trip report 6wks birding between Perth and Brisbane oct-nov 2007

Subject: trip report 6wks birding between Perth and Brisbane oct-nov 2007
From: Arjan Brenkman <>
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2007 08:07:35 -0800 (PST)
Dear fellow birders,

As promised a quick report on some of the birding highlights on a 6 week trip 
from our trip from Perth to Brisbane by car. This trip was to celebrate my 
wife's PhD and make up for a long absence of holiday. Since my wife is 
non-birding, I tried to maximise my chances in finding the birds that I missed 
on a previous trip 5 yrs ago. I found birding in australia difficult as 
compared to 5yrs ago. All birders I met had similar experience and pointed to 
the enormous drought Australia is experiencing. Having said that, we could 
hardly believe the copious amounts of rain we had! The weather in Stirling 
range and Albany, WA was rain only, same around Melbourne and in Wodonga, NSW 
we were treated on some serious hail, that made us run out of our tent to the 
car for cover and left our car top and bonnet full of dents! Coastal NSW 
unfortunately received some much needed rains right when we were there so we 
left a week ahead of schedule.
  Despite this, I managed some real quality birding and saw some really 
exciting stuff.

  I didn't do much planning but used several sources of information; the Thomas 
and Thomas site-finding guide (still excellent after 11yrs!!), the Frank 
O'Conner website for WA and I sought assistance on the birding-aus web. Many of 
you replied and without your assistance, my trip success would be much lower. I 
would like to single out Frank Rheindt, whose assistance and previous postings 
on birding-aus turned out to be an essential guide throughout my trip! Many 
thanks also to the following people: Glen Threlfo, Rob Goldbach, David Geering, 
Tom Tarrant, Carol Probets (many thanks for keeping me posted Carol!!), Justin 
jansen, Paul Walbridge, Graeme Mee, Philip Veerman, Peter Waanders, Phil Maher, 
Jon hornbuckle, Mat Gilfedder, Penny Brockman and anyone else I met I the field.

  Birding highlights:

  Stirling range retreat, WA 7-9 oct.
  Lots and lots of parrots on the campground with Regents (20+), Elegants 
(15+), Red-cappeds and Port Lincolns, many SB Black Cockatoos and 
Purple-crowned Lorrikeets. Furthermore, a nice light phase little Eagle, A pair 
of Tawny Frogmouths, Western Thornbill, both Splendid and Blue-breasted 
Fairywrens in good numbers and best of all, a male Western Shrike-tit, still 
(apparently like last year) in front of the reception building despite much 
rain throughout the day.

  Two Peoples Bay, WA, 10 oct
  On the drive in a Spotted Nightjar collided onto my car but since I drove 
really slow it fortunately continued hawking. It was easy to hear the famous 
skulking trio but despite much effort and much rain, I drew a complete blank in 
glimpsing one. I did find S Emuwrens and my personal all-time favourite 
Australian Honeyeater: the striking Western Spinebill.

  Albany-Esperance drive, WA
  A short break at Fitzgerald River gave Western Whipbird (heard only) and a 
fine Red-eared Firetail.

  Esperance, WA 11 oct,
  2 rock Parrots on the Esplanade and my first ever Little Wattlebirds on the 
campground, a bird I never managed before in WA and which must be local in its 
occurrence at best or very good in avoiding me.
  Also 2 Cape Barren Geese, close to Pink lake, as predicted by Frank O'Conner.

  Across the Nullarbor 11-13 oct
  Highlights were a Malleefowl that crossed the road east of Norseman. Just 
after we saw it, a road sign warning for them was seen. Furthermore, 2 Spotted 
Harriers, a female plus chick Australian Bustard and no less than 6 Ground 
Cuckoo-shrikes (incuding a nest with two chicks just besides the road) all 
close to Madura. At Nullarbor Roadhouse I experienced some amazing birding: a 
brilliant male Nullarbor Quail-Thrush flew across the road and started singing 
atop a bush, SB Thornbills were common, as were S whitefaces and Rufous 
Fieldwrens (3) and I had excellent views of a female Little Buttonquail. At 
nearby bay of Wright a female and calf  Southern Right Whale were seen close to 

  Pt Augusta bot Gardens, SA 14 oct
  The flowers at the centre had attracted a number of Honeyeaters with many 
White-fronteds and Spiny-cheeckeds. Also Redthroat found easily near the 
birdhide, an Elegant Parrot and Chirruping Wedgebill was common.

