Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Birding Bowra

Male Red-winged Parrot

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush calling. 
Our stay at Bowra began on Sunday with a drive down to the front gate – 6 km at 10 - 15 kph and lots of stopping – during which we had good views of a Black Falcon and a flock of 14 Emu right near the gate. The Grey Falcon was not in the “Falcon Tree” but our hunt had begun. From the front gate we headed out to look for Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush and found one, of all places, up a tree where it moved from branch to branch until it finally flew down and ran away, as they always do. Walking on I had a very brief view of a pair of Hall’s Babblers then got very nice views of Splendid Fairy-wrens and a female Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush.
This is an old map and location 7 is no longer accessible but it is otherwise accurate

This little gentleman was all puffed up as he came down to drink with the females

The rest of the day was a drive out to Gumholes for lunch where we left our friend Ian and his camera. Top birds at Gumholes were Plum-headed Finch, Double-bar Finch and Diamond Dove as well as a couple of spectacular butterflies. After lunch we drove on to do the Western Paddock loop, still looking for the elusive Grey Falcon, a tick for Joy. The grass is incredibly long in all the paddocks and the trees are fresh and growing, bright in new young leaves. A waterhole has filled half way down the southern leg of the Western Paddock loop and a pair of Spotted Harriers were working over the long grass. At the far back end of the loop Joy finally got a look at a Grey Falcon as it took off and flew away over the top of the mulga. YES, with the tick secured we could relax a bit and look for the rest of the Bowra specials.
Male Plum-headed Finch

Plum-headed Finch

Diamond Dove

Dinner that night was Osso-bucco and as we ate it a Boobook (almost a nice alliteration there) called from somewhere off in the distance, and frogs called from the lake. The night was calm and clear with stars bright overhead so we sat around in front of the tents and mused on the day's birding and the possible birds for the next day, as you do.
Male Emus developing the blue face skin of breeding

Emus have such wonderful expressions

This very pale Emu looked huge; a reversion to something from Gondwanaland perhaps?

The weather on Monday was, again, perfect for birding with no wind and clear blue skies. Our luck held in this regard as every day of our stay had daytime temps in the high 20s C and at night it got down to the high teens. We had lunch by the dam in the Western Paddock and as we ate a Spotted Harrier worked over the grassland and a Black-breasted Buzzard glided back and forth on outspread wings giving us prolonged repeat views.
Black-breasted Buzzard

Crimson Chat

Tuesday started well with a nice male Crimson Chat just out of the camp site but then got way better at 0830 when I collected Joy from her morning walk, drove 300 metres down the track from the homestead junction, and found a Grey Falcon sitting in the top of a dead tree. It flew as soon as I stopped but I had time to see its slender silver-grey body and then the dark wing tips as it dropped down through the tree tops and disappeared. At about 1630 we think we saw it close to the morning location but it was so shy it flew before we got a good look. (Other birders saw a grey Falcon on Thursday out at Sawpit so it seems that they are moving around the property.)
Grey Falcon. A little bit of cheating. I took this photo in 2012 at Newhaven in Central Australia

After that bit of excitement the day’s birding took us first to the airport track, followed by the homestead loop, then south Gumholes for lunch followed by the rough track up the escarpment to look at the view and to find White-browed Treecreepers on the way up, then back to camp. After dinner and bird call, run each night in the shearers quarters by the volunteers, we sat outside for a while looking at the stars and admiring a very small toad that was sitting under the light waiting for insects to fall. Bedtime was 2100 but it felt later, possibly because we had been getting up at 0600 to be birding by 0630. Today we had driven to the southern, eastern, western and northern extremities of Bowra and covered over 75 km, all at speeds of less than 30 kph.
White-browed Treecreeper
Juvenile Double-barred Finch

We started each day with a sunrise walk along the bore-drain behind the camping area. As an area with permanent water it is excellent for close views of the small bush birds. Finches come down to drink as do honeyeaters and parrots. The drain is also full of small fish and frogs, and damselflies and dragonflies flit in the sunlight and hang from the reed stalks. We even found a spectacular green spider whose large black eye flashed golden when the sun reflected from it.

