Australia - Outback trip - 18th - 26th August 2007

Published by Frank Rheindt (frankrheindt AT yahoo.com.au)

Participants: Frank E. Rheindt and Fiona Parkin

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In late August, a number of us got together for an outback trip from Adelaide across the Port Augusta area and the Flinders Ranges down the Strzelecki Track into the Corner Country in far south-east Queensland and the Channel Country around Cunnamulla (Qld) – and back to Adelaide for a total of 5000 km. Unfortunately, some people had to drop out last-minute, but undeterred by this development Fiona and I decided to go regardless.

This trip was geared towards seeing a number of very special bird species and turned out to be a great success, as we obtained fabulous views of 5 different grasswren species, Letter-winged Kite, Flock Bronzewing, three quail-thrush species, Chestnut-breasted Whiteface and an array of other unique outback specialties. The desert had received rains earlier this winter, and we were lucky in choosing one of the most ideal times to do this trip. The only target species that we really missed was Grey-fronted Honeyeater in the Flinders Ranges, but that was not such a great loss in the end. The following is a site-by-site account of the whole trip with detailed information on all the remarkable sightings and locations.

 Letter-winged Kite

Letter-winged Kite along Strzelecki Track

Logistics:

We obtained a 4WD rental vehicle from Avis in Adelaide, and in retrospect we are happy about this choice. Even though this trip route could be attempted without a 4WD in good weather conditions, the 4WD made the trip a lot smoother and enabled us to get out of situations where we would have been stuck with a conventional vehicle.

Itinerary:

18 August 2007
- Whyallah / Iron Knob (WK)
- Lake Gilles Conservation Park (LG)
- Port Augusta (incl. Aridlands Botanic Garden) (PA)
- Dutchman’s Stern (near Quorn) (DS)

19 August
- Stokes Hill Lookout (Flinders Ranges) (SH)
- Brachina Gorge (Flinders Ranges) (BG)

20 August
- Mt Lyndhurst
- first 200km of Strzelecki Track from Mt Lyndhurst to Montecollina Bore (ST)

21 August
- tree oasis at several KM north of Montecollina Bore (LW)
- remaining Strzelecki Track to Cameron’s Corner (RS)

22 August
- areas around Epsilon and Santos Stations in Queensland (ES)
- road trip from Santos to Noccundra (SN)
- Cooper’s Crossing (CC)

23 August
- Cooper’s Crossing (CC)

24 August
- road trip Thargomindah to Cunnamulla in Queensland (TC)
- Bowra Station (incl. Cunnamulla environs) (BS)

25 August
- Bowra Station (incl. Cunnamulla environs) (BS)
- road trip Cunnamulla to Onepah Gate (via Bulloo Downs) (CO)
- Onepah Gate (OG)

26 August
- areas around Epsilon and Santos Stations in Queensland (ES)
- road trip Santos to Wentworth in New South Wales (SW)

27 August
- Eremophila Reserve (near Waikerie) (ER)

Sites:

Whyallah – Iron Knob


Only about 40-50km south of Port Augusta on the Eyre Peninsula, Whyallah was not initially part of our itinerary, but we planned it in on short notice after having received a helpful hint from Andrew Black regarding the existence of a Western Grasswren breeding area in close vicinity to Port Augusta. Andrew is thoroughly involved in some fascinating research on these grasswrens and pointed out that he has accumulated data that would argue for a split of the Thick-billed Grasswren complex into a western (A. textilis) and an eastern species (A. modestus), with the western species reaching all the way from WA to the gates of Port Augusta, while the eastern one is more limited in distribution to the north of the Flinders Ranges and into NSW.

Most people who have field experience with this complex go to see the eastern species at Mt Lyndhurst (see below). However, with the myall subspecies of the Western Grasswren breeding so close to Port Augusta, we wanted to give this bird a go on this trip, and decided to add another day at the beginning of our itinerary.

Western Grasswrens live in bluebush habitat along the road from Whyallah to Iron Knob, especially along the central bit close to the abandoned train station of Middleback. Initially, we concentrated our search on the small and silvery saltbush habitat that dominates the landscape around here (see the background of the photo) but appears unsuitable for the grasswren. Instead, we found great flocks of Crimson and White-fronted Chats, as well as sporadic Slender-billed Thornbills.

