Author: Carl from Pahrump
Date of Trip: December 2006
In 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin — 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.
This Trip Report covers the 44-days we spent bird watching while based in 4 locations in Southern Queensland between Nov 26, 2006 & Jan 8, 2007; i.e., 3 days in Helidon = 43 bird species; 6 days in Canungra = 54 bird species; 7 days in Samford = 89 bird species; 28 days in Boonah = 166 bird species; for a total of 186 bird species in 44 days.
The nature areas we saw the most bird species were: Bilyana Cottages area in Boonah = 113; Main Range NP (Qu Mary Rd) in Boonah = 88; Haslemere Guest House & Cottages in Samford = 67; Main Range NP – Cunningham Gap in Boonah = 59; White Swamp Road in Boonah = 55; Boonah Visitor Center Lake = 42; Lake Apex Park in Helidon = 35; Lake Maroon in Boonah = 30; Magpie Creek Throughbread Farm in Canungra = 29; Mt Nebo NP in Samford = 23; Mt Glorious NP in Samford = 21; Springbrook NP in Canungra = 21; Mt Tambourine NP in Canungra = 19; Lake Moogerah in Boonah = 14; Lockyer Creek in Helidon = 7; Ravensbourne NP in Helidon = 5; Mt French in Boonah = 4.
Helidon — We stayed at the Mineral Water Resort Spa (http://www.helidonmotel.com.au 27.984S 152.622E). The room had a nice hot tub, but we couldn’t tell there was any mineral water. There was a bigger hydrotherapy pool outside. Unfortunately, it is so hot outside we had to stay inside and watch Cricket on TV most afternoons. We saw 6 bird species on the premises.
If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.
Canungra – We stayed at the Magpie Creek Thoroughbred Farmstay (http://www.myfarmstay.com 27.937S 153.139E ) between Jimboomba and Canungra (about 50 miles west of the Gold Coast in Brisbane). This is an active horse breeding and racehorse training farm. There were 8 foals in the pasture we drove thru to get to the house. There were also a hundred Australian Wood Ducks in a small farm pond, and a pack of Kangaroos. We could only do basic cooking here. We saw 28 bird species on the premises.
Samford – We stayed at the Haslemere Guest House & Cottages in Highvale (www.babs.com.au/haslemere 27.393S 152.823E), in the mountains west of Brisbane. We stayed in a small self-contained red cedar cottage with a solar heated spa on the verandah and a great view of the birdfeeders. We saw 32 bird species on the premises.
Boonah — We stayed at the Bilyana Cottages (http://www.bilyanacottages.com/ 28.083S 152.683E), 10 miles south of Boonah on a sealed road and 600 meters uphill on a gravel road. We had a lovely 2-bedroom house with a view of the valley and the Main Range Mountains to the west. The house was nicely furnished, had a good kitchen with a cook top but no baking oven, and no TV (not a problem for us since we don’t have a TV in our house in Ohio either). We saw 61 bird species on the premises.
If we were planning the trip again, I would:
Eliminate the days in Helidon.
Spend some time at Byron Bay.
Still not go to O’Reilly’s Guesthouse in Lamington NP. We could have driven there from Boonah or Canungra, but decided it was too expensive and too regimented. I’m glad we stayed a month in Boonah instead of a few days at O’Reilly’s.
Just go birding in the Boonah area if time was limited.
A week in Boonah might be long enough to see most of the birds. We stayed a month because we didn’t want to be traveling during the Christmas and New Years holidays, and because we got a great rate by staying a month.
Highlights of the Region:
Birding the mountain road to Queen Mary Falls, and eating a Macadamia Nut and Pineapple Slice at the RV Park.
Exploring White Swamp Road and finding Red Wattlebirds.
Seeing courting Eastern Whipbirds at Mt Nebo.
Hearing thousands of Bell Miners singing at Bellbird Point in the Main Range NP. Watching Kangaroos race Thoroughbreds on a horse farm.
Discovering Haloumi frying cheese.
Of the 186 bird species we saw in the Southern Queensland area, 74 were endemic to Australia. Most of the 112 non-Australian Endemic bird species we saw in the Southern Queensland area were new for us. 15 species were never seen again during the 255-day trip around Australia; that is: Albert’s Lyrebird, Singing Bushlark, Australasian Magpie, Sooty-Owl, Green Catbird, Speckled Warbler, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Little Buttonquail, White-headed Sittella, Logrunner, White-throated Gerygone, Pallid Cuckoo, Wonga Pigeon, & Paradise Riflebird.
On Nov 26 we were up at 6am. The road East was narrow and hummocky with speed limits up to 110 Kmph (70mph). The area we drove thru today was agricultural, but without the crops. We arrived at Helidon about 2pm.
In the late afternoon we drove to Lake Apex in Gatton (27.571S 152.270E). There were two small tree-covered islands in the lake saturated with thousands of breeding Cattle Egrets with their burnt-rufous heads. The Egrets were so thick the trees looked like they were covered in cotton.
On Nov 27 we got to Apex Lake at 7am. We took the 1-mile track around the lake and saw baby Australian Ibis, baby Pacific Black Ducks, and “baby” Black Swan. We also saw 2 pairs of Blue-billed Ducks.
