Monday 11 February 2019

Australia part 2

After a week in Brisbane it was time to start a journey north towards Cairns - a drive of over 1600 km in our trusty Toyota Corolla! Don' t worry - we didn't do it in one go ..... we stayed in six different towns over our 10 day drive!
Our trusty steed

After an uneventful journey, we arrived at our first port of call in Noosa but getting to our accommodation was a nightmare as roads were closed all around the area for the Noosa Marathon which was taking place. We got settled in to our fabulous apartment (Sue was really pleased as it had a washer and drier so she could do some laundry!),  then went  for a look around the local area but apart from the usual suspects i.e. Noisy Miners, Rainbow Lorikeets and 'Bin Chickens', nothing new was seen. The following day we went to a couple of local sites and saw Dusky Moorhen and Swamphen but nothing new, so we tried a few other sites before we managed to stumble upon Weyba Lakes, which gave us Caspian Tern, a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles which were being harassed by a local Osprey. We also finally had a great view of Laughing Kookaburra perched and also had close views of White-faced Heron and Osprey. Moving again tomorrow to  Hervey Bay for another four nights.

Laughing Kookaburra

White-bellied Sea Eagle

White-faced Heron


Started our relatively short drive of 158 km to Hervey Bay, but couldn't resist stopping en route at a lovely park area (Lake Halford)which we passed as we drove through Gympie. There was a massive nesting colony of Cattle, Little and Great Egrets, and Australian Ibis, all looking superb in their summer plumage along with  Blue-faced and Brown Honeyeaters, Spotted Dove, Black Swans and lots of Australian common waterbirds - and also, lots of freshwater turtles.

 Freshwater Turtle

We decided to go to the Hervey Bay Botanical Gardens after dropping our luggage at the hotel; lovely gardens, but the only new bird we noted was Little Wattlebird.
The following day, we had arranged to meet up with The Hervey Bay Birdwatching Group at Walligans - what a great bunch of people they turned out to be! Unfortunately, the site wasn't very productive, with the only bird of note being the Little Friarbird.  The group felt quite bad that we hadn't really had much in the way of birding at this site, so a few of them offered to take us to another site nearby - Arkarra Wetlands which is only a small area but still gave us Fairy Gerygone and Plumed Whistling Duck, along with Pied Cormorant.

Plumed Whistling Duck

Day three and we decided to go The Golden Arches Restaurant for breakfast (McDonald's!) where we saw hundreds of roosting Grey-Headed Flying Foxes. Later, we went for a stroll on the pier and saw Brown Booby, White-throated Needletail and Fork-tailed Swifts before going to Hervey Bay Cemetery, where, we had been told, there was a large group of resident Kangaroos - but not on the day we went! However, it wasn't a wasted journey, as we bumped into a local lady who told us where we could find nesting Bee-eaters and also Cockatiel coming in to roost.  We were really amazed to see the Bee-eaters' nests on the ground right next to the footpaths as normally, they nest in banks....

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater outside it's nest hole

Our fourth and final day in Hervey Bay and we'd seen an area called Dophin Point which seemed to have a few small lagoons. When we got there, we found they were actually all part of a lovely new residential area, with footpaths around the lagoons behind the rear gardens of the properties. Magpie Lark were in abundance, along with White-cheeked Honeyeater, Chestnut-breasted Mannakin, Peaceful Dove and our first House Sparrow. Must just say - some of the road names did make us smile - Sue's favourite being 'Lilly Pilly Lane!'  Back to the hotel to pack up (again) ready to move on to our next destination - Rockhampton, some 390 km away.

Magpie Lark

White-cheeked Honeyeater

 Set off early to Rockhampton as we were only there for one night and wanted to at least have a few hours to look around. Nothing of interest on the journey - apart from crossing The Tropic of Capricorn, and passing  through a town called Gin Gin, which Sue found amusing. She kept saying she wanted to live on Lilly Pilly Lane in Gin Gin!! On arriving at our hotel, we headed straight out again to Rockhampton Botanical Gardens and Zoo. We don't really like zoos, bet we thought zoo = food = birds,  but the zoo was not very nice with small cages and sorry looking animals, so we quickly left to explore the rest of the gardens which were excellent with a fantastic lagoon. A few waders on the lagoon, Black-fronted Dotterel, Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-winged Stilt along with sightings of Black and Whistling Kite, Whiskered and Caspian Tern and Pied Imperial Pigeon.

