Australia - 25 September to 15th October 2004

Published by Mark Harper (markharper AT

Participants: Mark, Adrian and Shirley Harper, Don and Doris Pearson, Karen and Duncan Brown and Iain Campbell


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Grey-headed Robin
Grey-headed Robin
Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
Satin Bowerbird
Satin Bowerbird
Southern Cassowary
Southern Cassowary
Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth

Having previously been with Tropical Birding to Ecuador and enjoyed a superb tour we decided to join their Australia tour this year. As the tour began on a Wednesday, it meant having to leave the UK on a Monday evening to arrive on time for the start. Not wanting to waste the weekend we decided instead to travel on the Friday evening and a have few days birding on our own in the Top End prior to the tour, which covered the East coast only.

26 September

Arriving at Darwin at 4.30am we picked our hire car up and were soon on the road to Fogg Dam. As we approached we disturbed a couple of Spotted Nightjars from the road, and as we drove into the car park our headlights picked out a Rufous Owl sat on a branch over the road. Not bad for our first two species in Australia.

As the sky began to lighten we drove across the dam picking up our first Magpie Geese and Green Pygmy-Geese. The trees around the car park at the end held lots of Rufous-banded Honeyeaters and Rainbow Bee-eaters, whilst the sky was full off Torresian Imperial Pigeons, Little Corellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.

Unfortunately only having two and a half days in the Northern Territory was never going to be sufficient and we soon had to leave the dam to concentrate on the woods, as we were going on the Yellow Waters cruise the next day we expected to see most of the ducks, egrets and
herons there.

We opted for the shorter Woodlands to Waterlilies walk and were soon hearing lots of unfamiliar calls, particularly the vociferous Yellow Orioles. One of the main targets here was Rainbow Pitta, but investigation of rustling leaves kept revealing Orange-footed Scrubfowl, nice but not a Pitta. As we reached the boardwalk section of the walk a flash of colour shot up onto a branch, surely a kingfisher, but when we got our bins onto it, it was a cracking Rainbow Pitta. It then hopped down onto the boardwalk and proceeded to walk towards us, another two, not as confiding, were walking around below the boardwalk.

We had one of our main targets in the bag and Australian birding was looking fairly easy. Further along the boardwalk we were able to start to get to grips with Flycatchers as we ticked off Broad-billed, Shining and Restless in quick succession. As the boardwalk came out into the open we were able to appreciate how hot it was going to get as it was only 8.00am and already the sun was fierce. A Buff-banded Rail was a consolation for our suffering as it preened in the open and then walked to within one metre of us.

We were glad to get back to the car and its air-conditioning for the long drive to Kakadu, with a few short stops along the way. The first stop was at the Adelaide River crossing only a few kilometres along the Arnhem highway from Fogg Dam. We pulled into the car park of the crocodile boat tours and within one minute had our target bird the Mangrove Golden Whistler, a fine male, the bird was to the North side of the road, but viewable from the South side by looking under the road bridge.

Apart from a stop for an early lunch, where we added Australian Hobby and Sacred Kingfisher to the list, the next schedule stop was at Mamakula Wetlands. The birds here were generally the same as at Fogg Dam, but we did add a couple of species including Red-backed Fairy-Wren.

There are several sandstone specialists in the Top End and one of the best places to see these are Nourlangie Rock, however one of the worst times of the day to see them must be early afternoon when the heat was unbearable. We did find White-lined Honeyeater, but all other sandstone specialists were notable by their absence, some consolation was had in the form of a Black-breasted Buzzard and a couple of Great Bowerbirds.

We headed off to Cooinda where we dropped our luggage at Gagudju Lodge and went out for a walk down by the boat ramp adding White-browed Crake, Brolga, and Double-barred and Long-tailed Finches to the list.

Whilst having dinner at the Lodge we bumped into Iain Campbell of Tropical Birding, who was to be our guide for the main tour, he was stopping at the lodge with his daughter and he gave us some gen on where to find Partridge Pigeons, Banded Fruit-Doves and Bar-breasted Honeyeaters. Armed with this knowledge we looked forward to putting this to the test the next day.

