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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

AUSTRALIA - 21 DAY EAST COAST TOUR - DAY 4

Chambers Lodge – Lake Barrine – Yungaburra creek – Wongabel Forest – Nerada Tea Plantation

Weather: dry, sunny & warm all day. Top temp 28C

It was the mammals that grabbed the headlines today, over the last 24 hours we have seen a good selection of nocturnal animals with Platypus stealing the show and Tree Kangaroo coming a close second.

We had breakfast at 6am and met in the car park at 7am in preparation for our daily excursion, many birds were calling from the forest and feeding on nectar in the flowering shrubs in the gardens. We listed several Honeyeaters with Lewin’s, Bridled, Yellow-faced and Macleay’s being the most common. We also watched Black-faced Monarch and several species already listed, it was excellent birding before even before we set off!

Our first destination was the natural crater-lake at Barrine, we were hoping to see Victoria Riflebirds performing their incredible display but after searching the car park area we realised that none were there. However a number of other birds were, Eastern Spinetail was a beauty as was Golden Whistler, whilst Large-billed Scrubwren and some of the honeyeaters were not!


Dusky Honeyeater

We listed Great Crested Grebe (over 80 of them), Australian Pelican, Pacific Black Duck, Common Coot, Little Pied Cormorant and Intermediate Egret on or around the lake before we set off on a walk into the forest.

Many species could be heard deep in forest we managed to track down quite few, with Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Spotted Catbird, Tooth-billed Catbird (Bowerbird), Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Pale-Yellow Robin but the Riflebird remained elusive. We also had several sightings of the tiny Musky Rat-Kangeroo!


Tooth-billed Bowerbird

From lake Barrine we drove to Wongabel Forest stopping at the famous Curtain Tree along the way. This huge tree has route vines growing down from all its branches forming a spectacular ‘curtain’ around its base, it is a very popular tourist site with a boardwalk all around it. Several good birds were seen around the tree with Eastern Whipbird, Pied Monarch, Bower’s Shrike-Thrush, Grey Fantail and Pale Yellow Robin all showing well.

At Wongabel Forest we spent some time walking the main trail, again the forest was alive with bird calls, but birds were hard to see. We managed views of Grey Fantail, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Tooth-billed Bowerbird near its bower, both Atherton and Large-billed Scrubwrens, Brown and Fairy Gerygones were common and we found a flock of Red-browed Firetails in the car park on our return.


Lewin's Honeyeater

Just after leaving the forest we made a quick stop at Yungaburra Creek and to everyone’s great satisfaction we located a couple of local celebrities, the PLATYPUS, what show they put on, one of them came out of the water and sat on a log. Whilst there we also saw Laughing Kookaburra, Grey Goshawk, Cattle Egret, Nankeen Kestrel and we heard Scarlet Honeyeater but couldn’t find it.


Platypus

We drove to Nerada Tea Plantation for a late lunch and in the strip of woodland along the entrance drive we watched several butterfly species and to our great delight we located one of our ‘most-wanted’ mammals, TREE KANGAROO, it was such a delight to see this species.

After our late lunch we drove back to our lodge for a break we arrived at 4pm. Barry our guide suggested putting out bananas on our verandah to attract birds. Most of us pulled in a common bird local, I got Lewin’s Honeyeater but Helen & Jeff attracted a male Riflebird and had the photograph to prove it!


Tree Kangaroo

We left at 6pm to drive into Yungaburra for dinner but our birding wasn’t over yet! Barry took us to a site for Grass Owls and Black Shouldered Kite, we saw several kites in good light and a couple of owls in very bad light. We also had sightings of Golden-headed Cisticola, Nankeen Kestrel and Spectacled Flying Fox (no I hadn’t been drinking, I did see a Fox, flying, whilst wearing spectacles!!).


the amazing  Curtain Tree

After a typical pub dinner were drove back to the lodge noting Red-legged Pademelon and a Common-brushtail Possum along the way back.

AUSTRALIA - 21-DAY EAST COAST TOUR - DAY 3

Transfer from Cairns to Atherton Tablelands with stops at: Cairns Mangroves – Davies Creek – Hasties Swamp – Hypipomee National Park – Bromfield Crater

Weather: a bright start, cloudy later, Temp. ranged from 25C to 15C

After a very early breakfast we packed up the bus and set off on our way to Atherton, we made planned stops at the Mangrove Swamp, a small park and a shopping centre before we hit the road and left town at 10am. At the mangroves the target bird, Mangrove Robin, failed to turn up and our search in the park failed to produce a sighting of a Rufous Owl! Nevertheless we recorded many species including a few additions to our list including our first Laughing Kookaburra which actually did laugh!

We drove for an hour up over the hills inland towards Atherton, the landscape changed as we got up onto ‘tablelands, the habitat transformed too, from wet tropical forest to dry open forest. It was hot as we stepped off the bus at Davies Creek deep into a eucalyptus dry forest.


Northen Fantail - what a beautifully constructed nest


Another Northern Fantail nearby

A pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles circled high above us as we emerged from the bus and as we approached the boulder-strewn creek we saw a pair of Leaden Flycatchers. A short search produced our target species the White-browed Robin and a second search for Rufous Owl produced only a number of Northern Fantails, Pale-headed Rosella, but not the Owl.

We ate lunch at the picnic site adjacent to the car park before driving onto our next destination Hasties Swamp. Barry our guide drove us along a road where he regularly sees Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, we spent a while looking from the bus and eventually found a flock of about 50 of them. We also logged Australian Great Bustard, Pied Currawong, Crested Dove, Black Kite and lots of common species as we drove to Hasties Swamp.


Plumed Whistling Duck

What a great disappointment Hasties Swamp was, the water level was so low that hardly any ducks were present! Last time I visited it was chock-a-block with ducks. Despite the lack of water about a 1000 Plumed Whistling Ducks loafed in the water and we saw about 5 Whistling Kites, they were feeding on dead Whistling Ducks which seemed to be all over the place. We added Australian Swamphen, Buff-banded Rail, Pied (White-headed) Stilt, Silvereye, Eastern Yellow Robin, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin and several Australian Pelicans sat on the water.


Buff-banded Rail

We moved back into tropical forest as we approached Hypipomee national park, our target species was the Golden Bowerbird, Barry led us straight to its ‘bower’ and located the stunning male bird not far away, what a cracking bird! Our walk around the trails produced a number of new bird sightings for us, Bridled Honeyeater, White-throated Treecreeper, Top-knot Pigeon (fly over), Wompoo Pigeon (heard), Victoria Riflebird (heard), Grey Headed Robin and a flock of Pied Currawongs.


Grey-headed Robin

One trail led us to a hugh open sink hole, a small lake had formed at the base of this ‘pit’ and to our great surprize a Duck-billed Platypus was swimming around in it, fantastic!
Back on the road we saw a single Torresian Crow, several Crested Pigeons and more Pied Currawongs.

Our last stop before dark was a huge natural crater called Bromfield, the base of this magnificent caldera had a series of pools and lots of wet scrub. it is a well known roost site of both Sarus and Brolga Cranes. The viewing area on the side of the road was perfect for scoping the whole crater area, we found 7 Brolga Cranes, a dozen Swamphens, another Buff-banded Rail, Black Duck, Dusky Moorhen and half a dozen Australasian Grebes.


Barred Cuckoo-Shrkie, taken in bad light

We reached our lodge around 6pm, we watched Barred Cuckoo-Shrike from the car park before settling into our rooms. We then went into town, Maranda, for dinner. On our return to the lodge we saw Bandicoot in the road and from a purpose built viewing platform we watched several Possums before going to bed.

AUSTRALIA - 21-DAY EAST COAST TOUR - DAY 2

CAIRNS ESPLANDE - GREAT BARRIER REEF AT MICHAELMAS CAY

An early breakfast was followed by a short drive to the marina where we had time for a quick look at the low tide mud-flats. As usual the area was covered in birds, mostly waders but to our great delight we found White-faced Heron, Striated Heron, Great White Egret, Little Egret and Australian Pelican. Two Little Terns flew along the shoreline and several species flitted about in the park behind the beach.

White-faced Heron

At 8:30am we set off on the boat noting Crested Terns in the harbour and not much else, in fact, we didn’t see much for the first hour of the trip. As we approached the Cay we started seeing Brown Booby’s, Common Noddys, Sooty Terns and both Crested and Lesser Crested Terns.


Striated Heron

We arrived around 11:30am at the Cay which was covered in a mass of birds, the noise and the smell was quite noticeable as we were down wind, but the sky was alive with movement. A Greater Frigatebird was circling over the tern colonies causing quite a stir as this huge predator is likely to take chicks.


Australian Pelican

The Cay is just a raised bank of sand measuring about 800 meters long about 100 meters wide and just 3-5 meter high, very little vegetation grows on it. The birds nest in hollows amongst large dead-tree debris and allow a very close approach, human visitors are kept within a roped-off area.


Brown Booby

Over the next 5 hours we had a variety of activities to choose from, Scuba diving, Snorkeling, Glass Bottomed Boat cruises or just relaxing on the boat. A ferry service to the Cay run every 20 minutes we all opted for a visit to get a closer look at the birds. It was uncomfortable on the Cay as the strong wind whipped up the sand particles and sand-blasted us! But the close proximity of the birds by exhilarating and provided good photographic opportunities.


The Michaelmas Cay

Most of the group went on a glass-bottomed boat trip and we all went on a ‘Round-the-Island’ tour to get closer to the birds on the other side. Some great sightings were made from this boat-trip around the island. Terns especially, we added Black-naped Tern, Common Tern, and had great views of Lesser and Crested Terns. We also saw Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone and a Sacred Kingfisher tried to land on our boat!


Black-naped Terns (showing a pink glow - this colouring is diet related)  with Common Terns - Bob Longhorn

Back on the main boat we scanned the terns for new species and found Gull-billed Tern and a Bridled Tern which was perched on a buoy, smashing.


Greater Frigatebird taken by Bob Longhorn

Our return trip was very choppy at times, many people suffered sea-sickness including one or two of our group. It was getting dark when we docked so we drove straight back to the hotel.

For dinner we walked to a restaurant on the Esplanade, many Flying Foxes (huge fruit-eating bats) were flying around and we saw several Bush Stone Curlews on our return walk around 9pm.
A short bird log followed but everyone had enjoyed the trip, it was quality today not quantity!