This was a revisit to Eastern Australia with the addition of a few days around the country town of Deniliquin and the south-eastern part of Victoria including Phillip Island. As usual we enjoyed a wide selection of birds in Northern Queensland under the guidance of Ben who knew the area and its wildlife very well. Further south our stay at the world famous O'Reilly's was again most enjoyable although the numbers of birds appear to have decreased a little since our last visit. I am again indebted to Baz for guiding us around Sydney and the nearby Capertee Valley and Glen Davis. The last two areas are difficult to access with many areas being out of bounds or private. However despite this problem we managed to see most of the specialities within the area. From here we crossed rural Australia to Deniliquin where Phil Maher guided us around his local patch and showed the group some truly incredible birds. Our final leg was near Melbourne with visits to Werribee and Phillip Island where a finale of Little Penguins capped the visit.
October 22nd: Cairns including Centenary Park, Daintree
Weather: Sunny with occasional cloud, 30 C.
The group assembled at Cairns airport and then proceeded to Centenary Park for a gentle introduction to the birds of Northern Queensland. On arrival a Black Butcherbird showed well on a low wall. The grassy areas attracted Australian Brush Turkey, Orange-footed Scrubfowl and Magpie Larks. A freshwater lake attracted Australian Pelican, Australian Ibis, Rajah Shelduck, Pacific Black Duck and a few Magpie Geese. On the pond edges we noted Intermediate Egret and Little Black Cormorant. Fruiting and flowering trees were starting to attract a wide variety of birds which included Rainbow Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Australian Figbird, Helmeted Friarbird, Yellow and Brown-backed Honeyeaters, Dusky Myzomela, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Speckled Drongo and Rainbow Bee-eaters. On a horizontal branch a Laughing Kookaburra was being mobbed by a Willie-wagtail. It was starting to get hot as we drove north towards the village of Daintree. Along the roadside White-breasted Woodswallows were numerous with Eastern Cattle Egret and Spotted Doves. A pylon held an Eastern Osprey sitting next to its large stick nest. On the approach to Daintree we added Pheasant Coucal, Forest Kingfisher and Straw-necked Ibis.
Mammals: Agile Wallaby (60).
October 23rd: Daintree, Kingfisher Park, Mary Farms, Mount Carbine, Mount Lewis, Pinnacle Road Fish Farms.
Weather: Hot and sunny 34 C.
Breakfast was taken on the veranda at 0600 hours. On the river dozens of Eastern Cattle Egrets were leaving their roost to feed in fields. New species along the river included Black-necked Stork and Little Pied Cormorants. In the park adjacent to our accommodation the distinctive calls of Australasian Koels. At 0700 we set off towards Kingfisher Park an excellent birding area. On arrival an exploration of the grounds and forest proved to be very productive. Large trees attracted Rufous Shrike Thrush, Spectacled Monarch and the beautiful Red-browed Finch. One of the best areas was along a minor road with flowering bushes and trees laden with fruit. Birds came thick and fast here with sightings of White-throated, Yellow-spotted, Macleay's, Bridled, Graceful, Lewin's and Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Dusky Myzomela, Scaly-breasted and Rainbow Lorikeets and Large-billed Scrubwren. The group then headed towards the garden where various feeders allowed a close view of the birds mentioned plus Australian Brush Turkey, Orange-footed Scrubfowl and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Our walk then proceeded to 'the orchard' an interesting patch of large trees dotted with fruit trees and grassland. The higher trees attracted Top-knot and Torresian Imperial Pigeons and a calling Noisy Pitta. At lower levels a Pale-bellied Robin was searching for insects whilst nearby a female Papuan Frogmouth was watched as it sat motionless in a bare tree. A short diversion to Mary Farms quickly added a pair of the endangered Australian Bustards walking around in long grass for food items. Next on the agenda was the rather rundown Mount Carbine campground a stark reminder of years gone by. Good birds here were no doubt attracted by the sprinklers and included a large flock of Galah, Pale-headed Rosella, Great Bowerbird, Brown and Yellow Honeyeaters, Little Friarbird and a perched Tawny Frogmouth. Back towards Kingfisher Park with a roadside Blue-winged Kookaburra, and a diversion to the local pub for an enjoyable light lunch. Afterwards we set off towards the high ground of Mount Lewis in search of local specialties. It was quiet to start with until a stop was made near the summit. A short walk produced sightings of Grey Fantail, Grey-headed Robin, Bower's Shrike Thrush, Grey-headed Robin, Mistletoebird and an Eastern Spinebill. The best was to come with a walk within the forest. Birds using the ground can be particularly hard to find. Luck was with us as several Chowchilla's, Fernwren, Atherton and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, Eastern Whipbird and Mountain Thornbill were all observed. It was time to return back to Daintree with a diversion towards the fish farm along Pinnacle Road. Large numbers of Radjah Shelducks were present with White-headed Stilts, Sharp-tailed and Common Sandpipers, Great, Little and Intermediate Egrets, Silver Gull, and overhead Pacific Baza, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Eastern Osprey and a Varied Triller sitting in a dead tree.