At 11:30am we went searching for lunch. We took the alternate route to the top of the Toowoomba Escarpment (bluff), which put us on a 21% grade road for 1 mile . We had lunch at a good Italian Restaurant – La Fresco. My wife had the chef’s special: chicken, chives and Proscuito mixed into gnocchi (potato based pasta) with a creamy chardonnay sauce. I had the house specialty: sauteed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes, bacon, basil caramelized onions, chips and a garden salad.
Afterwards, we discussed the various means of the word “tea” with our waiter and another customer. Once someone asked us if “Chicken was all right for tea”. We couldn’t understand what he was saying since you don’t drink chicken. It turns out that “tea” can mean a drink, or lunch, or teatime, or dinner. The waiter said Australians confuse each other with the way they use “tea” all the time.
“Jumper” is another word with various meanings including “sweatshirt”. The Captain of the Australian Rugby team that just won the Tri-Nations tournament has released a special Jumper (sports jersey) to commemorate the event. We told them it meant a form of woman’s dress in the US. They never heard of that.
In the afternoon we drove out to Crows Nest and Ravensbourne NP (27.249S 152.411E). We saw lots of Bougainvillea Bushes and Jacaranda Trees along the route. We spotted an English Deer in velvet along the road — it didn’t look anything like a Whitetail or Mule Deer. We saw wild Petunias and Glads. This area has 2 large water retention lakes, but the lakes are down 80% due to the drought.
On Nov 28 we went birding along the Lockyer Creek (27.572S 152.168E) in the morning. We mostly saw ducks, but a Red-backed Fairy-wren showed up and a Capricorn White-eye.
We drove back to La Fresco’s for lunch. My wife had chicken breast strips with sweet potatoes planks on a lemon salad with salsa and pecans. I had Chicken Parmesan with Napolitiana Sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese, fresh herbs, chips, and salad.
On Nov 29 we were off at 8am for the 100-mile drive to the Magpie Creek Thoroughbred Farmstay. After checking out the kitchen, we went to Jimboomba for lunch and grocery shopping. Unfortunately, the restaurants didn’t open till Noon, so we got some tucker and came back to the farm for a picnic.
In the afternoon we went to the information center in Canungra to get local maps. Later we drove to Mt Tambourine NP (27.938S 153.177E). The drought has had a browning affect on the area. The waterfalls we visited were nearly dry. But, a few Noisy Miners caught our attention. The high temp today was 106F (41C).
For dinner we fixed Pumpkin Soup with Turkish Bread, Olive Oil, and Dukkah. After dark a big storm with lightning moved in.
On Nov 30 we went for a walk around the 55-acre farm. We found butterfly weed, Paterson’s Curse (a pretty blue flower that only grows during droughts), and something that looked like Love in a Puff. We spent a lot of time looking at a Crimson Rosella.
On Dec 1 we walked around the farm again. This time a gang of 15 Kangaroos followed us. We managed to tease out a male Red-backed Fairywren and a female Variegated Fairy-wren.
Before Lu we drove to Mt Tambourine NP. We walked the 3.4 Km Witches Falls switchback track down thru the Rainforest. We were fortunate to see the rare Albert’s Lyrebird that is only found in this part of Australia. I noticed the veil of tail plumes — like a peacock but not as big. My wife noticed the rufous back and creamy underbody. We did the walk in under 3 hours.
We had lunch at the Pavilion Garden Restaurant. My wife had the Avocado and Orange salad with pan-fried chicken coriander and mesculin. I had baked avocado with prawns, scallops, and fish in a cheese sauce with salad and toast. For dessert I had the Heavenly Tort — like strawberry shortcake except the “shortcake” was actually whipped meringue and sugar with sliced almonds. My wife had an Espresso Ice Cream Float (a.k.a. Iced Coffee). The food was beautiful, but their garden was even more Beautiful with red Begonias, Golden Chinese Lanterns (Abultion), Red Fuchsia, rufous Angle Wing Begonias, and other unknown varieties.
We drove over to McDonald’s Park, which the local tourist handout says is the prime birdwatching spot in Mt. Tambourine. We went on the 1.4 Km loop walk. Early in the walk we found a Green Catbird with a spotted belly. Next we found a family of four Logrunners dismantling a very large decaying tree searching for bugs. These colorful gray, black and orange birds blend into the leaves and tree bark. Fortunately they move a lot and aren’t shy. Our last big find was a male Satin Bowerbird building his “Avenue of Love” decorated with yellow leaves. We marked the spot so we can come back in a few days.
On Dec 2 we were off at 7:30am for Springbrook NP (28.226S 153.271E) on the New South Wales (NSW) border. Springbrook is high in the Great Dividing Range with winding mountain roads to prove it. On the drive we photographed spectacular Crimson and Pale-headed Rosellas.
Our first stop was the 60-meter Tanninaba Falls. We tackled the 4 Km loop trail to the bottom. Going down the switchback trail we had 450 steps to negotiate. The Falls is spring fed, so there was a good flow even though it hasn’t rained lately.
