I had wanted to do a fishing trip up to the Northern Territory for a long time and finally I got the opportunity. With most people shutting their businesses due to the Commonwealth Games being on the Gold Coast I did the same shutting the dojo and taking 2 weeks to do a boys trip with my old man over easter. I made my way from the Gold Coast to Hervey Bay to meet dad and then we headed off for a casual 4 day drive 🙂
No stopping on the first day so nothing to report
Duaringa to Combo Waterhole – 31 March 2018
The first night we stopped at a free camp site at Duaringa, in the morning I woke to the sounds of a lot of bats. They turned out to be the Little Red Flying-fox and they had a roosting site in a vacant block opposite where we were camped.
The block was for sale but I am guessing it would be a hard sell at the moment with hundreds of bats crammed in together.
There were a few of the open woodlands type birds around with Sulphur Crested-Cockatoo, Galah and Little Corella present along with the usual Magpie and Magpie Lark but we were on the road pretty early heading towards our next stop so I didn’t take any photos.
With a fair few km’s to cover we didn’t do many stops with my only stop request being for the Australian Bustard, one of the birds I wanted to photograph on this trip. With lots of rain recently there was grass and feed everywhere and the birds of prey were very common and later in the day lots of finches and the like which were a bit hard to identify as we were driving along at 100km’s per hour.
Past Winton we pulled up at a potential camp site and I was able to get my first new tick for the trip with a Brown Songlark (#276), and then the really cool looking Spinifex Pigeon (#277). They were a bit hard to shoot in the harsh light but great to get 2 ticks on the board.
The roadside campsite didn’t look that appealing so we decided to continue driving towards Combo Waterhole, along the way after a couple of missed opportunities I finally had a group of Australian Bustard in range and got tick number 278. They were a bit flighty but I was able to get a few shots before they took off.
Combo Waterhole – 1 April 2018
It was almost dark by the time we got into Combo Waterhole so there was no stopping to take any photos of the ample birds on the way in, instead a quick set-up and dinner then a watch of the full moon rising.
I woke early in the morning and went for a bit of a walk back down the track we had taken to get into the watrehole. The flies were out in their millions and I had forgotten to recondition my shoes after giving them a really good clean so had a massive blister in the first 10 minutes. Not exactly desirable for starting a trip up north!
I very quickly got my next tick for the trip with a number of Australian Pratincole (#279) present. It was a bit hard to get close to them on the open plain but I still got some ok shots. They are a really attractive bird with their big dark eyes.
There were a few more Spinifex Pigeon and a couple of Brown Songlark spotted next but all very flighty with no decent shots. Black Kite were everywhere circling high and then coming in low to check out something on the ground. I watched for a while hoping to see a take of some kind of prey with no luck. Other birds to be seen but with no decent shots included the Australian Bustard, Brolga, and Galah. By this stage I was unable to walk in my shoes due to the blisters so abandoned them on the track and continued in my socks.
One bird I was pleased to capture and get some better shots of was the Horsfield’s Bushlark and a few were obliging sitting on the fence line.
A small distant bird of prey had my attention for a while as it took a bit to get a clear enough look to identify it, a fair bit of walking and I was able to identify it as a Nankeen Kestrel. A little disappointing as I have seen them often before but I was rewarded on the walk back with a low pass by a Spotted Harrier, it unfortunately didn’t stick around long but I still managed enough shots for tick number 280.
On the way back to the camp I got a few more Australian Pratincole and Horsfield’s Bushlark but no other new ticks. With about 15 minutes to spare I had a quick look at a small waterhole beside the camp were a lot of the Black Kites were sitting, they took off pretty quick as I approached as did a Diamond Dove which was unfortunate as I have only ever seen one other Diamond Dove and that was a couple of years ago at Bowra Sanctuary. The only other sighting was a few Yellow-throated Miner.
Getting back to the camp for breakfast I was a bit disappointed in the photos with a lot slightly blurry. A bit of an equipment check and I had somewhere along the way bumped a couple of buttons on the lens and turned off vibration reduction. Dammn, very frustrating when you only get one shot at it 🙁
Before we left Combo Waterhole we did the walk into the waterhole itself. It is an interesting place with history worth reading up on. It is claimed (whether true or not) to be the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda.
It was only a quick walk in and out but I still managed to get a few photos with the first being a Paperbark Flycatcher (#281), probably getting to the southern most part of the range for this species. Very much like the Leaden Flycatcher, you can tell the difference via the bristles around the beak.
The other good sighting for me was a small family of Budgerigar, awesome to finally see these iconic birds in the wild and get tick number 282.
A Whistling Kite was doing circles over us the whole time.
A few other birds around such as Galah, and Crested Pigeon and then the final bird was a pair of Spinifex Pigeon who were happy to walk along the path in front of me for a bit providing a great opportunity to get a better shot then I had got the previous day.
Barkly Homestead to Manangoora – 2 April 2018
The next day took us through Mt Isa where I had lived a for a few years as a kid and on across the border into NT stopping at Barkly Homestead for our next camp. In the morning I had a quick look around the grounds with not a lot to see. I would have thought with the permanent supply of water and gardens there would have been more to see but I guess with the recent rains there was enough water and food around elsewhere that the birds did not need to be there. A Yellow-throated Miner was my only decent sighting.
On the road again with our final destination in sight we were off up the Carpentaria Highway. Normally a trip highlighted by endless dirt plains this time there was grass everywhere. With a time restraint to make sure we had time to get supplies and get to Manangoora the only targets for stops were for Brolga and Wedge-tailed Eagle. The Wedge-tailed Eagle proved hard to get as they could be seen but would take off when ever the car stopped and I didn’t have time to sit and wait for them to return.
A pair of Brolga were located ducking into the long grass for cover when we stopped the car but I was able to locate them for a shot.
We did also finally get a chance with the Wedge-tailed Eagle with one circling and only flying a short distance away for a moment before taking off again. I would still like to get some better shots of these majestic birds but this was a good upgrade on what I had previously managed to shoot.
The hours flew by driving and before I knew it we had reached our destination. A sign that may or may not have said road closed didn’t deter us and a few water crossings and a bit of four wheel driving and we had reached our destination.
Wildlife photography was a side focus on this journey but it was great to still get 7 new ticks on the way. There were lots of places I could have stopped for a good look around and a few of the iconic species for some of the areas that I passed that could have been targeted but it would have taken me the full 2 weeks just to get here if I had done that!
- World Bird Count: 429
- Australian Bird Count: 282
- Spinifex Pigeon (new – #276)
- Brown Songlark (new – #277)
- Australian Bustard (new – #278)
- Australian Pratincole (new – #279)
- Horsfield’s Bushlark
- Nankeen Kestrel
- Spotted Harrier (new – #280)
- Black Kite
- Diamond Dove
- Yellow-throated Miner
- Paperbark Flycatcher (new – #281)
- Budgerigar (new – #282)
- Whistling Kite
- Crested Pigeon
- Wedge-tailed Eagle
- Little Red Flying-fox (new)