Friday, 14 February 2020

Mammals down under

Photo: Platypus.
Mammals in Australia are a rich and diverse group which are amongst the most iconic of all Australian wildlife. Most of them are also endangered to one degree or another due to human activities such as land clearance, logging, the introduction of alien species (especially cats and foxes) and the effects of climate change. I've been down under a few times now and managed to rack up a fairly decent list of mammals and cetaceans but it's certainly not as easy as the first time visitor might imagine.

Although Australian mammals might seem large and obvious they are often very difficult to see. They're often not particularly shy, but many of them are far more restricted by range than you might imagine and many are nocturnal. So for example, there's no point in looking for platypus, wombat or koala if you visit Perth because you're at least 2700km outside their range and the only chance of seeing them is in a zoo. In total I have seen 41 species of mammal in Australia.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

My full Australian list to date

Photo: King Penguin, Bruny Island, Tasmania.
This is a full list of all of the species which I have seen in Australia so far with location and maximum number of birds seen at each location in brackets. In total 375 species so far.

Species
Location with number of birds seen in brackets
King Penguin
Bruny Island TAS (1) – BARC rarities form submitted.
Little Penguin
Bicheno TAS (2), Bruny Island TAS (1), Tasman Peninsula, Eaglehawk Neck TAS (1), Melbourne, St Kilda VIC (20), Phillip Island VIC (1)
Snowy Albatross
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (2)
Gibson's Wandering Albatross
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (1)
Northern Royal Albatross
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (1)
Shy Albatross
Bicheno TAS (10), Freycinet NP, Friendly Beaches TAS (2), Freycinet NP, Wineglass Bay TAS (2), Tasman Peninsula, Eaglehawk Neck TAS (3), Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (100), Cape Leeuwin WA (1)
Campbell Albatross
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (1)
Black-browed Albatross
Sydney, at sea NSW (1), Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (2)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (1), Cape Leeuwin WA (3)
Buller's Albatross
Bicheno TAS (10)
Northern Giant-Petrel
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (10)

Observations of Australian birds and mammals by state and location




Here's a full list of the 375 bird species and 41 mammal species I've seen so far in Australia, grouped by state and location. The numbers in brackets are the maximum number of individuals I have seen at each location.

State
Species seen with maximum numbers in brackets
NSW
Blue Mountains
Australian Magpie (10), Australian Raven (1), Australian Wood Duck (2), Bell Miner (20), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (1), Brown Thornbill (2), Common Myna (30), Crescent Honeyeater (1), Crimson Rosella (20), Eastern Spinebill (1), Fan-tailed Cuckoo (1), Galah (10), Golden Whistler (5), Grey Fantail (1), Lewin's Honeyeater (1), Magpie-lark (1), Masked Lapwing (1), Pacific Black Duck (2), Peregrine (1), Pied Currawong (10), Red Wattlebird (10), Red-whiskered Bulbul (10), Satin Bowerbird (2), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (50), Welcome Swallow (20), White-browed Scrubwren (10), White-throated Treecreeper (2)
NSW
Sydney
Australasian Gannet (2), Australasian Grebe (2), Australasian Swamphen (50), Australian Darter (2), Australian Magpie (6), Australian Pelican (8), Australian Raven (5), Australian White Ibis (300), Australian Wood Duck (30), Black Swan (20), Black-browed Albatross (1), Caspian Tern (1), Channel-billed Cuckoo (1), Chestnut Teal (10), Common Myna (50), Coot (200), Cormorant (2), Crested Pigeon (10), Crested Tern (2), Dusky Moorhen (30), Fairy Martin (15), Fluttering Shearwater (500), Grey Butcherbird (2), Hardhead (100), House Sparrow (1), Intermediate Egret (3), Kelp Gull (2), Laughing Kookaburra (2), Little Black Cormorant (15), Little Pied Cormorant (20), Little Raven (1), Magpie-lark (10), Masked Lapwing (20), Nankeen Kestrel (1), New Holland Honeyeater (10), Noisy Miner (50), Pacific Black Duck (4), Peregrine (1), Pied Cormorant (4), Pied Currawong (5), Rainbow Lorikeet (30), Red Wattlebird (3), Short-tailed Shearwater (200), Silver Gull (1000), Spotted Dove (5), Starling (50), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (20), Superb Fairy-wren (10), Wedge-tailed Shearwater (500), Welcome Swallow (50), White-browed Scrubwren (3), White-faced Heron (1), Willie Wagtail (2), Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo (5)

Mammals: Humpback whale, Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin, New Zealand fur seal, grey-headed flying-fox

Key locations: Sydney botanic gardens, Centennial Park, Watson Bay, whale watching trip.


QLD
Atherton Tablelands
Australasian Figbird (30), Australasian Swamphen (2), Australian Brush-turkey (3), Australian Pelican (5), Black Kite (50), Black-faced Monarch (2), Brown Treecreeper (1), Coot (20), Dusky Honeyeater (2), Eastern Cattle Egret (50), Golden Whistler (5), Great Crested Grebe (50), Large-billed Gerygone (10), Laughing Kookaburra (3), Little Eagle (1), Magpie-lark (5), Mistletoebird (1), Olive-backed Sunbird (2), Pacific Black Duck (6), Pied Currawong (2), Rainbow Lorikeet (50), Silvereye (1), Spangled Drongo (3), Spotted Harrier (1), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (10), Varied Triller (1), Whistling Kite (1)

Mammals: Duck-billed platypus, Eastern grey kangaroo

Key locations: Yungaburra


Wednesday, 12 February 2020

My full New Zealand list to date

Photo: New Zealand Storm Petrel, Hauraki Gulf.
This is a full list of all of the species which I have seen in New Zealand so far with location and maximum number of birds seen at each location in brackets. In total 110 species so far.

Locations with number of birds seen in brackets
Great Spotted Kiwi
Otira, South Island (1)
Little Spotted Kiwi
Tiritiri Matangi, North Island (2)
Okarito Brown Kiwi
Okarito, South Island (3)
Little Penguin
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (5), Muriwai Headland, North Island (1), Tiritiri Matangi, North Island (1), Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, South Island (10)
Gibson's Wandering Albatross
Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (1)
Northern Royal Albatross
Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (1)
Southern Royal Albatross
Kaikoura, South Island (1)
White-capped Albatross
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (1), Kaikoura, South Island (1)
Salvin's Albatross
Kaikoura, South Island (3), Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (2)
Northern Giant-Petrel
Kaikoura, South Island (2), Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (10)
Fairy Prion
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (100)
Fluttering Shearwater
Gulf Harbour, North Island (20), Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (5), Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, South Island (500)
Hutton's Shearwater
Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, South Island (100), Kaikoura, South Island (3000), Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater
Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (2)
Flesh-footed Shearwater
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (100)
Sooty Shearwater
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (1), Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, South Island (5), Te Waewae Bay, South Island (10000)
White-faced Storm-Petrel
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (100)
New Zealand Storm-Petrel
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (10)
Cape Petrel
Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (2)
Westland Petrel
Kaikoura, Whale Watching Trip, South Island (2)
Black Petrel
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (2)
Buller's Shearwater
Banks Peninsula, Akaroa, South Island (5)
Cook's Petrel
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (100)
White-naped Petrel
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (1)
Common Diving-Petrel
Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (10)
Australasian Gannet
Gulf Harbour, North Island (5), Hauraki Gulf Pelagic, North Island (80), Muriwai Headland, North Island (3000), Kaikoura, South Island (10), Picton, South Island (1)

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Return to the Great Ocean Road

Photo: Rufous Bristlebird.
For the last couple of days of our wonderful five week trip downunder we decided to head for the Great Ocean Road which lies just west of Melbourne. It's a spectacular place which is rightly high on the agenda for tourists to the area, with the Twelve Apostles in particular drawing the crowds, with a visitor center and a set up not too dissimilar to Stonehenge in the UK. For me it was an opportunity to try again for a bird which is a specialty of this coast but which eluded me on my previous visit.

Friday, 7 February 2020

A few endemics from Tasmania

Photo: Strong-billed Honeyeater.
Tasmania has 12 endemic bird species of which I managed to connect with 11 during my visit. The only one I didn't get was the species with the most restricted range, 40-spot pardolete.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

On the Snow Gum trail to Rodway Hut, Mount Field National Park

Photo: Alpine bog.
Mount Field National Park is in the south of Tasmania and only about 50 miles from Hobart. It's a fabulous place for plant communities and in the very limited time we had available we were hardly able to even scratch the surface. We began our day in the temperate rain forest which surrounds the visitor center with it's huge swamp gum trees and tree ferns, then made our way to the start of our walk at Lake Dobson. From here we walked through the amazing twisted and knarled snow gum forest to our destination above the tree line on a board walk which crosses sub-alpine bogs to the Rodway Hut.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Cradle Mountain, plants and ecosystems

Photo: Christmas Bells Blandfordia nobilis with Crater Lake behind.
This was my first visit to Cradle Mountain National Park and I was blown away by the variety of plant species and the variety and vastness of the ecosystems. In particular the alpine plateau above Crater Lake when following the Horse track with it's views over Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff is just a mesmerising place, with a myriad of bryophytes, pin cushions and other alpine specialists. This is a habitat quite unlike anything that I have seen in Australia previously. I don't claim to be an expert in either the ecosystems or the plants of Cradle Mountain, the photos in this post are just a few which caught my eye. I'll do my best to identify them but I'm happy to be corrected if anybody spots a mistake.

Wombats, Pademelons and Possums


Cradle Mountain is a great place to see wombats and we saw several today, including this adult  with a baby. They seem larger and more fury in Tasmania than those I have seen elsewhere in Australia.

Black Currawong


Currawongs are part of the butcherbird family of Australia. Black currawong is one of about 12 bird species which are endemic to Tasmania. Of all the currawongs, this species has the most impressive bill!

Monday, 3 February 2020

Buller's Albatross, Bicheno blow hole


I managed to persuade Elaine to have one last stop at Bicheno just north of Coles Bay today. I knew that strong north easterly winds gave me a good chance of Buller's albatross from Bicheno blow hole and I wasn't wrong. Even as we drove down to the car park I could see albatross over the sea and as soon as I started scanning I counted one, two, three....twenty at least! A fabulous sight to see so many albatross from land, but which species where they? Not too difficult to work out really, by far the most likely inshore species at this time of year are shy albatross with a pure white head and Buller's albatross with a grey hood. You can clearly see in the photo that this bird has a grey head and is Buller's albatross. Yes it could be Salvin's or grey-headed but they are quite rare here and usually seen far out to sea over deep waters, whereas Buller's is common here at this time of year and is often seen inshore. Today there were about 10 each of Buller's and shy albatross intermingled with about 30 Australian gannets and it was a real pleasure to watch them. This brings my albatross life list to 11 species, not bad at all.

Platypus


We saw at least five duck-billed platypus at Tasmanian Arboretum today. These and echidnas are my favourite mammal and a major reason for me to keep returning to Aus. We even saw the platypus swimming under water. Speaking of echidna, we saw three on our journey from Coles Bay to our accomodation at West Kentish.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

White-throated needletails, Freycinet National Park


Elaine wanted to spend some time on the beach today, so in the afternoon we headed for Friendly beaches about 10 miles north of Coles Bay in Freycinet National Park. What a beautiful beach, forget Wineglass Bay beach, Friendly beaches are much nicer. So while Elaine relaxed on the beach and soaked up some rays, I had a walk down the beach, found a good viewpoint and did an impromptu seawatch.

Most birds were distant, but there were a few Australian gannets and fluttering shearwaters close in and occasional Caspian and crested terns flew past.  I was hoping for Buller's albatross but had to be content with two reasonably close shy albatross. I never tire of seeing these birds but still, it was all a bit predictable.

After an hour I headed back to Elaine. When I got about halfway back I stopped and looked towards her with my binoculars to check that she was still there and BOOM, two white-throated needletails were flying right above her! Now I was hurrying back, because this was a species which I had been hoping to see in Australia ever since my very first visit in 2015. This is the holy grail species on the very rare occasions it turns up in the UK and the chances of me seeing one back home are very remote, so this was my opportunity to observe them. The needletails disappeared briefly inland but then suddenly reappeared over the beach, unfortunately a little too close to a group of bikini clad Chinese girls who were also enjoying the beach for me to feel comfortable in pointing my camera at them. Again they disappeared inland with incredible power and speed, they were like swifts on steroids. Eventually though they reappeared right over my head and allowed me to watch them for a few minutes before they disappeared for good.

Echidna, Freycinet National Park


On our way to Friendly Beaches today we came across this wonderful echinda. They really are one of my favourite mammals, how can you not love that face? Tasmanian echidnas have a lot more fur than their mainland cousins, probably because Tasmania is a lot colder and frequently gets snow.

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