September 27th

We were booked on the 6.45am Yellow Waters cruise, but Iain had told us that he had seen several groups of Partridge Pigeons at dawn along the road not far from the Lodge the previous day. So before first light we drove about 15km from the Lodge so that as soon as it was light enough to see we could drive back and still be in time for the cruise and hopefully see the Partridge Pigeons along the way. We saw a Dingo, but no Pigeons at all. Back at the lodge we bumped into Iain and told him we had dipped the Pigeons, we were later to find out that he left just after we got back and saw several groups of them.

We headed off for the cruise, which was very popular with three full boats heading out onto the Yellow Waters. It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours with good views of Radjah Shelduck, Plumed and Wandering Whistling Ducks, Little and Azure Kingfishers, and lots of other birds, not to mention a few large Saltwater Crocodiles.

In retrospect, with the limited amount of time we had in the Top End it was a mistake to take the early morning cruise as by the time we had got back had breakfast and driven back to Nourlangie Rock the temperatures had started to soar and bird activity die down. We would have been much better to have missed Nourlangie Rock the previous day and gone on an evening cruise to allow us to get to Nourlangie Rock early the following day. Despite Iain’s directions to where Banded Fruit-Doves had been nest building the previous day we missed all the sandstone specialists again.

We headed off back to Darwin and decided to try the boat ramp at Berry Springs, which the Bransbury book said has White-breasted Whistler, unfortunately the road shown has changed and where the new train track crosses it splits into three directions, we tried one of these that we thought headed in approximately the right direction, but gave up and turned back after several kilometres of dirt track looked to be getting us nowhere and cut our losses and headed on to Darwin, where we birded the Esplanade until dusk with not much but Rainbow Lorikeets of the Red-collared variety to show for our efforts.

September 28th

Dawn found us at Buffalo Creek, where we soon started racking up new species with Great Knots, Eastern Curlews, Sharp-tailed and Terek Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattlers, Red-capped Plovers and a mixture of other waders on the beach.

There were a number of species that we were keen to see in the area that are not found on the East coast, so we had to leave the beach and return to the woods and mangroves to search for these. We soon picked up Green-backed Gerygone, but this would be the only one we were to see, but other species such as Yellow White-eye, Mangrove Gerygone and Red-headed Honeyeater were seen several times. A flyover Red-winged Parrot was the only one we saw during the whole trip and another Rainbow Pitta provided good views.

The boat ramp is supposed to be a good area for Chestnut Rail, so as the tide began to fall we diligently watched the edge of the mangroves on the opposite bank of the river, but to no avail. Whilst there, a local fisherman approached us to tell us that the Chestnut Rails are easier to see a kilometre upstream in an area only accessible by boat. He offered to take us to see them when he returned with his boat a little later, but unfortunately we had to catch a flight at 2.00pm and time was pressing.

We had a quick look at Lee Point, but did not find anything new before we headed to the airport. The rest of the day was spent in airports and on planes, as we had to fly to Cairns via Brisbane and did not arrive at our accommodation for the night until 11pm. The only specie added to the list during this time was Australian Pratincole, which was common at Darwin airport. Iain had waited up for us and told us the plan for the next day, which involved a 5am breakfast, so it was straight to bed.

September 29th

An early morning call from an Australian Brush Turkey right outside the window ensured we were up in time for breakfast. Over breakfast we were introduced to the other birders on the tour, there were to be eight of us including Iain.

The morning was spent around Centennial Park where we gained an introduction to the commoner birds of the Australia, as well as a few less common inhabitants including Little Kingfisher, White-rumped Swiftlet, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Oriental Cuckoo, Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoo and Lovely Fairy-Wren.

Centennial Park has Papuan Frogmouths and following directions from the park gardeners we found the exact spot where they had been for several months up until three days earlier, but there was no sign of them.

For lunch we headed back to our overnight accommodation and birded the garden during the heat of the day. Metallic Starlings kept flying through in small groups and eventually several landed so that we could admire their iridescent plumage alongside the positively gaudy Rainbow Lorikeets.

After lunch we headed for the Mangroves at the North end of the Esplanade where we found Collared Kingfisher, but the hoped for Mangrove Robin could not be lured out. The tide was fairly well out and most of the waders were fairly distant, but we did get good views of Black-fronted Dotterel and Masked Lapwings.

The rest of the afternoon was spent birding along the Esplanade and as the tide came in we were able to get better views of Pacific Golden Plovers, Red-necked Stints and most of the other waders that we had seen at Buffalo Creek the previous day. All these were being carefully surveyed by a Peregrine that sat atop of one of the hotels.

