Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

Sue's Diary (Jul-Dec)

July

1st July

After being taken to Siem Reap airport in Cambodia our flight was delayed by an hour and a half. We eventually flew to Bangkok in Thailand where after picking up a hire-car, Paul drove north to Suriburi where we stayed the night in a hotel.

2nd July

Paul drove north for eight hours and we finally arrived at Doi Inthanon National Park where we found accommodation at the park in the form of a little chalet. A Dark-backed Sibia was in the tree outside along with Red-whiskered Bulbuls. Mountain Bulbuls were up the road along with a Pied Bushchat and Hill Prinia. White-rumped Munias kept the Eurasian Tree Sparrows company in roadside bushes.

At last it is cooler here although it is still T-shirt and short weather! I am looking forward to a break from the intense heat for a while.

3rd July

 

Having spent the night in a chalet at Doi Inthanon National Park, we were up before first light to be in position at the summit of Thailand’s highest mountain for daybreak. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes were in the trees as were Chestnut-tailed Minlas. A Yellow-bellied Fantail added some colour as a Pygmy Wren-Babbler appeared on a railing. After a few hours and some photos we descended back down for lunch at the famed Mr Deang’s café where a bird log is kept. We gleaned a nearby site for Slaty-backed Forktail from the log and duly saw it flitting up and down the highly-vegetated stream a few minutes later. A Silver-eared Mesia was also a nice find here too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush                                                                   Chestnut-tailed Minla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking towards Thailand's highest mountain at Doi Inthanon

 

Paul and Sue at the summit of Doi Inthanon NP

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes when birding around the world you come across some amusing signage and this one made me smile!

 

 

After walking the Jeep Track for a second time we gave up because we were having to cope with far more leeches than we were seeing birds! I won't begin to tell you where I removed one from! A drive up another road produced little and so we returned to our chalet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th July

 

After a bad night's sleep I had a terrible migraine and so I struggled to get myself along the Jeep trail. After half and hour I lost the plot with all the leeches and retraced my steps back towards the road. Just before the road I met up with a Korean guide and a birder from Sweden. I joined them out on the road where we saw White-tailed Leaf-warbler and Blyth's Leaf-warbler. Paul re-joined me and together we watched Slaty-bellied Tesia in the small trackway that the guide had shown me. We were then beaten by the weather as low cloud had turned to rain at the top of the mountain and we descended to where the weather was better. At km 13 of Dio Inthanon National Park we followed a little path after crossing the river and Paul found a Black-backed Forktail lurking in the undergrowth on the now nearly-dry stream-bed. We added Black Baza, White-crested Laughingthrush and Golden-fronted Leafbird as well as several bulbul species at the lower level here.

 

We drove back up to the waterfalls area when the sun came out and watched Blue Whistling-thrush having a bathe in the rushing water.

 

Siritharn Waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

5th July

 

Starting at the summit of Doi Inthanon we searched in vain for a few new species. Green-tailed Sunbirds showed well along with White-tailed Leaf-warblers. We drove back down to the police check-point where a Short-billed Minivet posed in a tree for us to phoograph before we left for a breakfast at Mr Deang's cafe.

Green-tailed Sunbird

 

 

 

Short-billed Minivet

 

 

 

 

We left the park and drove to Tescos!!! We could not believe our eyes as down in Chom Thong in amongst all the little one-person shops we saw a Tescos. So we stopped and bought some provisions, at least I did as I lost Paul somewhere in the car-park. He re-emerged sometime later having been watching a Crested Treeswift on the wires there. After unloading my basket and finding my camera I am now not too sure what I have photographed. Can you make out what the bird is sitting on? or is it somekind of malformation?

Crested Treeswift

What is the formation underneath the bird?

We motored northwards and arrived at Chiang Dao and found Malee's Nature Lover's Bungalows set in a lovely location in the shadow of the forested mountain. An hour later we had added ten new birds to our trip list.

 

 

 

Malee's Nature Bungalows entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6th July

An early start as we had booked a jeep from Malee's to take us to near the top of Chaing Dao mountain. It is an extremely steep track requiring chains on the wheels in places that took an hour and a half to achieve. The views were beautiful as we rose above the clouds. We had chosen a good day weather-wise! All of a sudden the driver stopped as a Black-backed Forktail was on the track. We watched it for several minutes before continuing on our way. Nearing the top our driver spotted a Great Barbet as Paul spotted an Orange-headed Thrush. An Orange-bellied Leafbird was also a nice find. However we were on the search for the world's largest nuthatch and I heard some tapping that only turned out to be a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, so the quest was still on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Views from  Chiang Dao Mountain

The vale near the top of Chiang Dao Mountain

 

 

 

Once our driver had negotiated an extremely steep section of track needing chains on the wheels, we made our final destination. We wandered around the vale when all of a sudden the driver called us over as he had located a Giant Nuthatch! We were delighted as we watched it forage for food on a branch before flying off. By 10.30am the birds quietened down and we made our way slowly back down the mountain birding as we went. Emerald Doves and White-rumped Shamas put in appearences on the lower slopes. However I was once again plagued by yet another migraine and so once we were back at Malee's I went to bed.

Chiang Dao from the rice paddies

 

 

 

 

 

7th July

After an extremely bad night with a migraine and virtually no sleep I forced myself out of the door as we followed a small trail by the Buddhist Temple. A Crested Goshawk gave good views but little else. Down by the river we watched an Asian Koel and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. The afternoon was spent visiting the local caves where some crawling around was required! We hoped that the oil lamp the guide had didn't go out as being hundreds of meters from the entrance in pitch-black was not my idea of fun! Lots of bats hung in the roof as we wandered around admiring the stalagmites.

Besides birds, we often delight in other nature sightings and I thought I would share with you these bugs that flew around us the other evening as I was typing this up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stick insect by my teacup!

Cicada. Notice the size compared with the man's hand!

 

 

 

 

 

8th July

Feeling much better today we were up for first light at Malee's and wandered up the road towards the Budhist Temple again. A Blue-bearded Bee-eater was sat in one of the trees before we started to climb the hundreds of steps up. Down a small trail in amongst the rain forest trees a Streaked Wren-babbler gave itself up adding itself to our trip list. On the way back to breakfast a pair of Silver-breated Broadbills sat quite still for sometime so that we could admire them.

We left Malee's Nature Lover Bungalows and headed for Fang where we booked into a local hotel for £7 a night. We followed directions to Doi Ang Khang at 1900m high and drove up an extremely steep road to reach a small village that has an agricultural research station that is good for winter birding. Never mind we are here in the summer! After a false start we found the bird watching trail amongst the bamboo and watched a Blue-throated Flycatcher and Silver-eared Mesia before the heavens opened with torrential rain. I managed to persuade a nice kind local to take us back to our car before we got drenched!

We drove back into Fang and were amazed by finding another Tescos amongst all the little one-man shops that are famed all over Asia.We had a very interesting meal here from a menu we really didn't understand and ended up hungry after we had eaten! For those of you that know Paul, will know that shopping and Paul don't go together and so it was with great amusement that Paul was given his World Cup mug by a waitress that chased him around the shop insisting that he take it!

Paul and his World Cup mug

 

 

 

 

 

 

9th July

At first light we drove once again up the forested mountain within spitting distance of the Burmese border at Doi Ang Khang. We walked a Bamboo trail where we watched a Yellow-bellied Warbler before calling into the cafe for some English breakfast and watching a White-headed Bulbul whilst it was being cooked. A Long-tailed Shrike sat atop a tree. We spent the rest of the day re-seeing some of the birds from yesterday and I admired the botanical gardens at the agricultural research station.

10th July

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    The road up to Doi Ang Khang                                                      At the summit of Thailand's third highest mountain

We drove to the police check point of Doi Ang Khang and walked the Rhodedendron Trail to the top of Doi Ang Khang. It was a very steep trail and I was glad that we were doing it in the cool of the early morning. We admired the views and a Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler as well as two Crested Finchbills. I nearly suffered from vertigo as the trail was very precarious in places as we were on a very narrow ridgeline way above the clouds and was glad when we found an alternative route down.

Back down to the car we found a newly tarmaced track and watched several White-browed Laughingthrushes and were very surprised when an Eurasian Hoopoe popped out onto a tree. We spent the rest of the day at the agricultural reseach station before torrential rain stopped any further birding.

11th July

 

We left Fang and drove towards Chiang Saen where we drove around the lake. There were many Lesser Whistling-ducks gathered on the shoreline and one Spot-billed Duck in the water. Purple Gallinules emerged from the lilies as a White-breasted Waterhen swam towards the island. Several Oriental Pipits were flitting around the mud as a Pied Kingfisher hovered over the lake. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters sat and posed on a dead tree as we sat trying to photograph them.

 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

 

We continued on into the town and met the mighty Mekong River. Many boats from China were tied up alongside the riverbank at the port. We got out the scope and scanned the river islands where Paul located four River Lapwings in the searing heat.

 

Walking up the riverside street amongst the market stalls we located a boat that would take us across the river for a small fee. Half an hour later we were in Laos! We were expected to grace the market stalls but we had other idea and headed for some shrubs and trees where we located a flock of White-vented Mynas to start our Laos list. Barn Swallow, Yellow Bittern and Oriental Magpie Robin brought our Laos list to four before we left and headed towards Burma (Myanmar). Unfortunately we were not allowed to land as we admired an expensive hotel from the boat. The area known as the Golden Triangle meant we could admire all three countries from the boat as we sat in the middle of the river.

 

We soon returned to Thailand and Paul drove south to Tak where we spent the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                        On the river at Chiang Saen heading towards Laos and Burma

12th July

After leaving Tak we continued south stopping at U-Thong to admire waterbirds in a paddyfield. Chinese Pond Herons and Javan Pond Herons were amongst Asian Openbills as well as Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and Wood Sandpipers. We admired Pheasant-tailed Jacanas before spotting the prize of Greater Painted Snipe of which there were several.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Chinese Pond Heron                                                               Javan Pond Heron                           Asian Openbill

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                  Greater Painted Snipe                                                                                Pheasant-tailed Jacana

We motored on to Kanchanaburi where we found the Bridge over the River Kwai. It was a moving experience as we walked across the bridge realising how many lives had been lost in the building of the Thai-Burma railway during World War 2.

 

     

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 The Bridge over the River Kwai                                    Sue on the bridge                                     Paul on the bridge

 

13th July

Spent the day touring the World War Two Death Railway Muesum all about the building of the railway linking Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar) during Worls War Two. It really brought home how much suffering the prisoners of war endured during the building of this famous railway. We also went around the WW2 cemeteries and felt very moved about the apalling loss of life mainly by men aged around 25 years old. The cemeteries are beautifully kept.

 

Kanchanaburi World War Two Cemetery

On a more upbeat note we watched an Indian Roller by the river before the heat forced us back to our hotel room. It was just as well as an hour later the heaviest tropical rainstorm started and the hotel forecourt was flooded to a depth of 2 inches within minutes!

 

 

 

 

14th July

Paul drove all day southwards. We noted several Black-crowned Night-herons flying over the car. We finally arrived at Phuket Island late afternoon.

15th July

After a frustrating attempt to find a beach away from the rough sea and huge hotel complexes we finally found one where I went for a swim. Paul settled down to read a book as 3 Roseate Terns flew by. By the time I had located some snorkelling gear in the shops behind the beach, Paul had been almost washed away by the incoming tide. We returned to the car and could not find another local beach that was suitable for snorkelling. A frustrated Paul returned to the hotel room whilst I drove south for a couple of miles to another beach and went for another swim before I too gave up on the rough sea.

16th July

A shopping day in Phuket Town and a drive around the south coast. The beautiful island has been totally and utterly despoiled by big hotel complexes, hiving off the beaches so that public access is nigh on impossible. On some stretches of sandy beaches you cannot even see them for seedy street vendors and concrete walls. I am not impressed! The only bird of note today was a Common Myna with a broken leg that shared our lunch !

17th July

A visit to a Gibbon rescue centre yielded Pacific Swallow and a Striated Heron to our Thailand trip list.

18th July

We left Phuket Island and drove to Krabi. Walking along the mangrove boardwalk we noted Ashy Tailorbird, Brown-throated Sunbird and a Yellow-eared Spiderhunter. Along the river several Brahminy Kites were circling overhead. We decided to have lunch on a floating restaurant on the river and admired a Collared Kingfisher as it devoured a Cicada. On the other side of the river a Brown-winged Kingfisher sat in the mangroves.

