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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

South East Australia (including Tasmania) 17 January - 2 February 2002,

Gruff Dodd, 2 Clos Tawe, Barri, Bro Morgannwg, Cymru/Wales; Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk


Introduction and strategy


Two weeks may seem too short a time for such a long-distance trip, but after this experience we would not hesitate to do it again. However, the secret is not to try to cover too big an area - travelling distances in Australia are large and you could easily waste a large percentage of your trip travelling.

We therefore decided to just cover the south east corner of Australia, minimising the amount of time lost due to travelling. Our route took us firstly to the Melbourne area for a few days, from which we flew to Tasmania. From there we returned to Melbourne, and travelled overland to Deniliquin, then east to Beechworth and Chiltern, before driving up to the Illawarra region south of Sydney for a few days, and finishing the trip in Sydney itself.

We were delighted with the way the trip worked out. Thanks to the huge amount of local assistance we received I managed to see 274 species in just 2 weeks birding. This represents about a third of Australian species (excluding island territories), despite covering only a tiny corner of the country. The whole journey was totally stress-free and relaxing, we saw some great sights, met some fabulous people and basically can't wait to go back.

Not only did I see a lot of species, but the quality was superb. Some of the highlights included:

  The large flock of Freckled Ducks at Werribee;

  Three species of crake (Spotted, Spotless and Baillon's) in 15 minutes at Edithvale;

  The stunning Hooded Plovers at Cape Woolamai;

  Cleaning up on the Tasmanian endemics on Bruny Island and Mount Wellington;

  Plains-wanderer and Inland Dotterel near Deniliquin;

  Eastern Bristlebird at point blank range at Barren Grounds; and

  Glossy Black Cockatoos feeding on Casuarina nuts at Wiseman's Ferry.

The trip was also notable in that it provided me with my 2,500th life bird - an Eastern Whipbird at Lake Kerford.


Acknowledgements


We owe a huge debt of thanks to all the people who turned this trip into such a huge success and enjoyable experience. Tania Ireton was an absolute star - she joined us for 2 days birding around Melbourne as well as for 4 days around Deniliquin and Beechworth, driving us around throughout, and got me some outstanding birds. Richard Nowotny and Diana Bryant also accompanied us on our day west of Melbourne and very kindly put us up in their home for the three nights we were in Melbourne. Wonderful people and great company.

Thanks to Tonia Cochran for making our stay at Inala an experience we will always remember. Phil Maher's guiding around Deniliquin and Beechworth was simply outstanding and his wife Patricia organised everything so efficiently. Also, thanks to Sam Tipton who joined Tania, Sara and I on this part of the trip and who was brilliant company. Thanks also to Murray Lord who gave me great info on Tasmanian birding and also took us out for our final day north of Sydney and got me some birds I hadn't even hoped to see!

Many thanks to the following who also offered to take me out birding - Tom Tarrant, David Fischer, Anthea and Brian Fleming, Carol Probets, Chris Coleborn, Jack Krohn, John Gamblin, Marc Anderson, Phil Hansbro, Russell Woodford and Trevor Quested. I actually had more offers of help than I had days available to bird, which tells you everything you need to know about Aussie hospitality!

Finally, thanks to all those on Birding-aus who gave me advice and help while planning the trip - Alastair Smith, Ed Smith, Giles Daubeney, Ron Johns, Howard Jolliffe, Jenni and Jim Reside, Julian Bielewicz, Penny Drake-Brockman, Peter Milburn, Philip Veerman and my old pal Tommy Pedersen.


Getting there


We flew with Olympic Airways at a cost of UKP 582 each including taxes. The flights were booked through Airline Network in London (phone 0800 727747). Flight times were as follows:

Outwards: Depart LHR 17.01.02 22:15, arrive Athens 18.01.02 03:55

Depart Athens 18.01.02 13:35, arrive Melbourne 19.01.02 21:55 via Bangkok and Sydney

Return: Depart Sydney 02.02.02 20:20, arrive Athens 03.02.02 11:05 via Melbourne and Bangkok

Depart Athens 03.02.02 13:20, arrive LHR 03.02.02 15:30

Very long flights, but reasonably comfortable, and the various stops broke up the journey pretty well. In January, the time differences between the UK and the various stops were as follows:

  Athens + 2 hours

  Bangkok + 7 hours

  Melbourne and Sydney + 11 hours


Bird Guides


I hired professional bird guides in two locations - Bruny Island and Deniliquin.

Tonia Cochran runs and owns Inala on South Bruny, Tasmania, and is available for hire as a bird or nature guide, or for general guiding. I hired her for one day to try to ensure that I saw all the Tasmanian endemics, and we cleaned up in about 6 hours apart from Black Currawong which is not easy in summer on Bruny (altitudinal migrant - easier on Bruny in winter). Most of the endemics I managed to see on my own as well, but Tonia got me my only Scrubtit, and also found some other excellent birds such as Brown Quail, Crescent and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, Pink Robin, Beautiful Firetail, Olive Whistler etc.

She provides 4WD transport and a cracking packed lunch, and is a really nice person and excellent birder. She charged AUD 480 (UKP 178) for the day, which is pretty steep, but worth it in my opinion. Of course, it works out a lot cheaper if there is a group of you - the cottage sleeps 6. Contact Tonia on Tel (03) 6293 1217, fax (03) 6293 1082, e-mail inala@inalabruny.com.au, web site: http://www.inalabruny.com.au/ She may also be available for guiding elsewhere on Tasmania - check with Tonia for details.

Phil Maher and his wife Patricia run Australian Ornithological Services out of Deniliquin. Phil is famous as the man for showing you Plains-wanderer, but there is a heck of a lot more to Phil than that! I saw some of the most outstanding birds of the trip during our time with Phil, e.g. Inland Dotterel, Square-tailed Kite, Painted Honeyeater, Superb Parrot, Powerful Owl, Australasian Bittern etc etc. He also loves Poms, the new Morcombe field guide, and is especially fond of a nice cold pie for his lunch :-)

Phil charged AUD 440 (UKP 163) for the first day's guiding, including a nocturnal spotlighting trip for Plains-wanderer and other stuff. Thereafter his fee was AUD 380 (UKP 141) per day around Deniliquin, or AUD 475 (UKP 176) away from Deniliquin, plus his hotel and meal costs. The rates include 4WD transport throughout

We shared the cost between three birders (Tania, Sam and myself), and with not needing to hire transport it worked our very reasonably in the end. I paid a total of AUD 573 (UKP 212) for four days guiding with transport, and in return got some of the best birding of my life. Car hire for the four days would have cost me around UKP 120, so the guiding only really added UKP 25 per day to the cost - an absolute bargain. Phil can be contacted via his wife Patricia on Tel/fax (03) 9820 4223 e-mail - enquiries@philipmaher.com web site - http://www.philipmaher.com/main.htm

Note that Phil is also available as guide elsewhere in Australia - contact Phil for details.

I also made contact with one other guide, named Carol Probets, who is based at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. I would have liked to hire her services, but time was too short and furthermore the problems with the forest fires in the Blue Mountains at the start of 2002 meant that I was unable to finalise any arrangements for that part of the trip until very shortly before I travelled. Carol quoted me a very reasonable rate for her guiding services - contact her on origma@lisp.com.au

Finally both Richard Nowotny and Tania Ireton have indicated that they are very willing to show visiting birders around the Melbourne area free of charge, if they have the time. I would highly recommend that you contact them and take them up on this most generous offer - you'll have a great time. Richard can be contacted on richard.nowotny@bigpond.com and Tania on Tania.Ireton@dcb.defence.gov.au


Travelling around


We were extremely lucky in that we did not need to hire a car either during our time in Melbourne or on our trip up to Deniliquin as Tania Ireton and Richard Nowotny very kindly drove us around. For the Deniliquin trip Tania picked us up at Melbourne airport on 25.1, and dropped us off in Wodonga on 30.1.

We hired a car in two locations. Both were researched in advance over the internet, and in both cases National Car Rental proved comfortably the cheapest option. We hired a Toyota Corolla from them from Hobart airport for 3 days, collecting on 22.1.02 and returning it on 25.1.02. The total cost was AUD 171 (UKP 63). National kindly loaned us a detailed road atlas of the Hobart area which proved very useful. The car was perfectly large enough for us and all our luggage, and 4WD wasn't necessary for the areas we visited.

We also hired a Toyota Jazz from National in Albury-Wodonga on 30.1.02 on a one way rental, returning it to Sydney airport 4 days later on 2.2.02. The total cost was AUD 228 (UKP 84). Note that this was substantially cheaper than any other company, as the majority charge a one-way drop off fee for such a hire. However, National do not charge one way fees for rentals within the same state, and although their location here is in Wodonga in Victoria, its official location is Albury which is in NSW, thereby saving us c. AUD 250! The car was, however, a little small, and we had to put some of our luggage on the back seat, which discouraged us from leaving it unattended for too long.

Both reservations were made by e-mail to Fred Fink on internationalres@nationalcar.com, or check out their web site - http://www.nationalcar.com.au/

We didn't really drive any roads on which 4WD was necessary, although it was useful on some of the dirt roads. The roads on Bruny are a mix of tar and gravel (mostly tar), and you need to drive carefully on the latter as there is a lot of loose surface material. I was rushing for the ferry on 24.1.02, skidded on a corner and ended up facing the way I'd just come from. Luckily I didn't hit anything as the car hire insurance excess carries stiff penalties for damage done on gravel roads.

Our return flights from Melbourne to Hobart were made with Qantas, and again booked on-line in advance - http://www.qantas.com.au/regions/dyn/home/qualifier-region-au The cost was AUD 198 (UKP 73) each. Flights take about an hour and leave at frequent intervals during the day. It may be worth checking out this site nearer your date of travel if you can be flexible - they seemed to have some great deals available at short notice, e.g. some three weeks before we travelled they were offering one way flights from Melbourne to Sydney for about AUD 80 (UKP 30).

We took taxis on a couple of occasions, from Melbourne airport to Port Melbourne on 19.1.02 (AUD 55 - UKP 20) and back on 22.1.02 (AUD 40 - UKP 15).

Finally, we also took a couple of car ferries. The boat to Bruny Island runs from Kettering on mainland Tasmania, south of Kingston, to Roberts' Point on North Bruny - it is about an hour's drive plus stops from there to Inala. See the following web site for details, including a timetable - http://www.transport.tas.gov.au/services/bruny_island/ The first ferry from Kettering leaves at 06:50, and the last at 18:30, while the return trip runs from 07:15 to 19:00. There is a reduced service on Sundays. Note that there is no advance booking - it's first come first served, and costs AUD 21 (UKP 8) for the return trip.

The other ferry we took was to Wiseman's Ferry, which was free as it is considered part of the federal road network.


Costs & Money


The currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD), and the exchange rate against sterling (UKP) at the time of my visit was UKP 1 = AUD 2.70. This is the exchange rate I have used in translating costs throughout this report.

Credit cards are accepted in most places and there are plenty of ATM's about, although in places like Bruny it would be wise to make sure you have enough cash with you to cover incidentals.

Petrol cost AUD 0.77 (UKP 0.29) per litre - extremely cheap by UK standards, as was the cost of food and accommodation.

The total cost of the trip is estimated at UKP 2,600 for 2 people (UKP 1,300 each):

   International flights - UKP 1,164

   Internal flights - UKP 146

   Car hire - UKP 147

   Guiding - UKP 390

   Accommodation - UKP 349

   Meals & incidentals - UKP 400


Accommodation and food


We stayed at the following places (all accommodation prices are per double room):

19.1.02 - 21.1.02

Stayed with Richard Nowotny and Diana Bryant in Port Melbourne

22.1.02 - 23.1.02

Inala, Bruny Island, Tasmania. If you come to Bruny, you must stay here. Absolutely idyllic. We paid AUD 143 (UKP 53) for sole use of the wonderful 6 bed cottage one night, and AUD 110 (UKP 41) to share with another couple the other night. Self-catering facilities available - stock up before you catch the ferry and bring it with you There are very few options for eating on Bruny - we struggled to find a restaurant that was open, and there are very few shops. .

24.1.02

City View Motel, 30 Tasman Highway, Montagu Bay, Hobart. AUD 90 (UKP 33) per night including breakfast. Part of the nationwide Golden Chain group. Very comfortable and quiet, with fantastic views down over Hobart harbour. Also, it's on the east side of the river, so you don't have to drive through the city to get to the airport. No catering on site. Phone (03) 6243 8388

25.1.02 - 27.1.02

Peppin Motor Inn, Crispe Street, Deniliquin, NSW. AUD 65 (UKP 24) per night. AUD 200 (UKP 74) for full board for two people for the whole stay. Great people - couldn't do enough for us. Tel (03) 5881 2722, fax (03) 5881 1661

28.1.02

Golden Heritage Motor Inn, 51 Sydney Road, Beechworth, Victoria. AUD 78 (UKP 29) per night. Lovely place on the edge of town, with good birding in the gardens, including regular Gang-gang Cockatoos. Tel (03) 5728 1404, fax (03) 5728 2119, e-mail motorinn@dragnet.com.au, web site http://www.beechworth.com/motorinn/

29.1.02

Murray Valley Motel, 196 Melbourne Road, Wodonga, Victoria. AUD 70 (UKP 26) per night. Member of the Budget motel chain. Very comfortable and good value. Tel (02) 6024 1422, fax (02) 6024 1279, e-mail murrayvalley@hotkey.net.au, web site http://www.alburywodongamotels.com.au/murrayvalley/

30.1.02 - 31.1.02

Ocean View Motor Inn, Bong Bong Street, Kiama, NSW. AUD 77 (UKP 29) per night. Nice quiet place in a very pleasant town. Tel (02) 4232 1966, fax (02) 4232 1010

1.2.02

Rooftop Motel, 146 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, Sydney. AUD 99 (UKP 37) per night. Not as nice as the other places we stayed, but comfortable and clean, and unbelievable value (including secure free parking) for central Sydney - just 4 km from Circular Quay, Sydney. The bus stops right outside. Tel (02) 9660 7777, fax (03) 9660 7155, e-mail reservations@rooftopmotel.com.au

I was very impressed with not only the value of motel accommodation in Australia compared with Europe, but also with the level of service offered. As for food, the choice was enormous, and of high quality. In the little street in Sydney where we stayed we counted at least 15 different nationality of restaurant, so there should be something for everyone.


