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A Field Notebook
  Updated 1/1/70 0:00:00
Webmaster Colin Davies
Generator Blogger
Green catbird, Noosa Botanic Gardens

Today I had saw a new contender for bird of the holiday at Noosa Botanic gardens. I was just about to leave and thought I'd take one last walk through the rain forest area and I'm so glad that I did. I came across a green catbird, right out in the open and even better, it stayed on full view for a minute or two. I was amazed at how big it was, I was expecting something the size of a bullfinch but instead it was more like the size of a pigeon! Australian catbirds are closely related to bower birds, but they don't build bowers.

It might have been showing well, but photographing it was still difficult, it was very dull in the heart of the forest and these photos were taken on 1/15. Fortunately my hybrid camera goes to f2.8 which at east gives me a chance in dull situations. I'm very pleased with the results!

The fairy-wrens are almost like dartford warblers only much more colourful. This species is variegated fairy-wren. Another of my favourites is red-backed fairy-wren, which is basically all black with a red-back. They never stop moving through the vegetation and are very difficult to photograph.

I've done pretty well for kingfishers so far, apart from laughing kookaburra which are everywhere, I've also seen sacred kingfisher, azure kingfisher and today several forest kingfishers. Out of those, only azure seems to bother with fish!

White-necked heron.

Australian darter.

Daytime tawny frogmouth and spotted pardalote
I've spent hours almost everyday from dawn until well past sunset for the past two weeks searching for koalas and echidnas with no success what so ever. It's not been completely wasted time though, I've picked up a lot of decent birds in the process, and none better than the pair I found today. First off I spotted these two daytime roosting tawny frogmouths apparently sunbathing, and then later a stunning male spotted pardalote.

Unfortunately the photos don't do this bird justice, spotted pardalote.

It's winter in Australia at the moment, but these birds breed at this time of year. I wondered if this bird might be using this hole in the tree.
"Eastern"great egret

Everything is so much tamer here. This great egret was walking along on the edge of one of the Noosa canals with lots of people around. I sat and watched it and it came within 3m of me and just walked past. Why aren't they like this in the UK? Like osprey and cattle egret, great egret is called eastern great egret in my book, but I think that there is less of a case for this being a separate species.

Imagine this scene in the UK! Three terns dwarfing the cormorants! Like great egret, this is another cosmopolitan species, seemingly occurring everywhere, Caspian terns, with little black cormorants.

Views from Noosa Heads.

1770 to Noosa

Today I traveled from 1770 to Noosa. It's a 370km drive and it would have been easy for me to pick out a few scenically beautiful places to stop on the way, but instead I decided to stop off at places which might provide me with birds which I might not otherwise have seen on the holiday. For example, a stop in an area of farmland turned up this Australian pipit. It's a very common bird in Australia, but only if you go to the right habitat, no point in looking for this in tropical rain forest.

At another stop I managed seven species of raptor in 15 minutes, including bird of the day two swamp harriers which unfortunately I was unable to photograph.  Other new species for the holiday were azure kingfisher and white-headed pigeon.

Double-barred finch

Black swan

Dusky moorhen


Intermediate egret

Straw-necked ibis
A day in the eucalyptus forest

Pacific baza, a major target species for me on this trip to Australia. Now I really do feel like I'm in the tropics! This species feeds often in small groups on insects, nestlings and even frogs high up in the canopy.  There were two birds in this tree.

Eucalyptus forest is often thought of in a poor light in Europe, but just like pine, in it's natural environment it's a totally different habitat. Nobody would seriously compare a lowland tightly packed forestry commission plantation with the Rothiemurchus Caledonian pine forest, and similarly a eucalyptus forest in Australia is a completely different beast to eucalyptus plantations in Europe. Check out the understorey for one thing. It was alive with birds, all kinds of things from the Pacific baza to a wide variety of honeyeaters and parrots.

On any other day this would have been the highlight. Black cockatoos are just such enigmatic birds and this is the king of them all, red-tailed black cockatoo. It might not be a colourful bird, but it's a huge parrot with an imposing call. When it flies it's like a harrier or a buzzard going over. Awesome!

Spangled drongo.

White-bellied sea-eagle, ironically over the forest today not the sea!

Little wattlebird.

Wide expanses of sand, mud and mangroves at Burrum Heads.

Two sacred kingfishers.

Red-capped plover.

You can tell it's been a good day when this beauty is consigned to third place in the bird of the day award! Variegated fairywren

Grey teal

Crested tern and silver gull.
More Tawny frogmouth

With the exception perhaps of the beach stone curlew on Fraser Island, it's hard to imagine a more enigmatic bird than tawny frogmouth, and this bird on my campsite at 1770 shows exceptionally well. What a great bird!

Along the Brisbane River
Description: A day spent along the Brisbane river, from Teneriffe in the east to Fig Tree Pocket in the west. I started off having a sail along the river on the Brisbane CityCat, much too fast moving for any serious birding but a quick, cheap and easy way for me to see the city without spending all day at it. Even so I added a few species to my trip list so far, Australian darter, gull-billed tern, lesser crested tern and white-face heron.