19th July

We were up early to meet a boatman at the riverside who knew the bird calls and where to take us to see Mangrove Pitta. Soon we admired a Brahminy Kite, Brown-winged Kingfisher and a Collared Kingfisher within a few minutes of setting off. A little further inland as we chugged away a snake slithered by us in the water. It was huge and I was glad we passed by without incident. Pacific Swallows were skimming into the water before the boatman took us up into the mangroves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brahminy Kite             Brown-winged Kingfisher   White-bellied Sea-eagle                                        Snake

He had heard a pitta calling and mimicked the call without any luck. We tried another spot and after 10 minutes of listening to another pitta I decided to start a thorough search with my binoculars. To my surprise I located a Mangrove Pitta sat on a branch a few feet above the ground. I tried my best to put Paul onto it, which is not easy from a moving boat (albeit a slowly moving one). Luckily he got onto it and we were both happy bunnies! We watched a Ruddy Kingfisher before the boatman spotted a White-bellied Sea-eagle sitting above us in a tree. All too soon our time was up and we returned to our car for some wader watching at the river-mouth.                                         

20th July

After losing our way to Khao Nor Chuchi Nature Reserve it appeared that we were not allowed to go in until 8.30am anyway. We sat around cursing as we would obviously miss the best time for birding. By 8.30am it was already really hot and we followed a trail that the warden said would be best for Gurney's Pitta. We were not surprised that we didn't see it. However a Bay Banded Cuckoo was good to see as we added Cream-vented Bulbul to our trip list. By lunch-time we had seen little else except for some spring-fed pools which I was upset at not having a swimming costume to enjoy and cool down in. At a small cafe the warden put out a banana and an Orange-bellied Sunbird came into feed. It was so hot we sat in the cafe until the warden was free to have a wander with us. We saw little but when we were nearly back at the car a Banded Pitta appeared on the pathway. It made up for our short bird list today!

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

 

 

 

 

 

21st July

Starting at first light we had arranged to be taken to a site for Gurney's Pitta and although we spent many hours waiting we heard Gurney's Pitta close by but were unable to see it. It was very frustrating to be so close knowing that we were in a hair's breadth of seeing it. We did see Oriental Bay Owl and Whiskered Treeswift as additions to our trip list though.

Khao Nor Chuchi forest pool

Once again it was unbearably hot and so we walked up to the Emerald Forest Pool which is fed by a hot spring and flows through the National Park. It is used as a swimming pool and so we joined several others and managed to cool down as we swam in the beautiful surroundings. Later we went for stoll where more Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers we amassing on a fruiting tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22nd July

With us both waking up unwell (something we ate we think) it was a struggle to get the car back up north. We drove for most of the day and finally arrived at Sam Roi Yod. It was a shame that by the time we had found accommodation (it is a Buddhist holiday approaching) it was too late to do any birding.

23rd July

 

Paul was very poorly with food poisoning so with the exception of a short walk on the beach at Sam Roi Yod where I saw several Lesser Sand Plovers and a Malaysian Plover, I stayed at the beach resort where we had booked a room for 2 nights.

 

24th July

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  

 

 

Common Myna                                                                             Little Green Bee-eater

 

 

Paul was a little better, so after showing him the Lesser Sand Plovers and Malaysian Plovers on the beach we had breakfast watching a Pacific Reef Egret and met up with Steve Wilson. He had kindly offered us to stay at his home for a couple of nights as we had hit a Buddhist holiday and could not find any accommodation for the weekend. We re-located to his house and went for a drive in Sam Roi National Park. Black-winged Stilts were on almost every pool as well as Little Egrets and Little Cormorants. Down at the beach we watched Common Greenshanks whilst an Indochinese Bushlark sat on a wire with a Plain Prinia. Little Green Bee-eaters were everywhere s well as a few Indian Rollers and many Common Mynas.

 

25th July

 

A day spent on the coastline at Sam Roi Yod watching waders. Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers as well as Malaysian Plovers joined Common Greenshanks, Redshanks and Grey Plovers in the shallows as the tide receded and came back in again. Nearing high tide we watched Far Eastern Curlews and Common Sandpipers on the tide edge. In some of the ponds near the shrimp ponds we found more Painted Snipe and Bronze-winged Jacanas. A Purple Heron joined the heron list for Thailand before we headed back for Steve’s house for a swim in his lovely pool. I was watched the whole time by an Indian Roller sat above me on a wire.

 

Indian Roller

 

 

 

 

 

 

26th July

 

We left Steve’s house and thanked him for his hospitality. We drove north back towards Bangkok to Kaeng Krachen National Park. It was heaving with people as we arrived at the visitors centre and the National Park accommodation was all fully booked. Luckily the warden came to our rescue as he spoke English and took us along the road where we managed to rent a small cabin. We cooled down for a while before driving 35km to Bang Krang and walked the rough track. A Chestnut-bellied Malkhoa flew into a tree above us as we watched a Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush. A Greater Flameback tapped on a tree as a Red-crowned Barbet flew into cover.

 

27th July

 

This morning we arranged with a guide that owned a four-wheeled vehicle to take us to the top (945m) of the park. It was a steep and at times narrow track-way. We watched White-handed Gibbons as well as Dusky Langurs as we climbed up. Once there we admired a Greater Green Leafbird, Streaked Spiderhunter and a Spectacled Spiderhunter. All too soon we were beaten by the weather as it poured with rain all afternoon only allowing some short spells to admite a Crested Serpent Eagle on the way down. However we added 12 new Thailand trip ticks to our list.

 

 

 

 

                                      Dusky Langurs                                                   Ornate Squirrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Green Leafbird                                                Spectacled Spiderhunter                                   Streaked Spiderhunter

 

 

28th July

 

After a short walk in Kaeng Krachen National Park watching several Giant Flying Squirrels and an Ornate Squirrel, a couple of Thai birders invited us to join them and make use of their temporary hide at a Blue-winged Pitta nest stake out. We were not slow at taking up the opportunity and had views of a Blue-winged Pitta that one can only dream about as both parent birds flew in for food for their youngsters! It was a magical morning and a wonderful way to spend our last few hours birding in Thailand.

 

Blue-winged Pitta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29th July

 

Leaving Kaeng Krachen in the early morning we drove to Bangkok airport where we caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur. Once there we were picked up by prior arrangement and taken to Taman Negara. We did not arrive until it was dark and checked into a motel near the river at Kuala Tahan.

 

30th July

 

After breakfast on a floating restaurant on the river we started along a forest trail following the river. A Maroon Woodpecker was feeding several young as we walked underneath it. As we watched a chestnut-winged Babbler a Purple-naped Sunbird perched right in front of us. I was very pleased when a pair of Raffles Malkohas arrived overhead and showed very well. All too soon the heat and humidity make me feel quite unwell and I soon got dehydrated even though I was gulping down the water. We returned to the river the way we had come but were soon surrounded by the masses of tourists. I was horrified at the way the canopy walk-way was being used by lots of shouting back-packers as some sort of gimmick.Grrrrrrrrrr

 

31st July

 

We crossed the river at Taman Negara early determined to try and evade the hundreds of tourists blighting the forest. Up at the campsite we met another 2 British birders with a scope and shared half an hour’s birding together watching Horsfield’s Babbler and a wonderful view of a Black and Red Broadbill feeding a youngster not long out of the nest. A pair of Raffles Malkohas fed up high in a tree before we set off down a different forest trail to yesterday. It was a bit of a ‘babbler fest’ as Black-capped, White-chested, Black-throated and Abbots babblers all put in an appearance. It was once again hot and sticky and we returned for a late lunch. Luckily we had no leeches to put up with!

 

The afternoon was spent walking the Swamp Trail and staring at the sky back at the campsite as Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots and Long-tailed Parakeets flew overhead.

 

                                                                                               

 

August

1st August

 

We had booked a boat to take us up river (we thought this expensive at £24!) All boat rides here now cost an arm and a leg………a real shame as we cannot afford to get away from the rat-race of the trails near the visitor centre) Tour groups and backpackers seem to have little interest in the wildlife and just come to shout at the top of their voices on the canopy walkway.

 

Just after first light at 7.30am we made our way upriver in our boat in time to see a Rhinoceros Hornbill fly across the river and perch in a tree beside us. The boat took about an hour and delivered us to another forest trail that eventually led to a hide. A Large Wren Babbler was new for our list as was a Ferruginous Babbler. We had fleeting views of a White-crowned Forktail before watching a Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler.

 

We eventually found the hide after negotiating many fallen trees, streams, muddy inclines (up and down) bugs and six-inch millipedes whilst sweating profusely carrying gallons of water! The lot of a birder is not always a romantic one! Jungle trails can be confusing as often you do not notice splits in the trails on the way out and signage can be sparse to say the least with no idea how far you have come or little idea how far it is back either. In dense jungle you have little idea on direction either sometimes! However I was pleased to see the boatmen waiting for us once we reached the river’s edge once again.

 

We sped back down the river through all the rapids for a very late lunch on one of the floating restaurant before an afternoon ambling along the scruffy village streets watching an Indian Black Eagle soar overhead.

 

2nd August

 

After breakfast we crossed the river again and walked along a jungle trail for 3 hours before we saw a single bird….a Crested Fireback (pheasant). After another hour a chanced in on a small flock of Spotted Fantails, Rufous-crowned Babblers and Chestnut winged Babblers all feeding young. A Buff-necked Woodpecker was also with them. After watching an Orange-backed Woodpecker we delighted in a vivid red spot that transpired to be a Scarlet-rumped Trogan. What a delight to see!

 

3rd Aug

 

Mark and Steve had given us a spot to try for Chestnut-naped Forktail along the canopy walkway trail and so after an early start before the crowds arrived we set off and saw a Rufous-backed Kingfisher in the first stream. In the second stream we saw the target species and watched as the forktail flew back towards the first stream. We followed it back and watched as it and its mate gave us excellent views before we climbed up to the Canopy Walkway where we watched three Great Slaty Woodpeckers. At dusk we watched German's Swiflets, Brown-backed Needletails and Malaysian Eared-nightjars over the river.

 

4th Aug

 

I really could not stand Taman Negara anymore. Far too many tourists with no appreciation for wildlife have been allowed to ruin this wonderful forest. Boat transport was too expensive for us to escape the crowds. Kuala Tahan was all too scruffy for me with no access for any cash (and being without transport we were stuck) so we ordered a taxi and were taken to Fraser's Hill, five hours away where we found a much nicer hotel (the recently refurbished Puncak Inn) for the same price as our scruffy one in Kuala Tahan. It was much cooler and we wandered around and watched Black Laughingthrush, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush and Long-tailed Falconet before finding a place that served a Devonshire Cream Tea! Yummy!

 

5th August

 

After breakfast at Fraser's Hill we walked two trails and saw very little except a Rufous-browed Flycatcher and a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo. However the roadsides were more productive as a Javan Cuckooshrike sat on a wire before we admired the flocks of Golden Bablers, Mountain Fulvettas and Black-eared Shrike Babblers. Cloud soon engulfed us and we had a forced return to the hotel before venturing out down The Gap in the afternoon. Faser's Hill is an old British Hill Station that looks like it old colonial past. Modern hotels now surround an old clock tower set in the village centre all perched high up in the forest. It is lovely and cool her (21 degrees) a real change from all the sweating we have done over the last two and a half months! The roadway up here (The Gap) has a one way system in place and traffic has to take turns on the 8km stretch at certain times of the day. It is forested all the ay up and makes a good birding track in addition to the numerous raods and trails in the village.

 

Mr Durai found us in the morning and invited us to join him for an early evening stroll which we did gladly. He soon put us onto a Streaked Wren Babbler lurking in a ditch and showed us a Black and Crimson Oriole as well as several Sultan Tits. We soon had birds everywhere and enjoyed our day enormously.

 

6th August

 

 

 

 

 

Paul and views around Fraser's Hill village hill station

 

 

 

Mr Durai met us first thing in the morning at our hotel at Farser's Hill and we set off towards the gate and up a nearby road. I was ill-prepared for the Slaty-backed Forktail that sat on the pavement infront of us. We admired a Pygmy Wren Babbler and Mountain Tailorbirds as well as more Black and Crimson Orioles. Silver-eared Mesias kept us amused as we searched in vain for the Malaysian Blue Whistling Thrush.

By the Shezan Hotel we sat and took photos of Long-tailed Sibias and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes. Pacific Swallows were sat on the wires near our hotel at the Puncak Inn.

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slaty-backed Forktail                                                            Pacific Swallow                                            Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                   Silver-eared Mesia                                                                              Long-tailed Sibia

After a short break back at the hotel we wandered back up the road by the gate just intime to see a Blyth's Hawk Eagle swoop down and catch a poor unsuspecting squirrel on a tree. The bird sat whilst the squirrel squirmed its last before flying off with it.

Blyth's Hawk Eagle with squirrel

An afternoon walk with Mr Durai produced a Little Pied Flycatcher before dusk. After dark we walked up to the army camp where we did not see any owls! However 50 metres from our hotel (The Puncak Inn) as we returned a Brown Wood Owl gave us marvellous views sitting in a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

7th August

We tried again for the whistling thrush with no luck but Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes were up by Singapore Bungalow along with Silver-eared Mesias and Long-tailed Sibias. On the Hemmant Trail we found a Lesser Shortwing from one of the bridges over a gully. We had almost nothing on the Pine Tree Trail but a Blue-winged Leafbird and a Black-browed Barbet gave good views on our descent back down to the village. We spent the afternoon on the new road (currently closed due to a landslide) where we added a Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker that was new for our list. However halfway back the thunder and lightning started and the heavens opened. If you have never been to the tropics, you have never seen rain.!!!!.........Luckily I had my very fashionable plastic bag/mac with me, but Paul..................................well let's say he was a little moist by the time we reached the hotel!

8th August

At first light we cracked the whistling thrush! Up the hill about 200 mtres from the gate (after admiring the Slaty-backed Forktail en-route) we saw the Malayan Whistling thrush running around on the road and on the concrete wall. We walked back for our hotel's breakfast and then set off for the new road again via the food court circuit. Ther we re-met with Steve and Mark who had just arrived from Taman Negar and we all admired the Green Magpie in the trees above our heads feeding with a Fire-tufted Barbet. Once on the new road we tried again for our target bird but failed miserably. We wondered if we even had the right spot! Will have to do some more asking around! However birds were in abundance and we enjoyed our morning's birding as you can never tire of flocks of Grey-chinned Minivets, Golden Babblers, Mountain Fulvettas and Silver-eared Mesias.

