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Channel Country 1 Trip Report
Spiney-cheeked Honeyeater by David Simpson
Our first taste of Charleville birding was before breakfast at the Motel when early risers were able to see Brown Honeyeaters in the mulga and the not-so-early risers tripped over Apostle Birds on the way to the dining room.

We then set out for the Warrego River, which flanks the western edge of town, to wander under the River Red Gums for Australian Ringnecks, Red-winged Parrots and Pale-headed Rosellas. In the long grasses on the banks we saw (and heard) Variegated and White-winged Fairy Wrens. A White-throated Gerygone, on the very western edge of its range, called from the canopy and was eventually spotted by two of the party. Here we also saw Laughing Kookaburra, Rufous Whistler, Weebill and Pied Butcherbird before heading back to the bus and leaving town behind.

Our first stop on the journey west was at the Ward River (by the new bridge) where everybody got great views of a perched Collared Sparrowhawk before it eventually took off, displaying its square tail (for identification purposes!). Bimble Box (Eucalyptus populnea) dominated the skyline here, with Mulga providing the understory. A brief stop to look at wildflowers Tar Bush, Eremophila glabra , and Scarlet Hop Bush, Dodonea microzyga) also brought us glimpses of Splendid Fairy-wren and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill after which we saw our first Emus of the trip.

Lunch was at the Paroo River, serenaded by Grey Shrike Thrush. A post-prandial walk added White-browed Woodswallows (perched on a fenceline), Brown Treecreepers and White-plumed Honeyeaters. Botanical debate was stirred by a large shrub (probably a Quondong) bearing cumquat-sized green fruit. Back on the road and we picked up a small flock of 12 Major Mitchell Cockatoos which posed beautifully, displaying their magnificent crests.

Cooper Creek
The next cry was ‘Crimson Chats!’, which were most uncooperative, and bounced teasingly in and out of scattered pebbles and grass tussocks; nobody got a satisfactory view…if only we’d known how soon this was to be rectified. This stop also yielded (better views of) Southern Whiteface and Willie Wagtails. A brief glimpse of Spotted Bowerbird further on and then we were in Quilpie.

The following morning, there were Zebra Finches and Masked Woodswallow galore in town and after breakfast we began the drive to Windorah. Barely had we left the outskirts of Quilpie when there was a cry of ‘Bourke’s Parrot!’. A quick exit of the bus brought good views of a pair to three of the tour before the birds flew. We followed and picked up Chestnut-crowned Babblers and Chirruping Wedgebills hopping around in a paddock, but the Bourke’s had disappeared.

The landscape was changing and we encountered a sea of daisies and pink-flowering Bristly Sea Heath shortly after which there was a long march through grassy tussocks for the shy and elusive Crimson Chat, once again too far off to appreciate. We did, however, stumble across five Australian Pratincole, who gave us good close-ups through the scope and obligingly showed off their beautiful, graceful flight.

Shortly afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Kyabra Creek, where Fairy Martins and White-breasted Woodswallows dipped and soared above the water. Here we also saw Black-fronted Dotterel and plenty of Black Kites, and a botanical find, Swainsona campylantha on the banks of the creek.

Bimble Box was gradually being replaced by the Western Bloodwood, Corymbia terminalis, which was just coming into flower and the occasional Leopardwood, Flindersia maculosa, with its dramatically spotted trunk. We stopped near some of these trees and heard Crested Bellbird in the distance (which remained visually elusive). A walk through the daisies finally got us some decent views of Crimson Chats plus a Red-capped Robin and her nest, and on the butterfly front, Checquered Swallowtail and Satin Azure.

Well into the Cooper’s Creek floodplain now, we picked up our first Brolgas, six of them at Lignum Channel, the more mature birds displaying brilliant red plumage around their heads. Shortly after this, we encountered Spinifex for the first time and stopped in time to see a Spotted Harrier flying off but get good views of Zebra Finches, Australian Ringnecks, Blue Bonnets, Budgerigars, Diamond Doves and Crimson Chats (hooray!). Further on, we stopped at Cooper’s Creek itself for White-necked Heron and Pelican. Then it was into Windorah for a fabulous sunset (brought to you courtesy of Altocumulus clouds), Red-backed Kingfisher (glimpsed) and Apostle Birds at the motel. We were also treated to a huge flock of Little Corellas flying overhead to their roost.