The grasswren specialises on bluebush (left in the picture), which is bigger and greener than the dominant saltbush shrubs in the area and is much more restricted to the roadside. In one such patch near Middleback, we found one confiding Western Grasswren along with a Redthroat (see trip list for coordinates).

 Redthroat at the Western Grasswren site near Whyallah

Redthroat at the Western Grasswren site near Whyallah

Lake Gilles Conservation Park

Having some time left on Eyre Peninsula, we spontaneously decided to do the 60km detour to the mallee habitat in Lake Gilles Conservation Park to look for some of the western Australian species that are here at their easternmost point of distribution. This trip was not intended to take in the Eyre Peninsula, so we only had a couple of hours available and followed the directions given by Thomas & Thomas into the best patches of mallee.

We were happy to find a lone Western Yellow Robin in the mallee, a species said to be much more secretive than its common eastern counterpart. Additionally, we saw the range-restricted (though apparently common) local race of Grey Currawong and a beautiful pair of Chestnut Quail-Thrush. The fairywrens at this site were more problematic than expected: Thomas & Thomas report on Blue-breasted Fairywrens during their visit to Lake Gilles, supposedly at their easternmost point of distribution. Though trying hard, we did not manage to turn the fairywrens we saw into Blue-breasted Fairywrens (despite seeing both sexes in great numbers and under excellent viewing conditions). They all looked like perfect assimilis Variegated Fairywrens. It would be good to hear from future visitors to Lake Gilles what they make of the local fairywrens.

Port Augusta

We only had a very quick stop-over in Port Augusta on our way to the Flinders Ranges. Purple-crowned Lorikeets were common in town, and the Aridlands Botanic Gardens outside of town provided good views of our first Chirruping Wedgebills, which put in a great song performance.

Stokes Hill Lookout (Flinders Ranges)

It is fair to say that this site provided for the most unpleasant birding of the entire trip. The night up here was freezing, and the morning fog took hours to lift. The reason of our visit to this site was – of course – the distinct Short-tailed Grasswren in the spinifex-clad hill sides of Stokes Hill. Armed with a number of coordinates from the Birding-AUS archives, we set out early to see this bird around the lookout site, but it was one of the most uncooperative grasswrens of the entire trip, and though short good views were repeatedly obtained, none of them was longer than 3-4 seconds. Our best sightings were actually made after lunch time (not that we had any lunch…). In the early afternoon, we settled for the views we had got and decided to move on.

 Emus in the spinifex hills at Stokes Hill

Emus in the spinifex hills at Stokes Hill

Most grasswren activity was actually in the area along the row of fence posts a few hundred meters due SSW from the carpark, pointed out in several other trip reports on Birding-AUS. Other birds were hard to come by in this barren landscape, but I was happy to photograph a single Elegant Parrot on the rocky scree.

 Elegant Parrot at Stokes Hill

Elegant Parrot at Stokes Hill

Brachina Gorge (Flinders Ranges)

This site provided ample discussion material for the rest of the trip, as it remained unclear whether the name actually rhymes with the V-word or not. From a landscape perspective, this ancient canyon was very pleasant to behold, and even though we were a little late in the day, we still witnessed a fair share of wildlife activity, such as five rock wallabies and more Elegant Parrots.

 Rock wallaby in Brachina Gorge

Rock wallaby in Brachina Gorge

The only big dip of the trip was Grey-fronted Honeyeater, a bird that we intently searched for at this site, but failed to locate. On the night drive to Lyndhurst, we ran into a suicidal kangaroo and damaged the whole front of the vehicle, but luckily the radiator was not hit and the trip was due to continue.

 The spectacular Little Crow, here at Mt Lyndhurst

The spectacular Little Crow, here at Mt Lyndhurst

Mt Lyndhurst

At the beginning of the Strzelecki Track, the famous Mt Lyndhurst site and its lure of avian rare has attracted birders for decades. For closer directions to any of the particular spots at Mt Lyndhurst, refer to the copious amounts of information in previous Birding-AUS postings and in books such as Thomas & Thomas. Arriving in the morning, we noticed a bus of overseas birders at the famous two-gates site, so we decided to continue to the “rusty car site” near the mine so as not to be in their way. Our strategy was to prove successful…

Walking around the mine site, it took us only about 45 min to hit upon a group of three very flighty and mobile Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces. We followed the moving birds, running across the slopes, hardly able to keep up, until they finally settled for a while in the big plain-like area about 2/3 of the way from the “No Access” sign at the mine towards the big black rock visible towards the right (as facing the sign). Rufous Calamanthus was also in the general area.

