Key Species : King Quail (small chance), Magpie Goose, Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy-goose, Garganey (summer chance), Pied Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Bittern (good chance), Black Bittern (good chance), Pacific Baza (small chance), Red Goshawk (long shot), Grey Falcon (long shot), Brolga, White-browed Crake, Red-backed Button-quail (small chance), Red-chested Button-quail (summer? good chance), Swinhoe's Snipe (summer chance), Comb-crested Jacana, Oriental Pratincole (summer), Common Bronzewing (chance), White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Northern Rosella, Brush Cuckoo, Common Koel (summer), Channel-billed Cuckoo (summer), Rufous Owl (long shot), Barn Owl, Grass Owl (good chance), Azure Kingfisher, Forest Kingfisher (long shot), Dollarbird, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (good chance), Red-browed Pardalote, Green-backed Gerygone (chance), Silver-crowned Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Banded Honeyeater, Yellow Chat (good chance), White-browed Robin, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Leaden Flycatcher, Shining Flycatcher, Northern Fantail, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow Oriole, Yellow Wagtail (summer good chance), Star Finch, Yellow-rumped Mannikin, Pictorella Mannikin, Gouldian Finch (good chance), Oriental Reed-Warbler (summer chance), Little Grassbird (chance), Zitting Cisticola (chance). Mammals : Agile Wallaby (Macropus agilis), Common Wallaroo (Macropus robustus), Short-eared Rock-Wallaby (Petrogale brachyotis), Black Flying-fox (Pteropus alecto), Little Red Flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus). Reptiles : Freshwater Crocodile, Saltwater Crocodile, Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii), Merten's Water Monitor (Varanus mertensi), Common Tree Snake (Dendrephalis punctulata).
I visited Kununurra a few times while I worked at the Argyle Diamond Mine from 1988 to 2001. I was based in Kununurra for 11 weekends in 1995 and visited every birding area that I became aware of. I have also passed through Kununurra on a few birding tours. Kununurra and Wyndham together is an excellent area for birding and comparable to Broome as one of the very best areas in Western Australia.
The highlights of Kununurra are the 11 species of finch, the many species that are uncommon elsewhere in WA, and the many summer migrants. October to January is an excellent time of the year to spend a week in the area. Access is still available to most areas before the main wet season sets in. It is hot and often humid but the birding more than makes up for this discomfort.
The outstanding highlight at any time of year is the boat trip on Lake Argyle.
1. Kununurra to Lake Argyle
Rubbish Tip (S15° 48´ 37" E128° 45´ 48") - The rubbish tip is located on the right past the BP depot as you drive out of Kununurra towards the border. There is some woodland and grass which usually have finches, lorikeets, Jacky Winter, honeyeaters (including Banded and Blue-faced). Rubbish tips in general are often a good place for swifts and a chance for owls when spotlighting at night.
Turnoff to Lake Argyle - There are several birding areas along the road. You pass through a hilly area with eucalypts that has Black-tailed Treecreeper, Jacky Winter, Little Woodswallow and surely has other species of interest. About 7km from the turnoff is an open grass/spinifex plain where quail, Grey Butcherbird, Red-backed Kingfisher and Silver-crowned Friarbirds can be found. You cross a few creeks including some that usually have water (such as Fine Springs Creek and Match Box Creek) where honeyeaters and finches come into drink, and the tall eucalypts along the creek have quite a few nest hollows used by lorikeets, Dollarbird, etc. About 25km from the turnoff the road crosses a small creek that was dominated by grevillea (until burnt recently but will hopefully regenerate) which when flowering profusely attracts large numbers of honeyeaters and lorikeets. Just past the creek there is a small track on the left. If you walk about 200 metres along the track you reach an area known locally as the Garden of Eden that has a small waterhole (S16° 02´ 44" E128° 46´ 11"). A Grey Falcon has been seen attacking the lorikeets and so is a small chance.
Spillway - You could possibly see a few waterbirds and waders from the bridge (S16° 01´ 47" E128° 46´ 54"), and shortly after the wet season there is a small shallow pool on the left just before the bridge. About 4.5km after the bridge there is a road along the spillway for 3km to a parking area. The road is a bit on the bumpy side but good all year round. After about 1km it crosses a creek with dense vegetation (S16° 03´ 43" E128° 46´ 57") that can be very good for birds such as Northern Fantail, honeyeaters, pardalotes, etc. At the parking area you can walk along a blocked off track and then down onto the flats around the shoreline of the lake. You can also cross over a small dam built across the spillway to access the shoreline on the other side. The shoreline is excellent for a range of waterbirds such as Radjah Shelduck, Black-necked Stork, Glossy Ibis, etc. You should see a range of raptors such as Whistling Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle and possibly Spotted Harrier, Osprey and Wedge-tailed Eagle. You could expect to see 30 to 50 species in 90 minutes or so walking around the shore.
Dead Horse Springs (S16° 05´ 19" E128° 45´ 34") - This is a small permanent waterhole where you might see a few finches, Brown Quail, Red-browed Pardalote, White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, and a few waterbirds and waders.
