Inala Kimberley Tour - Kununurra to Broome 4-14 July 2023

Black Grasswren - Alfred Schulte - Inala Nature Tours
Black Grasswren - Alfred Schulte - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Tuesday, 4 July 2023 to Friday, 14 July 2023
Duration: 
11 days
Price: 
AU$11,560 per person sharing (min group size of 3 people) Single supplement AU$1,710
Highlights: 
Range-restricted Black Grasswren, Kimberley Honeyeater, Partridge Pigeon, Rainbow Pitta and Green-backed Gerygone. As well as a range of reptile and mammal species.
Overview: 

The Gibb River Road is an iconic Australian Outback experience that has gained popularity particularly with Australians who wish to adventure into more ‘out of the way’ Australian areas.  We have run this tour as a private tour option over many years, but due to popular demand, are now offering a small group tour option on scheduled dates to make it more available to our guests. This tour visits areas that are only accessible by 4WD or air, and provides a unique chance to stay in roadhouses and on vast cattle stations en route and we have also included a rarely-offered chance to stay for two nights and a full day on the Mitchell Plateau. Here we will have the chance to explore the spinifex-clad rocky escarpments and Livistonia palm monsoon thickets of the Mitchell Falls area, where we’ll have our only chance of the rare and range-restricted Black Grasswren, as well as Kimberley Honeyeater, Partridge Pigeon, Rainbow Pitta and Green-backed Gerygone. Two overnight stays in the Mitchell Falls area also enable us to explore at night for a unique range of reptile and mammal species, most of which are only found in this area.

This small group tour has been designed to follow on from our popular Top End to Eastern Kimberley tour and precede our Broome tour, which allows for maximum opportunity to visit this remote and little-explored area of Outback north Western Australia.

Start Location: 
Kununurra WA
Australia
Finish location: 
Broome WA
Australia

Inala’s Kimberley Tour:  Kununurra to Broome 4-14 July 2023

Including excursion to Mitchell Plateau and Gibb River Road

The Gibb River Road is an iconic Australian Outback experience that has gained popularity particularly with Australians who wish to adventure into more ‘out of the way’ Australian areas.  We have run this tour as a private tour option over many years, but due to popular demand, are now offering a small group tour option on scheduled dates to make it more available to our guests. This tour visits areas that are only accessible by 4WD or air, and provides a unique chance to stay in roadhouses and on vast cattle stations en route and we have also included a rarely-offered chance to stay for two nights and a full day on the Mitchell Plateau. Here we will have the chance to explore the spinifex-clad rocky escarpments and Livistonia palm monsoon thickets of the Mitchell Falls area, where we’ll have our only chance of the rare and range-restricted Black Grasswren, as well as Kimberley Honeyeater, Partridge Pigeon, Rainbow Pitta and Green-backed Gerygone. Two overnight stays in the Mitchell Falls area also enable us to explore at night for a unique range of reptile and mammal species, most of which are only found in this area.

This small group tour has been designed to follow on from our popular Top End to Eastern Kimberley tour and precede our Broome tour, which allows for maximum opportunity to visit this remote and little-explored area of Outback north Western Australia.

Itinerary OUTLINE:

Day 1. Tue 4 July 2023. Arrive Kununurra.
Day 2.  Wed 5 July 2023. Kununurra to Wyndham.
Day 3.  Thu 6 July 2023. Wyndham to Cattle Station, Gibb River Road.
Day 4.  Fri 7 July 2023. Gibb River Road to Mt Elizabeth Station.
Day 5.  Sat 8 July 2023. Fly Mt Elizabeth Station to Mitchell Plateau
Day 6.  Sun 9 July 2023. Mitchell Plateau/ Mitchell Falls area
Day 7.  Mon 10 July 2023. Fly Mitchell Plateau to Mt Elizabeth Station.
Day 8.  Tue 11 July 2023. Gibb River Road: Mt Elizabeth Station to Mt Hart Station.
Day 9.  Wed 12 July 2023. Mt Hart to Fitzroy Crossing.
Day 10. Thu 13 July 2023. Fitzroy Crossing to Broome via Dangu Geikie Gorge and Derby.
Day 11. Fri 14 July 2023. Depart Broome.

