Monday, August 31, 2009

Vacation 2 - Daintree

Our second stop was Daintree village, in the Daintree World Heritage Area. We arrived mid afternoon, and took a drive along the Upper Daintree Road that runs alongside the Daintree River. There were hundreds of Cattle Egrets in the fields including this one taking advantage of a raised viewpoint. Further along we found a small group of Rainbow Bee-eaters. Back in the village we decided to take a river trip looking for Crocodiles. As I parked the car, a raptor flew across and up into a tree. Instinctively, I knew it was a Pacific Baza, and my first new bird of the trip. As we pulled away from the boat ramp, I noticed a lot of flowers floating down the river. The guide explained that they are from the native Hibiscus, and all of the flowers drop off each evening, and are replaced by fresh blooms the next morning. We saw two crocs loafing on the sandy river edges, this 3m (10ft) female, and a 5m (16ft) male known locally as "Fat Albert". Next morning we were booked on Chris Dahlberg's boat trip. This is my second trip with Chris, and I cannot recommend him highly enough. He is a terrific guide, very knowledgeable and keen to help experienced birders and novice nature watchers alike. Please take a look at his website, and if you are ever in the Daintree area, don't miss out on this great experience. My target birds were Little Kingfisher and Great-billed Heron. We saw both, but the light was pretty poor so I had to crank up the ISO and the images are very grainy. We saw four species of kingfisher, Little, Azure, Forest and Sacred. This is the gorgeous Azure variety. A pair of Shining Flycatchers gave us the run around, but we eventually got a really good look at both. This is the female. Chris's "piƩce de resistance" were a pair of Papuan Frogmouths happily roosting on a branch over the river.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Vacation 1 - Port Douglas

I have been a bit slack with postings this week as Maryann and I have been enjoying a vacation in Far North Queensland. This was not a birding holiday, but I did manage a few birdy moments!! We flew to Cairns, and then drove the 60 or so Km (40 miles) north to Port Douglas for the first few nights. Port Douglas is a lovely place, and popular with backpackers and grey nomads (Aussie slang for retired tourers usually in motorhomes or caravans) alike. It has a wonderful long curved white sand beach, called Four Mile Beach, and we spent each morning watching the sunrise. By far the most common bird was Figbird. They were everywhere!! One morning there was a lot of bird activity and amongst others, we saw White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Varied Triller, and Australia's only regular Sunbird. This bird used to be called Yellow-bellied Sunbird, but is now known as Olive-backed Sunbird. I know which name I prefer. On our way out of Port Douglas, we spotted the daytime roost of a group of Spectacled Flying Foxes. There were thousands of them, and the sight and sound (and smell) was unbelievable.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Queensland (Part 3)

My final day in Queensland dawned cold and foggy, reminding me of a winters day in England rather than tropical Australia!! As today was going to be a sightseeing day (with a bit of birding thrown in of course!) I decided to hang around and wait for the fog to start to lift. I spent some time at the local park. This clump of reeds is a definite reminder of home - winter on the Somerset Levels. The fog gives a nice wash to these two Black Swans. As the sun started to break through, I headed up into the Bracken Ranges, and soon broke through the clouds. As I headed south towards Brisbane, I stopped in a lovely country town, and spotted a couple of Blue-faced Honeyeaters in a palm tree. My final stop before heading to the airport was at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve near Maleny. This is a lovely spot with a view down to the Glasshouse Mountains, and it also has a fantastic Rainforest walk. It was incredibly dark in the rainforest, and even with the ISO pushed up to 3200 I was still only getting 1/25 to 1/50th second exposures, so I apologise for the quality of some of these shots. I saw a great range of birds including Noisy Pitta, Logrunner, Yellow-browed Scrubwren, Spectacled Monarch and Brush Turkey. I only managed identifiable shots of the last two.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Queensland (Part 2)

