Australia including New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, 2023

Mark Finn
October 19-November 12

October 19th: Sydney, Cairns including Botanical Gardens, Cemetery, Centenary Lakes, Esplanade
Daily 57 New 57 Running 57
Weather: Warm and sunny with light SE winds 27c

The group met up at Sydney airport for the flight to Cairns via Brisbane. All sectors were on time and we landed at Cairns around 1130 and met up with Jun our guide. On exiting the airport the sports fields attracted Masked Lapwing, Magpie Lark and Welcome Swallows. Our first destination was the botanical gardens with its mature trees and lush gardens. In the flowering trees we quickly located Olive-backed Sunbirds and groups of Pied Imperial Pigeons which have increased in numbers. The best was to come as a pair of Papuan Frogmouths were located roosting in a large palm tree. Other species present included Metallic Starling, Spangled Drongo, Green Oriole and Willie Wagtail. Lunch was taken followed by checking in at our accommodation. Cairns Cemetery was next on the birding agenda with the trees at the entrance gate having a pair of Yellow Honeyeaters. A slow drive around the cemetery revealed good numbers of Rainbow Bee-eaters, Bush Thick-knee and a migrant Brush Cuckoo sitting on a gravestone. A walk towards the freshwater pool added an Eastern Osprey, Hornbill Friarbird and Australian Swiftlet. At the freshwater pond we added Australasian Grebe, Pacific Black Duck, Intermediate Egret and Little Pied Cormorant. In the under story Orange-footed Scrubfowl and Australian Brush Turkey were located. On exiting the gardens a large tree was being a magnet for birds including Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Black Butcherbird and White-breasted Cuckoo Shrike. Our last stop was the esplanade on Cairns seafront a wonderful place to end the day. On the extensive mud we quickly located Sandwich and a solitary game bird.

Double-eyed Fig-parrots

October 20th: Cairns, Michaelmas Cay, Cairns Esplanade
Daily 40 New 14 Running 71
Weather: Warm and sunny with light SE winds 28c

Today was spent mainly offshore visiting the important seabird colony of Michaelmas Cay. Jun drove towards the harbour and parked up for the day. On the rocks a dark phase Pacific Reef Egret and flocks of Australian Swiftlets feeding over the palm trees. At 0800 hours we were on our way out to see with several Black-naped Terns just outside the harbour area sitting on buoys. On reaching the island we transferred by boat to witness this amazing spectacle which was taking place in front of our eyes. The majority of birds breeding here included Brown Booby, Sooty Tern and Common (Brown) Noddy. A careful scan of the shore and above our heads revealed sightings of Crested, Lesser Crested, Common, Roseate and Little Terns, Great Frigatebird and Ruddy Turnstone. Off the island buoys and boats attracted the uncommon Red-footed Booby and Bridled Tern. In the afternoon we headed back to Cairns and visited the esplanade again. The tide was rather high and the roosting waders were being disturbed by children. Despite this we managed to locate a Broad-billed Sandpiper among the Great Knot flock a rare visitor to this area of Australia.

October 21st: Cairns, Black Mountain Road, Jack Bethel Park, Walkamin, Hastie Swamp, Chewko, Granite Gorge
Daily 102 New 68 Running 139
Weather: Warm and sunny with NW winds 29c

