Birding Tour Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics


Dates and Costs:

 

30 October – 16 November 2023

Spaces Available: 2

Price: AU$14,560 / $10,587 / £8,833 / €9,889 per person sharing (6-8 participants).

Single Supplement: AU$2,132  / $1,550 / £1,294 / €1,448

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to base price when making final payments.

 

30 November – 17 December 2024

Price: AU$TBC  per person sharing (we expect 2024 prices to be 5-10% higher than 2023 prices) (6 – 8 participants)

Single Supplement: AU$TBC

 


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 18 days
Group Size: 6 – 8
Tour Start: Melbourne, Victoria
Tour End: Cairns, Queensland


Price includes:

All accommodation (as described above from day 1 through day 17)
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until breakfast on day 18)
Expert tour leader
National park/birdwatching reserve/protected areas entrance fees
Boat trips on the Daintree River and the Great Barrier Reef
Private transportation during the tour and transfers (possibly shared) to and from the airports

 

Price excludes:

International flights
Domestic flights within Australia during tour (Required Melbourne-Brisbane and Brisbane-Cairns. We can book these for you and provide costs to ensure that everyone is on the same flight – estimate about AU$800)
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/etc. excursions
Visa if required
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/monument excursions
Soft/alcoholic drinks (drinking water is safe from the taps, please bring a refillable water bottle)
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

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Eastern Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics
October/November 2023/2024

 

Australia, the island continent, is a remote landmass that drifted away from Antarctica tens of millions of years ago. Without significant volcanic activity and other mountain-building forces it is also the flattest continent, with the world’s oldest soils. Despite its lack of topography this incredible landmass is one of extremes. The Outback, the continent’s core, is a vast and hostile desert with unpredictable weather patterns that sometimes flush the landscape green. Along the edges more regular precipitation allows ancient rainforests, heathlands, and fire-resistant sclerophyll woodlands to grow. Due to its long isolation and harsh environments Australia is now home to birds of a different feather, including eight endemic bird families and a further seven shared only with neighboring New Guinea. About 300 bird species are endemic to Australia, making it second only to Indonesia in this regard. Throughout this country’s every extreme its amazing avifauna has shown the adaptability and resiliency to survive in even the most challenging environments. In addition, this avifauna is just dripping with charismatic species, from bowerbirds to parrots to fairywrens to kookaburras to cassowaries to lyrebirds. Throughout the course of this small-group tour we sample habitats ranging from the arid plains north of Deniliquin to the wet rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands in search of as many of these wonderful birds as possible, while also appreciating the many other unique plants and animals along the way.


The incredible birds and wildlife of eastern Australia: a virtual birding tour by Andy Walker (who guides our Australian tours). This presentation was part of the highly recommended SE Arizona birding festival hosted by the Tucson Audubon Society (also see their YouTube channel here).

 

Our journey begins at the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne, Victoria in southeast Australia, visiting coastal heathland for several localized habitat specialists such as Gang-gang Cockatoo and Beautiful Firetail. Farther north and west towards the interior, arid mallee vegetation and saline lakes provide habitat for the mound-building Malleefowl, the impossibly blue Splendid Fairywren, and the evocatively named Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, among a host of other species. On one evening we make a special effort to observe the monotypic Plains-wanderer in the dry plains north of Deniliquin in New South Wales

Outback birding toursWe will search for Plains-wanderer (a monotypic family) in the dry plains of New South Wales.

 

Following our time in New South Wales we will swing southeast through the sclerophyll forests of Chiltern and the temperate forests near Melbourne for targets such as Turquoise Parrot and Superb Lyrebird.

After an internal flight from Melbourne to Brisbane, Queensland, we drive up to the famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, nestled within a large tract of subtropical rainforest, for a totally new set of stunning birds such as Paradise Riflebird, Regent Bowerbird, Satin Bowerbird, Noisy Pitta, Albert’s Lyrebird, and Australian Logrunner.

On the last leg of our journey we visit the Wet Tropics of far northern Queensland to explore one of the world’s most ancient rainforests for key species such as Southern Cassowary and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher. We also take a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, where the colors and diversity of the fish and corals rival those of the birds, with a chance to swim with Green Turtles. Evening spotlighting sessions on many of these nights should also produce a host of endearing and unusual nocturnal birds and mammals, which may include Papuan Frogmouth and Barking Owl. Other target birds in the north include Great-billed Heron, Australian Bustard, Victoria’s Riflebird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Great Bowerbird, Golden Bowerbird, Fernwren, and Chowchilla to name a few.

Outback birding toursThe massive Southern Cassowary can be seen in northern Queensland.

 

During our time in Australia we will also look for some of the country’s incredible and unique animals, including Platypus, Short-beaked Echidna, Koala, Red Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Common Ringtail Possum, Common Brushtail Possum, Musky Rat Kangaroo, and Common Wombat. The birds in Australia are incredible, but so are the mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that we will see; they combine to result in an awesome wildlife-filled experience. This continent is a naturalist’s dream!

Sometimes we do this tour in the reverse order shown in this itinerary. Please confirm the route for your tour with us before purchasing your flight tickets.

For those wishing to continue exploring Australia (and we fully recommend it), this tour can be combined with our set of tours preceding and following this one: Australia: Tasmania – Endemics and the Orange-bellied ParrotAustralia: Northern Territory – Top End Birding, and Western Australia: Southwest Specialties.  From 2022 you can also join our new Northern Territory – Alice Springs Birding tour (it will fit perfectly between our Top End and Western Australia tours). All five of our Australian birdwatching tours could be combined into one long tour, or you could just do one or two (or more!), whatever suits your time. We can also arrange further extensions (e.g., sightseeing trips to Sydney, Uluru, etc., and pelagic trips) if you wish.

 

 Itinerary (18 days/17 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Melbourne

Non-birding day with your arrival into Melbourne airport, the rest of the day will be at your leisure. We will meet in our hotel near the airport for an evening welcome dinner together.

Overnight: Melbourne Airport Hotel

 

Day 2. Melbourne to Aireys Inlet

Over the course of the day we will enjoy some of Australia’s common and widespread, yet beautiful and interesting birds, such as Magpie-lark, Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Willie Wagtail, Laughing Kookaburra, and Australian Magpie.

Outback birding toursThe gaudy Rainbow Lorikeet can be seen around Melbourne.

 

We drive around Melbourne to the world-famous Werribee Western Treatment Plant area along the coast. Included in the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance in 1983, this extremely rich, huge area contains a network of sewage treatment lagoons, unmodified saltmarsh, creeks, and lakes, which host large numbers of both sedentary and migratory waterbirds. We will navigate a series of roads around this area, where water levels permit. Among a wide assortment of other species Freckled Duck, Pink-eared Duck, and Musk Duck will be top priorities, as well as the secretive Australian Crake and the highly localized Striated Fieldwren. The area is often great for raptors, and we may find Black-shouldered Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australian Hobby, and Brown Falcon.

We then continue southward along the coast to Aireys Inlet for the night. Along the way a few stops may produce Southern Emu-wren, Black-tailed Nativehen, Black-fronted Dotterel, Cape Barren Goose, and White-winged Chough. Maybe we will even spot our first Eastern Grey Kangaroo or Koala along the way!

Overnight: Aireys Inlet

 

Day 3. Aireys Inlet to central Victoria

Composed of dense, low shrubs and scattered, twisted trees, coastal heathland occurs on impoverished soils with poor drainage. Despite the nutrient-poor soils this habitat boasts a high diversity of plants as well as a unique community of birds that depend on them. We spend most of the morning exploring the scenic coastal heathlands of southwest Victoria, seeking out some of these species, such as Southern Emu-wren, Beautiful Firetail, and Rufous Bristlebird. Areas of taller vegetation may host the endearing Gang-gang Cockatoo, while a sea watch may yield Black-browed Albatross, Australasian Gannet, and other pelagic birds offshore.

Outback birding toursBeautiful Firetail inhabits low shrubs in central Victoria.

 

As the day progresses, we drive inland into central Victoria for our first taste of box-ironbark forest, a habitat endemic to Australia. Because the component tree species in this habitat are such prolific flower and nectar producers, there is a correspondingly high diversity of nectar-feeding honeyeaters and lorikeets, including the normally scarce and local Purple-gaped Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, and Purple-crowned Lorikeet.

Overnight: Inglewood

 

Day 4. Central Victoria to Ouyen

After some brief morning birding around Inglewood we continue to the Ouyen area in northwestern Victoria. Along the way we will stop at Lake Tyrrell, a salt-crusted and mostly dry lake bed surrounded by saltbush and samphire. Despite its unlikely appearance this low vegetation is home to several charismatic birds, such as Orange Chat, White-winged Fairywren, and Eastern Bluebonnet, which we will target during our time here.

Founded in 1921, Wyperfeld National Park protects a significant tract of semi-arid mallee woodland and heathland. Depending on local conditions we may visit this site as we are passing. High on our list of priorities here would be the appropriately named Malleefowl, Southern Scrub Robin, Splendid Fairywren, and Southern Whiteface, and other birds of the dry Australian interior are also possible.

Outback birding toursA top target while in mallee habitat will be Malleefowl.

 

In the late afternoon we will arrive in Ouyen in the mallee habitat. Due to the number of secretive and highly sought birds here we will spend two nights and days birding the area, giving us plenty of time to try and connect with some of the arid area’s great birds like Malleefowl, notable for incubating its eggs in large nesting mounds.

Overnight: Ouyen

 

Day 5. Birding Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

As one of Australia’s largest and most pristine mallee reserves, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park boasts a wide variety of bird species that are much more difficult to see elsewhere, such as Mallee Emu-wren and Striated Grasswren. We will spend the full day birding within and around the park and town. In addition to the species mentioned above we will be looking for one of the most spectacular parrots in all of Australia, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. Hopefully the cockatoo will be accompanied by a rich and colorful supporting cast of dry-country specialties, such as Regent Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Crested Bellbird, and Emu. Possibly we will have our first look at the huge Red Kangaroo here too.

Overnight: Ouyen

Outback birding toursThe rare Mallee Emu-wren (it is considered Endangered by BirdLife International) can be found in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park.