Lake Argyle Homestead (S16° 06´ 38" E128° 44´ 57") - You are certain to see Spinifex Pigeon, plus finches (including Gouldian sometimes) and a Great Bowerbird at its bower. Forest Kingfisher has been reported on the power lines nearby. Jim Gardner (who used to be the caretaker) has an excellent bird list from the area. There is a rock hole and waterfall (in the wet season) nearby but ask for permission and directions from the caretaker.
Lake Argyle Tourist Village Caravan Park (08 9168 7360) (S16° 06´ 46" E128° 44´ 31") - You have a good chance of Gouldian Finch during the dry season (most likely very early in the morning near the pool), plus other finches, Northern Fantail, Western Gerygone and Northern Rosella. Cicadabird, Figbird and Dusky Honeyeater have been reported but are very long shots.
Lake Argyle Boat Cruise - This is one of the best tours that I have done. Ring Stephen Sharpe of Lake Argyle Cruises (08 9168 7361). He operates half day early morning cruises to the south end of the lake and along the upper Ord River. You have very good chances of seeing Yellow Chat (however in 1998 these were uncommon until late in the year possibly because most had moved down to the Broome area?), Purple-crowned Fairy-wren and White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, plus waders (especially during the wet season), waterbirds, terns, raptors, etc. It is interesting to see birds such as White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Osprey, Australian Pelican, Pied Cormorant and Caspian Tern (plus Silver Gull is a chance) that are normally considered to be coastal. Lake Argyle regularly supports 500,000 to 1 million birds. You could expect to see 70 to 100 species, plus Short-eared Rock-Wallaby. Great-billed Heron is a long shot. See my trip report for January 1995.
Lake Argyle Dam (S16° 07´ 05" E128° 44´ 06") - The picnic area (when quiet) is a good area for Pheasant Coucal, Great Bowerbird and some bush birds such as Red-winged Parrot, Northern Rosella, Silver-crowned Friarbird, etc. Purple-crowned Fairy-wren has been recorded in the typha reeds below but this is a long shot. I have seen White-browed Crake in the reeds. You can usually see freshwater crocodiles in the river below.
2. WA/NT Border And East Side Of Lake Argyle
WA/NT Border - You will find some common bush birds such as Weebill, finches, honeyeaters, etc. There is always a small chance of seeing something unusual for WA, but otherwise it is not worth a special trip.
Duncan Highway - The Duncan Highway is a dirt road that leads south from the Victoria Highway just to the west of Golden Gate Creek (S15° 59´ 31" E128° 58´ 31"). This is 4WD country. I have never been along the old road to Halls Creek but I have heard that there is good birding. There is access to the eastern shores of Lake Argyle, but access is probably easier by boat. Yellow Chat, waterbirds and waders would again be the main attractions, although the sighting of rare WA species would also be a good chance.
Thompsons Spring - From the Victoria Highway, drive 3.3km south along the Duncan Highway, and then turn right and follow the rough track for 3.3km to the springs. Along the track look out for Pictorella Mannikin, Gouldian Finch, Jacky Winter, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Little Button-quail, Grey Butcherbird, etc.
Newry Station (08 9167 8823) - You must contact the station for permission. From the old Duncan Highway, you can get access to good areas along the north east shore of Lake Argyle where Yellow Chat is an excellent chance. You should also see waterbirds, waders (especially in the wet season) and raptors. Gouldian Finch breeds on the station, and Pictorella Mannikin is also a good chance. Because it straddles the border, there are good chances for rare WA sightings such as Apostlebird, Dusky Honeyeater, Forest Kingfisher, etc.
3. Lake Kununurra And Ord River
Lake Kununurra Boat Cruise - Triple J Tours (08 9168 2682) operate morning boat trips. I havent taken this trip but it has been highly recommended. The trip visits the edge of the lake (egret colony, White-browed Crake, Comb-crested Jacana), the entrance to Packsaddle Swamp (Azure Kingfisher, Yellow Oriole, flying fox colony) and the entrance to Lily Creek Lagoon (Little Bittern, Little Grassbird). You could expect to see about 60 to 70 species in 2 to 3 hours. Red Goshawk is also a long shot as is Yellow Bittern which was reported in October 1999.
Lake Kununurra to Lake Argyle River Trip - The half day boat trip along the Ord River is good but not aimed very much at birding. You could expect to see about 50 to 60 species. Triple J Tours operate these trips and with enough people would modify it to highlight the birds. Jim Gardner is a keen birder who used to work at the Lake Argyle Homestead and who now works at the Kununurra Hotel (018 938 530 or 08 9168 1344) and he might be able to recommend the best locations. There are some side creeks (Stonewall and Coolamon) that lead to everglade swamp areas (waterbirds), grass areas suitable for quail and areas of semi rainforest (Shining Flycatcher, Yellow Oriole, White-browed Robin, Emerald Dove, Green-backed Gerygone and possibly Rainbow Pitta, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove). There would be small chances of Red Goshawk and Purple-crowned Fairy-wren. There is a vast amount of typha reeds along the river where White-browed Crake is very common and Little Bittern and Black Bittern would be possible. You should also see a flying fox colony and Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby.
