Saturday, January 2, 2016

Birdsville Track... Version 2015 (Part 2)

Time for the second part of this trip...been a little slack! But thought I better get something up before I head off on the 2016 version!!
So continuing on from part 1.. we were making tracks down the track to get back in time to catch the last couple of hours of light at Mira Mitta bore. As usual we were on the lookout for birds on the way back and were pushing along but stopping if something of interest flew off the track or close by. I guess we had travelled about 30km's from the lunch spot when we saw a bird which could of well been a Gibberbird... (but was probably a Pipit...) scoot off the track. We pulled up as quick as we could in the middle of the track as usual and then started reversing back to the spot... at this point Mike actually looked in the rear view mirror... crap a car was behind! It got worse.... it was the cops! Oh no we thought we were buggered now... no seatbelts (as we were about to jump out after the bird) and driving like birders do! :-D The police car pulled up beside us and to our surprise were quite amicable and just checked we were ok and kept going! Phew.... not sure how we got away with that!?
Never did see what that bird was...... lol
So we kept on heading for the bore... a few more birds were seen like the Orange Chat below. We grabbed the opportunity as it was a little tolerant of us stopping for a photo... such a pretty species!
Orange Chat (male)
 It was 5pm when we arrived at the bore again. Everything looked perfect for our plan... the light was heading towards gorgeous... there was nobody else around and the usual suspects were sitting in or around the waters edge: Pink-eared Ducks, Grey Teals, Red-capped Plovers and a lone Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.
We headed to the waters edge to find a good spot to see anything which would fly in for a drink. We sat down and waited..... and waited.... half hour passed and nothing had come in at all. The flies were super annoying as usual and it was actually quite hard to just sit there. At about the 35min mark I decided to go back to the car and grab a couple of beers... it was beer-o-clock after all! We sat there for another 15 mins or so and still nothing. I was starting to wonder if anything would come in? Mike was thinking the same and was making noises about going for a walk through the bore overflow to see if he could find/flush anything... after a discussion we decided to put in another ten before he went. I just had a hunch something was about to happen.... then it did! About two minutes later we spotted two birds in the distance... We picked them as Flockies just from the speed they were coming in at! But even so I wasn't ready for just how quick they move! They bore down on us in no time threw on the brakes.. banked over the water and settled nervously on the edge right where we had hoped! Needless to say both mine and Mike's camera's were going flat out!

The first pair to come in! Male on left.. female on right
 Then it was on! For the next half hour Flock Bronzewings started pouring in from all directions... not in the massive flocks they are known for.. but in anything from pairs to groups of up to ten! It was hard to know where to point the camera as they were coming in fast.. whirling around the water once or twice to then settle nervously before drinking. Some would take off to do it all again... others would just sit for 5-10 minutes on the edge before heading down to drink and then take off and head for the horizon again. In all somewhere between 80-100 birds came in I estimated!
It was just one of those moments you live for as both a birder and photographer! Everything had come together! The birds... the light... the location... it was all just surreal and amazing! A few times I put the camera down just to soak it all in! A moment I will never forget....!

Coming in with speed...

On the brakes... looking for the landing!

A close fly-by

This shot was the highlight of the session for me photographically speaking! It all came together for this one!

They are beautifully coloured... Love the pastel look to the plumage!

Below the Mira Mitta bore overflow this little dam is where the action happened... this is a phone shot taken just after all the action! The moon can be seen rising in the background and there is still a few Flockies sitting near the second bay on the far bank!
Eventually as it does.. it got dark!  We headed to the car all smiles and cracked a celebratory beer... Damn it tasted good too!
40 odd km's back to Mungerannie and it was time to hit the pub for a meal! We had lucked it to be in there the same night a large outback cycling tour bus which was staying there and dining at the pub also! It made for a busy place and lots of people! We held the bar up for a while and eventually ate before heading off back to our swags for some well earned sleep!
The next morning I got up before sunrise and watched the Moon set! A steady stream of Black Kites were flying low from their roosts along the creek line up towards the pub so I grabbed the camera and tried to capture it as best I could!

A single Black Kite passes the Moon early in the morning!
Our plan for this day was to bird the morning in the Mungerannie area and then start heading south mid morning and make camp wherever we got too on the way down.
So straight after breakfast we headed out to check the Grey Falcon tower again... nothing again! Guessing they must be off breeding somewhere we decided to just go for a search in the general area for whatever we could find. We ventured a little further down the track and lucked upon a pair of Australian Bustards feeding in a patch of green on the side of the track! This time I wasn't going to miss the shot! They sat for about a minute, then first started to walk away before then taking flight back past us... this allowed the best photo chance with this species for the trip!