DETAILED Itinerary:                                     B-breakfast, L-lunch and D-dinner

Day 1. Tuesday 4 July 2023. Arrive Kununurra.
Today has been set aside as an arrival day so you are free to arrive at any time that suits your travel plans. Please make your own way to the hotel. For those continuing from the Darwin to Kununurra tour you will also arrive in Kununurra this afternoon. The group will meet for a welcome dinner this evening.
Accommodation: Kununurra (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Wednesday 5 July 2023. Kununurra to Wyndham.
After an early breakfast we will leave Kununurra and head north-west towards Wyndham, birding along the way at a lagoon for birds like Yellow Chat, Zitting Cisticola, Yellow-rumped Mannikin, Red-chested Buttonquail and Horsfield’s Bushlark, plus hundreds of different waterbirds. We will stop at Wyndham for lunch and check out any leaky taps or sprinklers around town for a good chance of Gouldian Finch, as well as Pictorella Mannikin and Masked Finch. If time permits later in the day, we can check out the mangroves on the edge of town; we may see Saltwater Crocodile here, and at dusk we can look for Short-eared Rock Wallabies at a nearby lookout.
Accommodation: Wyndham (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 3. Thursday 6 July 2023. Wyndham to Cattle Station on the Gibb River Road.
Today we will have a look in the extensive mangroves along the Wyndham wharf area for birds like Broad-billed Flycatcher, Yellow White-eye, White-breasted & Mangrove Golden Whistlers, Red-headed Honeyeater, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin (endemic Kimberley ssp tormenti), Black Butcherbird (western edge of range here) and Mangrove Grey Fantail. Great-billed Heron and Chestnut Rail are sometimes recorded on the muddy banks at low tide.

We’ll bird en route as we start to head west, stopping at a rocky gorge just south of Wyndham, which may hold White-quilled Rock Pigeon (Kimberley ssp albipennis), Spinifex Pigeon(ssp plumifera), Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Black-chinned Honeyeater (Golden-backed ssp laetior), and Varied Sittella. Our accommodation this evening will be based on a 1,400,000 hectare (3,459,475 acre) pastoral lease on the Gibb River Road, owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC). 
Accommodation: ILC Pastoral Lease. Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 4. Friday 7 July 2023. Gibb River Road.
We will have a look around pre-breakfast here for tropical woodland birds like Square-tailed Kite, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Varied Lorikeet, Buff-sided Robin, Paperbark Flycatcher and Bar-breasted Honeyeater, before we travel west along the Gibb River Road, crossing the Durack River and the Gibb Range; this route requires a 4WD. We’ll be on the lookout for various raptors including Black-breasted Buzzard, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Spotted Harrier and Australian Hobby, as well as iconic outback species like Budgerigar, Cockatiel and Australian Bustard. Mammal possibilities include Antilopine Wallaroo and Northern Nailtail Wallaby. Our accommodation tonight is based on a 500,000 acre (200,000 ha) fully operational cattle station.
Accommodation: Mt Elizabeth Station (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D

Days 5 & 6. Saturday 8 & Sunday 9 July 2023. Mt Elizabeth Station to Mitchell Plateau.
Today we will fly to the spectacular Mitchell Plateau, where we will stay two nights.  Here we will look for the highly range-restricted Black Grasswren, as well as Kimberley Honeyeater, Purple-backed Fairywren (Lavender-flanked ssp rogersi), the “Yellow eyed” Partridge Pigeon (Kimberley ssp blaauwi), White-quilled Rock Pigeon and Sandstone Shrike-thrush. Also here in the monsoon thickets, are Rainbow Pitta, Green-backed Gerygone, Little Woodswallow, Silver-backed Butcherbird (Kimberley ssp colletti) and Rufous Owl, as well as a chance of Red Goshawk overhead. Like the other grasswrens, the Black Grasswren can be elusive at times and may take a bit of searching for although we have also visited when they have been quite obliging. The additional time we have allowed in this area will certainly be a huge benefit.

