Day 1 Sunday 7 May 2017
Not more than 100mtrs in the airport car park and we ground to a halt for two Ground Cuckoo-shrikes in beautiful golden arvo light - what a surprise! And start for the tour. Great view of the forked tail and their unique tinkling call. Day one travel day Sydney to Charleville ended with a Cosmos star viewing show that the birders love.
Day 2 Monday 8 May
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters showcased outside our rooms at first light in a flowering ironbark that also attracted a mixed flock of Brown-headed, Brown, Blue-faced Honeyeaters with Yellow-throated Miners. Things were humming in the backyard. Steve also spotted the Ground Cuckoo-shrikes again and the single resident Straw-necked Ibis strutted across the lawns. Breakfast called us away from a rising Black Kite. The Charleville industrial area back road added Red-capped Robin, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and White-backed Swallows. Down beside the mighty Warrego River Pale-headed Rosella gave eye-level views from the levy bank, Black-fronted Dotterels scurried on glittering mud, a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike was compliant right in front of us and the fine weather enhanced the continuing buoyant conditions.
On the road to Quilpie another Red-capped Robin pulled us up for a scramble through the mulga with first of a few Grey Shrike-thrushes for the day but the blokes were bamboozled so we pushed on, halted only by a call of "herons" (perfect, Steve) just before the Ward River which turned out to be 3 magnificent Brolgas, well done!).
Brian IDed a female Hooded Robin before glorious Major Mitchell Cockatoos flew by with the sun shining through apricot-pink wings.
We drove straight through to Quilpie and after a break drove back to the Bulloo River walk which was quiet at first but as the sun set an Olive-backed Oriole flew, a Collared Sparrowhawk stunned us with "best views ever" overhead, dad Emu with 3 juveniles walked the flood plain, a Jacky Winter posed for a shot with the rising moon beside a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and two Mistletoebirds sat patiently awaiting our ID.
Last stop of the day was by the town cooling ponds where 30 Black-tailed Native-Hens "chooked around" this way and that, as chooks do.
Day 3 Tuesday 9 May
Little Corellas flocked in early morning skies with the promise of another perfect day. The first 11km of the drive from Quilpie was slow as we stopped for a flock of 30 Chirruping Wedgebills, Chestnut-crowned Babblers, plenty of Grey Shrike Thrushes and the irritating lone woodswallow which was always Black-faced. By lunchtime at Kyabra Creek the Red-browed Pardalote was very welcome replying to playback and showing well. Next stop was courtesy of Steve's research and worked perfectly to bag 3 Hall's Babblers and a White-browed Treecreeper, easy. Go Steve! A Nankeen Kestrel during the drive was only eclipsed by a Brown Falcon on our first walk in Windorah before dinner and then an Australian Hobby outdid both of them. A flock of 70 Zebra Finches followed us to the water tank where a Restless Flycatcher called. Yet another female Red-capped Robin entertained us before we were disappointed by no Spotted Nightjars where they have been previously...more research needed into "partly migratory"? (May-Sept migrate north)
The 7 veggies at dinner won hearts as we plotted the next day's stakeout...
Day 4 Wednesday 10 May
Up early for another fruitless vigil for, yes, Night Parrot, although Red-tailed Black Cockatoos flying over gave us hope as the sun rose. After a nature-tour drive pigs were the wild card and generic plant signs entertaining before a mega breakfast was enjoyed. Red sandhills dominated the next couple of hours with a Brown Falcon chewing on an ex-something and close-ups of more chewing on the ground by 8 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos - stunning. Next an Orange Chat caused book/app reviews as did a Variegated Fairy-wren atop a flowering Bloodwood on a very high sandhill that had the leader calling grasswren...no, just wishful. Four more Orange Chats and we wrapped up for lunch at Whitula Creek.
A late arvo walk to the cemetery brought great views of the Zebra Finches with last season's nests and 20 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flying to roost.
Plotting again for an after dinner drive with playback resulted only in exceptionally lovely full moon landscapes and a sense of wonder.
Day 5 Thursday 11 May
Quilpie Windorah Road
500 hundred waking Little Corellas greeted the dawn and a morning's birding around Windorah before our flight to Birdsville. We took the road to Jundah to see if the budding bloodwoods had burst into flower in that area, like the red sandhill on the Birdsville road but they were still in bud. That didn't stop us enjoying the numerous Wedge-tailed Eagles, Zebra Finches, Black-faced Woodswallows, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos and Red-capped Robins. A Brown Falcon sat for photos and Variegated Fairy-wrens were really just that - variegated!
