Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Australia - Bottom to Top - November 2009

Installment 1...

In the absence of a full trip report (to come on Travellingbirder.com), thought I'd post a few of my favourite bird images captured during an amazing  month-long trip around Australia with my Dad. Starting off in Melbourne, we travelled up to Brisbane and then drove all the way to Cairns before spending some time in and around Darwin and Kakadu.

Overall highlights were watching Logrunners and an Albert's lyrebird in the pouring rain at Lamington NP; vast flocks of waders and wildflowl at Werribee Treatment Plant; bowerbirds, chowchillas, pittas and honeyeaters in the Paluma Ranges; top birding in and around Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands; Daintree River Cruise with Chris Dahlberg; and a pair of Chestnut rails in the murky dawn near Darwin.

To say the birding in Australia is good is a huge understatement - we managed a trip total of 296 species, the vast majority of which were lifers. Photographic opportunities abound, with many speies proving extremely confiding. The Aussies themselves were very friendly and welcoming and the various landscapes were stunning.

Amongst all the common and widespread (but still new for me) species, we also managed to encounter some rare or very localised birds. Inskipp Point, a short trip from our digs in Noosaville, turned up a pair of gorgeous Black-breasted buttonquail scuffling around in the coastal scrub: they must make a tasty snack for the huge goannas we saw here. The same spot also yielded an adult White-bellied sea-eagle powering over our heads at about ten feet.

A real problem was keeping up to speed with all the small brown/grey birds that seemed to flit about anywhere wooded. Perhaps the most ubiquitous was the White-browed scrubwren, closely followed by Brown thornbill. I'm certain we missed several species through poor views and our general unfamiliarity with the birdlife.

The available field guides for Oz are not the best - we used Simpon & Day mostly, but tended to dip into Pizzey a bit too. The 'new' Moorcombe guide is poor, with pictures like cartoons.

The Melbourne area highlight was Werribee Treatment Plant -  a vast complex of lakes, ditches, scrapes, coastal heath, grassland and intertidal habitats. The views of Asiatic waders is superb and the sheer number of pelicans, cormorants, terns, and ducks is mind-boggling. Raptors such as Swamp harrier, Black kite and Brown falcon are very common. The coastal heath held many pairs of White-fronted chat, a beautiful species.

One of the commonest species, especially in Queensland and the NT, was Masked lapwing, with any patch of open grassland, road verge or shore supporting several birds.

At the end of our first week, we stayed with friends in Ipswich just south-west of Brisbane. From here we were able to drive easily to the famous Lamington NP. After the monster, winding 25km drive up to O'Reilly's, we had no sooner stepped out of the car when we had Crimson rosellas land on our heads and an Australian brush-turkey walk up to us - what a start!

In the absolutely pouring rain we walked the various boardwalks and soon came across a party of delightful Southern logrunners - these were perhaps my star bird of the whole trip, calling softly to one another as they sifted through the leaf litter with almost double-jointed legs. Male and female are easily told apart by their respective white and orange gourgets. All the logrunners we encountered seemed to be shadowed by Yellow-throated scrubwrens. Also present and quite common at Lamington were both Satin and Regent bowerbirds, although we only saw one male of the latter - I think I actually preferred the female anyway - beautiful mossy-greens and subdued browns seemed to fit with the surroundings. We also encountered Wonga pigeons, Topknot pigeon, Rufous fantail and we were so fortunate to come across an Albert's lyrebird: we watched mesmerised as it scratched about then wandered along the track in front of us.

1 comment:

Your Bird Feeder said...

What great pictures. Thank you for sharing them.