Diversion Dam (S15° 47´ 34" E128° 41´ 49") - There are nearly always Australian Pelican, Darter and cormorants (including Pied and Great) on the rocks below the dam. If there are floating lilies or weeds on the far side of the lake, there are Comb-crested Jacana, Pied Heron and White-browed Crake. Freshwater crocodiles can usually be seen also. There are usually raptors flying over the lake such as Whistling Kite, Osprey, White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Brahminy Kite.
Boat Launching Ramp (S15° 47´ 31" E128° 42´ 00") - This is on the Kununurra side very near the diversion dam. This is a good site for Mistletoebird, honeyeaters (such as White-gaped), White-breasted Woodswallow, cormorants, Sacred Kingfisher, Pheasant Coucal, and sometimes Yellow Oriole and White-browed Robin. Brush Cuckoo and Common Koel are quite likely in the wet season. This site is best early in the morning before other people arrive.
Macka's Barra Camp (Andrew McEwen 08 9169 1759) - I haven't been here, but it is a camp on the lower Ord River below Ivanhoe Crossing. They advertise birding as a highlight and could provide access to excellent areas along the lower Ord River.
4. Locations Close To Kununurra (Post Office S15° 46´ 25" E128° 44´ 17")
Kimberleyland Caravan Park (08 9168 1280) - This is a good place to camp. It is situated on the edge of Lily Creek Lagoon very close to town. Unfortunately, the local business committee is trying to eradicate the typha reeds and to create a swimming area, so the birding future of the lagoon is doubtful. The lagoon is the best site to see Green Pygmy-goose, Comb-crested Jacana and is good for White-browed Crake, Osprey (nesting on top of a dead tree) and terns. The caravan park attracts good numbers of finches including Star Finch, and Yellow-rumped Mannikin (usually in the company of Chestnut-breasted Mannikin) would be a chance. In January 1995, we found several Oriental Reed-warblers (pink rather than yellow mouth, slightly bigger, different call) in the reeds especially at the ramp near the Celebrity Tree Park (S15° 47´ 11" E128° 44´ 15"). They can be attracted by pishing. I couldnt find them in August so they are probably summer migrants rather than residents. I have seen Striated Pardalote nesting in the earth banks of the Celebrity Tree Park, and a variety of honeyeaters can be seen here. I also saw my first Frilled Lizard in the park.
Entrance to Lily Creek Lagoon - Heading from town, you pass the road on the right to Ivanhoe Crossing, and within 100 metres on the left there is a gravel road which leads to the edge of Lake Kununurra (S15° 47´ 42" E128° 43´ 42"). Follow this road for about 900 metres, and then follow a rough dirt track on the left for 500 metres. This track can get overgrown if no one is using it. This brings you to the edge of the channel between Lily Creek Lagoon and Lake Kununurra. White-browed Robin is fairly common, and I have seen White-browed Crake, Yellow Oriole, White-throated Honeyeater and a Black Bittern here. A Red Goshawk has been reported very near here, and Little Bittern would be a good chance especially early in the morning. I have also seen a Frilled Lizard cross the track.
Kona Caravan Park (08 9168 1031) (S15° 47´ 29" E128° 43´ 15") - This is probably the best place to camp or to stay in an air conditioned cabin. It is slightly further from town and is situated on the edge of Lake Kununurra near the golf course and the start of the main irrigation channel. White-browed Robin is resident along with Yellow Oriole and Olive-backed Oriole, Black-chinned (Golden-backed race) Honeyeater and Brush Cuckoo. White-browed Crake can best be seen in the small inlet near the car park. Little Bittern can be seen on the edge of the typha reeds in the swamp on the right of the main road as you approach the park. Zitting Cisticola (look for the white tip of the tail and different call) are a chance in the grass near the irrigation channel (S15° 47´ 31" E128° 43´ 06") amongst the numerous Golden-headed Cisticola. Dollarbird is common in the wet season, and Common Koel and Channel-billed Cuckoo are possible. If you walk around Kona and the golf course you should find 50 to 80 species (depending on the season) in about 3 to 4 hours.
Kununurra Golf Course - This provides excellent birding especially in the wet season, but ask permission if there are golfers using the course. The tall trees near the clubhouse (S15° 47´ 31" E128° 43´ 00") and the first tee usually contains White-browed Robin and Yellow Oriole, and Blue-faced Honeyeater is a good chance. The swamps are good for White-browed Crake, Crimson Finch, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, a few waders (including Gallinago sp. snipe in the wet season) and waterbirds, and a chance for Black Bittern and a few terns. The trees along the edge of Lake Kununurra are a chance for Channel-billed Cuckoo. The fairways especially near the club house are a good chance for Yellow Wagtail in the wet season. The eucalypt woodland around and near the golf course is good for finches (including a fair chance of Yellow-rumped Mannikin and a small chance of Pictorella Mannikin), honeyeaters (including Banded), White-winged Triller, Grey-crowned Babbler, Tawny Frogmouth, and possibly Black-tailed Treecreeper and Red-browed Pardalote. In the wet season, Dollarbird and Common Koel are quite common. A good selection of raptors pass overhead. Bransbury mentions the rank grass as a possible site for Red-backed Button-quail but I think it is a long shot.
