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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Australia: Queensland and New South Wales

Riflebirds, Reefs and Rainforests

Tour Narrative

We started with a few hours around Cairns, where we visited the Centenary Lakes and watched Brown-backed Honeyeaters building a nest. Then it was time to drive north along a beautiful coastline, then inland to Kingfisher Lodge, where new birds came thick and fast.  A walk around the property resulted in an encounter with a splendid Noisy Pitta out feeding on the lawn, and at dusk we went out to see nesting Eastern Barn Owls and the nearby Bush Thick-kees. During dinner the activity at the feeders was mammalian, and we enjoyed the company of quite a few Northern Brown Bandicoots and a Fawn-footed Melomys. The next morning found a Papuan Frogmouth back in its traditional roost tree, and we eventually saw a calling Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher very well, a bird not seen on this tour for many years.

The rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands around Yungaburra were filled with birds, many of them new for us. Watching a young male Victoria’s Riflebird perform its full display atop a post at Lake Eacham was the highlight for many of us, but the singing Tooth-billed Bowerbirds at Lake Barrine were also memorable, as were the Gray-headed Robins and Atherton Scubwrens. Out in the more open country, we manged to find some Brolgas among the flocks of Sarus Cranes. The leader’s thrill at Hasties Swamp was the first Barn Swallow ever to be seen on our many Australia tours.


At Cassowary House, we were delighted to see an adult female Cassowary as soon as we arrived, and after breakfast a male appeared with three chicks: even better!  In the garden we watched an adult male Victoria’s Riflebird on a display perch, and farther up the road we tracked down a pair of Lovely Fairy-wrens. 

The next day we had a complete change of scenery, with a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Below the waves we saw stunning coral formations, multi-colored fish, and even Green and Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Above the waves we saw a wealth of seabirds: thousands of Common Noddies and Sooty Terns were nesting on Michaelmas Cay, and scarer species included Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Black-naped Terns, and two Black Noddies.

Next we flew south to Brisbane, and after a brief stop at Fort Lytton for Mangrove Honeyeater, drove up to Lamington National Park and the famous O’Reilly’s Guesthouse. Birds abound here, and common species include such stunners as Australian King-Parrot and Regent Honeyeater. Away from the guesthouse, specialties included a lovely male Paradise Riflebird, several Green Catbirds, and some very cooperative Russet-tailed Thrushes. Onn our final morning we encountered a new family for everyone, represented by a fluffy Australian Owlet-nightjar. We heard Albert’s Lyrebird at fairly close range, but frustratingly couldn’t get close enough to see it. On our way down the hill we found a very territorial White-eared Monarch and some Pretty-faced Wallabies.

Our final stop was Sydney. On the heathland in the Royal National Park we found Southern Emu-wrens and even saw two chicks out on the track. A short walk at Minnamurra produced a pair of Superb Lyrebirds, the male of which climbed into a tree and sang for the female while she fed on the ground nearby, apparently unimpressed. The next morning we seawatched from a nearby headland and had stunning views of three species of shearwater and distant views of two species of albatross. Then we headed to the Royal again for a bird-filled walk that culminated in great views of Rock Warbler, New South Wales’s only endemic bird. On our final morning we return to the Heathland and saw the emu-wrens well, scoped a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, and watched Beautiful Firetails at close range.

- David Fisher

Updated: December 2010