During July 2003, I spent just short of one month traveling up the east coast of Australia with my girlfriend, commencing from Sydney and ending up in Cairns. The trip was not meant to be a birding one, but as time progressed so did the intensity and the regularity of my birding. Essential references used were Simpson, K. and Day, N. (1996) Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Thomas, R. and Thomas, C. (1996) The Complete Guide to Finding the Birds of Australia as well as the Lonely Planet guides to New South Wales and Queensland, along with several road maps (that can be purchased locally) of relevant areas. Although distances covered were large, petrol was extremely cheap in comparison to the United Kingdom - the price per litre in AUS$ was roughly the same as it is in pence and at an exchange rate of AUS$2.5 to every pound then this equates to pretty inexpensive! Although we stayed in hotels in both Sydney and Cairns accommodation elsewhere was in either motels or caravan parks - prices ranging from £5.50 to £14 per person per night. The transport used was a VW Golf (booked through Holiday Autos), with hire prices roughly comparable to those of continental Europe.
The following is a report on where I visited, what species of interest were seen and where applicable more detailed directions to sites are given. Finally, I must acknowledge the help that Phil Hansbro gave me on getting to grips with Australian birds and giving extremely useful information on where to go for certain species. The first time a species is seen it is displayed in bold and where a 'C' appears next to a species, this indicates that it was commonly seen on that date.
30th June - after arriving in Sydney early morning, we were fairly tired although an immediate trip to Sydney Botanic Gardens (near the Opera House and Circular Quay) gave me my first taste of Australian bird life.
Australian Ibis C, Silver Gull C, Pacific Black Duck c.5, Australian Wood Duck c.5, Dusky Moorhen c.10, Little Black Cormorant c.5, Little Pied Cormorant c.5, Common Myna C, Noisy Miner C, Welcome Swallow C, Pied Currawong 3, Australian Magpie 8, Crested Pigeon 1, Spotted Dove 3, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo c.12, Rainbow Lorikeet c.5, Willie Wagtail 1, Masked Lapwing 6, Australian Pelican 2, Australian Raven c.6.
1st July - we made a trip from Circular Quay in central Sydney on the excellent commuter ferry service to one of its oceanic suburbs called Manly. A few birds were noted in Sydney harbour but the driving rain and strong winds reduced the amount of birds seen on North Head, Manly.
Australasian Gannet 3, Crested Tern 2, Willie Wagtail 1, House Sparrow 4, Noisy Miner C, Common Myna C, Masked Lapwing 1, Rainbow Lorikeet 10+, New Holland Honeyeater c.12, Peregrine 2, White-bellied Sea Eagle 1, Australian Ibis C, Silver Gull C, Australian Wood Duck 2, Little Black Cormorant 5, Little Pied Cormorant 10, Pied Cormorant 1, Great Cormorant 1, Pied Currawong 3, Welcome Swallow c.5, Australian Magpie c.5, Magpie Lark 2, Australian Raven c.5, Crested Pigeon 6+, Common Bronzewing 1, Red Wattlebird 2.
2nd July - with pouring rain continuing from the previous day, we spent most of the day undercover in Sydney's malls and museums with no new species seen whatsoever.
Common Myna C, Rainbow Lorikeet 5, Silver Gull C, Australian Ibis C, Pacific Black Duck 4, Australian Wood Duck 2, House Sparrow C, Magpie Lark 3, Noisy Miner c.8, Australian Raven 2, Pied Currawong 3, Australian Magpie 2, Welcome Swallow c.10.
3rd July - a leisurely day trip to the Blue Mountains provided my first insight into Australia outside Sydney. Highlights of the day included the only trip sightings of White-winged Choughs in Girraween Park near Parramatta, a White-plumed Honeyeater in the car park of Featherdale Wildlife Park and sightings of Gang-gang Cockatoo and King Parrot in the forestry near the cable car ride in the Blue Mountains National Park.
Common Myna C, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo c.25, Silver Gull, Galah c.20, Australian Ibis C, Eastern Rosella 2, Magpie Lark c.5, Australian Raven C, Red Wattlebird 4, Cattle Egret c.50, Great Egret 2, Spotted Dove C, Noisy Miner C, Australian Magpie C, House Sparrow C, White-plumed Honeyeater 1, White-winged Chough c.12, European Starling C, Little Corella c.8, Australian Wood Duck 4, Dusky Moorhen c.8, Purple Swamphen c.5, Crimson Rosella 3, White-necked Heron 1, White-faced Heron 1, White-naped Honeyeater 1, Pied Currawong C, Laughing Kookaburra 2, King Parrot c.6, New Holland Honeyeater 4, Gang-gang Cockatoo 2, Lewin's Honeyeater 1, White-browed Scrubwren 2, Australian Pelican 3, Australasian Darter 1, Brown Thornbill 6, Crested Pigeon c.10.
4th July - a morning walk through the Botanic Gardens yielded a couple of new species including a roosting Tawny Frogmouth as well as a very confiding Buff-banded Rail on the banks of one of the small pools in the park. I spent the afternoon on a whale-watching boat (run by Pro-Dive, booked from Circular Quay) and although no whales were seen (much to the chagrin of the predominantly sea-sick others), a few seabirds were excellent value for me - the highlights being stunning views of a Southern Giant Petrel (close enough to see its wholly pale bill), Little Penguin, Black-browed and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses and a Kelp Gull near the shore at Maroubra.
