Monday, 12 November 2018

Monotremes at the Yarra


Wow what a trip this has been so far for iconic Australian mammals! On Saturday I saw my first ever echidna with Josh as it crossed the road at Wilson's Promontory and today I managed to find my second. I was photographing musk lorikeets when a rustling in the undergrowth immediately drew my attention and the lorikeets were forgotten. There could be no doubt what it was, I could see a ball of spines moving through the grass just a few metres in front of me. It climbed up onto a fallen branch and posed perfectly for photographs, before dropping down and continuing to make its way towards me. Eventually it was less than a metre away and didn't even seem to notice me, that is until I made a noise and it immediately curled up and dig itself down in a cloud of dust. I just kept quiet again and within 30 seconds it uncurled itself and continued on its way. What a tremendous animal.

I stayed in the area until dusk and once again managed to get good views of duck-billed platypus, the echindas closest living relative.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

From the Yarra Bridge


Duck-billed platypus is such an iconic Australian species which so few people ever get the chance to see that when I'm staying within a few miles of a great location for them, it's hard to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings. In fact to be honest, I'll probably end up going back for thirds and fourths!

A footbridge crosses the Yarra at Finns Reserve and from here platypus can be seen in the river below at any time of day apparently, but especially as dusk approaches. They really are fascinating creatures, an early scientific name for them was Ornithorhynchus paradoxus and truly they are a paradox. A mammal with a bill which lays eggs and has no teats, it is also one of the very few mammals which detects its food using electroreception. If all of that wasn't enough, it is also almost unique in being a venomous mammal. Of all the creatures which I have seen in Australia, the platypus still remains top of the pile.

Wilson's Promontory


Josh and I spent the weekend at Wilson's Promontory, the most southerly point on mainland Australia and a place often battered by the infamous wind the Roaring Forties. We stayed at Fish Creek, in the Fish Creek hotel, a wonderful retro style hotel in a beautiful Australian village.

Apart from the obvious scenic attractions, the main reason for going to the Prom was to try to see some of the iconic Australian species which occur there but which have so far eluded me, specifically echidna and wombats. It's not surprising that I had never previously seen the latter since I'd never previously been within the species range, but the same can't be said of echidna which is all over Australia and which I have really tried hard to see in the past to no avail. However within minutes of entering the national park we had to stop to allow an echidna to cross the road! A fabulous creature, three times the size of a hedgehog with golden spines, the closest living relative to the platypus, this is another mammal which lays eggs. An unforgettable experience.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Platypus and a wombat at Finns Reserve, River Yarra


I knew that the footbridge at Finns Reserve over the River Yarra was reputed to be a good place for platypus, but I still didn't expect to see them this easy. Two were showing almost immediately I arrived and over the course of the next hour they showed regularly, though never staying on the surface for long. Two locals who I met on the footbridge told me that a few nights ago they counted nine platypus on this stretch of the river. An iconic Australian animal which so few people have ever seen, yet here they are just 18 km up river from Melbourne CBD. A wonderful experience.

Melbourne West Water Treatment Plant

Royal and yellow-billed spoonbills

I've just spent two full on birding days at Melbourne West Treatment Plant, and what an amazing place it is. An absolute essential visit for any serious birder visiting Melbourne. You may think that you don't want to spend your time in Australia at a sewage works, but it's actually nothing like that,  in fact it's probably one of the best places I've ever been to birding, on a par with Doñana in Spain. Like Doñana, it's not so much the individual species that make it so special, it's the sheer number of birds.  During my visits for example, whiskered terns were everywhere, over every lake, pond, ditch, marsh and even field where they hawked for insects and in amongst them was a scattering of white-winged black terns. Meanwhile on the water was a host of birds, with at least 4000 pink-eared ducks and probably similar numbers of grey and chestnut teal. Sharp-tailed sandpipers were everywhere, on the mud as you would expect, but also in the grass and on the road, I put up countless birds as I was driving around. A breathtaking place. You can contact Melbourne Water for a day permit and key.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Phillip Island and it's Cape Barren Geese


Philips Island is a 90 minute drive south east of Melbourne. It's a proper island but you can drive onto it via a bridge. The day we chose to go was Melbourne Cup day, and in the morning there was torrential rain, so much so that for most of the journey I was wondering why we had bothered setting out. However by the time we arrived the rain was easing and the sky was showing the first signs of hope, and by midday the sun was out and it was pleasantly warm.