Guide Tiffany Mason in the Mulga
The next morning we explored Windorah: Fairy Martins (ginger heads clearly visible) lined up along a fence, clouds of Budgies in Buffel Grass, Cockatiels and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters in the flowering Beefwood (Grevillea striata). Black-faced and White-browed Woodswallows were also taking advantage of the nectar. There was a great photo opportunity at the five solar dishes on the eastern-edge of town, mirroring the clouds (more Altocumulus!), and of Little Corellas admiring themselves in the reflection. Three Red-tailed Black-cockatoos flew overhead.

We headed out to Welford National Park, picking up three Spinifex Pigeons at a causeway before stopping mid-way for Zebra Finches, one of which temporarily stunned itself on a fence, giving us the opportunity to admire the bird, a male, close up. Here we got some good close-up views of Crimson Chats and a Rufous Songlark. Further on, there were Ringnecks competing with cattle at a waterhole.

We entered the National Park and after a brief chat to the ranger, headed for the river, the Barcoo, for lunch and Brolgas. After lunch, we headed downstream, on the trail of a raptor being mobbed by White-plumed Honeyeaters; the mobbed bird disappeared into the end of a broken tree limb before being identified. We set up the scope, waited patiently and were rewarded with the sight of a Boobook emerging from the hollow, looking bewildered in the sunlight, and perching for some time before finally tiring of the attention (more from the harassing honeyeaters than us) and flying off.

From here, we headed out of the park to Jundah (ice-cream stop!) and then back to Windorah on a road lined with flowering Bloodwood. Singing and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were seen amongst the blooms and further up the road we saw a pair of Banded Lapwings with their two young – browner versions of their parents.

The following day we headed back to Quilpie and saw Great Egret at Cooper’s Crossing and chased Brolgas down the road, which eventually took flight and blessed us with the fabulous sight of these magnificent birds in the air. Soon afterwards, we stopped at a lignum meadow, hoping for Fairy Wrens; these were strangely absent, but we found a Pratincole, Straw-necked Ibis, White-necked Heron and Rufous Songlarks instead. Three Little Corellas performed circus tricks on a stick emerging from a small dam.

Major Mitchell Cockatoos by David Simpson
Lunch at Kyabra Creek and we walked downstream, following the calls of Red-browed Pardalote (not seen, unfortunately), and saw a Brown Treecreeper feeding its young in a tree hollow. Just east of here, we stopped at the Pratincole meadow again and saw a flock of about 60 of these delightful birds. Closer to Quilpie, at Woorbil Creek, we heard (but, once again, couldn’t see) Spotted Bowerbird and saw a male Black Honeyeater feeding in the mistletoe on the Mulga. Here we also saw Mistletoebird, Common Bronzewing, Little Friarbirds and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters. A Lined Earless Dragon made a quick departure up the creek before anyone had a chance to get a good look. Finally, we got fairly good views of a pair of Mulga Parrots (not Bourke’s after all) low in a Melaleuca just outside Quilpie.

We began the final day at the cooling dam on the edge of town and saw Black-tailed Native Hen and Red-backed Kingfisher through the scope. On the road to Charleville we had two unplanned reptile stops: Shingleback and Central Bearded Dragon sunning themselves on the tar. Our final stop before Charleville yielded a family of Apostlebirds constructing a nest, plus a few interesting butterflies (Small Grass Yellow, Meadow Argus & Australian Painted Lady) in the daisies.

Nominations for bird of the trip were for Crimson Chat, Black Honeyeater, Boobook and Major Mitchell Cockatoo.

By Tiffany Mason guiding for FTB

Channel Country 2 Trip Report

Flowering Gidgee
The pre-breakfast birding on the Charleville airport road was very successful: the Splendid Fairy-wrens were flitting back and forth between the Oleanders, Brown & Singing Honeyeaters were calling, and we caught up with a female Red-capped Robin (although her mate remained elusive).