Australian Bustard

Red-capped Robin

One bird high on the wish list was Bourke's Parrot. We had one fleeting glimpse as a pair took off from the bore drain but we wanted better views. We finally found them on the track out to Sawpit. As we drove out we saw a Bourke's Parrot sitting in the top of a dead tree. I inched the car forward and stopped, then inched some more. Finally, as the bird hadn't flown, we got out and had a proper look. After a few moments it flew to a line of trees where we saw a second bird and the pair then proceeded with courtship feeding as we stood and watched. What a special time, not only had we seen our Bourke's Parrots for the trip but they had allowed us a prolonged visit.
Bourke's Parrot. The male is on the left

Bourke's Parrot showing blue under-wing and vent

Female Bourke's Parrot

Conditions at Bowra are exceptional at the moment with lots of water, and tall grasses going to seed in all the old paddocks. The wattles are coming into flower, as are many of the eucalypts. Budgies are all over the property in small numbers and there are large numbers of Zebra and Plum-headed Finches. We didn't see many honeyeaters but I expect that as more trees flower and the grass seed-heads ripen there will be an explosion of birds. This spring could be an exciting time at Bowra, I might have to see if I can rationalise a return visit (smile).
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Juvenile Crested Bellbird

Black-fronted Dotterel in the evening light. So many beautiful birds came into the dam at the campground one could sit in front of the tent all day and not get bored.

My bird list totalled 105 species and I know I missed a few, like the Wedge-tailed Eagle that flew over behind me and the White-fronted Honeyeater that was reported from Sawpit. With not too much effort we had seen all the Bowra specials but better views of the elusive Grey Falcon would have been nice. The birds that did elude us though were the night birds and try as we might we dipped on the Spotted Nightjar, the owls and we saw only a disappearing view of what was probably a Tawny Frogmouth as we drove into Cunnamulla one night for dinner.
Very dark phase Brown Falcon

Brown Falcon

Brown Treecreeper 

Black-faced Woodswallow with grasshopper

Little Woodswallow

White-fronted Woodswallow

White-browed Woodswallow

Brolga practicing his dance steps


White-headed (Black-winged) Stilt

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush in the tree

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush as they are normally seen, on the ground and about to walk away

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill
Inland Thornbill

Hall's Babbler

Juvenile Hall's Babbler

Hall's Babbler

Female Hooded Robin

Male Hooded Robin near in the morning sun near the tent

Noisy Friarbird 

Female Red-winged Parrot showing the pale blue on the back

Southern Whiteface

Varied Sittella 

Yellow-throated Miner

All images & text © Jenny Spry

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bowra unfeathered: Reptiles, Frogs, Butterflies etc

Early morning view from the tent

Bowra is renown for its birds but there are a lot of other reasons to go. I have very little knowledge of the beautiful frogs, reptiles and butterflies but there is such beauty that I just could not ignore them. I desperately need to go back with a collection of field guides and sort out all these special creatures. Bowra is so much more than birds.
The front drive - it is approx 6 km (3 1/2 miles) from the gate to the homestead.

Camped by a Billabong under the shade of a Coolibah Tree ... well, actually, lunch beside a dam in the Western Paddock

View over Bowra from the top of the escarpment

Typical birder cars; Hall's Babblers flew across the track so all out, doors left open and a dash into the bush. Afterwards, check the field guide

Dam at the farthest west of the Western Paddock

Trees in the Western Paddock

Gould's Monitor

Goulden's Monitor Portrait

Earless Dragon, fully grown adult

Bearded Dragon


Blue Skimmer Dragonfly


Common Bluetail Damselfly

Water spider with large black eyes on top of head ...

and when the eyes caught the sun they shone like gold

Small fish in bore drain ....

and possible an adult of the same species




Crucifix Toad

The toilets attracted large Green Tree Frogs and large brown frogs. Sadly I missed a photo of the Green Tree Frog. I will  have to go back (smile)

Toadlet beside the bore drain

This toadlet arrived each night and sat under the lantern, feeding on anything that fell to the ground

Large moth attracted by the lantern

Wanderer Butterfly

Wanderer Butterfly

Caper White Butterfly

A pair of Wallaroo

Male Red Kangaroo

All text & images © Jenny Spry