Australia 2013

...with Mark Finn

September 27th - October 15th

This was the first Birdwatching Breaks tour to Western Australia (WA) and Singapore where we were guided by Frank O’Conner around the vast area of WA and Kim Seng in Singapore. Without their expert local knowledge and where to find the specialities it would have been a far less rewarding tour. In WA we cleaned up on all the local specials of the southwest corner including the hard to get big three; Noisy Scrubird, Western Bristlebill and Western Whipbird. Other sought after species included Freckled Duck, Red-necked Avocet, Banded Stilt, Red-backed Kingfisher, Carnaby’s and Baudin’s Black Cockatoos, Rock and Bourke’s Parrots, Red-winged Fairy Wren, Redthroat, Rufous and Western Field Wrens, Western Shrike Tit, Gilbert’s Whistler, seven species of Australian robins, several species of hornbills and many others. Singapore added a different twist with the commoner birds of southeast Asia including gems like Malaysian Plover, Spotted Wood Owl, Buffy Fish Owl, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Taiga Flycatcher, several migrants from Siberia, and Copper-throated Sunbirds.

September 27th: Edinburgh, Heathrow, Hong Kong, Perth.

Our long travel day to Australia started in Inverness and Perth before meeting up at Heathrow for our flight to Hong Kong with British Airways. The flight east went smoothly and arrived on time in a rather smog bound Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific took us in a due southerly direction for the flight to Perth. Due to congestion we were late leaving which meant a delayed arrival into Perth. Customs and luggage passed quickly and we were soon at the hotel close to the centre of Perth.

September 28th: Perth Botanical Gardens, Greenlands Road, Mandurah, Shoalwater Bay, Bibra Lake.

Weather: Rather cool with occasional sunny spells with a brisk westerly wind.

The hotel in Perth is close to the botanical gardens and rich garden habitats. By the hotel White-cheeked and Brown Honeyeaters were fairly common along with Red Wattlebirds. As we set off Australian Darter and Little Black Cormorants in the garden pools along with Australian Wood Duck and Dusky Moorhen. As our journey south progressed we quickly located the commoner birds of Western Australia; Magpie Lark, Australian Magpie, Australian Raven and Australian Ibis. Open grassy areas attracted Little Corella in sizeable flocks and several raptors including a pylon nesting Wedge-tailed Eagle, Swamp Harrier, Whistling Kite and Australian Kestrel. Our first main birding area was along Greenlands Road where the fence lines attracted Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Willie Wagtail, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and the attractive White-fronted Chat. In the wet meadows we watched White-necked and White-faced Herons, Straw-necked Ibis and Pacific Black Ducks. Driving slowly around the farm roads added Welcome Swallows, Grey Butcherbird, Crested Pigeon, and the attractive Red-capped Parrot. It was time to visit the Mandurah area which has a wide range of habitats from open estuaries to marshes and many old trees. In the well-maintained gardens a pair of Common Bronzewings sitting quietly on a lawn. By the picnic tables we observed Australian Ringnecks. Further up the road a stop to walk along the beach towards a roost for birds. Australian Pelicans were present in high numbers with Red-capped Plover, Common Greenshank and (Eastern) Great and Little Egrets. Nearby scrub lured Splendid Fairy Wrens and brief views of Western Gerygones. A bonus came in the form of three Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos in flight which unfortunately did not land. Frank decided to check another section of the beach which was to prove to be successful. Among the pelicans Baz found a Yellow-billed Spoonbill and in front of these good numbers of the attractive Red-necked Avocet. On the beach Eastern Osprey, Pied Oystercatchers and in adjacent scrub a Little Grassbird was lured into view. We ended our stay in the Mandurah area with a short seawatch which added Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Fairy Terns to the list. En route to Bibra Lake a short stop at Shoalwater Bay added the scarce and localised Australian Sealion to the mammal list. Bibra Lake was good for water birds with Southern Great Crested and Hoary-headed Grebes, Hardhead, Blue-billed and Musk Ducks, Eurasian Coot and hirundines feeding over the lake namely Welcome Swallows and Tree Martins. The older trees attracted Rainbow Lorikeets whilst grassy spots lured the colourful Galah. The weather started to cool as we travelled north to Perth where Dusky Moorhens were seen in the centre of the city (wetlands).