From Cairns we travelled north on Captain Cook Highway and diverted to Black Mountain Road which runs through pristine rain forest habitats. On arrival things appeared to be quiet within the forest apart from a showy pair of Pied Monarch and family parties of Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters. A slow walk up and down the road which included Bridge 2 proved to be productive. Close to the road, sightings of Pale Yellow Robin, Varied Triller, Spectacled Monarch, Rufous Shrike Thrush, Cryptic Honeyeater and a perched Wompoo Fruit Dove. Near the bridge we encountered the localised Macleay’s Honeyeater, Silvereye and a Victoria’s Riflebird searching for food in a fern. Next on the agenda was Jack Bethel Park in Mareeba a habitat of dry woodland. On the way we encountered Wedge-tailed Eagle, Forest Kingfisher and Australian Figbird. On arrival at the park a walk provided us with sightings of Pacific Koel, Noisy Friarbird, Leaden Flycatcher, Rufous Fantail, White-throated Honeyeater and Black Butcherbird. As we were about to exit the park a pair of migrant Channel-billed Cuckoos landed high in a eucalyptus tree and showed well. Back on the road with a birding stop at the settlement of Walkamin. On arrival we quickly located the local Great Bowerbird, Black-faced and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, Pied Butcherbird, Brown and Yellow Honeyeaters and Bar-shouldered Doves. Our route took us through an agricultural area where Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were digging up a field for roots and seeds. Also in the area were Australian Kestrel, Black and Whistling Kites and Australasian Pipit. Lunch was taken at the Gallo Restaurant and then to Hastie Swamp an important area for birds. On arrival the trees were alive with Lewin’s, White-cheeked, Scarlet and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Large-billed Scrubwren and Rufous Whistler. From the hide the group located Plumed and Wandering Whistling Ducks, Magpie Geese, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Nankeen Night Heron, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, Australian Darter and Dusky Moorhen. Waders were few but included Marsh Sandpiper, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels. The fields at Chewko were productive for Brolga and Sarus Cranes, Straw-necked Ibis, Eastern Cattle Egret and Australian Ibis. Our final birding stop was at Granite Gorge with the campground allowing us to observe Squatter Pigeon, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Dollarbird and the commoner species. On exiting the camp a Pacific Baza was located in a roadside tree.

October 22nd: Cairns, Daintree, Mount Carbine, Mount Molloy
Daily 80 New 22 Running 161
Weather: Hot and sunny with light SE winds 29c

Our first stop this morning was an area of the esplanade where the beach held Pacific Golden Plover, Beach Thick-knee and Far Eastern Curlews among the regular waders. In the trees we observed a calling Hornbill Friarbird, Torresian Kingfisher, Varied Honeyeater and a male Rose-crowned Fruit Dove. It was time to head towards Daintree and the river of the same name for a boat trip. A stop at the sports ground added a Cicadiabird in the open. At the river the trees were alive with birds including Brush Cuckoo and Brown-backed Honeyeater. The boat trip is much reduced in time and duration from a few years ago. Opposite the quay a Great-billed Heron was located sitting motionless under a tree root waiting for prey. Our journey on the river added a pair of Green Pygmy Geese, Azure and Sacred Kingfishers and several Australian Figbirds. A diversion into a backwater of the river was productive for a nesting Large-billed Gerygone, Satin and Leaden Flycatchers and a Papuan Frogmouth sitting on a nest. Over the forest we watched a pair of displaying Pacific Baza. Next was the isolated campground of Mount Carbine which was around an hour’s drive away in a very arid area dotted with trees and termite mounds. Along the road several Black Kites and Torresian Crows feeding on road kills. On entering the camp we were greeted by Apostlebirds, Great Bowerbird and Crested Pigeons. A check with the manager to walk around the grounds was granted. The large trees attracted Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Dollarbird, Little and Noisy Friarbirds, Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Squatter Pigeon and a Tawny Frogmouth resting in the fork of a tree. Mount Molloy was next with a diversion for Australian Bustard which we duly located walking slowly around a field. On entering the outskirts of Mount Molloy we went on a walk through the forest and located a mixed feeding flock. The birds were active and included Large-billed Scrub Wren, Fairy Gerygone, Grey Whistler, Rufous Fantail, Dusky Honeyeater and Rufous Fantail. At the end of the track we watched at least three Pheasant Coucals sitting in a grassy area. On the way back to Cairns a road accident meant a change of plans although Eastern Yellow Robin and Olive-backed Oriole were watched from the road.

October 23rd: Cairns, Turf Fields, Etty Bay, Mount Hypipamee, Chambers Wildlife Sanctuary
Daily 60 New 14 Running 175
Weather: Warm and sunny with light NW winds 28c

After leaving Cairns we headed south for c30km and turned towards the coast to visit an area of turf fields. This can be a magnet for birds particularly when being watered during the migration season. Birds using the fields included Plumed Whistling Duck, Masked Lapwing, Black-fronted Dotterel, Pacific Golden Plover and small groups of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins and a single Golden-headed Cisticola. Our journey took us south to Etty Bay a noted haunt of Southern Cassowary but no sightings were made today so I headed inland to Mount Hypipamee. An early lunch at a farm run restaurant and then towards the nature reserve which is set in rainforest at a high elevation. On arrival a walk towards the crater area provided us with views of Brown Gerygone, Grey Fantail, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Scarlet Myzomela, Pale Yellow Robin and Silvereye. Within the canyon we could hear the distinctive calls of a Peregrine Falcon. We retraced our steps and visited the other side of the road with sightings of the ground dwelling Grey-headed Robin, Mountain Thornbill, Atherton’s Scrub Wren, Tooth-billed Bowerbird and Bridled Honeyeater. A walk into the forest for Golden Bowerbird was unsuccessful although we heard one near its bower. It was time to head towards Chambers Wildlife Sanctuary where Lorna located a pair of Eastern Whipbirds. Before dinner another sortie to look for Sooty Owl which we heard well but did not see.

