The second Follow That Bird trip to South West Queensland followed the same route as in July 2004 but this time, the trip took place two months after the heavy rain had fallen in the Bourke NSW area on 14 February 2021 bringing much needed moisture to that drought effected region. So this time the best birding was in the area Byrock-Bouke-Enngonia-Cunnamulla Qld and including Bowra Station, whereas the Eulo-Thargomindah-Hungerford area was very dry. So for once since 2001, the vegetation and the birding in the Bourke Region was looking good! Every day was fine and sunny on this trip and birding conditions overall could not have been better.
Dorothy, Gordon & Janene by Christina Port
Our first birding stop was at the Lithgow STW where the usual Blue-billed and Pink-eared Ducks, Shovelers & Hoary-headed Grebes were seen, and some Goldfinches and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos all gave our list a good start! Our lunch stop at Lawson Park, beside the Cudgeong River at Mudgee gave us great views of a party of 4 Crested Shrike-tits, feeding low in an English Plane Tree. At Mendooran beside the Castlereagh River, we knew we were heading west when Ringneck and Red-rumped Parrots claimed our attention. Apostlebirds, Choughs, Brown Falcons & Wedge-tailed Eagles were eagerly ticked off as we headed for Nyngan, our first overnight stay. Every day we had an early morning walk, so that on the second day, we were all up and at those birds early at 6.30 am. A Diamond Firetail and a flock of Zebra Finches, a Western Gerygone, Blue-faced Honeyeaters & Red-winged Parrots were the best birds beside the Bogan River, before we were off to Bourke.
Red-capped Robin by Christina Port
We spent over at hour at the Byrock waterholes where Spotted Bowerbirds, Red-capped Robins, Grey-crowned Babblers & Diamond Doves were the best birds. On the outskirts of Bourke, when stopping to look at a Wedge-tailed Eagle, we found Crimson Chats, Budgerigars, White-winged Fairy-wrens and Pink Cockatoos, and a little further on, large flocks of Budgies and White-browed, Black-faced & Masked Woodswallows, as well as 3 Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoos and some Rufous Songlarks! Close by, on the receding flood waters there were hundreds of Great Egrets & Yellow-billed Spoonbills, many Grey Teal, White-necked & White-faced Herons, White & Straw-necked Ibis, and Gull-billed & Caspian Terns and even a Common Greenshank and 2 Brolgas! The usual Red-tailed Black Cockatoos welcomed us to our lunch stop at the old wharf in Bourke. Then on, pass more floodwaters where there were plenty of waterbirds north of Bourke, but it was the grassy Mitchell Grass Plains between Enngonia NSW and Cunnamulla Qld, that made the trip because of the good birding along that stretch both heading to Qld and then on our return. In this section there were large flocks of Budgerigars, one with over 900 birds, seen continuously, while the area was awash with Black, Black-shouldered & Whistling Kites, Kestrels and Brown Falcons, Wedge-tails, Cockatiels, Woodswallows and Zebra Finches and a flock of 30+ Pink Cockatoos!. We stopped so often we were very late getting into Cunnamulla.
Bowra Birders by Christina Port
Our early morning walk produced the usual 1000 or so Little Corellas roosting along the Warrego River, where we picked up Little Friarbird, Collared Sparrowhawk & large numbers of White-breasted Woodswallows & 2 White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes. We spent the whole day at Bowra Station, soon to be part of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s fantastic wildlife reserves. We saw more than 70 species here, including wonderful views of as Black-breasted Buzzard at the Homestead’s waterhole while lunch was being prepared! Also here were Chestnut-crowned Babblers, a Black-tailed Native-hen, a party of Brown Quail, and a Red-backed Kingfisher. On the dry Mulga ridges we were able to located some Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, White-browed Treecreepers, Splendid Fairy-wrens and Sittellas, and Red-browed Pardalotes were heard calling but could not be found, while on the grass sand plains Crested Bellbirds, Chestnut-rumped & Inland Thornbills, Jacky Winter, Double-barred & Zebra Finches, Pink Cockatoo & Olive-backed Orioles were seen.