 One of three Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces seen at Mt Lyndhurst

One of three Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces seen at Mt Lyndhurst

After the whitefaces, it was grasswren time again, this time the eastern species of the Thick-billed Grasswren complex. After initial brief views of one individual near the famous rusty car, we kept on searching for three hours until both of us had finally obtained great views of a pair of them in the dried-out skeletons of saltbush along the dried creek line, virtually only a few meters away from the rusty car.

‘Eastern’ Thick-billed Grasswren a few meters from the rusty car at Mt Lyndhurst

‘Eastern’ Thick-billed Grasswren a few meters from the rusty car at Mt Lyndhurst

While looking for the grasswrens, we also chanced upon a group of Cinnamon Quail-Thrush, and when retracing our steps to Lyndhurst for petrol at lunch time, we could see the overseas tour bus still parked at the two-gates site, wondering whether our overseas birding colleagues had been as lucky as we were this morning.

 Rufous Calamanthus at Mt Lyndhurst

Rufous Calamanthus at Mt Lyndhurst

Strzelecki Track from Mt Lyndhurst to Montecollina Bore

After lunch at Lyndhurst, it was finally time to head down the Strzelecki Track into the real outback. Named after the famous Polish outback explorer, this track is more correctly pronounced “Streletsky” rather than the ghastly “Strezlekky” that is in wide usage amongst the locals, as Fiona and I were to find out a few days later from a Polish lady we chanced upon in the bush.

This first afternoon in the outback had a few highlights, such as KM 32 (from Lyndhurst), where glimpses of our first Inland Dotterel were had next to a group of Rufous Calamanthus and the first flocks of Orange Chats. Then we entered several stretches of extensive gibber plain, stopping repeatedly and walking into the vast empty landscape to look for a certain type of gibberish chat that we knew was going to be difficult, as several other people had missed them in the previous months. At KM 170, our persistence finally paid off as we detected two beautiful Gibberbirds on a particularly desolate gibber patch next to a sandy bit with single bushes. Montecollina Bore was occupied by a number of happy campers, with Pavarotti and the full program playing on the radio, and searches for grasswrens at this site were abandoned with the fading light.

Tree oasis site a few KM north of Montecollina Bore, not far from the Strzelecki Track

This morning saw some of the most awe-inspiring birding of the entire trip, as we approached a tree oasis half-hidden behind the dunes and witnessed the spectacle of a little Letter-winged Kite colony, consisting of 2 pairs. Unfortunately, directions and coordinates to this site are not available. Careful so as not to disturb the sensitive birds near their breeding grounds, we did not approach the trees closely, but had tantalizing views of all four individuals from a distance, seeing them perched, in full flight, as well as copulating. We would have loved to linger for the rest of the day, but we left the site after a short while so as to minimise disturbance.

Apart from the kites, the site held a great deal of other avian attractions, such as our first Pied Honeyeaters, which would prove somewhat common throughout most parts of the remaining Strzelecki Track, and our first good views of Budgerigars, which were outright abundant in the area. Other raptors utilised the area for hunting and/or nesting, most notably Spotted Harrier.

Remaining Strzelecki Track (and Merty-Merty Track) to Cameron’s Corner

The rest of the day was spent along the remaining Strzelecki Track, including the short-cut directly along the western bank of the Strzelecki “River” from the Strzelecki Crossing to Merty-Merty, and from there to Cameron’s Corner. Before the Strzelecki Crossing, considerable time was invested in a dune site recently published by Ian May on Birding-AUS for Eyrean Grasswren. After 2 hours, one of us had obtained distant though sufficient views of one Eyrean Grasswren, but we decided to give this species a second go at another site later on for better views. Again, Pied Honeyeaters and Crimson Chats were very much in evidence at this site.