9th August

An exceedingly disappointing day as we walked the entire length from Fraser's Hill down to The Gap and a few kilometres below The Gap. The only bird of any note was a Little Spiderhunter feeding on a banana flower. We could not believe how birdless it was. The day was only saved by a small flock that included a Blue Nuthatch as we wandered up to The Smokehouse in the late afternoon.

10th August

By leaving the hotel in the dark to walk down the new road at Fraser's Hill we disturbed a Red-headed Trogon at roost about 1km down from the school. Dawn was emerging as we carried on down the road. Everett's White-eyes were new for us as we suddendly noticed a flock of birds moving through the trees to our right. Over 20 Long-tailed Broadbills were perching up and moving on. What a spectacle! An Orange-bellied Flowerpecker added to the colour as a Red-eyed Bulbul didn't!!!

Early morning on the new road at Fraser's Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down as the construction site the new bridge was being finished but more work was needed to keep the bank in place after the massive landslide had destroyed the road. We walked back up and I called a Black Eagle to Paul that was gliding overhead. He then noticed a second raptor that almost immediately went into a swoop right above our heads. It was a Chestnut-bellied Hawk Eagle. Quite a sight as it swept down the mountain.

The new bridge being constructed on the new road at Fraser's Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11th August

Before first light we managed to get a lift down the hill to The Gap. We walked in the dark and listened to the birds singing. Soon we watched a Brown Barbet sitting at the top of a tree and admired a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Walking the other way we saw 3 White-crowned Hornbills and a Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle. Two Black Hawk Eagles out on a marvellous display flight for each other and us. We managed to get a lift back up to Fraser's Hill and set off for the waterfall, but it was not to be as rain set in!

Paul birding The Gap

 

 

 

 

 

 

12th August

We set off walking for the waterfall once again and made it this time, 6km and mostly down hill. A Slaty-backed Forktail was on the stream and a Red-headed Trogon was perched in a tree. It was a slog back up the hill but I managed to grab a lift for the final 2 km leaving Paul to stagger back up on his own (his wish). When he arrived I had already eaten a Devonshire Cream Tea at The Smokehouse, an inn modelled on a British Pub!

 

 

 

                        Paul and I at the waterfall                         Enjoying a cream tea at The Smokehouse

Later in the evening we were delighted with good views of a Brown-wood Owl.

 

Brown-wood Owl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13th August

After saying goodbye to Fraser's Hill we were taken in a taxi to Kuala Lumpur where we hired a car. After a nightmare of a journey through Klang because of poor signage we eventually arrived at Kuala Selangor. A poor map led to more confusion and our patience was wearing thin. After turning around many times we eventually found the nature reserve only to find them fully booked and we retreated back to the town to find a hotel. The only bird of note was a Brahminy Kite and a stork which we did not ID fully because we were driving.

14th August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                     Water Monitor Lizard                                                          Silvered Leaf Monkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden-bellied Gerygone                                        Mud Skipper

Laced Woodpecker

 

 

We set off around Taman Alam nature reserve as soon as it was open at 8.30am. A pair of collared Kingfishers were a delight to see before we realised that a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher was sitting quietly low down in bushes in the dyke. Up in the trees a small party of Golden-bellied Gerygones were calling to each other as a Purple Heron flew over the lake.On the boardwalk down through the mangroves a pair of Laced Woodpeckers called to each other noisily before we spotted a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. Out on the estuary several Lesser Adjutant Storks were sitting on the mud. We walked around the circuit once again in the afternoon and watched two Pied Trillers from one of the watch-towers before making our way into the mangroves once again where we called in a Mangrove Whistler. We admired several other sightings of wildlife including Long-tailed Macaques, Silvered Leaf Monkeys, Smooth-coated Otters, Mud Skippers and Water Monitor Lizards. In the evening we spotlighted a Buffy-fish Owl sat in a tree 50 metres from the lighthouse at Malawati Bukit.

15th August

Starting at 8.30am once again we walked the Taman Alam Nature Reserve. From the watch-tower we spotted a Little Bronze-cuckoo as we watched all the movements in the heronry. From the mangroves we watched a Great Tit sunning itself as Pied Fantails chased each other along the walkway. The sub-species here is a very grey bird with quite different vocalisations to the British birds.

16th August

 

We left Kuala Selangor and drove to Pasoh a forest research station. It was a bit tricky trying to get permission to stay here but with a little negotiation and a phone call to head office in Kuala Lumpur we managed it. Whilst our room was prepared we followed a forest trail for 3kms and saw absolutely………………nothing! Just to add to our misery, half way round the heavens opened and a tropical rainstorm ensued. We got drenched. Upon returning to the accommodation, it was extremely basic……….a wooden hut, bed and mattress with one sheet and one blanket, a cold shower and toilet. No sink but an old kettle. Luckily electricity had been restored that afternoon as two trees had brought the line down 3 weeks ago so at least we had light. What we didn’t realise was that we were going to be deserted, as all workers left at 5.15pm and we would be locked in the reserve completely on our own until morning. After the rain stopped we ventured along the track-way and watched a Cream-vented Bulbul, Streaked Bulbul and an Orange-backed Woodpecker just before the rain started once again.

 

17th August

 

Having survived the night we ambled along another forest trail at first light. I have never heard a primary rainforest so quiet. After 2 hours we had seen nothing! We turned back and tried the entrance track way that was also extremely quiet. A Black-naped Monarch deigned to put in an appearance as did a pair of Greater Green Leafbirds. We reached the entrance gate and worked our way back seeing an Emerald Dove and a few Peaceful Doves. By our hut a pair of Oriental Magpie Robins chased about and except for a party of Dusky Langurs we saw no more today.

 

18th August

 

After the despair of yesterday we birded the entrance track-way again at first light and looked at a Little Green Pigeon sat high up in a tree before finding a pair of Brown Barbets feeding in a fruiting tree by the entrance gate. We turned around and watched a pair of Golden-throated Barbets before we were alerted by a call that we did not recognise of having heard before. A Chestnut-rumped Babbler gave good views as a Green Iora flitted about high above us. Back by our hut a pair of Black-winged Flycatcher Shrikes put in an appearance. Bolstered by some birds we walked a forest trail and saw…………….nothing!

 

We set off for the village and managed to find some salad foods and a tin of luncheon meat. I cannot begin to tell you how joyous it was to have some proper food after all the rice we have been eating! By the afternoon the heavens opened once again and we were marooned inside the hut. Worse was to come, as we had an electricity failure which meant that we had a very early night in the hut with all the ants and bugs in the sweltering heat and humidity alone in the rainforest.

 

19th August

 

I was very pleased to leave Pasoh as I had not enjoyed it one bit! Our food supply was now crawling with ants as was our hut, even though I had swept them out numerous times. We had seen very few birds and it was not worth the effort we had put in. We set off for the nearest town as we had hit a culvert on the track-way and a tyre had developed a serious bulge. Paul had tried to put the spare tyre on only to find it in a worse state than the one we had damaged. I usually check spare tyres when I hire a car but stupidly had not done so with this car! Lesson learnt!

 

We nursed the car to the nearest town and waited an hour for a tyre place to put on a new tyre. After an exacting drive it took us far longer than anticipated for us to arrive at Panti Forest Resort not far from Singapore. En-route we had added an Oriental Pied Hornbill and Lesser Whistling Duck. After finding accommodation at the Waterfall Resort we birded a track-way where Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers were in abundance. Raffles Malkohas hopped around the bushes as a Dark-necked Tailorbird sang its heart out.

 

20th August

 

At breakfast overlooking the forest we watched a Grey-breasted Spiderhunter in a tree at the café. Unfortunately it then started raining and so our morning’s birding was delayed. When we eventually got started Paul had been given some information on a better track-way to search. Orange-breasted Green Pigeons were sitting around in the trees as we started the track-way. Soon a Short-toed Coucal emerged from the secondary growth before we started looking at all the bulbuls. Once we entered the primary forest a pair of Buff-rumped Woodpeckers alerted us to another woodpecker that turned out to be a Banded Woodpecker. Rain started again and so we retreated to the car and drove into Kotu Tinggi where we watched a Changeable Hawk Eagle sat on a post as we stopped to admire it. We had a late lunch and returned to the Waterfall resort where I saw little else in the damp afternoon.

 

21st August

 

Re-visiting the forest trail we had walked yesterday we saw all the usual bulbuls and a pair of Striped Tit-babblers. We walked to the top of the trail before turning around to examine an Olive-backed Woodpecker. Reaching the little steam Paul noticed a Rufous-collared Kingfisher sitting with a stick-insect in its mouth. It was not a bit concerned that we were stood admiring it. Later in the afternoon after a home-made salad, we walked a different track and watched Baya Weavers construct its amazing nest. After I had a refreshing swim at the resort we watched A White-bellied Sea-eagle fly over the vista we had of the forest from our cabin.

22nd August

We left Panti and drove back up northwards towards Kuala Lumpur stopping off at Machup to see Purple Herons and a Great White Egret on a lake. We eventually arrived at a raptor watch point not too far from Port Dickson on the coast where we booked into a nice hotel. We wandered up to the lighthouse where Blue-throated Bee-eaters were flying around and Dusky Langurs were sitting in trees above our heads.

23rd August

A quiet day off today with just a White-bellied Sea-eagle flying over as I swam in the extremely warm sea off Port Dickson raptor watch-point.

24th August

 

For once I downloaded my e-mail in the morning and was surprised by an e-mail from my son Mark to say that he was going to be arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport in the early afternoon for a stopover from flying from Australia to England. I got all excited and Paul and I sped off for the airport only to find we were at the wrong terminal entirely. After a 25km re-route we arrived at LCC terminal and after a short wait Mark and Suzy arrived in the arrivals hall. I was so pleased to see them!

 

We spent the late afternoon swimming in the hotel pool and the incredibly warm sea whilst admiring Black-naped Orioles flying overhead before enjoying the Ramadan buffet in the evening.

 

Paul, Sue, Mark and Suzy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25th August

 

All too soon we had to take Mark and Suzy back to the airport where after an emotional farewell we motored back to the hotel seeing a Black-shouldered Kite en-route.

 

26th August

 

We drove to Kuala Lumpur where in a small pool by the roadside we saw several Painted Storks feeding. Once in the city after taking back the hire car and finding our hotel we went to play tourist inside the Petronas Twin Towers where we went shopping.

 

Petronas Twin Towers Kuala Lumpur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27th August

 

Our pre-booked bus arrived outside our hotel where we boarded it and we were soon motoring down the motorway southwards to Singapore. A Purple Heron was in flight as we crossed over the water between Malaysia and Singapore. After six hours we arrived at the harbour front in Singapore where we hailed a taxi to take us to our hostel.

 

28th August

 

Our hostel has an MRT (tube) station right outside it which meant we could hop straight on it and with a connecting bus-ride we found ourselves at the botanical gardens here in Singapore. A Black-naped Oriole and Collared Kingfisher started off our 2010 Singapore list as we watched White-breasted Waterhens and a Stork-billed Kingfisher on Swan Lake that hosted two imported Mute Swans from Amsterdam! A rain forest section of the gardens hosted a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and before we left we saw a Brown-throated Sunbird.

 

29th August

We spent the day at the Jurong Bird Park where we drooled over all the birds we had missed in the wild. Good to see that they have started some breeding programmes of some critically endangered birds.

31st August

 

Caught flight to Perth, Australia and after hiring a car we bought a cheap tent. On leaving the shop it threw it down with rain! We found a very peculiar backpackers hostel as all the hotels were way over our budget.

 

 

September

1st September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Shelduck                                                                 Rainbow Lorikeet                                              Galah

 

We drove to Monger Lake in the city centre of Perth. Australian Shelduck already had ducklings on the lake as Pacific Black Duck joined Grey Teal. Willie Wagtail was a joy to see as I just love the way they move around. A Whistling Kite flew overhead as an Australian Hobby whizzed through. Western Corellas sat in trees as Rainbow Lorikeets brightened up a dull cold start to the day. Soon we had spotted a Galah and even added a Black Swan to our list. Driving on to King’s Park the huge Short-billed Black Cockatoos flew into trees above us as White-cheeked Honeyeaters sang nearby. An Osprey glided over the Swan River as a couple fed a Pied Butcherbird on the grass. Port Lincoln Parrots mooched amongst the flowerbeds. A Varied Sitella gave us an ID challenge as we could not find any nuthatches in the field guide! A Weebill and a Grey Fantail showed well before we returned to our weird hostel for the night, after spending the evening with friends of Paul’s who had invited us to a lovely evening meal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Wagtail                                                         Western Ringneck (Port Lincoln Parrot )          White-cheeked Honeyeater 

 

2nd September

 

Rock Parrot

 

We left the hostel early and headed for the ferry to Rottness Island. It was a beautiful day and after a 30 minute crossing we met up with a fellow birder in the harbour café. David had a site guide that lead us to the Rock Parrot at Kingston barracks. Seven birds fed on the lawn along with a couple of White-fronted Chats. By the railway sidings a family party of Red-capped Robins showed well. We continued walking on around the island. The aqua-marine lagoons were stunningly beautiful. Red-capped Plovers ran around the edges as hundreds of Banded Stilts waded in the shallow water. A Red-necked Avocet flew as we approached as Banded Lapwings distracted us away from their nest. Red-necked Stints fed amongst a Lesser Sand Plover and Ruddy Turnstones. Just before we watched an Osprey overhead we watched an Australian Kestrel hovering in the sunlight. All too soon it was time to return to the ferry. What a wonderful day.

