<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Avian Adventures Tour reports
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Australia Tour Report, September 2003

Days 1 & 2: Sunday, 14th & Monday, 15th September

Flights (Heathrow - Singapore - Brisbane) were on schedule and without incident.

Day 3: Tuesday, 16th September



Photo: Gerry Griffiths

Our marathon in-flight journey to Australia continued, finally arriving in Brisbane at around 7.30 a.m.  It was on our walk to the domestic terminal that we glimpsed our first Australian bird species - Tree Martin, Australian Magpie and Torresian Crow.

After connecting with our domestic flight, we arrived in Darwin on schedule at 1.15 p.m.  local time, collected our vehicles and drove to the hotel.  We enjoyed a light lunch, before setting off to Lee Point and Buffalo Creek and our first birding experience in Northern Territory.  This is a super birdwatching area and the two hours we spent here were most rewarding.  Some very unusual bird names - soon to become familiar - were entered into the log, including Green-backed Gerygone and White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike.  Yellow Orioles were particularly vocal, while Azure Kingfisher, Rainbow Lorikeet and Red-headed Honeyeater displayed their gorgeous colours.  The tremendous numbers of kites were impressive, with Black Kite being abundant; also present in large numbers was Torresian Imperial Pigeon.  Amongst a number of other avian delights were a Sacred Kingfisher and Great Bowerbird.  A small but classy gathering of shorebirds was present on the mud flats adjacent to the creek, including Red-capped Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Eastern Curlew and Great Knot.  In the monsoon forest and adjoining mangroves we located White-gaped and Rufous-banded Honeyeaters and White-breasted Woodswallow.

After this marvellous introduction to Australia's tropical northern bird life we returned to the hotel for dinner.

Day 4: Wednesday, 17th September

Our visit to Howard Springs proved to be a great highlight for everyone, not just for its superb bird life, but also because it is a truly delightful area - pretty and tranquil.  On arrival we were greeted by a number of very tame Australian White Ibis – what might be termed as a 'Welcoming Committee'- but a friendly one.  On our walk along the trail in search of Rainbow Pitta, we had amazingly close encounters with this stunning species.  The birds were moving about the leaf litter and also standing still, just a few yards away - magical moments!  In the forest we also enjoyed excellent views of obliging Blue-winged Kookaburra, Thick-billed Gerygone, Shining Flycatcher, Rufous-banded and White-gaped Honeyeaters, Spangled Drongo and Rainbow Bee-eaters, whilst overhead a low-flying Little Eagle was very impressive.  However, the discovery of a pair of Rose-crowned Fruit Doves building a nest and viewed at point blank range was quite superb, and for some of our group this was the highlight of the morning.  All of this, only a forty-minute drive from Darwin!

Moving on to Fogg Dam, we again hit the jackpot with close encounters of perching Pacific Bazas and a number of flycatcher species including Restless, Shining and Willie Wagtail.

The area around Fogg Dam is excellent, consisting of mixed habitats of monsoon forest, lily ponds and open lagoons.  On and around the lagoons and lily ponds we found Green Pygmy-Geese, Comb-crested Jacana, Intermediate Egret, Radjah Shelduck, Australian Darter, Crimson Finch and Black-winged Stilt, whilst overhead Black and Whistling Kites were an ever-present feature, at times forming into playful groups.

During the afternoon we drove to Knuckey's Lagoon and were treated to another session of excellent birdwatching.  Many wetland species were present, including Little Black and Pied Cormorants, Pied & White-necked Herons, Magpie Goose, Hardhead, Great Egret, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Australian Hobby.

A fine way to end a superlative day!

Day 5: Thursday, 18th September

Kakadu National Park was our destination today, so it was to be a day of travelling. However, first of all a visit was made to a little birding oasis (Doctors Gully) near the fish-feeding area at Darwin, which provided us with a great start to the day and at the same time a very pleasant early morning walk.  Here we were treated to super views of Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Eastern Reef Egret, Zitting Cisticola, Double-barred, Star and Crimson Finches; also roosting here was a colony of Black Flying Foxes (Fruit Bats), and we were able to watch them preening and stretching.