Red tape


To visit Australia, most nationalities will need a tourist visa. Airline Network obtained ours for us electronically at the time of booking the tickets - it cost us UKP 10 each. There was nothing in our passports to show we had a visa, but it all checked out when we arrived.

Australia was on full foot and mouth alert when we got there, and we had to hand over our shoes for disinfecting. There are also rules about importing certain foods e.g. meat and dairy products were not permitted, and there are internal regulations prohibiting transporting certain foods within Australia. Take these restrictions very seriously as the Australian authorities certainly do.


Weather


We were visiting in mid summer, which meant that while it was generally warm in the Melbourne area and extremely pleasant on Tasmania, it was very hot inland, especially on the plains around Deniliquin. If you hire a car, make sure it has air con. Sydney was also warm, but also very humid, which was a little uncomfortable. The only really bad weather we had was on our first morning in Sydney when it poured down, and at Barren Grounds, where it was foggy and wet throughout our time there, even when it was dry and sunny at Kiama at the foot of the escarpment.


Health, safety & annoyances


Australia is "blessed" with a huge number and variety of extremely poisonous snakes, spiders etc but we didn't come across any, although it pays to be careful where you step in the bush. Tania also told us about one common and very unpleasant house-dwelling spider (White-tailed Spider?) which likes to climb into piles of clothes etc left in the floor and can give an extremely unpleasant bite, so we were meticulous about not leaving clothes lying around after that! As a serious arachnophobe I was delighted not to meet any of these beasts during my stay!

Nothing else worth mentioning really, except for the need to use a good sunblock regularly - don't forget about that hole in the ozone layer during the austral summer. It felt very safe throughout.


References:


Books:

  Field Guide to Australian Birds - Morcombe. I bought this just before visiting, and got comprehensively mocked by every Aussie birder I met as a result!! The general consensus was that I should have opted instead for Slater & Slater or Simpson & Day. I actually liked it, however, and managed to identify the large majority of what I came across, even in the first few days when everything was new and Tania and Richard were testing me on what we were seeing, so it can't be that bad!

  The complete guide to finding the Birds of Australia - Thomas & Thomas. An excellent site guide, although as it is based on their own trips and what they themselves saw, it does have a tendency only to mention a small number of key species for sites, leaving you little idea about what else to expect. For example, the only species it mentions for Phillip Island is Little Penguin, although there is obviously a lot more to see here.

  Where to watch birds in Australasia and Oceania - Wheatley. Useful background stuff - although Thomas and Thomas is much more comprehensive, the checklists in Wheatley give you a more comprehensive idea of what to expect at each site.

Tapes:

  Field Guide to Australian Birdsong - Buckingham & Jackson. An excellent series of 12 tapes, and well worth getting. I had a real struggle obtaining these - Wildsounds are apparently the sole European distributor, and they were out of stock of about 4 of them. I eventually obtained the full set from The Birding Shop, Hawthorn, Victoria, and they only cost me AUD 150 (UKP 55) plus postage, which is about half what Wildsounds sell them for! You can e-mail The Birding Shop on sarah@thebirdingshop.com, or check out their web site - http://www.thebirdingshop.com/

Trip reports:

I used the following reports, obtained from the usual sites, e.g. http://www.birdtours.co.uk/

  Australia - 24.9.99 - 21.10.99 - Tony Clarke. A poignant read as it was Phoebe Snetsinger's last full trip before her tragic death in Madagascar.

  Tasmania - February 1996 - John Leonard

  South East Australia and New Caledonia - 21.7.98 - 22.8.98 - Richard Fairbank

  Southeast Australia - November 1994 - Robert Weissler

  Southeast Australia - 28.11.99 - 19.12.99 - Jon Hornbuckle

  Tasmania - February 2001 - Tommy Pedersen

  South East Australia - January 2000 - Tommy Pedersen

Maps:

  The Penguin Australian Road Atlas - an excellent buy in Melbourne airport at AUD 25 - very comprehensive, when used in conjunction with the site maps in Thomas & Thomas.

  http://www.wilmap.com.au/vicmaps/phillipis.html - useful map of Phillip Island

  http://www.huontrail.org.au/maps/bruny_channelmap.html - map of Bruny Island


Itinerary


Sites visited were as follows:

19.1.02

Arrive Melbourne

20.1.02

Belmont, Great Ocean Road (Point Addis, Anglesea, Torquay), Werribee (Western Treatment Works)

21.1.02

Edithvale, Braeside Park, Moorooduc Quarry, Phillip Island

22.1.02

Fly to Hobart, Fern Tree, Peter Murrell Reserve. Ferry to Bruny Island, Inala

23.1.02

South Bruny Island

24.1.02

Inala, ferry to Kettering, Waterworks Park (Hobart), Mount Field, Mount Wellington

25.1.02

Fly to Melbourne, drive to Deniliquin, birding around the town

26.1.02

Deniliquin

27.1.02

Deniliquin, Gulpa State Forest

28.1.02

Finlay, Savenake, Killawarra Forest, Warby Range, Beechworth, Chiltern

29.1.02

Beechworth, Mount Pilot, Cyanide Dam, Lake Kerford, Chiltern. Drive to Wodonga

30.1.02

Drive to Kiama, Fitzroy Falls, Barren Grounds,

31.1.02

Barren Grounds, Minnamurra

01.2.02

Barren Grounds, drive to Sydney. General tourist stuff

02.2.02

Dural, Laughtondale Gully, Wiseman's Ferry, Dharug, Mitchell Park, Sydney. Fly home


Site Details


Sites referred to in the annotated list and daily account sections are explained in a little more details below:

Great Ocean Road, Victoria

This is the stretch of road that follows the coast south west from Geelong. The main site we visited along here was Point Addis, between Torquay and Anglesea, which is a prime site for the highly localised Rufous Bristlebird. Try the car park area on the right as you head down towards the point, and follow it down towards the beach.

Belmont, Victoria

We had a very profitable early morning stop at the small wetland next to the golf course entrance in Belmont, just off the main Settlement Road.

Werribee (Western Treatment Plant), Victoria

Forget any ideas you may have about sewage plants you have visited in the past - this is on a completely different scale. Werribee is absolutely vast, covering an area of about 200 square kilometres! Most of the habitat we visited was prime wetland, but there are also extensive areas of farmland, foreshore etc, producing a superb range of birds. Furthermore, the whole area is criss-crossed by a network of dirt roads, making car-based exploration easy.

I haven't tried to give detailed directions to the areas we visited for two reasons. Firstly, without a map of the area I have no idea of exactly where we went, other than that we spent most of the time in the area around Lake Borrie. Secondly, and more significantly, Werribee is not open to casual visitors, and it is necessary to visit in the company of a permit holder (and crucially key holder, as there are padlocks across many gates including those at the entrances). Any such permit holder will be able to get you into all the right area without any help from me! It's worth the effort however - the birding here was as good as anywhere else visited in the whole trip.

Edithvale, Victoria

This is a small nature reserve located in the southern suburbs of Melbourne, just south of Mordialloc off Highway 4 which runs along the eastern shore of Port Phillip Bay. It is renowned as a good place to see several species of crake. Again, access is limited to key holders - contact Tania Ireton who should be able to arrange access for you.

Braeside Park, Victoria

An area of parkland a little inland from Mordialloc, and north of Edithvale. Access is off Highway 10 Lower Dandenong Road.

Moorooduc Quarry, Victoria

A nice woodland nature reserve centred around an abandoned quarry near the town of Moorooduc, south of Frankston at the northern end of the Mornington Peninsula.

Phillip Island, Victoria

We visited several good areas on Phillip Island:

   San Remo. This is actually on the mainland end of the bridge to the island. A quick, stop and scan of the mudflats produced a few wading birds.

   Cape Woolamai. An excellent site for the increasingly rare Hooded Plover. Turn left shortly after crossing onto the island, and follow the road right down to the beach car park. Walk left up the beach for a couple of hundred metres, and scope for the plovers in the fenced-off area ahead of you. Do not get too close and no account cross into the fenced-off areas - the plovers are easily disturbed and can be seen extremely well with a scope from some distance.

   Rhyll. Located in the extreme north east of the island, there is a lookout north and east over the channel, from which wading birds could be scoped on the mudflats below.

   Seal Rocks. The extreme western tip of the island, and well worth a visit if you're waiting for dusk and the penguin parade. We had point blank views of Little Penguins in their burrows in broad daylight here, and some other good birds on the rocks.

   Penguin Parade. Just back up the road from Seal Rocks and very well signposted. We didn't stay until nightfall as jet lag had caught up with us, but it is apparently s superb spectacle then as the penguins make their way up the beach from the sea to their burrows. We had a similar experience, albeit on a much smaller scale, on Bruny Island.

   Swan Lake. This is a very short way east from the Penguin Parade, and was where we finally found Cape Barren Goose, as well as some other nice birds.

Melbourne Airport, Victoria.

The trees in the parking area are a known and apparently reliable stakeout for Purple-crowned Lorikeets. I only tried once, in miserable overcast conditions, and only succeeded in identifying Musk Lorikeets, but quite a few other lorikeets went unidentified.

Hobart Airport, Tasmania

Also worth spending a little time around here as you wait for your outbound flight - loads of Musk Lorikeets and other stuff in the fruiting trees right around the terminal building.

Fern Tree / Mount Wellington, Tasmania

This is probably the best known site near Hobart for the wet forest Tasmanian endemics. To reach here from Hobart head south-westwards along Davey Street (one-way). At the end of Davey Street, most lanes head left towards Kingston and Sandy Bay - continue straight ahead here on Davey Street, which eventually becomes the Huon Highway, towards Neika and Huonville.

After about 7 kilometres, you will see a turnoff to the right signposted for Mount Wellington. A little beyond this turn-off you will see a large dirt parking area on your right, and a little further along you will reach the village of Fern Tree.

There are a couple of areas worth exploring around here:

   Fern Glade Track. Park in the dirt car park between the Mount Wellington turn-off and Fern Tree village, and follow the track that leas uphill from the car park along the stream. This is reputed to be a reliable spot for Scrubtit and other forest birds. I only managed to visit this site at midday, and saw very little, although there were quite a few people around at that time, which didn't help. This track is actually one of a network of tracks, some of which end up back in Fern Tree village.

   Mount Wellington. Take the turn-off to the left before reaching the Fern Glade parking area. Follow the road up for a kilometres until you see a large tarred parking area on your right with some stone buildings, and an obvious wide track leading off to your left - this area is known as The Springs, and is apparently a good spot. I carried on for 500 metres further up the mountain, before reaching a small track leading off to the right. This is known as the Lenah Valley Track (small wooden sign), but may be labelled as something else - I forget.

There was room for perhaps 2 or 3 cars to park on the right hand side here, but otherwise park at The Springs and walk up. The track drops quite steeply off the road, but immediately levels off and heads flat and straight at an acute angle to the road. This was recommended to me as a good site for Black Currawong, and I had at least 3 birds here within 5 minutes of starting to walk the trail - they responded very quickly to pishing and came down very close to investigate the noise.

Peter Murrell Reserve, Kingston, Tasmania

This is an excellent reserve in the suburbs of Kingston, and well worthy of a visit, especially if you are not visiting Bruny Island. If you are visiting Bruny, it is right on the way. To get there from Hobart, head out on Davey Street as for Fern Tree, but this time follow the main traffic flow around to the left towards Kingston, along the road known as the Southern Outlet. When you get to the outskirts of Kingston, carry on along the main road towards Kettering, looking out for a roundabout with a KFC restaurant.

Keep straight ahead at this roundabout, looking for the offices of the Australian Antarctic Division. A little after these, you will reach a roundabout, signed for Blackman's Bay to the left - continue straight ahead here towards Kettering, but almost immediately after the roundabout turn left. Follow this road for maybe 500 metres until you reach a large Vodafone building on your left. At the end of this building, a dirt track heads off left, following the Vodafone boundary fence down to a small parking area - this is the reserve car park.

If you are coming from Fern Tree or Mount Wellington, drive into Fern Tree village, and turn left straight after the pub on Summerleas Road. This starts off as a tar road, but soon turns into a dirt road, which can be potholed in places. Follow this road generally downhill for several kilometers, until you reach a major highway - cross over this and continue along the minor road. Eventually you will reach the roundabout with the KFC restaurant - turn right here and you are on the route to the AAD offices described above.

There are some good areas to bird here. If you walk a short distance to the right from the parking area you will reach a small pond surrounded by white gums - these are often frequented by Forty-spotted Pardalotes, although the trees are pretty tall so views may not be good - I didn't see them here, and didn't try too hard as I was going to Inala, and anyway it was very hot! Tasmanian native-hens were also around here.

The other area I tried was reached by heading straight ahead from the car park, and then right along quite a wide track - this was good even in mid-afternoon with lots of honeyeaters, pardalotes etc. The area also has Dusky Robins but I didn't see them here.

Bruny Island, Tasmania

This was an absolutely fabulous area, easily our favourite place in Tasmania and one of the best we visited on the whole trip. The following areas were visited:

   Roberts Hill. I have used this term to describe the area denoted by Thomas & Thomas as Dusky Robin Pool. It is on North Bruny, about 5 km east of the ferry landing, where there is an obvious large pond on the left where the road sweeps around to the left - pull over onto the wide grass verge. Thomas & Thomas had several Dusky Robins here, but I saw none, hence my alternative name!! Roberts Hill is on your right.

   The Neck. As you cross the causeway from North to South Bruny (a stretch of gravel road), you will see signs for the penguin viewing area on your left. Come here perhaps half an hour before dusk and you will firstly enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of Short-tailed Shearwaters swooping over your heads as it gets dark, followed by Little Penguins returning to their burrows.

It is on a much smaller scale than the famous Phillip Island spectacle, but you will still get extreme close-up views of the birds which nest on either side, and even under the boardwalk. You also get the shearwaters thrown in as well - we saw a couple of these birds on the ground as near as a foot away, which was pretty special.

   Lunnawanna. No special sites here, but some nice roadside birding, including Dusky Robins as we went through the village.

