Trip report: Eastern Australia Custom Tour (Oct-Nov 2011)

Guided by Susan Myers and Sam Woods.

This intense tour packed a lot into a small space: in just 19 days we scored over half of the continents birds (433 species), and covered sites from the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland all the way down to the cool temperate island of Tasmania off of Australia’s southeast coast. In between we packed in visits to southern Queensland and enjoyed an extended stay in New South Wales too. This allowed us to visit an extraordinary array of habitats and amass an extraordinary bird list in the process. We covered the humid tropical forests of Queensland, the edge of the Outback in Queensland, the open plains of New South Wales, the sandy cays, or islands, of the Great Barrier Reef, the cool temperate forests of Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania, the odd mallee of inland New South Wales, and open eucalypt woodlands and regular swamp stops in between. This not only yielded a hefty bird list but also allowed us to find some of Australia’s most iconic animals too, like a mother and child Koala in Lamington National Park, the strange Platypus in broad daylight on the Atherton Tableland, a confiding Short-beaked Echidna in Royal National Park, and a variety of wallabies and kangaroos from the smallest-the Musky Rat Kangaroo at Cassowary House-to the largest-Red Kangaroo-on the Hay Plains during a successful search for the enigmatic Plains-Wanderer.

Of course along with these iconic mammals came some of Australia’s most iconic birds, from the monstrous Southern Cassowary near Cairns to the massive Emus on the plains to the secretive Malleefowl in Round Hill to the gaudy male Golden Bowerbird visiting its bower on the Atherton Tableland to the host of glittering fairywrens seen throughout the continent, there was never a dull moment, and a bewildering host of possibilities for birds of the tour. We did well on nightbirds too with all the Australian Frogmouths seen (Tawny and Papuan Frogmouths at nest sites during the day, and Marbled Frogmouth in the depths of night), and a day roosting Australian Owlet-Nightjar too. We had some long drives, and long days in the field, but looking through the checklist we left only a handful of east Australian birds behind!

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