September 29th: Perth, Herdsman Lake, Joondalup, Iluka, Lancelin, Cervantes, Bootenal Springs, Geraldton.

Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells on a west wind 20 C.

This morning we checked out of the hotel and travelled to Herdsman Lake an important bird area within suburban Perth. En route we added the introduced Spotted Dove to the list. On arrival at the lake grassy areas attracted lots of Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Black-tailed Native Hens. Open waters of the lake attracted the commoner ducks plus Australian Shoveler and a drake Mallard. Swamp Harriers were hunting over the large reedbeds with the male carrying nesting material. Lakeside trees had a male Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Brown, White-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebird and Silvereyes. A bonus came when a Brown Goshawk drifted over and at least two Freckled Ducks were located sitting quietly on a fallen tree trunk. A short diversion to Joondalup added a Tawny Frogmouth roosting on a horizontal branch. Next on the agenda was Iluka a coastal reserve next to the Indian Ocean. Pacific Gulls were flying along the beach but our main interest was the extensive coastal heath habitats. In a short time we observed a pair of White-browed Scrubwrens and at least two White-winged Fairy Wrens in the stunted vegetation. As we left Iluka Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo and Australian Ringneck were all noted. The long journey north was broken firstly with a short diversion to watch the beautiful White-backed Swallow at a nest-hole and a Square-tailed Kite hunting for small birds over the extensive vegetation. Lancelin was the next stop a small coastal town with a rocky offshore island. The town was busy with tourists so Frank headed to a quieter spot overlooking the sea and island. Not too much birdlife to start with apart from Brown Noddies and Crested Terns over the island along with many Pied Cormorants. On the beach a lone Pied Oystercatcher and in close by trees a New Holland Honeyeater. The best was to come when Baz located the scarce and declining Rock Parrot (four birds) feeding on a flower-rich lawn. Lunch was taken and then a return to the highway going north with a visit to the oval at Cervantes. On arrival we duly found the nomadic Banded Lapwing a noisy and conspicuous bird which appears to like short-cropped grass. Our final birding stop was south of Geraldton at Bootenal Springs. The river here added Pied Stilt, Curlew and Common Sandpipers and the beautiful Red-kneed Dotterel to the birdlist. We arrived in Geraldton our base for the next two nights.

September 30th: Geraldton, Port Gregory, Kalbarri Loop.

Weather: Sunny with occasional cloud on a westerly wind 20 C.

Breakfast was taken at 0630 hours and afterwards we headed in a northerly direction towards the town of Northampton. Along the way we recorded the commoner birds of the region plus a single Western Grey Kangaroo. The main interest this morning was the old salt workings around the coastal village of Port Gregory. This area appears to be extremely windswept and open to the elements of the Indian Ocean winds. The pools were very productive for Red-necked Avocet and the attractive Banded Stilt. Other shorebirds present included migratory species from the Northern Hemisphere; Red-necked Stint, Sanderling and Curlew Sandpiper. In addition to these we observed Grey Teal, Australian Shelduck, Pied Stilt, Red-kneed Dotterel, Red-capped Plover and an Eastern Osprey. The main highway to Kalbarri runs through extensive heath land where we made two birding stops. Walking in the heath provided us with views of Blue-breasted Fairy Wrens, Tawny-crowned, White-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters, Silvereye and a singing Grey Shrike Thrush. Kalbarri was reached a small coastal town overlooking an estuary with several areas of rocks and low cliffs. The group walked down to a pier to scan through the large flocks of terns which included Crested, Caspian and Gull-billed the latter being a scarce migrant from Asia. Pied and Little Black Cormorants were also seen with Australasian Gannets offshore. The highlight for many of us was watching a family party of White-winged Fairy Wrens including a male with no tail. A picnic lunch was taken in the shade of a tree a pleasant experience. Early afternoon a visit to a campground added the local race of Peaceful Dove, and nearby a pair of Sacred Kingfishers sitting on a telegraph wire. The remainder of the day was spent slowly driving back to Geraldton with the heath land adding Inland Thornbill and a party of Blue-breasted Fairy Wrens. Before the main junction we noted a male Emu with young (not seen) and a pair of Australian Ringnecks.