September 30th

Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef were our destinations for the day. The number of possible species was low but we would be unlikely to see most of them anywhere else and there was the added advantage of being able to snorkel out on the reef.

The trip out to Michaelmas Cay rewarded us with several Brown Boobies, Roseate, Crested, Bridled and Sooty Terns. The cay held lots of breeding Brown Noddies and Sooty Terns, there were also good numbers of Lesser Crested Terns and a couple of Black-naped Terns, and several Least Frigatebirds soared overhead. Despite much searching we were unable to find a Black Noddy or Masked Booby that are often seen in the vicinity of the cay. Photographic opportunities were excellent with Brown Noddies in particular allowing a very close approach.

After a couple of hours on the cay we returned to the boat for lunch and headed further out to sea. The boat moored out over the reef and we had a couple of hours to snorkel or take a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef. The shear variety and colours of the fish was amazing and this one experience made the trip well worthwhile.

Returning to shore about 4.30pm we headed back to the lodge to pick up our luggage and then headed to Cassowary House situated at 250m in the hills above Cairns where we were to stay for two nights. On arrival Long-nosed and Northern Brown Bandicoots were feeding outside my room along with several Bush Rats.

October 1st

First bird of the day was a Bird of Paradise, the Victoria’s Riflebird, and this before we had even left the house. The plan before breakfast was to walk the road that leads to Cassowary House. We had not gone further than 50 metres when Sue the owner came to tell us that there was a juvenile Southern Cassowary back at the house, so back we went. Considering it was just a juvenile it still stood over a metre tall, we couldn’t wait to see its parents. Sue said she would fetch us if an adult turned up so off we went again.

New birds started to be ticked off fast with Topknot Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Spotted Catbird, Eastern Whipbird, Chowchilla, Mountain Thornbill and Yellow-spotted and Macleay’s Honeyeaters and in one five minute spell we added Spectacled, White-eared and Pied Monarchs. Within the space of two hours I had seen birds from five families that were new to me. Just as we were starting to walk back for breakfast, Sue came driving towards us to tell us that the adult female Southern Cassowary had arrived, this spurred us on and we were soon enjoying great views of it.

Cassowary House is a magic place and whilst eating breakfast the feeders around the breakfast table were visited by various Honeyeaters, Spotted Catbirds and Emerald Doves, whilst on the ground below Musky Rat-kangaroos competed with a Red-necked Crake for food. The adult Cassowary was helping itself to fruit through the kitchen window.

Finally tearing ourselves away from the breakfast table we headed off to walk the road in the opposite direction, but not before watching an exquisite Yellow-breasted Boatbill by the car park. Despite having seen so many birds before breakfast new species kept turning up such as, Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-Shrike, Pale-yellow Robin, Golden Whistler and Little Shrike-Thrush.

In the afternoon we headed for Mareeba Golf Course to see our first Eastern Grey Kangaroos, we also saw our first Apostlebirds here. Later at the Mareeba Wetlands, a Purple Swamphen prowled the cafe area and became quite vicious when I stopped stroking it. Chestnut-breasted Manakins were fairly plentiful in the area as were Double-barred Finches.

October 2nd

Today we were out pre-dawn looking for nightbirds, but despite hearing Large-tailed Nightjars we did not see any. The first new bird of the day was a fine male Scarlet Honeyeater and after much searching we eventually tracked down a Wompoo Fruit-Dove having heard them many times the previous day.

After another amazing bird interrupted breakfast we packed up the van and headed off towards Daintree, scanning the beaches as we went. One brief stop helped us to record our only Beach Thick-knee of the trip. After a leisurely lunch we relaxed at Red Mile House where we were staying before birding along the nearby road adding Fairy Gerygone to the list.

October 3rd

A cruise along the Daintree River had us hopeful of finding both Papuan Frogmouth and Great-billed Heron and whilst we saw three of the latter, we suffered the same fate as at Centennial Gardens with the Frogmouth, we saw where they had been up until two days earlier.

We were able to practice Gerygone identification during the cruise with both Brown and the similar looking Mangrove being seen. An early party of White-throated Needletails seen overhead were the only ones of the trip.

