Saturday, 30 June 2018

Currawinya National Park Queensland

We camped on the Corni Paroo Waterhole in Currawinya NP for a few days. Once again the country is experiencing a severe drought with Ramsar listed wetlands Lake Wyara and Lake Numalla both dry. The waterholes along the Paroo River held water though the water-bird numbers were very low with only a few Pelicans, White-faced and White-necked Herons and a lone Black-fronted Dotterel seen.

The dominant eucalypt species along the waterholes of the Paroo are River Redgum, Black Box, Coolibah and Yapunyah (Eucalyptus ochrophloia).

A Yapunyah growing on banks of the Paroo River alongside River Redgum and Coolibah. Their form varied from large single trunked trees to mallee like forms.

Fortunately the yapunyah was in flower and attracted Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (the most numerous honeyeater we saw), White-plumed Honeyeaters, Yellow-throated miners, Black-faced Woodswallows and Australian Ringneck Parrots.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater in flowering yapunyah. 
Spiny-cheeks are widespread across much of arid inland Australia.
Black-faced Woodswallows are another arid land nomadic species sometimes found in large numbers. They can often be seen feeding on nectar bearing flowers.
White-plumed Honeyeaters are possibly the most numerous and most often encountered honeyeater species on inland/outback water ways.
The bird in the photo above grooming.

The following photos are of some other birds we found in Currawyinya NP.

There are not many places in Australia (excluding Tasmania) where you will not encounter a Willie Wagtail!
White-faced Heron, Corni Paroo Waterhole.
The Grey Butcherbirds, another hardy outback survivor in hard times.
Male Crested Bellbird found feeding at The Granites – this is another hardy arid land species.
Both plants and animals are in survival mode in much of outback Australia at present - conditions are extremely dry.

The plant in the above photo is Solanum ellipticum – Potato Bush – a hardy arid land plant which appears to be struggling under the conditions.

A female Hooded Robin (plus a male nearby) fed on a barren rocky area below The Granites along with Southern Whiteface, Red-capped Robins and a Brown Treecreeper.
Five Brolga were found on the water at Ten Mile Bore.
Brolgas are very wary birds and hard to approach on foot.

It is interesting to visit the outback during extreme droughts to compare drought conditions with our previous visits during better times. The downside is very few birds and dusty rough roads that have broken up in many places making travel testing at times (the road from Bourke to Hungerford was moderately bad). From Currawinya NP we headed north to Eulo and east to Cunnamulla to visit Bowra Sanctuary for a few days.     

Friday, 29 June 2018

Mulga Parrots

In Gundabooka National Park south of Bourke in outback NSW I was lucky to come across a small party of six Mulga Parrots - 3 males and 3 females.  Mulga Parrots are often paired, suggesting a strong couple bond.

I say lucky because it was late afternoon in winter and a severe drought has reduced bird species numbers and general abundance greatly across much of NW Victoria, western NSW, SW Qld and SA. On a 5km 2 hour walk through mulga woodland (Acacia aneura) I saw only one female fairy wren, one Emu and the six Mulga Parrots. Another one hour walk the following morning yielded one male Hooded Robin, one Singing Honeyeater and a Grey Butcherbird. In good times Mulga woodland can be very rich in birds.

The Mulga Parrots were feeding on the ground - appropriately in a Mulga woodland - where they worked quietly picking up seeds. I managed to approach them in stages – their confiding nature allowing me to get quite close in the end.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

Three of the six Mulga Parrots – two males and one female.

The male Mulga Parrot.

Another view of a male. 
The more sombre female Mulga Parrot.

Another view of a female.
A rear view of a male and female Mulga Parrot perched together showing the rump and the narrow red band – the similar Red-rumped Parrot has a lot more red on the rump and has other significant colour differences.

After spending 15 minutes or so observing and photographing the Mulgas I withdrew slowly and left them to continue feeding.

This lone Singing Honeyeater was found foraging in mistletoe on a Mulga tree.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

White-browed Babbler

White-browed Babblers are noisy gregarious birds often encountered in family parties as they move through dry open woodland habitat where they mostly forage on the ground. Their highly social behaviour reminds me of Apostlebirds and White-winged Choughs.

While camping in Cocoparra National Park about 35km north east of Griffith in NSW, one bird in a group of 8 to 10 birds that came by our camp site stopped to dig vigorously for a grub.

The acute senses – including sight, smell, sound and perhaps feel - required to locate grubs beneath the surface is impressive.
A brief pause from digging to check I was not a threat.
Digging involved plunging the curved bill into the ground pulling out soil as the hole deepened.
It did not take long to reach and extract the grub.

The grub (a cockchafer species?) is about to be swallowed.

This bird soon downed its catch and moved on quickly to catch up with the rest of the party.

Tip: Trying to approach many bird species including Babblers often results in the birds retreating as they feel threatened. However, if you allow them to approach you they will often come quite close so a useful strategy is to move ahead of a feeding party of birds such as Babblers along the line of their general direction of movement and wait for them to come to you.