  Stokes Hill lookout, Flinders Ranges, SA 16 oct
  A stroke of luck here with a beautiful Stort-tailed Grasswren within 5 min. 
close to the car park, without even going in.

  Gluepot, SA, 18 oct.
  I had booked a morning trip here with Peter Waanders. Another birder had also 
signed up which turned out to be number two worldlister jon Hornbuckle, 
excellent company!. After three hours we had seen literally nothing and had 
only heard Red-lored Whistler calling quite far from its usual stakeout, 
leading Peter to believe that they had finished breeding. Very frustrating 
since it was getting really hot by 8am and bird activity was dropping quickly. 
A quick bash to a site from last year however was an excellent move as within 
10 min we were watching a stunning male carrying food, Nice! With only 6-8 
pairs in Gluepot, I bet your chances of finding one yourself are close to zero.
  The whistler was quickly followed by a large flock of Miners, containing at 
least 5 pure bred individuals, including one juvenile. Other highlights 
included Striated Grasswren (1), Chestnut Quailthrush (5+), Crested bellbird, 
Masked and White-browed Woodswallows, a pair of Gilbers Whistlers and Southern 
Scrub Robins, White-browed Treecreepers, Hooded Robins and many striking Mugla 
  On the way back, we checked one of the Murray river overflow areas where Jon 
had found Freckled Duck the day before and found a nice male.

  Later that day, a stroll along the sewage ponds gave Blue-faced HE, which 
must be at the most westernly point of its distribution and 3juv, 1 ad Aust 
Spotted Crake.

  Eremophila Park (close to Waikerie), SA 19 oct.
  Malleefowl. and Chestnut-crowned babblers

  Brookfield Conservation Park, Close to Waikerie, SA 20 oct:
  A tip-off from Peter paid off big time (many thanks Peter!): Shy Heathwren, 
Bluebonnets, S. Whiteface, more Chestnut-cr Babblers and Brown Treecreepers.

  Black hills, Adelaide, SA, 21 oct
  A nice hike gave many Crescent HE, and a nice male Flame and Scarlet Robins 
among Thornbills.

  Tower Hill, close to Port Fairy and Great Ocean Road, Vic 23 oct
A surprise pair Satin Flycatchers actively looking around for a place to breed 
at tower Hill. Many Long-billed Corella's here as well. We arrived at noon at 
The Arch but despite this time of day were soon rewarded with excellent views 
of Rufous Bristlebirds.

  The Grampians, Vic, 24 oct
  A cracking pair of Gang Gang at the parking lot to the McKenzy (spelling?) 
Falls and hundreds of Long-billed Corella's at the Gap.

  Chiltern NP, Vic 28 oct
  A stunning pair of Painted Honeyeaters on the north side of the village (many 
thanks to the Immunologist from Melbourne who shared this site with me!!!). My 
first Fuscous and Black-chinned Honeyeaters and many White-browed Woodswallows.

  Deniliquin, NSW 30 oct
  I was fortunate to join a Canadian birder to go on a tour with legendary Phil 
Maher. We had a truly fantastic time and scored some really great birds. This 
was the first time I experienced the upsides and downsides of the nomadic 
behaviour of some of Australia's finest birds. It had rained 4-5 days before I 
arrived. Exactly that day I arrived  Black HE (2m, 1f) had moved in to feast on 
the flowers, which definitely weren't there the day before according to Phil.  
On the downside Inland Dotterel had apparently moved out. Among the very best 
birds: 2 Australasian Bitterns, 2 Orange Chats, including a cracking male 
amongst White-fronteds, 6 amazing WB Swallows, Spotless and Austr. Spotted 
Crakes, Brolga, Yellow Thornbills, Striped HE on the nest, A Pratincole, Banded 
lapwings (35+), Brown Songlarks, Singing Bushlark, Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth, 
Little Eagle on the nest, Bluebonnets, grey-crowned babblers etc etc and best 
of all a female Plains Wanderer after quite some
 searching. Phil truly is an outstanding birder and great company in the field!