Pademelon (2), Musky Rat Kangaroo (2)
October 24th: Daintree River, Pinnacle Fish Farm, Mount Lewis, Sides Road, Abattoir Swamp, Rifle Creek, Lake Mitchell, Mareeba.
Weather: Rather unsettled with rain showers and sunny spells 30 C.
At 0630 hours we set off on a boat trip along the Daintree River. In riverside vegetation a pair of Brown-backed Honeyguides. Just across from the quay a bonus came in the form of a Black Bittern which showed well in flight and perched in the open grasses. Over the latter Australian Swiftlets were fluttering around searching for insects. Our journey down the river continued with close views of Papuan Frogmouths at two locations. At the first nest an Australian Figbird had built a nest close to the frogmouth apparently for protection. A party of Topknot Pigeons flew past as we entered the quiet and wooded Barrett Creek. At the start of this we watched a pair of Shining Flycatchers which were common along this stretch of river. Birding proved to be very productive with sightings of Pied and Spectacled Monarchs, Large-billed and Fairy Gerygone, Azure Kingfisher, Grey-headed Whistler, Victoria's Riflebird and best of all a Wompoo Fruit Dove sitting tightly on a stick nest. On our return journey Brown Cuckoo Dove and Striated Heron were added to the list. Back to the lodge where we packed and set off for a return visit to Pinnacle Fish Farm. On this occasion we obtained permission to walk around which allowed closer views of birds seen yesterday. In addition to these Comb-crested Jacana, Black-fronted Dotterel, Little Tern and Tree Martin were seen. The highlight was to come when Sheila flushed a White-browed Crake which flew across a patch of water and showed in a mangrove for several minutes. It was time to revisit Mount Lewis with lunch en route. From the Highlander Pub excellent views of a female Australasian Koel, Silvereye, Lewin's, Bridled, Graceful and Blue-faced Honeyeaters (the latter having a stand-off with the pub cat). Mount Lewis was affected by steady drizzle which affected bird sightings although excellent views of a Golden Whistler were obtained. At lower levels a walk near Sides Road produced the rather localised White-headed Pigeon, White-cheeked Honeyeater and a family of Pale Yellow Robins. Just up the road the car park at Abattoir Swamp (now dry and drained) added Rufous Whistler singing from the tree tops. It was time to return to Cairns via Lake Mitchell a manmade structure from the 1980's. On arrival a party of Black Swans, Green Pygmy Geese, Australasian Little Grebe, a pair of Brolga and Pied Butcherbirds were observed. Before arriving in Mareeba a short diversion down a dirt track produced little of note until an Australian Bustard was found walking around in a ploughed field. In the town of Mareeba a bonus came in the form of Channel-billed Cuckoo surely the largest parasitic cuckoo in the world. Great views of the summer visitor as it flew over the road and adjacent gardens.
Agile Wallaby (1), Eastern Grey Kangaroo (60)
October 25th: Cairns, Great Barrier Reef including Michaelmas Cay, Hastings Reef.
Weather: Generally sunny with afternoon cloud conditions 28 C.
