This is a message to say thanks to all birders in Australia who gave me
suggestions and advice on what to see and where to go during my recent
short visit to your country.
As it was mainly a business trip for the ASSCT Conference and to visit some
sugar mills, I didn't have a lot of time for birding, but still managed to
get a lot done. Cairns was very productive, with great birds along the
esplanade - lots of waders and one Blacknecked Stork, one Beach
Stone-Curlew, two Pied Oystercatchers etc. There were lots of kingfishers
and pigeons at the Botanic Gardens and Centenary lakes, but the waterlilies
seem to have been wiped out by the cyclone, hence no jacanas.
I visited the Atherton Tablelands, and the crater lakes - good birding all
round. Managed to see cassowary and Chowchilla at Lake Barrine, Spotted
Catbirds in numbers at Lake Eacham, and lots of honeyeaters. The
honeyeaters and the LBJ's (thornbills, scrubwrens, gerygones etc) gave me
numerous problems, most of which I eventually managed to resolve. I'm glad
that I could sort out Lewin's Honeyeater and its call early in my trip, as
I found it all over the place. I went to Hastie's Swamp near Atherton, and
got quite a few ducks, but alas, no cranes.
During my week in Mackay, I was able to get to Eungella, and had a very
productive day birdwise, finding Topknot and Wompoo Pigeons, and more
honeyeaters and LBJ's. Dipped out on the Eungella Honeyeater and the
platypus, but I'm sure the latter was kept away by the hordes of screaming
cockatoos - what a racket. I believe that they even eclipse Blue-and-Yellow
and Red-and-Green Macaws for noise. I incidentally saw a pair of
Redwhiskered Bulbuls in the centre of Mackay, and was surprised to see
that, according to the map in Simpson and Day, they shouldn't occur
anywhere near there. I suppose this is another alien species with an
expanding range. The treatment ponds at the top of Nebo road were good,
with swans, lots of swamphens and whistling ducks, and a pair of Magpie
Geese did a ceremonial flypast for me.
Half a day's birding in Bundaberg was profitable, as I found Butcherbirds
and Mangrove Gerygone and Mangrove Honeyeater. The area around the Hummock
was full of kites, and I saw Whistling, Black and Squaretailed within 30
mins. I then moved down to Sydney for a week's holiday, and experienced
some weather that was excellent for seabirds, but not for much else. I went
up to the Blue Mountains for a day, and found lots of interest, King
Parrots and Crimson Corellas being my favourites. Yelloweared and
Whitenaped Honeyeaters were wandering around in groups as they were
supposed to, just as though they had read the books! Yellowtailed Black
Cockatoos were impressive, and Whitethroated Treecreepers and a female
Lyrebird were very tame at Katoomba.
I also spent a day at the Royal National park, and found the south end of
Lady Carrington Drive and the Forest walk extremely productive, with masses
of Lyrebirds in evidence - thanks to the lady in the Visitors' Centre for
suggesting it. Brown Cuckoo-Doves and Crested Tits were also obliging, and
Firetails were abundant, looking just like our South African Swee Waxbills.
I also went to Wattamoola and walked along to Eagle Rock, and was fortunate
to find Rock Warbler near the camping ground, and some extremely shy
Splendid Fairy Wrens cowering in the bushes in the campsite. I flushed a
quail near Eagle Rock, but I could not find it once it had landed, and
cannot be certain of its ID. New Holland Honeyeaters one of the easier ones
to identify) were abundant in the Banksias, and I was pleased to find a
Brush Bronzewing near the carpark. I got very frustrated as I walked to the
viewpoint near the main office just before dark, as there were lots of
birds about, and I saw several in the space of a few minutes that I just
couldn't identify. Its amazing how often you see a bird really well but
cannot find anything like it in the book!
My last weekend I spent with David Fischer in Woollongong and had a really
good time. We zoomed all over the place and between midday on Saturday and
4-00 pm on Sunday picked up over 80 species, 27 of which I had not yet
seen. Mistletoebirds, Whitebellied Sea and Wedgetailed Eagles were special,
and there were lots of other goodies about. We finally managed to find
Southern Emu-Wren at Barren Grounds, but also very hard to see well. There
were no Ground Parrots in evidence, but a pair of Bristlebirds were very
brazen at the car park, walking right out in the open. Right up until I
left Woollongong I was still seeing new birds, with Gang-gangs and Little
Thornbills being twitched from David's verandah.
My total list for the three week visit was 189, with 172 being new for me.
I had a great time in Australia and I certainly intend to be back. Thanks
once again for all those who gave me tips, and especially to David for his
time and good ear!
Sugar Milling Research Institute
Durban, South Africa
Tel +27 31 2616882
Fax +27 31 2616886