This can be a starting or finishing point, although due to the heat and oppressive humidity, not to mention frequent tropical downpours, a visit after early December is unwise. The Darwin area itself offers some excellent birding, with the gorgeous Rainbow Pitta high on anyone’s wish list and easily seen close to the city. Chestnut Rail and Great-billed Heron are also in the area, though harder to see. Species typical of the tropical north, which can be seen around Darwin include Red-headed Honeyeater, Brown Whistler, Green-backed Gerygone, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove and several species of flycatcher amongst many others. Oriental Plover, Little Curlew and Oriental Pratincole all enter Australia for the northern winter here and may be around in large numbers early in the (northern winter) season. Amongst the more common night birds, Rufous and Barking Owls are easier to encounter in the Northern Territory, as is Long-tailed Nightjar. With luck we may encounter the former two during daylight hours.
Moving further south we will head into Kakadu National Park, famous for its aboriginal paintings and sacred sites (which can be experienced if requested) and another set of birds. This is one of the best areas to look for the Red Goshawk, which is unfortunately one of the harder birds to connect with in Australia. Other species which we will look for here include White-lined and Banded Honeyeaters, Partridge Pigeon, Chestnut-backed Button Quail, Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Banded Fruit Dove, Sandstone Shrike-thrush and the fabulous White-throated Grasswren. Slightly further south still Katherine Gorge offers great scenery, with the added attraction of Northern Rosella, Gouldian Finch and Hooded Parrot (the latter two difficult). Heading west takes us into the range of the sensational Lilac-crowned Fairywren, arguably the best of an incredible family. Here we will also look for White-quilled Rock Pigeon and Grey Falcon.
The Tropical North Queensland region is internationally recognized as a major destination for birdwatchers from around the world. Over half of Australia’s bird species are found here, including 12 species that are locally endemic to the rainforests of the Cairns and Tablelands region: the stunning Golden and Tooth-billed Bowerbirds, Victoria's Riflebird, Bridled and Macleay's Honeyeaters, Bower's Shrike-thrush, Chowchilla, Pied Monarch, Mountain Thornbill, Fernwren, Atherton Scrubwren and Lesser Sooty Owl. Within a 150-kilometre radius of Cairns there are eleven different habitats that we regularly visit. These include the tall, wet sclerophyll forests restricted to the western edge of the ranges that provide habitat for species such as Little Lorikeet, Fuscous, White-cheeked and Banded Honeyeaters, Crested Shrike-tit, Lovely Wren, Grey Butcherbird and various button quails.
In the dry sclerophyll woodland to the west and north of Cairns we find species such as Squatter Pigeon, Black-throated Finch, Pale-headed Rosella, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Red-backed Wren, Great Bowerbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Apostlebird, Buff-breasted and Painted Button-quail and Barking Owl. Nearby in the Savannah Australian Bustard, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Spotted and Swamp Harriers and other raptors can be found. The tropical rainforests (lowlands, uplands and highlands) are home to the local endemic bird species. In addition the awesome Cassowary, the incredible Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Blue-faced Finch, Red-necked Crake, White-eared Monarch, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Wompoo, Topknot and White-headed Pigeons, Noisy Pitta, Grey-headed and Pale Yellow Robins are found here. The region also has a number of permanent and ephemeral wetlands which provide habitat for species such as Cotton and Green Pygmy-goose, Radjah Shelduck, Wandering and Plumed Whistling-ducks, Glossy Ibis, Comb-crested Jacana, White-browed, Baillon's and Spotless Crakes, Black and Little Bittern and Black-necked Stork. During the cooler months large mixed flocks of Sarus Cranes and Brolgas are commonly encountered on arable land.
