Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sturt National Park

This first post for our Winter 2015 Central Australia trip starts at Sturt NP north of Tibooburra in the northwest corner of NSW.
We took the Silver City Highway (a dirt road) north from Tibooburra heading to SW Queensland via Warri Gate, a gate in the dog fence on the NSW/Qld border. The dog fence is now a major ecological divide with dingoes, cattle and not many kangaroos to the north in Queensland and south of the fence in NSW sheep and large numbers of roos.
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Warri Gate looking south from Queensland side to NSW.
Dingoes are still persecuted north of the dog fence even though evidence is emerging that they play an important role in controlling feral cats and foxes which have decimated our small native animals. No doubt cattle stations see the dingo as an enemy and small native animals play no part in the economy of cattle.
Some who destroy dingoes seem to have a need to display their kill like some type of trophy!
We detoured west via the Jump Up Loop Road and then north to Olive Downs before rejoining the main road north again. We camped short of Olive Downs on the Jump Up Loop Road, technically a stock route and not in the National Park.
Jump Up Loop Road camp site in Sturt NP.
Sunsets in the outback can be impressive.
Next morning early we stopped at a tank - earthen water storages are called tanks in the outback - to check for Chirruping Wedgebills (Psophodes cristatus) which we had found at this location on a past trip.
Tank on Jump Up Loop Road Sturt NP.
No Wedgebills, however there were plenty of other birds about including some Crested Pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes), a common outback species. I took one photo of a Crested Pigeon perched on a rock on top of the tank bank enjoying the early morning sun following a below zero frosty night and as soon as I had taken the picture the pigeon launched into a courting display in an attempt to woo a female, she continued to feed showing little interest in his showy advances.
Crested Pigeon on rock enjoying early morning sun after a below zero night.
The pigeon on rock commences a courting display with a bow.
Male on right and object of his desire, the female, on left.
From the rear the display is not all that impressive!
In spite of his best efforts and fine feathers she showed little interest.
It is only when viewed from the front that the male bird looks impressive and the purpose of the coloured wing feathers makes sense. The crest is laid flat down the neck.
We continued on, climbing the jump up to Olive Downs camp ground, where there is an excellent short walk. Many sudden and steep rises above flat plains where the land above is also flat are often called “jump ups” in the outback.
Gibber plain below the Jump Up.
View from top of jump up.
Recent rains have kick started a growth spurt following a long dry spell.
Mulga (Acacia aneura) woodland near Olive Downs camp ground with emu bushes in flower and the spiky wattle known as dead finish (Acacia Tetragonophylla) in foreground. Male Pied Honeyeaters were calling and taking short aerial display flights above the Mulga.

Recent good rains after a long dry spell had generated a rapid flora response with many plants already in flower including larger shrubs and tress such as wattle and emu bushes. The birds were showing signs of breeding and even nest building was under way for a pair of Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala leucopsis).

Southern Whiteface feeding on the ground.
Pair of Southern Whiteface - the bird on left has nesting material in its bill.
If the female builds the nest, the bird with nest materials is the female of the pair? They both flew up to a vantage point to check all was well before she flew to the nest site.
From Sturt NP we headed north to Noccundra in SW Queensland where we were hoping to find Grey Grasswrens.
Sign on road at Warri Gate advertising Bulloo Shire attractions.
Sign showing distances to various destinations in NW NSW and SW Queensland.

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