After a late breakfast we headed off to Kingfisher Park, on arrival we were greeted by a bird-table full of Red-browed Firetails. Having dropped off our luggage we set off to explore our surroundings, it was not long before Iain heard a Noisy Pitta and we set off in pursuit. Unlike the Rainbow Pitta’s we had seen at Fogg Dam this was a much shyer bird and it took some time before we were all able to get good views.

Other birds seen here included Bower’s Shrike-Thrush and Atherton Scrubwren and fly-overs of Australian Kestrel and Grey Goshawk. As dusk approached we looked without success for Duck-billed Platypus in the stream.

October 4th

This morning we had to decide whether to head into the dry country at Mount Carbine or to Mount Lewis and its rainforest, as it was cloudy we opted for Mount Carbine hoping the overcast conditions would keep the birds active for longer, but it wasn’t long before the sun was fully up and the cloud had all but disappeared.

One of our main targets was Australian Bustard and we expected to have to spend some time searching for these but the first dirt road we turned down had six or seven within the first 200 metres. These were however the only ones we saw all day.

Squatter Pigeons proved to be much harder and despite searching a number of dirt roads we were unable to find any, but we did see our first Common Bronzewings and a number of Pale-headed Rosellas.

Having spent a few hours in the minibus we were all ready for a walk and despite the heat we enjoyed a couple of hours walking the outback. Good views were had of Noisy Friarbird, Pied Butcherbird, Varied Sitella, White-throated Gerygone and Weebill. A distant Cicadabird was seen by a lucky few, but unfortunately not me. One of the highlights was an unexpectedly early party of Channel-billed Cuckoos that flew over, these were the only ones seen on the trip.

We next headed towards a small lake hoping that this may have attracted a few birds and we succeeded with Grey Teal, but the highlight was our only Red-browed Pardalote, which kept visiting a nest hole as we watched from the minibus.

Having scored with most of the target birds and the fact that the next few hours would be very quiet given the heat, we headed back to Mount Molloy for lunch and then onto Mount Lewis.
Brown Gerygone and Moutain Thornbills were seen easily, but it was the rarer species that we were concentrating on as we walked along the road. One of the best digiscoping opportunities of the trip came when the nest was found of a Grey-headed Robin. It was situated approximately 25 metres below the road and only visible through a relatively small gap in the trees, this allowed us to watch the bird without disturbing it as it fetched food and brooded its young.

Further along the road Iain picked out the call of Australian Fernwren. As it could not be enticed to a visible spot from the road we ventured into the forest and all enjoyed good close views of a pair of them.

The superb day was ended, appropriately enough, with a pair of Superb Fruit-Doves as they fed in a fruiting tree right next to the road. A stop on a bridge over a stream on the way back gave us a glimpse of a Duck-billed Platypus, but the light was so poor that it appeared as nothing more than movement in the water.

October 5th

Leaving the outside light on before turning in proved a masterstroke, when I heard Bush Thick-knees calling during the night and I was able to see them in the floodlit area right outside the window without having to get out of bed. They had been proving to be very elusive up until this point, as it was we saw several more when driving to Mount Lewis a few hours later.

Having had poor views of Duck-billed Platypus the previous evening we stopped on the same bridge this morning and were able to spotlight one as it swam away below us.

We had seen many of the special birds of the area the previous and this allowed us to concentrate on searching for Golden Bowerbird It wasn’t long before we found a Tooth-billed, but despite much searching Golden Bowerbirds remained elusive. Our first Black-faced Monarch, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Yellow-throated Scrubwren were more accommodating before it was time to move on.

The afternoon began with a visit to Hastie’s Swamp, where we saw a fine male Red-backed Fairy-wren and many hundreds of Plumed Whistling-Ducks but no Wandering Whistling-Ducks. This seemed a little unusual as all other sites visited in the Cairns area had held onlyWandering Whistling-Ducks.

Later we drove towards Hypipamee National Park searching the farmland along the way for Cranes, eventually finding good numbers of both Sarus Cranes and Brolgas.

On arrival at Hypipamee we soon picked up Bridled Honeyeater sitting on a picnic table in the car park but as it was already getting late and we had a fairly long drive back to Cairns we decided to head back and visit the area again the next day.

