Kate, the mate, and I spent 31 very full and eventful days travelling
from Sydney-Brisbane-Alice Springs-Perth-Broome. I would not necessarily
recommend so ambitious a trip, but Qantas made us an attractive offer we
couldn't refuse with 3 internal flights included in the price. So off we
went. Highlights were many given that July-August is not a great time to
see migrants. Most notable birds were a pair of Grey Falcons seen
mating, Gouldian Finches at Wyndham (WA), Noisy Shrub-Bird and Western
Bristlebirds at Cheyne Beach (WA), Sooty Owl and Marbled Frogmouth at
Mapleton, northwest of Brisbane (QSD), White-Quilled Rock-Pigeon at the
Bungle Bungles (Purnululu,WA), Albert's Lyrebird and Spotted
Quail-Thrush at Lamington (QSD), Rock Warbler and Southern Emu-Wren at
Royal NP outside of Sydney, Grey Honeyeater at Hamilton Downs (NT),
Yellow-Rumped Mannikin at Kununarra (WA), Crested Shrike-Tit at
Stirling Range NP (WA) and Yellow Chat at Broome Bird Observatory (WA).
Here's a quick summary of the trip with recommendations. Our first stop
was in Sydney, which was a two day layover that Qantas granted us as
part of the package. It was enough time to see some of Royal NP and tour
part of the city, but certainly not even close to enough time to do this
area justice. We did see the Buff-Banded Rails at the Botanical Gardens.
We found them in the manicured areas to the right hand side of the
Coffee Shop, as you face it from the pond that is between the shop and
the water. Ask inside the tourist shop that is there if you need more
information. They were knowledgeable and helpful. At Royal NP we saw
many of the expected birds with good looks at Tawny-Crowned Honeyeaters,
as well as the birds listed above. We were fortunate enough to have
Birdingpal Barry Lancaster as a guide for a day. I can't say enough
about the help that Barry and the other Birdingpals gave us on this
trip. I would recommend trying to set up your trip so that you could get
on one of the pelagics that Tony Palliser sets up (I believe it's the
4th Saturday of each month). Probably you would need a lifetime to see
this area well, but given that we all don't have that luxury, I would
try to spend at least a few weeks in the area. We stayed at Hotel 59, a
very nice place for a reasonable price, just outside King's Crossing..
George, the owner is a lot of fun.
Next up was a week trip to Brisbane. A car was picked up at the airport
through East Coast Car Rental ($410.30A, $321.08US). I reserved the
vehicle on line prior to arrival. We met up with Birdingpal Rod Bloss
and his wife, south of the city in Beenleigh to explore Eagleby wetland.
This is an area that Rod has been instrumental in helping to create.
There is some great natural habitat that has the potential to be a
premier spot. We stayed at the Beenleigh Motor Inn ($94.50A, $73.95US)
across from the famous Yatala Pie factory. Of note we saw Tawny
Grassbird, and Mangrove Honeyeater. We welcomed the opportunity to get
to know Rod and his wife. They were fabulous hosts for the day.
>From Beenleigh we moved on for 3 nights of camping at O'Reilly's
Rainforest Guest House. This is a well known spot internationally and
for good reason. The birding is superb. Best spot we found was along
Duck Creek Road. He we came upon a group of Spotted Quail Thrush about 6
kilometers down the road, and saw Glossy Black-Cockatoos, as well as
many other birds. We found Albert's Lyrebird (probably George) at first
light on Python Rock Trail. Nights were cold at 2-3 degrees Celsius.
Camping was $35.56A, $27.67US per person for the 3 days. The tracks
around O'Reilly' are nice hikes and we got plenty of walking in, but
bird-wise you're better off birding the edges. We didn't try for the
Rufous Scrub-Bird. Interestingly enough, we encountered Gail Mackiernon
and Barry Cooper who I have been in touch with a few times via e-mail,
but had never met. We went owling with them one night and had good looks
at Australian Owlet-Nightjar. It was a fine and serendipitous
We then attempted to find Koalas as we returned to the Brisbane area.
This turned out to be a little harder than we anticipated, but finally
we were able to see them at Redlands Indigiscapes Centre. This is
located about 8 kilometres from the ferry to North Stradbroke which as
luck would have it, was our next destination. The Centre is a perfect
place to look, as they spot koalas in the morning and mark locations on
a map in the information booth.
The ferry to North Stradbroke ($102A, $80 US) was a pleasant ride, sans
the dugong that we were hopeful to see. The island itself was beautiful,
but finding accommodations was a daunting task. We finally found a place
to stay at ($150A, 117 US). The walk along the northeast cliffs was
spectacular with lots of Bottlenose Dolphins, a Wandering Albatross, and
a breaching Humpback Whale (as well as other Humpback's) being the most
Mapleton, about 100 kilometres to the north of Brisbane was next. Here
we stayed with Birdchatter Ken Cross, his wife Megan and their 2 sons.
Their hospitality and warmth made for an extremely memorable experience.
There's no way we can communicate how much the time with them meant to
At night we were able to spotlight both Sooty Owl and Marbled Frogmouth.
Truly one of the most spectacular evenings we've had out in the field.
The next day saw us driving 200 kilometres north for attempts at
Black-Breasted Button-Quail and Ground Parrot. We missed both species,
but were happy to see King Quail at Cooloola NP. Still in all it was a
fine day learning a lot about Australian history, politics and ecology
Sadly we left the Brisbane area to try our luck in the Alice Springs
area. I would probably opt to try to spend another week in the area, as
we felt rushed to try to accomplish the lofty goals we set up for
ourselves. We did spend 7 days there overall.
The Alice Springs area is one that some birders might choose to pass up.
Many of the birds could be found in other spots. We found the natural
wonders to be well worth the 5 days we had in the area. If someone was
willing to bird the area, I would say 5 days would be about right if
you're willing to do some driving. Car rental was very expensive ($343A,
$270US done over net prior to the trip) with the dreaded 200 km/day
limited kilometres. This almost assures that if you drive to Uluru you
will go way over. We drove 1,800 kilometres and at 27 cents per km
excess you can rack up some high bills. I would highly recommend setting
this up in advance as the prices were even more astronomical at the
airport. We camped the whole time there with some time at the Big 4
MacDonnell Range Holiday Park in Alice, and Uluru and King's Canyon
Campgrounds. Highlights were walks we took around Uluru, The Olgas (Kata
Tjuta), King's Canyon, Simpson's Gap, Ellery Creek, and Ormiston Gorge.
The birding was slow at times, but seeing the falcons mating was
probably the highlight of the trip. We were able to scope these birds,
and have no doubts about the identification. I have passed information
to Jonny Schoenjahn, who is doing research on Grey Falcons. Because of
inherent problems, I don't feel free to be specific about the location.
Of interest is that the site mentioned by Thomas and Thomas for the
Chestnut-Breasted Whiteface is no longer valid. I did hike in, but the
habitat no longer supports the species. The site mentioned in Thomas and
Thomas, 5 kilometres south on the Hamilton Downs Road was where we found
the Grey Honeyeaters.
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