alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: October 2017

Grampians National Park and the Great Ocean Road

11 October 2017

Slept in again.  Nice to get a decent nights sleep for a change (i.e., over 8 hours).  Overcast skies this morning.  We left the Little Desert Nature Lodge and headed to the Grampians National Park.  While on the back roads we encounter a lot of birds on the side of the road, primarily Australian Magpies.  These birds are like fingerprints – no two birds are alike.  Some have a lot of white on their backs, while others don’t.  We also saw a Galah (parrot species) on the side of the road.  As we were approaching the Galah it  Galah stepped back – guess it was afraid we were going to hit it.  Smart bird.  Lisa and I laughed at that one.  Funny to see a bird step backwards.

The day turned to wind and rain.  We did stop at several places within the park and tried to bird, including MacKenzie Falls, Reed Overlook, and Boroka Overlook.  Not many birds flitting about, although we did seem some black cockatoos in flight.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t tell whether they were Red-tailed or Yellow-tailed.  We haven’t seen the Yellow-tailed Cockatoos yet.

Stopped off at the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Center to learn about the aboriginal peoples from this region and their plight.  I am always amazed at man’s cruelty.  Many aboriginals were murdered – either shot or poisoned or died from disease.  The young were taken from their homes and sent away to become indoctrinated into white culture.  Sad stories, but not unlike in the United States and the treatment of Native Americans.

Ate dinner at the Kookaburra Hotel in Hall’s Gap.  Food was expensive and portions were small.  A disappointment.  And the place was packed.  I made a reservation earlier in the day for 6:00 pm (when they opened) or we might not have gotten a table.  After eating there it probably would not have been a loss.

Australia Magpie (which really isn’t a mapgie). They vary in the amount of white on their backs. This one has a lot of white.

Grey Currawong

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

MacKenzie Falls

We thought this was a great sign – how to survive the heat. Here I am in my down jacket.

12 October 2017

Left Hall’s Gap – a town where cats are prohibited (so said a sign on the road into Hall’s Gap) – and made our way to the Victoria Coast.  We will spend the next three nights in the town of Portland.  Our accommodations are nice, although the internet is so slow I could give birth between the time I start a google search and I get any results.  Most of the birding we want to do is located to the south and east of Portland.

We stopped in Port Fairy, Victoria.  On Sunday we hope to catch a pelagic trip out of here.  If the trip had been scheduled for today it definitely would have been cancelled.  We had high winds (over 20 mph) and sporadic rain.  The ocean had white caps and large swells.  I almost got seasick just looking at the ocean.  Got to remember to put my seasick patch on the night before our trip.  We learn Friday night whether we will be going out on Sunday.

The coast here is beautiful – at least what we can see of it.  There is a coastal highway, but not many access points to beaches or rocky outcrops.  Lots of private land between the highway and the ocean – mostly farms.

We did get a few new species for the trip, including the Sooty Oystercatcher, which looks almost identical to our Black Oystercatcher; Kelp Gull; White-winged Black Tern; and European Goldfinch.  And got to see the Chestnut Teal again.  Our only other sighting of this bird was in some mangrove swamps in Brisbane and then only one pair.  A lot more here.

A “don’t feed the kookaburra” sign or is it all birds – in Hall’s Gap

Kangaroo with its Joey – behind our lodge

Galahs – wow look at that deep pink color

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

European Finch

This is not a sea jelly

Beach at Port Fairy

Little Black Cormorant

Black Swan and Cygnets

Two Chestnut Teals roosting

The beach near Port Fairy

Stormy day

Protect the “Hooded Plover” signs found along the beaches

Liked this sign showing which sections of the beaches dogs are allowed

Australian Raven

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers

White-headed Stilt

Hoary-eared Grebe

Coastline between Port Fairy and Portland

No hidden bird, just interesting vegetation. Birds do like it, but none that we could see.

Trail

Coastal heath

13 October 2017

Visited the Fawthrope Lagoon in the am to check out the rails and crakes.  Didn’t see any where I expected them to be found.  We met a couple on the trail that said they had yet to see them this year.  Darn.  They fear the feral and domestic cats are to blame for their disappearance.  Cats are a real big problem in Australia.

When you read about places to bird in Australia, especially in books that have been in print for several years or more, you don’t know whether you will find the birds there or not.  I tried getting on eBird Australia, but with our slow internet connection at the place we are staying, I wasn’t able to find out where best to see those birds.  We did do a nice 2.2 km walk around the lagoon – in our down jackets and wind pants, passing people in short sleeved shirts and tank tops.  Really!!!  Of course when you are stopping all the time to check out the birds instead of continually moving, it gets cold.

From Fawthrope Lagoon we drove to Cape Nelson State Park, finding the Rufous Bristlebird along the road along with several other birds.  The Rufous Bristlebird doesn’t seem to fly when flushed.  It walks.  We only realized this when we nearly ran over one the birds.  At Cape Nelson State Park there is a lighthouse.  We walked around the lighthouse, checking out the pelagic birds along the way.  Most of the birds flying out over the ocean were Short-tailed Shearwaters.  They nest near the Gannet colony, east of the park.  There were a number of Australasian Gannets flying out over the water too.  We finished up at the park with a 3.3 km sea coast walk with great views of the coastline.

Fawthrope Lagoon

Little Wattlebird

Male Chestnut Teal

Mallard hybrid

Red Wattlebird

New Holland Honeyeater

Rufous Bristlebird

Grey Shrike-thrush …

… breaking out in song. It does have a lovely song.

Our trail

Grass trees with its “kangaroo” tail

Up close view of the “tail”

Sorry but I think wind turbines are visual vandalism

Beautiful coastline near Portland, Victoria

Brown Thornbill

Singing Honeyeater

White-necked Heron

Crested Tern

Leaving the park, we headed to the Australian Gannet colony, located at Point Danger approximately 6 kilometers from Portland, Victoria.  This colony is the only mainland Gannet colony in Australia.  I read where they used dogs to help control the foxes.  Foxes are another big problem for wildlife in Australia.

As we were walking to the vantage point for the Gannet colony, we ran into a gentleman who told us he could get us closer.  We took him up on the offer.  We were able to get about 20 feet from the colony.  Many of the birds were on nests, with the young birds on the periphery trying to find their own mates.  Their mating rituals remind me somewhat of the Laysan Albatross at Midway National Wildlife Refuge.  The birds put their beaks under their wings, as if the are sniffing their wing pits.  They don’t do the bill clacking that the albatross does, however.

The mainland colony has about 300 birds, according to Ewen, our host.  In among this group of Australasian Gannets are several Cape Gannets.  It took some effort for me to tell the difference – very subtle with a brighter blue eye, larger black skin around that eye, and a black chin mark that drops further down the chest than the Australasian Gannet.  We spent about 30 minutes enjoying this spectacle of birds.  Truly an amazing experience.

This gannet is a Cape Gannet

14 October 2017

A woman we met yesterday, Wendy at the Gannet colony, said the Henty Bay Caravan Park beach was a good place to see Hooded Plovers.  There are only around 600 of these birds left in the world.  The birds nest on the beach and must compete with beach goers, dogs, and horses for use of the beach.  No wonder there are so few birds.

