Ground Cuckoo-shrike Finally

All birds are wonderful. All life birds are special, because they are lifers if nothing else. But there are birds that are a bit more special. Birds that you have pursued, and looked for, and hoped for, and scanned the trees and fields for, over and over again. And when you do finally see them it is wondrous! I am sure this can be explained to non-birders by comparing it to something that they are passionate about. As a lovely friend once said, “Birding is a noble passion.” I agree with all my heart. A passion it is and my passion was rewarded Tuesday morning when Lynn and I finally beheld the Ground Cuckoo-shrike. It was a pair of them actually, and one perched up and let us marvel at its beauty. We drank in the magnificent monochromatic elegance of its black, grey and white. Ground Cuckoo Shrike, we had been looking for you for so long. Massive, huge grateful!
Ground Cuckoo-shrike... Love
We had first really hoped to find them up around Deniliquin in NSW (twice), but we had no joy. We had also hoped and watched for them in several other spots where they are seen, but they were never around. Then on the way down to Alice Springs almost three weeks ago, our friend Robert saw some near Barrow Creek on the Stuart Highway. We drove through the following day and looked, but it was midday and nothing was about and we needed to get down to Alice.

We looked for them everywhere down around Alice and out to Uluru (twice) and down to Coober Pedy and back, but none were around. So as we left the Centre to begin our sweep back north and east, we knew we really had to give the Barrow Creek area a good going over. It is a known hotspot for them and Robert had seen them there the other week. We stayed Sunday night in Ti Tree (the closest good campground) and then spent all day Monday up around Barrow Creek looking and listening, but we saw neither hide nor feather of them and went back to Ti Tree for the night.

Tuesday morning began again at the crack of dark. It was also only about 6 C (43 F). That’s chilly in Troopi. We packed up and headed up to Barrow Creek again. I was in a grumpy mood as we did not get out as early as I wanted and I knew that if we did not find the bird that morning, we would still need to push on to Tennant Creek. We had to begin on our way toward FNQ and Cape York. We stopped once on the way up (we had stopped repeatedly the day before) then pressed on to the area where Robert had seen them.

We parked Troopi just off the highway about a kilometer north of Barrow Creek and began to look and listen. The road noise was annoying and exacerbating my grumpiness. It was the Tuesday after another Aussie “long weekend” and the Stuart Highway had a fairly steady stream of vehicles rumbling and roaring along. We birded along the west side of the road for about ten minutes, but I thought it looked better on the east side. There were a few large Bloodwoods over there and good open ‘soft grass’ areas. We crossed the road and walked along about 100 meters (roughly where a Little Buttonquail had run damn near across our feet the day before) and… I heard the call! Yes, they are loud enough that even I can hear them. Two Ground Cuckoo-shrikes flew in to the dead tree next to a big Bloodwood. I was so damn grateful and filled with joy. Here are a lot of photos....
Ground Cuckoo-shrike, one of the only three legged birds in Australia. 

I am writing this on a lazy, slow morning in Tennant Creek, NT. We will leave here in an hour or so and begin going east. The adventure continues.

Peace. Love. Birds.

RB Life List: 658
Lynn Life List: 639
Couple’s Year List: 620