Friday, January 14, 2011

Bowra Station - Morning Bird Walk

What a great morning! :-) The nightly chorus of the frogs had ceased and instead replaced with an equally impressive mix of weird and wonderful bird calls. In the hot parts of Australia mornings are by far the best time of the day to spot those feathered noise makers and I was out of bed in a flash ready to start exploring.

The south-western end of Queensland is far enough away from the usual habitats around Sydney to give you that feeling of everything being different. Of course there are birds and plants that you can also find around Sydney, but when the doves are diamond, the friarbirds are little and the bellbirds are crested, you know that you are away from home.

During dinner the night before a couple of the caretakers at Bowra had promised to take the newly arrived for a morning walk along the bore drain, a White-winged Fairy-wren had been spotted in a particular bush a little walk away from the homestead, and considering the size of Bowra - and the amount of bushes! - it was an offer too good to refuse to be guided to the right bush :-)

The birding was absolutely fantastic and in the first 500 meters of walking I managed to see four(!) new birds plus I got photos of a few species that I have not managed to digitize before. The early new ones were White-necked Heron, which I for some reason have managed to avoid seeing even though it should be possible to pick it up much closer to Sydney. As hinted earlier, I also managed an encounter with a few Diamond Doves pottering around outside the homestead. Another bird that I had not seen before and that seemed to be attracted to the presence of humans at the homestead was Spotted Bowerbird and finally we got good views of the promised White-winged Fairy-wren, what a great little bird - sadly my photo does not do it justice.

The water at Bowra is artesian water and originates from the Great Artesian Basin an enourmous water source underlying 23% of Australia. It is the largest and deepest known source of artesian water in the world, and absolutely crucial for the sustainability of life in some of the driest parts of outback Australia. All that water had attracted a few birds that I had not expected to see that far outback - Black-winged Stilt, and what about a Nankeen Night Heron in the desert?

Bowra used to be a cattle station, and to maximize the possibility for the cattle to get to water a many kilometer long drainage ditch brings life giving water out onto the property. Birds as well as cattle needs to drink once and a while making the bore drain walk some of the best birding anyone can imagine.

We had a fantastic one and a half hours stroll that morning. Super company and some very special nature - what more can you hope for.?..! As we passed the campsite where I would later pitch my tent, we encountered a family of Chestnut-crowned Babbler. Babblers are great opportunistic birds and have some of the most interesting social behavior I have seen for any bird. The Chestnut-crowned Babbler is a great find, but I had seen it before and it was not the babbler I was after. The bird that has arguably added the most to the fame of Bowra is a constant presence of the rarest Babbler of them all: Hall's Babbler - A bird I would be targeting later that day :-)

A last surprise from our morning walk was a Buff-banded Rail walking around in the tall grass next to the little lake. This bird have never been seen at Bowra Station before and I guess we were all quite proud of having helped making a stunningly impressive bird list swell even a little more :-)


Mark Young said...

I've heard great things about Bowra and hope to get up there one day myself. Well done on the trip and getting the lifers.

AGL said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks, yeah Bowra is a fantastic spot - you would absolutely love it there. A lot of effort has gone into making it a easy place for birders to visit; free power to charge your batteries, great maps listing what you are likely to see in the various areas etc. and the volunteer caretakers were just exceptional!
If I have space in the car next time I go, I will let you know :-)

Cheers Allan