Friday, 24 July 2020


Kalkadoon Grasswren

As I said in the last blog post that the area of Mount Isa has been built on traditional Kalkadoon lands. There is one bird, pretty much an endemic to the spinifex covered ranges surrounding Mount Isa, that has been named after the local indigenous people.
Kalkadoon Grasswren

It is the Kalkadoon Grasswren. Previously a sub specie of Dusky Grasswren, it was elevated to full specie status a few decades ago now, leaving the Dusky Grasswren, an endemic of central Australia in and around the MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs.
Kalkadoon Grasswren

It is, of course, an important target specie for any birder venturing here.

And as a Grasswren never a 100% sure bet. I am pleased to say though given 24 hours in Mt Isa we have been quite successful with this bird. Now the bird is relatively common but it is difficult to see well and it is difficult to photograph - especially when you have a point and shoot with slow zoom and a slow focus.
here is a picture which suggests why the birds are hard buggers to photograph..
And here is another one... Spinifex grass steals the focus as well as hiding birds

Why are they called Grasswrens?

While looking for the Kalkadoon we also saw Spinifex Bird, the beautiful Painted Finches, Grey fronted, Black chinned and Grey headed Honeyeaters and Camels!
Grey fronted Honeyeater
Black chinned Honeyeater
Camel - one of three
Here;s looking at you kid...
Painted Finch
Painted Finches

Plus a few other common species.
Zebra Finch
Kalkadoon Grasswren habitat
During the heat of our winter day we retreated in doors for a while to view the Riversleigh Fossil Centre, a museum interpreting what is a fossil bed of international importance which is located between Mount Isa and Lawn Hill Gorge National Park.

The museum was good, without being excellent. I think they need to present Australia’s contemporary fauna first before they launch into interpreting what these fossils tell us about the mammal [and other] fauna of our past.

Having said that it is amazing to see the reconstructions of so many wonderful animals, some of whom became extinct relatively recently; surviving to only 20 000 years ago. This means of course that they were  contemporaries of Aboriginal people for, perhaps 30 000 years. Given that modern Australia has accounted for a record number of mammalian extinctions within a period of time just over two centuries it seems reasonable that Indigenous people with targeted hunting and contributing to some ecological changes through fire use contributed to their demise…
Gilbert's Dragon

The gardens beside the museum were small but good. An easy place to fill a half hour or so, particularly if you enjoy trying to photograph anything from dragonflies to lizards to birds.

Dragonfly sp. Any ideas?
Lake Moondarra is a large reservoir some 20 kilometres from the city and an essential locale for birding. We ended up spending much of the afternoon there and found some great birds.
Lake Moondarra water view

Varied Lorikeet
Striated Pardalote
Green Pygmy Goose
Green Pygmy Geese
Fresh water Crocodile
Painted Finch
Pictorella Mannikins
Pictorella Mannikins
Long tailed Finch
Paperbark flycatcher
Silver crowned Friarbird
Rainbow Bee-eater

Thursday, 23 July 2020


Today we left Cloncurry for the Mount Isa area where we intend to stay for a few days to seek out a veriaty of the resident bird species [just for something different]. I will write about the birds in a following post as today I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and highlight some of the stupidity and racism that some of our countrymen are still guilty of. I would also like to share some of the history of this area, identified below by being in bold and italics and it has been lifted from a Queensland government website.

Mount Isa is situated on the traditional lands of the Kalkadoon people who followed patterns of hunting and gathering, fishing and trade for many thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. Kalkadoon craftsmen were famous for the quality of their stone implements. Hand-crafted tools were traded by the Kalkadoon people with other Aboriginal groups across western Queensland, as far south as Birdsville. 

The first Europeans to visit the lands of the Kalkadoon people were the four members of the Burke and Wills expedition in early 1861. The expedition travelled northwards, to the east of Mount Isa, through to the Gulf of Carpentaria before returning south to Coopers Creek. Oral traditions of the Kalkadoon people recall that they watched the expedition from a distance but did not make contact with the explorers.

In December 1861, William Landsborough took a relief expedition into Kalkadoon territory searching for the lost party of Burke and Wills. Landsborough made peaceful contact with a small party of Kalkadoon men, presenting them with a tin pot and two glass bottles.

The Kalkadoon people resisted the invasion of their lands by the pastoralists and miners and frontier violence occurred across North West Queensland from the late 1870s through to the mid-1880s. A Native Police detachment was based at Cloncurry from 1883 until 1889. This detachment was instrumental in crushing Aboriginal resistance in North West Queensland. 