Major Mitchell Cockatoo by Christina Port
On the 4th morning we headed first for Eulo Bore, while at the bore we saw little of interest except for 4 Black-fronted Dotterels, but nearby in the Mulga were more Sittellas, Splendid Fairy-wrens and.. At Eulo, the Paroo River was running a banker as a result of heavy rains further north, and the Napunyah Eucalypts were in flower attracting mostly Yellow-throated Miners and White-plumed Honeyeaters. Lake Bindegoley was still dry so we only had a brief stop on the road, at the Bridge, seeing mostly Spiny-cheeked & Singing Honeyeaters and some Variegated Fairy-wrens. Near to Thargomindah, a likely patch of Mulga gave us an extensive look at a group of eight Hall’s Babblers as well as a Crested Bellbird. The Bulloo River was also running a banker and filling up many low lying areas but it was too soon for the birds to gather! Acting on information received from some Brisbane Birders, we move to an area of about 25 km west of Thargo where a Grey Falcon had been sighted two days before, and to our surprise we flushed one from beside the road, and most people had great views of it as it turned in front of the coach and crossed to perch briefly in a tree close to the road! Nearby were small flocks of Budgies, Diamond Doves, Woodswallows and Zebra Finches coming to drink at a small dam. What a day!
Sally Relaxing at Bowra by Christina Port
Our overnight stay in Thargomindah was enlivened in the early hours by the calling of both Southern Boobooks and Barking Owls, and a brief walk along the Bulloo River next morning yielded Sparrowhawk, White-browed & White-breasted Woodswallows Then it was off to Hungerford, passing through mostly very dry mulga country but we had great views of Mulga Parrots, another Black-breasted Buzzard and Wedge-tails on this section of the trip. At Hungerford, the Paroo River was dry, as the floodwaters take 7 days to reach there from Eulo, so there was little to see in this very dry location, although we did manage to add the Bar-shouldered Dove to our trip list. Currawinya National Park was very dry, so we only stopped briefly along the road. We checked out Eulo Bore for Bourkle’s Parrrots at dusk, but were unsuccessful, although Brown Treecreepers, Red-capped & Hooded Robins were seen but only Galahs came to drink. We had much to celebrate when we dined at the Queen of the Paroo Hotel at Eulo, before heading home in the dark.
Zebra Finches Bathtime by Christina Port
Our return trip from Cunnamulla to Nyngan, past those great Mitchells Grass plains was again very eventful. Plenty of Black & Black-shouldered Kites (actually 9 species of raptors before morning tea!), Emus and Budgies, a Black Falcon near Barrigun and many Little Eagles between there and Enngonia. There were plenty of waterbirds, including Royal Spoonbills and Gull-billed Terns between Bourke and the Bourke Stockade where again excellent views of Crested Shrike-tits were obtained on the banks of the Darling River in Redgums. On our final morning, a flock of 27 Red-winged Parrots at Nyngan was a bonus, while at about 12 further east, our first Spotted Harrier for the trip, followed by a group of three Superb Parrots. Our last main birding spot was at the Geurie Bald Rock Reserve and here in this patch of White Box Woodland, we found our only flock of White-browed Babblers, as well as Yellow Robin, Painted Button-quail, Little Lorikeets and another Spotted Harrier.
Eulo Plains by Christina Port
Altogether, the 13 birders and 3 crew managed to locate 167 species (144 in 2004), and saw over 248 raptors, including 23 Wedge-tailed Eagles (23 in 2004), Little Eagle 6 (0), Black Kites 66 (92), Whistling Kites 25 (32), Black-shouldered Kites 44 (0), Brown Falcons 27 (23), Kestrels 47 (52), Black Falcon 1 (0), Spotted Harrier 2 (0), Brown Goshawk 4 (2), Collared Sparrowhawk 3 (1), Black-breasted Buzzard 2 (2), however we saw no Hobbies or Peregrines which were seen in 2004. All up we enjoyed some great dinners, good company, excellent driving by Janene and Christina provided some delicious lunches. Congratulations to all the participants viz Rita, Sally, Peter, Dorothy, Gordon, Jean, Kathleen, Bruce, Alan, Rae, Rosemary, Marcia and Belinda who all managed to see new species of Australian Birds.
Byrock Birders by Christina Port
Alan Morris, guiding for Follow That Bird