Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Letter-winged Kite, Birdsville Track & Flinders Ranges

Letter-winged Kite roost at sunrise

Following our visit to Diamantina National Park, we (myself, Bernie O'Keefe and Scott Baker) headed west towards Boulia, turning south at Springvale Station towards Coorabulka Station. Having had some excellent encounters with Grey Falcon, we were looking forward to another raptor treat. A gathering of Letter-winged Kites had been reported recently (I believe Jannette Manins first found them) at Whitewood Creek, between Coorabulka and the Kennedy Developmental Road.

Letter-winged Kites

Letter-winged Kites

Letter-winged Kite
We had no trouble finding the kites in the early afternoon upon arrival (4/7). A total of 16-17 birds, including a couple of immatures, circled high in the air, evidently riding wind currents; the behaviour seemed unusual for this species, especially at that time of day. They soon landed in stunted coolibah trees lining the gully, which was surrounded by sparse Mitchell grass and gibber plains. We found widely scattered nests along about 1.5km of the gully that clearly had been used in recent times.

Letter-winged Kite nest

Letter-winged Kite site
Plenty of Little Crows were about here.

Little Crow
It's good news indeed that Letter-winged Kites are again being seen in this region. They were regular in that part of the world but had been largely absent over the past couple of decades. The species generally is in steep decline, most likely due to the predation of nesting adults and chicks by feral cats.  We camped at the site and that evening spotlighted 40km to the north and south along the road. We were delighted to find a Kowari, notwithstanding the sole poor image I managed.

We found a Gibberbird on the road at night. The following morning, after farewelling the kites at their roost, we continued south, finding another Gibberbird before connecting with the Diamantina Developmental Road.

Gibberbird at night
We stopped at a few spots along the way, connecting with Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Purple-backed Fairywren,  Australian Pratincole and a nice roadside Wedge-tailed Eagle (among others) before arriving in Birdsville.

Australian Pratincole
Wedge-tailed Eagle

Cinnamon Quail-Thrush

Purple-backed Fairywren
In the late afternoon we checked out a sand dune where Eyrean Grasswrens had recently been seen 17.5km east of Birdsville. We found the birds and managed a couple of mediocre images as they kept to the interior of canegrass tussocks.

Eyrean Grasswren

Grasswren dune near Birdsville
After overnighting at the Birdsville Hotel, we continued south 91km along the Birdsville Track to lignum and saltbush flats that have emerged as a hotspot for Grey Grasswren (Bernie O'Keefe, one of our group, discovered this spot a few years ago.) Unfortunately the weather conditions had changed dramatically overnight from warm and still to cold and windy. That took care of the flies that had been plaguing us, but grasswrens are difficult in these conditions and two of us managed just brief views of a single bird. A pair of Orange Chats showed nicely here.

Orange Chat male

Orange Chat female
We tried unsuccessfully to drive into Pandiburra Bore and almost got bogged in the process as heavy rain had fallen in the area recently. Various old homestead ruins along the Birdsville Track are worth a look. We found a Bynoe's Gecko near one of the old homesteads. Bynoe's  Gecko and Eastern Tree Dtella were found earlier in Diamantina National Park.

Getting out a sticky situation - Pandiburra Bore track

Homestead ruins
Bynoe's Gecko
Eastern Tree Dtella
We spent the next evening at the Mungarannie Hotel. Continuing south along the Birdsville Track the next day we picked up other goodies including Stubble Quail,  White-backed Swallow and a flock of Blue-winged Parrots.

Stubble Quail
Blue-winged Parrots

Blue-winged Parrot
White-backed Swallow
A sole Ostrich along the track is evidently well-known - not tickable but wild. We saw more Eyrean Grasswrens on a dune 140km south of Mungarannie. After overnighting at the Lyndhurst Hotel we failed to connect with Thick-billed Grasswrens at a nearby site the next morning.

We moved on to the Flinders Ranges, where our run of bad luck with grasswrens continued. We couldn't find Short-tailed Grasswren at Stokes Hill; I suspect that wind combined with the absence of calling mid-winter was responsible for the lack of grasswrens. We also had limited to time to look for the birds, all of which had been seen previously by the three of us. As usual, the Flinders Ranges did not disappoint aesthetically.

Flinders Ranges from Stokes Hill
We had more joy at Brachina Gorge where Yellow-footed Rock-Wallaby showed nicely, along with Grey-fronted Honeyeater, while Euro was abundant throughout the area.

Yellow-footed Rock-Wallaby

Grey-fronted Honeyeater



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  3. Wow! Coming through Birdsville myself in a few weeks

  4. Great blog post. I have never seen Letter wing Kites like that. Very good.