After dark we will explore the area again in search of the unique range of mammals and reptiles that occur on the plateau. These include Scaly-tailed Possum, Rock Ringtail Possum, Monjon, Golden Bandicoot, Northern Quoll, Golden-backed Tree Rat, Black-footed Tree Rat, Brush-tailed Rabbit Rat, Ghost Bat, Gracile Velvet Gecko, Superb Dragon and Rough-scaled Python.
Accommodation: Lodge on Mitchell Plateau (tented cabins) for 2 nights. Meals included: B,L,D each day.

Day 7. Monday 10 July 2023. Mitchell Plateau to Drysdale River Station.
After a final look around the area we will fly back to Mt Elizabeth Station where we can explore the environs of this huge property. Birds we can look out for include Crested Shrike-tit (the very scarce northern subspecies whitei), Buff-sided Robin, Purple-crowned Fairywren, Black Bittern, Banded Honeyeater, Azure Kingfisher, and as always. the chance of Red Goshawk. Tonight, we can spotlight around the property to search for Barking Owl, Tawny Frogmouth or Australian Owlet-nightjar.
Accommodation: Mt Elizabeth Station as for night 4. Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 8. Tuesday 11 July 2023. Gibb River Road: Mt Elizabeth to Mt Hart Station.
Around the Station we will have an additional chance to search for the star attractions of the area - Purple-crowned Fairywren and Crested (Northern) Shrike-tit (ssp whitei). The fairywrens live in the pandanus-lined waterways where we can also see Azure Kingfisher, Crimson Finch, White-gaped & Rufous-throated Honeyeaters and Black Bittern. The shrike-tit is a likely future taxonomic split and is found in the tropical eucalypt woodlands on the station.

We will then travel from Mt Elizabeth to Mt Hart Station, heading further west along the Gibb River Road. Along the way we will have lunch at a Roadhouse, visit a nearby Gorge and traverse the King Leopold Range. Along the way we’ll have further chances of Kimberley Honeyeater and White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, as well as woodland species like Black-tailed Treecreeper, Red-browed Pardalote, Northern Rosella and Purple-backed Fairywren. Reptiles include the possibility of the localised Storr’s Monitor, Kimberley Rock Monitor and Black-headed Python. Our accommodation for this evening is based on a former pastoral lease that once operated as a cattle station. The lands are now part of a large conservation area.
Accommodation: Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge (en suite rooms or tented camps TBA). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 9. Wednesday 12 July 2023. Mt Hart to Fitzroy Crossing.
Today we will leave the Gibb River Road and cut back to the main sealed road.   We will visit Winjana Gorge, and the Tunnel Creek National Park. Birds here include more chances of Gouldian Finch and Crested (Northern) Shrike Tit, as well as Diamond Dove, Pictorella Mannikin, Star Finch and Red-winged Parrot. We will stay overnight tonight at the township of Fitzroy Crossing. Accommodation: Fitzroy Crossing (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 10. Thursday 13 July 2023. Fitzroy Crossing to Broome via Dangu Geikie Gorge and Derby.
This morning we will take a one-hour cultural boat tour in Dangu Geikie Gorge with a Bunuba Indigenous guide whose connection to this land goes back to the Dreamtime. The gorge has been carved by the Fitzroy River through part of an ancient limestone barrier reef which snakes across the west Kimberley. It was laid down in an ancient sea that covered a large part of the Kimberley in Devonian times, some 350 million years ago. We will also do some exploring and birding around the general area in the morning around the general area before we travel to Broome today with a side trip to Derby. In Derby we can look for shorebirds if the tide is in our favour, or more mangrove species like Torresian Kingfisher, Mangrove Robin, White-breasted Whistler and Mangrove Gerygone. We will arrive in Broome in time for a quick town tour and view the sunset over the ocean and meet with any new participants who are joining the group for the Broome-Dampier Peninsula tour.
Accommodation: Broome (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 11. Friday 14 July 2023. Depart Broome or continue to the Broome-Dampier Peninsula tour.
Those participants who are not continuing onto the Inala Broome-Dampier Peninsula tour will make their own arrangements to depart from Broome airport. Please see separate Broome-Dampier Peninsula Tour itinerary for those who are continuing to explore with us.