Main Irrigation Channel - The irrigation channel between Lake Kununurra near the golf course and the highway is a good location for a few waders and waterbirds, and Yellow-rumped Mannikin is possible. Dollarbird and Sacred Kingfisher are common on the power lines at the right time of year.
Kununurra Sewage Ponds (S15° 46´ 43" E128° 43´ 45") - The sewage ponds are located between Ivanhoe Road and the irrigation channel about 500 metres from the highway. There is no access inside the fence, but everything can be seen by walking around the fence. There are always large numbers of waterbirds such as Magpie Goose, Glossy Ibis (and Australian White and Straw-necked), Radjah Shelduck, Wandering Whistling-Duck (and other ducks), Pied Heron, Red-kneed Dotterel, Masked Lapwing and possibly some terns (Gull-billed, Whiskered and Caspian). In the wet season there are usually a few migratory waders. It is worth walking around the fence and nearby bush looking for bush birds such as finches (including Star), Golden-headed Cisticola (and possibly Zitting), Tree Martin and Fairy Martin, Rufous Songlark (more common in the wet season), Red-backed Fairy-wren and Red-backed Kingfisher. Walking through the grass, you are likely to flush Brown Quail and Little Button-quail, and Red-chested Button-quail in the wet season.
Hidden Valley National Park - This is a good site for White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Northern Rosella and a good chance of Peregrine Falcon, plus more common birds such as Weebill, honeyeaters, Pied Butcherbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, doves, etc. Follow the marked trails and look on the rock faces and side gullies. Take water for the longer walk.
5. Weaber Plains
Ivanhoe Road - The power lines along the side of the road are good for raptors such as Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Black Kite and Black-shouldered Kite. A Grey Falcon has been seen along the road. The grass along the road is usually good for Singing Bushlark, Golden-headed Cisticola and finches including Yellow-rumped Mannikin. The corner of Riverfarm Road (S15° 43´ 29" E128° 42´ 28") with the melon farm and corn field is usually the best site. The ploughed fields usually have Black Kites above, and sometimes Australian Bustard and Australian Pratincole. When you go straight ahead towards Ivanhoe Crossing (the road is unsealed), there can be large numbers of Magpie Geese, Straw-necked Ibis, Brolga and Cattle Egret if the fields are irrigated. This is a likely area for spotlighting Grass Owl. I have seen two possible Grass Owls between the irrigation channel and Riverfarm Road.
Riverfarm Road - At one point the road turns to the left, but if you go straight ahead you follow a dirt track along an irrigation channel (S15° 43´ 19" E128° 41´ 47"). This can be a good area for finches (including Yellow-rumped Mannikin) and a few waterbirds. There are a couple of farm dams on the left also. If you continue along Riverfarm Road you pass a wooded area and end near a farm. There is probably a way down to the Ord River here but I have never found it. You can find a variety of bush birds along the road and in the woodland.
Ivanhoe Crossing (S15° 41´ 21" E128° 41´ 18") - This is fairly noisy because of the flowing water, and there can be disturbance from quite a few people. There usually arent many birds but there is often one or two different species. There is an area of closed forest along the river. You should find some finches, honeyeaters, White-throated Gerygone, raptors, etc and you might find something interesting such as owls, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, cuckoos, etc. We possibly saw an Oriental Cuckoo in January 1995. There are a few waterbirds below the dam and near the typha reeds. They are unlikely but keep an eye out for saltwater crocodiles.
Research Station - It can be an incredible sight (more often in the late afternoon as they return to roost) with as many as 50,000 birds on the banks of the Ord River below the research station. However with more water being released down the river this area is starting to get clogged by typha reeds. Follow the turnoff to the research station, take the first left and go straight ahead between the sheds (S15° 39´ 17" E128° 42´ 25"). The big numbers are Magpie Goose, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Plumed Whistling-Duck and Little Corella. There are usually also other waterbirds and often a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. There are often bush birds along the bank including Sacred and Red-backed Kingfisher, finches, Black-faced and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Pheasant Coucal and in the wet season Common Koel and Dollarbird. Along the road in, there can be a variety of birds especially if there is some water in the shallow drain, and if the fields are irrigated there can be a few waterbirds and migratory waders. The pond at the end of the road in can have a few waterbirds and the possibility of raptors such as Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk. I have seen Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook along the road while spotlighting.
