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Central Queensland Birdwatching

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Date of Trip: November 2006

In 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin — 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.

This Trip Report covers the 11-days we spent bird watching in Central Queensland in Nov 2006 — Paluma, Euggella, Mackay, Yeppoon, and Chinchilla.

We saw 153 bird species at 9 Nature Areas: Paluma Mountain = 44, Bruce Highway to Eungella = 19, Eungella NP = 39, Slade Point = 30, Clearview Beach = 12, Bruce Highway to Yeppoon = 22, Mary River Loop Rd = 51, Byfield NP = 42, & Leichardt & Warrego Hwy = 47.

Lodging

Paluma – We stayed at the Paluma Rainforest Cottages (www.palumarainforest.com.au/stay_selfcontained.htm 19.009S 146.211E). This nice 2-bed room house had a full kitchen, washer/dryer, and a great front porch with excellent birdwatching.

There are no grocery stores in Paluma, so stock up in advance — the closest store is Wooly’s (Woolworths) in Ingham, a long 39 miles (75 minutes) away down a steep mountain. There appeared to be one restaurant in Paluma, but we didn’t eat there.

If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.

Eungella – We stayed at the Broken River Resort (www.eungella.info 21.167S 148.505E) in the Eungella NP. We saw 37 bird species on the resort grounds. Beautiful restaurant!!!

Mackay – We stayed at the Sea Breeze Resort on Slade Point (21.077S 149.226E). The resort had a nice casino and restaurant.

Yeppoon – We stayed at the Brae Bothy B&B (www.bnbqld.com/brae-bothy-bed-and-breakfast.htm 23.257S 150.603E) in Ironpot (half way between Rockhampton and Yappoon). The B&B is a nice country house with flowers, birds, a friendly dog, and resident Kangaroos. We arranged to eat our Dinners with the owners, who are retired schoolteachers — Beautiful!!!

Chinchilla – We stayed at the Chinchilla Palms Motor Inn (www.chinchillamotel.com.au 26.747S 150.639E). Good restaurant on site. We saw 7 bird species running around the grounds.

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Stay more nights in Eungella. Rooms are scarce and we could only stay 1 night because a convention had booked most of the rooms.

Skip Mackay in favor of more nights at Eungella and Paluma.

Highlights of the Region:

Seeing an Azure Kingfisher at the Birthday Creek Falls in the Paluma Rainforest.

Seeing 32 bird species from our porch in Paluma.

Seeing a small Platypus swimming in the Broken River at Eungella in the Great Dividing Range.

The Mary River Loop Rd and Byfield NP in Yeppoon were surprisingly good birding areas. We ended up seeing 82 bird species in the Yeppoon area.
Seeing 47 bird species on the drive from Yeppoon to Chinchilla thru the arid Outback of Queensland.

Birding Summary

Of the 153 bird species we saw in Central Queensland, 49 are endemic to Australia. Most of the 102 non-Australian Endemic bird species we saw in Central Queensland were new for us. 4 species were never seen again during the 255-day trip around Australia; that is: Cotton Pygmy-goose, Mangrove Honeyeater, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, & Squatter Pigeon

Special Comments:

On Nov 16 we left Mission Beach at 7:30am. About Noon we stopped in Ingham at Wooly’s for groceries. We wanted to get lamb & cheese patties, but this is beef country, so we settled for beef & cheese patties (looked the same).

South of Ingham we stopped at the Frosty Mango for lunch. We had a Chicken Wrap, Passion Tart slice, a Milk Shake with Chocolate Chip Biscuits and Mascarpone Ice Cream, and the thickest Ice Coffee yet (it was like a thick malt with coffee instead of malt).

We turned off the Bruce Highway and headed up the steep, narrow, and winding Paluma Road. It took us about an hour to go 21 Km. Paluma (19.000S 146.217E) is at an elevation of 3000 ft.

Mid-afternoon we went for a walk in the Rainforest on the outskirts of town. It was the coolest place we had found today, but dark. We heard and tracked down a Tooth-billed Bowerbird and found his bower of shiny leaves in a circle. This Bowerbird was very procreatively motivated by the size of his bower. Later we saw a pair of White-headed Pigeons. The Rainforest was swarming with butterflies. We did the 1.3 Km walk in 1 hour.

Later we sat on the porch of the cottage and saw heaps of birds in the late afternoon; i.e., Noisy Pita, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Spotted Catbirds, etc. Our best find was a female Regent Bowerbird.

On Nov 17 a small flock of 7 Crimson Rosellas (parrots) were in the Pink Mimosa Bush in our front yard before sunrise. The Rose-pink heads of the Rosella’s blended in with the Mimosa blossoms. The yard was a twitter with birds. A Macleay’s Honeyeater dive-bombed our Br. We had 2 male and 2 female Victoria’s Riflebirds in the yard till the males squared off to fight. A Lewin’s Honeyeaters landed on the porch rail and stared at us. A Noisy Pitta strolled thru the yard several times calling “Walk to Work. We sat on the front porch for 3 hours of delightful birding.

