Welcome to Birdquest

SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA

Monday 16th October - Tuesday 7th November 2017

Josh Bergmark

The stunning and endemic Orange-bellied Parrot (tour participant Frédéric Pelsy-Mozimann)

The stunning and endemic Orange-bellied Parrot (tour participant Frédéric Pelsy-Mozimann)

Australia simply has it all. It is difficult to accurately experience the true worth of this country in one single tour, but if anything our Southern Australia route comes close, offering a truly superb introduction to the diverse endemic avifauna down under. We saw representatives from all but one of the endemic Australian families, of course including the peculiar and highly endangered Plains-wanderer which took pride of place as bird of the tour. Starting in the wet forests near Melbourne, our first taste of Australia came in the form of brightly coloured birds like Crimson Rosellas, Eastern Spinebills and Eastern Yellow Robins, alongside ancient lineages of passerines like Superb Lyrebirds (one male doing his full vocal repertoire right in front of us!), skulking Pilotbirds, active White-throated Treecreepers, loud Eastern Whipbirds, artistic Satin Bowerbirds, enormous Powerful Owls, elusive Gang-gang Cockatoos, and charismatic endemics like Crested Pigeons, Galahs, Australian Magpies, and Superb Fairywrens. Coastal areas held stonking Cape Barren Geese, cute Hooded Plovers, and at night Little Penguins paraded past us towards their burrows. Rufous Bristlebirds, Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens, Striated Fieldwrens, White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills and a plethora of nectarivores like New Holland Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds kept us busy over our first few days. The sclerophyll woodlands and Eremophila stands of northern Victoria and southern New South Wales acquainted us with Square-tailed Kites, Common Bronzewings, Brown Falcons, Tawny Frogmouths, Superb Parrots, Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, Speckled Warblers, Weebills, Red-capped and Scarlet Robins, Dusky, Masked and White-browed Woodswallows, Varied Sittellas, and a completely new set of honeyeaters including Painted, Yellow-tufted, Black, Pied, Spiny-cheeked, Striped, Black-chinned, Fuscous, White-naped, Brown-headed and White-fronted. White-browed Babblers and White-winged Choughs quarrelled noisily by the roadside as we headed out onto the open grasslands where Emus, Stubble Quail, Banded Lapwings, Inland Dotterels, Greater Bluebonnets, mighty Wedge-tailed Eagles, Black-shouldered Kites, Brown Songlarks and Zebra Finches were all but a supporting cast to the monotypic Plains Wanderer. Spotlighting provided everything we hoped for with Australian Owlet-nightjars, Southern Boobooks, one Spotted Nightjar, and many Eastern Barn Owls showing perfectly. Large lakes and wetlands throughout the tour provided all the key waterfowl, with bizarre Musk Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks, Freckled Ducks, Pink-eared Ducks, Chestnut and Grey Teals, Australian Shelducks, Hoary-headed Grebes, Black-tailed Nativehens, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels, Red-necked Avocets, Banded Stilts, Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills, stately Brolgas, and angry Black Swans. The arid mallee kept our flow of new birds coming, as Chestnut-crowned Babblers, Restless Flycatchers, Diamond Firetails, Brown Treecreepers preceded ridiculous views of the beautiful desert megapode – Malleefowl. Bouncy Southern Scrub Robins, friendly Shy Heathwrens, localised Mallee Emu-wrens, sneaky Striated Grasswrens, fabulous Pink Cockatoos, fluorescent Regent and Mulga Parrots, Crested Bellbirds, both Gilbert’s and the difficult Red-lored Whistlers, endangered Black-eared Miners, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, ferocious Apostlebirds, exquisite Splendid Fairywrens, White-browed Treecreepers, Southern Whitefaces, Chestnut Quail-thrush, and the scarce Black-eared Cuckoo. Heading further still towards the centre of Australia, we progressed our tally with more new honeyeaters like Yellow-plumed and Grey-fronted, plus birds like White-backed Swallows, Black-faced Woodswallows, Pied Butcherbirds, Gibberbirds, Orange and Yellow Chats, Spotted Harriers, Black-breasted Buzzards, Nankeen Kestrels, Chirruping Wedgebills, Little Crows, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Australian Pratincoles, Australian Spotted Crakes, Flock Bronzewings, Banded Whitefaces, Red-browed Pardalotes, and the classic Australian favourite – Budgerigars. A number of specialties are rapidly becoming extremely rare in the outback due to feral cats and prolonged drought, but this year at least we were still able to connect with every major target, including all six possible grasswrens (Striated, Short-tailed, Thick-billed, Western, Eyrean and Grey), the elegant nocturnal Letter-winged Kite, and four different Grey Falcons. Back towards the Great Australian Bight, huge Pacific Gulls, lovely Adelaide Rosellas, and well-timed Sooty Oystercatchers were overshadowed by a quartet of Australian Painted Snipes, while some western mallee tracts gifted us with Rufous Treecreepers, Copperback Quail-thrush, Western Yellow Robins, Blue-breasted Fairywrens, and Purple-crowned Lorikeets.

The much-wanted Plains-wanderer (Joshua Bergmark)

The much-wanted Plains-wanderer (Joshua Bergmark)