Australia (Late Summer 2001)

I had my first birding experience in Australia late in the austral summer of 2001. I had business in Sydney, Nowra, Adelaide, Hobart, and Melbourne between Feb. 11 and Feb. 21 and managed to do some birding in and around each of those places. After completing my business, I stuck around until Mar. 3 and did some exploring between Melbourne and southeastern Queensland. I drove about 6500 km. Due to the extensive driving, hot weather, and lateness in the breeding season, I managed to see only 180 species. But it was a nice introduction to the birds of Australia. I used Morcombe’s recently published “Field Guide to Australian Birds,” which is one of the best field guides I’ve seen. The text and maps are conveniently located on the pages facing the illustrations, which are excellent. The maps have the useful feature of including not only the overall range but also the range of greatest abundance. Since the opportunity for the trip arose only a week before departing, I didn’t have much time to study up on the birds of Australia. The first thing that came to mind was bowerbirds. I had seen a fascinating documentary on them years ago and was looking forward to seeing them more than anything else. I was also hoping to see lyrebirds, which turned out to be an unexpected surprise since I wasn’t aware of their amazing talents at mimicry.

I arrived in Sydney on 2/11 and drove straight to Centennial Park, which is an excellent place to get to know common species. I saw Black Swan, Pacific Black Duck, Musk Duck, Australasian Grebe, Little Pied Cormorant, Darter, Masked Lapwing, Silver Gull, Australian White Ibis, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Crested Pigeon, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Superb Fairy-Wren, Red Wattlebird, Noisy Miner, New Holland Honeyeater, Willie Wagtail, Magpie Lark, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Australian Magpie, Australian Raven, Welcome Swallow, and Silvereye. That afternoon, I went to Cumberland State Forest and saw Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Bell Miner, and Pied Currawong. After completing my business on 2/12, I stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens and saw the Flying Foxes that roost near the palm grove. I also fed the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. I walked along a fence where a row of them were perched and fed a few peanuts to each one. But then a wise guy got the idea to reach out and a firmly grab my hand so I couldn’t move on to the next bird. It released my hand after finishing off all the peanuts. This was my first experience of being held prisoner by a bird. On 2/13, I drove down to Nowra for business and made a brief stop at Bass Point on the way. I saw Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Great Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Crested Tern, Kelp Gull, White-throated Needletail, White-browed Scrubwren, Gray Fantail, and Red-browed Finch.

I had a free day on 2/14 and visited the Capertee Valley on the advice of Tony Palliser. This excellent location is across the Blue Mountains from Sydney. Take the motorway west to Lithgow, go north on Rte. 86 to Capertee, and then take the tourist road that goes east to Glen Davis. There is good birding all along this 35-km stretch. I made a few stops on Rte. 86 and saw kangaroos in the wild for the first and also saw Gang-gang Cockatoo, White-throated Treecreeper, Noisy Friarbird (it was fun to watch a gang of them foraging for insects), and Scarlet Robin. Along the tourist road, I saw Variegated Fairy-Wren, Spotted Pardalote, Brown Thornbill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Gray-crowned Babbler, Rufous Whistler, Restless Flycatcher, Dusky Woodswallow (quite an interesting bird), Pied Butcherbird, Australian Pipit, Zebra Finch, Double-barred Finch, Plum-headed Finch, Diamond Firetail, and Fairy Martin. On the way back to Sydney late that afternoon, I made a few brief stops in the Blue Mountains, including Blue Gum Swamp, and saw Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, and Eastern Whipbird. I traveled to Adelaide on 2/15.

On the way to a meeting on 2/16, I made a brief stop at a small marsh that is located next to the road between Adelaide and Salisbury and saw Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel, and Clamorous Reed-Warbler. On 2/17, I visited Cleland National Park, which is just outside Adelaide, and the Victor Harbor area, which is about 80 km south of Adelaide. It was hot that morning at Cleland, where I saw “Adelaide” Rosella, Crescent Honeyeater, Golden Whistler, and Tree Martin. A Brown Snake crossed the trail just ahead of me. I made it to Victor Harbor early in the afternoon and took a walk out to Granite Island, where I saw two immature Little Penguins in a crevice between two boulders, Black-faced Cormorant, and Singing Honeyeater. I saw an Australian Hobby on the way back to the car. I stopped at a marsh on the way back to Adelaide and saw a Southern Emu-Wren. I travelled to Hobart on 2/18. On the way to a meeting on 2/19, I saw a flock of about fifty Short-tailed Shearwaters from Battery Point in Hobart. Late that afternoon, I drove up Mount Wellington and saw Green Rosella, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Tasmanian Thornbill, Yellow Wattlebird, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Pink Robin, Olive Whistler, Black Currawong, Forest Raven, and Blackbird. I had a free day on 2/20 and visited Hartz Mountains National Park, which is about an hour and a half south of Hobart, and the coast near Southport. I picked up Tasmanian Native-Hen, Sooty Oystercatcher, Striated Fieldwren, Strong-billed Honeyeater, and Goldfinch. I also saw an Echidna. I traveled to Melbourne that evening.