The remainder of the day was occupied with the journey to Cooinda (Yellow Waters, Kakadu NP).  A few stops were made en route, including our lunch break and another near the Adelaide River, where a fine selection of wetland species were present, including Little Pied Cormorant, Cattle and Intermediate Egrets, Green Pygmy Goose and Black-necked Stork. The best find of the day however, was at South Alligator, where an Australian Bustard stood motionless in the shade of a small tree. Later we checked into the very comfortable Gajudju Lodge.

Day 6: Friday, 19th September

We enjoyed early morning tea and biscuits before embarking on our 'Yellow Waters Cruise', which turned out to be a really memorable experience - yet another of the many highlights of the tour.  It was enhanced by our guide's outstanding knowledge of the river system and its natural history, including the birds and aquatic life.

The morning was perfect as we set off down river at 6.45 a.m. - light, patchy cloud and a gentle breeze.  Bird life was abundant, with far too many species to mention here; our guide expertly steered the boat into many situations to give us superb views of an array of birds and plants.  A real bonus was the discovery of a perching Little Kingfisher, which allowed our vessel to approach within just a few feet of its domain, and then proceeded to dive for prey alongside the boat.

Amongst the many other highlights were several Azure Kingfishers and a number of White-bellied Sea-eagles - almost eyeball to eyeball - including two occupied nests; groups of Purple Swamp-hens; powerful-looking Black-necked Storks; energetic but elegant Restless Flycatchers, Mangrove Grey and Rufous Fantails; Nankeen Night-herons; and the very impressive morning flight of Magpie Geese - a true spectacle.  After this wonderful experience, we returned to the lodge for breakfast.

An attempt was then made to locate Partridge Pigeons, which met with great success: at least five birds were located, two of which were viewed for a long period through the telescope at close range.  Our next destination was Nourlangie Rock, a site of Aboriginal drawings.  Here, in addition to the cultural interest, we found a number of bird species, including White-lined Honeyeater (one of the area's specialities), and Great Bowerbird. 

Kakadu Park HQ was the last port of call on our busy schedule, and we finally set off for Kakadu Resort for a two-night stay.

Day 7: Saturday, 20th September

Our early morning visit to Mamukala Reserve was a very rewarding experience: not only did the lagoon hold hordes of birds, but the trees and scrub around the car park and trail were alive with avian gems.  On arrival a Barking Owl was calling from the car park edge, and the dawn chorus echoed from the adjacent woodland.  The vocalisations came mainly from White-throated, Rufous-banded, White-gaped and Rufous-throated Honeyeaters, Whistling Kites, Rufous Whistlers and Yellow Orioles.  We were excited to discover Masked and Long-tailed Finches building nests - exquisite structures of fine grasses, woven around the end of a branch.

At the lagoon, we were treated to a wetland spectacle which comprised hundreds of Magpie Geese, Great and Intermediate Egrets, Royal Spoonbills, Pied Herons, Pacific Black Ducks, Grey Teals, Australian Pelicans, Comb-crested Jacanas, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels, Wood and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Australian Pratincole, Caspian, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns.  A great find, and also a rarity here, was a single Red-necked Avocet - hundreds of miles beyond its normal range.

After returning to Kakadu Resort for a welcome and hearty breakfast, we ventured to the South Alligator area - just a couple of miles from the lodge.  The habitat of open grassland, scrub and large trees supports a varied selection of bird species and we enjoyed excellent views of Zitting and Golden-headed Cisticolas, Yellow White-eye, a pair of Black-shouldered Kites, Double-barred Finches and a number of flycatcher species.  As we were about to leave South Alligator, a group member drew attention to what appeared to be a large tree trunk on the riverbank.  However, a second look revealed that this was no wooden object but an enormous Salt Water Crocodile.  Lunch was taken at the resort, where the local Brahminy Kite stooped to take food from the hand.

Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Kite

Photo: Andrew Bradford.

During the afternoon, repeat visits were made to Mamukala and South Alligator, where the bird watching was still wonderful but no new species were added to the list.  However, on the return journey a Spotted Harrier was observed quartering an open area, and we had very close views of an Australian Bustard nearby.

