Windorah Nature Trail, Jul 2021

[A stop on the West Queensland Trip Jul-Aug 2021 trip]

The Windorah Nature Trail is a 12km dirt road that stretches from the eastern edge of the town of Windorah, through dry countryside to the Coopers Creek crossing to the east. Due to the length, it is probably best done by car (a high clearance SUV would be best) with opportunistic stopping, rather than by foot.

Our first foray down the nature trail was at the end of the day and we started on the Windorah side, slowly driving along the road looking for birds to the left and right (the so-called “mobile bird hide” method). We didn’t actually see much at all for the first kilometre, then we saw a few small birds that we jumped out of the car to chase down.

And a good thing we did too, because that led us to a close encounter with a Black Honeyeater, which was a lifer bird for both of us. We instantly fell in love with its plaintive little call and characteristic small honeyeater shape. Quite a bird!

We were initially puzzled by a mid-sized, more numerous bird that was also in the same area, which we eventually reckoned was a group of White-Winged Trillers. To date we had only ever seen Trillers in very small groups, indeed often singly. We also saw a Spiny-Cheeked Honeyeater, seemingly a dry country specialist.

Other birds spotted along the track were a couple of Zebra Finches, a Nankeen Kestrel, and a pair of Red-Capped Robins, one of which we followed through the very dry terrain with its many dead bushes hoping to gain a super close-up photo. We eventually gave up, concluding that the bird was just teasing us with repeated its “hey, I’m here come and get me!” behaviour followed by flying 10 or 20 metres away as we dutifully approached.

As the sun fell below the horizon we then happened upon a Banded Lapwing in a broad rock-strewn field towards the eastern end of the trail. This was our first Banded Lapwing sighting (ever!), after having searched for it at a likely site (Banool Road) near Atkinson Dam in Ipswich a few weeks previously. The Lapwing was not letting us get too near, and the light was fading fast, so we exited via the “short cut” back to the main road and resolved to revisit the next morning to see if we could find the bird again.

The next morning we entered the nature trail at the Coopers Crossing end, where a typically tangled network of road trails accompanies the creek line. We stopped briefly to see what we thought was a Rufous Songlark, judging by its look and the “trills and loud electrical phrases” it was vocalising.

Some Pelicans and Yellow-Billed Spoonbills attended to the river, while Fairy Martins flew close by; we also saw some Martins perching in a tree (just like regular birds!) which was… different. A lovely sun-lit budgie also made for a pleasing photo.

Eventually finding the nature trail again with its little signs naming the various trees, we followed it back to the rock-strewn field to find the Banded Lapwing (actually a pair of them) in basically the same place as the previous evening. Careful to be quiet and walking slowly, we were able to get closer for better snaps of this vividly-coloured bird.

We weren’t blown away by the Windorah Nature Trail. It is quite long and most of it is very arid; by far the most bird action was nearer the creek end. Of course you could cherry-pick just the creek end if you had limited time or patience.

If we had already seen Black Honeyeaters and Banded Lapwings before, or hadn’t seen them here, we might have been a tad disappointed, I think. Those two birds definitely lifted our visit a lot.

Hotspot: Windorah Nature Trail (105 species)
Nearby: Welford National Park (134 species)
Checklist for our afternoon visit (8 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Some nice birds especially nearer the creek end of the trail
+ Many naming signs gives good appreciation of the different bush and tree species
– Best driven but ideally needs an SUV; drive-by birding may not be to everyone’s taste
– Long stretches of very dry uninteresting terrain with not many birds

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