Saturday, 4 April 2015

2014 Qld tour with the Birds Part 3 Savannah Way, Karumba, Lawn Hill NP, Central West Qld & Bowra / Cunnamulla

This chapter is the 3rd of 3 of chapters of photos I took whilst spending 4.5 mths on the road in north Queensland 2014.
This chapter dedicates my travels through inland Qld from beginning the Gulf Development Rd / Savannah Way from Georgetown to Karumba.
We called into Cobold Gorge approx 50 kms south of Georgetown. Common bush birds are everywhere where there's trees .......& water.......this Pale-headed Rosella takes advantage of the swimming pool water at the resort / camp ground instead of the lagoon below the pool.

Just 20 kms west of Georgetown is Cumberland Chimney free camp ground & lagoon.
It is quite a popular place to stop for the night & enjoy the bird life views from our camp spot were conducive  to sit in a chair & my hubby did........but I spent a couple of hrs walking leisurely around this beautiful place to find 58 different species of birds including plenty of Ducks, Magpie Geese, Jacanas, Honeyeaters, Finches & several other common bush birds.

Galahs are common all over Australia & are considered a pest around the grain cultivation regions as their numbers increase into their thousands due to an abundance of grain.
Their colours seem more vivid in the outback skies & cleaner air perhaps??

The Diamond Dove was also not far from the lagoon.

I had to walk 150 m along the access road, through the connecting cow paddock, with big cows everywhere around me, to get to the roadway.
Red-backed Kingfishers like to perch on power lines or fences.
I haven't seen this specie for over 3 yrs.

I had a little surprise with this pair of Black-throated Finch whilst on the main road......they appeared to be building a nest in between the 2 plates of this large sign. These birds are confined to just the northern parts of Qld, but sadly their numbers are endangered further south around the Galilee Basin where their habitat will be destroyed by mining :-(    (200 - 300 kms west of Mackay region)

In Croyden I didn't have to go far to find my 1st Paperbark Flycatcher for this trip......he was singing away in the Eucalypts in our van park & also a few other trees around town. The Paperbark flycatcher looks almost identical to the Restless Flycatcher. Their range don't overlap & their call is slightly different.

Out near the Croyden airport I found this Red-browed Pardolote in the bushes.

20kms east of Normanton is Leichardt Lagoon. We are camped right beside this beautiful lagoon for the night for the small fee of $16. This private property camp is very popular with the tourists who can live with out 240v power.
The water is receding, but is still plentiful to sustain plenty of bird life with 55 species being seen in the 20 hrs we were there.

I walked a few kms down to the nearby Leichardt River to find this Pied's a distant photo that is cropped. Pied Herons are wetland birds of northern Australia.

Out the back of our van was this White-necked Heron looking for it's next meal.

We stayed a few nights in Karumba Point caravan park. There were a few endemic birds to be found around this area.
I heard the Mangrove Golden Whistler on the other side of the mangroves near the airport.
I missed 2 other endemics - Mangrove Robin & White-breasted Whistler as no birdwatching boats went out whilst we were in Karumba :-(

Sarus Crane, Brolgas, Raptors, Shore birds at low tide, Jabiru, Honeyeaters, a few Duck species, Finchs, Mangrove birds & other bush birds were amongst the 72 species I saw whilst there for 4 days.

I found Yellow-white Eyes near the mangroves near the airport.

Also in the same mangroves was a pair of  Mangrove Grey Fantail. This bird can only be found along the coastal margins from the Gulf of Carpentaria to about Broome region in WA, then a little further south around Carnarvon in WA. They are very similar to the Grey Fantail, but call will separate the 2 species.

During the wet season, the flat Gulf regions become huge flood plains with bulging rivers & creeks spreading out. The birds spread out far & wide as well.  As the dry season progresses, all flood plains become dry with just pockets of lagoons making birding easier early in the dry season.
More permanent wetlands are popular closer to the next wet season. During the wet season, the floodplains spread up to 30 kms inland from the Gulf coastline. The wetlands in this area are created from the Norman River.

Radjah Shelduck were using this small lagoon near the road in Karumba, so finding this bird didn't take any effort. They were on private property, so I had to use full zoom on the camera & crop the photo.

