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Australia - Brisbane/Lamington, Aug-Sep 2010

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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 22:27   #1
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Australia - Brisbane/Lamington, Aug-Sep 2010

Ostensibly a trip to see our new grand-daughter, I managed to sneak in quite a bit of birding this time around, including three nights at O'Reilly's, and the following report summarises the highlights.

We flew with Cathay Pacific, and I can thoroughly recommend them - my wife requires assistance, and this was amply provided throughout (albeit with a little prompting on the return journey, which is typical in our experience); seats were as comfortable as economy can be, and the food was of a high standard. The price was also very reasonable, at just under 700 each.

Car hire was via Red Spot. The car itself worked fine, but was clearly "well-used" and I had to notify many scratches/dents not highlighted in the initial paperwork; odometer was showing over 80k km, so not too surprising that it was not in pristine condition. Subject to any arguments about extra charges (had to do a key drop, so cost not yet finalised) this was the cheapest option, at just over AU1,000$ for 3 weeks.

Accommodation was mostly with the kids, but also stayed at O'Reilly's and Hervey Bay. O'Reilly's is rather pricey, but you can book last-minute in the two weeks prior to your stay (or just turn up) and save about 35%. When I was there, the place was practically empty, and had I known about the savings I could have delayed booking, or booked then cancelled and re-booked (no penalty if just over 2 weeks to go before your holiday). At Hervey Bay we stayed at Sanctuary Lakes, Urangan - nice setting, and reasonable price, but rather "tired" accommodation, probably due to the fact that the owner had just sold the business.

The following report covers three main "areas" - O'Reilly's, Hervey Bay and Brisbane. It may take a while to compile - jetlag on the return leg seems to be quite a problem, and despite having been back for 3 days, I still feel quite spaced-out!
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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 22:56   #2
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We left the UK on Wed 25.8 and arrived in Brisbane just before midnight on Thu 26.8, with a 7 hour stop in Hong Kong bringing no birds, just hundreds of dragonflies around the terminal. The next few days were spent with family, just a few early morning birding forays, details in the next section. Birding "proper" started at 6am on Tue 31.8, when I headed off for Lamington NP and O'Reilly's for some time alone!

A couple of en-route stops, at Fred Bucholtz Park (Latham's Snipe, Royal Spoonbill etc) and Canungra Creek (White-headed Pigeon, but no Azure Kingfisher), and a long, winding road to the retreat, found me at O'Reilly's by about 10am. As I wasn't due to check in until early afternoon, I decided to park up in the far corner of the visitor's car park and eat my lunch. I managed one bite of my cheese roll before a Regent Bowerbird landed upon it, and within a few seconds I was under attack by them! Satin Bowerbirds were also seen in the same area, Brush-Turkeys roamed the car park, and both White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrubwren hopped around my feet, with Red-necked Pademelons (wallabys) more or less oblivious to my presence.
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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 23:19   #3
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O'Reilly's is to all intents and purposes a hotel in the middle of a rainforest. Accommodation ranges from relatively basic to quite plush, and food is pricey, but the location is superb. There are many well-marked trails leading from the resort, and a three-night visit is nowhere near time enough to walk them all. Most walks involve steep inclines, so a basic level of fitness is helpful.

Many species are easy, and can be found with little or no effort. Logrunners are everwhere, and once I got over the initial excitement I found it a little tiresome that nearly every distant scratchy noise turned out to be one! Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Whipbird, Green Catbird, Topknot Pigeon, Crimson Rosella, King Parrot, Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler, Red-browed Finch, Wonga Pigeon, Little Lorikeet etc were commonly seen.

Highlights for me included several sightings of Albert's Lyrebird, including singing/tail-fanning males, Paradise Riflebird (seen well on several occasions), Noisy Pitta (2 birds on the Border Trail), Eastern (Crested) Shrike-Tit in the lower car park, Rufous Fantail and Pale-yellow Robin along the Morans Falls track, Wompoo Fruit Dove (sadly, heard only) just south of the resort, and a pair of Tawny Frogmouth at Luke's Bluff.
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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 23:48   #4
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Very interesting to read your posts, not least because I am off to Brisbane and O'Reillys myself in the not too distant future. Oh to be tired of logrunners! Did a regent bowerbird really land upon your cheese roll?

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Old Sunday 19th September 2010, 06:44   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen S. Moore
Did a regent bowerbird really land upon your cheese roll?
if you stand at the far end of O'Reilly's (where the bus turning area is) and hold up a handful of raisins, the regent bowerbirds will land on your hand!
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Old Sunday 19th September 2010, 13:59   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen S. Moore View Post
Very interesting to read your posts, not least because I am off to Brisbane and O'Reillys myself in the not too distant future. Oh to be tired of logrunners! Did a regent bowerbird really land upon your cheese roll?

Allen
Yes, Allen! By the time I'd finished my roll there were 5 or 6 birds milling about, plus White-browed Scrubwren at my feet, a Brush Turkey trying to get into the boot and Lewin's Honeyeaters on the wing mirrors!

