The Comfortable Nine Grasswren tour (16 Days) can be described as one of Australia’s epic outback birding adventures. We’ll search for nine of Australia’s 13 Grasswren species: Striated, Short-tailed, Western, Thick-billed, Eyrean, Grey, Kalkadoon, Carpentarian and Rusty Grasswren. We explore the vast expanses of Mallee scrub in the Vic-SA border region, the scenic Flinders Ranges, travel the entire Birdsville track through the outback, visit the stark country around Boulia-Winton and the rocky ranges around Mt Isa.
This trip is a real adventure (yet fully accommodated), taking us through the heart of the outback during the Australian winter season, generally, a great time to go birding. During these tours we expect to see some 200 species, and besides the Grasswrens we have a good chance of sought-after birds like Red-lored Whistler, Banded Whiteface, Chestnut, Cinnamon and Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, Gibberbird, Yellow Chat, Inland Dotterel, Flock Bronzewing, Hall’s Babbler, Mallee & Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Spinifex Pigeon, Painted Finch and much more, including the enigmatic Grey Falcon. During this time of year, the weather is generally quite pleasant. The rewards are some of Australia’s hardest to find, yet most sought-after outback species!
Make your own way to Adelaide and take a taxi from the airport (own arrangements) to our hotel (included) for dinner and in-troductions. Accommodation: hotel in Adelaide (private en-suite rooms; meals included: D).
After an early breakfast we head to the coasatal scrub north of Adelaide for the range-restricted Slender-billed Thornbill. We also stand a good chance of seeing Banded Stilts and then it‟s off to our first taste of “mallee” habitat, scubby multi-stemmed Eucalypt trees, where we look for Chestnut Quail-thrush, Southern Scrubrobin, Gilbert‟s Whistler, Crested Bell-bird, Redthroat and Regent Parrot. We‟ll have lunch on the banks of the Murray river and then head into one of Australia‟s largest wilderness areas, over 1,000,000 ha of “mallee” eucalypt scrub of the Bookmark Biosphere - a con-glomeration of nature reserves and pastoral properties. Here we have a chance of Red-lored Whistler and the endemic and endangered Black-eared Miner. At the end of the day we arrive at our comfortable lodgings in Berri, on the banks of the Murray river. Accommodation: Berri Hotel, Berri (private en-suite rooms; meals: B, L, D).
Today we‟ll visit one of the many mallee-spin-ifex habitats in the wider vicinity of Berri. Target species include the dimunitive Mallee Emu-wren; the elusive Striated Grasswren; the majestic Major Mitchell‟s Cockatoo; the regal Regent Parrot; and the reclusive Red-lored Whistler. There‟s always a chance that we come across a lone Malleefowl crossing the road. Ac-commodation: Berri Hotel, Berri (private en-suite rooms; meals included: D).
A pre-breakfast stroll in the bush to look for Shy Heathwren, Striped Honeyeater, Splendid Fairy-wren, Southern Scrubrobin and White-browed Treecreeper. After breakfast we pack up, check out and trav-erse the vast mallee wilderness by vehicle, where Western Grey and Red Kanga-roos hop around in the very few clearings. As we head north the landscape changes to prairie-like bluebush plains and we visit a small reserve where we have our first chance of Thick-billed Grasswren. We spend the afternoon search-ing for this bird with also a good chance of Rufous Fieldwren, Redthroat, White-winged Fairy-wren and chats, before moving on to our final destination for to-day: Nutt Bush Retreat, an outback station (farm) near Port Augusta, with its resident turquoise-race Splendid Fairy-wrens. Accommodation: Nutt Bush Re-treat, Port Augusta (private rooms with bathroom facilities shared between 2-4 people; meals: B, L, D).