A Brown Falcon sat on a post in the distance waiting for it's next meal.

As we left the Karumba area early in the day, we flushed plenty of Australian Pratincole from the road side closer to Normanton.

We hit the gravel roads again west of Normanton on our way towards Burketown.
Kangaroo road kill are common on western roads, sometimes is might be a stray cow. We encountered many road kill &  many Raptors, Black Kite are common as they scavenge for meat & devour the carcass. Many Kite were already higher in the air by the time I got my camera ready for this shot.

We stopped the night at a very pretty free camp called Leichardt Falls, 150 kms west of Normanton. This section of the river is mostly rock bed & the name Leichardt Falls gets its name during the wet season when the eroded rock of a very swollen Leichardt River has several drops creating falls.
The main falls are this drop to the pool below.

There's plenty of fish in the several lagoons....enough to sustain several saltwater crocodile & this White-bellied Sea-Eagle.

Next morning I could see several pigeon shaped birds flying up from the sides of the road. I had hubby stop for me to take a look & I was able to ID Flock Bronzewing.
Again I had to keep my distance so as to get photos.

We stopped for a short drink break @ the Burketown Bore, flowing since 1897......the minerals in the water is unsuitable for drinking, but the wetlands created nearby attracts several birds including Black-fronted Dotterals.

Our next stay for a 5 days (2 & 3 respectively) was to be Adel's Grove & Lawn Hill NP (Boodjamulla NP)
Amongst the 45 bird species around Adel's Grove I found Black-throated Finch's, 6 different Honeyeater species, Northern Fantail, Barking Owl, 100's of Budgerigar's, Fairy-wrens including the Purple-crowned, lots of other bush birds & my 1st ever Grey Falcon. This bird flew low & slowly overhead, enough for me to get great views to ID it. I didn't have my camera with me though that time :-(
In the very shady camping area of The Grove were a few Buff-sided Robin flying around.
These non shy birds (like most Robins) was easy to photograph.

In the open areas around the rest of the camp ground was great birding as well.

Several Varied Lorikeet were feeding on the pale pink blossoms of this not so tall Eucalypt tree.

Banded Honeyeaters were also feeding in the same tree.

There were several Great Bowerbird bowers. This male performs a display to attract a female for mating.
She checks out his handy work.....

I found Crimson Finchs down by the Lawn Creek. These birds are common across most of the top regions of Australia.

We moved camp to be inside the National Park - Boodjamulla.

We went for a 7 km return walk from our camp ground to along the top of the Lawn Hill Gorge.
A few sections we down beside Lawn Creek where the 100 m high cliffs tower over the beautiful creek.

I heard a couple of Sandstone Shrike-thrush & was able to photograph this 1 as it perched 20 m above me. Their calls can be heard well before you get to any where near the areas they like to perch on.
These birds are found amongst escarpments & rocky ledges across the top of NT & WA, with Lawn Hill Gorge it's eastern most range in Qld.

I found an Olive-backed Oriole along the lush tree lined creek.

Rufous-throated Honeyeaters were feeding late in the afternoon near the information centre.

I took our kayak down the 1st gorge after lunch for a slow leisurely paddle bird watching.
Whilst paddling past a rocky slope that goes into the water I noticed about a dozen Spinifex Pigeon walking down for their afternoon drink. I was able to stay & watch each 1 of them take a drink until all had quenched their thirst.

I got up early on our last morning in the NP. I only needed to walk around the camp ground as we are only about 30 m from the creek. Birds were busy in chorus as they do after sunrise.

Over the previous 5 days, I had been getting disappointing photos of the Purple -crowned Fairy-wren as they foraged on the ground & amongst the Pandanas Palms along the creek tracks. These birds are endemic to this region & into Northern Territory & again across the NT & WA border.
To my very surprise I found a pair around another campers car......He started on the roof awning & then moved down to the shiny exterior rear view mirror.....I shot off 10 photos as he plied an insect off the mirror.

