Thursday, 16 November 2017

New Caledonia

We flew to New Caledonia this afternoon, arriving about an hour before sunset. Now although this was Noumea Airport, it's roughly a 45 minute drive to the modern city of Noumea. We've based our trip on using Google Maps to find our way around so far, however upon arrival here it was apparent that Google Maps doesn't work here, or rather our cell phones don't work here. So we're totally buggered. I did order a Satnav when I booked the hire car but there wasn't one available, not even paper maps so we have to wing it. Anyway, we do find our apartment eventually on the south side of the city and get settled in.

The next morning we are up a couple of hours before daybreak and set out on the drive to Parc de la Riviere Bleu. I was able to download the route on Google maps last night using wifi but it goes all wonky on the drive to the park and we arrive late to the meeting spot where we are due to pick up Isobel from Birding Caledonia who is going to show us around today.  It's my 50th birthday today and I didn't want any mess ups or anything going wrong. So we pick up Isobel and then drive for ages to the park. Upon arrival we see New Caledonian Friarbird (5997), Dark-brown Honeyeater (5998) and then I missed a flyover White-bellied Goshawk whilst walking back to get the car. Driving further into the park we head to the Kagu site - seeing this bird has been a long held dream of mine and I've been saying I want to see this bird on my 50th birthday for years. 

Goliath Imperial-Pigeon

And now we are actually on the way..... The next stop gives us Goliath Imperial-Pigeon (5999) and then Isobel is scraping the leaf litter with her boots. Apparently this brings in a Kagu and there it is..... Species 6,000 on my 50th birthday...

Kagu - lifer 6,000 on my 50th birthday

We enjoy this bird for ages before walking along the road and nailing a number of endemics and other goodies: Southern Shrikebill, Striated Starling, Melanesian Flycatcher, Streaked Fantail, New Caledonian Myzomela, Barred Honeyeater, Yellow-bellied Robin, New Caledonian Crow, Green-backed White-eye, Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, New Caledonian Whistler, Fairy Gerygone and eventually Horned Parakeet.

Barred Honeyeater

Dark-brown Honeyeater

New Caledonian Crow

New Caledonian Myzomela

Southern Shrikebill

Yellow-bellied Robin

We ended this fantastic day with a pair of Kagu along a narrow trail. Amazing!

A Happy Birthday indeed

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Mount Hypipamee

Somehow this post was never uploaded so I'm including it for sake of completeness....

This was the first morning that Google Maps let us down and took us on a wacky journey through country lanes to a dead end, instead of the entrance road to Mount Hypipamee. So we arrived late but in the gloomy, overcast conditions it didn't really matter as it kept bird activity up. We saw our first Torresian Crown and pretty soon after found a pair of Golden Bowerbirds thanks to a tipoff from Carol at Kingfisher Park. A Hornbill Friarbird was also new and we ended the day at Hasties Swamp where Spotless Crake was a great find.

Golden Bowerbird

At night we staked out the mammal viewing platform where a Black-and-white Possum and Sugar Glider appeared.

Black-and-white Possum

Sugar Glider

Last Day in Queensland

It's our last day in Queensland and we're really not sure what to do. In the end we plump for another visit to Cattana Wetlands on the edge of Cairns. I'd missed Crimson Finch on our last visit and am very pleased when we pick up a single bird low down beside the water. That's lifer No 5995 for me. There's a bunch of other commoner species around but nothing else new. Well, we also decided to try and find a roosting Rufous Owl in downtown Cairns but all we had was the street name. We bowled up and there were two areas of parkland with big trees and as luck would have it, we bumped into a local birder who took us straight to the right tree. And there it was - Rufous Owl. What a beast.

Rufous Owl

A last look at the mudflats from Cairns Esplanade produced lots of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Ruddy Turnstone and others.

So we're off to Sydney where we are staying overnight before our flight to New Caledonia....

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Hasties Swamp - Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge

So today we were heading to our next digs at Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge - another excellent place to stay. But first, on a tip off from Andrew, we headed to a nearby site where we spent rather too long getting on a group of Blue-faced Parrotfinches. We picked them up as soon as we arrived but they disappeared almost instantly and then we had to track them down in the tall grass along a stretch of woodland. We also saw our first White-cheeked Honeyeater here as well. 

Then we headed off and drove for a while to the excellent Hasties Swamp - the best wetland we visited on the entire trip. It was choc full of birds with thousands of Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Magpie Geese, Pink-eared Ducks, and loads of other common wildfowl.

Pink-eared Ducks were common here...

