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News from Mount Isa

Rex Whitehead | Mount Isa Correspondent


Lake Moondarra is still quite full, and during some short trips I have seen plenty of remaining surface water in the outlying areas. Thus, the big flocks of waterbirds haven’t returned to Lake Moondarra as yet.


My birding partner and I have been doing some more spotlighting along some of the tracks in our area. This has enabled us to get more of the nocturnal birds such as Spotted Nightjars, Owlet Nightjars, Tawny Frogmouths, Southern Boobooks, and even Little Button-quail.


An Owlet-nightjar photographed during one of our spotlighting trips. Photo by Rex Whitehead.
A Southern Boobook also photographed on one of our spotlighting outings. Photo by Rex Whitehead.

A Black-shouldered Kite appears to have taken up residence here for a while. I see it most mornings when out with my dog.


The Black-shouldered Kite that’s here in Mount Isa, presumably for a while. Photo by Rex Whitehead.

Also, I see a pair of Red-backed Kingfishers on the same branch, of the same tree, most mornings. I have been able to get some good images of these birds too.


Red-backed Kingfisher on same branch of same tree, most mornings. Photo by Rex Whitehead.

Early last month, my wife said she saw a strange looking dove in our yard. She described it to me and I thought, “It couldn’t be”. Anyhow, a couple of days later, she said “That dove is back”. I went and had a look. Sure enough, it was a Spotted Dove. I was also able to get some images of it. This is the first time I have seen a Spotted Dove here in my 60 years in Mount Isa.


Spotted Dove – first time I have seen one in Mount Isa in my 60 years here. Photo by Rex Whitehead.

On a more sober note, I have recently been on a trip to the Gregory River, which I’m sure most of you know as a top birding location. The sight I saw was sheer devastation caused by the recent flooding.


I have included some images of the flood levels and flattened trees for you to absorb.


Damage from the severe floods of early 2023 – Gregory River region, Northern Qld. Photo by Rex Whitehead.
More flood damage, Gregory River region, Northern Qld. Note height of flood debris on the vegetation and the log carried there by the floods. Photo by Rex Whitehead.
Further flood damage – note the sand deposited by the floods. Photo by Rex Whitehead.

I only saw a small section, but there were dozens of large River Red Gums laid flat by the flow. This was hundreds of metres away from the river bank. In places, the debris would have been 9 metres above the ground level. Ground level here would have been about 6 metres above the normal river water level.


I thought of the many nesting hollows that would have been in these trees. The trees will grow again, but the nesting hollows won’t appear in a lifetime. If this is all along the Gregory and Nicholson River systems, along with the other rivers that flooded in the Gulf, recovery for some birds is a long way off.


I also thought about the Crimson Finches and Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens that make the Pandanus their homes, along with all the other small birds here. This was all under water, for weeks. So where did they go? Did they survive?


Then you have the property owners. Some have lost everything: all their stock, houses, other buildings and equipment. How do they recover? Or, will they recover? I heard that the small town of Urandangi, just south west of Mount Isa, was wiped out.


Then further south, there was the flooding of the Georgina River/Eyre Creek, which I believe was up to 30km wide. At time of writing, many roads are still closed in these areas, along with some of the Gulf Roads.

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