Wow! I’m not quite sure where to start or end with this describing this adventure. I’ve wanted to bird Australia since I was a young girl, as I mentioned in my last blog…this was truly a dream come true for me!
I started off in Caloundra along the Sunshine Coast with fairly cheap accommodations by Golden Beach. Birding there almost seemed too easy. I could see the coast from my hotel room full of pelicans, geese, and shorebirds.
My first quest was for Glossy Black Cockatoos, which I didn’t get by Pinnaroo Rotary Park. I did however enjoy the town of Noosa, and some good birds at Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve with Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying through at sunset.
Next was one of my favorite all time spots to bird, Gold Creek Reservoir. I ended up with over 35 species in about 2 hours, which included a picnic lunch I brought, gorgeous views of Pale-headed Rosellas, and a Northern Yellow-spotted Goanna.
No Queensland visit would be complete for any birder without visiting Lamington National Park. I was not able to do this iconic location justice with just a day trip from Caloundra, but I landed amazing Paradise Riflebird and King Parrot encounters. No Glossy Black Cockatoos or lyrebirds but I ended my day with a wine tasting celebration on my way out of the park at the vineyards.
I’m sure you’ve gathered most of my highlights thus far were parrots, although I throughly enjoyed the fantails and monarchs in Australia after spending so much time with elepaio (endemic monarch flycatchers in Hawaii).
After a week around Brisbane and Caloundra I flew to Cairns. My mission became searching the mosquito infested trails along Lacey Creek in Mission Beach for Southern Cassowary. After a full day of hiking back and forth with nothing but cassowary droppings and footprints I accepted defeat and enjoyed an overcast picnic across from Dunk Island with Red-capped Plovers.
The next day was one of the best birding days of my life at Mount Hypipamee National Park. It was yet another rainy day, the tenth day of rain in a row to be exact, but when the rain cleared a young male Southern Cassowary walked right in front of my rental car in the parking area! I was in disbelief! After a full day of hiking in lowland, sticky, buggy jungle looking for cassowary I was greeted by one in the parking lot in the mountains!?! Once I regained consciousness I started hearing bowerbirds and catbirds. I ended up with over 25 species including Spotted Catbird, Tooth-billed Catbird, Golden Bowerbird, Satin Bowerbird, Gray-headed Robin, Atherton Scrubwren, and my cassowary! The short walk down to the crater and the falls were beautiful but birding from the parking lot after the rain was a lot more productive. As if the day couldn’t get any better I stopped at Hasties Swamp on my drive out which was great for waterfowl, waterbirds, and even an Australian Reed Warbler.
With my time in Cairns coming to an end I had to get to a park at the top of my bucket list, Daintree National Park. I was most excited to explore this park since I had been reading about it since childhood and I was able to book a local guide for a river birding cruise. None of the local guides I had reached out to had gotten back to me but this one. I felt confident knowing with a guide I should see a frogmouth. There was intense rain and some flooding in Port Douglas the night before but I drove up to meet my guide in the Daintree Village regardless. There was a break in the weather that morning but my guide pulled a no show! I waited over a half hour and then drove to a birding lodge nearby, Red Mill House, thinking I could at least bird their property and get some advice. The owner, Trish, was beyond accommodating, even though I wasn’t a guest there. She called my scheduled guide and he explained that since the other couple booked canceled and there was a tree down in the road he couldn’t take me out. She didn’t seem thrilled with his excuse either and she suggested I just take the croc boat tour, which I really didn’t want to do. I took her advice and the guide on the croc boat was surprisingly knowledgable, stopped for me to bird where he could, and of course shared his favorite crocs with us. The weather made birding difficult, but I did see a Buff-brested Paradise Kingfisher. With more nasty rain coming to the Daintree I headed down to Kingfisher Park Lodge and Mt. Lewis Rd. I met up with Carol at Kingfisher Park Lodge, who was very busy cleaning up after a big group had just left, but she still made time to give me lots of information. Thanks to her I was able to see Papuan Frogmouth, Red-necked Crake and even a White-streaked Honeyeater, normally only seen in far northern Queensland, with ease on her property. Mt. Lewis Rd produced a Fernwren and Chowchillas for me amongst some really heavy fog.
My last full day close to Cairns was spent on a Wavelength snorkel tour out to Opal Reef. After all, no trip to Queensland is complete without a trip to The Great Barrier Reef. The staff onboard were all knowledgeable and very helpful in and out of the water. I was happy to book a green and eco certified company employing marine biologists to educate their guests.
Overall I have to say Australia was just as magical and amazing as I dreamt it would be. I can’t wait to return and find more beautiful birds in the land of Oz.
I highly recommend The Complete Guide to Finding the Bird of Australia and a paperback field guide. I spent a lot on Pizzey & Knights App and was more frustrated then anything else. The old school approach with my books paid off in Queensland. None of the local guides followed through, the apps weren’t great, and wifi was almost non-existent (even at hotels and coffee shops). I’m glad I took the time to prepare meals to picnic cheap and traveled everywhere with my heavy books.