We drove to the beach, but the tide was high.  We kept wondering where the birds would nest as the water came all the way up to the bluffs or rocks.  Best come back when the tide was low, and the chance of seeing a plover would be greater – if they are even here.  We didn’t ask what time of year she saw them.

The couple we met yesterday at Fawthorpe Lagoon spoke of blowholes, a petrified forest, and seal colony near Bridgewater Bay, a short 12 kilometers from Portland.  So off we went to search of some of the heath birds (Southern Emu-wren, Olive Whistler, Brush Bronzewing) species that might be in this area.  No luck.  We did stop off and see the blowholes.  Impressive, but nothing like you see on the Oregon coast.  We also checked out the petrified forest, which really isn’t a forest at all, but rather limestone rocks that have been eaten away by water – still interesting geology.

Looking out over the ocean we did see a whale, but it was too far away to identify.  It could have been a Blue Whale, Southern Right Whale, Humpback, or a Minke Whale.  Generally the Blue Whale appears in November, with the Bonney Upwelling – where the ocean waters cool (upwelling), bringing in krill, which the whales and seabirds feed upon.  While watching for the whale spout, we saw hundreds and hundreds of Australasian Gannets plummeting into the water (maybe the upwelling is ahead of schedule) for food.  It looked like a whirlpool of birds going into the water.  Fascinating to watch.  Then sudden the birds left.  Since they were gone, we decided to also leave.

Our next stop was at Shelly beach.  I think the beach got its name from all the shells on the beach.  In some places the shells were several inches deep.  We were hoping to see Hooded Plovers here as it didn’t look like the beach got much traffic.  Unfortunately, no Hooded Plovers, but we did see a single Pied Oystercatcher.  I love Oystercatchers, so wasn’t too disappointed.  When I say “wasn’t too disappointed”, one of the birds I really wanted to see on this trip was the Hooded Plover.  Might have had a better chance of seeing them down around Philip Island, southeast of Melbourne.  Maybe if I ever return to Australia I will go there.  What do you say Jack?

Back to Henty Bay Caravan Park we went to search for the Hooded Plover.  While there was some beach, there were no plovers.  Can’t always get the birds you want.  However, these birds can also be found along the coast in Western Australia and that is where we are headed next.  Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow is our pelagic trip.  And since it is going to be a long day (up at 5:00 am, out the door at 5:15, on the boat at 6:45 am, off the boat around 4:30 pm, and a 4+ hour drive to Melbourne Airport), we decided to take the afternoon off to pack, relax, and just veg.

Interesting cave we saw

Bridgewater Bay

Petrified Forest

Silvereye in the parking lot

Singing Honeyeater

Pied Oystercatcher at Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach

Black-faced Cormorant

15 October 2017

The Pelagic Trip – maybe I should call it the tragic trip since I got seasick.  I used a seasickness patch, but I guess the swells were just too much for me.  Or maybe I can blame it on the chocolate chewy cookies Neil, the organizer of the trip, brought.  Lisa and I are scheduled to go on another pelagic trip out of Sydney, but I’ve already put her on notice she is going alone.  I’m done with pelagic trips.  Nothing I hate more than being nauseous.  The trip was nine hours long, and since I started feel off about three hours into the trip, the trip actually seemed like it was nine days long.  While I got a few new life birds, I’m not sure it was worth it.

We actually motored out to the continental shelf, put shark liver and tuna oil into the water to draw the birds into a feeding frenzy, only it didn’t work.  The birds came close, but only a few landed on the water to grab the goodies, and those were a fair distance off.  Most of the people on the boats had huge lens so they were a little disappointed they couldn’t get the eye ball shots of the birds (or so I am assuming).  I think if I had tried to take photos I would have gotten sicker a lot faster.  Oh wait, I did take a few photos, but by then I was already queasy.

Our boat – Southern Exposure

Motoring out of the harbor at Port Fairy

A few of the people on our tour

Shortly after sunrise

The First Mate cutting up the offal

Cape Petrel – a beautiful seabird species when in flight

Lisa on our way back into port

After the trip, we drove four hours to Melbourne.  Some where between our accommodations in Portland to our accommodations in Melbourne, I lost one of my bird field guides – the one I had been keeping track of the birds I’ve seen on this trip.  Lucky for me I’ve also have a list on my computer, my Australia bird app, and my notebooks.  I always write down the birds I seen in a particular area in my Write-in-the-Rain notebooks.  When I was in Vietnam in late 2011 I left a notebook on the train.  While I had checked off the birds on my book, I don’t know where or when I saw them.  This note book contained the birds seen in Thailand, Bhutan, and northern Vietnam.  I lost a lot of good information when I lost my notebook.  So now I keep several lists just in case.

Our next stop is Perth and point south.  We should seen some new birds, although not many.  Until then …

IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

 

 

 

Deniliquin and the Mallee Country

3 October 2017

Arrived in Melbourne last night around 11:20 pm.  I was amazed at all the people in the airport.  We finally got our car and made it to the hotel, which luckily was located only a couple kilometers from the airport as we were driving in the dark – literally.

Got a good night’s sleep last night.  The goal is to drive to the town of Deneliquin as we start our next tour (only 4 days) at around 3:00 pm.  The drive to Deneliquin was quite lovely – lots of green grass and trees – farm country.  We arrived to warm temperatures (was 44 degrees F when we left Melbourne around 8:00 am) and sunshine.  A nice change from the cooler temperatures at Bowra/Cunnamulla the past two days.  I didn’t need to wear my long underwear to keep warm.  The temperatures at Bowra reminded me of Portland in the winter – cold, damp, and wet.

The cabin we are staying in at Riverside Caravan Park is one of the nicest places we’ve had in our Australian travels so far.

We joined to Americans – Ted and Barbara from Florida – for part of the tour.  We started out at 3:00 pm, ending around 8:00 pm.  Most places in Denilquin had shut down so ended up at a chicken take away place for dinner.

Tanwy Frogmouth with baby

Here the chick is looking at us

This poor Red-kneed Dotteral has a bum leg. Looks like only part of it is there.

White-browed Woodswallow

Masked Woodswallow

Monitor (Goanna) Lizard …

… running across the road

Tree Monitor/Goanna

Another Lizard – can’t remember it’s name.  Ha, should have written it down.

Staying by its dead mate

Male Blue-winged Fairywren

Southern Whiteface

Southern Whiteface

It’s Jacky Winter again

White-browed Woodswallow – we had lots of them today

This Red Kangaroo was BIG

Sunset

4 October 2017

Ted, Barbara, Lisa, and I joined Phil Maher for a two-day trip to Mallee country.  The goal – the Malleefowl.  We scored big time seeing four different birds.  Phil was quite impressed to see so many considering it isn’t the best conditions for the birds right now.  In addition to this great bird (which can be difficult to find at times), we twice saw another difficult bird – the Chestnut Quail-Thrush (aka Chestnut-backed Quail-Thrush).

The day started with a long drive – three plus hours to Mallee Country.  Mallee is a type of eucalyptus tree (multiple trunks). The malleefowl builds a large mound in which to lay its eggs.  We found several, including some that have been abandoned.  The birds do better in wet years, and the last several years here have been dry.

We also saw several Fairywrens along the way – White-winged and Splendid.  I think these are one of my favorite birds of Australia.  Most people like the parrots, and the parrots have been great, but I favor the fairywrens.  And speaking of parrots, we had several great views of the Regent Parrot – both male and female.  This parrot isn’t as striking in color as others, but is still beautiful.