On returning to the city centre I caught the bus to Fig Tree Pocket and the Lone pine koala sanctuary.  I'm not really one for spending a lot of time in zoos, captive animals don't do a lot for me, but in this case it seemed worth a visit. Quite apart from the fact that the grounds and gardens attract many wild species, I don't think that it's possible to see some of these Australian specialities even in zoos outside of Australia. For example I don't know how many platypus there are in zoos across the world, but I bet it's not many, if any. The aussies seem as keen to keep Australian things in the country as they are to keep foreign things out. Pity they didn't think of that 250 years ago.....

Even the least interested person couldn't fail to notice that there are a lot of parrots, lorikeets, cockatoos, cockatiels, budgies and rosellas in Australia. They may look like escaped pets but they are all  wild, endemic and native. They can also be difficult to see well and even more difficult to photograph. For example I've been seeing scaly-breasted lorikeets at several places over the past couple of days but always silhouetted, half hidden or high up in flight, and usually all of those!

However the Koala sanctuary has two"wild lorikeet feeding times"when they put food out and these wild birds respond like whooper swans at Martin Mere. Except that they sit on your head and any other available part of your body! One even landed on my camera whilst I was taking photos of another! Anyway, the mainly green looking bird in the photo above is scaly-breasted, all of the others are rainbow lorikeets. Other parrots seen today were sulpher-creasted cockatoos and galahs.

Where's that bloody scaly-breasted lorikeet gone?

Grey butcherbird.

Pied butcherbird

Laughing kooaburra

Royal spoonbill at Biami Yumba lake.

Australian swamphen, originally considered a race of our European purple gallinule, it's now classed as a seperate species.

Likewise this is an eastern cattle egret.

Intermediate heron.

You really wouldn't think I was so close to Brisbane, just a short bus journey.

Biami Yumba lake, Fig Tree Pocket. One of the highlights here was a fly over white-bellied sea-eagle, one of the largest eagles in Australia.

A mob of whiptail wallabies

I was delighted to stumble across a mob of whiptail wallabies this morning on a walk along the coast from 1770. Compared to most other kangeroos and wallabies, they were very approachable and consisted of a male with several females and juveniles. As you can see in the photos below, one of the females has a large joey in her pouch, though the animal itself is not visible.

Black-faced cuckoo-shrike.

Dusky honeyeater.

Forest kinfisher

Sacred kingfisher

Juvenile leaden flycatcher.

Rainbow bee-eater.

White-throated honeyeater

A Pacific Baza, this time on the campsite at 1770.

Frogmouth and thick-knees on the 1770 campsite

I've moved onto the town of 1770 in Queensland, staying in a cabin right in the middle of a eucalyptus woodland, offering lots of nocturnal possibilities! I've heard that there are possums, sugar gliders and echidnas on the site, but tonight I had to be content with a tawny frogmouth. The frogmouths belong to the same family as the nightjars and like their cousins they are always extra special birds to find, not least because of their nocturnal habits.  On my last visit to Australia in 2015 I was shown a Papuan frogmouth sitting on a nest, and those are even larger than tawny, but this bird was impressive enough, at least twice the size of a nightjar I would guess. A stunning bird.

There are a pair of bush thick-knees in residence just a few metres from my cabin and like many species here are very approachable, to with 3 or 4 metres.

It was a day for picking up some unexpected new birds and this was the first, one of two black-shouldered kites. I'm not sure if this is the same species as that we get in Europe.

This is golden-headed cisticolla, a close relation to zitting cisticolla (fan-tailed warbler) which occurs in Europe. The latter has a very wide range and also occurs in Australia. Some Golden-headed have unstreaked heads which makes separation of the two species easy, but the race which occurs in this part of Australia has a streaked head and then separation becomes very difficult. Fortunately the call is very different, and this bird was calling constantly, completely ruling out zitting cisticolla.

Magpie geese

Red-kneed dotterel, a completely chance find. I pulled up to look at some birds in a tree and spotted a a muddy pool on the edge of the field which had this bird, plus six black-fronted dotterel.

Wedge-tailed eagle.

At last, some close up kangeroos!

Nankeen night-herons and the ubiquitous swanphens

Nankeen night-herons are always nice to see, especially when they show as well as this. Like all night herons they are most active and dusk or at night, so this is a really special sighting.

Australian sawmphen (aka purple gallinule) in the wetlands right outside my accommodation. This photo has not been cropped Swamphens are every where here and will let you approach within 5m. I see hundreds every day, and while I am writing this post, there are three swamphens walking around on the grass about 2m from me. If I move quickly they'll retreat, but soon they're back. This is not unique to Australia, I've seen them behave similar to this in Europe as well, on golf courses. Only when they arrive in Britain as a vagrant do they become shy and skulking.

The wetland which is about 10m outside my accomodation.

These Australian cuckoos are really smart birds, possibly the cutest birds in the world in my opinion! The photos don't do this bird justice, this is fan-tailed cuckoo.

Australian darter, the snake bird!

Royal spoonbill. Like the swamphen, approachable to with a few metres, and even then just walks away from you.

Female rufous whistler.

Kangeroos at last! A week in Australia and these are my first. Very common they are no doubt, there are signs along many of the roads saying beware of kangeroos, but it's only the same as when you drive down a UK road and see signs saying watch out for deer or badgers, how many times do you actually see the animals? Also, although they obviously are here, there's a lot of forest and woodland where I am now in Queensland, and I guess that perhaps they are commoner, or at least more obvious in other parts of Australia. Maybe when I get down to Southern Australia in a couple of weeks I'll start seeing more.

Arkarra wetlands, Hervey Bay.

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