 

 

 

 

Paul and Sue on Rottness Island

 

A big thank you goes to my son Mark who recommended the trip to us as he had been to Rottness a couple of weeks ago. Back to the mainland we soon found a campsite and prepared for a chilly night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3rd September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Grey Kangaroo

 

Grey Shrike-thrush

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily the kind owner of the campsite gave us a spare blanket as it certainly was a chilly night. We were up early and after breakfast drove to Dryandra Forest Reserve where we found a basic campsite and pitched our tent. We walked the paths in the forest and were soon adding lifers to our list. White-naped Honeyeater and Inland Thornbills were in the scrub by the dam and a Golden Whistler sang above us. We also had our first sighting of a Grey Kangaroo.

 

Dryandra Forest

 

We followed the warden’s advice (a former British birder) and soon found Rufous Treecreeper, Grey Shrike-thrush, Dusky Wood Swallow as well as Yellow-plumed Honeyeater. Back at our campsite we managed beans on toast on a gas B-B-Q (you have no idea how delicious they were after 3 months of nothing but rice for breakfast, lunch and tea!!!)

 

Blue-tongue Skink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th September

 

Western Yellow Robin

 

After another very cold night we started early and were soon back up to the dam by the Lions Village. Western Spinebill soon gave itself up as well as a White-eared Honeyeater. We could not find the fairywren but a Purple-crowned Lorikeet sat motionless above us. Moving on to another tip-off from the warden we walked an open area to find Restless Flycatcher and down a track-way a pair of Western Yellow Robin flitted around.

 

The evening was spent at a wildlife sanctuary where we watched nocturnal Bilbies, Boodies, Mala and a Woylie, all marsupials now extinct on mainland Australia due to predation by feral cats and European Foxes. It was delightful to watch these animals hopping around in the dark under infra-red torchlight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-faced Woodswallow                                                                                   Our Cabin at Stirling Range

 

 

After an early morning walk through Dryandra Forest we added Hooded Robin to our list and said our goodbyes to John the warden who had helped us so much. It was a beautiful morning and we were reluctant to leave. However after a few hours of motoring south we reached Stirling Range National Park where we hired a cabin for 2 nights as we were so cold last night and we both needed a shower! The friendly wardens gave us instructions on some good birding sites and we settled in for the night.

  

6th September

 

Little Eagle and Australian Raven

 

After a good night’s sleep in our lovely warm cabin we emerged to a cold clear freezing morning at the Stirling Range National Park. We staked out the fairywren spot without success and failed to see the Crested Shrike Tit. However a Little Eagle flew overhead and Brian showed us the roosting Owlet Nightjar in a hole in a broken branch of a tree. We walked a track where a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater flitted around as a Spotted Harrier flew overhead. Paul located two Splendid Fairywrens as I was admiring all the Spring flowers and orchids here. Later the warden called us over to see a Common Bronzewing that was calling from a tree in the campsite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7th September

 

We got up at first light and soon saw the Crested Shrike Tit that had eluded us the day before. We left and drove to Porongurup Range where we saw several Western Rosellas, White-breasted Robins, one Red-eared Firetail and a Spotted Pardolot. We eventually met the coast at Two Peoples Bay where we had a Yellow-billed Spoonbill in flight as well as Straw-necked Ibises feeding in a field.

 

A fellow birder gave us instructions for our next target birds further down the coastline and on arriving at Cheyne Beach we were overawed by the sight of two Southern Right Whales feeding their calves really close inshore. We were both amazed at the sight we were privileged to be seeing. A Caspian Tern flew along the shoreline as we left to find the campsite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Splendid Fairywren                                                                                                            Caspian Tern

 

After setting up our tent we set off in pouring rain for a sighting of Noisy Scrub-bird near the campsite. Splendid Fairywrens and Brush Bronzewings were feeding in the campsite.

 

8th September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-winged Fairywren                                                                                                          New Holland Honeyeater

 

It was an extremely windy day at Cheyne Beach and so it was no surprise when we failed to see our target species. However we did manage to see a Red-winged Fairywren lurking on the ground underneath the campsite hedges. New Holland Honeyeaters were everywhere and did not seem to mind the gale-force wind. On the rocks a Sooty Oystercatcher washed in a small sea-pool as we gazed out to sea.

 

Sue at Cheyne Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Right Whale

 

Out in the bay we watched Southern Right Whales breaching as they also fin-slapped the water. There were at least two mothers with calves and another adult whale. I cannot believe how fortunate we have been to see Southern Right Whales so close inshore as we have here in Cheyne Beach, Western Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9th September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long-billed Cockatoos

 

Little Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tried once more to walk the scrubby bushes around the coastline for Western Whipbird and Western Bristlebird without success. It was far too cold and windy with intermittent rain. We packed up our tent and drove towards the west coast where en-rote we saw a Little Eagle perched in a tree. On arriving we did a short sea-watch. Two Yellow-nosed Albatrosses joined Hall’s Giant-Petrels and Great-winged Petrels passing by the rocks fairy close in. We drove back towards Dunsborough where Paul pulled the car up sharply as a whole flock of Long-billed Black-Cockatoos descended onto the trees at the side of the road.

 

10th September

 

As we left Dunsborough a Grey Butcherbird sat on the wires. We drove for most of the day and made it as far as Norrigin where we camped for the night.

 

11th September

 

Driving north from Norrigin we arrived at Dryandra Forest once again where after a long search we finally had several brief views of Blue-breasted Fairywrens. They were not at all obliging as the other fairywrens had been. We finally made it back to the coast just south of Perth by late afternoon.

 

12th September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magpie Lark                                                                                                                            Grey Teal

 

We drove to Safety Bay where we failed to find any nesting Little Penguins. Australian Pelicans, Great Crested Terns were in abundance. We continued onto Perth where Steve and Carla had kindly offered to put us up for 2 nights. Carla had prepared a lovely meal. Roast potatoes taste soooooooo good after months of deprivation!!! We did find some time to re-visit Monger Lake where a Magpie Lark was foraging and Grey Teal werelooking after their young.

 

13th September

 

A lazy morning at Steve and Carla's house was followed by a walk on the beach at Two Rocks where Red-capped Plovers were running around on the sand and seaweed. A beer or two were drunk as we looked out to see in a local tavern.

 

14th September

 

After saying goodbye to Steve and Carla who had so kindly put us up for 2 nights in Perth and fed us delicious meals we drove to the airport and boarded our flight to Darwin. The climate change was dramatic as we were once again in high heat and humidity. We took a taxi to the camper van depot and were soon away to find a campsite.

 

Our Campervan

 

Paul soon had us on the hunt for birds and we were lucky enough to bump into Clive a British birder now living in Darwin who kindly took us to the sewage works nearby where Paul at last got his Sharp-tailed Sandpiper tick. He was a very happy bunny to see not one but a dozen of them feeding close by along with Red-necked Stints, Pied Herons and Black-necked Storks. Darkness loomed and Clive kindly invited us back to his house where Mark and Tracy Bradbury were staying with them. Small world as Mark and Tracy live just a few miles from us in Norfolk! We had a lovely evening with a B-B-Q and Clive supplied us with lots of birding sites for our next few weeks.

 

 

 

15th September

 

Armed with Clive’s information we made our way to the jetty where we saw several Grey-tailed Tattlers, Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers as well as a Great Knot and Pacific Golden Plovers. At East Point we walked a trail where we saw 2 Rainbow Pittas. These must be the easiest Pittas in the world to see! After birding the Botanical Gardens and adding many common birds we made our way to Buffalo Creek where meeting up with Clive, Tracy and Mark again we watched a Chestnut Rail, Sacred Kingfisher and Two White-bellied Sea-eagles. On the beach a Beach Thick-knee joined a Far-eastern Curlew before night set in.

 

16th September

 

After leaving Darwin we made our way to Palmerston Sewage Works where many Whiskered Terns were flying over the ponds. We made our way around the edge and into the mangroves where a Mangrove Fantail was feeding along with a Red-headed Myzomela. A Lemon-bellied Flycatcher sat above us as we made our way back to the camper van. A Masked Finch sat near our car before we set off for Fogg Dam.

 

At Fogg Dam, a wetland site, there were birds everywhere. Egrets and herons abounded along with the Green Pygmy Geese and Magpie Geese. Comb-crested Jacanas kept a White-browed Crake company as we watched 3 Pheasant Coucals and a Varied Triller. A Northern Fantail fed its youngster as we made our way back to the camper van.

 

17th September

 

After bush camping at Fogg Dam we walked a couple of trails where we saw another Rainbow Pitta and a Little Kingfisher. Bird of the day was a colourful Rose-crowned Fruit Dove but we did see several Arafura Fantails flitting aroundas well as Tawny Grassbirds. We drove on and stayed the night at Corroboree in our campervan.

 

18th September

 

We drove the Marrakai Track where we located Long-tailed Finch, Black-tailed Treecreeper and had wonderful views of Black-breasted Buzzards that were feeding off a dead Kangaroo. It was surrounded by lots of Whistling Kites and a Wedge-tailed Eagle.

 

 

 

 

 

                            Whistling Kite

 

Black-breasted Buzzard

 

 

 

 

 

In the woodland we watched a Jackywinter feeding young at a nest perched on a limb of a tree. How they survive the heat in the blazing sun I do not know? A Red-backed Kingfisher was a delight to see as we made our way to the river now completely dried up save for a little pool of water where a Great-billed Heron was staking it out. A Buff-sided Robin put in an appearence which we were plaesed about. A Northern Rosella flew overhead but as night descended we failed miserable on any nightjars.

 

Jackwinter on nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19th September

 

We made our way to some sites near the Mary River and at once we gained several ticks. Gouldian Finch showed quickly as did Leaden Flycatcher, Double-barred Finch, Banded Honeyeater and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. We also enjoyed good views of Rainbow Bee-eater. Moving to a Billibong, Royal Spoonbills, Plumed Whistling Ducks and a Black-fronted Dotterel added themselves to our trip list.

 

Rainbow Bee-eater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20th September

 

We spent the morning driving into Kakadu National Park and visiting the visitor centre. The afternoon was spent at Ubirr seeing very little as it was simply too hot! We did see Little Corella coming to drink at the top of the sandstone escarpment as we watched the sun go down.

 

Me at Ubirr lookout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21st September

 

We searched the Nourlangie region at Kakadu National Park in searing heat and after many hours found a Sandstone Shrike-thrush at Nawurlandja. Goodness knows how it survives in such a hot environment. The rock escarpment on which it lives was hot enough to cook an egg on! We failed miserably on all our other 3 target species. Our rotten luck continued as we also failed to find Spotted Nightjar at the Yellow River airstrip in the evening.

 

Nawurlandja Kakadu National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22nd September

 

Getting up at first light we waked beside the Yellow River in search of birds before the heat 'kicked' in. At first light it was already 25 degrees! On a Paperbark tree we found a Bar-breasted Honey-eater at long last after several days of searching for it. Down by the jetty we heard and saw some Brogla Cranes as well as some wild pigs. The walk was very 'birdy' as the Yellow River provided some much water for the close vegetation that attracted the birds. All too soon after several miles of walking the heat kicked in and we retreated back to camp and several more litres of water that needed to be drunk.

 

Yellow River at Cooinda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Sue at Plum Tree Creek                                                    Paul at Plum Tree Creek                                   Sandstone Pigeon

 

Leaving early from Cooinda we drove towards Gunlom down a very corrugated gravel road. We were advised as long as we took it slowly it was possible to get our campervan down it. After 23 kms of being buffeted around we arrived at Plum Tree Creek. We got out of the van and started walking over the rocks. Within 100 metres of the road we flushed several Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeons soon followed by good views of several Partridge Pigeons. After two days of searching for them we were ecstatic! We searched for a while more and Paul was lucky to see a Spotted Nightjar that flew in front of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-fronted Dotterel                                                  Golden-headed Cisticola                                        Gold Mine

 

We turned around and headed for Pine Creek an old gold mining town. Here we saw a Yellow-throated Miner as we pulled into the old gold-mining town. After pitching our tent, as the campervan is like sleeping in an oven and we have taken to our little tent at night, we headed for the sewage works where an Australian Pratincole kept the Black-fronted Dotterels company. Radjah Shelducks and Pacific Black Ducks were on the pools along with Australian Grebes. A Red-backed Fairywren flew out of the grass as a Golden-headed Cisticola perched up to see what was happening.

 

 

 

Back in the town we searched amongst the Red-winged Parrots, Galahs, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets (Red-collared sub-species) and the Great Bowerbirds for our target bird but as darkness fell we had to admit defeat.