After completing my business on 2/21, I visited The Birding Shop, which is located outside Melbourne, and obtained some tapes, books, and suggestions from Bret Salinger, who was very helpful. On 2/22, I visited Wilson’s Promontory, with stops at Shallow Inlet, Miller’s Landing, and Lilly Pilly Gully trail. I saw Emu, Straw-necked Ibis, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Collared Sparrowhawk, Painted Button-Quail, Pacific Gull, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Little Wattlebird, Brown-headed Honeyeater, White-fronted Chat, Gray Currawong, Little Raven, and Bassian Thrush but was disappointed by the lack of shorebirds. I departed for Sydney at dusk and was fortunate to find a gas station just before it closed. I stopped for a short rest near the New South Wales border and heard Southern Boobook. Early on 2/23, I made a few stops along the road and heard Eastern Whipbird for the first time. It seemed that this bird was an amazing ventriloquist until I realized that the end of the song was given by the female. I also saw Chestnut Teal, Little Eagle (which gave an impressive call), Striated Thornbill, and Jacky Winter. I stopped on a grassy hill along the coast and was approached by two tame Australian Magpies that landed on the ground within a yard of my feet. I gave these beggars a leftover slice of pizza, and one of them immediately started singing. After getting their fill, they started caching the rest of it. I arrived at Royal National Park late in the afternoon and took a walk along the north part of Lady Carrington Drive and saw Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Superb Lyrebird, Crested Shrike-Tit, Gray Shrike-Thrush, Rufous Fantail, and Green Catbird. I was eager to drive further north that night but couldn’t resist sticking around to do some more exploring at Royal National Park. On 2/24, I spent several hours on the south half of Lady Carrington Drive and finally saw a Satin Bowerbird along with Wonga Pigeon, Azure Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, Yellow Thornbill, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, and Black-faced Monarch. I also saw another Brown Snake. I was amazed at the beautiful lilac color of the eyes of the Satin Bowerbird. I kept hearing what seemed to be someone throwing a stone in the water but finally realized that it was just the Azure Kingfisher plunging into the water. Late in the day, I returned for another brief walk on the north part of Lady Carrington Drive and enjoyed an amazing display by a Superb Lyrebird. I had a nice frontal view and couldn’t believe the imitations of Laughing Kookaburra, Pied Currawong, Eastern Whipbird, and other species. This species is definitely one of the wonders of the bird world.

On 2/25, I drove up to Lamington National Park in southeastern Queensland. That afternoon, I noticed that Dorrigo National Park is fairly close to the highway and decided to make a “quick” stop there. It turned out to be an hour from the highway and it took a few hours to bird the 5.4 km Rosewood Creek trail, where I picked up White-headed Pigeon, Logrunner, and something else that I didn’t become aware of until later. I completed the walk just as it was getting dark and stayed around for another hour to enjoy the Southern Cross, Coal Sack, Magellanic Clouds, and other wonders of the southern sky. Since this stop ended up taking five hours, I would have to drive most of the night to reach Lamington by daybreak. In the wee hours, I stopped for a brief rest but was still exhausted. So I stopped at a gas station to get refreshed. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and noticed that I was covered with blood. It looked like I had been shot. I was still groggy and it seemed like a bad dream. I had no idea what had happened until I returned to the car and found a bloated leech on the floor. I had picked up four of them. A few days later, I picked up four more of them. They are apparently common in damp forests in eastern Australia. On the road to Lamington, a Tawny Frogmouth flew up and landed in the beams of my headlights. A Southern Boobook also flew in front of the car.

I arrived at Lamington at daybreak on 2/26 and saw Australian Brush-Turkeys, a female Regent Bowerbird, and lots of Satin Bowerbirds. I took a walk on the Box Forest Circuit and saw Long-billed Scrubwren, Pale-yellow Robin, and a female Paradise Riflebird. Later that day, some of the very knowledgeable naturalists who work at O’Reillys (Annie, Warren, and Michael) gave me some tips and mentioned that it was the time of year when it’s tough to see male Regent Bowerbirds. I walked down the Wishing Tree trail hoping to see a roosting Australian Owlet-Nightjar. I missed that bird but lucked into a beautiful male Regent Bowerbird. I then checked out an impressive Satin Bowerbird bower. It was about five feet long and decorated with blue plastic spoons among other items. Late that afternoon, I took a walk out Duck Creek Road, which has a stretch of open eucalypt forest, and saw Pallid Cuckoo (my only cuckoo of the trip) and Torresian Crow. On the way back, I saw a Carpet Python and heard the eerie calls of Green Catbirds as they began to roost. After an all-night drive followed by about 20 km of hiking, I found myself exhausted on 2/27 and just took some short walks. I spent some time studying the interesting Logrunner and hand feeding the Australian King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas near O’Reillys. That evening, I participated in a fabulous trip to see Glow Worms that Annie led. On the way there, we saw several Red-necked Pademelons and a Bandicoot. After we turned off our flashlights, hundreds of Glow Worms on a steep bank on the opposite side of a creek looked like a starry sky. It was quite a sight. On the way back, we saw Ringtail Possum, Mountain Brushtail Possum, and a huge and colorful cricket. We also saw a small bird (possibly a fledgling Eastern Yellow Robin) asleep on a small branch at eye level just off the trail. We had a very close view but could not positively identify it since its head was tucked in. We got a great look at a Tiger Snake just before getting back to the bus.

