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.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Around Oz Part 33 - Across the Nullabor and the Quail-thrush at Last

Following our visit to Cape Arid (see previous post) he drove back to Esperance then north to the ordinary gold-mining town of Norseman for an overnight stay at the even more ordinary Gateway Caravan Park, where our camper van site overlooked a shed wall and a pile of garbage for some outrageous price. We headed east the next morning for the long drive "Across the Nullabor", including the longest straight stretch of road in Australia (about 150km). I've done this drive previously and can confirm it is a tad tedious at times.

We bush camped at Moonera Tank, 47km west of Madura, but there was very little bird activity in the nice-looking mallee scrub. The following morning we had our first White-fronted Chats near Eucla, where the ruins of the Old Telegraph Station are worth a look.

Old Telegraph Station ruins, Eucla
We checked out a couple of lookouts to view the impressive limestone cliffs that fringe the Great Australian Bight before arriving for an overnight stay at the Nullabor Roadhouse, the site for the quail-thrush of the same name. I had searched previously and unsuccessfully for this bird at a different site in 1981, so I was particularly keen to snare it this time.

Nullabor Plain & humble Subaru
I decided to focus on a site which has been productive in recent times. Drive or walk east from the roadhouse on a track that runs parallel and close to the highway. After 1.3km you reach a crossroads which marks the boundary of the Nullabor National Park. Turn left here and head north for 6.3km, where you can see a small turnaround area for vehicles on the left.  A black dingo was seen on the road here.

On the other side of the fence at this point, there is a large and active colony of Hairy-nosed Wombats. I found plenty of fresh droppings around the cluster of burrows; a nocturnal expedition would probably have been productive, but I'd see the animal before and the nigh was very cold.

Hairy-nosed Wombat burrows
The first afternoon was very windy and I saw no quail-thrushes. White-winged Fairy-wren, Slender-billed Thornbill and Rufous Field-wren were plentiful.

The next morning was better. I flushed my first pair of quail-thrush about 1km up the track that heads north from the crossroads. I flushed a second pair about 2km further on. Then I flushed a single bird from the wombat burrow cluster referred to above. Soon after I flushed another pair from another wombat burrow cluster - this one long abandoned - back down the track about 2km - all up, 7 Nullabor Quail-Thrush. As others have noted, the birds are flighty so no photo opportunity. I also noted the birds were singularly uninterested in playback of the call of Cinnamon Quail-thrush - the Nullabor Quail-thrush was split recently from this species. l also saw several Brown Songlarks that morning.

Leaving the roadhouse, we visited the Head of the Bight - the most easterly point of the limestone cliffs that fringe the Nullabor.

Head of Bight, Nullabor
 About 30 Southern Right Whales were offshore, mostly mothers with calves. However, they were relatively distant compared to our previous close encounters with the whales (see here) and the cliffs I did not think were as impressive as those further east. So we didn't think it was worth the money you have to fork out now to visit this spot

Southern Right Whale & claf - Head of Bight
As we left Western Australia and crossed the South Australian border, we had reached the three-quarters point in our journey around Oz, both in time and distance terms.


1 comment:

  1. When we crossed the Nullabor in 1973 we bush camped just North of Norseman. On reviewing our kit when we got to Coolgardie we were surprised to find a suitcase missing. On going some fair distance back to our camp it wasn't around so obviously someone had visited us during the night and reallocated our possessions! Although the camp site sounds expensive perhaps you could regard part of the fee as an insurance premium?