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Birds Australia North Queensland

Pied Imperial-Pigeon logo of BANQ

Easter Weekend at Mount Surprise, 10 - 13 April 2009

Photo of participants at Mt Surprise

Participants on the Easter 2009 Campout at Mount Surprise

Photo courtesy of Karen Doyle

Due to the last gasps of the wet season this year a number of contingency plans needed to be made for each day to account for road conditions and possible rainy conditions. Although Bedrock Village itself is endowed with a variety of birds, no stay there is complete without the early arrivals walking down to the railway to the Elizabeth Creek bridge which always seems to have a good population of birdlife. The Birds Australia NQ branch Easter Weekend officially started with a Good Friday morning muster to head up to the O’Brien’s Creek gem fields completing the morning at the Elizabeth Creek crossing where the previous day a pair of Black Bitterns had been spotted feeding a very advanced chick. In spite of the overnight rain, the group made its way out of Mount Surprise and on to the wet dirt road north with the first stop at an almost dry pair of roadside ponds just before the old airstrip. Black-fronted Dotterels were spotted on the margins of one pond. A walk around the forest margins of the old airstrip turned up Black-throated finches (northern race), Lemon-bellied Flycatchers, Grey-crowned Babblers. One group of Babblers seemed to be rebuilding an old nest. A trio of Pipits were flushed out as we returned to the vehicles.

Photo of Black-throated FinchPhoto of Grey-crowned Babbler
Black-throated Finch of Northern race
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au
Grey-crowned Babbler building nest
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au

The group birded their way to the Elizabeth Creek crossing near O’Brien’s Creek. The sheer volume of motorbike and four wheel drive traffic much have scared the Black Bittern family away. Only one adult was encountered south of the crossing along with a White-faced Heron. On our way back to town the group flushed out a flock of Black-faced Woodswallows and further investigation turned up a large flock of White-winged Trillers and a few Grey-crowned Babblers.

An afternoon visit to a local grazing property to the east of town proved fruitful with a White-necked Heron with two straggly looking chicks in the nest on the first dam on the way in to the homestead. A nicely coloured Darter family was also sighted there. The large dam to the west of the homestead provided the surprise of a Peregrine Falcon along with numerous Wandering Whistling Ducks. An Intermediate Egret was sighted which is a new addition to the Mt Surprise bird list.

Photo of Peregine FalconPhoto of Wandering Whistling-Ducks
Peregrine Falcon
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au
Wandering Whistling-Ducks
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au

On Saturday we visited the Georgetown area with the first stop being Cumberland Dam. The group spent 3 hours at this location with one member scoring 5 lifers during this time. Not long after arriving a few Brolgas made a quiet retreat and we were treated to a Hobby harassing a Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree on the eastern side of the dam. A Nankeen Night Heron was sighted after being flushed out of a Chinee Apple tree on the dam wall. Not long before departing, the group had great views of a Red-browed Pardalote and a few lucky people saw a pair of Varied Lorikeets fly over. A Black-breasted Buzzard was also seen by a lucky few. A total of 49 species were seen at this location.

At the Georgetown racecourse we saw Pictorella Mannikins, Zebra, Masked and Black-throated Finches. Good views were had of a Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk while a young Spotted Harrier patrolled the grassland within the racetrack. Striated Pardalotes were found nesting in a washout just off the track and a Red-browed Pardalote called from a nearby tree. An aerodrome visit turned up a Black-shouldered Kite at the top of a large dead tree and numerous Pipits on the grassy margins of the runway. Having exhausted the sightings we moved on to the Georgetown Tip where Variegated Fairy-Wrens were found along with a juvenile Buff-banded Rail in the thick weedy vegetation around the waterhole. A few lucky people got to see a Bar-breasted honeyeater. Late comers dipped out.

Photo of Black-breasted BuzzardPhoto of Variegated Fairywren
Black-breasted Buzzard
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au
Variegated Fairywren
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au


On the way home we decided to stop and have a look at a dam near the top of the Newcastle range. A few lucky people saw the Ground Cuckoo-Shrikes in flight near the road not far out of Georgetown. Nothing of great interest, apart from a Darter and a calling Pheasant Coucal, was found at the stop at the dam so we headed home.

The decision was made to move the Undara visit from Monday morning to Sunday morning so we could have more time there. The swamp was the fullest it has been in a few decades and various duck species were observed. Highlights of the visit included Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Fuscous Honeyeaters, Rainbow lorikeet young emerging from their hollow in the reception carpark, a Hobby hawking over the Swamp at Flatrock where Purple Swamphens were sighted. No sighting was made of the Spotted Harrier that the author found at the highway intersection a few days previously.

Photo of Red-backed KingfisherPhoto of Black-winged Stilt
Red-backed Kingfisher
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au
Black-winged Stilt
Photo courtesy Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au

On the Monday morning a Red-backed Kingfisher was sighted on the edge of Mt Surprise near the vehicle wash down facility. The author was joined by Cath and Dave on the Alternate Savanna route which runs from Mt Surprise to Almaden or Mt Garnet with an intention of doing some atlassing work. A number stops along the way yielded a Bustard, Black-winged stilts, Wood Duck, Peregrine Falcon, Olive-backed Oriole, Black-faced Woodswallows, Rufous Whistlers and a Jacky Winter to name a few. A pair of Torresian Crows were sighted at the Almaden turn-off feeding a pair of Channel-billed Cuckoo fledglings almost in adult plumage. After that it was time to head home into the rain.

Others on their way home into rain stopped off at 40 Mile Scrub NP and picked up the resident Lewin’s Honeyeaters.

The weekend was largely a success with the combined Mt Surprise and Georgetown species list of 113. A total of 76 species were recorded for the combined Mt Surprise sites that we visited and 44 species were sighted at Undara. Georgetown yielded a species list of 77. Please download the bird lists (as a pdf file) for the area within 40km of Mt Surprise and Georgetown and the Undara resort locality.

Report by Greg Bortolussi.