5th July - after picking up the hire car in central Sydney mid morning, a couple of hours drive north found us at Newcastle. I met Phil Hansbro here (a mate from the British birding scene in the mid-late 90s who now lives in Newcastle) as he had kindly offered to show me a few birds and local sites of interest. We started at Leninghans Flats looking at some waterfowl whilst a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a Swamp Harrier flew overhead, moving onto Shortland Wetland Centre where a large flock of Magpie Geese were present in front of the reserve centre and several species of honeyeater, including the vividly plumaged male Scarlet Honeyeater, were present in the bushes adjacent to the car park. In the hour or so prior to dusk, we visited Kooragang Ash Island where many waders were present including Red-necked Avocet, Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-fronted Dotterel whilst excellent views of an Australian Spotted Crake were obtained as it crept around in some reeds.
6th July - after staying with Phil overnight, the morning was spent birding some other areas around Newcastle. Firstly the woodland at Wyee Point produced several new birds including Little Lorikeet, Rose Robin, both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes and Varied Sitella. A drive around Watagans National Park produced no sightings of the scarce Glossy Black-Cockatoos but species such as White-throated Treecreeper and Satin Bowerbird were seen. Early afternoon saw us back in the Kooragang area, under the bridge at the northern edge of the town, where a huge flock of Red-necked Avocet were present along with 2 Grey-tailed Tattlers. After saying farewell to Phil, I drove north along the Pacific Highway towards Coffs Harbour, stopping only to look at a Collared Sparrowhawk as it soared over the road.
Black Swan C, Australian Wood Duck c.6, Pied Cormorant 4, Little Black Cormorant 2, Australasian Pelican c.5, Cattle Egret 25, Australian Ibis C, Straw-necked Ibis c.10, Royal Spoonbill 2, Osprey 1, Australian Kite 6+, Collared Sparrowhawk 1, White-bellied Sea Eagle 1, Nankeen Kestrel 2, Purple Swamphen c.5, Dusky Moorhen C, Grey-tailed Tattler 2, Red-necked Avocet 400, Black-winged Stilt c.25, Masked Lapwing C, Silver Gull C, Crested Tern c.40, Spotted Dove C, Crested Pigeon 10, Galah c.12, Little Corella 3, Rainbow Lorikeet c.25, Little Lorikeet 4, King Parrot 1, Crimson Rosella 2, Eastern Rosella C, Laughing Kookaburra c.8, White-throated Treecreeper 3, Superb Fairy Wren 4, Spotted Pardalote 2, Striated Pardalote 1, Brown Gerygone 1, Brown Thornbill C, Yellow Thornbill c.10, Red Wattlebird 5, Little Wattlebird 2, Noisy Miner 2, Lewin's Honeyeater c.6, Yellow-faced Honeyeater C, White-cheeked Honeyeater c.8, Eastern Spinebill 5, Rose Robin 2, Eastern Yellow Robin 1, Varied Sitella 5, Golden Whistler 3, Grey Shrike-thrush 2, Grey Fantail 5, Willie Wagtail C, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 1, Figbird 5+, Pied Butcherbird 4, Australian Magpie C, Pied Currawong C, Australian Raven C, Satin Bowerbird 7, Welcome Swallow C, Silvereye c.10, European Starling C, Common Myna C.
7th July - the main target species of Northern New South Wales, the Relict Raven, was seen well and heard to call on route 78 between Bellingen and Dorigo. The rest of the morning was spent around the picturesque town of Coffs Harbour, walking onto Muttonbird Island (where all one could see were the burrows of Short-tailed Shearwaters as they spend the Austral winter at sea) as well as walking on the boardwalk through the mangrove area adjacent to Coffs Creek and the Porpoise Pool. A few waders were present at this latter site including a moulting adult Pacific Golden Plover as well as 4 Pied Oystercatchers, whilst a Sacred Kingfisher rested on the mud. The afternoon was spent on a whale watching boat with the only birds seen being a few Australasian Gannets, Crested Terns and Silver Gulls - though superb views of at least 4 Humpback Whales and 12 Bottle-nosed Dolphins (from the harbour) made amends. A search of Red Rock (p.50 in Thomas and Thomas) failed to produce any Beach Thick-knees although Lesser Sandplover and Far Eastern Curlew were present and 2 Little Button-Quail scurried across the road by a scrubby area between the Pacific Highway and Red Rock village. We then drove north to Byron Bay.
Rainbow Lorikeet C, Australian Magpie C, Red Wattlebird 2, Lewin's Honeyeater c.5, White-cheeked Honeyeater 3, Relict Raven 3, Red-rumped Parrot 1, Galah 25+, Silver Gull C, White-faced Heron c.10, Pied Oystercatcher 4, Pacific Golden Plover 1, Sacred Kingfisher 1, Australian Wood Duck 8, Masked Lapwing C, Pied Cormorant 2, Little Black Cormorant c.10, Crested Tern 4, Mangrove Gerygone 2, Laughing Kookaburra 3+, Magpie Lark C, Spangled Drongo 1, House Sparrow C, Australian Ibis 2, Grey Fantail 2, Brown Honeyeater 4, Welcome Swallow C, Australasian Pelican 10, Willie Wagtail 5, Australasian Gannet 6, Australasian Darter 1, Far Eastern Curlew 1, Little Button-Quail 2, Lesser Sandplover c.5, White-bellied Sea Eagle 1, Whistling Kite 3, Little Egret 2, Rufous Songlark 1.
8th July - we spent until mid morning at Cape Byron, the most easterly point in Australia. The coastal scrub habitat here revealed little of interest although a Sooty Oystercatcher was present on the rocks east of the lighthouse and a school of Bottle-nosed Dolphins impressed as they dived in and out of the water just offshore. After exploring the town, we drove north past Brisbane and spent the night at Noosa Heads. The only birds of note on the drive up were a couple of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos west of Coolum Beach that flew over the road before alighting in the adjacent dry woodland.
