seen the three species we wanted to target in the Isa so we decided to target the Cloncurry subspecies of the Aust. Ringneck. We were told to search eucalypt lined waterways and we saw a pair at the first spot we tried! Beautiful pastel colours.
Nick and I then headed back to Lake Moondarra to try for some photos but the clouds had rolled in and the wind had picked up. We still saw some good birds including 70+ Varied Lorikeet, Crimson Chat, White-winged Fairy-wren and Silver-crowned Friarbird.Day 8: Left Mt. Isa before dawn and saw nothing until we were well past Cloncurry. At one point we had 8-10 Brown Songlark on the road, I've never seen so many in the one spot. Parrots were very common along the Gulf Development Rd with Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Varied Lorikeet and Red-winged Parrot all in good numbers. We eventually started seeing more and more Brolgas along the road and at Normanton we found a pair of Sarus Crane. Radjah Shelducks were also seen here and a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo heard.We booked into our accommodation at Karumba and headed to the mangroves. Yellow White-eye were very common and the occasional Red-headed Honeyeater shot past. Mangrove Gerygone called constantly.
In the ratty looking scrub behind the mangroves we stumbled upon a fair sized flock of Star Finches feeding in the seeding grasses. The huge majority of birds were juveniles which was nice to see but luckily for Rob he got to tick a good coloured male.Just before dark we headed to Karumba Point where we watched the sunset over the mudflats and ticked up two very obliging MANGROVE GREY FANTAIL, Nick's 600th species.
Day 9: Yellow Oriole was heard at the caravan park which was a bit of a surprise when we referred to their distribution maps in Slater and Pizzey. Anyone know if they're regular here?
After a fruitless attempt at Zitting Cisticola we boarded the Ferryman Cruise with Glenn and Alison. We couldn't have asked for a better morning. Brahminy Kite, Osprey and Sea-eagle soared overhead as we went from one patch of mangroves to the next. We had excellent views of Mangrove Grey Fantail, 4 Mangrove Golden Whistler, 3 Mangrove Robin, 4 Northern Fantail, 2 Little Bronze-cuckoo and 4 WHITE-BREASTED WHISTLERS! We had fantastic views of both male whistlers which really made the trip.
The afternoon was spent walking across grassy floodplains looking for cisticola. We dipped but did score 15+ Brown Quail and 4 RED-CHESTED BUTTON-QUAIL.
At the Karumba golf course we watched 100+ Red-tailed Black-cockatoo coming into roost at dusk and later that night a pair of Barking Owls calling to each other.Day 10: Heading off early paid off when two Spotted Nightjar flushed off the Gulf Development Road. Two Squatter Pigeon (race tick for me) and four Ground Cuckoo-shrike were seen east of Croydon.Cumberland Dam is a must return spot for us. We only spent 15min at a small puddle of water in the creek bed but managed to see White-eared Masked Finch, Black-rumped Black-throated Finch, Banded Honeyeater, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater and the northern Brown Treecreeper. Three race ticks in the one spot, not bad.We continued east and didn't stop until we hit the southern end of the Atherton Tablelands. Aust. Swiftlet were seen hawking south of Millaa Millaa. At a road side stop in the Wooroonooran National Park we found a very active feeding flock comprising of White-eared and Spectacled Monarch, Little and Bower's Skrike-thrush, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Grey Whistler and Varied Triller.
My main aim for the day was to see a Southern Cassowary. I missed this species last year when we were in the tropics and I was the only one in the car not to have seen one so I was pretty damn keen. Boy wasn't I surprised when we pulled up at Etty Bay to be confronted by a male CASSOWARY on the beach in front of us! What a moment. We saw three birds all up. Dusky Honeyeater was seen nearby.
Day 11. Our first stop for the day was Mission Beach. Cyclone Yasi has caused horrific damage to the Lacey Creek rainforest and bird numbers were pretty low, although it did make spotting a Wompoo Fruit-dove in the leafless trees extremely easy. We saw Rufous Fantail, Grey Whistler, Black Butcherbird and Azure Kingfisher here and heard a Noisy Pitta.
Tyto wetlands at Ingham was our next stop. Yellow Honeyeaters were everywhere. Crimson Finch and Red-backed Fairy-wren added a splash of colour to the greenery. I really wanted to see White-browed Robin again but it wasn't to be so we settled with Little Bronze-cuckoo, Forest Kingfisher, Fairy Gerygone, Leaden Flycatcher and two White-browed Crake. A Buff-banded Rail was seen crossing the carpark at the information centre.