October 6th

The Crocodile farm at Cairns had been our original destination for this morning, but this had closed a couple of weeks earlier so we headed off early to Hypipamee to arrive at dawn. No sooner had we arrived than a Southern Cassowary came walking out of the forest to investigate us. There aren’t many situations when birding that you find yourself backing away from a bird, but this was one of them as it came unnervingly close and had claws that looked as though they could do some serious damage. At one point it decided to mount a charge and came in with a sliding tackle, fortunately no injuries were incurred. Having taken all the photos we wanted we proceeded to bird along the entrance road with the Cassowary in tow.

About half way along the entrance road we came across a tree with both Satin and Tooth-billed Bowerbirds in it, and it was whilst watching these that a Golden Bowerbird flew in. Although it was a female and not the gaudy golden coloured male it was a much-wanted bird.
About an hour after joining us the Cassowary decided it had had enough and disappeared into the forest. We managed to add White-throated Treecreeper and Eastern Spinebill before returning to the minibus for our drive back to Cairns.

From Cairns we flew to Brisbane arriving in the early evening to see bush fires all around the city. We were met at the airport by Iain’s brother-in-law who was to be our driver for the next few days and we were soon on the road for the Gold Coast.

October 7th

Early morning and we birded some sites close to the Gold Coast, but most of the waterfront has been developed and is not great for birding. We did however manage to see our first Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Variegated Fairy-wren and Satin Flycatcher.

After a good breakfast we headed inland towards Lamington National Park with a few stops along the way, including one for a large flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.

We were staying at the delightful Binna Burra Mountain Lodge. This is an alternative to the more famous O’Reilly’s, having the same birds, but without the mass tourism and hence you can walk the trails at Binna Burra without too much disturbance.

A short walk before lunch produced our first Green Catbirds and a female Paradise Riflebird as well as a Red-necked Pademelon (a small wallaby). On the afternoon walk there were several key target birds, but the most wanted was a Regent Bowerbird and we set off with enthusiasm on our search, picking up a Logrunner quite early along the way.

A longish walk right to the end of one of the trails added nothing new to the list. At the end of the trail there was a lot of large boulders so we sat down for a rest and to see what we could hear. After sitting there for about ten minutes I saw a bird out of the corner of my eye in the tree above us, on raising my binoculars I found that I was looking at a male Regent Bowerbird. We all feasted on its black and yellow plumage as it worked it way through the branches of the tree for about ten minutes.

Elated with our success we started the walk back to the lodge adding Bassian Thrush before hearing an Albert’s Lyrebird further along the trail. It was calling regularly but a good distance below us off the trail, we tried to lure it closer and I managed to glimpse it as it moved through a gap in the vegetation. A few moments later Iain saw it cross the path and then it began calling from above us, unfortunately it could not be enticed back onto the trail for everyone to see.

After dinner we headed out spotlighting and in addition to lots of Red-necked Pademelons, we were able to get good views of a Southern Boobook as it called from a tree above the café.

October 8th

We headed back at dawn to the spot where we had glimpsed Albert’s Lyrebird the day before, but this time didn’t even hear one. Good views were again obtained of Logrunner and Bassian Thrush.

A walk down the road from the lodge gave great views of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo and also a Spotted Pardalote as it visited its nest hole. Bell Miner’s could be heard giving their distinctive tink calls, but views were at best brief.

We had an afternoon flight to Sydney and made several stops along the way to Coolangatta airport. The temperature was very high and bush fires could be seen as we drove down from the mountains. Birding was very quiet so we pressed on to the coast to try our luck in the mangroves. Nothing new was found but we did have very close views of a Collared Kingfisher. From a nearby headland we were able to see a few Sooty Shearwaters passing by, before we headed to the airport and onwards to Sydney.

October 9th

We were booked on a pelagic out of Sydney today so we awoke hoping for seas calm enough for the boat to go out, but rough enough for the birding to be good. We got our wish. Although it was calm enough in the harbour once out to sea the 3 metre waves were making many of the passengers distinctly uncomfortable.

The first seabirds seen were Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which were streaming past in good numbers fairly close to shore, we soon picked up Australian Gannets and both Short-tailed and Fluttering Shearwaters, but these were in lesser numbers. As we cruised out to the continental shelf we twice stopped to watch Humpback Whales, but it was not until we approached the shelf that seabird numbers picked up.

Providence and Great-winged Petrels soon started to be seen and both Shy and Black-browed Albatrosses put in an appearance. Once we started chumming we were able to add Yellow-nosed Albatross and Wilson’s and White-faced Storm Petrels to the list as well as the Campbell Island race of Black-browed Albatross, all of which were seen very well.

