Outback Queensland Tour - Birds, mammals and Australia’s ancient creatures 15-25 June 2024

Painted Finch - Andrew Browne - Inala Nature Tours
Painted Finch - Andrew Browne - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Saturday, 15 June 2024 to Tuesday, 25 June 2024
Duration: 
10 days
Price: 
Tour Price: AU$7,635 twin share and Single Supplement: AU$940
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: 

This 10-day tour takes us to 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 specialties. Join our specialist guides 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 has been designed to follow Inala’s South West Queensland Tour (6 – 15 June 2024).

 

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

Inala’s Outback Queensland
Birds, mammals and Australia’s ancient creatures
15 -25 June 2024

This 10-day tour takes us to 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 specialties. Join our specialist guides 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 has been designed to follow Inala’s South West Queensland Tour (6 – 15 June 2024).

 Itinerary OUTLINE:

Day 1.  Sat 15 June 2024. Arrive Longreach. Meet for group dinner. Accom: Longreach
Day 2.  Sun 16 June 2024. Longreach to Winton. Accom: Winton.
Day 3. Mon 17 June 2024. Winton area. Accom: Winton.
Day 4. Tue 18 June 2024. Winton area. Accom. Winton.
Day 5. Wed 19 June 2024. Winton to Hughenden Accom: Hughenden.
Day 6. Thu 20 June 2024. Hughenden to Richmond. Accom: Richmond.
Day 7. Fri 21 June 2024. Richmond area. Accom: Richmond.
Day 8. Sat 22 June 2024. Richmond to Mt Isa. Accom: Mt Isa.
Day 9. Sun 23 June 2024. Mt Isa area. Accom: Mt Isa
Day 10. Mon 24 June 2024. Mt Isa area. Accom: Mt Isa.
Day 11. Tue 25 June 2024. Depart Mt Isa.

DETAILED Itinerary:

Day 1.  Saturday 15 June 2024. Arrive Longreach.  
Today has been set aside as an arrival day. Meet at 19:00 for a group welcome dinner and to chat about the details for the tour. We will join those guests who are continuing from our SW Queensland tour.
Accommodation: Longreach (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Day 2.  Sunday 16 June 2024. Longreach to Winton.
We will spend the morning in the Longreach area searching for birds and reptiles in the gidgee woodland associated with the Thomson River.  The area is incised with channels that attract a range of wildlife and the deep cracks that develop in the soil are home to reptiles, frogs and sometimes small mammals. Depending on the amount of rain that has fallen recently, we might see Mallee Ringneck, Red-winged Parrot, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Brolga, Zebra Finch, Banded Lapwing, Red-capped and Hooded Robins. We will drive to Winton, which will be our base for the next two days, After lunch, we will visit the town sewage ponds for chances of crakes (Australian Spotted, Spotless and Baillon’s Crake), Plum-headed Finch, Little Grassbird, Australasian Reed Warbler and a variety of water birds. This evening we will also search for nocturnal species like Spotted Nightjar and Australian Owlet Nightjar. 
Accommodation: Winton (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D. 

 Day 3 & 4. Monday 17 & Tuesday 18 June 2024. Winton area.
We will spend two full days in this area. On one 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 shuttlebus. We will also take a walk in a canyon where we can see 800-year-old living Cycads (Macrozamia moorei) whose Cretaceous ancestors grew in this area. The museum’s interpretive display includes life-size bronze sculptures of many of the creatures that lived here 95 million years ago. On both days we will be searching for Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Rusty (Opalton) Grasswren and Grey Falcon as well as the newly split Purple-backed Fairy-wren, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, Varied Sittella, 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 (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D both days.

Day 5. Wednesday 19 June 2024. Winton to Hughenden.
Today we drive NE to Hughenden across an expanse of Mitchell Grass downs, where we will look for Crimson Chat, Australian Pratincole, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, Budgerigar, Zebra Finch, White-winged Fairywren and Flock Bronzewing. Around Hughenden, the plains give way to sandstone hills capped with lava flows. The sandstone layers are of both freshwater and marine origin, reflecting the complex geological history of the area. Today we will have our first opportunity to look for fossils when we stop at a site that holds 100 – 110-million-year-old belemnites (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, which houses a large display of dinosaur fossils from the local area, including a replica skeleton of a 7-metre-long Muttaburrasaurus which was cast from the original bones of a 110-million-year-old dinosaur found to the south.
Accommodation: Hughenden (en suite cabins). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Thursday 20 June 2024. Hughenden to Richmond.
This morning we will spend some time exploring Hughenden searching for species such as Squatter Pigeon (red-faced peninsulae race), Double-barred Finch, Red-backed Fairywren and Brown Falcon. The area is good for raptors, so we will keep our eyes peeled for Peregrine Falcon, Black Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Wedge-tailed Eagle. Later in the day, we will head west along the Flinders Highway to Richmond, birding as we go. 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 sewage works are 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 swam 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 7. Friday 21 June 2024. 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!). There is also a chance of uncovering pterosaur bones. Accommodation: Richmond (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

 Day 8. Saturday 22 June 2024. 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, looking for species such as Flock Bronzewing, Australian Pratincole and Australian Bustard. As we approach Mt Isa, the geology changes and plains transform into hills and gorges. If we have time after we check in to our hotel, we will visit a nearby gorge to look for grasswrens among the red rocks and spinifex. Accommodation: Mt Isa hotel (en suite rooms). 
Accommodation: Mount Isa (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 9 & 10. Sunday 23 – Monday 24 June 2024. Mt Isa.
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, Grey-fronted and Black-chinned (Golden-backed) Honeyeaters and Spinifex Pigeon. Crimson Chat and Budgerigar are also possibilities. We will also visit a nearby lake for waterbirds such as Black-necked Stork, Plumed and Wandering Whistling-ducks and Green Pygmy-goose. We also have a good chance of seeing the rare Purple-necked Rock wallaby.
Accommodation: Mount Isa (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

 Day 11. Tuesday 25 June 2024. Mt Isa.
The tour will finish after breakfast.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.

Group size: 3-4 people with one specialist Inala driver guide or 6- 8 people with 2 driver/guides. 

Tour Price: AU$7,635 twin share and Single Supplement: AU$940

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.

We are pleased to offer a discount of $250 per person ($330 per single) for guests who wish to combine our south-western Queensland (6-15 June 2024) and Queensland Outback ‘dinosaur’ tours (15-25 June 2024), starting and finishing in Mt Isa.

 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: 
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Weight: 
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