Swamp Between Dairy Farm and Research Station - There is a small permanent swamp on the left side of the road over the embankment as you drive from the Dairy Farm towards the research station turnoff. The water level can change greatly which affects the species. It can have a good variety of waterbirds including Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbill, a few ducks including Radjah Shelduck, egrets and if the water level is low there can be migratory waders. Nearby along the road and in the sugar cane and corn crops there can be a variety of finches (including Yellow-rumped Mannikin) and on the power lines there are often raptors including Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Spotted Harrier and Black-shouldered Kite.
Weaber Plains Road - This road starts in Kununurra as Ironwood Drive and goes for about 20km from the Hidden Valley turnoff past the co-op, sugar mill, Stock Route Cafe until it crosses the irrigation channel and comes to an end at a T junction. You will find a good variety of raptors including Brown Falcon, harriers, Australian Hobby, etc. The corn crops often have good numbers of finches. There is nearly always a flock of Little Corella at the co-op plus finches can usually be found in scrub nearby. There are a couple of seepage pools on the left side of the road near the sugar mill. These pools often have a few waterbirds (including Yellow-billed Spoonbill) and waders plus finches come in to drink. We spotlighted a Barn Owl at the lukina crop near the seepage pools. The growing of sugar cane should improve the chances for finding owls (including Grass Owl). I once saw about 300 Brolga near the end of the road in a ploughed irrigated field. where you also have good chances of finding Australian Bustard, Australian Pratincole and often large numbers of Little Corella. The irrigation channel at the end of the road usually has a few waterbirds such as Intermediate Egret, White-necked Heron and Pied Heron and sometimes some ducks and waders.
Carlton Hill Road - At the end of Weaber Plains Road you turn left after crossing the channel. The gravel road goes for about 4.2km to another T Junction with Carlton Hill Station on the left. Close to the start of the road there is a cattle yard at the corner of Cave Springs Road which usually has a few birds. Along the road you can usually find finches in the grass and sometimes Australian Bustard and quail (mainly Brown Quail). At the end of the road there is an irrigation channel which is a good site for Star Finch and Yellow-rumped Mannikin where there is typha growing plus a few waterbirds. Across the road from the T junction there are irrigated fields where I once saw about 500 Brolga come in to roost late in the day. Although they are fairly common, it is unusual to come across a snake, but I did see a Black Whip Snake cross the road near here.
6. Packsaddle Plains
Packsaddle Road - This is the main road on the left as you cross over the diversion dam. Look for finches, raptors, kingfishers, Singing Bushlark, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, etc along the road. If you walk through the grass along the road, there is a good chance of flushing Brown Quail, Little Button-quail and especially in the wet season Red-chested Button-quail. Flocks of Oriental Pratincole feed on the ploughed fields in the wet season, and Australian Bustard and Australian Pratincole are fairly common. The old crops can sometimes be filled with birds such as White-winged Triller, finches, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike (I saw a flock of at least 50 once), etc. The power lines as usual often have raptors, kingfishers, doves, Crested Pigeon, etc. There are a couple of areas on farms that when wet have Cattle Egret, Straw-necked Ibis, Wandering Whistling-Duck, etc. One area is at the Zebra Rock Gallery where you can also get down to the edge of Lake Kununurra where you might find something different. I have seen a Barn Owl in a dead tree beside the road while spotlighting.
Packsaddle Springs - There are dirt tracks around the irrigated fields and along the irrigation channels, but you are requested not to go on them if possible as the dust can affect the crops and the tracks are usually impassable even to 4WDs if they are wet. About 11km from the start of Packsaddle Road there is a sweeping left bend and on the right there is a track across the irrigation channel. If you reach Manbaro Lt 542 on the left you have gone too far. Follow the track for 500 metres to a T junction and turn left and follow the fence for 900 metres where you turn right. This is definitely a 4WD track as you cross a muddy irrigation drain and then turn right when you meet a track. After about 2.6km you reach a Y junction. You can follow the right track, crossing the creek, passing a few (unoccupied?) aboriginal houses and then park when you reach the creek. Otherwise, you can follow the left track parallel to the creek along a rough track as far as you feel comfortable (I stopped after 1.3km) and then walk along the creek lined with tall melaleucas. I found Spinifex Pigeon and a Common Bronzewing where I stopped. Along the creek in the melaleucas, I have seen less common species such as Northern Rosella, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Black-chinned (Golden-backed) Honeyeater, Grey Butcherbird, Leaden Flycatcher, Northern Fantail and Pacific Baza. Follow the left side of the creek along the gully. Alternatively, you can walk up one of the rough tracks up the hill until you are looking down on the creek, and then climb down and follow the creek back to where you parked. You can follow the creek and pools for a long way. The gully along the creek is an excellent site for White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Variegated Fairy-wren, White-throated Honeyeater, finches and possibly Sandstone Shrike-thrush on the rock face. Take your bathers as there are several pools that are good for swimming even late in the dry season.
