Day 6 started off pretty relaxed.
We were ready to move on in search of one of my biggest targets for the trip - Letter-winged Kite
Armed with a couple of locations from previous years we were excited although wise enough to never get ones hopes up when it comes to birds and advice from better years
So we left Diamantina NP and headed once more into the gibber
Gum Holes camp
An Orange Chat (yet another new bird for Fatih) caused us to pull over not far out of the National Park
Not the best of views but enough for now
The wind was strong and hearing birds was incredibly difficult even for my two companions
After trying to get close to a Wedge-tailed Eagle on a kill (unsuccessfully as usual) Fatih thought he heard one of my other much wanted target species
I of course couldn't hear a thing but know better than to doubt him. So we moved towards the "sound" and scanned the flat, lifeless looking gibber
Lifeless until i spotted my first new bird for the trip!
We started to move toward it only for it to vanish into nothing. It might be bright yellow on the front but if it turns its back to you its gone - such is the effectiveness of its camouflage
Anxious minutes searching were unsuccessful until we started to walk back to the road and there it was back where we had come from!
Success and enough photos to make a photographer happy
I was ecstatic!
now on a high we headed south on the Coorabulka Station rd which skirts the western edge of Diamantina and Astrebla Downs National Parks.
it was good to be the driver :)
in this photo above there is a bird
a very small and well camouflaged bird
can you see it?
Here is its parent
an adult Inland Dotterel that instinctively led us away from its tiny chicks
This striking bird of the arid inland of Australia is a very sought after bird to see
Laying down and shooting through the grass gave such an intimate perspective of one of my favourite birds
This was already our second sighting of this species and it wasn't to be our last!
Once again however, another bird was calling...
...well let's just say I wish it was calling!
The Letter-winged Kite is the only Australian bird of prey that i am yet to see.
Whilst I dreamed of seeing a Night Parrot on this trip i was fairy realistic about our chances
The kite however was a much more likely proposition
A small creek on a road through nowhere was our lunchstop (toasted cheese sandwich ...yum)
and best chance of seeing one
...at least the toasted cheese sandwich was nice....
a number of nests and alot of whitewash and even some pellets (regurgitated fur and bone) were a positive sign but alas
Zebra Finch (male)
a beautiful male Zebra Finch gave me something to point the big lens at but as pretty as they are, was no consolation
further south we drove and the soil changed more to clay
little did we know that we were getting very close to a place and an event that would shape our entire trip and birding memories
we turned off the "main road" on a side track that cut SE below Astrebla Downs NP on another tip from last year about Letter-winged Kites
SLAM ON BRAKES
SWERVE (for something that I didn't even see!)
really hope I missed them!
we got out and walked back to the scene of the 'accident' to find two tiny Inland Dotterel chicks incredibly alive in the middle of the track!
Dave picking up chicks
Photo courtesy Fatih Sam
so after the obligatory photos of such cute subjects we helped them somewhere safer than the middle of the track
not that we had seen another vehicle all day
(Also perhaps best not to mention to my wife that i spent alot of time picking up chicks on this trip)
and with that sudden unexpected stop
came more birds
more Inland Dotterels
and a pigeon
more braking but this time with more excitement than fear
there was my second new bird for the trip
not that i count or anything
Flock Bronzewings are not just any pigeon
In years gone by they were said to be so numerous that when they nested on the open ground, sheep would have stained yellow bellies from lying on their eggs
such was the density of their population
millions of them
then incredibly they were thought to be almost on the edge of extinction
fortunately making a comeback and now more often seen in the massive parties that gave them their name - although still nothing like their peak
a bird of the nowhere
a bird i wanted to see
excitement overwhelmed me as did the stress of trying to get close to them
After some time trying to get close enough for a decent photo we abandoned the task
Daylight was fading and our destination for the night beckoned
But the disappointment soon catapulted into greater excitement as we came close to a dam and saw flocks of birds flying in and circling around the water
the numbers of birds we were now seeing, put the small flock we had reluctantly left into insignificance
We knew where we would be staying tonight!
Although to be honest there was a period on dark where we almost moved on
We almost left
We almost missed tomorrow.
Lightning lit up the distant skies
Wind picked up and changed direction
Rain clouds rolled in quickly from the west.
There's one place you don't want to be when it rains out here...
...and we were smack bang in the middle of it!
Once more though our trip was blessed
Our patience before committing to set up tents saw only a brief light shower (not enough to turn the roads to impassable bogs)
the clouds blew over and the moon and stars lit up the landscape
but it was now cold!
So after setting up camp we kept ourselves busy wandering around in the moonlit plains looking for Geckos with massive spiky testicles...
Oh look - there's one!
Day 7 - Bronzewing Camp
What would the morning bring?
Past reports of Flock Bronzewing sightings often mentioned big flocks coming in around 8 or 9am
Would today's incredible experience continue?
tighter crop of one of the above images to give a sense of numbers
It would not only continue
but become one of the greatest wildlife encounters of our lives.
We set up hides in the bowl of the dam and waited
Small flocks kept arriving, building up and building up
As the flock grew they wheeled and whirred over our heads in an incredible spectacle
The sheer number of birds became staggering
Too many to count
although we are still going through the photos trying to get a more exact number - at this stage numbers between 20,000 - 40,000 are being floated.
but to be honest
I don't actually care what the number is
lets just say there were ALOT
and it was amazing
Eventually the flock broke up into smaller flocks and the birds went off to feed on the surrounding plains
We were ecstatic
Drained mentally and physically by this once in a lifetime event
and we rested
in readiness for the afternoon...
it was hard to rest
even out here in the middle
there were always things happening
most often it was simply the flies
in fact the flies were the only thing that possibly matched the bronzewings numerically
Emus appeared over the hump of the distant horizon like mirages of camels
their curiosity incredibly amusing
(one day i will share the video of the Emus running back towards us to get a better look at Henry laying on the ground pedalling his legs in the air!)
and after the Emus came Corellas.
On another day a big flock like this might have impressed us
but not today.
and then they were back
their numbers once again building up on the gibber plains around the dam
much smaller flocks flew
sweet afternoon light brought out the colours of the birds and accentuated the brilliance of their camouflage against surrounding outback
and as the light faded
the birds dispersed once again into nowhere
a pair of Galahs and the moon became our only companions
and that day drew to a close
that incredible, unforgettable day
and all around was quiet...
.... except for the cheering