Probably the highlight of the day was the Cape Barren geese, especially those that had chicks. When I saw this species in Port Lincoln earlier in the year they were in flocks and behaving pretty much like geese in winter back home. However in summer they leave the mainland and breed on offshore islands, but I must admit that before we saw them it hadn't occurred to me that we might see them with chicks today.

Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens


My first full day back in Australia and most of the day was spent getting my bearings and recovering from jet lag, not that I ever suffer much from the latter. This afternoon I had a walk through Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens and came across many beautiful and interesting birds, nothing new but some real crackers. Pride of place must go to this stunning eastern rosella, a bird which I saw for the first time earlier this year near Brisbane, but it was nothing like this view and in fact this is also a different race.

Monday, 5 November 2018

A tale of two St. Kildas


In 1987 I spent two weeks camping on the remote and spectacular Hebridean island of St Kilda, an archipelago with some of the highest sea cliffs in Britain and home to one of the largest sea bird colonies in the world, with hundreds of thousands of birds. Puffins alone numbered an estimated 250,000 birds when I was there, and there was in the region of 60,000 pairs of gannets and 10,000 pairs of fulmars, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, shearwaters and petrels. An awesome spectacle.

Fast forward 31 years and this week and next I’m staying in St Kilda again, but this is about as far removed as it can get from the towering cliffs and crashing waves of the Hebridean World heritage site. The St Kilda I am calling home for the next two weeks is a suburb of Melbourne, on the face of it a nice enough place with a beach, some interesting shops and a distinctly bohemian feel with innumerable small cafes and bars. However it also has a run down tacky side and worse of sex shops, prostitutes and amusement arcades, and the huge laughing face at the entrance to the Luna Park fun fair has very unsettling look that certainly wouldn’t entice me to enter. Even more worryingly, there's an election about to take place and one of the local candidates declares on large posters that he's "the only person who can make St Kilda safe". Worrying.... Australia’s most notorious hotel is here, the Gatwick also known as the Hell Hotel, now closed but formerly the scene of murders, drug deaths and stabbings. Surely then, the only thing that these two St. Kildas can have in common is a name? Well actually no, there is something else that the two places share, the smell of guano! Sure, here in Melbourne the smell is on a much smaller scale, but it is here non-the-less, if you get yourself down to St. Kilda pier. The breakwater rocks right at the end of the pier are home to a small colony of little penguins and their remarkably guillemot like guttural calls combined with that wonderful smell takes me right back to those mighty sea cliffs on the opposite side of the world in the North Atlantic ocean.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Close encounter with a Rose-coloured Starling


So now we know why it's not often seen with the local roaming starling flocks... it prefers to be alone. Sure when the flock lands on the roof or on the nearby aerials the it occasionally flies up and joins them, but when the flock leaves the rose-coloured starling drops down alone into the back yards of the houses around the Bowling Green Inn, St Helens and appears to vanish. It's best seen from the alleyway behind Frydays chippy in Robins Lane and if you do see it here it shows really well, often down to a few feet and even more importantly it's not silhouetted against the sky.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Rose-coloured starlings, St Helens and Greater Manchester


Not really my idea of birding, furtively wandering around a housing estate looking at every roof and into every back garden, binoculars around my neck and camera over my shoulder, trying not to look suspicious, not really knowing where I was supposed to be looking. Still, worth it in the end when I finally located the juvenile rose-coloured starling which has been present for a few days. Originally vaguely reported as "near St Helens hospital", I finally managed to track it down to an aerial opposite the closed Bowling Green Inn in Robins Lane. This is my third juvenile in the past 12 months. The second was just a week ago in Timperley, Greater Manchester.......