We can organise an optional extra two-hour scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle Range, Carr Boyd and Osmand Range and Ord River on day 1 or 2 (depending on your other tour arrangements-current flight departure times are 06:00, 09:00 and 14:30 each day). To be advised but price around AU$500 per person based on current rates.

Group size: 4 people with one specialist Inala driver guide or 8 people with 2 driver/guides.

Tour Price:  AU$11,560 per person sharing for 4 people + 1 Inala driver guide or 8 people + 2 Inala driver guides.
Single supplement: AU$1,710.

Price includes: 10 nights’ accommodation, specialist guide and transport, flights in and out of Mitchell Falls (fixed wing and helicopter), meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary and GST.

Price does not include: Airfares other than flights to/from Mitchell Falls, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, laundry, or other items of a personal nature.

OTHER NOTES:

The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline.  Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to.  The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.

Remoteness: Please note that for much of this tour we will be birding in a wonderful yet remote part of Australia. Some of the roads are unsealed and rough and travel will be in 4WD vehicles. If you have medical conditions or health concerns, it is important you make us aware of these in advance of this tour. This doesn’t necessarily preclude you. We just need to be well-informed.

Luggage: We won’t have a huge amount of room for lots of luggage on the trip and will need to restrict the luggage to one soft sided duffle bag 2-3 ft long or similar per person plus a day pack/camera/binoculars etc that can be carried in the vehicle with you. We are trying to avoid hard sided suitcases which don’t pack well in the back of 4WDS. We’ll need to carry other essentials like water which we think is more important than too many clothes.

Click here to view an online doc with answers to all the most frequently asked questions about Inala Small Group Tours

Inala Nature Tours Kununurra to Broome July 2022 Trip Report

Guides: Angus McNab & Catherine Young

18 July 2022 - Day One

Arrive Kununurra.

With everyone making their own way to Kununurra today (some arriving with the Inala Top End Tour). We met up at the hotel for a welcome dinner, excited for the adventure to begin tomorrow!

19 July 2022 - Day Two

Kununurra to Parry's Creek, Wyndham

After a leisurely breakfast we headed to Mirima National Park on the outskirts of Kununurra. This park is known as the mini Bungles for the spectacular rock formations. Angus spotted a juvenile Brown Goshawk perched on the cliff side which gave us wonderful views as it drifted across the valley. A walk to a high point gave amazing views over the township of Kununurra and gave super long distance views of Double-barred Finches and flocks of Galah.

A quick stop gave us lovely views of star finches and a red-backed kingfisher, but the Yellow-rumped Munia didn’t want to be seen. At Ivanhoe crossing we were greeted by a 'tata' lizard (Horner's dragon) and enjoyed spectacular views of Australian pelicans and little black cormorants sitting in the middle of the river. Driving across the causeway gave wonderful views of some amazing scenery! On to the sewerage ponds where the plumed and wandering whistling ducks kindly say next to each other to allow a good comparison. Other highlights included black-fronted dotterel, Rajah shelduck, White-throated Honeyeater, Peaceful and Diamond Doves, while others like the Pied Heron and Caspian Terns kept their distance.

Lunch was had under the mango trees at a cafe, we were entertained by scavenging White-quilled Honeyeaters and a lone Red-shouldered Parrot. A quick discussion about including the resident chicken on the list was had before we continued on.  our next stop produced an embarrassment of mistletoe birds, both male and female were visible for all. A flowering Darwin Woolybutt (Eucalyptus miniata) attracted Little and Silver-crowned Friarbirds as well as Rufous-throated Honeyeaters and an Olive-backed Oriole. But the star of the show was a Black-breasted Buzzard that glided past us, obviously on a mission to get somewhere.

Back on the road, we headed north west and made a stop at a magical Billabong. BIrds were abundant, Brolgas, all the egrets, herons, darters, ducks, geese, grebelets, Whiskered Terns, and a single Estuarine Crocodile were just some of the animals seen. It was hard to know where to look. Many photos were taken in the beautiful afternoon light, before we had to make a move to our accommodation.