 

Day 6. Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, travel to Deniliquin, and Plains-wanderer night trip

We will have another morning birding in the wonderful Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, where we will continue to seek out the area’s specialties, maybe including White-winged Chough, Apostlebird, Chestnut Quail-thrush, and many more. As the morning progresses, we will head out of Victoria into neighboring New South Wales. We will likely stop at Lake Tutchewop along the way, which, depending on water levels, may hold the elegant Red-necked Avocet and the dapper Banded Stilt.

Outback birding toursThe fairywrens are sure to be one of the most-enjoyed birds of the trip, this is a Splendid Fairywren, one of several fairywren species likely on the tour.

 

We will have a long day today, because during the evening we will go out to search for the bizarre Plains-wanderer, the sole representative of an endemic Australian family, most closely related to the shorebirds (but its closest living relatives are thought to be the seedsnipes of South America!). Although this species is the star attraction of this site, we may also encounter other birds, such as Inland Dotterel, Banded Lapwing, Stubble Quail, Eastern Barn Owl, or Australian Owlet-nightjar on this nocturnal foray.

Overnight: Deniliquin

 

Day 7. Transfer to Chiltern via Gulpa Island

After a late night we allow ourselves to sleep in before continuing our journey to Chiltern via Gulpa Island and various other sites in the Riverina bioregion. Targets on this more laid-back day include the vivid Superb Parrot, the elusive Gilbert’s Whistler, and the striking White-backed Swallow as we aim to arrive in Chiltern in the midafternoon.

Overnight: Chiltern

 

Day 8. Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park to Healesville

Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, established in October 2002, protects what is arguably the best flora and fauna assemblage of box-ironbark forest and woodland in Australia and forms an important link between the foothills of the Australian Alps with the plains of the Murray River. The trees which define this habitat produce an abundance of nectar when flowering, attracting birds from far and wide. The sounds of birds can be almost deafening during these times! Targets attracted to these blooms include Little Lorikeet, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater, and perhaps, with considerable luck, even the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Regent Honeyeater (this site being one of its last strongholds, but it is still exceedingly rare here). Elsewhere in the forest we search for the rainbow-like Turquoise Parrot, the bark-peeling Crested Shriketit, the ground-dwelling Speckled Warbler, and more. We may even come across the unusual Short-beaked Echidna here.

After lunch we continue our journey southward to the town of Healesville near the city of Melbourne for the night. Here we will have a chance for some evening spotlighting for birds such as Greater Sooty Owl and mammals, possibly possums and gliders.

Overnight: Healesville

Outback birding toursParrots are sure to continually impress during this tour, this is Turquoise Parrot.

 

Day 9. Birding near Melbourne and conclusion of the “Outback” part of the tour

We spend most of the day at Bunyip State Park, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) east of Melbourne, birding wet sclerophyll forest and swampy heathlands. Within these mossy forests we hope to find several of Australia’s most charismatic and emblematic birds. Superb Lyrebird, an unrivalled mimic and the world’s largest songbird, will be chief among our targets. The forest and heathland communities are also home to Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Pilotbird, Olive Whistler, Eastern Whipbird, Flame Robin, Rose Robin, Pink Robin, Red-browed Treecreeper, Rufous Fantail, and more. It is sure to be a wonderful end to the birding on this part of the tour. We will continue back to Melbourne, thus completing our circuit of Victoria, where we will spend the night in an airport hotel ahead of an early flight the next day.

Overnight: Melbourne

 

Day 10. Transfer from Melbourne to Brisbane and to Lamington National Park

After an early-morning flight we arrive in Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland, to continue our tour. We first stop at a few mangrove sites near the airport itself, searching for the endemic Mangrove Honeyeater and Mangrove Gerygone. Nearby wetland sites often hold the elusive Spotless Crake, and we could obtain our first sightings of Comb-crested Jacana, Red-backed Fairywren, Torresian Kingfisher, and more while we search for them.

Afterwards we drive to the world-famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat at Lamington National Park. A colorful and interesting suite of birds attends the lodge gardens here, including Crimson Rosella, Australian King Parrot, Regent Bowerbird, Satin Bowerbird, Australian Brushturkey, and Wonga Pigeon. These birds are unusually tame and provide excellent opportunities for photography.

Overnight: Lamington National Park

Outback birding toursGorgeous Regent Bowerbirds are often present around our rooms!

 

Day 11. Full day birding Lamington National Park

Situated in the heart of Lamington National Park, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is well-known for its rainforest location, diverse wildlife, and interesting history. Using the lodge as our base we spend the full day exploring the verdant network of subtropical rainforest trails in search of several spectacular birds unique to the area. Albert’s Lyrebird, Australian Logrunner, and Noisy Pitta inhabit the forest understory, while birds in the mid-story and canopy include Paradise Riflebird, Topknot Pigeon, Black-faced Monarch, and Green Catbird. We will make a concerted effort to see all of these species during our stay as well as leaving time to enjoy the site’s good variety of mammals, a good number of which only come out at night.

Overnight: Lamington National Park

 

Day 12. Transfer from Brisbane to Cairns, birding the Cairns Esplanade

We will have a pre-breakfast birding walk into the forest near our accommodation once again, where we will keep searching for new and interesting species, maybe finding a cryptically plumaged Russet-tailed Thrush or the gorgeous and rather cute Rose Robin. After another sumptuous O’Reilly’s breakfast, we drive off the mountain and head back toward the city in time to make our flight farther north on our tour of the Australian east coast.

When we arrive in Cairns, depending on the tide time, we might make the short jaunt from our hotel to the Cairns Esplanade to enjoy its variety of shorebirds, from the hulking Far Eastern Curlew to the dainty Terek Sandpiper. We may also check a short stretch of mangrove forest nearby for Mangrove Robin and Varied Honeyeater, localized habitat specialists. We are sure to see plenty of Torresian Imperial Pigeons, Australasian Figbirds, and Metallic Starlings flying around near our accommodation.

Overnight: Cairns

 

Day 13. Great Barrier Reef trip and travel to Kuranda

The Great Barrier Reef is an ecosystem of many superlatives that no words can do justice. After an early breakfast we board a boat that will take us out to experience this incredible reef system. Our first stop is Michaelmas Cay, a tiny islet that hosts an impressive number of nesting seabirds. Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, and Greater Crested Tern dominate, but Lesser Crested Tern, Black Noddy, and Black-naped Tern are also possible. Brown Booby can be seen perched on man-made structures, while marauding Great and Lesser Frigatebirds often soar overhead. We will spend some time here enjoying the spectacle. Weather and sea conditions permitting, we should be able to land on the cay to get close-up views of these seabirds. There is also the likelihood of snorkeling here, but for this part of our reef trip the focus is really on the birds, though we will also keep our eyes peeled for dolphins and sea turtles.

Outback birding toursThe birds around Michaelmas Cay are outstanding, but the underwater life is just as mesmerizing. It’s well worth jumping in, with a great chance of finding a Green Turtle amongst a myriad of kaleidoscopic tropical fish.

 

After lunch the boat usually moves across to Hastings Reef, where there will be an option to snorkel, scuba dive, or take a glass bottom boat tour, all three options giving a wonderful opportunity to observe the plethora of shockingly colorful life below the surface. When we return to shore in the midafternoon we will jump into our van and head into the rainforest to the west of Cairns to the Kuranda area, where we will spend the night.

Overnight: Kuranda

 

Day 14. Birding near Kuranda, transfer to Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges

Our main target bird for the morning, and if we are successful, likely to be a ‘bird of the trip’ contender, is the humongous and rare Southern Cassowary, the largest bird in Australia by weight. Cassowary House has hosted a family of these imposing birds for many years. While we venture to a nearby rainforest road in the morning for our first shot at a variety of new fruit doves, monarch flycatchers, and honeyeaters, we will remain in contact with our lodge host, should a cassowary venture into the gardens. Other visitors to the Cassowary House feeders include the normally reclusive Red-necked Crake as well as Pacific Emerald Dove and Macleay’s Honeyeater. We might also get lucky and see the local Victoria’s Riflebird (a bird-of-paradise) displaying in and around the lodge gardens.

In the late morning we continue our journey southwest to the Atherton Tablelands, but not without stopping at a couple of wetland sites for Sarus Crane and Brolga, Wandering Whistling Duck and Plumed Whistling Duck, and other open-country species. We spend the course of the next two days visiting a variety of sites on the Atherton Tablelands, a fertile plateau hosting several habitats from high altitude rainforest to drier eucalypt woodland. There will be a lot of targets to fit into the next couple of days, so expect long days as we try to connect with as many of them as possible. Although we will keep our itinerary flexible, based on our growing trip list, we will likely spend time birding the cooler wet forest of Mount Hypipamee National Park, Lake Barrine, and the Curtain Fig Tree for Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Golden Bowerbird, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Grey-headed Robin, Chowchilla, and more. We can, with some luck, also find Victoria’s Riflebird and Spotted Catbird in the gardens of our accommodation. Nocturnal activity is also wonderfully exciting here, and we will be sure to spend some time looking for a range of possums, gliders, and more, as well as for the diurnal Musky Rat Kangaroo. Here we will also have a search for the bizarre Platypus.

Overnight: Lake Eacham

 

Day 15. Birding Atherton Tablelands

On our second day in the area we make our way northward along the much drier eastern edge of the Atherton Tablelands, stopping at various sites, which may include Granite Gorge Nature Park, Mount Carbine, Lake Mitchell, and the Maryfarms Road. Much like on the previous day there will be no shortage of potential targets. Australian Bustard, Squatter Pigeon, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Spotted Harrier, Blue-winged Kookaburra, and Great Bowerbird are only a sample of the many wonderful birds we may encounter today. After a long day of birding we settle in at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge for the next two nights.

Overnight: Julatten

Outback birding toursPresent in the dry north, we will be on the lookout for Blue-winged Kookaburra.

 

Day 16. Birding Mount Lewis and Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

The signature species at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, is fully migratory in this part of its range, arriving to nest in November with the onset of the rainy season. We carefully time this itinerary to coincide with the arrival of this spectacular kingfisher to the Atherton Tablelands.

A small area of rainforest in an otherwise agricultural landscape is an amazing sight, and this small block of habitat is home to some remarkable species. We will find lots of new birds here with some target birds including Papuan Frogmouth, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Graceful Honeyeater, Pied Monarch, Superb Fruit Dove, Forest Kingfisher, and Noisy Pitta. The high-altitude rainforest at Mount Lewis offers another chance at Golden Bowerbird and several very restricted-range endemics such as Fernwren, Chowchilla, Mountain Thornbill, Atherton Scrubwren, Blue-faced Parrotfinch, and more. Evening spotlighting on the lodge grounds may produce Lesser Sooty Owl or Barking Owl and the possibility of some more interesting mammals and reptiles.