After the arrival of the Native Police at Cloncurry, frontier violence in North West Queensland escalated. In 1883, Kalkadoon warriors ambushed and killed a Native Police officer called Marcus Beresford and wounded five of his Aboriginal troopers in the McKinlay Ranges. James Powell, a prominent pastoralist with family connections to the English aristocracy, was also speared by the Kalkadoon in July 1884. In retaliation, large numbers of Kalkadoon men, women and children were killed at the hands of the Native Police and armed parties of pastoralists. 

A last stand was made by the Kalkadoon against an expeditionary force led by Sub-Inspector Urqhart of the Native Police in September 1884. On a rocky hill near Prospectors Creek, Kalkadoon warriors hurled missiles at the Native Police and then levelled their spears and charged Urqhart’s men, before dying in a hail of rifle fire. The area was later named Battle Mountain. A memorial to the Kalkadoon people killed at Battle Mountain was officially opened at Kajabbi by Charles Perkins and the Kalkadoon elder George Thorpe in 1984.

Aboriginal survivors of the frontier violence were drawn to fringe camps on the outskirts of settlements and pastoral stations across North West Queensland, where diseases such as measles were endemic. Government assistance to the Aboriginal people in the late 19th century was limited to the occasional distribution of blankets and rations, at towns such as Cloncurry and Camooweal. By the late 1880s, pastoralists in North West Queensland had begun to employ Kalkadoon and other Aboriginal people on their stations. Since then, Aboriginal stockmen have continued to play an important role in the North West Queensland cattle industry. 

Between the years 1933 and 1967, there were 28 documented removals of Aboriginal people from Mount Isa. The majority of Aboriginal people removed from Mount Isa were admitted to Palm Island, with smaller numbers taken to Woorabinda and Cherbourg. Between the years 1892 and 1968, large numbers of Aboriginal removals also occurred in areas neighbouring Mount Isa, with 208 people removed from Cloncurry, 39 from Camooweal, 5 from Duchess and 4 from Dajarra.
Which brings me to today or at least recent history.

We stopped at a sign welcoming travellers to Kalkadoon lands.

The sign post, to my mind was, honest and respectful. It was a reminder of the truth of history. It was a reminder to place value on their / our heritage. But most of all it was a reasoned call for reconciliation and peace. But some white fellas have not accepted that as this part of the monument demonstrates.

The top of the monument was a stylised Aboriginal head which had been riddled by bullets.

Why would someone gain satisfaction over such a pathetic cowardly crime?

It is a reminder, if one is needed, that people who value equality and who recognise that Indigenous Australian's culture and history are also ours to honour and preserve, need to be forever vigilant against the racist Australian.
The small monument had two sides - one for the Kalkadoon side and the other, Mitakoodi - people of the greater Cloncurry district 
We then went to Fountain Springs - a beautiful place and another marred by the careless actions of our countrymen.
Fountain Springs
'Superior' White culture? 


Red winged Parrots
Camping at the Oasis Caravan Park we awoke, after a night filled with the not so distant rumble of nearby road trains, to the louder sound of bird sounds. It would be a lie to describe them as songs; Galahs, Little Corellas, Red winged Parrots, Varied Lorikeets plus Apostlebirds demanded an end to any sleep.
Chinaman Creek Dam
Little Eagle above a nearby ridge

The last bit of birding in the Cloncurry area was at Chinaman Creek Dam and very pleasant it was too...
male Purple backed Fairy wren
female Purple backed Fairy wren

Wednesday, 22 July 2020


Diamond Dove near the Poo Ponds
We left Winton after a brief birding visit to the Poo Ponds, as you do, and were rewarded with good views of a range of waterfowl and a few other interesting species adjacent; Purple backed Fairywren, Diamond Dove and others.

And then the long drive to the Cloncurry....

For most of the four hour drive there is not a lot of pleasing scenery to be honest with you. Plain plains that have been largely over grazed; a situation not helped by a lack of recent rain. There was not a single Kangaroo nor a live emu. Bird wise was similarly bleak; a few kites, a few Wedgies, a few Black faced Woodswallows and few of little else.

To break this journey stop number one was the Combo Waterhole.
The fast drying Combo Waterhole

Rock works from the 1890's designed to allow crossing and dam the water

 Combo Waterhole Conservation Park gets its name from the most famous of the many waterholes found within this 49ha park. Did the jolly swagman camp by Combo Waterhole? We will probably never know, but the waterholes of this 49ha park offer a refuge for wildlife in dry times, just as they provided shady picnic spots in 1895 for stagecoach passengers and the residents of neighbouring Dagworth Station.