We took a brief walk around town. There were lots of nice houses with beautiful flower gardens, and lots of Topknot Pigeons and other birds. Mid morning we went for a drive to Birthday Creek Falls (18.976S 146.158E). The road went thru the Rainforest — 4 Km sealed and 6 Km of pretty smooth gravel. There was a 0.5 Km moderately steep track down hill to the cascading style falls. It was very beautiful and well worth the effort to get there.

At the falls we spotted an Azure Kingfisher. We saw it dive into the water for a few seconds and emerge with a Yabby (crawfish) in its mouth.

We drove another 5 Km out the gravel road to Lake Paluma (18.956S 146.147E). The lake was formed in 1958 as a water reservoir for Townsville.

In the afternoon we walked around town. Some of the coleus here have turned into scrubs. They grow wild along the roads. The flowers are awesome! The best birds today were the Scarlet Honeyeater and BrownThornbill.

On Nov 18 we went for an early morning 1.3 Km walk thru the Rainforest to the Witt Overlook. We saw 6 Eastern Whipbird dash across the trail in front of us. We also saw the female Regent Bowerbird, several male Victoria’s Riflebirds, heaps of Scrubwrens, and a Pale-yellow Robin.

We walked around town in the afternoon looking at the flowers and butterflies. Later, we got a Noisy Pitta bobbing around our yard.

On Nov 19 we left 6:15am. It took 35 minutes to get down the 18 Km of steep, windy road. Fortunately, we didn’t meet any cars until we were nearly at the bottom of the Mountain.

We drove 328 miles and arrived at Eungella (pronounced Young-Gella 21.167S 148.505E) at 2pm. Eungella is located 1500 ft up in the Great Dividing Range. The road was pretty good but steep for 4.5 Km.

In the late afternoon we went birding and found an Eastern Yellow Robin and 20 Banded Lapwings. We walked along the Broken River and saw a small Platypus swimming in the river, along with a Little Black Cormorant and a Nanking Night Heron.

On the way back to the lodge we saw 100’s of Plumbed Whistling Ducks fly into a farmyard across from the resort. The pasture was covered with Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. We ate dinner at the resort restaurant. We had Brochette with salsa, Porterhouse medallions with mushrooms and Epicurean Curley Fries, and Spanish and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli with onions and mushrooms sauteed in wine and cream (terrific sauce). You know you are going to get a lot of food when they bring it to you in a wheelbarrow. For dessert, we had Chocolate Mud Cake with Chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on a plate drizzled with nutmeg. Beautiful!!

On Nov 20 we woke-up to the whip crack of the Eastern Whipbird. When we went for a walk a flock of Australian King Parrots flew into the resort.

Eungella is located in a Cloud Channel — a gap in the Mt range that lets low level clouds pass easily. In the early morning we got the usual misting from the passing clouds.

The Eungella Honeyeater we had come here to see was gone. Two weeks ago they were all over the resort grounds eating flower blossoms, but not today. We went on a few short Rainforest walks before heading down the mountain.

We found our way thru Mackay and arrived at the Sea Breeze Resort on Slade Point (21.071S 149.229E) about 2pm. We were going to cook here, but the only grocery store around was back in downtown Mackay. We decided to eat at the resort, which is also the local Casino and drive thru Bottle Shop.

In the late afternoon we went for a walk. There had been a big brush fire near the resort today that was still billowing smoke. We saw the beautiful sandy beach near the resort.

We ate dinner at the casino. We started with pumpkin soup with garlic bread. My wife had deep fried prawns with garden salad. I had Thai Chicken stir-fry with Jasmine Rice.

On Nov 22 we were off at 5:30am. About 140 Km south of Mackay the Bruce Highway came close to the ocean. We turned off at Clairview Beach (22.121S 149.537E) for a look. The tide was out. We had mud flats as far as you could see. We saw a Brahminy Kite flying down the beach with its noise about an inch above the sand, a baby Red-capped Plover, a pair of Pied Oystercatchers, Eastern Reef Herons, and several White-rumped Swiftlets.

We got to the Brae Bothy B&B at 1:30pm. We had arranged to have our dinner with Judy & Keith, our hosts. Keith fixed baked chicken with pumpkin, carrots, potatoes and broccoli. For dessert we had blueberry pie with pudding.

pale headed align =On Nov 23 (Thanksgiving back home) it got light at 4:45am. Before we left the B&B we saw a Pale-headed Rosella. We were off at 5:30am for the scenic Mary River Loop Drive (23.106S 150.585E).