   Inala. We stayed in Tonia Cochran's cottage at Inala (see Accommodation section) which was absolutely fabulous, with many of the Tasmanian endemics seen right outside the cottage, e.g. Forty-spotted Pardalote, Dusky Robin, Green Rosella, Strong-billed and Black-headed Honeyeaters etc.

To reach Inala, cross the causeway onto South Bruny, then turn right towards Alonnah, rather than right to Adventure Bay. Go through Alonnah, and follow the road south to Lunnawanna. At the T-junction, turn left towards Cloudy Bay, and the driveway to Inala is on the right after 3.2 km (just after crossing a small bridge). Tonia's cottage is on the right a short distance before the turn-off. Space at Inala is strictly limited, so I'd strongly advise you to contact Tonia in advance if you'd like to stay here.

   Cloudy Bay. If you continue past Inala on the road from Lunnawanna you will eventually reach the beach at Cloudy Bay. This can be a good area for shorebirds, including Hooded Plover, but we didn't see much here, partly because it was very wet and windy, and partly because we'd just about seen everything I wanted to see and I couldn't be bothered to look!

   Little Taylor's Bay. Head back from Inala towards Lunnawanna, and instead of turning right towards Alonnah continue straight on the Cape Bruny road (all dirt road after the first few hundred metres). After a short distance you will reach Little Taylor's Bay, which has extensive areas of mudflats at low tide - good for waders.

   Cloudy Lagoon. Continuing along the Cape Bruny road you will soon skirt Cloudy Lagoon on tour left. Along this stretch you will see a turn-off to the left, blocked by a locked gate - park at this entrance, being sure not to block the gate, and walk into the area of gums adjoining the lagoon. This is a prime spot in season for Swift Parrots among other species.

   Jetty Beach. The Cape Bruny road eventually reaches a T-junction - turning left here takes you to Cape Bruny lighthouse, while a right turn brings you to Jetty Beach. This was a nice sheltered spot, good for robins, whistlers etc

   Cape Bruny. Turning left instead of right brings you to the lighthouse at Cape Bruny - a very scenic spot, and as good a place as any for Tawny-crowned Honeyeater in the coastal heath.

   Mount Mangana. Head back to Lunnawanna, drive a short distance towards Inala and Cloudy Bay, then turn left on the road over Mount Mangana to Adventure Bay. Mount Mangana has the largest area of rainforest on Bruny, and is far and away your best chance on the island for birds such as Scrubtit and Black Currawong.

We parked on the side of the road at the summit, and eventually managed views of Crescent Honeyeater. A little further along we parked in a parking area on the right hand side, and followed a narrow trail into the rainforest, where we soon found a Scrubtit.

Note that this road is all dirt, and can be steep and slippery in places - it's certainly passable in a 2WD but take care and time.

   Mavista Falls. Turn right off the Mount Mangana road onto Resolution Road a short while before reaching Adventure Bay, and you will soon reach Mavista Falls on your tight - there is a parking area and picnic site here, and a trail which leads into rainforest. This is essentially another part of the Mount Mangana forest, and proved very productive on even a short visit. Continuing along this road brings you to the coast at Adventure Bay - head north here and you can pick up the main Mount Mangana road again to return to Lunnawanna and Inala.

One major site not visited by us is Waterview Hill on North Bruny, which has a large Forty-spotted Pardalote population. You may want to visit here if you strike out at Inala. To reach here cross the causeway onto North Bruny, and continue north past the left hand turn to the ferry terminal. Stay on the main road to Dennes Point, and the site is some 3.5 km south of the point, where the road climbs on either side of the road. Park on the right here, and climb the hill to your left (west), to scan the treetops on the eastern slope. According to Thomas and Thomas the birds can be seen at eye-level here in the tops of the trees opposite.

Waterworks Park, Hobart, Tasmania

This park is located in western Hobart. To get here follow Davey Street out of Hobart as if you were going to Fern Tree. After you pass the main left hand turn towards Kingston, you will reach a roundabout (Lynton Avenue to the left), and shortly after that you want to take a left hand turn onto Romilly Street. The road goes quite steeply down into a dip, crosses a steam, and climbs up again on the other side, before reaching a T-junction. Turn right here onto Waterworks Road, and follow the road to the park.

The park is a current hot spot for Masked Owl, but I don't have specific details, and didn't try for the bird here because of fatigue. In retrospect I wish I had. It was also a good spot for the endemic Clinking race of Grey Currawong - I had a bird on a nest at the far end of the furthest lake, and another probable fly overhead near the entrance.

Mount Field N.P., Tasmania

I visited this site solely to see Black Currawong, which are supposed to be numerous here, but struggled badly to see just one bird - they were much easier on Mount Wellington. Excellent scenery and good walking, but not really worth the trip just for birding, unless you fail with the currawongs around Mount Wellington.

To get here head north from Hobart on the west side of River Derwent, on the Brooker Highway to New Norfolk. In New Norfolk stay on the south bank of the Derwent (Road B62), to Bushy Park, where you turn left to Glenora and Westerway. In Westerway, turn left again towards Strathgordon (Road B61), and look for the entrance to the national park after 8 kilometres.

Deniliquin, NSW

I spent my time around Deniliquin under the guiding services of Phil Maher, and did not keep detailed directions of all the areas visited. This was largely because of the featureless nature of the plains around the town, the number of small roads, and the fact that much of the birding was done off-road by driving across fields. Not only was this impossible to chart without a GPS device, but a casual visitor would not in any case be permitted to follow the route. Nevertheless, I have given brief details of the main areas visited:

   North of Deniliquin. I have used this term to describe the area of plains immediately north of the town. Most birding was done:

  along the Cobb Highway towards Hay (between Deniliquin and Wanganella);

  along the road between Deniliquin and Conargo;

  along the various farm roads linking these 2 roads;

  along the minor road eastwards from the Deni-Conargo road towards Maynung; and

  off-road in the intervening areas.

   Deniliquin town. We saw some good birds within the boundaries of the town. An especially productive area is the Deniliquin State Forest, which is alongside the Edward River in the middle of town (on the right hand side as you come into town from the south). See http://www.wilmap.com.au/nswmaps/deniliquin/default.htm for a street map of Deniliquin. The forest is accessed via Memorial Drive, off End Street (square K9 on the map). A network of driveable tracks meanders through sandy woodland here.

   Deniliquin Sewage Farm. Worth a quick scan for ducks and other waterbirds

   Deniboola Irrigation Area. Area of rice paddies west of the town - excellent for herons, egrets, bitterns etc

   Gulpa State Forest, NSW. A nice spot where we had a few species not seen elsewhere. To get here, follow the Cobb Highway south from Deniliquin towards Mathoura and Echuca. After 18 km, turn east signposted Gulpa Island, and explore the network of tracks through the forest. Shortly before reaching this turning there is a small marsh on the left, which was quite productive.

Finlay, NSW

We stopped for a while here to scan the lake in the middle of town, and to chase down some large corella flocks.

Savenake, NSW

From Finlay we followed the Riverina Highway eastwards through Berrigan to Savenake, where we turned right (south) to Mulwala. Stopping along this Savenake - Mulwala road produced some good birds.

Killawarra Forest, Victoria

From Mulwala we crossed the Murray River back into Victoria at Yarrawonga, and then turned east on the Murray Valley Highway. After the town of Bundalong we turned south on the road to Wangaratta, as far as Peechelba, where we turned right into the Killawarra State Forest. See http://members.ozemail.com.au/~viccamp/map6.html for a map of this general area. Good birding in this relatively open forest.

Warby Range State Park, Victoria

We continued south from Killawarra along minor roads to Warby Range State Park, where we again birded along driveable trails. See the following link for the official website - http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=205

Beechworth & Chiltern, Victoria

Again, these sites were visited with Phil Maher, and so I didn't take full access notes. The following areas were visited:

   Beechworth. We had good birding in the grounds of the Golden Heritage Motel, and also along a track accessed to the left of the road to Chiltern, perhaps 1 km north of the motel.

   Mount Pilot, Victoria. Located c. 12 km north of Beechworth on the road to Chiltern, on the right hand side of the road.

   Cyanide Dam, Victoria. Further along the road to Chiltern. Take the last turn to the right (east) before you reach the Hume Highway, then right again onto Lancashire Gap Road. From here turn left onto Cyanide Road which leads to a car park and picnic site at Cyanide Dam. Be very careful all around here - many abandoned mine workings.

   Chiltern Box Ironbark NP, Chiltern. This is located immediately north and east of the town of Chiltern. We spent a little time along a track off the road from Chiltern to Howlong, and had some excellent birds here. For more details on the site see - http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=93 - the official site for the area

   Lake Kerford, Victoria. Located east of Beechworth, accessed along Stanley Road. Park at the dam, and walk left along the wide track into woodland. Main target bird here is Red-browed Treecreeper.

Illawarra region, NSW

Several good areas visited here:

   Fitzroy Falls. Heading along the Hume Highway from Melbourne towards Sydney, turn off onto the Illawarra Highway to Moss Vale. Continue towards Wollongong, for another 11 km before turning right towards Kangaroo Valley. The car park for the falls is on the left after 9 km (not 19 km as stated in Thomas & Thomas). We got there mid-afternoon when it was very busy - birding would undoubtedly be much better in early morning.

   Barren Grounds. From the Fitzroy Falls turn-off continue along the Illawarra Highway to the town of Robertson. Continue for a further 4 km, then turn off to the right towards Jamberoo and Kiama. This road is now tarred for its whole length, and so isn't as intimidating as it must have been before it was tarred. 10 km from the turn-off look for a turn to the right into the reserve (small sign).

From Kiama, take the road directly inland and follow signs to Jamberoo. As you leave Jamberoo, look for a turning to the left (signposted for Minnamurra Rainforest Reserve) - if you so straight on you will come to Wollongong. Climb the Illawarra escarpment, and look for the turning on your left - difficult to see coming uphill - you might easily drive past it.

As you enter the reserve you will see the warden's house on the right. Park just after the house, and check out the forest on your left for Pilotbirds, especially first thing in the morning.

Drive further up the road, and you will come to a large parking area and picnic site. From here you can follow the Griffith Loop Trail straight ahead, or to the left. The left hand turn will soon bring you to the Illawarra Lookout - this area is good for Southern Emuwren.

I saw Eastern Bristlebird by following the Griffith Trail straight ahead from the car park. The track goers pretty straight for a few hundred metres, then turns sharply left (the track ahead continuing to Cook's Nose Pass). Turning left the trail slopes downwards, and it was perhaps 200 metres along here that I had a bristlebird feeding on the path just after dawn. Note that the weather was really miserable - think fog and drizzle, so perfect weather isn't essential to see these birds.

Ground Parrots are apparently possible along this trail, but in January at least the vegetation was chest high and very thick, so your only chance would be to see one fly around or get lucky and flush one from near the path. Bushwhacking is strictly prohibited here. The appalling weather during my visit pretty much ruled out my chances of seeing one at dusk.

Look out also for Superb Lyrebirds along the roadside as you climb the Illawarra escarpment in the early morning.

   Minnamurra Rainforest Reserve. This was worth a visit if just for the very tame Superb Lyrebirds which can be seen around the parking area. I also had one displaying in the forest itself, which was really nice. To get here from Barren Grounds continue down the escarpment towards Kiama, and look for the turn on the left before getting to the Jamberoo - Wollongong road. From Kiama, turn left from this road towards Barren Grounds, and the turning is on the right after maybe 1 kilometre.

Follow this side road for maybe 2 o3 kilometres until it ends in the reserve. There is an entrance fee payable of AUD 10 (UKP 4) per car. Nice birding around the car park. The forest also looked good, but there were a lot of people around and mid-day also wasn't the best time to visit.

Sydney Zoo, NSW

Apparently a reliable site for Rainbow Lorikeets, which we saw in decent numbers. Great views over the harbour, as well as a nice boat trip from Circular Quay across the harbour past the opera house and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Even birders have to take time off sometimes! I didn't take my bins as the weather was atrocious, so couldn't identify most of the other birds seen.

Dural, NSW

This was a random roadside stop in the town of Dural, as a result of Murray seeing some swifts overhead.

Laughtondale Gully, NSW

Following the road north to Wiseman's Ferry from Sydney through Glenorie and Maroota, we turned right towards Laughtondale a short distance before the ferry departure point. This was a specific visit in the hope of a recently reported out of range Turquoise Parrot.

Wiseman's Ferry, NSW

Cross on the ferry over the Hawkesbury River, turn left, and look for a small pull-off on the left opposite the gated-off start of the Old North Road. The road itself is apparently a reliable place for Origma, although we dipped, and it was also here that we saw Glossy Black Cockatoos.

Dharug, NSW

Return eastwards from the Old North Road and continue past the ferry landing point. After maybe 4 km you will reach a bridge over a small creek - Lewin's Rail has been seen here. A short distance after the bridge, turn left into Dharug National Park. This dirt road leads to a picnic area / campsite where you can park. We walked to the far end of the car park and crossed the stream, and immediately on the other side we had a couple of Brush Turkey mounds. One bird was later seen at very close range walking tamely around the car park.

Mitchell Park, Cattai, NSW

We stopped here for a brief visit on the way back to Sydney, and got a few species not seen elsewhere on the trip. We drove into the park and continued to a small parking area near the river. From here there is a choice of two tracks which lead almost straight ahead.

Sydney, NSW

Having returned to Sydney we spent ten minutes or so in Murray's local park in Leichhardt, where I picked up Green Figbird, my last lifer of the trip.


Daily account


Sunday 20 January 2002

Despite our very long flight yesterday and the effects of jet lag, I was up bright and early and anxious to get out and start ticking off my first lifers. My destination today was to be the Great Ocean Road west of Melbourne with Richard, Diana and Tania, while Sara stayed in Melbourne to do some exploring of her own and catch up on her sleep. A small flock of Musk Lorikeets flew over while we were loading the van, and then we were off.

On the outskirts of Melbourne we were soon seeing Little Ravens, Black-shouldered Kites, Common Mynas and Spotted Turtle Doves. Our first stop was the small marsh at Belmont, and as soon as we arrived we picked up a flock of Red-browed Finches and a Willie-wagtail, while Masked Lapwings walked around on the adjacent golf course. Our main targets here were marsh birds, and we soon flushed our first Latham's Snipe, soon followed by several more - we had perhaps a dozen of these birds in all.

