Outback Queensland Tour - Birds, mammals and Australia’s ancient creatures

Painted Finch - Andrew Browne - Inala Nature Tours
Painted Finch - Andrew Browne - Inala Nature Tours
Duration: 
11 days
Price: 
2021 PRICES AU $6,995 per person sharing for a minimum group size of 6 people. Single supplement: AU $890
Highlights: 
Internationally significant for its rich Cretaceous fossil marine and terrestrial dinosaur finds, and home to a large variety of range-restricted extant bird and mammal specialities.
Overview: 

PLEASE ENQUIRE ( NO SET DATES CURRENTLY )

We are very excited to offer this 10-day adventure in an area of Outback Queensland which is internationally- significant for its rich Cretaceous fossil marine and terrestrial dinosaur finds, and home to a large variety of range-restricted extant bird and mammal specialities.

We visit collections housing huge, almost complete skeletons of ancient marine reptiles that lived in the ancient Eromanga Sea that covered much of inland Australia around 110 million years ago and the fossilised remains of 95 million year old terrestrial dinosaurs (including some cool footprints!). We will also try our luck at fossicking for our own Cretaceous fossils! During the tour we will also be searching for mammal specialties like the Purple-necked Rock-wallaby and bird specialities including several species of range-restricted Grasswrens, Grey Falcon, Red Goshawk, Bourke’s Parrot and hopefully huge flocks of Budgerigars and Plum-headed Finches if there is any water about.

 

Start Location: 
Mount Isa QLD
Australia
Finish location: 
Mount Isa QLD
Australia

Outback Queensland  - Birds, mammals and Australia’s ancient creatures 21-31 May 2021

PLEASE ENQUIRE ( NO SET DATES CURRENTLY )

We are very excited to offer this 10-day adventure in an area of Outback Queensland which is internationally- significant for its rich Cretaceous fossil marine and terrestrial dinosaur finds, and home to a large variety of range-restricted extant bird and mammal specialities. 

Join specialist guides from Inala Nature Tours as we visit collections housing huge, almost complete skeletons of ancient marine reptiles that lived in the ancient Eromanga Sea that covered much of inland Australia around 110 million years ago and the fossilised remains of 95 million year old terrestrial dinosaurs (including some cool footprints!). We will also try our luck at fossicking for our own Cretaceous fossils! During the tour we will also be searching for mammal specialties like the Purple-necked Rock-wallaby and bird specialities including several species of range-restricted Grasswrens, Grey Falcon, Red Goshawk, Bourke’s Parrot and hopefully huge flocks of Budgerigars and Plum-headed Finches if there is any water about. 

This tour is designed to allow guest to join the Cape York Specials Tour ( 1st - 8th June 2021) straight afterwards

ITINERARY OUTLINE:

Day 1.  Fri 21 May 21. Arrive Mount Isa. Meet for group dinner. Accom: Mt Isa
Days 2 & 3.  Sat 22 & Sun 23 May 21. Mount Isa area. Accom: Mt Isa.
Day 4. Mon 24 May 21. Mt Isa to Boulia. Accom: Boulia.
Day 5. Tue 25 May 21. Boulia to Winton. Accom: Winton.
Day 6. Wed 26 May 21. Winton area. Accom: Winton.
Day 7. Thu 27 May 21. Winton to Hughenden Accom: Hughenden.
Day 8. Fri 28 May 21. Hughenden to Richmond. Accom: Richmond.
Day 9. Sat 29 May 21. Richmond area. Accom: Richmond.
Day 10. Sun 30 May 21. Richmond to Mount Isa. Accom: Mt Isa.
Day 11. Mon 31 May 21. Depart Mt Isa.