We finished the day with a big dinner and accommodations in Ouyen.  One big surprise – the amount of farming occurring in the area.  I expected drier, more wilderness type country.  Lots of wheat, almonds, carrots, and olive farming.

Today was truly a great day of birding.

Regent Parrot

Habitat of the Regent Parrot

Mulga Parrot

Superb Fairywren

Splendid Fairywren – another spectacular fairywren species

Chestnut Quail Thrush – a great find

Chestnut Quail-Thrush

Australian Owlet Nightjar.  Phil scratched the tree the owlet popped its head out checking to see if there was a tree monitor (goanna ) nearby.

Grey Butcherbird with food – looks like a spider

Stubble Tail (aka Shingle-back)

Flock of Cockatoos and Corellas

Malleefowl

Phil looking for the Southern Scrubrobin

The spiky tufted vegetation in the foreground is spiniflex – a sharp, spiky grass

Nectar flowers for the Honeyeaters

Australian Ringneck (Parrot)

5 October 2017

We got an early start and headed to Murray-Sunset National Park to check out some of the mallee specialists, e.g., the Striated Grasswren, Shy Heathwren, and Mallee Emu-Wren.  We ate breakfast at one of the campgrounds in the park and then drove along a sandy track to find areas heavy with spiniflex, a sharp grass-like plant favored by these species.  We began our search first for the emu-wren, but didn’t hear the bird call nor see it appear.  According to our guide the bird could pop out of the spiniflex right behind you and you would miss it.  Since we weren’t getting any response from the emu-wren we switched our search for the Striated Grasswren.  After walking a fair distance, with me at back so I could hear the bird over the play call-back, I heard the bird nearby.  Next thing I knew it jumped almost right next to me and then into a bush with lots of limbs, making for a difficult photograph.  The bird then proceeded to walk or fly in a circle around us, looking for the offending (fake) caller.  We got some decent looks of the bird, but it sure can move fast.

While we were watching this bird, I noticed movement in the trees and spotted the Shy Heathwren.  Of course I could only see its tail (stuck up in the air like our wren species) and its rump, both making it easy to distinguish the bird I was seeing.  Of course it didn’t hurt that the guide knows its call and pointed it out too.  Our guide used the call play-back for the Shy Heathwren and this bird too started flying and running a circle around us.  Whenever it sings it flies onto a branch, which it did and I got some great looks (but no photographs) of the bird.  The photo in my bird field guide pales in comparison to what I observed in real life.  What a beautiful bird.  Of course the Striated Grasswren is no slouch either.  We never did find or hear the Malle Emu-wren.  This is one bird I REALLY wanted to see while in Australia.  Maybe I can see it yet.

While we were driving down the road a Mallefowl nest was spotted.  These are large mounds in which the Malleefowl lays its eggs.  At the mound we spotted two Malleefowls.  That makes six Malleefowls spotted for the trip.  The guide was quite impressed at these numbers.  He says sometimes they are lucky to see one.  When we came back again we found one of the Malleefowls on the nest mound, kicking up dirt (was it burying its eggs?).  I got a could video of the effort.  Of course part of Lisa’s head is in the video for a couple of seconds.  But what a treat to watch this good sized bird work its nest mound.

We soon had to leave to return to Deniliquin, our home away from home for the next three nights.  One the way home a Kangaroo (Western Gray) ran out into the road in front of our vehicle.  Just as it passed, its slipped and got hit by us.  When I looked back, the Kangaroo had moved off the road and was hopping a little, but I am sure it was injured when hit.  The sound made you cringe.  I hope the Kangaroo does not suffer.

We arrived back at our accommodations around 8:00 pm.  As I mentioned earlier, everything pretty much closes up by 8:00 pm, but we found a motel/restaurant to serve us a late dinner.  Probably helped that people were still in the restaurant and the bar was open.

The road we traveled to search for the spiniflex specialist species

Malleefowl on a mound, shuffling the dirt around – covering the eggs?

Another Lizard

Phil, Ted, and Barbara

This is one of the “pink” lakes in Murray-Sunset National Park. All the parks we have been to are free – no entrance fee.

Old nest found on the ground

We needed a 4 wheel drive vehicle for this part of the park, which Phil had.

Our group in search of the elusive Mallee Emu-wren. One bird we missed and that I really hoped to see.

This is one of the camping spots at a campground in the Murray-Sunset National Park

Ice plant

6 October 2017

We said goodbye to Ted and Barbara last night and thought we would be joined by an Australian all day and an American at night, but when Phil came to pick us up we learned we would have him all to ourselves today.  Woohoo!!!

We birded the morning in a city park near our accommodations at Riverside Caravan park.  In the park there are four active raptor nests:  Little Eagle, Collared Sparrowhawk, Square-tailed Kite, and Whistling Kite.  We saw birds on all the nests except the Whistling Kite.  In fact, when we were watching the Square-tailed Kite nest the male came to the nest bringing food to the sitting female.  She then proceeded to tear the food apart with her sharp bill and consume it.  What an amazing site.

At the park we also had several Superb Parrots and even observed one pair mating.  I think this parrot was on the female longer than any other bird I’ve seen mating including the Red-capped Plovers we saw mating at Chili Beach in Cape York.

After the park we went back to our accommodations for lunch and a little down time.  At 3:00 pm or so we were back at it traveling in the countryside near Deniliquin in search of new birds.  Our first stop was the Deniliquin Sewage Treatment ponds.  We needed to bird this area quickly as the gates close at 4:00 pm.  The ponds were filled with all kinds of ducks, including a Blue-billed Duck (think Ruddy Duck), which is a new bird for us.  Other ducks included old favorites like the Pink-eared Duck and Hardhead.  We finally got our first glimpse at a Hoary-headed Grebe.  Our guide was nervous about being locked in so we didn’t spend much time at the ponds.  In fact, we made it to the gate at 3:45 only to find it locked.  Luckily our guide is local and knew who to call.  About 10 minutes later we were out the gate on to another pond to find the Musk Duck.  We saw a female there – she doesn’t have the bill flap like the male.  We were told we would see many more in the Perth area.

After a little in town birding – hoping to see the Crested Shrike-Tit – we moved to the countryside near Deniliquin in search of the Plains Wanderer and several other birds. The bird is best observed at night.  So we waited until the sunset, and the moon came up, before beginning our search.

Phil Maher with Australian Ornithological Services, is the local person to use to see this bird.  Ted and Barbara had seen four Plains Wanderer several nights before so we were hopeful.  Amazingly enough it’s the female you want to see more than the male.  She is the prettier and more colorful of the two.

Phil has his vehicle decked out in lights – one in front and side lights.  These side light illuminate the areas on the side of the vehicle out about 10-15 feet.  Phil then uses a spot light he swings back and forth out a fair distance to search for the bird sitting quietly on the ground.  We were told to look for movement as the birds have a tendency to stand up when the spotlight hits them.

Lisa was the first one to spot the bird – a male.  We were able to get out of the vehicle and walk quite close without flushing or spooking the bird.  And surprisingly I was able to get some decent photographs.  Woohoo!!!  Lisa said she has friends that have tried three times to see this bird without success.  We kept searching and eventually found a female.  True, she is the better looking of the species.  We did some more spot lighting searching for the Inland Dotteral, which we also observed.  What a pretty little shorebird.

