Tuesday, 31 July 2018

My full Australian list to date

This is a full list in alphabetical order of all of the species which I have seen in Australia so far with location and maximum number of birds seen at each location in brackets. In total 272 species so far.

I've temporarily had to return to the UK for a few weeks, but will be resuming my tour down under at the beginning of October 2018.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Full list of birds seen in Australia - June to July 2018

This is a full list in alphabetical order of species seen on the holiday, 4th June - 7th July 2018 with location and maximum number of birds seen at each location in brackets.In total, 206 species of which 105 were new for me.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Freckled Duck, Herdsman

It’s a bit hard to explain why I should be so pleased to see six freckled ducks at Herdsman Lakes today. After all, they’re far from the most colourful bird I’ve seen on my travels around Aus, in fact to be honest they’re quite ugly looking ducks compared to most. I can sum it up best like this; freckled ducks are birders birds, or perhaps more specifically I should call them wildfowl enthusiasts wildfowl, because not all birders are enamoured by ducks. I count myself as a wildfowl enthusiast, in fact I’d go as far as to say that wildfowl are my favourite group of birds, so it was especially pleasing to see freckled ducks sharing the same reedy pool as the even more bizarre musk duck with their odd lobes and strange display and blue-billed ducks with bills so blue as to be straight out of a kids comic book. An Australian a scene as any you could imagine! All three species are endemic to the continent.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Rottnest Island, WA

A great end to my holiday to Australia, glorious sunshine and light winds on Rottnest island, Western Australia. The island is probably most famous for its Quokkas but there is a lot of other good stuff here as well and I managed 2 new bird species for the holiday, red-capped robin and western whistler. The latter is a fairly recent split by the IOC from golden whistler and the new species is more or less endemic to WA. Also today impressive numbers of banded stilts on the salt lakes, over 1000 I estimate, and good numbers of white-fronted chats and silvereyes.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Herdsman and Lake Monger, Western Australia

Yellow-billed spoonbill
Herdsman Lake and nearby Lake Monger are in Perth and are an essential first stop for any birder visiting Perth. Between them today they produced ten lifers for me starting with yellow-billed spoonbill not far from the visitor centre at Herdsman. In total I saw six spoonbills, and most were in breeding plumage, with black plumes in their wings, as you can see in the photo above.

Moving on, the lifers came thick and fast, next was a much sought after buff-banded rail, followed by red-winged fairy-wren, splendid fairy-wren, yellow-rumped thornbill, western gerygone, Australian reed warbler and perhaps most pleasing, a flock of 25 Carnaby's black-cockatoos.

Apart from the lifers, there were good numbers and variety of other birds with 200+ purple swamphens, pink-eared ducks, swamp harriers, musk ducks, singing honeyeaters, silvereyes, grey teal, Australian shoveler and a stunning spotted pardalote.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

A few bits and pieces from the Southern Eyre Peninsular

White-browed babbler
My last day in Port Lincoln so it seems like a good time to tidy up a few loose ends which may have not appeared elsewhere in this blog, starting with white-browed babbler which I saw at Tulka just a few kilometers south of Port Lincoln. Restless mistle thrush sized birds, there were three of them hoping around at speed quite oblivious to my presence.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Murray Point, Port Lincoln

Just south of Port Lincoln racecourse lies Greyhound road, which leads to Murray Point, an area which offers some of the best birding I have found in the vicinity of Port Lincoln. At low tide there is plenty of exposed mud and sand for shore birds, which include banded and white-headed stilt and red-necked avocet, whilst the scrubby areas inland hold more birding gems, in particular rock parrot. These cute little parrots might not be as colourful as some of their cousins, but the're my favourite. Offshore there are four species of cormorant including the south coast specialty, black-faced, as well as double figure counts of hoary-headed grebe and Australian pelican, whilst the impressive Pacific gull patrols the shore line. The common tern here is crested, but others include fairy and Caspian.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Whalers Way, Southern Eyre Peninsular

Rock parrots, tawny-crowned honeyeaters, emus, western grey kangaroos, Humpback whales, southern right whales, New Zealand fur seals and stunning views over the Great Australian Bight, this really is the wildest and most incredible place

If the world was flat then this is where the edge would be, this is the eastern end of the Great Australian Bight. If you set out in a boat and headed in the direction that we are looking here, west over the sea, it would be 1300 miles before you next hit land and when you did, it would be the same country just the other side of the bay. The scale of the place is phenomenal. In truth, in a flat world it seems almost like this is the opposite edge of the world to the Outer Hebrides, which have a similar feel and a similar sense of vastness. And the wildlife here just adds to that sense of being on the opposite edge, a group of kangaroos hop away as you approach, an emu appears on the ridge ahead, rock parrots fly up from your feet and a group of whales are blowing out at sea.

Which monster lives in this cave?