,Following the Conference, I stayed in Queensland for the weekend. I headed further north to Gympie, a historical goldmining town. Early Saturday morning I went to Rainbow Beach, and then on to Inskip Point. This is a hotspot for Black-breasted Button-quail (BBBQ). I had received mixed opinions on how easy it is to see BBBQ here. Some people had never missed, whilst others had been here multiple times and never seen them. Within a couple of minutes I had found some platelets (small circular areas scrapped free of leaf litter whilst the bird is feeding), but no site of the bird. Moving slowly through the bush I found plenty of platelets, plenty of Noisy Friarbirds and Little Wattlebirds. I did manage to get some shots of White-breasted Woodswallows. Inskip is also a regular haunt for Beach Stone-curlew, so I decided to try for these . No joy at the end of the point, but while walking back to the car, I noticed a huge area of muddy foam moving in with the tide...........except the tide was going out. Closer inspection showed that the "foam" was actually a mass of Soldier Crabs. As I cut back through the bush I saw a movement in the litter.......BBBQ?, a small lizard. Not sure of the ID, I'll check it out when I get home. I went back to the platelet spot, and stood quietly. Away to my left I heard a rustle in the leaves, slowly I inched towards the sound, and there he was........BBBQ!! I slowly followed him for about ten minutes until he went through some thick scrub. I had to go round, and never saw him again. By this time I was almost on the beach again, so went to see if any waders (shorebirds) were feeding on the falling tide. As I stepped onto the beach, I surprised three Beach Stone-curlews. Both target birds in the bag!! With time on my hands I took a slow drive along a few backroads and ended up in Cooloola Cove where a flash of green caught my eye. Although I have never seen one before I knew what this bird was!! Yes, it's a Red-Winged Parrot. Three new birds in one day......It's a long time since that has happened!! In passing I also saw a few other nice birds including Red-backed Fairywren, And Scarlet Honeyeater.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Queensland (Part 1)

I am currently on a short trip to the Gold coast in Queensland on a conference for work. Yesterday the weather was very windy and I didn't get out, but this morning was beautiful. I headed down to the beach to watch the sunrise. I thought I would pretty much have the beach to myself, but no, there were joggers, walkers and fishermen all there before me!! This is the view from Broadbeach, looking North towards surfers Paradise. I also looked to see what birds where about. Nothing special, Rainbow Lorikeets, Noisy Miners, Australian Ibis and a poor one-footed Silver Gull. Finally I took a quick look in the hotel garden (which is actually on the roof of the adjacent shopping mall.)

This is a bird of paradise flower

Monday, August 10, 2009

Port MacDonnell (Part 2)

As promised, here are the photos of Black-browed Albatross. But I'll start with a Shy Albatross that got left off the last post by mistake. Black-browed are lovely birds, and here are a number of shots from the same Pelagic trip. This one has been "photoshopped" as the lower wingtip slipped out of frame so I magiced it back in. With this one I was panning with the back bird as it crossed behind the bird in front - I quite like the shot even though the front bird is not in focus.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Port MacDonnell

Staying with the seabird theme, a birders first albatross is one of those never to be forgotten moments. Now, I love seabirding, but I am one of the worlds worst sailors. In fact, the list of seas I have been seasick on is almost as long as my bird list!!
In South Australia we are very lucky as the continental shelf (the best spot, I am told, for pelagic birding) is relatively close to land. So, I thought, less time to get seasick. Well, let me tell you, they are right, the seabirding is fantastic, and I was wrong................
These shots were all taken on one trip. Almost as soon as we got to the shelf, the skipper spotted a trawler hauling in nets so we headed over. The boat was surrounded by seabirds.
As the boat passed by, we began to berley (chum) and some of the seabirds were attracted to our boat.
There were good numbers of albatross including Wandering, Black-browed, Bullers, Shy and also my favourite Yellow-nosed. Black-browed were by far the most common so I got a fair few photos, so I'll post them all together in my next post.
Wandering Albatross is an amazing bird. It has an odd "hump-backed" appearance making it pretty easy to identify.

A Buller's Albatross gave us a single flypast, but our berley was obviously not up to the required standard as it carried on towards the receding trawler. There ware also numbers of shearwaters and petrels feeding on our fishy, oily, slick, including Flesh-footed Shearwater.

Great-winged Petrel
and White-faced Storm-petrel (this shot is very highly cropped so apologies for the quality)
Finally a couple of shots of Yellow-nosed albatross - isn't it gorgeous?