17 October 2010

Onto the Tablelands...(Australia): 17 Oct 2010

Today we visited the mountain forests of the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland, home to many specialties and gorgeous species. The morning opened with a bold Bassian Thrush feeding in the road, and continued with Gray-headed Robins and Bridled Honeyeaters hopping around our feet in the parking lot, while young male Victoria's Riflebirds practiced their displays above. After picking up Mountain Thornbill, Bower's Shrike-Thrush, Atherton Scrubwren, and a fantastic Fernwren, (third photo) we went after the days most special bird: the valuable Golden Bowerbird. I had to sit this one out and allow the group to go in without me (top photo here from last week there), although I still watched the worst of all mimics, the Tooth-billed Catbird (2nd photo) mimicking by his "stage" closeby. The morning ended with this female Platypus entertaining us. What a morning!

Stormy Bustard...(Australia): 16 Oct 2010

Leaving the Daintree behind we headed inland to the Mount Malloy, and got hit with a heavy, heavy storm falling, and visibility down to nil. With us all desperate to start cramming in new birds I opted to head over to near Mount Carbine where we might be able to pick out a bustard from the "safety" of the car while rain crashed down around us. And that is just what happened. After several females, we found a male Australian Bustard standing in half-display sodden through (photo), and appropriately standing in the drive of Bustard B & B! Once the rain moved on we birded a school (we go to the weirdest places when birding!) and admired a Great Bowerbird at his bower that had been decorated with white shells and other trinkets. Although the Red-backed Fairywrens, wet Squatter Pigeons, and glowing Red-winged Parrots were a little more colorful. We also dropped in on a forest patch along the highway and added a brace of cool monarchs: Black-faced Monarch and the dashing Pied Monarch, that accompanied the much more common Spectacled Monarch in the same area too.

16 October 2010

Cruising down the Daintree...(Australia): 16 Oct 2010

A gentle cruise along the Daintree River saw us fretting and then celebrating about Great-billed Heron (top photo), and overloaded with Papuan Frogmouths (well three different nesting birds!) In the afternoon we headed west in torrential rain towards Mount Malloy...

Paradise comes to Daintree...(Australia): 15 Oct 2010

We arrived in Daintree, fresh from "ticking off" Cassowary in the morning at Cassowary House in Kuranda, and ready for some more lowland rainforest birds. What we got was little activity in Cape Tribulation National Park, with one very notable exception: an early, early Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher fresh in from Papua New Guinea. It was a total shock to find one at this time, as they are generally a late, late October arrival in Queensland. But no one was complaining!

12 October 2010

Lovely now likes my lens...(Australia): 12 Oct 2010

It was a day of contrasts: a morning in the rainforest in the mountains, where well it rained, and looked grey and overcast in this wettest of dry seasons; and then an afternoon in the tinder dry country around Mareeba, where large buttressed rainforest trees were replaced by flaky paperbark trees and and an array of gum trees, and clear, cerulean skies overhead. In the mountains we opened with a Bassian Thrush bounding conspicuously along the roadside, and a male Fernwren posing on a wet log. In the afternoon one dryish eucalypt-lined creek led us to a White-browed Robin and a joyful family party of Lovely Fairywrens to continue the fairy theme started yesterday...see photo of powder-blue headed male above.

10 October 2010

Aussie "Fairies"....(Australia): October 2010

I am just reaching the end of my first of two Australian tours (leap-frogging my way down the eat side), and reflecting on some of the highlights. It has been a good one for fairies, with a veritable variety of gorgeous fairywrens, with some 6 species seen in our two weeks sprinting around the east. It all began with some vivid Variegated Fairywrens in Royal NP near Sydney (bottom photo); followed soon after by showy Superb Fairwrens at the same venue (these though were photographed in Lamington NP, Queensland-second photo); next up was the Southern Emuwren in the heathland of Royal NP, with its powder blue throat (and no photo!!!); and then the most spectacular of all (???): Splendid Fairywren lurking in the mallee "scrubland" of Round Hill Nature Reserve (New South Wales). Hopping up into Queensland and the wet tropics of Daintree it was the turn of the aptly-named Lovely Fairywren to grace our bins, but masterfully avoid my camera; then moments later several male Red-backed Fairywrens emerged dramatically out of the grass to flare up their red "saddles" and pose dutifully in the open (top photo). A great set of birds.

03 October 2010

Round 2 at Round Hill...(Australia): 29 Sept 2010

After the early morning thrill of our first electric Splendid Fairywren, things went quiet for a while before we found a male Crested Bellbird perched up by the highway. Welcome relief after this ventriloquist bird had taunted us constantly all morning. Backtracking into the mallee again a bird flew up in front of the van that I could not quite place. We hopped out and we scanned the near brush, and there creeping his way through was a spectacular male Chestnut Quail-Thrush (photo). Unfortunately he ghosted out of view before we all had our fill, although a little I-Pod action brought him creeping impressively into view. A mallee flock later that morning bought us a pair of Black-eared Cuckoos, Speckled Warblers, and White-winged Trillers. However, this marvelous mallee morning closed with a Pink Cockatoo and a flurry of Cockatiels that came up at our feet. What a place!

02 October 2010

Blue is the Colour...(Australia): 28-29 Sept 2010

Next up on our rummage around New South Wales, was an exciting trip into the mallee of Round Hill, my first visit to this legendary site. Our afternoon visit bought me a lifer soon after, with a pair of not-so-shy, Shy Heathwrens, and a few Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters decorated a near eucalypt too. However, the next morning was when things heated up with this electric-blue number: the dreamy Splendid Fairywren. Later things got better still...

01 October 2010

Wandering the Plains...(Australia): 27 Sept 2010

After an intense drive from Barren Grounds west by some measure to the plains south of Hay in New South Wales we were all ready for what we imagined would be one of the highlights of the tour: the incomparable PLAINS-WANDERER. We all showed up ready, armed with spotlights, the best local Aussies to scour the plains, and a group full of never say die Canadians. Just no one had told the Plains-Wanderer to show up. The sun set, we all got excited when some Banded Lapwings noisily homed into view, and then Stubble Quails jettisoned off the ground in front of the vehicle sent our hearts aflutter for the "real deal". However, three hours later, and in spite of extremely chilly conditions, we were literally sweating. Where was this Aussie oddball? Herculean stamina was required and everyone had it...just. We opted to return to were we began and then the crackle of the radio bought life back to all our waning hopes "I've got one" was all that was said, and all that needed to be said. We glanced down to the headlights of our neighboring vehicle and soon saw the distinctive form of a female Plains-Wanderer blinking impressively back (top photo). Then like London buses another came along almost straight after, looking almost like a chick in comparison to the considerably more hefty female, the latter was a male (bottom photo), all too happy to pose too...Phew! One of the World's must-see birds? Definitely.