Day 8: Sunday, 21st September

Although we were returning to Darwin today, we had ample time for a third visit to the Mamukala Wetlands Reserve, to enjoy its marvellous bird life.  Red-backed Fairy-wrens (two males), Masked and Long-tailed Finches in particular gave stunning views, as did a male Rufous Whistler.

Our journey to Darwin was broken by two stops - the first one at the window in the wetlands ('Mary River') Interpretative Centre – a very interesting and informative project, which also hosts a wealth of bird life.  We were able to observe and compare Cicadabird, Varied and White-winged Trillers and also enjoy great views of Yellow Orioles and Rose-crowned Fruit Doves.  Our second interlude was at Fogg Dam for lunch.

After lunch we returned to Darwin, and then completed our day's birding at Nightcliff Mudflats, where we discovered a number of Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, Grey Plover, Terek Sandpiper and Grey-tailed Tattler.  Top spot, however, was the discovery of two Beach Stone-curlews, which obliged us with terrific views for several minutes.  A super ending to the day.

Day 9: Monday, 22nd September

A pre-breakfast visit to Buffalo Creek is normally a very rewarding experience, and today was no exception.  Greater Crested Terns were flying up and down the creek; a Lesser Sand Plover was on the boat ramp; two Brahminy Kites were perching in a nearby tree, and an array of honeyeaters, including Red-headed, Rufous-throated & Rufous-banded, were singing and feeding in the adjacent mangroves.  Loud squealing then attracted us to a certain point in the mangroves, and two Chestnut Rails were located, calling very close by. This provided the morning's highlight, but there were several other good sightings too: Black Butcherbird, Grey Whistler, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher and Masked Finch.

After breakfast we made our final visit to Nightcliff, whose mudflats once again held a fine selection of shorebirds, but two Collared Kingfishers were a real bonus and gave us a new species for the tour.
Just after midday we drove to Darwin Airport for our domestic flight to Alice Springs, where we arrived at around 5.00 p.m.  There we collected our vehicle and headed for The Crown Plaza, our base for the next three nights.

Day 10: Tuesday, 23rd September

The West MacDonnell Mountain Ranges (National Park) are a delightful setting, and birdwatching there is a wonderful experience.  Our destination today was Ellery Creek Big Hole – a famed geological site, and one of the furthest birding spots from our base at Alice Springs.  Our arrival there was somewhat delayed by frequent stops en route, to see exciting species such as Australian Hobby, Red-backed Kingfisher, Pied Butcherbird, Grey-headed & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and Australian Ringneck.

On reaching Ellery, we parked the vehicles and explored the creek.   A magical period of birdwatching followed, producing a fine selection of species.  Highlights among them were Sacred Kingfisher at the nest and White-plumed Honeyeaters and Weebills in the trees and scrub.  A number of birds gave superb views as they came to drink and bathe in the creek bed, including Painted and Zebra Finches, Diamond Doves, Grey Teal and White-necked Heron.  After moving back to the road we had even better views of a number of Diamond Doves, and then discovered a real avian gem - a Spinifex Pigeon, viewed at close quarters, as it perched on a log.  At Ellery Creek Waterhole, Australian and Hoary-headed Grebes and Eurasian Coots were present.

Spinifex Pigeon

Spinifex Pigeon

Photo: Gerry Griffiths

Simpson's Gap, another of the West Macdonnell geological sites, was next on our busy itinerary. Although bird life was not abundant in the heat of the day, we were able to locate some good birds.

Raptors featured very well in our observations - at the entrance we had good views of Brown Falcon in flight, then great looks at a Peregrine as it soared above the rock face to alight on a dead tree.  Wedge-tailed Eagles were seen in flight and again on the cliff face.  However, the best sightings were perhaps the Red-capped Robin and Splendid Fairy Wren (both male birds) as we approached the exit.  The past few hours had been a delight, with the fantastic scenery of the West Macdonnell Range providing a superb backdrop to some wonderful bird life - how privileged we were.

Returning to Alice Springs, we enjoyed a late lunch before visiting the local sewage ponds where we experienced a marvellous birding epilogue to the day.  This site is a 'must visit' on any birdwatcher's itinerary at Alice Springs, for there is always a large volume of birds present and anything can turn up. The selection of species present on our visit was excellent, and with such close views of the birds it was a very rewarding experience.  