 

Red-winged Parrot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24th September

 

 

 

Hooded Parrot

 

 

After a very bad night with yet another migraine I was struggling to open my eyes to anything! However after leaving the campsite we struck lucky with three Hooded Parrots just a few metres from our campsite in the centre of Pine Creek. Paul drove on towards Katherine as I nursed my throbbing head. Once there I had to take refuge in an air-conditioned motel as the migraine/heat-stroke won! The heat is just impossible up here in the Northern Territories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending most of the day in a cool room, whilst Paul went birding on his own, he returned to take me to the sewage works just before dusk. It was still impossibly hot but we managed to see a flock of Cockatiels, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Red-backed Fairywren, Golden-headed Cisticola, Australian Pratincole and lots of Black-fronted Dotterels.

 

25th September

 

I stayed in and around the motel to recuperate as I still felt a bit groggy. The only bird I noticed during the day was an Apostlebird sat atop a light fitting in the car-park

 

26th September

 

 

We left the motel in the dark and Paul drove towards Timber Creek heading westwards. Agile Wallabies were bounding across the road and Paul had to lessen his speed as they were coming thick and fast as we motored on. As daybreak came the wallabies seem to disappear but sadly there were many dead ones on the road that was providing a meal for Black Kites and Whistling Kites. Flocks of Varied Lorikeets left their roosting sites and a pair of Australian Bustards caused us to stop for a short while to take photos.

 

Australian Bustard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria River

 

Arriving at the Victoria River, Paul was eager to climb to the top of the escarpment. It was already well into the 30s and still only 8.15am. Still feeling the effects of my illness Paul raced ahead and I was soon left to slowly make the climb in the impossible heat alone. Like a tortoise I made it to the top for the wonderful view over the river. Paul soon found me and announced that he had already seen 4 White-quilled Rock Pigeons. I just wanted to see one. Luckily Paul managed to track down one of the original ones he had seen and so I watched it walk around the rocks nearby. There was little point staying up the top any longer as we were being fried alive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Kookaburra

 

Back down by the bridge Fairy Martins flew around before we were on our way once again. On arrival at Timber Creek we managed to strike a deal with a campsite that let us have a budget room with air-conditioning for a reasonable cost. The temperature had hit 46 degrees and it was like living in a furnace. I sought refuge in the room and collapsed on the bed. Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters were in the tree outside our room as were Blue-winged Kookaburras.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue at Timber Creek                                                                                      Oriental Plover

 

Later a short drive to the river added Rufous-throated Honeyeater and Pallid Cuckoo. Down on the airstrip nine Oriental Plovers were running around along with an Australian Bushlark.

 

27th September

 

Pallid Cuckoo

 

By the river we managed to locate Star Finch, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Paid Cuckoo and a Purple-crowned Fairywren. The Oriental Plovers were still on the airfield as we left to drive up to the escarpment. Here we located a Variegated Fairywren and another Sandstone Shrike thrush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Bowerbirds Bower                               Fruit Bats

 

 

 

 

 

Gouldian Finch

 

Back at our campsite we admired a Great Bowerbird’s bower as some fruit-bats making a noise above us in the trees. The 46 degree heat kicked in and we retreated to the swimming pool!  Much later in the day we ascended the escarpment once more where a Grey-fronted Honeyeater was at the end of the road. A big flock of Gouldian Finches were feeding 100 metres from the end of the road too.

 

28th September

 

At the river access at Timber Creek we saw our first Spinifex Pigeon of the trip wandering along the track-way.

 

Up at the escarpment the Gouldian Finches were still feeding at the same spot as last night along with a pair of Masked Finches building a nest. A Sandstone Shrike-thrush called from a nearby tree.

 

Timber Creek Escarpment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then drove 350km back to Katherine Gorge where at the picnic site by the river we admired a pair of Tawny Frogmouths. Continuing on I drove another 100km back to Pine Creek where we spent the night.

 

 Tawny Frogmouth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29th September

 

We watched an Australian Koel as we left Pine Creek after a quick search of the cemetery and sewage works. We drove back towards Darwin and stopped at Tumbling Rocks where after a kind lady let us have a villa for the night at a cheap rate we watched a Brown Whistler in the trees. A torrential downpour ensued with thunder and lightning and I was so pleased we were not in our little tent!

 

30th September

 

We drove to Palmerston sewage works where we saw Large-billed Gerygone, in the far corner of the mangroves. A White-winged Black Tern, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and a Curlew Sandpiper were on the pools. At Marlow Lagoon, a Greenbacked Gerygone was in the trees. We worked several local spots in Darwin and watched a flock of Little Whimbrels at Knuckey Lagoons before heading for a campsite near the airport.

 

 

October

1st October

 

After seeing virtually nothing at Charles Darwin reserve we birded East Point where Lesser Crested-terns were sitting on the rocks. In the mangroves we found Mangrove Gerygone but little else. In the evening we were re-united with Mark and Tracy at Clive’s house once again and heard about their exploits in Alice Springs.

 

2nd October

 

A brief look for the Rufous Owl in the Botanical Gardens yielded nothing.

 

3rd October

 

Another visit to Buffalo Creek at Lee Point meant that I had poor views of Yellow White-eye but marvellous views of White-bellied Sea-eagle, Horsfield Bronze Cuckoo and Black Kites.

 

5th October

 

After returning the camper van we flew to Alice Springs.

 

6th October

 

Ayers Rock (Uluru)

 

After leaving the campsite in Alice Springs and purchasing a new watch battery for my watch Paul started the 464kms drive towards Ayers Rock now known as Uluru. At Erldunda about half way we watched many small flocks of Budgerigars. It was so good to see them in the wild instead of being caged up. Our journey was soon to be eventful as the heavens opened with torrential rain and the creeks filled up spilling over the road. We still had over 200 kms to go on the lonely road. It is known as the ‘Red Centre’ and this was the last place we expected rain, especially in these proportions. The desert had turned green over the last few weeks which we had not expected. Paul carried on and the car was ‘washed’ several times as he negotiated various ‘floodways’ across flooded creeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul and Sue Ayers Rock

 

After arriving safely at Ayers Rock Resort we decided that we needed to purchase a tarpaulin as our little tent was not going to survive the torrential downpour. The local supermarket had just one left! Luckily the rain abated and we drove on towards the rock, driving the whole way around it. It was certainly a magnificent sight. After sunset we even managed to get the tent up under the tarpaulin in the dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7th October

 

Diamond Dove

 

Today was intended as a tourist day but after a quick stop at the sunset car park at Ayres Rock we saw White-browed Woodswallow before visiting the Cultural Centre. We walked several short sections of the pathway that goes all around Ayres Rock. Here we added; Pied Honeyeater, Diamond Dove, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and Grey-headed Honeyeater. Driving back to the campsite I could not resist stopping to watch yet more Budgerigars all chattering in the trees beside the road. The evening was spent watching the sun set at Ayers Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               Crimson Chat                                  Yellow-throated Miner                                                            Zebra Finch

 

We said goodbye to Ayers Rock and drove 75 km back towards Alice Springs after taking a photo of a Yellow-throated Miner by the tent. Investigating roadside bushes produced a pair of Crimson Chats and a Pink Cockatoo. Further on we spotted a flooded piece of land where a Pink-eared Duck was amongst some Grey Teal and Pacific Black Ducks. A Brown Songlark was singing for all he was worth. Nearer to Erldunda a White-winged Honeyeater flew in and around bushes. Twenty-one kms north of Erldunda we searched around the only two visible trees for miles where White-winged Fairywrens were flitting around and watched Zebra Finches nesting. We also flushed a Little Buttonquail as small flocks of Budgerigars flew overhead. Nearer to the next roadhouse we stopped to listen to a Rufous Songlark singing alongside a pair of Cockatiels. We finally arrived back at Alice Springs where we spent the night.

 

9th October

 

Mulga Parrot

 

Taking the Tanami Road 20 km north out of Alice Springs we drove 30kms along it. A pair of Bourke’s Parrots flew across us before we pulled up by a windmill and dam where some Black-tailed Native Hens accompanied some Wandering Whistling Ducks. By the windmill a pair of Mulga Parrots sat in a tree. We turned down the Halmilton Downs Youth Camp trackway and after about 4kms a Grey Falcon flew above us giving us good views. We were then led astray failing to find any Grey Honeyeaters but 2 kms further down the track we saw Southern Whiteface amongst the many Zebra Finches. A Chestnut-rumped Thornbill was sitting on the old cattle pen fence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10th October

 

Paul Ormiston Gorge

 

We drove along the line of the McDonell’s Ranges and stopped at Ellery’s Creek Big Hole before proceeding to Ormiston Gorge. The gorge was flooded in the creek which is normally walkable. So I swam in the creek so that I could see round the corner and into the gorge! There were flocks of Budgerigars everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               Western Bowerbird                                                                                             Simpsons Gap

 

Getting up at first light we walked for several kilometres up hill to the pass. Painted Firetails hopped up on to the rocks and a Spinifex-bird sat briefly on a branch of an overhanging tree. After admiring the stunning views from the top of the pass we walked back down to the creek where just before crossing it we watched a pair of Dusky Grasswrens. We dismantled the tent and drove to Simpson’s Gap where we watched a pair of Western Bowerbirds.

 

12th October

 

We flew from Alice Springs to Melbourne. I was sad to leave Alice as we had had such a lovely time there.

 

13th October

 

After surviving a terrible wet night in our little tent, I drove 450 kms north-west to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park where we searched the mallee scrub for birds. A family party of Mallee Emuwrens were lurking in the spinifex grass as we watched Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters bathing in the puddles. White-winged Choughs fed on the ground as a Jacky-winter sang from his perch in a tree. We had to drive 50km back to Ouyen to find a campsite with some basic facilities.

 

14th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nankeen Kestrel                                                                          Pink Cockatoo                                                         Eastern Ringneck

 

After finding little amongst the mallee vegetation except Mallee Emuwrens in the morning at Hattah-Kulkyne NP we motored on down towards the lake after stopping to take a photo of a Nankeen Kestrel. We also looked at a White-browed Treecreeper and a Brown Thornbill before stopping to take photos of a Pink Cockatoo and an Eastern Ringneck. Southern Whiteface and Yellow-rumped Thornbills were in the bushes along with Splendid Fairywrens. We were lucky that we had a lovely sunny day and not the pouring rain that was forecast.

 

15th October

 

I spoke too soon! Torrential rain all night and all today as well! No birding done. We had to take refuge in a community hall where Kim let us sit all day catching up on admin and using her free wi-fi. Our poor little tent is just a bit damp!

 

16th October

 

After yesterday’s rain we were lucky enough to have met someone who knew exactly where to see a Malleefowl. They took us to a Mallefowl mound and within minutes I spotted the male Malleefowl walking around the mound at the back of the huge pile of sand. I called Paul over and we watched the Malleefowl go up onto the mound before venturing off back into the mallee. We were very lucky to have seen this bird and our thanks go to the folks for taking the time to show us.

 

Speed

 

 To Speed or not?? That is the question!!!!

 

I drove onto Wyperfeld (via Speed!!!!!) and after setting up camp we drove the 15km nature trail and walked a couple of the trails. On the way back we saw Brown Treecreeper and Red-rumped Parrots as well as many Galahs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17th October

 

Emu

 

After an extremely cold night in our little tent camping in Wyperfeld National Park we set off around the 15km loop drive once again. We walked one of the track ways and saw little. I started a migraine and retreated back to the car. Paul walked the start of the Lowen Trail and found a Chestnut Quail-thrush and came back to fetch me. Luckily the bird was singing and we soon re-located it. Back at the camp-site a Long-billed Corella was feeding amongst the Galahs. My migraine was getting worse and Paul set off up the Discovery trail and found a Shy Hylacola and once again fetched me. It was some time before we found another bird on the sandy heath-land. As we left seven Emus were feeding near the camp-site.

 

I was out for the count and Paul drove to Hamilton. Through the Grampian hills we watched a small flock of Forest Ravens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

18th October

 

We drove south from Hamilton and arrived at a spot near Peterborough on the south coast of Victoria where we saw a Rufous Bristlebird and a White-browed Scrubwren in the coastal scrub as we admired the cliffs at the coastline.

 

Further along near Port Campbell a Superb Fairywren flew across the car completing our set of fairywrens for Australia. We stopped at the spot which proved productive as a pair of Eastern Shrike Tits were gathering nesting material. A Striated Thornbill also put in a very wet appearance after a short shower of rain. At the viewing spot for the Apostle Rocks two Hooded Plovers ran around the beach as a Nankeen Kestrel hovered over them. Offshore three Sooty Shearwaters went by.

 

Travelling further along the coast road we missed a turning and ended up driving a very narrow road through a hilly forest where Crimson Rosellas entertained us for a short while whilst I tried to fathom out where we were!!! We eventually found Apollo Bay where we set up our wet little tent for the night.

 

Eastern Shrike Tit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19th October

 

We drove to Kennet River where we saw several new birds for our trip including Satin Bowerbird. However everything was overshadowed by our experiences at the campsite where we fed Australian King-Parrots from the hand and watched Koala Bears. Absolutely wonderful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala Bear                                                                          Sue with Australian King-Parrots

 

 

Paul with Australian King-Parrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satin Bowerbird                                                        Australian King-parrot                                                   Paul and Koala Bear

 

We spent the day at Kennet River on the beach either sea-watching or feeding the Australian King-parrots and Crimson Rosellas in the campsite. A Koala Bear graced us with his presence by our little tent.

