Queensland, Northern Territory and New South Wales
A Two Months Low Budget Birding Trip Through Eastern and Central Australia
26 September - 24 November 1993
by: Michiel de Boer
This is a report of a birding holiday of two months in Australia. I didn't book anything in advance (except for the flight) didn't rent a car and still visited all the good spots I wanted to visit. It was a great pleasure and a terrific experience, I would recommend to any birdwatcher or nature-lover. The planning of this trip relied on sources like travel-reports. By writing this report I hope I can contribute to the planning of trips of other people.
During a two months travel in Australia a visited a lot of different places and quite a few of them are already well known birding spots. Because it's no use repeating other reports I will mainly give the information which is not stated in previous reports, as far as I know. In Australia I saw the total of 374 species of birds; 22 species of mammals/marsupials; 20 species of reptiles and amfibians and loads of different fishspecies and seacreatures at the Great Barrier Reef. I did not use all my time to watch birds or other animals, but also took some time to watch the highlights of the eastern half of Australia.
If you have any questions or remarks, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
This trip would have been much less satisfactory without the help knowledge and companionship of quite a few very competent Australian Birdwatchers. I am very grateful to Dick Turner a very kind and excellent birdwatcher (his knowledge of sounds, behaviour and feeding habits of birds is remarkable). He took me on a few days birding trip/survey on the Regent Honeyeater (a threatened endemic species) and arranged my camping in the Blue Mountains National Park. I am also grateful to: Andy Anderson (Cairns & Jullaten Area) all other "birdoes" of the Cairns & Jullaten area which were on the Kingfisher Caravan Park on the weekend of 15-17 oktober 1993 and took me to the best spots in the area for two whole days; John Crowhurst and Terry Kelly (for pointing out a breeding pair Papuan Frogmouthes in Cairns). Special thanks to Peter West for an overnight stay and enviting me on a 100% succesfully chase of three good species in Sydney. Last but not least a warm thanks to my relatives in Brisbane whose hospitality surpased even the Australian standards.
Birding in Australia
To go on a birding trip to Australia is a must for the international birder. Although there is a relatively modest variety of species compared to the size of the country, it is still very much a birding country. As Australia is the country with the hardly recognizable evolutionary equivalents in nature, it is the place to see spectacular ornithological specialities. It is also the country that has the most endemic avifauna. Of the 83 families of birds (The bird continent, South America has 86 families) there are 15 truly endemic families and numerous families with several endemic representatives. Thus many Australian birds can be caracterized as typical or remarkable. To mention a few that are relatively easy to spot: Megapodes (Turkey-like birds which build mounds of soil and vegetation to incubate their eggs by the heat of fermentation rather than by ordinary breeding); Cockatoos and Rosellas (either beautifully colored like Galah, rich and brightly colored like Crimson Rosella or massive like Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (63 cm); Kookaburras (massive Tree-Kingfishers); Lyrebirds with the unique combination of both spectacular courtship and the most spectacular song of all birds; Tiny birds with unbelievably bright blue colours and therefore have captivating names such as: Splendid Fairy-wren and Superb Fairy-wren; Bowerbirds considered the most advanced of all birds because of their remarkable bowerbuilding and associated behaviour and closely related to them: birds of paradise (two of the four Australian species are easy to record).
Australian avifauna is quite wel studied and the Australian birder has the luxury of brillant fieldguides.
Books and Reports
For birds I used:
* Simpson & Day; Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. A book of Identification. (this book has excellent plates but rather brief descriptions. In 1993 a new print came out with some new plates and information. (I firstly noticed this when I was there). Price in Australia: A$ 30 good value.
The new Slater & Slater Guide has also brilliant plates. The advantage of this guide is that it sometimes has plates of different plumages or subspecies.
The Travelguide I used:
* Finlay H. a.o.; Australia; Lonely Planet travel survival kit. 6 ed (1992). The most famous and excellent travelguide of the Australian publishing company.
In Australia I bought myself guides for reptiles and mamals:
* Frith, Clifford & Dawn; Australian Tropical Reptiles & Frogs. A small booklet with high quality fotographs, distribution maps and useful information. Though the booklet didn't contain the 870 species of reptiles and amphibians that occur in Australia, I found that most species were still in it. Price: A$ 15 good value.
* Cronin, Leonard; Key Guide to Australian Mammals. A superb guide that contains all mammals (including marine-mammals and the few placental species) It has very detailed descriptions and information about behaviour, development, food, habitat and distribution maps. Price: A$ 20 good value.
Reports I used:
* Vermeulen, Jan; A birding trip to Australia NT, QLD, NSW; An ornithological report 30 oktober - 28 november 1991. (Even birders in Australia know it).
* Harrison, Kerry K.; Australia 1989: Selective updates and new sites.
I also made use of a booklet I bought in Australia:
* Wieneke, Jo; Where to find birds in North East Queensland (1992). Holds most of the valuable information of the local birders in this area. Price A$ 15 good value!
Travelling in Australia (some advice for low-budget birders)
Travelling by bus in Australia is very comfortable and not too expensive if you do the right thing: buy a buspass. A lot of people I met found it quite expensive but they often do not take the huge distances in account. With my "AUSSIE HIGHLIGHTS BUSPASS" issued by Bus Australia, Greyhound and Pioneer Coachlines I travelled for over 10,000 Km and I had to pay A$ 690 for this free route pass. You can buy them at most travel services (certainly at the RACQ Travel Service, where I bought it). You'll get a significant decount if you have a VIP card. There is quite a variety of passes on basis of free travelling days or free travelling kilometres or free routes. The Lonely Planet Travelguide will give you the details. The specific advantages of a buspass are the low costs, the flexibility and the convenient use. The pass I used is valid for one year and the only limitation (besides the route) is that you can't cover a distance twice. You can always deside to take a bus to a next destination sooner or later than you had in mind in the first place. The rules are however that you have to phone for a reservation (or a change of a reservation) 24 hrs before departure. You'll find nevertheless that the Aussies are easy-going and will try to help you even if you don't stick to their rules. I once decided to take the next bus instead of staying for another day. I phoned to try to change the reservation of a busy long-distance coachline between Mt Isa and Darwin. To my pleasant surprise they didn't even argue before booking a seat on a bus that was leaving in half an hour. They also made no problem when I took a coachline which wasn't covered by the pass. Be careful to make a booking in advance though. I got away with it once (in Kakadu) but Australian busdrivers are sometimes only twice as friendly as Dutch busdrivers.
The buses are fast (they usually overtake cars!) and can save time if you travel by night. Take warm clothes when you travel by night. It is well known that the airconditioning turns from pleasant by day to freezing by night.
Another good thing about bustravel is that the whole lowbudget travelling market in Australia is leaning on it. Backpackerhostels will usually pick you up at the busstation (they now when the busses arrive and have learned that it will pay to pick up a vanload of backpackers). At receptions of Backpackers you might find some information about local tours and interesting sites in the neighbourhood.
One problem of public transport in Australia is that there are only just a few local buses in a few areas (Cairns for instance). One alternative is to go on aranged tours which can be frustrating because you sometimes spend more time in a bus or a van then in nature. When you run short in time and your budget runs short to rent a car it can be a solution. I did it a couple of times and the (birding)results weren't too bad. For areas that haven't got the label Aussie Highlight but have very interesting nature like the Western MacDonnell Ranges, the Flinders Ranges and Litchfield National Park it can be worthwhile when you only have a day left. The one-day-rush through these beautiful areas would give you an impression and you will see a few typical birds of these areas.
Renting a car might sometimes even be cheaper than a daytour. In Darwin I saw ads of carrentals for A$ 25 a day (probably insurance and free kilometers not included). The Litchfield tour was the most expensive A$ 60 including lunch but it was worth it. Though I would have rented a car if I could.
Hitchhiking is of course a way of getting around. For long distances you won't stand at the roadside (certainly not in the heat of the mid-afternoon!) but watch the information on the walls of busstations and hostels. There's usually a place were people leave messages with a phonenumber when they seek a travelcompanion for a long distance ride (hopefully just to share the petrolcosts). Believe it or not Australia has a reputation as far as lost or killed hitchhikers goes. This is why it is officially forbidden to hitchhike in Queensland.
Getting there (flight and visas)
You defenitely need a visa when you go to Australia. In Holland one can get it by sending a form and enveloppe with stamps and your passport to the Australian Embassy. A visa for three months is free, a visa for six months is Dfl 45. To extend your visa in Australia will cost you A$ 200 and requires special cicumstances. If you're aged 25 or less and have Dutch Nationality you can buy a Working Holliday Visa (Dfl. 185). This visa is valid for 12 months and also gives you the right to work in Australia (with regulair visas it is strictly forbidden to work as you will have to declare with your request for the visa). For British people there's a higher age maximum to get this type of visa.
You can't bring in anything of organic origin (animals or plants). Fines are high (up to A$ 50.000) and they checked almost everybody on our plane thoroughly (expept for me luckily).
