Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 5

Dinosaurs and Brolga

A gliding Black Kite.

All along the highway from about Blackall, roadkill was attended by birds that I thought were a type of Kite and black Crows. Once I got a photo, I was able to identify them as Black Kites. Their appearance and behaviour, such as their swooping flight and that they were in flocks. I posted about Plumed Whistling Ducks and Crested Pigeons in the previous post. So that’s it for Birds at Longreach.

We departed Longreach early to reach Winton in good time as we had a drive of about two and a half hours after Winton, to reach our overnight stop at Hughenden.

Australian Age of Dinosaurs layout. Entrance road is in the lower left hand corner.
The Dinosaur footprints, recovered from swamp country and reinstalled in a temperature controlled building for display and preservation.

The location of The Australian Age of Dinosaurs is on the Longreach side of Winton, so that helped. Part of the success of this attraction is the brilliant sighting on top of a jump up. The top is quite flat, probably a couple of hundred metres above the grassy plains of the grazing area. Huge rocks have broken away around the edge and moved a short distance to where they have become stable. All of the buildings are on the plateau, but some displays have been built on and among those huge rocks around the plateau rim.

March of the Titanosaurs Building where the footprints are displayed.

We arrived about an hour ahead of our tour and presented ourselves at reception. We were given an earlier tour start. The session required a short trip on a shuttle to the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost. This part is relatively new. It is in a large fully enclosed building into which has been moved a large area of fossilised rock that was found in the lower country. It is part of an ancient swamp where Dinosaur footprints of various sizes have been frozen in time. The guide points out some differences between the footprints and what it is thought the creatures were doing at the time.

A board walk extends to the Dinosaur Canyon Walk.
A diorama of Dinosaurs in stampede mode.
Tumbled boulders at the edge of the Jump Up.

The displays that have been built among the rocks on the side of the jump up, are in this area.

About 50 km away on the Jundah Road south of Winton is the site of the dinosaur stampede. We saw it years ago and found it to be most interesting but inconvenient to get to, because of the condition of the road. So to have this display of similar footprints so easily accessible is a great convenience.

Digs, recovery of fossils and storage of fossils awaiting processing.

The next part of the tour required a drive or walk of about 500 metres to the laboratory, where the fossils are prepared for display or further research. We were taken through the detail if how digs for fossils are conducted and the fossils secured and brought back for further processing so that the item can be positively identified. Finally we watched as the workers used a variety of tools to remove foreign material without causing damage to the fossil.

Work in progress
Two volunteers working to on fossils.
Recovered and restored fossils.

Finally, we returned to the museum at the main building for a presentation of how the finished fossils are used to recreate the original creature, or part of a creature, using genuine parts or parts fabricated to replace the missing bit. These are displayed as models, a leg for example, and in photographs or sketches. There is an interesting display of parts that don’t fit with anything else but are genuine.

More recovered and processed fossils.
An example of the use of fossilised parts to recreate a body part,

Since the café is in the same building as the museum, we had coffee and a sandwich and drove into Winton for a petrol refill at $2.02 per litre. But that now seems cheap compared to $2.15 that I saw on a pump at Redcliffe yesterday.

A view from the museum grounds of a distant jump up. Part of Winton about centre left, just below the skyline. The flat topped mountains are a feature of this part of Queensland.
A typical small jump up or mesa in the area.
Corfield Hotel, currently closed.

The drive to Hughenden is on sealed road except for the first 15 km that is currently a dirt side track running parallel with an almost completed new road. We stopped at the tiny town of Corfield for a break. This “town” boasted a pub and racetrack. The pub is now permanently closed but I am not sure about the racetrack. They used to conduct a “Corfield Cup” but a lot of those country events were cancelled during the Covid epidemic and have not restarted.

 There are no real towns along this road, just one other notable locality, Stamford that has a school.

Brolga near Hughenden
Rainbow Lorikeets on our door step at Hughenden.

About 30 km short of Hughenden, we came across a group of Brolga. The Brolga were in a paddock about 30 km south of our destination. I was separated from the Brolgas by a 4 strand well maintained barbed wire fence, when I took some photos. They kept moving away until I reached the fence. Then they turned around and looked at me. I wonder if they knew that I could not get through the fence.

