29 September 2013

Into the Valley...AUSTRALIA (27th Sept)

I think if you put this day together with the one before you'll get a pretty good idea of what a cracking city Brisbane must be, to be based as a birder. This was illustrated to me well, first by Nick Leseberg, who generously showed me around D'Aguilar National Park and Mount Glorious; and then this "tour of Brisbane Hotspots" continued with my old London mate (now an Aussie resident) Stuart Pickering with a visit to the Lockyer Valley. 
Stuart had arranged to meet Plaxy Barrett and Dan Mantle (hope I got those names right-sorry guys if not!), as they had recently seen a Red-chested Buttonquail in the area. After admiring many platelets (circular grooves in the groundmade by feeding buttonquails) we left with no buttonquails, although the area was superb, with some low, and lovely, Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, and a single Black-chinned Honeyeater being the standout sightings from this wooded area. 
Although, the showoff Variegated Fairywren would have to get a "perfect 10" for performance alongside and provided the photo shoot of the morning! As we moved on to another area, a group of 11 Red-rumped Parrots proved once again, from their showy show that indeed Australia truly is the "land of parrots".
Checking out some lagoons nearby, we hoped for rarities, although I was well happy catching up with old favourites like Pink-eared DucksPlumed Whistling-Ducks, and a large flock of some 210+ Red-necked Avocets on 7 Mile Lagoon. The latter spot brought the sighting of the day, when a Black Falcon was found soaring above it, causing some major stress to the avocets below!

It was another very enjoyable day, aided by the help of local knowledge and some damn fine friends!

27 September 2013

Tropical Birders in Brisbane...AUSTRALIA (26 Sept)

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.
 A late morning search for a roosting Powerful Owl was largely forgettable, until Nick found the bark-like form of a Tawny Frogmouth roosting, cryptically in the trees instead. That night we returned to the rainforest with a spotlight for company, and heard some great birds: Marbled Frogmouth, Southern Boobook, Sooty Owl, and Australian Owlet-Nightjar. However, we only managed to actually see one of them, the Southern Boobook, with a Mountain Brushtail thrown in for further compensation. Fantastic day, thanks Nick!

One more post to come from Australia very soon....