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Eastern Australia, October

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Old Tuesday 19th December 2017, 20:21   #1
jwreeves
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Eastern Australia, October

I have recently starting planning an independent birding trip here for October 2018.

This will be my first visit to Australia, and as it will probably be the last opportunity I have to go for many years, I am looking to visit 3 areas, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns, to give myself a shot at a wider variety of desired species. Due to work commitments I can only go for around 3 weeks. Currently looking at 22 nights, although this could be extended by 1 or 2 if needs be(trying to keep costs down though and already taking me beyond my paid leave limit). I realise that this limits my time somewhat so 'clearing up' each area will not happen, but I aim to have a few main targets in each region, and then see as much else as I can as I go along.

I am hoping people that live here or have visited can help me with a few things to help me decide if 22 nights will suffice before I look for and book international flights:

Timing of trip- I can leave any time in October, but am currently looking at it running into the first week of November, to increase my chances of seeing a Buff-breasted paradise-kingfisher around cairns, as these look pretty special! Would arriving in the second half of the month mean quieter birding elsewhere? Or would it not make much difference? And will fairywrens be in breeding plumage throughout the month?

Pelagic options - Are there many birding pelagic trips from the Sydney or Melbourne areas at this time of year? If not, what is the birding like from whale watching trips? Is it even worth a day out to sea in October?


Itinerary - I've been looking at how to split my time between each area, not final by any means but just to get an idea if I have given myself enough time...

looking at 6/7 nights Sydney area, 5 full days birding on land(although the 1st would be mixing in sightseeing and taking it easy due to jetlag, but only key targets regent bowerbird and lyrebird, and probably ground parrot if time) with possibly another day for pelagic,

7 nights 'Melbourne' - want to head up towards Kerang and then Ouyen for 4 nights combined, with 2 full days for Melbourne and the coast(probably at least a day short here?). And are little penguins reliable at St Kilda pier, or would I have to go to Phillip island for a greater chance?,

And 7 nights for 6 full days birding around cairns, but possibly 1 of those would be spent visiting michaelmas cay and great barrier reef? Looking at flight times could probably get a half day extra in on either side

(the last night will be in sydney before departure)

Are any of those way too short a time? Or even too long? I realise it will be very rushed but will be out dawn to dusk, and longer when I can! And don't carry a camera so won't be spending time trying to get the perfect shot of everything, I just admire the bird and on to the next. Not looking to be guided due to extra costs, but if any areas require it due to tough birding or access I will consider it


Hire cars - normal cars ok for these areas or will I need high clearance/4x4 at any?

Site guides - Any recommended books or sites online that describe birding sites of these areas in detail? Preferably with good site maps (aware that Australia is well covered by ebird)

And best areas for chance of koala and platypus(wild obviously!)

I know theres a fair bit there but any advice would be much appreciated!

Cheers,
John
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Old Tuesday 19th December 2017, 22:25   #2
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Hi John,

Just a quick thought: consider the Etihad route via Abu Dhabi and Perth (WA). It's good value, very good quality, nice to have a short break and stretch the legs in UAE (seriously helps with the jetlag), and you could add a bunch of extra species for very little investment in time. I cleared up a good chunk of the WA specialties in Perth in a single day with the help of some local birders. If you take 3-4 days you could head a bit further inland for the wheatbelt species, then take an evening flight to Melbourne to maximise time. This could also be done via Singapore or Hong Kong by the way - a bit of creative multi-trip searching on Skyscanner should get you your flights for less than £1000.
The infrastructure is generally top notch (at least in the limited parts I've been to, the outback is probably a lot rougher) and arranging cars & accommodation easy.
The birding is pretty straightforward as well: for the most part fairly easy to find and not too many confusing IDs. I really liked my Pizzey & Knight guide - it's a bit bulky in the field but very thorough and the plates are gorgeous. I saw plenty of Fairywrens in summer plumage in June, don't think they all moult during winter.
Finally, you've already mentioned eBird for distribution info & checklists, and get in touch with the local birders (e.g. via Birdingpal and local clubs) - I found them very responsive and eager to show off their awesome country :)

Cheers,
Joost
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2017, 07:35   #3
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Best site guide in my opinion is Dolby and Clarke, Finding Australian Birds http://www.publish.csiro.au/book/6518/
All the fairywrens I saw in eastern Australia in Oct/Nov 2004 were in resplendent breeding plumage (they were more patchy when I was last there in July 2014 but even then you could always find pristine males).
As for Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, I was in Cairns for the first week of November in 2004 and I didn't see any (was in touch with local birders and they hadn't seen any, one later got in touch and said he's seen his first on 10 Nov and I had left on the 8th I think) - not sure if this is the same every year.
And of course use eBird as much as you can, the best resource for planning birding trips to Australia.

