Birding the Back O’Bourke

The Sheep-shearers quarters at Belah, Gundabooka National Park – 80k from the nearest pint of milk (or beer)!

We’ve just returned from a weeks holiday with Dan, Morgan & The Boys in the outback, staying in a former sheep-shearers shed, in the middle of the Gundabooka National Park. There’s a popular expression about the ‘back O’Bourke’ – literally the Australian equivalent to ‘back of beyond’. Bourke is a small settlement, on the River Darling, which used to be the hub of a thriving sheep-farming and trading community. To get there we drove nearly 500 kilometres west from Sydney airport, across the Great Dividing Range, over-nighting at Dubbo, before finishing the journey to Bourke along a near straight road (the longest in New South Wales) for another 350ks. Our accommodation was then only a mere 80 kilometres further on, the final thirty of which were on a dirt track! Handy if you ran out of milk or, as we did, popping to the pub for supper! Actually, despite it’s rural-rustic appearance, the shearer’s quarters made for a surprisingly comfortable stay. We visited several of the local visitor attractions in the park, including some interesting aboriginal rock paintings and spent a day sight-seeing in Bourke – taking in the various attractions, including the old gaol, town cemetery and the fort which turned out to be a very small, make-shift stockade. Birding interest came in the form of three regional specialities: Little Woodswallow, Chestnut-crowned Babbler and White-browed Treecreeper, together with an impressive supporting cast of ‘mulga’ specialities. We played board games in the evening and lit a fire – all in all a throughly memorable experience!

Aboriginal rock paintings – Mulgowan (Yappa), Gundabooka National Park (photo courtesy  of Jane Williams)


First of the Australia List ticks to fall – Little Woodswallow 


Next to fall, the rather elusive Chestnut-crowned Babbler – seen close to our accommodation


Last of the trio of new ticks – White-browed Treecreeper


Other notable birds in the Gundabooka area included Major Mitchell’s (or Pink) Cockatoo


Some of the interesting birds, like this Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, were rather elusive


Others, like Red-capped Robin and Splendid Fairy-wren were anything but…



These Rainbow Bee-eater, male & female, were a delight to see warming themselves in the early morning sun


The particular type of vegetation in the park – mulga, is home to the parrot of the same name


Our day out in Bourke began with this family group of Emu along the access track


Apostlebirds – so named because they supposedly go round in groups of twelve, are a common sight along the roads and nature strips


On the way back we stopped at Warren water treatment ponds – excellent birding, which immediately produced Spotted Bowerbird and two sorts of Crake – Australian Spotted & this Baillon’s


Also, the only snake of the trip so far – the rather venomous Eastern Brown (photo courtesy of Jane Williams)


..and a long awaited Australia List tick – Plum-headed Finch!



This entry was posted in Birding.

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