The mudflats, mangroves and inter-tidal zone of Cairns Esplanade and Trinity Inlet region have become a focal point for birdwatchers from around the world. Waders are present in numbers from about September to early March. Some of the species found here include Terek, Sharp-tailed, Curlew and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Asiatic Dowitcher, Red-necked Stint, Mongolian and Greater Sand Plovers, Great and Red Knots, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits and we will time our visit to coincide with the tide to allow close range views. White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Brahmin Kite, Osprey and Peregrine Falcon are also frequently seen quartering the inlet and mudflats. Mangrove Robin and Varied Honeyeater are often observed in the nearby mangroves with an occasional sighting of a Great-billed Heron and often a pair of Beach Stone Curlew.
The Great Barrier Reef, sand cays and islands are a must for the serious birdwatcher. Species we most often see include Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds, Common and Black Noddies, Sooty, Bridled, Black-naped, Crested, Lesser Crested and Caspian Terns, Brown Boobies and occasionally Sooty Oystercatcher, Roseate Tern, Masked Booby and White-tailed Tropicbird. Add to this the chance to go snorkeling over the Reef and it becomes a once in a lifetime opportunity.
In addition, mammals observed during the course of the tour are likely to include: Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo, Lemuroid Ringtail, Herbert River Ringtail, Green Ringtail, Common Ringtail, Coppery Brushtail and Striped Possums, Greater and Sugar Gliders, Platypus, Long-nosed and Brown Bandicoots, Rufous Bettong, Red-legged Pademelons, Mareeba Rock-wallaby, Agile, Whiptail and Northern Swamp Wallabies, Common Wallaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Dingo. Fifteen species of reptiles and amphibians may also be observed, including Lace and Spotted Tree monitor, Frilled Lizard, Boyd's Forest and Two-lined Dragons, Eastern Water Dragon, Amethystine and Carpet Pythons, Estuarine Crocodile, Saw-Shelled Terrapin, Northern Barred Frog and Green-eyed Tree Frog. Our most recent fully accommodated wildlife/birding trip was with clients from the US. We found 227 species of birds including Brolga and Sarus Cranes, Australian Bustards, Golden, Satin and Tooth-billed Bowerbirds, Victoria’s Riflebird, Black-breasted Buzzard, Crested Shrike-tit, Black Bitterns, Great-billed Heron, Papuan Frogmouth, Squatter Pigeons and most of the local endemic species.
The main attractions to birders in the Brisbane area are the subtropical rainforests to the west of the city, notably Lamington National Park, offering a wealth of birdlife, especially in the cloud forests at higher elevations. Here such birds as Marbled Frogmouth, Sooty Owl, Noisy Pitta, Russet-tailed and Bassian Ground Thrushes (both stunning Zoothera thrushes), Logrunner, Paradise Riflebird and Spotted Quail Thrush can be located fairly easily. Regent and Satin Bowerbirds are fairly common in the area, the latter often helping themselves to anything blue to decorate their bowers! The two main prizes here are Albert’s Lyrebird and Rufous Scrub-bird, both of which are difficult to see but repay the effort. At least 2 days should be spent in this region, but longer will allow a more thorough discovery of the abundant wildlife of this fascinating area.
Thinking of Sydney it is hard to move beyond those most famous of landmarks, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, but the area around the nation’s largest city offers some great birding.
The picturesque Blue Mountains, inland of the city, are home to many forest and heathland species such as Superb Lyrebird (the largest passerine in the world), Gang-gang Cockatoo, Yellow-tailed and Glossy Black-Cockatoo (both harrier sized and astounding!), Beautiful Firetail, Red-browed Treecreeper, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Pilotbird, many Honeyeaters and Rock Warbler, the latter only found in this area. Not far inland from here is the Capertee Valley, an exceptional birding area offering subtly different species to those found around Sydney. It is one of the best places to see woodland birds such as Hooded Robin, Diamond Firetail, Plum-headed Finch, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Speckled Warbler and Turquoise Parrot and offers the most likely chance to see the endangered Regent Honeyeater, the best of a huge group.
One of the highlights of any Australian holiday will be a pelagic off the New South Wales coastline. We will tailor our itinerary to coincide with a boat trip out of either Sydney or Wollongong in search of the huge range of seabirds found offshore here. With luck several species of albatross will be seen, including incredible views of the supreme Wandering Albatross, along with a good range of shearwaters and petrels such as Australasian Cape Petrel and Sooty-tailed Shearwater. You will soon realize why this particular activity here is internationally famous.