 Male Crimson Chat along Strzelecki Track

Male Crimson Chat along Strzelecki Track

The above-mentioned shortcut along the water-bearing Strzelecki River was one of the most fascinating stretches of road from a landscape point of view. The desert was in full bloom, with yellow flowers reaching to the horizon, and bird activity was in full swing even at lunch time. Overflying psittacines included Budgerigar, Cockatiel, Little Corella, and raptors were even represented by a Black-breasted Buzzard.

 Little Corella

Little Corella

 Black-breasted Buzzard along the Strzelecki River

Black-breasted Buzzard along the Strzelecki River

After Merty-Merty, we entered sand dune country again, and soon reached the site at the western boundary of Bollard’s Lagoon property (signposted about 40-60km west of Cameron’s Corner), where an excellent cane grass covered sand dune can be found immediately west of the fence and cattle grid. Again, the dunes were in full bloom, and a quick search revealed a confiding pair of Eyrean Grasswren after an amazingly short time. An added bonus at this site was our first Red-backed Kingfisher of the trip, seen in flight.

After the grasswren, we started running out of daylight, so we swiftly headed towards Bollard’s Lagoon, hoping for some waterhole action at dusk. Leaving the sand dunes, the landscape started to be dotted by ponds. Reaching “Bollard’s Lagoon”, we failed to notice any body of water, but the many ponds we had passed en route had provided quick views of a number of common waterbirds (see trip list). A stop at the pub at Cameron’s Corner was very insightful into Australian outback culture, with some profound conversations with the local folks ranging from World War II to the virtues of the land. A subsequent night drive took us into Queensland and close to Epsilon Station, to position ourselves strategically for the next morning.

Epsilon and Santos Stations (Queensland)

Schodde and Mason’s Directory to Australian Passerines refers to an unknown and forlorn population of Striated Grasswren in spinifex country of the Epsilon-Santos region in far south-west Queensland. This population is of equivocal subspecific identity. Geographically nested in between the nominate mallee race and the isolated Queensland race rowleyi, nobody knows which race this population belongs to, or whether it may constitute a fourth subspecies altogether. The only museum specimens that ever existed are lost, and nobody has seen these birds for a while.

Modern DNA research has shown deep divisions and unexpected relationships between so-called “subspecies” in many Australian passerines, which has led to modern species splits on numerous occasions. Even though the grasswrens have not been genetically analysed yet, some of their isolated forms may well be considered distinct species in the future, as is demonstrated by Andrew Black’s fascinating research on Western Grasswrens (see above). When planning the trip, one of our main hopes was, therefore, to have enough time to search for this isolated grasswren population in the Santos-Epsilon region in order to contribute to our knowledge about these birds.

Driving from Cameron’s Corner towards Epsilon the previous night, we wondered whether we would hit any spinifex, a plant that we hadn’t seen since the Flinders Ranges on this trip. The morning’s sunlight then revealed a degraded and heavily altered landscape, overgrazed by sheep and cows, though surprisingly the Inland Dotterels did not seem to mind, as they were present in well-sized family parties. A closer look, however, showed moderate to good spinifex habitat on top of the sand dunes that run parallel through this country. This dune habitat is very different from the spinifex inhabited by the nominate race of Striated Grasswren in the mallee of south-eastern Australia, so if this population is indeed not distinct in its own right, we assume it will prove to be more closely related to rowleyi from central Queensland on habitat grounds.

 Budgerigar

 Inland Dotterel near Epsilon

A Budgie and an Inland Dotterel near Epsilon

A whole morning –sunny and very windy – was invested to look for the bird, but we did not succeed in seeing one. However, we found tantalizing footsteps in the sand that we believe to be attributable to a grasswren, since we are not aware of any other bird of a similar foot size that leaves single foot marks in succession the way we detected them at this site (28.23.57S 141.19.54E). Additionally, this was the only site of the trip where we saw Black Honeyeater.

Road from Santos Station to Noccundra

Around noon, it was time to head towards our next target, Cooper’s Crossing, so we hit the road from Santos Station to Noccundra. Extensive gibber plains characterize the area, but despite frequent scans we were not to see the gibber chat again on this trip. Then, closer to Noccundra, a tinder-dry mulga grove at approximately 28°02’S 142°27’E held our first ten Bourke’s Parrots. Noccundra appears as a regional hub on the map, but really only consists of a single house where they sell everything from petrol, stubby holders (with “Noccundra” on it) all the way to the obligatory Australian meat pie.