After breakfast, we headed to the Warrego River to explore the River Red Gums: Australian Ringnecks and Pale-headed Rosellas were seen hopping through the trees’ lower limbs, Variegated Fairy-wrens flew surreptitiously through the grasses and the White-throated Gerygone called from its cryptic perch. A quick detour through town took us to the Spotted Bowerbird’s bower (adorned with green glass, bits of aluminium foil and strips of red, purple and orange plastic) and a great look at the bird himself with his hot pink nape on display, before we began the journey west.

Along the roadside, the Wilga (Geijera parviflora) was beginning to bloom, alongside the beautiful mauve flowers of the Tar Bush, Eremophila glabra, and we stopped for a closer look, picking up Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, more Splendid Fairy-wrens and Rufous Whistler. Butterflies were abundant here, too, including the strikingly blue Satin Azure and the multi-coloured Spotted Jezebel.

Lunch at the Foxtrap Motel in Cooladdi brought welcome relief from the seering heat, plus two Pied Butcherbirds and a caged Major Mitchell Cockatoo. Onto the Paroo River where we watched Fairy Martins constructing their nests under a bridge and also picked up White-browed, Masked and Black-faced Woodswallows in large numbers. A little further on, we saw our first Emus of the trip and then an emergency stop for a bird that flew across the road in front of the bus: this turned out to be a male Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, beautifully coloured by the afternoon sun, which everybody was able to observe from their seats.

Muriel lost in thought on the floodplain
We entered Quilpie and headed for the cooling pond where we picked up Great Egret, Black-tailed Native Hen and Little Grassbird. Then it was off to the Bulloo River for a late afternoon stroll along the nature trail. Here we saw Grey-crowned Babblers, a Brown Treecreeper feeding two fledgelings who had left the nest, and stumbled across a Rufous Songlark’s nest, perfectly concealed (if it weren’t for the piping call of the nestling) beneath a grass tussock. A Collared Sparrowhawk watched us from the limb of a massive River Red Gum.

The next morning, we headed back to the cooling pond and picked up two Red-backed Kingfishers and a Hardhead. Spiny-cheeked and Blue-faced Honeyeaters were enjoying a shower under the main street’s watering system. Leaving Quilpie behind, we stopped to pursue the calls of Crested Bellbird (not seen), Chirruping Wedgebill (seen!), Jacky Winter and White-winged Triller. A little further on, Chestnut-crowned Babblers played hide & seek with us and disturbed a pair of Bourke’s Parrot, which were feeding on the side of the road.

Woorbil Creek provided us with fleeting glimpses of Hall’s Babbler, plus Mistletoebirds, White-plumed & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters. We were able to see the remarkable Leopardwood, Flindersia maculosa, close-up here and admire its spectacular bark.

We began passing through fields of daisies, pink-flowering Bristly Sea Heath and white-flowering Lignum, stopping for a flock (60 plus) of Australian Pratincole, which had been put to flight by a Wedge-tailed Eagle. The Pratincoles were rather nervous and it was some time before they landed and we were able to get good views of the birds as they stood almost motionless between the grasses.

Lunch at Kyabra Creek brought us flocks of Fairy Martins, Diamond Dove, two Black-fronted Dotterels, Whistling Kite and great views of a Red-browed Pardalote. A little further up the road, we stopped to admire more daisies, Giant Pussytails, Ptilotus sp. and the flowering Western Bloodwoods, Corymbia terminalis . Flocks of Masked, White-browed and Black-faced Woodswallows were taking full advantage of the nectar and we also Red-capped Robins and Singing Honeyeaters, while a Crested Bellbird and a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo called nearby.

Flowering Beefwood with Budgies
Our first glimpse (and not much more) of Crimson Chat a little further on, plus flocks of Budgies on the horizon and Banded Lapwing by the road. At Cooper’s Creek crossing there were Pelican, White-necked Heron and Australian White Ibis.

The following morning, we followed our new mate, Sandy Kidd, out on the Bedourie Road to find Australian Bustard. These he found for us, walking through the Spinifex, and we were able to put the scope on two birds for good close-ups. Flocks of Crimson Chats were becoming more common (and highly visible) and we picked up more Emu.