October 24th: Chambers, Lake Eacham, Lake Barrine, Cathedral Fig Tree, Lake Tinaroo
Daily 85 New 20 Running 195
Weather: Warm and sunny with NE winds 29c

The group met up in the lodge car park at 6am with the first bird being a Spotted Catbird feeding on fruit trees. The whole area was alive with birds including Wompoo and Rose-crowned Fruit Doves, Macleay’s, Lewin’s, Dusky and Brown Honeyeaters, Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Eastern Whipbird, Victoria’s Riflebird, Bronze Cuckoo Dove, Topknot and White-headed Pigeons, Pacific Emerald Dove, Barred Cuckoo-shrike and Pale Yellow Robin. Breakfast was taken and then off to nearby Lake Eacham where we concentrated on the car park area which is surrounded by fruiting trees. Overhead summering White-throated Needletails and Pacific Swifts from Asia put on an aerial show. In the fruiting trees we had sightings of Bower’s Shrike Thrush, White-throated Treecreeper, Black-faced and Spectacled Monarchs, Dollarbird and Large-billed Scrubwrens. A large tree attracted Topknot Pigeons and Rainbow Lorikeets. Lake Barrine was next on the agenda with the lake holding Great Crested Grebes. The walk was fairly quiet apart from a showy Yellow-breasted Boatbill. The farmland en route to the Cathedral Fig Tree added Australian Pipit and Fairy Martin. A return to Miranda where a Pied Currawong was located perched in a bare tree. A few hours off and out at 4pm to visit the large lake complex of Lake Tinaroo. On the entrance road we observed a pair of Australian Kites hunting over a grassy area. Parked up by the water edge and started to scan the lake and adjacent area. Birds of interest included Brolga, Buff-banded Rail, Australian Pelican, Australian Swamphen, Australian Wood Duck and a flock of Chestnut-breasted Manikins feeding in long grasses. On the way out another check of the lake added Comb-crested Jacana, Red-necked Stint, Pacific Golden Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and a few Great and Little Pied Cormorants. An added bonus was a Whiskered Tern hawking for insects over the lake.

Buff-banded Rail

October 25th: Chambers, Herberton, Hasties Swamp, Cairns
Daily 94 New 12 Running 207
Weather: Warm and sunny with light NE winds 29c

The usual birds were around Chambers so we headed towards the dry eucalyptus forest near Herberton a town which was famed for tin mining. On the way a surprise was to see Buff-banded Rails feeding on the edge of a sugar cane field. On arriving at the forest we embarked on a walk towards the river and then through the dry forest itself. The trees attracted good numbers of Fuscous Honeyeaters, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Red-tailed Finch and overhead flocks of White-bellied and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes. The many dead trees attracted a few Dusky Woodswallows and parties of Noisy Miners. Birds of prey have been far and few so far so a Brown Goshawk flying over the canopy was a welcome bonus. Our walk was productive for a pair of Red-backed Fairy-wrens and a showy Eastern Shrike Tit. On exiting the area a quail appeared on the track which was later identified as a Painted Button-quail. Lunch was taken followed by a return trip to Hastie’s Swamp. Similar birds to our previous visit with the addition of a close feeding Latham’s Snipe. In was then onto Cairns with a visit to the mangroves where a Mangrove Robin showed well along with a Varied Triller. A quick check of the waders added the eastern race of Black-tailed Godwit and a Torresian Kingfisher sitting on the beach. Our day ended at the cemetery where a flock of Double-eyed Fig Parrots gave us a fitting display before we fly to Cape York in the morning.