On the way back to our accommodations, we found both the Barn Owl and the Southern Boobook (on owl whose call is Boo Book).  Great finds.  What a truly great day of birding.

Square-tailed Kite nest and there is a bird on the nest

Superb Parrot

Square-tailed Kite eating breakfast brought to her by her mate

Azure Kingfisher …

… off to try and catch its next meal

Eastern Rosella

Square-tailed Kite in flight. Notice the wide fingers (tips of wings)

Common Bronzewing

Sacred Kingfisher

Male Rufous Whistler – my favorite whistler species

Superb Parrot …

… in a nest hole

Little Friarbird

Cleaning its feathers

Black-tailed Native Hen. When in full breeding plumage their legs are a very bright red and the beak a very bright green.

Black Swan and various duck species at the Deniliquin Sewage Ponds

Black Swan with her cygnets (chicks)

Purple Swamphen

White-fronted Chat

Horsfield’s Bushlark

Full moon arising

Male Plains Wanderer

Female Plains Wanderer

Banded Lapwing

Inland Dotteral

Barn Owl

7 October 2017

Originally we were only supposed to be with Phil for half a day, but we decided to hire him for the full day and head to some foothills in search of birds we wouldn’t see around Deniliquin or the mallee areas.

Our first visit was to the Warby-Oven National Park.  Here we spotted four new species, including the White-browed Babbler (we’ve now seen all four Australian babbler species), the beautiful Painted Honeyeater, our first warbler – Speckled Warbler, and the Brown-headed Honeyeater.  We were hoping for the Black-chinned Honeyeater, but it remained elusive.  So off we went to another national park – Chiltern-Mt. Pilot National Park.   Here the goal was to see the Spotted Quail-Thrush, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, and the Crested Shrike-Tit.  It was really quiet out with only a few Thornbills calling.  We stopped at a small wetland and stopped to check for birds.  Here Phil found a Koala  – my first.  It was tucked up in a tree – sitting there hugging the tree in order hold on as it slept.  What an adorable creature.

We were driving slowly through the park and spotted a bird flying across the road and landing  in a nearby tree.  With my binoculars up I spotted a new bird – the Scarlet Robin.  Out of the vehicle we went and stood nearby watching the male and female Scarlet Robins flit about.  Having an invading caller (Phil’s bird call app) probably helped us get good looks at the bird.  It is nesting season here in Australia and in the states we don’t play bird call apps during the breeding season.  Guess they don’t have that same restriction here.  Here is my dilemma – do I not saying anything when the call is played over and over again or speak up.  We are disrupting these birds’ breeding cycle – causing unwarranted stress.  So what is more important – a bird nesting with as little stress as possible, or me getting to see the bird, hopefully take a photography, and adding it to my life list?  I think the bird should come first.  Big ethical considerations when it comes to birding.

While we were watching the bird, we heard the sound of wings flapping and turned around to see the Spotted Quail-Thrush flying across the road, and moving through the grass onto a log.  Wow!!! What a beautiful, colorful bird and with such great views.  After it jumped from the log (the birds rarely sit still long except for maybe waders), we watched the bird move through the forest getting more looks at this outstanding bird.  Quail-thrush are generally hard to find and we got to see two of these species with Phil.

When we were driving to the first national park in the morning, we passed an area Phil said was good for birding, but we didn’t stop because there were over 40 dead Red Fox hanging from the fence.  Red Fox were introduced to Australia (i.e., there are non-native) and have proven quite a nuisance animal.  They prey on native birds and animals.  On the way back to Deniliquin we stopped here despite the decaying animals and found one of our target species – the Black-chinned Honeyeater.  Another fantastic bird.  Unfortunately, these birds were continually mobbed by the White-plumed Honeyeater.  We even watched as one White-plumed Honeyeater fly into one of the Black-chinned Honeyeater.  As Phil would say “that bastard”.  I guess the White-plumed Honeyeaters are very territorial.

The last stop of the day was a final search for the Crested Shrike-Tit.  We’ve been trying for this species on both tours to no avail.  That all changed at our last stop – a small wooded area with a pond just off the highway.  Finally, we got to see this bird, which was being mobbed by both the Yellow-tufted and the White-plumed Honeyeater.  Honeyeaters are great at mobbing other species and chasing them out of their territory.

Another great day of birding with Phil.  He is both a great guide and a very nice man.  I would definitely bird with Phil again.

Phil Maher

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Painted Honeyeater

Jacky Winter

Speckled Warbler

Superb Fairywren

Dusky Woodswallow

Flashing its tail

Grey Fantail …

… here singing its heart out

Lisa and Phil in search of birds

Our wetland stop

And the adorable Koala

Yellow Thornbill

Scarlet Robin – unfortunately you can’t see the white on its head

The beautiful Spotted Quail-Thrush …

… with dinner

Phil Maher

These are non-native flowers from South Africa , but these sure are pretty

Swamp or Black Wallaby

The row of dead foxes

Little Black Cormorant at the pond where we saw the Crested Shrike-Tit. When a bird is being mobbed -the Shrike-Tit – it is hard to get a photo.

8 October 2017

We decided to stay another day in Deniliquin and just vegetate.  We got upgraded to a bigger room, but we kind of liked our smaller room better – bigger is not always better in some circumstances.  We are playing catch-up, doing laundry, and just relaxing after 25 days of non-stop birding.

So sweet to have Superb Fairywren just outside our door.

Crimson (Yellow) Rosella

Here eating the flowers on this tree

As you can see the blend well

The woods behind our caravan park

Eastern Rosella …

… here at a nest hole

Pretty flowers

9 October 2017

Left Deniliquin this morning headed for the Little Desert National Park.  We took some back roads (I think that is the only way you can get there), through farmlands.  For some reason I did not expect so much farmland in Australia.  Everything was green.

Before we entered Victoria (we were in New South Wales) we had to dispose of all our fresh fruit since we were entering a pest free area (fruit flies prohibited).  Damn we hated to toss fresh produce away, but the fine if caught is high (thousands of dollars).  We didn’t want to risk being pulled over and checked.  They didn’t have any inspection station.

We arrived at the park around 3:30 pm, checked into our basic accommodations at the Little Desert Nature Lodge, just outside the park, and then birded the lodge grounds.  The first bird we saw (and many thereafter) was the New Holland Honeyeater.  What a beautiful bird (you’ve heard that comment a lot).  The birds were everywhere flitting about, feeding in the trees.  We also saw several White-browed Babblers in a bush with two Superb Fairywrens screaming at the babblers.  We suspect there were either eggs or hatched youngsters in the nest, which was being raided by the babblers.  We took measures into our own hands and went up to the bush to flush the babblers.  It worked, but for how long?   Or were we too late?

We walked the trails on the lodge grounds and saw some old favorite birds: Scarlet Robin, Yellow Thornbill, White-eared Honeyeater, Diamond Firetail, Superb Fairywren – to name a few.

The mad male Superb Fairywre

White-browed Babbler

New Holland Honeyeater

Scarlet Robin – and again I missed getting a photo showing the white spot on the front of its head

White-eared Honeyeater

Another Superb Fairywren

10 October 2017

Today we slept in, as it was only 37 degrees F at 8:00 am this morning.  Brrrrrrr.  Our goal today was to try and get three species (at minimum):  Slender-billed Thornbill, Rufous Fieldwren, and Purple-gaped Honeyeater.

