I’ve just spent a fortnight ‘way out west’ in Queensland with around 30 others from Mapleton. I think there were 7 women, and the rest, including John, were the men from the Mapleton Mens Shed.
We packed the Avan and headed around 1000 kms west to Cunnumulla, then another 16 kms north-west to the Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary for 10 days voluntary work.
Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary sits astride the arid mulga lands and the floodplain for the Warrego River. In the past it was a sheep property, but is now destocked and run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. At present the 14,113 hectares is under the management of Tess and Mark McLaren.
The men went to do maintenance work and some of the women worked pretty solidly at it too. There were buildings to be repaired, fencing to be removed, decks and steps to be built, a new gate and a lot of signage to be made for the tracks.
I, of course, had my own ideas so packed my sketching gear, watercolours, a box for anything of interest that I might find, two cameras, binoculars, a bird book and my ukulele.
Others also had ideas and figured an artist would be just what they needed to paint the letters on a heap of direction signs. We had a cheapie set of Montmartre brushes so I picked out two of the better ones and hung on to them! The signs were supposed to be white with black letters – but our black paint went on like sump oil so other colours in ‘sample pots’ added some diversity.
There were some arty additions from the mens shed too. A rather delightful brolga and a new post box were pre-made at the Mapleton Mens Shed and travelled out to Bowra in a trailer.
Simon and Peter installing the Brolga near the old homestead, and the Postbox at the main gate.
The real attraction for me though was what the sanctuary was known for – bird watching. I’d taken the Nikon D800 and the Nikon Coolpix P900 with me – the former takes the better photos – but the latter had a 83x zoom so was more appropriate for bird pics. I even became fond of my monopod after having a love hate relationship with it and preferring to use it as a hiking stick. John took the tripod one day – and although it gave him our best shot (of a Black Shouldered Kite) it also was cumbersome where flightly little birds were concerned.
Fortunately the lagoon was close by, so at either sunrise or sunset I’d be over there. There had been rain so conditions were very good in the area, however in good times the birds can disperse and are not so reliant on the waterhole. Nevertheless, there were always birds there. I had been keen to see Major Mitchell Cockatoos but a quick flyover by just one meant that my photographic chance was gone. At night we would hear the eerie sound of the Bush Curlew, but never saw one.
I did see a couple of Little Corellas at the lagoon, but Cunnumulla was really the place to see them – heaps of them in the tree near the Information Centre. We went to the Anzac Day service in town, but the idea of a minutes silence is not something you can get across to a noisy corella!
There are 219 species of birds residing at Bowra, but I have a long way to go. Here are some of our favourite pics of the few that we did see and photograph, the ‘lagoon birds’ and Cunumulla’s Little Corellas.
And, who could resist a finch? Actually I saw three species of finches at Bowra. The Plum-necked Finch, the Zebra Finch and another that I haven’t identified yet.
Well, what happened to the planned sketching and watercolours – absolutely nothing! My sidetrack into bird photography was enjoyable and time consuming – maybe next time.