I landed the previous night from Indonesia, fresh from my recent tour of Sulawesi & Halmahera (more on that later), with several days to spare between that tour, and my next: Papua New Guinea. So what to do with myself? The answer to that was simple. All you have to ask yourself is what do bird guides do on their days off? Go birding, of course! A fellow Tropical Birding guide (or fellow Tropical Birder if you like), Nick Leseberg, just so happens to be based in Brisbane, and had some time free too before his next working venture into the field (a Top End and Eastern Australia tour for Tropical Birding). So we got together for a days birding and an evening of spotlighting on the outskirts of Brisbane.
I had e-mailed Nick to set this up before, and had merely mentioned, casually, and in passing of course, with no loaded agenda at all; my desire to catch up with Spotted Quail-Thrush to Nick. Like any bird guide though worth his salt, this merely set wheels in motion. After all, we love showing people birds they want to see, that is why we do, what we do. So, after a brief stop at a wetland, where my lifer Lewin's Rail, showed no signs of walking on to my lifelist, and admiring some Red-necked Avocets loafing on the lagoon, and some spritely male Red-backed Fairywrens twittering excitedly in the grass, we were on our way to D'Aguilar National Park.
There Nick had his perfect plan lined up, see a Spotted Quail-Thrush, as requested. Within an hour of meeting Nick, there it was, perched up atypically high in a tree calling relentlessly, for literally the best views ever! Thanks Nick. After admiring this exquisite male quail-thrush, and a pair of photogenic, prospecting, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, we moved on up the road onto Mount Glorious, where the open woodland gave way to rainforest reminiscent of the decidedly more famous spot of Lamington National Park.
While this spot does not have the vast variety of that park, it does share many of the same rainforest birds, which I was eager to see, having been away from them for the better part of two years. One after another, some of the rainforest's most familiar, and eclectic birds emerged into view. It did not take long for one of the rainforest's most friendly inhabitants to jump onto a trunk beside me: Eastern Yellow Robin.
The suitably noisy calls of Noisy Pitta reverberated from the forest deep below, and walking further into the forest we admired a photo-shy male Golden Whistler sitting next to his rather drab partner. A Short-beaked Echidna, Australia's decidedly odd version of the hedgehog, was found shuffling through the leaf litter, before it went into defensive mode, tucking its snout sway, pulling in its limbs, and digging into the earth, to become an impenetrable ball of spines. A large glossy blue bird turned, showing his ivory-coloured bill, and revealing himself to be a male Satin Bowerbird, one of three species of bowerbird seen during the morning. The next one was a "heartstopper": a flash of gold in its wings led us to a marvellous male Regent Bowerbird which had sailed in and landed, dramatically, next to the trail. Our final bowerbird of the morning was squealing noticeably all morning, the baby-like cries of Green Catbirds leading us to one of these rotund bowerbirds creeping through a vine tangle too.
However, pride of place for the morning (for the rainforest anyway, if you forget the quail-thrush just for a minute!), was a large glossy black bird with a powerful downswept bill, which was seen chiselling away at the forest bark, occasionally revealing deep green iridescence underneath, when the light caught it just right: Paradise Riflebird, one of three birds-of-paradise in Australia.
One more post to come from Australia very soon....