 

 

 

21st October

 

Hooded Plover

 

Driving along the coast road we stopped off at several points to admire views or search for birds. At Angelsea Heath we saw Blue-winged Parrot and at Point Addis we watched a pair of Hooded Plovers. We camped the night at Queenscliff where I suffered another terrible migraine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22nd October

 

Red-browed Firetail

 

We drove around the Bellarine Peninsula looking for additions to our list. The only new bird of the day was a pair of Chestnut Teal sitting on a very small farm pond despite our searching all around the coast line and several large wetland areas. A small party of Red-browed Firetails were at Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve. My migraine was still a big problem and I had to see a doctor who luckily prescribed some of my usual medication that I take in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd October

 

Superb Fairywren

 

We started the day at You Yangs National Park and walked one of the trails. Superb Fairywrens were flitting around the understorey before we drove around the Great Circle Drive where a common Bronzewing sat on a branch

 

Common Bronzewing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Striated Pardalote

 

At one of the picnic sites I heard a mounful call where a Striated Pardalote was busy feeding until all of a sudden a Red Wattlebird gave chase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Australian Black-shouldered Kite                                                               Cape Barren Goose

 

We met up with Noel, Asha, Brenna near Werribee. We had met Noel and his wife Lynne at Mary River, Kakadu and they had kindly offered to show us around Werribee and stay with them for a few nights. Noel drove us around Werribee where we watched a family of Autralian Black-shouldered Kites. Birds were scattered everywhere on the settling ponds and we were doing well until we had a puncture. However after a sterling effort by Paul and Noel we were soon back on track and on our way. We watched Fairy Terns, Common Terns and Great Crested Terns on the sea-edge as well as watching Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and hundreds of Red-necked Stints. Paul and I were also pleased to see some Cape Barren Geese feeding on some dry land.

 

24th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                Little Penguin                                                                             Swamp Wallaby

 

Today Paul and I visited Phillip Island where we watched Little Penguins in their burrows as Short-tailed Shearwaters were flying out at sea. On the rocks a Black-faced Cormorant sat as hundreds of Silver Gulls were attending their chicks. At the bird hide at Swan Lake we watched a Swamp Wallaby.

 

In the evening Noel took us all out to Bunyip State Park to try and see some nightjars. We motored along a trackway until a Koala Bear caused us to stop and see if was OK as it seemed to be a bit dazed just sitting in the middle of the trackway. After a little encouragement it wandered off back into the forest. We all piled back into the car and it would not start. Under the bonnet things did not look good as the battery had slithered around and had become disconnected. Once again Paul worked his magic and after about half an hour and a bit of ingenuity using a broken peg from my pocket the car re-started. Unfortunately because Paul's head was under the bonnet he missed the White-throated Nightjar flying along the trackway!

 

26th October

 

Asha had kindly arranged with a friend Alex, to show us some Superb Lyrebirds that he works with in Sherbrook Forest. His passion for wildlife soon became apparent as we delved off the trackway into the undergrowth in search of our quarry. Soon we had a tantalising view as a Superb Lyrebird ran for all it was worth off into the distance. I tried to keep up with all the youngsters wishing I was thirty years younger as they hopped, skipped and jumped over fallen trees and raced up hillsides with boundless energy. our efforts were well rewarded as we had excellent views of several Superb Lyrebirds displaying and I watched transfixed as a bird went through all its mimicry of other birds. Alex told us all the calls of other birds that the bird was mimicking.It was wonderful! A Fan-tailed Cuckoo also perched above us at one point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                          Superb Lyrebird                                                                       Fan-tailed Cuckoo

 

After a short break for tea at Alex's house he took us to another spot where he knew a pair of Powerful Owls roosted. We scrambled down a forested hillside and sure enough we had stunning views of a pair of owls with a chick. Paul and I have been so lucky to have been with such enthusiastic youngsters who so obviously enjoy their wildlife as much as we do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                 Powerful Owl and chick

 

We made our way to Bunyip State Park where Alex located a Southern Emuwren for us to see on one of the trails, a bird I had missed whilst we were in the Perth area. We also watched a Scarlet Robin feeding its young various insects in the nest, such a beautiful little bird. Later we returned to the spot we had visited last night and all had good views in the spotlight of White-throated Nightjar but only after we had oohed and ahhed at yet another Koala and cub sitting on the trackway. On returning to another spot in the forest Alex called in a Southern Boobook Owl which we had very good views of as it sat high up in one of the gum trees. Our thanks go to Alex for giving up his time and making it such an enjoyable day for us and to Asha and Brenna for such good company.

 

27th October

 

A short walk with Asha, Brenna and Paul near Cockatoo produced some lovely close views of White-throated Treecreeper.

 

28th October

 

With Alex on board again, Asha, Brenna, Paul and myself made our way to Yarra Ranges National Park. It was an amazing sight to see how devastating last year's bush-fires had been and how badly burnt Marysville had been razing virtually every house to the ground. With typical Australian determination lots of houses were being re-built. The gum trees had suffered badly and Alex explained the ecology of the area to us. At our first stop we watched a pair of Olive Whistlers as Superb Lyrebirds ran across the trackways.

 

Later on in the forest we saw lots of Flame Robins but it took a while before Asha spotted a wonderful male Flame Robin in all his glory. We searched hard for Pink Robin and Pilotbird but even though we heard them, neither bird was willing to give itself up for us. Down by the creek a Bell Miner clinked away as we made our way around the loop. Once again I would like to thank Alex, Asha and Brenna for giving us such a good day out.

 

29th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               Tawny Frogmouth                                                             Laughing Kookaburra

 

A wander in the paddocks at the house in Cockatoo produced a Tawny Frogmouth and a Laughing Kookaburra. Asha sat with me and identified a Shining Bronze Cuckoo calling. It was sometime before we finally saw it!

 

30th October

 

Asha took us along the creek at the back of the house where she heard an Eastern Whipbird calling. With a short wait we soon saw it. A Golden Whistler called and perched up behind us. Up in the forest we walked to the top of the hill where after sometime we saw several brief views of Red-browed Treecreepers. An Eastern Corella sat atop a dead tree as Dusky Woodswallows and Grey Fantails flitted around the other trees. We all had fun picking off the leeches that had emerged with the overnight rain!

 

Our eternal thanks must go to the Billings family, Noel, Lynne, Asha, Brenne and Toby who have so kindly put us up and showed us so many good birds in and around Victoria and to Alex who also gave up his time to make sure we added birds to our list. Thank you all.

 

31st October

 

After thanking Noel and family we sadly left them and drove towards the airport. we were delayed by and accident with a car on its roof but arrived at a reservoir where we waited in the rain for a time to get to the airport. We arrived at Melbourne Airport and stayed there the night until our early morning departure flight to Sydney.

 

November

1st November

 

After spending the night in the airport we caught the first flight of the day to Sydney. Here we transferred to the international terminal and flew to Christchurch in New Zealand. The mountain scenery was spectacular as we looked out the plane window at snow-covered mountain tops. At least it was sunny when we arrived, if a little bit cold and windy. A shuttle bus took us to the camper van depot where we picked up our van and drove to Ashburton.

 

En-route we may as well have been in England as we noted, European Starling, Eurasian Skylark, Eurasian Blackbird, House Sparrow and European Greenfinch. However a Swamp Harrier was being harassed by Masked Lapwings as Australian Magpies were foraging for food.

 

2nd November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand Pigeon                             Black-billled Gull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Mount Cook                                                                                      Double-banded Plover

 

Setting off from Ashburton we were soon on our way towards Mount Cook National Park. En-route we saw a few Paradise Shelducks and New Zealand Pigeons. The scenery was stunning and I was soon taking far too many photographs as the views were awesome. At Lake Tekepo Black-billed Gulls were around the water’s edge as Double-banded Plovers ran around in front of us. New Zealand Scaup were over in an inlet as we admired the scenery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                           Black Stilt                                                                                        Wrybill

 

Sue and Paul Mount Cook

 

The breath-taking views added to our pleasure as we admired a New Zealand Falcon seeing off a Swamp Harrier. Tomtits were in the forests before we arrived at the start of where the river meets Lake Pukaki. Here we watched Black Stilt, Wrybill, South Island Oystercatcher and Double-banded Plovers on the glaciated valley floor as Black-fronted Terns hunted for food over the river. I have now run out of superlatives to describe the scenery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Our camping spot for the night at Mount Cook                                                                 Kea

 

Once we had spent several hours here we continued our trip up the valley to Mount Cook where a Kea was in the car-park. At our stop for the night besides the lake a pair of Rifleman added themselves to our world list.

 

3rd November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-eyed Penguin

Spotted Shag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                 Hooker's Sealion Pups                                                        Variable Oystercatcher

 

After leaving such a wonderful spot we headed back to the coastline where we continued to add British birds to our New Zealand list. I have seen more Redpolls today than I have seen in years in Britain! At Oamaru we saw Little Blue Penguins and a Spotted Shag. Continuing to Otago Peninsula at Dunedin we watched Stewart Island Shag in the fog at the headland and White-fonted Tern before walking along a wonderful beach where Yellow-eyed Penguins came in from the surf in the early evening. A Variable Oystercatcher wandered along the surf-line avoiding the Hooker's Sealions just as we did too!

 

4th November

 

The morning started with a quick visit to Dunedin Botanical Gardens where Tui, Eastern Rosella, Grey Gerygone and New Zealand Bellbird were added to our New Zealand List.

 

We left Dunedin and headed south down South Island stopping at a wetland area where we saw New Zealand Fernbird. The rest of the day was spent travelling south until we reached Bluff, right at the southern tip of South Island ready for the ferry ride in the morning.

 

5th November

 

Stewart Island

 

We caught the 9.30am ferry to Stewart Island. The sea was very rough and I immediately felt unwell and because of the swell it was impossible to stand on the boat at the back as waves were crashing over the side. From seating inside I joined forces with an American birder who was calling out the birds. White-capped Albatrosses (Shy sp) seemed common as were Sooty Shearwaters that were coming close to the boat. A few Common Diving Petrels kept pace with the boat as Alan picked out a Salvin’s Albatross flying at our right-hand side. A few Southern Royal Albatrosses effortlessly glided by as we watched a Cape Petrel fly in-front of the boat. I managed (just) to keep my breakfast down as we pulled into harbour and checked into our hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ulva Island

 

Within minutes we walked up the hill, watching several Red-fronted Parakeets and Kakas in doing so, behind the hotel and down into Golden Bay where we caught the water taxi to Ulva Island. Here we walked the track-ways and started to see what New Zealand must have been like before European settlers arrived and cleared the land, bringing with them so many predators that has all but destroyed New Zealand’s birdlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weka

 

A pair of Saddlebacks was first on the list shortly followed by a small flock of Yellowheads. South Island Robins were everywhere all having been colour-ringed by a university project. They were extremely tame and would come close if you scuffed up some leaf-littler so that they could feed on the insects exposed. As we neared Boulder Beach several Wekas appeared that were also very tame. En-route to West Point we watched a pair of Brown Creepers (Pipipi). After visiting the beach we made our way back to the water-taxi but not before we watched a pair of Kakas and a New Zealand Fantail.

 

After a lovely meal in the hotel Matt kindly took us around trying to locate a Kiwi for us but we were beaten by the fact it was bonfire night and the locals had bonfires burning on all the beaches where kiwis are known to linger at night. Grrr…………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

6th November

 

We walked a trail from Bragg Bay that Matt had shown us yesterday and stopped at the point he had told us about. There in the water was a Fiordland Crested Penguin. Luckily it came in quite close eventually and we had good views of it. We also watched Little Blue Penguins yapping in the water further out in the bay. Back at the hotel someone had removed my luggage and after much searching with the staff we found it in someone’s room. Why they wanted my luggage goodness only knows! We caught the afternoon ferry back to Bluff and motored towards Milford Sound. Luckily the ferry crossing was much calmer but produced far less birds. The only new bird, being a Buller’s Albatross.

 

7th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                       Sue Milford Sound                                                                            Milford Sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                  Lake Gunn                                                                               South Island (Rock) Wren

 

Finding a lovely spot in the glaciated valley of Eglinton we left our camp-site and headed for the Homer Tunnel where we spent 2 fruitless hours only seeing a Yellowhammer! Driving on to Milford Sound the views were amazing as was Milford Sound itself. After having our fill of the Fjord we drove back to Homer Tunnel where after another two hour wait we finally saw the South Island Rock Wren bobbing up and down on a rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradise Shelduck                                                                                                           Paul washing up in Milford Sound

 

Driving back up the valley we stopped and searched for Blue Duck without success only finding family parties of Paradise Shelducks. We camped for the night in the valley once again.

 

 

 8th November

 

After leaving our wonderful spot by the river after watching a South Island Robin we spent the day driving to Fox Glacier. The stunning scenery was awesome.

 

South Island Robin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue and Paul at the top of Fox Glacier with our helicopter!                                   View of Fox Glacier from our helicopter

 

We had an awesome day with a helicopter ride up to the top of Fox Glacier. The helicopter flew us along the length of the glacier so that we could see down into the crevasses before landing us at the top of the ice dome where we took photos to the backdrop of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. With stunning scenery we then flew back down the valley and over Fox Glacier back down to the heliport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue at the tongue of Fox Glacier

 

Much of the day was spent walking to see Fox Glacier and later on Franz Josef Glacier. We felt very small and humble by the side of them.