Overnight: Julatten

 

 

Day 17. Daintree River Cruise

We will need an early start today to arrive in time for our dawn cruise along the scenic Daintree River. By scanning the sandy banks and lush riverside vegetation from the comfort of our boat we will keep a sharp eye out for the bulky Great-billed Heron, family groups of Shining Flycatcher, the cryptically camouflaged Papuan Frogmouth, and flocks of the diminutive Double-eyed Fig Parrot – maybe even the rare Little Kingfisher.

Back on dry land we will search the surrounding forest for Lovely Fairywren and the sandy beaches for Beach Stone-curlew before driving south toward Cattana Wetlands in the afternoon. Here we hope to obtain views of the vivid Crimson Finch and the retiring White-browed Crake.

Upon arrival in Cairns we pay an afternoon visit to the Cairns Botanical Gardens and Centenary Lakes. This lush park is home to a rich assortment of birds, including Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Bush Stone-curlew, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Black Butcherbird, and more. As the afternoon wears on a variety of woodland species, such as Rainbow Bee-eater, Brown-backed Honeyeater, and Yellow Honeyeater, become more active, often bathing on the edges of a freshwater lake. We will enjoy a final evening meal together with the difficult task of choosing the ‘Bird of the Trip’, never an easy thing to do in Australia.

Overnight: Cairns

Outback birding toursOne of the toughest kingfishers to find in Australia, we will hope to find the Little Kingfisher while on a boat trip on the Daintree River.

 

Day 18. Transfer to Cairns Airport, tour concludes

Non-birding day with your departure from Cairns Airport.

Overnight: Not included

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.

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Eastern Australia – From the Outback to the Wet Tropics Trip Report, November 2022

3 – 20 NOVEMBER 2022

By Andy Walker

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

 

Our evening watching four Plains-wanderers under a total lunar eclipse was rather special!

Overview

 

This exciting Australian birding tour covered the eastern portion of this vast continent country. The first leg of the tour started in Melbourne, Victoria on the 3rd of November 2022, and from there we commenced a circuit of central, western, and northern Victoria and across the border for a brief foray into south central New South Wales. The second leg of the tour saw us fly to Brisbane, southern Queensland for a long weekend of birding around the famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The third and final leg of the trip had us commencing a circuit around Far North Queensland and the Atherton Tablelands, starting and ending in Cairns, this also included Great Barrier Reef and Daintree River boat trips. The tour ended in Cairns on the 20th of November 2022.

We recorded 379 species (seven heard only) and enjoyed a long list of endemic species and families during the tour. The list of highlights is long, and there are way too many to list here, but you can’t go too far wrong with top-quality birds like Southern Cassowary, Malleefowl, Plains-wanderer, Spotted Nightjar, Papuan Frogmouth, Great-billed Heron, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Superb Parrot, Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Squatter Pigeon, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Rufous Bristlebird, Superb Lyrebird, Albert’s Lyrebird, Pilotbird, Fernwren, Chowchilla, Australian Logrunner, Noisy Pitta, Paradise Riflebird, Victoria’s Riflebird, Regent Bowerbird, Great Bowerbird, Green Catbird, Spotted Catbird, Striated Grasswren, Splendid Fairywren, Mallee Emu-wren, Painted Honeyeater, and Diamond Firetail, to name just a few. As is usual for this tour, we found some remarkable endemic wildlife beyond all the birds, with major highlights including Koala (mother and joey), Red Kangaroo, Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, Short-beaked Echidna, Platypus, and Saltwater Crocodile. We also enjoyed stunning butterflies and impressive wildflowers, particularly orchids. Trip lists follow the report.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo was one of 28 cockatoo/parrot species recorded during the tour.

Detailed Report 

 

Day 1, 3rd November 2022. Arrival in Melbourne

The group arrived in Melbourne, and we met for a welcome dinner in the evening and discussed the plans for the next few weeks of exciting birding in the east of Australia.

 

Day 2, 4th November 2022. Melbourne to Airey’s Inlet

We met up with Simon our local guide and commenced our journey out of Melbourne to the west of the city, ending up along the Great Ocean Road at Airey’s Inlet. We called in at multiple sites made up of various habitats during the day and as a result ended up with a large day list of over one hundred species, featuring many Australian endemic birds and families.

Most of our day was spent around the famed Werribee Western Treatment Plant and wider area. Given the record high levels of water around, the site wasn’t as productive as usual for waterbirds (we would be looking for those throughout the rest of the tour), so we actually concentrated our efforts on some woodland and lakes in the vicinity during the morning. Our first stop gave us Little Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Galah, Crimson (Crimson) Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Crested Pigeon, Superb Fairywren, Striated Pardalote, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Varied Sittella, Red-browed Finch, and Diamond Firetail. The first wetland site we visited produced Little Grassbird, Australasian Grebe (on a nest), Australasian Swamphen, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Maned Duck, and Australian Shelduck.

We had some excellent views of several juvenile Australian Hobbies hunting dragonflies over wet areas. They were very successful in their pursuits, catching their prey with ease.

After lunch we found Cape Barren Goose, Black-fronted Dotterel, and Australian Pelican in a residential area. Visiting some of the nearby water treatment works areas we found Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon, Swamp Harrier, Black Swan, Golden-headed Cisticola, Australian Reed Warbler, Striated Fieldwren, White-fronted Chat, and one of the stars of the afternoon, a family group of Brolgas.

Late in the afternoon, the coast presented us with a new set of birds too, Hooded Dotterel, Red-capped Plover, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Tern, Silver Gull, and Kelp Gull. Peregrine Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite, and White-bellied Sea Eagle were overhead. A rather pretty pair of nesting Blue-winged Parrots proved a fitting end to a great first day birding in Australia as they were illuminated by the glorious late afternoon sunlight.

 

Day 3, 5th November 2022. Airey’s Inlet to central Victoria

We had another fantastic day birding in Australia as we made our way from the Great Ocean Road through to central Victoria and the town of Wedderburn. We started our birding at Airey’s Inlet where we visited a small pond and the lighthouse. Here we found our main target, Rufous Bristlebird with ease, along with other targets such as Black-faced Cormorant, Australasian Gannet, Latham’s Snipe, Singing Honeyeater, and Little Wattlebird.

Rufous Bristlebird belongs to one of several Australian-endemic families seen on the tour.

After breakfast we drove up and onto Anglesea Heath. We were greeted with near-perfect mild and windless conditions. Here we found Southern Emu-wren, Striated Fieldwren, and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren with minimal effort, and also enjoyed seeing Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, and Wedge-tailed Eagle, to name a few of the goodies.

A short drive to another spot saw us getting more top birds, and these included Brush Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, White-throated Treecreeper, Crested (Eastern) Shriketit, Australian Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Striated Thornbill, and a host of honeyeaters, including Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, and Brown-headed Honeyeater. After the success of these morning stops, which included excellent views of great birds, we decided to get the majority of our long drive north under our belts.

After lunch, our luck continued as we called into a variety of different wooded habitats. One of the big highlights of the afternoon, and the whole day, was seeing a family party of roosting Powerful Owls, they are such huge birds and very impressive to see! Our next stop was a bonanza of birds, and we found Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Olive-backed Oriole, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Spotted Pardalote, Grey Shrikethrush, Eastern Yellow Robin, Dusky Woodswallow, Musk Lorikeet, and Common Bronzewing.

Our final stop of the day gave us even more new birds, and we really couldn’t have asked for more, with great views of Square-tailed Kite, Shy Heathwren, White-winged Chough, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, and White-backed Swallow rounding off another excellent day, with over one hundred species recorded again (and no wetland birding today to inflate the list either!).

Crested Shriketit gave excellent views. This species complex is likely to be split by the IOC very soon (it has already been split by some authorities). Birds here becoming Eastern Shriketit.

Day 4, 6th November 2022. Central Victoria to the mallee at Mildura

Our first stop of the day was at Mount Korong Nature Conservation Reserve. It was a beautiful morning, and the birding was excellent. We found our main targets, displaying Painted Honeyeater and nest-building and courtship-dancing Diamond Firetails. Several other top birds seen included Painted Buttonquail, Gilbert’s Whistler, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, White-winged Chough, Mistletoebird, and Rufous Songlark (doing well in the perfect conditions).

We called in to Lake Tyrrell Wildlife Reserve for our picnic lunch and in doing so connected with Rufous Fieldwren, White-winged Fairywren, Black-faced Woodswallow, Australian Pipit, White-fronted Chat, and Brown Songlark. It was incredible seeing the lake full of water, not the usual sight here. After this brief yet productive stop, we drove across the short distance to Wyperfeld National Park.

Birding for the majority of the afternoon at Wyperfeld was great fun. We saw our first Emu of the trip, always a highly anticipated moment, and a dad with five chicks was a great start. Raptors abounded and one of the highlights was watching a dueling Spotted Harrier and Wedge-tailed Eagle at fairly close range, we also saw plenty of Nankeen Kestrels and Brown Falcons, along with Black-shouldered Kite. Parrots were frequently seen, and we got our first Cockatiel, Regent Parrot, Australian Ringneck, Eastern Bluebonnet, and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo of the trip. Smaller birds seen included the stunning Splendid Fairywren, Yellow-throated Miner, Striped Honeyeater, Southern Whiteface, Pied Butcherbird, and Grey Butcherbird.

It had been a long afternoon in increasing temperatures, and due to the recent heavy rains and floods, increasing numbers of mosquitoes. However, the day had one final surprise for us as we commenced our drive out of the national park towards our accommodation. As we were slowly driving along a road, the much hoped for shape of a Malleefowl was observed feeding along the side of a road in the distance. We stopped to get scope views of the bird and then gradually crept forward in the vehicle, the bird remained, and everyone got good, much closer views as it continued to feed unconcerned by our presence. A big target in the bag.

A well-camouflaged Malleefowl was a fitting end to another excellent day of birding in Victoria.

