Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Big Country! Part 6

This post is just about the birds we saw. I did not see as many birds as I would have liked to do on this trip as my attention was divided between landscapes that I had never seen before and the wildflowers that were blooming in abundance this year. Next time (if I am lucky enough to be able to go again!) I would like to spend more time on Kilcowera just looking for birds.
This Black-faced Woodswallow (Artamus cinereus) was sitting in the top of a small tree. This was a new bird for me although we see both White-breasted and Dusky Woodswallows down here on the coast.This Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) was also a new bird for me. We see plenty of Peaceful Doves here on the coast which are a similar size to the Diamond Dove.I did not have much luck with the ducks I tried to photograph. Either they were too far away for good photos or else they took off very fast when we got close.
These Pink-eared Ducks (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) flew off from behind some bushes but the in-flight photo is enough to show the zebra flanks, black patch around the eye, and the leathery flap at the end of the bill.These Plumed Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) were on Cardenyabba Swamp in the late afternoon when the light had almost gone.Finally a nest of the Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) which Toni Sherwin showed me on Kilcowera station. The eagle flew off as we approached and stayed away! We also saw a number of these eagles on the side of the road but they all flew off as we approached.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Big Country! Part 5

There are usually numbers of Pelicans all around the bay. However, when there is rain and floods in the outback and the inland lakes fill the Pelicans go out there to breed. This year the floods were extra big and the Pelicans have been gone for months! I read that there were 30,000 Pelicans breeding on Lake Wyara which is part of the Currawinya National Park. (Of course, there are even larger numbers of birds breeding on the larger lakes further inland but these parts of the country really need a 4 wheel drive vehicle just to get there!) The roads around Currawinya National Park are low and they are still flooded and inaccessible even to 4 wheel drive vehicles. However, Kilcowera Station shares a boundary with the National Park and Lake Wyara is right on this boundary. The land on this western side of the lake is higher and the access to the lake is easier - however, it is still 4 wheel drive access. The owners of Kilcowera Station take tours out to Lake Wyara when requested and we decided that this would be great for us. I would have been happy just to have been taken out to see the Pelicans on Lake Wyara but the tour with Toni Sherwin was even better. We left at 9am and were out all day until after 4pm. We were driven over a large portion of the station. Of course Toni knew the history of the area and this was very interesting. She also knew where birds could be expected to be seen and kept stopping and showing us birds and bird habitat that we certainly would not have found by ourselves. All in all we thought the tour was very good value for money!
Lake Wyara was beautiful! The Pelicans were breeding on the far side of the lake and we could see a hazy white line of birds stretching for kilometers. There were Pelicans swimming on the lake and Pelicans flying overhead. There were also large numbers of other water-birds swimming on the lake and perching on any available vegetation. We saw Black Swans with their young, and numbers of Cormorants, Coots, and Ducks. Most of the birds were quite a distance away and it was not possible to ID them all. We also saw a number of Red-capped Plovers running at the edge of the lake. These are a common bird here on the bay as well. All of the photos will enlarge when clicked on and I have left most of them as quite big photos.
We then drove to another part of the lake where there was lower land at the edge of the lake and more saltmarsh plants growing. I found a couple of species that looked the same (or similar) to ones that grow in the saltmarsh areas here on the coast. However, there were plants that we don't get out here on the coast and I have never seen saltmarsh plants with such a variety of colors. It was a beautiful sight! As we walked over the area we could smell the perfume from the plants which were flowering. Pelicans did not seem to be using this part of the lake but we saw a greater variety of other water-birds here.An Australian Pipit was walking around among the flowers and a Black-fronted Dotterel was running on the sand at the edge of the lake.For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Big Country! Part 4

Kilcowera Station was our next stop. The Station is 90Kms south of Thargomindah down the Hungerford Road - or about 77Kms down that road and then 13 Kms on a private road into the Station. The roads are mostly gravel but we had no difficulty getting there in our 2 wheel drive car. However, after any rain it would have been a different story!
Kilcowera has a web page here and a blog here. Kilcowera Station is 120,000 acres and was once part of the Sir Sydney Kidman owned Boorarra Station.For us, this was the high point of our whole trip! Imagine being able to wander around an area like this with hardly anyone else around. During our stay there were only 12 other people camping and in the shearer's quarters - although we were told that school holidays are busier. This is the shearer's quarters and camp ground photographed on our last night there when we had a spectacular sunset. There was a big wind that afternoon and night but fortunately no rain.On the flat parts of the Station the vegetation is tall enough that you can't see too far but there are higher places where you can get wonderful views over the country. After the floods earlier in the year and also more recent rains there is a lot of grass covering the ground. It has dried off now and looks almost white.Parts of the Station are rocky and quite spectacular.Cardenyabba swamp is only a couple of Kms from the camping area.Of course, there are birds everywhere! For this post - just two of them!
I was lucky enough to see the Chestnut-Breasted Quail-Thrush (Cinclosoma castaneothorax) . There were two of them quite close to the road but definitely not easy to see with their coloring blending in so well with the red color of the soil.I was very excited to see flocks of Budgerigars - the first time I have seen these birds NOT in a cage!They were nesting beside Cardenyabba swamp and this one came down for a drink late in the afternoon.Part 5 - Lake Wyara - the best of the lot!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Big Country! Part 3

Wildflowers around Quilpie.We found the best wildflowers on the road from Quilpie south to Thargomindah. (I should mention here that this was the roughest road we drove on. It was unsealed for 40+Kms and was very cut-up by deep wheel tracks during the last period of wet weather. I'm glad it had dried out or we would never have made it in our ordinary 2 wheel drive car!) We were told in other places that we were a little early and that the best flowering would be in a week or so. However, we were delighted in what we did see.The land looked very dry and rocky in most places. However, this bare soil supported an amazing amount and variety of flowers. We saw 3 stands of bees along the side of the road so there must have been enough nectar for the bee-keepers to decide to put the bees in the area. I am not a botanist and have no idea of the names of the plants and flowers that I photographed. I just enjoyed the colors and variety. Of course, if anyone knows names I would be delighted to have you tell me. The first photos show first a view of the plant then a close-up of the flowers.The next flower did not have a large plant but was just growing by itself on a bit of dry looking ground.We drove on and stopped a little further down the road where the land was a bit lower and the grass and plants covered the ground.This time I did not photograph more of the flowers as I was distracted by birds! There was a whole flock of little Zebra Finches in the bushes! I have only seen one Zebra Finch flying free in the bush before and I think it was an escapee from a cage. It was really great to see all these birds free in the bush where they are meant to be. This was definitely the high-light of the day for me!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Big Country! Part 2

We spent an unexpected rest day at Mitchell when it rained quite heavily over-night and also the next morning. We just couldn't see how we could keep everything dry while we were packing. I spent a very frustrating morning watching little birds that I did not know and couldn't ID fluttering by the tent annex while it was just too wet to get out my bird books and definitely too wet to get out my camera! The only birds that stayed around in the afternoon were these Superb Fairy-Wrens (Malurus cyaneus). I frequently saw these birds when I lived in NSW but had no photos of them. These ones fluttered around in the longer grass next to the mown areas of the park but- like all wrens - didn't sit still for longer than a few seconds. The male is the lovely bright blue color and the female the brown color.Now, just a few words to those more knowledgeable birders who may be expecting all the wonderful rarities from out in this part of the country! All the birds out here were new to me so they were all exciting! I photographed the more common ones just as happily as I did the rarer ones.
Although it is a very big county out this way it was surprising how we kept meeting people who knew people that we knew! The managers at the park at Mitchell were New Zealanders and the lady had grown up in the same little town (Kaitaia) where we lived when we were younger. Then later in the day another lady came walking by and she said that she knows both Duncan at Ben Cruachan and also Gouldiae and goes out on their birding outings. She said if I looked hard enough I would see her in some of their photos!

Part 3 coming soon! - the wildflowers blooming in the Quilpie area.

For more great bird photos from across the world visit the Bird Photography Weekly.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Big Country! Part 1

I have just returned from a short trip out to south-west Queensland and will post about it over the next few days. This is the first time I have been out that way and I had a great time. Thanks to all who commented while I have been away. I have a lot of reading to catch up with!

The title of this post may be trite and over-used but this was the overall impression of the trip - huge spaces and the further west we got the more empty it was!
We started by climbing up the range to Toowoomba and then heading up towards Dalby. (I am including a screen capture from Google maps with the route marked on it. I got road maps from the RACQ before we left but details were better on the Google maps which I also printed out.) Click on all picture files to enlarge them.
These next few photos were taken through the car window as we traveled along. We knew we had a long way to go and didn't want to keep stopping.
This area is used for growing grain and some paddocks were fallow with just stubble left from the previous crop but some others were very green with new crops.

Many years ago my father told us about the way the Prickly Pear cactus had invaded much of Queensland and New South Wales. The problem was huge - 24 million hectares of land infested by 1920. The solution was to bring in eggs of the cactoblastis moth from Argentina and by 1936 the cactus was controlled. This community hall was built to commemorate that and is on the highway at Boonarga. There are still some bushes of cactus growing along the roadside but it is no longer infesting good land.

Another interesting place was in the town of Roma. There are several roads lined with Bottle Trees which were planted to remember the soldiers who were killed in the war. Some of these trees are now huge! Each tree had a small plaque remembering one of the soldiers that died.

Part 2 coming soon!