There were vast numbers of Hoary-headed and Australian Grebes, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Ducks, Black-winged Stilts and Red-necked Avocets.  About 100 Pink-eared Ducks was a high number for this uncommon species - and even better were the three Australian Shovelers.  On the way back to the gate, a small pond contained a group of shorebirds that included Black-fronted Dotterel, Sharp-tailed and Wood Sandpipers and two Oriental Plovers.  What a superlative day!

Day 11: Wednesday, 24th September

Breakfast was again taken at 6.00 a.m., following which we drove to Simpson's Gap.  When we arrived, the early morning avian choral society was well in evidence.  A number of honeyeaters were showing well, including Grey-fronted and Grey-headed, Spiny-cheeked and White-plumed.  The only Black-eared Cuckoo of the tour was also seen here.

On the way from Simpson's Gap to Ormiston Gorge, we made an exciting discovery: a pair of Major Mitchell's Cockatoos at the side of the road, where it crossed a dry creek.  They performed marvellously, perching on dead tree limbs in full view, erecting their wonderfully coloured crests and also hovering above our vehicle - a simply fantastic birding experience.

Ormiston Gorge proved to be superb for bird life.  Starting in the campground, we were rewarded with first class views of Crested Pigeon, Western Ringneck and Western Bowerbird - the pinky-purple nape of the latter glistening in the sunlight.  Walking one of the trails in typical Spinifex habitat we had good views of both male and female Variegated Fairy-wren and also a Black-breasted Buzzard, but it was on returning to the camp ground that we saw the star bird: Spinifex Pigeon!  These birds offered great entertainment as they hurried about the area, and then very lovingly and gently went into mutual preening mode.  Later, near the creek, we found two species of thornbill - Chestnut-rumped and Inland.
After a fantastic morning, we drove a few kilometres beyond Ormiston Gorge to Glen Helen Gorge for our picnic lunch.  Later we birdwatched for a short while, and found White-necked Heron and Nankeen Night-Heron.

On our return to Alice Springs, we split into two groups, some going to the historical Telegraph Station*, whilst others went to Kunoth Well for more birding.  Amongst the species they recorded were Swamp Harrier, Slaty-backed Thornbill and Red-capped Robin.

* The Telegraph Station was first opened in 1872, situated midway along the overland telegraph line which stretched 3,000 km from Darwin to Adelaide, and enabled the exchange of messages to take hours instead of days.

Day 12: Thursday, 25th September

Before flying to Ayers Rock some of the group re-visited Simpson's Gap for pre-breakfast birding and were successful in seeing male Splendid Fairy-Wren and a new species - Yellow-rumped Thornbill.

Breakfast was much later than normal, and then it was time to catch the flight to Ayers Rock, where we arrived on schedule.  After driving to the hotel, where we settled in and enjoyed a light lunch, we drove into Ayers Rock National Park.  This was mainly for sightseeing, and we drove around the base of the rock to view it from various angles before going to the 'Sunset Viewing Area'.  From here, as the sun set and the light faded, we watched as the rock gradually turned a variety of spectacular colours – an impressive spectacle.

Day 13: Friday, 26th September

At 7.00 a.m. we set off for the Olgas and saw some good birds en route, including Brown Falcons and an Oriental Plover on the roadside verge, which then gracefully walked into the road, leaving us with wonderful impressions of this beautiful and elegant wader.

The magnificent scenery of the Olgas was arguably even more impressive than the birdwatching, although we did experience a good session in the 'Valley of the Winds', where, despite its name, walking the trail was easy and pleasant.  During our stroll we had excellent views of Australian Raven, Grey Shrike-thrush, Nankeen Kestrel, Rufous Whistler and Variegated Fairy-wren, but perhaps the most memorable birds were four Little Woodswallows, which obligingly alighted on a nearby fallen branch.

