09 July 2010

Quail Hunt...AUSTRALIA 9 July 2010

Having just finished a tour in Papua New Guinea (posts to follow in coming days), I had a welcome day off today (one of only 3 I have had since the end of March). So what better to do than go birding. So I went off after one of the few possible lifers in the "Brisbane" area: Black-breasted Buttonquail just a 3 hour drive away at Inskip Point. I set off with an ex-pat Stuart Pickering one of my old birding mates from London (who now lives in this fantastic birding country). I left with the feeling the site would offer buttonquail or bust, however was surprised when we also bumped into other interesting birds at the site. It started with a delightful family of Variegated Fairywrens that played around us for a while (top photo). Then I went on the prowl for the buttonquail, and found a Noisy Pitta lurking colorfully beneath a palm, a wonderful and most unexpected find. Minutes later I was watching and listening to the bizarre Eastern Whipbird, that posesses one of the most recognisable sounds of the east. Then a short time later my first of 3 male Black-breasted Buttonquails walked slowly but purposefully by-lifebird! An interval for a pair of beefy Beach Thick-Knees loafing on the beach followed (bottom photo). Later Stuart put me onto another couple of male buttonquails busy making "soup bowls" on the edge of the parking lot, by rolling their bodies to kick up prey, and in the process making these distinctive depressions that betray their existence in the area.

01 July 2010

Sichuan China BALANG SHAN (May 2010)

One of the most spectacular settings on Earth to bird (in my very humble opinion) is the mountain of Balang Shan, in the Wolong Panda Reserve in Sichuan. My group though had trouble believing this as the 4600m high giant was cloaked in thick fog/cloud, leaving the scenery unseen for a number of days. However, once the cloud cleared gasps went up and we pulled in quite the haul of celebrity birds: a pair of Chinese Monals graced in an alpine meadow, a clean White Eared Pheasant fed quietly on the slopes below, glowing Purple Grandalas worked the upper slopes, and Svertsov's Tit-Warblers displayed their undeniable cuteness to all on the shrubby hillsides on the far side of the pass (see photo), just a short drive down from where a male Himalayan Rubythroat showed off his best feature while singing from the mountain shrubbery, with snow-dusted slopes behind. On top of all of that, Lammergeiers haunted the skies above, Verreaux's Monal-Partridge scuttled across the road, AND a bundle of rosefinch species kicked off an amazing tour for these pink finches, some 11 species of which were tallied by the end!