The Slender-billed Thornbill and the Rufous Fieldwren like the same habitat: Banksia.  My “Where to Find Australian Birds” ebook suggested we try for these species about 3.2 km from the entrance to our accommodations – Little Desert Nature Lodge.  So off we went.  We spent a good 2 hours search for the birds, playing their calls, and hearing nothing.  We did find other species flocking about, including the Tawny-crowned Honeyeater – a very striking bird – and a new bird for us.  With no lucking finding the thornbill or the fieldwren we checked out another spot for the fieldwren along the Philip Track, 8.8 km from the entrance to our lodge.  Here the species is supposed to be found within 500 meters of the main road.  I don’t think we went more than 100 meters before the bird responded to the call.  This bird was soon followed by another.  We only played the call long enough for the bird to respond, which it did nicely – sitting in a dead bush just waiting for me to photograph him.

After scoring that bird we returned to the lodge for lunch.  There are no restaurants at the lodge.  You must bring your own food (kitchen facilities with microwave, refrigerator, dishes provided).  Following lunch, we went and hiked the Stringyback Loop Walk (2 km) searching for the Purple-gaped Honeyeater.  No luck.  Not much moving about, despite the temperatures having risen substantially.  We then drove to the Kiata Sanctuary Picnic Grounds, another possible spot to see this bird.  Again, no luck.  So we leave tomorrow having failed to see this honeyeater.  Win some, lose some.

Female Red-capped Robin

Here sitting on a nest

Rufous Fieldwren

The bird’s habitat, which doesn’t look very inviting

This spider was in the eating lounge at our lodge

And I estimate about two inches long

Donkey Orchid

Banksia bush

Dead Banksia flower

Hmmm. I’ve never heard of “feral” bees

Tomorrow we leave for the Grampians National Park.  Until then …

It’s a Great Day to Bird

 

Queensland Top to Bottom – Part 3 (Final)

24 September 2017

We got up at 4:20 am to catch our 6:00 am flight to Brisbane.  I didn’t get much sleep last night so I am punchy.

Our tour guide for this portion of the trip, Roger, met us at the plane and we stopped for a quick breakfast, to pick up a few groceries, and to use the rest rooms before heading to Wynnum – a small park located adjacent to Moreton Bay.  The park has mangroves where the Mangrove Gerygone can, and was, found.  We also checked a nearby lake for Chestnut Teal (duck species), and found that bird too.  But the best part of the visit was to see the Superb Fairywren.  The fairywren species are my favorite bird species of Australia.  They are cute, colorful birds.

Our next stop was Sandy Camp wetlands.  WOW!!!  What a great place for waterbirds and songbirds.  There we got several really great species, such as the Variegated Fairywren – just as beautiful as the Superb Fairywren.  We also saw two crake species.  Crakes are similar to Rails – difficult to find.  They like to feed along the margins of vegetation in wetlands.  We got both the Spotted and the Baillon’s Crakes.  I was really hoping to see the Baillon Crake since we had missed it in Africa.  And the Spotted Crake was a good find because this bird is even more secretive than the Baillon’s Crake.   I really hated to leave this wetland.  I would definitely revisit the site if I ever return to this part of Australia.

We then proceeded to O’Reilley’s – our lodging for the next two nights.  O’Reilley’s is located adjacent to the Lamington National Park and is well known among birders within and visiting Australia.  This is the place to go to see the Paradise Riflebird, Satin and Regent’s Bowerbirds, and Albert’s Lyrebird.  We did a little birding before dinner, finding the Satin’s Bowerbird, along with several cute little scrubwren species.  Tomorrow we will go in search of the other birds.

Mangroves where we looked for and saw the Mangrove Gerygone

Pretty flower – sorry I don’t really know the names of the flowers I see. I think if I wanted a book on plants of Australia I would need to buy another piece of luggage just to bring the book home. Lots of plant species here.

Swamp  Camp Wetlands

Our group in search of waterbirds at the Sandy Camp Wetlands

When we went in search of the Koala, I found this dead Magpie Lark

The road to O’Reilleys

Sunset from our villa

25 September 2017

Another early morning.  Getting up early isn’t so bad if you get to bed early.  For some reason I’ve only gotten 4-6 hours of sleep per night for the last four nights.  The lack of sleep can be wearing on the body and mind.

Our first effort today was to go in search of Albert’s Lyrebird.  These birds can often be found adjacent to pathways/trails.  Our guide did flush a lyrebird from the trail but none of us got a look at the bird.  We continued our walk, finally ending back at O’Reilleys where we decided breakfast was in store.  O’Reilley’s put on quite a breakfast spread.

O’Reilley’s is much different than I anticipated.  I thought it would be a quaint, quiet place to bird.  Yeah, right.  As we were making our way up the mountain to the lodge, there must have been a 100 or more cars coming down.  We are staying in a pretty swanky villa, which great views of the surrounding area and a hot tub on the deck.  Too busy birding and waiting for our dinner (two-three hours each night) to take a dip in the hot tub.  Our two-bedroom villa even had a washer and dryer in it, which we appreciated – we got in a load of wash.  We didn’t eat meals in our villa, rather we went to the restaurant or café for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Oh, and there is no such thing as a small meal in Australia – at least not that we have discovered.  I can’t each this much food.  Portions are huge.

After breakfast we walked the nearby trails in search of new birds, and then got in the van to check out a place for the Paradise Riflebird.  As we were driving down the road in search of the riflebird, we did get a quick glimpse of an Albert’s Lyrebird – male – as it quickly walked into the forest.  We got out to search for it, but did not see it again.  What a tail that bird has – very long and feathery. Back into the van we went to continue our search for the riflebird.

After our third stop for the bird, our guide Roger heard it calling.  So we found a place nearby to park (the road is quite narrow, and only one lane in spots), and walked to the area where the bird was heard calling.  Lisa and Ursula spotted the bird, we all got on it, and had great views.  When the sun hits the bird’s tail, head, chest, and neck you get an iridescent blue/green color – beautiful.  We had good looks as the bird was just off the road, and the bird didn’t seem to mind all the road traffic.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of the bird.

We took another road and went in search of various bird species, including the Bells Miner.  This bird species was in a large flock so got some good looks.  Later in the afternoon we went searching for the Spotted Pardalote and got it.  What a beautiful bird too.  These birds like to feed high in the tree tops, but Roger was able to call one down so we got decent views and photographs.

Eastern Whipbird. This bird’s call sounds like the crack of a whip

King Parrot – these parrots are habituated to humans. They may even land on your head.

Male Satin Bowerbird

Here is the male at his bower. He likes to decorate it with colorful blue objects to entice the females.

Male Regent’s Bowerbird …

… posing for us in a tree adjacent to the restaurant at O’Reilleys

Not sure what this is but it almost landed on my head. Now that would have hurt.  It was the size of a man’s fist.

Spider Web. Australia has some very poisonous spiders.

Rose Robin – Male

Fairywren – female

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Crimson Rosella – these birds are also habituated to humans as they are fed at O’Reilley’s. They might also land on your shoulder or head.