On our arrival at the caravan park in Hughenden, our doorstep was taken up by Rainbow Lorikeets being fed by a resident. Most flew away but some stayed to see if there was more food on offer.

The area at the summit of Mt Walker. All lookouts are joined to the central area by gravel paths.
Lookout to the Southeast.

About 10 km south of Hughenden is Mount Walker, named in memory of the leader of an expedition to find Bourke & Wills. It is about 450 metres above sea level but stands well above the surrounding terrain. It is part of two adjoining stations, the owners of which combined with the local council to install a road and visitor facilities. There are about six lookouts that face in all directions, each one providing panoramic views. We made it our first call of the morning, before heading east.

View to the Northeast. The road to Hughenden can be seen below.
Tables and seats are scattered around the area.
White Mountain National Park near Torrens Creek

There are only small towns on this stretch of road, until we reached Charters Towers with its approximately 9,000 population. We did coffee at Torrens Creek and experienced the “excitement” of a 60-truck fertiliser train passing through.

Memorial to the Completion of the Sealing of the Hervey Range Road.

A geological feature of some note, the White Mountain National Park, is a further 30 km. You need a 4WD to get into the park but some of its signature white stone is visible from a rest stop by the highway.

We continued amid little traffic to Charters Towers, where we arrived at about 1 pm. It was pleasing to see petrol at around $1.70 per litre.

After a restful afternoon and evening, we left next morning for Townsville and the ferry terminal, but went the long way. We drove north-west on the Gregory Highway until we reached a place called Basalt, where we turned east into the Hervey Range Road. We stopped to see a memorial to the completion of sealing the road. Hervey Range Road is part of the network of “beef roads” that criss-cross Northwest Queensland. This one takes beef to the processing works at Townsville.

The Burdekin River upstream of the Hervey Range Road Crossing.
The Hervey Range Tea House without customers. A very present place to stop for a break, Wednesday to Sunday.
Ah! The Tropics! Beach goers relaxing on Townsville Beach.

We then crossed the Burdekin River and stopped at the Hervey Range Tea House. The day was Monday, and this is a weekend drive location for Townsville residents. The tea house is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but we knew that. There were no coffee stops available until we reached the suburbs of Townsville. Topped up with coffee and with some time to fil in before the departure of the ferry, we found a parking space in The Esplanade where we were able to see Magnetic Island and enjoy the beach, fresh air and sunshine. We caught our ferry with time to spare,

Magnetic Island from Townsville beach.

A Stroll Along Humptybong Creek.

Humptybong Creek runs into Moreton Bay just north of the foodie strip in Redcliffe Parade, Redcliffe. But mostly it doesn’t. A dam behind the town holds the water back, unless there has been heavy rain. From the dam the creek waters make their way through drains and culverts to run across the sand. Evidence is soon washed away by incoming tides.

The creek runs to the south west, under Anzac and Oxley Avenues. It drains the slightly higher terrain behind the coastal strip. The dam holds back enough water to encourage wild life. This is what makes it such a good location to photograph bird life.

But Humptybong Creek has a link with history. The Redcliffe foreshore was the sight of the first European settlement on Moreton Bay. Humptybong Creek provided fresh water to the new and tiny settlement. At least two dams were built at different times to provide and increase water storage. Parts of the later dam to be built remain and have been preserved. They are in the park area to the south of Anzac Avenue.

Poinciana trees and Banksia are in bloom and attracting Rainbow Lorikeet in significant numbers. I only have to walk 100 meters from the side gate of our complex to find them in a Banksia in the corner of the Energex power substation, but a high chain wire fence makes it difficult to photograph them. But the trees in Humptybong Park, that runs on either side of the creek, makes photography easier.

Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti)

Food supply seems to attract other birds as well. There always seems to be a variety in the area. As suggested by its name, the Figbird eats fruit and berries, but also eats insects. They move around to the extent necessary to be near a food source.

Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

An area of the creek, nearer to its mouth, has enough permanent water to permanently support water birds. The most common are Ducks, but one particular tree frequently hosts Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants. They both rest and feed at this location. They are often to be seen swimming in search of food.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

Australian Magpies are frequently in the area. Their melodic carolling can often be heard. I see them regularly an my daily walks.