October 26th: Cairns, Lockhart River
Daily 24 New 2 Running 209
Weather: Warm and sunny although partly cloudy at Lockhart River. SE winds 29c

Departure to Cairns airport for the flight north to Lockhart River situated on the Cape York Peninsula. We landed on time at the airstrip which was created in 1942 by US engineers. On the grass areas we found Masked Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Torresian Kingfisher and Magpie Larks. In the hotel grounds we located feeding Peaceful and Bar-shouldered Doves. The weather was rather warm and we had to wait for our 4x4. Finally at 4pm an exploration of the road south towards Cookstown which goes through a forested area with mature trees. A White-streaked Honeyeater was briefly seen in roadside bushes along with Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian Swiftlet and Hornbill Friarbirds. The best bird was on the return journey when a male Eclectus Parrot showed well in an old tree. Near the airport Australian Brush Turkey with a purple and not yellow ruff walking around a lawn.

October 27th: Lockhart River including Coun Road, beach and sewage ponds, Chilli Beach
Daily 65 New 14 Running 223
Weather: Warm and sunny with SE winds

The group departed for Coun Road camp ground at 6am with sightings of Grey Goshawk, Forest Kingfisher, Hornbill Friarbird and Eclectus Parrot. Parked up and quickly located Noisy Pitta, Trumpet Manucode, Yellow-spotted, Tawny-breasted and Graceful Honeyeaters, Green Oriole, Rufous Shrike Thrush and the distinctive race of Fairy Gerygone. A walk along the main road resulted in locating Yellow-billed Kingfisher a species which is shared with New Guinea. Careful searching of the trees revealed Frill-necked Monarch, Red-cheeked Parrot (in flight) and the distinctive calls of the elusive Magnificent Riflebird. On the return a female of the latter was seen high in a tree. Back to Lockhart River with a visit to the beach area where we located Greater Sandplover, Pacific Golden Plover, Pacific Reef Egret and on offshore rocks Pied Oystercatcher, Greater and Lesser Crested and Black-naped Terns and Silver Gull. The sewage lagoons nearby held Australasian Grebe, Radjah Shelduck, Grey Teal, Pied Stilt, Pied Heron, Intermediate and Eastern Great Egrets and Australian Ibis. The surrounding trees held a Collared Sparrowhawk and Whistling Kite. Picked up supplies in town and back to our lodges until 3pm when we venture out again. Our destination was Chilli Beach an area of scrub, coconut trees and sandy beaches. On arrival the wading birds included Greater and Siberian Sandplovers, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-tailed Tattler. On rocky outcrops offshore Great Crested and Little Terns plus a few Brown Noddy. A walk through the scrub was very quiet and added nothing of note apart from a Black Butcherbird. On the return home we eventually located a single Palm Cockatoo a scarce endemic of Cape York.

October 28th: Lockhart River including Gordon Creek, beach and reservoir
Daily 54 New 5 Running 231
Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells on an E wind 30c

Out and about at 6am with a return visit towards Coun road. Luck was with us several Palm Cockatoos were seen overhead and a pair landing in a dead tree to give us great views. We then ventured to the campground at Gordons Creek and went on a walk down the road. The forest was alive with the calls of Magnificent Riflebirds a particularly elusive species. On the road itself we encountered Australian Brush Turkey some of which had purple ruffs. In trees large groups of Metallic Starlings, Olive-backed Orioles and calling Wompoo Fruit Doves. In a tree covered in vines our first Tropical Scrubwrens, Dusky and Graceful Honeyeaters. A big bonus was extended views of a Yellow-billed Kingfisher sitting in the top of a dead tree. Near the creek another bonus this time in the form of White-faced Robin a scarce Australian species. Things then started to slow down although further sightings of Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Varied Triller and Rufous Fantail were made. A return to the quay at Lockhart River had similar birds to yesterday with the addition of a Common Sandpiper on the beach. Back out again at 4pm. Our main birding area was the reservoir which is surrounded by old trees and has many broken and dead trees within its boundaries. Careful scanning revealed Wandering and Spotted Whistling Ducks, Green Pygmy Geese, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe and Comb-crested Jacana. In the trees Brown-backed and White-throated Honeyeaters were particularly common. Earlier in the afternoon a Fawn-breasted Bowerbird was seen by Lorna in the lodge grounds.

