My wife and I have recently returned from the land of Oz (Australia).
Gratitude is extended to a wizard (John Crowhurst) who spent a lot
of time with us showing us the birds and enlightening us about what
seemed like anything that dealt with Australian Natural History. We
also had lots of help courtesy of many Birdchatters and Birding Aus
members. This made our trip a superior one and we are greatly indebted to
all those who responded. The journey was from July 17th-August 18th,1998.
During our 36 day journey we were able to see, 307 species of
birds,platypus,a White Lemmuroid Possum, Tree Kangaroos, Black Walleroos,
numerous species of lizards, tropical fish and butterflies (I still
haven't counted them all up). The main areas we visited were the
Cairns/Atherton Tablelands area, Mt Isa, Katherine Gorge and the
Darwin/Kakadu area. Australia is, like the U.S., an extremely large
country and it would be easy to fool oneself into trying to do too much.
Therefore we decided to tackle the north-central and north-eastern parts
on this jaunt. Next time we will hopefully have the time and funds
(petrol is quite expensive) to visit some of the areas we missed.
We found the Thomas book to be invaluable for locations. Both Neilson's
and Weineke's books were very helpful for Queensland.
Neilson's book was extremely helpful in dealing with the characteristics
that separate species and we would recommend it strongly for first time
visitors. We also took both Simpson and Day and the new Pizzey and Knight
field guides. We liked both somewhat. The Pizzey book contained superior
information, but was more unwieldy, in that it's a bigger book and
therefore tough to take out into the field. We were at times flummaxed by
the variation in the plates between the two books. It appeared as though
we were looking at different species. We found ourselves needing to use
The challenging birds that we missed on the Tablelands and in the
Cairns area were Scrubwren, Red-necked Crake, Spotless Crake,
Lesser Sooty Owl, Blue-faced Parrot-Finch and Chowchilla.
In the Mt. Isa area we were hoping to see Dusky and Carpentarian
Grasswrens. We heard one Carpentarian, but that was about it for both
species. We also missed seeing Spinifexbirds.
In the Katherine area we were fortunate to see
Hooded Parrots, but couldn't locate Gouldian Finches. It appeared that
there was too many water holes to cover.
In the Darwin/Kakadu area we tried for Red Goshawk, Banded Fruit-Dove,
Letter-winged Kite and Mangrove Fantail, but to no avail.
So much for the bad news. Mostly the news was good and we found ourselves
having a fabulous time. Australia is a great country to travel and bird
in. Some of our best sightings were:
Rufous Owl- on a spotlighting tour with Jonathan Munro on the Atherton
Tablelands (Jonathan is an incredible resource who I can not recommend
highly enough. We saw 5 different species of possums, 3 species of
kangaroos, including tree, and an amazingly camoflagued gecko species,
whose scientific name I can't recall, that was hugging a tree).
White-throated Grasswren- seen near the Waterfall Creek location outlined
in Thomas. We had to circle farther down into the valley before we had
crippling looks at this beautiful bird. I felt fortunate to find this bird
and show it to a novice birdo from South Australia, whom I had meet in
the campground at Waterfall Creek. His excitement about seeing
the bird was almost as good as seeing it myself. Also, thank you to the
birdo who put the orange ribbon on the spot where Thomas mentions this
bird has been seen. It was helpful, in that it's easy to overshoot this
spot if you follow Thomas' directions. We met 5 other birdos who had done
just that and had missed the bird. To clarify how to find this spot,
follow the trail up over the top of the first waterfall. Continue with the
creek on your left hand side for about 100 metres until the rock face on
your right hand side ends and you see a brushy area on your right. That
area is hell to try to walk through, especially in shorts. Instead go
back to the rockface and scramble up it. When you reach the top you will
see a flattened out area (to your left)that you can hop from rock to rock.
Look for the lightly coloured sandstone face that Thomas mentions and the
ribbon to let you know you're in the right area. We then passed to the
left of the sandstone face and went down the other side ,
constantly following the base of the rock formation. We eventually found
the birds in the valley about 100 metres from the Sandstone rockface and
15 metres out from the base of the formation. Hope this information will
be helpful to someone who is heading to Kakadu.
Little Kingfisher- seen well from Chris Dahlberg's Daintree River trip and
also the Yellow Waters trip out of Kakadu. Both trips are musts I'd say.
Chris' enthusiam is contagious and he knows that area extremely well. We
also had a amethystine python on the trip. The Yellow Waters trip takes
you to one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Fabulous views of
Black-necked Stork, Great-billed Heron and Azure Kingfishers didn't hurt
Golden Bowerbird- the bird was at its bower at a location near the Crater
on the Tablelands. We were lucky in that as soon as we arrived the bird
was right there.
Cassowary- Henry was wandering the upper parking lot of Lake Barrine and
we were able to see him in all his splendor. It was a little daunting
having him walk right at us. So much so that my photographs have a
distinctive jittery feel to them.
Papuan Frogmouth- we had excellent views
of these birds on two occasions.
