Grand Australia Part II Oct 17—Nov 03, 2007

Posted by Dion Hobcroft

Hobcroftdion

Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 160) to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Bhutan, Indonesia, India, China, Southwest ...

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As if the fabulous, colorful, and rare birds of Australia weren't enough, we also enjoyed great mammals, reptiles, amphibians, wildflowers, and camaraderie on Part II of our Grand Australia tour.

We commenced our tour in sunny Queensland just south of Brisbane in the Lamington National Park, based at the marvelous O'Reilly's Guesthouse. Exploring the Kerry Valley with good friend Tim O'Reilly turned up the elusive White-eared Monarch, Speckled Warbler, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, some surprise Banded Lapwings, and a wonderful encounter with a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos. In the mountain rainforest we had the most astonishing views of a male Albert's Lyrebird, a pair of Paradise Riflebirds, and a sensational Marbled Frogmouth.

Winging our way to the tropical north, our stay at Kingfisher Park was excellent, with good food, accommodations, and birds. One of our best sightings was of a Masked Owl—one of Australia's toughest nocturnal birds—sitting in a tree hollow at dusk. We especially enjoyed great views of Chowchilla, Fernwren, Pied Monarch, Lovely Fairywren, Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, Tooth-billed Bowerbird at the display ground, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, male Victoria's Riflebird, male Golden Bowerbird, responsive Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Squatter Pigeon, flocks of Sarus Crane and Brolga, and Papuan Frogmouth to mention a few, while our super view of a platypus was a great bonus.

Our day on the Barrier Reef produced terns aplenty, while the snorkelers enjoyed fish-watching with sightings ranging from black anemone fish to the superb titan triggerfish and hump-headed parrotfish, with a small black-tipped reef shark thrown into the mix.

Arriving in Melbourne, we made our way to Deniliquin. Now it was time for a really huge day as we kicked off proceedings with good friend Phil Maher. Megabirds came fast and furious all day, including Superb Parrot; Australian Spotted, Spotless, and Baillon's crakes; Musk Duck; White-backed Swallow; Gilbert's Whistler; and Diamond Firetail in the morning session. After lunch we scoped delicate Australian Pratincoles and cobalt-blue White-winged Fairywrens, and had great views of the rare Australasian Bittern.

During the evening, after a rather epic search, we eventually turned up a stunning female Plains-wanderer—thank goodness! Other good sightings included the delicate carnivorous marsupial known as the fat-tailed dunnart, plus a Stubble Quail. One of the great birding days in the world!

Up to Hattah Lakes we found Emus with striped chicks, delicate Mallee Emuwrens, unbelievable Splendid Fairywrens, colorful Mulga and Regent parrots, and enjoyed a superb encounter with the wonderful Major Mitchell's Cockatoo. On the drive south we turned up the cryptic Southern Scrub-Robin and Shy Heathwren.

Our final birding stop was the Little Desert National Park. There were lots of great birds here, with pride of place going to the Malleefowl—the enigmatic desert megapode. Other great sightings followed in rapid succession including point-blank views of Rufous Fieldwren, the rare Slender-billed Thornbill, cooperative Purple-gaped Honeyeaters, and a fence line covered in dapper White-fronted Chats.

We finished our trip with 351 species of birds (half of the birds of Australia) in two weeks—an excellent result.

Sadly our tour was over, but it was a very special group, and I would like to thank all of the participants for the good laughs and special moments we enjoyed in the field.