After breakfast we headed towards the dock at Cairns the departure point for visiting the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. A walk along the esplanade beforehand offered us close views of Australian Pelican, Bar-tailed Godwit and Greater Sandplover. The journey out to Michaelmas Cay takes around 90 minutes. On arrival a transfer to a smaller boat and landing on this ever-shifting sand island. The cay is a marvellous place to study seabirds with thousands of Sooty Terns and Brown Noddy being the dominant species. A careful scan through the nesting birds added several Brown Booby, Silver Gull and on the beach Crested, Lesser Crested and Little Terns. A few Ruddy Turnstones were also noted walking along the shoreline. After this we embarked on a short boat trip around the island where we added Siberian (Common) Terns and a pair of Roseate Terns a scarce visitor to the area. Overhead the group located marauding Greater Frigatebirds and once on board the Seastar a Lesser Frigatebird which was promptly robbed of a fish by its larger cousin. Lunch taken and then off to Hastings Reef which is not a birding spot. Members of the group took advantage of snorkelling over the reef followed by a trip in a glass-bottomed boat. Back to Cairns later in the afternoon with the esplanade having a Black-fronted Dotterel. A very enjoyable and relaxing day off the Queensland coast.
October 26th: Cairns, Cassowary House, Mackenzie's Pocket, Kuranda, Cairns Esplanade.
Weather: Hot and sunny 33 C.
Breakfast was taken out this morning at a nearby cafe after which we transferred to Cassowary House. On arrival the parking area and entrance track held Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Dusky Myzomela, Silvereye and calling Eastern Whipbirds. A walk back down the track produced a Mistletoebird high in a bare tree and Little Shrike Thrush. Back to Cassowary House and a visit to the veranda area which looks down towards a bare area plus many feeders. Australian Brush Turkey was particularly numerous feeding on fruit scraps. The feeders on the balcony attracted Spotted Catbird, Victoria's Riflebird and Macleay's Honeyeater. Another short walk around one of the many garden trails added Large-billed Scrubwren, Pale Yellow Robin, Emerald Dove, Olive-backed Sunbird and Little Bronze Cuckoo. Next on the agenda was a visit to Mackenzie's Pocket an area of forest and road habitat. The larger trees attracted Varied Trillers and best of all at least three Lovely Fairywrens feeding low down in bushes and grass. Also present were Red-browed Finches. Back to Cassowary House where our main target Southern Cassowary appeared below us and started to feed on plums and other fruits. This extraordinary bird offered us exceptional views including drinking out of a bowl and cat-napping at times. The group and leaders were happy with sightings of this threatened species, this being a male and at least 36 years of age. Kuranda is not faraway where lunch was taken and shortly afterwards Barred Cuckooshrike was added to the list. It was time to head back towards Cairns and visit the esplanade where waders come close to the shore. Although the numbers are not as high as a few years ago it is still a great place to study shorebirds using the eastern Asia flyway. The first stop at the northern end held Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Eastern Curlew. A diversion to a town park failed to add anything so the group proceeded to the southern end of the esplanade. This proved to be a great place to study waders at close range with sightings of Curlew, Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Lesser Sandplover, Greenshank, Eastern Black-tailed Godwit, Red-capped Plover, Black-fronted Dotterel and the waders seen at the north end. In addition to these Pacific Reef Egret, Eastern Great Egret and Australian Pelican were present. Another visit to the north end allowed us to study nesting Double-eyed Fig Parrots, Varied Honeyeater and Torresian Kingfishers. Back to base after another great days birding around Cairns.
Musky Rat Kangaroo (12), Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo (1), Spectacled
October 27th: Cairns (various sites), Mareeba, Henry Hannam Drive, Hastie's Swamp, Lake Eacham.
Weather: Hot and sunny 35 C.