The trail loops around slightly behind the falls. There are heaps of ferns and flowers growing in the permanently wet area. It took 2 hours to walk down to the bottom of the falls birding along the way. We made it back to the top in only 45 minutes huffing, puffing, and sweating away.
It was lunchtime when we got to Natural Bridge. We were hot and knacked, so we picnicked in the car to cool off.
The Natural Bridge loop walk was short but steep. The Natural Bridge was unique with a large cave behind it and a waterfall crashing thru a large hole in the ceiling. Fairy Martins were building their adobe houses on the walls of the cave. But it was to light to see any glowworms in the cave.
On Dec 3 we went out for lunch at Noon at Governor’s Inn in North Tambourine. We sat in the garden where it was cooler. My wife had a chicken breast stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and Feta cheese with chips and salad. I had a Rib Fillet with baked new potatoes, mixed veggies, and gravy. All was well till a Laughing Kookaburra swooped down and grabbed the uneaten steak off of my plate. Bugger!
We went for a walk at MacDonald Park. My wife panicked when she came on a Giant Black Skink (it must have been 2.5 ft long) in the track. We managed to see several Eastern Whipbirds up close and some Pale-yellow Robins.
We got back to the horse farm just before a big ugly storm moved in – we got an inch of rain in a half-hour. Rivers of muddy water were everywhere. The downspouts were spouting like geysers where they connected to the filters. The rainwater from the roof here is piped into two 7000-gallon tanks for house use. This was the first big rain of the trip.
On Dec 4 we spent the day at the farm watching the horses and Kangaroos play. Once I saw a race between a small Kangaroos and a racehorse. The Kangaroo won because it could duck under the fence without slowing down.
At 5pm we left with Steve and Jenny, our hosts at the horse farm, for Natural Bridge. We stopped at Sub Way for sandwiches. I had Garlic Beef and Onions. My wife had Beef and Cheese. I was surprised that the Sub Ways in Australia doesn’t sell potato chips.
We got to Natural Bridge just before dark. By the time we hiked down to the cave behind the bridge it was damp and vary dark — ideal conditions for seeing Glow Worms (a.k.a. fly larva). But, first we had to wait for the Vampire Bats to leave.
The walls and ceiling of the cave were clustered with Glow Worms. They glowed with an iridescent green. Being in the cave reminded me of being in a star chamber. They glowed bright enough that I could take time-exposure pictures. At first we were alone in the cave, but pretty soon tour busses from the Gold Coast started arriving.
On Dec 5 we waited around till 9am before leaving so we would miss the rush-hour traffic in Brisbane. We got into downtown Brisbane with no problems. The SE Expressway dumped us on the city streets, which were poorly marked. We missed a key turn and went a few Km in the wrong directions before stopping at an electronic repair shop to ask for directions. The technician got us turned around and back on our route thru town. At 11:30am we arrived at the Haslemere Guest House & Cottages in Highvale, near Samford, in the mountains west of Brisbane.
Our hosts were John and Mary from England. They have transformed it from a bare field into a literal Garden of Eden with flowers and fruit trees everywhere.
In the late afternoon we walked around the property. Our best bird was a pair of Wonga Pigeons walking over to the birdbath to get a drink.
On Dec 6 we were awakened by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos squawking overhead. During Br four Wallabies hopped around the cottage.
After Br we drove up the steep road to Mt Glorious NP (27.333S 152.774E ) on the Dividing Range. We hiked thru dark Rainforest all morning. We spotted ground birds digging in the leaf litter including an uncommon Spotted Quail-thrush, several Logrunners, and heaps of Eastern Whipbirds.
About an hour into the hike we had to backtrack for a bathroom break. It worked out good since we got our best sighting of a Paradise Riflebird on the way back.
As we started over on the hike we saw stacks of Gray and Rufous Fantails trying to scare out bugs by flashing their brilliant tail feathers. We heard numerous bomb drops by the Sotty Owl. I thought I heard the double “Whoo-Whoo” of a Powerful Owl, but were not sure.
We could see three Australian King Parrots chasing each other thru trees searching for red berries all morning. Green Catbirds seemed to follow us everywhere. There were Crimson Lorikeets, Black-faced Monarchs, and Topknot Pigeons as well.
We walked down to Green Falls. They obviously went to great expense to build the boardwalk to the falls, but there was no water today. We only saw pools with water beetles. There were some spectacular butterflies today. We walked 5 Km in 6 hours. The Rainforest is always amazing – tall trees, huge fallen trees, Strangler Figs where trees used to be, fruit trees, and vines twining around anything they can grasp. What Rainforests don’t have is flowers.
On Dec 7 we left at 8:30am to exchange the rental car. We had planned to go to Barbie Island after returning the car, but it started sprinkling, so we drove back to the cottage.
We had sandwiches at the cottage for Lunch with Lamington Bars for dessert. Lamingtons are white cake coated on all sides with chocolate and sprinkled with coconut flakes. Lamington cakes originated in Toowoomba when the Gov.’s cook was unable to make his favorite snowball cake for teatime and improvised. When the guest were so delighted with the cake and asked what it was called, the cook blurted out Lamington Cake, and now it’s an Aussie tradition.