The road to Mary River took us by Ironpot Mountain, for which this area is named. As you might imagine, it looks like an up-side-down Iron Pot. The road was gravel on a hard base, which made for good driving. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, so we could stop whenever we wanted.

Along the way we saw Squatter Pigeons and Crested Doves running in the road. We saw a Gray-crowned Babbler — then there were 8 of them. Babblers have a community nest that the whole clan lays eggs in. All the adults then feed the mob of chicks. The Babbler’s call is like a car security system going off.

The highlight of the river drive was seeing 2 pairs of Cotton Pygmy Geese. We have seen heaps of Green Pygmy Geese, but Cotton Pygmy Geese are hard to find. We saw a male run another pair out of his territory.

The 59 Km (37 mile) river drive took us 5 hours. As we were concluding the river drive a pair of huge Broglas flew in. We hoped they would do their courting dance, but they just walked off.

Late morning we drove over to Emu Point to see the beaches. We found some beach glass, a Greater Crested Tern, and an Eastern Curlew. The beaches were spectacular with countless offshore islands.

We stopped at a beach backwater for fish and chips. We thought they would come on a plate. I got them wrapped in butcher paper with no knife or fork, no ketchup or tarter sauce, and no napkins. The fish was Red Emperor. We took our package across the street to a shaded picnic table. It was good food, after we got by the package shock.

For Thanksgiving dinner Judy fixed steak with mashed potatoes & gravy, carrots, green beans and pumpkin. For dessert we had sticky-date pudding over date bread.

We got talking about Australian Sea Food. Keith said the 3rd most serious offense in Australia (after murder and rape) was harvesting Mud Crabs out of season — it’s a $50,000 fine, plus they confiscate your nets, boat and tow vehicle.

On Nov 24 we started for Byfield NP (22.976S 150.776E) at 6am. The park is a collection of coastline, mangrove swamps, and wetlands. In the early morning we saw heaps of Pheasant Coucals. A flock of curious Red-tailed Black Cockatoos followed us most of the morning. Our best finds were a Mangrove Honeyeater, Satin Flycatcher, and Red-backed Fairywren

The coast road north of Yeppoon was dirt and sand, but very wide — like someone was going to build a 4-lane road but didn’t. We saw some really big Goannas (lizards) along the road, and one dingo.

At the end of the dirt road we took a trail over to the beach across sliding sand dunes (22.976S 150.776E). It was like trying to climb a hill made out of confectionary sugar. Fan flowers were trying to make some ground cover over the sand. At the top of the hill we could see there were no shore birds on the beach — we went back to the car.

We tried another inland road in the NP to a Wetland, but after driving 10 Km all we found was a big field of dust.

We drove the sealed road to the northern section of Byfield NP. Most of this area has become a commercial pine tree farm. We went for a short hike in a remaining remnant of the Rainforest. We stopped to see a Fernwren. My wife felt something hit her on the head. She looked up and saw the red belly of a Rose-crowned Fruit-dove.

We drove further north and found the Fern Hideaway Restaurant (22.824S 150.663E). We were surprised to find a fancy sit-down restaurant at the end of a dirt road. My wife had prawns wrapped in Filo leaves with ginger dipping sauce and rice. I had the Indonesian Beef Curry and rice the manager recommended – very mild curry taste. Beautiful food!

On Nov 25 we were off at 5:45am enroute to Chinchilla. The route took us into Outback Central Queensland. From Rockhampton we drove west on the Capricorn Highway to Westwood, then south to Banana and on south to Miles on the Leichardt Highway, then east on the Warrego Highway to Chinchilla. The 325 miles took 8.5 hours.

We choose the inland route for a change of bird environment. The terrain was very dry. Amazingly, there were a lot of wild flowers along the road. We ended up seeing 47 bird species.

We stopped at the Hotel-Casino in Miles for Lunch, but they weren’t cooking today. Everyone was watching the Cricket match between Australia and England — and drinking. The bartender suggested we go down to the local gas station, were we got fish and chips.

In the late afternoon we drove to the Chinchilla Weir (a lake behind a dam). By the water we found a Splendid Fairy-wren. The wren sat on a dried-up weed for 10 minutes. Back at the hotel, we saw a pair of Red-rumped Parrots in the field behind the hotel.

We ate dinner at the hotel. We started with Broccoli & Horseradish soup, and Turkish Bread with dukkah, Hummus and oil. We had reservations about mixing Broccoli and Horseradish, but they were really good together. It was mostly Broccoli with a good dash of horseradish and paprika.

For the main dish my wife had a Mediterranean Vegetable Tart (grilled eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion and Fete cheese in a puff pastry). The plate was decorated with Balsamic Vinegar & oil. I had Yogurt Braised Chicken breast with onions and poppy seeds with Puppodum shells.

E-mail if you would like a file with the specific birds we saw each day.

Carl & Wilma Ball carlball@yahoo.com

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