9th July - the whole day spent around the town of Noosa Heads. The coastal scrubby area just north of the town was excellent for Australian Brush Turkey, especially around the public toilets. An everglade boat tour to the area around Harry's Hut, north of Lake Cooroiba and Lake Cootharaba, produced a few interesting species such as Azure Kingfisher, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet and Variegated Fairy Wren but on the whole was relatively quiet for birdlife.
Rainbow Lorikeet C, Noisy Miner C, Crested Pigeon 5, Australian Brush Turkey 20+, Welcome Swallow C, Red Wattlebird 1, Figbird 4, Brown Honeyeater 5, Noisy Friarbird 2, Little Wattlebird c.10, Silvereye 2, Tree Martin C, House Sparrow C, Osprey 2, Silver Gull C, Pied Cormorant 2, Australasian Pelican C, Pied Oystercatcher 2, Great Egret 5, Little Egret 2, White-faced Heron 3, Pied Currawong 4, Australasian Darter C, Royal Spoonbill 6, Caspian Tern 1, Black-winged Stilt 5, Little Pied Cormorant C, Masked Lapwing 2, Azure Kingfisher 1, Brahminy Kite 3, Grey Fantail 2, Golden Whistler 2, White-bellied Sea Eagle 1, Scarlet Honeyeater 1, White-cheeked Honeyeater 2, White-browed Scrubwren 1, Variegated Fairy Wren c.5, Eastern Yellow Robin 1, Little Black Cormorant c.10, White-breasted Woodswallow 2, Pacific Black Duck 4, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet c.25, Australian Ibis 1, Torresian Crow 5.
10th July - an early morning start was needed in order to visit Fraser Island for the day. This island of supposed wilderness was not at all what I had expected, with heaps of tour buses and a holiday resort complex greeting us on arrival. Nonetheless, the isolated rainforest pocket in the middle of the island was fairly impressive as were the miles of white sand surrounding the island and the shore of its freshwater lake, Lake McKenzie. Noise and disturbance meant that birding was relatively fruitless although a Grey Butcherbird near the ferry at Tewantin was the only individual of this species seen throughout the trip. Other wildlife seen included a Humpback Whale close inshore off Rainbow Beach early morning and a dingo on the east side of Fraser Island.
Rainbow Lorikeet C, White-faced Heron 3, Australasian Pelican C, Silver Gull C, Torresian Crow C, Figbird 20, Magpie Lark 2, Great Egret 2, Australian Magpie 5, Little Pied Cormorant 10, Grey Butcherbird 1, Australian Wood Duck 5, Crested Pigeon C, Crested Tern C, Brahminy Kite 6, White-bellied Sea Eagle 2, Gull-billed Tern 4, White-cheeked Honeyeater 1, Brown Honeyeater 3, Noisy Friarbird 1, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 8, Little Corella c.10, Blue-faced Honeyeater 2, Australian Ibis 10, Masked Lapwing 2, Little Black Cormorant C, Pied Oystercatcher 4, Scarlet Honeyeater c.5, Eastern Yellow Robin 2, Lewin's Honeyeater 3, Grey Shrike-thrush 3, Pied Butcherbird 1, Australian Pipit 1, Welcome Swallow C, House Sparrow 5, Large-billed Scrubwren 2, Straw-necked Ibis c.10, Far Eastern Curlew c.25, White-necked Heron 1, Willie Wagtail 2.
11th July - leaving Noosa early morning, we were to drive the 600 miles or so north-west to the gem fields near Emerald. With a vast change in habitat from the coastal strip, arid bushland as well as several waterholes provided me with several new species for the trip. Of particular interest, a wetland area on the Kilkivan-Tansey road (on the dirt section closest to Kilkivan) held good numbers of waterfowl including Australasian Shoveler and Glossy Ibis whilst Swamp Harrier and Little Eagle were seen nearby. In the more arid, outback areas between Biloela and Emerald species such as Apostlebird, Black-faced Woodswallow, Little Crow, Brown Falcon and Red-winged Parrot were seen.
Rainbow Lorikeet C, Figbird C, Nankeen Kestrel c.5, Australian Ibis C, Torresian Crow C, Purple Swamphen c.5, Straw-necked Ibis 10, Cattle Egret C, Masked Lapwing C, Pied Currawong c.5, Australian Magpie C, Welcome Swallow C, Australian Wood Duck c.25, White-faced Heron 2, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 3, Dusky Moorhen c.5, Tree Martin C, Little Eagle 1, Little Pied Cormorant 4, Pacific Black Duck C, Swamp Harrier 1, Australian Kite 4, Galah c.20, White-necked Heron 2, Glossy Ibis 10, Grey Teal C, Australasian Shoveler c.5, Yellow-throated Miner 2, Black-winged Stilt c.20, Topknot Pigeon 2, Wedge-tailed Eagle 2, Magpie Lark C, Laughing Kookaburra 3, Pied Butcherbird 2, Great Egret 2, Apostlebird 1, Black-faced Woodswallow 1, Brown Falcon 1, Little Crow C, Restless Flycatcher 2, Red-winged Parrot 2, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo c.8, Diamond Dove 2, Crested Pigeon C.
12th July - an early morning walk around Sunrise Cabins in the small village of Sapphire produced hordes of Apostlebirds, including one that attacked me whilst I was pishing. In between Sapphire and Rubyvale, a pit on the right (when driving north) held Cotton Pygmy Geese, Hardheads and a Red-capped Plover as well as other species of waterfowl. After spending a couple of hours at a sapphire mine, we drove eastwards to MacKay. A cracking male Australian Bustard provided a real bonus as it stood by the roadside NE of Clermont, just SW of the turn to Moranbah, on route 70. A look around the port area of MacKay early evening revealed an average share of common waterbirds.
