It’s nice, from time to time, to come across a bird that you haven’t seen before. When you first start birdwatching that is a frequent occurrence, even at the local park. As your list grows you eventually reach a stage where you can pick a few target species and join the dots to draw up an itinerary. This particular trip had just two avian dots. The first was the Eungella Honeyeater. It was once lumped with the Bridled Honeyeater but is isolated from it geographically and sufficiently different to earn a promotion. It is found only in the hills inland of MacKay in Queensland. Part of its range is protected in the Eungella National Park (which the locals pronounce Young-gella).
From Gundabooka to Eungella is a mere 1400 km, we broke the drive at Tambo, spending the night at Stubby Bend, no charge, no need to book, no facilities whatever. An acceptable bush campsite overlooking a billabong.
In Eungella we stayed at the Broken River camp site which needs to be booked online in advance. I suspect that school holidays would be best avoided. It is a very pleasant spot and a rather more luxurious camp site than I’m used to. The creek is one of the most reliable places for Platypus I have ever visited. We stayed three nights and saw a few every morning and evening.
Over the eons Australia’s climate has changed, rainforest has expanded and contracted. There are three quite distinct refugia which have given rise to three distinct groups of rainforest birds. The most southerly straddles the NSW Queensland border and among other things is home to the Paradise Riflebird. Moving north one finds the Atherton Tablelands, inland of Cairns, home of Victoria’s Riflebird and at the tip of the country on Cape York you can find the Magnificent Riflebird. Eungella is a less famous fourth. Whilst it can only claim the Honeyeater in the way of endemic birds the level of endemicity is far higher in its flora.
We arrived in the evening and made do with Platypus watching the first day. The morning couldn’t come soon enough. We were armed with some information to help us in our search. In the wet season, and November qualifies as being wet enough, the Honeyeater is a denizen of the rain forest, and is associated especially with climbing pandanus. In the dry it moves into drier forest and is more difficult to find.
The first spot we tried had changed beyond recognition from the description we had. At the second we were soon successful. So here is the good oil …
From the little township of Eungella take Dalrymple Road, follow it to the very end. The last road you pass will be Fredericksons Road. For most of the way you will have rainforest on one side and dairy farms on the other. Soon after Fredericksons road you will have rainforest on both sides of the road. Look for the pandanus and listen out for the very distinctive scratchy call. They are easy enough to find but they don’t stay still to have their photo taken.
Another spot said to be successful is a little way up Diggings Road which is between Eungella township and Broken River camp site. The habitat looks good but we didn’t find the Honeyeater here. We had to make do with a Noisy Pitta as consolation.
We celebrated in style with a pleasant evening meal at the Broken River Mountain Resort. They feed the possums from the balcony and offer a spotlighting walk on Tuesday and Thursday evening. So we capped off the day with a good look at Long-nosed Bandicoot and Feather-tailed Glider. Who could ask for anything more?
There are many other great birds to find in the national park and not too far away there is Finch Hatton Gorge, excellent for a morning walk, and Eungella Dam, great for waterbirds even in the heat of the day. A top destination.