Trip report: Australia Birding With A Camera® Custom Tour (Nov-Dec 2018)

Guided by Iain Campbell and Sam Woods. Report written by Sam Woods.This was a custom tour.

This Australia custom tour was arranged for very keen birders who also like to take photos of much of what they see. Thus, the objective was twofold; to get as many bird species as possible, making this a bird tour, but also to organize a tour that offered plentiful bird photography too. Hence a “Birding With a Camera” tour was devised, as Australia fitted this bill perfectly. The country served up its usual bounty of bird photo opps – so much so that some in the group took photos of more than 80% of what they saw; and also produced a substantial trip list, with 408 bird species recorded, more than 40% of the Australia’s birds. The large bird list was achieved by covering 4 different states (Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales), and a multitude of sites covering numerous habitat types; (e.g. tidal mudflats, sandy beaches, rocky headlands, mangroves, tropical and temperate rainforests, highland forests of the Atherton Tablelands, wet and dry sclerophyll forests, coastal heathlands, farmlands, dams, swamps, mallee, brigalow, and inland saltbush plains). Among the birding highlights were a huddle of Little Penguins waddling ashore at nightfall on Tasmania, almost 20 species of waterfowl including Musk, Blue-billed and Freckled Ducks; regular Emus, (the national bird) within inland Australia, a few Australian Bustards there too, lots of shorebirds including some specialties like beach-nesting Hooded Plovers and plains-wandering Inland Dotterel at night, a nesting Square-tailed Kite that was stumbled upon by chance during the aftermath of our first Black Honeyeaters of the tour, 27 species of parrots and cockatoo, including Cockatiel, Budgerigar, and Superb and Swift Parrots, 5 species of owl, including Barking Owl at night and Powerful Owl by day; all 3 species of Australian frogmouth (Tawny, Papuan, and Marbled Frogmouths), 7 species of fairywren, with male Purple-backed and Splendid Fairywrens in the Queensland Outback being the standouts among them. More than 40 species of honeyeaters, including the highly nomadic and erratic Black and Painted Honeyeaters within the same grove of blooming plants; Pied and White-eared Monarchs in Queensland’s Wet Tropics; a displaying male Paradise Riflebird in the temperate rainforests of Lamington National Park; a vociferous Noisy Pitta in the same forest; a male Golden Bowerbird attending its lichen-littered bower in the highland forests of Queensland, a family of tame Southern Cassowary near Cairns; all of the 12 Tasmanian endemic species that included rare views of the rare Forty-spotted Pardalote; a series of attractive robins within the same state, including Flame, Pink and Scarlet Robins, as well as the handsome Red-capped Robin, Rose Robin and scarce White-browed Robin all in Queensland. Dozens of the unpredictable Plum-headed Finch were seen east of St. George, and a few Diamond Firetails too. This birding group, from Nashville and Chattanooga in Tennessee, was also comprised of people keen on mammals too, and to this end the tour was also fruitful, yielding 36 species, including the iconic Koala on the final day in Victoria, Platypus during the daytime in the Wet Tropics of Queensland, the spiky Short-beaked Echidna on the idyllic island of Bruny in the island state of Tasmania, and plentiful Red Kangaroos, (the largest of them all) on the parched plains of drought- affected New South Wales. For most of the group it was their first stop in the region of Australasia and so new bird families were in abundance, from emus to apostlebirds, pardalotes to logrunners, and boatbills to butcherbirds. It was an action-packed tour, cramming in maximum birds and birding sites, while seeing an extraordinary array of Australian scenery, from the scenic rocky coastlines of Bruny Island in Tasmania, to the boulder-strewn slopes of the Great Dividing Range, all of it mostly under an endless blue Australian sky…

Top Five Birds of the Tour:
(Voted for by the participants)

1-Golden Bowerbird (male at bower) Herberton Ranges, Queensland
2-Southern Cassowary Cassowary House & Hypipamee NP, Queensland
3-Paradise Riflebird (displaying male) O’ Reilly’s, Lamington NP, Queensland
4-Powerful Owl (at a dayroost) Brisbane, Queensland
5=Splendid Fairywren Moonie Highway, east of St. George, Queensland
5=Inland Dotterel Between Hay and Deniliquin, New South Wales

Top Five Other Animals of the Tour:
(Voted for by the participants)

1-Koala Kennett River, Victoria
2-Platypus Tarzali, Queensland
3-Short-beaked Echidna Bruny Island, Tasmania
4-Gray-headed Flying-Fox Canungra, Queensland
5-Red Kangaroo Between Hay and Deniliquin, New South Wales

FULL REPORT (HIGH RES 14MB; pdf format):
Australia Birding With A Camera® custom tour Nov-Dec 2018

FULL REPORT (LOW RES 10MB; pdf format):
Australia Birding With A Camera® custom tour Nov-Dec 2018