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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Thursday, October 30, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 33 - OCT 29TH - BRISBANE

MANGROVE BOARDWALK WYNNUM - GOLD COAST

My early morning excursion today was to the Sea-front at the nearby coastal town of Wynnum. The tide was low and vast areas of mud-flats lay all along the shoreline, to the north a large mangrove swamp stretched for miles. The local council provided nice pathways and a very impressive boardwalk through the mangrove swamp, so after scoping the beach area, where I logged over 20 species, I headed for the mangroves.
OLIVE-BACKED ORIOLE

Lots of birds were singing and very few were showing, however I did manage to see Olive-backed Oriole, Australasian Figbird, Kookaburra and a couple of new species!

First a small flock of tiny birds came noisily through the trees, it took a while but I finally got great views of a couple of them, they were MANGROVE GERYGONE (remember to pronounce this name as.......GER (as in gerbil).....RIDGE....ON....KNEE ). then after a few minutes I saw what I thought was a LEADEN FLYCATCHER, but on closer inspection this male was altogether darker and had dark under-tail feathers, so I had a SATIN FLYCATCHER in my bins. The bird wouldn't keep still enough for a photo. A third new species appeared above me as the boardwalk entered a drier area  of woodland, it was a Pale-headed Rosella, technically a race or subspecies of Eastern Rosella but it looks totally different.
The colourful PALE-HEADED ROSELLA

The boardwalk continued to supply good birds and finished about 1km further north. The path then widened and wound its way up to a small hillock of open grass which overlooked a huge pool (which was currently dry on low tide) a lovely hide was positioned in front of the pool. This would obviously be a great place to come on high tide when all the waders are roosting, I must come back at high tide.

TORRESIAN CROW

The grassy area provided good viewing for Fairy Wrens and another first for me the Golden-headed Cisticola. A couple of raptors flew over as I was leaving, Brahminy Kite and later a White-bellied Sea-Eagle.


After breakfast Dawn and set off southward to look at the GOLD COAST before we move down there later in the week. We were totally shocked to see a modern version of Torremolinos, high rise apts. thousands of them, one beach is called Miami and it looked just like it, ugh! after driving through 20-30 kilometers of concrete, glass and plastic we eventually found a nice beach, called Paradise Beach. We settled on there and spent a few hours relaxing before taking a walk.
 
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Just before our walk I got another lifer when a group of noisy Cockatoos flew into the trees immediately behind us. They turned out to be Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos. During the walk we had great views of Little Wattlebird, Buff-banded Rail, Brown Honeyeater and lots of Rainbow Lorikeets.
LITTLE WATTLEBIRD
 
After a lovely afternoon-tea and cakes I took a five minute sea-watch as we were on one of Burleigh Heads, there were hundreds of terns. gulls and shearwaters out there, but much too far away to identify. We drove home avoiding Miama and Surfer's Paradise!

259.  MANGROVE GERYGONE
260.  SATIN FLYCATCHER
261.  PALE-HEADED ROSELLA
262. GOLDEN CROWNED CISTICOLA
263. YELLOW-TAILED BLACK-COCKATOO



 
 

 
 

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 34 - OCT 30TH - BRISBANE

MANGROVE BOARDWALK- MOUNT TAMBORINE

I repeated my walk through the mangrove swamp for a second time today, it was another clear and warm sunny day. The tide was half way out so I got better views of the waders on the shore. None of them were new but a good selection was present.

here are the birds I saw on the beach;

1. EASTERN CURLEW
2. PIED OYSTERCATCHER
3. WHIMBREL
4. BLACK WINGED STILT
5. BLACK-TAILED GODWIT
6. BAR-TAILED GODWIT
7. GREENSHANK
10. GREAT KNOT
11. SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER
12. CURLEW SANDPIPER
13. PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER
14, GREY TAILED TATTLER
15. ROYAL SPOONBILL
16. WHITE FACED HERON
17. STRIATED HERON
18. BLACK SWAN
19. PACIFIC BLACK DUCK
20. WHISKERED TERN
21. GULL-BILLED TERN
22. AUSTRALIAN PELICAN
23. LITTLE PIED CORMORANT
24. LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT

My walk through the mangroves along the boardwalk didn't provide any new species but I got good views of several species from yesterday and I confirmed a sighting of a Black-faced Monarch (female) which had confused me yesterday. The Mangrove Gerygone showed well and several birds called that I couldn't locate so I left them unidentified which I hate doing.

Out on the grassy banks near the hide I had great views of the Superb Fairy Wren, also the Golden Headed Cisticola, the Zitting Cisticola and a new bird the TAWNY GRASSBIRD.

the lovely -  Superb Fairy Ween


The rest of the day was spent in the mountains, it was wonderful to get away from the coastal concrete jungle. Mount Tamborine and the surrounding villages were just what we were looking for, beautiful villages, art and craft shops and some forest walks.

In the car park of one 'waterfall' walk we watched Green Catbirds, Satin Bowerbirds, Lewin's Honeyeaters, King Parrots and lots of Rainbow Lorikeets.

 

female - Satin Bowerbird (what a bright blue eye this species have) 


The walk to the falls was wonderful because the path took us through some primary forest with ancient trees, the bird calls were incredible. We added Brown Thornbill, Pale Yellow Robin and more Catbirds to the list.

After Lunch which we took in a charming little restaurant set in the most tranquil gardens over which a White-headed Pigeon flew, smashing another lifer!

Green Catbird

We sat in a park for an hour or so relaxing on the grass, I walked around the trees but couldn't find anything new to report. Our journey back to Brisbane was for the last time because tomorrow we leave for the hills for a few days, hooray!
 

 

 

LIFERS

264. TAWNY GRASSBIRD
265. WHITE-HEADED PIGEON
266. GREEN CATBIRD

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 32 - OCT 28TH - BRISBANE

Early morning - Meteoplex Wetlands then all day at Noosa Heads

Another early morning jaunt found me back at the Metroplex Wetlands at 6am. It was another warm morning 24C at 6am with a light breeze. I was hoping for views of a Rail or a Crake but none were showing. I walked to the river where the huge Gateway Bridge towers above you and I got my first lifer for the day when two White-throated Needletails flew over and started feeding below the bridge.

Fairy Martins at their nesting colony


Other good sightings were of Channel-billed Cuckoo, four of them flew over calling like gulls, Brown Quail, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike on its nest, Latham's Snipe, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Collared Kingfisher.

Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike on its nest

After breakfast we set off north and headed for Noosa Heads, it took nearly two hours to get there. What a superb place, an upmarket beach resort with some fantastic properties lining the exclusive bays and lush beaches. White sand, palm trees and a national park are all found in this lovely region. We spent time on the beach, walking the lovely esplanades and then the national park.
Crested Pigeon

We ate lunch at a popular viewing point called 'Lagoon Lookout' beautiful panoramic views were had of the numerous bays and inlets. Eating lunch there was a bit of a battle, I literally had to push a Kookaburra off my sandwich and one nearly had Dawns eye out as it swooped in to snatch her sandwich just as she was about to take a bite. Black Butcherbirds, Pied Currawongs, Brush Turkeys and Noisy Miners all gathered around us, it was like a scene from the birds. Eventually we gave up and retreated to the car to finish our lunch.
Spotted (Turtle) Dove
The walk included  a track through the national park which led us to the Noosa Head Point and it was at the beginning of this walk that we found a Koala Bear sitting high up in the fork of a Eucaluptus tree. A fantastic mammal tick and one high up on the 'most wanted' list.'

Koala - looks as good as all pictures in the brochures


Further along the trail a view point overlooked some rocky outcrops and that is where we found the first Wandering Tattler for the list, a great 'lifer' for me which was quickly followed by another as we finally caught up with Grey Butcherbird which is locally common but had thus far eluded me.

Reef Heron

Wandering Tattler

Unfortunately a huge thunderstorm threatened as huge banks of very dark clouds gathered and thunder could be heard in the distance. So we abandoned our walk and headed back just as large spots of rain began to fall. One more bird was added to the list as we found a Reef Heron on the rocks near where the Tattler was seen.
Pied Currawong
By the time we got back into town and had our afternoon tea and cake the storm had passed, so we spent another hour on the beach before driving back to Brisbane. Whilst drinking our tea a beautiful Blue-faced Honyeater dropped in to pick up crumbs, extraordinary behaviour for a honeyeater!
Blue-faced Honeyeater


As it got dark we were driving south along the motorway, we made two more sightings. The first was of a Black Shouldered Kite and then later we saw hundreds of Fruit Bats leaving the forest, their dark shapes silhouetted against the setting sun.
 
256. WHITE-THROATED NEEDLETAIL
257. WANDERING TATTLER
258. GREY BUTCHERBIRD

Monday, October 27, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 31 - OCT 27TH - BRISBANE

SANDY CAMP ROAD WETLANDS

After last night's encounter with some local birders I decided to get up early today and try out a site that they had recommended.

Sandy Camp Road Swamp is just a 10 minute drive from where we are staying, I arrived at 6am it was easy to find I could see the pools from the road.

There was a clear blue sky but it was a little breezy, the temperature was 18C at 6am! The first pool I looked at had a boardwalk and viewing platforms, it was covered in birds. One of the first species I saw was a lifer, a small group of WANDERING WHISTLING DUCKS, very nice start.

WANDERING WHISTLING DUCK with Pacific Black Duck in the foreground
Other birds on the pool were:

Royal Spoonbill
Great White Egret
Intermediate Egret
Nankeen (Rufous) Night Heron
Magpie Goose
Pacific Black Duck
Grey Teal
Chestnut Teal
Comb-crested Jacana
Australasian Grebe
Glossy Ibis
Australian White Ibis
Dusky Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Purple Swamphen
Black-winged Stilt
Latham's Snipe
Black-fronted Dotterel
Australian Reed Warbler

The pool was surrounded by trees, scrub and reeds this is where a good number of other birds were seen. Brown Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Sacred Kingfisher, White-breasted Woodswallow and many common species, in fact the air was alive with calls and songs.

Black-winged Stilt
a very wet Red-backed Fairy-wren

Australasian Grebe

Nankeen (Rufous) Night Heron
Comb-crested Jacana

I walked the tracks and glades for a while and added another lifer when I saw a group of four Quail run across the track. I waited for 20 minutes for them to reappear and finally got an ID on them, they were Brown Quails.

Brown Quail



That almost finished my birding for the day but I did have one birdie up my sleeve. After breakfast we both set off on foot to catch a bus into the city where we planned to spend the day. Half way to the bus stop I saw my first Dollarbird sitting on a telephone wire, another lifer in the bag, whoopee!!

The rest of the day was spent in the city centre, a beautiful place with lots to see and do, we spent time cruising the river and walking around all the tourist sites.

At 5pm we set off for home just as a terrific thunderstorm hit the city, we missed the heavy rain that followed.


253. WANDERING WHISTLING DUCK
254. BROWN QUAIL
255. DOLLARBIRD


 
 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 30 - OCT 26TH - BRISBANE

Local Creek - Mount Coot-Tha and Botanic Gardens

I was up bright and early and I took a walk from our new home in Manly, Brisbane. A small reed fringed creek lay just 50 meters from us so I went there for an hour or so. Despite not seeing any new species I enjoyed a lovely time in bright sunshine and a very warm temperature and listed about 20 species.
Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike

At one point I thought I had found a new bird for my list when an odd looking Pardalote appeared, it had a black cap instead of striations or spots, however when I got back home I checked my booked and realised I had seen a 'race' of Striated Pardalote, sometimes called 'Black-headed' Pardalote.

Other species listed include, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Sacred Kingfisher, Australian Reed Warbler, Chestnut-breasted Finch, Rainbow Lorikeet, Galah, Royal Spoonbill and lots of Brown Honeyeaters.
Sacred Kingfisher
For the rest of the day we drove across town and visit the area around Mount Coot-Tha which was alive with tourists. There are fantastic Botanic Gardens there and we really enjoyed our visit. Lots of birdies were flying around, the best sighting was of the beautiful Blue-faced Honeyeater. Lots of ponds and streams held all the common ducks and even the restaurant terrace had White Ibis, Noisy Miner and Magpie Larks scavaging around the tables.
Spotted (Turtle) Dove
On the way home in the late afternoon we rook a small detour to the Metroplex Wetlands where I met some local birders. They were doing a bird count and were waiting for an Australian (Little) Bittern to appear, so I joined them. The Bittern failed to show but we listed another 25 species including two lifers for me..........Australian Hobby and Channel-billed Cuckoo, smashing. As the light faded I walked around the pools hoping for a glimpse of a crake or rail but neither appeared. I vowed to return to look again, the local birders gave me some directions for excellent places to visit over the next few days, I will try to fit them in.
 
as yet unknown species, I also saw Monarch Butterfly
 250.  AUSTRALIAN HOBBY
 251.  CHANNEL-BILLED CUCKOO

Saturday, October 25, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 29 - OCT 25TH - CAIRNS - BRISBANE

CAIRNS TO BRISBANE - LATE AFTERNOON VISIT TO MANLY BEACH

We had an early start both of us were up at 6am we had packing and cleaning to finish off before we took the short drive to the airport.

A last 30 minute session on the veranda of the tree-house was spent to say goodbye to all the birds and the lovely scenic view. We thought it was very nice of the local Kookaburra to bring his wife to wave us goodbye, Dawn snapped off a few pictures of them, how sweet.






Our flight to Brisbane was again on time and stress free, we picked up the hire car and drove south over the impressive Gateway Bridge to the suburb of Manly. There we met Kevin and daughter Karen who were going to be our hosts for the next two weeks. This first few days were are staying in Manly at Kevin's home and later we are going south to the Gold coast to finish our holidays.

Late in the afternoon we drove to the sea-front at Manly, it really looked like a run down North-West English sea-side town. Lots of old wooden buildings selling fish and chips and tourist kiosks were dotted all over the place. There was a cold on-shore wind blowing which didn't help.
I managed a 5 minute scan on the mud flats where I saw Australian Pelican, Australian White Ibis, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwits, Great Knot and Grey-tailed Tattlers.

We had something to eat before driving back in the dark to our new 'home'.

Friday, October 24, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 28 - OCT 24TH - CAIRNS

ALL DAY AT THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Our very last day in Cairns started with a heavy downpour of rain! By the time we arrived at quayside the rain had eased and as we boarded the SEASTAR, our boat for the day,  it stopped.

Once all 35 passengers were on board we set off for Michalmus Cay which is a large sand bar on the reef and offer shelter to a huge bay which makes it ideal for snorkelling. The sand bar also provides a nesting site for thousands of birds.

As we arrived down-wind of the Cay it was the smell of the birds that hit us first but we soon got used to it. I birded whilst everyone else went either under-water or floated on the surface.

Eighty percent of the birds were Brown (Common) Noddy, Sooty Terns numbers followed them, then Lesser Crested Terns came next. Also breeding were Brown Boobys in small numbers with a few Ruddy Turnstones, Silver Gulls and the odd Bridled Tern.
Brown Noddy in the foreground and Sooty Terns at the background

a closer view of the Brown Noddy

even closer
I didn't see another species of bird out there despite searching for the Black Noddy. However the reef and the fish were absolutely amazing.

After an hour of snorkelling we set off for the outer reef at a place called Hastings Reef. More snorkelling and a glass bottomed boat revealed an extraordinary variety of fish and we saw a couple of Green Turtles.

(Greater) Crested Tern with Lesser Created Terns

Bridled Tern


We never had an underwater camera but you can imagine the vibrant colour on display and reef itself is a beauty to behold, an array of unbelievable colour, shapes and textures, it was truly mind blowing and a must-do if you ever come this way.
the coral picture I got! Taken from the glass-bottomed boat


We highly recommend the Company we used - SEASTAR - they were excellent in every and we only had 35 tourists on board, most other boats have up to 200!


THIS FINALISES OUR TRIP TO CAIRNS, WE HAVE HAD A FANTASTIC TRIP, LOVED EVERY MINUTE AND WOULD RETURN IN A FLASH.

MY BIRD LIST NOW EXCEEDS 250 SPECIES, I HOPE TO REACH 300 BEFORE I LEAVE ON THE 8TH NOVEMBER. BRISBANE HERE WE COME!
 

 

 
 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

AUSTRALIA - HOLIDAY/RECCE TOUR - DAY 27 - OCT 23RD - CAIRNS

MISSION BEACH - LACEY CREEK - LICUALA LODGE GARDENS


Before I write today's blog here are a few more photos from yesterday.


WITH ROAD SIGNS LIKE THIS ALL OVER THE PLACE
IT IS A WONDER WHY THE CASSOWARY CROSSES THE ROAD -
BUT THEY DO......................



THIS BIRD BROUGHT THE ENTIRE TRAFFIC TO A STANDSTILL
AND RIGHTLY SO!

LOTS OF PEOPLE GOT OUT OF THEIR CARS TO PHOTOGRAPH THEM


SAFELY ACROSS, SO WHY DID THE CASSOWARY CROSS THE ROAD.............?




.................UNFORTUNATELY BECAUSE THIS MALE DIDN'T LIKE THE LOOK OF ME -
SO I EVER-SO-QUICKLY GOT BACK INTO THE CAR - NOT THAT I WAS AFRAID OF COURSE!
APPARENTLY THEY ARE GOOD AT FOOTBALL AND LIKE TO KICK OUT.


Today I got up early and set off for Lacey Creek to take the same trail as we did yesterday, this time I was hoping for a few new species and a possible Cassowary sighting.

I arrived at 5:30am just as it was getting light and the first bird I saw was amazing. I rounded a corner on the track where a small clearing appeared on my left, at rhe back of the clearing I saw a couple of flashes of bright blue at first I thought it was a Ulysses Butterfly but through my bins I realised I had found a NOISY PITTA, absolutely fantastic, a bird I have wanted to see for years. It was too dark to try to photograph it so I watched it just amble away from me and disappear from sight, wow!

Black Butcherbird

 

Brush Turkey - male


The rest of the walk was anti-climatic, in fact I never saw much at all, lots of calls and a few glimpses of honeyeaters, figbirds and friarbirds but not much else.
Brush Turkey and Black Butcherbird
From the creek trail I drove to the beach but it was really windy there, the only sightings were of large numbers of Pied Imperial Pigeons, these birds roost on off-shore islands and fly back to the
mainland each morning.


Scaly-breasted Lorikeet - a perfect colour match for its environment
Back at the lodge we had a great breakfast with the other guests and left about 9:45am for Cairns. We stopped at 'The Babinda Boulders' an impressive rock formation along a river. We took the trail and then had lunch in the picnic area next to the car park. Several birds appeared as we walked through the car park including the lovely TOPKNOT PIGEON, I was really pleased to see this species perched as all my other sightings of it were of flyovers.

  
the TOPKNOT PIGEON showing the weird 'knot' of brown feathers at the back of its head 



Other birds present were Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Black Butcherbird, Brush Turkey, Metallic Starlings, Figbirds and a few honeyeaters.