First thing after breakfast will be the search for Western Grasswren in the surrounding bluebush plains. Other birds we hope to come across are the turquoise race of Splendid Fairy-wren, Black-eared Cuckoo, Chirruping Wedgebill and Rufous Fieldwren. Banded Stilts are often in likely a nearby coastal lake. We‟ll then travel to the Gawler Ranges, an im-pressive range of soaring rock formations on the edge of the outback. We search the spinifex-grass covered slopes for the elusive Short-tailed Grass-wren. There‟ll be plenty of Red, Western Grey and Euro Kangaroos. Our comfy accommodation is centrally located within the Gawler Ranges, nestled in a scenic valley and surrounded by Grasswren habitat! Accommodation: Mt Ive Station (private rooms with shared bathroom facilities; meals: B, L, D).
We have another chance this morning for Short-tailed Grasswren which we can search for not far from our rooms. Later in the day we travel into the Flinders Ranges, where braided river beds and-narrow gorges cut deeply into geological layers dating back 800 million years. Here, we look for Elegant Parrot, Grey fronted Hneyeater and the rare Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby. We‟ll end up in Lyndhurst with chance of Chirruping Wedgebill, Budgerigar and Rufous Fieldwren. After sunset we may check for Inland Dotterel. Accommodation: Lyndhurst Pub (a typical outback pub with new, private en-suite cabins; meals: B, L, D).
The morning will be spent at nearby Mt Lynd-hurst Station or Witchelina Station, to search for any species still needed. There are further chances of Thick-billed Grasswren here and if we‟re lucky, the very range-restricted Chestnut-breasted Whiteface. Afterwards we contin-ue up the Birdsville track, which traverses endless open stony plains inter-spersed with mostly dry watercourses. We look for Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Budgerigar, Red-backed Kingfisher, and have a good chance of Inland Dotter-el. Near Mungerannie, the long, white sand dunes provide us with a chance of Eyrean Grasswren. An artesian bore overflow has created a nice wetland which usually holds Brolga and a raft of waterbirds, including crakes – in amidst de-sert-like scenery. Accommodation: Mungerannie Pub (a typical outback pub with basic rooms and shared bathroom facilities; meals: B, L, D).
We‟ll check for Grey Falcon at first light and may see Flock Bronzewings heading for their early morning drink. Neigh-bouring Cowarie Station has resident Eyrean Grasswrens in the scenic sand dunes while along the Warburton River we often come across Red-browed Pardalote and Banded Whiteface. Crimson and Orange Chats and Black Hon-eyeatersre usually present too and on the gibber-strewn plains we look for Gibberbird. At the end of the day we check for Grey Falcon again. Accommo-dation: Mungerannie Pub (a typical outback pub with basic rooms and shared bathroom facilities; meals: B, L, D).
We set off early to check for Grey Falcon again, then travel to a (usually dry) swamp some time in the morning. The constant chatter of bird calls provides a background chorus to our search for Grey Grasswren which prefers the dense lignum shrubs in the foreground. Other species we‟ve encountered here are Australian Pratincole and Flock Bronzewing. Later we move on to another bore drain where the target is the very rare and localised Yellow Chat. We check a Letter-winged Kite colonial nesting site (they don‟t nest each year) and have another chance of Grey Fal-con and Eyrean Grasswren. Accommodation: Birdsville Caravan Park (pri-vate en-suite cabins; meals: B, L, D).
We bird around Birdsville, checking local wetlands and sand dunes for species such as Budgerigar, Brown and Rufous Songlark, Brolga, Black-tailed Native-hen, Plumed Whistling-duck and Red-browed Pardalote. We‟ll head north to Boulia, along the way checking for Flock Bronzewing, Letter-winged Kite (depending on preceding seasonal conditions), Inland Dotterel and another chance of Grey Grasswren. Brolgas are often seen wandering in town here! Accommodation: Desert Sands Mo-tel, Boulia (private en-suite motel rooms; meals: B, L, D).
Traversing the area where Night Parrot has been recorded recently, travelling on dark red gravel roads we notice more and more spinifex around us (with chances of Spinifexbird) until we arrive in the spinifex-covered plains around Opalton. Here we search for Rusty Grasswren (was rowleyi ssp of Striated). Other species we may come across include Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Spinifexbird, White-browed, Dusky and Masked Woodswallow, Spinifex Pigeon and Grey-fronted Honeyeater. We then travel to the township of Winton, Australia‟s dinosaur capital. Accom-modation: Winton Motel (private en-suite motel rooms; meals: B, L, D).