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Old Wednesday 20th December 2017, 16:38   #4
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Thank you both for your replies!

Nohatch, I am hoping to visit friends for a long weekend in shanghai on the way home so this will take up a few days. Although I have yet to inform them of this, so may have a bit more time to play with! A short stop in perth is not yet out of the question, I have mostly ignored what's available in the west as it will only make me want to visit for much longer than planned, which is not a possibility time wise or financially unfortunately! Although on my current possible itinerary I will be departing the UK on a tuesday, so 1 extra day off work would mean up to 3 extra abroad...!

Thank you for the book recommendation Edward! wrt the paradise-kingfishers, looks the odd 1 arrives last few days October with chances increasing through November. As there is a pelagic out of sydney on 13/10, may move the trip forward a week to make that if my chances will be slim anyway, and if I stumble upon 1 on my last day it will be a nice bonus!

Cheers,
John
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2017, 17:46   #5
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Is there a specific reason you are heading to Kerang? If you are heading that way, I'd consider going to Deniliquin and hiring Phil Maher to see Plains Wanderer. There's a pretty good selection of inland birds in this area.

The Leeton area is also very good, with the excellent Fivebough wetland, and Cocoparra NP etc.

Personally, I enjoyed inland SE Oz more than the coast.
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2017, 19:29   #6
jwreeves
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Is there a specific reason you are heading to Kerang? If you are heading that way, I'd consider going to Deniliquin and hiring Phil Maher to see Plains Wanderer. There's a pretty good selection of inland birds in this area.

The Leeton area is also very good, with the excellent Fivebough wetland, and Cocoparra NP etc.

Personally, I enjoyed inland SE Oz more than the coast.
Thanks for the reply!

It looked to be somewhere gettable from Melbourne with a midday-ish arrival, to start a birding drive next day towards ouyen, with white-winged fairywren 1st target in morning! The planning is very much in its infancy though!

Iíve heard the plains-wanderer tour is expensive, though donít know how much? Despite its rarity its not a bird that really appeals to me, if I was to do it it would be more for inland dotterel!
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2017, 20:42   #7
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Yes, Phil Maher isn't cheap, but you can often share costs with other birders, or do one of the weekend tours he advertises. I'm not sure whether Inland Dotterels are still in the Deniliquin area... I think they moved in during the drought, but might have moved out with the decent rains last year. There's good birding around Deniliquin even if you don't try for PW - there's a nice riverside camp ground with Superb Parrot amongst other birds.
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Old Thursday 21st December 2017, 07:26   #8
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Hi John.

22 days should be a good amount of time to see a good range of species along the east coast. The later you are in Cairns the better your chance of Buff-breasted paradise-kingfisher, I missed them the first time I went up. Going a little later shouldn't decrease birding elsewhere

For your itinerary, I would personally concentrate on Cairns and Sydney/NSW. There is quite a bit of overlap between Sydney and Melbourne and you'd get more bang for your buck by going inland from Sydney and trying places like Round Hill and Lake Cargelligo.

The spots around Sydney to concentrate on would be the Royal national park 1 day should be fine but ideally two. Barren grounds for a morning, great for eastern bristlebirds, Pilotbird and if you're lucky Ground parrot. Capertee valley for 2 days and if you wanted to extend this part of the trip the round hill/lake Cargelligo area is fantastic and will certainly have white-winged fairy wrens.

If you do go to Melbourne I believe the penguins are pretty reliable at St Kilda and there are also Water rats.

Koala are tough around Sydney, don't think they get up to Cairns but can be plentiful south west of Melbourne just past Lorne. The best place for platypus would be in Yungaburra to the west of Cairns http://www.yungaburra.com/attraction...nd-yungaburra/

A regular hire car should be fine in most places but I know mount Lewis can be tough if there has been rain.

Hope this helps and feel free to ask away if you have any other questions.

Rob
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Old Thursday 21st December 2017, 17:20   #9
jwreeves
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Cheers Rob!

There seems to be some species eg penguin, banded stilt, pink robin etc... that I would like to see that seem much more likely around Melbourne, plus koala, so can see myself visiting here, but will look closer at the sites you suggested. Would 2 full days be a bit rushed to do great otway NP- werribee? Think I would be able to stretch it to 3. Will probably book internal flights a month or 2 after internationals anyway to look into everything more closely!