Green Oriole

Spotted Pardalote – another gorgeous species

Spotted Pardalote

26 September 2017

We got up early to bird the trail near the main building at O’Reilley’s.  We were hoping to see the Lyrebird here as Kim and Steve weren’t with us yesterday afternoon when we saw the bird, but no luck.  While we were gone yesterday looking for birds, Kim and Steve got a surprise – Red-bellied Black Snake – a very venomous snake.  Kim said it was right alongside the trail.  Our guide said he wouldn’t recommend hiking those trails in sandals or flip-flops.  We did see several people with such footwear.

After breakfast we headed down the mountain and towards the community of Toowoomba.  We birded at several places along the way, including a very nice wetland/pond area adjacent to (or maybe even part of) the University in Gatton – the Gatton Environmental Park.  We also birded another lake in the countryside that had a large number of waterfowl, especially Hardheads (a beautiful duck) and Black Swans.  The birds were too far away for a decent photo, plus the lighting was bad.

Cute little White-browned Scrubwren. These birds were everywhere around O’Reilley’s

Male Mistletoe Bird

Can you find the Striated Pardalote in the tree?

Purple Swamphen

Male and Female Australian Wood Duck

This lake had a lot of birds on it – Swans, ducks, shorebirds, ibis

Royal Spoonbill at Gatton ponds

Plumed Whistling Ducks

White-headed Stilt (aka Black-winged Stilt)

Red-kneed Dotteral – our first sighting

Pink-eared Duck – can you see the pink?

Those bills always amaze me

Grey Teal

27 September 2017

We actually go to sleep in this morning.  Most of our mornings have started at 5:00 or 5:30 am.  Not too bad, unless you haven’t gotten much sleep – I haven’t.  I think I am in about a 2-day sleep deficit.

After breakfast we left the community of Toowoomba and headed for Goomburra National Park.  We are essentially in farming country – both crops and livestock.  Pretty area.  Lots of open country, with eucalyptus trees.  We haven’t seen a lot of wildlife, other than birds.  A few Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Pademelon.

En route to the park, we stopped to birds several areas, and one place I finally got to see the bird Jacky Winter.  A relatively dull bird in comparison to some of the many beautiful birds we’ve seen in Australia, such as the fairywrens and parrots.  Near the park there was a large campground with some nice areas to camp.

After lunch we went to the bird on a road adjacent to a vineyard.  It was windy outside so I don’t think our guide expected much.  He suggested we scan the vineyard – the ground, the vines, and the fencing.  I spotted a female fairywren so we stopped.  From there is got crazy.  Next spotted was a Hooded Robin, a Reckless Flycatcher, and a Turquoise Parrot.  I found the parrot on a fence, and got several people on the bird before it flew off.  We continued to bird along the road hoping the parrot would return.  It eventually did and brought along a few friends.  We had at least seven Turquoise Parrots at one time – either in trees or on the ground.  What beautiful, colorful birds.  I think this bird was the highlight of the day.  Our guide didn’t mention the possibility of seeing this bird because it wasn’t a given and he didn’t want to get our hopes us.  He (and us) was pleased to see the bird.

Fruit Bats. There were several trees filled with these bats. I would estimate about 400-500. I guess they can make quite a mess.

Dispersed camping in the Goomburra National Park

White-faced Heron

Jacky Winter

Noisy Friarbird

White-browed Treecreeper

Superb Fairywren

Brown Treecreeper

Australasian Figbird

Female Hooded Robin

Dusky Woodswallow

The vineyard with the great birding

Turquoise Parrot – Our guide did not expect us to see one

Male Turquoise Parrot

Rufous Songlark

Diamond Firetail

The always curious Eastern Grey Kangaroos

28 September 2017

Today started out warm and only got warmer.  We hit 37 degrees C. or 98.6 degrees F. and it was hotter than hell out.  One saving grace is we had a wind that helped dissipate the heat somewhat.  We luckily didn’t spend too much time outside the vehicle.  Had a lot of driving to do today, although not nearly as much as tomorrow.

We went back to the vineyard to catch a few birds we didn’t see yesterday.  The goal was to find the Crested Shrike Tit.  No luck.  I think today was our last opportunity to see the bird on this particular tour.  Lisa and I may yet find it during the latter part of our trip.

We made a few stops en route to our hotel at Goondiwindi.  Our guide said that once we reached Coolmunda Lake for lunch that was the last of our “hill” country.  He was right.  Nothing but flat land thereafter.  Still beautiful though.  Lots of farm and ranch lands.

Whenever there was a water course near the road we stopped to check for birds – mostly.  We did spot the Yellow-billed Spoonbill.  Seems strange to find a spoonbill so far from the coast.  We later spotted the Royal Spoonbill too.

Grey Fantail – not fanning his tail

Laughing Kookaburra

Female Australian Wood Duck

Our first sighting of wild Emus

Striped Honeyeater – wish I had gotten a better shot

We three (Grey-crowned) Babblers of Australia

Grey-headed Babbler

Plum-headed Finch

Two Plum-headed Finch

Double-barred Finch

Galah

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

This is the tree occupied by a Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Nankeen Kestrel

Yellow-billed Spoonbill along side Red-rumped Parrots

This lizard …

… was right along side the road

Black-winged Kite

Yes, another Laughing Kookaburra. Can’t get enough of them.

More Wood Ducks

Australian Pelican

29 September 2017

Today was a long travel day.  We traveled from Goondiwindi to Cunnamulla – approximately 360 miles.  We did make periodic stops along the way to stretch our legs, eat lunch, and check for birds (among other things).  At one stop I noticed some white birds on the side of a small hill.  I thought they were Little Corellas (a type of parrot) with orange on their breasts from the red soil.  Turns out they were Major Mitchell Cockatoos – a great find.  They flushed but we were able to find them and take photos.  At the same time, we saw the Australian Mallee Ringneck (a type of parrot), which is one bird I really wanted to see.  These guys are most green and blue.  Beautiful birds.

We got to Cunnamulla around 5:00 pm and immediately headed out to Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary, located about 15 minutes from town.  This is where we will spend the next two days birding.  Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary is owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and has an impressive 218 species bird list. The sanctuary is located in Mulga country.

We needed to be at Bowra by 6:00 pm so we could get permission to bird the next day, after listening to the few rules they have (e.g., driving speed, photography near the lagoon, call play-backs).  On the way there (and inside the sanctuary) we made a quick stop to observe four different parrot species – Blue Bonnet, Bourke’s, Ringneck, and Mulga.  In addition, we had a Crimson Chat.  Not a bad stop.

Tomorrow our target bird is the Chestnut-breasted Quail Thrush.  This bird calls at dawn so that means we need to get up at a time when the sun don’t shine – early.

Many honeyeater species love the flowers on this tree

Jacky Winter

Spotted Bowerbird eating fruit on a tree

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos – saw these birds feeding in what looks like a pretty sterile environment.

Australian Ringneck. There are several Ringneck races.  This is the “Mallee” race

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos with their feathers ruffled

Crested Pigeon

Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary

Bourke’s Parrot – not colorful, but highly sought after

Bowra Sanctuary headquarters

30 September 2017

We left our accommodations at 5:15 am and headed back to Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary (“Bowra”) to search for the quail-thrush.  On the way we had several near misses with Kangaroos crossing the road.  Because of the drought in this reason there is a high concentration of Kangaroos, which feed on grass.  If there isn’t much grass around, the feed where there is some.  For instances, at the park across the street from our motel, there must have been around 50 kangaroos feeding.  I don’t think you want to hit one of those.