The scenery on Tasmania is absolutely stunning, strongly reminiscent of the north of Scotland. It lacks the heat of the mainland but is prone to unpredictable weather, and can be cold and wet (and snowy!) at practically any time of the year. With slightly more clothing on than before, though it is well worth it with 13 easily seen endemics, and many other fantastic species. For those pushed for time 2 days will give a good chance of cleaning up but a little more time spent here will enhance the experience somewhat and will give the chance to look for some of the island’s nocturnal mammals which benefit from a lack of introduced predators (including, with luck, the enigmatic Tasmanian Devil). The endemics of Tasmania are Tasmanian Native Hen, Green Rosella, the threatened Forty-spotted Pardalote, Brown Scrubwren, Scrubtit, Tasmanian Thornbill, Yellow-throated, Black-headed and Strong-billed Honeyeaters, Yellow Wattlebird, Dusky Robin and Black Currawong. Other great birds that should easily be seen here, which are difficult on the mainland include Little Blue Penguin, Hooded Plover, Pink Robin, Beautiful Firetail and Swift Parrot amongst many others. Two main sites are visited to connect with the majority of these, Bruny Island and Mount Wellington, complete with its giant Tree Ferns. This leg of the tour will be based in Hobart, the state capital and a truly great looking city that sprawls along the steep sides of the River Derwent. Several days spent with an experienced guide in such delightful scenery are sure to live long in the memory.
This part of the tour will start in the southernmost mainland Australian city, Melbourne. The environs of the city themselves offer some great birding, with local specialties such as Pacific Gull, Fairy Tern and Purple-crowned Lorikeet possible, along with a huge selection of more widespread Australian birds, and a visit to some wetlands should reveal a selection of crakes and over-wintering waders. Heading west along the south coast we will take The Great Ocean Road, one of the most famous scenic drives in the world. The meeting point of the Southern Ocean and continental Australia produce some stunning rock formations just offshore, including the Twelve Apostles. This area is also good for seeing Blue-winged Parrot and the shy Rufous Bristlebird amongst others. From here we will head northwest into the Mallee region, a term referring to the stunted, multi stemmed form adopted by the eucalyptus to adapt to the nutrient starved, sandy soils. The harsh conditions and abundant flies can make the area seem unappealing, but there are some fantastic birds living here, and persistence will reveal the likes of Malleefowl, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, Striated Grasswren and Mallee Emuwren. Parrots are also well represented here, often in huge numbers, including amongst them Regent Parrot, Pink Cockatoo, Blue-cheeked Rosella, Mulga and Red-rumped Parrots.
This area is famous for one bird in particular, the enigmatic Plains Wanderer, like a small button-quail but actually closer to the waders in evolutionary terms. Local knowledge comes to the fore here as the birds are staked out (at night using spotlights) in vast prairies – searching on your own would yield nothing at all! There is more to the area than just this, and a couple of days birding here with experienced guides will produce a great range of species, including potentially Australian Bittern, Little and Red-chested Button-quails, Black Falcon, Superb Parrot, Inland Dotterel, Painted Honeyeater and Gilbert’s Whistler. A visit to a nearby wetland will add large numbers of waterbirds, hopefully including the bizarre Musk and Pink-eared Ducks along with Freckled Duck, Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Black-backed Bittern, huge flocks of Glossy Ibis and waders (including Red-kneed Dotterel) and crakes. This area, as with a large part of Australia is prone to drought, and a prolonged period may lead to some birds moving areas in search of more favourable conditions, although local knowledge will overcome this to some degree. Similarly rain in one area will lead to an influx of birds into that area, with subsequent rapid breeding.
Cost negotiated for each tour. Brochures not available but please request additional information.
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Australia and Oceania Australia Nature & Wildlife Birdwatching Ecotourism