We arrived at the Lady Denham Museum at Huskisson in time for lunch. Such timing! The day was warm and breezy, ideal conditions for our first White-breasted Sea Eagle, pursued by a pair of Masked Lapwings, and a small flight of Pelicans. In the fish pond several Chestnut and Grey Teal eyed us carefully and along the edges Superb Wrens entertained us and Wood Ducks ignored us.
Fuelled and expectant we drove on to the old lighthouse at Booderee National Park. Off-shore were Australasian Gannets and several shearwaters, rather far out, but probably Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed. Overhead soared yet another Sea Eagle and, as we started back, in came a beautiful Peregrine Falcon, as curious about us as we were about him (it was a small bird). Heath can be challenging for birding, except for New Holland Honeyeaters!, as evidenced by four birders on their knees with their bottoms in the air trying to spot a Variegated Wren. As they were doing this up popped an Eastern Bristlebird to find out what was going on! A hoped for and very exciting bonus.
Happy birders all we drove on, passing a Kestrel and then a Spotted Harrier! While enjoying a celebratory ice-cream at the Bewong Roadhouse we clocked up another Kestrel, Rainbow Lorikeets, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Little Corellas and Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike.
Around our motel in Bateman's Bay Little Corellas were sorting out roosting spots in huge gums, as were a pair of White-faced Herons, and steady streams of Cormorants - Great, Little Black and Little Pied were making their way to roosting sites. As the light faded a pair of Dollarbirds tussled with Magpies for the best branches, Kookaburras did the final cackles, Pied Oystercatchers piped their way up river and then the Koels took over! In all, a good day.
The next morning the Koels woke us up (when do they sleep?) and as we strolled along the inlet beach Pelicans and Cormorants were fishing, a lone Pied Oystercatcher sat tight on its nest and not far away we spotted seven Sooty Oystercatchers.
Click on map for more detail
After a hearty breakfast we continued south to the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens, already brimming with birdsong. Yellow-faced, White-naped, New Holland, Lewin's, Brown-headed and Scarlet Honeyeaters, Eastern Yellow Robins, Jack Winters, Olive-backed Orioles, Rufous and Golden Whistlers, Silvereyes, Little and Rainbow Lorikeets, Sacred Kingfisher and Fan-tailed Cuckoos and more were in the choir! And in amongst this chorus we heard some strange creakings which we tracked to three Glossy Black-cockatoos happily feeding. Shortly after leaving we spotted a flock of about thirty White-throated Needletails.
Leaving the highway we snuck through Dalmeny to enjoy beach and ocean views, Crested Terns and another Sea Eagle. By now the weather was cooling and the sky overcast but our spirits were high. On the harbour mudflats at Narooma were Striated Herons, Bar-tailed Godwits, Pied Oystercatchers, Pelicans, cormorants and a new species - Capsicum Terns! An error brought about by trying to make sandwiches and watch birds at the same time.
By the time we arrived at Bega the weather was hot, humid and heavy and we spotted the southerly White-backed Magpies for the first time. Parent Galahs were busily feeding juveniles who were shaking and squawking in every tree. Around the lake Reed Warblers were trying to out sing each other, Goldfinches and Yellow-rumped Thornbills tinkled happily and Starlings grubbed the lawns. In the water Coots, Purple Swamphens and a questionable male Mallard paddled. On we pushed past Eden, spotting both Tree and Fairy Martins and a male Koel being pursued by two angry Red Wattlebirds, and turned on to the bumpy gravel road in Ben Boyd National Park to the lighthouse at Cape Green.
The weather was closing in and dark clouds hung low over Disaster Bay. Birds were keeping low in the heath although the ever present New Holland Honeyeaters were joined by Silvereyes and several White-browed Scrubwrens. Passing the lighthouse lookout were streams of Short-tailed Shearwaters and, unexpectedly, a lone Black-browed Albatross while we in turn were watched by a very confident Swamp Wallaby.
The skies had largely cleared by the time we crossed in to Victoria and arrived at Gipsy Point and our Lodge was alive with birds. More White-bellied Sea Eagles, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles, many Galahs and Rainbow Lorikeets (with the occasional Little joining them), a few Satin Bowerbirds, Red-browed Finches, Common Bronzewings, Wonga Pigeons, Eastern Whipbirds, Welcome Swallows, the constant "ringing" of Bell Miners and an ever growing mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos, young and old who came to graze on the lawns. A rather delightful end to a busy birding day which, we noted happily, included seeing NO Common Mynas.
Our pre-breakfast walk the next day produced more Bell Miners, Lewins Honeyeaters, Satin Bowerbirds, superb views of a very curious male Eastern Whipbird, King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, a Whistling Kite and on the edge of a small swamp a Buff-banded Rail herding five young bundle of fluff. A short time later a Peregrine Falcon caused panic and cleared the area! It settled in a tree for a while, not far from the lodge's feeders, but left empty handed.
After breakfast we drove to a small and impressive rainforest reserve of with some mighty Mountain Grey Gums. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos called and as we raised our heads we spotted a lone Koala snoozing in the fork of a tree. It did move - a bit! On the trail we spotted Golden Whistler, many Brown Gerygones and barely two metres from us a Rufous Fantail busily constructing a nest. Rain stopped play and we moved on to Mallacoota to search the shoreline and sandbars for waders.
A calling Whistling Kite decided the morning tea stop. At the forest edge, high in a gum a huge nest was spotted and on a nearby bare branch sat a juvenile Kite calling. Some distance away sat two adults seemingly indifferent to the youngster's call. You could swear they were thinking "It's about time you started getting your own meals"!