We also managed to track down a singing Australian Reed Warbler here, although a calling Little Grassbird was more elusive - not for the last time! Best sighting here, however, was undoubtedly the excellent Baillon's Crake that suddenly emerged into the open at the reed edge, and gave fantastic views before eventually creeping back into the reeds.

A bird in some small trees overhead gave me my first honeyeater challenge for the trip - fortunately it was a distinctively plumaged New Holland Honeyeater, and this was soon followed by a very smart White-plumed Honeyeater. Both species proved common elsewhere on the trip. Scanning an area of wet grassland ahead of us resulted in a trio of new wading birds for the trip - White-necked and White-faced Herons and Australian White Ibis.

Returning back to the main road we stopped just before the junction to scan the small pond on the left from the bird hide, which proved to be very productive. There were many water birds here, and we quickly added Dusky Moorhen, Western Swamphen, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes. More wading birds in the field opposite included 2 further species - Great Egret and Royal Spoonbill.

From Belmont we continued westwards towards Point Addis, stopping briefly in Torquay for a mixed flock of Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. Arriving at Point Addis we made our way to a car parking area where my hosts had previously found good for Rufous Bristlebirds, and we started looking. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to see one, although one bird briefly replied to the tape.

We did however see Superb Fairywren, Silvereye and Brown Thornbill in the car park, with Welcome Swallows overhead. Following the trail down towards the beach was even better - we found a small flock of Blue-winged Parrots which flew to and fro on the hillside across the small valley, and often perched in plain view, while a Crimson Rosella was scoped in a low bush. A large flock of swallows attending a sand bank on the other side of the valley were eventually identified as Tree Martins. There were also Fairy Martins in with them, but I couldn't satisfactorily identify one for myself.

Near the beach, a Grey Currawong burst from vegetation ahead of us, but didn't go far, giving me first views at this Australian family. Looking down at the beach produced large numbers of Silver Gulls, a few Great Cormorants and just one Pacific Gull with its distinctive black tail band.

Having dipped Rufous Bristlebirds at Point Addis, we decided to try a couple of other areas of scrub around Anglesea. Unfortunately, we were not successful, but did see some other excellent birds. First stop produced fleeting views of a Red Wattlebird, while a stop along the river in Anglesea produced Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and Great Cormorants. A second step in another area of scrub, sadly now encroached upon by new houses, resulted in much better views of Red Wattlebird, as well as a handy Little Wattlebird for size comparison, and both Pied and Grey Currawongs together.

A visit to a small area of dry eucalypts outside town resulted in good views of a fly-past Australian Hobby, while a brief side trip to Bellbrae near Torquay produced Little Pied Cormorants and Australian Wood Ducks at a small farm dam, but not a lot else as the midday heat really kicked in. Time to stop for lunch before heading for the Werribee Western Treatment Plant for the afternoon.

This was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the whole trip - huge numbers of birds everywhere, several of them not seen elsewhere, and all viewable from the comfort of the vehicle. The first area we stopped at was just off the public road at an area of pans known to be reliable for Banded Stilt. These magnificent birds duly obliged in decent numbers, as did the related Black-necked Stilts and Red-necked Avocets.

Other birds on these pans included Black Swans, Australian Shelduck, Grey Teal, Australasian Pelicans and a variety of shorebirds, including Masked Lapwing, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit. A Nankeen Kestrel flew overhead and Australian Pipits ran along the track in front of the vehicle. A flock of Straw-necked Ibises wheeled overhead before coming in to land, and a Swamp Harrier, the first of many seen at Werribee, quartered over the back of the ponds. A little further along an exposed area of salt marsh had a pair of Magpie-larks with the Masked Lapwings.

We continued to another area of ponds on our right, with a reed-lined ditch along the left, across which an Australian Spotted Crake dashed. The ponds here looked a little deeper than the first set, and held Hoary-headed Grebe, Australian Shovelers, Hardheads and Chestnut Teal, while our first Brown Falcon flew over.

The road was getting near the shore here, with scrub and the sea on our right here, and ponds on our left. Pied Oystercatchers, Australian White Ibis, Great and Little Pied Cormorants could be scoped on our right, while a cracking Musk Duck was seen on the pools. Golden-headed Cisticolas sang from the reeds at the edge of this lagoon. A female White-fronted Chat was seen on the track in front of us, and Black-shouldered Kite and Willie-wagtail were also seen here.

A small bird singing in a nearby bush proved to be one of our best sightings of the day - the localised Striated Fieldwren. A small flock of shorebirds included both my hoped-for lifers, Red-necked Stint and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, ironically among the commonest winter shorebirds in this part of the world. Other species here included Pacific Golden Plover and Ruddy Turnstone, while another very good sighting followed - an Australian Gannet not far offshore and giving excellent views.

By this time we had reached Lake Borrie, and had the highlight of the day, and one of our best moments of the whole trip. The lake was covered in birds, and while I was enjoying my first views of Little Black Cormorants and the flocks of Whiskered Terns over the lake, the others were scanning through the duck flocks. Suddenly Richard yelled "Freckled Duck!", and sure enough there were a pair of birds very close inshore, giving great views. Then we started seeing more birds, then more again, until we had eventually counted a total of 35 of these scarce ducks - a huge flock by this bird's standards!

As if that wasn't enough excitement, there were also large numbers of the stunning Pink-eared Ducks present - nowhere near as rare or difficult as the Freckleds, but a bird that had been on my want list for a long time, and just as bizarre in real life as I had imagined.

The duck-fest wasn't quite over yet, though. We still needed Blue-billed Duck for the clear-up, and sure enough we found one on the very next pond, making a total of 11 species today, everything that we could have reasonably hoped to see. The sheer numbers of ducks on these lakes is impossible to describe, and was totally mind-boggling.

Continuing or way along the network of tracks between lakes and pools we continued to add both lifers and new trip birds. There were very good numbers of the irruptive Black-tailed Native-hens around at this time, and we saw a couple of large flocks of these running across the track and into the surrounding scrub. A Darter was flushed from the side of the track and gave really good flight views before settling on a dead snag in the distance.

A stop at an area where a Pectoral Sandpiper had been reported proved unsuccessful for that bird, but added Red-kneed Dotterel and Red-capped Plover to my life list and Curlew Sandpiper to the trip list.

It was eventually time to leave behind the wetland areas and make our way slowly out of the farm through some drier grassy and cultivated areas. We continued to add good new birds in these areas, although we started off with a Skylark! This was followed by a flock of Blue-winged Parrots and a Little Eagle, which gave excellent views allowing us to eliminate the other possibility, Whistling Kite. Another Nankeen Kestrel was seen here. Further along, a flock of Red-rumped Parrots flew past and were relocated in the tops of some trees. White-plumed Honeyeater and Willie-wagtail were also seen here, while a flock of Fairy Martins flew around and perched in some overhanging trees.

We visited an area where Whistling Kites are regularly seen, and sure enough there were several birds present. A Rufous Night-heron flew across a nearby field, and a Greenfinch provided a taste of home, before we enjoyed nice views of our last bird of the day, a Red Wattlebird. A really fantastic day out with three wonderful people and great birders, and a perfect introduction to Australian birding.

Birds recorded

Melbourne - Musk Lorikeet, Spotted Turtle Dove, Common Myna

Belmont - Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Baillon's Crake, Western Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Latham's Snipe, Masked Lapwing, Australasian Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Great Egret, Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, White-plumed Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Willie-wagtail, Australian Reed Warbler, h Little Grassbird, Red-browed Finch, "White-backed Magpie"

Point Addis - Great Cormorant, Crimson Rosella, Blue-winged Parrot, Pacific Gull, Silver Gull, h Rufous Bristlebird, Brown Thornbill, Grey Currawong, Blackbird, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Silvereye, Superb Fairywren

Anglesea - Great Cormorant, Silver Gull, Crested Tern, Australian Hobby, Little Wattlebird, Red Wattlebird, "White-backed Magpie", Pied Currawong, Grey Currawong

Torquay -Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Bellbrae - Australian Wood Duck, Little Pied Cormorant

Werribee - Blue-billed Duck, Musk Duck, Freckled Duck, Black Swan, Australian Shelduck, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Red-rumped Parrot, Blue-winged Parrot, Australian Spotted Crake, Western Swamphen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Coot, Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Pied Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Red-capped Plover, Red-kneed Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Silver Gull, Whiskered Tern, Black-shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Hoary-headed Grebe, Australian Gannet, Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Great Cormorant, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Great Egret, Rufous Night Heron, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Australasian Pelican, Superb Fairywren, White-plumed Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, White-fronted Chat, Striated Fieldwren, Little Raven, Willie-wagtail, Magpie-lark, Starling, Common Myna, Welcome Swallow, Fairy Martin, Golden-headed Cisticola, Australian Reed Warbler, h Little Grassbird, Skylark, House Sparrow, Australian Pipit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch

Monday 21 January 2002

Tania had again kindly offered to show us around today, and having collected us early from Richard and Diana's home, we set off for Edithvale, our first stop of the day. The main attraction here is the excellent selection of wetland birds on offer from the elevated hide, and in particular the chance of good views of several species of crakes. Sure enough we enjoyed great views of several Baillon's and Australian Spotted Crakes, but the highlight was a superb Spotless Crake which gave very close views along the edge of the reed bed to the right of the hide.

A small flock of Magpie Geese had been seen in the area for a few weeks, and Tania managed to find one of these near the back of the lake. Yellow-billed Spoonbills were a lifer having seen Royal yesterday, and the other main highlight were the 4 Rufous Night Herons seen on a sandbank in the middle of the lake.

In between these birds, we enjoyed good relaxed views of some birds also seen the previous day - Red-kneed Dotterel and Latham's Snipes in particular gave much better and closer views from the hide than we'd managed at Werribee.

Having finished at the hide we took a walk around the right hand edge of the reserve hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the resident Eastern Grey Kangaroos present in the reserve, and it wasn't long before one burst from the long grass to the side of the track. We eventually managed to see perhaps 15 of these great animals, from huge males to small joeys, which pleased Sara especially.

From Edithvale we headed for nearby Braeside Park, where both Crested Pigeons and Noisy Miners in the car park on arrival were lifers. A short walk through the trees produced Eastern Rosellas, Red-rumped Parrots and many Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, but the hoped-for Rainbow Lorikeets were more elusive, with just one distant untickable flight view. There was excellent compensation, however, with superb views of a perched Australian Hobby, and a Common Bronzewing seen well by the exit.

Our eventual destination today was Phillip Island, but on the way we made a stop at Moorooduc Quarry for some woodland birding. This was the first real woodland habitat I had visited in Australia, so it wasn't long before we started recording new species. We took the steps that led straight up the side of the hill top the right of the quarry itself, circled around the top edge of the hole, and back down the other side. Despite a little light rain, it was very birdy, and especially prominent were the large numbers of Bell Miners, although they were much easier to hear than to see.

Several species of honeyeater were seen on the climb up, including White-naped and White-eared Honeyeaters as well as the more familiar New Hollands. A Grey Shrike-thrush has me scratching my head for a time, while Crimson Rosella and Laughing Kookaburra were much easier to identify. Following the path along the upper lip of the quarry produced several Eastern Yellow Robins and Grey Fantails, as well as the best bird for this site, a Satin Flycatcher which gave great views. The return downhill was quite quiet, but as we approached the exit we got some more good birds - Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Grey Butcherbird and finally a Rufous Whistler.

It was now time to head for Phillip Island, with a small but select target list of birds to try for before we went to look at the penguins. A brief stop at San Remo at the eastern end of the bridge over to the island produced just a few common wading birds, then we took the minor road down to Cape Woolamai to look for Hooded Plover. These were seen in very short order, one of the best birds of the trip, but it started to drizzle so we decided against looking for the Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters which inhabit the coastal scrub here.

Instead we headed up to Rhyll in the north-eastern corner of the island to scan the mudflats for waders, and soon found another want bird of mine, a Far Eastern Curlew as well as Caspian Tern which was new for the trip. From Rhyll we took the quieter roads across the centre of the island in the hope of seeing Cape Barren Geese, but drew a blank to Tania's surprise.

Our route took us to the Penguin Parade site in the far south west of Phillip Island, but we still had plenty of time to spare so we continued to the end of the road to Seal Rocks to look for some more of my target species. We had a very successful time here during a relatively brief visit - almost on arrival we managed to find both Black-faced Cormorant and Sooty Oystercatcher on the rocks in front of the viewing platform and Peregrine perched on the cliffs, while several Kelp Gulls drifted overhead.

There were large numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters offshore heading for their nest sites, although views were very distant and not really satisfying. One of the highlights however was finding several Little Penguins sheltering in their burrows right alongside the path - far too close for binocular views, and highly photogenic.

From Seal Rocks we backtracked a little and called in at Swan Lake for a look around. As we walked down from the car park to the lake, an Australian Raven flew over calling, and Little Wattlebird and Grey Currawong were seen on the walk along the boardwalk through the dunes.

Once in the hide we started scanning the lake, and almost immediately Tania spotted a pair of Cape Barren Geese on the shore on the far side, a big relief as I had feared I would dip this highly localised species. Also on the lake was a cracking male Musk Duck in full breeding plumage which came very near, as well as Hoary-headed Grebes, Chestnut Teal and Western Swamphen, with Black-tailed Native-hens and Australian White Ibis on the bank.

The original plan for today was to finish off the day at the Penguin Parade, but by now jet lag was starting to kick in. It had been a long day with an early start, there were still a couple of hours to go before it became dark enough for the penguins to come in, and we also had the drive back to Melbourne to consider. The final consideration was that Tania was working the next day while Sara and I had an early morning flight to Hobart, so we decided to forego the penguins for now and head back to Melbourne, Sara and I duly falling asleep before we'd even left Phillip Island! We had enjoyed good views of the penguins, and had another opportunity to see them on Bruny Island, so we didn't feel too bad about missing the parade.