Friday, 29 June 2018

Mikkirra Station, Southern Eyre Peninsular

At last I've seen some wild koalas, at Mikkirra Station near Port Lincoln! It's a well known spot for koalas on the Eyre peninsular and they get used to people coming to admire them, but this isn't a zoo or safari park, there's no cafe or visitor center, these are wild animals which are free to come and go as they please. They're not looked after in any way, other than like any nature reserve, their habitat is maintained.

Also at Mikkira, emus and a western yellow robin, which was particularly pleasing since at Noosa I also saw eastern yellow robin, which is a different species. Similarly, the kangaroos in the photo are western greys, whereas those in Queensland are eastern greys.

Monday, 25 June 2018

The weird display of the musk duck in Louth Bay

Musk duck is generally a bird of freshwater, but occasionally can be seen on the sea in sheltered bays outside the breeding season. There are currently at least 10 musk duck offshore from Tod's river estuary in Louth Bay, just north of Point Boston. They're a bit distant for photography but they're showing well through the scope. They really are the weirdest duck with the weirdest display. Imagine a giant, black ruddy duck with a huge bill and a enormous fleshy lobe hanging under the bill and neck. The display is amazing, the lobe is extended, the tail held erect with feathers spread like a fan while the feet splash jets of water behind! An amazing experience!

Pink-eared ducks, Billy Lights Point, Port Lincoln

Up to 13 pink-eared ducks are currently on the reservoirs at Billy Lights Point, Port Lincoln. Really smart birds!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Coffin Bay National Park, Southern Eyre Peninsular

Port Lincoln Parrot

The town of Coffin Bay lies to the west of Port Lincoln and is more or less at the eastern extremity of the Great Australian Bight, that huge bay which sits at the southern end of the continent and stretches west 1500 miles to Esperance.

Adjacent to the town is a National Park with the same name, a place of wild seascapes, huge sand dunes and mile after mile of mallee scrub, a place where emus and kangaroos run alongside the vehicle and where dolphins, whales and great white sharks can be seen offshore. A truly fabulous and exhilarating place, seemingly on the edge of the world.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Lincoln National Park and Sleaford Mere

I've been visiting Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust for over 40 years, since just before it opened in fact, in 1974. One of the highlights of my visits has always been a walk around the collection to see the strange Cape Barren Geese. With a comical appearance due in part to a blob of green "putty", as my Dad used to call it, on top of the bill, they are an aggressive goose, running headlong at anybody who comes close to their pen, and they are a bird which I never thought that I would see in the wild. Until that is, Josh sent me a photo of one recently which he had seen in a National Park near Port Lincoln in Southern Australia. Finally today I visited the area with him and we came across a flock of 47 birds near Sleaford Mere on the edge of Lincoln National Park, and later we saw two birds on the rocks near Donnington Island.

A first look at Port Lincoln

Pacific Gull, Port Lincoln
I must admit to being a little unsure as to what to expect from Port Lincoln when I was travelling here. I assumed that moving from the tropics to South Australia in the middle of the Australian winter might be a bit of a shock to the system. I also assumed that the town might be a little more industrialised and less touristy than some of the other places that I had called home over the past few weeks. Finally, it was likely to offer a quite different suite of birds to those I was used to further north.

As usual I was up at dawn. Josh had to get to work early so I had breakfast with him and then prepared to head out. Before I did so however, I had a quick look from our apartment and immediately added two birds to my Australia list which were just about as far apart on the spectrum of Australian birds as you could imagine. The first was a blackbird, an introduced species here, brought by the early Europeans to make them feel more at home.

The second was a major target species of the holiday, an adult Pacific gull landed on the roof opposite. At this point I should mention, we're staying on the marina and the roof opposite is only about 50m away but is on the other side of the main channel out of the marina.

Coming from the UK where I can often expect to record 10 species of gull or more at the Pennington Flash Gull roost, it seems a little odd to me that the there are only three regularly occurring species of gull in Australia, and one of those only started breeding in the mid 20th century. I mean I know that Australia is a remote continent but you'd think that gulls would be about the best placed of all birds to reach it and colonise. Other seemingly less likely species are here, osprey, cattle egret etc. Even the sea bird mecca that is New Zealand fares little better when it comes to gulls.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Red-necked avocets, Keldron Brook Wetlands

A traveling day today but with my flight only scheduled to leave Brisbane at 14:00 I was undecided how best to use the morning. I decided that the best option was to leave Noosa as soon as possible and head closer to the airport and visit a couple of wetland sites which had been pretty much out of reach to me when I was in Brisbane without a car two weeks ago.  Highlight was Keldron Brook Wetlands, just a few miles from the airport. It turned into a bit of a hike but it was worth it, with a great wetland area which had around 100 each of red-necked avocets and white-headed stilts, as well as good numbers of grey teal and a few pelicans and red-kneed dotterel, plus probably lots more but I just didn't have the time to do it justice. The avocets were a major target species for the holiday, and though I suspect I may see them again in South Australia, it was great to get a good look at them today. Too soon though I had to sprint back to the car and get to the airport........

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 bridge 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!