20 July 2022 - Day Three

Wyndham to Emma Gorge, Gibb River Road

For those coming from the Top End Tour, the late starts have ended, the time zone change means the sun is up early and so are we! Blue-winged Kookaburra were highly vocal and not a call the group was familiar with, but a 6 am walk down along  creek provided a chance for a nice quiet walk and opportunity to get our ear in to calls. Bar-shouldered Doves, Paperbark Flycatchers, Double-barred Finches were chirping and as we headed towards the creek the deeper vocalisation of waterbirds became apparent. However, it was the small birds, particularly finches that caught our attention. Long-tailed, double-barred and Star finches were present but it was confiding Masked Finches that took the show. A pair of Jacky Winter were a nice little addition in the carpark.

As 7:30 rolled around we headed out on a Cultural tour with guide Alfie. Three stops, at the information signs, Telegraph Hill, and Margalu Billabong taught us much about local plants and animals, traditional stories about remaining humble, and how to make Boab custard. Pictorella Mannikins were a highlight spotted during the tour, whilst other birds were spotted including Cockatiel, Eurasian Coot, all the egrets, and Nankeen Night-heron that hadn’t appeared to move from the day before.

Our drive to Wyndham was filled with birds and many stops to look at Zebra FInches, Brown Goshawk, Rufous Songlark, amongst others. In town we visited the giant crocodile and many tasted crocodile at lunch. As temperatures rose, so did we, heading to the an amazing lookout over the mangroves and town with a few birds, Fairy Martin, Yellow-throated Miner still active in the heat. To finish we headed to Wyndham Jetty and mangroves. Checking out Fiddler Crabs and Mudskippers we heard the calls of Mangrove Gerygone. This tiny little bird evaded view for a while, long enough that we found Lemon-bellied Flyrobins, watched them before resuming our search for the Gerygone. Eventually our little friend showed itself. Foraging in the mangroves, the small bird flitted onto the mud, grabbed some food and then continued to stay within view for a few minutes. The day was concluding and we made our way towards our glamping experience , coming close to but not quite running over a lone Spinifex Pigeon.

21 July 2022 - Day Four

Emma Gorge to Drysdale River Station

A quiet morning was not an option today as the friarbirds and red-collared lorikeets fed in trees all around the tents. Walking up the gorge we came across Brown Honeyeaters, Silver-backed Butcherbird and admired the fish and water striders in the creek. A close encounter with a common tree snake near the restaurant created a bit of excitement as Cat tried everything short of yelling “snake!” across the compound, to get everyone’s urgent attention. The snake casually cruised around and showed us how good they are at climbing by scaling a nearby pandanas, pausing at head height for a few close up photos. We then headed to the main township to have lunch on the river. On the way we stopped at some springs to admire the Livistona palms (Livistona nasmophila). Here we also had good views of Red Winged Parrot and Leaden Flycatcher.

Stopping for a photo opportunity at the Pentecost river crossing we also had great views of Spinifex Pigeon (Kimberley subspecies). Just shy of Ellenbrae station, we pulled over to change a burst tyre. First for the trip.  The birding at this stop left a lot to be desired with just a small group of Grey-crowned Babblers to entertain us. A later than expected drive to Drysdale gave us bonus sightings of Boobook, Barn Owl, Bridled Nailtail Wallaby and Brown Quail.

22 July 2022 - Day Five

Drysdale River Station to Mitchell Plateau

After the late night, everyone hoped for a sleep in, but it wasn’t to be. An early breakfast and early start had us heading down to the Drysdale River in search of anything and everything, always hoping for a (Northern) Crested Shrike-tit, which have been recorded from this area in the past. Walking the river bed and edges, the shallow water provided good opportunities for many birds to drink. Great Egret, Little Pied Cormorant, Magpie-lark, and Double-barred Finches were obviously thirstier than the Blue-winged Kookaburra, Peaceful and Diamond Doves, Striated Pardalotes, Red-backed Fairywrens and Long-tailed Finches which didn’t come down to drink. Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and Red-collared Lorikeets flew above the canopy making all kinds of noise. As checkout time approached we walked a short distance upstream to find a small group of Purple-crowned Fairywrens! They did their thing moving through the Pandanas along the creek line as we watched from a short distance.