 

Day 5, 7th November 2022. Birding Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

We enjoyed a wonderful day birding in the mallee. During the morning we connected with our three main targets, as well as many other great birds that were new for the trip. As we drove towards Hattah-Kulkyne National Park from our accommodation we saw a small flock of Cockatiel fly over the road. We stopped to see if we could find any others and to our joy found a flock of seven birds perched up in trees and feeding along a dirt track below. We also got better perched views of Eastern Bluebonnet, Sacred Kingfisher, and Black-shouldered Kite here.

Our first target in the national park gave itself up with little effort when we found a gorgeous Chestnut Quail-thrush, one of several singing birds heard during the early morning period. While here we were teased by a Mulga Parrot that flew in and landed practically out of sight for most. Luckily, we saw some others that showed better later in the day. We also had a flyover by a small flock of Budgerigars, which was a really nice surprise. As we left the quail-thrush area we got excellent views of a pair of Mallee Emu-wrens. This Endangered (BirdLife International) species has a tiny, highly precarious global range and we were thrilled to find them, the spinifex grass they live in was looking incredible this year after all rainfall too.

Chestnut Quail-thrush gave some incredible views as it sang from a perch that was just visible through the unusually long spinifex flowers (a result of bumper rains). The whole region was looking stunning, with tons of growth and birds breeding all over the place!

After a quick cup of tea/coffee and some snacks, we dropped down to another spot in the dunes, where we found our third main target of the day, with surprising ease (again)! After getting into position out of sight (as much as possible given the sparse vegetation) we waited for our target bird to appear, suddenly we were face-to-face with a Striated Grasswren. The bird performed excellently for everyone, which was a nice surprise given how tough they can be at times.

The shy and localized Striated Grasswren showed remarkably well for us.

Covering off some different areas in the park during the middle of the day resulted in yet more top birds, including Southern Scrub Robin, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Inland Thornbill, Splendid Fairywren, Weebill, Regent Parrot, White-browed Babbler, and many more.

During the afternoon and early evening, we did some birding around the town of Ouyen. We had some excellent views of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (see photo in tour summary section), White-backed Swallow, Purple-backed Fairywren, Southern Whiteface, and Spotted Nightjar. The sunset and moonrise were spectacular too.

 

Day 6, 8th November 2022. Mildura to Deniliquin

We had a very long day, somewhat extended by the serious floods going on in northern Victoria and southern New South Wales, which resulted in some changed plans and flexibility in our route between our start and end points! The majority of the morning and afternoon was spent traveling, though we picked up several new birds along the way, including Apostlebird, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Crimson (Yellow) Rosella, and Red-capped Robin. It was quite incredible driving past hundreds of kilometers of flooded land, with many trees getting water for the first time in over 30 years in some cases, as the unprecedented (in recent times) flood waters were rising. We picked up several ducks (but only ones we had seen before), herons (our best view of White-necked Heron so far), and raptors (plenty of Nankeen Kestrels, Brown Falcons, Black Kites, Whistling Kites, and Little Eagle sightings) along these areas.

The main event for the day, however, was our evening trip out onto the Hay plains, north of Deniliquin in New South Wales. We met up with Phil, our local guide and drove north. There was lots of flooding along the road and a few stops produced Magpie Goose, Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler, Black-tailed Nativehen, Hoary-headed Grebe, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, and Little Pied Cormorant.

We arrived at a specific spot in the vast plains where we enjoyed watching a stunning sunset and just as impressive moonrise at the same time. As the evening progressed, we got to witness the rare sight of a total lunar eclipse while we were birding. As we commenced walking, we could hear singing Horsfield’s Bush Lark and soon were watching a couple of Stubble Quails at close range. We spent about the next hour walking circuits around a huge paddock on the plain, finding Fat-tailed Dunnart (a carnivorous marsupial), Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo, Red Kangaroo, and House Mouse. Suddenly however we found our main target, Plains-wanderer. The bird was a male so not as colored as the female, but we were happy to see one given how tough they can be to see. The bird showed brilliantly, but we wanted a bit more, so we continued walking and not very far away we found ourselves looking at a gorgeous female bird, she too showed wonderfully, and we all got great views (see trip report cover image).

Watching multiple Plains-wanderers under the total lunar eclipse was rather unique.

After the two great Plains-wanderer sightings we started our walk back to the car and after a short way, remarkably, picked up another pair of birds, this time the female was calling, an incredible sight and haunting sound. We enjoyed watching and listening to this bird and then continued on our way back. We even had Pink-eared Ducks calling as they flew over us here. The rest of the walk back and journey to town was fairly uneventful, though we did spot an Eastern Barn Owl along the road. After a rather long day we got back to our hotel in the early hours of the morning. Having seen Plains-wanderer so well was a real highlight of the tour, however, to get to see them in the strange red glow of the total lunar eclipse and a heavily flooded landscape was something else entirely, a unique experience and one that probably won’t be forgotten for a long time.

Day 7, 9th November 2022. Deniliquin to Chiltern

We afforded ourselves a lay in after our late finish yesterday and had a late and tasty breakfast in Deniliquin, still all rather excited about events from the previous evening. We had a relaxing day birding our way from Deniliquin in New South Wales to Chiltern, back in Victoria. A few stops near Deniliquin gave us our first Superb Parrots of the tour and we also found Little Friarbird, Jacky Winter, Western Gerygone, and a few other species. A perched Wedge-tailed Eagle at the side of the road was rather regal (and massive).

Our afternoon birding took us to the Warby-Ovens National Park. Here we got brief views of Turquoise Parrot, along with Restless Flycatcher (living up to its name), Noisy Friarbird, White-throated Gerygone, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater.

 

Day 8, 10th November 2022. Chiltern to Healesville

An enjoyable pre-breakfast birding session in Chiltern-Mt. Pilot National Park gave us perched views of Turquoise Parrot, our main avian target. What a stunning bird and we really enjoyed the sighting of an adult male looking resplendent in the early morning sunlight. Just prior to the parrot sighting we had one of the mammal highlights of the whole tour when we saw a mother Koala and her joey (baby) up in a tree, they gave some great views for us.

As far as Koala sightings go, this one was pretty much perfect!

Our morning birding gave us several other good birds, including Square-tailed Kite, Pallid Cuckoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Fuscous Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Olive-backed Oriole, Noisy Friarbird, White-throated Gerygone, Western Gerygone, and Little Lorikeet.

As we drove to Healesville, we made a few strategic stops along the way. These stops gave us yet more new birds, including some absolute belters like Pilotbird, Red-browed Treecreeper, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Flame Robin, Eastern Spinebill, Bell Miner, and an excellent Victoria bird in the form of a vocal male Common Cicadabird.

It is not every day that a Pilotbird hops out into the open on the top of a tree fern!

Day 9, 11th November 2022. Healesville to Melbourne

A productive pre-breakfast walk, near to the town of Healesville, gave us lots of birds, with further looks at Red-browed Treecreeper and our first Rufous Fantail and Satin Flycatcher of the tour. Bird activity was high, with lots of parrots moving around, including Gang-gang Cockatoo, Long-billed Corella, Crimson (Crimson) Rosella, and Australian King Parrot. Small birds like thornbills, pardalotes, and scrubwrens were also in evidence.

After breakfast we visited a different area and had brief views of Superb Lyrebird. Later we would hear one singing, an impressive sound as it mimicked at least eight other species! We also had good views of Grey Currawong, several pairs of the attractive Flame Robin, along with Rose Robin, more Rufous Fantails, a pair of Olive Whistlers and pair of Australian Golden Whistlers, with Pilotbird, and many more. We also got to see some leeches, always a highlight!

Unfortunately, it was time to head back into Melbourne to complete our southern circuit of this eastern Australia birding tour. Before we said our goodbyes and thank you to Simon, we visited some hills on the outskirts of the city where we found our final new bird of this section of the tour, a stunning male Scarlet Robin which showed exceptionally well. Here we also found some beautiful and interesting orchids, including the bizarre Large Flying Duck Orchid – a highlight all on its own!

A Scarlet Robin showed well and was our final “new” bird in Victoria.

Day 10, 12th November 2022. Melbourne to Brisbane and birding Brisbane mangroves

We took our morning flight from Melbourne to Brisbane, where we arrived around noon. We moved across to the coastal area for lunch before commencing our birding in this new and very different region of Australia. After lunch we visited a few mangrove and wetland sites around Brisbane and got good views of all our main targets, these being Mangrove Honeyeater, Mangrove Gerygone, and Torresian Kingfisher. While looking for these birds we found plenty of other new birds for the trip, including Red-backed Fairywren, Tawny Grassbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Brown Honeyeater, and Leaden Flycatcher. A few shorebirds were still hanging around a roost site and we noted Common Greenshank, Pacific Golden Plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Eurasian Whimbrel, Pied Oystercatcher, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  Out in the bay we found Australian Tern, Little Tern, Caspian Tern, and several species of herons and egrets.

 

Day 11, 13th November 2022. Birding Brisbane and travel to Lamington National Park

Our morning birding took us to the western suburbs of Brisbane. Our first stop was near our accommodation, where we saw a Pale-vented Bush-hen (thanks Rob!), not an easy task as this is usually one highly secretive species.

After arriving at our first proper birding location, some rainforest, new birds arrived thick and fast. We enjoyed our first Spangled Drongos, Topknot Pigeons, Brown Cuckoo-Doves, and Rufous Shrikethrushes, although our main targets were monarchs, and we had fabulous looks at both White-eared Monarch and Spectacled Monarch. To top off a great short birding session, we got to observe a pair of Rose-crowned Fruit Doves at close range and the male displaying to the female, those colors!

After a delightful breakfast (and the best coffee to date) we ventured into some drier eucalyptus forest, where we found Channel-billed Cuckoo, White-throated Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Pacific Baza (displaying), Oriental Dollarbird, and Double-barred Finch. However, the real highlight was probably the flock of over 300 White-throated Needletails that were wheeling about above us. We could hear these giant swifts screaming their heads off, and the noise they made when flying was rather loud too!

Rose-crowned Fruit Dove was a riot of color in the greens of the rainforest.