DETAILED ITINERARY:

Day 1.  Friday 21 May 2021. Arrive Mount Isa.  
Today has been set aside as an arrival day. Own arrangements for your transfer to the hotel and any activities today. Meet at 19:00 for a group welcome dinner, meet your guides and chat about the details for the tour. Accommodation: Mt Isa hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Days 2 & 3.  Sat 22 & Sun 23 May 21. Mount Isa area.
We will spend two full days in the Mount Isa area searching for local specialties including Kalkadoon and Carpentarian Grasswrens, Pictorella Mannikin, Yellow Chat, Varied Lorikeet, Black-tailed Tree-creeper, Long-tailed Finch, Painted Finch, Spotted Bowerbird, Crested Bellbird, Singing and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters and Spinifex Pigeon. Crimson Chat is also a possibility. We will also visit a nearby lake for waterbirds such as Black-necked Stork. We also have a good chance of seeing the rare Purple-necked Rock wallaby (Petrogale purpureicollis). Accommodation: Mt Isa as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D both days.

Day 4 Monday 24 May 2021. Mt Isa to Boulia.
Today we will travel to Boulia (a total of around 4 hours’ drive), birding en route. Species we will be searching for include Black and Grey Falcon, Red Goshawk, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren and Ground Cuckoo-shrike. We should also see Red-browed Pardalote, Budgerigar and Wedge-tailed eagle and Little Button-quail has also been seen on our past tours there. This afternoon we will visit the Boulia Marine Fossil display. There will also be a chance to bird in the area (Brolga, Rufous Songlark, Cloncurry form of Australian Ringneck and Mistletoe Bird). Accommodation: Boulia motel (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Tuesday 25 May 2021. Boulia to Winton.
Our drive time today is around 5 hours and again we will be birding en route and on arrival. Birds include Hall’s Babbler, Spinifexbird, Black, Pied & Grey-headed Honeyeater, Spinifex Pigeon, Little Woodswallow & Painted Finch. We will also visit the sewerage ponds for chances of crakes (Australian Spotted, Spotless and Baillon’s Crake) and Plum-headed Finch. The fossil display in Winton which houses one of the nation’s most comprehensive dinosaur displays is also worth a visit. This evening we will also search for nocturnal birds like Spotted Nightjar & Australian Owlet Nightjar.  Accommodation: Winton (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Wednesday 26 May 2021. Winton area.
We will spend two full days in this area. One on of these days we will visit Lark Quarry Conservation Park for a tour of the facility to view the only known evidence of a dinosaur stampede: the footprints of a large carnivorous theropod (Australovenator) hunting a herd of small, two-legged coelurosaurs (Skartapus) and ornithopods (Wintonopsis) at the edge of an ancient lake around 95 million years ago. On the other day we will visit the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History which houses the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils. During our tour here, we will see the fossil preparation laboratory, collection room and take a tour of the area in an open shuttle-bus. We will also take a walk in a canyon where we can see a range of plants including 800-year-old live Cycads (Macrozamia moorei) whose Cretaceous ancestors lived in the area; the interpretive display here includes life-size bronze sculptures of many of the creatures that lived here 95 million years ago. On both days we will be searching Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Rusty Grasswren and Grey Falcon as well as the newly-split Purple-backed Fairy-wren, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Rufus-throated Honeyeater, Varied Sitella, Australian Bustard and Red-browed Pardalote. Black Honeyeater and Bourke’s Parrot have also been seen on our past tours, as have Red-chested Button-quail. There may also be a chance to fossick for opals. We will stay in Winton both nights as there is no accommodation near Opalton (except camping). Accommodation: Winton as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D both days.

