Sunday, 20 August 2017


Sherry was running low, so it was time for a trip to Rutherglen, my third this year.  Of course that meant I'd have a day birding around Chiltern - always a thrill.  A friend says 'there's no such thing as a bad day at Werribee.'  He's right of course, but I'd like to add that there's no such thing as a bad day at Chiltern either.

Because my annual total is quite good this year (452) there weren't many new birds I could realistically hope to add in Chiltern.  I compiled a list nevertheless (naturally) and we started the day on McGuiness Road in the Mt Pilot section of the national park, hoping for a Spotted Quail-thrush.  The rain was intermittent but the cold was constant, as was the unfriendly grey sky.  Birds were few, but I managed to see both Brown and White-throated Treecreepers and both Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills.  I walked along the road until the rain drove me back to the car.  I removed a couple of saplings that had fallen across the road and wondered how often rangers visited the park.  When we encountered an enormous tree across the road, we were forced back.  Rog did a fair bit of reversing before we found a suitable spot to turn around.  My list was destined to remain quail-thrush free.
Yellow-footed Antechinus, an old photo from my archive

We drove to Cyanide dam in Honeyeater Picnic Area.  I walked around the dam.  It only takes ten minutes, so I reckoned I could fit it in between showers.  The resident Australasian Grebe was in superb breeding plumage, but I could find neither his mate nor his nest.  The best thing I saw on my walk wasn't a bird at all.  It was a Yellow-footed Antechinus.  She was lining her nest in a hollow in a gum tree.  She paused and looked at me.  I stood statue still.  She really was the cutest thing.  Eventually she decided I was no threat and continued to take gum leaves into her nest hole.  Reluctantly, I left her to her duties.

I looked for Diamond Firetails at No 1 dam and dreamt of Grey-headed Lapwings at No 2. Of course I saw neither.

In Rutherflen I looked for crakes at the ephemeral water near the tip.  There were dotterels and darters, cormorants and stilts and one splendid male Flame Robin, but there were no crakes.

We drove to Black Swamp where there was lots of water but few birds.  I was pleased to see a significant roadside area sign alerting me to the presence of Grey-crowned Babblers.  Unfortunately the only babbler I saw was the one on the sign.  

We stopped briefly at the entrance to Lake Moodemere.  I've seen Diamond Firetails here in the past.  But not today.  Today I saw Jacky Winters, Grey Fantails and Little and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. (The roads were so wet and slippery I was not inclined to ask Rog to take me to the river, where I often see White-backed Swallows.)

I ended up with a birdlist of 62 for the day, which, given the awful conditions wasn't too bad.  Sadly there was nothing new for the year.  But I can confirm:  there's no such thing as a bad day at Chiltern.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Of course I was delighted to see a Red Boobook, but that was only a potential future armchair tick.  As we moved on to Iron Range, I was expecting two lifers:  a Spotted Whistling Duck and a Black-eared Catbird.  The whistling ducks were at Archer River and the catbirds were in Iron Range.
Sign at Musgrave Roadhouse

The day we drove from Kingfisher Park to Musgrave Roadhouse, without doubt the highlight was the black form of Brown Treecreeper (race melanotus).  It was darker, but the most noticeable feature was the distinct cream coloured eyebrow.

The next day we met Sue Shepherd and admired Golden-shouldered Parrots.  Phil pulled his car off the road and parked under a gum tree which was full of parrots, including at least two striking males.  Later we saw Little Woodswallows on our way to the Red Goshawk's nest.  We could see the goshawk on the nest, tail poking out one end, head the other.

On Tuesday, we visited a place called Water Tanks, with large native palms, pretty water lilies and lots of Star Finches.  We drove through Coen, with its Sexchange Hotel, and on along dreadful roads to Archer River.  It was dark when we arrived and I couldn't see my long awaited whistling ducks.  The next morning, I was up before dawn, eager to get a look at my 803rd Australian bird.
Me looking at Spotted Whistling Ducks, photo by David Landon

On Wednesday we drove to Lockhart River.  We saw our first Palm Cockatoos for the trip, as well as White-streaked Honeyeaters, Grey Whistlers, White-faced Robins and Eclectus Parrots.  Birds were wonderful, but I was still missing catbirds from my list.

We went spotlighting several times and saw Large-tailed Nightjars, Marbled, Papuan and Tawny Frogmouths, a Barking Owl and a Barn Owl.  We also saw a Striped Possum and a Southern Common Cuscus.  We saw a Grassland Melomys with two babies and a Common Spotted Cucus in daylight.  We also saw several Bare-backed Fruit Bats during the day - they were huge.