Under the shade of a tree we had morning tea and caught up on the bird list of the day before. Some repairs to tyres were required so we bade our time around the store, tyre fitters and restaurant until lunch, as hundreds of Little Corella fed on seeds in the driveway, Australian White Ibis sat on communication towers, and Silver-backed Butcherbird and Great Bowerbird waited for us to leave crumbs.

An afternoon flight to the Mitchell Plateau was slightly cramped as we squeezed into two small six seater planes. The short flight to the plateau had some bumps but was relatively smooth and had us quickly at our destination of the Mitchell Plateau Lodge. An amazing three course dinner was definitely a shift in meals and well enjoyed. For a few brave explorers a short night walk provided a calling Australian Boobook, four species of frog, and the opportunity for a great nights sleep

23 July 2022 - Day Six

Mitchell Plateau/ Mitchell Falls

An early morning walk before breakfast was much cooler than some had expected. The birds were singing but without the loud constant noise of the friarbirds it seemed quieter than our first morning of glamping at Emma Gorge. Making our way through the savannah woodlands Brown Honeyeater began calling and were by far the most common bird of the day. Torressian crows, also referred to as big black blobs (BBBs) were seen as were Red-winged Parrots, Magpie-larks, and Peaceful doves starting their mornings.

A quick breakfast, and with Shoalair guide Juliet we headed towards Mitchell Falls for the scenic flight that would drop us at the start of the walk. For many their first helicopter ride was to be a magical experience! The falls were flowing, the vegetation green, and the landscape vast. Landing above the falls we had a short walk down the main vantage points where everyone enjoyed the scenic views. Our walk back to the national park campground, around 3.5km proved challenging but rewarding! Making our way through the spinifex, speargrass, melaleucas we trekked past big merten falls, making stream crossings, spotting (more) Brown Honeyeaters, ar-breasted honeyeaters, and three goshawks circled whilst we enjoyed a lagoon. Lunch was held below Little Merten Falls, a stunning waterhole, falls and swimming spot. Many birds visited for lunch, including Varied Triller, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Yellow Oriole, and of course Brown Honeyeater. A few swam, and everyone enjoyed relaxing in the shade of the surrounding rainforest trees.

To finish the walk we ventured above Big Merten Falls, and into the habitat of the Black Grasswren. The heat of the day was upon us at 1:30 as we scanned the spinifex and rocky habitat for the small bird. Surprisingly we stumbled upon a freshly deceased Northern Quoll that may have succumbed to breeding pressures. Although sad to see, it is also good to know they are still active in the area despite the abundance of the Cane Toad. Nearing the end of the hike, Gillian noted that we only wanted to see one grasswren, we didn’t need to be greedy….not long later Cat called that she could hear a grasswren. We stopped and searched and up it popped, 2-3 fleeting views as it sat upon its rock looking down upon us. As the Grasswren left, a small number of Purple-backed Fairywrens showed up. A great way to finish the walk and lift the spirits. The short drive back to camp saw us farewell Juliet and we headed back to camp for a restful afternoon break.

After a relaxing afternoon we had an amazing dinner and a few of us went for a night walk. Just seconds after starting a Tawny Frogmouth appeared! Sitting only 3m above us we were in a great spot to get some nice photos before heading off to see a number of frog species. Cane Toads, Eastern Rocket Frog, and Northern Laughing Tree Frog kept us entertained along the creekline before heading back to camp. Dodging some cattle on our return journey we arrived at camp with an Australian Boobook looking down at us. A great way to end the night!

24 July 2022 - Day Seven

Mitchell Plateau to Drysdale River Station.

After a few big days we had a short sleep in, heading to join the Silver-backed Butcherbird at breakfast. It certainly knew what time the dried fruits were produced. It was then time to head back to the airport and make our way to Drysdale Station. 