We then stopped near a seep to investigate the wildflowers and got a brief glimpse of a male Orange Chat before heading on to Whitula Creek. Here, we entered private property and climbed a red sandhill overlooking the creek, the impetus being a White-backed Swallow that disappeared over the crest of the hill as we leapt from the bus. Once on the hill, we witnessed the extraordinary sight of the White-backed Swallow being chased by an Orange Chat! The sand hill was very productive: Crimson Chats, Zebra Finches, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Red-capped Robins, Chirruping Wedgebills, White-winged Trillers and a pair of White-winged Fairy-wrens feeding a juvenile Black-eared Cuckoo. The tracks of numerous reptiles had left weird and wonderful patterns in the sand.

We headed down to the Whitula Creek (now a substantial body of water after the monsoon) for lunch, watched the Rainbow Bee-eaters hawk for insects and listened to the Grey Shrike-thrush and Spotted Bowerbird calling nearby.

After lunch, we headed back to Windorah, stopping for Red-tailed Black-cockatoos resting in a Beefwood (Grevillea striata), before driving though town and on towards Jundah. Here we saw (at last!) the Crested Bellbird, as well as Variegated Fairy-wren, Hall’s Babbler, Spiny-cheeked, Singing & Brown Honeyeaters, Crimson Chats and clouds of Budgies. Satisfied with a fine day’s birding, we headed back to town for dinner.

Margaret looking for the Orange Chat
The following morning, we explored the Spinifex around Windorah, getting great views of Budgies and Zebra Finches, plus a Ringneck in a backyard Grevillea and a female Black Honeyeater feeding on insects attracted to a flowering Gidgee (Acacia cambagei). A Nankeen Kestrel surveyed our activities from the water tower. Heading east again, for a loop back to Windorah via Cooper’s Creek and the nature trail, we picked up Spinifex Pigeons at the causeway and a White-necked Heron, hunkering down in the top of a dead tree. Two Pacific Black Ducks flew overhead at Cooper’s Creek and we noted that the Australian White Ibis had barely changed position since we first saw it yesterday. On the nature trail, we picked up Southern Whiteface, Cockatiel, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill and Hall’s Babbler, before heading back to Windorah for lunch at the pub. It was here that Glenda and I were lucky enough to see a Barn Owl fly over the museum, being hotly persued by a mobbing flock of White-plumed Honeyeaters, Magpie Larks and even a kestrel.

In the afternoon, we flew over the braided creeks of the Channel Country on our way to Birdsville. On arrival, after grabbing a quick cuppa, it was down to the billabong for a great afternoon’s birding which included close-ups of feeding, preening and loafing Black-winged Stilts, Royal & Yellow Spoonbills perched in an old, dead Red Gum, Red-kneed & Black-fronted Dotterels, Whiskered Terns and, perhaps best of all, a flock (of course!) of Flock Bronzewings.

The next morning, we roamed slightly further afield along a soon-to-be-completed nature trail, picking up Australian Reed-warblers, a Peregrine Falcon, Whistling Kites and Budgerigars. The group then split into two, and the faster walkers headed towards the Diamantina River whilst the others took the more leisurely route back to the Birdsville Hotel via the billabong. The latter group were rewarded with the unusual sight of a Barking Owl roosting in reeds not half a meter above the waterline. A Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was another new species picked up at yesterday’s Dotterel spot along with Little Grassbird, heard calling from the Cumbungi.

We then got the plane back to Windorah, picked up our sandwiches from the pub and headed towards Quilpie. At a watering hole near Kyabra Creek, we stopped for Pink-eared Ducks, Crimson Chats and Blue Bonnets. All afternoon we were treated to the glorious Lenticularis clouds gracing the skies from Windorah to Quilpie. In the late afternoon sun, on a gibber-scattered hilltop, we picked up Hooded Robin, and whilst tracking it down, disturbed a Bourke’s Parrot. We lost sight of the parrot, found the Hooded Robin instead, pouncing on insects among the pebbles. After watching it for some time, we turned to discover the Bourke’s Parrot watching us from a nearby tree and all got terrific views of this gorgeous, diminutive bird.

We left Quilpie very early the next morning to catch our flight out of Charleville. Nominations for bird of the trip included Flock Bronzewing, Australian Pratincole and Barking Owl.

By Tiffany Mason guiding for FTB

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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer