Grand Australia Part I Oct 01—17, 2017
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
Balmy weather, cool and overcast with a light breeze, had our tour off to a good start. As a first bird, we kicked off proceedings with the bizarre Tawny Frogmouth, making for another good start. The well-camouflaged frogmouth sitting on a nest was the perfect introduction to the fun of birding in Australia where the birds are typically tame and in good light. It had, however, been the driest and hottest September in the history of New South Wales since records were kept: that is 150 years!
We enjoyed a roll call of Australian specials with stunning Rainbow Lorikeets, gaudy Eastern Rosellas, raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, the amazing Superb Fairywren, and iconic Laughing Kookaburra. We had a bit more luck with cracking looks at the diminutive Baillon’s Crake, a small flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in worn breeding plumage, and the ever so elegant Red-necked Avocet. All up, we racked up 54 species on our first afternoon foray in Sydney. One unusual highlight was watching an inky-black male Pacific Koel feeding figs to the chestnut-speckled female in a pair bonding behavior that I had never seen. Other good first sightings included Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Pied Stilt, Bar-tailed Godwit, Australian Pelican, White-browed Scrubwren, Yellow Thornbill, Red-browed Finch, Little Grassbird, Australian Reed-Warbler, and a very tame Grey Butcherbird.
Our day in the Royal National Park is a day of paramount importance on this tour, and this year was maybe the best day yet. The weather gods were again shining, and the birds did as well. As we strolled out, we picked up some high quality species like perched Topknot Pigeons, a Grey Goshawk, a Little Eagle, and a beautiful pair of Bassian Thrushes. The Superb Lyrebird was fantastically well-behaved, and we enjoyed a male singing in full view and a couple of more excellent and prolonged views—no difficulty this year! A rarity, a Noisy Pitta frustratingly popped up but flew promptly across the river never to be seen again. Tons of good birds showed well—Peregrine Falcon; Azure and Sacred kingfishers; Shining Bronze and Fan-tailed cuckoos; Brown and Striated thornbills; Large-billed Scrubwren; Eastern Spinebill; Lewin’s, Yellow-faced, and Scarlet honeyeaters; Golden and Rufous whistlers; Satin Bowerbird; Leaden Flycatcher; and Black-faced Monarch. On the return walk we did well with a fantastic Crested Shrike-tit (recently placed in its own family) and even rarer Beautiful Firetail. After lunch we found, after some effort, the elusive Rockwarbler and finished the day with a stunning Powerful Owl. In between were a White-bellied Sea-Eagle and, to add to our amazing haul, an adult Spotted Harrier.
Read Dion’s full report in his Field List.