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!