Friday, 12 October 2018

Great white egret, Pennington Flash


Little egret is now a frequent enough visitor to barely raise an eyebrow amongst  the regular birders at Pennington Flash, but great white is still a very rare bird locally. Todays great white was only the fourth ever at the site and was a Flash tick for me. Chances are, they will become more frequent in future years as they are now a common enough sight on local estuaries. For example, in 2017 I photographed a group of 10 great white egrets together on the Dee Estuary.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Back garden sparrowhawk kill


A bit of drama in the garden this week, a sparrowhawk eating a freshly killed woodpigeon. It looks like an adult female sparrowhawk to me, I can't see any hint of brown in its plumage to make it a juvenile. Also it looked pretty big and I'm not sure that a male is big enough or powerful enough to take down a woodpigeon.

Sparrowhawk kills can be a bit gruesome, whilst they will take and eat quite large prey such as woodpigeons and lapwings, they are often not powerful enough to kill them outright like a peregrine would, and it's not unusual to see a sparrowhawk eating prey which is still alive. Don't be too quick to judge them though, they have to eat and this what they have evolved to do. If we're worried about song bird populations being effected by sparrowhawks, then lets first remove cats from the environment and then stop destroying song bird habitat. Talking of cats, Polly and Ted just sat and watched while this was going on and didn't try to approach. Very wise!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

American Golden Plover Marshside

This moulting adult American golden plover was on Crossens Inner Marsh at Marshside today. Amazingly it's my first adult, all of the others I have seen have been juveniles, so nice to get a plumage tick. I'm amazed at how well this photo has turned out, the bird was about 150m away, it was slightly against the light, the wind was around force 6 and the photo was taken by hand holding my phone up to my telescope! No adapters were involved in the taking of this photo!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Warwickshire phalarope influx


It's that time of year again when grey phalaropes start turning up all around our coasts, but I didn't expect to see my first of the year in deepest inland Warwickshire, and I was even more surprised to see my second the following day in the same county! The first few photos here are of the second bird a juvenile which showed very well at Charlecote, a National Trust property near Stratford-Upon-Avon, whilst the final three photos are of the first, a bird at Napton Reservoir near Southam.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Pallid Harrier and Semi P on the Fylde


A couple of cracking birds on the Fylde this week, and this juvenile pallid harrier in particular is a stunner. Yes I saw the Dunsop Bridge bird as well, and as stunning as that bird undoubtedly was, a displaying adult male pallid harrier no less, it wasn't as beautiful as this juvenile.The photo just doesn't do it justice, the unstreaked body and coverts were bright gingery / orange in colour, contrasting with the dark boa and pale collar, with pied primaries and tail, making this one of those rare occasions when the juvenile is a more beautiful bird than the adults.  We waited for two hours in force 6 winds which made it really uncomfortable, but the bird eventually flew and was seemingly unaffected by the wind as it hunted for several minutes across the field right in front of us,  a simply breathtaking bird.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Marsh warbler conundrum


This Acrocephalus warbler was at Tide Mills in Sussex on 6th September 2018. It's a marsh warbler, but opinion is split, with some considering it a reed warbler. It's superficially a difficult identification, especially for birders too concerned with "warm brown hues" at the expense of all other features, and in this blog post I'll explain why.

It's a marsh warbler for many reasons, but not least because it called several times while I was watching it. On all occasions it's call was a hard tongue clicking note, similar to Blyth's reed warbler, which is sometimes described as a sound similar knocking two pebbles together. Reed warbler does not give these clear cut, hard single notes. At no point did it utter anything like a reed warbler call. Unfortunately this is obviously something which you can't judge from the photos and you need to take my word for it. If you're in the reed warbler camp you'll probably just ignore this vital piece of evidence, however you really shouldn't.....

In 2015 a very useful article was published in Scottish Birds on the identification of 1st winter marsh warbler, and it is this which I have largely referred to throughout this blog post.

Scottish Birds (2015). Marsh Warbler in first-winter plumage - SBRC identification criteria, M.S. Chapman. Available: https://www.the-soc.org.uk/files/docs/bird-recording/sbrc/Marsh-Warbler.pdf. Last accessed 09/09/2018.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A few late August highlights from Pennington Flash


An eclipse drake garganey and at least two juvenile Mediterranean gulls were the highlights at the end of August and both are very predictable birds for this time of year. No less predictable is the continuing and alarming decline in waders. At the time of the Sabine's gull which was as recently as August 2015, there were two or three green sandpipers present throughout the month while in August 2013 it was possible to see six or seven green sandpipers at the Flash. In August 2018 there was a single bird on the 1st and another for a couple of days in the middle of the month, and that's it for green sandpipers this August.