Birds recorded

Edithvale - Magpie Goose, Black Swan, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Baillon's Crake, Australian Spotted Crake, Spotless Crake, Western Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Coot, Latham's Snipe, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt, Red-kneed Dotterel, Whiskered Tern, Hoary-headed Grebe, White-necked Heron, Rufous Night Heron, Australian White Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Superb Fairywren, White-plumed Honeyeater, Magpie-lark, Welcome Swallow, Golden-headed Cisticola, Australian Reed Warbler

Braeside Park - Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon, Western Swamphen, Swamp Harrier, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, White-faced Heron, Noisy Miner, "White-backed Magpie", Willie-wagtail

Moorooduc Quarry - Laughing Kookaburra, Crimson Rosella, Common Bronzewing, h Peregrine, White-eared Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Bell Miner, Red Wattlebird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Butcherbird, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Grey Fantail, Satin Flycatcher, Silvereye, Red-browed Finch

San Remo - Pied Oystercatcher, Pacific Gull, Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill

Cape Woolamai - Hooded Plover, Pacific Gull

Rhyll - Black Swan, Galah, Western Swamphen, Whimbrel, Far Eastern Curlew, Pied Oystercatcher, Masked Lapwing, Caspian Tern. Common Tern, Great Egret, Australasian Pelican

Seal Rocks - Sooty Oystercatcher, Kelp Gull, Peregrine, Black-faced Cormorant, Little Penguin, Short-tailed Shearwater

Swan Lake - Musk Duck, Black Swan, Cape Barren Goose, Chestnut Teal, Western Swamphen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Coot, Masked Lapwing, Swamp Harrier, Hoary-headed Grebe, Great Cormorant, Australian White Ibis, Superb Fairywren, Little Wattlebird, Australian Raven, "White-backed Magpie", Grey Currawong, Willie-wagtail, Grey Fantail

Tuesday 22 January 2002

Having bid a grateful farewell to Richard and Diana for their wonderful hospitality over the last few days, we caught a taxi back to the airport for our flight over to Hobart. We checked in our bags and I left Sara reading while I went back out into the car park to try to find some of the Purple-crowned Lorikeets which are said to hang around the airport. I managed to find several lorikeets in the tall trees around the main car park, but unfortunately they were high up, it was raining and the light was terrible, and consequently I was unable to specifically identify most of the birds seen. I eventually managed to confirm a couple of Musk Lorikeets then it was time to go for our flight.

Given the weather in Melbourne on our departure I was a bit worried about what it would be like in Tasmania, which is often wet, but when we landed the weather was glorious. We picked up our hire car, enjoying point blank views of more Musk Lorikeets in the bushes next to the car, and headed for the village of Fern Tree a little to the west of Hobart.

This was the area recommended to me by Murray Lord as being the best for several of the Tasmanian endemics, but unfortunately my timing was poor, arriving there late morning, and I found the birding to be very difficult here. The forest was thick and wet, and I found it hard to identify birds seen. I eventually managed to get decent views of a couple of Brown Scrubwrens, but a possible Scrubtit went unconfirmed - very frustrating. I eventually conceded defeat for now, and we headed into the village itself to pick up some supplies, where I got great views of perched Forest Ravens, much commoner on Tassie than on the mainland.

From Fern Tree we headed down to the Peter Murrell Reserve in Kingston, the other spot around Hobart recommended by Murray. This proved a lot more successful, and I managed to find several of the Tasmanian endemics quite easily here. Having enjoyed Australian Pipit and New Holland Honeyeaters around the car park, I walked straight ahead, and then turned right onto a wide track.

This was a nice walk, soon producing Yellow Wattlebird and several Yellow-throated Honeyeaters (best views of both species was here), as well as Spotted Pardalotes. After a short while there was a large pond on the right which held several Tasmanian Native-hens, and a Whistling Kite glided overhead - a good bird for Tasmania.

Returning to the car park I found a Dusky Woodswallow perched low in a tree, and there were more native-hens around a small pond to the left (on the right as you drive in). The pond held some Pacific Black Ducks, and was surrounded by several white gums which are reputed to be good for Forty-spotted Pardalotes. A chat with the warden confirmed that these birds were present, but I was too hot to spend time looking, especially as I was heading for Inala where they were reputed to be much easier to see.

From here we headed down to Kettering and caught the ferry over to Bruny Island. A short way along the road from the ferry landing there is a small pond on the left which Thomas and Thomas indicated was good for Dusky Robins. Stopping here didn't produce the robins, or much else really, although I got my only Yellow Wattlebird for the island here, but it did allow all the other cars from the ferry to clear, leaving me a nice quiet drive southwards to Inala.

About an hour later we arrived at the cottage, and having unloaded our bags I was soon birding around the house, starting with the Tasmanian Native-hens on our front lawn! My attention had been drawn by the sound of bark being stripped from a nearby gum tree, and the culprits proved to be a group of Strong-billed Honeyeaters - a good sighting as this species is nomadic and can be awkward to see.

As I was watching them our host Tonia Cochran rolled up her Land Rover, and while we chatted she started pointing out birds in the nearby trees, adding Black-headed Honeyeater and Tasmanian Thornbill to the growing list of Tassie endemics seen. A pair of Green Rosellas flew past, before Tonia heard pardalotes in the top of a nearby tree. Sure enough they were Forty-spotted Pardalotes, and were seen well although high up.

Having made arrangements for the morning Tonia drove off, and I wandered around the paddock behind the cottage for a little while longer, picking up Scarlet Robin, Grey Shrike-thrush, Forest Ravens and Tree Martins, before turning in for the night.

Birds recorded

Melbourne Airport - Musk Lorikeet

Hobart Airport - Musk Lorikeet, "Tasmanian Magpie"

Fern Tree - Brown Scrubwren, Forest Raven, Grey Fantail

Peter Murrell Reserve - Pacific Black Duck, Tasmanian Native-hen, Whistling Kite, Great Cormorant, Superb Fairywren, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Yellow Wattlebird, Spotted Pardalote, Dusky Woodswallow, Silvereye, Australian Pipit, Goldfinch

Roberts' Hill - Pacific Black Duck, Swamp Harrier, Yellow Wattlebird

Inala - Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, White-faced Heron, Superb Fairywren, Black-headed Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Forty-spotted Pardalote, Tasmanian Thornbill, Scarlet Robin, Grey Shrike-thrush, Forest Raven, Grey Fantail, Tree Martin

Wednesday 23 January 2002

All birding days should be like today - fabulous scenery, superb but relaxed birding, great company, good food . Today was spent leisurely exploring South Bruny Island in the company of Tonia Cochran, searching for the remaining Tasmanian endemics, and some other special species missed so far.

Tonia collected me early in her 4WD, and we headed back to her cottage for our first "twitch" of the day, as her garden is a reliable place for Beautiful Firetails, a species found more easily on Tassie than on the mainland. A bird duly obliged, and we continued on our way to Little Taylor's Bay to look for waders. The tide was out, and the few birds present were quite distant, but some White-fronted Chats put on a good show near the car.

We continued down the road which leads down the western edge of South Bruny towards Cape Bruny. The road crosses a narrow isthmus, with the ocean on your right, and Cloudy Lagoon on your left, and we pulled over and parked in a gateway here (don't block it), and walked eastwards into an open gum forest bordering the lagoon. As we walked in a Bush Bronzewing flushed from in front of us and flew off into the trees. This area is a reliable stakeout for breeding Swift Parrots, but it was getting late in the seasons and most birds had moved on. However, we could hear one bird calling, and eventually Tonia spotted it in the top of a tall gum.

There were decent numbers of cormorants on the sand banks in the lagoon, including several Black-faced Cormorants among the more widely distributed Little Pieds and Little Blacks, as well as both species of oystercatcher. The woods were also pretty busy with passerines - both Black-headed and Yellow-throated were heard but not tracked down as I had already seen them well, and I was far more interested in watching the stunning Eastern Spinebill which had put in appearance. Strong-billed Honeyeater was also seen here, while Satin Flycatcher was heard calling.

Back in the car and on towards Cape Bruny, before turning right towards the campsite and picnic area at Jetty Beach, where Tonia hoped to find Dusky Robin. On arrival we found both Scarlet and Flame Robins, but no sign of a Dusky. A female Golden Whistler perched low in a tree, and another Eastern Spinebill have even better views than the earlier bird. A bird creeping about in the low scrub proved to be a Brown Scrubwren - these scrub dwellers are apparently believed by some to represent a different race from the birds found in rainforest habitats. Green Rosella also showed well here.

Having dipped on Dusky Robin, we drove the short distance to Cape Bruny for another try. As we arrived a honeyeater flew across the road, and I got out to check it out while Tonia parked. Sure enough it was a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, a coastal heathland specialist and a non-endemic high on my Tassie want list. It was pretty windy at the cape, and the birds were keeping in cover, although there was a cracking bonus in the form of an Echidna which wandered out of some scrub across an open lawn and back in scrub on the other side. Then, as we were leaving, a bird hopped on to a wire in front of the car - a nice Dusky Robin at last.

Having got all our target species in this corner of Bruny, we headed back to Lunnawanna, stopping in the village for a trio of robins - Scarlet, Flame and another Dusky, then it was on to the cross island road which climbs the side of Bruny's highest mountain, Mount Mangana. Our first stop was along a flat straight stretch of road, which Tonia said was reliable for Crescent Honeyeater. Sure enough there were several birds calling but it took a while in the foggy conditions before we managed to get decent views of one - quite a skulking honeyeater, this one.

A little further along we pulled into a parking area on the right, and walked along a trail into real rainforest. We'd barely gone 30 metres, when Tonia picked out a bird in the vegetation in front of us - a Scrubtit, probably the hardest of the Tasmanian endemics to see! It was only 11:00 and I only had one Tassie endemic to see, Black Currawong. Shortly afterwards, one of these flew quickly over the road calling, but I had my back turned, and I didn't get on to it in time.

We continued along the road to Adventure Bay, before following the road around to Mavista Falls, where we enjoyed one of Tonia's excellent picnic lunches at the picnic area near the car park. It was then off into the rainforest for one of the most productive stops of the day. First up was a family party of Pink Robins, quickly followed by an Olive Whistler, both species that may be easier to see on Tasmania than elsewhere in Australia. Brown Scrubwrens were also seen here.

As we continued along the trail I spotted something moving around a corner along the trail in front of us. Some quiet stalking eventually brought very good views of a Bassian Thrush, the first Zoothera thrush I have managed to see anywhere! Finally, back at the car park we got our third Eastern Spinebill of the day - great birds.

By now we'd just about cleaned up, so we headed down to Cloudy Bay to see if there were any Hooded Plovers on the beach. However, by the time we got there it was very windy, and spitting rain, with just a few bedraggled oystercatchers and a Pacific Gull in view, so we decided to retreat to Inala and finish off the day in the paddocks around the cottage. This proved to be a good decision - as we got there we saw a mixed flock of thornbills fly into the adjacent field, comprising both Tasmanian and Yellow-rumped Thornbills

The usual Tasmanian Native-hens were around the cottage, Forty-spotted Pardalotes and Black-headed Honeyeaters were again seen in the line of white gums immediately behind the cottage, and both Tree Martins and Green Rosellas flew past. We also found a family party of Scarlet Robins on the fence posts, and eventually managed to flush several Brown Quails by walking through the long grass.

It was now getting late, so Tonia went off to check up on one of her cows which was sick, while I went back to the cottage to freshen up, and collect my torch. Sara and I then drove down to The Neck between North and South Bruny to visit the penguin colony. This was a wonderful experience. It probably wasn't as dramatic as that on Phillip Island, but it was a lot more peaceful, with relatively few visitors, and none of the Phillip Island commercialism, and the penguins gave fantastic views at point blank range.

As an added bonus, as darkness fell we were treated to a real show as hundreds of Short-tailed Shearwaters returned to their burrows in the penguin colony, often missing our heads by inches, and landing right alongside us. Eventually we returned satisfied to our cottage, stopping en route several times as we saw a Bennett's Wallaby or a Possum in our headlights. On arrival at the cottage a Southern Boobook was calling from the trees behind, but unfortunately I couldn't tempt it to come into view

Birds recorded

Inala - Brown Quail, Green Rosella, h Northern Boobook, Tasmanian Native-hen, Superb Fairywren, Black-headed Honeyeater, Forty-spotted Pardalote, Tasmanian Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Scarlet Robin, Tree Martin, Beautiful Firetail

Little Taylor's Bay - Black Swan, Bar-tailed Godwit, Pied Oystercatcher, Masked Lapwing, White-faced Heron, White-fronted Chat, Welcome Swallow

Cloudy Lagoon - Swift Parrot, Brush Bronzewing, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher, Little Pied Cormorant, Black-faced Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, h Yellow-throated Honeyeater, h Black-headed Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, h Satin Flycatcher, Tree Martin, h Silvereye

Jetty Beach - Green Rosella, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Brown Scrubwren, Scarlet Robin, Flame Robin, Golden Whistler

Cape Bruny - Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Dusky Robin

Lunnawanna - Brown Thornbill, Scarlet Robin, Flame Robin, Dusky Robin

Mount Mangana - Crescent Honeyeater, Scrubtit

Mavista Falls - Eastern Spinebill, Brown Scrubwren, Pink Robin, Olive Whistler, h Golden Whistler, Bassian Thrush

Cloudy Bay - Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher, Pacific Gull

The Neck - Little Penguin, Short-tailed Shearwater

Thursday, 24 January 2002

We'd originally planned to spend the morning on Bruny before returning to "mainland" Tasmania, but I had cleaned up on almost all my target species, and I still needed Black Currawong, which is quite difficult on Bruny, but much easier elsewhere on Tas. We therefore decided to take an earlier ferry, but not before I had spent a few early morning hours birding behind the cottage.

It didn't take long before I found the "Yellow-tipped" Pardalote I'd hoped to see, and I also had great perched views of a pair of Green Rosellas on the fence outside our front door. Dusky Robins were everywhere today, with at least 4 seen in the paddock - typical! I also enjoyed more views of birds such as Black-headed Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Grey Shrike-thrush and Forest Raven, before finally leaving for the ferry, a quarter of an hour later than planned.

