Monday 14 January 2019

Down under

Hi and a Happy New Year to you all. Well, I've now sorted out a few of the 1800 images I took on our trip to Australia from 28th October to the 30th of November last year. We flew using Qantas from Heathrow to Brisbane via Singapore. After an uneventful flight, we picked up our hire car ready for our adventure in Oz. I'm not one for listing all species seen, but I'd just like to share some of the high-lights and images of our trip. We started off well - or so we thought! by entering the hotel address into the satnav. After driving for about an hour, we were nearing our destination and spotted a lovely recreational lake so, as it was still only 8.30 am, decided to have a look. The weather was drizzling, and our waterproofs were in our luggage but we decided to chance it anyway. Having never been to Australasia before, nearly all species were going to be new and exciting for us. Our first bird of the trip was Australian Brush-turkey, and walking around the lake it was nice to see a 'real' Black Swan. A few birds of note were Sacred Kingfisher; Welcome Swallow; Purple Swamphen; Olive-backed Oriole and Noisy Miner - which turned out to be probably the most bird of the trip! ..... or maybe that honour should go to the Rainbow Lorikeet!!

Australian Brush-turkey

Black Swan in it's proper country

As it turned out, we were nowhere near our hotel, and had to travel back into the city centre to find it! However, this turned out to be a very happy accident - what was to be the first of many, as we did see 26 species of birds around this lovely little lake! 

Little Pied Cormorant

Australian Pelican

Crested Pigeon

Across the road from our city hotel was a lovely park (parks are abundant in Queensland) 
We spent a few happy hours wandering around the beautiful grounds, adding even more species to our list including Rainbow Lorikeet; Australian Magpie; Magpie Lark; Crested Pigeon and Australian Wood Duck (aka Maned Duck) and our first Laughing Kookaburra.

Hardhead (White-eyed) Duck

Australian Magpie

Rainbow Lorikeet

Bell Miner

 We spent 6 days in Brisbane and had arranged for a couple of local birders to take us out for two of the days and show us around their local patches. (We had contacted the Queensland Ornithological Society prior to our trip, and Rae Clarke very kindly put us in touch with Vernon Kretschmann and Alan Boardman)  The guys took us out separately, having arranged between themselves to take us to different habitats. Thanks to them we saw birds which we could otherwise have easily missed owing to the areas visited. Vernon was covering all wetlands, and started by taking us to Tinchi Tamba Wetands. Again, birds of note were Little Corella; Mangrove Honeyeater; Straw-necked Ibis and three species of Fairy Wren. Tinch Tamba was a great site but too many mosquito's!!
 We then moved on to Dowse Lagoon Reserve where Magpie Goose and Comb-crested Jacana were noted, along with lots of Australian Grebe and Red-necked Avocet, and a Grey Butcherbird. Another great site providing lots more new birds.
After stopping for a late breakfast, we then moved on to Kedron Brook Wetlands and Sandycamp Road Wetlands. This is where we had the best views so far ot Superb Fairy Wren, along with Double-barred Finch - and  our first Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Some other species we saw were Whistling Duck; Australian Figbird; Grey Teal and Striped Honeyeater. Great, Little and Cattle Egret were present at all four sites, looking magnificent in their summer plumage.
We had a brilliant time with Vernon who was very knowledgeable and showed us lots of new birds. Thank-you very much, Vernon - we added another 45 new birds with your help!

Double Barred Finch

Eastern Yellow Robin

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Grey Butcherbird

 Our second birding day with Alan was focusing on forest habitat. The going was much harder, as it always is in this terrain with the birds being quite elusive. Even so, we still managed to get some really good birds . He took us to some of the sites he birded himself, and boosted our count by another 27 new species. Birds of note were Red-Browed Finch; Lewins Honeyeater; Woompoo Pigeon (great call!); Russet-tailed Thrush and Green Catbird. He took us to a great place he knew in the Lamington NP for a fantastic lunch where we were joined at nearby tables by Satin Bowerbird, Eastern Spinebill and New Holland Honeyeater. What a way to enjoy lunch!!
After lunch, we continued birdwatching with Alan and had views of King Parrot, Golden Whistler and Eastern Yellow Robin. One of the highlights of the day was listening to Bell Miners calling to each other in the colony. Imagine 20 or 30 small bells tinkling, and you'll have some idea of the lovely sound.
Once again, a great day out with another great guide. Many thanks Alan!  Great time!!

Superb Fairy Wren

Straw-necked Ibis

Magpie Goose

Wompoo Pigeon

We also visited the Botanical Gardens wherever we stopped. In Brisbane we saw Hardhead,(aka White-eyed Duck) which is Australia's only diving duck along with Pied Currawong, Scaley-breasted Lorikeet and a large colony of grey-headed Fruit Bats roosting in the trees.

Crimson Rosella

Eastern Spinebill

Lewin's Honeyeater


Pied Currawong

Another place we had been told about and had researched before our trip was O'Reilly's in Lamington NP. It was almost 3 hours drive, but we decided it sounded too good to miss so, on our last day in Brisbane, we set off early to visit it. We were not to be disappointed, although the drive up to the Lamington plateau is on a slow and very winding road, climbing ever upward, with very sheer drops in some places but some amazing views! (The park is at over 1000 metres above sea level in some parts) Our first stop at the park was the restaurant for some much needed breakfast which we had on the veranda. From our table we had flight views of Regent Bowerbird, and also of Topknot Pigeons. After our meal, we walked towards the woodland trails, seeing Crimson Rosella, loads of Red Browed Finch and King Parrots. The birds were in abundance as people could buy food to feed them, which gave fantastic views of them. As we walked the woodland path, we noted Whipbird, White-browed Scrubwren, and a Pademelon, which is a small marsupial, standing only about 60cm tall and weighing 4 or 5 kg. Apparently, we were very lucky to see one according to a local couple, as they are extremely shy and nocturnal! The same couple put us onto an Australian Logrunner - another forest bird which is difficult to find. 

King Parrot


Masked Lapwing

Summer plumage Cattle Egret
(a plumage that some birders never get the chance to see in GB)

Great Egret

 We eventually had to tear ourselves away from O'Reilly's and head back to the hotel, but we still managed a few more birds to add to our species list in the shape of Pheasant Coucal, Grey Fantail and our first Galah......

Wandering Whistling Duck

Silver Gull

Little Corella

And finally for Brisbane - the Grey-headed Fruit Bats used to fly by our hotel every evening in their hundreds!

This ends the first leg of our amazing trip to The Land Down-under! The next installment will cover our drive from Brisbane to Cairns, just over 1,000 miles away

As always, hope you enjoyed part one of OZ and thanks for stopping by