Cooper’s Crossing

Armed with a number of coordinates for Grey Grasswren, we sped down the Adventure Way from Noccundra to Cooper’s Crossing that afternoon to get a visual on the site before sunset, in order to better co-ordinate the next morning’s search. Little were we to know that we would see our best bird at Cooper’s Crossing on that very afternoon, and that it wouldn’t be a grasswren: About 10km before we got to the actual grasswren site (better known as Billy Moorhead’s grasswren site, see Birding-AUS), we stopped the car for a loose group of about 10 large pigeons flying across the road in great height. As they distanced themselves, we both agreed they must have been Flock Bronzewings, though we were a bit disappointed at the bad views, when some of them suddenly circled around and flew back towards us, passing the road once more into the opposite direction and affording breath-taking views.

Arriving at the grasswren site, we were surprised to see the lignum in such a dry and scattered state. The best lignum was generally right along the side-arms of the Cooper. However, these locations were generally far from the exact coordinate readings where Billy Moorhead and a number of other people have seen the grasswrens. Most trip reports refer to White-winged Fairywrens in association with the grasswrens, but here in the lignum along the flowing water there were only Variegated Fairywrens around. Out in the open towards the White-winged Fairywrens, however, the lignum was in a terribly bad state and really very dry. We searched for a full day without success. On this day, we did flush a number of buttonquail, most of which must have almost certainly been Little, though there were also a few larger individuals with a very cold brown back coloration that may have been Red-chested. At night, we decided to decamp in order to save time, and to give this species a second try at another site later on. Driving towards the Channel Country, our empty fuel tank just barely got us into Thargomindah that night, where the local hotel provided the usual pub fare (meat pie) and some fascinating conversations with the town folks.

Road from Thargomindah to Cunnamulla

The next morning we were waiting for the petrol station to open and immediately hit the road towards Cunnamulla, which would be our easternmost point during the trip. The landscape changed considerably, and Callitris-like trees on a red clayey soil indicated mulga country. A very fortunate sighting was that of five Ground Cuckooshrikes near where the road enters Paroo District. Though shy, the birds would let us approach them sufficiently to obtain good views. A quick stop at Eulo Bore was disappointing. Another good sighting once we had almost arrived in Cunnamulla was a lone Black-breasted Buzzard. In Cunnamulla, we had phone reception for the first time in days and decided to head to Bowra Station, an eco-touristic property we had heard lots of fantastic things about.

 Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo

Bowra Station

Bowra is one of the rare examples of an eco-touristic property in the outback of Australia with an excellent birding infrastructure. The owner couple Ian and Julie know their birds really well. As such, Bowra is the best place on earth to see the two Channel Country endemics that we had missed at Eulo Bore (see below). Our only concern was money, and we were afraid this was going to be an upscale place. However, Ian gave us a very good and affordable deal, better than we could have achieved at any Cunnamulla motel. Besides, Ian hands out good maps of his property and there is excellent stake-out information for most species. Therefore, we can thoroughly recommend a visit to Bowra Station, and we enjoyed our time here tremendously.

 A stunning male Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush

 female White-browed Treecreeper at Bowra

A stunning male Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush and a female White-browed Treecreeper at Bowra

Our foremost target bird at Bowra was Hall’s Babbler, of which we saw two groups of 2 and 3 individuals, respectively. Up until 2008, there will be a PhD student from NSW carrying out his thesis work on the family structure of these socially very complex birds here at Bowra, and most Hall’s Babblers on the property are ringed, so anyone who struggles to find them can easily ask Ian or the PhD student for some better site information or even go out with them on ringing treks in the morning.

 bower nest of a Spotted Bowerbird

The bower nest of a Spotted Bowerbird behind the house at Bowra; their females seem to like all sorts of junk

Other notable birds included a sprinkling of sightings of Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrushes of the very distinct Queensland race, which will surely one day be split if current trends in systematics are maintained. Spotted Bowerbirds nest right behind Bowra Station and are easy to see around the house. There are stake-out areas where White-browed Treecreeper is reasonably common, and we also flushed two Bourke’s Parrots close to the homestead. One of the big surprises, however, was a Black-eared Cuckoo singing its heart out and affording great views near the Redthroat sign along the main track through the property (hopefully that cardboard Redthroat sign will be there for a while yet, otherwise this location info will be useless). Leaving around mid-morning the second day, we did a de-tour due east from Cunnamulla to check a couple of buttonquail spots posted on Birding-AUS by Carl Billingham, but only succeeded in locating three Australian Bustards about 20 km east of Cunnamulla.