The first real excitement came when a pale Petrel appeared on the slick and after several passes it was identified as a Soft-plumaged Petrel, a lifer for all including the regular pelagic goers. This was soon followed by what was at the time called a Southern Royal Albatross, but having studied the photographs I took at the time I am now convinced that it was a Wandering Albatross, which stayed around the boat for a couple of hours.

Another White-faced Storm Petrel was called, but then corrected by Iain to the much rarer Grey-backed Storm Petrel, by which time it had disappeared. Fortunately for those of us that hadn’t seen it the first time it returned for a second pass over the slick. All too soon it was time to head back, but not before a definite Wandering Albatross came in to join the throng of seabirds surrounding the boat.

The trip back added a Long-tailed Skua and a pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins that put on a show as they rode the bow wave. We arrived back in Sydney around 4pm and had a few hours to relax before heading out for dinner and that gave me time to sort out the hundreds of photographs I had taken during the superb pelagic.

October 10th

Royal National Park just outside Sydney was our destination and we met a local guide there, who had been on the pelagic with us the day before. One of our first birds was the much-wanted Superb Lyrebird, which was walking alongside the road.

Our first stop was at Wattle Flats, where we walked a short trail to look for Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and although we could hear them the only views we got were distantly in the treetops. Compensation for this was great views of a Rock Warbler, the only bird endemic to New South Wales, which we later found at its nest. Nearby we added Crested Shrike-Tit, Superb Fairy-wren and Striated Thornbill.

On heath-land in Royal NP we soon found Tawny-crowned and New Holland Honeyeaters, but other heath specialists were proving elusive and it took us some time before we found Southern Emu-wren. Just before leaving we saw our only White-eared Honeyeater of the trip.

After lunch we tried a couple of sites for Tawny Frogmouths, without success, but a site for Powerful Owl did come up trumps.

In the afternoon we birded some sites around southern Sydney, but apart from White-plumed Honeyeater and Red Wattlebird, this did not produce much new for the list. We later headed south towards Wollongong and tried some rocky headlands for Sooty Oystercatchers without success, eventually arriving at our accommodation for the night close to Barren Grounds.

October 11th

For us Barren Grounds lived up to its name, it was totally barren and we saw very little, Eastern Bristlebirds were calling but apart from Iain glimpsing one no-one else got to see them. Gang-gang Cockatoos were heard way off in the distance, and that was where they stayed.

A Brush Bronzewing flew across the road in front of the minibus as we headed away from Barren Grounds, but this was little consolation for the fact that we had missed all of our target birds and had a very long drive ahead of us as we headed for Leeton.

A lot of Australia’s birds are nomadic and as we headed west the land began to turn greener, the result of recent rains, so we were hopeful that our time around Leeton would be fruitful. A stop at a service station for coffee got us our first Red-rumped Parrot, a specie which was to prove common over the next few days.

Once off the highway and onto country roads we started to pick up new species with Rufous and Brown Songlarks, before an almost simultaneous shout of Emu reverberated around the bus. There were actually three adults with one chick and they all quickly disappeared over the top of a hill as soon as they caught site of us.

A couple of kilometres before Leeton a Superb Parrot shot across the road. Having disembarked the bus in record time we set off in pursuit and eventually caught up with a pair behind a cemetery as they fed in a flowering Eucalyptus.

We dropped our bags at the hotel in Leeton and set out for an hour before dark at Five Bough Swamp where one of the first birds we saw was a delightful White-fronted Chat, closely followed by several Brown Quails. The water was covered in ducks and herons, but the only addition to the list amongst these was Australian Shelduck.

Five Bough Swamp was great for Crakes, with Spotless and Baillon’s both being seen and Australian Crake heard. As we headed back an Australian Bittern could be heard booming in the distance. This was a site that certainly deserved more time than we had to give it.

October 12th

An early start saw us at Binya State Forest at dawn, when it actually felt quite cool. This was not to last long though as the temperature soon soared. It was fairly quiet initially the birds appearing to wait until the temperature rose before becoming active, but once they had stirred we had a wonderful time. Singing and Stripe-cheeked Honeyeaters competing for our attention with Red-capped Robins, but the star of the show was a Painted Honeyeater that is both rare and nomadic.