October 29th: Lockhart River, Coun Road, Sewage Lagoons, road to Chilli Beach, Portlands Road
Daily 44 New 4 Running 235
Weather: Sunny spells on a SE wind 29c

Met up at the usual time and set off to find a few birds around the park headquarters. This was duly achieved with a female Eclectus Parrot poking her head out of a nest hole. Walking around various trails provided us with excellent views of a male Magnificent Riflebird and a male Red-cheeked Parrot perched high in a dead tree, both sightings were considerably better than before. Around 8am the forest fell quiet so we returned towards Lockhart River and stopped for a tame and showy Lemon-bellied Fly Robin perched on a post. Back to visit the sewage lagoons where bird numbers were considerably down to our previous visit. Despite this we added a White-necked Heron to the list. In the afternoon we headed towards the township of Portlands Road. A walk towards the mangroves added a female Shining Flycatcher and Rose-crowned Fruit Dove among the commoner birds. Evening meal taken in a café and then back to base via Coun Campground where we heard Marbled Frogmouth. The bird came close but did not show.

October 30th: Lockhart River, Gordon River, Cairns
Daily 51 New 2 Running 237
Weather: Warm and sunny with a few rain droplets on a SE wind 29c

We had a little time this morning to visit the Gordon River. On the way a Blue-winged Kookaburra was a welcome addition to the list sitting high in a dead tree. By the river a Striated Heron flew into the mangroves. The best however were several Palm Cockatoos flying from their roost towards fruiting trees. Other species present included a male Shining Flycatcher, Varied Thriller, Royal Spoonbill, Magpie Geese and a roadside Pheasant Coucal. In the forest we could hear Noisy Pitta and Forest Kingfisher. At 1030 we fly south to Cairns where we send the night before going south again to the state capital of Brisbane.

October 31st-November 1st: Cairns, Brisbane, O’Reilly’s including Booyong Walkway, Duck Creek Road
Daily 32 New 12 Running 249
Weather: Cloudy and overcast with light SE winds 26c

October 31st was a travelling day from Cairns to Brisbane and then inland to O’Reilly’s retreat a special place nestling in the mountains. We arrived at O’Reilly’s around 1830 hours and checked in for two nights. On the following morning we were greeted by Satin and Regent’s Bowerbirds, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Australian Brush Turkey, Green Catbird and Pied Currawong. Breakfast taken at 7am and then to the boardwalk where found White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrub Wrens, Eastern Yellow Robins and Golden Whistlers. Near the walkway the group located a pair of Australian Logrunner, Grey Fantail, Brown Gerygone and Large-billed Scrubwren. On the way back White-throated Treecreeper going up a tree in search of food. Back at the main complex we located Welcome Swallow, Australian Raven and Crimson Rosella searching for hand outs. Back out at 2pm to search for more birds in this wonderful wilderness of Queensland. A bonus came when a Albert’s Lyrebird was seen on two occasions. Our main destination was Duck Creek Road which passes through forest and fields. It was tough going as birdlife appeared to be low and quiet sound wise. The fields held Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and overhead a party of three Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. In the forest we located Lewin’s Honeyeater, Rufous and Grey Fantails, Laughing Kookaburra and a calling Wompoo Fruit Dove. Tomorrow we head back towards Brisbane and on to Sydney.

Regent Honeyeater

November 2nd: O’Reilly’s, Minnippi Wetlands, Wynnum, Sydney
Daily 56 New 3 Running 252
Weather: Warm and sunny with E winds 27c

A last look around the gardens at O’Reilly’s added the regular species plus a Grey Shrike Thrush. After breakfast I headed down towards the lowlands and towards the wetlands near Brisbane. At Minnippi a scan of the pools produced a few water birds notably Wandering Whistling Duck, Black Swan, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Buff-banded Rail, Latham’s Snipe, Comb-crested Jacana and Eastern Cattle Egrets. In the deeper waters we located Australasian Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Hardhead, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants. In the trees several Noisy Miners were seen. I then went to Brisbane airport for the flight down to Sydney.

