Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Green catbird, Noosa Botanic Gardens

Today I had saw a new contender for bird of the holiday at Noosa Botanic gardens. I was just about to leave and thought I'd take one last walk through the rain forest area and I'm so glad that I did. I came across a green catbird, right out in the open and even better, it stayed on full view for a minute or two. I was amazed at how big it was, I was expecting something the size of a bullfinch but instead it was more like the size of a pigeon! Australian catbirds are closely related to bower birds, but they don't build bowers.

It might have been showing well, but photographing it was still difficult, it was very dull in the heart of the forest and these photos were taken on 1/15. Fortunately my hybrid camera goes to f2.8 which at east gives me a chance in dull situations. I'm very pleased with the results!

Monday, 18 June 2018

Daytime tawny frogmouth and spotted pardalote, Noosa North Shore

I've spent hours almost everyday from dawn until well past sunset for the past two weeks searching for koalas and echidnas with no success what so ever. It's not been completely wasted time though, I've picked up a lot of decent birds in the process, and none better than the pair I found today. First off I spotted these two daytime roosting tawny frogmouths apparently sunbathing, and then later a stunning male spotted pardalote.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

"eastern" great egret

Everything is so much tamer here. This great egret was walking along on the edge of one of the Noosa canals with lots of people around. I sat and watched it and it came within 3m of me and just walked past. Why aren't they like this in the UK? Like osprey and cattle egret, great egret is called eastern great egret in my book, but I think that there is less of a case for this being a separate species.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

1770 to Noosa

Today I traveled from 1770 to Noosa. It's a 370km drive and it would have been easy for me to pick out a few scenically beautiful places to stop on the way, but instead I decided to stop off at places which might provide me with birds which I might not otherwise have seen on the holiday. For example, a stop in an area of farmland turned up this Australian pipit. It's a very common bird in Australia, but only if you go to the right habitat, no point in looking for this in tropical rain forest.

At another stop I managed seven species of raptor in 15 minutes, including bird of the day two swamp harriers which unfortunately I was unable to photograph.  Other new species for the holiday were azure kingfisher and white-headed pigeon.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

More Tawny frogmouth action

With the exception perhaps of the beach stone curlew on Fraser Island, it's hard to imagine a more enigmatic bird than tawny frogmouth, and this bird on my campsite at 1770 shows exceptionally well. What a great bird!

A mob of whiptail wallabies

I was delighted to stumble across a mob of whiptail wallabies this morning on a walk along the coast from 1770. Compared to most other kangeroos and wallabies, they were very approachable and consisted of a male with several females and juveniles. As you can see in the photos below, one of the females has a large joey in her pouch, though the animal itself is not visible.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Frogmouth and thick-knees on the 1770 campsite

I've moved onto the town of 1770 in Queensland, staying in a cabin right in the middle of a eucalyptus woodland, offering lots of nocturnal possibilities! I've heard that there are possums, sugar gliders and echidnas on the site, but tonight I had to be content with a tawny frogmouth. The frogmouths belong to the same family as the nightjars and like their cousins they are always extra special birds to find, not least because of their nocturnal habits.  On my last visit to Australia in 2015 I was shown a Papuan frogmouth sitting on a nest, and those are even larger than tawny, but this bird was impressive enough, at least twice the size of a nightjar I would guess. A stunning bird.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Nankeen night-herons and the ubiquitous swamphen

Nankeen night-herons are always nice to see, especially when they show as well as this. Like all night herons they are most active and dusk or at night, so this is a really special sighting.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

A day in the eucalyptus forest

Pacific baza, a major target species for me on this trip to Australia. Now I really do feel like I'm in the tropics! This species feeds often in small groups on insects, nestlings and even frogs high up in the canopy.  There were two birds in this tree.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

The March of the Sand Bubblers

Yesterday I mentioned the sand bubblers, small blue crabs which create the aboriginal style patterns in the sand on tropical beaches. Today as the tide came in at Burrum Heads near Hervey Bay, I watched as millions of these crabs made their way across the beach in close rank, almost like columns of ants. A really incredible spectacle. The remarkable thing was, if I approached too close the crabs just disappeared! Inside a couple of seconds they just sank themselves into the sand and it was as if they had never been there, just a flat sandy beach remained! I don't know where these crabs were going or what they were doing, were they retreating from the tide or does this mass movement signify something else? I don't know, but great to be there and witness it.

Parrots and Pelicans at Burrum Heads

If you like parrots Australia is the place to be! There's loads of them. Today I had some nice views of some really special birds. First off this is a galah, a fairly common bird  but it's not often I see them this well.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Fraser Island

Someone once said that real birds eat fish, and that's something I can really relate to. Fish eating birds are generally something special. However in Australia I'd have too beg to differ and say that real birds eat crabs!

