Welcome to Birdquest

EASTERN AUSTRALIA

Monday 29th October - Sunday 18th November 2018

Josh Bergmark

Southern Cassowary (Josh Bergmark)

Southern Cassowary (Josh Bergmark)

Australia is home to an extraordinary avifauna, with an eclectic mix of gaudy, unique and often bizarre families and species, many of which are exceedingly tame. This tour once again highlighted many of the best birds the land Down Under has to offer to our keen contingent, and our comprehensive itinerary collected all the key eastern specialties and endemics, plus a whole swag of bonus birds which are difficult to see Australia-wide! Starting around Sydney we focused on the endemic Rockwarbler, but managed some great encounters with Chestnut-rumped Heathwren alongside some of the amazing species we were to see regularly in the following weeks; raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets; vibrant Variegated Fairywrens and Eastern Yellow Robins; nectivorous Little Wattlebirds and Eastern Spinebills; funky Crested Pigeons and Eastern Whipbirds; beautifully-voiced Black-faced Monarchs and Laughing Kookaburras… The list goes on! The resident Powerful Owls with their fledgling were tracked down without a worry in one of the busiest city parks and to the south we visited the upland heaths which hold Eastern Bristlebird, Eastern Ground Parrots, diminutive Southern Emuwrens, and some very friendly Pilotbirds. Around Wollongong we twitched a critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, and a trio of rare Glossy Black Cockatoos were located feeding quietly near Katoomba. Waterfowl like Freckled Duck, Musk Duck, Blue-billed Duck and Pink-eared Duck were collected, along with a very rare Black-backed Bittern which is rarely seen even by resident Australian birders! Descending into the dry woodlands we spent a full day exploring the magnificent Capertee Valley where highlights included beautiful Painted Honeyeaters and Turquoise Parrots; loud Little Lorikeets and Black-chinned Honeyeaters; wary Spotted Quailthrush and Brown Quail; scarce Speckled Warblers and Southern Whitefaces; charismatic Brown Treecreepers, White-browed Babblers and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters; dapper Diamond Firetails Double-barred Finches, Zebra Finches and a lone Plum-headed Finch; Pallid Cuckoos and White-backed Swallows; and both Barking Owl and Southern Boobook during our first spotlighting session (the first of many!).

Back on the coast around Newcastle we took a boat offshore where we found some Providence Petrels mixed with hundreds of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Short-tailed Shearwaters in our slick. A few Australasian Gannets, Fluttering Shearwaters and Pomarine Jaegars, plus a Wilson’s Storm Petrel or two made it an enjoyable day out. Coastal swamps and heaths nearby allowed us to find the skulking Lewin’s Rail, some displaying Brush Bronzewing, Grey Goshawk, Swamp Harrier, Australian Hobby, Red-necked Avocet, and our only White-fronted Chats. The rare relict Rufous Scrubbird was our top priority in the Antarctic beech forest, and we successfully found two birds which showed to the whole group as they moved like mice through the thick ferny undergrowth. Other highlight species included Crescent Honeyeater, Satin Flycatcher, Flame Robin, Bassian Thrush, and a fantastic displaying male Superb Lyrebird doing his full repertoire. Driving past Forest Ravens and Yellow-billed Spoonbills we motored up to O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park. In the fantastic Gondwanan rainforest we searched out the endemic Albert’s Lyrebird, a displaying male Paradise Riflebird, luminous Regent Bowerbirds and Satin Bowerbirds, meowing Green Catbirds, Spectacled Monarchs, colourful Noisy Pittas and Wompoo Fruit Doves, Australian Logrunners, and Russet-tailed Thrush. Some searching around at night also connected us with a Greater Sooty Owl and the large southern subspecies of Marbled Frogmouth. The nearby city of Brisbane held range-restricted Mangrove Honeyeaters and strange Beach Stone-curlews near Toorbul, while King Quail, Painted Buttonquail and Red-backed Buttonquail were found at Lake Samsonvale. Spotlighting produced us two stupendous Australian Masked Owls and an Eastern Grass Owl, but Black-breasted Buttonquail was sadly a leader only this year. Some long drives en. Route to Cairns were broken up by the endangered subspecies of Yellow Chat, the distinct Australian form of Zitting Cisticola, stupendous Brolgas, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Cotton Pygmy Goose in Mackay, White-eared Monarch, Topknot Pigeons, and the incredibly range restricted Eungella Honeyeater in the nearby ranges.

We wrapped up the tour around Cairns where we found all fourteen wet tropic endemics; Victoria’s Riflebird; Golden Bowerbird; Tooth-billed Bowerbird; Spotted Catbird; Lesser Sooty Owl; Pied Monarch; Bridled Honeyeater; Macleay’s Honeyeater; Mountain Thornbill; Atherton Scrubwren; Chowchilla; Fernwren; Grey-headed Robin and Bower’s Shrikethrush. This is arguably the best region in Australia for birdwatching, and of course we found a whole set of non-endemic birds here which included the prehistoric Southern Cassowary, visiting Oriental Plovers, a scarce Red-necked Crake, fantastic Green Pygmy Geese and Sarus Cranes, Bush Stone-curlew, a cute Australian Owlet-nightjar, vibrant Double-eyed Fig Parrots, strange Squatter Pigeons, beautiful Lovely Fairywrens, skulky Mangrove Robins and Torresian Kingfishers, rare Bar-breasted Honeyeaters and Banded Honeyeaters, Varied Honeyeaters, colourful Yellow-breasted Boatbills, White-browed Robin, Northern Fantail, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-faced Woodswallows and restricted Black-throated Finch. We focused on a few endemic subspecies here too and made careful note of the local Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreeper and Crimson (Tropical) Rosella.

All in all, the tour was a huge success with 396 species of bird recorded. Even with our quick daily pace, we still had time to indulge in some mammal watching, and notched up an impressive list which included The Big Five; Platypus; Short-beaked Echidna; Common Wombat; Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Koala. Many nocturnal possums included Great Glider, Sugar Glider, Common Brushtail Possum, Short-eared Brushtail Possum, Common Ringtail Possum, Green Ringtail Possum, Lemuroid Ringtail Possum, while Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, Mareeba Rock Wallaby and Musky Rat Kangaroo were all found during the day around Cairns. Grey-headed Flying Fox, Spectacled Flying Fox, Northern Brown Bandicoots, Long-nosed Bandicoots, Fawn-footed Melomys, Bush Rats, Red-legged Pademelons, Red-necked Pademelons, Swamp Wallabies, Agile Wallabies and Red-necked Pademelons also featured in our list of 33 species.

Regent Bowerbird (Josh Bergmark)

Regent Bowerbird (Josh Bergmark)