Checked out of the hotel at Cairns and started to explore a few other scattered sites in the city suburbs. Our first stop at an old cemetery produced several Bush Thick-knees which allowed a close approach. Next on the agenda was a yacht club with a lot of waste ground adjacent to the car park. Careful scanning of the grasses added Australasian Pipit and Golden-headed Cisticola. A bonus came when Ben located a Beach Thick-knee a scarce and declining species of the Australian coast. A short stop near a water treatment works produced Scaly-breasted Munia in the reeds. A short diversion for a Metallic Starling colony was followed by a visit to an area of cane fields with abandoned buildings. The grasses here held Crimson and Red-browed Finches and Red-backed Fairy Wrens. The few trees attracted Brown Honeyeater. It was time to head off towards the agricultural area around the small town of Mareeba. Luck was with us as a few Squatter Pigeons were found sitting in a ditch by the road - this pigeon can be very elusive and hard to find at times. In nearby trees a migrant Dollarbird and the first Red-tailed Black Cockatoos of the day. A recently ploughed field appeared to attract Black and Whistling Kites in numbers for some unknown reason. A small water reservoir was visited where we added Cotton Pygmy Geese, Comb-crested Jacana, Little Pied Cormorant and a White-bellied Sea Eagle. Our journey continued through the area with further stops for Grey-crowned Babbler, Pheasant Coucal and a Pied Butcherbird with young. Lunch was taken in a small town which proved to be very enjoyable. Hastie's Swamp was next on the agenda a reserve with hides overlooking a seasonal pool. Thousands of Plumed Whistling Ducks were present with a few Wandering Whistling Ducks. Other birds using the pool included Pacific Black Duck, Eastern Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Australasian Swamphen and White-headed Stilt. The trees outside the hide proved to be a magnet for birds with sightings of White-naped and White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Scarlet Myzomela and Eastern Yellow Robins. Time was getting on as we approached our accommodation near Eacham Lake. The cabins here attracted Victoria's Riflebird, Grey Fantail, Lewin's Honeyeater, Grey-headed Robin and lots of turkeys. A walk at Eacham Lake added Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, White-throated Treecreeper and on the lake itself Southern Great Crested Grebe.
Bush Rat (1), Northern Brown Bandicoot (1), Red-legged Pademelon (10)
October 28th: Chambers, East Barron Road, Mt Hypipamee, Yungabarra, Butchers Creek, Lake Barrine, Barrons River Mouth.
Weather: Hot and sunny 38 C.
No trip report for today due to illness. New species added to the trip list included; Australian Kite, Grey Goshawk, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Buff-banded Rail, Sarus Crane, Pied Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern, Golden Bowerbird, Brown Gerygone, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Pied Currawong and Black-faced Monarch.
Mammals: Duck-billed Platypus (1), Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo (5).
October 29th: Cairns including Centenary Lakes, Brisbane, Minnippi, O'Relly's.
Weather: Warm and sunny although cooler at higher elevations 15 C/28 C.
Before leaving Cairns we revisited Centenary Lakes with similar birds to a few days ago with the addition of Large-billed Gerygone. Transferred to the airport for the flight down to Brisbane where Baz was waiting for us. Picked up the rental vehicle and headed to Minnippi a wetland complex. The waters here were higher than normal which ruled out any potential crake species. Species present included Noisy Miner, Australasian Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Sacred Kingfisher. It was time to head towards O'Reilly's situated high in the hill country. En route a few Maned Ducks and Crested Pigeons plus brief views of a Common Bronzewing. Checked in at O'Reilly's for two nights.
Mammals: Whiptail Wallaby (3), Red-necked Pademelon (3).
October 30th: O'Reilly's.
Weather: Warm and sunny 30 C.
The group met by reception at 0630 hours for the first of two sessions with a local guide. Common birds in the gardens included Crimson Rosella, Australian King Parrot, Regent and Satin Bowerbirds and Australian Brush Turkey. A bonus came when a Wonga Pigeon was located feeding on the road edge. As we entered the forest birds recorded were White-headed Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Eastern Yellow Robin and the abundant Lewin's Honeyeater. Our main interest however was the forest floor and the area just above it. Large-billed, White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbill and Logrunner were all observed. A major bonus was the tame and approachable Eastern Whipbirds as they appeared in the open and came to food (this is usually a very skulking species with shy habits). Flowering shrubs attracted Eastern Spinebills, Black-faced Monarch, Golden Whistler and Rufous and Grey Fantails. Near the end of the trail we heard the distinctive calls of a Green Catbird and watched a Grey Shrike Thrush walk along a horizontal tree trunk. Back to base for a later breakfast and out again at 1000 hours. This time we walked through another section of forest recording the uncommon Paradise Riflebird and very close views of a female Albert's Lyrebird scratching the surface literally a few feet in front of us. At the bottom of the forest road another walk added Noisy Pitta, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Shining Bronze Cuckoo and Mistletoebird. Returned to the centre for a light lunch and arranged to go out again at 1600 hours to another sector of forest. Our late afternoon walk was quiet to start with until a White-throated Treecreeper was found climbing up the side of a mature tree. Further along the track we eventually located a group of vocal Green Catbirds giving their distinctive 'mewing' calls high above the trail. An Eastern Yellow Robin was then located sitting on her delicate nest made from fibres and spiders webs with an added bonus of four chicks inside the nest. The light had started to go as we turned round and headed back towards the van. On the return route similar birds to this morning plus calling Paradise Riflebirds and a rather showy Rufous Fantail.
