Saturday, 29 August 2020

Lawn Hill Gorge National Park – Birding site on our North West Safari 2021

One of the creek crossings enroute between Mt Isa and Lawn Hill Gorge National Park.
Our North West Queensland Birding Safari for 2021 visits a variety of great birding sites across the breadth of North Queensland.

Although many sites are stand outs, Lawn Hill Gorge or Boodjamulla National Park, is worth a special mention. This ia one of our destinations between our visit to the fishing town of Karumba, perched as it is on the southern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the mining town of Mount Isa.

This place is indeed a sanctuary; a tranquil oasis of palms and water – a complete contrast from the surrounding arid and dusty plains and the equally dry and hot ancient sandstones that ridge them.
For anybody, any traveller, the cool waters of the gorge would bring a relieved smile to their face but birders, believe me, have more to smile about as this national park is an oasis to birds as well. And from a Queenslander’s birder’s perspective the birds are that little bit more special.


Because in this area there are bird species that are basically unable to seen anywhere else in the state of Queensland. To put it another here are a small stack of Northern Territory birds; birds more widely distributed across the NT, and in some cases beyond in WA, whose range has extended by a finger into the north west corner of Queensland.
Purple crowned Fairy wren - female

The Purple crowned Fairy Wren is perhaps my favourite example. This specie, like all the fairy wrens are beautiful but in this specie the female begins to give the male some competition in the attractive stakes. The eastern sub specie’s range extends from the Northern Territory into riverine habitat in the extreme north west of Queensland.

A few species of parrots, Northern Rosellas and both Varied and Red Collared Lorikeets, also creep over the border into this area. And all of them are pretty and pretty special.
Varied Lorikeet
Northern Rosella
Red collared Lorikeets

The Sandstone Shrike Thrush is an Australian endemic and a top end specie, that has adapted, as its name suggests, to areas of sandstone across a sweep of northern Australia. Like other Shrike thrushes it is usually heard before being seen.
Sandstone Shrike thrush
The Buff sided Robin was once a mere sub specie of White browed Robin but a few years ago it was elevated to full specie status. It is a striking bird and commonly found along the riverside margins of the Lawn hill area.
Buff sided Robin

Long tailed Finch is one of the finch species we may see around the Mt Isa area; Lake Moondarra in particular however if we miss it there we will catch up with it at Lawn Hill or at one of the beautiful creek crossings enroute.
Long tailed Finch
Crimson Finch - another riverine finch specie

Paperbark Flycatcher - a smaller tropical cousin to the Restless flycatcher. Again a specie whose distribution extends across the top end into NW Qld.
Other notable fauna within the park includes the Rock Ringtail Possum, like many of the birds on the eastern part of its range, Purple necked Rock Wallaby and Freshwater Crocodiles.
Freshwater Crocodile - pic taken near Mt Isa
Purple necked Rock Wallaby
Common Wallaroo

The local indigenous people, the Waanyi, who have lived in the gorge area for at least 17,000 years,  know this place as Boodjamulla or Rainbow Serpent country. The Gorge is sacred to Waanyi and many artefacts; Midden heaps, grinding stones, and rock art emphasise their connections to country. Today local aboriginal people help manage the park on behalf of all Queenslanders.

If you are interested in visiting and birding Boodjamulla, as well as many other great places in Queensland’s north west please contact Ken Cross at

Friday, 21 August 2020

North West Queensland Safari 2021 - A Closer Look - Birds 1

Grey fronted Honeyeater
Australian Birding Safaris's main purpose is to see a variety of wonderful birds. Below are some of the many birds we may see on our North West Safari.
Rufous crowned Emu wren near Winton
Halls Babbler near Winton
'Cloncurry' Ringneck near Winton
Spinifexbird near Winton

Grey Falcon near Winton
Little Eagle near Cloncurry

Purple backed Fairywren near Cloncurry
Painted Finch near Mt Isa
Kalkadoon Grasswren near Mt Isa
Silver crowned Friarbird near Mt Isa
Black chinned Honeyeater near Mt Isa
Varied Lorikeet near Mt Isa
Pictorella Mannikins near Mt Isa 
Crimson Finch near Lawn Hill Gorge National Park
Paperbark Flycatcher near Lawn Hill Gorge NP

Long tailed Finch near Lawn Hill Gorge NP

Buff sided Robin near Lawn Hill Gorge NP
female Purple crowned Fairy wren near Lawn Hill Gorge NP
If you would like to reserve your place for our 2021 NW QLD tour please email

North West Queensland Safari 2021 - A Closer Look - The Dinosaur Way

Australian Birding Safaris does not exist just to see birds. Our outlook is a little more holistic than that. While we clearly love birds and birding, we acknowledge that an important advantage of our hobby is that it opens doors to so many other complementary subjects.