John
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Old Thursday 21st December 2017, 19:40   #10
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I did the Plains Wanderer weekend on 21st-22nd October this year. At $320 it was very good value for a ful day and following morning. We saw both Plains Wanderer and Inland Dotterel and a lot of other good birds and I thoroughly recommend it.
Penguins were easy to see at St. Kilda in the evening.
As regards flights I flew London to Perth, Perth to Melbourne and Brisbane to London for a total cost of £813. This was with Singapore airlines for the international flights and Virgin Australia for the internal flight, booked with dial a flight.
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Old Friday 22nd December 2017, 00:48   #11
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For those number of nights I would fly into Melbourne
1)Melbourne - Drive to Adelaide (do Phil Mayer's trip near Deniliquin) + Weribbee sewage works + penguins + mallee etc...
2) Sydney 3-4 full days total - maybe go inland? + barren grounds + Wollongong Pelagic
3) Brisbane 3 Days O'Reileys/Lamington - I don't like O'Reileys but I saw a lot there in a short period of time
4) Rest of the time in Cairns / Atherton table lands / Cassowary house etc...(tree kangaroo reliable crater NP), chambers, kingfisher offer different species.
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Old Friday 22nd December 2017, 14:18   #12
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Thanks both for the suggestions!

I have ordered finding Australian birds, and will keep going through ebird closely when Christmas hangovers and food comas allow!
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Old Monday 5th March 2018, 21:24   #13
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I have finally got round to booking my international flights for this trip! Have managed to push it up to 27 nights, which I have almost settled on splitting up between Sydney(8), Melbourne(9) and Cairns(10) areas, despite being very tempted by some of the other suggestions above, brisbane especially.

Think I need to try and get some things booked up for the cairns area ASAP so help on a few things for here would be much appreciated!

How reliable are cassowary at cassowary house? Looks a good place to stop but can probably only stop here 1 night due to cost and would seem much more expensive without the main prize! Is it possible to bird here without staying the night? Or are there other sites that would be better and cheaper than here for cassowary within a couple hours of cairns? Etty bay perhaps? Or is mission beach a better option?

Are there cheaper options to kingfisher park birdwatchers lodge close by? Could probably afford 2 nights here if there's space, but was hoping to spend maybe 4 nights in this area? another lodge or just motels would be fine so long as its in the mount molloy/julatten area. Bed, fan and shower minimum requirements!

And any recommendations for accommodation near Atherton?

cheers,
John
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Old Wednesday 7th March 2018, 17:46   #14
Larry Sweetland
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Get recent local gen on cassowary if you can. Easy (and free) at Etty bay when we were there but much harder at mission beach.
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Old Thursday 8th March 2018, 19:22   #15
jwreeves
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Thankyou Larry!
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Old Tuesday 20th March 2018, 16:49   #16
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The trip is starting to take shape! Have a good idea what I want to do itinerary wise, place reserved on Sydney pelagic, daintree river dawn cruise booked and 3 nights booked at kingfisher lodge at end of my holiday! However, I have a few more things I would like some more info on if anybody can help!

Is anyone familiar with eastlakes golf course Sydney? I am thinking of starting here first thing on day 1 but have not yet found where to park, opening hours and the best areas to bird? Hoping to look for crakes first off so is there a specific lake to check for these?

Is there a specific spot at Ourimbah reserve for regent bowerbirds? And again parking and opening hours. Or is the rest area a better place to begin looking for them?

Are the tracks at Hattah Kulkyne park driveable in a normal vehicle?

Finding Australian birds states that for access to western treatment plant west of Melbourne, a permit and safety induction is needed, is this still the case?

And are the gouldian finches at mareeba wetlands considered a self-sustaining population?

Cheers
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Old Wednesday 21st March 2018, 10:23   #17
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Are the tracks at Hattah Kulkyne park driveable in a normal vehicle?
Mostly....

http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/ass...itor-Guide.pdf

"Scenic drives
Most tracks in the park can be driven in 2WD vehicles, but some are sandy and may become slippery or impassable after rain. Check track conditions online, at the Visitor Centre or call 13 1963 before you leave.
The self-guided Hattah Lakes Nature Discovery Trail gives a great introduction to the park, while the Kulkyne Loop Drive provides a great overview of the park."
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Old Wednesday 21st March 2018, 12:13   #18
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Thankyou mjh
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