Birdsville and surrounds
Thursday July 12, 2012
[From the trip Up the Birdsville and Back]
After over a week camping Birdsville was a welcome interlude. On top of the surveys we had left to conduct we managed a few side-trips that let us see some very interesting things. A drive out to Big Red, the dune at the edge of the Simpson Desert was a fantastic choice. We had a wonderful morning one the huge red sand dune with birds of prey circling overhead and Eyrean Grasswrens (finally!) hopping at our feet. The wetland at the base of the dunes was full, with thousands of waterbirds flying around the area. On the drive back to town we had our largest flock of Flock Bronzewings on the whole trip, maybe a couple of thousand birds that zipped back and forwards across the road and came quite close to where we were standing. To the east of town we were stopped by floodwaters, an odd storm that cut off the Strezlecki survey team at Innaminka for several days. Where the creek had flooded the road we had big flocks of Budgerigars, up to two thousand birds in a single flock and probably as many as ten thousand all up. South of Birdsville we got lucky and found Grey Grasswrens beside the track, though they didn't show well. Still, to find such a challenging bird within five minutes of stepping out of the car felt pretty good!
The highlight of Birdsville though, and of the whole trip for me, was our sighting of a pair of Grey Falcons hunting to the east of Birdsville. We had to cancel our surveys for the morning because of a thick blanket of fog over the whole area, an extremely unusual event for Birdsville. We had stopped at a small lignum swamp and decided to try our luck looking for Grasswrens on the way back to town. Sadly we didn't find any, however as I walked to the edge of a small wetland I flushed about thirty Black-tailed Native-hens. As they scrambled for cover a pair of birds of prey hurtled out of the fog towards me. It took me a couple of seconds to recover from the shock, but I realised pretty quickly that I was watching a pair of Grey Falcons execute a perfectly timed ambush, dropping out of the fog onto the panicked Native-hens. At one stage one of the falcons flew straight towards me, only pulling out of its dive mere metres in front of me. Watching the synchronised chaos of a pair of Grey Falcons zipping around in front of me is one of the highlights of my life, and one I don't think will be surpassed ever again!