We spent the afternoon birdwatching from the veranda. We discovered that a Lewin’s Honeyeater had its nest in a tree close to the veranda. We have never seen such vibrant yellow Half-Moons and huge yellow gape on a Lewis Honeyeater before. We heard the SOS call of the Crested Bellbird. Fork-tailed Swifts and White-throated Needletails buzzed and chattered around the cottage harvesting mossy-quail in mid-air, while pairs of Willie-Wagtails and White-browed Scrubwrens were courting on the birdbath.
On Dec 8 we arrived at Mt Nebo NP (27.399S 152.806E) around 7am. We stopped at the Westrange Lookover. It had a short boardwalk with a grand view of the Valley. We saw heaps of Brush Box Plants and Tree Grasses with a 15 ft spike coming out of the center. Some of the Eucalyptus Trees had shed their bark — the bark lay in a pile at the base of the tree.
Down the road were walking tracks. The parking lot was a beehive of birds — Rainbow Lorikeets, King Parrots and Cockatoos predominated the choir, but we liked the Red-browed Finches and Variegated Fairywrens best. Down the track the Gray Fantail was trying to chase the Striated Thornbills away. Our best bird was the White-throated Gerygone.
On Dec 9 we were back at Mt Nebo at 7am. There were so many Bellbirds calling along the road we could hear them with the windows rolled-up.
We walked some bush tracks this morning. We saw Elkhorn Ferns and Strangler Fig Trees. Our best bird was the Black-faced Monarch.
Later we did a loop walk. There were many interesting shelves growing on the trees — some looked like Shitake Mushrooms. At one point we came on a pair of courting Eastern Whipbirds. Usually they run when they get sight of people. Today they could care less. They were dashing thru the shrubs flashing their tails like Fantails. The male did the whip-crack. The female answered with a loud and sharp tchew-tchew. Later we saw a Golden Whistler, Gray Shrike-Thrush, Pale-yellow Robin, female Regent Bowerbird, and a beautiful pair of Yellow-throated Scrubwrens.
We spent the afternoon birding around the cottage and saw some Brown Honeyeaters, Satin Flycatchers, Willie-Wagtails, Pale-headed Rosellas, Eastern Yellow Robins, White-browed Scrubwrens, and Wonga Pigeons.
On Dec 10 we drove to the Headquarters of the Brisbane Forest Parks and went on part of the Auracaria Walk around a sprawling lake. We saw heaps of grebes, ducks, coots and Dusky Moorhens. We teased out of the grass a Black Bittern and Latham’s Snipe.
The lake was covered with yellow Lotus water lilies, with a few blue water lilies for accent. Variegated Fairywrens (one male and a dozen females) were jumping thru the Lantana that grows along the path. We got a great look at the diamond shaped tail of a young Wedge-tailed Eagle flying overt the lake.
Toward the end of our walk it seemed like there was a thousand tiny bells ringing. It turned out to be a large gathering of Bell Miners with romance on their mind.
On Dec 11 we heard the Koel whistle “Ko-ell Ko-ell” over and over again in the early morning. After Br we went for a walk along the road that fronts the B&B. We saw 26 birds including the rare White-napped Australasian Magpie, Cicadabird, a Rufous Whistler, and a White-napped Honeyeater.
We had lunch at Finnegan’s Chin Irish Pub. We started with Herb Potato and Cheddar Cob Loaf served with Kilkenny Butter (it looked like a big dinner roll with seasoned mashed potatoes inside and cheddar cheese over the roll). We had huge serving bowl of Cream of Pumpkin Soup with potatoes, onions and coconut. I had a 400g (14oz) fillet steak with chips and garden salad. My wife had the Chicken Cobble Stone Cottage Pie (chicken veggies cooked in a thicken broth over mashed potatoes with a Shamrock shaped puff pastry top.
On Dec 12 we interrupted our Circumnavigation of Australia for a months rest in Boonah at the Bilyana Cottages. The house had a stereo and a tape of my wife’s favorite song – “Love Changes Everything”. We went to town to shop in the afternoon. The BP station recommended the Spar (pronounced Spa) Market. They had all we needed except fresh stir fried veggies (we got frozen).
We spent the afternoon and evening watching birds at the birdbath in our front garden. Our best bird was a Striped Honeyeater.
On Dec 13 we drove 5Km to Lake Maroon (28.179S 152.649E) in the morning. There were heaps of water birds, but they were trumped by the flies. We did enjoy seeing several male Red-backed and Superb Fairwrens. On the drive back to the house we were stopped by a flock of Yellow-rumped Thronbills.
On Dec 14 we saw a small female kangaroo with a Joey head sticking out of the pouch as we left the cottage. On our way to Queen Mary Falls (28.341S 152.372E), in Main Range NP, we saw a Ringtail Possum in the road. Not far from the possum I saw 2 Brown Quails in the grass ditch along side the road. They were cooperative and waited for us to back-up and take pictures before disappearing into the grass.
On our trip up the mountain road we spotted a pair of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. We stopped along the way to see the wild flowers. Once we saw some wild pink Glads surrounded by Passionflowers. The Superb Fairwrens were going after the nectar of the Passionflowers — we saw dozens of them. It was a lot cooler and greener as we drove up the mountain. The early morning clouds were pressing against some of the mountains, and cloud fragments were drifting across the high meadows. The road was practically lined in purple wild flowers with a few Straw Flowers mixed in. We were surprised to see so many Straw Necked Ibis and White-necked Herons in the fields.