October 1st: Geraldton, Mullewa, Yalgoo, Mount Magnet.

Weather: Sunny with a cool east wind, warm from mid-morning 25 C.

It was good to leave the Ibis Hotel in Geraldton and travel eastwards towards the farming town of Mullewa. A stop along the way by a grassy field added displaying Rufous Songlarks, Black-faced Woodswallow and White-cheeked Honeyeaters. At Mullewa a stop by the oval gave us great views of Little Corellas feeding on the grass and flowering trees. Beyond the town we stopped at an area of semi-mulga and made a short walk recording White-browed Babbler and a pair of Australian Ringnecks. Further up the highway a recent road kill attracted up to seven Wedge-tailed Eagles and our first Little Crows of the tour. Another stop resulted in a walk amongst this unique habitat of trees and scrub on a rather sandy soil system. Acacia type bushes attracted Southern Whiteface, Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and overhead several Whistling Kites. At 1115 a Brown Falcon sitting in a dead tree made us stop again, a walk in the adjacent bush resulted. This proved to be productive for the easily overlooked Slaty-backed Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill and a stunning male Splendid Fairy Wren. In this area of Western Australia there are very few human settlements so the small town of Yalgoo was our stop for lunch at the old railway station. Buildings here had nesting Willie Wagtails and Tree Martins whilst the nearby scrub attracted Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. After lunch we embarked on another short walk into a rather barren and arid area dotted with large trees. Although at first it appeared bird-less we ended up recording two scarce species notably Crested Bellbird and the rather tuneful Chiming Wedgebill. The journey towards Mount Magnet was broken at a habitat of stony hillsides dotted with trees and scrub. A walk here produced a pair of Hooded Robins a scarce bird of Western Australia plus two Rufous Whistlers which were rather active in the trees. Loaded up to travel towards our accommodation when Suzanne found our target species by the road; Western Quail Thrush. Fantastic views of this sought after bird comprising of a pair with three young as they ran and fed among the grasses and trees. Also present in the area were Australasian Pipit and Black-faced Woodswallows. The group were in high spirits as they entered Mount Magnet a town famed for its gold and iron ore mining.

October 2nd; Mount Magnet, Cue, Nallan Station.

Weather: Hot and sunny with an easterly wind 30 C.

On leaving Mount Magnet an Australian Hobby was perched on the television pole opposite the hotel. Just outside town a stop at the roadhouse for breakfast. Birds present here included White-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner and Zebra Finch. An enjoyable breakfast was taken and then on the road to the oddly named town of Cue. The road trains using the highway take their toll on the mammal life present in the region which in turn presents a food source to birds of prey. Our first ‘road kill’ attracted Wedge-tailed Eagles, Whistling and Black Kites the latter being a rare bird in this part of Australia. A walk through the extensive mulga trees produced sightings of a Pied Butcherbird hammering food into a hole within a tree trunk, several Red-capped Robins, Slaty-backed and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, Splendid Fairy Wrens and in the more open areas of salt brush White-winged Fairy Wrens. On entering Cue which had its heyday in the 1890’s (gold rush) we headed towards a dirt road running towards Yalgoo. Bird life was very thin on the ground apart from Australasian Pipits, Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows. Returned to Cue for lunch near the centre. A few birds around included up to three Australian Hobbies, Spiny-cheeked, Singing and White-plumed Honeyeaters and best of all a Red-backed Kingfisher hunting for prey from a dead tree. The remainder of the day was spent at Nallan Station (private) and its surrounding land. On arrival we quickly located Western Bowerbird, Mulga Parrot and Galah plus a roosting Australian Owlet Nightjar. In the surrounding bush bird life was hard to find although we managed to observe Redthroat, Varied Sitella, Variegated Fairy Wren, White-browed Babbler and Grey Shrike Thrush. Back at the farm centre a Torresian Crow was noted a rare bird at this location. On the way home towards Mount Magnet we stopped for Rufous Fieldwren with two birds singing from the tops of bushes. A tough day’s birding in the outback in the end a rewarding one.

