[A stop on the West Queensland Trip Jul-Aug 2021 trip]
The Gorge section of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is an oasis in the outback, featuring a lushly-lined rocky gorge, idyllic waterfalls, great bushwalking, and some excellent birding.
There are two main ways in, a quite rough gravel road from the south (featuring a few creek crossings including the O’Shannassy River crossing), or the road from the small township of Gregory to the east.
There is a ranger station near the camping area, with plenty of information and maps. We stayed for two nights but could have happily stayed another couple.
The first bird we came across after arriving and wandering down to the water was a Buff-Sided Robin, and boy were they friendly, at least in the areas near the campground (they seemed to mainly hang out near the water). In the campground itself, which holds only a couple dozen sites and is often booked out well in advance, there are also a few birds around – we had Red-Collared Lorikeets on our first morning, according to the Ranger a little unusual for the time of year and the product of some rain the previous month bringing a few trees to flower. White-Gaped Honeyeaters flitted in and about the bushes around the place, sometimes coming quite close to our camp site. Like a fast-moving Lewin’s Honeyeater, though, it was tough to get them to sit still long enough for a photo!
For our first morning’s birding we decided to make our way along the creekside path in a south-west direction from the campground area. We did see a couple of Buff-Sided Robins and White-Gaped Honeyeaters here, but there was more interesting action higher up in the trees overhanging the water – including a Black-Chinned Honeyeater! Despite being reasonably widespread across Australia, this was a lifer bird for us.
The creekside path is very easy to walk, having a hard-paved surface and including little bridges and such. Soon enough though the path turns away from the water and we came to a junction where we decided to walk up the steep slope to the gorge lookout, which didn’t disappoint, with fantastic views up and down the creek. Being a rocky outcrop there were few birds to be seen – we were on the lookout for a Sandstone Shrikethrush, to no avail – but it didn’t matter when the scenery was so good.
Further along the path, down from the rocky lookout, we came to Indarri Falls, an idyllic little waterfall area that you might have seen on the National Park brochures or websites. It really is that beautiful in real life, too.
Before taking a dip in the incredibly inviting water, we searched for Purple-Crowned Fairywrens, but only got looks at the females. Still, that was another lifer bird. Good looks at a feeding Varied Lorikeet and a circling Black Kite, as well as some Crimson Finches on the path, all provided some birding interest.
We pumped up the 3 person inflatable boat we’d carried from the campground (yes, really) and eased it into the water. There are kayaks available for rent, which several people were utilising, though many of them were bailing out water using the provided half-plastic-bottles! Fortunately our little water craft had no leaks.
The boating provided the most relaxing birding ever, simply floating down the river back towards the campground, one eye on the unrolling gorge cliff scenery, and another looking out for birds. We actually saw very few until we were almost back to the campground area, where honeyeaters were launching themselves from overhanging branches and into the water for some super-quick bathing of their own. We also saw a couple of Archer Fish spouting their little jets of water up into the air.
When we stayed at Lawn Hill, the “floating bridge” across to the Island Stack was being reconstructed, and you couldn’t access that area except by water, so we used our boat to make a landing so we could explore this area. It was clearly quite flood affected from the wet season still, and the walking paths were dashedly hard to find. Worse, the birding was nearly non-existent, so we eventually found our way up to the top of the Island Stack to at least grab some scenery views from the top. Here we did see a White-Winged Triller and a Paperbark Flycatcher, so that was something. Oh, also a Rainbow Bee-Eater.
The next morning we tackled the Constance Range track, which leads east of the campground area and also features an area with great views out – another good spot to watch an outback sunrise or sunset, for sure.
We were immediately impressed by this walk. A Collared Sparrowhawk sat imperiously high up on the top of a tree, and we also saw a Blue-Winged Kookaburra on a branch.
We then spotted a couple of Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos and were able to get good photos of them. There were also plenty of trees of great interest to the honeyeaters around, with Yellow-Tinted, Rufous-Throated, Brown and – amazingly, another lifer bird – a Banded Honeyeater. Excellent stuff.
I stupidly ran out of camera battery and had to rush back to the campground to grab a spare, then we hiked it up the sandstone slope to gaze across the expansive views. While up there we saw a few Rufous Whistler males hunting for insects.
A Darter sat on a bare branch where the track crept close to the creek. Apart from a Darter or two, there aren’t many water birds to speak of, at least that we saw.
But the good birding on the Constance Range track wasn’t over yet. On the way back we happened upon a group of three Grey-Crowned Babblers, who were so incredibly intent on woodpeckering into a dry tree for bugs that they couldn’t care less that we were watching them, so we took a million photos of them going about their work. It was by far the best Grey-Crowned Babbler encounter we’d ever had or could hope for.
Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is that rather lovely combination: a great birding site that also features stunningly beautiful scenery, bushwalking and riverboating. We found the birding a little patchy: some areas seemed productive (typically, near the water), while others were quite barren (high rocky escarpments etc). But the birds we did encounter gave us a great time, and overall it was an excellent and very memorable place to visit.
Hotspots: Lawn Hill Gorge (150 species), Indarri Falls walking track (82 species), Island Stack walk (49 species)
Our checklists: Lawn Hill Gorge (22 species), Constance Range track (23 species)
Nearby: Adel’s Grove (148 species)
Pluses and Minuses:
+ Beautiful scenery – waterfalls, gorges, lookouts
+ Lots of good walking trails
+ Some great birds and excellent bird encounters possible
+ Good camping sites and facilities
– Birding can be a bit patchy
– No water birds
– Quite far to get to 🙂