Day 7. Thursday 27 May 2021. Winton to Hughenden.
This morning we will travel to Hughenden (a total drive time of almost 3 hours). Birding in the area may yield Spotted Harrier, Black-breasted Buzzard, White-throated Gerygone, Striated Pardalote (Black-capped race) and Pale-headed Rosella. There will also be a chance to fossick for 100-110 belemnite fossils (an extinct order of squid-like cephalopods that existed in the late Triassic to late Cretaceous Period). We will also make time to visit the Flinders Discovery Centre fossil exhibition, which houses a large display of dinosaur fossils from the local area, including a life-size skeletal replica of a 7-metre-long Muttaburrasaurus which was cast from the original bones of a 110-million-year-old terrestrial dinosaur found in the area. Accommodation: Hughenden (en suite cabins).  Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 8. Friday 28 May 2021. Hughenden to Richmond.
We will take the relatively short (1.5-hour drive) distance to Richmond. We hope to see species like Restless Flycatcher and Painted Honeyeater, Purple-backed Fairy-wren and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, Forest Kingfisher, Pale-headed Rosella, Pheasant Coucal if the creek crossings have any water. Red-backed Kingfisher and Brown Songlark are also possibilities here. The local sewerage works are also worth a visit with crakes, Little Grassbird, Plum-headed Finch, Pink-eared and Freckled Duck and Australian Reed-warbler possibilities. On our arrival in Richmond, we will also visit a Cretaceous (110 million-year old) marine fossil collection from the local area which has yielded some of the richest vertebrate fossil-bearing deposits in Australia and provides a fascinating insight into the creatures that survived in the ancient Eromanga Sea. The display includes several almost complete skeletons of ancient marine reptiles (pliosaurs such as 10m long Kronosaurus queenslandicus, plesiosaurs, turtles and ichthyosaurs), fish, and elasmosaurs. Accommodation: Richmond (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 9. Saturday 29 May 2021. Richmond.
We will spend another day in the area today. This will include a visit to a ‘bush-tucker’ garden where we will view the plants and the birds attracted to the area. All plants are native to the region and are labelled with their traditional use in local indigenous culture. Moonrocks (limestone concretions) extracted from local properties are also found in the garden and around the town, showcasing the uniqueness of the region’s landscape and prehistoric past. We will also participate in a fossil dig with a resident palaeontologist; fossils we may find here include bivalves (including Aucellina and Inoceramus), belemnites, fish, shark’s teeth, turtles, ichthyosaurs (phalanges, vertebrae and teeth) as well as coprolites (fossil poo!). Accommodation: Richmond (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 10. Sunday 30 May 2021. Richmond to Mount Isa.
Today will be mostly a travel day (around 4.5 hours’ drive in total). We will of course stop at regular intervals to bird en route but there will also be another chance of species like Carpentarian and Kalkadoon Grasswren and Grey-fronted Honeyeater as well as Purple-necked Rock-Wallaby.  We will have a farewell dinner tonight to reminisce. Accommodation: Mt Isa hotel (en suite rooms).  Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 11. Monday 31 May 2021. The tour will finish after breakfast.
Depart Mt Isa for onward travels (own arrangements for airport transfers and activities today). Participants continuing onto the Inala Cape York tour will fly Mt Isa to Cairns today. Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.

 Tour Price: AU$6,995 per person sharing for a minimum group size of 6 people.
Single supplement: AU$890 

Price includes: 10 nights’ accommodation, specialist guides and transport, meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary including fossicking licenses.

Price does not include: International and domestic airfares, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, laundry or other items of a personal nature.

 Please note: 

Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee.  Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations.  Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink.  Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.

 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.

Inala’s Outback Queensland Tour 21-31 May, 2021 

Steve Davidson 

Inala Nature Tours recent 10-day Western Queensland Natural History & Prehistory Tour was a raging success with large sections of the country looking incredible after recent rains, with our wanderings punctuated by visits to a number of facilities that make up the Dinosaur Loop.  

We traversed the route from Mt Isa down to Boulia & Winton, up to Hughenden and back across through Richmond & Cloncurry. This took in the wide variety of habitats found in the region and allowed us unfettered access to some incredible wildlife and scenery. 

Day One was a chance for folks to make their way to Mt Isa and our hotel, where a meet and greet in the evening preceded dinner and our first chance to get to know each other. 