 

We then drove to Okarito where we had booked a guide to take us into the forest. After four hours of patience we finally heard an Okarito (Brown) Kiwi call. We moved down the track-way slightly and the guide shone an infra-red torch just in time to see the kiwi run across the track-way. With more patience we also saw it feeding in the ditch-line. We were certainly cold but very happy that we had seen a kiwi in the wild. Unfortunately photography is banned so you will have to make do with the following photo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware of the Kiwi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10th November

 

We drove north to Punakaiki where we drove up a track-way just north of the resort. We searched the forest during the night and although we heard Great Spotted Kiwi we failed to see one.

 

11th November

 

After leaving our spot in the forest we drove right across South Island to Kaikoura, admiring the scenery of the mountains as we went over Lewis Pass.

 

12th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Kaikoura from our boat                                   Wandering Albatrosses, Pintado Petrels and Nothern Giant Petrels close to the back of the boat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      Hutton’s Shearwater                                                                   Pintado Petrel

 

Having stayed the night at Kaikoura, we made our way down to the Albatross Encounters Centre where we were transported to the boat. We joined forces with a Wrybill Tour group and after only about 15 minutes of being on the sea we were surrounded by birds. Hundreds of Hutton’s Shearwaters were floating on the sea and flying by us. Soon they were joined by Pintado Petrels and as soon as some fish livers were dangled in a basket over the side Wandering Albatrosses (Gibsons) landed right by the boat. I have seen Wandering Albatrosses before but to have them so close was amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                 Wandering Albatross                                                                           Salvin’s Albatross

 

Soon a White-capped Albatross was seen just before a Salvin’s Albatross was coming towards us. We saw about a dozen Westland Petrels and short views of a few Buller’s Shearwaters before we had a good view of a close bird as we headed back towards the shore. One White-chinned Petrel was picked out by one participant as I was busy taking photos of Northern Giant Petrels but luckily I saw it before it disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                             Northern Giant Petrel                                                                       Northern Royal Albatross

 

A Northern Royal Albatross was a bit shyer but gave us good views in the end. As we returned back to the shoreline we were entranced by the Dusky Dolphins that seem to have a nursery school in the bay. On such a beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky, it was the warmest pelagic I have ever been on. An amazing day once again!

 

13th November

 

Sue at Picton looking towards Queen Charlotte Sound

 

We had a quick walk around the town of Picton in the sun and admired Queen Charlotte Sound from the shore. At lunch-time we joined the queue and eventually boarded the ferry bound for North Island, New Zealand. It was like a cruise as we sailed through the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound in the wonderful sunshine admiring the scenery. Fluttering Shearwaters were in the sound as we pointed them out to interested fellow passengers. Eventually we emerged out of the sound and into the open sea. Immediately the weather changed and it soon became windy and wet. Fairy Prions were out on the open water but we had to take refuge inside because of the deteriorating weather conditions. All too soon we docked into Wellington and drove to stay with some friends, Tim and Eleanor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14th November

 

A lazy start to the day as the weather did not look too promising. Luckily after lunch the weather brightened up and we went for a walk along the shore-line to admire Tim’s boat. A Caspian Tern and a Red-billed Gull flew alongside us hunting for food.

 

15th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                     Mount Ruapehu                                                                            Blue Duck

 

After thanking Tim and Eleanor for having us for the two nights we drove north to Ruatiti where after the first bridge we spotted a pair of Blue Ducks with four young. They swam and preened on the rocks in the middle of the river. Moving on to Tongariro National Park we drove up to Mount Ruapehu stopping en-route at the picnic/campsite where we saw a Whitehead. Up the main road at the 6km marker, a Long-tailed Cuckoo screeched and we stopped to watch it. Grey Gerygone, Bellbird, Rifleman and Tomtit were also seen at the same spot. We camped at Turangi for the night where a Common Myna was running around the lawn. There are just so many introduced birds in New Zealand that sometimes you have to remind yourself just which continent you are on!

 

 16th November

 

North Island Tom Tit

 

On Lake Taupo we watched three New Zealand Grebes as well as a host of Black Swans. After a lovely massage and a wander around the geothermal pools bubbling with steam and hot mud at Turangi we headed for Pureora Forest Park where after some consultation with the ranger we climbed a forest tower and watched Kaka, Tui, Long-tailed Cuckoo, North Island Tom Tit, Grey Gerygone and Yellow-fronted Parakeet.

 

We motored on to Rotorua where on arrival at the camp-site I dived to the hot thermal pools. Heaven! A lovely relaxing way to end another gorgeous day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      New Zealand Scaup                                                                          Little Pied Cormorant

 

 

After a walk on the beach at Lake Rotorua digging in the sand, I was surprised to find hot water bubbling up from the geo-thermal activity all around Rotorua. We drove along the lake front and watched New Zealand Scaup and a Little Pied Cormorant by the boats.

 

We had the rest of the day playing tourist and watched the geysers and a Maori performance of the Haka. Later we took a gondola ride to the top of a hill where we hired a luge each to get us down.

 

Sue at the geysers Rotorua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                Sue at the luge

 

18th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                     New Zealand Dotterel                                   Brown Teal

 

Brown Teal sign

 

After saying goodbye to Rotorua Paul drove north to Kaiaua where after some searching we found two New Zealand Dotterels bathing in a spring pool on the beach. We did not stay long as we had another long drive north to Teal Bay where we searched for Brown Teal. We had a poor view of one before we drove around the swampy area the other side and found six more in a ditch right underneath a sign telling us they were there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19th November

 

We drove north-west to the Kauri Coast at Kaihu where we booked into a camp-site that promised a guided night walk to see North Island Brown Kiwi in the forest. After paying our money I was not full of optimism as out guide seemed much more interested in trees, a species we could have seen much more easily in the day-time! After seeing two eels and some insects it came as no surprise that we did not see a kiwi as the guide was much too noisy. The only bird we saw was a Morepork. Grrrrrrrrr

 

20th November

 

Sacred Kingfisher

 

We had a quick visit to the forest once more in the vain hope we would catch a kiwi walking about at the campsite in the forest at Trounson, but all we saw was a Sacred Kingfisher. Driving back south once again we made our way back across to the east coast and stopped at Waipu. At the Waipu Cove wildlife refuge we stopped to admire New Zealand Dotterel, Wrybill, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, White-headed Stilt, Caspian Tern, Fairy Tern and Ruddy Turnstone.

 

We continued south until Gulf Harbour in readiness for our trip tomorrow.

 

Pink Sheep - whilst travelling you certainly see some strange sights around the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21st November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                 Tiritiri Matangi                                                                                                 Takahe

 

Boarding the Tiritiri Matangi Ferry at 9.50am from Gulf Harbour we were under pressure to see all the birds we needed before the departure from the island of Tiritiri Matangi at 3.30pm. As soon as we landed we joined Alan and Rob whom we had met on South Island and set off along the Wattle Trail. We soon saw Stitchbird and made our way up to the visitor centre after seeing Tui, North Island Robin, Bellbird, North Island Saddleback and Brown Quail. Once at the centre ‘Greg’ was waiting for us. Most New Zealand native birds have been rung and reside on small off-shore islands. ‘Greg’ was no exception and the Takahe followed us around as we tried to take photos of him.

 

We walked back down to the wharf and then back along the Wattle Trail where after a few minutes we saw a Kokako after being alerted to its call by some fellow tourists. Back down near the wharf we sat for two hours but failed to see the Spotless Crake by the small pool. The ferry crossing back was rather rough and we were glad it was only a twenty minute ride!

 

 

22nd November

 

Spent the day in Aukland City- no birding done.

 

23rd November

 

We spent the day mostly in the campervan at Sandspit as the weather was a little inclement. The early evening brightened up a little so a walk along the harbour edge amongst the mangroves produced a family of Buff-banded Rails, a new addition to our New Zealand list.

 

24th November

 

At Sandspit wharfe we met up with Sav Saville of Wrybill Birding Tours www.wrybill-tours.com where they had chartered a boat ‘Assassin’ for a 10 hour pelagic trip out into the Hauraki Gulf. Sav gained fame when he re-found the New Zealand Storm-petrel that was thought extinct until a few years ago.

 

Flesh-footed Shearwater

 

It was a beautiful day as we set of from the wharf full of expectations. Soon thousands of Fluttering Shearwaters and Fairy Prions were feasting on the water just above a swirling mass of fish seemingly making the water looking as if it were boiling. Birds were everywhere. White-faced Storm-petrels were soon added to the list along with Flesh-footed Shearwaters. A Buller’s Shearwater and Australian Gannet added to the delight. Cook’s Petrel was a new species for us as Sav went through the details of it. We stopped for a Little (Blue) Penguin as Kelp Gulls circled and went back towards land. Sav called a Short-tailed Shearwater that flew right by, as we made our way out further into the gulf. At 10.10am Sav gave a yell and I was soon right next to him as a New Zealand Storm Petrel came into view.  It was soon gone but most of us managed to see it. Our star bird so early in the trip was a blessing as we could now all relax and enjoy the trip. My only regret was that I had stupidly left my decent camera behind and all I had was my little pocket camera with me. So the pictures were taken with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Fairy Prion                                White-faced Storm Petrel                                              Black Petrel

 

Further out Black Petrels surrounded the boat as the skipper put out the chum, Brett spent a lot of time cutting up fish to throw in the water, which the birds soon devoured. We sailed on towards several islands where I reckon the skipper had advanced knowledge, as a pair of Grey Ternlets (Blue Noddy,) were sitting on a cliff edge. Australian Gannets were also nesting atop another small islet. Moving on, Sav called a Pyecroft Petrel that gave us all brief but satisfying views. Stopping once again at a chum spot, we enticed a Wandering (Gibsons) Albatross and two Northern Giant Petrels. Two Cape Petrels (one Snares and one Antarctic) sat behind the boat on the water, as chum was thrown into the water. A group of Sooty shearwaters flew by adding to the scene.

 

We turned tail and started to make for home when all of a sudden a second New Zealand Storm-petrel appeared. It gave us all stunning views as it circled the boat several times and stayed with us for about ten minutes. We were so spoilt! A Grey-faced Petrel also came close as we added it to our lists. We once again headed back towards shore and were all busily dozing off when my companion spotted a whale blow. The skipper altered course and we were treated to magnificent views of three Bryde’s whales, probably two adults and a calf. They breached the water surface over and over again until we eventually left them in peace. Hundreds of Common Diving Petrels were also at this spot.

 

As we neared the shore Pied Cormorants wee at roost along with some Red-billed Gulls.

 

We had been out on the water for ten and a half hours with an excellent guide and skipper, on a beautiful day with good company and had returned with an excellent sea-bird list. What more could a birder want? Thank you Wrybill Birding Tours.

 

25th November

 

Starting the day with a flat battery on the campervan we had to get ‘jump-started’ but were soon on our way south. We sped through Aukland and stopped at a wetland where Swamp Harriers were soaring around over White-headed Stilts, Grey Teal, Australian Shoveler and Mallards. However we failed to see the Australian Bittern we had expected to see. We motored on to Tokaanu where we spent the night at the night on the southern shore of Lake Taupo.

 

26th November

 

New Zealand Grebe

 

After being ill in the night we awoke to another sunny day with a New Zealand Pipit just outside our campervan door. On the lake hundreds of Black Swans were calling as New Zealand Grebes were diving for fish. New Zealand Scaup were chasing around as we listened to Grey Warblers singing. However it was time to head south once more and we motored down to Wellington to stay with Tim and Eleanor who had kindly invited us to meal and night’s stay before our ferry back to South Island in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27th November

 

After a quick trip around Mount Victoria in Wellington we said our goodbyes and thank yous to the Barrett family and made our way to the ferry that would take us back to South Island. It was a marvellous cruise in bright sunshine. As soon as we neared the South Island we scanned for King Shag and were rewarded with three birds as we sailed down through Quenn Charlotte Sound.

 

Me enjoying the sun in Queen Charlotte Sound.

 

Once we had arrived in Picton we drove back south to Kaikoura where we spent the night in a layby by the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28th November

 

After a lazy start watching all the sea-birds on the sea, we spent sometime shopping in Kaikoura before heading south once again. We stopped to admire Dusky Dolphins jumping out of the water out to sea. An amazing sight. Continuing south we eventually arrived on the outskirts of Christchurch where we spent the night.

 

29th November

 

An Antarctic exhibition in Christchurch about Shackleton and Cook's expeditions caught our eye so we spent a couple of hours admiring the photographs and artifacts.

 

Sue standing at a statue of Captain Cook in Christchurch

 

In the afternoon we drove to Akaroa where we spent the night. Akaroa is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano.

 

 

Akaroa Harbour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30th November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                           Hector’s Dolphin                                                                             Little Penguin

 

We made our way down to the wharf and booked a nature cruise on a boat for two hours in Akaroa Harbour. A Kelp Gull followed or boat out into the harbour. We were soon treated to good views of Hector’s Dolphins, the rarest ocean-going dolphin in the world. We only saw small pods but they were delightful to see as they swam close to the boat. We also saw a Little Penguin (white-flippered sub-species) swimming a little further out.

 

Kelp Gull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

1st December

 

After saying goodbye to our lovely camper van, we were taken to Christchurch airport where we boarded a flight to Sydney. We landed in pouring rain and were picked up from the airport to arrange our car-hire. Once sorted we drove for a couple of hours (one hour of which was in horrendous city traffic) but the weather was so bad we resorted to spending the night in a motel.