On returning to Yulara, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the lawns near our hotel.  Amongst the numerous bird species gathered here were Galah, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Mistletoebird, Yellow-throated Miner, Singing and Grey-headed Honeyeaters.  During the latter part of the afternoon we attempted to find Crimson Chat, but without luck; we did, however, see several gorgeous male Variegated Fairy-wrens and many Black-faced Woodswallows.

Day 14: Saturday, 27th September

Although we were leaving Yulara today, an early morning search of the scrub near our hotel revealed a good range of species – the best of these a pair of Red-backed Kingfishers.  Once again we failed to locate Crimson Chat.  We then departed for Cairns via Sydney, arriving late (at 10.00 p.m.) after flight delays.

Day 15: Sunday, 28th September

No one should visit Cairns without taking a boat trip to Michaelmas Cay in the Great Barrier Reef.  This morning we boarded the Ocean Spirit, a lovely vessel with an extremely well organised and friendly crew, and set sail at 8.30 a.m. on a beautiful morning, for an unforgettable day of exploration and enjoyment. Time passed quickly and after a very relaxed journey we were soon focusing on the Cay and its myriad seabirds.

Our first activity was to go down in a submersible to view the reef and its wonderful corals and colourful reef fish in this aquatic paradise.  Later, after ferrying the other passengers ashore, the coxswain came back for us and took us to the far end of the cay – a part that most general visitors do not see.  This proved to be very rewarding - we discovered masses of seabirds including Common Noddy and Brown Booby, and several tern species - Lesser and Greater Crested, Black-naped and Sooty.

The Cay is very special and offers superb photographic opportunities; the sheer volume of Sooty Terns and Common Noddies alone makes an amazing spectacle, and our group had a wonderful time watching the bird life, taking photographs and soaking up the beauty of this fantastic location.  After a delightful lunch on board the Ocean Spirit, we made further trips ashore, which allowed us great views of Bridled Terns perched on buoys, and two Lesser Frigatebirds.

On our relaxed homeward journey we were thoroughly entertained by a member of the crew, whose guitar playing was excellent, and we celebrated a really special day with freshly baked cake and glasses of champagne.

Day 16: Monday, 29th September

Centenary Lakes is always worth a visit, with habitats ranging from tropical trees, shrubs and flowering plants to salt and freshwater lakes, which create a wonderful environment and attract a variety of bird life.  An early morning visit to the Lakes proved to be an excellent move, for apart from seeing an abundance of birds we located some of the less common and more localised species present there.  The outstanding moment was when two Double-eyed Fig Parrots flew into a nearby tree, with one perching on a branch and then hanging upside down; only at this point did we realise that it was at its nest hole!  We enjoyed a truly wonderful few minutes watching this tiny yet gorgeous parrot.  Although we did not add greatly to our list, we spent an enjoyable time here.  Species observed included Straw-necked and Australian White Ibises, Royal Spoonbill, Sacred and Woodland Kingfishers, Brown Gerygone and Yellow, Dusky and Brown Honeyeaters.  Brown-backed Honeyeaters allowed us super views as they constructed their hanging basket-style nest, on a low branch.

We then drove north along the scenic coastal highway, stopping at Wangetti Beach for a very pleasant hour's birdwatching.  Outstanding moments here were provided by eight Lovely Fairy-wrens, which put on a great display.  We continued our journey northwards to Kingfisher Park, a delightful birdwatcher's lodge, where we were able to see several localised species within minutes of arriving.

The strategically placed bird feeders attract numerous species including Macleay's, Blue-faced and White-throated Honeyeaters, Rainbow Lorikeet, Emerald Dove and Red-browed Finch.

A very tasty lunch was followed by a visit to Mt Carbine and the surrounding area.  At East Mary Road our target species was Australian Bustard and we hit the jackpot, seeing about 20 birds, including several displaying males.  A group of three Pale-headed Rosellas was a good find in Mt Carbine, but Squatter Pigeons were not seen.  Back at Kingfisher Park we experienced a fantastic end to the day when the rare and secretive Red-necked Crake came into the gully behind Ron, the owner’s, house. We used Ron's garage as a hide!

Day 17: Tuesday, 30th September

The birdwatching on Mt Lewis is normally scintillating and today was just such a day, where every bird seemed to be a new species!