The late morning was spent relaxing in the shade of a big tree, and a long morning tea gave us time to do some washing and prepare for the days to come. The afternoon was to be spent  in search of the mythical ‘Northern’ Crested Shrike-tit. This section of creekline is truly beautiful and the afternoon reflections were something to behold. Maybe 50 Rainbow Bee-eaters were trying to find a place to rest as Little Woodswallows flew higher up. Bar-shouldered Doves, Peaceful Doves and Diamond Doves were similarly looking for roosting sites for the night whilst a Whistling Kite was content sitting on the nest. As the sun lowered a Barking Owl said a quick hello, calling from a large tree nearby, which was our signal to leave before it got dark.

After hours we headed back down to the Drysdale River to search for the Barking Owl. It didn’t take long and the owl joined us high in a Melaleuca. A number of frogs were also present, the tiny Crinia species, larger Striped Rocket Frogs and the soon to be described Desert Tree Frog. Baby Freshwater Crocodiles were shy, showing us only their eyes as we tried to find a better look in the shallows but it wasn’t to be.

25 July 2022 - Day Eight

Gibb River Road: Drysdale River to Mt Hart Station

This morning we made a quick trip to look for the Horsfield Bushlark that Bob and Jenni spotted a few days earlier. Although we did not track it down, there were plenty of other things to look at including our first Grey Shrike-thrush for the trip and great views of Jacky Winter for those who missed it at Parry’s. With a big day of driving ahead of us we got on the road right after breakfast today. A short morning tea stop allowed us to stretch our legs and do a little birding along the river edge. It was a noisy spot on arrival, Paperbark Flycatchers, Striated Pardalotes, Red-collared Lorikeets, Silver-crowned Friarbird, White-quilled Honeyeater, and Little Corella are never quiet really. Unfortunately we had to make another unscheduled stop a little down the road to change a tyre.  At first it seemed we had stopped in a birdless wasteland but a couple of stick insects pretending to be grass provided some entertainment and proved there is something interesting to be found everywhere if you stop to look. Now tyre changing experts, we were back on the road in no time (well 20 minutes).

Mt Barnett presented an opportunity to fuel up with diesel and ice cream, while lunch was in the shade with a family of Long-tailed Finches, noisy Great Bowerbirds and some Australian Magpies. Stopping at Over The Range, Nev fixed us up with some new tyres and we met the adorable puppy Buddah. A male Mistoebird also serenaded us while we waited, making it unexpectedly one species we have seen every day of the trip. Winding through the ranges towards Mount Hart, we found spectacular views around every corner. While admiring the views at a lookout Angus spotted a couple of White-quilled Rock Pigeons hiding in a rock crevice. As we waited one tottered out and ran along the ledge before weaving it’s way back into the grass, although it seemed in no real hurry, we had to get back on the road.

In the late afternoon we turned off the Gibb and onto the Mt Hart ‘driveway’. At the turn off we saw a fire climbing the sides of Leonard River Gorge in Miluwindi Conservation Park. Proceeding up the driveway we transversed many river crossings and stopped at some, giving us glimpses of some Northern Rosellas, Brown Quail, and Red-winged Parrots as well as fantastic views of Common Bronzewing perched on the side of the road.

26 July 2022 - Day Nine

Mt Hart to Fitzroy Crossing

This mornings pre-breakfast walk was unusually quiet but watching the doves warming up in the first rays of light made up for it. Back along the road towards camp we stopped for some Northern Rosella’s and while trying to get better views, flushed a Little Button-quail and heard a Golden-headed Cisticola. Eventually the Rosella’s cooperated long enough for everyone to get a good view before we had to rush off back for breakfast. Back on the Gibb River Road we saw the extent of last night's fire, burning a huge area and coming right up to the road side with many logs still smouldering this morning. Today we also crossed back into Boab country. These iconic trees had been largely absent since we headed north to Drysdale station. Just before passing Queen Victoria’s head (a pass through the Napier Range) we pulled over for a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards. In the excitement Cat lost her radio which we found smashed on the road - a small sacrifice for excellent views of the Buzzards.