Road from Cunnamulla to Onepah Gate (via Bulloo Downs)

From Cunnamulla, it was time to head back west again and retrace our footsteps. In Thargomindah, we opted to take the little-traveled route via Bulloo Downs all the way to Onepah Gate at the border to NSW. This was a fascinating route with varied (though degraded) landscapes, ranging from gibber to dry swamp closer to the Bulloo Overflow. We failed to check the “dry swampy” bits for lignum at this point. Best birds along this stretch were a multitude of Bourke’s Parrots, Inland Dotterel and many of the other more widespread outback specialties mentioned before for Strzelecki and Epsilon/Santos.

 Female Crimson Chat

Female Crimson Chat along the road from Bulloo Downs to Onepah Gate

Onepah Gate

This is the old, traditional site for Grey Grasswren from the days of Thomas & Thomas. It is also a controversial site, since various trip reports contradict each other on whether it is off limits or not. The latest we had heard is that it was again OK to visit the site, after the owners had discouraged people from visiting in the previous years. We tried contacting the owners but never got through, and therefore came here on the assumption that what we had heard about access was correct. In retrospect, we are not so sure any more if our entry into the area was against the wishes of the owners. Therefore, we encourage all potential future visitors to make comprehensive enquiries before heading out. We saw two Grey Grasswrens here on our brief visit in the late afternoon (before dusk), but we will not provide details on access and locations, since we do not want to encourage other people to come here without knowing whether it is OK.

 Grasswren (?) tracks at Epsilon

Grasswren (?) tracks at Epsilon

Epsilon-Santos (Take 2)

After our great success at Bowra and Onepah, and having a spare day, we decided to give the Epsilon-Santos area another try for the little-known population of Striated Grasswren. Starting out in the morning at the same dune site as given above, we worked our way through a number of dune sites with slightly different spinifex character, but again failed to locate any grasswrens. However, we again noticed tantalizing footsteps in the sand that we assume to be of grasswren origin. The habitat looks good in places, and we assume they might have been sitting on their nests and therefore been too shy to respond to our presence. Many other bird species on these dunes had young juveniles while we were there, such as fairywrens and Crimson Chats, which makes it likely that the grasswrens – which are naturally thinner on the ground – would have been involved in attending their nests as well. Other good birds we saw this time here in the dunes include White-backed Swallow, Chirruping Wedgebill, Black and Pied Honeyeater and Cinnamon Quail-Thrush.

Road from Tibooburra to Wentworth

A quick drive through NSW from the Queensland border to the Victorian border was relatively eventless, with a Spotted Harrier and our last outback species (Budgerigar, Crimson Chat) slowly fading out.

 A Malleefowl at Eremophila Reserve

A Malleefowl at Eremophila Reserve

Eremophila Reserve

En route back to Adelaide, we stopped over at Eremophila Reserve about 20km from Waikerie for close-up views of a Malleefowl that regularly comes in to seeds at this place. The mallee here at Eremphila is in great shape, but the day was very windy, and we didn’t see any other notable birds at this site.

Trip List:

All birds seen; abbreviations refer to sites listed in itinerary; cm – common

1. Emu – cm
2. Malleefowl – 1 ER
3. Stubble Quail – 1 OG
4. Buttonquail spec. – several flushed at CC; very probably Little Buttonquail, as white flanks, tawny upperparts and small size seen on some individuals; however, flushed sightings of larger and colder brown-mantled birds points to possible presence of second species (Red-chested)
5. Hoary-headed Grebe – several RS on ponds near Bollard’s Lagoon
6. Black Swan – ES + juv.
7. Australian Shelduck – ES flock 20-30
8. Pacific Black Duck
9. Gray Teal – cm
10. Pink-eared Duck – cm
11. Hardhead – 1 RS near Bollard’s Lagoon
12. Maned Duck – not in arid outback
13. Black-tailed Native-hen – c. 100 ES
14. Pacific Heron – cm
15. White-faced Heron – cm
16. Great Egret – 1 TC
17. Straw-necked Ibis – RS
18. Australian Bustard – 3 BS, c. 20-30km E Cunnamulla
19. Australian Pratincole – cm, esp. ST, SN
20. Masked Lapwing – cm + juv.
21. Banded Lapwing – cm
22. Red-capped Plover – 1 RS near Bollard’s Lagoon
23. Black-fronted Dotterel – cm
24. Inland Dotterel – 1 ST at KM 32 (from Lyndhurst); many ES, incl. old juv.’s
25. Black-winged Stilt – BS, RS
26. Red-necked Avocet – 1 RS near Bollard’s Lagoon
27. Silver Gull – PA
28. Gull-billed Tern – 10-20 OG
29. Black-shouldered Kite – WK
30. Letter-winged Kite – 4 LW
31. Black-breasted Buzzard – 1 RS ca. 10 km N Strzelecki Crossing; 1 TC near Cunnamulla
32. Black Kite – cm
33. Whistling Kite – cm but not in arid land
34. Wedge-tailed Eagle – cm
35. Little Eagle – 1 ST, 1 CC
36. Spotted Harrier – 2+2+1 RS; 1 SW; 1 SN
37. Australian Hobby – 1 CC, also elsewhere
38. Brown Falcon – cm
39. Nankeen Kestrel – cm
40. Peaceful Dove – several sites but uncommon
41. Diamond Dove – very cm
42. Common Bronzewing – LG, ER, BS
43. Flock Bronzewing – c. 10 CC
44. Crested Pigeon – cm
45. Galah – cm
46. Little Corella – cm
47. Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo – BS, CO
48. Purple-crowned Lorikeet – PA
49. Cockatiel – RS, ES and all the way through to SW
50. Budgerigar – cm at most sites from ST through SW
51. Adelaide Rosella – DS
52. Mallee Ringneck – all barnardi; 2 LG; SH, BG, BS, ER
53. Mulga Parrot – WK, LG, BS
54. Blue Bonnet – WK, ES, SN, TC, BS
55. Bourke’s Parrot – c. 10 at SN (28°02’S 142°27’E); 2 BS; cm at CO near Bulloo Downs
56. Elegant Parrot – 1 SH, many BG
57. Pallid Cuckoo – 1 TC in Thargomindah
58. Black-eared Cuckoo – 1 BS at Redthroat signpost
59. Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo – cm
60. Southern Boobook – 1 BG, heard only at BS
61. Laughing Kookaburra – TC, BS
62. Red-backed Kingfisher – 1 CC, 1 TC; 1 RS at Eyrean Grasswren dune at the western boundary of the Bollard’s Lagoon property along Merty-Merty Track (see Ian May’s postings)
63. Varied Sitella – 3 DS, several BS
64. White-browed Treecreeper – BS
65. Brown Treecreeper – BS
66. Splendid Fairywren – WK, BS
67. Variegated Fairywren – cm; at LG possibly this species and not Blue-breasted (contra Thomas & Thomas)
68. White-winged Fairywren – cm
69. Short-tailed Grasswren – SH, 4 seen well, more heard
70. Eyrean Grasswren – 2 at Eyrean Grasswren dune at the western boundary of the Bollard’s Lagoon property along Merty-Merty Track (see Ian May’s postings); another one at Eyrean dune north of Strzelecki Crossing along Strzelecki Track (see Ian May’s posting)
71. Grey Grasswren – OG 2
72. Western Grasswren – 1 WK at Middleback (33°00.81S 137°32.86E)
73. ‘Eastern’ Thick-billed Grasswren – 2-3 ML a few meters from the rusty car
74. Spotted Pardalote – 1 ER
75. Striated Pardalote – cm
76. Rufous Calamanthus – 3 ML; 1 ST at KM 32 from Lyndhurst
77. Redthroat – 1 WK at Middleback (33°00.81S 137°32.86E)