Day Two started suitably impressively with a beautiful sunny day and a relaxed intro to Mt Isa and her surrounds, the spinifex-clad hills and rocky watercourses giving us Kalkadoon Grasswren, Spinifexbird, Varied Lorikeet, Grey-headed Honeyeater, Little Woodswallow, Green Pygmy-Goose, Budgerigar, Black-chinned (Golden-backed) Honeyeater, Glossy Ibis, Comb-crested Jacana, Spinifex Pigeon, Paperbark Flycatcher and, a highlight for many - Purple-necked Rock Wallaby. With around 90 species for the day it was a great start to the tour… 

Another top dinner at our motel was washed down with some devilishly good wine and plenty of japery.  

Day Three and we flexed our driving and bush-whacking skills somewhat, driving a fair way to the north of the Isa for an explore on foot, chasing the historically obstinate Carpentarian Grasswren. True to form she was a fickle mistress and allowed a few of us but a fleeting glimpse.  

It was pretty damn hot but relief came in the form of parties of Black-tailed Treecreeper, plus Painted Finch, Long-tailed Finch, Red-browed Pardalote, Crested Bellbird, big flocks of Masked & White-browed Woodswallow, and Red-backed Kingfisher. A fine male Common Wallaroo put in a welcome appearance, as did several Horner’s Dragons, alternatively keeping their little feet off the hot rocks.  

After this particularly long day we had no choice but to drink more wine that evening, as well as be merry... 

Day Four saw us hit the bitumen proper, wending our way south through rugged scarps, Coolabah-lined watercourses and wide-open grasslands as we headed for Boulia. 

Along the way we made several birding stops, with the best being a rapid exit from all vehicles for some roadside Ground Cuckoo-shrikes - never a common bird and a real bonus, accompanied by Crimson Chat, Brown Songlark, Horsfield’s Bushlark and our first beautiful Cockatiels. One of our party hit the deck hard as he lithely leapt from the car, but he’d tell you it was worth it... 

Late afternoon at Boulia saw us witness to thousands of Little Corella and Galah coming in to drink at pools along the Burke River, with a stately pair of Brolga nearby. 

Day Five and car troubles started proceedings, necessitating a little bit of prompt roadside assistance from our hire company. This was duly done in a most expeditious manner and we were on our way again pretty quick, heading east toward Winton. As we drove we came into an area where recent rainfall had greened the landscape beautifully, and birds were in abundance. We were treated to wonderful views of a flock of Australian Pratincole on the wing, as well as Banded Lapwing, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller and a fleeting Flock Bronzewing. Around a large waterpoint we counted up to 120 Brolga and several flocks of Budgerigar coming in to drink. 

Another roadside stop produced a beautiful little Smooth-nosed Earless Dragon. This tiny reptile is a pebble mimic and would have remained unseen were it not for the sharp eyes of one of our crew. 

Late afternoon we pulled into the picturesque town of Winton, where we stay for two nights. A quick jaunt to the local water treatment works gave us some gorgeous Pink-eared Duck, as well as lots of Grey Teal, Australian Wood Duck, Hardhead, Little Grassbird, Australian Reed-warbler and a Hoary-headed Grebe. 

Day Six required an early start as we wanted to be at our first destination before it got too hot. Success came in the spinifex and thick mulga as we quickly tracked down nesting Hall’s Babbler, Inland Thornbill, a Crested Bellbird pair, more endearing Spinifex Pigeon, Purple-backed Fairy-wren and the star of the morning, a stunning male Rufous-crowned Emu-wren.  

Nearby, the Dino Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry was an amazing insight into a moment frozen in time, with the visual presentation and dynamic display of over 3000 dinosaur footprints on the edge of an ancient waterway something to behold. The Lark Quarry Centre was built using Ecologically Sustainable Design, minimizing impact on the local environment, plus conserving the fragile nature of the fossilized trackways with regulated temperature & humidity, preventing water runoff and therefore erosion, and elevated walkways to reduce human impact. In addition, it was really, really cool (temperature-wise) in there and a pleasure to sit in the state-of-the-art facilities for a while… 

Back in Winton we enjoyed a lovely warm evening eating dinner al fresco at the pub, and toasted a remarkable day… 

Day Seven started a little different, with a strong, cold wind whipping across the plains. However shortly after breakfast we had our first Black Falcon for the trip which was a welcome addition. Also this morning we had a guided tour with the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum just to the south-east of Winton. This incredible facility has a simply amazing display of a wealth of Australian fossils, including pterosaurs, ankylosaurs, ichthyosaurs and trees. We saw a huge fossil sauropod in preparation - watching a team of paleontologists at work painstakingly chipping rock away from the bone.  

