Wedge-tailed Eagle at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

Wedge-tailed Eagle at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

Firstly, I’ll just say this is a, scratching my head post, wondering what makes some people tick yarn.  We recently had 2 birdwatchers visit Kilcowera for a 2 night stay.  Two nights only gives you one full day on the place and with over 100,000 acres to drive around and just over 175 birds on our list, there is plenty to see and do.  For dedicated birders a 3 or 4 night stay is advisable and you’ll find birds like these – everywhere!

Cinnamon Quail Thrush at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

Well this pair arrived at 8pm and were courteously taken down to our Shearers Quarters and shown their accommodation.  The next morning they tore off like a pair of skittish emus and drove a further 250 kilometres west of Kilcowera looking for a specific bird! They didn’t find it and arrived back at Kilcowera around 7pm. Head scratch, head scratch.  Their itinery the day they left here was to have a bit of a look around Kilcowera for an hour or so, then do Bindegolly and Bowra before spending the night at St George which is 600 k’s from Kilcowera.

Why did they bother visiting Kilcowera?   This must be twitcher behaviour?  Surely?

Major Mitchells Cockatoo, Kilcowera Station on the Dowling Track.

Aren’t these beautiful images?  Thanks to Nevil Lazarus for them and for visiting Kilcowera and spending quite a few days cruising around.

 

 

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The very long and treacherous Jerry Jerroo crossing.  There were some deep holes in there!

This year is speeding by so fast I can’t believe it.  So much has been happening around our area, I’ll start with our road, The Dowling Track.  The Bulloo Shire received lots of government money to fix flood damaged roads and ours was one of them.  Contractors have been working on it for about 9 months now.  The bit we were all busting to see fixed was the Jerry Jerroo creek crossing.  Well fair dinkum those blokes would get just so much done on the job and then go off for two weeks break. They would park all their machinery up on the side of the road for two weeks and one time I made a big sign and stuck it to the front of one of the graders, it said “ For Sale!!”  It would rain again and fill the road and crossing up with water, mud and silt once more so they couldn’t work on it.

Stock trucks, council vehicles, tourists and locals were ploughing their way through it making the holes deeper and deeper. The contractors bogged graders, front end loaders, excavators and their own trucks trying to get the water off the road.  The council would close the road but that makes no difference really, cause they don’t tell us, they just trot out and put a sign up near town saying road closed.  All it does is stop tourists and gives the mail person the perfect excuse not to deliver our mail.  They had the road ready 3 times to lay the bitumen, but they went away for their break instead of doing the job and it rained and stuffed the job up again.  BUT third time lucky – the crossing is at last finished – beautiful bitumen laid right across the 2 channels of the creek!  Hope it doesn’t wash away next time the creek runs!

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The newly completed crossing.  It was a difficult job right to the end as the truck delivering the screenings broke down and it was also found that even though the prepared road surface looked fine there was still one very wet patch fair in the middle of the road..

Benanga Creek flowing into Lake Wyara , March 2012 at Kilcowera Station.

Benanga Creek flowing into Lake Wyara , March 2012 at Kilcowera Station.

Driving home yesterday the radio presenter was telling her audience that she had had a bad week, a week not to be repeated.  She asked if her listeners would like to call in and share the good or bad stories of their last week.  So I got too thinking about my week and realised that I had had a rather interesting one.  So I will inflict it upon you too!!

I’ll start with Monday.

 It is still very wet around here and Greg has not been able to check on the agistment cattle in the Lake Paddock as he can’t drive out to the east.  Couldn’t even ride a bike out there. The airstrip had dried out sufficiently for me to take off, so I happily went to check things out in the little Skyfox.  Saw lots of cows, 4 bulls fighting and hanging around a trough which had no water in it.  Surely the idiots will poke off and find a drink somewhere!  There is water everywhere but in that trough!  The creeks out there all ran very big and the fences have been washed down again.  But the cows have not gone out that far –  yet, so hopefully they will stay on Kilcowera and not wander onto the National Park or the neighbours place.  Greg will get out there as soon as he can to fix the fences. I could not see any cattle tracks on the wrong side of the fence or cattle for that matter.

 What I did see however was thousands of pelicans on the islands on Lake Wyara, so they are back again, for the third year in a row.  Oh thank God that rotten, horrible drought is over!  I changed the oil in the plane when I landed and helped to feed the mickey bulls who are waiting to be put on a truck for the saleyards.

