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Carnarvon Gorge Tour Report

Red-winged Parrot
Red-winged Parrot by Christina Port
Day 1 Wednesday 21 May 2021 Arrive Roma Queensland

Arriving in Roma, away from the cities and airports, straight into central Queensland country town bowling club for dinner. What a relief. The only birds heard were Rainbow Lorikeets settling down for the night on the other side of the northern road that would lead us to Carnarvon Gorge tomorrow. It was too dark to see and night-spotting was the last thing on anyone’s mind, being far too excited and chatty as the group bonded instantly. Another happy relief.

Day 2 Thursday 22 May Roma to Carnarvon Gorge

7.00am and the early birders heard Singing and Brown Honeyeaters at the back of the motel and whizzing Blue-faced Honeyeaters before a quick drive through Roma’s Queensland pub edifices and deep guttered street to…the STW, where else would a good birder go to catch first light. This was a tremendous spot, not just for the water birds – Grey Teal, Black Swan, Australasian Grebe and Black-winged Stilt, – but the surrounds held paddocks with Galahs first bird of the day and then a surprised Pheasant Coucal sat and then flew displaying beautiful plumage in the fast rising golden light. Pale-headed Rosellas scooted past. The miners were all Noisy Miners and it was not until the last day that we could confidently ID and get good views of the more exciting Yellow-throated Miners up close and personal.

Moving to the other side of the ponds Red-winged Parrots stole the show as they landed in a mistletoe-laden acacia and fed on the berries. Their colour with the sun rising behind us was breathtaking and everyone got a good photo. The hardened birders walked away, down to Bimblebox trees that had many calls, Spiny-cheeked leading us on, and managed Mistletoebird again in the spectacular light. Blue-faced Honeyeaters arrowed across the paddocks with their soon-to-become-familiar distinctive flight pattern, and call.

Caper White Christina Port
Caper White by ChristinPort
After breakfast the 2 Wedged-tailed Eagles, a Black Kite and many Whistling Kites helped birdy the passing scenery. The Red-winged Parrots were also flashing us as they zoomed past. (zoomers perhaps Bernice?) Gunnewin Stock Route not far from Injune treated us to 4 Plum-headed Finches, a first for many of the group, and always a pleasure to encounter. The same cumbungee-edged dam had 2 Double-barred Finches.

At Injune there were White-winged Choughs at the servo and a White-breasted Woodswallow hightailed it at our approach.

A fast drive to lunch saw 3 Brolgas descending from the sky Mary Poppins like to join another 4 in the paddock – magnificent! Gosh we like Queensland! An Emu strolled in the verdant crop, more Wedge-tailed Eagles arriving to a great lunch at the wonderful Carnarvon Wilderness Lodge where we had 3 glorious days of eating, walking and birding in Carnarvon Gorge.

At Rocky Creek we wandered in the afternoon to acclimatise and we didn’t get far due to a flock of 30 White-naped Honeyeaters neck-breaking views in the canopy high above were broken up by Grey Fantails and Striated Pardalotes fast becoming a welcome constant. The male Red-backed Fairy-wren wowed the crowd and was at happy sedge height as were the Red-browed Finches, with juveniles brought out from hiding by 2 Grey Fantails who were scolding something on the ground further along beside the creek. On the island in the Carnarvon Creek there was a Little Pied Cormorant further upstream.

Evening came early but that meant dinner – a fabo 3 course affair.

Local guide Simon Ling led the spotlighting for the evening. Despite a shower of rain at the start it turned into a magic night (not least because it rained so that we could see the zooming bugs in the torchlight while it rained and our eyes pixelated being only able to take in 24 frames per second) in a wilderness area alive with nocturnal animals. An Echidna foraged happily if we stood still; we were allowed to talk which was essential for this group. We had great views as the large spiny animal waddled about investigating logs (which should be left on the ground to rot for these and many other animals and insect life) giving the best we’d ever seen. A Greater Glider looked at us while we looked at “him”, such a big long bushy tail and large eyes and ears, all the better to…observe you with. Over the creek a Yellow-bellied Glider scurried about the tree and finally jumped to wow us with a perfect yellow belly! What a day: grateful for a close bed we departed.

Squatter Pigeon Christina Port
Squatter Pigeon by Christina Port
Day 3 Friday 23 May Carnarvon Gorge

An early morning stroll part of the way to Baloon Cave starting with slowly lit treetops to reveal Pale-headed Rosellas. The heavy downpour the night before had left the grasses and trees green and sparkling with rainbow droplets, a freshness that belied the warmth that was to come during the late afternoon. King Parrots were heard in the distance, as were Noisy Friarbirds and then Red-backed Fairy-wrens delighted, crowning the jewelled sedges. Breakfast called but we returned to the rest of walk afterwards, starting from the other end watching a mob of Eastern Queensland Rock Wallabies nimbly negotiating the huge rock outcrop that forms a boulder to be reckoned with, ancient from the creek of 24 million years prior. Encountering a Rose Robin female among the Grey Fantails and pardalotes with her blushing breast held us in the Carnarvon Gorge Fan Palms for a good while, finally pushing on to the Aboriginal cave stencils and a mixed flock of thornbills that proved testing to say the least alongside a small rainforest creek. Striated, Yellow and Buff-rumped was the final verdict. Butterflies, flowers and Moreton Bay Ash dominated the rest of the walk back to the Lodge.

