Sunday July 8, 2012
[From the trip Up the Birdsville and Back]
One of the most welcome sights after three days without a shower or bathroom on the Birdsville Track is the Mungerannie Roadhouse. We stayed there twice on our trip, and were glad for the accommodation both times. The roadhouse is one of the most iconically "Aussie" pubs you will ever see. There are weatherbeaten akubras attached to the walls and ceilings, photographs of floods and fires on the walls, and cold beer on tap (as long as the truck has made it through this week). There's even some of the famous vehicles driven by Tom Kruse, the legendary mailman of the Birdsville Track "parked" out in the front yard of the roadhouse. Behind the camping area there is a hot spring which is pumped out into a bore drain. This permanent wetland acts as a refuge all year round for waterbirds in the area. My first visit had many more species, but was in a much drier year (and hotter time of year), however this time we still had a few species of waterbirds we didn't see elsewhere on the trip.
The highlight of the Mungerannie Bore, and indeed the whole trip, was finding a colony of Letterwing Kites. Not at the bore, but nearby on the Birdsville Track, we were lucky enough to come across a huge flock of Black Kites, which we stopped to count. Looking at where they had flown from a dense clump of trees beside water, I thought "that looks like the last place I saw Letterwing Kites", and sure enough, a quick binocular scan brought up a white bird of prey with a huge black smudge around the eye. In all there were eleven Letterwings that we were able to count, sitting on at least five nests. We stayed near the colony one evening to see what would happen, Letterwing Kites being nocturnal and all. Just before sunset the adults all took to the air and spent the whole of twilight circling around above us. As it finally got too dark to see, we started hearing screeching coming from the nests. What was actually happening was some of the adults had slipped off and caught themselves some prey, and had brought it back to the nests to share with their chicks. We finally tore ourselves away from what was a wondrous experience, and headed back to the roadhouse. On the way we were in for one final treat. A Long-haired Rat bolted across the road in our headlights, and not one but TWO Letterwing Kites came screaming down beside the car trying to catch the poor rodent. We never saw the end of the battle but I presume it didn't go well for the rat.