We stopped on the Queensland — New South Whales (NSW) border to walk to Moss Overlook. On this section of the border they have a supposed Rabbit-proof fence made out of chicken wire. Along the fence we heard and then saw an Albert’s Lyrebird down the hill from us. The Lyrebird kept on squawking disapprovingly while staying hidden in the rocks. We saw a Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly along this track.
We stopped at the Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park for a midmorning snack (4 hours and 53Km from our house). My wife had cappuccino and I had a milk shake. We split a homemade Macadamia Nut and Pineapple Slice with White Chocolate. Beautiful!! But TERRIBLY rich!
We asked the owner how she made the Slices (there were many varieties). She said they are prepared in the refrigerator, not the oven. The base is made of sugar, flower, condensed milk, syrup, coconut, and groundnuts. She then melts the chocolate and adds the toppings. This is pored over the hardened base and left in the refrig till the whole thing is solid.
She said they have severe water restriction in this area. You aren’t even allowed to water your “pot plant” with a bucket. We kidded her about the way Australians use “pot plant” — we would say ‘potted plant”. She said if she was growing Pot plants she wouldn’t have to make Slices.
We ate outside the cafe. My wife had to beat off a female Satin Bowerbird that wanted the Slice.
On Dec 15 the kangaroos were out to show us their Joeys. In a stretch of 500 ft we saw 15 kangaroos — 4 Moms with bulging Joey(s). One Joey must have been in a hurry to get back in because all we could see was the feet sticking out of the pouch. One young kangaroo followed us down the road for a couple of hundred feet looking for a good place to jump in front of us. He finally jumped, but we stopped.
The road to White Swamp (28.272S 152.458E ) started out as sealed, got narrower, and then became a smooth gravel road. When we crossed over to NSW the road got rougher, but no machine gun ripples. The rabbit fence was on both sides of the border crossing, but there was no gate at the crossing itself. I guess that’s how the jackrabbits we’ve seen got into Queensland.
A sign at the border crossing said Rabbit Keeping was subject to a $30,000 fine — not quite as much as illegal harvesting of mud crabs.
We only passed 2 cars on our 5-hour — 40 mile scenic drive today. In NSW a couple in a pickup truck stopped on the rough road to see if we were OK. I guess they don’t get a lot of birdwatchers out here.
The rough road was good to us. We saw 5 Red Waddlebirds and heaps of Eastern Rosellas. We saw 64 birds overall.
We finally got to White Swamp, except there wasn’t any swamp, just a cattle station called Eden Dale. We did see wild Glads and White Morning Glory vines.
In the afternoon we went shopping for the ingredients for a gourmet dinner. My wife found a recipe for Warm Spanish and Red Lentil Salad in a “Donna Hay 10-Minute Cookbook”. The key ingredient is Haloumi frying cheese. Miraculously, the Spar market had the cheese. The rest was easy: half cup of red lentils (metric hasn’t replaced cups and spoons for cooking), 2 cups of chicken stock, 1 bunch of baby spinach leaves (how much is that??), 1 T of olive oil, a package of Haloumi cheese (4 oz), 2-roma tomatoes, 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (we had to consult with the produce manager to figure out which parsley to get), sea salt, cracked black pepper, and lemon wedges.
The lentils were cooked using the chicken stock — then the spinach and parsley is added and stirred in. The Haloumi cheese is fried in the olive oil along with the tomatoes. When the cheese turns golden, serve it over the lentils. Squeeze lemon juice on top everything to give it zest. Eat with dipping bread. Very Beautiful!!!!!!!
On Dec 16 we headed early for the Main Range NP. Our first stop was Bellbird Point. We didn’t hear or see any Bellbirds, but there were 1000s of Bell Miners — everywhere. We stopped at the crest of the mountain to hike in Cunningham Gap (28.050S 152.394E). We were pretty close to the cloud tops on the hike. The visibility wasn’t good so we did the 1.4 Km track. At one stage a female Satin Bowerbird dive-bombed my wife’s head. We were surprised to find an Eastern Whipbird in a tree. Upon closer inspection, my wife determined the Whipbird was peeling back the bark on the tree to find bugs.
For most of the walk a young brightly colored Rufous Fantail followed us. I guess he was attracted to my wife’s bird calling. Our best find today was a majestic White-headed Pigeon. We stopped at the Visitors Center in Boonah for maps. There was an adjacent park and cattail pond where we spotted a pair of nesting Australian Reed-Warblers. I also got a great shot of a Royal Spoonbill in brilliant breeding plumage.
For dinner my wife improvised Taco Salad. They have a lot of Old El Paso Salsas in the store, but no Tortilla chips (we used Doritos corn chips). We used nutritious red leaf lettuce and spinach for the salad, instead of Iceberg Lettuce. Our host, Doreen, gave us some Spring Onions from her garden. We used Minced Premium Beef from the local butcher. We looked for regular Sour Cream, but had to settle for the lite version. We used the avocado spread we put on sandwiches. They didn’t have canned pinto beans, so we got canned Borlotti Beans. The canned tomatoes came with capsicums and tomato paste. We sprinkled on salted peanuts with Balsamic Vinegar. Rico, Muy Rico!!