78. Weebill – cm but not along Strzelecki
79. Inland Thornbill – WK, LG, BG, BS
80. Chestnut-rumped Thornbill – BS
81. Yellow Thornbill – DS
82. Slender-billed Thornbill – WK 2-3
83. Yellow-rumped Thornbill – WK, LG, BS
84. Southern Whiteface – WK, DS, 1 SH, ES, BS, TC
85. Chestnut-breasted Whiteface – 3 ML at the mine site about two thirds along the way from “no access” sign to big black rock on the right (as facing the sign)
86. Red Wattlebird – PA, LG
87. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater – cm
88. Noisy Friarbird – 1 BS
89. Blue-faced Honeyeater – BS
90. Yellow-throated Miner – cm, e.g. PA, ST, BS
91. Yellow-faced Honeyeater – 1 DS
92. Singing Honeyeater – cm; also forresti, e.g. LW
93. White-eared Honeyeater – LG
94. White-plumed Honeyeater – cm
95. Pied Honeyeater – LW, RS, ES
96. Black Honeyeater – ES
97. Crimson Chat - + juv.; c. 20 WK; many LW onwards to ES
98. Orange Chat – from ST through ES; CO; SW; generally lower in numbers than Crimson, though at more sites
99. White-fronted Chat – c. 50 WK
100. Gibberbird – 2 ST at KM 170 from Lyndhurst
101. Chirruping Wedgebill – PA, ML, ST, RS, ES, SN, CC
102. Chestnut Quail-Thrush – 1 pair at LG
103. Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush – repeatedly at BS
104. Cinnamon Quail-Thrush – 1,3 + 2 at ML; 1,0 + 1 ES; 1,2 RS
105. White-browed Babbler – WK, LG, PA, DS, BG, ST, RS
106. Hall’s Babbler – 3+2 BS
107. Chestnut-crowned Babbler – RS, ES, TC, BS, CO
108. Red-capped Robin – cm
109. Hooded Robin – TC, BS, CO
110. Western Yellow Robin – 1 LG
111. Jacky Winter - BS, CO
112. Crested Bellbird – TC and heard only elsewhere
113. Grey Shrike-Thrush – cm but not along Strzelecki; also at LG
114. Rufous Whistler – scattered sites
115. Willie Wagtail – cm
116. Restless Flycatcher – BS
117. Magpie Lark – cm
118. Spotted Bowerbird – BS
119. Black-faced Cuckooshrike – cm
120. Ground Cuckooshrike – TC 5 near western boundary of Paroo District sign
121. White-winged Triller – LW, RS
122. White-breasted Woodswallow – BS
123. Masked Woodswallow – esp. along Strzelecki
124. White-browed Woodswallow – esp. along Strzelecki and ES
125. Black-faced Woodswallow – cm
126. Dusky Woodswallow – ER
127. Grey Butcherbird – BG
128. Australian Magpie – cm
129. Grey Currawong – 1 LG, 1 ER (different distinct subspecies)
130. Australian Raven – cm
131. Little Raven – ER
132. Little Crow – from ML through ES
133. White-winged Chough – whiteae at LG, nominate at ER
134. Apostlebird – Thargomindah 3-5; BS flock
135. White-backed Swallow – esp. LW and ES
136. Welcome Swallow
137. Tree Martin – SH
138. Fairy Martin – cm
139. Australian Pipit – cm
140. Singing Bushlark – 1 near Cunnamulla
141. Rufous Songlark – cm
142. Brown Songlark – cm (more so than Rufous)
143. House Sparrow – Iron Knob
144. Zebra Finch – cm
145. Mistletoebird – occasional
146. Silvereye – BG
147. Blackbird – 1 Broken Hill

Acknowledgements:

We are indebted to a number of people for making this trip such a great success. Our thanks go out to the many members of Birding-AUS that have contributed their sightings to the mailing-list’s archives. In particular, we would like to acknowledge Ian May – without whom we would have missed one or two of the trip megas – and Peter Waanders – who was also very helpful in responding to our specific enquiries. Andrew Black pointed out the Western Grasswren site and is warmly acknowledged for that. Our warm thanks also go to Jonny Schoenjahn for much valuable advice. Moreover, Sue and Phil Gregory, Drew Fulton, Carl Billingham and John Leonard provided helpful extra information. Thanks also to Ian and Julie at Bowra Station for their great hospitality.