Red-necked Pademelon (4), Red-legged Pademelon (2)
October 31st: O'Reilly's, Brisbane, Sydney.
Weather: Early cloud with a few showers giving way to sunshine 26 C.
We met up at 0630 for a walk around the trails at O'Reilly's. The usual birds were around in the same spots as the previous days excursion. One exception was a Russet-tailed Thrush located by Sheila not far from the end of the walk and close to reception. This was an unexpected bonus and a fairly difficult bird to locate in the area. At 1035 we headed down towards the coastal plain making several stops for birds. The best area being an old quarry which attracted many birds into the large trees. Careful scanning produced sightings of Pale-headed Rosella, Scarlet Myzomela, Lewin's, White-naped and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, White-throated Treecreeper and a migrant Dollarbird. Once at lower levels Crimson Rosella, Little Corella and Galah started to occur in numbers. Before going to Brisbane airport a diversion was made to the mudflats at Wynnum which is a part of the Brisbane harbour complex. A short scan of the mud here produced the commoner waders plus Pacific Golden Plover, Eastern Osprey, Caspian Tern and the first Pied Cormorants of the tour. The flight to Sydney went smoothly and arrived ahead of time. After picking up our bags a transfer to the city centre our base for the next two nights.
Mammals: Red-necked Pademelon (6), Red-legged Pademelon (1).
November 1st: Sydney including Centennial Park, Botany Bay, Royal National Park, Curramoors, Boat Harbour, Cape Solander.
Weather: Warm and sunny with light NE winds 28 C.
Baz picked us up at 0630 hours and we set off for Centennial Park passing the world famous Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) en route. The park is a huge area of green within the city boundary of the city and offers good birding opportunities. Commoner species included groups of Rainbow Lorikeets, Noisy Miners, Australian White Ibis and Crested Pigeons. Over the trees migrant Channel-billed Cuckoos were being pursued by Australian Magpies. New species included a single White-faced Heron and a roosting Powerful Owl in a huge fig tree. Breakfast was taken in the park followed by a short stop at Botany Bay, the only species of note here was a party of Australian Ravens. Royal National Park was next on the agenda and a short drive away. The group started by exploring one of the quieter areas away from the main tourist spots within the park. On the grassy areas Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were making a mess in the grass as they searched for seeds. Along the river a pair of Chestnut Teal with young, Dusky Moorhens and a single Sacred Kingfisher. Careful searching in the leaf litter revealed a pair of Bassian Thrushes and a surprise find in a male Eurasian Blackbird. In the larger trees calling Green Catbird, Golden Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin and recently arrived Rufous Fantails. Curramoors is a coastal reserve accessed by walking along the coastal path which offers fantastic views of the shoreline and Pacific Ocean. In the car park Little and Red Wattlebirds were noted along with the colourful and noisy New Holland Honeyeater. A walk towards the cliffs was rewarding for views of the localised Rockwarbler. Back towards the car park and a White-bellied Sea Eagle passed overhead and Red-browed Finches showed in trackside bushes. Back to the Royal National Park for lunch and another walk along the river which on this occasion produced the wonderful Superb Lyrebird. Boat Harbour is a private beach and reserve with limited access and visited with the help of Baz. The beach has large swathes of surf-bashed rocks. A good place for Crested, Siberian and Fairy Terns plus Grey Plover, Red-necked Stint, Ruddy Turnstone and several species of cormorants. We ended the day at Cape Solander with views across the ocean which attracted among others Black-browed Albatross, Australasian Gannet, Kelp Gull and huge flocks of Silver Gulls.
