Western QLD (part 1) - davidstowe
Red Sand ©David Stowe-3513
A journey from Sydney to the Channel Country of western QLD .

12 days

5000km

300GB of photos and video

120+ species of birds
Emus ©David Stowe-1543
I love the outback

My soul yearns for the open spaces 

The seemingly barren landscapes

'Nowhere' for me is a very special place, and this trip saw us right in the middle of it
DS & FS ©David Stowe-9276
Day 1 : Sydney - Cunnamulla

The plan was simple. Drive as far as we could and look for birds. 

Not just any bird of course

one bird in particular

the Night Parrot

Would we see one? unlikely.
In fact if you want to skip to the end

we didn't see one, hear one or in any other way find proof of their presence.
But if you're not too fussed on Night Parrots then keep reading

I was not alone on my journey. Alongside was great mate Fatih Sam - a fantastic birder and photographer who is always able to make me jealous with his abilities to hear, see and photograph any bird.

Our journey north and west started in the early hours and our destination was Cunnamulla, just over the Queensland border, 1000km away.

no time for stopping then....
Superb Parrot ©David Stowe-9312
Superb Parrot (male)
Polytelis swainsonii
...unless you see Superb Parrots flying over the road!

The first of many new birds for Fatih, we managed a couple of quick shots of this male just out of Wellington, then back on track.

Late lunch in Bourke then on to Cunnamulla where our lodgings were a cabin in the caravan park in town.
Black-faced Woodswallow ©David Stowe-9357
Black-faced Woodswallow
Artamus cinereus
Cunnamulla road ©David Stowe-9301
Day 2 : Cunnamulla - Windorah

Our target today was the small town of Windorah where we were to meet up with the third musketeer for the trip - our good friend Henry Cook.

Only 660km today.

An early start saw us get at least 15 minutes up the road before we stopped.

As the sun rose we hoped for some great light but it wasn't really to be.

Still some interesting landscapes of the road and railway made the stop worthwhile.
Cunnamulla railway ©David Stowe-9305
Major Mitchell ©David Stowe-9647
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
Lophochroa leadbeateri
One of many highlights of the trip came not far south of Charleville where we started seeing Major Mitchell (or Pink) Cockatoos. Another new bird for Fatih; we managed to get quite close to a pair feeding on the side of the road on pademelons (like a small watermelon).

Even better was when another pair flew in and they had a bit of scuffle before settling down and allowing us to experience these beautiful birds go about their business.
Major Mitchell ©David Stowe-9592
Major Mitchell ©David Stowe-9514
Major Mitchell ©David Stowe-9320
As the day went on we realised that the crack in the windscreen that had appeared the day before was growing

Bugger

As the roads were only going to get alot worse once we left the bitumen we knew that our last chance was to stop in Charleville

An amazing blessing - found a panel beater in town who did windscreen repairs. $60 and friendly 'while-we-waited' service saw us back on the road in no time

after a coffee and a muffin from the bakery cafe of course :)

We arrived to our beautiful camp site on the banks of Cooper's Creek with daylight to spare and some time for photos of the local White-necked Heron

A fair bit of driving but more than compensated for with the cockatoos and a proper bush camp.

It was starting to feel like we were Nowhere
IMG_4276
White-necked Heron ©David Stowe-
White-necked Heron
Ardea pacifica
Cooper Creek ©David Stowe-9813
Day 3 : Windorah - to ... nowhere a bit north of Windorah

Waking up on the banks of the river was magic

A sunrise full of the promise of warmth and healing in its orange and ochre glow

and there were birds

Not many birds but those that were there looked magnificent

and we only had to crawl out of our tents to photograph them ...always a big plus when you have as much camera gear to cart around as we did
Cooper Creek Sunrise & Heron-9808
Pink-eared Duck ©David Stowe-9833
Pink-eared Duck
Malacorhynchus membranaceus
Yellow-billed Spoonbill ©David Stowe-0037
Yellow-billed Spoonbill
Platalea flavipes
Cooper Creek ©David Stowe-9896
IMG_4277
Windorah has just enough to get you out of trouble but not much else

a couple of streets, 
a pub (that goes without saying in any outback Australian town really - it's more a question of how many pubs a town has that gives it's size any relevance)
a store
a service station 
and a great kids playground ... although i had left the kids at home so not much use to us this trip
no mobile phone coverage even with Telstra (don't even ask about vodaphone! Fatih hadn't had phone reception since Dubbo a couple of days earlier!)

but it was also where we met up with our missing musketeer who had driven down from Longreach - Henry. We also got chatting with the local copper who was keenly into birds and photography - there's also not much in the way of trouble out there!

so after fuelling up the Prado and an obligatory ice coffee to go with the frozen bread, we headed north.

spinifex was calling...
Wedgie-scape ©David Stowe-9932
Dingo carcass ©David Stowe-9909
Spinifex Pigeon ©David Stowe-0061
Spinifex pigeon
Geophaps plumifera
IMG_4279
spinifex

gibber

both symbols to me of being in the middle of nowhere

we had arrived
IMG_4283
camp was somewhere between Jundah and Winton on the side of the road amongst the best looking spinifex habitat we had come across

it looked like the perfect habitat for 'that' bird

you know, the dumpy green one

So tents were pitched and cameras loaded

and we walked

Even now sitting at my computer i am still trying to get those last needle point tips of spinifex grass out of the left sleeve of my jumper
Rufous-crowned Emu-wren ©David Stowe-0144
Rufous-crowned Emu-wren
Stipiturus ruficeps
to be honest it was tough here

there were great birds around but photography was almost impossible with such fleeting glimpses of Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens, Striated Grasswrens and Spinifexbird

high wind made hearing their tiny high pitched calls a challenge even for the other guys whose ears work without the need for bionic implants
Red Kangaroo ©David Stowe-0167
Red Kangaroo
Macropus rufus
Spinifex Camp-0249
as the sun took its leave we joined the moon and stars to look over the surrounding landscape

such perfect looking habitat!

surely a Night Parrot would LOVE this spot!

maybe it does...

But for us, our wandering in the spiky night yielded only a Tawny Frogmouth and a gecko
Tawny Frogmouth ©David Stowe-0182
Tawny Frogmouth
Podargus strigoides
Gecko ©David Stowe-0218
Spiny-tailed Gecko
Strophurus krisalys
I have to say it was an impressive looking gecko though! 
it may have lacked the enormous spiky testicles of later geckos found by Henry but this one did have amazing feet, spikes on it tail and the most amazing eyes i have ever seen

Henry was in his element in the night. Herpetologists are like that i think. And we will be forever grateful for the things we learnt and experienced.
David Stowe-0207
Gecko ©David Stowe-0221
we went to bed weary but exhilarated

only day 3 and already feeling restored, blessed, and excited
Western QLD©David Stowe-0250
Star Trail ©David Stowe-
the end of PART ONE....

more to come
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