The Skerries at Wingan Inlet by Bob Ashford
Terns, cormorants, pelicans and Silver Gulls lined the sand banks joined by the occasional Masked Lapwing and Chestnut Teal but there were no waders until we heard the beautiful warbling call of an Eastern Curlew. Two of them were probing the water line. Another Kite soared overhead and drew our eyes to several White-fronted Chats before we moved on to the local airport. Here we searched for Ground Parrots without success. We did get Skylarks and our first White-winged Choughs though!
At the Water Treatment Plant we enjoyed great views of large numbers of Chestnut and Grey Teal, Hardheads and Hoary-headed Grebes and a couple of splendid Australian Shelduck. Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes flitted in the trees, Magpie Larks searched the grass disturbing Australian Pipits and a very striking male White-winged Triller rounded off the visit.
By late afternoon we arrived at Wangarabell via a short stop to spot a Brown Goshawk. In the dry open forest we found Dusky Woodswallows flitting over the canopy, except for one that was busy building a rather flimsy nest. White-throated Treecreepers called and Yellow-tufted and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters worked the trees. Then suddenly a Turquoise Parrot flew past giving everyone just enough time for a tantalising glimpse. A pair of Restless Flycatchers afforded us far better views.
Just prior to breakfast the next morning the Peregrine turned up again and took up position in the same tree. It was a small dark buff/rufous bird, probably a 1st year, which had yet to develop the skills to catch wily Galahs. It left and two Buff-banded Rails appeared with five balls of fluff - smart parents. Blackbirds sang and so did a Grey Butcherbird, both beautiful.
After breakfast we took to the Genoa River with the trusty Janene driving. It was a magnificent morning. Overhead two Sea Eagles gently jousted over territory. On the river Pelicans and a raft of Great Cormorants cooperated to herd fish into small bays. And, lo and behold, a seal (we believe an Australian Sea Lion), many kilometres from the sea, joined and entertained us as we made our way. A pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles watched with interest and a young Sea Eagle considered his chances with the seal until driven off by an adult. We pulled up for a cuppa at a small jetty enticed by the singing of a Superb Lyrebird and a distant calling Shining Bronze-cuckoo. An Eastern Yellow Robin and several ubiquitous Yellow-faced Honeyeaters joined us and a pair of Black Swans watched us depart. A Whistling Kite followed us back to the lodge!
In the afternoon we retraced our steps to search for the Turquoise Parrot again, without luck. But we did have excellent views of both White-throated and Red-browed Treecreepers. Then a cry went up for "Flying Yellow Custard". At least that was how the rest of us heard it. It was in fact Yellow-tufted Honeyeater spotted by the person who called "Capsicum Tern" in Narooma. Well, we all have to start somewhere!
Leaving Gipsy Point Lakeside Resort was going to be a wrench. Beautifully situated, kept and managed with abundant and varied birdlife we had enjoyed our stay. So we took another pre-breakfast walk discovering Bassian Thrush, Australasian Grebe and another big mob of unconcerned kangaroos. Once packed and aboard we headed west through beautiful forest to Wingan Inlet in search of more special birds. At the small car park in the forest a pair of Welcome Swallows were noisily guarding a nest inside the information shelter and Black-faced Monarchs, Brown Thornbills and Brown Gerygones were busy in the small patch of rainforest. A Brown Goshawk passing overhead quietened things down for a while.
The walk along the edge of the inlet to the beach produced the usual suspects and once on the beach excitement built. As we approached the inlet mouth we could see that the offshore rocky islands (the Skerries), not so far away, were packed with Australian Fur Seals. The wind was strong making holding binoculars difficult. Even so, as we got closer it was clear the seals were accompanied by a large retinue of birds including Silver Gulls, a few much larger Pacific Gulls and many Black-faced Cormorants. Behind, further out to sea, were many Short-tailed Shearwaters and others, too difficult to identify with certainty at that distance. On the shoreline Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers patrolled, Caspian Terns relaxed and a single Red-necked Stint flew. There were also many dead Short-tailed Shearwaters half buried in the sand, some of the many tens of thousands that had died and been washed ashore along Australia's east coast in previous weeks.
But we were particularly looking for the increasingly rare and beautiful Hooded Plover and some careful searching among the flotsam above the tideline soon revealed a pair. They were nestled well down trying to hide from the great drifts of sand being blown along the beach.
Superb Parrot by Christine Melrose
Then we headed north toward Cooma stopping near Bombala at the surprisingly productive Platypus Reserve. It was mid-afternoon and we were unlikely to see platypus, normally a dusk and dawn sighting, but we enjoyed some excellent sightings of Sittella, Southern Whiteface, White-eared, Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters, Striated and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Striated Pardalote, Eastern Rosellas, Tree Martins, Little Ravens and a very obliging Cunningham's Skink. On route to Cooma we saw several Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kite and another Brown Goshawk. Along the fence lines were several Rufous Songlark and Australian Pipits.
Our final morning took us to Canberra's Botanic Garden where Gang Gang Cockatoos and King Parrots were thoroughly outnumbered by Red and Little Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds. But our main objective was yet another car park - that of the Australian Institute of Sport. Recent reports of breeding Superb Parrots had us hopeful we might see them.
Almost as soon as we pulled in we spotted an adult male flying and within minutes we found the female and two juveniles. That was a thrilling finale to a wonderful trip.
The birds were terrific, some 150 species. So were the talented company. Thanks to Pamela, Christine and Brian who taught me much about plants and birds on the trip. And to Janene who put the hours and considerable effort in to make it all so worthwhile. It was a pleasure to be travelling with you all.
By Bob Ashford birding for Follow That Bird.