We did hear the quail-thrush, but only Kim was able to spot one.  To try and find the bird, we fan out and slowly walk in the bird’s preferred habitat – hilly, rocky, mulga treed areas.  I think we spend at least two hours searching for the bird.  We did stop at times and identify other birds flitting about.

We left Bowra around 10:30 am for a very late breakfast.  At the entrance gate we did get to see the White-winged Fairywren.  I love all the fairywrens – such colorful birds.  The male White-winged Fairywren is all blue except for white wing bars.

After breakfast we returned to Bowra and spent the remainder of the day (well at least until 5:00 pm) searching for birds. One bird we were looking for was the Hall’s Babbler.  We were told by the caretakers at Bowra where the birds have been spotted, and we did indeed find them here – 5 to be exact.  Several of us wanted photos so we quietly moved along as the birds searched for food.  I wonder if they moved so fast because there wasn’t any food or they knew we were there?

We had a good birding day, under heavy skies and the threat of rain.  The rain began around 5:00 pm.  This area needs rain so bad, I don’t begrudge the fact it could impact my ability to bird.

Black-eared Cuckoo

Sacred Kingfisher

Black-faced Woodswallow

Black-faced Woodswallow

Hall’s Babbler

Hall’s Babbler

Brown Creeper

Brown Songlark

Crimson Chat

Red-capped Robin

Rainbow Bee-eater

Mulga Parrots – Male and Female

Male Mulga Parrot

Red-winged Parrot

Kangaroos at the watering hole near the Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary Headquarters

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Black-fronted Dotteral

Galahs

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

So funny to see the Kangaroos standing and scratching themselves. Many Kangaroo in this area are starving to death because there isn’t much grass for them to eat. This area hasn’t gotten any measurable rain in over four years we were told.

Black-tailed Native Hen

Australasian Grebe

Jacky Winter

1 October 2017

Got up early again – 4:30 for a 5:00 am departure to try and find the Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush on last time.  It had rained last night, enough to make the roads at Bowra a blood mess (getting into the Australian lingo).  We arrived to quiet and little movement.  Guess the birds – any birds present – didn’t have much to sing about.  Or maybe they were wondering what this wet stuff is as the area they were probably born during drought times.

We stayed for about 20-25 minutes waiting for the Quail-thrush to call, but got only silence.  Our guide was concerned that the rain would worsen the roads so we went back to the Bowra headquarters building and birded that area.  Surprisingly, the birds were hopping all around there.

Due to the rain most of the roads within the sanctuary were closed.  These roads are gravel/dirt roads and can become a muddy mess when it rains, even a little.  So in the afternoon we drove the highway (not too much traffic way out here), parked in areas with suitable habitat for the birds we were searching for, and birded.  However, it was pretty quiet out, with only a few birds flitting about and/or singing.

We called it an early day (birding day), and went back to our motel to pack as tomorrow is our last tour day and we have to drive to Charleville to catch our flight to Brisbane.  Lisa and I will continue our journey and fly from Brisbane to Melbourne.  Monday (Oct 2) will be a long day.

Rufous Whislter

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo after a rain shower

Chestnut-crowned Babbler.  I think of the four babbler species we saw, this was the smartest looking.

Honeyeater species

Crested Pigeons

Galah

Kangaroo with her joey – out of the pouch

The park across the street from our hotel either had lots of Emu eating grass or lots of Kangaroos eating the grass.

2 October 2017

The final day of our bird tour with Sicklebill Safaris.  We are going to spend the morning driving to the airport in Charleville, with occasional stops along the way to bird.  I think the road we traveled – the road from Cunnamulla to Charleville could be named the Killing Fields (lots of dead kangaroos along the road, with at least one Emu) or Raptor Alley – all those raptors feasting on the dead kangaroos.

The countryside is pretty dry despite the previous day’s rain.  They sure need the moisture here.  The kangaroos look pretty scrawny.  Sad to see.

We have a 3:55 pm flight so am catching up on my photos and daily journal, which I use for this blog.  Then we begin the second half of our journey in the Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney areas.  Hard to believe that a month has gone by already.

White-plumed Honeyeater

Australian Bustard

This Australian Bustard was walking between the road and the railroad tracks – here now near the tracks.

Apostlebird

Red-winged Parrot

Apostlebird

Masked Lapwing

Reckless Flycatcher. This bird has a very interesting call that is suppose to cause its food prey – bugs – to fly.

Nankeen Night Heron

This horse may be feral. We weren’t sure.

These Kangaroos were at the airport.  Note the bird – Willie Wagtail – catching a ride on the tail of the Kangaroo

A junior Kangaroo. Not sure when they stop being called a joey. Maybe when they leave the pouch for good???

The trip was great with lots of great birds, beautiful scenery, and new friends.  Next stop Melbourne area and Mallee Country.  Until then …

IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

Queensland Top to Bottom – Part Two

19 September 2017

This morning we went on a river cruise on the Daintree River in search of several key birds: Great-billed Heron, Little Kingfisher, and Azure Kingfisher.  We got the Azure Kingfisher.  At dinner tonight we met a guy from Pennsylvania who was on another boat and they saw two of the Great-billed Herons and at least one Little Kingfisher.  Our guide was not happy to hear that.  We did hear the heron, but no go on any sightings.  I would like to have seen the bird, but I wasn’t as disappointed as several others.

After our two-hour morning cruise along the river, we went back to our lodging – the Red Mill House and had a big breakfast.  This place is a B&B.  The rooms are nice, although a little small.  Of course our room is covered in clothes hanging to dry – our clothes.  But with all the rain – oh and I forgot to mention that while most of our cruise was under cloudy skies those skies did open up the last 15-20 minutes of the cruise – one has to dry out one’s clothing.

After breakfast we continued with our birding, making several beach stops in search of the Beach Stone Curlew.  No luck – yet.  I’m hopeful.  We did see four Bush Stone Curlews.  They were hanging out in the school yard.  These birds forage at night and roost during the day.

We stopped off at the Hook-a-Barra Fish Farm (take off on Kookaburra and Barramundi – a fish) and saw a lot of great birds, including the White-headed Stilts (love those red stilt legs) and several Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.  I love shorebirds, even when they aren’t in breeding plumage.

Our next stop was Carr Road, where we got to finally see the Brown Cuckoo-Dove.  We have been hearing this bird for sometime, but didn’t actually see it until today.  The bird likes to be high in the canopy, and this one was moving around a lot.  Took a little effort to identify the bird.  Some of the properties along this road are nature reserves, except for one at the end of the road (see photo).  Not sure what the sign means?

We then went to lunch at the Nine Mile Store.  While waiting for our lunches, Kim spotted a Noisy Pitta near the bathrooms.  We then proceeded to watch the bird move about, searching for food – right out in the open.  The previous experiences we’ve had with this bird it was on the forest floor foraging.  Much better views today.  This guy was an immature bird, so not as colorful as the adults.

