Date: Sunday, October 6, 2019

Project: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

Observers: John Porter & Shannon Dundas

Pilot: Tim Dugan

Departing Rockhampton we head south to our first wetland in survey band 8 – Callide lake near the town of Biloela. It’s a popular holiday, boating and fishing spot and we see plenty of people enjoying the lake as we count; there are low numbers of pelicans and cormorants a few egrets and wood ducks.

As we fly west, the drought conditions become more and more obvious; most natural wetlands are dry or nearly dry, there is little or no water in creeks and rivers and there are relatively few waterbirds to be found. We pass Rolleston and on the way find a few tiny farm dams with water and occasional waterbirds, before crossing the Carnarvon ranges – its rugged cliffs and mesas are spectacular.

We head into Blackall to refuel – the heat is really building today and we can feel it radiating off the tarmac as we refuel, reset our equipment and stretch our legs.

Blackall airport

Blackall refueling

We depart Blackall and now the conditions are hot and bumpy – a by-product of the heat and thermal air currents. Our first target is the Barcoo River - its almost dry, just a few puddles in the bottom of the deepest waterholes and there are very few waterbirds to be seen.

Our next target is the Thompson River - it joins the Barcoo and they merge to eventually flow into Cooper Creek and Lake Eyre – today however there isn’t any water flowing anywhere. We survey down the Thompson, heading southwest to the town of Jundah and finish our counting at the limit of the survey area. Continue to follow the river south west to our destination for the evening – Windorah. Not far from Windorah there are some large river channel that still have water – but once again there are very few waterbirds to be seen, just small numbers of pelican, cormorants, spoonbill and herons Waterhole on the Thompson River above Windorah.