Tuesday saw me tootling up the road to do my weekly cleaning job for the elderly couple at Wathopa, an 80 kilometre round trip.   I swear I do a better job on cleaning house there than I do here!  That afternoon I was cleaning the quarters trying to get things ready for our visitors.  And repainting signs.

Wednesday – Greg drove me into town over the flooded and washed out Gerrygheroo Creek crossing and I caught a commercial flight to Toowoomba to pick up my abandoned mini bus.  But it wasn’t all smooth sailing as there was a storm over the TWBA airport so we had to land at the Oakey Military Base and be bussed to TWBA.

  Thursday – the fun part, shopping all day!  Buying such things as a new TV as the one that we had can’t go digital.  Oil filters, batteries, groceries, beer, wine, and a haircut were all on the agenda.  And then there is the packing of the bus, after all if you just keep throwing the stuff in you won’t get as much in, as you would if you are meticulous about it.  So I am.  I also went to a tyre place just to check that I had the correct amount of air in the tyres as I have a big load in  the poor little thing.

Friday –   I took the bus to a radio place and had a UHF radio installed in it.  Greg has been going to put one in ever since we have had it (a few years now), I buy the radios off ebay but they seem to get put into some other vehicle or bike.  So it’s done now!

More shopping, then drive to Dalby.  Friday arvo I am buying fruit and veg, and meat (yummy things like pork and chicken and fish and lamb – we get sick of beef!)  Just on dark and I have nearly finished packing the bus up, cold stuff in, with lots of ice blocks and the eskies taped up ready for the drive home tomorrow.   Keep checking the weather, the monsoon trough is heading further south every day and more cloud is coming in from the west, will I make it home before it rains again???

Saturday – Leave Dalby at 5am and drive straight through to St George, a quick stop for breakfast (a pie!) and to deliver our new  brochures to the Visitor information Centre.  More deliveries are made at Bollon, Cunnamulla and Eulo, some rain on the way but no worries and no water over the road to speak of.  The last 100 kilometers on our dirt road was a breeze even though I was seriously tired.  The contractors are back on the job at Gerrygheroo,  I hope they get it fixed this time, they have been working on it for months and then it rains and washes the crossing away again and they go away for two weeks and then it rains again….and the bloody road is closed once more – we don’t get any mail, visitors can’t get here, we can’t truck our cattle and so it goes on……………………..and on.

But all up a good week!

We call this the Red Hole and have a nice drive for visitors to get to it.

Driving along the Dingo Barrier Fence our western boundary.
Driving along the Dingo Barrier Fence our western boundary.

As our tourist season draws to its conclusion for 2010 (and I don’t know why as the season and the weather is wonderful), it’s interesting to look back on who and what type of people have been here.  We have a few small tour groups that come every year, Bill, Pamela and Adrian from Outback Bush Adventures based in Adelaide have been visiting for about 6 years now.  Bill has been great, sticking by us through the very dry years we have experienced and has now seen the place looking the way we like to see it – green! 

Then there is the delightful and super organised Maureen, a tour leader with Young at Heart.  They fly into Thargomindah and we pick the group up and bring them out to Kilcowera for the night.  This year they have been flying over the flooded Outback enjoying the spectacle of Lake Eyre, Coongee Lakes and the Bulloo River Overflow as well as Lake Wyara.  There are usually about 12 in the party and we provide meals and tours and Outback hospitality for them.

Young at Heart travellers about to get on their plane after visiting Kilcowera Station.

John Tuckerman who runs Insights Tours also flies out, but lands at Kilcowera as his plane is usually a 6 seater and is not too heavy for our strips.  These passengers get a more in depth tour as we have more time to devote to them.  John usually manages to sneak in a family member on his trips.  He is wonderful to his passengers and is a meticulous pilot – he gets 5 stars from us!  John is third from the left in the photo below.  And that’s us in the big hats.

John Tuckerman from Insights Tours and his passengers about to depart Kilcowera Station.

Birding Services Brisbane has also been coming to Kilcowera for a number of years.  Roy Sonnenberg is the tour leader and owner of this company and does he know his birds!  Every evening at Kilcowera, he and his clients sit around the dining room table and go through all the birds they have seen that day, tick them off on a list and do a running tally on the number of different species seen on the trip.  He gets people from all around the world.  One year he had a Japanese girl who badly wanted to see Budgies in the wild as she had a little caged bird as a pet and loved it dearly.  Not long before his last visit we had put a new road in to a gorge that had been inassessable previously. 