The stunning flight to Birdsville riveted us to the windows of the largely empty plane and deposited us in a new environment that did not fail to wow the patrons. We found Yellow-billed Spoonbills on a dead tree in the billabong with one Royal Spoonbill and an Intermediate Egret. Black-tailed Native-Hen led to a run for the oval to see 4 Orange Chats casually feeding there with a Crimson Chat and Australian Wood Ducks. Further on at the Dreamtime Walk a Little Grassbird sang before Brian spotted a Red-backed Kingfisher that sat dropping its head to show off the salt & pepper stripes. Blue Bonnets dawdled in the shade of thickly leaved eucalypts, a quick Nankeen Night-Heron disappeared into lignum, winter Hoary-headed Grebes strained our IDing skills, Grey Teal and a single Red-kneed Dotterel added variety to this exceptional walk, all very exciting. Dinner with riesling was wonderful and we retired early, dead beat.
Day 6 Friday 12 May
An early walk to the western outskirts of town yielded close-up views of Crimson and Orange Chats; no long-shot Gibberbird.
A huge breakfast from friendly Birdsville staff set us happily flying over the channels again (in a plane) back to Windorah. After a false start (fuel gauge giving an empty reading instead of full) we headed to Jundah. The now usual culprits delighted our spirits and the trend of Spotted Bowerbirds whizzing by continued. A flock of 50 Spinifex Pigeons bowled us over and continuous good views of these characters put the sparkle back on the afternoon. Diamond Doves also checked in, in good numbers. We added White-necked Heron close to the Thomson River which had plenty of water in it. On the return journey 3 Major Mitchell Cockatoos starred, eating paddy melons and posing for the camera. Clouds were seen, a first for the tour, just to spice up the sunset.
Day 7 Saturday 13 May
After a late start departing at 9.00am we cleared the channels and fabulous Coopers Creek heading towards Jundah where January flooding of the Thomson has made the country bloom. We encountered Nankeen Kestrels, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Red-capped Robin, Zebra Finches and also added Yellow-rumped Thornbills, a Dusky Woodswallow (thank goodness after the hundreds of single Black-faced Woodswallows we had seen everywhere else), 4 Pink-eared Ducks at a beautiful waterhole where 3 Emu scooped beakfuls of water; 4 Grey Teal mixed in, 5 Black-fronted Dotterel cheeped, ran and flew contentedly, Spinifex Pigeons perched on a mound surveying Channel Country heaven, a young White-necked Heron with purple burgundy neck presided and Pacific Black Duck paddled happily. There were Crimson Chats, Chestnut-crowned Babblers, a male Orange Chat on a fence wire, a Crested Bellbird sat and sang well - defending his territory from that nasty recorded bird - and a small flock of Blue Bonnets gathered on the ground feeding on recently seeding Spinifex Grass. Australian Ringnecks flew from budding bloodwoods on a beautiful red sandhill and the magnificent country rolled on. A splendid day.
Day 8 Sunday 14 May
Tired, we'd completely lost interest in Night Parrot hunting so rose, relaxed for the drive back to Quilpie. Also the road had been "cleaned up"/cleared along the edges where I had previously glimpsed a candidate, disappointingly.
We took pictures of the deep 'white brown' Cooper Creek and travelled on following constant Zebra Finch flocks, Australasian Pipits; Black Kites, Australian Ravens and Wedge-tailed Eagles gathered around the continuing roadside carnage of kangaroos. At least there were plenty of them around. A Spotted Bowerbird was well sought and found after lunch at Kyabra Creek. Crested Bellbirds we plentiful and we walked often in the wonderful variety of habitats. During our first walk, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills played and foraged unconcernedly almost at our feet, endearing them to us with good views.
At Pinkilla Creek Brian spotted a Common Bronzewing from the halted car making Steve gasp when it burst into sunlit flight, its reflective colours dazzling. The fairy-wrens gave us the runaround again, I think the time of year makes them "skulky" but the Weebills obliged, calling and displaying their small selves and beaks in light that highlighted their pale yellowness.
Our final stop of the day gave us a pair of Mulga Parrots that sat feeding on gumnuts and were joined by Crested Bellbirds, the ever-present and ignored Singing Honeyeaters, along with welcomed Australian Ringnecks.
Day 9 Monday 15 May
Red-tailed Black Cockatoos
Sauntering out into the sunshine the men started with a wander around the block while I chatted and paid the bill. We drifted down the road dreading the inevitable flight to Sydney (back to a life of responsibilities) so instead we eyed off the regulars (birds) and Brian spotted a Common Bronzewing.
After a cuppa at Cooladdi we discovered "the creek at the back", a wonderful habitat completed by a well-coloured Orange Chat. What wonderful country this is!
Hitting the road we saw little at 110kms but lunch in Charleville was exceptionally good, as was the shopping and it all ended well at the brand new airport terminal. Thank you Brian and Stephen for your camaraderie during a fabulous birding tour.
By Janene Luff substituting a poor second for usual guide Tiffany Mason.