I took the cheapest flight there was at the time. The Malaysia Airlines flight costed me 2150 Dutch guilders (Dfl.) or 782 pounds. If you fly with Malaysia Airlines you might probably have a stop over in Kuala Lumpur (KL) for 30 hours or more. If you're not to tired there's a few good things to do:
You can visit the Batu Caves which aren't too good for birds but it is
worth to have a look at these caves which are used as Hindu-temples.
You can visit the Lake Garden park in KL. Quite good to watch birds.
A probably excellent place close to KL to watch birds is Templer Park.
For the birding results see at the end of Day's Log.
USEFUL ADDRESSES IN AUSTRALIA
For the nesting pair of Papuan Frogmouths:
The best locations to see the birdlife are: The Mission Beach area; Cairns & Julatten area; Darwin; Kakadu; Alice Springs; the Capertee Valley; the Blue Mountains and Lamington
The weather was always good warm (some people think it is too hot most of the time) dry and quiet (unless stated different) and could hardly influence the recordings. The only time I found the heat hard to bare was in Kakadu and in Katherine (both 40 degrees Centigrade).
Not all recorded species are given here. The common species that were seen everyday are frequently left out in day's log. The common and/or widespread species are (between brackets if common in a certain area):
QLD = Queensland
coast QLD = the strip of land between the Great Dividing Range and the coast
NT = Northern Territory
SA = South Australia
NSW = New South Wales
outback = inland; dry eucalyptforest or desert
Cattle Egret; White-faced Heron; Sacred Ibis; Straw-necked Ibis; Royal Spoonbill; Magpie Goose; Pacific Black Duck; Grey Teal; Maned Duck; Black Kite (very common in NT); Brahminy Kite (coast QLD); White-bellied Sea-eagle (coast QLD; Kakadu); Brown Falcon (outback); Australian Kestrel; Australian Brush-turkey (rainforest coast QLD); Silver Gull (coast); Wompoo Fruit-Dove (rainforest QLD, common though never in large numbers); Peaceful Dove; Spotted Turtle-dove (rural areas); Bar-shouldered Dove (coast QLD); Crested Pigeon; Galah (outback); Sulphur-crested Cockatoo; Rainbow Lorikeet (coast QLD); Laughing Kookaburra (coast QLD); Sacred Kingfisher; Rainbow Bee-eater; Dollarbird (outback); Noisy Pitta (coastal rainforest QLD); Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike; White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike; Varied Triller (QLD, NT); Grey Fantail; Welcome Swallow; Fairy Martin; Mistletoebird; Striated Pardalote; Silvereye (QLD); Blue-faced Honeyeater (never in large numbers); Noisy Miner (QLD); White-throated Honeyeater; Brown Honeyeater; House Sparrow (main cities); Figbird (coast QLD); Australian Magpie-lark; White-breasted Woodswallow (coast QLD); Black-faced Woodswallow (outback); Australian Magpie; and Torresian Crow.
A list of all areas
NP = National Park
Important areas are in bold face:
26-28 September Brisbane (Mt. Cootha; Springbrook NP; Bribie Island)
29 September Maryborough and Hervey Bay
2-4 Oktober Airlie Beach (South Molle Island; Harvy's Reef; Rainforest: Connon Valley)
5-7 Oktober Mission Beach (Lacey creek; Licuala State Forest Park; Dunk Island)
8-14 Oktober Cairns (Centenary Lakes; Esplanade; Kuranda Train; Mossman Gorge(11 okt.); Michaelmass Cay (12 okt.); Hastings Reef)
15-17 Oktober Julatten (Bushy creek (Kingfisher Caravan Park); Mt. Lewis NP; Abbatoir Swamp; Weatherby station; Mt Carbine; Pickford rd.)
19 Oktober Mt. Isa
20+26 Oktober Darwin (Botanic Gardens; East Point Reserve; sewage ponds;
marshes at Lagoonroad
21-25 Oktober Kakadu NP (Nourlangie Rock; Cooinda (Yellow Water cruise); Ubirr; Rockholes Walk)
27 Oktober Litchfield NP and Fogg Dam reserve
28-30 Oktober Katherine and Katherine Gorge
1 November Alice Springs
2 November West MacDonnell's Ranges (Ellery Creek rockholes; Ormiston Gorge; Ochre Pitts; Simpsons Gap)
3-6 November Ayers Rock and Olgas
7 November Kings Canyon
8 November Flinders Ranges (Arkaroo Rock; Wilpena)
10+17 November Sydney (Centennial Park (10/11) Castle Hill; Manly 17/11))
11-13 November Blue Mountains (Lapstone; Euroka Clearing)
14-16 November Capertee Valley
18-21 November Lamington NP
22 November Brisbane (Maiala NP; Boombana NP)
23-24 November Fraser Island
Important birds are in bold face and locations are underlined:
The Brisbane Area
(Mt. Cootha; Springbrook Falls; Bribie Island)
I arrived about 6.00 am in the morning and was collected by my relatives at Brisbane airport. The drive to Greenslopes produced my first Galah. In the first few days many of the common species were seen. A Mangrove Honeyeater is worth mentioning. I saw this bird in Brisbane on Mangrove area at the coast. On 28/9 me and my family went on a day trip to Springbrook NP. This produced amongst a glimpse of the usually very hard to spot Eastern Bristlebird a few species:
Pied Currawong; Lewins Honeyeater; Crimson Rosella; Eastern Whipbird (heard); Bellminer (heard). This NP might well be as interesting as Lamington (which is allmost linked with the park). The short visit however and the fact that my knowledge of Australian birdcalls wasn't sufficient in this early stage of the trip resulted in this rather poor list of species.
29 and 30/9
I had a ride to a place near Maryborough but in the middle of nowhere. On the way I saw Banded Lapwing and a couple of Purple Gallinules (Swamphen) walking over a golfcourse (strangely enough it seems to be a rural bird here). I camped in a dry eucalypt forest on property of some aquaintances of my parents. To give an idea what a perfectly ordinairy piece of "bush" in this area can produce:
Brown Goshawk; Scaly-breasted Lorikeet; Little Lorikeet; Australian King Parrot; Pale-headed Rosella; Eastern Yellow Robin; Rufous Whistler; Grey Shrike-thrush; Grey-crowned Babbler; Noisy Friarbird; White-naped Honeyeater; Scarlet Honeyeater; Grey Butcherbird.
A brief visit to the first not too heavily visited coastline produced:
Whimbrel; Far Eastern Curlew; Australian Pelican; Little Black Cormorant.
In the evening we (me and my cousin Maria (non-birdo)) took the nightbus to Airlie Beach for a short visit to the Whitsunday Islands and the Reef close to it. At the busstation I was amused by a funny scene: a tiny (but very poisonous) Red-back Spider walked straight into a group of backpackers and within seconds the whole bunch of backpackers made way for a spider with the size of a fingernail.
Airlie Beach (South Molle Island)
The nightly bustrip from Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach (arival 7.30 am) produced an interesting species close to Airlie Beach: Australian Bustard (3+). We took the 9.00 am boat for a daytrip to South Molle Island: Pied Cormorant; Oystercatcher (at Airlie Beach). On the island I had an encounter with what I thought would be some kind of reptile crawling through the scrub. After a patient and soundless waiting I had very close views of Brown Quails (5 ex.) who were probably as surprised as I was. It were the only Brown Quails I would see on this trip. Other birds seen on the island: Orange-footed Scrubfowl; Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo; Pheasant Coucal; Yellow-bellied Sunbird; Spangled Drongo and Pied Currawong. I also saw the first fruitbats in daylight: a small colony of Little Red Flying Foxes and Black Flying foxes hanging in a tree close to the golfcourse.
This day was planned for a trip to the Great Barrierreef. During our quite rough boattrip it was raining which slightly tempered my eager to have a look at the habitat of the most spectacular marinelife in the world. To our surprise the wheather changed from heavily clouded with rain at the coast to an almost cloudless and clear blue sky with a burning sun at the reef. During the three hours of our very pleasant snorkling an elegant Black (White-capped) Noddy was circling around our boat and made this experience feel ultimately tropical. The darkbrown plumage contrasted beautifully with the deep blue of the sea.
At 6.15 am I went for a walk up hill to were the small town seemed to end in forest. Birds seen: Pacific Baza (1); Spotted Turtle-Dove; Forest Kingfisher; Nutmeg Mannikin; Yellow Honeyeater (2); Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (2); Yellow-bellied Sunbird; Laughing Kookaburra; Green Figbird. Close to the bay: Torresian Imperial-pigeon; Great Egret; Eastern Reefheron (1); White-bellied Seaeagle (1). In the late morning we joined a guided tour to the nearby (Closed-canopy) Rainforest of the Connon Valley (on the Conway Range) (Restricted Area). It was nice but the list of birds is very short because we were there at the wrong time of the day and the guide got most of my attention: Brown Cuckoo-Dove; Scaly-breasted Lorikeet; Fan-tailed Cuckoo; Spectacled Monarch and Wompoo Fruit-dove. More interesting was a Goulds Goanna crossing the road and a few Ulysses Butterflies that were flying around. When sun catches their wings it's like a small blue lamp blinking.