Rainbow Lorikeet C, Apostlebird C, Red-winged Parrot 2, Bar-shouldered Dove 2, Little Crow C, Diamond Dove c.10, Crested Pigeon C, Masked Lapwing C, Pied Butcherbird 2, Pacific Black Duck C, Australian Magpie C, Black Swan 6, Hardhead c.8, Cotton Pygmy Goose 5, Eurasian Coot c.10, Australasian Darter 1, Australasian Pelican 3, Galah 4, Red-capped Plover 1, Grey Teal 4, Blue-faced Honeyeater C, Yellow-throated Miner 2, Nankeen Kestrel 6, Australasian Grebe 2, Pale-headed Rosella 2, Magpie lark C, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo c.10, Australian Kite 2, Brown Falcon 1, Whistling Kite 1, Black Kite 1, Torresian Crow C, Mistletoebird 1, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 3, Brahminy Kite 1, Gull-billed Tern 4, Great Egret 3, Little Egret 2, Australian Ibis C, Australian Bustard 1, Brown Honeyeater 2, Noisy Friarbird 4, Figbird C, Australian Wood Duck c.5, Little Black Cormorant 1, Little Pied Cormorant 2.
13th July - the area around Eungella National Park is an essential area to visit, mainly due to the fact that it contains an endemic honeyeater that can only be found in this one small area to the west of MacKay. In addition the river bridge near the Broken River Campsite is renowned for easy viewing of Duck-billed Platypus - and we saw two individuals at close range from this bridge. Using the directions given in Thomas and Thomas (page 82), we drove up the steep escarpment just before the village of Eungella and turned right into Dalrymple Road, following this for c.16.5 kilometres and then turning left onto Chelmans Road. Where this road starts to end, there is a farm on the left just before you enter the woodland where the road starts to deteriorate. The eccentric farmer here was extremely friendly and helpful, saying that he regularly clears the track that leads to the honeyeater site as well as pointing out the newly constructed signs his granddaughter made stating 'honeyeaters, this way'. After offering us some macadamia nuts and a stick to beat off wild pigs, we drove a further kilometre up the track before parking on the left just before a gate and a house on the right. After a couple of hours, I located two Eungella Honeyeaters c.250 yards beyond the forestry gate as they fed actively near the canopy. This track was also very productive for other species with Regent Bowerbird, Eastern Whipbird, Wompoo and Superb Fruit-Doves as well as a perched Grey Goshawk also seen. A couple of Brown Cuckoo-Doves were seen adjacent to the Platypus takeaway store in Eungella village, and a Bassian Ground Thrush fed at close range in the rainforest adjacent to the Broken River area. Most interestingly, I sited another Eungella Honeyeater as it fed on riverside vegetation between the Broken River Bridge and the platypus viewing platform. Returning towards Mackay, a Pheasant Coucal was seen in an area of sugar cane whilst an obvious farm side lagoon near Mirani (on the left coming from Eungella) held Hoary-headed and Great Crested Grebes.
14th July - we drove north along the Bruce Highway from Mackay and turned off at Proserpine towards Airlie Beach. There was a lily filled pool on the west side of the highway, south of Proserpine, that contained hundreds of Magpie Geese as well as several Cotton Pygmy Geese and Hardheads. By the small harbour at Airlie Beach, 4 Lesser Crested Terns roosted with much larger numbers of Crested Terns and 2 Grey-tailed Tattlers were also present here. In the small area of mangroves near the bus station, Mangrove Honeyeater and Great Bowerbird were present, whilst a few Sacred Kingfishers sat on the exposed beach at low tide, and in the wooded area (turn right, when coming from Airlie Beach towards Shute Harbour, off the Shute Harbour Road past the Island Gateway Holiday Resort and proceed to the end of the road) on the south-east side of the town Weebill and Helmeted Friarbird were seen.
15th July - a day trip around the Whitsundays was excellent from a scenic perspective, although Hook Island and Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island were both relatively birdless. However, the area between the jetty and Club Croc on Long Island was considerably more productive - at least five Bush Thick-knees showed exceptionally well as they crept around bushes near the reception and the adjacent beach whilst Little Friarbird and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike were seen in the forested areas on the island.
16th July - leaving Airlie Beach early morning, we rejoined the Bruce Highway and headed north, through endless fields of sugar cane, in the direction of Townsville. Midway between Ayr and Townsville (south of the Giru junction), there is an excellent area of wetland habitat at Horseshoe Lagoon (Thomas and Thomas page 83) - when coming from the south you will see a large lagoon on the right hand side of the highway, carry on for another half a mile and turn right onto the bitumen road adjacent to the sugar cane railway track and park by the roadside when the lagoon is viewable. A wealth of birdlife was present here, with Green and Cotton Pygmy-Geese, Magpie Goose, Comb-crested Jacana as well as many Whiskered Terns hawking over the lagoon. Rejoining the Bruce Highway and continuing north a damp area by the side of the road north of the Giru junction hosted a pair of Black-necked Storks amongst commoner waterbirds. In the afternoon, I visited Townsville Common Environmental Park and was especially impressed with the multitude of habitats that this reserve incorporated. Access is easy, with the reserve open daily from 6.30am until 6.30pm, and an information centre on the Bruce Highway just south of Townsville can provide you with a map of the area. To access the park you will need to go north through the centre of Townsville and follow signposts to Pallarenda. Once on Cape Pallarenda Road, the park is clearly signposted on the left about 5 kilometres down this road. Once through the access gates, an information hut on the left has species lists and maps, whilst a forest walk is the first trail to be signposted. Following the road round, an observation tower is situated to the left of the road and overlooks the south end of the only large flooded area (whilst I was there anyway). I saw a pair of Black-necked Stork and several Brolga from here as well as Black-fronted Dotterel, Red-backed Fairy Wren and Satin Flycatcher. Continuing north along the freshwater lagoon road, the scrubby bush areas adjacent to the road were productive with species such as Forest Kingfisher, Yellow Honeyeater, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Leaden Flycatcher, Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo, White-throated Honeyeater and Brown Goshawk seen here. At the north end of this road, the Freshwater Lagoon bird hide was unproductive due to the lack of water (only a Brown Falcon and a few White-faced Herons were present from here) whilst the Jacana bird hide had apparently been burnt down. Meanwhile Causeway Road had little of interest except for a couple of Australasian Bushlarks.