Mammals: Swamp Wallaby (1), Southern Humpback Whale (3).
November 2nd: Sydney, Cumberland State Forest, Boongala, Newman's Road, Mitchell Park, Pitt Town, Bushell's Lagoon, Lithgow.
Weather: Sunny with a NE wind 28 C.
At 0630 we left the hotel and set off for a tour of Sydney which included fantastic views of the bridge and opera house. As the commuter rush started into the city we left in the opposite direction to visit Cumberland State Park a good place to observe several species of parrots. On arrival a scan of the large eucalyptus trees provided us with views of Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Galah, Little Corella, Rainbow Lorikeet and Australian King Parrots. Other species included a hunting Pacific Baza, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Dollarbird and Black-faced Cuckooshrike. In the understory several Variegated Fairy Wrens were searching for insects. A late breakfast was taken as we headed to the gardens at Boongala which a centre for growing native trees, shrubs and flowers. A walk around the well maintained gardens added the commoner birds plus Red-wattled and Little Wattlebirds and several pairs of Eastern Spinebills. It was time to move on towards Newman's Road where a short walk added Spotted Pardalote, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and the often elusive White-throated Gerygone. A diversion to an area of private property was productive for the attractive Common Bronzewing whilst the more mature trees attracted Red-rumped Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Yellow Thornbill and Varied Sittella. In the paddocks a few White-winged Choughs. Next on the agenda was Pitt Town and the lagoon of the same name. Not too much to see on this occasion with the exception of Australian Reed Warbler and the introduced European Goldfinch. A final visit in the region was to Bushell's Lagoon where we had the opportunity to study Double-barred and Zebra Finches at close range and a family of Dusky Woodswallows. Our journey ended at the railway town of Lithgow where we spent the night.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo (14)
November 3rd: Lithgow, Glen Davis, Capertee Valley.
Weather: Warm and sunny 29 C.
I started the day with a visit to a section of forest (private) close to Lithgow. On arrival the group were delighted to connect with the scarce and often elusive Gang-gang Cockatoo feeding quietly in the trees. Nearby a Red-browed Treecreeper was observed and a Superb Lyrebird preened in a low bush giving extended views. It was to get better as an Eastern Shrike Tit came close to us feeding as it wound its way through the canopy. Back to breakfast and a visit to another area of cliffs close to town where we caught up with a pair of Pilotbirds a scarce and localised bird of rocky habitats with scrub. A diversion to the local water treatment works added an Australasian Shoveler among the Pacific Black Ducks. It was time to head towards the Capertee Valley which is further west and north a prime habitat for scarce birds of NSW and Australia. Our first stop at flowering trees produced Musk and Little Lorikeets, Noisy Friarbird, White-plumed Honeyeater, Brown Thornbill and a fly-by Brush Cuckoo. Lunch was taken at the old mining settlement of Glen Davis with the campground adding Brown Treecreeper, Jacky Winter and Sacred Kingfisher. Checked into the hotel for the night which is based on the 1920's and 1930's. Afterwards a check of fields on the entrance road produced Grey Butcherbird, Rufous Songlark, Australasian Pipit and Laughing Kookaburra. It was time to visit another closed area of the valley where Eastern Rosella, Grey-crowned and White-browed Babblers, Hooded Robin and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater were added to the trip list. Despite a lot of searching no sign of the rare Regent Honeyeater which appears to be in steep decline since our last visit.
Mammals: Eastern Grey Kangaroo (7), Wallaroo (6), Red-shouldered Wallaby (4), Common Rabbit (12).
November 4th: Glen Davis, Capertee Valley, Cowra.
Weather: Warm and sunny 27 C.