I departed Lamington early on 2/28 and made several stops along the open forest on the way back to Nerang and finally saw a Mistletoebird as well as a beautiful Pacific Baza. I tried to find the mouth of the Coomera River to look for shorebirds, but I kept getting lost in the Disneyfied area know as the Gold Coast. This is the only place in Australia that I’ve been that I don’t like. There is construction going on everywhere. While driving around this area, I picked up Pale-headed Rosella and Blue-faced Honeyeater. A few hours later, I found some good places along the coast in New South Wales and saw Brahminy Kite, White-breasted Sea-Eagle, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eastern Curlew, Pied Oystercatcher, White-fronted Tern, and Little Tern. During the morning of 3/1, I made several stops in the Myall Lakes area, where I saw Royal Spoonbill, Peaceful Dove, and Figbird. That afternoon, I took a walk at the McGraths Hill Sewage Treatment Plant in Windsor and saw Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler, Brown Falcon, and Little Grassbird. I then hurried to Moss Vale hoping to arrive at Barren Grounds Bird Observatory at dusk to look for Ground Parrots but didn’t make it in time. On the way, I got a close look at some beautiful Red-rumped Parrots. On 3/2, I headed to Barren Grounds before dawn and arrived during a light drizzle. I saw Superb Lyrebird, Eastern Bristlebird, and Beautiful Firetail but missed the Ground Parrots. I departed for Melbourne around noon. Late that afternoon, I stopped at the Chiltern Box-Ironbark National Park shortly after crossing the border into Victoria. At this interesting location, I saw Brown Quail, Blue-winged Parrot, Brown Treecreeper, Little Friarbird, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (which was abundant), White-browed Babbler, and a fox. That evening, I learned that hotels were packed in the Melbourne area due to a Grand Prix race. So I stayed at a hotel a few hours east of Melbourne, which made the long trip back to Virginia the next day a little longer.

Emu, Australian Brush-Turkey, Brown Quail, Black Swan, Musk Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Gray Teal, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Shoveler, Australasian Grebe, Little Penguin, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Darter, Great Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Black-faced Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, White-faced Heron, Royal Spoonbill, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Brahminy Kite, Little Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Pacific Baza, Collared Sparrowhawk, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Tasmanian Native-Hen, Eurasian Coot, Painted Button-Quail, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eastern Curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Pacific Gull, Kelp Gull, Silver Gull, Crested Tern, White-fronted Tern, Little Tern, White-headed Pigeon, Crested Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Wonga Pigeon, Rock Dove, Peaceful Dove, Spotted Turtle-Dove, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Gang- gang Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Australian King Parrot, Green Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Pale-headed Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Blue-winged Parrot, Pallid Cuckoo, Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth, White-throated Needletail, Azure Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Superb Lyrebird, Eastern Bristlebird, Brown Treecreeper, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-Wren, Variegated Fairy-Wren, Southern Emu-Wren, Spotted Pardalote, Large-billed Scrubwren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, White-browed Scrubwren, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Striated Fieldwren, Brown Gerygone, Yellow Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Brown Thornbill, Tasmanian Thornbill, Yellow Wattlebird, Red Wattlebird, Little Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbird, Little Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Bell Miner, Noisy Miner, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Crescent Honeyeater, White-throated Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Mistletoebird, White-fronted Chat, Pink Robin, Scarlet Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Pale-yellow Robin, Jacky Winter, Logrunner, White-browed Babbler, Gray-crowned Babbler, Eastern Whipbird, Crested Shrike-Tit, Olive Whistler, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Gray Shrike-Thrush, Black-faced Monarch, Restless Flycatcher, Rufous Fantail, Gray Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Magpie Lark, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Figbird, Dusky Woodswallow, Gray Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Black Currawong, Gray Currawong, Paradise Riflebird, Australian Raven, Forest Raven, Little Raven, Torresian Crow, Green Catbird, Regent Bowerbird, Satin Bowerbird, Australian Pipit, Zebra Finch, Double-barred Finch, Plum-headed Finch, Diamond Firetail, Beautiful Firetail, Red-browed Finch, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Fairy Martin, Clamorous Reed-Warbler, Little Grassbird, Silvereye, Bassian Thrush, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Starling, Myna, Blackbird