17th July - a return visit to Townsville Common Environmental Park from dawn until mid morning produced a couple of new species, with the Forest Walk producing both Horsfield's and Gould's Bronze-cuckoos, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Great Bowerbird along with numerous Spangled Drongos, Yellow-bellied Sunbirds and Yellow Honeyeaters. Wetland species were much the same as the previous day although superb views of Brolga were obtained as they fed on The Long Swamp, viewable from the Freshwater Lagoon Road. On leaving Townsville, after a visit to the excellent Museum of Tropical Queensland, we drove north to Mission Beach. Late afternoon until dusk was spent walking around the Licuala State Forest, signposted off the Tully-Mission Beach Road (just west of the junction with South Mission Beach Road). Typical rainforest species observed included Dusky and Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters, Rufous Fantail and Little Shrike-thrush.
Masked Lapwing C, Straw-necked Ibis C, Crown Honeyeater c.8, Yellow-bellied Sunbird c.6, Blue-winged Kookaburra 3, Yellow Honeyeater 2, Black Kite C, Grey Fantail 2, Spangled Drongo 5, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike 2, Diamond Dove C, Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo 1, White-throated Honeyeater 4, Rainbow Lorikeet C, Black-winged Stilt C, Little Pied Cormorant 3, Great Egret c.5, Royal Spoonbill 15, Torresian Crow 5, Pacific Black Duck C, White-necked Heron 8, Magpie Lark C, Welcome Swallow C, Australian Ibis C, Brolga 4, Australian Kite 1, Tree Martin c.10, White-faced Heron 3, Tawny Grassbird 1, Gould's Bronze-cuckoo 1, Great Bowerbird 1, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo c.6, Rainbow Bee-eater 2, Satin Flycatcher 1, Leaden Flycatcher 2, Little Black Cormorant 1, Forest Kingfisher 1, Common Myna C, House Sparrow C, Australasian Pelican 2, Wedge-tailed Eagle 2, Nankeen Kestrel 1, Brahminy Kite 1, Cattle Egret C, White-breasted Woodswallow c.12, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater 2, Dusky Honeyeater 4, Rufous Fantail 1, Little Shrike-thrush 1, White-headed Pigeon 1, Topknot Pigeon c.10.
18th July - once again parking at Licuala State Forest, I walked the Licuala Walking Track for c.3 kilometres in the direction of the El Arish Road, failing to note any Cassowaries although fresh droppings were evident on the path. Species seen on this walk included Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Emerald Dove, both Grey and Little Shrike-thrushes and Spectacled Monarch. Driving back to Mission Beach and taking the El Arish road, I parked at the opposite end of the Licuala Walking Track, and proceeded on foot in the direction of Lacey's Creek. A rasping call in the canopy was revealed to be a Victoria's Riflebird whilst a few Pale-yellow Robins foraged in the undergrowth. At this site I met a couple of Australian birders, and stating that I was in search of Cassowaries, they gave me an alternative site - Etty Bay Caravan Park. From Mission Beach, rejoin the Bruce Highway and head north towards Innisfail. About 10 kilometres south of Innisfail, take the right turn in Mourilyan that is clearly signposted Mourilyan Harbour and Etty Bay. After proceeding along this road for a couple of kilometres, the Etty Bay road forks off to the left. Take this road into the village, going down the steep hill, and park by the beach Caravan Park and shop. Within half an hour of our arrival, a superb male Southern Cassowary walked down the path from the rainforest and paraded around the caravan park with this superb experience only being blighted by idiots feeding the bird (despite the numerous signs stating 'do not feed the cassowaries'). After a successful trip out, we returned to Mission Beach and the last hour or so of daylight was spent along Lacey Creek Walk where Spotted Catbird, Macleay's Honeyeater and White-eared Monarch were all seen.
19th July - we drove north from Mission Beach, past Cairns and Port Douglas, and ended up at Kingfisher Park, Julatten. The only bird of note on the journey was a Little Tern feeding just offshore near Wangetti, south of Port Douglas. Kingfisher Park is a birdwatching lodge in the Atherton Tablelands and its grounds host a wealth of birdlife. Macleay's, Graceful, Yellow-spotted, Lewin's and Bridled Honeyeaters regularly visit the feeders whilst confiding Emerald Doves and Red-browed Firetails are continually present. Pied Monarch, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Brown Cuckoo-Dove and Grey-headed Robin are all relatively common in the grounds of the park. A night walk revealed Barn Owl and Bush Thick-knee (Barking and Lesser Sooty Owls can no longer be seen with regularity in the park) as well as Flying Foxes, Possums, Bandicoots, Frogs, Toads, Spiders and luminous Fungi.
