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2024 Grasswren surveys

Kath Shurcliff | Grasswren Project Leader

Call for Volunteers to Survey Grasswrens in Western Queensland – May 2024

Since 2008 BirdLife Northern Queensland has been monitoring Carpentarian and Kalkadoon Grasswrens across northwestern Queensland and eastern Northern Territory. We have now formed a partnership with Southern Gulf NRM to assist them in assessing the impact of their regional fire management plan on the populations of these grasswrens within the Carpentarian Corridor, which includes the key biodiversity areas of Boodjamulla National Park and the Buckley River. Each year we conduct systematic surveys in their core distribution areas, to establish a set of long-term monitoring sites to assess how well the species can cope with threats to their habitats.

Family group of Carpentarian Grasswrens. Photo by C Hirsch and J Seabright.
A pair of Kalkadoon Grasswrens. Photo by C Scott.

This year’s surveys will be especially important as widespread wildfires swept through some of our grasswren populations to the northwest of Mount Isa, last October / November. However, preliminary mapping and on-ground checks indicate there are unburnt refuge areas. Are these sufficient to maintain and then restore the populations of both species? Our surveys may go some way to answering that very question.

Fire scars on the 2023 surveys where we found Carpentarian Grasswrens. Photo by C Scott.

Our plan is to start the surveys in the second week of May, meeting on afternoon of 7 May at a location just northwest of Mount Isa. We will run surveys for two weeks, with training day on 8 May, so finishing up around 22 May.


Participants need to be self-sufficient and able to camp, supplying all their own food, water and fuel to spend 10–12 days in the bush, as no facilities are provided. They will also need a vehicle capable of handling station tracks – 4WD and high clearance. We need to be mobile as we cover numerous sites on several properties, so camping set-ups need to be simple and easily set up and taken down. We are able to reimburse participants’ fuel costs up to a limit of $1,000 per vehicle.

Some of the terrain we walk over to find the birds. Photo by D. Houghton.

You do not need to have any previous experience with grasswrens, as we supply training in the specific method we use for these surveys, and basic techniques in using a hand-held GPS to navigate to specific sites. But you will need to be able to spend several hours each morning, walking over hilly and often rocky terrain. Most importantly, you need to enjoy birding and spending time out in some beautiful parts of western Queensland!


If you think you can join us for this important year of monitoring, to assess the impact of the fires on our known grasswren sites, then please contact Kath Shurcliff at or on 0478 641 987. For those who are interested but without a suitable vehicle, let me know as we might have a spare seat or two in others’ vehicles.

Some of our 2022 volunteers at one of our favourite camping spots. Photo by L Skea.


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