Once we left Lawn Hill NP, we headed south through Riversleigh, the famous region for ancient fossils. I would like to mention that this section of road was by far the worst piece of road we have ever driven on. It wasn't that corrugated as the road had been recently graded. It was that the road grader had split the rocks into sharp edged pieces. Driver hubby did an excellent job in keeping all 8 tyres on the road intact.
After reaching the Barkly Hwy, we headed west to stay a night at the very popular Camooweal Lagoon, just west of the town with the same name. There are a few kms of camp spots beside the Leichardt River that is now drying up leaving several lagoons.
The bird life is what everyone comes to watch.

The afternoon we arrive was quite windy & these Little Corella's were on the ground all fluffed up to stay warm..... I presumed......

Zebra Finch foraged on the ground near peoples camp sites looking for morsels of seed.

Back on the Barkly Hwy the next morning, we came across 5 Wedge-tailed Eagles lifting off the bitumen from a road kill animal.

Mt Isa was our next destination 190 kms east.  Approximately 70 kms west of Mt Isa was my 1st destination for a particular bird that usually inhabits an area around rocky outcrops with spinifex grass.....the road is a mine access road that appeared to be a public road as well. (no signs to say no access) . It was late morning & the temperatures were rising over 32*. It was hot going, but I persevered for an hour.
I had fairly good locational information from Eremaea eBird, but it was over 4 wks old.

Whilst traipsing around the area looking for my target bird I came across this Black-tailed Treecreeper - a new specie for my life list, so I was very surprised & pleased.

After about 45 mins I heard my target bird. A pair of very cute looking Carpentarian Grasswrens. They were quite shy & if I approached too close they would fly to another rocky outcrop.
It was with some luck that I was behind a forked tree to obtain several photos before I left them alone. I'm hoping that their survival will continue as not many pairs are seen in Qld. They are mostly seen in the Mt Isa region & north west into NT towards Borroloola.
They are in a mining access area. I'm hoping that the "head honchoes" knows there's a vulnerable bird specie out in the scrub next to their busy road.

Mt Isa is very spread out & our caravan park was on the outskirts of town.
We are along the almost dry Leichardt River with just a few waterholes left.
I found several dozen Budgerigars nesting in Eucalypt tree hollows.
I also saw several Varied Lorikeet in these trees.

I had to venture south of Mt Isa & past Mica Creek to find my next main target bird.
I saw a few Grey-headed Honeyeater along the very dry sandy creek bed. I hadn't seen this bird since Kings Canyon in 2011.

My information for the Kalkadoon Grasswren was also drawn from Eremaea eBird. This information was 4 mths old, so I again was possibly looking for a needle in a haystack. The information said 300m west from the road along the creek. I had to walk around further along the creek until I found 3 Kalkadoon Grasswrens about 400 m away from the road. Just 1 bird showed on rocks & twigs for quick photos before I left as it was 12 MD & hot again.
The Kalkadoon Grasswren has been split from the Dusky Grasswren  found in central Australia.
Both birds are very similar in appearance.
Kalkadoon Grasswren are only found in the Mt Isa - Boulia region.

Lake Moondarra is Mt Isa's main water supply. There has been a drought for the previous 2 summers & water levels are low. Bird life around the dam is fairly good with me seeing 60 bird species for about 5 hrs of birding around different sections of the lake.

Jack Winter are  part of the Flycatcher family. Plain grey in colour, but it has a very distinctive call.

On the southern side of the lake I saw several Australian Pratincole moving about where cows also graze.

There were also Australian Pipit in this area as well.

Whilst in Mt Isa, I also went to the Waste Water Treatment plant. After obtaining permission from the workers at the office I walked amongst the several large ponds of waste water, all in various stages of recycling from raw waste material to cleaner water.
The cleaner water ponds were quite popular for hundreds of Pink Eared Ducks & Hardheads.
Over 100 birds have been seen collectively by birders over the years of visiting there.

We stayed a night @ Corella Dam about 50 kms east of Mt Isa. A disused mine site dam, this dam is now a great destination for those wanting a few nights free camping beside a very picturesque dam & do a little fishing whilst there.
We took the kayak off the roof of the car & after hubby had his turn leaving some crayfish pots out I paddled up to 1 km up the dam. Besides seeing several bird species down the other end & away from the crowds I also encountered up to a dozen Fresh water Crocodiles.....harmless to humans, but worrying that they're there in the 1st place.
Whilst walking around the bush areas I came across a Variegated Fairy-wren family. 1 disappeared down into the grasses. When I had a look I saw a nest......