Common Myna C, Great Egret 3, Rainbow Lorikeet C, Magpie Lark C, Bar-shouldered Dove 4, Willie Wagtail 2, Masked Lapwing C, Little Tern 1, Straw-necked Ibis c.15, Australian Ibis 5, Brahminy Kite 2, Black Kite C, White-breasted Woodswallow 10, Welcome Swallow c.10, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo C, Rainbow Bee-eater 12, Blue-faced Honeyeater 10, Pale-yellow Robin 8, Lewin's Honeyeater 5, Red-browed Firetail C, Emerald Dove 6, Mcleay's Honeyeater C, Diamond Dove 5, Spotted Catbird 3, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin 2, Bower's Shrike-thrush 1, Grey-headed Robin 2, Rufous Fantail 4, Little Shrike-thrush 3, Gould's Bronze-cuckoo 1, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater c.5, Graceful Honeyeater c.5, Spectacled Monarch 4, Scarlet Honeyeater 3, Laughing Kookaburra 5, Figbird 10, Yellow-bellied Sunbird 2, Dusky Honeyeater 3, Brown Cuckoo-dove 2, Grey Fantail 2, Pied Monarch 2, Orange-footed Scrubfowl 6, Varied Triller 1, Australian Brush Turkey 5, Bridled Honeyeater 2, Tree Martin c.5, Yellow-faced Honeyeater 3, Spangled Drongo 1, Forest Kingfisher 1, Yellow Oriole 1, White-bellied Sea Eagle 1, Large-billed Scrubwren 3, White-throated Honeyeater 2, Silvereye 4, Barn Owl 1, Bush Thick-knee 1.
20th July - I spent the morning birding the road up Mount Lewis, and although the weather was poor birding was relatively productive (with the only target bird missed being Golden Bowerbird). Just north of Kingfisher Park on the main road, take the track by the tavern up towards Mount Lewis - although previous literature often states the poor condition of this road, I was able to drive my VW Golf up to the 10.5 kilometre mark where the birding track is situated. Stopping occasionally and listening whilst ascending, birds such as Chowchilla, Yellow-throated Scrubwren and Grey-headed Robin were seen. In addition, a real highlight was the two Russet-tailed Ground Thrushes that performed admirably by the roadside as we climbed the mountain. On Mount Lewis this species occurs at lower elevations than Bassian Ground Thrush and although difficult to distinguish between, Russet-tailed is altogether a more daintier bird with a shorter, more proportioned bill and, most importantly, in flight the basal two thirds of its outer tail feathers are white. In comparison, Bassian Ground Thrush appears stockier and shorter-tailed, with its long bill giving it a top heavy appearance - in flight this species only shows pale tips to the tail. Once at the top, the car was parked on an area of short grass on the right, about 10.5 km from the tavern, and I followed a walking track on the left into the open rainforest. Highlights here included both the Atherton Tableland endemics - Mountain Thornbill and Atherton Scrubwren - as well as quality species such as Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Fernwren and the keasti race of Grey Fantail. Returning to Kingfisher Park I was treated to views of three Papuan Frogmouths as they roosted together in the orchard whilst a Yellow-breasted Boatbill showed well nearby. After stopping at Port Douglas for a couple of hours, we made our way to Cairns where we were to spend the next five nights. On arrival the tide was in and I was treated to superb views of the waders - 26 Great Knot, 140 Red-necked Stints, 1 Grey-tailed Tattler and 1 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper being the highlights from a European perspective.
21st July - the day was spent locally around Cairns, viewing the waders off The Esplanade in the morning and then visiting the Flecker Botanic Gardens and Centenary Lakes in the late afternoon. As well as waders, Cairns Esplanade is especially good for seeing Double-eyed Fig Parrot. The boardwalk from the information hut towards Centenary Lakes did not produce the hoped for Red-necked Rail although several rainforest species showed well. However a Black-necked Stork showed extremely well on Centenary Lakes whilst Black Butcherbird and Yellow Oriole were seen in the adjacent forest. A visit to the mangrove boardwalk near the airport, however, proved fruitless.
22nd July - leaving Cairns at 4.30am I arrived at Daintree for 6.30am in order to participate on one of Chris Dahlberg's River Cruises (Tel:40987997). Although he has not been seeing Great-billed Heron regularly since 2000, this trip offers a good chance of seeing Little Kingfisher - one was seen on my trip as well as several Shining Flycatchers, at least one Australian Hobby, three Papuan Frogmouths and a Channel-billed Cuckoo. Returning south from Daintree towards Mossman, a road to Newell Beach runs eastwards from the highway about five kilometres north of Mossman (coming from the north it is not clearly signposted). Follow this road as it winds through the village and then becomes straight parallel with the ocean. It will turn into a dirt track and will then promptly end in a dead end by a rubbish bin and a boating ramp opposite some mangroves and a sandy spit. Immediately on arrival a superb Beach Thick-knee was parading around in the mangrove area on the opposite side of the river before flying onto the sandy spit. I also saw Large-billed Gerygone and Satin Flycatcher in the mangroves here. I then commenced the long and winding drive, past Kingfisher Park and Mount Molloy, to Mareeba Wetlands Centre. On arrival a sign said that it was closed but I decided to bird the entrance track seeing Silver-crowned Friarbird, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet and Pale-headed Rosella. I drove south through Mareeba to Atherton and Hasties Swamp - from Atherton drive south along Herberton Road crossing the railway line at Platypus Park (Railco steam train Station) continuing for 2km until you turn left into Hastie Road. Recross the railway line and turn right into Koci Road and follow this for 1½ km until you reach the observation tower. The whole swamp was covered in Plumed Whistling-Ducks with much smaller numbers of the exquisite Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Magpie Goose and Grey Teal. Before you reach the observation tower the road goes through a wet, reedy area where I was extremely fortunate to get excellent views of a Bush-hen as it crossed the road as well as several Buff-banded Rails. Due