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