On Thursday we had great views of Green-backed Honeyeaters, Yellow-billed Kingfishers and Magnificent Riflebirds.  On Friday morning, when at last I thought we might look for catbirds, five Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds turned up on our lawn and demanded our attention.  Then we were entertained by a hobby attacking a pair of Grey Goshawks.  The rainforest echoed with the rich, fluty call of Green Orioles and the attention-grabbing whistle of Magnificent Riflebirds.  Sadly, there was no mewing of catbirds.  We saw Frilled Monarchs and Wompoo Fruit-Doves and breathtaking views of Chestnut-breasted Cuckoos.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


We did a walk in Lake Eacham National Park where we saw a Wompoo Fruit-Dove on its nest and a Victoria's Riflebird displaying to a female, who, unimpressed, rejected him.  A Pied Monarch displayed his spectacular frill and a very angry Northern Dwarf Crowned Snake threatened us.  It was only about 40 centimetres long, but half of this was reared up, perpendicular to the ground, quite intimidating enough for me.  Had he been a little larger, he would have been truly terrifying.  In the afternoon we drove to Lake Barrine, where we saw a beautiful Shining Bronze-Cuckoo and a magnificent male Superb Fruit-Dove.  After tea we went spotlighting and saw nothing but a bandicoot and brush-turkeys roosting absurdly high in the canopy.  We heard Lesser Sooty Owls and Southern Boobooks, but, most frustratingly, they refused to show themselves.  Back at Chambers, we saw Sugar Gliders and a pretty Striped Possum.

The next morning, at a small park outside Malanda, we saw a Tooth-billed Bowerbird.  We paused at Bromfield Swamp on our way to Mt Hypipamee.  Here we admired the Golden Bowerbird's bower, then saw the bird as well as Mountain Thornbill.  We had great views of a bird I'd once thought I'd never see, and have now seen really well on three separate occasions - the Fernwren.
Common Brushtail Possum

The next day in Dinden National Park we saw White-browed Robins and Northern Fantails, and, most excitingly, a Red Boobook!  Robert Nevinson, our other guide, rubbed a stick against the trunk of a likely tree, and, to our delight, the boobook flew out.  It sat glaring at us, demanding to know why we'd disturbed its rest.
Looking at a Red Boobook, the northern race of the Southern Boobook

We had lunch in Kuranda where we saw the second thrilling snake of the trip - a Green Tree Snake.  It wasn't green and it wasn't in a tree.  It was beside the track, black with a yellow belly, with white flecks on its back.  It was thin and about a metre long.  It slithered away and suddenly all the white flecks disappeared and its back became a uniform dark colour.

Spotlighting that night gave us one Green Ringtail Possum and one Barn Owl.  My bird count was 178.  We then moved on to part two of the tour:  Iron Range.


In July 2017, I saw more species of birds than I have in any other July since I've been keeping records:  323.  That's because, as well as crossing the Nullarbor in search of Naretha Bluebonnets, I travelled to Cape York with Philip Maher. The tour was in two parts: Atherton Tablelands and Iron Range. For the first part of the tour, we started in Cairns, then went on to Lake Eacham and Kingfisher Lodge.
We started with an early morning wander along Cairns Esplanade, giving my birdlist a healthy kick-start with 30 species.  Highlights were a Great-billed Heron and a Beach Stone-Curlew.  Also worthy of mention were the Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, the Torresian Kingfisher and a most obliging Mangrove Robin that allowed us to admire it without actually going into the mangroves and exposing ourselves to Cairns' veracious sandflies.  We saw the only Tree Martins for the trip and the only Scaly-breasted Munias, about fifty of them.  Then we paid our compliments to a sleepy Rufous Owl roosting in a huge fig tree at Les Davie Park, before visiting Machons Beach at Redden Island, near the mouth of the Barron River.  Here we added 14 species to our list, most notably Black-necked Stork, Lovely Fairywren and both Black-faced and White-eared Monarchs.  We had lunch at Centenary Lakes, where we added Black Butcherbird, Papuan Frogmouth and a stunning Little Kingfisher.  There was also the only Striated Heron of the trip.

Magpie Geese at Centenary Park

Birding with Phil is always hard work.  Participants are simply expected to keep up, whether it's bush-bashing through impenetrable rainforest, climbing through vicious barbed wire fences or crossing preposterous creeks wider than my largest practicable long-jump.  The upside is, that when you go birding with Phil, not only do you see great birds, you also enjoy Trisha's unsurpassed cuisine.  Every meal was a delight.  Thank you, Trish!

We spent the night at Chambers Rainforest Lodge, where Spotted Catbirds and Victoria's Riflebirds came delightfully close to eat fruit strategically placed to entice them in.  Here, while we were admiring Double-eyed Fig-Parrots (race macleayana), Topknot Pigeons flew over, and I didn't know where to look.  To feast on the fig-parrots or forego them for the pigeons?
Track at Lake Eacham

ng.  In the afternoon we drove to Lake Barrine, where we saw a beautiful