Should you need any info not in my report, feel free to PM me.

Oh and seriously, if you've pre-booked O'Reilly's, do re-check prices and availability as you can cancel without penalty up to a short period before your trip (about 2 weeks) then re-book, as I mentioned above - all helps to pay for their 16+ pizzas! The exchange rate alone made everything at least 50% more expensive in Australia compared to my last visit in 2005.
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Old Sunday 19th September 2010, 21:11   #7
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or you can just stay in the National park campsite (either in a tent or just sleep in your vehicle), five minutes walk from O'Reilly's, for just AU$4.50 per night.
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 20:47   #8
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As most of my time at O'Reilly's was spent walking the tracks, it was only on the final morning that I realised I had no pictures of the Regent Bowerbirds (interestingly, the females were far less wary than the males, and thus far easier to photograph), nor of the many other tame (but wild) birds around the lodges! The following photos were therefore rather rushed, and a bit more time would have helped. As always, I was torn between the birder and the photographer in me, and the birder won. Undoubtedly, the best photographic opportunities are around the lodges - rainforest photography is challenging to say the least (the Lyrebird in a previous post was the only pic to come out to my satisfaction, and was on an shutter speed of 1 second!). The lodge pictures give an idea of the accommodation - don't touch the wine, it's AU$35 a bottle...
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 21:44   #9
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A few days back with the family, then it was off again, with my wife, up to Hervey Bay for three nights. The original plan was to go to Noosa, but we'd been there before, and as we both fancied trying to see the whales, and my wife had always wanted to go to Fraser Island, the longer trip (4+ hours drive rather than 90 minutes) seemed the better option.

In many respects the birding was rather disappointing, but with a few notable exceptions. Around the accommodation were Little Wattlebird, the only ones of the holiday, and Black Swan, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk, plus best of all, a Little Eagle, all seen in early morning wanders within the grounds of Sanctuary Lakes.

Our day trip to Fraser Island was a full-blown touristy trip in a 4x4 bus, with stops at various points of interest. The "roads" are all sandy, deeply-rutted tracks, with vehicles charging here, there and everywhere, and little wildlife was evident. However, a few odds and sods were seen on the stops - a group of 4 Brown Booby off the far coast were lifers for me, several White-cheeked Honeyeaters were the only ones seen on the holiday, and a few Red-capped Plover were seen from the return ferry as it negotiated the creek leading off the island, and best of all, a Dingo was seen from the beach "run".

The next (and final) full day was the whale trip, on the M.V. Mikat. This boat was chosen as it spent more time at sea than the others, and a buffet lunch was provided. I was expecting a few distant views of whales, and hoped for some pelagic seabirds. Only a single Australian Gannet was seen, apart from a few Cormorants, but the Humpback Whales more than made up for the lack of birds! Well over a dozen were seen, leaping, tail-slapping, fin-waving etc, and a female and calf were close enough to touch, spending maybe 15 minutes passing under and around the boat. Superb!

Whilst planning for our intended trip to Noosa, I'd "googled" Black-breasted Buttonquail to find out about the Rainbow Beach birds, and noticed a site in the Hervey Bay area. I had no real idea how far the site was from where we were staying, but a tourist map in a local free magazine mentioned an area that rang a bell, so I headed off pre-dawn on our last day to see if I could find the place. It turned out to be very close to the resort - sadly, I overshot by about 25km and wasted well over an hour finding this out! I eventually found the right place (by asking for directions from the only person out at that time, who replied to my enquiries in a broad Scottish accent) and was delighted when I saw two Buttonquail almost immediately, with another two a few minutes later. The site is called Mungomery's Vine Forest Reserve, and the best way to find it is to look for a sign to Arkarra Lagoons, and follow this until the roads in THIS LINK are found. A Pale-vented Bush-hen was a nice bonus bird, seen wandering along the verge just before Vine Forest Drive.
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 22:28   #10
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The bulk of the holiday was spent around Brisbane. We stayed to the east-south-east of the city, quite near the airport, and a 5 minute drive from the Gateway Motorway, which was great for whizzing around. Local sites were identified from HERE
- there are clearly a wealth of sites to go to, and I only scratched the surface. Further afield, with more time available, I would have tried various sites recommended by fellow BF-er, Tom Tarrant, and included HERE.