Other birds seen on the drive south included Pacific Baza, Black-necked Stork, Aust. Bustard and Pied Oystercatcher.
Day 12. Its always nice when travelling the boring Bruce Hwy to stop at St. Lawrence to tick up the resident Cotton Pygmy-geese. Such cute little ducks. Pallid Cuckoo and Horsfield's Bronze were heard calling nearby.
Pacific Baza and Square-tailed Kite were both seen as we entered Rockhampton.
We were already pushed for time but decided a side step to Inskip Point was in order to search for Black-breasted Button-quail, a tick for Rob. After 45min walking around the point Nick spotted a pair 'circling' a few metres in front of us. They allowed a fairly close approach but managed to keep a few twigs between us and them. We were all stoked with our views.
By this stage it was getting dark and we made the last minute decision to try for Ground Parrot at Cooloola. Best move we could have made. As the sun sank below the horizon 2-3 birds started calling. Unfortunately there was no hope of seeing them in the dark so we decided to leave. As we drove up the track a bright green, long tailed parrot flew in front of the headlights and Nick had ticked up his long time bogey bird. What a fluke! We decided to try our luck again so we briefly played the Grass Owl call and almost immediately had two birds flying low over the heath in front of us! Three cracking birds in two hours birding, doesn't get any better.
Day 13. We started the day at Witches Falls at North Tamborine and it didn't take us long to find a single ALBERT'S LYREBIRD feeding beside the track. Noisy Pitta, Wonpoo Fruit-dove and Fan-tailed Cuckoo were also recorded here.
We then drove to Halloran Point in an attempt to see the South Island Pied Oystercatcher recently reported there. We arrived at the right time with the tide rising quickly but only managed to see Pied Oystercatchers. The pies and tarts we had for lunch while searching were well worth the trip.
We ended the day at O'Reillys guest house. Whilst waiting for night to fall we did the beginning of the Border Track and were amazed at how tame the birds were. Yellow Robin, Scrubwrens and whipbird foraged under our feet.
We tried for Marbled Frogmouth on the main road down from the guest house and failed although we did hear two birds calling and glimpsed one. Unfortunately not a tickable look. We did see a Southern Boobook at Canungra so the night wasn't a complete loss.
Day 14: We decided to have a relaxing start to the day and didn't get to O'Reillys until 11am. We watched the free flight raptor show and had lunch in the restaurant....completely not like us at all!!! We must be getting old...or our lists are getting too big. We wandered around and took lots of pics of Wonga Pigeon, King Parrot, Logrunner, Yellow-throated and Large-billed Scrubwrens and Fan-tailed Cuckoo until once again we were standing in the rainforest at night.
We didn't get a response at the spot we had two Froggies the night before so we continued on and at our second spot got an instant response. Its amazing how busy the O'Reilly's road is at night when there are a pair of Frogmouths very close by!! After what seemed like an eternity Rob caught a beautiful MARBLED FROGMOUTH in the spotlight and all got fantastic views until another bloody car come alone. Much celebration was had and for Nick and I it was our 12th and final tick for the trip.
Day 15: Home time. Bugger. Pretty boring trip down the Pacific Hwy. Highlights included two Brolga north of Grafton, one Green Pygmy-goose at Smith Lake (NSW tick) and a few Brahminy Kites along the road.
Our last stop for the trip was at Cattai Wetlands north of Taree where Rob ticked up Southern Emu-wren (his 54th and final tick), we put Forest Raven on the year list and four Forest Kingfishers put on the Hunter Valley list.
BOP counts: Maitland - Mt. Isa - Etty Bay - Maitland.
Black-shouldered Kite = 24
Pacific Baza = 2
Black Kite = 558
Square-tailed Kite = 1
Whistling Kite = 174
Collared Sparrowhawk = 2
Grey Goshawk = 1
Brahminy Kite = 14
Osprey = 3
White-bellied Sea-Eagle = 7
Little Eagle = 3
Wedge-tailed Eagle = 29
Spotted Harrier = 1
Black Falcon = 2
Brown Falcon = 90
Nankeen Kestrel = 186
Australian Hobby = 11
Barking Owl = 2
Southern Boobook = 1
Eastern Grass Owl = 2
Tawny Frogmouth = 3
Marbled Frogmouth = 2
Spotted Nightjar = 2
Aust. Owlet-nightjar = 1
Unidentified = 60
TOTAL = 1181
Also: Australian Bustard = 31 (No reason for counting, just a cool bird!)