Bustrip to Mission Beach
This was a full day travel to Mission Beach our next destination. Still, sitting in the bus I saw two new species: Square-tailed Kite (1) and Wedge-tailed Eagle (1); and also Australian Bustard; Australian Kestrel; Brahminy Kite; White-bellied Seaeagle; Strawnecked Ibis; Sacred Ibis.
Mission Beach (Lacey creek; Licuala State Forest Park; Dunk Island)
(see map 1)
6.30 am - 12.30 pm.
This morning we were picked up from our campsite (1 km. further than the busstop on the mainroad) by Klaus Uhlenhut for a paid birdtrip to the first visit of the important ornithological sites of Queensland (A$ 30 pp. including tea, see useful addresses). This was a very valuable trip to me because Klaus learned me some sounds of the Rainforest Species and taped out some hard to spot birds:
Lacey creek State Forest Park is one of the best places to see the last of the impressive (the only bird that can be a serious threat to man when tries to protect its chicks) but unfortunately almost extinct Southern Cassowary (some estimate that there are only 500 left in Australia):
On the parking place of this forest I was (to put it mildly) affraid of a bird. A huge Southern Cassowary (a male with 3 chicks) came walking towards us for as close that you could stroke it. Klaus had just explained what to do when you are attacked by a Cassowary: Lie down flat on the ground so that the huge claws won't rip your belly open when the bird kicks (then the only thing it can do is stamp on you, which gives you more chance to survive). Short after this encounter Klaus told me that the birds are fed sometimes and are therefor used to people. So I was scared of a bird that was probably thinking: 'now, why don't you feed me?'. Other birds seen here: Superb Fruit-Dove (a female); Brown Cuckoo-Dove; Double-eyed Fig-parrot; White-rumped Swiftlet; Pale-yellow Robin; Grey Whistler; Little Shrike-thrush; Spectacled Monarch; White-eared Monarch; Pied Monarch; Helmeted Friarbird; Dusky Honeyeater; Graceful Honeyeater; Metallic Starling; Spangled Drongo; Spotted Catbird; Victoria's Riflebird; Yellow Figbird; Large-billed Scrubwren.
In Licuala State Forest Park we saw:
Noisy Pitta; Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-shrike; Black Butcherbird and Koel (heard), amongst the common species already mentioned.
A stroll along the beach halfway to Clump Point gave:
Tropical Scrubwren (one in a small piece of forest); Yellow-bellied Sunbird; Emerald Ground-Dove and Orange-footed Scrubfowl.
Tickets can be bought at the travel agent near the busstop. A bus brought us from the campsite to Clump Point were the boat was waiting for Dunk Island. When the boat arived I saw two juvenile Sooty Terns and two Brown Booby's. A good site for Beach Thicknee (given by Klaus Uhlenhut who lived on the island a while ago) is to walk from the peer south along the beach untill the beach ends in mangroves. Where the mangroves start you might see them. Unfortunately when I arived there was a fisherman walking through the mangroves who probably caused the birds to find there food elsewhere. A Mangrove Honeyeater and a Shining Flycatcher was what I saw in the mangroves. Birds seen on the island: Rufous Fantail; Osprey; Sanderling; Grey-tailed Tattler; Yellow Spotted Honeyeater; Black-faced Monarch; Spectacled Monarch; Wompoo Fruit-dove; Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and Noisy Pitta (last three species only heard).
(see map 2)
In the morning we took the bus to Cairns at the Mission Beach busstop I saw a Richard's (New Zealand) Pipit.
In Cairns I camped at the City Caravan Park which turned out to be a good site to see Bush Thicknee in the evening. There were also Torresian Imperial-pigeons breeding in trees on the caravan park. Yellow Orioles and Black Butcherbirds are all over the place.
The Esplanade in Cairns is one of Australias best spots to see waders. I saw:
Great White Heron; Little Egret; Osprey; Black-winged Stilt; Greater Sand Plover; Lesser Sand Plover; Red-capped Plover; Lesser Golden Plover; Turnstone; Red-necked Stint (hundreds); Curlew Sandpiper (few); Terek Sandpiper (10+); Greenshank (few); Marsh Sandpiper (once 2); Pectoral Sandpiper (once 1); Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (a lot); Whimbrel; Black-tailed Godwit; Bar-tailed Godwit; Great Knot (tens); Far Eastern Curlew; Grey-tailed Tattler; Gull-billed Tern; Caspian Tern; Common Tern; Little Tern; Black-naped Tern (once 2); Intermediate Egret; Eastern Reef Egret; Rufous Night Heron (2 in a few trees on the corner with Upward Street); Australian Pelican; Royal Spoonbill; Straw-necked Ibis; Sacred Ibis; Varied Honeyeater (3+); on 12/10 when I was on a trip to the reef there was a Beach Thicknee to be seen I heard later on from Claus.
This is a good area to watch birds if you haven't got whole day. I went there several times for a short visit. The artificial created park represents different habitats of Australian nature. There is a rainforest part (the Jungle Boardwalk) a mangrove part and two freshwater ponds. The mangrove channel is a wel known spot to see Little Kingfisher which is one of the unfortunate dips of my trip (I missed out the bird everywhere); White Browed Crake and Bush Hen. The place is also home of other interesting creatures: the only species of spider that isn't antisocial and produces colonial webs; Mudhoppers and Fiddler Crabs. Birds I saw here: Magpie Goose; Australasian Grebe; Pacific Baza (1); Whistling Kite; Green Pygmy-Goose; Australian Hobby; Forest Kingfisher; Red-backed Fairy-wren; Mangrove Gerygone; Brown-backed Honeyeater; Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Jungle Boardwalk).
For the famous site of the yearly almost at the same spot nesting (pair of) Papuan Frogmouth please contact Terry Kelly (see useful addresses). The local people are fed up with rude birdwatchers walking on their property because they can't find the birds. One of the locals once even threatened to shoot the birds! Terry is a very kind non-birder and he will show you the exact spot. It was almost breeding in his garden. If you ring him beforehand you won't annoy the people and/or the birds.
At Mt Whitfield Environmetal Park one can see Southern Cassowary if very lucky. I didn't even see their droppings (mounds of seemingly halfly decayed fruits) which were all over place in the Mission Beach area and many birders have missed out the bird here. But it is said that joggers are attacked by them in this park (and joggers I saw a lot here so I didn't spend much time here): Variegated Fairy-wren 3+.
Some birds you are bound to see somewhere in town:
Rock Dove; Common Mynah; Helmeted Friarbird; Yellow-bellied Sunbird; Nutmeg Mannikin; Yellow Oriole; Spangled Drongo; Black Butcherbird; Yellow Figbird;
Australian Darter; Australasian Grebe; Atherton Scrubwren (1); White-bellied Seaeagle; Victoria's Riflebird (heard in the rainforest on the other side of the river); Little Pied Cormorant; Double-eyed Fig-parrot (in the park) and Black-shouldered Kite and Nutmeg Mannikin on the traintrip to Kuranda. Also mentionable are the Cairns Birdwing Butterflies I saw flying around. The next day I said goodbye to my cousin Maria and met my friend Herman who I knew was to be in Cairns at the same time. It was a bit strange though to meet a friend more or less by coincidence on the other side of the world.
This is at the southern end of Daintree NP (see map 3).
There are buses leaving for Mossman Gorge from 25 Spencestreet A$ 28 return. I took the 8.00 am bus and 10.00 am I was there. The place turned out to be in favour of local people as a swimming site. But it still is worth visiting because it is huge and you won't meet that many people when you go on the longer tracks. I saw: Pale-yellow Robin; Large-billed Scrubwren; Fairy Gerygone (1); Bridled Honeyeater; Dusky Honeyeater; Metallic Starling (a huge colony close to the parking place); Victoria's Riflebird (several birds heard); Noisy Pitta (several). There's a good chance of seeing a Boyd's Forestdragon if you watch the lower sides of the treetrunks (I saw one). Watch out for leeches I had one in my sandal.
Reeftrip and Michaelmass Cay
One of the best days of this trip if it wasn't for the birds only, was the day trip to Hastings Reef and Michaelmass Cay. Book for the Seastar II if you can: they are cheap and have kind personel A$ 40 for a full day 7.15 am - 6.00 pm including lunch and snorkelling gear (see useful addresses). You can hire a wetsuit for A$ 5 which is recommended, though the water isn't cold it will cool you down more than you want. Hastings Reef is by far the most beautiful piece of reef I've seen in my life (much better than Harvey's Reef at the Whitsundays). There are totally unspoiled coralgardens which are incredibly rich. This is also the place were you have a good chance to swim in between White-tipped Reefsharks (an unforgetable experience) as they're regularly fed here by divers and aren't that shy. I also saw a different species of shark (well camouflaged on the bottom). The Seastar II brings you and/or your camera on the island by a small boat. Take your camera with you for great shots of Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns and Common Noddy's. A 200 mm lens is enough (I made image-filling slides with it). The birds I saw are: Crested Tern; Lesser Crested Tern; Brown Booby; Little Tern; Bridled Tern; Sooty Tern; Great Frigatebird; Brown (common) Noddy. One can also see: Least Frigatebird; Roseate Tern; Black-naped Tern; Black Noddy and occasional: Masked Booby and very rarely White-tailed Tropicbird or Red-tailed Tropicbird. There was time enough to shoot a complete film and some snorkelling (or diving if you wish (will cost you quite some extra money)) around the Island before they bring you to the Outer Reef.