On Dec 17 a loud penetrating Quar-rr-rgh-a-kak, Quar-rr-rgh-a-kak Quar-rr-rgh-a-kak, Quar-rr-rgh-a-kak, Quar-rr-rgh-a-kak of an Australian Owlet-nightjar woke us up at 2:45am — it had the tonal quality of arching electric wires. The tiny owl-like bird is about the size of a Blue Jay. Thirty minutes later it woke us up again.
It was threatening rain most of the morning, so we stayed around the house looking for birds at the bottom of our hill. We found two Collared Sparrowhawks learning how to fly. We also found a juvenile Crested Shrike-tit and a baby Flowerpecker.
In the afternoon we drove to the small town of Rothdowney. Close to town we found a nice wetland with Comb-crested Jacanas and baby Purple Swamphens.
Each evening large numbers of silver and pink Galahs gather in the trees near our host’s house where there is a hanging birdfeeder.
On Dec 18 we left at 7am to drive the 35 miles to Cunningham Gap. We walked in the Cool Subtropical Rainforest — its subtropical because they get less than 6ft of rain a year here. It was soooo cool in the woods today. We saw little groups of Large-billed, White-browed, and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, with the odd Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Black-faced Monarch for color. A pair of Australian King-Parrots was beautiful.
About 2 hours into the 2.5Km walk we came on a big tree that had fallen across the track. We took this as a sign to turn back. We got back to the house at 12:30pm.
On Dec 19 during Br my wife broke the side off a lower back tooth. Monday Doreen called her dentist and got my wife an appointment for 9:30am Dec 20 (today). The lady dentist put on a temporary filling.
On Dec 20 a pair of Pale-headed Rosellas escorted us for 15 Km in the morning on our way to Lake Moogerah (28.045S 152.550E). We saw 25 bird types along the road including: Richard’s Pipit, an Australian Hobby, a covey of Brown Quail, and a Yellow-rumped Thornbill.
Lake Moogerah is a water retention lake in the Main Range foothills. It is Heaven in a Dry and Thirsty Land for water birds. The best part was seeing 2 Pelicans surrounded by 10 Darters (sometimes called Snake Birds). We drove up a steep, and sometime rough, gravel road to Spicer’s Gap in the Main Range NP. The hills were alive here with the sounds of Noisy Friars and parrots. We were glad to see a Collared Kingfisher with its bronzed olive-green back shining in the sun.
Late in the afternoon 10 Rainbow Lorikeets discovered our birdbath, but not the bread we had scattered on the ground. A female Kangaroo with a Joey in the pouch came by and made a mental note of the bread for later tonight. Pretty soon the Lorikeets got spooked by something and left the birdbath to a pair of Brown Honeyeaters and a lone Lewin’s Honeyeater. The Brown Honeyeaters must have been really dirty or something; they used the bath for over an hour.
Water is so scarce here that Doreen waters her pot plants with water from the clothes washer. We follow suite by filling the birdbath with rinse water from the dishes.
On Dec 21st we went for a serene drive on Cannon Creek Road in the afternoon. The tall grass along side the road had become a virtual Red-backed Fairywren sanctuary. We saw three Pheasant Coucals up close. At the end of the drive we got a great picture of a Straw-necked Ibis in breeding plumage. Beautiful!
On Dec 22 we spent most of my B’day celebrating at the house. We ate some Hummingbird Cake we bought at the bakery; it was a cross between carrot cake and spice cake with a thick creamy icing. My wife fixed King Prawn Capsicum with veggies over Jasmine Rice for dinner. We got the prawns at the butcher shop and they were huge — 11 prawns weighted 1 pound. We got garlic, mushrooms, onion, snow peas, asparagus, yellow baby squash, and zucchini from the organic veggie vendor. The final product was Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On Dec 23 we got to the Boonah biweekly flea market at 7:30am. We bought some homemade Turkish bread from a man who used to live in Cleveland (5 large round Turkish pones for $4US).
Later we drove up to Mt French (27.984S 152.622E) just outside Boonah. It was very dry and some parts had recently burnt. Nevertheless, we found a Fan-tailed Cuckoo perched in a tree by the lookout. Later we thought we heard the super high-pitched tiz of a Southern Emu-wren; a 3-inch bird with a 5-inch tail of finely filamented plumes. We tried to tease it out, but the bird wouldn’t budge. Finally, a Red-backed Fairywren came to see what all the commotion was about.
On Dec 24 we got an early Christmas Present– a Brown Songlark was sitting on the barbwire fence by our cottage.
On our way to Cunningham Gap we spotted a tree full of Corellas. There must have been fifty or more of them grazing among the cows. As we pulled off the highway into the Bellbird rest stop we could hear and see hundreds of bellbirds. While we were watching a group of Red Browed Finches jumping around in the dry grass, several Crimson Rosellas decided to fly by with their noises squawks. At Cunningham Gap it appeared to be a clear, sunny morning so we headed off toward the lookout to try to get a few good photos. Of course, we had to stop several times to investigate birdcalls and by the time we arrived at the lookout the haze had already began to dull the sharpness of the image.