Another huge dinosaur walkway with numerous awe-inspiring footprints also didn’t fail to impress. 

And to top it off the solid brass, life-sized, 3-D printed model of Australovenator at the entrance is something to behold, not to mention the Diamantinasaurus and calf… 

Wending our way north toward Hughenden in the afternoon saw us make several roadside stops for flocks of wheeling, earthy & amazing Flock Bronzewings, plus copious Budgerigar, Crimson Chat, White-winged Fairy-wren, cheeky Yellow-throated Miners with a penchant for Gingernuts, and right on dusk as we pulled into Hughenden the soulful & melancholy notes of a Pied Butcherbird… 

Day Eight highlights included a morning amble along the Flinders River in Hughenden, with some unexpected treats in the form of small numbers of Plum-headed Finch, a pair of obliging Red-backed Kingfisher, Australasian Darter and good close views of pugnacious Blue-faced Honeyeaters.  

Driving out to the north of town we stopped to look for fossilized remains of ancient, squid-like belemnites in the roadside gravel; indeed, we found several of these intriguing fossils, as well as a nice feeding flock of birds that consisted of several Diamond Dove, Restless Flycatcher, Rufous Songlark, White-winged Triller, Rufous Whistler and Singing Honeyeaters. Budgerigars were again a constant background sound, their chirruping being a regular feature for days now. 

At Porcupine Gorge we had amazing views of the sandstone gorge itself, a deep-cut canyon displaying distinct layers of rock from as far back as 170 million years ago. Avian highlights included fly-bys from a pair of Peregrine Falcon, and a Squatter Pigeon whom sat very nicely for us all to see. 

Back in Richmond we visited the impressive Flinders Discovery Centre with an amazing natural history display that includes a stonking life-sized Muttaburrasaurus and some incredible gems. 

Day Nine was as much fun as a wannabe paleontologist can have. We were booked to join a paleo dig on private property just out of Richmond with resident paleontologist Michelle. With picks and hammers, and a mean circular saw our host showed us the finer intricacies of digging, chipping & levering down into the 100 million year old rock where the best ancient marine deposits occur. We found turtle shell fragments, fish vertebrae, clams shells, a pterosaur wing, fossilized wood, belemnites and of course, coprolites… 

Our first Australian Bustards were seen today whilst en route, as were a party of Emu, Pale-headed Rosella and Apostlebird.  

Back in Richmond town we visited the equally impressive Kronosaurus Korner, a fantastic display centre with a vast 110 million year old fossilized marine collection. This includes remains from a variety of beasties like the mighty Kronosaurus queenslandicus, as well as ammonites, turtles, ichthyosaurs, myriad fish types and best of all, the complete skeleton of a small polycotylid plesiosaur. 

Day Ten necessitated a fair bit of travel as we were making our way back to Mt Isa, however several stops were required for views of more Australian Bustards, budgies and a hunting Black Falcon attempting to take down wayward Flock Bronzewings. 

In Cloncurry we lucked out with a beautiful pair of the local form of Australian Ringneck, ssp macgillivrayi – the Cloncurry Ringneck. Also here was a pair of Blue-winged Kookaburra and several White-plumed Honeyeater & Yellow-throated Miner. 

Pulling into Mt Isa at the end of the day signaled the end of a pretty amazing tour, and a final dinner at the motel tonight gave us pause to celebrate and reflect on an absolutely brilliant ten days. 

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Weight: 
20
Weight: 
20
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