Aussie Bustard slowly moving away

This is the shot I was after!
Moving a little further along we came across a couple of male Cinnamon Quail-thrush! We jumped out and played a little burst of call and got an instant reaction! The older of the two (one was in immature plumage) came straight in and gave us cracking views and photo opportunities!
We stayed with them for about 10 mins before they grew bored of us and moved away...
Pretty happy to get this close to this often wary species!

Probably the favourite image I took on the whole trip! Male Cinnamon Quail-thrush.

Nothing much else of interest showed in that morning run so we started heading south. Stopping to check all the towers on the way didn't produce any more Grey Falcons... just need to be lucky with those!
We stopped at few different spots on the way down... we even found a hidden waterhole behind a dune with lots of Brolga, Avocets and Pink-eared Ducks! Also a few raptors were around with the highlights being a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles on their nest in a tree next to the water and a close fly-by from a Collared Sparrowhawk.

The secret waterhole we found with a Wedge-tailed Eagle nest in the middle of this tree! One of the pair was sitting in there when I took this phone shot!
 Further down we stopped at a dune where Mike thought he heard Eyrean Grasswrens on the way up... A bit of work and we found a pair hoping around in the Canegrass! Being typically hard to photograph! This was in the dunes just north of the Cooper Creek crossing and quite south for the species. Over the back of that dune we found another Wedgie nest this time with a week old chick in it.

Eyrean Grasswren hiding
The WTE nest over the back of the dune which held the Eyrean Grasswrens!

and it's contents :-)
I captured this image of a Pink-eared Duck whilst laying amongst the Cow crap on the side of a little roadside bore on Dulkaninna Station

The same Pink-eared Duck again
We came across another cool little dry creekbed in the dunes south of Dulkaninna station which was crawling with all sorts of bird species! Managed my best Pied Honeyeater shot of the trip here of a female which landed near to me when I was trying to photograph Budgies. Unfortunately these days you can only camp in set areas when travelling along the Birdsville... otherwise this would of been a top spot to camp and wake up with all these birds around! We stayed for as long as we could but wanted to keep some light for when we reached Camp at Clayton.

Pied Honeyeater (female)

About 5km's before we got to the Clayton campsite we crested a small rise to come across a Falcon hunting something about 100m off the road. We worked out it was a Black Falcon and Mike threw out the parachute again! We would of been sitting on 80km/h so it took a bit to stop... sensing the hunt was about to end I grabbed my camera and started bursting off shots as the car pulled up! The hunt was over by the time we stopped and the Falcon was unsuccessful.. I hesitantly checked what I had got on the back of the camera... not expecting much as they were all taken from a moving car I was stoked to find one shot in focus!! Not only was it in focus it was the best shot of the series for capturing the moment with the Falcon and the Orange Chat it was hunting both fully vertical! Needless to say I was over the moon! Always wanted a shot of a hunting Black Falcon like this :-)

Nearly got you! Or not.... the Chat escaped! Even though it looks like it's in a pretty dire situation here!
The night was again perfect with calm weather and Brolga's calling periodically throughout. The next morning was the run home...
We pushed it most of the way to get home in good time but did pick up a flock of about 30-40 Inland Dotterels near the dog fence and then came across a flock of about a dozen Gull-billed Terns sitting on the track in this area too! Not one we were expecting... but the sort of thing the Birdsville track throws up occasionally...

Gull-billed Terns beside the track

and on the track!

Just to show it's not only birds I photograph! :-D Found this Gecko under a steel plate south of Marree on the old disused railway line... not sure what species it is!
Then it was back onto the bitumen and powering home... we stopped at our favourite Rufous Fieldwren spot just north of Hawker and rustled up one without too much trouble! A flock of Cockatiels here was good to see fly past too!

Our Rufous Fieldwren spot just north of Hawker rarely fails! :-)
So there we have it another outback trip done with plenty of highlights as usual!
Can't wait to do it all again next.... err... this year ;-)


  1. A great read as always Chris and a beautiful series of images. Hard to pick my favorite, but the Flock Bronzewing and Cinnamon Quailthrush stood out for me. I always feel like planning my next trip when I read about your trips. A great read as always. Well done.

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