Having found the Painted Honeyeater Iain then followed it up by scratching on the side of a tree and an Australian Owlet-Nightjar popped up in a hole to look down at us. Mulga Parrots and Eastern Ringnecks were both seen flying over and eventually found perched.

This was a great area for Thornbills and we saw Inland, Buff-rumped, Yellow and Yellow-rumped. As we explored further we added Black-eared Cuckoo, Southern Whiteface and Speckled Warbler. It was whilst following the latter bird to try to obtain a better view I found a male Splendid Fairywren, having called the others over it promptly disappeared, but a quick blast of the tape had him straight back for us all to enjoy.

The afternoon was to be spent looking for parrots at Griffith Golf Course, but our successful morning left us with only two species to find there, Blue Bonnet and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. The Blue Bonnet was seen fairly easily, but the Cockatoo proved much harder and despite spending several hours exploring around the outskirts of the golf course we left disappointed. We were however successful in getting Tawny Frogmouth at a stakeout, we had been beginning to think that we were going to miss all the Frogmouths.

Late afternoon and we headed back to Five Bough Swamp where we again saw Baillon’s Crakes, but not the Australian Crake we wanted. We also saw our only Red-necked Avocet of the trip and our first Australian Shovelers, just before it got too dark to see anything.

October 13th

An early start saw us heading for Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve. One disadvantage of travelling early is the lack of petrol stations being open, by the time we arrived at Charcoal Tank we had been travelling for about 70km with the low fuel light on.

Shy Heathwren and Chesnut Quail-Thrush were targets here, but neither wanted to show themselves and we had to make do with Brown Treecreeper, Brown-headed Honeyeater and Masked and White-browed Woodswallows.

Having made it to a petrol station we were soon on our way again. Our next stop was at “Lake Urine” near Forbes, having wanted to see Pink-eared Ducks we were delighted to find the lake was covered with several hundred of them. It was whilst watching these that our attention was drawn to a pair of Cockatiels sitting in a dead tree, a most unexpected find. Searching through the ducks we eventually found several Blue-billed Ducks and a group of Hoary-headed Grebes.

Back Yamma State Forest was our next port of call, but it was on the entrance road that we had our best find, a group of Crimson Chats, like the Cockatiel’s seen earlier these were at the limit of their range and had presumably been attracted to the area by earlier rainfall.

Back Yamma State Forest looked as though it would have been an excellent spot for an early morning visit, unfortunately we only had enough time to spend a couple of hours in mid afternoon and it was fairly quiet, but we did add Jacky Winter, Diamond Firetail and a quick view of a Turquoise Parrot. From here we continued on to Lithgow where we spent the night.

October 14th

Regent Honeyeaters had been seen recently in the Capertee Valley, so in a change to the advertised itinerary, we headed off after these rare and nomadic Honeyeaters. Iain had one-week old information on where they had been seen so we headed for this spot, more in hope than expectation. Having arrived there it took no more than five minutes before we found a pair of them.

Scoring our target bird so quickly allowed us to take a leisurely drive back towards Glen Davis birding along the way. New birds by this stage were few and far between, but we did manage to pick up Red-browed Treecreeper, Fuscous and Black-chinned Honeyeaters and Zebra Finch. We also obtained much better views of Turquoise Parrot, Masked and White-browed Woodswallow.

We next headed for the Blue Mountains to try for two species that we had missed earlier in the trip Gang-gang Cockatoo and Grey Currawong, but our luck had all been used up earlier in the day and we failed to find either specie.

As we headed back to Sydney we stopped at several lakes and it was at one of these Longneck Lagoon near Richmond that we added our final new bird for the trip a Red-kneed Dotterel, well apart from a Mallard in Centennial Park.

Back in Sydney we had time for a quick shower before getting together for a final dinner and a trip to the pub. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable bird-filled trip with lots of highlights and lifers.

October 15th

With an afternoon flight back to the UK we had the morning to ourselves to explore Sydney, so we took the ferry across to Manly seeing several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, but not a lot else. We then had an hour or so around the Botanical Gardens, before heading back to the hotel and on to the airport.

Species Lists

As with the report this is based on my observations only and
does not include any species that were only heard.