After our morning birding session, we headed south and into the mountains at Lamington National Park, noting our first Pheasant Coucal along the way. On our arrival in the beautiful rainforest of the national park we spend a couple of hours birding a productive trail. Here we found some great birds, including a male Paradise Riflebird and several foraging Green Catbirds, two of our main targets. Plenty of other new birds were found, such as Eastern Whipbird, Black-faced Monarch (our third monarch of the day!), Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Large-billed Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, and the highly anticipated Australian Brushturkey! We also gained improved views of Rose Robin, Australian Golden Whistler, and Rufous Fantail. It was a fantastic introduction into the avifauna of the area. As we checked into our rooms at the famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, we were greeted by a riot of color from Regent Bowerbird, Satin Bowerbird, Crimson (Crimson) Rosella, and Australian King Parrot, all showing at close range.

 

Day 12, 14th November 2022. Birding Lamington National Park

An early start saw us hitting the trails out from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. Around the lodge we saw plenty of Regent Bowerbirds, Satin Bowerbirds, and the other usual suspects like Australian Brushturkey, Pied Currawong, Crimson (Crimson) Rosella, and Australian King Parrot.

Our first real highlight of the morning was a pair of Australian Logrunners that were busily moving leaves looking for grubs. They have a very interesting foraging method that involves flicking their legs out sideways to move the leaf litter as they hunt for insects. Yellow-throated Scrubwren and White-browed Scrubwren were constantly at our feet, as were several pairs of Eastern Whipbirds and a couple of very vocal Wonga Pigeons. Plenty of other species we had seen the previous afternoon gave further views, such as Paradise Riflebird and Green Catbird.

After breakfast we heard two Albert’s Lyrebirds calling, and after a bit of a wait and by repositioning ourselves we all got to view this most wanted and very localized endemic. While looking for the lyrebird, we also noted a White-headed Pigeon quietly sitting above us. Walking onto the canopy walkway gave us an interesting perspective on the forest and we saw Rose Robin (our best view of the tour), Eastern Spinebill, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Large-billed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, and Silvereye.

Another localized endemic, Australian Logrunner, showed well on the dark forest floor.

After exploring the canopy walkway, we heard and them glimpsed a Noisy Pitta, but not great views for most. However, a short while later (after more logrunners, whipbirds, fantails, and other small birds) we heard another Noisy Pitta calling. We got into a position where we had a better view of the forest and after a short while located the male, getting great views of this attractive species. As we made our final walk of the morning back to the lodge for lunch, we got further views of Albert’s Lyrebird, this time feeding and a little more out in the open. While watching the lyrebird we had a pair of Bassian Thrushes crossing the trail with food and then continue to show wonderfully until we had had our fill, it was hard to know which way to look!

After lunch we enjoyed more of the same wonderful birds we had seen over the past 24 hours in Lamington National Park, with the addition of a brief Russet-tailed Thrush sighting (this after seeing three Bassian Thrushes on the afternoon walk too!).

We enjoyed some excellent views of Noisy Pitta while birding at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.

A gorgeous male Satin Bowerbird sat near his bower.

Day 13, 15th November 2022. Brisbane to Cairns and birding Cairns Esplanade

We had a final pre-breakfast morning walk at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat before it was time to depart (after another hearty breakfast!) from the mountain down to Brisbane, before catching our afternoon flight to Cairns. The expected Regent Bowerbird, Satin Bowerbird, Australian King Parrot, and Crimson (Crimson) Rosella greeted us outside the accommodation, they were also joined by a flock of rather cute Red-browed Finches. We then headed into the trails for a short walk, finding many of the now familiar species. A Russet-tailed Thrush was playing hide and seek and proving difficult to get good views, while Bassian Thrush was the total opposite, feeding their young out in the open, giving fantastic views. Australian Logrunners were very vocal and again showed well, as did a pair of Black-faced Monarchs. After breakfast it was time to leave this piece of paradise and drive back down to Brisbane for our early afternoon flight to Cairns.

Regent Bowerbird is always one of the most popular birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and it is easy to see why, it is absolutely stunning.

We arrived in Cairns in the late afternoon and transferred across to our nearby hotel on the famous Cairns Esplanade. A short walk at dusk in the hour before dinner gave us more new birds, including Pacific Reef Heron, Nankeen Night Heron, Varied Honeyeater, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Metallic Starling, Pacific Swift, and Double-eyed Fig Parrot. After a wonderful fish supper, we walked back to our hotel in dark where we saw plenty of Spectacled Flying Foxes flying around, and a single Bush Stone-curlew walking along the road! We would hear plenty of them giving their strange calls during the night here and at a few other places over the final few nights of the tour.

Day 14, 16th November 2022. Great Barrier Reef trip

As always, this was an enjoyable trip out onto the sea and over to Michaelmas Cay. However, before we joined our boat trip, our breakfast venue allowed us some shorebird viewing opportunities on the incoming tide. Here we noted Great Knot, Far Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Grey-tailed Tattler, and Broad-billed Sandpiper.

Once we got out to Michaelmas Cay, we were greeted by thousands of birds, an impressive sight, sound, and smell! Brown Noddies, Lesser Crested Terns, and Sooty Terns appeared most numerous with a big breeding season underway. Greater Crested Terns and Brown Boobies were also present in high numbers, the boobies with some huge white chicks. A few Bridled Terns, Black-naped Terns, and Great Frigatebirds were observed, as was a single Red-footed Booby. Ruddy Turnstones were scattered about around the cay, and Silver Gulls were present and trying to make off with either tern or noddy eggs. As is the case on this trip, plenty of time was spent enjoying the marvels of the underwater reef life, which today included numerous gorgeous tropical fish and Black-tipped Reef Shark (to name a couple of highlights). Once back on land we collected our vehicle and set off south to Mission Beach for the night.

 

Day 15, 17th November 2022. Mission Beach and Atherton Tablelands

Our morning was spent driving around Mission Beach. It was a hot morning, but eventually we found our main target, the magnificent Southern Cassowary. It kept us waiting right up until our time in the area was almost up, but once we found one, we enjoyed fantastic views. A definite bird of the trip contender and a real privilege to see.

Southern Cassowary was a highly anticipated bird for the trip, and we got great views.

While driving around the area looking for cassowaries, we found several new species for the trip and improved views of some others too, such as Fairy Gerygone, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Dusky Myzomela, Black Butcherbird, Green Oriole, Australian Swiftlet, Pacific Swift, White-throated Needletail, Bush Stone-curlew, Osprey, Metallic Starling, Olive-backed Sunbird, and Spangled Drongo either side of breakfast.

By the middle of the morning the temperatures were soaring, so we drove up into the Atherton Tablelands. After lunch and sitting out the hottest part of the day, we visited Mount Hypipamee National Park. Birding here was excellent, and we found several great new birds, like Victoria’s Riflebird, Bower’s Shrikethrush, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Grey-headed Robin, Grey Whistler, and Bridled Honeyeater. One of the major highlights of our time here however, involved the sighting of a Lumoltz’s Tree Kangaroo that was giving some great views low down.

After some time in the rainforest, we visited Hasties Swamp, where we found Comb-crested Jacana, Pied Stilt, Wandering Whistling Duck, Royal Spoonbill, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Red-backed Fairywren, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Scaly-breasted Munia, and Macleay’s Honeyeater. After our birding session here we called in at some arable fields where we found Sarus Crane and Horsfield’s Bush Lark. As dusk approached, we stopped at a small river where we found our main target, Platypus, and watched as hundreds of Magpie Geese flew overhead to their roost site. This ended a fantastic day’s birding in Far North Queensland.

Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo was yet another of the mammal highlights from the tour.

Day 16, 18th November 2022. Birding the Atherton Tablelands and arid zone

We spent the morning birding at several rainforest sites on the Atherton Tablelands, before dropping down in elevation to the more arid parts of the area. Across the day we logged a massive list of species, including some restricted-range regional endemics and lots of new trip birds.

Our first birding was at our accommodation, where we enjoyed great views of Spotted Catbird, Victoria’s Riflebird, Superb Fruit Dove, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Forest Kingfisher, and lots more. We would also see most of these birds at our other rainforest sites during the morning. After breakfast we called in at a different site and found Chowchilla, Pale-yellow Robin, and Tooth-billed Bowerbird (impressive views of a male calling from his bower). Our final birding site of the morning gave us Cryptic Honeyeater, Bridled Honeyeater, and Atherton Scrubwren, as well as other species we had seen before, but better views of some, such as Grey-headed Robin and Yellow-breasted Boatbill. Our mammal list grew with the addition of Musky Rat Kangaroo during one of our rainforest birding stops.

Our accommodation in the Crater Lakes area of the Atherton Tablelands was wonderful for observing Paradise Riflebird.

For the afternoon birding session, we visited a couple of arid zone sites that were both excellent and gave us a load of new birds, including some real goodies! At the first stop we found an Australian Bustard with young, and then followed it up with a group of localized Mareeba Rock Wallabies. A short while later we were watching a flock of around 20 Squatter Pigeons. These birds walked about oblivious to our presence, and we got some fabulous looks. Bar-shouldered Doves and Peaceful Doves were also feeding with the pigeons. A Great Bowerbird appeared too, as did Scaly-breasted Lorikeet. Our final birding session of the day was just north of Mareeba. We “twitched” a site that had recently had some Oriental Pratincoles reported. Not long after we arrived in the area, we located two birds and enjoyed lengthy views as they foraged in the company of Pacific Golden Plovers. While birding here we also found Blue-winged Kookaburra, Red-winged Parrot, Magpie Goose, Yellow Honeyeater, Double-barred Finch, Red-backed Fairywren, Horsfield’s Bush Lark, Australian Pipit, and double figures of Australian Bustards looking glorious in the late afternoon sunlight.

We had incredible looks at a flock of Squatter Pigeons. They were walking around right at our feet, totally unconcerned by our presence.

As we pulled into our accommodation for the night, several large flocks of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos flew over, Brush Cuckoo sang, Oriental Dollarbird was catching insects in the security light, and the Bush Stone-curlews were getting vocal. It had been another long, but very enjoyable, day birding in the Atherton Tablelands.

 

Day 17, 19th November 2022. Birding Mt Lewis area and Daintree River cruise

Our final day of birding started in the arid country around Mareeba, included a trip to Mount Lewis National Park for some high elevation birds, and ended on the Daintree River with a dusk boat cruise. It was another long but also a highly rewarding day. Our first birding was right at our accommodation where Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Great Bowerbird, Pacific Baza, and Yellow Honeyeater were noted. A park on the edge of town and some roadside stops proved productive, with Little Bronze Cuckoo, Leaden Flycatcher, Varied Triller, Pacific Koel, Black Butcherbird, Pheasant Coucal, Blue-faced Honeyeater, and Forest Kingfisher some of the highlights.