October 3rd; Mount Magnet, Payne’s Find, Sandstone Road, Maranalgo Road, Dalwallinu.

Weather: Hot and sunny on a north east wind 37 C.

Checked out of the hotel and proceeded up the road for breakfast at the roadhouse. Afterwards we started the journey south with birding throughout the day at various places. A few kilometres south of Mount Magnet we stopped at a road kill which attracted the first Little Eagle of the tour plus Black and Whistling Kites and an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle. The group made another stop before Sandstone Road for a noisy and raucous party of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos which gave us excellent views in roadside trees and in their slow ‘floppy’ flight. We turned down Sandstone Road and made a stop after a few kilometres to take a walk within the dry forest habitat. Birds are few in this area and have large territories so the birding was slow. Some of us eventually located the scarce White-browed Treecreeper, Crested Bellbird, Red-capped Robin and Pied Butcherbird. The next stop was near the Warne River where luck was with us as a pair of Bourke’s Parrots showed in a dead tree. A walk within the vicinity of the ‘river’ produced sightings of the shy Gilbert’s Whistler, White-fronted Honeyeater and White-browed Babblers. Back to Payne’s Find for lunch. Afterwards a drive down Maranalgo Road proved to be rather bird-less until Suzanne located four Australian Bustards wandering through the bush – great views. The road south to Dalwallinu proved to be a highlight for us as we stopped by a small roadside pool. Dozens of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were coming down to drink with lesser numbers of Galahs. A single Fairy Martin was noted and a Common Bronzewing flying down the highway. A little further south our final birding stop added Western Corella and Australian Ringnecks roosting in eucalyptus trees. The wheat belt was entered with a hotel stop at Dalwallinu a rather odd place with even odder staff!

October 4th: Dalwallinu, Ballidu, Northam, York, Dryandra, Narrogin.

Weather: Rather mixed with a west wind 21 C.

After breakfast we started the journey southwards towards Narrogin. The first part of the road passes through extensive areas of salt lakes which were largely bird free zones. At Ballidu a stop opposite the large grain silo where plants were in flower. This was productive for honeyeaters including Singing, Brown-headed, Brown and the nomadic White-fronted. On the road a Common Bronzewing showed well and Baz found the first Striated Pardalote of the tour. Northam was next on the agenda one of the larger towns of Western Australia where we picked up supplies for the next few days. Our main interest here was the river which held Mute Swan, Hoary-headed Grebe, Hardhead, Grey Teal and Pacific Black Duck. On an island Silver Gulls with young and the heronry attracted Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants. On the grass edges a few Black-tailed Native Hens and Eurasian Coots. Lunch was taken at York an old historic town with many buildings dating back to the first years of Australian history. The river held Sacred Kingfisher, Australian Wood Duck and Australian Ringnecks. On the outskirts of York a flooded field held to our surprise a party of Plumed Whistling Ducks (from Northern Australia), White-necked and White-faced Heron. Our last birding stop was at Dryandra with the entrance road holding Galah and White-winged Trillers. Once in the forest a walk produced Elegant Parrot, Western Yellow Robin, Rufous Treecreeper, White-browed Babbler, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater and Blue-breasted Fairy Wrens. Another stop near the village added Dusky Woodswallow, Jacky Winter, Varied Sittella and best of all a pair of Western Shrike Tits located by Baz.

October 5th: Narrogin, Dryandra, Fourteen Mile Brook Nature Reserve.

Weather: Rather cloudy with showers and occasional sunny spells 17 C.