Mid-morning we turned off the Gibb River Road for the final time and headed south along Fairfield-Leopold Downs Road towards Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Park. After lunch we followed the trail up the gorge stopping for Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Freshwater Crocodile, Stick-nest Brown Paper Wasps (Ropalidia revolutionalis) and to look at the Devonian fossils that adorn the gorge walls. Known locally as Bandiln͟gan, this area is a highly spiritual place for Bunuba people and the Wandjina creation spirits are at rest here. There was certainly a restful feeling about the cool, shady walk.

Heading further south we passed the ruins of Lillimooloora Police Station and headed on to Tunnel Creek National Park. Opting to keep our feet dry, we walked the short distance to the tunnel entrance and rested in the shade watching Common Crow Butterflies and Northern Fantails. The tunnel itself is the oldest cave system in Western Australia, running through the same soft Devonian limestone layer that we saw fossils in at Windjana Gorge. The tunnel is also famous as the hideout for Aboriginal leader and "outlaw" Jandamarra in the late 1800’s. Late in the afternoon we pulled into Fitzroy Crossing where the Agile Wallabies came onto the lawns to welcome us.

27 July 2022 - Day Ten

Fitzroy Crossing to Broome via Dangu Geikie Gorge and Derby

A not so early start met a nice hot breakfast before our 8am cruise along the Fitzroy River. We left an hour before we were due to start as, fairly regularly something appears that can delay our travel time. This was to be the case, Budgerigars! A small flock were flying by and spotted by the second vehicle. Having not yet seen them this trip we stopped and watched the emerald green gems fly across the sky, perching on the grass, dead trees and telephone wires. Other birds were present, Zebra Finch, Masked Woodswallows, Trillers, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos called in the distance, before we had to leave. Agile Wallabies were a hazard as we drove, the fresh morning meant many sat just off the roadside in the long grass, trying to cross the road at ill opportune moments.

The gorge was stunning! Tranquil, sunny, colourful, and relaxing. Our driver and guide old us many stories of living locally, traditions of local people.There were many birds, including an Australasian Darter. It wasn’t a super birdy trip but there were Black-fronted Dotterel, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Black Kites, and White-faced Heron. Freshwater Crocodiles were basking in the sun, avoiding the 18 degree water which is apparently too cold…Colgate, a local Crocodile with exceptionally white teeth, showed his pearly whites as we cruised by, and heard stories of the Old Man.

Our next stop was Derby, two hours drive, two long, smooth, flat, fairly unexceptional hours.  Lunch was had at the Big Boab, an enormous tree on the side of the highway. Derby was a bustling metropolis after where we had spent the last week, so we stopped for ice-creams and toilets. A huge fallen Boab kept us questioning what happened to it, we also wondered why the kites were circling…the answer was food. Some local people were throwing food into the air that was quickly caught by the kites. A Brahminy Kite was also spotted way way up high, the first real indication that we were near the coast.

Derby Jetty wasn’t showing a lot of exposed mud but enough to get a few birds out and about, the first call heard was one we hadn’t heard for a while, SIlver Gull. There was an Australian Pelican, Striated Heron, Dusky Gerygone, Sacred Kingfisher, Little Egret that were very different to what we’d been seeing on the Savannah.

Not to leave the Savannah entirely, we stopped in at the Sewage Treatment Plant, to really end everyone’s holiday on a high, but spent more time at the wetland adjoining the treatment plant. Many Brolgas were visible, practising some dance moves, and making a lot of noise at our approach, many didn’t approve and moved on, whilst others stayed standing in the grass. The wetland was busy with Pied Stilts, Masked Lapwings, Black-fronted Dotterels, Golden-headed Cisticolas, Toressian Crows, Magpie-larks, and Australasian Swamphens, all looking resplendent in the afternoon sunlight. With 2 hours to go we headed off with a stop in at the Derby Prison Tree and continued on to Broome, another long smooth ride.

28 July 2022 - Day Eleven

Depart Broome

Today we all went our separate ways, on to other tours, weddings or back home. Thank you all for coming on this adventure with us and we hope to see you all again soon!

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Weight: 
10
Weight: 
10
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