Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Grey Falcons and Grasswrens

Grey Falcons!
But first, let's catch up...

Last Sunday began poorly. Lynn and I had opted out when Laurie Ross had gone off early looking for Dusky Grasswrens and then he and Robert had gotten them and were back before brekkie. I was happy for them, not so much for us. Laurie headed on east and we decided to head over to the Barkly Homestead (about two hours) in the hope, the slim hope, of Grey Falcon. Mark Carter had reported one around there about a week ago.

Just as we got well underway, the fuel system warning light came on. I am a little gun-shy of warning lights in my Troopi, but we carried on. We even stopped to have a look at a wicked-cool Thorny Devil that Robert spotted on the road.
Thorny Devil... cool as. It is a one-of, being the sole species of genus Moloch.
Off the road, safe and sound.
Once we arrived at Barkly, I called RACV and they put me on to a mechanic who talked me through resetting the warning light. It was probably triggered by the fast acceleration that I had done pulling onto the highway with a roadtrain coming. The light did come on just after that and the mechanic suggested that may have been the cause. Anyway, I am grateful we got it sorted.

In the meantime, Laurie showed up with a surprise. He had found a pair of Grey Falcons! The exact location is his, and I will only say “Barkly Homestead.” We looked. We saw. We rejoiced. A lot! Grey Falcon! One of the contributing factors to my becoming a birder was reading The Big Twitch by Sean Dooley. Sean had dipped on Grey Falcon in his Big Year. It was his bogie bird. Ever since I read his book, I had hoped one day that I might see one and I saw a pair of them! They are incredibly special to me and this was one of the true highlights of my birding life. Wow. Thank you, Laurie! We had a delicious Lifer-Dinner at the homestead. And I am crazy grateful.
Grey Falcons!

Laurie took this shot. Even his Lifer Selfies are excellent!
The next morning, we decided to tag along with Laurie to Mt. Isa to look for grasswrens. We met Robert there and we began our search for Kalkadoon Grasswren. We tried the water tank area with no luck and then did a marathon hike (rock climbing?) in the Mica Creek area, again to no avail. Seems they are one of the harder birds to find. We made a bush camp there and got a good night’s sleep. I am grateful.

At first light the next morning we were at it again. And again, we did much semi-vertical hiking. We were spread out across a couple of ridges and my phone rang. Laurie had found them! Lynn started over the ridge to try and find a way to the other side. I headed up the next ridge to look for Laurie. After an exhausting climb (it turned out he was on a different ridge, UGH!) I found Laurie and I saw the Kalkadoon Grasswren! Then I went straight back to where I could see Lynn beginning to come across on another ridge. I headed to the top of that ridge, and together we worked our way over to Laurie. She got wonderful views as well! I am so very, very grateful.
Kalkadoon Grasswren... Oh, hell yes. I was amazed.         

Ms Kalkadoon Grasswren
We moved on to a Carpentarian Grasswren area. There was more hiking, but mostly flat land. We tried some of the known spots, but we had no joy. We moved on to the Lady Loretta area (it’s the name of a mine). We made another bush camp and then went birding. The afternoon heat had begun so we came back and rested for an hour or so. About 3:30 we went out again. After a not all that arduous hike, Robert had a bird in front of him in the spinifex. Laurie could see it from where he was and called, “GRASSWREN.” Bear in mind that Laurie is about seven feet tall (he is actually 6’3”) with excellent eyesight and he sees everything. Soon we had its little area surrounded, but it did not give up views like the Kalkadoon. Robert and Laurie both saw it before we did. Then Lynn said, “There!” And I finally had a view of the male Carpentarian Grasswren as it flew across, over and down disappearing into the spinifex. We had done it. Two very difficult grasswrens in one day. Lynn’s Fitbit was smiling at 8.25 miles. We were smiling like idiots. Yes we did it! I am so grateful.

The double grasswren Lifer Selfie at our bush camp in the, um bush. Exhausted and elated!
I am beginning the rough draft of the blog in the back of Troopi in that bush camp. Robert wants a photo (he only counts birds he photographs) and Laurie wants to get an excellent photo. Laurie’s photos are honestly amazing. He is truly one of the best I have ever seen and yet he is really just getting started. So they are going back in the morning and I will probably tag along and see if I can get another look at this sneaky little bird. If I do, fine, but we got it today! I am grateful!

Post Script… I did go along for a while with them and got some better views of the Carpentarian. I did not get a photo, but here is a back of the camera recording shot from Laurie. He got absolutely incredible photos of some other Carpentarians later, but this was one of the earlier ones that I saw. I want to thank him for his ears, eyes and research into these birds. He made this wondrous birding accomplishment possible. I am very grateful to my friend for some amazing birds.

Carpentarian Grasswren!

RB Life List: 649
Lynn Life List: 628
Couple’s Year List: 610

Peace. Love. Birds.

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