Trip report: Eastern Australia, from Top to Bottom (Oct-Nov 2009) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Iain Campbell and Michael Retter.

Australia’s isolation has made it a virtual evolutionary petri dish called home by a myriad of bird families found nowhere else on the planet. Cassowaries, honeyeaters, fairy-wrens, pseudo-babblers, lyrebirds, mud-nest-builders, logrunners: all are Australo-Papuan endemic familes. So are the bowerbirds, a family to which this stunning male Regent Bowerbird belongs. As diverse and immense as it is isolated, Australia consequently harbors an impressive diversity of species.

The array of habitats visited (and thus, birds seen) on this tour makes it an ideal excursion for anyone who has never visited the continent. We started in the warm, lush rainforests of northern Queensland, traveled inland to the desert-like outback of western New South Wales, watched clouds of seabirds and whales off the rocky coast near Sydney, and ended on the snow-covered peaks of Tasmania. The days were long and pace was fast at times, but the result was a substantial trip list of 423 bird species. The mammals were equally impressive. We had superb views of a platypus floating on the surface of a still pond, viewed a tree-kangaroo through the scope one morning, and watched, amazed, as an echidna buried itself into the forest floor in mere seconds. For most of us, though, the evening (successfully) searching for Plains-wanderer (and in the process seeing Black Falcon, Orange Chat, and Ground Cuckoo-shrike) was the crown jewel of the tour.

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