Today we headed to Dryandra to explore the varied habitats within this reserve of the wheat-belt region. Along the way a few Common Bronzewings were noted. The first stop added Western Thornbills picking up nesting material on the forest floor. Near the village a party of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos (these were later seen well by the dam). By the dam we embarked on a walk into the adjacent forest which gave us views of Swan River and Brown Honeyeaters, Western Yellow Robin, Striated Pardalote, Rufous Treecreeper, Weebill and Inland Thornbill. In another of bush with grass cover I found a pair of Bush Thick-knees and in nearby trees Hooded, Scarlet and Red-capped Robins. Before lunch in a sector of forest we watched a pair of Restless Flycatchers and the first Grey Currawongs of the tour. Lunch was taken at a campground followed by a short walk for Golden Whistler and Grey Fantail. In the afternoon the group made several more short walks with the first giving us views of Painted Buttonquail, Red-capped and Elegant Parrots and the commoner birds. On the next walk Fan-tailed Cuckoo and the nomadic Purple-crowned Lorikeet were added to the list. Our final stop was at Fourteen Mile Brook where we caught up with the beautiful Regent Parrot, a pair was nesting in an old eucalyptus tree. The weather started to worsen as we travelled back to Narrogin.

October 6th: Narrogin, Wagin, Stirling Range, Corackerup.

Weather: Sunny with a westerly wind 20 C.

Before breakfast a visit to an area of forest opposite the campground in Narrogin. Despite the early morning mist bird activity was high with a variety of honeyeaters present plus Golden Whistler, the beautiful Western Spinebill and excellent views of Western Gerygone giving its distinctive song on an open branch. After breakfast we headed towards the town of Wagin and visited the local water treatment works. The open water attracted over a hundred Pink-eared Ducks with ducklings, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Shoveler, Hardhead and at least two breeding plumaged Whiskered Terns. On the walls of the pool a single Wood Sandpiper was noted. Further along the road a Collared Sparrowhawk was noted hunting low over trees. Our next stop was Camel lake which is reached by passing through extensive cereal fields which had a singing Brown Songlark. At the lake the group found the localised and beautiful Hooded Plover, Banded and Pied Stilts, Grey Currawong and Yellow-throated Miners. Lunch was taken at a campground owned by friends of Frank. A flock of Purple-crowned Lorikeets was present in the eucalyptus trees and nearby a group of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos. It was time to explore the extensive area of mallee for birds along a long sandy track. A Western Whipbird was seen briefly running across the track before disappearing into cover. Further on the Malleefowl nest appeared to be not in use so we returned to the bus. On the main track we caught up with Brush Bronzewing, Southern Scrub Robin and flocks of Purple-gaped Honeyeaters. Mammals included Western Brush Wallaby and Western Grey Kangaroo. Jerramungup was reached base for the next two days.

October 7th: Jerramungup, Gardner River area, Fitzgerald, Corackerup.

Weather: Sunny with a northerly wind 25 C.

From Jerramungup we made the short journey to the bridge which crosses the Gardner River. Careful scanning yielded a pair of Black-fronted Dotterel and up to four Chestnut Teal. The next stop was at an area of mallee accessed by a narrow track. This proved to be productive for difficult, skulking species of Western Australia. With a little patience we had good views of Western Fieldwren, Shy Heathwren and Western Wattlebird. In the taller bushes Tawny-crowned and New Holland Honeyeaters were particularly numerous. Back to the bus and onto a section of Fitzgerald nature reserve. We stopped within the mallee area when I heard the distinctive song of a Western Whipbird. This is a difficult species to see at the best of times, we were lucky to have long views as it sung from a low perch. On the return journey to Jerramungup further walks added Blue-breasted and Splendid Fairy Wrens, Grey Currawong, Grey Butcherbird and Red Wattlebird to the day list. In the afternoon we went back to Corackerup to search for birds and mammals. Similar species to the morning visit with the addition of a distant Spotted Harrier hunting over grassland. Further searches for Malleefowl proved to be unsuccessful although some evidence was noted at one of the mounds.