Plumed Whistling-Ducks

We also enjoyed views of Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kites here as well.... It was hard to drag ourselves away but we wanted to get to Chambers and check into our lodge and explore the grounds. And what a place this was, situated in its own rainforest. We spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and just chilling. After dark we visited the mammal viewing platform and saw a Sugar Glider feeding on some honey poured on a tree trunk...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Daintree River - Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

We drove up to Daintree in the early hours, and headed straight to the boat ramp where we were to meet Murray for our cruise along the river. The scenery up here was very different, with rolling hills and green meadows more reminiscent of Devon than Australia. As the boat left we saw our first Yellow Oriole of the trip, followed by several nice sightings of Shining Flycatcher, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Azure Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher and best of all, a huge Great-billed Heron.

Great-billed Heron

Sacred Kingfisher

Shining Flycatcher (male)

Shining Flycatcher (female)

One disappointment was that the resident Papuan Frogmouths had disappeared, and our best shot at seeing them has disappeared..... 

So we drove back to Kingfisher Park and made a short detour along a side road. We were fortunate to see a group of Lovely Fairywrens in the Eucalypt wood here...

Lovely Fairywrens

Anyway, back at Kingfisher Park, Andrew gave us directions to the roost site of their resident Papuan Frogmouths. After a bit of a search we located a pair high up at the edge of the orchard. Result! And that was lifer 5,988...

Papuan Frogmouths

Down at the river we staked out the Duck-billed Platypus site and after another wait we nailed it! What a weird creature... A Pied Monarch also showed here as well...

Pied Monarch

Also nailed a couple of animals we saw in the gardens tonight: Fawn-footed Melomys and Northern Brown Bandicoot.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Mount Lewis Road, Queensland

This was our main day to bird Mount Lewis. We didn't really have any exact spots to try for the specialities so just 'winged it' in the grandest sense. So we headed up there early and it wasn't very far at all from Kingfisher Park before we made our first stop. There was nothing doing so we drove higher and walked along the road for a bit. A pair of Chowchillas were feeding in the leaf litter beside the road and showed really well...


We also saw the first of many Yellow-throated Scrubwrens here before reaching the clearing where we parked for the rest of the morning. An Atherton Scrubwren showed well and sang right in front of us, a Fernwren appeared just for me, Bridled Honeyeater appeared, and a Bower's Shrike-Thrush put on a great performance.

Atherton Scrubwren

Bower's Shrike-Thrush

We followed a trail for several kilometres, watching warily for any snakes that we had previously been warned about! No snakes fortunately but our first Tooth-billed Bowerbird and Varied Triller were nice. We also saw several Victoria's Riflebirds at a fruiting tree, with several Spotted Catbirds as well. And this Fernwren gave really close views for several minutes as it sang from various open perches...


By lunchtime we had pretty much cleaned up and headed back to Kingfisher Park. Andrew gave us some ideas of where to find more lifers so instead of just chilling around the gardens we drove just over an hour to a site in an arid area where a group of Apostlebirds were coming to drink. The bonus here was a few Black-throated Finches also flying in to drink that brought my life list up to 5,985. The dream of getting 6,000 on my 50th birthday in a few days lives on......

Lake Mitchell to Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

Was really looking forward to heading up to Kingfisher Park today. But we had another great, close Southern Cassowary encounter....

Southern Cassowary
And the Spotted Catbirds were coming to the feeders at breakfast as well.... So after saying our farewells to our wonderful hosts Sue and Phil Gregory, we set off to Lake Mitchell. This was a huge area of water, grassland and swamp. Our only Brolga of the trip was here, along with commoner species such as Black Swan. Nice views of Red-winged Parrot here too....

Nice views across the marshes...

Red-winged Parrot


Leaving here, we headed towards Abattoir Swamp with a roadside Pheasant Coucal the only bird of note. Oh, and getting stopped by the police for driving too slowly was also noteworthy.... At Abattoir Swamp we saw our first Northern Fantail and not a lot else - it was rubbish here.

Just a few minutes further along the road was Kingfisher Park - and what a fantastic place this turned out to be. After checking into our unit we set out on foot exploring the gardens. My countdown to 6,000 picked up momentum here with lifers such as Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Grey-headed Robin, Graceful Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater and Yellow-breasted Boatbill bringing me up to 5,976. 

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin at the feeders

Grey-headed Robins are still present. Its an altitudinal migrant from Mount Lewis

So a great day and we are really excited about the birds to find in this area. The river here is home to Duck-billed Platypus but despite staking it out for several hours we didn't see it. Yet, Noisy Pitta was feeding out in the open grassy area at dusk.... Result....!

Noisy Pitta