Mickey Creek with Simon was full of interesting facts eg Wooly Mealybugs (huge) though the Red-backed Fairy-wrens uphill and easily viewed held us up long enough to discover a group of Variegated Fairy-wrens in the same territory. Plenty of tucker here! Our first great views of White-browed Scrubwrens in undergrowth beside ground orchids; Mosquito and Nodding Greenhood Orchids won our hearts. Unfortunately the wind came up and threatened crashing branches so we headed to the Day Use Picnic Area where it bucketed down leaving the soaring bluff shrouded in mist and us drenched but happy. A Wood Moth casing recently pulled from the ground and eaten had left only the “soup” stage of the moth, which never came to flight mode. White-winged Chough youngsters were shepherded around, Pied Currawong noted and lots of quiet-as-a-mouse (just kidding) Sulphur-crested Cockatoos that were stripping the Fan Palms for sustenance.

Varied Sittella christina Port
Varied Sittella by Christina Port
Day 4 Saturday 24 May Carnarvon Gorge

Beautiful morning after rain during the night, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, absolutely stunning weather reigned. We had been out already walking quickly to the end of Mickey Creek to complete our side gorge experience but not that many birds of note just the usual fantails, pardalotes, parrots with River Sheoaks heavy with dewdrops.

Simon then met us for a walk to Bodimba Bluff. We all used the stepping stones across Carnarvon Creek after much anticipation and a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike flew over as we crossed which not everyone saw having their minds on other more balanced orientation. Plenty of White-winged Choughs in the grounds and the track was firm-packed sand after the rain overnight, a bonus. The Striated Pardalotes were at eye level as the track wound higher, a welcome change for viewing these splendid little birds and there were Spotted Pardalotes too; Yellow, Striated and Buff-rumped Thornbills flew high in the canopy this time. Simon pointed out Weebill and the Blue-faced Honeyeaters were feeding in the incisions in the Ash and Blue Gums of the gliders from the previous night. There were Coffee Plants blooming and terrestrial orchids again plus Rock Walhenbergia pale bluebell shaped flowers. Also the regular purple pea-shaped walhenbergia and dianella as we went up up up. A tremendously satisfying walk.

To complete this picture Christina found us a Squatter Pigeon to view at length as opposed to the flash photography of Bernice as she had seen one the day before, briefly. It was a beauty, fat and waddly with marked black and white striped face and a flight laboured and anxious due to our squeals of delight no doubt.

After lunch and the Squatter Pigeon we went to Simon’s house/container and were told about Quinine trees as the Apostlebirds cuddled and looked on. Moving down the road we stopped for parrots but puzzled over a continuous call that turned out to be a White -breasted Woodswallow. While we were looking up 2 White-necked Herons thermalled. Over the other side of the road Grey-crowned Babblers led us on. Suddenly 60 Zebra finches were up and 3 Budgerigars joined them. Despite the heat some crossed to a very birdy copse that turned up a flock of 40 Plum-headed Finches, 2 Restless Flycatchers, 10 White-breasted Woodswallows, a family of 4 Rufous Whistlers, Double-barred Finches in the long seeding paddock grasses, Red-backed Fairy-wrens, and 3 very white headed Varied Sitellas. And the parrots that stopped us – Red-winged dazzling in the late arvo sunlight. On the return journey home to the Lodge there were lots of oohs and ahs as some Pale-headed Rosellas followed beside the bus. Tired but happy we enjoyed our last 3 course dinner, with warm chocolate pudding!

Wedge-tailed Eagles Christina Port
Wedge-tailed Eagles by Christina Port
Day 5 Sunday 25 May Carnarvon Gorge to Theodore

Early brekkie then away to the Carnarvon Road, a long drive out, only because there were so many birds to watch!

  A sitting Bustard delighted first-timers and even old timers when it rose and strutted through the verdant crop. Red-backed Fairy-wren females led us a dance preluding two regal Wedge-tailed Eagles perching close and cuddly. Oooo the rusty-red on the back of the neck was a rare treat. Brolgas close by the road were well spotted by Christina and enjoyed through the scope as they elegantly dawdled away from us, noisy as usual with oohs and ahs.

  Out of Moura the Lianga Memorial Dam somewhat reduced but tempting for us to stride across the dried alluvial soil to spy 30 Pink-eared Ducks, 20 Red-necked Avocets, 6 Black-fronted Dotterels, Hardheads, Grey Teal and Pacific Black Duck. Australian Pipits had led us on.

Through to Theodore a darling central Queensland hotel in a well-maintained small town. Zebra and Double-barred Finches were on the front lawns and Lewin’s Honeyeaters in the beautiful flowering gardens.

Carnarvon Group 2014 by Christina Port
Day 6 Monday 26 May Theodore to Roma and Home

After brekkie we wandered across the road to the marvellous walkway the locals have built beside the Dawson River tributary. The highlight was a view of the White-throated Gerygone but equally enjoyable were male Figbird, Noisy Friarbird, Zebra and Double-barred Finches, Rufous Whistlers, the now common Red-backed Fairy-wren and Brown Honeyeater.

Leaving town we followed the channel irrigation, passing adult Sea-eagles perched majestically in the tree and a distant Wedge-tailed Eagle.  We found a dozen Golden-headed Cisticolas, Straw-necked Ibis in the cotton paddock, great views of Striated Pardalotes in the morning light at eye level and most wonderful Blue-winged Kookaburras.

  Isla Gorge’s wattled ridges had a Spangled Drongo fly through the rugged sandstone peaks, as our highlight.

Weebills attended lunch at Taroom and Brown Honeyeaters feeding on flowering Mistletoe entertained while queued for toilets.

  We headed back to Roma airport very happy and satisfied with a wonderful trip enjoyed by everyone.
Thank you Christina for the wonderful driving and assistance to the guide.
To the birdwatchers who made this all possible: Jane, Margie, Brenda, Bernice, Ruth and Jean, lots of wonderful memories to relive in dreamy moments.

By Janene Luff guiding for FTB

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Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer