We were amazed by the name of a Ctenotus that we saw on this trip (Ctenotus QUattuordecimlineatus) at Jupiter Well
BY JACK MOORHEAD
PICTURES BILL MOORHEAD
WARNING: Warning this book is very addictive. It is about a boy, a silly old man and a woman who has trouble assuming the brace position. Their trip was from Bundaberg to Jupiter Well and back again driving chasing Princess Parrots and other arid birds.
19th of September, 2009
You won’t hear anything from the peanut jelly
(we were sitting around the campfire when we were being served our meal when Karen said,’ You won’t hear anything from the peanut jelly.’ What she was meaning was that it was a good meal and you wouldn’t be hearing anything bad from the ‘peanut gallery.’)
This morning we woke up at around 6am. We completed some finishing touches on the campertrailer while we waited for Karen to come down from Brisbane. In our garden we saw a total of 48 birds with highlights of; 2 very tame feeding Pale-headed Rosellas, the now resident flock of 5 Long-billed Corellas and 3 Little Corellas, single Collared Sparrowhawk, Black-shouldered Kite and Brahminy Kite (breeding) as well as the 3 resident mangrove specialties (Mangrove Honeyeater, Mangrove Gerygone and Collared Kingfisher). We have now recorded 185 species at home with the recent additions of Long-billed Corella and Australian Owlet-Nightjar. Karen arrived in Bundaberg at around 10am and after driving around the oval looking for us a few times we left at 10:30am. The first stop after we started was at around 12 noon at the Murgon Meat Works. There was only a tiny pool of water there. Birds there included; Australian Reed-warbler (5), Superb Fairy-wren (20), Golden-headed Cisticola (10) and a few others. New birds on the drive included Apostlebird, Wedge-tailed Eagle, good numbers of White-winged Chough, small flocks of Red-winged Parrots, Cockatiels, Squatter Pigeons, Red-rumped Parrots and large concentrations of Common Bronzewings between Dalby and Southwood National Park (our final camp). We estimated there to be at least a pair per kilometre. We pulled off to the right in Southwood National Park. The birds we saw before it got dark included Grey Fantail, Weebill, Mistletoebird and Rufous Whistler. When we went nightspotting we saw Eastern Stone Gecko and heard Australian Owlet Nightjar.
20th of September, 2009
I can’t see the Emu; it’s the same colour as the grass
(there were quite a few Emus around but Karen couldn’t see any. When she finally saw one she said it was because the same colour as the grass. She later described Emus as, I quote,’ A clump of grass with a tree stump poking out of it.’)
This morning we woke up in Southwood National Park to the sound of Australian Owlet Nightjar at around 6am. The morning birding highlights were; White-eared Honeyeater (2), Striped Honeyeater (2 and breeding), Scarlet Honeyeater (1), Yellow-faced Honeyeater (2), Weebill (100), Yellow Thornbill (5), Golden Whistler (2), Leaden Flycatcher (2) and lots more. We then continued on the road west with additional species recorded being Emu, Grey-crowned Babbler, Australian Raven, Little Woodswallow, Straw-necked Ibis, Red-capped Robin, a stunning Major Mitchell and a White-winged Triller. We stopped and had lunch at Bollon. This is a fantastic little town were almost all people are friendly and there is also free camping along the river (but we bush camped). While we were there highlights included; Mallee Ringneck (1), White-plumed Honeyeater (20), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (1), Sacred Kingfisher (1), Spotted Bowerbird (20), Brolga (2), Yellow-throated Miner (1) and White-winged Triller (1). It was then only a short while to Bowra. We arrived there at around 3pm with a stop for a wonderful pair of Blue Bonnets. This site was at S 29 59 16 E 145 37 44. The second bird was a brilliant RED-BROWED PARDALOTE. A fantastic little bird with a red spot just above the eye fading back into a brow, a neat little yellow (diagnostic) patch on the belly and a intricately spotted crown. 8 birds were seen altogether at this site with others being; Little Woodswallow (4), Black-faced Woodswallow (2), Zebra Finch (5), Singing Honeyeater (1), Hooded Robin (2), Brown Treecreeper (1) and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (1). After this we went into the Bowra campsite. Interesting birds on the wetland included; Yellow-billed Spoonbill (1), Black-tailed Native-hen (2), Black-winged Stilt (5), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (2), Black-fronted Dotterel (8), Grey Teal (5) and Little Woodswallow (6). We then left for site 5 hoping for Hall’s Babbler. We had no such luck as Dad was getting sick so we had to head back to camp. In the short time we did manage to see Splendid Fairy-wren (3), Inland Thornbill (4), Red-capped Robin (2) and Hooded Robin (1). I went for some spotlighting around the camp and found Bynoe’s Gecko, Litoria rubella and Litoria peronii. For dinner we had chicken curry.
21st of September, 2009
Park the car on the hole, someone could break their ankle on it
(there was a tiny hole in the ground and Karen suggested that we should park the car on it. I believe that you would struggle to break your toe in it (as you can see it was a pretty good day for Karen) )
This morning we woke up at around 6am. This mornings plans were for me to leave with Len & Chris Ezzy and for Dad and Karen to do some early morning birding and then leave for the doctors at around 8am. I then left with Len & Chris Ezzy to go birding around Bowra in the morning till about lunch time. When the time came to leave we were quickly rewarded with brilliant views of Chestnut-crowned Babbler. Other new birds for the trip included Crested Bellbird, Diamond Dove, Brown Songlark and Brown Falcon. Lots of pairs of Major Mitchells were also seen. One of the earlier stops was for some small birds. On getting out of the car a Grey Falcon was seen cruising slowly over the car and into the bush. It was a fantastic adult with a bright yellow beak and legs with an overall grey colour. This location was S 28 00 07 E 145 33 03. Other interesting birds here were; Crimson Chat (4), Red-capped Robin (2), Hooded Robin (2), Jacky Winter (2 and breeding), Yellow-rumped Thornbill (6), Inland Thornbill (1), Pallid Cuckoo (1), Crested Bellbird (1), Spotted Harrier (1) and Splendid Fairy-wren (1). After driving around a bit more we received information regarding 9 Halls Babblers and 2 Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrushes at site 5 on the map. We raced over there. The location is S 27 59 26 E 145 31 32 or when driving at site 5 look for a sign on the fence the says ‘Redthroat’ head in here were there are lots of babbler nests then wait for a call then follow. When we arrived there were Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Red-backed Kingfisher and Southern Whiteface. The call of a babbler was heard and upon checking it out it was a HALL’S BABBLER. It is a smaller bird than its Grey-crowned relative with a thick white eye brow and a strong cut off chest. It is almost a 2 colour bird with only the dark brown/black and white. We walked in further and also saw a pair of Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush. A female Redthroat was also seen. It was around site 8 where we had our next exciting bird. This was at S 27 58 27 E 145 29 22 where we had about 5 White-browed Treecreepers. Although similar to Brown the streaking below the eye is very noticeable along with the lighter throat, floatier, less direct flight as well as call. The eyebrow is also a lot whiter but thinner than Brown. We also had another sighting of Hall’s Babbler at S 27 57 56 E 145 29 03. From here we then headed back to the campsite. Once we got back I left almost straight away with Bill & Karen to show Karen the White-browed Treecreeper. When we were driving along the road we had stops for; Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, Hall’s Babbler and then when we arrived at the site we saw plenty of White-browed Treecreepers as well. It was getting a bit late now so we headed back to camp to get some dinner going. As dusk crept in we headed out to site 2, to look for hawking Spotted Nightjars. After sitting on a log beside the billabong for about 10mins Dad brilliantly spotted one flying by. The SPOTTED NIGHTJAR came back and we had brilliant views. It is a dark nightjar with very small spots on its wings and a small throat patch. The flight is also slower than the other nightjars. Around the campsite we found a mating pair of Litoria peronii and numerous Limnnodynastes fletcheri.
22nd of September, 2009
Look, that baby’s hat is flying to Winton.
(now this one is interesting. We were driving into Longreach when we saw a billboard with a picture of a baby on it. There was a crow sitting on the top of it. When it flew away Karen believed it was one of the moving billboards and it was taking its hat off to us.)
This morning we woke up at around 6:30am for our last morning at Bowra. We quickly had a shower and packed up camp. After this we left at around 7:30am. On the drive out we had brilliant of views of landed Blue Bonnets (4) and Mulga Parrots (2). From here we decided to head north in order to get to Alice Springs quicker and also have a greater chance of Letter-winged Kites (we have heard that they bred into good numbers at Bladensburg National Park) and Flock Bronzewing (recently reported on the Barkly Tablelands). On the drive we had lots of Emus, Crimson Chats, Major Mitchells and Rufous Songlarks as well a Gould’s (Sand) Monitor. The wind had really started up now and was blowing up to 40-50knots from the north, north-west. We stopped at a service station at Tambo or S 24 52 53 E 146 15 31. Here the best bird was a single Black-tailed Godwit which provided both landed and flight views. Also there was Red-kneed Dotterel (2), Australasian Grebe (8), Grey Teal (6), Pacific Black Duck (4), Eurasian Coot (1) and Black-fronted Dotterel (2). The wind kept up and once we left not much was seen on the birding front. There are very little bush camping sites between Longreach and Winton and this was the best site that we found (a little further on when we left there are some spots on Jasmine Creek). The location is called Windermere Truck Stop and the GPS is S 22 33 29 E 143 25 37. It was almost dark when we pulled in so no birding was possible. For dinner we had a honey chicken curry.
23rd of September, 2009
Why are all these stuffed people outside people’s houses?
(we were driving through Winton when Karen made the observation that there were stuffed people outside of everyone’s houses. We were quick to point out that there was actually a scarecrow competition on there.)
This morning we woke up at around 6:30am. The wind had started at around midnight from the south west at speeds of about 40-50knots. It had calmed down a bit when we went out but still not enough. The only interesting birds were Rufous-throated Honeyeaters (15). Also seen included; Brolga (2), Singing Bushlark (2), Budgerigar (250), Diamond Dove (5), Peaceful Dove (1) and Rufous Songlark (1). An interesting observation was a probable pair between a Diamond and Peaceful Dove. They were feeding, drinking and flying together. We then left at around 8am. Shortly afterwards a Little Eagle was seen soaring next to the road, an Australian Pratincole just before Winton and a road killed Barn Owl just outside of Winton. We were now on the Winton to Boulia Road. The first stop we had was at S 22 13 38 E 142 05 41. Here the highlight was a female and immature male BLACK HONEYEATERS. It is a rather small honeyeater with the female coloured almost like a female White-winged Triller with a very long down-curved bill. Also there was the first Little Button-quail for the trip was flushed. The second stop was at S 22 26 11 E 141 56 16 with highlights including Mallee (Cloncurry subspecies) Ringneck (1), Painted Firetail (2), Brolga (4) and Spotted Bowerbird (1) and some Ring-tailed Dragons Ctenophorus caudicinctus. We then continued on with the highlight before lunch being a Spinifex Pigeon on the side of the road. When lunch time came we stopped at Makunda Creek (S 22 29 48 E 141 19 47). The birding highlights here were, a single Little Button-quail and the first Little Crow of the trip. On one 10km stretch we averaged 3.3 Australian Pratincoles per kilometre. It was around 2pm when we had our first Black Falcon of the trip. This location was S 22 46 24 E 140 36 45. This bird was an older one as it had a very silver head (probably over 10 years old). It was seen soaring and within about 30seconds it had disappeared into the sky without even one flap. The flat wing profile, feathered legs, overall dark appearance and the silver head lacking any other facial markings all nail it as a Black Falcon. The next stop was for 7 Australian Bustards on the road. It was shortly after were we came to our final camp by the side of the road (S 22 55 54 E 139 09 37). Some quick birding didn’t provide much except 2 Little Button-quail and a few others. For dinner was a Beef Stroganoff. Spotlighting provided very little (nothing).
24th of September, 2009
This morning we woke up to a rising sun at around 6:30am. We didn’t bother doing any morning birding because there was very little around and we needing to make some pace. Although when we were packing up the camp we heard Crested Bellbird and Little Button-quail. We left this location at around 7:30am and headed west. It was around 8:45am when we had our first stop. This location was S 22 53 50 E 138 53 38. It was for a pair of Oriental Plovers. When we got back in the car a Flock Bronzewing was seen flying away from us at quite a distance. After watching a few more flying around from a distance we drove up a side track. There was a single Orange Chat with some Crimson Chats there. While watching them a female FLOCK BRONZEWING flew right over our heads. It was a fantastic dumpy little pigeon. Its flight is most similar to that of a diving-petrel with its fat body with short wings and a very short tail. It has a consistent flap which rules it out from the Spinifex and Crested Pigeons also near by. While watching a male with a black head fly by a pair of Grey Falcons was seen soaring. These were in perfect light about 300-400m away. We observed them for about 3mins just soaring getting fantastic views of the of the slightly darker grey back with black primaries, a fantastic yellow cere (which could be seen with the naked eye) and legs and a slightly lighter underside. A single bird was seen about 10mins later at the same site chasing a flock of about 200 Cockatiels. Other birds at this site included: Brolga (5), Budgerigar (100), Singing Bushlark (4), Brown Songlark (2) and Australian Pipit (2). For other people driving, and camping on this road it is certainly worth driving to the Georgina River as there was some waterholes were the Flock Bronzewings and Grey Falcons would probably frequent. After this brilliant hotspot there were very little birds for a long time except a brilliant male Orange Chat and a female feeding by the side of the road. The next highlight was a Stubble Quail flying across the road. The small chestnut patch on the back could be seen along with a bit of the throat patch. 4 White-backed Swallows were seen along with some White-browed Babblers. A note for anybody travelling on this road is that Tobermorey Station is now closed but there is fuel about 200km further up the road. It was just after here we stopped on the Marshall River (S 22 57 13 E 136. Here the highlights were a single Grey-headed Honeyeater and Red-browed Pardalote. It was only a one and a half hours later when we got out to look at a pair of Brown Goshawks that we realised that Dad’s $3000 binoculars were left at Marsghall Rivber, 130km back! We started the drive back in hope that they were still there. On the drive lots of Crested Bellbirds were seen. When we arrived the binos were sitting on the bench and after much relief we set up camp on the other side of the river. It was already getting dark and once we got the camp set up the sun was long gone. For dinner we had a vegetarian (we were lacking any meat) potato and pineapple curry.
25th of September, 2009
This morning Dad woke up earlier than the rest of us. He ran back saying that there was a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards nesting. We watched them for a while watching the male go for a fly and then swapping sitting with the female. The only other interesting bird was a Peregrine Falcon belting down the river. Highlights on the drive included a dead Cat (yippee!), a road killed Spotted Nightjar which provided brilliant views (well it couldn’t fly away, could it?), a pair of Major Mitchell Cockatoos and some more White-browed Babblers. We also had a flat tyre. There was very little around until we were about to join onto the Stuart Highway. The highlight here was a couple of SLATY-BACKED THORNBILLS in with about 10 Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. The red eye, clean slaty grey back and clean front without any streaking are all identify it from Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills. Western Gerygones were also here. We then headed into Alice Springs. After getting the shopping, fuelling up we went to the Top Tourist Caravan Park. There we saw a Sacred Kingfisher and lots of Mallee (‘28’) Ringnecks. We had dinner at the Todd Tavern and went to bed.
26th of September, 2009
Look Bill, if you turn the map upside down,the 6 turns into a 9.
(we were driving along the Gary Junction Road and Karen was trying to figure out the distances between the towns. It was then that she made the observation that if she turned the map upside down she would get a different number because the 6 turned into a 9. Hey Karen, you’ll never guess what happens when you turn a W upside down and she is an accountant!)