I said to Roy:  “Roy we have a new spot for you to check out, it’s really beautiful and different to anything else on the property!” 

His reply:  “ Toni, we’re not here to look at the scenery, are there any birds there?”  Bird people can be a bit one eyed!

Some birds don't bother too much about making a nest but rely on camouflage.

Carol Proberts  from the Capertee Valley in the Blue Mountains also brings birding groups to Kilcowera for the best of Outback birdwatching.  Her group usually spends 3 or 4 days here, we provide some meals for them and local Knowledge about where bird hot spots might be.  Greg and I both like to tag along with some of the birders some of the time to learn more about our birds.  There are quite a few little brown or grey birds that we haven’t got a clue about, but the birders soon set us straight! 

We also have a couple of tour groups that travel in the 16 or 18 seat four wheel drive buses – Outback Track Tours and It’s Easy Tours.  We love these ones as it usually means a full Shearers Quarters and we do all the meals.  They do the full day tour of Kilcowera in their own vehicle and one of us goes with them for the day to provide commentary and to answer the many questions.

Light planes on the airstrip at Kilcowera Station Outback Queensland.

Margaret Scells, lady pilot extraordinaire, from the MacIntyre Aero Club also brings visitors here by private charter.  She seems to like coming here and we are very fond of her. Margs’ visitors are always nice people.  She has her own plane and her brother Paul flies a helicopter, they also have a farm not too far from Goondiwindi. 

The Variety Club was going to come here this year on one of their smaller bashes but it was too wet and they had to cancel.  I think they are coming next year, weather permitting.  They were here a few years ago and we’ve also had Rotary Clubs, Four Wheel Drive Clubs, Flying Clubs and Camper Trailer clubs.

Members of a car rally arriving at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

This year we have had a lot more people camping than staying in the Quarters, more families, more birdos, photographers and caravanners.  Also quite a few visitors making a repeat visit to see Kilcowera after the fantastic rain we have had.  An unfortunate side effect of the rain was roads being closed both locally and on the station and cancellations as visitors were not able to drive to Kilcowera.  And yes we did have a few people bogged on one of our roads early in the year (that would be Ivan and Sandra in particular!) and so we now close our roads if there is any doubt about them. 

Members of the Royal Geographic Society of Queensland looking around Kilcowera Station.

The Royal Geographic Society of Queensland visited for 2 nights recently and we took them all on a tour of Kilcowera in our little bus and station wagon.  We also cooked a camp oven tea for the four wheel drivers amongst them.  Angela (our youngest daughter) and Glen came down from Quilpie to lend much needed assistance. The campground and quarters were pretty much full up and we even had campers at the lagoon too.

We have also had the RACQ down here twice – one lady locked her keys in the boot and another couples’ Nissan would not start.  A film crew from Sydney was here to get footage of the pelican rookery, they had to leave in a hurry due to wet weather.  They even left a car behind in their haste.  We had a famous Australian author and his lovely wife visiting, but he shall remain nameless as he didn’t sign our visitors book.  All the other guests enjoyed your company Tom – said you were very entertaining.  We also had 2 back packers here for a month helping out, they were a nice young couple, she was French and he was Australian.  Then there was the journo from the Courier Mail and the Entomologist from the Queensland Museum and their photographer.  Their visit culminated in a feature story published in Qweekend about the transformation of the Outback after the wonderful rains and our frog being the cover person.  It was a hoot watching those 3 grown men out on the flat trying to muster that little frog into a good position to have his photo taken.  They were out there for hours.

Our famous little Crucifix Frog - Notaden bennettii  at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

Lots of our visitors have been coming to us from the local VIC and others just dropping in, having seen our signs on the main road, some are using the Camps Australia Wide book which lists stacks of reasonably priced camping spots and some find us through word of mouth.  However they find us, we thank them all for visiting us and hope they enjoy their experience at Kilcowera and come back another time and tell all their friends about us.  And get on the internet and write about us on forums and trip reviews, post their photos, tell about their outback trip on blogs and facebook…………………..

Lucy, stopping briefly to smell the flowers.

Some working dog yarns.

July 27, 2010

This is Lucy an Australian Silky Terrier, she would like to be a working dog!
This is Lucy an Australian Silky Terrier, she would like to be a working dog!

Quite a few years ago we found a top bloke who did contract mustering.  After years of just about begging blokes to come and work for us for a few weeks we had found a man who would organise a whole mustering plant to arrive at Kilcowera and stay for a month or so and do all our mustering in one hit.  Peter and his team were much appreciated.