I was walking along the beach on Fraser Island today when this stonking beach thick-knee walked out from the vegetation calling. This is a species which in my experience is quite timid and will not allow close approach, however this bird walked towards me and was obviously quite agitated.  I assume that it must have had a nest or chicks nearby, but I didn't dwell too long in the area. Like all beach birds, beach thick-knee is under threat due to its preference for nice sandy beaches which unfortunately also attract people.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Along the Brisbane River

A day spent along the Brisbane river, from Teneriffe in the east to Fig Tree Pocket in the west. I started off having a sail along the river on the Brisbane CityCat, much too fast moving for any serious birding but a quick, cheap and easy way for me to see the city without spending all day at it. Even so I added a few species to my trip list so far, Australian darter, gull-billed tern, lesser crested tern and white-face heron.

On returning to the city centre I caught the bus to Fig Tree Pocket and the Lone pine koala sanctuary.  I'm not really one for spending a lot of time in zoos, captive animals don't do a lot for me, but in this case it seemed worth a visit. Quite apart from the fact that the grounds and gardens attract many wild species, I don't think that it's possible to see some of these Australian specialities even in zoos outside of Australia. For example I don't know how many platypus there are in zoos across the world, but I bet it's not many, if any. The aussies seem as keen to keep Australian things in the country as they are to keep foreign things out. Pity they didn't think of that 250 years ago.....

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A walk along Breakfast Creek

Day one of my latest Australian adventure saw me start off at Banks Street Reserve in Brisbane, about three kilometers north of my accommodation at Redhills. This is a small area of remnant rainforest and it holds some interesting species. From here I then followed Breakfast Creek for a few miles, before dropping down into the city for a visit to the Gabba followed by a quick schooner of ale.

When they were giving out names, the name glossy ibis had already been allocated to the "European" (actually cosmopolitan) ibis, so what to call this bird? Straw-necked ibis hardly seems to do it justice.....

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Australia Round-up - 2015 holiday

On 11th October 2015 we arrived in Sydney at the start of a 3 week holiday to Australia, my first ever visit to country, in fact my first visit to the southern hemisphere. It wasn't purely a birding holiday, it was as much about general sightseeing, and the first seven days were to be spent in or around Sydney. We did the usual, went to the Opera House, walked across the bridge, went to the Rocks, sunbathed on Bondi beach, did some shopping etc., but we also spent time in the Botanical Gardens and took the ferries to Watsons Bay and Manly, and ventured off the main tourist route a little when we visited Centennial Park on a couple of occasions and took the coastal footpath from Bondi beach to Coogee, and even spent half day whale watching. So plenty of opportunities to see lots of Australian wildlife and in fact it proved to be a nice gentle way of starting the holiday from a birding point of view.

Full list of birds seen in Australia - 2015 holiday

This is a full list in alphabetical order of species seen on the holiday, 12th -31st October 2015, with location and maximum number of birds seen at each location in brackets.In total, 170 species of which 144 were new for me.

Saturday, 7 November 2015


During the holiday we saw what looked like two different species of mudskipper at Port Douglas. The first was a small fish about 3"  (7.5cm) long and which inhabited the mud on the edge of the marina. This was a very limited habitat, with mud no more than about 1m wide, with rocks and scattered mangroves growing in it. From memory I don't remember this habitat expanding or contracting much with the tide, i.e. there wasn't much of a tidal range.

The second type of mudskipper was seen on the banks of the tidal section of river at Port Douglas. Here on the edge of the mangroves there was much more exposed mud and the mudskippers here were a lot bigger, some reaching 8" (20cm). There were also no rocks on this mud and it seemed to have a large tidal range.

When I saw them I couldn't be sure if these were the same species as those seen in the harbour, i.e. I thought it possible that the larger fish were simply the adults whilst the smaller fish might be juveniles occupying a different habitat.

Since I've been back in the UK I've been doing some research to try to find the truth about these fascinating creatures. Whilst searching the internet for infromation I came across a paper called "The natural history of mudskippers in northern Australia, with field identification characters - Takita, Larson & Ishimatsu (2011)". It cost me £2 to download but proved to be an excellent read.

It turns out that not only are there many species of mudskipper in northern Australia, there are in fact several genera. I'm now convinced that we saw two species, in fact I think that they are from two different genera Periophthalmodon and Periophthalmus. They're a bit difficult to id for sure from photographs, but I think that the large fish from the river is Periophthalmodon freycineti or giant mudskipper whilst the fish from the harbour is silver-lined (barred) mudskipper Periophthalmus argentilineatus.

Giant mudskipper.

Silver-lined mudskipper. I think.... I can't see the silver lines on this one but it was in the same area as the fish above.

Whimbrel N. p. variegatus

Just a quick note on the whimbrel I saw at Port Douglas, turns out they were of the Asian race N. p. variegatus which is intermdiate between the Eurasian and Hudsonian whimbrels, in that it has a whitish rump barred brown.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Rainbow Lorikeets

Last day in Australia, and it seems appropriate to end with some rainbow lorikeets in Sydney.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Watsons Bay, Sydney.

Back in Sydney and spent the day at Watson Bay. Nothing new but some nice views of some old favourites.

Noisy miner at nest.

New Holland Honeyeater.

Crested pigeon.

Superb fairywren.