This morning we got up at around 6am and we were gone just after 7am. We headed north onto the Tanami Road. From here we turned left onto the Gary Junction Road and headed west. The birding was pretty quiet until we stopped at about lunch time on the side of the road (S 23 13 25 E 131 27 00). The highlight here was a BLACK-EARED CUCKOO. It was only seen in flight but still showed well. The typical cuckoo flight, greyish overall appearance, a pale rump and of course, the black eye stripe are all diagnostic. Other birds here included; Little Eagle (1), Little Button-quail (1) and White-backed Swallow (1). When we were driving Wedge-tailed Eagles were common. The road conditions were parts of good and sandy (averaging about 80km per hour) but with gravel sections around Kintore and elsewhere it was rather hazardous (averaging about 50km per hour). Today was all about the travel to get out into Princess Parrot range and we covered about 550km. We ended up staying in a field of Allocasuarina decaisneana at S 23 06 34 E 128 41 05. The birds here were Yellow-throated Miners, Singing Honeyeaters, Australian Bustard, Brown Falcon and Australian Magpie. For dinner we had Mongolian Veal with beans. Spotlighting provided nothing.
27th of September, 2009
You should only have one carbohydrate per meal
(we were having dinner when Karen said that we should only be having one carbohydrate per meal ((potato and rice))…. good one Karen)
This morning we got up reasonably early and started to walk around the patch of desert oaks hoping for some Princess Parrots. We had no such luck but did have great views of Grey-headed Honeyeaters. After this we headed off west down Gary Junction Road. The birding was very quiet and the only exciting stop was for a pair of PIED HONEYEATERS at around 12 noon. The male was seen perched on some dead twigs at some distance but good views were still obtained. The black hood that is shorter than Black Honeyeater but bigger than White-winged Triller was seen, the white wing bars and tails could also be seen well. From here on we had numerous more sightings of males flying away from the road. When we arrived around the area were the Princess Parrots had been seen recently we got out of the car and had a look around. This location was S 22 48 03 E 126 45 19. The best birds here were Pied Honeyeater (20) and Masked Woodswallow (50). We set up camp at S 22 48 17 E 126 44 24. After setting up camp we went for a look around. The best birds here were 4 WHITE-FRONTED HONEYEATERS. It is a bird about the size of a New Holland Honeyeater with a pale black front fading into a striped chest going to white, a pale front and a hint of yellow on the wings. These birds prefer the low shrubbery (canal bush) and when flying land right in the middle of them. Other birds at this sight included; Pied Honeyeater (50), Grey-headed Honeyeater (5), Masked Woodswallow (100), Tree Martin (1), White-backed Swallow (6) and Brown Goshawk (1). It was getting dark so we just sat at the camp hoping for the outside chance of some Princess Parrots but instead were rewarded with large waves of Pied Honeyeaters flying over. For dinner we had gastronomic gourmet steak with potatoes and bubble and squeak sauce.
28th of September, 2009
Check out my light, it’s really bright
This morning we got up at around 6am. A pair of Little Eagles (one intermediate and one dark phase) was seen clearly landed and flying. The best birds seen when walking around were; Pied Honeyeater (100), White-fronted Honeyeater (5), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (1), Masked Woodswallow (50) and Little Crow (5). A Ctentous helenae was also seen here and figured its best survival tactic was to sit as still as possible and only open its eyes when touched. We then drove out to Jupiter Well itself. When driving we were going very slowly but unfortunately no PP’s (Princess Parrots) were seen. The bore itself was very good and we all had baths and filled up the water bottles. A Ctentous quattuordecimlineatus was also seen here. After this we went back to another PP hotspot area about 2.7km east of Jupiter well or S 22 49 02 E 126 43 36. Birds here include; Pied Honeyeater (40), Little Eagle (1), Zebra Finch (250), White-winged Triller (6) and Crimson Chat (2). The Zebra Finches here were drinking out of a tiny (underground) puddle. They were looking pretty thirsty but when we put out water none came in. It was after lunch by now so we went back to the campsite and packed it up. From here we were going to move the 44km east site (S 22 45 32 E 126 58 19) were we had seen very fresh PP tracks (some even over the human footprints). Birding the afternoon around here produced: Little Eagle (1) and Crimson Chat (6). For dinner we had moribund Chicken Malaysian green curry with beans. Spotlighting provided an Oriental Plover. There had been strong north westerly wind which could explain the southerly range.