Southern Cassowary
Australasian Grebe
Hoary-headed Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Wandering Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
Shy Albatross
Yellow-nosed Albatross
Cape Petrel
Great-winged Petrel
Providence Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Short-tailed Shearwater
Fluttering Shearwater
Grey-backed Storm-petrel
Wilson’s Storm-petrel
White-faced Storm-petrel
Australian Pelican
Australian Gannet
Brown Booby
Little Black Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Lesser Frigatebird
Pacific Heron
Great-billed Heron
Great Egret
Pied Heron
Intermediate Egret
White-faced Heron
Little Egret
Pacific Reef-heron
Cattle Egret
Striated Heron
Rufous Night-heron
Black-necked Stork
Australian Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Royal Spoonbill
Yellow-billed Spoonbill
Magpie Goose
Plumed Whistling-duck
Wandering Whistling-duck
Black Swan
Australian Shelduck
Radjah Shelduck
Green Pygmy-goose
Maned Duck
Grey Teal
Chestnut Teal
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Shoveler
Pink-eared Duck
White-eyed Duck
Blue-billed Duck
Pacific Baza
Black-breasted Kite
Australian Kite
Black Kite
Whistling Kite
Brahminy Kite
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Swamp Harrier
Spotted Harrier
Grey Goshawk
Brown Goshawk
Collared Sparrowhawk
Wedge-tailed Eagle
Australian Kestrel
Australian Hobby
Brown Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Australian Brush-turkey
Orange-footed Scrubfowl
Brown Quail
Sarus Crane
Red-necked Crake
Buff-banded Rail
Baillon’s Crake
Spotless Crake
White-browed Crake
Purple Swamphen
Dusky Moorhen
Common Coot
Australian Bustard
Comb-crested Jacana
Pied Oystercatcher
White-headed Stilt
Red-necked Avocet
Bush Thick-knee
Beach Thick-knee
Australian Pratincole
Masked Lapwing
Red-kneed Dotterel
Pacific Golden Plover
Red-capped Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Black-fronted Dotterel
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Little Curlew
Far Eastern Curlew
Common Greenshank
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Grey-tailed Tattler
Ruddy Turnstone
Great Knot
Red Knot
Red-necked Stint
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Long-tailed Skua
Silver Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Great Crested Tern
Roseate Tern
Black-naped Tern
Common Tern
Little Tern
Bridled Tern
Sooty Tern
Whiskered Tern
Brown Noddy
White-headed Pigeon
Spotted Dove
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Emerald Dove
Common Bronzewing
Brush Bronzewing
Crested Pigeon
Peaceful Dove
Bar-shouldered Dove
Wonga Pigeon
Wompoo Fruit-dove
Superb Fruit-dove
Torresian Imperial-pigeon
Topknot Pigeon
Red-tailed Black-cockatoo
Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo
Little Corella
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Rainbow Lorikeet
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Double-eyed Fig-parrot
Mallee Ringneck
Crimson Rosella
Yellow Rosella
Eastern Rosella
Pale-headed Rosella
Mulga Parrot
Red-rumped Parrot
Turquoise Parrot
Australian King-parrot
Red-winged Parrot
Superb Parrot
Horsfield’s Cuckoo
Pallid Cuckoo
Brush Cuckoo
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Black-eared Cuckoo
Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo
Shining Bronze-cuckoo
Little Bronze-cuckoo
Australian Koel
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Pheasant Coucal
Rufous Owl
Powerful Owl
Southern Boobook
Australian Owlet-nightjar
Tawny Frogmouth
Spotted Nightjar
Australian Swiftlet
White-throated Needletail
Azure Kingfisher
Little Kingfisher
Laughing Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Forest Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
Rainbow Bee-eater
Noisy Pitta
Rainbow Pitta
Albert’s Lyrebird
Superb Lyrebird
Australasian Bushlark
Welcome Swallow
Tree Martin
Fairy Martin
Australasian Pipit
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
White-winged Triller
Varied Triller
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Olive-tailed Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
Golden-headed Cisticola
Australian Reed-warbler
Tawny Grassbird
Little Grassbird
Brown Songlark
Rufous Songlark
Northern Fantail
Grey Fantail
Rufous Fantail
Black-faced Monarch
White-eared Monarch
Spectacled Monarch
Pied Monarch
Leaden Flycatcher
Broad-billed Flycatcher
Satin Flycatcher
Restless Flycatcher
Shining Flycatcher
Yellow-breasted Boatbill