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.

Saturday, 7 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


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

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.


Monday, 2 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


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, South Australia

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

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


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 swanphens


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

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.

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.


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.....

Friday, 25 May 2018

Temminck's stint, Pennington Flash

The past 15 Temminck's stints that I have seen have all been between 12th May and 25th May, so no great surprise to see one this week, though it was nice to get it at Pennington Flash where it was a site tick for me. Although not particularly elusive it's tiny size and the long viewing distance, combined with heat haze, the sun often in the wrong place and a myriad of boulders for it to disappear behind, to say nothing of the aggressive locals made it quite a challenge at times, and on more than one occasion this week I have arrived in the hide to be told that the bird hadn't been seen for hours, only for me to almost immediately relocate it (simply because I knew it's favoured spot and had my eye in for it). I also think that often people forget how small it is, little larger than a house sparrow. The supporting cast on Tuesday included two smart black terns.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Iberian Chiffchaff, Thurstaston

I seem to be putting a lot of video on here at the moment, but it's justified. It's hard to fully appreciate yesterdays dawn chorus at Pennington Flash without hearing it and seeing the wonderful blue skies, and today if I just posted a photo of the Iberian chiffchaff at Thurstaston on Wirral it would be difficult to truly appreciate how different it is to our more familiar chiffchaff.

At one time Iberian chiffchaff was a real bogey bird for me, but in recent years I've seen several, and each one seems to show better than the last. The Thurstaston bird is a beauty, constantly singing and showing very well.




Birkenhead Docks


I've heard a lot about Birkenhead docks recently, so called in for a look today. It's quite an impressive place with a decent common tern colony. My maximum count today was 44 birds.




Sunday, 13 May 2018

Dawn Chorus at Pennington Flash

It was a breathtaking dawn chorus this morning at Pennington Flash, I stood in one spot and could hear at least nine species of warbler singing and managed to get this video of a garden warbler. How many other species can you hear in the background? I've managed to hear at least four other species of warbler. Also today a drake wigeon on the flash, at least four Cetti's warblers singing and seven common terns.





Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Glossy Ibis, Pennington Flash

There was a glossy ibis in front of the Teal hide at Pennington Flash this afternoon. It's one of those very cosmopolitan species, along with the likes of osprey and cattle egret, which I've seen all over the World including Florida and Australia. Back in December last year I also saw an amazing flock of 10,000 in Donana, Spain. Still, it's always special to see a new bird at the patch.





Thursday, 3 May 2018

Draycote Water

I'm working in Warwickshire at the moment, and staying in a hotel near Draycote water. Up until about two weeks ago I'd never been to the place, but with work being mainly at dawn and dusk, I've started having a walk around it most days. It's a 5.5 mile walk and takes about three hours at birding speed. Highlights so far have been nice views of a few migrants, including yellow wagtail, Arctic tern, garden warbler and lesser whitethroat, as well as juvenile Iceland gull in the roost one evening.

Arctic tern
There was a huge passage of Arctic terns yesterday, with 100+ at Draycote and lots more at other midlands reservoirs, including an incredible 250+ at Carsington in Derbyshire, but apart from a few stragglers such as this, they seem to have largely moved on now.


Cherry red bill, nice short legs, white cheeks contrasting with grey underparts, pale primaries and tail extending beyond wing tips. What more could you ask for in an Arctic tern?

Male yellow wagtail


Monday, 23 April 2018

Possible Eastern Common Tern, Pennington Flash

Possible Eastern Common Tern Sterna hirundo longipennis, Pennington Flash 22/04/2018 - Photo © John Tymon
A text from John Tymon alerted me to the presence of a black billed tern at Pennington Flash today. It was a grim morning, pouring with rain from about 9am until noon and very dull. I was hoping for a roseate but John's message didn't suggest that species and when I arrived at the hide the bird was sitting on the spit and just looked like a common tern with a black bill. Except that there were differences. The bill looked a bit too fine, black with perhaps a hint of crimson at the base, the legs were long and black or very dark red and it's underparts were greyish contrasting with very white cheeks. This last feature was even more obvious when it flew, at which time its common tern like primary pattern could be seen. The bird was so dark and it flew in such marsh tern like way that for a moment we even considered and then dismissed whiskered tern.