This day I had no big trips in mind. Tomorrow I had an appointment with Andy Anderson to go to the Jullaten area. John Crowhurst gave me the idea to go on the Calm Water Tour. This can be booked at a travel agent in the shopping centre the Pier A$ 17. It is a boat cruise in a very quiet but huge boat into the mangroves near Cairns. The aim is to spot crocodiles and other wildlife. There is a chance of seeing Great Billed Heron. The boatcruise wasn't a waste of time but didn't produce interesting birds: Striated Heron (5+); Great Egret; Little Egret; Australian Darter; Whimbrel.
Andy collected me at the campsite in Darwin and we went on a birding ride to the Julatten
Caravan Park were I would stay for a birding highlight of this trip. As said we were birding on our way: Rose-crowned Fruit-dove (2 at the Baron-river-over); Crimson Finch; Plumed Whistling-Duck (40+ in a pond just outside Cairns); Brown Cuckoo-Dove. At Black Mountain Road close to Bob Mortimers place (Black Mt rd. ) were we had tea: unfortunately no Chowchilla's but a beautiful adult male Victoria's Riflebird; Yellow-spotted Honeyeater; Bob Mortimer lives in the middle of the very valuable rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands. A huge house with Macleay's Honeyeater; Spotted Catbird and Red-browed Firetail feeding on their veranda. I couldn't believe my eyes to see that there are still pieces of this rainforest nearby for sale. When we proceded our trip more birds could be added to the list: Eastern Whipbird (seen for the first time); Banded Honeyeater (4+ at the Cedar Park turnoff); Scarlet Honeyeater; Red-backed Fairy-wren; Pied Butcherbird and Pale-headed Rosella. At Pickford rd. we saw: Sarus Crane (8); Blue-winged Kookaburra; Dollar Bird and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.
The next few days I was to stay at this top-priority birding spot: the Kingfisher Caravan Park. I was lucky to be there at a weekend that local birders planned for their once in a while birding-weekend. I joined them on their visits to nearby spots. A copy of the impressive birdlist of this area is added to this report page ??.
Julatten (Bushy creek (Kingfisher Caravan Park); Mt. Lewis NP; Abbatoir Swamp; Weatherby station; Mt Carbine; Pickford rd.) See map 3.
The first day I went up at 5.30 and went straight to Bushy Creek just behind the Kingfisher Caravan Park at the Platypus stakeout pointed out by Andy. A wish came true when I had close views of the odd looking animal swimming upstream. When I walked back at 10.00 am to have breakfast I met Claus, a Danish birder who had the same wish. We both walked to the stakeout again and to our surprise the animal showed up again. I also saw the animal in the late afternoon. It seems fairly easy to see it here.
The orchard near to Bushy Creek is a good spot to see some of the rainforestbirds. This weekend I saw: Superb Fruit-Dove; Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove; Topknot Pigeon; Brown Cuckoo-Dove; Emerald Ground-Dove; Channel-billed Cuckoo; Double-eyed Fig-parrot; Yellow-breasted Boatbill (1); Spectacled Monarch; Pied Monarch (1); Leaden Flycatcher; Satin Flycatcher; Lewin's Honeyeater; Graceful Honeyeater; Macleay's Honeyeater; Yellow-faced Honeyeater; Bridled Honeyeater; Barking Owl (2 while spotlighting); Pale-yellow Robin; Metallic Starling and Little Shrike-thrush. The area is also known as a Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfisher but the first ones weren't returned yet from Papua New Guinea were they winter (in november usually the first ones are seen).
At Abatoir Swamp we saw: Wandering Whistling-Duck (5+); Black-fronted Plover (4); Comb-crested Jacana(20+); Purple Gallinule; Darter; Intermediate Egret; Brown-backed Honeyeater (1).
At Mt. Molloy Cemetary we saw:
(This site is known for Squatter Pigeon and Great Bowerbird).
Squatter Pigeon (1); Black-shouldered Kite; Red-backed Fairy-wren; a pair of Great Bowerbirds (with two beautiful bowers and a third in progression, all three bowers very close to eachother) Channel-billed Cuckoo and Pale-headed Rosella.
At Weatherby Station we saw:
Black-shouldered Kite; Pacific Heron (3); Black-necked Stork (1); Royal Spoonbill; Cotton Pygmy-Goose (1); Green Pygmy-Goose; Yellow-billed Spoonbill (1); Little Friarbird; Golden-headed Cisticola; Little Pied Cormorant; Comb-crested Jacana; Australian Hobby; Azure Kingfisher (1).
At the Southedge Lake we saw:
Wandering Whistling-Duck; Black Swan (10); Hardhead; Little Pied Cormorant; Black-fronted Plover; Red-capped Plover; Black-winged Stilt; Darter; Grey Teal and on our way to this place we stopped for a Double-barred Finch and three Australian Bustards.
At the dam near Mt Carbine we saw:
Coot; Little Black Cormorant; Hardhead; Black-necked Stork (1); Grey Teal; Apostlebird (4). We tried to find Black-throated Finches and didn't succeed but found two Squatter Pigeons instead.
At Mt Lewis road we saw:
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo; Grey-headed Robin; Golden Whistler; Bower's Shrike-thrush; Yellow-throated Scrubwren; Mountain Thornbill; Eastern Spinebill; Golden Bowerbird (with bower); Tooth-billed Bowerbird (1) (also 'bower'= turned leafs seen); Victoria's Riflebird (ad. male).
At Big Mitchel Creek no White-browed Robins on this well known spot but a nice bower of a Great Bowerbird; Double Barred Finches (20+) and a beautiful Red-winged Parrot.
At Pickford rd the sun went down and the last tick was White-throated Needletail (5+).
At Luster Creek we saw:
Banded Honeyeater; Scarlet Honeyeater; Blue Winged Kookaburra and
Channel-billed Cuckoo (2).
This morning I went with Claus to the Papuan Frogmouth again and then took the bus to Mt. Isa were I had planned to have a stopover for a day on the long bustravel from Cairns to Darwin. Mt. Isa seemed a boring place with the depressing sight of a huge chimney of a miningfactory. After a short walk we desided not to waste our time here and rebooked our bustrip to Darwin. The walk did produce some new birds:
Wedge-tailed Eagle (2 soring very close to the view point were we stood); Silver-crowned Friarbird; Yellow-throated Miner and Zebra Finch.
At the busstop near Camooweal we saw:
Yellow-tinted Honeyeater; Diamond Dove; Crested Pigeon; Galah (30+) and on the road from Threeways (were I said goodbye to Claus) to Darwin I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the numbers of Black Kites. It is well known that this is the most common bird of prey, but the poor land didn't seem to support enough food for these masses.
I arrived in the morning booked in at 'Fawlty Towers Backpackers' which was cheap (A$ 11) and had a bike renting service. At 10.00 am (as soon as possible) I rented a bike and with the 'Keep Left' in mind I carefully biked my way through the traffic to the Botanic Gardens. Birds seen there were:
Green-backed Gerygone; Red-collared Lorikeet; Rufous-banded Honeyeater; Red-headed Honeyeater; Helmeted Friarbird; Silver-crowned Friarbird; Torresian Imperial-Pigeon and White-gaped Honeyeater.
As I biked further to East Point Reserve I saw my first Little Curlews (20+ they were walking on greens in the town itself). At East Point Reserve I saw:
Striated Heron; Eastern Reefheron; Northern Fantail; Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove (1) and a Red-backed Kingfisher. The sun was setting when I bought food for the few days in Kakadu that were to come.
I took the 7.00 am bus to Cooinda which was actually a Greyhound bustour which usually will cost you (Aussi-passholders get a decount) but for some reason (commercial I suppose) was free for this month as other Greyhound tours.
On our way to Nourlangie Rock I saw some Little Corellas.
At Nourlangie Rock I was lucky to see a Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon.
I had in mind to camp at Cooinda as I thought there was no cheap accomodation. At the resort there turned out to be beds in an airconditioned double (small wooden cabin) for A$ 12 a bed. The heat made not to think twice of this offer. You need to be a tough birder to go for a mid-afternoon walk after you've been inside those cool cabins. My toughness was rewarded when I had great views of a low flying Black-breasted Buzzard the only one I would see on this trip. Other birds around the resort I saw were: Whistling and Black Kites; White-bellied Sea-eagle; Pied Herons (quite a few feeding on insects close to the sprinklers, the beautiful birds weren't shy: great slides); Dusky Honeyeater; Double-barred Finch; White-winged Triller and Great Bowerbird.
