On Sunday I enjoyed a longer-than-usual BirdLife expedition, a round trip from Townsville to Ravenswood via Mingela, returning via Clare and Cromarty for a total of nearly 300km. One of the reasons I accepted the invitation so enthusiastically was that I had never been over the ranges from Ravenswood to Clare and, as I said when I first wrote about the Wildlife Qld excursions, it’s great to be introduced to new places off the beaten track.
A 6.30 departure got the convoy (about 15 of us in half a dozen vehicles) to Mingela quite early in the day. We gathered beside a dam near the highway to begin observing ducks, magpie geese, lots of small birds in the grasslands, hawks overhead … I’m not going to try to list them, because I’m not a serious enough birder to even write down the species I do see, let alone see all the species to be seen. I was happy enough just to tag along and to get a few good shots.
Our next stop was a brief one at Kirk River on the Mingela-Ravenswood road – dry at this time of year, as we expected, but the line of trees had retained some of its birdlife – and we paused for morning tea at the Recreation Reserve in Ravenswood. From there, it was a short hop to the White Blow before we continued along the Ayr-Ravenswood Road towards Clare. (Several people to whom I have mentioned this trip have thought that the route would have taken us to the Burdekin Falls Dam but no: the Dam is well South of Ravenswood while Clare is to the North-east. Here’s the map.)
A good gravel road took us down through some rugged dry country to the lush coastal plain near Clare, with planned stops at Banana Creek and Eight Mile Creek. The former was the better for birds but I had a good time photographing butterflies at the latter.
The day was intermittently overcast and even drizzly from mid-morning onwards, and we ran into real rain near Clare, which was our lunch stop. From there we followed the Barratta Rd to Horseshoe Lagoon on Hodel Rd, then continued down Morris Creek Rd to the Barramundi Creek boat ramp hoping to see Mangrove Honeyeaters.
We had been seeing lots of birds of prey all day, and when I had nothing better to do I had been trying to photograph them. It’s a chancy affair – when you have a large enough image to be worthwhile the bird moves out of shot quite quickly, and catching good lighting so that’s it’s not just a silhouette against the sky is a matter of luck too – but all it costs is time. I got quite a nice Black Kite at the boat ramp and a not-so-good shot of a more challenging subject a few minutes later, above the swamp beside Hodel Road.
A car ahead of us had reported over the two-way radio that there was a Swamp Harrier on a fence post. As we approached, it took off to fly fast and low towards a flock of white birds feeding on the ground, and I was lucky enough to get useable photos of the event.
The last leg of the trip took us back briefly to the Bruce Highway then down Piralko Rd to follow Reed Beds Rd all the way to Cromarty Siding Rd and the entrance to Wongaloo, looking at (mainly) grassland birds, before following the highway back to town.