Before breakfast a walk around Glen Davis taking in a wide variety of habitats. Nothing unusual or new was noted but it was good to take in the scenery and history of a remote settlement which numbered 2000 people as recently as 1954. After breakfast a visit to another sector of the park where we added Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Wonga Pigeon and close views of a female Olive-backed Oriole. The best of the day was to come when the group explored a section of river with reedbeds and a stony section. Luck was with us as a Plum-headed Finch showed well at close range with a Red-rumped Parrot. On the way back to Capertee village Pacific Heron was noted in roadside ponds. Most of the afternoon was spent travelling to the agricultural town of Cowra. Notable birds along the route included Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australian Kestrel and an Australasian Grebe on a small pond. Arrived in Cowra and had an enjoyable meal and drinks at the local bowls club.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo (12), Wallaroo (3)
November 5th: Cowra, Fivebough Swamp, Deniliquin.
Weather: Warm and sunny 26 C.
Today was a travel one as our journey meandered across NSW in a south-westerly direction to the town of Deniliquin. The commoner roadside species were noted en route to Fivebough Swamp with the addition of an Australian Hobby hunting around a grain silo. Fivebough Swamp was hard to locate and on arrival it was evident that recent flooding had affected the area. A scan of the lake added Hoary-headed Grebe, Dusky Moorhen, Australasian Swamphen, Magpie Goose and Plumed Whistling Duck. Best of all was an Australasian Bittern flying low over the reeds. The road to Deniliquin goes through prime agricultural land and swamps with the former having Emu. Checked into the motel for two nights and met up with Phil our local guide over the next few days. At 1800 hours we set off in a northerly direction to explore the vast expanse of plains and marshes. A dead tree held two Wedge-tailed Eagles, and in the background a hunting male Spotted Harrier. On the fenceposts gatherings of Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Little Ravens. A roadside pool held a pair of Hardheads with the rank grassland and bushes attracting Singing Bushlark and Brown Songlark. After a few kilometres we turned into a private homestead (no public access) with the entrance road adding Brown Falcon, White-winged Fairy Wren, White-fronted Chat, Southern Whiteface and Black-faced Woodswallow. Next was an area of paddocks with a small woodland which appealed to Australian Owlet Nightjar, Tawny Frogmouth and a pair of Bluebonnets. The remainder of the evening was spent looking for Plains-wanderer which we only heard after several hours of searching plus the attractive Banded Lapwing. Back to base after a very long but enjoyable day in remote NSW.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo (30), Red Kangaroo (20)
November 6th: Deniliquin, Gulpa, Hay Road.
Weather: Warm and sunny 25 C.
A later start today as the group headed south to Gulpa an area of forest, river and crop growing. Down the highway a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles were about being mobbed by Black Kite and Australasian Magpies. Our first stop was an area of old trees where we observed Superb and Red-rumped Parrots, Striated Pardelot and Grey-crowned Babblers. Across the road and a walk through the forest which has only recently recovered from seasonal flooding. This was excellent for birds and included sightings of White-winged Triller, Western Gerygone, Brown-headed Honeyeater and Buff-rumped Thornbills. Near the fenceline a group of Weebills were noted. On the way back to town a pond held a pair of Grey Teal. The rest of the morning was spent in a riverside park where we added a pale phase Little Eagle, Yellow Rosella, Azure Kingfisher, Brown Treecreeper and Dusky Woodswallow. Out again at 1500 hours to explore a different area north of town along the Hay Road. The first birding stop was in an area protected from grazing animals. A walk around this unique habitat provided us with sightings of Variegated Fairy Wren, Spiny-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters, Eastern Rosella and ever-present Noisy Miners. Next was an area of mature eucalyptus forest which added some very frustrating Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, Red-capped Robin and Weebills. We ended the day by looking into a marshland habitat which was very productive for Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-tailed Native Hens. In the drier areas good numbers of Yellow-throated Miners. On exiting the area a bonus came in the form of the bizarre Musk Duck and further down the road a pair of Yellow-billed Spoonbills at the southern end of their range.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo (12), Common Rabbit (12)
November 7th: Deniliquin, Mount Ida, Werribee.
Weather: Unsettled with rain showers and sunny spells 25 C.