to the time of day I visited the swamp, no Sarus Cranes were present but after a short period of driving around the local area, I located six birds feeding in a cut maize field by the road between Atherton and Malanda (about 5km south-east of Atherton). Driving east from Atherton along the Gillies Highway, I stopped at Lake Barrine (Thomas and Thomas, page 92) where I located a couple of Wandering Whistling-Ducks as well as large numbers of Hardhead. In the adjacent rainforest Victoria's Riflebird, White-throated Treecreeper and Scarlet Honeyeater were all present. I then drove back towards Mareeba, via Atherton, stopping off at Nardellos Lagoon (where there were six Wandering Whistling-Ducks amongst the hundreds of Pacific Black Ducks) and viewing a flock of twenty-six huge Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos by the lay-by 1 kilometre before the junction with the Kennedy Highway (to Kuranda and Cairns). I then took the Kennedy Highway in the direction of Kuranda, then turned right into Tinaroo Creek Road (Thomas and Thomas, page 92-3) passing the agricultural college on the right and the road to Emerald Falls on the left before parking in a lay-by next to a field on the left full of termite mounds. After a while searching four Black-throated Finches were located on the opposite side of the road whilst further along the track, past the creek but before the houses, a large flock of Double-barred Finches were present along with a superb male Spotted Harrier that flew over the fields to the right of the road. Further along the road, it bends to the left and there is a large house with a grass lawn on the right hand side where a Squatter Pigeon was present. Fully satisfied with my day I returned to Cairns Esplanade for the hour prior to dark. A couple of Double-eyed Fig Parrots whizzed over but, the most bizarre sighting of my whole trip, was of an adult Red-tailed Tropicbird that circled the ocean in front of The Esplanade, then heading inland and over The Esplanade itself, before heading slowly back out to sea.
23rd July - having booked our trip to the Great Barrier Reef a couple of days previously, we set sail from Cairns to Michaelmas Cay. There are a couple of ways to visit this island, either by the MV Seastar or the more costly Ocean Spirit. We took the latter as it was a larger vessel (reducing the likelihood of my girlfriend being motion sick), offering an excellent lunch as well as snorkeling equipment and the opportunity to ride in a semi-submersible boat. The only bird of note seen during the crossing was a Wilson's Storm-Petrel although Brown Boobies, Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies were seen once the Cay was in sight and a Humpback Whale performed well to the assembled crowd. On Michaelmas Cay itself, huge numbers of Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns were present as well as smaller numbers of Black-naped, Little, Lesser Crested and Crested Tern, Brown Booby and Great Frigatebird (although surprisingly no Lessers were seen). I, along with a couple of Dutch birders, took a ride in the Ocean Spirit's beach boat to the sandy spit on the other side of the island where Black-naped Terns were resting but despite constant searching for the duration of our stay on the island we could not locate any Black Noddies. One of the crew members, Davo, was a birder and gave me an excellent site for a daytime roost of Nankeen Night Herons on Cairns Esplanade - on the Esplanade Road, north of the main drag of shops and The Holiday Inn, is The Trade Winds Esplanade Hotel and the gardens on the north side of the hotel back onto a small road leading inland from The Esplanade. Walk on the pavement directly under these trees (usually full of egrets and Australian Ibises) and look into the canopy where I discovered at least one Nankeen Night Heron on this date and at least six birds on the morning of 25th July.
24th July - I spent early morning by the mangroves at the extreme northern end of The Esplanade in Cairns where three Mangrove Robins were located - stand on the grass immediately adjacent to the mangroves and pish until the birds respond. A walk around the Botanic Gardens produced a flock of Metallic Starlings in trees by the road near the boardwalk entrance (with this species also seen in the gardens of The Holiday Inn on Cairns Esplanade). During the afternoon I drove to Edmonton (about 10 kilometres to the south of Cairns on The Bruce Highway), and turned left on Thomsons Road (Thomas and Thomas, page 88). Following this road to the end, it finishes in a car park neat a creek and some mangroves. From this car park walk back up the road (the way you have just come from), and just past the fishing club (the only building on the right hand side) take a small path that runs parallel with the sugar cane field, under some telegraph wires, and ends up in an area of mangroves and scrub - in this area I located Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Crimson Finch, White-throated Honeyeater, Sacred Kingfisher, Brown-backed Honeyeater and, somewhat surprisingly, a Northern Fantail (as well as several Grey Fantails). A walk around the nearby Crocodile Farm produced the hoped-for White-browed Crake (on the lagoon immediately behind and to the right of reception as well as the small, reedy pool near the building work as you walk left from reception) whilst other species seen here included Cicadabird, Crimson Finch, Black-fronted Dotterel and four Black-necked Storks.
25th July - I strolled along The Esplanade in Cairns in the morning, having a last look at the waders and roosting Nankeen Night Herons, before going to Cairns airport to catch a flight back to Sydney.
Common Myna C, Brown Honeyeater c.5, Spotted Dove c.5, Great Egret C, Nankeen Night Heron 6, Straw-necked Ibis 3, Welcome Swallow C, White-breasted Woodswallow c.5, Pacific Reef Egret 2, Pied Oystercatcher 1, Gull-billed Tern 3, Masked Lapwing C, Intermediate Egret 1, Willie Wagtail c.8, Magpie Lark C, Bar-tailed Godwit c.10, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike 1, Nutmeg Mannikin c.15, Silver Gull C, Great Knot 12, Grey-tailed Tattler 2, Far Eastern Curlew 2, Whimbrel 3, Varied Honeyeater 1, Australian Ibis 2, Australasian Pelican c.20, Royal Spoonbill c.10.
