TR: Southeastern Australia/Tasmania Jan '03 (11)

Subject: TR: Southeastern Australia/Tasmania Jan '03 (11)
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 21:54:35 EST

27 Jan 03 (cont'd)
     After lunch we went out on a different trail.  This was a longer trail, farther from the guesthouse, a kilometer or so down the main road and then off to the left.  We had a couple of target species here.  The first, Albert's Lyrebird, continued to elude us.  We got frustratingly closer here, though.  We heard the bird calling down a hollow and around a bend, but we were never able to get close enough quickly enough to get a look.  Frustrating.
     We then went to another spot on the trail where Glen had had some nesting photography success earlier in the year.  Now, it seemed dry and quiet.  Still, we cautiously played a tape and tried to remain still.  Suddenly, we were answered, and almost right away, a huge, brightly patterned NOISY PITTA flew barrelling towards us through the low undergrowth and landed just up the hill, visible through the undergrowth.  What a bird!  Much bigger than I was expecting, but just as bright and boldly colored as the illustration in the field guide.  After our hearts had slowed back down a little and we had all gotten looks, Glen took us back into the forest a short distance and showed us where that bird (or another Noisy Pitta) had nested earlier in the season.  The nest was long fledged out now, or had failed many weeks ago.  Interesting spot for a nest site--the nest was a large ball of grassy vegetation built on the ground in one of the compartments made by the interlacing buttress roots of a large tree.
     We then made our way down to Glen's house.  He lives partway down the hill along the O'Reillys road.  Along the way, we stopped at a colony of BELL MINERS.  These birds have the best call, a clear, light "ting", and a group of them is wonderful to listen to.  Glen says this colony is relatively new, and it used to be that O'Reillys guests had to hike quite a distance to see this species;  now they are right by the side of the road.
     I had a couple of other nice wildlife sightings for the day today.  This morning, when Glen arrived he had a LEAF-TAILED GECKO that he had found among the guesthouse buildings that morning.  It was a very beautiful animal.  Great camouflage, very cryptic.  The other great sighting for me was a male ORCHARD SWALLOWTAIL that fed on a Bougainvillea in the parking lot after lunch.  I got some nice photographs of this large black and white swallowtail.  The butterflies here in the midcoast area of Australia were much more noticeable than they had been anywhere else on our trip.  Partly this might have been due to the subtropical nature of the place.  Probably it was also partly due to the increased moisture available.  The area was extremely dry by their standards--the river that flows down near Beaudesert had dried up to isolated pools for the very first time in living memory.  Still, the area seemed greener and wetter in general than most of the other areas we had been in thus far.
     We made our way back to the guesthouse by 5pm or so, because Glen had other plans for the evening.  Don and Don and I went for another walk in search of the elusive lyrebird.  No luck, so, dinner and then an early bedtime for me.  The other guys went to a program on owls.  O'Reillys is a great place for activities, very well organized.  Many don't really cater to the hard-core birder, but the lectures all seemed very interesting.

28 Jan 03
     Today we planned to travel along Duck Creek Road down the O'Reillys mountain, making our way toward Beaudesert and the valley road there.  We got ready again at 7pm, but again left after 8, so we had some time to wander around on our own a little around the guesthouse.  Don, Don and I took a walk along the loop that ran to the botanical garden area and then back again.  Right near the spot where the trail from the garden rejoins the trail back to O'Reillys, I heard the chattering-type calls of lyrebirds.  Sneaking slowly back up the trail with the Dons on my heels, I got a glimpse of an ALBERT'S LYREBIRD back through the trees, moving parallel to us.  But, before I could get the other guys on to him, he had slipped away.  Frustrating!  Ron, out on his own, saw a WHITE-HEADED PIGEON, which was the only one seen on the trip.
     We all left the parking lot around 8:15 am and proceeded down the mountain.  We shortly turned off of O'Reillys road on to the private Duck Creek Road.  This road is maintained partly by donations from people who have paid to have a sign placed on "their" part of the road, which they bid on and won (for example, George Washington Overlook, George W. Bush Plunge, George Carlin Curve, etc. etc.)  These road sponsorship signs were a novel and entertaining way of keeping up the road maintenance.
     We stopped partway down to look in several places for Boobook owls, but no luck.  Glen tried very hard, looking in a number of shaggy short green "trees" whose name I forgot to record.  I did see a couple of very nice new butterflies along the road here, though.  One was an AUSTRALIAN CROW, which is a large white-spotted black butterfly.  The other was a beautiful COMMON IMPERIAL BLUE.  We recorded our first life bird of the day in the flatter country as were nearing the base of foothills--PALE-HEADED ROSELLA, another colorful parrot.  A few minutes later and we were looking at our first SPANGLED DRONGOS of the trip.  I had seen these guys before in Papua New Guinea, but they were new for the rest of the troop, and a treat for all of us.  They had an interesting bunch of weird calls, which is what drew Glen's attention in the first place.  He certainly has an outstanding ear.
     By this time we had reached the Kerry Valley Road and the area outside the town of Beaudesert.  Driving along this road, Glen suddenly stopped the bus and had us look out along the fence next to us.  There, perched like a burning little coal, was a male RED-BACKED FAIRYWREN, another spectacular member of this stunning family.  We ooohed and aahhed and got our fill of him.  Another half hour down the road and we had stopped again next to a paddock checking out the trees dotting the brown fields.  In the mid-distance was a greenish bird that, after some puzzling and moving closer, revealed itself to be a SOUTHERN FIGBIRD, a very nice bird that we hadn't counted on.  This was a juvenile, as were so many of the birds we saw during this post nesting season trip.  Another half hour along and we stopped at a bridge over some greener streamside vegetation where a couple of little birds had taken off.  They turned out to be our life DOUBLE-BARRED FINCHES.  I used to raise these finches in captivity, where we call them Owl Finches, so it was quite a treat to see them in the wild.  Again, most striking was the almost glistening quality to the wild birds' perfect plumage, compared to the image of the more faded, pale captive birds that I had in my mind.
     On the opposite side of the road we walked a bit along this stretch of the river.  The river here was not flowing, but at least it had some water, and some green trees.  This was a warm but very pleasant walk.  Shortly we heard a clambering in a streamside tree opposite us which turned out to be a PHEASANT COUCAL.  I got very good looks at its black body contrasting with its reddish brown, grouse-like wings, despite the fact that it tried so hard to hide all of that up in the treetop.  After that, Glen managed to find us a few BAR-SHOULDERED DOVES on the opposite bank.  After having them flit ahead slightly out of view over and over, we finally went back to the bridge and crossed the river to their side, where we got wonderful looks.  Glen told me that he also had seen a Blue Tiger, a large handsome butterfly, while he was "herding" the doves, but sadly I missed it.
     Our next stop was a wetland area.  I believe this was a dam that still held some water.  On the far side, trotting over the lilies as they do, we saw several COMB-CRESTED JACANAS, my third jacana species in the world.  There were a number of other nice things in this wet area as well--spoonbills, shorebirds, and a Wedge-tailed Eagle.  We arrived shortly after this in the town of Beaudesert, where we had lunch.  The drought had really affected the people and the community here.  Some farmers and other folk were out of water and had to buy it.  At least there were no fires.


Bill Benner
Old Brookville, NY
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