[A stop on the West Queensland Trip Jul-Aug 2021 trip]
It’s hard to imagine a place as different from Boodjamulla/Lawn Hill’s chilled-out vibe as Adel’s Grove, just 10km down the road. Where Lawn Hill has a handful of campsites and is generally pretty quiet, Adel’s Grove has hundreds of sites and is incredibly busy with all sorts of travellers. While Lawn Hill has the minimum of facilities, Adel’s Grove has a bistro-style licensed restaurant, food shop, petrol pumps, mechanic workshop and even its own airstrip. There is a also a bus that goes to Lawn Hill gorge, and an Adel’s Grove-branded boat trip on the gorge from there; Riversleigh Fossil area tours are also an option – see the Adel’s Grove website for details.
We stayed one night only, and just as well too – in the “grove” section by the creek, it appears rather pleasant and incredibly shady with many large overhanging trees… which come alive with high-decibel fruit bat noise at night. Then twenty minutes before sunrise, the cacophony shuts off like someone threw a switch, and the bird chorus starts up.
While there were a decent number of birds flitting around the campsite area – a Grey Shrikethrush close encounter comes to mind – the main interest here (apart from popping over to Lawn Hill National Park, if you haven’t already) is the Adel’s Grove Nature Trail. It begins on the north-east edge of the camp area and has a modest (read: tiny) sign which you might easily overlook. It is also known as the Lookout Trail as it ends at a hill-top viewpoint.
There were a couple of conflicting early indications of the birding quality of the trail: on the one hand, people seemed to have camped at the start of it, despite the sign prohibiting it, and with their dogs no less; on the other hand, the Crimson Finches just metres away from said campsites didn’t seem to mind a jot.
Further on, the trail follows Lawn Hill Creek for a while.
Near the creek here we had a great time with a few different honeyeaters: Yellow-Tinted, Brown, Banded and Rufous-Throated. It seemed to be that point in the afternoon when they were keen on drinking from or dipping in the creek.
When the trail – which at this point is pretty vague, just one small sign easily overlooked – veered away from the creek into dry and sparser grassland, more and more Crimson Finches popped in, and we ended up counting at least a hundred in total. This was made easier when they periodically flocked onto the branches of dead trees rather than disappearing into the grass. You can never have too many finches, they are just so cute.
Being the late afternoon, we weren’t expecting to see too much, but were lucky enough to spot an unusual raptor circling in the distance which turned out to be a Black-Breasted Buzzard, a bird we had been on the lookout for for a while (we’d been scrupulously examining raptors looking for the characteristic short tail of the Black-Breasted Buzzard). That was pretty neat, though the buzzard was quite far away. Soon after a Black Kite flew by (not at all unusual), and a little later a mighty White-Bellied Sea-Eagle cruised past with some sort of half-dismembered rodent in its claws. Classic.
The only other bird of note was a Jacky Winter which with that and a couple of other sort-of random sightings from previous sites in the trip, joined the ranks of the Rufous Whistler and Mistletoebird as “birds that might appear sporadically no matter where you are”.
The next morning we put aside an hour or so to walk the trail again, this time covering just the dry area away from the creek. We managed a longer encounter with a Black-Chinned Honeyeater, and saw a male Rufous Whistler too.
We also saw a couple of more nondescript honeyeaters which were probably juvenile Rufous-Throated, lacking the rusty throat colouring – though it might be hard to tell apart from juvenile Brown Honeyeaters.
A superb encounter with three Long-Tailed Finches was a highlight of the morning. Alas, we had to depart while the birding was still going strong, but such is life.
The Nature Trail at Adel’s Grove provided some surprisingly good birding; one indication of the diversity is how different our afternoon and morning species lists were. The area is particularly good for finches and raptors, though honeyeaters also provide a good showing. There are various accommodation options aside from camping, though it’s a personal choice about whether this large-scale campground vibe with dozens of trailered vehicles always coming in and out is your thing or not – in an ideal world I’d probably do Adel’s Grove as a half-day trip and stay overnight at the more relaxed Lawn Hill National Park campground.
Hotspots: Adel’s Grove (148 species), Adel’s Grove–Lookout Trail (36 species) – this more specific hotspot seems underused.
Checklists for this visit: July 24 afternoon (18 species), July 25 morning (15 species)
Pluses and minuses:
+ Good finch, honeyeater and raptor action along the Nature Trail
+ Great bird photography possible
+ Lots of facilities, and places to buy and eat food, in the Adel’s Grove complex
– Vaguely marked/signed trail, especially nearer the creek
– Area is often very busy with vehicular traffic
– The style of campground may not suit your tastes