We had to rush to catch the ferry, and as a result I lost control of the car on a gravel section, skidding through 180 degrees. Fortunately, I didn't hit anything, and we managed to reach the ferry with 5 minutes to spare. Allow plenty of time for this journey, as the gravel sections especially are very slippery - I was doing no more than 430 kph when I spun.

On arriving at Kettering, we drove firstly to Waterworks Park in Hobart, where I hoped to find the "Clinking" race of Grey Currawong. A very likely looking bird flew over the car as we drove into the park, but annoyingly kept on going, and by the time I'd stopped the car and got out it had disappeared. Forest Ravens were more common, and scanning the lake produced some Kelp Gulls as well as the resident Pacific Black Ducks.

We drove up to the far end of the lakes, finding a Laughing Kookaburra (introduced to Tas) in the car park, before my attention was drawn by a promising-sounding call coming from the other side of the lake. Out with the scope, and I got straight onto a calling Clinking Currawong, which appeared to be on a nest.

Mission accomplished, the next target was its close relative, the endemic Black Currawong. Although they are possible on nearby Mount Wellington, we decided to drive to Mount Field National Park where they are supposedly very common and easy to see, and where the scenery both in the park and en route sounded wonderful.

The scenery certainly didn't disappoint, but as a birding site it came up short. There wasn't a Currawong in site around the camping area or visitor centre, where they are said to beg for handouts, and the only birds seen apart from Masked Lapwings and Forest Ravens were Green Rosella and a noisy flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.

We decided to take the narrow twisting road up to Lake Dobson, and about half way up, near Lake Fenton, a Black Currawong eventually flew across the road and landed on a dead snag at eye level to the car. Good views, but brief as it soon moved off, and it proved to be the only one seen at the site as the begging currawongs at the Lake Dobson car park also seemed to have taken the day off.

We returned back towards Hobart, stopping in Westerway for lunch at a nice small restaurant where Platypus are apparently often seen - not usually at midday though, I'd imagine! With some time to spare, we booked into a motel in Hobart, and I drove over to Mount Wellington to try for better views of the currawongs and for a last taste of Tassie birding. On Murray's advice I took the Lenah Valley Trail, and had only walked about 100 metres, when I found my first Black Currawong. I started pishing, and within minutes had three birds within 10 feet, giving great views. Grey Shrike-thrush and Forest Raven were also here, and back at the car a mixed feeding block included Tasmanian Thornbill and both Yellow-throated and Strong-billed Honeyeaters.

I had originally intended to go back to Waterworks Park after dark to look for Masked Owls, but after the late night the previous night I was pretty shattered by the time it got dark, and decided to give it a miss. In hindsight, I wish I'd made the effort, but at the time I just couldn't be bothered!

We thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit to Tasmania, and would highly recommend it to any birder visiting South East Australia. The combination of relaxed birding, lots of endemics, stunning scenery and a nice pace of life was very attractive, and even just a couple of days should be enough to get most if not all of the specialities. The only really important bird I missed was Orange-bellied Parrot for which a flight down to Melaleuca is necessary. For details of these flights check out http://www.tasmania.com/WebBookings/ParAvion/ParAvion.html

I seriously considered making this trip, and would certainly have done so if we'd had one more day, but the flight times just didn't fit into our schedule, leaving Hobart at 09:00, and it's not cheap either. I'll just have to make another visit to the Great Ocean Road area in winter for a crack at these birds.

Birds recorded

Inala - Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, Masked Lapwing, Swamp Harrier, Superb Fairywren, Black-headed Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, "Yellow-tipped" Striated Pardalote, Scarlet Robin, Dusky Robin, Grey Shrike-thrush, Forest Raven, Grey Fantail, Tree Martin, Goldfinch

Waterworks Park, Hobart - Pacific Black Duck, Laughing Kookaburra, Masked Lapwing, Kelp Gull, Brown Thornbill, Forest Raven, "Clinking Currawong", Silvereye

Mount Field - Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Green Rosella, Masked Lapwing, Forest Raven, Black Currawong

Mount Wellington - Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Tasmanian Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush, Forest Raven, Black Currawong

Friday 25 January 2002

No time for early morning birding today as we had an early flight from Hobart back to Melbourne, but spent some time at the airport enjoying the views of Musk Lorikeets. On arrival at Melbourne we were again met by Tania Ireton who would be accompanying us on our Deniliquin stay with Phil Maher, and who had kindly agreed to drive us up from Melbourne.

The drive up to Deniliquin took about 4 hours, through historic goldfield towns such as Bendigo, and across the Murray River which divides Victoria from NSW. On arrival we checked straight into our motel, and settled down to relax during the midday heat and see what we could see in the garden.

After a while Tania suggested a short excursion, and we headed down to the banks of the Edwards River, where we found a Dollarbird and our first flock of Long-billed Corellas. There was also a flock of Australian Wood Ducks on a lake in the centre of town, and I also saw my first Australian Magpie of the "Black-backed" variety.

Next stop was the Deniliquin State Forest, which proved surprisingly good in the afternoon heat. A random stop and some gentle walking around produced several lifers - Western Gerygone, Brown Weebill, Jacky-winter, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Brown Treecreeper and, best of all, several Varied Sitellas. By driving a little further we encountered a noisy flock of White-winged Choughs, another excellent bird.

We returned to the hotel and spent the last hour of daylight in the garden behind the rooms, and this proved to be very productive as bird activity picked up towards dusk. Both Little Friarbird and Singing Honeyeater were seen in the trees on the other side of the pond, as well as commoner birds such as White-plumed Honeyeater, Crested Pigeons and overflying Straw-necked Ibises and Whistling Kite. The day finished off in good style with a lovely Pied Butcherbird showing well in trees to the right of the pond - the only one seen on the trip.

As we were eating dinner Phil Maher showed up with Sam Tipton, an American birder who was to accompany us for the next four days, and we made arrangements for the next day before turning in.

Birds recorded

Hobart Airport - Musk Lorikeet, Noisy Miner, "Tasmanian Magpie"

Deniliquin - Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Dollarbird, Long-billed Corella, Crested Pigeon, Dusky Moorhen, Masked Lapwing, Whistling Kite, Straw-necked Ibis, Australasian Pelican, Brown Treecreeper, Singing Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Brown Weebill, Jacky-winter, White-winged Chough, Varied Sitella, Pied Butcherbird, "Black-backed Magpie", Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Willie-wagtail, Magpie-lark, Silvereye

Saturday 26 January 2002

Today was a genuinely awesome day's birding, and anyone wondering whether or not to hire Phil as a guide should just take a look at the day species list below if they need any convincing! We started at 06:00 driving slowly through the centre of Deniliquin, getting good views of Straw-necked Ibises, Long-billed Corellas, Yellow Rosellas, Red-rumped Parrots and a perched Australian Hobby, before arriving at some tennis courts in the middle of town. Here we enjoyed excellent views of a pair of Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Noisy Friarbirds, Red Wattlebird and an overhead Black Kite.

A petrol stop produced a mix of Yellow and Striated Thornbills, Little Friarbird and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos before we headed out of town on the Cobb Highway towards Hay. Precise site details are difficult to recall here as there are few landmarks in the flat agricultural areas, and in any case we frequently went off road, emerging later on a totally different stretch of asphalt, but the first stop was on the left to the north of Wanganella. En route we saw more Black Kites, Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrels, Australian Wood Ducks and Australian Pelicans.

We eventually turned off at a site which Phil said was reliable for Superb Parrots, and got out to start scanning the trees and bushes. It was hot, but a steady breeze kept it pleasant all day. First birds seen were flocks of Red-rumped Parrots and White-winged Choughs, before a pair of Cockatiels were found perched on a dead snag - as an European it was very strange to see these birds in the wild!

Next up was a Singing Honeyeater - better views than the bird last night - quickly followed by a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and a Pallid Cuckoo. These were soon followed by another good honeyeater, this time a Striped Honeyeater, before Phil struck gold with a magnificent male Superb Parrot, even more spectacular in the flesh than I'd expected from the books.

As we wandered around we kept finding more good birds - a White-winged Triller and some Blue Bonnets, before hitting the jackpot once again with a fantastic Painted Honeyeater. This bird seemed to be defending a territory and returned over and over again to a small tree right next to us where it gave crippling views. Black-faced Woodswallows and Mistletoebirds helped to keep the excitement going in between Painted Honeyeater visits.

We returned southwards towards Wanganella, and turned eastwards along a minor road towards Conargo. Rice paddies were all around us, and wading birds much in evidence - we soon recorded Little Pied Cormorants, White-necked and White-faced Herons, Great Egrets, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibises. Brief stops produced White-winged Triller and Singing Honeyeater, then a flock of Zebra Finches. Perched raptors seen along the road included both Brown Falcon and Black-winged Kite, while a large flock of the nomadic Black-tailed Native-hens scooted across the road. A Brown Songlark perched obligingly alongside the car, and Phil spotted our first group of Emus running across a nearby field - great stuff.

Continuing eastwards as midday approached, we found our first Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring overhead, before we arrived at a largish pool on the left hand side of the road. We got out to investigate, seeing some shorebirds along the sandy edge, and these turned out to be a mix of Black-necked Stilts, Marsh Sandpiper, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels, with Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes on the lake itself. These were quickly forgotten, however, when a falcon flew overhead, giving excellent views - a Black Falcon, a bird high on my want list.

Having enjoyed the falcon, we turned our attention back to the lake, and its reedy edges, finding Australian Reed Warblers and an Australian Spotted Crake, with Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Superb Fairywrens in the surrounding scrub and Welcome Swallows hawking overhead. A little further down the road, and we found a bird that had so far eluded us - excellent views of an obliging flock of Apostlebirds.

The next stop was down a dirt track to a farm dam, with many dead trees. This held a colony of Little Black Cormorants, but the main attraction were the number of duck species present, which crucially included a couple of Freckled Ducks. This can be one of the trickiest birds in Australia to see and my guides had now found them for me in two different locations! Also present here were Pink-eared Ducks, Hardhead and Grey Teals, as well as Royal Spoonbills and White-breasted Woodswallows.

Another roadside stop a little further along finally produced a White-winged Fairywren after loads of Superbs, while a marshy area added Golden-headed Cisticola, Glossy Ibis and Rufous Night Heron to the day list. Brown Treecreeper and White-plumed Honeyeater were added in a wooded area, before we turned our attention to an area of arid plains where we hoped to find a Golden Chat. Phil spotted one distantly but we couldn't get on to it before it flew. In the heat of the day we added many Emus, Australasian Pipit, Singing Bushlark, Nankeen Kestrel and a few White-fronted Chats, sheltering from the sun in the shadow of some fence posts, as well as good numbers of Red Kangaroos.

We drove across country for a while, through several farm gates, eventually entering some dry eucalyptus woods on a sand ridge. The avifauna here was subtly different to that in the other woodland visited to date, and we quickly added a whole range of new species. We started by checking out various cavities in the hope of an Australian Owlet-Nightjar, but struck out, before finding Striated Pardalote, Australian Ringneck and a flock of Grey-crowned Babblers in short order.

Some small birds flushing from long grass proved to be Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, our fourth thornbill species of the day, followed by a Red-capped Robin, before Phil succeeded in flushing an Australian Owlet-Nightjar. This cracking bird flew only a short distance before landing on a bare branch and giving unbeatable views.

Back in the car, and for his next trick Phil produced a pair of Bush Stone-Curlews, totally immobile in the shadow of a gum tree. Incredible camouflage, and very difficult to see even when you knew they were there, but Phil still managed to find them with his naked eye - amazing! A short walk along a small watercourse produced a Sacred Kingfisher and a Laughing Kookaburra as dusk approached and it was time to head back the way we came.

Usually dusk signals the end of my birding day, but today it just meant the start of some of the best birding of the trip, as we were to go in search of the totally unique Plains-wanderer, a speciality of this part of Australia, and the bird which has made Phil Maher famous as the man to help you see them. Hopefully, this account will show that there is a lot more to Phil than just Plains-wanderers but nevertheless his record with this bird is amazing - he claims not to have failed to find this bird in over 3 years, and your chances of seeing them without Phil are minimal.

They are nomadic in occurrence, but Phil had had some success recently in a particular area, so we headed off in that direction. En route a group of four Ground Cuckooshrikes flew overhead as we drove back, not great views, but a pretty distinctive bird, and we also added Southern Whiteface along the way. As we arrived in the target area we found a group of Banded Lapwings, and then one of the highlights of the trip, a small group of Inland Dotterels. These were a lifer even for Tania, who was delighted to have finally caught up with this bird. The views were not brilliant in the fading light, but perfectly good enough to enjoy the distinctive plumage.

We settled down to enjoy our supper while darkness fell, enjoying views of the Southern Cross, Jupiter and Saturn in our scopes - you could even see some of their moons, the sky was so clear. When it had got totally dark, Phil fitted the spotlight to his truck and we set off in search of Plains-wanderers. If we weren't satisfied with the views of Inland Dotterels earlier, we had soon got as good views as we could ever have hoped for, as we found several birds at close range in our spotlight - stunning birds.

Several Singing Bushlarks were also seen before eventually, after only maybe an hour of searching, Phil picked up first a male then a female Plains-wanderer in the beam - absolutely outstanding birds, much smaller than I had expected, and totally distinctive. Stunning views of one of the most special birds I have ever been privileged to see.

Phil hadn't quite finished though. As we made our way back across the grasslands, he found a Little Buttonquail in his headlights, which obligingly stayed put for us, before delivering his coup de grace as we entered Deniliquin itself, with a Tawny Frogmouth on a dead snag alongside the road. On both occasions I was fast asleep, as it was approaching 01:00, but woke up in a hurry each time, and got great views. What a day!