7. West Of Kununurra
Lions Club Park (S15° 47´ 23" E128° 41´ 37") - There is a road down to the river behind the tourist information bay. Forest Kingfisher has been reported here, but I have not confirmed it. A good chance of a variety of species such as honeyeaters (including Yellow-tinted), finches coming down to drink, White-bellied Sea-Eagle and in the wet season Channel-billed Cuckoo. This is a popular location so it is best visited early in the morning.
Ord River / Dunham River Junction (S15° 46´ 30" E128° 41´ 16") - There is a dirt track along the Ord River leading from the road to the Lions Club Park. I have seen Shining Flycatcher, White-browed Robin and Yellow Oriole there. I know that Red Goshawk breeds somewhere along the Dunham River so this is always a chance.
Flying Fox Waterhole - I havent been there, but about 100 metres before the Dunham River bridge there is a dirt road to the left. If you follow this for about 13km it leads to a crossing of the Dunham River with a nearby waterhole. I followed the road for about 2km. The road is very rough and very much 4WD country.
Dunham River Bridge (S15° 47´ 14" E128° 40´ 50") - Sitting on the side of the bridge I have seen uncommon species such as Azure Kingfisher, Black Bittern, Shining Flycatcher and Bar-breasted Honeyeater, plus more common species such as Restless Flycatcher, Pheasant Coucal and White-throated Gerygone. I have also seen a large water monitor, plus freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. There is a rough track (park here) along the river on the Kununurra side that leads to the tall trees where Blue-winged Kookaburra are common plus Dollarbird in the wet season. You can drive down on to the rocks on the other side and walk along the river bank (keep an eye out for crocodiles). You should see the previous species plus maybe Yellow Oriole, White-browed Robin, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, finches, etc. I wouldnt be surprised if Channel-billed Cuckoo, Red Goshawk or possibly Rose-crowned Fruit-dove were seen.
Dunham River Boat Ramp (S15° 46´ 46" E128° 41´ 03") - The first track on the right past the bridge leads down to a boat ramp on the Dunham River where the power lines cross the river. You should find White-browed Robin if you walk along the river bank on the left. There is a good chance for the species mentioned at the previous few locations.
Parking Bay (12km from Kununurra) (S15° 46´ 03" E128° 39´ 20") - This rest stop is on the left. If you walk towards the breakaway, there is a pool that usually has water where birds can come in to drink. The hill side could be suitable for Chestnut-backed Button-quail although I have yet to see this species. Across the road, there is some open woodland where Jacky Winter, Red-browed Pardalote and Singing Honeyeater can be found.
Valentine Springs - This road (signposted on the right not far past the parking bay) is usually corrugated but doesnt need a 4WD. There are usually a variety of birds that come into drink at the series of pools including Spinifex Pigeon. There is good grassland and woodland along the road that could have something of interest. I have seen Pictorella Mannikin very near the highway. If you follow the road for another 10km you reach a T junction which leads to Black Rock Falls on the left and Ivanhoe Crossing on the right.
Black Rock Pool - About 2.5km from the T Junction there is a 4WD track to the left which leads to a permanent waterhole. It is a fairly popular swimming spot in the wet season (no crocodiles!) and I have been told that it is quite good for birds. I saw Northern Fantail and Grey Butcherbird but White-quilled Rock-Pigeon and Sandstone Shrike-thrush should also occur. You can follow the road for about 3km further before you reach the Noogoora Burr Quarantine Area. A Red Goshawk has been reported hunting in woodland in this area.
Middle Springs - This turnoff is located between the T junction and the turnoff to Black Rock Falls. There is a nice waterhole where I saw White-throated Honeyeater, White-quilled Rock-Pigeon and Grey Butcherbird.
Old Station Billabong - This is just over 1km from the T junction towards Ivanhoe Crossing just past a side track with a gate. It is located about 100 metres from the road on the other side of a fence just as you enter an area of open grass plain. This has been recommended to me as excellent location for waterbirds and a chance for Yellow Chat. I visited there in the dry season and there were a scattering of waterbirds plus a few Wood Sandpiper. It would be well worth a look in the wet season. You can continue another 3km to Ivanhoe Crossing which you can drive across in 4WD if you dont mind getting your car wet.
8. Carlton Hill Station & Keep River
Carlton Hill Station (08 9168 7880) - This is a very large cattle station. You should ring the station for permission to use the 4WD dirt roads (especially if you want to camp at Brolga Springs) although most people dont. Apart from the possible locations below, there are likely to be good birding areas on the station such as artesian bores, access to the banks of the Ord River and breakaway country. Access is impossible during the wet season due to the black soil plains.
