Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Australia:  (Darwin, Cairns, Melbourne, Brisbane) 2 – 23 October 2005  ,


By Edward Hall and Jim Zimmer,  San Diego, California

Jim Zimmer and I recently spent 21 days of intense birding in the vicinity of Darwin, Cairns, Melbourne and Brisbane.  We made all of our own arrangements via the internet – accommodations, transportation, and guides.  We used top Australian birding guides throughout.  Our itinerary follows.  We saw a bit over 400 species during our stay, most new to us.

There are many, many websites and travel reports available to guide anyone who might wish to mount such an expedition.  Doing so involves a considerable amount of work.  Jim and I would be pleased to assist  should you wish to contact us.

I will not go into lists or specific bird sightings here.  There are so many species to be seen that it becomes the luck of the draw as to what you end up with given equal effort and skill.  We studied our field guides intensely for about a year before going and cannot over-emphasize the benefit of doing so. (Jim cut up and made flip cards out of an extra copy of Pizzey.  There’s also available an excellent CD Rom of Australian bird images and calls, a big help with look-a-like species.)   You cannot study too much.   My comments below are a collection of hints and observations that might be helpful to others.

We encountered very few insects anywhere.  Only rarely was a thin application of repellant in order, e.g., when walking through the mangroves or in an area of especially numerous flies.  Interesting also was the total absence of thorns except on some non-native plants here and there.

We got a package deal from Qantas for all of our international and domestic flights.  They were very helpful.  Just tell them where you want to go and they’ll figure out the best way to do it.  I have millions of miles of business flying under my belt on many airlines.  This was my first time on Qantas.  Everything about our experience with Qantas on this trip was outstanding compared to my experience elsewhere.

Interestingly, every motel and hotel room in Australia seems to come with a large electric kettle, some “bisquits”, tea (regular and herbal), instant coffee, a small frig and milk (intended for the tea and coffee).  The latter often provided a good breakfast poured over dry cereal. This is very convenient for birding because it allows you to easily be up and out fast in the AM without wasting the best birding time bogged down in some restaurant (that is unlikely to be open that early, anyway).

On the subject of food – don’t try to bring anything into Australia with you.  My jerky, dried fruit, nuts, and cereal with nuts all disappeared at the Brisbane airport agricultural inspection station even when in the original packaging.  Everything was easily replaced except the jerky which seems to come only in expensive, small packages there – beef only.

ATM’s are everywhere.  American Express is not always happily accepted if at all.  Some guides need to be paid in cash and you may need to load up on $A for a day or so to have enough when needed.

Guides:  All were excellent but two clearly stand out – Del Richards in Cairn and Phil Maher in Deniliquin.  These two gentlemen were clearly amongst the most expert and all-around excellent birding guides you could ever experience.  I also need to single out Tania Ireton in Melbourne.  She is a BirdingPal (see website), i.e., volunteer, and a very accomplished birder/guide – right on our wavelength. She provided “tailgated” AM tea and goodies as well.  How can you beat that?  We spent the day with her at Philip Island – one of our most prolific days.  Naturally you would expect to cover her expenses, lunch, etc.

I especially need to mention Denise Goodfellow in Darwin.  I encourage you to visit her website.  Denise is an adopted member of an aboriginal tribe, and avid environmentalist and an expert birder and field naturalist - a fascinating and, extremely knowledgeable person.  If you are going to Darwin, please obtain (through Amazon or elsewhere) a copy of her book, “Birds of Australia’s Top End”.  There is a lot there that will help you with location (for each species that occurs in the Top End, she tells you specifically where best to look for it) and bird ID all written in an unusually informative, organized and often humerous fashion. 

The Kingfisher Lodge outside of Cairns is truly a top place to stay and to bird at and out of.  It is under new and excellent, management – as is the Highlander restaurant down the highway a km or so (formerly the “Tavern”).  The Highlander is a very glorified pub with excellent beer, of course, but also a very eclectic, international menu prepared very well.  We ate all of our dinners there.

Cassowary House was rustic even for out tastes, especially considering the price.  There are better rooms available than those we were assigned.  You might consider spending the day there (with excellent meals) rather than staying overnight. We did get the Cassoway – very close and personal.

In Mossman, eat at the (lawn) Bowling Club (open to the public) around the corner from the Demi View Motel  -  good beer, good hearty food and a chance to experience the local scene.

All of our guides carried “Slater” (left) as a field guide, not Pizzey.  Pizzey is too big and bulky to qualify as a field guide and our guides said that Slater’s drawings are better.  Pizzey (right) does have somewhat more written information about each species and would be interesting as a backup reference.