 

2nd December

 

We drove all day to Deniliquin. En-route we admired some Black-shouldered Kites and Plumed Whistling Ducks. However we did not admire the storms that broke all around us making driving difficult as roads flooded in places. It reached 28 degrees though!

 

3rd December

 

Back in out little tent meant we were up early (after being woken up by hundreds of Galahs) and we headed to the sewage treatment works where we saw a Great White Egret. After this we drove to Gulpa Island State Forest where we added Buff-rumped and Yellow Thornbills to our Australian list. The forest track-ways were fairly soft and as Australia has had nothing but rain for several months we approached water right across the track. Paul decided to go for it and within seconds we were stuck in deep-rutted mud! No amount of encouragement and bark put under the wheels would shift the car. Luckily I had just enough reception on my mobile to phone for help to Jeff and Glenys, two birders we had met in the campsite. We walked towards the forest entrance and luckily came across a ranger who phoned for a winch that got our little car out! We thanked Jeff and Glenys who turned up a little later and had an enjoyable walk in the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                          Emu                                                                                  Superb Parrot

 

We returned to the campsite to dry out as our boots had been under water and some lunch but returned once more to the forest where we added Diamond Firetail and a lovely flock of Superb Parrots to our list. An Emu on the track took our attention for a while. What a day! (Our second drowned car of the year!)

 

4th December

 

Crimson(Yellow) Rosella

 

Once again we headed for Gulpa Island State Forest. Several Superb Parrots greeted our arrival as we entered. Further down the track a family party of Red-rumped Parrots were sitting low down on Eucalypt trees. An Emu with two young ran across the track as we searched the sandhill area. We saw several Superb Fairywrens and Brown Creepers. At our campsite Crimson (Yellow) Rosellas perched as I suffered from another migraine and had to retire for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th December

 

We drove out to Tullacooa Evaporation ponds where en-route I added Blue Bonnet (Parrot) to my list. Unfortunately we saw little on the ponds but did see Banded Lapwings in rice paddies.

 

6th December

 

Happy 50th Birthday Paul !

 

We spent a leisurely day with a pub lunch in Delinquin before setting off with Phil Maher. We had mentioned a few ‘missing’ species from our list and very soon Phil drove us to an area where we saw a Striped Honeyeater along with a Singing Honeyeater. On the Hay road out of Deniliquin, we stopped at a swampy area near the road where we saw two Australian Crakes before they disappeared back into vegetation. Soon we were immersed into a storm and saw a fire that lightning had started. At Black Swamp we located many Hardheads and a Hoary Grebe. As the rain got worse Phil stood on top of his vehicle for better views of the swamp. He shouted down to us as a Freckled Duck got up and flew around. Paul soon got onto it and I was lucky to see it as it did a change of direction and flew back again before disappearing into the distance.

 

As we turned around two Stubble Quail landed at the side of the road and we had good views of them. The rain and storms got steadily worse. Lightning was illuminating the sky and the water levels were rising. Although we waited until it was dark it was soon evident that driving onto the fields for our target bird was not going to happen even though Phil did try a short distance for us. Plains Wanderer will have to wait for another day!

 

7th December

 

I drove all day to Capertee where we booked into a hotel for two nights.

 

8th December

 

We birded the Glen Davis Road that leads down to the bottom of the canyon. The road leads through native forest. Many White-plumed Honeyeaters were feeding in the trees. We soon had two Turquoise Parrots along Crown Station Road and a Fuscous Honeyeater. We tried to get along to the picnic site in the bottom of the canyon but flooding made the road impassable and we had to head back up the road. An Eastern Yellow Robin perched for a short while before I was overcome by a viscous migraine. I spent the rest of the day in bed and Paul birded alone.

 

9th December

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Plum-headed Finch                                    Hooded Robin                                               White-browed Scrubwren

 

Feeling a bit better but still not very well we attempted another few hours along Glen Davis Road. A pair of Plum-headed Finches perched on a roadside fence but the male did not want his photo taken! Luckily a female did as did a Hooded Robin. We drove on to Pierces Pass and down to the picnic site where Paul saw a couple of Lyrebirds. I had to make do with a White-browed Scrubwren. We drove on to Windsor where we spent the night.

 

10th December

 

After leaving the campsite at Windsor we dove to Cattai National Park where we enjoyed birds in abundance. A Shining Bronze Cuckoo joined a Fan-tailed Cuckoo in a flowering bush along with a Lewin’s Honeyeater. All of a sudden we heard a strange call and watched as three Channel-billed Cuckoos flew over. We walked around the lagoon and saw a Black-faced Monarch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                               Australian Brush Turkey                                       Olive-backed Oriole

 

We drove to the other part of the reserve before driving onto Wiseman’s Ferry and Dharug National Park. The ferry across the river was free. Amazing! An Australian Brush Turkey strolled across the picnic site before we watched a Brown Gerygone and a Brown Cuckoo Dove flying away from us. An Olive-backed Oriole called from a nearby tree.

 

11th December

 

Red-necked Wallaby

 

At Dharug National Park we saw a Black-eared Cuckoo before following the river along. All rivers have been in flood this year as Australia has just come out of a ten year drought. However there have been exceptional rains and all creeks have been difficult to pass and there has been a lot of flooding, so much so we have had to alter our proposed routes. It was a beautiful drive from Wiseman’s Ferry northward to route one where we headed for Barrington Tops National Park. We went through six quite deep fords to reach the park. I just hope we do not have any rain to deepen the fords in the next couple of days.

 

At the campsite in the park we added Spectacled Monarch and Yellow-throated Scrubwren to our year-list. Back in our campsite we had many Red-necked Wallabies.

 

12th December

 

We drove 20km to the top of Barrington Tops NP, a steep climb all the way on a gravel road. En-route we saw a couple of Wonga Pigeons and a Russet-tailed Thrush. We worked hard for the rest of the day on various trails including the Antarctic Beech Trail for the Rufous Scrub Bird to no avail.

 

Back at the campsite we had fun feeding the Australian King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas.

 

13th December

 

Once again we set off for the National Park at Barrington Tops. We had a wonderful view of an Olive-tailed Thrush on our way up. We then spent a fruitless few hours trying to find the scrub bird to no avail.

 

I drove for the rest of the day to the south of Wollongong to Jamberoo after being held up badly for three hours in Sydney. Such a shame as it was a beautiful day which I would love to have spent on the coastline!

 

14th December

 

Today we walked an 8km loop around Barren Grounds where we added a Beautiful Firetail to our list. It was a lovely walk with magnificent views but we saw very few birds except White-browed Scrubwrens and Southern Emu Wrens. In the afternoon we visited Fitzroy Falls where we failed to find any of our target birds. We camped for the night in a free campsite where we had Wombats munching around the tent in the vening near Bendeela.

 

 

Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15th December.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           Brown Cuckoo Dove                                                                      Olive-tailed Thrush    

                  

A morning visit to Fitzroy Falls where once again we failed to see our target birds! we did see Brown Cuckoo Dove and an Olive-tailed Thrush though.

 

18th December

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grey-faced Petrel                                                                  Black-browed Albatross                    (Campbell Island) Black-browed Albatross

 

We boarded the Sandra K in Wollongong Harbour full of hope that we would add to our life-list of seabirds. The boat looked very old, leaving me a little unsure of our day ahead. As soon as we left harbour the boat started to roll even though the sea did not look that rough. It was certainly a slow ride out to the continental shelf as we added Wedge-tailed Shearwater to our list. Black-browed Albatrosses soon came into the chum including the Campbell Island species. Fluttering Shearwater and Hutton Shearwaters joined Short-tailed and Sooty Shearwaters on our Australian list. We had a brief visit from a Yellow-nosed Albatross as well as a Shy Albatross. We watched an Arctic Skua chase Crested Terns as Pomarine Skuas came close to the boat.

 

Photography was very difficult as the boat rolled from side to side and we definitely needed to hang on. Several participants were looking very green!

 

At the continental shelf Grey-faced Petrels were common but we were denied any thing ‘special’ as we turned and headed back to the harbour. With a rolling boat more people wanted to get back to harbour as soon as possible as a squall hit us. As we neared the mainland we looked at a Sooty Oystercatcher on one of the islands along with Australian Ibis and Australian Pelicans. Silver Gulls soon finished off what was left of the chum. I think we were all glad to get back to land to settle our stomachs down!

 

Silver Gulls finishing off the chum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19th December

 

After a discussion we drove south along the coastline to Huskisson where we negotiated a good rate to have a cabing for a week. We are both fed up with the tent now!

 

20th December

 

Our Cabin at Huskisson

 

Having found ourselves a cabin for the next week by the sea at Huskisson for $80 a night we awoke to low cloud and strong gale-force winds. I looked out of the cabin window to see many White-throated Needletails flying over the park below the clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21st December

 

An early start driving north back towards Sydney had us visiting the Royal National Park. At the visitor centre we were given instructions on where best to walk to see birds. We walked along a trail at the southern end of the park but failed to see our target bird, Pilotbird. We saw very few birds at all in fact until we were nearly back at the car where by the stone pillars it was a little more open. We tried one of the heath trails but failed to see the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren either. White-browed Scrubwrens were everywhere. Not a good day! We returned to the picnic site near the river and Paul set off down Lady Carrington’s Walk whilst I sat and watched the birds in the river. These included Swamphens, Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Ducks as well as an inquisitive Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. After a while I set off down the trail too and came upon an over-hanging rock where a call distracted me. I stood for a while and after seeing its shadow an Origma (Rock Warbler) appeared. I was really pleased as I had had a migraine when Paul had seen one a few days ago by himself.

 

22nd December

 

 Huskisson Beach

 

We had poor weather in the morning and so a mundane domestic morning was in order back in Huskisson. By the afternoon I ventured out alone in search of an Eastern Bristlebird. I sat transfixed by a patch of heathland as a young Grey Fantail sat and preened. I cursed I did not have my camera nearby. Moving on dozens of Splendid Fairywrens were zipping about in the late afternoon sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd December

 

Echidner

 

We spent the day in Booderee National Park searching different areas. One of the areas I had found the day before produced an Eastern Bristlebird along with more Splendid Fairywrens. A juvenile Eastern Whipbird showed off his crest as New Holland Honeyeaters made the most of the bushes in flower. After a quick shop for Christmas food we returned to the park to explore another trail where we had been given a tip off for Ground Parrot. However except for good views of Yellow-tailed Cockatoos and a pair of Gang Gang Cockatoos we saw little else except for a very busy Echidner looking for food too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24th December

 

We had to change cabins and so after shifting all our belongings we drove around the various headlands of Jervis Bay, where Eastern Whipbirds we most in evidence because of their calls. Yellow-tailed Cockatoos were feeding in the trees.

 

25th December

 

 

Happy Christmas everyone!

 

Paul and Sue on the beach at Huskisson on Christmas Day

 

Well what a change for us. Instead of shivering in England we had a cooked breakfast under the the blazing sun. We spent the morning swimming in the sea at Huskisson and the afternoon dozing around our cabin before cooking a Christmas Dinner in the evening. It was very hot and we enjoyed feeding the Rainbow Lorikeets on the decking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26th December

 

We packed up and drove to Windsor where we had been invited to spend a couple of nights with a school friend of mine that I have not seen for 36 years! Sue Spittle was now Sue Schouten and we enjoyed looking around her 10 acres of land admiring all her animals and fruit trees that were attracting all the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in a way that Sue was not pleased with. They were a real pest to all her apple trees as they attempted to eat all the apples!

 

27th December

 

Sue had invited a few friends around for a Christmas party and it was really nice to back in a home where we could enjoy all the usual Christmas nibbles!

 

28th December

 

After thanking Sue and David for having us we said goodbye and drove Sydney where we had booked a city centre hotel for our last few days in Australia.

 

29th December

 

Paul was up early and keen to get going. We walked to the botanical gardens where Australian White Ibises were probing the carefully kept lawns for food. Barriers were being erected everywhere in preparations for the New Year celebrations in Sydney Harbour. We walked around the botanical gardens along the harbour edge. It was a beautiful day and we admired the views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. After lunch I had to return to the hotel because I started a migraine whilst Paul went in search of birds in the Centennial Park.

 

Australian White Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      Paul and Sue at Sydney Harbour Bridge                          Sydney Opera House

 

30th December

 

We drove to the golf course near the airport where we searched all the lakes. Eventually Paul spotted a Latham’s Snipe lurking under a pine tree over-hanging the lake at the far end. Probably our last tick of our amazing year!

 

It was a beautiful sunny day and we made our way to Bondi Beach where it was packed with young lovelies!!!! I paddled along in the surf wishing I had brought my swimming things because it was so hot.

 

31st December

 

Fireworks in Sydney Harbour

 

An early morning beckoned and it found us sitting in part of the Sydney Botanical Gardens for a 16 hour wait in glorious sunlight for the famous New Year’s Eve firework display in Sydney harbour. We queued for 5 hours to get into the gardens and then spent the rest of the day sitting down waiting for the main event. Because we had arrived early we managed to obtain special wristbands for one of the prime viewing spots in the harbour at Mrs MacQuaries Point where numbers were limited. At nine o’clock we had a firework display before the main event started at midnight.

 

We have had a fabulous year and I have seen 1742 species of birds this year, travelling through 16 different countries. I would like to thank Paul especially, for putting up with me and making it all possible, for without him it would not have happened. Happy New Year everyone and may it be bird-filled!

 

 

 

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