A change in habitats gave us different birds. A patch of rainforest was very busy, and we got one our main tour targets here, with a stunning display put on by a couple of Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers. They had clearly just arrived from Papua New Guinea and were busy setting up breeding territories. While looking for the kingfishers, we found Northern Fantail, Pale-yellow Robin, Spectacled Monarch, Cryptic Honeyeater, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Brown-backed Honeyeater, and Macleay’s Honeyeater. Wetlands here held Magpie Geese, Green Pygmy Geese, Brown Quail, and White-browed Crake.

Gaining some elevation, we took a trail on Mount Lewis. A short walk here was very good, and we found our main targets quickly and had crippling views of all, these being Fernwren, Chowchilla, and Mountain Thornbill. Atherton Scrubwren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Paradise Riflebird, Spotted Catbird, Barred Cuckooshrike, Eastern Whipbird, Grey-headed Robin, and Bridled Honeyeater were all also recorded during this walk.

There was a bit of a territorial dispute going on with a couple of Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers that had just arrived from Papua New Guinea and were busy setting up breeding territories.

After our brief mountain birding trip, we dropped down to the coast for a late lunch. We stopped at a beach briefly where we saw an Osprey catch a fish and picked up Caspian Tern, Greater Crested Tern, and Little Tern, along with Bar-tailed Godwit, Pied Oystercatcher, and Far Eastern Curlew.

Our final birding of the tour had us on a small boat exploring the Daintree River. This is always a fun and educational trip and was a wonderful way to end our tour, and we found some great wildlife too! The first channel we explored gave us three of our main targets almost immediately, although two of them were a bit brief, with both Black Bittern and Spotted Whistling Duck (a recent colonist of Australia from New Guinea) vanishing without giving us good looks. However, Great-billed Heron, one of the usually secretive species, perched up for us giving excellent views. Plenty of other small birds were being enjoyed too, such as Large-billed Gerygone, Shining Flycatcher, and Green Oriole. We also saw two Saltwater Crocodiles and two Green Tree Snakes during the second half of our boat trip. Herons and egrets were busily flying around at dusk and a huge Black-necked Stork flew over too, distinctive even at long range! One final highlight, and pretty much the last new bird of the tour, was a Papuan Frogmouth sat on its nest, it gave excellent views. We left the river and drove back to Cairns where we arrived in the evening after stopping for dinner along the way. The task of selecting bird of the trip was not easy, especially after recording almost 400 species. However, the top picks included Southern Cassowary, Malleefowl, Mallee Emu-wren, and Spotted Pardalote.

One of several new birds added to our trip list during our Daintree River cruise, this huge and usually shy Great-billed Heron was a real treat.

Day 18, 20th November 2022. Departure from Cairns

The tour concluded with our departure from Cairns. Some of the group had a flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos feeding in trees right in the airport car park before checking in for their flights.

 

Tour weather conditions note

Conditions in Victoria and New South Wales were like nothing that has been seen for over 30 years, with vast areas of flooding around most rivers, particularly the major rivers, like the mighty Murray River. Luckily, we were blessed with good weather during the trip, and we had no issues getting across and around the flooded areas. The inland flooding did mean that several species of ducks and shorebirds (waders) we usually easily find while in Victoria on this tour were just not present (they had gone inland to breed in the flooded conditions, which were now perfect for them). The rains had resulted in masses of plant growth, particularly grasses and herbaceous plants, as well as giving trees a drink for the first time in a long time. As a result of this, many species were having bumper breeding seasons and were unusually conspicuous in some cases, which was great for us! Conditions in Queensland were more typical, but these areas had clearly had a good dose of water too, and birdlife was booming everywhere we went, which made for an excellent tour.

 

Bird ListFollowing IOC (12.2)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen. The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable.

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Cassowaries, Emu (Casuariidae)
Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius
Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae
Magpie Goose (Anseranatidae)
Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Spotted Whistling Duck Dendrocygna guttata
Plumed Whistling Duck Dendrocygna eytoni
Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arcuata
Cape Barren Goose Cereopsis novaehollandiae
Black Swan Cygnus atratus
Radjah Shelduck Radjah radjah
Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides
Pink-eared Duck (H) Malacorhynchus membranaceus
Maned Duck Chenonetta jubata
Green Pygmy Goose Nettapus pulchellus
Australasian Shoveler Spatula rhynchotis
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
Grey Teal Anas gracilis
Chestnut Teal Anas castanea
Hardhead Aythya australis
Megapodes (Megapodiidae)
Australian Brushturkey Alectura lathami
Malleefowl – VU Leipoa ocellata
Orange-footed Scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt
Guineafowl (Numididae)
Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Brown Quail Synoicus ypsilophorus
Stubble Quail Coturnix pectoralis
Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)
Spotted Nightjar Eurostopodus argus
Frogmouths (Podargidae)
Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis
Owlet-nightjars (Aegothelidae)
Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus
Swifts (Apodidae)
Australian Swiftlet Aerodramus terraereginae
White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus
Bustards (Otididae)
Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis
Cuckoos (Cuculidae)
Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus
Pacific Koel Eudynamys orientalis
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis
Shining Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus
Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus
Pallid Cuckoo Cacomantis pallidus
Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia dom.
White-headed Pigeon Columba leucomela
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis
Brown Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia phasianella
Pacific Emerald Dove Chalcophaps longirostris
Common Bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera
Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes
Squatter Pigeon Geophaps scripta
Wonga Pigeon Leucosarcia melanoleuca
Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida
Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis
Wompoo Fruit Dove Ptilinopus magnificus
Superb Fruit Dove Ptilinopus superbus
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove Ptilinopus regina
Torresian Imperial Pigeon Ducula spilorrhoa
Topknot Pigeon Lopholaimus antarcticus
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
Buff-banded Rail (H) Hypotaenidia philippensis
Black-tailed Nativehen Tribonyx ventralis
Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Australasian Swamphen Porphyrio melanotus
White-browed Crake (H) Poliolimnas cinereus
Pale-vented Bush-hen Amaurornis moluccana
Cranes (Gruidae)
Sarus Crane – VU Antigone antigone
Brolga Antigone rubicunda
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
Hoary-headed Grebe Poliocephalus poliocephalus
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Buttonquail (Turnicidae)
Painted Buttonquail Turnix varius
Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius
Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Hooded Dotterel – VU Thinornis cucullatus
Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops
Jacanas (Jacanidae)
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea
Plains-wanderer (Pedionomidae)
Plains-wanderer – CR Pedionomus torquatus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Far Eastern Curlew – EN Numenius madagascariensis
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Great Knot – EN Calidris tenuirostris
Broad-billed Sandpiper Calidris falcinellus
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis
Latham’s Snipe Gallinago hardwickii
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Coursers, Pratincoles (Glareolidae)
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
Silver Gull Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
Australian Tern Gelochelidon macrotarsa
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
Little Tern Sternula albifrons
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana
Skuas (Stercorariidae)
Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus
Storks (Ciconiidae)
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
Frigatebirds (Fregatidae)
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
Australasian Gannet Morus serrator
Red-footed Booby Sula sula
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Little Pied Cormorant Microcarbo melanoleucos
Black-faced Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscescens
Australian Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius
Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia
Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis
Nankeen Night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus
Striated Heron Butorides striata
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus
White-necked Heron Ardea pacifica
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana
Great Egret Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra
Pelicans (Pelecanidae)
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
Ospreys (Pandionidae)
Osprey Pandion cristatus
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris
Square-tailed Kite Lophoictinia isura
Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata
Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides
Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
Swamp Harrier Circus approximans
Spotted Harrier Circus assimilis
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
Barn Owls (Tytonidae)
Eastern Barn Owl Tyto javanica
Owls (Strigidae)
Powerful Owl Ninox strenua
Rollers (Coraciidae)
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera sylvia
Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae
Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii
Forest Kingfisher Todiramphus macleayii
Torresian Kingfisher Todiramphus sordidus
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus
Azure Kingfisher (H) Ceyx azureus
Bee-eaters (Meropidae)
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides
Australian Hobby Falco longipennis
Brown Falcon Falco berigora
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Cockatoos (Cacatuidae)
Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo Zanda funerea
Gang-gang Cockatoo Callocephalon fimbriatum
Galah Eolophus roseicapilla
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo Lophochroa leadbeateri
Long-billed Corella Cacatua tenuirostris
Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita
Old World Parrots (Psittaculidae)
Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii
Regent Parrot Polytelis anthopeplus
Australian King Parrot Alisterus scapularis
Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus
Red-rumped Parrot Psephotus haematonotus
Eastern Bluebonnet Northiella haematogaster
Mulga Parrot Psephotellus varius
Crimson Rosella Platycercus elegans
Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius
Australian Ringneck Barnardius zonarius
Blue-winged Parrot Neophema chrysostoma
Turquoise Parrot Neophema pulchella
Purple-crowned Lorikeet Parvipsitta porphyrocephala
Little Lorikeet Parvipsitta pusilla
Musk Lorikeet Glossopsitta concinna
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus moluccanus
Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus
Double-eyed Fig Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma
Pittas (Pittidae)
Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor
Lyrebirds (Menuridae)
Albert’s Lyrebird Menura alberti
Superb Lyrebird Menura novaehollandiae
Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae)
Green Catbird Ailuroedus crassirostris
Spotted Catbird Ailuroedus maculosus
Tooth-billed Bowerbird Scenopoeetes dentirostris
Golden Bowerbird (H) Prionodura newtoniana
Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus
Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus
Great Bowerbird Chlamydera nuchalis
Australasian Treecreepers (Climacteridae)
White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea
Red-browed Treecreeper Climacteris erythrops
Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus
Australasian Wrens (Maluridae)
Purple-backed Fairywren Malurus assimilis
Superb Fairywren Malurus cyaneus
Splendid Fairywren Malurus splendens
Red-backed Fairywren Malurus melanocephalus
White-winged Fairywren Malurus leucopterus
Southern Emu-wren Stipiturus malachurus
Mallee Emu-wren – EN Stipiturus mallee
Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus
Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)
Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris
White-fronted Chat Epthianura albifrons
Brown-backed Honeyeater Ramsayornis modestus
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater Gliciphila melanops
Dusky Myzomela Myzomela obscura
Scarlet Myzomela Myzomela sanguinolenta
Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis
Hornbill Friarbird Philemon yorki
Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus
Macleay’s Honeyeater Xanthotis macleayanus
Striped Honeyeater Plectorhyncha lanceolata
Painted Honeyeater – VU Grantiella picta
Crescent Honeyeater Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta
White-eared Honeyeater Nesoptilotis leucotis
Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis
Brown-headed Honeyeater Melithreptus brevirostris
White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis
White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus
Yellow Honeyeater Stomiopera flava
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater Meliphaga notata
Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii
White-fronted Honeyeater Purnella albifrons
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops
Cryptic Honeyeater Microptilotis imitatrix
Varied Honeyeater Gavicalis versicolor
Mangrove Honeyeater Gavicalis fasciogularis
Singing Honeyeater Gavicalis virescens
Fuscous Honeyeater Ptilotula fusca
Yellow-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula ornata
White-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula penicillata
Yellow-faced Honeyeater Caligavis chrysops
Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera
Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Acanthagenys rufogularis
Bridled Honeyeater Bolemoreus frenatus
Bell Miner Manorina melanophrys
Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
Yellow-throated Miner Manorina flavigula
Bristlebirds (Dasyornithidae)
Rufous Bristlebird Dasyornis broadbenti
Pardalotes (Pardalotidae)
Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus
Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus
Australasian Warblers (Acanthizidae)
Fernwren Oreoscopus gutturalis
Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris
Striated Fieldwren Calamanthus fuliginosus
Rufous Fieldwren Calamanthus campestris
Chestnut-rumped Heathwren Hylacola pyrrhopygia
Shy Heathwren Hylacola cauta
Pilotbird Pycnoptilus floccosus
Speckled Warbler Pyrrholaemus sagittatus
Yellow-throated Scrubwren Neosericornis citreogularis
Large-billed Scrubwren Sericornis magnirostra
Atherton Scrubwren Sericornis keri
White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis
Brown Gerygone Gerygone mouki
Mangrove Gerygone Gerygone levigaster
Western Gerygone Gerygone fusca
Large-billed Gerygone Gerygone magnirostris
White-throated Gerygone Gerygone olivacea
Fairy Gerygone Gerygone palpebrosa
Mountain Thornbill Acanthiza katherina
Brown Thornbill Acanthiza pusilla
Inland Thornbill Acanthiza apicalis
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza uropygialis
Buff-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza reguloides
Yellow-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa
Yellow Thornbill Acanthiza nana
Striated Thornbill Acanthiza lineata
Southern Whiteface Aphelocephala leucopsis
Australasian Babblers (Pomatostomidae)
Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis
White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus superciliosus
Chestnut-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus ruficeps
Logrunners (Orthonychidae)
Australian Logrunner Orthonyx temminckii
Chowchilla Orthonyx spaldingii
Whipbirds (Psophodidae)
Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus
Jewel-babblers, Quail-thrushes (Cinclosomatidae)
Chestnut Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castanotum
Boatbills (Machaerirhynchidae)
Yellow-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus flaviventer
Woodswallows, Butcherbirds & Allies (Artamidae)
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus
Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus
Black Butcherbird Melloria quoyi
Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen
Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus
Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis
Pied Currawong Strepera graculina
Grey Currawong Strepera versicolor
Cuckooshrikes (Campephagidae)
Barred Cuckooshrike Coracina lineata
Black-faced Cuckooshrike Coracina novaehollandiae
White-bellied Cuckooshrike Coracina papuensis
Common Cicadabird Edolisoma tenuirostre
Varied Triller Lalage leucomela
Sittellas (Neosittidae)
Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera
Shriketit (Falcunculidae)
Crested Shriketit Falcunculus frontatus
Whistlers & Allies (Pachycephalidae)
Olive Whistler Pachycephala olivacea
Gilbert’s Whistler Pachycephala inornata
Grey Whistler Pachycephala simplex
Australian Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis
Western Whistler (H) Pachycephala fuliginosa
Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris
Bower’s Shrikethrush Colluricincla boweri
Rufous Shrikethrush Colluricincla rufogaster
Grey Shrikethrush Colluricincla harmonica
Figbirds, Orioles, Turnagra (Oriolidae)
Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti
Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus
Green Oriole Oriolus flavocinctus
Drongos (Dicruridae)
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus
Fantails (Rhipiduridae)
Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys
Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris
Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa
Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons
Monarchs (Monarchidae)
Spectacled Monarch Symposiachrus trivirgatus
Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis
White-eared Monarch Carterornis leucotis
Pied Monarch (H) Arses kaupi
Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca
Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula
Satin Flycatcher Myiagra cyanoleuca
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto
Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Torresian Crow Corvus orru
Little Crow Corvus bennetti
Little Raven Corvus mellori
Australian Raven Corvus coronoides
Australian Mudnesters (Corcoracidae)
White-winged Chough Corcorax melanorhamphos
Apostlebird Struthidea cinerea
Birds-of-paradise (Paradisaeidae)
Paradise Riflebird Ptiloris paradiseus
Victoria’s Riflebird Ptiloris victoriae
Australasian Robins (Petroicidae)
Pale-yellow Robin Tregellasia capito
Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis
Grey-headed Robin Heteromyias cinereifrons
Southern Scrub Robin Drymodes brunneopygia
Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans
Rose Robin Petroica rosea
Flame Robin Petroica phoenicea
Scarlet Robin Petroica boodang
Red-capped Robin Petroica goodenovii
Larks (Alaudidae)
Horsfield’s Bush Lark Mirafra javanica
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
White-backed Swallow Cheramoeca leucosterna
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena
Fairy Martin Petrochelidon ariel
Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans
Reed Warblers & Allies (Acrocephalidae)
Australian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus australis
Grassbirds & Allies (Locustellidae)
Little Grassbird Poodytes gramineus
Brown Songlark Cincloramphus cruralis
Rufous Songlark Cincloramphus mathewsi
Tawny Grassbird Cincloramphus timoriensis
Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)
Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis
White-eyes (Zosteropidae)
Silvereye Zosterops lateralis
Starlings, Rhabdornis (Sturnidae)
Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Russet-tailed Thrush Zoothera heinei
Bassian Thrush Zoothera lunulata
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Flowerpeckers (Dicaeidae)
Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum
Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)
Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata
Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis
Double-barred Finch Stizoptera bichenovii
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin Lonchura castaneothorax
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Australian Pipit Anthus australis
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

