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 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.

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.....

Popular Posts