Our neighbours on the campsite were obviously not of Australian origin as they left their table full of food unattended: Australian Ravens were grateful.
The boatcruise on Yellow-water is supposed to be one of the highlights of every tourist and it certainly is for a birder. The boat can get rediculously close to birds (I needed one film to shoot them on the 2.25 hr boattrip). I took the evening cruise: 4.00 pm - 6.15 pm. Birds seen:
Hoary-headed Grebe (1); Australasian Grebe; Striated Heron; Rufous Night Heron; Great and Intermediate Egret; White-faced Heron; Eastern Reefheron; Royal Spoonbill; Pied Heron; Darter; Black-necked Stork; Magpie Goose; Wandering Whistling-Duck; Plumed Whistling-Duck; Radjah Shelduck; Green Pygmy-Goose; Glossy Ibis; Purple Gallinule; Common Sandpiper; Whiskered Tern; Clamorous Reedwarbler; Brolga (40+); Australian Bustard (1); Comb-crested Jacana; Masked Lapwing; Red-kneed Dotterel (1); Australian Pratincole (10+); Azure Kingfisher; Red-winged Parrot (3); Restless Flycatcher and of course lots of Estuarine Crocodiles (up till 4 m.) we also saw two Mertens Water-Monitors.
I walked the Nature Track that starts at the resort in twice this day: in the early morning and the late afternoon. Birds seen: White-bellied Sea-eagle; Whistling and Black Kites; Eastern Reef-heron (white form); Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (2); Brush Cuckoo (3); Palid Cuckoo (1); Blue-winged Kookaburra; Forest Kingfisher; Tree Martin; Lemon-bellied Flycatcher (2 + juvs.); Rufous Whistler; Grey Shrike-thrush; Leaden Flycatcher; Shining Flycatcher; Golden-headed Cisticola; Red-backed Fairy-wren; Little Friarbird; Double-barred Finch; Yellow Oriole and Long-tailed Finch (10+) last species was seen at the boatramp at dusk.
Cooinda and Ubirr-rock
I did the early morningcruise on Yellow-water (6.45 - 8.45 am) this time and hoped to see different species like Little Kingfisher for instance. The boat went slightly different and although I didn't see any different species (except for Pacific Heron (5)) than the first cruise (evening of 21/10) I'm glad I took the opportunity again. Great shots of a huge flock of Magpie Goose disturbed by a Dingo). It seemed that the crocs were more active then at the evening-cruise: I saw a few misjudged attacks at birds by them.
I took the morningbus (tour) to Ubirr-rock birds seen: Striated Heron; Pacific Baza (1 at East Alligator River); Red-collared Lorikeet; Little Woodswallow (at least 1 at the Rock-outlook); Great Bowerbird; Little Corella. I let myself off the bus near the Kakadu Hostel at Ubirr and met Ilse a girl from Belgium. The Hostel was full because of a gathering of Aboriginal Parkrangers from the North-Queensland district. Since Ilse had made a reservation they made room for us. We had to sleep on a matras on the floor but there was a fan and it was free of charge because there would be some noise of the Aboriginal-party. Of course it made no difference to us as we joined the party. It was great to see the Aborigines singing and dancing. I had a very interesting conversation with a Thursday-Islander whose mother was a Papua and father was an Aborigine.
Ubirr; Rockholes Walk
Not too early in the morning (because it had been late lastnight) Ilse and I went for the Rockholes walk. It was an exhausting (hot!) but rewarding walk (beautiful scenery). Birds seen: Silver-crowned Friarbird; Little Friarbird; Crimson Finch (30+); Masked Finch (5); Blue-winged Kookaburra; Restless Flycatcher; Dollarbird; Rainbow Bee-eater; Red Winged Parrot; Great Bowerbird; Red-tailed Black Cockatoo; Emerald Ground-dove; Brown Falcon; Pied Heron and a huge (1.5 m) Goulds Goanna. I accidently chased a middle-sized croc into the water when I tried to get a shot of the goanna (forgotten all about crocs already). You don't realise how soon you get used to the idea that there are crocs in every water here.
I did a morning walk to the Merl Campsite hoping to see different species (like Partridge Pigeon and Varied Lorikeet) It could have turned out better: Red Winged Parrot; Red-collared Lorikeet; Red-backed Fairyrwen; Weebill; Black-tailed Treecreeper; White-gaped Honeyeater; Grey-crowned Babbler; Great Bowerbird; Yellow Figbird; Yellow Oriole; Grey Shrike-thrush. In the afternoon I met Anne, a girl I knew from secondary school(!). But soon after she arived I had to leave for Darwin.
Darwin (see map 5)
East Point Reserve; sewage ponds; Lagoon rd. marshes.
I stayed at Elkes Inner City Backpackers now were I met Ilse again. They have free bycicle hire. Be before the office opens (7.00 am), because there are only two bikes there. I biked straight to the Sewage Ponds. Access is via Lee Point rd. and (coming from Darwin centre) right at Fitzmaurice Drive. Unfortunately the gate was closed and there was a fence around the ponds that could stop an army. Walking along the fence I saw:
Pied Heron (about 100!); Wandering Whistling-Duck (100+); Radjah Shelduck (20+); Greenshank; Australian Hobby; Cicadabird (fem.); Restless Flycatcher; Yellow White-eye (1); Golden Headed Cisticola; White-gaped and Brown Honeyeater; Rainbow Beeeater; Crimson Finch (20+); Double-barred Finch and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.
When I ran out of water and got fed up with the horseflies and the smell, I went back to civilisation to have a siesta in the rather cool Botanical Gardens (same birds as 20/10). I met an american birder there and we drove to the Lagoonrd. Marshes in his car. Access is via a track along a fence 500 m from the Stuart Highway. Birds we saw in and around the small (first) lake: Whistling Kite (10+); Swamp Harrier (1); Brolga (10); Magpie Goose (200+); Masked Lapwing; Oriental Pratincole (2); Australian Pratincole (5); Sharp-tailed Sandpiper; Black-necked Stork (2); Glossy Ibis (1); Straw-necked and Sacred Ibis and Singing Bushlark (1). The sun was getting low and we had to hurry when we decided to have a look at East Point Reserve: same birds as 20/10. A stroll along the beach when the sun was setting gave: Greater Sand Plover ; Lesser Sand Plover; Gull-billed Tern; Crested Tern and Lesser Crested Tern.
Litchfield NP and Fogg Dam reserve (see map 6 and 7).
In the afternoon it was heavily clouded and we had some rain.
A daytour about 400 km drive starting 7.00 am till sunset. Bookings and pickups at Elkes Hostel A$ 65 (incl. lunch). I was told that this tour would give good chances of seeing a Frilled Lizard which was high on my list of priority and soon I was going to leave its range (northern half of NT). A brief visit to Foggdam
gave besides the usual waterbirds: Brolga (3); Whiskered Tern (1) and a Dingo. Back on the Arnhem Highway a Frilled Lizard crossed the road and we stopped and had a closer look at this bewildering animal.
Litchfield NP (see map 6)
This NP has many small waterfalls and looks beautiful. Though I didn't see many birds I still think it might be a good birding area. An important feature of this trip is a visit to the massive termite mounds up to 4 metres high and the mysterious Magnetic Termite mounds (like big gravestones and all facing North or South). Sandy Creek has terrific picturesque views and there were many Cicads (a prehistoric palmlike plant) to admire. Because of a threatening storm hardly any wildlife moved or called. Close to the Buley Rockhole were we had a nice swim I saw: Partridge Pigeon (6) and Great Bowerbird. Other animals: another Frilled Lizard and a Dingo. At the parking place near Wangi Falls a regular visitor is a huge goanna that lost its fear of humans. I could find the animal, probably because it found shelter for the rain.
Travelling day; from Darwin to Katherine. I stayed at the Kookaburra Lodge which has a package deal for a two nights stay with byciclehire and canoehire. Birds around the place: Yellow-tinted Honeyeater; Dollarbird and Bluefaced Honeyeater. In the late evening there were thunderstorms and locals said it was the first rain since many months.
Today was planned for something different: canoeing in the gorge. There's a good chance of spotting Freshwater Crocodiles here. I and my Canadian canoepartner Michael couldn't find one. There were probably too many canoes around for these shy creatures. Birds: White-faced Heron; Fairy Martins; Shining Flycatcher; Blue-faced Honeyeater; Cockatiel (30+); Crested Pigeon; Red-winged Parrot; Red-collared Lorikeet and Apostlebird (most of those species near but not in the gorge).
Katherine Low Level Nature Park
7.30 - 12.00 am; Clouded but still muggy and some rain.
A 30 min. bycicleride just south of Katherine, close to the Hot Springs.
