Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Queensland Here We Come!

Flew to Cairns this morning and after picking up the hire car drove just a few minutes away to the famous esplanade. Parking along the seafront we walked across the road and it was apparent that the tide was out, so not ideal conditions. However, we picked up numerous trip ticks: Great Knot, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Grey-tailed Tattler, Curlew Sandpiper, Eastern Curlew, Red-capped Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Silver Gull, Sacred Kingfisher, and other more familiar species. We then picked up some provisions in a nearby supermarket and sat outside enjoying ice-creams and our first Yellow Honeyeater as well, before driving to the far side of the esplanade and set out to find Mangrove Robin in the mangroves. Well, it didn't take long to find the robin and we enjoyed cracking views before getting out of there and heading off to our next destination of Cassowary House. 

Australian Pelican

Mangrove Robin

We followed a winding road up into the hills and eventually reached Cassowary House in the late afternoon. Our host, Sue Gregory, was there to meet us and we checked into our nice rooms before birding along the approach road. Dusky Honeyeater was very common here, and we also enjoyed fine looks at Australian Brush Turkey, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Spotted Catbird, Pale-yellow Robin, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Wompoo Fruit-Dove and Forest Kingfisher. An Eastern Whipbird wasn't new but gave us much better looks than the one in Royal NP, and we also saw Spectacled Monarch, Orange-footed Scrubfowl and Metallic Starling.

Brown Cuckoo-Dove

Spectacled Monarch

Spotted Catbird

Forest Kingfisher

Eastern Whipbird

Monday, 9 October 2017

Royal National Park

With continuing high winds that were going to plague our time in Australia, our pelagic out of Sydney was cancelled yesterday. So we headed into Royal National Park for the day instead. This turned out to be quite a good day as we spent our time in excellent habitat notching up plenty of lifers along the way. We began around a lake with Australian White Ibis, Australasian Darter, Rainbow Lorikeet, Little Wattlebird, Azure Kingfisher and a cracking group of Variegated Fairywrens, before heading along Lady Carrington Drive seeing Lewin's Honeyeater, Topknot Pigeon, Brown Gerygone and, best of all, Superb Lyrebird. 

Rainbow Lorikeet

Topknot Pigeon

Variegated Fairywren

Lewin's Honeyeater

Superb Lyrebird
Another location across the park proved interesting as our walk across the heathland gave us excellent looks at numerous New Holland Honeyeaters and the striking Southern Emu-Wren. And we ended the day trying in vain for Green Catbird, but did get Red-browed Treecreeper and Eastern Whipbird. 

Red-browed Treecreeper

We returned to Sydney for the night and made our preparations for tomorrow's flight to Cairns in tropical Queensland.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Capertee Valley

Just over an hour away from Lithgow was the Capertee Valley, which is one of those iconic birding sites you just have to visit if your in the area....

Capertee Valley
After picking up some food in a nearby gas station we drove into the valley and quickly began nailing plenty of new birds just along the road. A line of trees and fence posts in one small area gave us White-plumed Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Speckled Warbler, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Little Friarbird, Yellow Thornbill, Silver-eye, a flyover Wedge-tailed Eagle, and White-throated Gerygone. Wow!

Buff-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow Thornbill

We drove further along and stopped on the road again when we saw some movement, which actually turned out to be a large flock of stunning White-browed Woodswallows. There were probably 50 - 100 present and I tried really hard to get a decent photo but they were not confiding at all. Also at the same spot was Fuscous Honeyeater, a flock of Plum-headed Finches, and a Turquoise Parrot flew through (but I missed that).

White-browed Woodswallow

Fuscous Honeyeater

Along this route we also saw Red-necked Wallaby and Eastern Grey Kangaroos as well. Surreal! Oh, and also a flock of White-winged Chough, Noisy Miner and Common Bronzewing. The rest of the day was spent stopping anywhere we saw a bird or to check out some pools, or just to take a stroll. We were constantly hampered by a really strong wind that no doubt cost us any chance of Regent Honeyeater and a few other birds, but on the whole we did quite well. 

Notable goodies included Chestnut Teal, Black-fronted Dotterel, Latham's Snipe, Diamond Firetail, Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Pipit, Pallid Cuckoo, Dusky Woodswallow, Little Corella, flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Crested Pigeon, Red-browed Finch, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, White-naped Honeyeater, Horsefield's Bronze Cuckoo, Double-barred Finch and a Wombat!

Australian Pipit

Pallid Cuckoo

Crested Pigeon

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Horsefield's Bronze Cuckoo

Little Corella 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
We ended the day at Genowlan Bridge ticking Hooded Robin, Restless Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, and Pied and Grey Butcherbird on the drive out. And from here it took over 3 hours to drive back to our hotel in Sydney. 

Restless Flycatcher

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Australia - Heading into the Blue Mountains

This was a private Zoothera Birding tour that also incorporated a countdown to my own personal 6,000th lifer and 50th birthday.... 

We began at the Blue Gum Swamp Track before daybreak in the forlorn hope of finding an owl, before daylight broke to a whole new world of birdcalls. It was slow going for the first couple of hours and seeing our first Spotted Pardalote was the highlight. What a bird! We also saw Grey Fantail, Striated Thornbill, White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and a brief Olive-backed Oriole.

We enjoyed our first Eastern Spinebills today.....

Eastern Spinebill showed well today

Walking back to the car we saw Australian Golden Whistler, Rose Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin and Brown Thornbill.

Brown Thornbill

From here we headed deeper into the Blue Mountains to Evans Outlook and our best shot at seeing the New South Wales endemic - Rock Warbler. Along the way roadside birds included Red Wattlebird, Australian Magpie, Magpie Lark and Galah. 

The view at Evans Lookout is stunning...

Enjoying the view at Evans Lookout

But we enjoyed the Rock Warblers here even more...

Rock Warbler

The approach road was very good and we saw our first Satin Bowerbird here. The owner of the adjacent house invited us into her property to look for other birds and the generosity of the Australian folks we encountered throughout the tour was amazing. One of my favourite birds today was this Scarlet Robin, that was a bit flighty and never showed close but was nevertheless absolutely stunning....

Scarlet Robin

There was also our first Laughing Kookaburra, Pied Currawong, Crimson Rosella, White-throated Treecreeper, White-browed Scrubwren, and a few others.

Laughing Kookaburra
We eventually left here and driving to our next birding site saw Masked Lapwing, the incredibly common Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and some Australian Wood Ducks in a roadside pond.

We were pushing it a bit to get to Lake Wallace but timed it to perfection with a couple of hours of daylight to go. This was our spot for Musk Duck and sure enough we saw a few. It took  while to get closer views as they were primarily out in the middle of this large lake but we eventually tracked one down to a quiet little corner just before the sun dipped behind the hills...

Musk Duck
We also saw Little Grassbird, White-faced Heron, Red-rumped Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Dusky Moorhen, Australian Swamphen, Blue-billed Duck, Hardhead, Fairy Martin, Hoary-headed Grebe, Australasian Grebe, Grey Teal, Australian Shoveler, Little Raven and Australian Reed Warbler.

Another great bird was Superb Fairywren...

Superb Fairywren

And these Pink-eared Ducks were just stunning....

Pink-eared Ducks

It was certainly a great day for the first time birder in Oz with 40 lifers...