 Take, for example, our North West Queensland Birding Safari.

This is a grand birding adventure starting and finishing in the northern port city of Townsville.

This tour explores a great chunk of outback, including an area which is marketed to general tourists as the Dinosaur Way. The Dinosaur Way invites all to look back into our state’s deep history; indeed, it could be said, at our very first ‘birds’.

Outback Queensland, now covered with vast grassed plains, mallee and mulga scrublands and spinifex covered ridges, was once flooded by a vast inland sea, the waters and shores of which were home to a great range of ancient reptiles; pterosaurs, plesiosaurs and dinosaurs.

Our first glance of the remains of this truly ancient natural history will probably occur at the town of Hughenden, where the Dinosaur theme has been embraced. Here, among other dinosaur themed displays and exhibits, is the skeletal display of the oddly named Muttaburrasaurus. This dinosaur's name is derived from the name of a small town, Muttaburra, where its fossilised remains were discovered. Muttaburra is, in turn, derived from the name of the local Aboriginal tribe, Mootaburra, meaning the meeting of the waters.
Muttaburrasaurus skeleton - displayed at Hughendon

The Dinosaur Way takes us south of Hughenden to the area surrounding the town of Winton where there are two other key dinosaur attractions.

The town of Winton originally marked its tourism credentials on an association with the Australian poet, Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson and, in particular, his penning of the ballad, ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Nowadays Dinosaurs have pushed the banjo from the limelight.

Once upon a time found fossils would be whisked far away from the fossil beds to find a home on display, or more likely in a warehouse, in the largest of cities. Winton’s Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, like Drumheller’s Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in the Badlands of Alberta, Canada, have started a trend to display an area’s ancient creatures in-situ. In Winton’s case atop a huge mesa.

The museum currently has a small but wonderful display and a quick scan through Trip Advisor's reviews highlights the passion and knowledge of the staff that conduct tours through the facility. The best news, perhaps, is that the museum has grand plans such that every visit will be different and better than the last. We will definitely take our visitors to he museum and enjoy the full tour of the site.

The dinosaur theme continues on one of our Winton day trips when we travel some 100km south to a spinifex dominated series of ridges known as the Lark Quarry Conservation Park – the site of a dinosaur stampede. This large fossil rock has captured a dramatic scene, perhaps seconds in the making, that occurred millions of years ago. A herd of at least 150 small, two-legged dinosaurs, including carnivorous coelurosaurs about the size of chickens and slightly larger plant-eating ornithopods, came to drink at the edge of a lake. Over 3,300 footprints of these long-extinct dinosaurs are scattered over the rock face, stark evidence of the terror they must have experienced as they fled the scene upon the arrival of a large theropod.
Lark Quarry - Dinosaur Stampede

Stampede detail

The surrounding spinifex country is home to no therapods but a wonderful variety of birds, including Spinifexbird, Spinifex Pigeon, Rusty Grasswren, Rufous crowned Emuwren and the beautiful Grey headed Honeyeater. Grey Falcon has been seen in this area as well – a specie well worth keeping one’s eyes open for!

Further west we visit the mining town of Mt Isa. Here, under the shadows of huge smoke stacks, is a museum that exists to interpret some more long gone natural history.

The Riversleigh Fossil Centre displays fossils extracted from the nearby Riversleigh Fossil Fields.  
These finds have been depicted as dioramas; exhibited in an authentic setting to illustrate the unique discoveries in one of the world's richest fossil fields. Unlike many other fossil deposits, the Riversleigh fossils are not just a snapshot in time, but a window on the development of early mammal megafauna over the past 30 million years.

We will visit this museum and then, briefly, the World Heritage Area that is the fossil fields themselves as we travel enroute to Lawn Hill Gorge.
Thunderbird fossil insitu at Riversleigh - shiny stones are from the crop of this ancient bird

So this outback tour will provide participants the opportunity to learn much about Australia's most archaic of birds  the dinosaurs. And some other prehistoric Australian creatures besides.

Please email to secure your place.