We were in Darwin and Cairns just pre-monsoon.  It was hat and humid – but no rain and only a couple of leechs, all discovered easily before making contact with skin. We “Premethrined” our clothing heavily before going.  High rubber boots were not required anywhere – nor was a 4WD vehicle although it was re-assuring outside of Darwin to have the extra clearance.  Whatever you get, be sure that the rental agency permits travel on un-sealed roads or, if not, that you buy extra insurance for that purpose.  We rented through Avis (excellent service, convenience and selection) and no additional insurance was required anywhere.

We were initially inclined to not travel to Deniliquin (Plain’s Wanderer being the most famous attraction).  That would have been a major mistake!  It is a fairly short, beautiful drive up there from Melbourne.  After birding at Werribee, we made our way half way there to Heathcote that night, birded that area in the early AM then made out way to Denilquin to meet Phil Maher at 1300.  We birded with Phil until 2300 that night and from pre-dawn until 1300 the next day – two days worth of exhilarating birding in 24 hours.  There are a lot of birds to be seen in that area that you cannot see anywhere else we traveled – and Phil knows where they all are, it seems.  A large flock of colossal Emu’s jogging across the plains at sunset is not to be missed – nor is the Plains Wanderer, especially the search for it.

Finally, we saw, perhaps, a dozen kinds of Kangaroos/Wallabies, some Koalas and some Platypus plus assorted creepie/crawlie things – some quite large….  The nighttime animal walk outside of Yungaburra with Alan Gillanders was very interesting – many good sightings.

Edward Hall

Jim Zimmer

Ed Hall/Jim Zimmer


9/30 – 10/2: ETD LAX Qantas #176/824 to Darwin via Brisbane ETA Darwin 1235 on Oct. 2.  Meet guide, Denise Goodfellow ( 61 0 8 89 328306 @ 1600).  Denise will be with us as guide until PM Oct. 5.  Night @ Freespirit Resort, Darwin ( 8935 0888).

10/3: PM @ Diggers Rest Motel, Pine Creek, NT ( Attn. Pat Smith)

10/4: PM @ Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru, NT ( # 08 8979 2422).

10/5: PM @ Darwin Airport Resort ( 8920 333).

10/6: ETD Darwin @ 0600 via Qantas # 801, ETA Cairns @ 0850.  Night @ Cassowary House, Kuranda, Q’land. ( 61 0 740 937318).

10/7,8: Guide – Del Richards ( 7 4094 1199.  Nights @ Kingfisher Park Lodge, Juletten, North Queensland ( 7 4094 1263).

10/9: Night @ Demi View Motel, Mossman, Queensland..Ph: 07 4098 1277 fax: 07 4098 2102. 

10/10: Guide: Peter Cooper of Mangrove Man Tours in AM ( 61 7 4098 2066, mobile 0409 982066). PM with guide, Alan Gillanders ( 07 4095 3784). Night @ Yungaburra Park Motel, Yungaburra, Queensland ( 4095 3211).

10/11: Guide – Alan Gillanders as above. Night: as 10/10 above..

10/12: ETD Cairns @ 1330 via Qantas #703, ETA Melbourne 1655.  Night @ TBD.

10/13: Day w/o guide.  Night @ Ferntree Gully Motel, Ferntree Gully, Victoria.

10/14: Guide – Tania Ireton ( Night @ Comfort Inn and Suites, Werribee, Victoria. Ph. 03 97419944.

10/15: Guide – David Torr ( Night @ Heathcote Motor Inn, Heathcote, Victoria. Ph. 03 5433 2655.

10/16: Drive north to Deniliquin.  Meet guide, Phil Maher of Australian Ornithological Services @ 1600 ( 3 98204223 or 5881 3378 or 5278). Night @ Peppin Motor Inn, Deniliquin, NSW (61 3 5881 2722).

10/17-23: AM – Guide as above.  PM – drive to Melbourne airport.  ETD Melbourne @ 2005 via Qantas #636, ETA Brisbane @ 2210.  Met by guide, Roy Sonnenburg of Birding Services Brisbane ( 732 566952).  Stay at his B&B that night and night of 10/22.  With Roy throughout stay in Brisbane staying in multiple locations.  Night of 10/18 @ O’Reilly’s Lodge ( 7 55 44 0644).

10/23: ETD Brisbane @ 1110 via Qantas #175, ETA LAX @ 0700 THE SAME DAY.  Rent car.  Drive home, ETA SD pre-noon.

We have arranged for a cell phone usable in Australia thru which we might be contacted.  From the US, dial 011-61-424-223-643.  From Australia dial 0-424-223-643.  It’s probably better to leave messages where we’ll be staying or with our guides as it is unlikely that we’ll always carry the phone around during the day.

Note time and date change, US vs. CA.  When it is, e.g., 1300 in CA, it is 0700 on the following day in Aust (E. coast) – ½ hr. earlier in Darwin.  That is, Aust. Is 18 hrs ahead of  CA.


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?