On leaving Deniliquin we crossed over the border into Victoria where a stop for breakfast was made. Just before the bridge an area of grassland held hundreds of Long-billed Corellas near a grain silo. Our main birding stop was Mount Ida where the upper elevations produced views of Striated Thornbill, Scarlet Robin and White-eared Honeyeater. In a short time the suburbs of Melbourne were passed and we pressed onto our accommodation at Werribee. The hotel grounds had New Holland Honeyeater and Red Wattlebird. After lunch the short drive to Werribee started with a look at one of the many lagoons. Good numbers of wildfowl present including the scarce Blue-billed Duck and numerous Australasian Shelducks and Chestnut Teals. Along the tracks Eurasian Skylarks were joined by White-fronted Chats and close views of a Golden-headed Cisticola. On another lagoon a few Whiskered Terns were noted giving their distinctive calls. A check of several more lagoons, bay and beach followed without adding anything of interest. A visit to another area added a pair of hunting Swamp Harriers, Little Grassbird and a Australasian Swamphen with young. Back to Werribee Park where the final new bird of the day was a group of Cape Barren Geese.
Mammals: Swamp Wallaby (1), Common Rabbit (30), Brown Hare (2).
November 8th: Werribee, Split Point, Angelsea, Point Roadknight, Point Addis, Phillip Island.
Weather: Warm and sunny although cooler on the coast with south winds 25 C.
From Werribee the group headed west to the isolated lighthouse at Split Point. On arrival we were greeted by Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters. A short walk towards the lighthouse quickly produced our target species - Rufous Bristlebird. Usually a skulking family this individual showed well and sang from a garden hedge. After a late breakfast a visit to Point Roadknight where a pair of Hooded Plovers gave excellent views on the beach. Offshore lots of Crested Terns and in seaside scrub both Variegated and Superb Fairy Wrens. It was time to visit an area of heath at Anglesea a habitat which is under threat from development in Victoria. Thankfully this area is protected from the worst elements of the housing industry. With no wind blowing we found a Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo singing from a wire. Further along the track excellent views of Striated Fieldwren and the secretive Southern Emu Wren the latter being in a family group. A pair of Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters completed the birds here. Point Addis added Great Cormorant but nothing else whilst slightly inland we connected with the shy Grey Currawong. It was time to head towards Phillip Island via Melbourne with the city being congested with traffic. Arrived early evening on the island an area of dairy farms and rolling countryside adjacent to the Bass Strait.
Mammals: Eastern Grey Kangaroo (8).
November 9th: Phillip Island including Cowes, Rhyll, Swan Lake, The Nobbies.
Final species total: 341.
Weather: Warm and sunny with a cool south wind 25 C.
The last full day of the tour in Australia started with a visit to Rhyll a reserve of mangrove and forest. We were greeted by a pair of circling Wedge-tailed Eagles high above the parking area. Within the forest sightings of Grey Shrike Thrush, Red-wattled and Little Wattlebirds, Silvereye, White-eared Honeyeater, Brown Thornbill and Large-billed Scrubwren. Stopped at the viewpoint looking into the inlet which held the commoner birds. Our journey went to Rhyll with an elevated overlook allowing us to watch Pacific Gull, Caspian and Crested Terns, Black Swans and Australian Pelicans. A bonus came when three Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flew close by. At Rhyll beach a party of Red-necked Stints, Pied Oystercatcher and Laughing Kookaburra. Next on the agenda was Swan Lake the only body of freshwater on Phillip Island. Near the car park several Grey Currawongs gave good views. The group made their way to the hides offering views over the shallow waters of the lake. Sightings included dozens of Black Swans, Australasian Shelduck, Musk Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Cape Barren Geese, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australasian Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen. Around the lake edge several hunting Swamp Harriers were noted. Returned to Cowes for lunch followed by a visit to The Nobbies a series of rocky islets just offshore. The islands attracted terns, Pacific and Kelp Gulls, Dusky Oystercatcher and offshore passing Australasian Gannets. Near the visitor centre a pair of Little Penguins were seen in their artificial burrow. Later in the day a visit to the world famous penguin parade is planned a fitting finale to our Australian adventure. Little Penguins showed well on the beach and walking towards their burrows and we also heard the distinctive calls of Short-tailed Shearwaters although none showed after dark.
Mammals: Swamp Wallaby (3), Common Rabbit (c), Southern Fur Seal (50).
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