November 3rd: Sydney including Royal National Park, Wattamolla, Boat Harbour, Botanical Gardens, Bradley’s Head
Daily 60 New 13 Running 265
Weather: Mixed with sunny spells and cloud on a SE wind 25c

At 7am we met up with Baz who resides in Sydney and set off towards the Royal National Park the second oldest in the world after Yellowstone in the United States. On arrival a walk along the river and through degraded woodland with stands of older trees. In the leaf litter up to three Bassian Thrushes were located with Eastern Whipbirds for company. The group also had brief views of Superb Lyrebird but it could not be seen clearly. Other species of note included Black-faced Monarch, Green Catbird, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy Wren, White-browed Scrub Wren and Grey Butcherbird. Near the car park a family of Australian Wood Ducks with 11 ducklings. Wattamolla is not faraway where a walk towards the cliff and ocean provided us with sightings of New Holland, Lewin’s and Scarlet Honeyeaters, Little Wattlebird, Silvereye and hunting Australian Kite. Near the cliffs we eventually located the localised Rockwarbler, Variegated Fairy Wren, Silvereye and Pied Currawong. Offshore we observed a steady stream of Flesh-footed and Sooty Shearwaters. Next on the agenda was Boat Harbour where rocky islands attracted Great Crested, Common and Fairy Terns and Silver Gulls. In the grassy areas we found Australian Pipits and Masked Lapwings. Before lunch another look at the sea added more shearwaters and a single Black-browed Albatross. The botanical gardens in central Sydney hold the common birds of the city and on this visit a roosting Powerful Owl which was a big bonus. Our last stop at Bradley’s Point was rather quiet although we heard Spotted Pardalote in the trees.

Eastern Whipbird

November 4th: Sydney, Cumberland NP, Boongala, Maryalya, Pitt Town, Pierces Pass, Oakley Wood, Lithgow
Daily 86 New 17 Running 282
Weather: Warm in Sydney, cool in Lithgow on SE winds. Sunny spells am, rain and mist pm 13c-19c

The traffic in Sydney was light this morning so our journey to Cumberland State Park was quick and easy. On arrival a walk along the road produced sightings of many parrot species. Of interest to the group were Rainbow, Scaly-breasted and Musk Lorikeets, Little Corella, Australian King Parrot, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Crimson Rosella. Other species of note included Noisy and Bell Miners, Satin Bowerbird, Eastern Whipbird, Lewin’s Honeyeater and Satin Bowerbird. Next on the agenda was the private garden at Boongala where the hosts allowed us access to walk around the trails. This was an exceptional area to watch and study Eastern Rosella, Galah, Crested Pigeon, Common Bronzewing, Peaceful and Spotted Doves, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Olive-backed Oriole, Little Wattlebird, Eastern Spinebill and Double-barred Finches. The pools around Maryalya held the commoner birds whilst the roadside had a party of Red-rumped Parrots, Yellow-faced Honeyguide and Jacky Winter. A diversion along Newman’s Road added Azure and Sacred Kingfishers, Musk Lorikeet, White-throated and Brown Gerygones, Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Wonga Pigeon (long and extended views), Superb Fairy Wren and a distant Wedge-tailed Eagle. Pitt Town was next on the list where supplies were purchased for lunch. The nearby lagoon was almost dry compared to two weeks ago but it still had a few surprises in store. Careful scanning added White-bellied Sea Eagle, Swamp Harrier, Whistling and Australian Kites, Red-necked Avocet, Pied Stilt, Sharp-tailed and Marsh Sandpipers, Royal Spoonbill, Australian Pelican and on the reed edge two Baillon’s Crakes. Our travels went through an area of turf fields with sightings of Nutmeg Mannikin and Red-whiskered Bulbuls. It was time to head into the Blue Mountains and Lithgow but the weather worsened to low cloud and mist. A diversion to Pierces Pass had Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo and a single White-cheeked Honeyeater. In Lithgow a short visit to the old woodlands at Oakley. In the forest we located Varied Sittella, Hooded Robin and Little Thornbill.

Common Bronzewing

November 5th: Lithgow, Capertee Valley, Glen Davis, Lake Wallace
Daily 60 New 10 Running 292
Weather: Overcast with frequent rain showers on a SW wind 9c-15c