Birds recorded

Deniliquin - Australian Shelduck, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Long-billed Corella, Yellow Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Crested Pigeon, Dusky Moorhen, Black Kite, Australian Hobby, Straw-necked Ibis, Little Friarbird, Noisy Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Yellow Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, "Black-backed Magpie", Willie-wagtail, Magpie-lark

North of Deniliquin - Emu, Freckled Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Little Buttonquail, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Pallid Cuckoo, Galah, Cockatiel, Superb Parrot, Australian Ringneck, Blue Bonnet, Red-rumped Parrot, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Tawny Frogmouth, Peaceful Dove, Australian Spotted Crake, Dusky Moorhen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Plains-wanderer, Marsh Sandpiper, Bush Stone-Curlew, Black-necked Stilt, Red-kneed Dotterel, Inland Dotterel, Black-fronted Dotterel, Banded Lapwing, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Black Falcon, Australasian Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Great Egret, Rufous Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australasian Pelican, Brown Treecreeper, White-winged Fairywren, Superb Fairywren, Singing Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, White-fronted Chat, Striated Pardalote, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Southern Whiteface, Red-capped Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-winged Chough, Apostlebird, Little Raven, Black-faced Woodswallow, White-breasted Woodswallow, Ground Cuckooshrike, White-winged Triller, Willie-wagtail, Welcome Swallow, Golden-headed Cisticola, Australian Reed Warbler, Brown Songlark, Singing Bushlark, Mistletoebird, Australian Pipit, Zebra Finch

Sunday 27 January 2002

Having scored so spectacularly yesterday, the pressure was really off today, and we set out to enjoy some relaxed birding, and try to pick up any species missed yesterday. We again started in Deniliquin town itself, seeing Crested Pigeon, Brown Falcon and Laughing Kookaburra before driving to the Deniboola Irrigation Area south west from town.

This area of rice paddies was teeming with wading birds, and I had soon recorded my first Intermediate Egret of the trip, as well as Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills, White-faced and White-necked Herons, Great Egret and Straw-necked Ibis. Phil and Tania had, however, got a brief glimpse of an Australian Bittern, but it dropped out of sight before Sam and I could get on to it. We shifted position about half a mile down the road, waited, and eventually it appeared again, only the head and neck visible but a distinctive bird nonetheless. A Collared Sparrowhawk also flew overhead here while we waited for the bittern to emerge.

From here we drove southwards, stopping at a small reed-fringed pond where we hoped to find some crakes. No luck, but even better was a Little Grassbird, a bird that had tormented me by calling but not showing itself at several previous locations, which finally consented to give me a few brief views as it moved through the reeds. Also here were Grey Teals, Hardheads, Little Pied Cormorants and Australasian Grebes, which all panicked when a Peregrine soared overhead.

From here it was southwards to the Gulpa State Forest, enjoying groups of Emus en route. This was a nice spot that produced a good list of birds in a fairly brief visit. First up was a flock of White-winged Choughs, then some Diamond Firetails - great birds. A White-throated Treecreeper gave good views before our attention was drawn to a number of birds feeding on the ground ahead. As well as more Diamond Firetails and Grey Fantail this group included both Yellow-rumped and Buff-rumped Thornbills.

A stop and a walk a little further along produced the first Rainbow Bee-eater of the trip, Mistletoebird, Red-browed Finches and a flock of White-crowned Babblers. On the way back to the car a Brown Goshawk flew over and landed, and Black-faced Cuckooshrike was also seen. Our drive to the next stop was interrupted by an excellent Hooded Robin, bringing my robin list for the trip up to 7 species.

We got out near a small river, seeing White-browed Scrub-wrens, and shortly afterwards we found in quick succession Eastern Shrike-Tit and Restless Flycatcher, before finishing our trip to Gulpa with a Sacred Kingfisher.

Rather than birding through the heat of the day, we decided to return to the motel for a lunchtime break, before meeting up again a couple of hours later. First stop was the Deniliquin Sewage Farm - nothing new here but more views of a range of ducks, including Musk and Pink-eared Ducks and Australian Shelduck, as well as Whistling Kite. Further stops at wet areas on the outskirts of Deniliquin produced Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels, Western Swamphen, Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut Teal, Black-tailed Native-hens and both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibises, while drier areas produced Zebra Finches, Red-rumped Parrot, Little Friarbird and Striated Thornbill.

We eventually ended up down by the Edward River in central Deniliquin, and we walked along the shore hoping to find an Azure Kingfisher. While we waited we enjoyed views of White-browed Scrubwrens low in the riverside tangle, and White-throated Treecreeper, White-plumed Honeyeater and Varied Sitella in the trees, before an Azure Kingfisher eventually put in an appearance, and showed well on the other side of the river.

We finished the day in the Deniliquin State Forest, where we found a Darter and some Peaceful Doves, as well as Red-browed Finches. We saw some swallows flying overhead, and a chase through the forest to find an open clearing resulted in us confirming White-backed Swallow among the Welcome Swallows.

Birds recorded

Deniliquin - Emu, Musk Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Azure Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Galah, Yellow Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Western Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Red-kneed Dotterel, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Whistling Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk, Brown Falcon, Peregrine, Australasian Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Australasian Bittern, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australasian Pelican, White-throated Treecreeper, White-plumed Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, White-browed Scrubwren, Striated Thornbill, Varied Sitella, "Black-backed Magpie", Willie-wagtail, White-backed Swallow, Welcome Swallow, Little Grassbird, Australian Pipit, Red-browed Finch, Zebra Finch

Gulpa State Forest - Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Brown Goshawk, White-throated Treecreeper, White-browed Scrubwren, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Hooded Robin, White-browed Babbler, White-winged Chough, Crested Shrike-tit, "Black-backed Magpie", Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Willie-wagtail, Grey Fantail, Restless Flycatcher, Mistletoebird, Diamond Firetail, Red-browed Finch

Monday 28 January 2002

Today we were leaving the Deniliquin area and heading eastwards for a couple of days in the Chiltern area of north eastern Victoria. First stop en route was in the town of Finlay where we checked out the lake in the middle of town. This had nothing new other than a Great Crested Grebe which was of more interest to a Melbournite like Tania than to an European!

The lake gave us another chance to watch a range of waterbirds including Hardheads, Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes and I enjoyed a really good look at an Australian Reed Warbler while huge flocks of Long-billed Corellas flew overhead. White-breasted Woodswallow and Red-rumped Parrots were also seen here.

Having finished scanning the lake we went off in search of the corella flock and, having found it, Tania soon located a Little Corella amongst them. From Finlay we continued eastwards, turning south on a minor road in Savenake towards Mulwala-Yarrawonga. A roadside stop along here resulted in a very nice selection of birds -Apostlebirds, Grey-crowned Babbler, Superb Parrot and Grey Butcherbird, as well as Eastern Rosella.

A stop in Mulwala for some meat pies for lunch, and it was on to Peechelba, where we turned off into the Killawarra Forest. Almost as soon as we'd stopped and got out of the car at our first stop, we had our first Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, not seen previously but common throughout the whole of the Chiltern-Beechworth area. Also present in this area were White-plumed Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler and Grey Shrike-thrush. The next honeyeater seen was another new species, a Fuscous Honeyeater, which took a little longer to see well.

One of our main target species here was Speckled Warbler, and it didn't take long for Tania and Phil to find one, a very obliging bird which often fed on the ground or in tangles of dead branches, and stayed put for quite a while. A Common Bronzewing was flushed and Dusky Woodswallows hawked over a clearing.

Next up was a group of noisy White-browed Babblers, followed by Red-capped Robin and Jacky-winter, before this site produced its third new honeyeater species for the trip, this time the rather uncommon Black-chinned Honeyeater.

From Killawarra it was only a short drive to the adjacent Warby Range State Park where we had what was certainly the non-avian highlight of the trip, when Phil spotted a Koala asleep in the fork of a eucalyptus tree right over the path. Sara was out of the car like a shot, and we got stunning views of this most charismatic of animals. Having eventually decided that we'd seen enough we stopped at a picnic site for some lunch, before starting the birding again.

Crested Shrike-tit was a good early find, followed by another Fuscous Honeyeater and both Western and White-throated Gerygones. Our main target here, however, was Powerful Owl which Phil had seen roosting in the area previously. After bushwhacking for maybe 20 minutes he pointed to a branch of a tree ahead of us and there it was - a stunning Powerful Owl roosting in full view. The scope was hurriedly brought into play, for some of the best owl views I've ever had - magnificent!

A White-winged Triller showed on the way back to the car, and it was then on to Beechworth where we checked into our very pleasant motel with excellent birding in the garden - we hadn't even got our bags into our room before we'd seen King Parrot, Satin Bowerbird and Crimson Rosella. No sign of the Gang-gang Cockatoos which often frequent the trees around the motel, but we would try again for these at dawn tomorrow.

Having settled in, we dropped Sara off in town for a look around, and headed off to do some more birding. Our first stop was just outside town on the way towards Chiltern at a spot where Phil was found Barking Owl previously. Unfortunately, the owls weren't co-operating, although we saw Rainbow Bee-eater here, so we moved on to Chiltern. We saw Little Eagle, Dollarbird and Fairy Martin as we drove around the town, and a trail into the Box-Ironbark National Park produced the hoped-for Turquoise Parrot, as well as more White-browed Babblers.

At this point we found probably the scarcest and most difficult of all the birds I saw during this trip, a superb Square-tailed Kite soaring over farmland. The views were quite distant, but adequate to see the main identification features, and I was more than happy with any views of this very difficult bird.

Rufous Whistler and White-plumed Honeyeater were also seen here, while a wet area produced some very good birds including Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Pink-eared Duck, Australian Shoveler, Latham's Snipe, Black-fronted Dotterel and Black-tailed Native-hens.

Commoner birds in this area included Noisy Miners, Australian Ravens, White-breasted Woodswallows and Eastern Rosellas, the latter perched on fence lines where in Europe we'd have crows! Another wet area added more species to the day list - Royal Spoonbill, Chestnut Teal, Western Swamphen, Straw-necked Ibis and Little Pied Cormorant, while an Australian Hobby flew by. We spent some time driving around Chiltern town looking for Little Lorikeets but no luck, so we returned to Beechworth and our hotel.

Back at our hotel the Satin Bowerbird again put in an appearance, as well as Striated Thornbill while we waited for it to go dark. We then drove to a site outside Beechworth where Phil hoped to find nightjars, stopping along the way to watch a Yellow-footed Antechinus caught in our headlights on a roadside tree and another sleeping Koala. We reached the nightjar spot, and some quick torch work eventually gave brief views of a White-throated Eared-Nightjar as it hawked overhead.

From here it was back to the Barking Owl spot visited this morning, where the birds were much more co-operative now that darkness had fallen. Some playback on the tape produced not just one but two Barking Owls, and these again gave extremely good views as they flew in and landed overhead and were picked out in the spotlight.

Birds recorded

Finlay - Black Swan, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, Little Corella, Long-billed Corella, Red-rumped Parrot, Crested Pigeon, Dusky Moorhen, Coot, Australasian Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Pied Cormorant, White-breasted Woodswallow, Willie-wagtail, Magpie-lark, Welcome Swallow, Australian Reed Warbler

Savenake - Superb Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Grey-crowned Babbler, Apostlebird, Grey Butcherbird

Killawarra - Common Bronzewing, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Speckled Warbler, Jacky-winter, Red-capped Robin, White-browed Babbler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Dusky Woodswallow

Warby Range - Powerful Owl, Fuscous Honeyeater, White-throated Gerygone, Western Gerygone, Crested Shrike-tit, White-winged Triller

Beechworth - Rainbow Bee-eater, Australian King-Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Barking Owl, White-throated Eared-Nightjar, Satin Bowerbird, Striated Thornbill

Chiltern Box Ironbark - Black Swan, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Shoveler, Chestnut Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Dollarbird, Eastern Rosella, Turquoise Parrot, Western Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Coot, Latham's Snipe, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Square-tailed Kite, Little Eagle, Australian Hobby, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Egret, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australasian Pelican, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, White-browed Babbler, Rufous Whistler, Australian Raven, White-breasted Woodswallow, Magpie-lark, Fairy Martin, Goldfinch

Tuesday 29 January 2002

We had planned on spending some time just after dawn at out hotel in the hope of seeing Gang-gang Cockatoos, but I slept through my alarm. I awoke to a knock on the door, to be informed by Phil that the cockatoos had just showed up. 30 seconds later I was out in the veranda with my bins enjoying these great birds!

A Yellow-faced Honeyeater was a very nice bonus, and other birds seen around the hotel included Eastern Spinebill, Striated Thornbill, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Fuscous Honeyeater and Red-browed Finch.

Having fully woken up we drove northwards again towards Chiltern, but this time turned off to Mount Pilot. We'd no sooner stopped the truck than Phil picked out an excellent Spotted Quail-thrush creeping through undergrowth in front of us. A Leaden Flycatcher gave nice views, and other birds seen near the car included White-throated Gerygone and Eastern Yellow Robin.

One honeyeater which had so far eluded giving me tickable views, despite being glimpsed a couple of times, was Brown-headed Honeyeater, but I finally managed to get good views of this relatively non-descript species. Many birds were ones seen at Killawarra and Warby Ranges - Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Eastern Shrike-tit, White-winged Triller, Rufous Whistler, Jacky-winter - but despite searching hard, and even hearing them a couple of times, we never managed to get a look at Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, our main target bird here. While looking, we saw our second Restless Flycatcher of the trip, as well as Scarlet Robin, Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills.

By now it was really starting to get hot, and our next stop, Cyanide Dam, just up the road from Mount Pilot was pretty quiet at first. However, by sitting quietly on the shores of the dam, we got some nice birds coming in to drink. First up was an excellent Turquoise Parrot, followed by a good selection of honeyeaters - Fuscous, White-plumed, Yellow-tufted and Brown-headed. White-throated Treecreeper was seen on a dam-side tree, both Striated and Spotted Pardalotes came in to drink, while Tree Martins hawked over the water and a Sacred Kingfisher landed on a dead stick. Back at the car we stopped to admire an enormous goanna, which walked across the ground, and then up a large tree as we approached.

From here we drove back to Beechworth, and down to Lake Kerford, to the east of the town. A shady wide track into woodland gave welcome respite from the afternoon heat, and the birding was good. Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Satin Bowerbird and Pied Currawong were seen easily along the track, and a White-eared Honeyeater was the first seen since Moorooduc Quarry.

Our attention was then drawn by some treecreepers which Phil thought looked odd for White-throated. We slowly tracked them down, and they turned out to be a group of Red-browed Treecreepers, to Phil's pleasure - this was a site where he had seen them previously, but not for some time and he'd thought they were no longer present.

We'd no sooner got over the excitement of these birds than we found a young Eastern Whipbird right alongside the path, my 2,500th life bird - a fitting end to an excellent few days' birding in Phil, Tania and Sam's company. The walk back to the car was also productive, resulting in both White-naped Honeyeater and Golden Whistler, and a scan of the lake produced Musk Duck among the commoner species.