October 8th: Jerramungup, Stirling Ranges Campground, Porongurup, Albany including Lakes Seppings and Powell.

Weather: Rather mixed with rain showers 20c. Winds variable.

After leaving Jerramungup we travelled towards the Stirling Ranges and stopped at the campground where the owners actively encourage wildlife. Near the main office the first returning Rainbow Bee-eaters were noticed catching insects from dead snags. A walk into the remote parts of the camp was productive for Elegant, Regent and Red-capped Parrots, Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Restless Flycatcher and the commoner birds of this corner of Western Australia. The journey south continued with a diversion to Porongurup a reserve with old mature trees and an understory of shrubs and bamboo type fauna. A walk along one of the tracks quickly produced two localised endemic birds; Red-winged Fairy Wren and White-breasted Robin. Lunch was taken by the car park with several birds seen around the picnic tables notably; Australian Magpie, Scarlet Robin, Rufous Treecreeper, Grey Fantail and Grey Shrike Thrush. After lunch a walk through the forest allowed us sightings of New Holland Honeyeater, Golden Whistler, White-browed Scrubwren and Inland Thornbill. Albany is a short distance away a town situated on the coast with sheltered bays and a harbour. Lake Seppings was the first stop where the familiar waterbirds were present plus Black-tailed Native Hen, Buff-banded Rail (feeding on a lawn) and the handsome Western Rosella. Further stops at another area of Lake Seppings produced Great Crested and Hoary-headed Grebes, Musk and Blue-billed Ducks and a few Hardheads. Lake Powell had a few birds until we concentrated on a narrow waterway with forest on both sides. This was very good for Red-winged Fairy Wren, Golden Whistler, Inland Thornbill, and Silvereye and nearby a hunting Swamp Harrier. A diversion along the coast had no wading birds but plenty of Great Egret, Crested Tern and a group of Australian Pelicans.

October 9th: Albany, Cheyne Beach.

Weather: Mixed with frequent rain showers and the occasional sunny spell. Variable winds 17 C.

An earlier start today as we travelled towards the community of Cheyne Beach which is around an hour’s drive from Albany. En route we passed several seasonal pools which attracted ducks, ibis and herons in variable numbers. Cheyne Beach is an area of coastal heath-land with a few trees and totally open to the elements from the south and west. Common birds using the heath included White-cheeked Honeyeater and Red Wattlebird whilst the taller trees had New Holland Honeyeaters. A short seawatch produced little of note apart from three Australasian Gannets, Silver and Pacific Gulls the latter being mainly first year birds. Next was a track where the rare and elusive Noisy Scrub-bird is regularly seen (despite several visits we only heard its ‘nightingale type’ song). A walk around the perimeter of the campground added Western Wattlebird, Western Rosella and a Brown Falcon. In the camp we found Common and Brush Bronzewings, Galah, White-browed Scrub Wrens, Grey Fantail, White-breasted Robin and a family group of Splendid Fairy Wrens. Lunch was taken by the sea and followed by a visit to a remote campsite. The camp provided us with some great birding which included the commoner honeyeaters including Swan River, Red-winged Fairy Wrens, Rufous and Golden Whistlers, Common Sandpiper and overhead a White-bellied Sea Eagle. We returned to the main road with a pair of Swamp Harriers hunting low over the heath. The next hour or so was spent trying to find the south-western endemic birds with several singing Western Bristlebirds (no sightings due to strong wind conditions). Dusky Woodswallows were resting on telegraph wires and an Eastern Osprey was found on top of a telegraph pole. At 1730 hours we left for Albany after an interesting day at Cheyne Beach.

October 10th: Albany, Two Peoples Bay, Oyster Bay and Emu Point, Lake Seppings, The Gap, Lake Powell.

Weather: Sunny with a brisk southwest wind 20 C.