"Home" for the three weeks was close to Seven Hills, only visited once, when Striated Pardalote, Olive-backed Oriole, Leaden Flycatcher, White-throated Honeyeater, Spectacled Monarch, Rainbow Bee-eater, Spangled Drongo, Rufous Whistler and all the usual common species were seen. Over the house, my only Wedge-tailed Eagle was the best of the bunch, one of my main "targets" for the holiday; Figbirds, Kookaburra, Brown Goshawk, Noisy Friarbird etc etc were also noted.
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 23:24   #11
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Minnippi Parklands proved to be a most productive site. It was only a short drive, and I managed to visit on four occasions. Tawny Grassbird, Golden-headed Cisticola, Red-backed, Variegated and Superb Fairy-wren, Buff-banded Rail, Forest and Sacred Kingfisher, Silvereye, Eastern Whipbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Spangled Drongo, Pale-headed Rosella, Bar-shouldered Dove, Rufous Whistler, Jacky Winter, White-breasted Woodswallow, Australian Hobby, Leaden Flycatcher and Striated Pardalote were all seen, with special mention of Varied Triller, Wandering Whistling-duck, Double-barred Finch and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.
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Old Tuesday 21st September 2010, 00:03   #12
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nice report. I really liked the time I spent around Brisbane. Lamington was superb.
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Old Tuesday 21st September 2010, 15:29   #13
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A Pale-vented Bush-hen was a nice bonus bird, seen wandering along the verge just before Vine Forest Drive.
I'll say! Maybe they're easier to see further south but they're a nightmare to see up here despite being commonly heard minutes from my home. Harder to see than most Button Quails IMHO...
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Old Tuesday 21st September 2010, 20:37   #14
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I'll say! Maybe they're easier to see further south but they're a nightmare to see up here despite being commonly heard minutes from my home. Harder to see than most Button Quails IMHO...
I had no idea! Guess that's a common difficulty for the visitor, knowing the true significance of their sightings.
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Old Tuesday 21st September 2010, 21:21   #15
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A few other Brisbane sites were visited over the final days of the holiday. Nudgee Waterhole was home to a few common waterbirds but nothing out of the ordinary. Nearby, the Tabbil-bun Dhagun Boardwalk at Nudgee Beach held several Collared Kingfisher, Mangrove Gerygone, Rainbow Bee-eater, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, a very confiding Striated Heron, Brahminy Kite and good views (finally) of Scarlet Honeyeater. Boondall Wetlands were close by and visited the same morning - more Collared Kingfisher, Chestnut Teal, Leaden Flycatcher, Bar-shouldered Dove and White-bellied Sea-eagle were seen here, as well as a robust collection of mossies (the bites are only now subsiding).

Lytton Wader Roost failed to live up to its name, but did hold Aus Grey and Chestnut Teal in good numbers and a large covey of Brown Quail showed well, with a few more Collared Kingfisher, Spectacled Monarch and 46 Black Swan on the sea along the Wynnum Mangrove Boardwalk adjoining the site. Bar-sided Skink were a non-bird highlight, peering out of holes in the Mangrove trunks.

Manly Beach added Aus Pelican, Gull-billed Tern, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint and Great Knot to the trip-list, but wader numbers were low (not the best time of year); an Australian Hobby showed well over a small park here.

Mt Coot-tha was visited once to look for the Powerful Owls that roost just past the J C Slaughter Falls; none were seen, but it seems that I missed the correct area (walk upstream along the river itself, from just below the falls viewing platform). Black-faced Monarch was new, however.

A brief visit to Gap Creek Reserve on a hot afternoon was never going to produce much - this is potentially an excellent area, and one I must return to with more time (on an early morning visit) to do justice to. I was very pleased with a Shining Bronze-cuckoo that showed well here, having only heard this species at O'Reilly's. Bell Miners called incessantly, and White-throated and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Yellow Robin and Red-browed Finch were seen.

Kedron Brook Wetlands Bikeway looked rather uninteresting in the Guide, but I thought I'd give it a go - turned out to be a great place, visited twice, with a long straight path leading all the way to Nudgee Beach (just under 8km). Black-shouldered Kite was my personal favourite here; Mangrove Honeyeater and Nutmeg Mannikin (an introduced species, but presumably "tickable"?) were new, and Black-winged Stilt, Australian Pipit, Chestnut Mannikin, Whistling Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk, Brahminy Kite, Chestnut Teal, White-breasted Woodswallow, Striated Heron, Royal Spoonbill and Striated Pardalote were all seen here.

The final site visited was 7th Brigade Park. The "target" here was Bush Stone-curlew - not a sniff! Sacred Kingfisher, White-throated Honeyeater and Black-faced Monarch were seen, and Rainbow Bee-eater obliged for a few photos.

For low-key birding with limited time available (other than the rainforest trip), I feel that the trip went very well, with a good selection of common and a sprinkling of not-so-common birds seen. To achieve a large list, much more time needs to be devoted to the birding, as a variety of sites and habitats need to be visited (often more than once, as some birds require time and effort to see), and distances are considerable. The camera was simply a burden in the rainforest, and I would probably have seen far more had I left it behind (time, and therefore area coverage, was lost trying to take photos in conditions where a decent shot was almost impossible to obtain - there's also the weight and general awkwardness of the set-up, with tripod, to consider).
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Old Tuesday 21st September 2010, 21:44   #16
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A few pics....
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 12:54   #17
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Nice one Mark. Seriously gripped off by the Bush-hen, spent quite some time failing to find that one. A tough one as Chowie says,( at least without a tape it is). Fab Regent Bowerbird pic.
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 19:01   #18
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Great photographs, Mark. I went on a day trip to O'Reillys 2 years ago, so I have a bit of an idea about the place, but it is still good to read your posts and see the photographs of the area and its birds.

Allen

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