  Gulpa, NSW 31 oct
  30+ Supurb parrots. More of them also in flight close to Wagga Wagga and even 
downtown here we found several! Also 2 Cockatiels just north of Deniliquin.

  Sydney Area, NSW 3-6 nov
  We had a brilliant sunny day downtown Sydney but were rained out completely 
the days before and after. With the same forecast for the next week and the 
absence of Regent HE at Capertee Valley, we decided to move on to Queensland. I 
did visit barren grounds though in heavy rain, heard a few E bristlebirds and 
saw 2 gang gang but not a sniff of the resident Pilotbird unfortunately. Also 
Morton NP drew a blank on this bird but gave a pair of Rose Robins on the short 
hike to the falls.

  Lamington NP, QLD 8-9 nov.
  We hiked to the antarctic Beech forest one morning and upon arrival after 
3hrs, rain set in and spoiled any chance for Rufous Scubbird. Fortunately we 
met Glen Threlfo, the resident guide and filmmaker of the O'reilly guesthouse 
with a group of birders. While the rain did easy a bit, we could join his 
group. It turned out to be the first time in his 27 yrs of guiding he did not 
hear a single scrubbird up there! So he took all of us to a site much lower 
down but in very thick ferns where he knew a bird was always singing. 
Fortunately, he was right indeed and we came close to this amazing songster, 
but without catching a glimpse. Later on Glen treated us with an amazing piece 
of footage at O'reillies. In 9months time he managed to capture a scrubbird 
singing its heart out on film. Wow, truly amazing stuff!
  Other birds during our stay: Alberts lyrebirds were fairly asy with 4 seen. 
We witnessed the amazing display of a male Riflebird, putting his wings around 
his mate as he danced at point blank range, amazing stuff! Furthermore, Noisy 
pitta, both Thrushes and Grey Goshwak. On Duck creek Road, we found a family 
party of three Glossy Black Cockatoos, Painted buttonquail, Alberts Lyrebird, 
Red-browed Treecreeper but I missed out on Spotted QT, which was seen two days 
  Best bird at Lamington was definitely an immaculate White-eared Monarch at 
eye-level, a few hundred meters before Duck Creek road and further down two 
marbled Frogmouths were seen after dusk.

  Rainbow Beach, Coloola, inskip Point, QLD11 nov
  A diligent search mostly guided by Frank Rheindt and Graham Etheringtons 
notes gave 2 male Black-br Button quails after 2hrs searching. While 
celebrating this success another female crossed the trail! Further gooddies 
included Beach thick-knee (a pair seen once out of 5 times I checked the beach 
at the tip.) and Fairy Gerygone.
  That afternoon we checked out Coloola NP at the well-known ground parrot 
stake-out. The first three km along coloola way are fine by 2WD, but the last 
1.7km are a disaster and unless you're a Duke of hazard, it cannot be done with 
low clearance vehicles. My advise would be to walk this last stretch which only 
takes 10min.
  Birdwise, I was desperate to find the parrot after dipping big time on them 
in Strahan, Tasmania 5 yrs ago. I walked the trail from the gate 200m past the 
"lookout point' where everyone is waiting for the parrots to start singing and 
flushed 2 birds after only 100m. I had repeated views of them and found that 
the habitat here is much sparser and the grass is lower than around the 
lookout. At the lookout itself a Lewins rail started calling, quickly followed 
by a second one. A little taping made the bird cross the creek?! (sorry frank!) 
giving some, although not great views. White-throated needletails flew low in 
resonse to the uncoming thunderstorm (yes, more rain) as did a Swamp harrier.

  Our last days were spend around Brisbane. I drew a complete blank at Mt 
Glorious, except for S Boobook and a carpet Python my wife almost stepped on! 
No joy at the Slaughter falls either, which was very disappointing with no WT 
nightjar for some reason and a powerful owl silhouette in flight only.

  Good birding and please don't hesitate if you want more info!

  Kind Regards,

Arjan Brenkman
The Netherlands

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