Road to Cape Domett - Starting from the corner of Ironwood Drive and Leichardt Street, drive 19.8km to the end of Weaber Plains Road (the continuation of Ironwood), cross the channel and turn left. Follow this road for 4.2km (past the Cave Springs Road turn off) to a T junction. Turn left towards Carlton Hill Station for 3.1km until you reach a track on the right (there should be a 44 gallon drum on the corner). Reset your trip meter. In the next 5.6km you pass through 4 gates with a homestead on the left. The road past this point can be very good in places (up to 80kph) but it can be rough and there are many patches of bulldust. 22.5km from the start of the road you pass a dam and yards on the left. 39km from the start you cross a creek (Surprise Creek?) which probably will have water. At 47.1km there are yards and an aboriginal community and at 68.1km there are yards and a windmill on the right. At 73.3km you cross a double creek crossing. This is Tanmurra Creek. At 82km there is a cleared area on the right and a rough track that possibly leads to yards. At 83.8km you reach a fence and shortly after a gate and a windmill and tank on the left. At 92km you reach the edge of the saline coastal flats. Shortly after you reach a Y junction where you take the right fork and shortly after you follow a fence for about 1km. The fence surrounds Brolga Springs. We went about 9km further on before we turned around. The road is fairly rough past here.
Tanmurra Creek - This is about 110km north (about 2.5 hours) from Kununurra. There is a track to the left just after you cross the creek which leads 6.6km to the edge of Tanmurra Creek which is tidal and where there are extensive areas of mangroves. I saw the usual mangrove species including Large-billed Gerygone plus I flushed a large bat. Black Butcherbird has been reported here and it could be a location for Chestnut Rail, and possibly Rufous Fantail which has been recorded in mangroves between Wyndham and the NT border. There were a few waders along the creek including Eastern Curlew and Terek Sandpiper. This is a fairly popular place to launch dinghies to go fishing. It would be very interesting to access the area by boat. Beware of large crocodiles! The track is close to the creek in several places where it is non tidal and which could be very interesting if there is still water in the pools. We saw several Common Bronzewing in the area.
Brolga Springs - This is about 125km north (about 3 hours) from Kununurra on the edge of the saline coastal flats near Cape Domett. When you get to the fence, drive to the far corner, turn left and follow the fence to the next corner. Nearby there are some old buildings. There is an extensive wetland fed by several springs in a small area of semi rainforest. In the semi rainforest I saw Northern Fantail, Olive-backed Oriole, Southern Boobook, Collared Sparrowhawk, White-throated Gerygone, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, etc plus two Common Tree Snakes. There appear to be freshwater crab holes in the ground near the water. A Cicadabird and a probable Lemon-bellied Flycatcher have also been seen. The wetland had a good variety of waterbirds including Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Comb-crested Jacana, Radjah Shelduck, Brolga, a few migratory waders, etc plus raptors such as Brahminy Kite, Swamp Harrier, Whistling Kite and Brown Falcon. The open woodland also has a good variety of species. You could expect to see 40 to 60 species in a couple of hours. It would be a good place to camp so that you can be out birding early in the morning, but ask for permission from Carlton Hill Station.
Cape Domett - You cant drive all the way to the cape but you can continue for about another 20km past Brolga Springs where you reach a small tidal creek on the coast. I havent been there but I know that it is a popular place for launching a dinghy to go fishing around the coast. There are tidal mud flats that could be suitable for migratory waders.
Cave Springs Road / Keep River Road - At the end of the sealed section of Weaber Plains Road, you cross the irrigation channel, turn left and then right on Cave Springs Road at the stockyards on the corner. The first section passes an irrigation area on the right that can be good for finches, Brolga, Australian Bustard, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike (I saw a flock of 25 in August 1995), etc. As you cross the cattle grid there is bush to your left between the road and an irrigation channel that can have a good variety of bush birds. About 16km from the start of Cave Springs Road you cross an irrigation channel and shortly after follow the road around a corner to the left. There is a good area of woodland here that can have a good variety of bush birds including Collared Sparrowhawk, Olive-backed Oriole, White-throated Gerygone, etc. The road continues to the WA/NT border and on to Legune and Spirit Hill Stations and the Keep River. From about 24km from the start, large parts of the road are black soil and impassable during the wet season.
Point Springs Nature Reserve - About 25km from the start of Cave Springs Road there is a sign warning of crocodiles. A few metres before the sign there is a very rough track for 5.5km across the black soil plain. At the T junction turn left for nearly 2km to reach the nature reserve. This is a small area of rainforest. Not far from the edge it is very boggy. You can walk along the front of the rainforest, or work your way along the bottom of the ridge at the back starting on the right. Beware of the burrs that cover your clothes (dont wear socks!). I have been there twice and seen my first Green-backed Gerygone, plus Northern Fantail, Leaden Flycatcher, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and a colony of flying foxes. I believe that Rufous Owl has been recorded there. Cicadabird, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and Dusky Honeyeater might also be chances.
Sorby Mining Camp - About 7.5km past the crocodile warning sign there is a cattle grid. Just before the cattle grid is a track to the right which leads about 0.8km to an old BHP Utah Minerals mining exploration camp. There are a lot of cattle in the area which keeps the grass low and makes the woodland easy to walk through. I flushed a Bush Stone-Curlew and saw Silver-crowned Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, White-throated Gerygone, etc. Being very near the border, there could be a chance of WA rarities such as Forest Kingfisher, Dusky Honeyeater, (Northern) Crested Shrike-tit, Apostlebird, etc.