The weather was to play an important part today with unseasonal cloud and frequent periods of rain. Picked up supplies at a 7/11 supermarket and travelled towards the remote and sparsely populated Capertee Valley. Birding can be challenging in this area as most of the land is privately owned and off limits, however good birding can be made from roadside stops. The second stop was good as it was at an elevated position with views of different habitats. Walking along the road gave us close views nomadic White-browed Woodswallows, a few Dusky and Masked Woodswallows and hunting Brown Falcon. In an open area several Jacky Winter, female Hooded Robin, Spotted Pardalote, Eastern Yellow Robin and Fuscous and White-plumed Honeyeaters gleaning insects in the eucalyptus tops. Our journey to Glen Davis was uneventful until a short walk was made within the forest. Birds of note included Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Olive-backed Oriole and groups of White-winged Chough. Lunch was taken in a nearby campground where a pair of Superb Fairy Wrens literally came up to the windscreen and mirrors searching for insects. A bonus here was at least three Gang-gang Cockatoo feeding quietly on seeds of a conifer tree. A visit to a riverine woodland was productive for Brown and White-throated Treecreepers and White-browed Babblers. The weather started to worsen as we headed back towards Lithgow. On the way another stop had a juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo perched on a fence line. The final birding was at Wallace Lake which was remarkable for a large flock of Hoary-headed Grebes numbering around fifty birds. On the lake the group located the bizarre Musk Duck, Little Pied and Great Cormorants, Eurasian Coot (hundreds), Australian Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Great Crested and Australasian Grebes and a few Hardheads.

Brown Treecreeper

November 6th: Lithgow, Oakley Woods, Hassan’s Wall, Blackheath, Bushells Lagoon
Daily 64 New 5 Running 297
Weather: Overcast with rain showers and occasional sunny spells. SW wind 9c-15c

Breakfast was taken in Lithgow which was followed by a short walk in Oakley Woods. Bird life was quiet here although sightings of Superb Fairy-wren, Rufous Whistler, Brown Thornbill and Spotted Pardalote were made. In the dense undergrowth Pilotbirds were heard but not seen. Checked out and made the shirt journey to Hassan’s Wall which was named after an area in India. Near the parking area we had brief sightings of Superb Lyrebird, Grey Shrike Thrush and White-plumed Honeyeaters. Our journey took us to Blackheath and the stunning vistas of the Blue Mountains. In the town close views of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo and Red Wattlebird. It was time to go back towards the lowlands and a visit to Bushells Lagoon. This large lake with muddy edges and stands of reeds added Chestnut Teal and Australian Reed Warbler to the list. Other species present included Eastern Great and Intermediate Egrets, Australian Pelican, Royal Spoonbill, Pied Stilt, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, White-faced Heron, Red-rumped Parrot and Red-browed Finch.

November 7th: Sydney, Melbourne, Deniliquin, Wanganella
Daily 38 New 8 Running 305
Weather: Overcast with rain showers and lighting on a N wind 8c-15c

A travel day as members of the group went to Melbourne and the UK. On arrival in Melbourne I picked up a rental vehicle and travelled north to the country town of Deniliquin which is located in NSW. At 1830 I set off to meet Robert our guide for the evening to birdwatch in and around Wanganella. The weather was poor with rain and wind which was not good but fortunately it eased with sightings of Stubble Quail, Brown Songlark and Emu along the dirt track. At the end a walk into a paddock produced close views of the rare and bizarre Plains-wanderer. Afterwards a visit to a remote farmstead where we encountered Eastern Barn Owl, Tawny Frogmouth, Southern Boobock, Australasian Kestrel and roosting Galah.

November 8th: Deniliquin, Boree Moran Road, Werribee
Daily 43 New 7 Running 312
Weather: Sunny with afternoon showers on a NW wind 7c-16c  

I decided to head back towards Wanganella and check the woodland near the old telephone exchange. A short walk was productive for the uncommon Black Honeyeater and a Singing Honeyeater sitting in a tree. On the fence-line a Brown-headed Honeyeater was sallying for flies. Boree Moran Road is close by and a diversion down this dirt road which goes through mature trees and wheat fields. The older trees attracted Greater Bluebonnet, Red-rumped Parrot, Yellow-throated Miner and Pied Butcherbird. In the fence we watched a party of Purple-backed Fairy Wrens and behind them a pair of Emu. Also in the area were Brown Falcon, Large-billed Corella and the commoner species. A diversion to the airport had Eastern Rosellas, Laughing Kookaburra and White-winged Choughs. The journey to Werribee was largely uneventful apart from a close Wedge-tailed Eagle near the state border.