I also found Spotted Bowerbirds.

We stopped a night in tiny town Kynuna.....population 12. It's a couple hundred kms each way to a larger town. So remote that the very busy road that runs through the town isn't enough to have the telecommunication tower switched on for mobile phone service.
The Brolga likes to call the caravan park home.

We arrived @ my families cattle property (where I grew up)  in the Charleville area to stay a week with them.
I love to go birding around this property that includes a large dam that when full looks like a small lake & with bird life that matches. Sadly it's been dry for 2 summers, so the dam water levels are quite low & there are only a few species of water birds about.
I did for the 1st time though add Sharp-tailed Sandpipers to my list of 115 species for the property.

There are plenty of species to find within 1 km of the house.
I saw several pairs of Restless Flycatchers around the area.

A very popular area for Thornbills is just 1 km from the house amongst the Mulga.
 To my surprise I found 2 more species of Thornbills, making it a total of 4 different species of Thornbills there.
This 1 is Chestnut-rumped Thornbill.

Whilst looking for Thornbills, I flushed a pair of Speckled Warblers from the ground which sadly disappeared quickly.
I then saw a Black-eared Cuckoo whilst looking for the Warblers....a new bird to my life list & both new to the list for this property.

A minute later I saw a pair of  Varied Sittella fly in.

Another minute after those 3 previous bird finds, I spotted a Yellow Thornbill.

I also located a couple of Inland Thornbills in the same set of trees.
I had been observing the Chestnut-rumped & Yellow-rumped Thornbills there for up to 2 years.

It was an exciting 30 minutes of birding on that short outing :-)

Blue-faced Honeyeater were in the Gum trees beside the dry creek near the house.

Also here were Yellow-throated Miner.

Hopping around the house yard is a very large family of Superb Fairy-wren. These birds are not shy as they move about within 3 m of us when sitting in the shade under the house.

Australian Ring neck Parrots loved this weed in the yard.

Zebra Finch were frequently in the house yard. Double-barred & Plum-headed were also coming into the house yard.

Red-winged Parrots came & went on their way to drink at the water troughs.

Hooded Robin also liked the area outside the house yard. I saw plenty out in the paddocks as well.

Squatter Pigeon also walked past the house yard.

Brown Treecreeper are seen mostly foraging on the ground rather than climbing trees like other Treecreepers.

A little further away from the house are a family of White-winged Fairy-wren.....I couldn't find the male though.

Out on the dwindling large dam many water birds are still hanging about. Seen were a pair of Pink-eared Duck along with Pacific Blacks, Grey Teals, Wood Ducks, Black Swans, Egrets, Darters, Little Pied & Little Black Cormorants, Pelicans, White-necked Herons, Yellow-billed Spoonbill.
There's even a pair of white-bellied Sea-eagle there who nest each year.
Black-fronted Dotterals, Black-winged Stilts also love the muddy water edges.

I observed Major-mitchell Cockatoos also, along with several species of other parrots & Rosella's

A pair of Australian Grebe on the large dam.

Crested Bellbird were seen further out on the ridges amongst the Mulga & Brush Box.

Most of the birds on my list for this private property have been seen by the property owner throughout his lifetime of living here. He does say that since the eradication of feral cats & foxes the bird life has increased dramatically.

We then moved onto Bowra, a property owned by Australian Wildlife Conservancy, outside Cunnamulla SW Qld. Most people who visit Bowra are either avid birders or photographers.
(My Sony camera with 20 mp & 50 optical zoom  paled into insignificance when compared to the photographers cameras ....)
Several days stay is necessary to discover what Bowra birding has to offer.

Most birders who use Eremaea eBird website, use the main site that covers all of Bowra Station where 221 species of birds have been recorded.
Bowra station has year round care takers (voluntary & rostered)  who observe birds on a daily basis as they go about their daily chores & submit to this site for records.

You don't have to walk far to find great birding -  within 1 km radius of the homestead & camp ground. There's a small lagoon in the camp ground that the birds love.
136 bird species have been observed (collectively ) around the homestead & camp ground to the Bore Drain.

Plum-headed Finchs were in large numbers.