Today we left Albany and visited the picturesque Two Peoples Bay area. The parking lot by the sea proved to be productive as we had views of the hard to see Western Whipbird and a Western Bristlebird running across the track before disappearing into cover. A short walk produced brief views of three Southern Emu Wrens. Another sector of the reserve was visited where Red-winged Fairy Wrens, Inland Thornbills and Grey Fantails were common birds. Next on the agenda was the huge Oyster Bay complex of tidal mudflats and islands. Stopping at the Kalgan Bridge for views of familiar birds; Grey Plover, Common Greenshank and Common Sandpiper. Further along the road a summering Whimbrel feeding on the mud. Before lunch a stop at Oyster Bay Harbour where we scanned the extensive mud adding Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint, Gull-billed Terns and an Eastern Osprey. After lunch we visited The Gap where we had a short Seawatching session. This was good due to onshore winds with sightings of Flesh-footed Shearwater, Great-winged Petrel, Indian Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatrosses and a single Sooty Oystercatcher. Another visit to Lake Powell produced nothing of note so we headed back to base.

October 11th: Albany, Rocky Gully, Beaufort River, Dwellingup, Perth.

Weather: Frequent rain showers on a west wind 20 C.

Today we headed back to Perth taking mainly country roads to maximise our chances of more birds. Outside of Albany a pond held the commoner water birds including Australasian Grebes. Next was the sleepy village of Rocky Gully where we had close views of Western Corella, Australian Ringneck and Baudin’s Black Cockatoos. The weather started to worsen as we approached the Beaufort River, an all too brief visit yielded Western Thornbills. Before reaching Perth we spent time at Dwellingup a rather attractive area with old trees and many country roads. We eventually caught up with the naso race of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and a pair of Scarlet Robins feeding young. On arrival in Perth the Swan River held lots of Black Swans but little else of note.

October 12th: Perth, Singapore.

Weather: Sunny in Perth and overcast in Singapore with humid conditions 30 C.

Frank picked us up at 0700 hours for the transfer to the airport. Check-in and various other factors went smoothly and the flight left twenty minutes early for Singapore. On arrival we hired a taxi to the Bugis area of the city our base for the next few days. A short walk at 1630 produced White-vented and Common Mynas, Spotted Dove, Olive-backed Sunbird, House Crow and an unidentified flycatcher and swallow species. In the evening an enjoyable meal was taken at Clarke Quay a vibrant and popular part of Singapore.

October 13th: Changi Village, Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris Park, Lorong Halus.

Weather: Sunny spells with heavy rain showers at times 32 C.

Kim our local guide picked us up at 0600 hours to take us to Changi Village before the crowds of people arrived. This was a good move as on arrival a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker was seen feeding on a tree. Breakfast was taken followed by the boat trip to Pulau Ubin an island which has so far not been affected by the modernisation of Singapore. On arrival the telecommunications tower had a wintering Peregrine Falcon. From the quay sightings of Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Common Sandpiper, Collared Kingfisher, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Olive-backed Sunbird and Asian Glossy Starlings. The eastern end of the island is a nature reserve with a boardwalk. A taxi to the entrance saved time as we started birding from the car park. The first section of the boardwalk gave us views of Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, White-rumped Sharma, Straw-headed Bulbul, Ashy Tailorbird and brief views of an Emerald Dove. A Laced Woodpecker showed on a palm trunk. Near the end of the mangroves excellent views of Arctic Warbler, Eastern Crimson Sunbird, Oriental Magpie Robin and overhead Black-nest and Germain’s Swiftlets. A scan across the bay added a Great-billed Heron. Further, along the offshore rocks held a few waders; Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone. Crested and Lesser Crested Terns were also present. Before leaving the island a juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard was seen over the forest. Lunch was at Changi with a heavy downpour of rain during lunch. Next stop was Pasir Ris Park which was nice and productive. From the car park we quickly located Common Flameback, Pied Triller, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Asian Koel and White-throated Kingfishers. A small pond had a pair of White-breasted Waterhens with chicks. Kim then located a pair of Spotted Wood Owls which showed well in a large tree. As we approached the river Grey Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and Little Egret were recorded. A Stork-billed Kingfisher was a welcome addition to the list. The finale here was a Buffy Fish Owl which watched us as it perched in a mangrove. The final birding stop was Lorong Halus a reclaimed piece of land next to a reservoir. The entrance road had Long-tailed Shrikes perched on fences. By the river we watched a Yellow Bittern and migrating Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. The best area was a dead tree which attracted many birds; Daurian and White-shouldered Starlings, Baya Weavers, Lesser Coucal and Sooty-headed Bulbul. The humidy was high and the group were starting to tire as we headed back to base. A great day’s birding in Singapore.

