August 2003 - Gibson Desert Landscope Expedition

In August 2003 (early morning 11th to late afternoon 24th) I participated in a Landscope Expeditions trip to the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve in central Western Australia.  There were 16 participants altogether including Graeme Liddelow and Bruce Ward from CALM Manjimup who led the trip, and Tom Bragg from the USA who was studying the vegetation and the effects of fire.  Since 1988 they have been studying the effects of fire in the reserve, and the control of feral cats and predators with the use of aerial baiting.  They have developed a set of 300 pit traps to monitor the numbers of mammals and reptiles in the baited and unbaited areas of the reserve.  They also check the tracks for cat tracks.

The trip left Perth and went via Wubin, Payne's Find and Sandstone to the Lake Mason Station (which CALM have purchased) where we stayed overnight in the old homestead.  From there, we went via Wiluna and the Gunbarrel Highway to Carnegie Station where we stayed the second night in the station accommodation.  From Carnegie we continued east on the Gunbarrel Highway, and turned north past the Mungilli Outstation to the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve and to the Eagle Bore Research Station where we camped for eight nights.

We returned to Carnegie Station where we again stayed overnight.  From Carnegie we went to Lorna Glen Station (which CALM have purchased) where we stayed in the old homestead.  I hope to return to Lorna Glen Station on a future Landscope Expedition.  From Lorna Glen, we went via Wiluna, Meekatharra, Cue and Mt Magnet to Burnerbinmah Station (which CALM have bought) for the last night where we stayed in the shearing shed.  On the last day we travelled west to the Payne's Find to Yalgoo Road, then headed to Payne's Find, Wubin, Dalwalinnu and from there to Goomalling, Toodyay and Perth.

Birds of The Gibson Desert Nature Reserve

There was a total of 55 bird species seen in the Gibson Desert during the trip.  This is low compared to some previous trips because of the generally dry conditions.  The highlights were two new birds for the park list – Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush and Splendid Fairy-wren.  Other excellent sightings included Inland Dotterel, Bourke’s Parrot and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo.  I completed 80 Atlas bird surveys for the entire trip, including 45 surveys in the Gibson Desert.  This is a very poorly atlassed area.

Emu – One bird seen at the end of the southern track on the west side.

Whistling Kite – One bird reported on the eastern side.

Spotted Harrier – One adult seen on the open plain returning from the Young Ranges.

Wedge-tailed Eagle – Several seen across the reserve.  A nest seen in the western side was not being used.

Brown Falcon – At least ten seen but mostly in the first couple of days, possibly indicating some passage movement south.

Nankeen Kestrel – Seen twice between the Eagle Bore Camp and Eagle Bore, and at least one on the way to the Young Ranges.

Australian Bustard – Three seen on the way to the Young Ranges.

Little Button-quail – Several sightings in the western side of the reserve and on the way to the Young Ranges.

Inland Dotterel – Three seen on the open plain on the way to the Young Ranges.

Galah – Several seen across the reserve.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo – Five seen on the eastern side, and three seen on the edge of the mulga returning from the mulga regeneration expedition.

Australian Ringneck – Pairs seen fairly often at a number of sites.

Budgerigar – Six reported in the eastern side, and at least two seen at the Eagle Bore Camp one morning.

Bourke’s Parrot – Two or three seen four times at the end of the southern track on the western side.

Pallid Cuckoo – One heard along the southern track on the western side.

Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo – One heard and one seen north of the camp between the camp and the first trap line on the eastern side.

Tawny Frogmouth – One heard on five nights at the Eagle Bore Camp.

Australian Owlet-nightjar – One heard one night at the Eagle Bore Camp.

Red-backed Kingfisher – Fairly common throughout the reserve (except on open plains), with one possibly breeding in a termite mound on the south track between Eagle Bore and the national park sign.  One resident at the Eagle Bore Camp.

Splendid Fairy-wren – One male in partial breeding plumage and four females seen along at the creek crossing on Brain Street north of the national park sign.  This is the first record for the reserve.

Variegated Fairy-wren – Common throughout the reserve except on open plains.

White-winged Fairy-wren – Common in much of the reserve.

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill – Small parties seen three or four times in different parts of the reserve.  Far less common than I had expected.

Southern Whiteface – Four seen with the Splendid Fairy-wrens north of the national park sign, and at least two seen where we looked for signs of Bilbies at the Gary Highway.  Far less common than I had expected.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater – One seen and a few heard mainly in the western side of the reserve where individual hakeas were flowering.

Yellow-throated Miner – Fairly common throughout the reserve in small numbers.

Singing Honeyeater – Very common throughout the reserve except on the open plains.

White-plumed Honeyeater – Common in many parts of the reserve in small numbers.

Pied Honeyeater – One seen by Mike where we looked for signs of Bilbies at the Gary Highway.

Crimson Chat – A few reported along the trap lines and two groups seen on the way to the Young Ranges.

Red-capped Robin – One reported west of the camp by the vegetation team, and one heard where the Bourke’s Parrots were seen.

Hooded Robin – Fairly common in the reserve including one near the generator at the camp.

Grey-crowned Babbler – One group reported along the southern track on the western side.  There may have been more seen that I didn’t hear of.

White-browed Babbler – One group reported west of the camp by the vegetation team, and five seen where we looked for Bilbies on the Gary Highway.

Chiming Wedgebill – Heard throughout the reserve except on the open plains.  A few seen.

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush – A pair seen 8.3km west of the national park sign on the southern track on the western side.  This is a new species for the nature reserve, although it should be more common that Chestnut Quail-thrush and Cinnamon Quail-thrush which have previously been recorded.  I strongly consider the latter species to be very doubtful.

Crested Bellbird – Heard throughout the reserve except on the open plains.