Bowra is known for 3 different species of Babbler.
This specie is the Chestnut-crowned Babbler, seen around the camp ground.

 A few Fairy Martins were using ponds of water following recent rain to gather mud for nest building in the shearing quarters.

Wedge-tailed Eagle seen flying overhead. I also saw my 1st sighting of a Little Eagle during this visit. Several Raptor species have been observed @ Bowra.

I & many other birders walked around the area between the camp ground & Bore Drain early morning or late afternoon most days.
Some birds I took photos of included White-winged Triller.

A pair of Bourke's Parrot were seen to go into a nest in this tree.

Red-browed Pardolote were also about.

Singing Honeyeater were seen in amongst the heavier timbered section near the Bore Drain.

Also seen were Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters.

A family of White-winged Fairy-wren also lived near the Bore Drain. Sadly the bird was at a distance, so it's heavily zoomed & cropped photo.

I saw 2 Pallid Cuckoo's in the Bore Drain area.

A pair of Southern White-face were using this dead  tree for their new nest.

 A male Mistletoebird was also around the camp ground.
When checking in to the camp ground we were given mud maps of the roads we could access for more great birding spots.

Saw Pits Waterhole along Gumholes Creek has 49 different species listed there.

White-browed Woodswallows were frequently seen here & around the camp ground.

I saw a few Little Woodswallows in the Gum trees along the creek.

Also in this area were the Black-faced Woodswallow.

(I saw 5 different Woodswallow species during my 5 day visit to Bowra) with the White-breasted Woodswallow being seen at the camp ground)

There was much debating between a few birders @ 6 pm bird call as to whether this bird, which is 1 of a pair who were nesting in nearby trees is a Collared Sparrowhawk or a Brown Goshawk.
My opinion is that they were the former as their size didn't appear to be Goshawk size. ( I stand to be corrected in the comments section at the end of this chapter  if you can confirm differently)

Another popular section to visit is Stony Ridge area...... When looking for birds here you need to go in through the fence from the road & walk around amongst the Mulga trees.

Here I saw a family of Halls' Babbler. These birds range is confined to SW Qld & NW NSW.

Whilst looking for the Hall's Babbler, I heard the Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush. I knew they would be around here as per other birders reports. I spotted a pair, but they kept their distance & this male was a good 75 m from me.

 In another section along the main track to the Stony Ridge - there are plenty of places to just pull over to look around amongst the Mulga trees for other bird species.

 I only saw the Splendid Fairy-wren in 2 sections - 1 being near the Stony ridge & the other on the track to the ridge. They too kept their distance, so getting a good photo was challenging.

The Red-capped Robin was also about.

On my last morning @ Bowra I  walked down to the Bore Drain again for another chance of seeing the Blue Bonnet (parrot) that had been seen a few days earlier by another birder. (I was sadly disappointed)
I did find a couple of Major-Mitchell Cockatoos eating berries from a tree top.

A couple of Red Kangaroos came in to the full Bore Drain for an early morning drink. Red 'roos are the male of species with Blue being the females.

After Bowra we motored east towards Warwick district. We stopped a night @ Lake Coolmunda with Mosquito Creek Rd being a popular place for birding. I saw more White-winged Fairy-wren in the paddocks.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill like to feed along the ground, so taking pics of them is sometimes easier.
They have the prettiest of songs.

 I also saw a pair of Blue Bonnet along this road that has 159 bird species over the years.

I also birded in the Durikai State Forest with my  Birds Queensland group who were in the area for a weekend camp of birding.
This is the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater that came in to drink & bathe in the nearby dam.
 The Durikai Dam is very popular for birds coming in for drinks & bathing, so sitting in the cool of the shade & waiting for the birds to come in was amazing.

Also at the dam were Little Lorikeet. It's not often a birder will see these little fellows down so low from the tops of the tree canopy, but a few came in for a drink this afternoon.

 My 4.5 month trip was completed following that w/e. We had travelled approximately 14,500 kms through out Qld.

I made 4,632 specie observations, (not including the number of each specie at each site)
with 353 different species for the trip.
Approximately 75 of those species were new to my "life" list.
Approx 163 birding lists were entered to Eremaea eBird.