Taking time to enjoy watching the species that we encountered, we were treated to some fantastic birding, with endemic and local specialities cropping up everywhere.  Within minutes of getting out of the minibuses we were watching Rufous-tailed Thrush, Golden Whistler, Atherton Scrubwren, White-throated Treecreeper, Grey Fantail, Spotted Catbird, Eastern Spinebill and Mountain Thornbill.  White-cheeked Honeyeaters were numerous on certain flowering shrubs and trees, and a male Victoria's Riflebird was very obliging on his display perch.

Walking along the trail towards the Golden Bowerbird site we encountered a number of new species including the odd-looking Topknot Pigeon, Yellow-throated Scrubwren and vociferous Lewin's and Bridled Honeyeaters.  However, a very memorable moment was the discovery of a family party of Chowchillas as they scratched around in the leaf litter. Watching the Golden Bowerbird was a fantastic experience, with the male bird singing from his perch directly above our heads, and then visiting his bower only a few yards in front of us.  As we returned along the trail we found a Tooth-billed Bowerbird that was very obliging - he was sitting just two feet above our heads and directly over his bower, which he had constructed out of large leaves.  We were able to see him well through the telescope and he confirmed his presence with a constant but unimpressive vocal barrage.  Our fabulous morning in the rainforest was now over and we returned to Kingfisher Park for lunch.

In the afternoon, we were privileged to be escorted by our host guide, Stuart, to Mt Malloy Oval and shown a Square-tailed Kite's nest.  At first only the sitting bird's tail was in view, but then the off-nest bird appeared with food and we were lucky enough to see both birds standing on the rim of the nest.
Back at Kingfisher Park, our run of luck continued with great views of the Red-necked Crake for the second evening in succession.

After another appetising dinner, we ventured out on a night walk in the company of Stuart, who was extremely patient and willing to share his extensive knowledge of the wildlife. Amongst the variety of species we encountered were Barn Owl, Northern Brown and Long-nosed Bandicoots and Lesow's Frog.

Day 18: Wednesday, 1st October

A pre-breakfast walk around the Kingfisher Park 'Loop' made a very pleasant start to the day.  This is a circular walk traversing a range of habitats, from rainforest to stream and open grassland.  Red-backed Fairy-wrens, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets and White-faced Honeyeaters were amongst a host of colourful avian gems.  Other species observed included Bower's Shrike-thrush, Metallic Starling, Laughing Kookaburra, Large-billed Scrubwren and Brown Gerygone.  Making our way around was a pleasant morning experience and when we returned to the lodge, we were ready to eat the hearty breakfast prepared for us.  It was then time to bid a fond farewell to Kingfisher Park.

On our way to Yungaburra we visited Lake Mitchell, a superb wetland site.  Here we found a multitude of birds: amongst the species present were Black Swan, Black-necked Stork, Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Great Egret, Grey Teal, Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Next on the agenda was Tinaroo Creek Road, a reliable site for Squatter Pigeon, and we were extremely pleased to discover at least ten of this species at a cattle water hole.  We completed our journey to Yungaburra, and before dinner visited the Platypus viewing area, where we were elated to see one of these amazing creatures as it swam in front of the hide.

Day 19: Thursday, 2nd October

A pre-breakfast sortie to Lake Eacham proved once again that birding there is an exhilarating experience - our time spent there was most rewarding.  The area simply vibrates with birdsong as a diverse dawn chorus reaches its crescendo in this rainforest haven.  Wompoo Fruit Doves, Brown Cuckoo-Doves, King Parrots, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Double-toothed Bowerbirds, Little and Bower's Shrike-Thrushes, Victoria's Riflebirds, Eastern Whipbirds, Grey-headed Robins and Barred Cuckoo-shrikes all added their distinctive voices, and we enjoyed watching and listening to all of them.  Several of these species are usually difficult to see, typically Wompoo Fruit Dove, Victoria's Riflebird and Eastern Whipbird, but we were fortunate to enjoy extremely good views.  It seems that at Lake Eacham these elusive species are a little more obliging!  A further treat was in store, for along the lakeside trail we discovered a pair of White-headed Pigeons building a nest, allowing us grandstand views.