WA/NT Border - About 4km past the cattle grid near the mining camp there is another cattle grid which is on the WA/NT border. There is a Y junction just past the grid that leads to Legune Station on the left and Spirit Hill Station on the right. Also, on the track to Point Springs, you can turn right at the T junction (instead of left to Point Springs) and follow the ridge for about 14km to the border although it gets fairly sandy after about 5km. Over the border, I have been told that there are excellent birding (and fishing) areas along the Keep River (ask the local for more directions) but dont swim because of crocodiles.
9. Kununurra to Kingston Rest Station
Pumpkin Springs (S15° 48´ 34" E128° 30´ 07") - It is located about 27km from Kununurra (about 300 metres before Yearling Creek). There is a high round hill (known locally as Pumpkin Hill after an aborigine) not far from the road on the right just before you reach Yearling Creek. About 200 metres from the road on the left there is a small patch of pandanus palms surrounded by a fence. There is usually a rough track most of the way but the area can be overgrown. The spring is a permanent water seepage which attracts finches (including Gouldian Finch and Pictorella Mannikin), doves, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, honeyeaters, Spinifex Pigeon, etc especially in the dry season when water is not so plentiful. I have also seen Black-tailed Treecreeper there.
Molly Springs (S15° 47´ 53" E128° 28´ 36") - About 1.3km past Yearling Creek (before Weaner Creek) there is a gravel road off to the right made by a mining exploration company. This goes 1.9km to about half way to the line of hills. Keep going about 0.7km along the 4WD dirt track to the base of the hills. There is a pool near where you park created by a small dam. If you follow the gully you come to a pool fed by a waterfall which was still running strongly in September 1995. If you climb above the waterfall on the right there are several permanent pools of water further up the gully which are visited (especially very early in the morning during the dry season) by finches (including Gouldian), White-quilled Rock-Pigeon and doves, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, honeyeaters, etc. I have also seen Northern Fantail and Leaden Flycatcher. The grassy woodland along the road in is quite good for bush birds such as finches (including Pictorella Mannikin), Northern Rosella, Brown Quail, Little Button-quail, etc.
Halls Creek Turnoff to Kingston Rest Station - It is about 45km from Kununurra to the Halls Creek / Broome etc turnoff. The 25km to Kingston Rest station is quite different to most other habitat near Kununurra with more dry spinifex country species such as Red-browed Pardalote, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Varied Lorikeet, Pallid Cuckoo, Horsfields Bronze-Cuckoo, Brown Quail, Brown and Rufous Songlark, etc. We stopped with a water course below on the left, and stony spinifex covered slopes on the right. There could possibly also be Chestnut-backed Button-quail.
Kingston Rest Station (08 9168 7878 S16° 02´ 24" E128° 24´ 56") - Ring Alan or Caroline Coate for permission. They have a small camping area on the edge of their diversion dam. This is an irrigated farm fed from a large pilot dam to a diversion dam. The diversion dam is good for a variety of waterbirds including Comb-crested Jacana, Green Pygmy-Goose, etc plus Azure Kingfisher and many bush birds. I also saw a bird that resembled an Oriental Cuckoo but I didnt get a good enough look to be certain, and the melaleuca thickets look excellent habitat for a possible Pacific Baza. You can walk several kilometres up the creek that feeds the diversion dam until you reach the main dam. This is highly recommended for waterbirds, waders, etc. You can walk back along the creek to the homestead where you can find Northern Fantail, White-throated Honeyeater, etc and possibly Black Bittern. In the wet season, you can find Dollarbird, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Common Koel, etc. Across the road from the homestead is a sizable plain area where finches are very common in the dry season including large flocks of Pictorella Mannikin. There is an irrigated lukina crop which is excellent. In January 1995 we found a Yellow-rumped Mannikin, a pair of King Quail, several Red-chested Button-quail and Brown Quail. The wet grass could well have Red-backed Button-quail also. A kilometre or so behind the lukina is the Dunham River. We didnt find much there but it was very hot and could be a good spot. There is a billabong that we didnt visit which is supposed to be good for waterbirds. Late in 1994, they created a dam to catch the water after irrigation. This is a large flooded area of trees, grass and muddy shores. In January 1995, we found a variety of waders including Little Curlew and Wood Sandpiper, and in September 1995 we found two small groups of Oriental Plover. It will only improve as time goes on. There is an area of typha nearby that could have something of interest such as crakes if cattle have not trampled it.
For information about Kununurra see Bill Hasted's Kununurra & East Kimberley. Also see the Birds Australia WA series of bird guide brochures including Kununurra.
Kununurra / Wyndham Bird List (Microsoft Word 95) (31KB)
Kununurra Tourist Bureau, Coolibah Drive (08 9168 1177).
Department of Conservation & Land Management, Konkerberry Drive (08 9168 0200).
|© Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002||Visits||Last Modified 31st January 2002|