From here we made a brief visit to Chiltern for one last unsuccessful look for Little Lorikeets, before finally bidding a fond farewell to Phil and Sam. They would be staying one more night in Beechworth and birding the Mount Buffalo National Park, while Tania, Sara and I were heading for Albury-Wodonga for the night.

Birds recorded

Beechworth - Gang-gang Cockatoo, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Striated Thornbill, "Black-backed Magpie", Red-browed Finch

Mount Pilot - Crimson Rosella, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, h Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Brown Thornbill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, White-throated Gerygone, Jacky-winter, Scarlet Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Spotted Quail-thrush, Crested Shrike-tit, Rufous Whistler, White-winged Triller, Grey Fantail, Leaden Flycatcher, Restless Flycatcher

Cyanide Dam - Sacred Kingfisher, Turquoise Parrot, White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Striated Pardalote, Tree Martin

Lake Kerford - Musk Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Laughing Kookaburra, Western Swamphen, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, White-throated Treecreeper, Red-browed Treecreeper, Satin Bowerbird, White-eared Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Golden Whistler, Eastern Whipbird, Pied Currawong, h Mistletoebird

Chiltern - Laughing Kookaburra, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Brown-headed Honeyeater

Wednesday 30 January 2002

An early start today, with Tania kindly giving me a lift into Wodonga to collect my hire car, before we bid her a very fond farewell. Tania's generosity and helpfulness were quite astonishing, and it would have been a much poorer trip without her company and her help, not to mention all the birds she found for me!

Having picked up the hire car I returned to the motel to collect Sara, and we started on the long drive towards the NSW coast. We had decided to stay a couple of nights in the town of Kiama, where Sara could enjoy the normal tourist facilities while I explored Barren Grounds and the surrounding area.

En route we made a brief stop at Fitzroy Falls, as it was a site Thomas & Thomas suggested for Pilotbird, but there were too many people around at midday for me to have a real chance. I walked one of the trails, right from the visitor centre, seeing Brown Thornbill and several Eastern Yellow Robins, before a cracking Grey Goshawk floated over the canopy above me. Back at the visitor centre a Flame Robin perched on an aerial and several Grey Currawongs skulked around the car park. As I was getting back into the car, I heard some cracking noises above my head, and got out to find a pair of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos feeding quietly on some fruit.

Onwards down the Illawarra Escarpment, and we checked into our motel, where a Red-whiskered Bulbul thankfully escaped being my 2,500th lifer by just 3 species! Having settled Sara in, I drove back up the escarpment to the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve to do some birding. My main target species here were Eastern Bristlebird and Ground Parrot, both difficult, and with the weather misty and drizzling heavily I was not too hopeful. Sure enough, birding wasn't brilliant in poor visibility, and I quickly gave up any hope of seeing Ground Parrots flying around at dusk as the light just wasn't good enough.

Nevertheless, a walk along the Griffith Trail did produce a Variegated Fairywren, as well as Crimson Rosellas, Little Wattlebird, Golden Whistler and Red-browed Finch before the fading light beat me.

Birds recorded

Fitzroy Falls - Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Grey Goshawk, New Holland Honeyeater, Brown Thornbill, Flame Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Currawong, Grey Fantail

Kiama - Red-whiskered Bulbul

Barren Grounds - Laughing Kookaburra, Crimson Rosella, Variegated Fairywren, New Holland Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, Golden Whistler, Red-browed Finch

Thursday 31 January 2002

Dawn saw me again arriving at Barren Grounds, but again not in a hopeful frame of mind. Thomas & Thomas suggest that an early morning visit and good weather are just about essential for a good chance of the bristlebird and while I could arrange the former, the weather was again wet and miserable. The walk anti-clockwise along the Griffith Trail produced much the same birds as yesterday - Little Wattlebird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Crimson Rosella and New Holland Honeyeater, although I also saw White-browed Scrubwren and my second Eastern Whipbird.

Then, on a downhill section about 200 metres after the track had swung to the left, a bird hopped out onto the path ahead of me - an Eastern Bristlebird! I quietly stalked it as it slowly moved back off the path, and had crippling views of this special bird as it ran up and down a horizontal dead log at a range of no more than 6 or 7 metres - a magical moment.

This is a bird that I haven't seen illustrated that well in any field guide, all of which seem to fail to capture its jizz, and so I was a little anxious as I rushed back to the car to check out the identification. However, in the car park there was a photo display with a great picture of the bird, which matched exactly what I had seen. The immediate impression was of a brownish fat-bodied bird, with a strongly cocked tail and a white throat, and the cocked tail in particular (also shown in the car park photo) seems to have eluded the field guides, perhaps because they are painted from skins?

Having satisfied myself with the identification, I decided to walk clockwise along the Griffith Trail, from the left hand side of the car park, as Thomas & Thomas suggest that area for some other good birds including Pilotbird and Southern Emuwren. Golden Whistler was seen before a bird creeping along the track in front of me stopped and allowed itself to be identified as a Bassian Thrush. I reached the junction with the track for the Illawarra Escarpment Lookout, the area recommended by Thomas & Thomas for Southern Emuwren, and immediately found one - good directions!

Just then, however, the skies opened and it poured with rain. With no real shelter I hurried back to the car park, and waited out the worst of it under one of the shelters, before racing to my car during a lull.

The weather seemed to have set in for the day, so I decided to return to the bottom of the escarpment to check out some signs I had seen for a place called the Minnamurra Rainforest Reserve. On both my visits to Barren Grounds it had been raining while dry at the foot of the escarpment, and so it proved again this morning - it had stopped raining completely by the time I reached Minnamurra.

I paid the entry fee and got chatting with the lady at the gate, who told me that it was a very good spot for Superb Lyrebird. In fact, she said, there was usually one hanging around the car park. Having established that these were genuine wild birds, it seemed too good to be true, so I drove off to park the car. As I walked back down to the visitor centre, I could see the lady beckoning me back so I ran down, and sure enough there was a Superb Lyrebird scratching around in the flower beds next to the tea garden! Fantastic views at point blank range.

Having watched it until it disappeared into the undergrowth I proceeded to walk the trail through the rainforest, a very nice walk through some excellent forest, but pretty quiet as far as birding was concerned, although I did see a Superb Lyrebird in full display within the forest itself, somehow much more satisfying than seeing one in a car park, as well as a few White-browed Scrubwrens.

Back in the car park, I enjoyed views of Golden Whistler and Pied Currawongs, before deciding to return to the motel to see if Sara fancied seeing the lyrebirds. She did, and we returned to the reserve, nearly running one over as it scooted across the road in front of the car. We saw at least three individuals around the car park, including one male in full song for about 15 minutes - a great experience. Walking around the car park produced Dusky Woodswallow and Crimson Rosella, as well as a pair of mystery birds which I eventually identified as Black-faced Monarchs.

Birds recorded

Barren Grounds - Crimson Rosella, Southern Emuwren, New Holland Honeyeater, Eastern Bristlebird, White-browed Scrubwren, Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistler, Eastern Whipbird, Bassian Thrush

Minnamurra - Laughing Kookaburra, Crimson Rosella, Superb Lyrebird, White-browed Scrubwren, Golden Whistler, Pied Currawong, Dusky Woodswallow, Black-faced Monarch

Friday 1 February 2002

Today was scheduled as a non-birding day, as we were intending to drive up to Sydney and see the sights. However, I had still not seen Pilotbird, and I decided on a last dawn visit back to Barren Grounds to try to see one. I'd made a phone call to Murray Lord in Sydney the previous night, and he had suggested that I try the thick woods and scrub near the warden's house, i.e. downhill from the main car park, so this is where I was at first light. Thomas & Thomas report having seen Superb Lyrebirds feeding alongside the road at dawn in this area, and sure enough I had one doing exactly that as I climbed the escarpment from Jamberoo.

It was again drizzling at Barren Grounds and visibility was poor, but I soon had a pair of Pilotbirds in full view in a clearing maybe 30 feet from the road. I quickly left them alone to their foraging, stopping only for a White-throated Treecreeper, and then it was back to Kiama in a very satisfied frame of mind to collect Sara, and drive up to Sydney.

The drive to Sydney was uneventful, although the damage from the recent bush fires was very evident, with huge swathes of roadside vegetation blackened and dead, and many road signs melted by the heat of the fires. We had little difficulty finding out hotel, although by now it was pouring with rain. We took a bus into the centre of Sydney, admired the opera house and the harbour bridge, and then caught a ferry to Taronga to visit Sydney Zoo.

This was well worth a visit, both for seeing Australia's many native mammals, many very difficult to see in the wild, and for the stunning views over the harbour to central Sydney. I didn't take my bins, but managed reasonable naked-eye looks at some of the many Rainbow Lorikeets flying around the zoo, and Crested Pigeons and Noisy Miners were also common.

Birds recorded

Barren Grounds - White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Lyrebird, Pilotbird

Sydney Zoo - Rainbow Lorikeet, Crested Pigeon, Noisy Miner, Common Myna

Saturday 2 February 2002

Our last day in Australia was to be spent in the company of Sydney birder Murray Lord, who had very kindly offered to show us around some of the local sites. We met him at his home in Leichhardt, a suburb of Sydney, and started off with a walk in his local park to look for Figbird. No sign of the bird for now, so we proceeded on our way towards Wiseman's Ferry where we would be spending the morning.

En route we made a roadside stop at Dural when Murray spotted some swifts overhead, and these proved to be White-throated Needletails, while Little Wattlebird and Magpie-lark were seen nearby. Some Scaly-breasted Lorikeets also flew over, but not tickable views, unfortunately.

Approaching Wiseman's Ferry we made a brief detour to Laughtondale Gully where an out of range Turquoise Parrot had been reported - we dipped on the parrot, but managed to see some good birds including Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Spinebill and Eastern Whipbird.

Having crossed the ferry we made our way to the Great North Road to look for our main target species of the day, Origma. Sadly, although this is a very reliable site for the bird, we had no luck at all today and dipped completely. However, we did have some excellent compensation. Firstly near the bottom of the road, Murray saw what he thought was a cuckoo flying into a tree. We descended to see it better, and sure enough it proved to be a Channel-billed Cuckoo, a cracking bird. A Wonga Pigeon was also seen here.

Even better was to follow, however, as a quiet cracking sound above our heads attracted our attention to three Glossy-Black Cockatoos feeding in a Casuarina pine. This is a very difficult bird to find, and according to Thomas & Thomas the Dharug-Wiseman's Ferry area is just about the only place in Australia where it can be seen reliably, although even then it is not an easy bird to find, so I was really delighted with these sightings, especially at a range of no more than 10 metres.

Several Eastern Yellow Robins were seen as we made our way up the hill, and other sightings included Grey Butcherbird, Noisy Friarbird, Brown Thornbill, Golden Whistler and Leaden Flycatcher. Eventually we reluctantly gave up on the Origmas, and decided to make our way over to Dharug National Park.

We stopped on the way where the road crosses a small stream as this is an area where Lewin's Rail has been seen in the past, but there was no sign of this bird, and the mozzies were pretty bad, so we soon moved on. Arriving at Dharug we took the entrance road as far as the car park and picnic area at the end, and birded around the car park for a while, seeing Dollarbird, Laughing Kookaburra and Lewin's Honeyeater.

Crossing over a small stream at the far end of the car park we had a nice surprise in the form of a Brush Turkey on its mound, quite unconcerned about our presence. A second occupied mound was situated a few metres further back. Some more time around the car park produced Satin Bowerbird, Golden Whistler, Variegated Fairywren and Eastern Yellow Robin, before the Brush Turkey made an appearance on this side of the stream, and wandered around the picnic area for a while.

It was time to return over the river and back towards Sydney, seeing a White-bellied Sea-Eagle from the ferry on the way back. Our next stop was to be Mitchell Park in Cattai, and we'd no sooner got out of the car than Murray found an Olive-backed Oriole in a small tree near the car. Bell Miners were common here - strangely these were only seen here and at Moorooduc, although they were very common and conspicuous at both sites. Lewin's Honeyeater and Dollarbird were seen before we found our main target species, Brown Gerygone - quite an unremarkable bird but with a fairly small geographical distribution.

A Sacred Kingfisher was seen along the river, and I finally managed to see a male Golden Whistler - all the birds seen previously on this trip had been females or immatures. Silvereye, Satin Bowerbird and Australian King-Parrot were also seen before we found a mystery cuckoo on a low branch across the path. This one had us fooled for quite a while, but Murray eventually identified it as a young Brush Cuckoo. Cuckoos had generally been scarce on this trip, so it was nice to get two new species on the last day.

Leaden Flycatcher and White-throated Treecreeper were seen on the way back to the car, and then it was time to head back to Sydney for us to catch our flight home. At Leichhardt we had just enough time to check out the park again, and this time Murray quickly found a Figbird in the top of a large tree. A short walk in the opposite direction produced good views at last of Rainbow Lorikeets, a nice bird to end my Australian trip, and then it was time to say farewell and thanks to Murray and head to the airport to catch our flights home.

This had been a really superb trip, with lots of exceptionally good birds, and we are totally indebted to all the kind people who helped us out along the way, and made the trip such a success. Many thanks to you all.

Birds recorded

Dural - White-throated Needletail, Spotted Turtle Dove, Little Wattlebird, Magpie-lark

Laughtondale Gully - Australian King-Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Whipbird

Wiseman's Ferry - Australian Wood Duck, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Wonga Pigeon, White-bellied Fish Eagle, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistler, Grey Butcherbird, Leaden Flycatcher

Dharug - Australian Brush-turkey, Dollarbird, Laughing Kookaburra, Satin Bowerbird, Variegated Fairywren, Lewin's Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistler, h Eastern Whipbird

Mitchell Park - Dollarbird, Sacred Kingfisher, Brush Cuckoo, Australian King-Parrot, White-throated Treecreeper, Satin Bowerbird, Lewin's Honeyeater, Bell Miner, Brown Gerygone, Golden Whistler, Olive-backed Oriole, Leaden Flycatcher, Silvereye

Sydney - Rainbow Lorikeet, Figbird

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