Come birding with us!

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

We were Seen in the NT or a Bit of NT Birding

LIFER! Chestnut Rail

This morning I write from the north west town of Camooweal, perched a mere 13 kilometres within the Queensland border. It is the last town one encounters on the way, or in our case, the way back from the Northern Territory.

Which brings me to my point in writing; to summarise the last few weeks of birding and travel in the mighty NT.

First, though, I need to make an admission. Two weeks in the NT actually takes three…. In other words I underestimated how much we could do in the territory in the time we had. 

So our time was spent sneaking in the ‘back way’ through Borroloola before heading to Daly Waters and north to Katherine before the big smoke of Darwin. Post Darwin a quick slide through Kakadu National Park before heading south in a big straight line and then east in a big straight line.

Highlights and observations?

First from a purely selfish birding perspective my highlight was getting the lifer of Chestnut Rail!!! A resident of the most northern of Australian mangroves, this bird saved itself for my third trip to the northern NT.

Other top top end birds included Rainbow Pitta, Gouldian Finch plus Long tails and Masked, Mangrove Fantail on the gulf near Borroloola, Sandstone Shrike thrush – to name a few.

my only photo of a wonderful bird Gouldian Finch
Masked Finch
Sandstone Shrike thrush
Hooded Parrots

Yellow Whiteeye

Broad billed Flycatcher

Grey Whistler

Rufous banded Honeyeater

Little Bronze Cuckoo at Fogg Dam

Dips? A few too many…

Sensational Dip number 1 was the Citrine Wagtail observed at the Katherine Poo ponds. We showed up the day after the last time it was seen. To the best of my knowledge it has not been seen since. The Poo ponds, for reasons that will continue to both confuse and mortify me, have sensational security. Tall wire fences with triple strands of barbed wires atop surround the place as if the shit was planning a massive break out….. Birders then are left to feebly peer through thick chain wire at birds often too far away to see well. Why such security? Do Australia’s birders and their activities present such a threat? It is crazy that there is not a reasoned process such that people can get entry to public facilities to observe the birds there.   

While I’m getting shitty at the shit ponds in Katherine I would also point out that this situation occurs elsewhere. The ponds at Palmerstone on the southern side of Darwin, have long had a reputation as an excellent birding locale and not just for the birds within the perimeter fence as the mangroves behind hold populations of some mangrove specialties. A where to find birds in the top end, indeed, herds birders in that direction, outside the perimeter, to enjoy the mangrove species. Since publication a new top flight fence has been installed to prevent anyone even peering into the ponds let alone getting around to the mangrove behind.  All in all a frustrating waste of time for reasons that are, like poo pond waters, murky.

Northern Rosella
The Katherine Ponds, like others elsewhere in the NT, could be an environmental asset. From the outskirts there were Pied Herons, Australian Pratincoles, early waders like Wood and Common Sandpipers, Burdekin Shelducks plus some impressive Freshwater Crocs. Outside Little, Masked and White breasted Woodswallows flew around, Great Bowerbirds were common and Yellow [Green?] Orioles sounded.

Partridge Pigeon

Quick – another positive. I loved seeing Yellow bellied Flycatchers in the Northern Territory. These birds are a different race from Queensland; brighter yellow with clear white throats. They were common, conspicuous and beautiful birds and they generally good at posing.

Yellow bellied Flycatcher [Flyrobin?]

Rainbow Pittas. These birds are definitely in my top 3 of Australian Pittas. Tantalisingly we heard them a few too many times before we locked eyes on them. It was one of those times where the wait was worth it as a single bird in Kakadu National Park decided that it was a showman.

Rainbow Pitta

Rainbow Pitta

Kakadu seemed to be in a state of confusion. Many walks and the information centre closed. Target species heard but not seen. Let’s blame everything on Covid and return again in happier times…

Nourlangie Rock in the foreground

Buffalos were common. There were easily 50 animals in view at Fogg Dam and we had one stampede loudly through nearby shrubs in Northern Kakadu, hooves stomping and branches breaking, uncomfortable close to where we were walking in northern Kakadu. Nearby girls, unsure of the reason for the noise or the culprit, stampeded themselves up nearby sandstone.
in our experience a necessary but useless sign

A properly planned tour to the top end of the Northern Territory will be planned though, with some assistance from on the ground experts, for 2022. Please consider joining us.  
Blue faced Honeyeater - the longer billed sub specie - albipennis