Walking along Katherine river I saw:
Masked Finch (4); Long-tailed Finch (1); Double barred Finch; Black-faced Woodswallow; White-breasted Woodswallow (5 clumping); Azure Kingfisher; Crested Pigeon; Red-winged Parrot; Intermediate Egret; Little Black Cormorant (7); Little Friarbird; Silver-crowned Friarbird; Pied Butcherbird; Common Koel (2); Radjah Shelduck (a pair); Cockatiel (16); Shining Flycatcher; Restless Flycatcher; Rufous-throated Honeyeater; Yellow-tinted Honeyeater; Bar-breasted Honeyeater (2) and Varied Sittella (5).
Travelling day to Alice Spring. No birds.
I arrived in the morning, rented a bycicle and took the Larapinta Drive heading West (this road leads to the West MacDonnells Ranges). Just outside Alice Springs there's a piece of desert that had very interesting birdlife (see map 4):
About 200 m. before crossing a small bridge there was a track leading into the desert. A sign said this fenced area was predestinated to become a display of flora and fauna. The project would start in the beginning of 1993. It was still unharmed (besides the tracks) and the place seemed to be crowded with new birdspecies (15). It was heavily clouded and there had been significant rain in this area so the desert was blooming and bird were active: Galah; Brown Falcon (3+ juveniles); Rufous Whistler; Diamond Dove; Spinifex Pigeon (6); Cockatiel; Budgerigar (50+); Pallid Cuckoo (1 juv.); Red-backed Kingfisher (5 adults and juveniles); White-backed Swallow (15+ at the drinking place); White-winged Triller; Crested Bellbird (4+); Rufous Songlark (common); Splendid Fairy-wren (4+ adults and more juveniles); White-winged Fairy-wren (a male); Inland Thornbill (at least one); Yellow-rumped Thornbill; Slaty-backed thornbill (3+); Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (4); Yellow-throated Miner; Singing Honeyeater (3); White-plumed Honeyeater; Pied Honeyeater (1); Grey-crowned Babbler; Crimson Chat (several, also near the drinking place); Zebra Finch; Spotted (Western) Bowerbird (1); Pied Butcherbird and a middle-sized kangaroo: Euro (Common Wallaroo). In the late afternoon I went to the small bridge over the almost dried up stream. The water should attrack some birds I thought. Within one hour I saw some of the species above drinking: Zebra Finch; Crimson Chat; Rufous Songlark; Crested Pigeon; Cockatiel; Galah and Budgerigar.
West MacDonnell's Ranges
A day tour A$ 50 including morning tea and lunch. The guide was a geologist who told us all about the geological history of the mountains (one of the oldest on earth) and pointed out the fossillated signs of the first life on earth. At Stanley Chasm I saw: White-plumed Honeyeater; Cockatiel; Budgerigar (a flock of about a 100); Grey Shrike-thrush (3, western form); Spinifex Pigeon (1) and a Black-footed Rockwallaby. At Ellery Creek Rockholes: Wedge-tailed Eagle (1); Grey Teal (2) a small Perentie (kind of Goanna) and Pink Cockatoos (2). At Ormiston Gorge: Collared Sparrowhawk (1); Black-fronted Plover (2 alarming); Ringneck (Port Lincoln Parrot) (1) and Yellow-throated Miner. At Glen Helen Gorge: Coot; Clamorous Reedwarbler (3) and Pacific Black Duck. At the Ochre Pitts: Mulga Parrot (a female) and Rufous Songlark. At Simpsons Gap (unfortunately too a short visit to this interesting NP):
Grey-headed Honeyeater; Grey Teal; Rufous Songlark; White-winged Triller and two Black-footed Rockwallabies. In the centre of Alice Spings I saw 2 Ringnecks.
Ayers Rock and Olgas
At 7.45 I took the bus to the Ayers Rock Resort for a few nights stay. This few days trip was more than worth the money and time because of the astonishing beauty of these natural monuments. I missed out some birdspecialities here because I didn't have a car. I hitchhiked twice with succes but I didn't meet birders. On the way to the Resort: White-backed Swallow; Black-faced Woodswallows (a few everywhere). Birds at the resort: Crested Pigeon; Rufous Songlark; Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater; Yellow-throated Miner; Singing Honeyeater; Grey-headed Honeyeater; White-plumed Honeyeater; White-fronted Honeyeater (several); Diamond Dove; Zebra Finch. The last 3 species were seen near a leaking watersupply.
Birds at the sunsetview carpark: Striated Grasswren (2); Black Honeyeater (3); Crimson Chat (3). Birds at the Olgas: same birds as the resort (except for White-fronted Honeyeater) plus: Brown Falcon; Peregrine (1 alarming) but no Painted Firetails at the walk in the Valley of the Winds as Kerry Harrison reported. You should watch out for Thorny Devil (Moloch Horridus) on and along the road to the Olgas especially in the late afternoon (information of a an Aboriginal Park Ranger at Uluru). Above all I wanted to see this unearthly looking reptile I tried hard everywhere, no luck. (Follow the ant-trails and reptile prints in the red-sandy areas).
Bustrip to Kings Canyon. From the bus to the resort:
Crimson Chat (4 this bird is so bright red, you can see it a mile away); Australian Bustard (3); Banded Lapwing (1) and Pied Honeyeater (2).
Near the resort: Galah (many); Pink Cockatoo (1); Diamond Dove; Brown Falcon; Budgerigar; Cockatiel. Very few birds on the morning walk around in the canyon because the path is mainly in the higher regions of the Canyon. Only two birds of interest (on the last stretch back to the carpark), both new: Red-capped Robin (female) and Red-browed Pardalote (1). The same day I took the bus to Erlunda that had a connection with the bus south to Port Augusta.
Flinders Ranges (Arkaroo Rock; Wilpena). In the morning I arrived at Port Augusta were I would stay for one day before going to the Sydney Area. In the early morning close to Port Augusta but still in the bus I saw: Emu (1); Wedge-tailed Eagle (1) and three Red Kangaroos. Because I had only one day I went on a tour into the Flinders Ranges organised by Port Augusta Backpackers. The accomodation is OK but the tour was a rip off (although I can't remember the costs): a slow and uncomfortable army truck only brought us to a few places, no food no information. It was a pity I couldn't stay in the area for longer, nature seems characteristic here. The weather: It was heavy clouded and there were a few drops of rain. Birds at the two main locations:
Arkaroo Rock: Rufous Whistler; Inland Thornbill (1); Brown Thornbill (several); Redthroat (1); Painted Buttonquail (2); Variegated Fairy-wren (4).
Wilpena (in Flinders Ranges NP): Striated Pardalote; Silvereye; Yellow-rumped Thornbill; Emu (2) and Mallee Ringneck (3). While driving on the main road: Black-shouldered Kite (6); Little Corella (100+) and a few Euros (Common Wallaroo). The area is very good for a few typical Australian reptiles. Evidence of this fact is sadly the large number of traffic-victims found on the main road. Among the lifers were: Slinchy Backed Lizard (2); Blue-tonged Lizard (1) and a Bearded Dragon.
Travelling day: Port Augusta - Adelaide - Sydney.
I almost missed the bus in Port Augusta as I tried to find out which kind of Lorikeets was flying around in the small park near the busstation. Unfortunately I couldn't make sure that they were Purple-crowned Lorikeets. The outback of NSW holds many Black-shouldered Kites.
Sydney (Centennial Park).
Still in the bus between Canberra and Sydney: Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo (10+). The weather was very cool in Sydney 14 degrees centigrade. I visited Centennial Park. This was a recommended by Claus (who had this information of local birders). Birds seen: Cormorant; Mallard; Purple Gallinule; Rock Dove; Clamorous Reedwarbler; Common Mynah; Little Pied Cormorant; Little Black Cormorant; Black Swan; Musk Duck (1); Dusky Moorhen; Superb Fairy-wren (common); Yellow Thornbill (several); New Holland Honeyeater (several); Red-browed Firetail; Pied Currawong and Australian Raven. The Park is also known as a good place to see many Possums and there is a pair of Tawny Frogmouths breeding in a Paperbark area (couldn't find the birds). One can also see White-breasted Woodswallows here (common in QLD but quite rare in this area). This evening I contacted Trevor Quested (a local professional birder, I got his phonenumber from Claus). Trevor had to work these days, but he gave me the phonenumbers of other local birders. I gave them a ring and Dick Turner told me he was going on a few days trip to the Capertee Valley at 14/10 and he kindly offered me to join him. Dick is living in the Blue Mountains and I came to the idea to visit the Blue Mountains on the days in between.
Blue Mountains (Lapstone; Euroka Clearing) see map 8
As being told by Dick I took the train from Sydney to Lapstone (an hour on the Lithgow/Springwood train and last part I had to go by bus). Dick collected me at Lapstone station and after we had tea he arranged my permit (free) to camp in the Blue Mountians for two nights and brought me to Euroka Clearing (what would I have done without him?). Bird in Lapstone: Koel; Satin Bowerbird; A Bellbird colony and Red-whiskered Bulbul.
