Australia’s Great Channel Country

The Australian outback holds an allure for many travelers to Australia, especially birders. Leaving from Brisbane, this short trip to south-western Queensland is easy birding, and is designed to fit nicely around your PNG trip or as a stand alone tour. It targets an area of Australia few tour companies visit, and we will get some birds that are not possible on any other scheduled tour. Birds at the edge of their inland range will be our targets, including the communal Hall’s Babbler, elusive Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush and charismatic White-browed Treecreeper. We will get far enough into the outback to have a chance at the secretive Gray Grasswren, and if conditions are good, we may find the enigmatic Flock Bronzewing. We will also pick up a swag of parrots, including the beautiful Pink Cockatoo and perhaps the more understated Bourke’s Parrot. South-western Queensland is also a hotspot for Australian raptors, with up to 18 species possible including the Black-breasted Kite, and if we are very lucky, the extremely elusive Gray Falcon.



Day 1: Arrival into Brisbane. Today you will either arrive back into Brisbane after your PNG trip or you will arrive from overseas into Brisbane. Those arriving from PNG will be met at the airport, and those arriving from elsewhere will meet at the hotel for an introductory dinner.

Day 2: Brisbane to St. George. We will leave Brisbane very early this morning, giving us the opportunity to do some birding as we cross the Great Dividing Range. While the main targets of this tour are the inland specialties, it is hard to drive straight past very cool birds such as Rainbow Lorikeets, Pale-headed Rosellas and Crested Pigeons. We will stop at some good birding spots on the west slope of the range, where we will start getting a taste for some of the birds that inhabit Australia’s dry inland. We will stay the night at St. George.

Day 3: St. George to Cunnamulla. Today we will be striking deep into the heart of our destination, south-western Queensland, and we can expect to start seeing our first real inland birds. An early start will ensure that we make the most of the cool morning temperatures, possibly encountering our first flocks of Budgerigars, Pink Cockatoos, and if we’re lucky, some of the more difficult inland birds like Red-backed Kingfisher. We will arrive in Cunnamulla by lunch, and spend the afternoon birding the amazing Bowra Station. Here our targets will be the difficult trio of Hall’s Babbler, Chestnut-breasted Quail-Thrush and White-browed Treecreeper.

Day 4: Cunnamulla to Noccundra. We will be up early to bird Bowra again, continuing the search for any birds we missed the previous afternoon. We will keep our eyes peeled for Chirruping Wedgebill, Redthroat and Bourke’s Parrot, as well as a wide selection of honeyeaters, finches, woodswallows and thornbills. Even the common birds here are spectacular, like Red-capped Robin and the azure jewel of the inland, Splendid Fairy-Wren. South-western Queensland is also the heart of raptor country, so wherever we are, we will be keeping our eyes on the skies for Black-breasted Kites, Spotted Harriers and the very rare Gray Falcon. After leaving Cunnamulla we will be heading to the Noccundra Hotel for the next two nights, a truly Australian outback experience!

Splendid Fairy-Wren
Splendid Fairy-Wren (Iain Campbell)

Day 5: Noccundra to Cooper’s Crossing and back. Now we get to the great Channel Country, our furthest point into the outback, complete with red sand, ephemeral watercourses and lignum swamps. The birding will be very dependent on the local conditions, and if we are lucky we may get the chance to chase some of the more enigmatic inland birds. The birding here can be slow, but the rewards are immense. Irruptive species like Little Button-Quail and Flock Bronzewing are possibilities, while at Cooper’s Crossing we will search the lignum swamps for the extremely elusive Gray Grasswren. We will return to Noccundra at the end of the day for a cold beer and welcome dinner.

Day 6: Noccundra to St. George. Hopefully by this stage we will have seen most of our target birds, but if not we will have time to try again for anything we are missing. We will be passing the well known birding locations of Lake Bindegolly and Eulo Bore, both worth a stop. After a huge trip, and with our list of inland birds complete, we will be leaving the outback as we return to St George.

Day 7: St. George to Brisbane. Our final day of the tour will be spent returning to Brisbane. Our list will already be long, but as we ascend the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range we will have time to stop for many of the more widespread species we neglected earlier. This day will probably be our biggest list wise with multitudes of honeyeaters and parrots. We will arrive in Brisbane in the early evening with time for a final group

Day 8: Departure. This morning you can either be transferred to the airport for your flights home or you fly to Port Moresby for the Tropical Birding PNG tour.

Photo guide to habitats we bird on this tour:



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TRIP CONSIDERATIONS

CLIMATE: Hot days and cool nights. Rain is highly unlikely (we can hope!).

DIFFICULTY: Physically this is an easy trip with no difficult walking involved. However, it is fast-paced, and you can expect to be starting very early on most days, departing the hotel from between 3:30am and 5:00am, and having breakfast in the field. These early starts aren’t just for fun, they will get you many more birds and allow us to visit more habitats in a short amount of time.

ACCOMMODATION: Outback pubs. That can be hard to explain – think about being on the set of a Crocodile Dundee movie! You’ll get hot water everywhere, but will have shared bathrooms in some localities.