Click here for a video of the bird in flight

However it was obvious that it wasn't a marsh tern, but what was it?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Possible grey-bellied brant, Banks marsh


Preparations for our now imminent departure to Aus combined with a desire on my part to work as many hours as possible before we go have been somewhat all-consuming in recent weeks and have prevented me from doing much birding. However news of a possible grey-bellied Brant on Banks Marsh just north of Southport peeked my interest and with an unexpected free day today I decided to go and have a look.  Grey-bellied brant is a bit of an enigma, nobody really knows what it is or how to identify it, and even less people have actually seen one. Actually, that doesn't include me, I have seen grey-bellied brant before and it's already on my UK list having seen one at Dundrum, Northern Ireland about five years ago. For what it's worth, this blog post contains a few of my thoughts on the Banks Marsh bird.

Monday, 9 April 2018

The grey willow at the bottom of the garden


At the bottom of the garden we have a self seeded grey willow tree which is probably now at it's full height of about 6m tall. It dominates the garden, it's a beautiful tree much nicer than the ornamental trees which adorn most other gardens in the neighbourhood, and at this time of year it has glorious yellow flowers which are an important source of pollen for early flying insects. It's a real joy to behold and good evidence if any where needed that you don't have to rip out all of the natives and replace them with aliens in order to have a beautiful feature in your garden. Not bad for a free gift from nature.


The last icy blast of winter


Spring might be all around us now, with 200 swallows and 1000 sand martins at Pennington Flash yesterday, and today there was a chorus of at least three singing willow warblers, 15 chiffchaffs, five blackcaps and three Cetti's warblers, whilst at other local sites today there were also little ringed plovers, yellow wagtails and common terns, yet even so, the bird of the day was a hang over from winter. The stunning yet often elusive adult Iceland gull was again in Warrington town centre and showed well on top of the roof of a retail unit. A beautiful bird, it really is brilliant white and has a smart red orbital ring. One of the best Iceland Gulls I've ever seen.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Woodpigeons bathing


I was working near Martin Mere today, so during a break took the opportunity to call in. The weather was pretty awful, but I still managed booming bittern, Mediterranean gull, barn owl and a few avocets. Perhaps best of all, I watched two woodpigeons bathing at close range on the car park. Really smart birds when you see them well, apart from preening and splashing around in the puddles, these birds habitually raised their wings and held them up for up to 30 seconds at a time. I assume it was some kind of bathing / cleaning ritual but I'm not really sure what they were doing.


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

An unfamiliar song


One of the unexpected pleasures at this time of year is hearing the unfamiliar song of redwings. There are plenty of these winter thrushes passing through our area at the moment on their way back north to their breeding territories in Scandinavia and perhaps a few in Scotland. Mossley Hall farm at Pennington Flash has held a decent sized flock all winter and today I found another flock of around 100 near Haydock. The woodland they were in was full of their song, a really special moment on a warm, sunny, early spring day.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Intertidal surveys

Foulney, Roa and Walney Islands
Sometimes in amongst a plethora of mundane surveys which are bread and butter in the life of the ecologist, I hit the jackpot and something special happens. A full two weeks surveying estuarine birds not only from the ground, but also from the air certainly falls into the special category. It may seem boring and repetitive at times and if I wasn't being paid to do it, I certainly wouldn't chose to sit in the same spot for two weeks through all weathers in the middle of winter to observe the movements of birds on an  estuary. However, given that I am here, it's a great opportunity to learn so much about the way in which the estuary works. and to watch the interaction of the birds with each other and with the tides.


Fortunately my day up in the helicopter coincided with the nicest day of the two weeks!

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