November 9th: Werribee, Aireys Point, Anglesea, Werribee Water Treatment Works
Daily 76 New 11 Running 323
Weather: Warm and sunny with light SW winds 19c   

I left Werribee and headed towards Geelong and the Great Ocean Road towards Aireys Point. This is a popular tourist spot which is dominated by a lighthouse and private properties with well vegetated gardens. On arrival we located New Holland Honeyeater, Red and Little Wattlebirds, White-browed Scrubwren and Superb Fairy-wrens. A scan of offshore rocks revealed a few Black-faced Cormorants which are essentially a marine species. On a return towards the lighthouse several Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding quietly in cone bearing trees. A real bonus came when the scarce and localised Rufous Bristlebill was seen walking slowly around in a garden. Next on the agenda was Anglesea and its adjacent beaches. A walk towards the sandy shore revealed at least five Hooded Plovers and a group of Silver Gulls. It was time to head towards the incredible water treatment works near Werribee which are known worldwide for the variety and range of birds located there. On entering the gates which are strictly controlled by a key system we made a stop at the first lagoon. This was crammed full of waterbirds including Cape Barren Geese, Australian Shelduck, Pink-eared Duck, Chestnut and Grey Teals, Pied Stilt and dozens of Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes. Lunch was taken near the bird hide overlooking a bay with sandy islands and rocks. The islands held thousands of Common Terns from Siberia, Crested Tern, Black Swan (hundreds), Pied Oystercatcher, Pied Cormorant, Red-necked Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Curlew and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Great Knot and Royal Spoonbill. Overhead we witnessed hunting White-bellied Sea Eagle, Swamp Harrier and Australian Kestrel. On another pool the group located Musk Duck, Hardhead and in adjacent reedbeds Australian Reed Warbler, White-fronted Chat and Little Grassbird. It was time to visit Gate 1 with sightings of Brolga, Great and Little Pied Cormorants and Pacific Black Ducks. At Gate 1 a Pacific Heron was noted with White-faced Herons. The finale was watching around twenty different crakes with exceptional and close views of Baillon’s and Australian (Spotted) Crakes. On exiting the area we added Swamp Harrier, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Australian Gull-billed Terns.

November 10th: Werribee, Rhyll Inlet, Swan Lake
Daily 57 New 5 Running 328
Weather: Warm and sunny with light SW winds

I checked out of Werribee and headed towards the state capital Melbourne and then south towards Philip Island. Our first birding stop was at Rhyll Inlet near Cowes with a habitat of mangroves and adjacent degraded woodland. A dead tree attracted Shining Bronze Cuckoo, White-eared Honeyeater, Silvereye and Brown Thornbill. In the inlet we found a few Black Swans, White-faced Heron, Crested Tern and an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle. At 1400 hours to the hotel and an agreement to go out again at 1630 hours when it would be cooler. Swan Lake was to be our destination a great place to observe water birds. Walking through the forest we observed Laughing Kookaburra, Rufous Whistler and a singing Olive-backed Oriole. At the start of the boardwalk several Cape Barren Geese allowed a close approach. In the burrows we could hear the distinctive calls of Short-tailed Shearwaters. The elevation of the boardwalk allowed good views over Swan Lake and several species were observed including Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes, Grey and Chestnut Teals, Australian Shelduck, Pacific Black and Musk Ducks, Australian Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and the scarce Black-tailed Native-hen. Waders were thin on the ground apart from Pied Stilt, Masked Lapwing and a solitary Black-fronted Dotterel. Predators were few apart from White-bellied Sea Eagle, and a few Swamp Harriers. On the dead trees we located Great and Little Black Cormorants, and in the fields Straw-necked and Australian Ibis. Later a adult Kelp Gull dropped in to bathe whilst the boardwalk attracted European Goldfinches to feed on seeding shrubs.

November 11th: Cowes, Baxter Marsh, Nobbies Point, Penguin Parade
Daily n/r New 9 Running 337
Weather: Sunny with strong SW winds

A leisurely day started with a visit to Baxter’s Marsh which was hard to find. Eventually a walk through woodland ended at a hide overlooking a well-vegetated lake. Not too much to report bird wise apart from a few Hardheads and Australian Swamphens. I decided to go back towards Nobbies Point and look around the headland itself. Careful scanning revealed a large colony of Crested Terns, Black-faced Cormorants and Sooty Oystercatchers feeding on the rocks. Under the boardwalk many Cape Barren Geese were noted. Back to base for an early dinner and followed with the finale of the Penguin Parade. At 2030 the first Little Penguins started to arrive and waddle up towards their burrows a fitting end to our tour of Australia.

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