And so to Queensland - and it's still pretty chilly, but no rain for the last few days. Our journey to Roma has included excellent botanic gardens, new lifer birds for us - including red-shouldered parrots - and just loving those wide open spaces!
The trip to Goondiwindi was easy going - through the Pilliga Nature Reserve (which we decided to keep for another day), and with a morning coffee stop at Narrabri Lake (blue-faced honeyeaters) and lunch near Moree Common (uneventful in the bird department).
We reached Goondiwindi later in the afternoon. We really liked the Botanic Gardens. We went there soon after our arrival, so the light was fading, but within minutes we spied a pale-headed rosella near the carpark, as well as more blue-faced honeyeaters. The gardens have a delightful and quite large lake, as well as woodlands and grasses - these made for a very pleasant afternoon stroll.
There was an incredible cacophony nearby so we knew the sulphur-crested cockatoos were about, but what we soon saw were very large flocks of not just those cockatoos but pink and grey galahs and corellas - all wheeling and wailing. We had never seen so many in one go.
One thing we have noticed is that even this far north the light really begins to recede by four o'clock, so not much scope for photography after that. We were so enthused by that Goondiwindi Botanic Gardens we visited the next morning before our next long drive. It was pretty quiet on the bird front - though we did see some grey-crowned babblers and a straw-necked ibis. Even so, it really was a serene walk before the long drive.
Leaving Goondiwindi, we headed along the Leichhardt Highway which is not in good shape with significant potholes, some of which will have been caused by recent flooding. So, if you're planning this drive - do beware that there are some very rough patches with significant wear and tear, both on the sides and in the centre of the road. We stopped at the Moonie Crossroads for a brief pitstop (vanilla slice recommended - didn't have time to take a snap, sorry) and eventually turned left at The Gums, and settled into the drive west along the Surat Developmental Road towards - yes - Surat. This was a much better road, still damaged in parts and no line markings sometimes, but overall better quality. We had planned to stop at the Myall Botanic Garden for our lunch break, 7km off the beaten track after Glenmorgan. We were very disappointed to have to throw in the towel after 6kms due to the river being in flood. Braver souls than we might have chanced it but we felt our AWD was not a good bet. What a pity - it looks so promising.
So on we went - the drive was glorious, really out into the wonderful Darling Downs farmland and woodlands. As we drove, we stayed on "raptor watch" and leapt out of the car at short notice anytime we judged it safe when we saw mostly kites wheeling, hovering and even fighting.
We luxuriated in the endless horizons and the sweeping plains - at one point we crested a hill and felt the Promised Land had been laid out before us.
Surat looked to be a lovely little town - bigger than we had expected. We ploughed on to Roma, a much larger town with all the usual supermarkets (though not all open on a Sunday) as well as fast food outlets. Once again, we used ebird to guide us to the Roma Bush Garden, a short walk from our accommodation - what a splendid resource, and what a joy to find, within minutes, two red-shouldered parrots. A lifer for us!
We ambled around in the fading afternoon light and saw a lovely egret, many small birds, including plum-headed finches, and to finish (yes, this sounds like a gourmet menu) - an Australian hobby.