A back-up morning for Rusty Grasswren. If we‟ve succeeded the day before, we‟ll be birding / exploring nearby Bladensberg National Park, with good chances of Halls Babbler and Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush as well as Budgerigar, Spotted Bowerbird and with luck, Cocka-tiel and Crimson Chat. Towards the end of the morning we commence the long drive to Mount Isa; we‟ll break for lunch somewhere scenic and birdy, and keep an eye out for Cloncurry Ringneck (MacGillivrayi ssp of Australian Ringneck). Before arriving in Mt Isa we check the first location for Kalkadoon Grasswren. Accommodation: Ibis Styles Hotel Mt Isa (private en-suite rooms; meals: B, L, D).
A full day around Mt Isa looking for the two main targets here: Carpentarian and Kalkadoon Grasswren. There are many other good bird species, including Spinifexbird, Spinifex Pigeon, Little Woodswallow, Black-throated Treecreeper, Varied Lorikeet and many more. Another drawcard here is Painted Finch sunning on the rocks early in the morning. We‟ll also visit the sewage pond, with chance of Plumed Whistling Ducks and other waterfowl. Nearby at Lake Moondarra we have a good chance of Paper-bark Flycatcher, Spotted Bowerbird, Plumed Whistling-duck, Painted Finch, Purple-necked Rock-wallaby and Freshwater Crocodile. Accommodation: Ibis Styles Hotel Mt Isa (private en-suite rooms; meals: B, L, D).
Today has been set aside as your departure day so please book flights out of Mt Isa departing any time today. We‟ll arrange for you to be taken to the airport (included) at any time for your flight home (own arrangement). Tour ends. (meals: B). Or, why not continue birding with us to Cairns?
Western Thick-billed, Grey, Eyrean Grasswren. Kalkadoon, Rusty, Short-tailed, Striated Grasswren.Carpentarian Grasswren, Spinifexbird. Gibberbird, Banded Whiteface, Orange, Crimson, White-fronted Chat, Inland Dotterel, Australian Pratincole. Shy Heathwren, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren/ Mallee Emu-wren, Redthroat, Painted Finch. Black-eared Miner, Red-lored Whistler. Grey Falcon, Black-breasted Buzzard. Flock Bronzewing, Spinifex Pigeon, Chestnut and Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, Hall’s Babbler, Spotted Bowerbird, and many, many more.
What is included?
- All meals commencing with Dinner on Day 0 and finishing with Breakfast on Day 13
- Morning tea/coffee, some snacks, some fruit, some drinks
- Unlimited drinking water refills
- Accommodation in private en-suite rooms although on some nights only basic rooms with shared facilities are available
- Transport using a comfortable and reliable 4WD vehicle
- Expert guiding
- Any entry fees
What is not included?
- Travel to & from departure and finish points
- Pre- & post trip accommodation
- Any meals before Dinner on Day 0
- Any meals after breakfast on Day 13
- Drinks except where provided, personal expenses
Bellbird Birding Tours has 20 years experience in providing top-quality small-group birding trips throughout Australia and beyond. We offer a wide selection of scheduled tours with regular departures and fully customisable privately guided tours of any duration. We specialise in difficult-to-find bird species and off-the-beaten track locations while not omitting the popular birding areas. We can adjust any scheduled itinerary into a private tour to suit your wish-list and we are also happy to design a custom guided birding tour from scratch for you. Our tours are led by our passionate and experienced professional bird guides and with the help of local experts.
Please travel light. Binoculars, camera, mobile phone, chargers, if you‟re an international guest, insect repellent, sunscreen, personal medications, sun hat, water bottle, hand sanitizer. Sturdy footwear recommended. Scopes, super-telephoto lenses with tripods, and heavy suitcases discouraged.
Lightweight long pants, t-shirt and long-sleeved shirt, over the top of which you can wear lay-ers that can be taken off as necessary, including a warm jumper and a rain-proof jacket. Neat casual attire for dinners. Be prepared for some coldish mornings but gloriously sunny days.