The first year he arrived with 2 other men, trucks, utes, horses, dogs and bikes.  They took a fair bit of settling in as there were about 40 dogs that had to be tied up, fed and watered.  The horses were not actually going to be used on Kilcowera but they were part of Peter’s plant and went everywhere he went.  Our cattle had not seen anyone on a horse for many years and would run a mile at the sight. 

The mustering started next day and each man is on his bike with 2 dogs on the back.  Now some of these dogs were very good workers and others were either learners or useless.  To witness the good ones doing their job is really fantastic but seeing the stupid dogs chase everything in sight including the cattle can bring out some of the most colourful and descriptive language ever heard. 

Working dogs at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland. 

This day we were out on the National Park trying to get some of our cows back, there were also some pretty wild, feral cattle in amongst them making the job that much more challenging.  One of the fellas, John, had picked up some likely looking dogs from the local pound and had one of these with him and the other fellow Roger also had some untried hounds. We were trying to get the cattle together and there were dogs running under them and through them, chasing roos and generally getting in the way of the few good dogs.  I believe there was a lot of language floating about along with the bellowing of the cattle and the revving of the motorbikes and a few yelps as the dogs were eventually brought under some sort of control.  Unbeknownst to us there were a group of tourists nearby who had been attracted by all this unaccountable noise going on, on the National Park. After they made themselves known to the men one tourist admiringly said “what a wonderful display of dog handling and stockmanship!”

Eucalypts with their feet in the water after good rain on Kilcowera Station. 

Now you might wonder why they needed so many dogs, but the attrition rate is pretty high for the dishlickers.  If a dog is running around after cattle for half a day that’s just about enough for most of them, so you need to change dogs if you are working all day. The dogs do get lifts on the motor bikes so they are not on their paws all the time.  They can be kicked by a beast, run over by a bike or car, fight amongst themselves, get heat exhaustion or just run the pads clean off their paws.  But the good ones love to work.  Those who are left behind in the mornings howl for hours at their misfortune. 

There were kelpies, blue and red cattle dogs, border collies, coolies and mutts.  Some like the cattle dogs were only used when a hard biter was needed to control the more aggressive cattle.  Others were used as lead dogs to steady the mob down and then some dogs were all rounders.  

I remember once we were mustering a mob down a creek, the cattle had a long string on them, probably 3 kilometres from the lead to the tail, the men had no hope of getting to the lead to slow the cattle down due to the rough terrain.  So this little black dog was sent to go to the lead. I was in the plane up the front trying to steady the lead myself so was able to watch this little dog gallantly and intelligently run past all these cattle until it got to the lead and blocked the cattle up.  One little dog blocked up about 90 hot and bothered cattle and kept them there until the men could catch up.

Rollie, a legend in his own time.  Kilcowera Station, Outaback Australia. 

Another episode involved Rollie, Greg’s best dog at the time.  He was quite a well bred, long haired, border collie that came to us as a fat little puppy in the summer time.  Well he was so cute he was spoiled and allowed to live in the house yard while he was small. He would just  mooch around the place and go for a swim in his water dish every time  he got hot.  When he started digging up the garden and eating the seedlings, socks and shoes he outlived his welcome and was put out of the yard to live outside.  Well he went around and round the fence for 3 days trying to get back in, crying all the time. He was pathetic. 

As the months went by he learned how to ride on the back of the motorbike and was introduced to cattle and work even though he was usually kept on a long lead so Greg could get him back.  He was so exuberant, so much energy and personality and still cute too.  On one of his first forays of his working life we had gotten a mob of cattle together at the southern end of the paddock ready to take them to the yards in the northern end, about 6 kms away.  Greg made the mistake of taking the lead off for a minute to untangle him from a tree.  That was all Rollie needed, he joyfully took off after the cattle and stayed behind them for the whole 6 kms as they galloped across the paddock.  Greg was yelling at the dog to come back and riding behind him to try and get hold of him and that only made the cattle and Rollie go faster. A man up the other end of the paddock heard all the commotion and saw the cloud of dust coming but had no idea what was going on til he saw Rollie hard on the heels of the cattle.  He called up on the UHF radio, “ Has this little black and white fluffy dog got an off button?”  At that stage he didn’t.

The dogs can be wonderful and nearly always make the job easier.  A good dog is easily as good as having another man most times. But they can be vexing.

It gets pretty cold here, we had 3 days in a row when it was -5 in the mornings.