Steve and Phil's Oz trip, Part One

To: "birding aus" <>
Subject: Steve and Phil's Oz trip, Part One
From: "Stephen Keen" <>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 20:04:55 -0000

First instalment of the trip account: days one to five, trip 239 by the end of this bit. Read and (hopefully) enjoy, or delete if you'd rather.



28th October ? our first Aussie birding was just south of Sydney with a tickfest at Barren Grounds. The usual first day panic, with the first 33 species lifers (and 63 out of 77 during the day). A bit breezy, which didn?t help with the little stuff on the heath, but a good success rate with the targets nevertheless. Eastern Bristlebird showed twice, a pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos flew by, one Beautiful Firetail lurked, Pilotbird sang in full view too close to focus the bins, and we also had what were to be the only Red Wattlebirds and Satin Flycatcher of the trip. Drove on to Royal National Park, stopping far more than would a local, mostly for common stuff, though a Black-faced woodswallow near Wollongong was perhaps out of range, and we got our only Echidna, which somehow made it unscathed across a very busy Hume Highway. Royal National Park proved largely unsuccessful, with the time limited and the timing wrong, and we couldn?t connect with Origma or Superb Lyrebird. Into Sydney for an onward flight to Cairns.


29th October ? Daintree first thing, with heaps of new birds around the jetty, and the change of area brought another rush of lifers. Today?s total of 109 species included another 67 new ones! Out along the river with Chris Dahlberg proved very profitable, even if it wasn?t one of his classics. Papuan Frogmouth on a nest just a few yards away was always going to take pride of place, but there was plenty more to see, and species seen whilst out which weren?t seen elsewhere on the trip included Varied Triller, Large-billed Gerygone, Gould?s Bronze-Cuckoo, Pacific Baza and Black Bittern. Reached a nice milestone whilst out, with Brush Cuckoo having the honour of being my 3000th species. Back on dry land we birded around Daintree, racking up five species of honeyeater and a smart male Lovely Fairy-Wren. Next stop was Yule Point, where the highlight was the cracking pair of Beach Thick-knees, as promised by Thomas & Thomas (TNT in all future references), and a heap of waders for the trip list included both species of tattler for comparison, with both calling just in case we were wrong! Into Kingfisher Park, our home for the next four nights, then after setting up camp it was off to Mt Molloy for another four new honeyeaters and the school?s resident Great Bowerbirds. Mt Carbine Dam had five Freckled Ducks, then back to Kingfisher Park last thing failed to turn up Platypus, though Noisy Pitta, Spotted Catbird and Red-necked Crake all at close range were adequate compensation.


30th October ? Around Kingfisher Park for the first couple of hours, failing again with Platypus but with plenty of birds. Scored with cracking views of one of the main targets, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, a stunning bird. Also another Papuan Frogmouth on the nest and three Barred Cuckoo-Shrikes went over. Then it was Mt Lewis for a very successful assault on the Atherton endemics. Pied Monarch and Yellow-breasted Boatbill both showed at TNT?s parrotfinch gully and other local specialities included Bower?s Shrike-Thrush (quite common), Victoria?s Riflebird (only female-types seen), Double-eyed Fig parrot, Bridled Honeyeater, the keasti race of Grey Fantail, three Tooth-billed Bowerbirds, Grey-headed Robin (common), Mountain Thornbill and Atherton Scrubwren. The main target was however Golden Bowerbird. Given directions by Keith at Kingfisher Park we parked ourselves in view of the bower (apparently unfinished, but nevertheless very impressive) and after a fairly lengthy wait a drab young male came and sang at us. Never saw the adult male that is occasionally seen there, but we were more than happy with the youngster. Other records on Mt Lewis included the only Superb Fruit-Dove sighting of the trip (often heard), Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, a pair of White-headed Pigeons and plenty more besides. Mt Molloy was next, looking for an occupied Square-tailed Kite nest, but we failed to find it, though did see Little Eagle. A good check of Lake Mitchell added lots more, though nothing out of the ordinary; unfortunately a mid-sized wader was just too distant to be confirmed as a Little Whimbrel. Big Mitchell Creek got us Pale-headed Rosella, but no White-browed Robin. Back at Kingfisher Park Masked Owl was spotlighted in flight and Lesser Sooty Owl, Barn Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar were heard.


31st October ? pre-dawn departure for an early arrival at Hasties Swamp. No Bush-hens unfortunately, but good numbers of birds, including 103 cranes, all but two of which were Sarus. The rast of the morning was spent in light rain at The Crater, hoping for our last two Atherton endemics, Fernwren and Chowchilla. Heard the former, but both eluded us, despite plenty of bashing off the main paths. Were treated to a good performance by half a dozen lekking Victoria?s Riflebirds. Although all were youngsters it was an impressive spectacle with them just a few yards above us. Whilst here we got our only Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, and several of the endemics were seen. In the afternoon headed down to Cairns for the incoming tide. Arrived a little early so had a check of the mangroves and esplanade. A Little Bronze-Cuckoo was to be our only one, Varied Honeyeater was added and a pair of Lovely Fairy-Wrens showed well. The main attraction amongst the good numbers of waders was an Asiatic Dowitcher, but we were in the wrong place to start with and only arrived in the right place just as the bird flew off. Saw it in flight, but not well enough to tick it.


1st November ? Down to Cairns first thing, we tried the Botanic Gardens first thing and were treated to excellent close views of two White-browed Crakes on the small island by the toilet block! Missed the critical point of the tide for the dowitcher unfortunately, but our mind was on the reef! Most of the day was spent on the Sea Star trip to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Bridled Tern was seen in good numbers on the way out, and we were not disappointed at the cay. Excellent numbers of Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern were noted, plus lesser numbers of Black-naped, Crested and Lesser Crested Terns, and Brown Booby. A young male Greater Frigatebird was the only frigatebird seen, but pride of place went to the Red-footed Booby resting on the island. Back at Cairns we had just enough tide to connect with the Asiatic Dowitcher at last, but we were lucky as it flew off within five minutes of our arrival. A very nice end to a very good day.

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