Friday, December 30, 2011

Toolangi State Forest and Yarra Ranges National Park Birding

Today my friend Vik and I went to Toolangi State Forest, starting off at Wirrawilla Rainforest walk and the Quarry Road. It was a thoroughly enjoyable morning with a Lyrebird flying across the road in front of the car before we even arrived at the carpark!

We explored the boardwalk before quietly turning into the quarry. Immediately we had a Lyrebird scratching at the start of Quarry road! This place is stunning!
During the hike we saw Crimson Rosella, King Parrot, Superb Lyrebird, White-throated Treecreeper, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Large-billed & White-browed scrubwrens, Rufous Fantail, Brown Thorrnbill, Pied Currawong, Golden Whistler and Grey Shrike-thrush.

We then headed for lunch at the Singing Garden Tearooms – former home of CJ Dennis . We enjoyed the garden and the King Parrots before a yummy lunch of Potato, Pea and Leek Soup followed by Focaccia and Tea.

It was then onto Marysville and Yarra Ranges National Park – a lovely section called the Beeches.  The scenery there was stunning with the gigantic Mountain Ash which sadly have mostly been killed by the recent devastating bushfires.

The car looks so small!!

The Beeches area is lovely and we enjoyed a few hours hiking and got some good views of Lyrebirds here but could only manage this poor photo.

The day concluded with Seafood Platter and red wine. Noice!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Birding at Werribee’s WTP

Today I spent a very enjoyable day birding with my friend Jen Spry who generously gave up her day to show me around this fantastic place!  I was even more amazed that she even turned on her mobile phone in case I needed to phone her on my way to our meeting point! For those of you who know Jen will realise this was an amazing event in itself and I feel very privileged!! J

We had only been driving for a few minutes when we got our first treat and one of the day’s highlights! A pair of Stubble Quail wandering down the track!  NOICE!!! These cute little bundles entertained for a while and even posed for photos. They are such a delight to watch and I was smiling for hours afterwards.

We spent a full day exploring the WTP but don’t ask me exactly where we went, as I was lost after the  few minutes.  This place is the size of a small country and it was awesome exploring it!
There were relatively few waders feeding today but I expect that was due to the group of bird banders who had canon-nets set up and a guy was walking around flushing the Stints. Many of the birds had resorted to hiding in the grass. I found watching the banders trudging around the marsh disturbing and I feel it was unnecessary.  I am not a fan of bird banding at the best of times but to band Stints? Surely after all the research already done on these birds it is no longer necessary? Why disturb their feeding after they’ve flown half way around the world and need to eat?
Anyway the day was wonderful and some of the highlights included Common, Little, Whiskered, Crested and White-winged Black Terns which are great fun to try and photograph as they soar past!

White-winged Black Tern

Eastern Curlew, Red Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Avocets, Musk Duck, Blue-billed Duck, Hardhead, Shelduck, Glossy Ibis along with a variety of raptors were enjoyed.

I was amazed at the sheer size of the WTP and the day passed very quickly.  I am very grateful to Jen Spry for taking the time to show me around, it was great to catch up with her again and it was a really enjoyable day! Thank you Jen!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A quest for Superb Lyrebird - Dandenong Ranges National Park

A week of birding in Victoria was my Christmas treat again this year. The aim of this trip is to tick at least 2 Lifers – Superb Lyrebird and Pilotbird.
Christmas Day found me driving to Victoria from South Australia.  After a long drive I arrived at a little town called Sherbrooke in the Dandenong Ranges. First stop was  the Dandenong Ranges National Park.  I hiked in to Sherbrooke Falls from Sherbrooke Picnic ground which was ridiculously busy with tourists who were feeding the Crimson Rosellas. Thankfully they all appeared quite happy to stay there and I hardly saw another soul on the walking trail.

King Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-browed Scrubwren,  Large-billed Scrubwren, Grey Fantail, Rufous Fantail, Olive Whistler, Eastern Whipbird were all enjoyed before finally I spotted my target species, a Pilotbird!  It was sitting on a log, I got good views but sadly when I tried to get close enough for a photo I flushed it. It jumped down behind the log and although I waited for 10 minutes  no amount of phishing convinced it to come back out. I was still stoked to see it and told myself I have 2 more days here to try to find more of them.  I only hiked for about an hour in the afternoon before a huge thunderstorm put an end to my birding for the day.

                                                                        Crimson Rosella

King Parrot

Eastern Yellow Robin

Today started at 6am after a very stormy night. It was still raining but I needed to get these birds so I was out and back hiking along the Sherbrooke Falls track even though it was still very dark and wet. It was so humid that my glasses were totally fogged and I could hardly see where I was walking. After walking the entire length of the track I headed back to the picnic ground. 25 metres before I got there I finally spotted 2 Superb Lyrebirds on the track up ahead! Woo Hoo! It was 7am, spitting with rain, too dark for photos – got a blurry shot and gave up trying.  I was happy, they are an AWESOME bird!