We headed down the Falls Gap Trail. It was a narrow path, often eroding on the edges. On the way back to the car, we saw the most people we had ever seen on any of the hikes.
At the parking lot, we noticed a Forest Raven on the opposite side of the road with a brownish looking snake about 18 inches long in its mouth. He kept tossing the snake around and pecking it behind the head, until the snake was damaged enough to eat.
We stopped in town to get a few tucker items about Noon. We had thought that the town was going to be crowded with last minute shoppers. Wrong!! A few stores were already closed and there was hardly anyone in the grocery store. The butcher shop reopened so we could get some ribs.
On Christmas Day we drove to Cunningham Gap for hiking in the (relatively) cool mountain air and shade. My favorite bird was the Spotted Pardalote. Back at the house the birds were going crazy. We saw Speckled Warblers, an Olive-backed Weebill, five White-headed Sittellas (pronounced su-Tell-a), and a beautiful Striped Honeyeater. The big draw was the birdbath. The Brown Honeyeaters and Red-backed Fairywrens (4 males and 2 females) couldn’t get enough splashing.
We had Christmas dinner with our hosts, Bill and Doreen. We started with appetizers (chips, nuts, and crackers with salmon pate) on their wrap around veranda. A Red-necked Wallaby came by to get some of the grain they scatter on the ground (it is so dry the animals don’t have much to eat).
Doreen fixed baked turkey with cranberry dressing and gravy; oven baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, and steamed green veggies. Beautiful. Doreen said the recipe called for fresh cranberries, but you can’t get them in Australia — so she substituted Craisins.
Boxing Day (Dec 26) is a legal holiday in most parts of the English Commonwealth: so called from the former custom of giving gift boxes to employees, mail carriers, etc. The stores in Boonah were closed.
Late in the afternoon we went for a walk down our hill to the main road. In just a few minutes we saw 20 birds including 2 Channel-billed Cuckoos, 3 circling Wedge-tailed Eagles, and a Pallid Cuckoo.
On Dec 27 we stopped by the Boonah Visitors Center (27.992S 152.682E). The Mother Dusky Moorhens were out showing off their newly hatched chicks.
On Dec 28 we left for Border Range NP about 8am. Immediately after turning onto the main road we saw a Letter-winged Kite. We traveled over the Running Creek Road and thru the Rabbit Proof Fence into New South Whales. At one stage we were driving on a paved cow path with a speed limit of 100Kmph (62.5mph). The Rainforest was seasonally alive with the constant tingling of Bell’s Miners. There were flocks of small, hard to see, birds like Brown Gerygones, White-headed Sittellas and Southern Whitefaces. Sometimes birds like the Spectacled Monarches would appear — they are so beautiful you stand in awe — dumb founded – forgetting you have seen them before.
On the drive home we spotted a Little Buttonquail and chick running in the grass along side the road. Naturally we stopped to investigate, but they had vanished from the face of the Earth — only flies and dairy cows remained.
On Dec 29 we were off at 6am to drive the waterfalls circuit thru the Main Range NP. In the first hour we drove 19Km. We saw 20 birds including close-ups of a Buff-banded Rail crossing the road, a Channel-billed Cuckoo glaring at us, and a flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins. Down the road we stopped at a roadside farm stand and bought some raw honey. We got a quart for $5US.
We only covered 11Km in the second hour, but saw a Buff-rumped Thornbill and White-naped Honeyeater. The Superb Fairywrens and Red-browed finches were beyond counting sitting on the barbed-wire fences.
In the third hour we watched swarms of Crimson Rosellas mow down the purple blossoms of Thistle plants. Too bad we don’t have them in the US.
In the fourth hour there were fields of Strawflowers and wild Dill growing along the road with a few Elephant ears. There were Poke plants and Mulleins.
We stopped at Queen Mary Falls for an Orange Slice with Cappuccino and Iced Chocolate. This was the real Iced Chocolate — chocolate syrup drizzled on the inside of the glass, milk and ice cream, and topped with a large dollop of cream and frosted with cocoa. Beautiful!
We stopped briefly at Daggs Falls. At Brown Falls we took the 600m-bush walk to the falls. The track was a bank-hugging, creek-crossing and rock-hopping good time. The falls was nice too.
You know you’re a birder if:
1. You travel to a foreign country and the only new words you learn are bird names. 2. On your vacation in Alice Springs you spend most of your time at the sewage ponds. 3. You can spend a month in Winnie, Texas. 4. When shopping for new clothes, you check that the pockets are large enough to hold a field guide. 5. You know the correct pronunciation of Gerygone. 6. Your idea of an exotic dancer is a Sarus Crane. 7. You think a cruise is a great way to pick-up some new birds.
On Saturday, Dec 30, we drove to Main Range NP to hike Mt Cordeaux (pronounced Cor-doo). During the 35-mile route we spotted 18 birds including a Black-shouldered Kite. We started the 3.4 Km (2 mile) track at 7:30am. Right off we were dazzled by a Rufous Fantail flitting about and flashing his red tail with white tips. The climb to the top was on an arduous switchback trail with rough footing — good thing we have boots. Once we got to the top there was a grand views of the mountain range and a square-tailed Kite soared over us.
We walked back pretty fast, but my wife froze when she heard an Albert’s Lyrebird. While searching for it in the ferns and brush, we heard and finally saw a male Paradise Riflebird. Then a female Satin Bowerbird flew back and forth across the trail excitedly in front of us — when a bowerbird chick in down-feathers appeared on the edge of the track, we knew why.
Back in Boonah we stopped for scones with coffee & a milkshake. We didn’t know the butcher shop closed at Noon today. Fortunately, when we got there at 1pm they were still putting meat away and sold us 2 huge pork chops for $5US (the tenderloin was long gone).
We started our New Years Eve celebration watching a clamorous baby Golden-headed Cisticola working its parents for worms and bugs. Beautiful!
Down the road 27 Kangaroos turned out in one spot to watch us drive by. We saw over 100 Kangaroos in a 2 Km stretch of road — no Joeys, but a few Moms with “babies at foot”. These babies can really run.
We were driving the White Swamp Road. Just before we entered NSW my wife spotted a Red Waddlebird with a red tear-drop (wattle) hanging down from each eye, and a big yellow patch on the belly.
After 3 hours we had traveled 27 Km to the NSW border/rabbit proof fence. They have a cattle grid at the border. Do you think that would deter rabbits? In 4 hrs we only met one car.
While driving down a dirt road we came on Koreelah NP (28.294S 152.444E). We drove in for a look around. There were several families tent camping. The park had a nice eco-friendly bathroom and a 100m track to a falls — except there wasn’t enough water. But, we saw a red dragonfly, a beautiful butterfly and a Yellow-faced Honeyeater
We took the paved road home, but much of it was twisty and narrow. We led the parade downhill. At one point my wife screamed STOP! We backed up just in time to see a European Goldfinch sitting on a barbwire fence. We got home at 1:10pm.
For dinner my wife fixed pork steak. Cooking is a challenge on the road — you are always missing some tool or pan you need — or maybe an oven. My wife browned the pork, and then simmered it covered to simulate baking it, then added the Belgium Sauerkraut (cooked in white wine). Served with mash (they don’t say potatoes) and substitute pinto beans. A fitting way to close out 2006!
On Jan 1 we rested at the house enjoying the bird show at the birdbath and feeder. At one time we had 24-Double-barred Finches on the bath and feeder.
My wife fixed chicken breast stuffed with Proscuito, sun dried tomatoes, and feta cheese and baby spinach leaves served with left over mashed potatoes for dinner.
On Jan 2 we have reached the halfway point of our Epic Circumnavigation of Australia (in terms of days). We celebrated by going antique shopping followed by Cappuccino, thick chocolate-malt milkshake, and scones with jam and cream.
We had lots of Double-barred Finches and Striated Pardalotes at the feeder and bath this afternoon. A Red-necked Wallaby came along and finished off the birdseed just before a steady rain set in for the night.
On Jan 5 the sky was blue and we left for Queen Mary Falls at 7am. There were heaps of Golden-headed Cisticolas beside the road. When we got into the mountains we saw a Pied Currawong being chased by a mob of Bell’s Minors.
The recent rains put some water cascading over Tevoit Falls. The water kind of evaporated during the 300 ft drop, but regrouped for a final rush to the bottom.
When we got to the top of the mountain it started misting. We headed home. On the drive home we saw flocks of Straw-necked Ibis circling like Vultures. For dinner my wife prepared another version of Pumpkin, Basil and Ricotta Ravioli. This time she served it with fried zucchini, tomatoes slices, and Haloumi cheese; and topped it all with a creamy sun dried tomato sauce. Beautiful!!!
On Jan 6 it was relatively cool this morning (58F). We drove to Ipswich (pronounced Ip-Switch) and bought “The Complete Field guide to Butterflies in Australia” by Michael Braby.
Australia does not have a large number of butterfly species by World standards, but about half of the 398 butterflies found here are found no where else. Unfortunately, the best butterfly areas in Australia are north of Cairns, where you can find 270 species (the further north you go in the Cape York Peninsula the better). The areas of NSW, Victoria and SA we will be in over the next 2 months have 193 butterfly species. Butterflies drop down to 56 in SW WA. When we get back to the Top End of the NT the population increases to126 butterfly species.
On Jan 7 we were off at 6am for White Swamp. The Wallaby count was way down, but there were gangs of juveniles hopping around aimlessly (I guess they recently got kicked out by Mom).
Channel-billed Cuckoos were out in force — they look like flying Crosses. When we crossed into NSW we saw 20 Eastern Rosellas. They were eating the seeds out of Purple Thistle plants. A female Satin Bowerbird was incurring the wrath of a mob of Noisy Miner birds. Our best small bird was a Yellow-faced Honeyeater.
On Jan 8 we got up early for tea and coffee. Later, we did some packing while the house was cool. We spent the morning birding from the veranda and saw a Striped Warbler.
E-mail if you would like a file with the specific birds we saw each day.
Carl & Wilma Ball firstname.lastname@example.org