Rufous Whistler – Seen or heard in a few places throughout the reserve.

Grey Shrike-thrush – Seen or heard on two places along the southern track on the western side.

Willie Wagtail – One or two common throughout most of the reserve.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike – Singles seen a few times at different sites.

White-winged Triller – One seen twice on the eastern side of the reserve near the camp.

Masked Woodswallow – Small flocks up to 30 seen flying four times, mostly on the eastern side of the reserve.

Black-faced Woodswallow – Very common throughout most of the reserve.

Little Woodswallow – Five seen along the southern track on the western side.

Pied Butcherbird – Fairly common in most of the reserve.

Australian Magpie – Uncommon except for a pair at the Eagle Bore Camp.

Little Crow – Uncommon.  Much less common than expected.

Richard’s Pipit – A few seen in the open areas including on the way to the Young Ranges.

Zebra Finch – A few reported on the eastern side of the reserve.

Mistletoebird – One heard at the Eagle Bore Camp, and two seen where we looked for Bilbies at the Gary Highway.

Tree Martin – One seen where the Bourke’s parrots were seen.

Spinifexbird – One reported on the eastern side.

Rufous Songlark – One seen in the western side of the reserve.

Brown Songlark – A few seen in the reserve, and fairly common on the way to the Young Ranges.

Reptiles Seen On The Trip

There were 27 species of reptiles identified on the trip, including two species seen outside the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve.  All species had previously been recorded in the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve.  The whipsnake is most likely an unnamed species.  I took photographs of the species marked with an asterisk.

*Ctenophorus isolepis gularis (Military Dragon) – Many caught in the pit traps including one killed by ants and taken to the WA Museum as a specimen R112170.

*Pogona minor minor (Dwarf Bearded Dragon) – One caught by Barbara Harvey.

*Diplodactylus conspicillatus (Fat-tailed Diplodactylus) – One caught in the pit traps.

*Diplodactylus stenodactylus – One caught in the pit traps.

*Nephrurus levis – One caught in the pit traps.

*Rhynchoedura ornata (Beaked Gecko) – One caught in the pit traps and two in the insect traps taken to the WA Museum as specimens R112171 and R112172.  Seen at Lorna Glen Station in the scrap yard.

Strophurus elderi (Jewelled Gecko) – One caught in the pit traps on the east side.  Not seen by me.

*Strophurus strophurus – One caught in the pit traps.

*Gehyra variegata (Tree Dtella) – Very common around the camp.  Found at Mungilli Outstation and Lorna Glen Station.

*Heteronotia binoei (Bynoe’s Gecko) – One found near the camp.  Common at Mungilli Outstation and very common at the scrap yard at Lorna Glen Station.

*Delma borea – Two caught in the pit traps.

*Delma haroldi – One caught in the pit traps.

*Delma nasuta – One found at Mungilli Outstation.  One fresh road kill found at the Young Ranges taken to the WA Museum as a specimen R112169.

*Lialis burtonis (Burton’s Snake-lizard) – One small one found trodden on at the camp.

*Ctenotus calurus – Several caught in the pit traps and one in the insect traps taken to the WA Museum as a specimen R112171.

*Ctenotus grandis grandis – One caught in the pit traps.

Ctenotus helenae – One caught in the pit traps, and several in the insect traps taken to the WA Museum as specimens R112174 to R112177.

*Ctenotus pantherinus ocellifer – Many caught in the pit traps.

*Cyclodomorphus melanops melanops – Two found at the Mungilli Outstation.

*Eremiascincus richardsonii (Broad-banded Sand Swimmer) – Two found at the camp.

*Menetia greyii – One caught in the pit traps.

Tiliqua multifasciata (Centralian Blue-tongued Lizard) – Several seen along the tracks.

Varanus brevicauda – One found at Mungilli Outstation.

Varanus eremius – One caught in the pit traps.  Not seen by me.

*Varanus tristis gularis (Black-headed Monitor) – A pair seen most days at the camp.

*Demansia ?calodera? (Black-necked Whipsnake) – One caught in a pit trap on the east side.  Taken to the WA Museum as a specimen R112678.  This is likely to become a separate species.

*Parasuta monachus (Hooded Snake or Monk Snake) – One found in the scrap yard at Lorna Glen Station.  Taken to the WA Museum as a specimen R112668.

Mammals of The Gibson Desert Nature Reserve

There were 15 species of mammals identified on the trip, including 6 introduced species.  I took photographs of the species marked with an asterisk.

*Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda) – One caught in the pit traps on the western side.  This is the first time this species has been found in the Gibson Desert since the current research began in 1988.

*Wongai Ningaui (Ningaui ridei) – Many caught in the pit traps.

*Fat-tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata) – One caught in the pit traps on the western side.

*Stripe-faced Dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura) – Two caught in the pit traps on the western side.

Ooldea Dunnart (Sminthopsis ooldea) – One caught in the pit traps on the eastern side.  Not seen by me.

Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) – Many seen along the tracks.

Euro (Macropus robustus) – At least one seen along the tracks.

*House Mouse (Mus musculus) – One caught in the pit traps on the western side.

*Desert Mouse (Pseudomys desertor) – One caught in the pit traps on the western side.

Sandy Inland Mouse (Pseudomys hermannsbergensis) – One caught in the pit traps, plus one half eaten by the Mulgara.  Not seen by me.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) – One track seen on the western side.

Dingo (Canus lupus dingo) – One seen at and near the camp.  Many other tracks seen.

House Cat (Felis catus) – Some tracks seen.

European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) – Many tracks seen on the western side.

One-humped Camel (Camelus dromedarius) – Several seen on the western side, and 12 seen on the way back from the Young Ranges.  Tracks seen throughout the reserve.

© Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2003 Visits Last Modified 11th September 2003