The Koa Aboriginal people were the first to follow the Diamantina River—a web of life that traverses the land in braided channels—pioneering paths of trade and travel. Explorers followed, then settlers brought sheep and cattle and established a stock route. Cobb and Co. teams trotted close behind. Today visitors can explore the historic stone-pitched overshots and the most readily accessible Mitchell grass downs in the area.

Birdwise, especially given our near midday arrival time was limited; Brown quail, Yellow rumped Thornbills, Sacred Kingfisher, Rufous Whistler and the ever present White plumed Honeyeaters.
Jacky Winter

About 15 kilometres along the road one arrives at Kynuna,[Population - 10]  home of the Blue Healer Pub. Now this trip is a birding one not a pub crawl so we stayed clear of that. 

Kynuna also boasts a roadhouse that we did stop at. It was run by an aging couple who claimed that they would retire soon. "Soon as we sell it," she said. I asked how long it had been on the market. "Just over three years now." I fear that she will die there.

Next stop enroute to Cloncurry was the Walkabout Creek Hotel at the surprisingly large village of McKinley. This iconic pub, made famous by its inclusion in the first two Crocodile Dundee films of many years ago, was closed. We had planned to take a quick break by the bar, to pay our respects for the memory of Paul Hogan inspired folk lore but it was not to be.....

A look on Trip Advisor shows mixed reviews of the Walkabout Creek Hotel. All we can say that it was closed...

Monday, 20 July 2020


Rufous crowned Emu Wren

Rufous crowned Emu wren
Okay I admit that that was a pretty poor title however I did need something birding related to introduce birding around Lark Quarry. 
Lark Quarry

Lark Quarry - the fossil river bed protected where it was found

Now to set the record straight though Lark Quarry is not named after a bird. It is named after one Malcolm Lark, a volunteer, who in his seventies, spent time helping remove much of the overlying rock, by hand, from the Dinosaur stampede site during a Queensland Museum expedition.

Larking? Perhaps inappropriate as Steve and I were reasonably focussed on seeing the specialty species of this area. Pishing? Well I'll come back to that....

Now, observation number one is that there are not huge numbers of birds nor a huge number of species around Lark Quarry however what is there is generally pretty special.

There are three main species lurking in the spinifex that we were targeting; Rufous crowned Emuwren, Spinifexbird and a grasswren; the Rusty or the Opalton [taxonomy pending] split from Striated Grasswren.

Now we were successful with two out of the three. 
Rufous crowned Emu wren

We were successful with the Emu wrens. These birds were actually quite common and vocal within the spinifex. They are difficult to see well and near impossible for me, with a slow focussing and zooming Nikon P900, to photograph well. They are small and fast moving and totally unafraid of flying into a prickly spinifex clump at near full speed.

We were successful, too, with Spinifexbird. We got pretty great views of this bird as it clambored around Spinifex clumps.  


The Grasswren remained to us at least invisible, and silent.  

And, like a poor tradesman I would like to blame something else rather than ourselves for the failure. It was cool to cold and windy; conditions which invite the bird to spend longer under cover. So Pishing into the wind? - is both an accurate description as birders 'pish' [make sounds so as to attract small passerine birds] and it was windy and we were unsuccessful.....
Can you see the grasswren in this picture? Neither could we....

Spinifex growing in rings

We did give it a pretty good shot though tramping through spinifex for many hours where the bird has been definitely recorded rather recently. 

We are both looking forward to returning to set the record straight!!

So, other than the two spinifex specials we saw Hall's Babbler, Grey Falcon, Australian Raven, Mallee Ringneck, Willy Wagtail, Crested Pigeon [which looks and acts like a wild bird], Common Bronzewing, Spinifex Pigeon, Spotted Bowerbird, White necked Heron, Tree Martin, White plumed, Singing and Grey headed Honeyeaters, Inland Thornbill, Purple backed and Splendid Wrens and Jacky Winter. 
Splendid Fairywren
Splendid Wren

Hall's Babbler
Mallee Ringneck
Australian Hobby - seen enroute to Winton

We plan to visit Winton and its surrounding area next year on our North West Queensland so if you would like to add this species, and many others to your life list please email Ken on to secure a place. We have three places left for this trip.