October 14th: Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh, Kranji Marsh.

Weather: Frequent rain showers followed by late afternoon sun 32 C.

An early start was necessary today as we headed towards Central Catchment Nature Reserve. On arrival we walked along the main trail towards the reservoir. Conditions were not ideal although we heard Oriental Scops and Brown Hawk Owls. At the golf course a Large-tailed Nightjar was seen roosting on the ground before flying into nearby cover. Torrential rain followed and we had to take cover in one of the golf huts. The rain eased as we walked to the reservoir which had hundreds of swifts including a few Pacific Swifts. Next was the tower hide overlooking the forest canopy. This produced a few species; Long-tailed Parakeets, Olive-winged and Red-eyed Bulbuls, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Greater Green Leafbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker and Common Hill Mynas. On the return walk we noted Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers, calling Siberian Blue Robins and a Banded Woodpecker. Sungei Buloh is an important place for birds in Singapore and this was the next birding spot. Exposed mud attracted many migrant waders; Curlew and Common Sandpipers, Common Redshank, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Pacific Golden Plover and a lone Marsh Sandpiper. The stands of mangroves attracted Common, Collared, Stork-billed and White-throated Kingfishers, Ashy Tailorbird and Copper-throated Sunbird. It was starting to get hot as we approached Kranji Marsh. The first fruiting trees held Red-breasted Parakeet and Pink-necked Green Pigeons. On reaching the pool at the far end nothing of note except on our return walk when we had sightings of Lesser Coucal, Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo, Pied Triller, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker to make it worthwhile.

October 15th: Bukit Batok, Bidadari Cemetery, Lower Seletar Dam, Singapore Botanical Gardens.

Final species total: 322.

Weather: Heavy rain and thunderstorms followed by a clear and sunny afternoon 30 C.

Our last full day in Singapore had weather of frequent rain showers and thunder, not a good sign for birding. Kim picked us up at 0600 hours for breakfast and then a visit to Bukit Batok. On arrival at Bukit Batok the car park had a fruiting tree which attracted high numbers of fruit-loving species; Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Asian Glossy Starling, Black-naped Oriole, Lineated Barbet and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos. A walk to the lower levels added a party of Pin Striped Tit-Babblers, White-crested Laughingthrushes and brief views of a Red Junglefowl disappearing into cover. Further along the trail the group had views of Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Straw-headed and Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Dark-necked Tailorbird and Golden-bellied Gerygone. Next on the agenda was Bidadari Cemetery a park like habitat with mature trees, shrubs and grasses (sadly this area is on borrowed time as the Singapore Government has ordered its destruction for development – sheer eco-terrorism). On arrival the rains had started again to make birding a difficult pastime. The first mature trees had a first year Tiger Shrike, Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo and a male Laced Woodpecker. Next a large tree attracted our attention with several Siberian migrants being in attendance. To my surprise a Taiga Flycatcher was seen by Alison and myself. Despite a lot of searching we could not relocate it among the many Arctic Warblers and Asian Brown Flycatchers. A juvenile Drongo Cuckoo was found catching insects in a large tree whilst a Japanese Sparrowhawk was hunting for tired passerines. Lunch was taken at a food hall in a supermarket close to the Malaysia border. At the Lower Seletar Dam we located the common migrant waders and the localised and declining Malaysian Plover. The botanical gardens offered little apart from Lesser and Wandering Whistling Ducks and a House Swift among the many swiftlets. Kim dropped us off at the hotel where we freshened up for the long journey back to Heathrow.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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