 

Total seen 372
Total heard only 7
Total recorded 379

 

Mammal List

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Felids (Felidae)
Domestic Cat Felis catus
 
Deer (Cervidae)
Sambar Rusa unicolor
 
Old World Fruit Bats (Pteropodidae)
Black Flying Fox Pteropus alecto
Spectacled Flying Fox Pteropus conspicillatus
Grey-headed Flying Fox Pteropus poliocephalus
 
Dasyures (Dasyuridae)
Yellow-footed Antechinus Antechinus flavipes
Brown Antechinus Antechinus stuartii
Fat-tailed Dunnart Sminthopsis crassicaudata
 
Musky Rat Kangaroos (Hypsiprymnodontidae)
Musky Rat Kangaroo Hypsiprymnodon moschatus
 
Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Allies (Macropodidae)
Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus lumholtzi
Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis
Western Grey Kangaroo Macropus fuliginosus
Eastern Grey Kangaroo Macropus giganteus
Red-necked Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus
Red Kangaroo Macropus rufus
Mareeba Rock Wallaby Petrogale mareeba
Red-legged Pademelon Thylogale stigmatica
Red-necked Pademelon Thylogale thetis
Swamp Wallaby Wallabia bicolor
 
Cuscuses and Brushtail Possums (Phalangeridae)
Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula
 
Koalas (Phascolarctidae)
Koala Phascolarctos cinereus
 
Hares and Rabbits (Leporidae)
European Hare Lepus europaeus
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
 
Platypuses (Ornithorhynchidae)
Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus
 
Echidnas (Tachyglossidae)
Short-beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus
 
Muridae
Common Water Rat (Rakali) Hydromys chrysogaster
House Mouse Mus musculus

 

Total 27

 

 

 

 

 

Reptile List

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Crocodiles (Crocodylidae)
Saltwater Crocodile Crocodylus porosus
 
Monitor Lizards (Varanidae)
Lace Monitor Varanus varius
 
Geckos (Gekkonidae)
Common House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus
 
Dragons (Agamidae)
Mallee Dragon Ctenophorus fordi
Painted Dragon Ctenophorus pictus
Eastern Water Dragon Intellagama lesueurii
Eastern Bearded Dragon Pogona barbata
Central Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps
 
Skinks (Scincidae)
Oriental Ctenotus Ctenotus orientalis
Eastern Water-skink Eulamprus quoyii
Shingleback Lizard Tiliqua rugosa
Ragged Snake-eyed Skink Cryptoblepharus pannosus
Red-throated Rainbow-skink Carlia rubrigularis
Pale-lipped Shadeskink Saproscincus basiliscus
 
Colubrid Snakes (Colubridae)
Green Tree Snake Dendrelaphis punctulatus
 
Elapid Snakes (Elapidae)
Eastern Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis
 
Freshwater Turtles (Cheluidae)
Macquarie (Murray) Turtle Emydura macquarii macquarii
 
Austro-American Side-necked Turtles (Chelidae)
Eastern Saw-shelled Turtle Myuchelys latisternum

 

Total 18

Amphibian List

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Foam-nesting Ground Frogs (Limnodynastidae)
Giant Bullfrog (Giant Banjo Frog) Limnodynastes interioris
Trilling Frog Neobatrachus sudelli
 
True Toads (Bufonidae)
Cane Toad Rhinella marina

 

Total 3

 

Notable Other Taxa List

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Orbweavers (Araneidae)
Christmas Jewel Spider Austracantha minax
 
Huntsman Spiders (Sparassidae)
Grey Huntsman Spider Holconia immanis
 
Swallowtails and Parnassians (Papilionidae)
Orchard Swallowtail Papilio aegeus
Small Dingy Swallowtail Papilio anactus
Lime Swallowtail Papilio demoleus
Ulysses Butterfly Papilio ulysses
Fuscous Swallowtail Papilio fuscus
 
Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)
Monarch Danaus plexippus
Lesser Wanderer Danaus petilia
Swamp Tiger Butterfly Danaus affinis
Australian Painted Lady Vanessa kershawi
Yellow Admiral Vanessa itea
Common Brown Heteronympha merope
Meadow Argus Junonia villida
Great Eggfly Hypolimnas bolina
(Australian) Common Crow Butterfly Euploea core corinna
Common Evening Brown Melanitis leda
Blue Wanderer Tirumala hamata
Glasswing Acraea andromacha
Orange Bushbrown Mycalesis terminus
 
Whites, Yellows, and Sulphurs (Pieridae)
Caper White Belonis java
Small White Pieris rapae
Imperial Jezebel Delias harpalyce
Black Jezebel Delias nigrina
Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe
Small Grass Yellow Eurema smilax
 
Gossamer-winged Butterflies (Lycaenidae)
Saltbush Blue Theclinesthes serpentata
Common Imperial Blue Jalmenus evagoras
Small Green Banded Blue Psychonotis caelius
 
Skimmers (Libellulidae)
Blue Skimmer Orthetrum caledonicum
Slender Skimmer Orthetrum sabina
Scarlet Percher Diplacodes haematodes
Wandering Percher Diplacodes bipunctata
Painted Grasshawk Neurothemis stigmatizans
Zircon Flutterer Rhyothemis princeps
 
Narrow-winged Damselflies (Coenagrionidae)
Australian Bluetail Ischnura heterosticta
 
Spreadwings and Allies (Lestidae)
Wandering Ringtail Austrolestes leda
 
Emerald Dragonflies (Corduliidae)
Tau Emerald Hemicordulia tau
 
Bluestreaks and Rockmasters (Lestoideidae)
Common Bluestreak Lestoidea conjuncta
 
Requiem Sharks (Carcharhinidae)
Blacktip Reef Shark Carcharhinidae melanopterus
 
Morays (Muraenidae)
Sieve-patterned Moray Gymnothorax cribroris
 
Cockles (Cardiidae)
Small Giant Clam Tridacna maxima
 
Orchids (Orchidaceae)
Large Flying Duck Orchid Caleana major
Tiger Orchid Diuris sulphurea
Eastern Mantis Orchid Caladenia tentaculate
Thin Pencil Orchid Dendrobium teretifolium

 

Total 46

 

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

GENERAL INFORMATION – AUSTRALIA

 

PASSPORT

Your passport must be valid for a period of at least six months after the date of your arrival in Australia. Please make sure that there is at least one completely empty page available in your passport.  Please also bring a photocopy of your passport, to be kept in a different location from your passport in case of loss/damage.

 

VISA

Visa are required, but different rules apply depending on your nationality. Please check https://www.australia.gov.au/help-and-contact/faqs/visas-and-immigration.

 

TRAVEL INSURANCE

We strongly recommend that you purchase medical and trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself against accidents, medical issues, illness, loss of valuables or luggage, etc., and travel interruptions or delays of all kinds.

 

HEALTH

Please consult your doctor regarding any vaccination requirements. All travelers should be up to date with routine vaccination and boosters (e.g. tetanus). There is no risk of yellow fever in Australia; however, there is a certificate requirement if travelers have visited/come from the following countries: https://www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1. Some travelers may require Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies certification.

Sunscreen should be carried, and a hat should be worn to protect from the powerful rays of the sun, with sunglasses to help prevent glare. A plentiful supply of water should be carried at all times to maintain hydration.

 

MEDICAL CONDITIONS

Please make sure that you are covered with medical insurance in case of an emergency while on this trip. Without insurance the cost of medical care can be extremely high. Please notify us at the time of registering for this tour of any medical conditions you think we should know about (including allergies, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.). This will greatly help us to cater to your needs and facilitate emergency services if required.

 

CURRENCY

The currency is the Australian Dollar, AUD (currently weak against the GBP and USD). Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, including for drawing cash from ATMs (as everywhere, bank charges may apply). Note: USD/GBP cannot be used for purchases. We will be able to exchange or draw money at the airport upon our arrival and in the various cities we pass through.

 

WEATHER/CLIMATE   

Australian seasons are the reverse of the European/North American seasons, but the same of South America/Southern Africa. The summer months in Australia are from December to February, the fall months are from March till May, winter is from June to August, and spring is from September till November.

North Queensland and the Northern Territory are located closer to the tropics and generally have warm and humid weather all year round. New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia, and Perth all experience the four seasons during the year. In Tasmania the weather is colder than on the Australia mainland because it is closer to Antarctica (this can often be a result of the wind chilling the actual temperature).

During this tour a wide variety of weather (particularly temperatures) is to be expected. It may feel cool at night in Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales, with night-time temperatures dropping to around 8oC/46oF. Day-time temperatures during the tour can range from 15oC/59oF in Tasmania to 30oC/86oF in northern Victoria, with similar temperatures in Northern Queensland; however, Queensland is much more humid and rainfall is likely at some point.

 

ELECTRICITY

240V, three-pronged plugs used, ITA Type I. Adaptors are needed for overseas appliances.

 

LENGTH OF DRIVES

There are a couple of days on which there are long drives; unfortunately this is a standard feature in this huge continent-country. Drives are broken up where possible with birding stops, stops for refreshments, etc.

 

WHAT TO BRING

Clothing

This is not a fashion statement trip! Casual and informal dress is fine in the hotels/motels. Loose, lightweight field clothing works best, with a warm fleece or jacket for cooler weather. Shorts and T-shirts are fine – it’s what the locals wear! You will also need to bring some warmer clothing, certainly a minimum of a warm fleece and a rain jacket. Rain is always a possibility in October/November, so an umbrella and/or rain gear is always useful to have. Early mornings can feel a bit chilly in some areas, so come prepared, especially in the south (Tasmania/Victoria), which can have the wind coming straight from Antarctica.

Sunglasses, sunhat, and sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) are essential. A pair of trousers or a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt should be included to help protect against forest vegetation and the sun. Swimwear can be brought as there are swimming pools at some of the hotels/motels, and we will have time at the Great Barrier Reef, where optional swimming is possible.

We would recommend lightweight walking boots when out on foot. You might like to consider sandals/trainers (tennis shoes) for use in the vehicles and for walking between your room and restaurant in the hotels and lodges.

Do not forget – Binoculars, prescription drugs (also bring the generic names for these drugs), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellant, sunscreen and sunglasses, camera, flashlight, batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for re-chargeable batteries if required), converter plug set if needed and plug adaptors, alarm clock, money pouch, field guide(s), daypacks. Your guide will have a Swarovski telescope; however, if you have your own scope it is recommended that you bring it too.

Key documents and cash – Passport, your travel or health insurance card – photocopies of which can be carried by the tour leader in case of emergency, credit cards – see info above, USD, EUR, or GBP can be exchanged into Australian Dollars if you prefer not to simply draw from ATM’s. You will need cash for drinks, gifts, tips, items of a personal nature, etc., which are not included in the tour cost.

 

LUGGAGE

Due to restricted space in the vehicles please pack as lightly as possible. A medium soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard-sided cases) works best for packing in the vehicles. This allows us to better fit the bags. Please bring a daypack for items that you wish to use or need on a daily basis.

 

DANGEROUS ANIMALS

There are a great many poisonous creatures (and plants) in Australia, and extreme caution should be taken while out and about (e.g. check your boots each time before you put them on, watch where you put your hands and feet, do not touch or approach any wildlife, specifically snakes, spiders, etc.). It is advisable to familiarize yourself with these poisonous species prior to your tour (there is a range of data online, but see here for example). Sturdy walking boots are essential to give feet and ankles added protection. It is important that you follow your guide/leader’s advice, and if you see any snakes, etc., the information has to be passed on as quickly as possible so that everyone is aware of the potential danger.

 

CRIME

Australia is generally a safe place to travel. However, as anywhere in the world at this time, it is advisable to take care and remain cautious and observant for the unexpected.

 

LANGUAGE

Australia is part of the British Commonwealth, and English is widely spoken. Local Aboriginal peoples have a huge number of languages; however, it is unlikely that we will need to speak these on this tour.

 

BOOKS

Birds

The Australian Bird Guide – Peter Menkhorst et al. (2017). Bloomsbury Publishing.

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Eighth Edition) – Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day (2010). Viking (NB Helm have now published an undated version of this book).

Finding Australian Birds: A Field Guide to Birding Locations – Tim Dolby and Rohan Clarke (2014). CSIRO Publishing.

A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Ninth Edition) – Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight (2012). Harper Collins.

The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds (Second Edition) – Slater et al. (2012). New Holland.

Birds of Australia: A Photographic Guide – Campbell et al. (2014). Princeton University Press.

Several of the above publications are available to download as Apps for mobile phones. These apps also include bird sounds to complement the illustrations.

Mammals

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia (Third Edition) – Peter Menkhorst and Frank Knight (2011). Oxford University Press.

Reptiles

A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia (Fourth Edition) – Steve Wilson and Gerry Swan (2013). New Holland.

 

SOUND RECORDINGS

A wide-range of CDs with bird songs are available online or as Apps and are a recommended tool for learning bird calls. In addition it is possible to download bird calls from the excellent Xeno Canto website https://www.xeno-canto.org/.

Download General Information

Andy is a superb guide with a wonderful knowledge of birds and where to find them. He is enthusiastic and keen, great company and a real pleasure to bird with. Our Australian trip was very successful in terms of sightings and also really enjoyable. Andy played a big part in that with his superb organisation, excellent birding skills, easy-going nature and positive attitude. I would happily join Andy on a birding trip again and hope to be able to do so later this year!

Janice

Andy Walker is one of the truly exceptional guides in the world of birding. His skill at hearing and then finding birds is amazing. Couple this with an innate sense of getting his clients into the best possible position to both see and photo the given bird elevates him from “competent” to “top notch.” I have been with Andy twice and intend to search him out again.

Jay

Took the “Eastern Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics” tour, my first with Birding Ecotours. Itinerary fit my needs to a “T”. Birds were spectacular and guides made a special effort at each stop to find the unique birds. Also bagged some fascinating fauna including tree kangaroo, platypus, koala, and echinda. Andy Walker was an excellent guide. He is personable with a great sense of humour. His ability to adapt to changing circumstances was excellent. He and his local guide knew the birds and terrain very well, optimized our birding time at each locale by knowing what key species occurred at each, and took pains to be sure everyone got on each bird.

Mike

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