 Black-fronted Dotterel

Black-winged Stilt

Red-kneed Dotterell

Royal Spoonbill

Australasian Swamphen

Whistling Kite

Another long drive today (336 km) to Mackay, so another early start. Stopped for a coffee and bite to eat after a couple of hours and managed to bag another new bird hopping around the table - a very confiding Apostle Bird. As we continued our journey, Sue suddenly said 'Stop!' so I asked her what she had seen (She's quite good at noticing birds) She said it was some sort of crane, so I pulled over as soon as I was able, and turned around to go back. Sure enough - there were a pair of Brolga Crane in field of sugar cane stubble. Good find!  We also pulled off The Bruce Highway to have a look over a couple of roadside lagoons which turned up Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and lots of Marsh Sandpiper, along with a nice little group of Yellow-billed Spoonbill. We arrived at our motel in plenty of time to allow us to visit (you've guessed it!) the Mackay Botanical Gardens - another lovely parkland with a massive lake at it's centre.  We had all the usual waterbirds, Cotton Pygmy-goose being another trip-tick and Comb-crested Jacana - another new bird for me.

 Apostle Bird

Brolga Crane

Marsh Sandpiper with Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

 Royal Spoonbill

 Comb-crested Jacana

Straw-necked Ibis

 Skink species

Following our included breakfast, we set off for the penultimate stop to Airlie Beach, a mere 149.5 km away for a two night stay. We were there by 10.30 and decided that we didn't really want to do too much except recharge our batteries (and for Sue to do some more laundry!)  Despite this, we still managed a few new birds, but this time off the balcony and in the caravan park next door. We were just sitting on the balcony with a cuppa when we were delighted to find ourselves with 'guests' in the shape of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos landing on the balcony railings hoping for something to eat. We had some dry biscuits which they seemed to enjoy and were so used to humans that we hand-fed them. We also saw Helmeted Friarbird, Dusky Honeyeater, Olive-backed Sunbird and Great Bowerbird in the hotel garden during our two day stay, along with a White-Lipped Tree Frog.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Guests for breakfast

 Helmeted Friarbird

Dusky Honeyeater

Olive-backed Sunbird

White-lipped Tree Frog

Whilst we were chilling at the pool, the owner stopped to talk to us, and told us that the caravan park next door fed the birds every day at 1600 so we just had to go and have a look... The birds seem to know the time, as they started to assemble at about 15.50, and by the time the guy came out with the food, there were hundreds - mainly Rainbow Lorikeet; it was wonderful to see! We got talking to him - he was the manager (Brownie) and he had moved to this park from their sister park at Airlie Beach (our next stop) so was able to give us some info which just might get us the elusive Cassowary....  After asking if we could walk around the caravan park to see what other birds we could find, we saw Bush Stone-curlew and Radjah Shelduck.

Bush Stone-curlew

 Great Bowerbird

Radjah Shelduck

Rainbow Lorikeet having a ball

And so to our last stop before Cairns - Townsville - which, at 480 km was the longest stretch. We arrived early afternoon after a very long drive - which was not without a new bird though! We saw White-necked Heron in a ditch at the side of the good old Bruce Highway. 
After getting some lunch, we headed for Ingram which Phyll from Hervey Bay Birdwatching Group had recommended. This was a profitable little trip, giving us our only Blue-winged Kookaburra, our first Australian Oystercatcher, Dollarbird and a sub-species of Australian Figbird Sub-species ashbyl - all yellow underparts)
Next stop - Cairns!

Australian Oystercatcher

 Blue-winged Kookaburra

 Blue-winged Kookaburra

Hope you enjoyed reading about our journey from Brisbane to Cairns. The next installment will focus on the Cairns area. As always, thanks for stopping by!