They were seen on the Daintree River cruise and also near Kingfisher
Lodge in Julatten, Queensland
Hooded Parrots- thanks to a tip from Glenn Holmes (he is guiding trips
of Kingfisher Lodge) we were able to see 5 parrots at a waterhole on Dead
Woman Creek. This is located off of the road to Edith Falls. After 5.6
kilometres you cross a bridge and the waterhole was on the left side.
Unfortunately there were 4 or 5 good waterholes and we couldn't cover them
all. Luckily we saw the parrots fly into the largest hole and so we were
able to get nice views of these beautiful birds.
Chestnut Rail- seen in the mangroves south of Darwin. Denise Goodfellow
graciously took me to this location. She is engaged in a struggle to
maintain this area. The local government is actively trying to use this
habitat for housing and Denise encouraged me to post this, in the hopes
that people would come to her aid in this fight.
I also tried for the rail at the Middle Arm location mentioned in Thomas,
but didn't see it there. Though there were 3 Great-billed Heron at that
site. The Middle Arm is located south of Darwin
Square-tailed Kite- a juvenile bird was seen in the trees just west of the
South Alligator in Kakadu floodplain.
Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon- seen at three different locations near
Nourlangie Rock in Kakadu.
Mangrove Robin- seen easily on the mangrove walk by the airport in Cairns
Noisy Pitta- seen in Cairns in a garden. We were fortunate enough to meet
a woman on a spotlighting tour, who had this bird coming into her garden.
She was generous in letting us come to her house and see the bird. We
were then able to show the bird to John Crowhurst as a nice payback for
all that he had showed us.
Rainbow Pitta- seen on the trail that takes off from the side of the road
opposite the parking lot at Fogg Dam, off of the Arnhem Highway east of
Buff-Banded Rail and White-browed Crake- both observed at the Crocodile
Farm in Edmonton on the road to Innisfail (outside of Cairns).
White-browed Robin race supercilosa - seen in the dry bed of Big Mitchell
Creek near Mt. Malloy. Aside from the thrill of seeing this bird, John
Crowhurst also took us to arguably the best pie place in Australia (his
account and also ours from our short time in the country). As one enters
Mt. Malloy from Mareeba the pie shop will be on your right. You'll
immediately know your in the right spot when either greeted by the
wonderfully friendly Mexican women chef, or her droll husband from
Switzerland. How they ended up in Australia seemed as curious to us as the
Black Falcon- nicely perched at the crossing of the South Alligator River
on the Arnhem Highway in Kakadu.
I'm not going to list all birds seen, but instead will ** all groups where
we saw all the expected species. For the other groups I'll list species
seen. Please note these divisions are taken from Pizzey (not the newest
Darters and cormorants--**
Geese and ducks--**
Kites--all expected except for Letter-winged
Accipiters--all expected except for Red Goshawk
Harriers and Falcons--**
Quails and Pheasants--Brown Quail,Red-chested Button Quail,Indian Peafowl
Rails--Buff-banded Rail,White-browed Crake,Chestnut Rail Eurasian
Coot,Dusky Moorhen,Purple Swamphen
Waders--Bar-tailed Godwit,Black-tailed Godwit,Eastern
Curlew,Whimbrel,Common Greenshank,Marsh Sandpiper,
Wood Sandpiper,Common Sandpiper,Grey-tailed Tattler
Terek Sandpiper,Ruddy Turnstone,Great Knot,Sanderling,Red-necked
Stint,Curlew Sandpiper,Comb-crested Jacana,Black-winged
Stilt,Pacific Golden Plover,Red-capped Plover,Lesser Sand
Plover,Greater Sand Plover,Red-kneed Dotterel,Black-fronted
Gulls and Terns--Silver Gull,Whiskered Tern,Caspian Tern,Gull-billed
Tern,Crested Tern,Roseate Tern,Black-naped Tern,Little Tern,Sooty
Tern,Bridled Tern,Common Noddy,Black Noddy
Pigeons--all expected species except Flock Bronzewing,Banded
Fruit-Dove,Pied Imperial-Pigeon and Superb Fruit-Dove
Cuckoos--all expected except Shining and Little Bronze-Cuckoos
Owls--Rufous,Barking and Barn
Goatsuckers--Tawny and Papuan Frogmouth and Spotted and White-tailed
Flycatchers--all expected except for Jacky Winter
Fantails--all excapt Mangrove Grey
Old World Warblers--Camorous Reed Warbler,Golden-headed Cisticola
Australian Warblers--all expected except for Carpentarian and Dusky
Acanthizidae--all expected except for Fernwren
Australian Grass-finches--all expected except for Gouldian's and
Blue-faced Parrot Finches,Yellow-rumped and Pictorella Mannikin
The other birds seen would be expected in the locations we visited. We
never tired of seeing Fairy
Finches. Some of you might argue this, but the birds just seemed to be
more beautiful to us then their counterparts in the U.S.
Finally thanks to the following to responding to us:
Ron Stannard @ Kingfisher, Julian Bielewicz, Peter Lansley, Doug Durno,
Dave Quady, Syd Curtis, Brenda Ulenhut @ Kirrama Tours, Phillip Veerman,
Randall McFarlane, Tom Tarrant and others. Trip reports by Murray Lord,
John Leonard, Tony Clarke (with Phoebe Snetsinger) and the hilarious
ramblings by Keith Miller were of immense value.