26th July - after hiring a car the previous evening on arrival in Sydney, I drove to Royal National Park for just after dawn (Thomas and Thomas, pages 43-45) where a stunning Superb Lyrebird was seen displaying along Lady Carrington Drive shortly after my arrival. As you cross over the river at Audley, turn right into the car park by the toilets and information centre and proceed along Lady Carrington Drive on foot. Also noted in this area were Satin Bowerbird, Wonga Pigeon, Eastern Yellow Robin, Superb Fairy Wren, Eastern Whipbird and Striated Thornbill. Using recent information given to me by Phil, one Origma was eventually seen after pishing and an hour or so of scanning the rocky areas. After leaving Lady Carrington Drive, I rejoined the Princes Highway and drove a few kilometres south to Engadine railway station. After crossing over the railway bridge, there is an area of heathland (Thomas and Thomas, page 45) where I located Southern Emu-wren as well as many Superb Fairy-wrens. Driving back towards Sydney, I drove into its south-eastern suburbs to Maroubra South Beach Surf Club where I then walked south along the coast path adjacent to the military training area. Due to the time of day of my arrival, there was no sign of any Lewin's Rails although they do occur here with some regularity. Walking a further kilometre south, I reached Magic Point and in a futile effort of seawatching (due to the onshore winds) I managed a couple of Black-browed Albatrosses as well as a few more distant Albatross sp. and an Australasian Gannet. With a need to return to the airport to catch our flight, a brief stop in a Botany Bay Park provided me with a last look (for now anyway!) at common Australian species such as Australian Ibis, Rainbow Lorikeet, Laughing Kookaburra, Little Pied Cormorant and Dusky Moorhen.
Eastern Spinebill 2, Rainbow Lorikeet C, Pied Currawong c.5, Australian Raven 8, Grey Fantail 3, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo C, Australian Magpie 4, Brown Thornbill c.10, Origma 1, Eastern Yellow Robin 8, Eastern Whipbird 2+, Wonga Pigeon 1, Lewin's Honeyeater 2, Superb Lyrebird 1, Superb Fairy-wren C, Red-browed Firetail 3, Striated Thornbill 1, Eastern Rosella 1, Dusky Moorhen C, Australian Wood Duck 4, Purple Swamphen C, Pacific Black Duck C, Satin Bowerbird 1, Laughing Kookaburra 1, Crimson Rosella 3, Red Wattlebird 2, Southern Emu-wren 2, Silver Gull C, Common Myna C, Noisy Miner 3, Spotted Dove C, Welcome Swallow C, Willie Wagtail C, Australasian Grebe 2, New Holland Honeyeater C, European Starling C, Little Black Cormorant 3, Crested Tern c.5, House Sparrow C, Yellow Thornbill 2, Australasian Gannet 1, Black-browed Albatross 2, Little Pied Cormorant c.10, Silvereye c.5, Magpie Lark C, Hardhead c.20, Eurasian Coot c.15, Australian Ibis 10, Crested Pigeon 1.
After flying from Sydney, we were scheduled to spend two nights in Dubai city before returning to London. With temperatures averaging 42ºC, birding was extremely tiresome and often difficult - each time one left the hotel and its cool air conditioning, entering the sweltering heat meant an immediate mist on my optics for the first 10 minutes or so until the optics became acclimatized to the outside air temperature.
27th July - walking around the Deira area of Dubai city centre (whilst visiting shopping malls and the local souqs) produced Socotra Cormorant 2, Sooty Gull 3, White-cheeked Tern 1, Barbary Dove C, Ring-necked Parakeet 2, Hoopoe 1, Common Myna C, Red-vented Bulbul C, House Crow 15, House Sparrow C, Indian Silverbill 5.
28th July - a visit to Creekside Park produced a few species of note to a western European birder but was relatively quiet in the sweltering heat. In the afternoon, a pale yellow Budgerigar (of captive origin) was the only bird of note as I cooled off at the Wild Wadi Water Park. Species recorded during at Creekside Park:
Red-wattled Lapwing 12, Black-winged Stilt 8, Common Sandpiper 4, Greater Sandplover 1, Little Ringed Plover 1, Sooty Gull 11, Grey Francolin 6, Barbary Dove C, Collared Dove C, Ring-necked Parakeet 4, Hoopoe 5, Little Bee-eater 3, Indian Roller 1, Common Myna C, Red-vented Bulbul C, White-eared Bulbul c.15, Crested Lark 3 Graceful Prinia 2, Purple Sunbird 3, House Crow C, House Sparrow C, Indian Silverbill 6.
29th July - needing to be at the airport by late morning and with all the sight seeing out of the way, I spent three hours early morning at the Khor Dubai Nature Reserve (viewing is on the whole distant as one has to stay outside the perimeter fence). Species recorded here included: -
Striated Heron 2, Western Reef Egret c.20, Grey Heron C, Spoonbill c.25, Greater Flamingo C, Black Swan (escape) 1, Shelduck 3, Moorhen C, Oystercatcher 2, Black-winged Stilt C, Avocet 1, Little Ringed Plover 8, Greater Sand Plover C, Lesser Sand Plover C (in larger numbers than previous species), Pacific Golden Plover 1, Red-wattled Lapwing 10, Knot C, Little Stint C, Curlew Sandpiper C, Dunlin c.10, Whimbrel 5, Eurasian Curlew 12, Redshank c.20, Greenshank 1, Terek Sandpiper c.15, Common Sandpiper 8, Heuglin's Gull 1, Slender-billed Gull 4, Gull-billed Tern 5, Caspian Tern 2, Barbary Dove C, Collared Dove C, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 1, Indian Roller 1, Common Myna C, Crested Lark 5, Graceful Prinia 6, Red-vented Bulbul C, White-eared Bulbul 4, House Crow C, House Sparrow C.