Spotted Turtle-Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica)
Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes)

There are always pigeons around. As a matter of fact I can hear one call is I write this blog. The Feral Pigeon is by far the most common bur we see the Spotted Turtle-Dove and Crested Pigeon quite regularly. There is one location beside the largest waterhole where they congregate, mainly because that is where people come to feed them.

The Australian Ibis is a regular around the water courses in this area, including the exposed sea floor when the tide is out. Often dozens are to be seen forging for food. Like the Cormorants, they have a favourite tree in the creek on which they like to perch.

Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca)
Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

We don’t see as many Kookaburra as we would like, but they are about. A few weeks ago two young birds called in for a swim in the complex pool and had a good preen afterwards. The bird pictured was sitting on a power line near the creek.

Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa
Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa
Australasian (Purple) Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus)
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)

What was formerly the Purple Swamphen and is now known as the Australasian Swamphen is another species that breeds on Humptybong Creek. The one pictured above was busy protecting the little ball of black feathers that is her chick. The Australian Weed Duck can be seen almost anywhere there is water. Family groups can often be seen at the creek.

Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)

The Noisy Miner is another prolific bird. They can be seen wherever there is nectar to be taken from flowers, noisily protecting their patch. This one was taking a walk through the grass.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles0

Another regular around the Moreton Bay area is the Masked Lapwing or Plover as it is commonly known. While normally seen on land, they are often seen in or near the water. I have seen them feeding with water birds when the tide is down. This one dipped itself into the water as I took the shot.

The Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea) has appeared again this year, as the pine nuts have reached the point of tempting them. Accompanied by their signature screeching sound they were flying from tree to tree as they fed. They offered lots of photo opportunities so I clicked away.

An Introduction to my Bird Photography Hobby

Australian Pelicans at The Entrance, NSW.
Pelecanus conspicillatus

I have been thinking about adding bird photographs to our blog pages for a while. I have been interested in bird photography for many years but did not own the lenses necessary to do anything about it.

Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae

My camera is a Canon 700D which I purchased in about 2015. It came with two kit lenses, a 18 – 55 mm primary and a 55 – 250 mm short telephoto lens. But changing lenses all the time is a pain in the neck so I mainly used the primary lens and cropped photos to bring distant subjects a bit closer. I mostly used the camera in one of the automatic modes as most photos were to support my travel blog text.

About a year ago I was able to obtain at a reasonable price a Sigma 18 – 250 mm telephoto lens. This was a great improvement but still placed me too far away from subject birds to achieve satisfactory results.

Then, on the principle of you can’t take it with you I went looking for something better and found a Sigma 150 – 600 mm telephoto. Used with my crop sensor camera I have an effective 900 mm reach. Much better.

Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

I also started to really study the capabilities of my camera and began to shoot in manual mode. I purchased a high capacity data card for the camera and began shooting in RAW at maximum megapixels (18) and converting RAW data into JPEG in Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.

During processing I identify the bird by using apps and field guide books. A handy aid to identification is the “Google Lens” phone app. Available from your phone’s app store, it allows you to scan a bird photo on the computer screen and gives you a selection of photographs to use in identification.

I also use Cornell University’s “Merlin” app and the “Australian Birds” app. There are other that you can try for yourself. I also have a copy of the Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds.

Sightings are recorded on an Excel spreadsheet where I record bird and variety and location and date sighted. My computer files are kept by location.

Future Posts

For the future I intend to post my better shots from each outing, together with some information on location and the featured birds. Unless I change my mind, of course.

But for now, here are some of the photos that I have accumulated to date.

Noisy Mina Manorina melanocephala
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae

Red-backed Fairy-wren
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus

Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae – front view

Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae – rear view
Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Pacific Black Duck Pandion haliaetus

Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Black Swan with Cygnets Cygnus atratus

Royal SpoonbillPlatalea regia , Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca & Great Egret Ardea alba

Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata
Silver Gull Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita
Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea
Australian Wood Duck Aix sponsa
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus moluccanus
Australian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti
Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes

Images Copyright to Kevin Sheather