Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beautiful Boolcoomatta

Over the Easter long weekend this year, I had the fortunate opportunity to travel to Boolcoomatta with the Field Naturalists Society of SA. 100km West of Broken Hill, it's a beautiful undulating landscape with mallee, broad red-gum lined creek lines, sand dunes and vast chenopod plains. The place was absolutely stunning, having been de-stocked for 6 years and after receiving some good rains. Needless to say, it's beautiful and I love it.

Aside from the mammals and reptiles that I hoped to glimpse from our trapping efforts, I was there for the birds. Raptors were abundant, which speaks wonders for the health of the system if there's enough food to go around. My priorities were Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, any Chat species, Cockatiels, and Budgies. Mammal-wise, I was hoping to see a red kangaroo or two.

As it turns out, kangaroos of several varieties were abundant. We saw reds every day, multiple times a day, western greys, and even a few euros. The reds looked majestic against the landscape with their ochre and grey coats, and we saw a magnificent male on the second to last day that was by far the biggest roo I have ever seen in my life.

Red Kangaroos 

Big male and a female barely half his size

Over the course of the 6 days, I was repeatedly alerted to birds by my friend calling out "Look, budgies!" Time and time again, I failed to see them, or only saw a flock of tiny blurs flying away that were too quick for me to make a definite call on. At long last, on the 5th day, I saw them... well, one of them. A lone budgie flew by and perched in a nearby tree where we were able to get a closer look. I was ecstatic. It made my trip seem more complete after having seen Cockatiels the day before.

Male Cockatiel

My first and only Budgerigar

In regards to other bird species that I wanted to see, I dipped out on Major Mitchell's Cockatoo and Cinnamon Quail-thrush. However, I saw several others instead. I managed to see Blue Bonnets, which I was alerted to by their call, and Rufous Fieldwren, which my friend and I spent a long time stalking just to locate from call so that we could get some distant glimpses. Little Crow, White-winged Fairy-wren and abundant Chirruping Wedgebills made up some more new species for me.

Chirruping Wedgebills

After many glimpses of possible birds, I finally added Orange Chat to the list in the form of a female bird. I thought I glimpsed White-fronted Chat at one point, but was hesitant to call it. A close encounter with a Mulga Snake occured on Day 4, much to the dismay of the herpetologists as it was the only snake encountered for the whole trip. But they got their own back at us when they saw a Plains Wanderer.

While Diamond Doves, Black-tailed Native Hen, and Pallid Cuckoo rounded off a nice set of 11 new birds for me for the trip, I couldn't go past a close encounter that my friend and I had with a Wedge-tailed Eagle. We'd driven out to the Western end of the property and climbed a rocky hill to admire the view where we were looking at a Bearded Dragon that was sunning itself. My friend pointed to the sky and I looked up to see a golden brown Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring in towards us. The eagle just got closer and closer until it was right above our heads, we could see the light in its eyes, the fluttering and detail of every feather yet there was no sound and it was simply an amazing moment.

After being satisfied with whatever it found out about us, the eagle soared back the way it had come to join two others. A moment later, one of the eagles split off from the group in a dive towards the ground and we saw a female red kangaroo and her joey racing away. The eagle took a pass at the joey but nothing came of it.

All up, we saw seven raptor species; Wedge-tailed Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite, Black Kite, Brown Falcon and Spotted Harrier. We also heard Southern Boobook and Spotted Nightjar (a call that I have been wanting to hear for years). Emus were abundant almost to excess, as were Little Corellas and Galahs. The homestead was a flurry of bird activity with ducks and grebes on the dam, Yellow-throated miners nesting and families of Apostlebirds, and we saw Zebra Finches and fairy-wrens almost everywhere we went. We also saw rabbits, cats and fox tracks everywhere we went too. My friend even captured an image of a feral cat peering into a pitfall bucket, twice.

In total, 58 birds species, 11 newbies for me, and an abundance of enjoyment and "wow" moments. I love the arid zone, it seems harsh, but it's teaming with life and I can't wait to go back.

 Part of the homestead (airstrip in background)

Little Corella


  1. Your encounter with the Wedgie sounds similar to one I had a few years back, but I didn't have a camera to capture the moment. Great pics and that big red boomer is a beauty!

  2. Looks like a fantastic place. Love the wedgie photos and the corellas. All a big deep breath.