Euroka Clearing is a natural green (caused by vulcanic activity in the past). It has an artficial appearance because of the Eastern Grey Kangaroos (numerous) keeping the grass short. There are one or two watertaps constructed which make pleasant camping possible for the few people that have permits. The place is an excellent birding location. I put up my tent in the only company of the tame Laughing Kookaburras (great shots!) and the Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Watch your food supplies! Especially Pied Currawong and A. Magpie need very few seconds to steal it from you. All birds within close walking distance from the clearing: Brown Cuckoo-dove; Common Bronzewing (1, 4 on the clearing in the late afternoon); Glossy Black-Cockatoo (a male a female and a juvenile); Gang-gang Cockatoo (2); Australian King Parrot; Crimson Rosella; Eastern Rosella; Shining Bronze-Cuckoo; Channel-billed Cuckoo (2); Fan-tailed Cuckoo (1); Powerful Owl (1 heard); Superb Lyrebird (at least 4 territoria close to the clearing); Eastern Yellow Robin; Jacky Winter; Crested Shrike-tit (1); Golden Whistler; Blackfaced Monarch; Leaden Flycatcher; Rufous Fantail; Eastern Whipbird; Superb Fairy-wren; Origma (1 this bird is endemic to this area); White-browed Scrubwren; White-throated Gerygone; Brown Thornbill; Yellow Thornbill; Striated Thornbill; White-throated Treecreeper; Bell Miner (a colony); Lewins Honeyeater; Yellow-faced Honeyeater; White-eared Honeyeater; Yellow-tufted Honeyeater; New Holland Honeyeater; Eastern Spinebill; Spotted Pardalote (after many times heard finally seen a few, the bell-like sound is hard to locate and the common small bird is always very high in trees); Red-browed Firetail; Olive-backed Oriole; Satin Bowerbird; Australian Raven and Pied Currawong. The second day I was lucky to see a Short-beaked Echidna in the late afternoon (it was heavily clouded). When I tried to catch it, the odd animal quickly dug itself in. The last day it was raining and I was Dick very grateful when he collected me. The same day we were heading for the for local birders famous Capertee Valley. On our way to this area we saw two males three females and a juvenile Gang-gang Cockatoo. We also stopped at the beautiful lookout of the Blue Mountains. It was almost getting dark when we arrived (a Wedge-tailed Eagle close to a dead Wombat, the only one I saw on this trip, drew our attention).
The area holds a unique variety of species because it geographically covers the border of inland and eastern species (where east meets west as local birders say). It is also supposed to hold a relatively healthy population fo the endangered Regent Honeyeater. Access is via Capertee (a small village not on most maps, 61 km above Lithgow). The roads in the area aren't too well but one doesn't need a 4WD. There are two very small settlements in the valley: Glen Davis and Glen Alice. At Glen Davis there is a museum and the orchard behind it holds a few pairs of Regent Honeyeater. For detailed information or excursions to the area and acccomodation (which there hardly is) contact the Cumberland Bird Observers Club or Dick Turner or Peter West in advance (see useful addresses). For a complete checklist made by the local birders see page ?? We (Dick and I) visited also some locations on private properties (with permission obtained by Dick). I was amazed by the list of birds we saw (if more numbers are given then they are different daytotals):
Cattle Egret; European Goldfinch (2 (fortunately) the only ones of this trip); Brown Goshawk (1,3); Collared Sparrowhawk (2); Wedge-tailed Eagle (1,1,2); Little Eagle (1); Spotted Harrier (1 probably the first one); Brown Falcon (1,1); Gang-gang Cockatoo (7); Little Lorikeet; Crimson Rosella; Eastern Rosella; Red-rumped Parrot (common); Turqouise Parrot (1 female); Pallid Cuckoo (common); Black-eared Cuckoo (1 not usual here); Horsefield's Bronze-Cuckoo (common); Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (common); Tree Martin; Fairy Martin; Welcome Swallow; Hooded Robin (several); Eastern Yellow Robin; Jacky Winter; Crested Shrike-tit (4); Rufous Whistler; Leaden Flycatcher; Restless Flycatcher; Spotted Quail-thrush (2 heard); Grey-crowned Babbler (1); White-browed Babbler (15,10); Rainbow Beeeater; Singing Bushlark (3); Rufous Songlark; Brown Songlark (4); Superb Fairy-wren (common); Speckled Warbler (5,1); Buff-rumped Thornbill (3); Yellow-rumped Thornbill; Striated Thornbill (several in the higher parts of the valley); Southern Whiteface (1,1); Richards (New Zealand) Pipit (once 4+); Varied Sittella; Grey Shrike-thrush; Brown Treecreeper; Red Wattlebird (6); Striped Honeyeater (1); Regent Honeyeater (3 ad. 2 juv. plus nest, only seen at the museum); Yellow-tufted Honeyeater; Yellow-faced Honeyeater; New Holland Honeyeater; Fuscous Honeyeater (very common); White-plumed Honeyeater; Black-chinned Honeyeater (1); Dick also saw Brown-headed Honeyeater; Eastern Spinebill; Scarlet Honeyeater; Spotted Pardalote; Striated Pardalote; Double Barred Finch; Red-browed Firetail; Diamond Firetail (common); Zebra Finch; Plum-headed Finch (several); Olive-backed Oriole; White-winged Chough (15+); Dusky Woodswallow (several) and Australian Raven. One day we also saw a Red-necked Wallaby. The evening of the 16-th I joined an interesting meeting of the Cumberland Bird Observation Club about the results of the survey on the Regent Honeyeater. Peter West took me to his place for a one night stay with intention of a short early morning birdtrip in Sydney the next day.
Sydney: Castle Hill and Manly
We did some pre-breakfast birding (6.00 - 7.15 am) before Peter had to go to his work. The aim was to find three different species (all new to me) in the neighbourhood of Castle Hill (Sydney). We were lucky to succeed: Powerful Owl (1); Musk Lorikeet (7); Tawny Frogmouth (1 ad, 2 juv. and a nest).
After Peter dropped me off at a trainstation I left my luggage at Central Station and followed the advice of Peter to take the ferry to Manly. I had only the afternoon to spend in Sydney before taking the bus to my next destination. Peter said one could have a nice view over the ocean with a small chance of seeing an Albatros (although this wasn't the right time to see one). I saw:
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (50+); Short-tailed Shearwater (5+) and Crested Tern. Dispite the surfers the Shearwaters were close to the coast (and I had terrific scopeviews thanks to an american birder).
The nightbus to Surfers Paradise connected with the private service to the Binna Burra Lodge that I had arranged together with the last space on the campsite.
Access to Lamington NP is from two sides possible. From O'Reilly's and from Binna Burra. The best is to book the O'Reilly's campsite weeks in advance. This place is very popular but it is also closer to the best spots to see the specialities like: Rufous Scrub-bird and Albert's Lyrebird and there are also more Regent Bowerbirds around. I tried to book at O'Reilly's but it was completely booked. Lamington is a must for any nature lover. The rainforest here is probably the most beautiful: the moss-covered gigantic 'Antarctic Beechtrees' are an important feature as also quite a few species that are almost restricted to this area. I saw: White's Thrush (several); Topknot Pigeon; White-headed Pigeon (1); Brown Cuckoo-Dove; Emerald Ground-Dove; Wonga Pigeon (all days a few, mostly close to the campsite); Australian King Parrot; Crimson Rosella; Fan-tailed Cuckoo (a juvenile fed by a tiny White-browed Scrubwren); Shining Bronze-Cuckoo; Southern Boobook (1 at the campsite); Tawny Frogmouth (1 active when spotlighting); Cicadabird; Olive Whistler (a few); Golden Whistler; Grey Shrike-thrush; Blackfaced Monarch (common); Spectacled Monarch; Rufous Fantail; Logrunner (quite common); Eastern Whipbird (very common); Yellow-throated Scrubwren (common); White-browed Scrubwren; Brown Gerygone; White-throated Treecreeper; Bell Miner; Lewin's Honeyeater; Eastern Spinebill; Satin Bowerbird (quite common plus a bower on the campsite); Regent Bowerbird (1 bowerbuilding); Green Catbird (common); Paradise Riflebird (quite common, easy to see early in the morning from the campsite). Red-necked Pademelons come to graze at the green on the campsite in the late afternoon and night.
Brisbane (Maiala NP; Boombana NP)
Again staying at my relatives. They brought me to Mt Glorious were I had a walk around in Maiala NP. Though I didn't see any new birds I think this small NP can be very interesting: White's Thrush (1 feeding a chick); Crimson Rosella; Cicadabird; Eastern Yellow Robin; Grey Fantail; Rufous Fantail; Logrunner (3); Noisy Pitta (4); Wompoo Fruit-dove (3 heard); Brown Cuckoo-dove; Variegated Fairy-wren; Yellow-throated Scrubwren; White-throated Treecreeper; Bell Miner (a colony between Mt. Nebo and Mt. Glorious); Lewin's Honeyeater; Yellow-faced Honeyeater; Scarlet Honeyeater; Red-browed Firetail; Satin Bowerbird; Regent Bowerbird (1 according to a local I was lucky to see one here); Green Catbird; Paradise Riflebird (a few female/imm. male and one adult male) this bird also seen at Boombana NP.