Stuffed to the gills with food, we then drove to a clearing on Mt. Lewis, which is good for endemic birds of the area.  We did get several endemics, including the Atherton Scrubwren, Bridled Honeyeater, and Chowchilla.  Also present was the Grey Wagtail which looks very similar to the Rufous Wagtail.

On the way down the mountain, as we were crossing a bridge, our guide spotted a Red-necked Crake.  Crakes are difficult to find, and this one was along the bank of the river in a little pool of water bathing.  Fun to watch it bath.

Despite the rain (on the cruise and at Mt. Lewis), it was a good day of birding.

Australian Darter – can you see its outstretched neck?

Azure Kingfisher – we got real close to this bird while in our boat

I love thick-knees (aka Stone Curlews) – with their big eyes. Here a Bush Stone-Curlew.

White-breasted Woodswallows on the powerline

Great Knot in non-breeding plumage

Lisa on the Daintree River boat

Our only day of rain and we were on the water. Poured just as we were getting back to the dock.

On the Daintree River

Here we had to duck as we went under a bridge

These flowers were at our accommodations: Red Mill House

Wonga Beach- checked here for the “Beach” Stone-Curlew.  Came up empty.

At the end of Carr Road.  Hmmmm. Maybe this landowner gets a lot of uninvited guests???

Pale-yellow Robin

Macleay’s Honeyeater

Red-necked Pademelon

Vicious Hairy Mary (I think it should be a Vicious Hairy Larry)

Mount Lewis clearing – an area with good birding, and light rain and fog.

In search of the Chowchilla

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – these birds are everywhere. This is the only bird we’ve seen everyday – so far.

Noisy Pitta – we were so surprised to find this bird at our lunch stop. What a treat to see one so close and in the open.

20 September 2017

We left Daintree today and headed to the Northern Atherton Tablelands, and in particular the Cassowary House to see the Southern Cassowary bird.  Cassowary House is owned by Sue and Phil Gregory, owners of Sicklebill Safaris – the tour company we are using.  They have a cassowary family residing on their heavily wooded property located in the Wet Tropics.

When we got to Cassowary House we learned the birds had left 5 minutes ago.  Figures.  We’ve been having bad luck on finding key species: Golden-Shouldered Parrot, Great-billed Heron, and now the Southern Cassowary.  Sue said the birds come several times during the day so we spent about two hours walking the property and adjacent roads waiting for a text that the birds had returned.  We even went into town for lunch.  I was thinking we would get just get our lunch and we would receive the text.  Nope, didn’t happen.  So on we went to the town of Mareeba, and in particular the golf course to see a large number of Eastern Gray Kangaroos – our first Kangaroo sightings.  Mareeba is about 30 minutes away from Cassowary House.  And you guessed it.  We got the call that the birds had returned.  Only problem is they could stay for as little as 5 minutes.  Sue mentioned the birds come every morning around 8:00 am, so we will return on Saturday, when we head back to Cairns, to see the birds – hopefully.

After checking out the Kangaroos we headed towards the southern portion of the Atherton Tablelands, taking back roads to check out some different bird spots known by our guide.  Since he lives in the area he knows good places to bird.

One such stop was the Emerald Creek Falls day-use area.  Here we went looking for the Rufous Owl and our guide spotted it roosting in a tree.  Luckily we got some good views of the bird.

Proceeding along towards our lodging accommodations for the next three days – Chambers Wildlife Lodge – we passed a field of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.  There must have been around 100 of the Red-tailed and over 500 of the Sulphur-crested.  Amazing sight to see.

We need these types of signs in Homer for Sandhill Cranes

Tromping through the woods looking for the Southern Cassowary

The vegetation is very dense at the Cassowary House – no deterrent for the Cassowary

Spotted Catbird at the feeder. This bird’s call sounds like someone either grabbed a cat by its tail and pulled or someone stepped on a cat’s tail.

Rufous Fantail – a beautiful bird, and when it fans its tail – WOW

Pied Monarch

Finally a Kangaroo. Looks quite lazy doesn’t it.

Forest Kingfisher – our most observed Kingfisher species so far

Picnic Area at Emerald Creek Falls

Ben, our Guide

I liked this sign

Emerald Creek

Eastern Yellow Robin

Rufous Owl

Red-browed Finch

Yard Art?

Mighty, mighty king of the bush is he …

Brolga Cranes …

… with colt

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo – red portion of their tail is visible when they fly

Golden-headed Cisticola

Black-shouldered Kite

Boyd’s Forest Dragon

Some of the beautiful flowers at the Chambers Wildlife Lodge.

21 September 2017

We woke up and began birding right outside our lodge (Chambers Wildlife Lodge – which for us served the most delicious food on the trip).  We got some great views of the Spotted Catbird (bird sounds as though a cat’s tail is being pulled), the female Victoria’s Riflebird feeding on the fruit in the trees, Silvereyes, and Golden Whistler (see photo).  We walked into the woods to observe a male Victoria’s Riflebird displaying.  To see this marvelous display go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7ZnO893hTs.  If I had thought about it, I would have taken a video of the bird displaying on its perch.  The female even came in, but I don’t think she was interested.

Another stop today was Hastie’s Swamp National Park.  The land adjacent to the park is up for sale.  I wish I could afford to buy it as a portion of the swamp is on this private land.  There were plenty of Plumed Whistling Ducks.  I was worried we wouldn’t get to see the bird, but I wasn’t disappointed.  When you do get them, they are usually in large flocks (50+).  The park has a bird blind so it was nice to get out of the hot sun to observe the birds, including a Forest Kingfisher who perched with its prey (looked like a small frog) on a tree limb about 20 feet from where I was sitting.  I hated to leave this place.  If I ever visit this part of Australia again, I will definitely come here and spend more time.

We ended the day’s birding at Mount Hypipamee National Park looking for the Golden Bowerbird.  The male, a beautiful gold and brown bird, has built a nice bower and a sub-bower.  However, the bird did not appear while we were present.

Our guide had heard about a Lesser Sooty Owl at Curtain Fig Tree National Park.  We decided to go there after dark to see if we could spot the bird.  Score!!!   Not only did we spot the bird, but we got to see one of the parent’s feed a young bird.  The young bird had already fledged, but was still being fed by the parent.  The bird, when it went to get the regurgitated food, would hold its wings out – maybe to balance?  If you ever get to the Atherton Tablelands in Australia you must stop by the Curtain Fig Tree National Park. The “curtain fig tree” is huge.  My photo does not capture its essence, and when we first saw it at night with only our headlamps to see the owls, it looked even more amazing.  Wow, what a tree.  On the way back to our lodge, we also spotted a Barking Owl sitting on a fence post.  When we stopped, it flushed to a nearby tree where we were able to get great looks of the bird.  It truly was another great day to bird.

Brown Cuckoo-Dove

Male Victoria’s Riflebird

Grey Fantail

Australasian Figbird

Tooth-billed Bowerbird – didn’t see this bird’s bower …

… but he did like to sing

Pied Currawong

Not sure whose his parents are, but a pretty duck.

Purple Swamphen at Hasties Swamp National Park

Just a few Plumed Whistling Ducks

Pacific Baza

A baby Purple Swamphen

Momma and chick (or is it daddy and chick) – Purple Swamphen

Eastern Great Egret in breeding plumage

Pink-eared Duck

Hasties Swamp

Forest Kingfisher …

… with lunch (looks like a small frog to me)