One of the star tourist attractions near Yungaburra is the 'Curtain Fig Tree', a massive specimen, and certainly the largest in the area.  During our visit we saw no new birds, but had super views of a range of species that were now familiar to us.

At Lake Barrine, a new bird for the list was Great Crested Grebe - and there were over a hundred of them, in the company of Dusky Moorhen, Hardhead, Wandering Whistling Duck and Little Black Cormorant.  Displaying Shining Bronze Cuckoos were a really good find and we were able to watch them for some time, enabling various identification points to be studied well; Brown Gerygones also allowed us splendid views.  After a tasty lunch in the cafe, where some of the group indulged in a cream tea, we set off for Tinaburra Waters. Many Sarus Cranes were present, and surprise discoveries were four Pink-eared Ducks and an Australian Wood Duck.

Our final destination today was Mt Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls, a popular site with tourists, but also a great birding location.  Bridled Honeyeaters and Grey-headed Robins were common, but the top spot went to the family party of Chowchillas.  By the stream, a Fernwren called at very close quarters and presented a real challenge to locate, but our great patience went unrewarded.  On the journey there (and back!) we noticed two very different species along the roadside verges: Crimson Rosella and Grey Goshawk.

Day 20: Friday, 3rd October

This morning our group split into two parties, one returning to Mt Hypipamee Crater, and the other visiting the Platypus viewing platform and the Curtain Fig Tree.  The Curtain Fig Tree party managed to locate a couple of new species - Black-faced Monarch and Chestnut-breasted Manakin - but the Mt Hypipamee party didn’t see the Fernwren, which they had hoped for.  However, consolation was provided on returning to the hotel, for we all enjoyed wonderful views of Scarlet Honeyeater, feeding on tree blossom by the cottages.

After breakfast we looked in at Hastie's and Bromfield Swamps: the former was rather dried up and held comparatively few birds, but the latter had attracted good numbers of both crane species (Sarus Crane & Brolga).

Lunch was taken at Lake Barrine, and then we drove to Cairns for a high tide wader watch along its esplanade.  Amongst the gathering shorebirds were Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Terek Sandpiper and Grey-tailed Tattler - a great end to the day.

Day 21: Saturday, 4th October

Cairns Crocodile Farm is a well-known birding site and offers a reduced entry fee for birdwatchers.  A super period of birding here produced at least six White-browed Crakes (this is probably the best known and most reliable site for seeing them).  The pools here attract a wide variety of birds and allow close scrutiny of species such as Royal Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Great and Intermediate Egrets, Striated Heron, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Greenshank.  Feeding in a small, partly dried up pool were Marsh Sandpiper, Black-fronted Dotterels and Black-winged Stilts - a wonderful sight.

Red-backed Fairy-wrens and Crimson Finches were very showy and obliging, displaying their gorgeous colours.  At the end of our walk we found a Buff-banded Rail and some of our party also had views of a Wedge-tailed Eagle as it soared overhead.  After a wonderful morning's birding we relaxed and enjoyed a well-earned ice cream.

We returned to Cairns for the next part of our carefully planned itinerary: watching shorebirds on the incoming tide, whilst enjoying a picnic lunch.  This was a real treat, with grandstand seats, lunch in the shade, and rafts of shorebirds.  We were delighted to see Red-capped Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Grey-tailed Tattler, and Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers – and amongst a group of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers we found a Pectoral Sandpiper!

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Cairns Cemetery, a known site for Bush Stone-curlew, and were successful in seeing a family party (two adults and a juvenile). What a super ending to an Avian Adventure in the magical land of 'Oz'!

Day 22: Sunday, 5th October

For our last birdwatching sortie we visited Centenary Lakes before breakfast, and as usual a great variety of species were present.  Particularly noteworthy were three Bush Stone-curlews, a rufous form of Black Butcherbird - a very uncommon occurrence - and a female Mistletoebird peering out of its domed hanging-basket nest.

Breakfast was later than usual, and afterwards we relaxed before driving to Cairns Airport for our Quantas flight to Singapore and connecting flight to London Heathrow, where the tour concluded the following morning (Day 23, 6th October).

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