In fact all waders have declined at the flash in recent years. It's now a red letter day if you find a dunlin or a redshank at the flash, and double figure counts of either are almost unheard of these days. Even common sandpipers are not that common. The peak month for common sandpiper is July, but this year we had just one or two birds where in previous years there have been close to double figures or more. On the 8th July 2006 I saw a flock (yes a flock) of 28 common sandpipers at Prescot Reservoirs in St Helens, and on the same day there were a further 12 at Eccleston Mere, imagine that at the Flash these days! It's cause for celebration if you see one now. Wood sandpipers are the stuff of legend these days.

Friday, 10 August 2018

The dreary flows and an exciting crane


The highs and lows of birding, I drove back from Melvich to Inverness today and started off driving past Forsinard RSPB in the Caithness flow country, a place which I had been looking forward to seeing, but which I found dreary, overrated and disappointing, not a bit haunting to me, which is how I often hear it described. I find this a bit surprising since usually I love blanket bog. I guess that since I'd just spent a week surveying near Melvich, the last thing I needed was another vast expanse of birdless M17 Trichophorum cespitosum – Eriophorum vaginatum blanket mire. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood.

However fortunately much better was to come. Just a couple of miles south of Brora a common crane flew over the A9 right in front of me and quite low down. It was torrential rain at the time and it looked like it was trying to land. I was able to stop but it had disappeared behind a small hill and I couldn't relocate it. I drove on to the next parking spot and jumped out of the car, again in torrential rain, and spotted it in the distance, flying away from me but again looking like it was trying to land. Once more I got in the car and drove on another 1/2 mile past a few wheat fields until I could see a grassy field in the distance. I guessed that this is where it might be and pulled into a gateway to view the field. Sure enough the bird was in the field allowing me to fire off a couple of photos before it flew again, and this time I lost it for good.

It reminded me of a famous incident a few years ago when there was a much rarer Sandhill crane on Orkney which eventually flew south and was followed a good way down the east coast of Scotland by birders.


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Bettyhill


Mountain aven Dryas octopetala, I reckon that I could easily make a case for this being my favourite plant, and what finer location to see  it in than at sea level at Bettyhill, with the beautiful Torrisdale beach as a back drop?

Bettyhill is a famous botanical site on the extreme north of Scotland in the county of Sutherland, and is particularly noted not only for its rare flora, but also for mountain plants which here occur right down at sea level such as these mountain avens.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Orca!


I knew that orca had been sighted in the Caithness area in the days before I left home for a week in the far north of Scotland, thanks to a series of messages being posted on the "Caithness and North Sutherland Cetacean sightings" Facebook group, but catching up with them was always going to be a challenge. They seemed pretty wide ranging, often going north into the Orkney archipelago as well as all around the coast to the west and south. I resigned myself to the fact that they were just the stuff of dreams, something to look out for while I was in the area, but not a serious proposition.

The town of Lossiemouth is on the most northerly point of the south coast of the Moray Firth near Inverness, and it can be hard to believe that from here there is still enough land left in the UK for you to be able to drive north for another four hours, but that's exactly what I was faced with today as I left my hotel and started my journey to Melvich on the extreme north coast of Scotland.

When I set off I had no intention of looking for orca, they were something I might look for on another day, today was just a day of travel. However, soon I received news that a family party of seven orca had been seen passing Duncansby Head near John O'Groats and later they were seen feeding to the north of Freswick Bay. I was tempted but would they hang around? It seemed the perfect day for viewing, with good light and relatively flat calm seas with just a light breeze, so I decided that it was just too good an opportunity to miss and I set my SatNav for John O'Groats.

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.

Friday, 6 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.

Thursday, 5 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.


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 they'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 least 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.


Saturday, 16 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.

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 swamphens


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.

Friday, 8 June 2018

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.


Thursday, 7 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.

Tuesday, 5 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.....



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.....

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