A short drive to Grants Picnic ground - another section of Dandenong Ranges National Park, in Kallista and a hike along the Lyrebird Track provided crippling views of a vocal Male Lyrebird who wandered leisurely through a gully only 450 metres along the track. I was much happier to get such a good view this time. The gully was very dark with a creek running and the Lyrebird walked out and crossed the track in front of me. He was calling and feeding.
I then continued onto Neumann’s Track and found another 2 further up. These 2 were in an area with a bit more light.  I was able to snap off a few photos but it was difficult as it was STILL raining and the light was very poor.

The Leeches were in abundance and as I seem to have no self control and continued to leave the track to follow birds through the dense understorey I gave up counting how many of them I had to remove. The most adventurous one managed to attach itself to my face!

                 A mad dash across the track - I'm amazed I managed to take this photo in time!

                The usual view of Superb Lyrebird - retreating quickly into the dense understorey

So 2 more lifers I can now relax and enjoy the rest of my trip.  Where to now, that's the question!!

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Atherton Tablelands North Queensland Birding

A 3 day weekend based at Kingfisher Park is always a rewarding experience.  Keith and Lindsay Fisher are wonderful hosts and the Unit accommodation is very comfortable.
I arrived in Cairns Saturday lunch time, collected my hire car and went straight to the mangrove end of the esplanade.  Thankfully the tide was just going out and the waders were in good numbers and I felt like a kid in a toyshop! A “5 minute look”  ended up being a walk between the mangroves and playground and lasted 65 minutes. I got burned to a crisp as I had not taken the time to apply sunscreen.  My war wounds were worth it though, with a wonderful selection of waders.

Greater Sand Plover

Grey-tailed Tattler

Grey-tailed Tattler

Bar-tailed Godwit

Eastern Curlew

Common Myna (yeah ok, so it's not a wader)

Gull-billed Tern

The Atherton Tablelands is one of the only places in Australia where you can find the introduced Helmeted Guineafowl. I found 2 populations between Tolga and Mareeba.

Great Bowerbird

Helmeted Guineafowl

Birding at Kingfisher Park provided quick but good views of a pair of Red-necked Crake as they scurried across the orchard and into the bushes. Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfishers were in good numbers and calling constantly.

                                                                          Noisy Pitta
I caught up with my friend Carl Billingham and we enjoyed dinner (he cooked) and wine and chatted into the evening while watching a Tree Mouse - Pogonomys coming in and out of its burrow.
Sunday morning I went up Mount Lewis with Chook and we enjoyed great views of Fernwren taking worms to it's nest. It was wonderful to watch  a young male Victoria Riflebird displaying and a female was taking great interest.

Chowchilla were feeding and scurrying in the undergrowth and a Pied Monarch was on a nest.

Atherton Scrub-wren & Mountain Thornbill were along the narrow walking tracks.

It was great to get good views of Tooth-billed Bowerbird!

Also seen were Bridled & Dusky Honeyeater, Bassian Thrush, Superb Fruit-dove and Yellow-throated Scrub-wren. 

Bridled Honeyeater

I had forgotten just how difficult it is to try and photograph birds in the rainforest! The slow shutter speeds and all the vegetation make it VERY challenging!  Especially as I am too lazy to carry a tripod… oh well….

I was keen to find a Golden Bowerbird so I followed Chook to the Crater in the afternoon (2 hrs drive each way) making a brief stop in Mareeba for a Brush Cuckoo. 

                                               Grey-headed Robin was a nice find!

The drive was well worth it as within 5 minutes we were enjoying 3 Golden Bowerbirds!! NOICE!  The dark canopy made it difficult to take a photo without a tripod.

Then it was a long drive back to Julatten! I stopped near Hastie’s Swamp as there were 3 Sarus Crane at the back of a ploughed paddock.  TICK
A couple of hours spotlighting that night produced Green Possum, Barn Owl, White-lipped Tree-Frog, Amethyst Python,  Northern-brown Bandicoot, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Spectacled Flying-fox, Boyd's Forest dragon, Giant White-tailed Rat and Bush Rat.

Amethyst Python

Green Possum

Northern Brown Bandicoot

White-lipped Tree-Frog

Bush Rat
This morning Carl, Michael and I went searching for Buff-breasted Button-quail. They had staked out a site yesterday and had found one. I only had an hour or so to search before driving to the airport so we searched in a line – up and down, up and down. It was so hot and humid!!  Well, we got 2 Painted Button-quails before flushing a single bird which we suspect may have been the same bird they found yesterday as it was in the same spot and its rump was pale. Having flushed it within a few minutes of the Painted Button-quail it helped with comparison.  However it was not a tickable view.

Carl and I at the Button-quail search site

Buff-breasted Button-quail prefer Eucalypt woodland with sparse grass and stony ground

I left the guys searching (and melting) in the woodland and I drove to the airport for a shower before catching the plane home.

2011 Yearlist as of Dec 12 -  541.
Australia Life List - 587.

I want to reach 600 before May 2012.
A great weekend with good birds, a few lifers, catching up with Carl, Chook, Keith and Lindsay and thankfully I still  a few feathered  reasons to return!