When I thought my trip had came to an end my cousin surprised me to offer me a trip to Fraser Island which I gladly accepted. This beautiful island is a NP, and one needs a 4WD to drive around (even in 4WD's people get bogged in the sand). It was heavily clouded windy but warm and in the evening of the first day and the whole second day we had rain. In the afternoon we arrived and I had a pleasant swim in the amazing Lake McKinsey. I've never seen a fresh-water lake seen so clear. Nature is quite different here than at other islands I had seen. There are pinetrees with pinecones as big and heavy as coconuts (and warning signs: beware of falling pinecones). The Elkhorn-ferns are bigger here than anywhere else and this is the only place were Dingo's aren't shy as usual but as tame as dogs. There's usually quite a few Lace Monitors around and probably Goulds Goanna's too. Highlight of this trip was a beautiful Carpet Python of 1.5 m. which did not slide off when I took close-ups at a distance of 30 cm (I was forced to use the standard lens to make use of large diafragms in the dark forest). As it was too dark to use a telelens I had to get very close. The beach here has many sharks here and Tigersharks are amongst them, swimming in the sea is not really save. One usually sees them swimming around. In the evening it started to rain and the canvas cover we had to sleep under had one thousand leaks. Fortuately it became dry for two hours before we went to sleep so a campfire, a good meal and quite a few beers made this a very pleasant evening. The next day it was pissing down the whole day so we broke up and left a bit dissapointed. A Beach Thick-knee (which I had searched for in vain in Northern QLD) cheered me up a bit. Other birds: Oystercatcher; loads of terns on the beach: Common Tern; Crested Tern; Lesser Crested Tern; Little Tern; Caspian Tern (1); WHite-bellied Seaeagle; Brahminy Kite. Black-tailed Gotwit; Red-capped Plover (10+) and Cattle Egret. Because of the weather I saw only one Lace Monitor.
This day was lost because I had to go shopping in Brisbane. I bought a beautiful Didgeridoo (A$ 150, usually original and paited ones are at least A$ 200) which drew the attention of the custom-officers on all the three airports it had to pass.
24-25/10 and 26/11
Kuala Lumpur (Templer Park and Lake Gardens)
Both days it was not too hot but very humid and the first day at Templer Park I had a heavy tropical thunder storm that fortunately lasted for only two hours. Common Mynahs; House Crows and House Swifts are around everywhere. The first day I shared a taxi to the Batu Caves with Marieke a girl I met on the plane. The Caves are huge and it is certainly worth visiting these natural hindu-temples though there were no birds of interest: Philipine Glossy Starling (common) and Treesparrow. Near the cave enterance there was a Golden Birdwingbutterfly flying around. In the afternoon I took the bus to Templer Park a place were many locals spend there weekends for a picknick and a swim. It is a piece of Rainforest with tracks along a waterfall (South-East Asian Wildlife (Insight Guides) has some information about it) and it looks excellent for birds. I had only about half an hour birding before the thunderstorm began. Birds: Yellow-vented Bulbul; Grey-rumped Treeswift (1) and I was probably lucky to see the stunningly beautiful Chestnut-naped Forktail at the waterfall. The next day I spend a few hours in the Lake Gardens, a park in KL. All birds were seen near the Orchid- and Hybiscus-garden: Yellow-vented Bulbul; White-breasted Kingfisher; Brahminy Kite (4); Tigershrike (1); Black-naped Oriole (quite common); Rufous Woodpecker (1); Zebra Dove (8 probably common); Oriental Magpie-robin (several); Blue-throated Beeeater (1); Purple-backed Starling (2); Pied Thriller (1); Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (4) and Asian Palmswift. I visited the Butterfly-garden (within walking distance of the Lake Gardens) and had a look at the amazing Brooks Birdwing Butterfly. I took a taxi to the busstation were I took the bus to the Airport (three quarters of an hour). The one day stopover on the flight back home I went to see some of the city KL itself and when I got fed up with the noise the crowd and the smog I went to the Orchid-garden (Lake Gardens) Birds around here: Brown-throated Sunbird (2); Oriental Honey-buzzard (1); Black-naped Oriole; Oriental Magpie-robin; Brahminy Kite; Treesparrow and Barnswallow.
COMPLETE LIST OF THE CAPERTEE VALLEY
composed by the Cumberland Bird Observers Club.Australasian Grebe
* = the bird is more or less a speciality of this area.
this list is based on recordings of the CBOC, except for (1) which was an own recording on 14/11.
LIST OF RECORDED MAMALSPECIES
1) Short-beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus
One near Euroka Clearing in Blue Mountains NP.
2) Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus
One at the well known spot at Bushy Creek near the Kingfisher Caravan Park (Julatten).
3) Long-nosed Bandicoot Perameles nasuta
Common at the Orchard near the Kingfisher Caravan Park (Julatten).
4) Common Wombat Vombatus ursinus
One found dead on the road in the Capertee Valley
5) Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula
One with baby on the back near Maryborough and one very tame behind the restaurant of the Binna Burra Lodge (Lamington NP).
6) Glider spec. Petaurus sp.
One quickly climbing in a high tree near Maryborough
7) Black-footed Rockwallaby Petrogale lateralis
One at Stanley Chasm and two at Simpsons Gap both in the West MacDonnells Ranges.
8) Red-legged Pademelon Thylogale stigmatica
Quite common around the Kingfisher Caravan Park (Julatten).
9) Red-necked Pademelon Thylogale thetis
Quite common at on the campsite of Binna Burra Lodge (Lamington NP).
10) Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis
The most common kangaroo in QLD and NT seen at many places.
11) Red-necked Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus
One seen in the Capertee Valley.
12) Euro (Common Wallaroo) Macropus robustus
One near Alice Springs; one in the Valley of the Winds (Olgas) with a joey in the pouch.
13) Eastern Grey Kangaroo Macropus giganteus
Common and quite tame on Euroka Clearing in the Blue Mountains.
14) Red Kangaroo Macropus rufus
One on the road to Port Augusta and two in the Flinders Ranges.
15) Little Red Flying-Fox Pteropus scapulatus
A colony on South Molle Island (Whitsundays).
16) Black Flying-Fox Pteropus alecto
A colony on South Molle Island (Whitsundays).
17) Spectacled Flying-Fox Pteropus conspicillatus
Individuals seen at Mission Beach; Cairns and a colony in Kakadu NP (near Ubirr).
18) White-tailed Rat Uromys caudimaculatus
One could be traced because it was making a sound while eating a nut.
19) Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus
Several from the boat to: South Molle Island and Harvey's Reef (both Whitsundays) and Michaelmass Cay.
20) Dingo Canis familiaris dingo
One near Cooinda (Kakadu NP.); one at Foggdam reserve; one at Litchfield NP and several (some very tame) on Fraser Island.
21) Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Several seen in NSW.
22) Fox Vulpes vulpes
One seen crossing the road in the Capertee Valley.
LIST OF AMFIBIANS AND REPTILES
1) Common Green Tree Frog Litoria caerulea
Seen at the Kingfisher Caravanpark and in the Capertee Valley
2) Tree Frog sp. Litoria sp.
Seen at the Kingfisher Caravanpark.
3) Estuarine Crocodile (Saltwater Crocodile) Crocodylus porosus
Common in Kakadu NP.
4) Green Turtle Chelonia mydas
Several seen from boattrips to Islands or reefs.
5) House Gekko Gehyra dubia
Common in North QLD.
6) Frilled Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii
One on the Arnhem Highway close to Foggdam Reserve and one in Litchfield NP.
7) Boyd's Forest Dragon Gonocephalus boydii
One in Mossman Gorge and one on the Kingfisher Caravanpark.
8) Eastern Waterdragon Physignathus lesueurii
Quite common in Mt Cootha park (Brisbane).
9) Bearded Dragon Pogona barbata
One on the main road into the Flinders Ranges.
10) Gould's Goanna Varanus gouldii
One in the rainforest of the Conon Vale Range (QLD) and a huge one near East Alligator River in Kakadu NP.
11) Mertens Water Monitor Varanus mertensi
Two on the Yellow-water boatcruise in Kakadu NP.
12) Lace Monitor Varanus varius
One on Fraser Island.
13) Perentie Varanus giganteus
A small one at Ellery Creek waterhole and a huge one (1.5 m) at Ormiston Gorge both in the West McDonnells Ranges (this species grows up to over 2 m).
14) Major Skink Egernia frerei
Quite common in Lamington NP.
15) Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard Tiliqua scincoides
One on the main road into the Flinders Ranges.
16) Carpet Python Morelia spilota
A beauty of about 1.5 m on Fraser Island.
17) Brown Tree Snake Boiga irregularis
One in the toilets of the Kingfisher Caravan Park (Julatten).
18) Common Tree Snake Dendrelaphis punctulata
One crossing the road in the Julatten area.
19) Red-bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus
One in Lamington NP.
20) Cane Toad Bufo marinus
Common everywhere introduced and a pest to other animals.
21) Slinchy-backed Lizard Tiliqua rugosa
One on the main road into the Flinders Ranges.