Sunday, 31 May 2009

Whale watching trip photos

Because the Wollongong pelagic trip got called off and I couldn't make the rescheduled one (today, as it happened), I went on a consolation whale-watching trip out of Sydney. While a public whale-watching trip is nowhere near as good for birds as a dedicated birder-pleasing pelagic would be (I dipped on at least 10 species, probably more, that I could have added to my life list), at least I got good views - well, as good as you can get of an animal whose body is mostly below the waterline - of Humpbacked Whales and views of Black-browed Albatrosses.

Here are some of the photos I took on the whale-watching trip; I've also thrown in a snap of some obscure concert venue that sits on Sydney's waterfront, for good measure:

[caption id="attachment_153" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="A really crap pic, sickening when I think what I could have got if it hadn't been for the bloody weather. But, looking on the bright side, at least it's an albatross and it's on MY life list!!"]A really crap pic, sickening when I think what I could have got if it hadn't been for the bloody weather.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_148" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="'There she blows'...or something like that"]'There she blows'...or something like that[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_149" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="As most of the animal is below the water you don't see it that well"]As most of the animal is below the water you don't see it that well[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_151" align="alignnone" width="576" caption="Mother and calf whales"]Mother and calf whales[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_152" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Some obscure backstreet concert venue"]Some obscure backstreet concert venue[/caption]

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

'Bangkok, oriental setting...

and the city doesn't know what the city is getting' the Murray Head song about a chess tournament went.

Ok, so that's Australia done and dusted for now. I think I ended up on around 180 species which isn't too bad, 202 lifers in total now. I am now 4500 miles and three time zones nearer home, having arrived in Bangkok late last night - after walking miles from the gate to immigration, waiting ages for my bag to put in an appearance and then tracking down the representative from my hotel I eventually got checked in and to bed at around 1am this morning. The weather is very warm and overcast, though dry and I hope it stays cloudy because that will keep the temperature down, although as I type the sun is coming out.

It's a bit of a culture shock here, as expected. Very little is in English and even the alphabet is totally different. I plan to stay put for another couple of days before heading off to my first national park, probably Doi Inthanon in the north.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sydney Harbour

I did a quick ferry trip to Manly in the hope of seeing some seabirds (the entrance to Manly is just inside the heads at the entrance to Sydney Harbour). It was a pleasant round trip, taking an hour and a quarter, but apart from Silver Gulls, Great Cormorant (that's the same species as our Cormorant back home) and two Crested Terns diving for food, it wasn't a lot of cop for birding. It was also heaving with families with small children - I detest small kids yet I seem to be some sort of brat magnet, a bit like the way people who loathe cats seem to attract cats - including one with a very obnoxious child of about eight in tow. This kid was so badly behaved and whiny that I am afraid to say that I was amused when she got soaked as spray came over the bow as we were getting near Manly harbour! The downside of that were the resulting screams of fury...!

After getting back to Circular Quay I caught another ferry round to Darling Harbour and booked a whale watching trip tomorrow afternoon. After yesterday's annoyances, I hope it produces something. A whale would be very nice, but a close view of an albatross would be nicer still. In the event of no whales the company gives a 50% refund, but that only applies in June and July. At other times, you get a free cruise to take during 2009, which won't be much good to me as I am leaving the country on Tuesday and won't be back during 2009. If we don't see whales tomorrow I will still ask for a 50% refund on those grounds (the ideal scenario would be a good view of an albatross or five, no whales and a 50% refund!).

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Bugger it

I was hoping to give this post a really crappy punning title such as 'pelmagic' or some such nonsense. Sadly, it was not to be.

The weather is pretty appalling and frankly I've had enough of it. Apart from last w/end which was glorious, most of my time in NSW has coincided nicely with cyclone-like conditions which have battered the coast and the Wollongong pelagic got knocked on the head this morning. We were having doubts about it as the seas were mountainous and I was wondering if we'd even make it out of the harbour, the way the waves were breaking in and also coming over the breakwater. In fact the boat captain was worried and considered the conditions life threatening so that was that; he genuinely thought that if we went side onto the waves, we'd definitely go over. I am happy in a way that he didn't decide to bat ahead and go for it, because it looked downright dangerous out there, but on the other hand I am pretty pissed off that I have been very unlucky with weather this trip - the Wollongong pelagic almost never gets cancelled so it's just my luck this is only the second or third time ever it's been scrubbed.
I console myself with the thought that I like living, hate getting wet and I had my camera gear with me and if that had gone to the bottom of the Tasman Sea it would put a slight downer on the rest of the trip and looking at the small, tatty old boat they use for these pelagics I wouldn't want to be on it in anything other than a flat calm.
There's a possibility it might be rescheduled for next Sunday, but I am flying to Thailand on Tuesday and I don't really want to give Qantas any more money just for a ticket change.

My only reason for the pelagic trip was to see an albatross or two. I may have dipped. Or did I...?

[caption id="attachment_164" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="The reason the pelagic was cancelled - mountainous seas."]The reason the pelagic was cancelled - mountainous seas.[/caption]

So, Wollongong was not a success, it has to be said. Not only was the sea trip cancelled this morning, I got soaked to the skin walking from the bus stop to the Wollongong Backpackers at Keiraleagh House as it hammered down, my bag with my stuff in it was wet through, I didn't have a change of jeans and when I got to the hostel the room they put me in had two unmade beds and rubbish on the table, floor and bin. So they moved me to another room, only to decide to clean that first one and make me move back there. I told them to forget it, I wasn't moving. Keiraleagh House itself is a 'period' house, as it is described in their own blurb. The fixtures and fittings are 'period' too - I don't think the place had been rewired or had new light switches (some looked downright lethal) since about 1939 by the look of it. It's also tatty, but otherwise not bad. Comfy beds, at least. However, would it kill these hostels to have bedside lights so people don't have to get out of bed to switch the light out and them fumble their way back in the dark?? Got talking to some pretty strange people, too.

All was not lost on the albatross front. We went to a couple of seawatching places between Wollongong and Sydney, first near Port Kembla at a little place called Five Islands and then a place just south of the city, Maroubra, where we got Black-browed Albatross (fittingly this was my 200th lifer of the trip), Cape Petrel, Australian Gannet, White-fronted Tern, Giant Petrel (we don't know whether Northern or Southern, though), Brown Falcon (this was at Five Islands) and Kelp Gull. So I was happy(ish) because I had at last seen an albatross species.

And the next person who says to me 'this is very quiet today' or 'you should have been here last week' gets shoved under a bus! It's frustrating so shut up!! I also got tired of hearing people waxing lyrical about how good pelagics are and that at least there'll be another one. Yeah, that's all very well for the locals, but two of us (there was another English guy there) are hardly local even to the southern hemisphere, let alone a little corner of New South Wales.

I know this post has been a long whinge. Sorry, but this and the weather were among the low points (and there have been one or two) of this trip.

I hope Thailand is better...I know the southwest monsoon will be arriving soon, but it won't be the sopping wet (and windy) place Australia currently is - the wet season doesn't necessarily mean rain every day. Australia's been more like the UK recently but at least on the plus side it's stopped the Australians being smug (no other nation does smug as well as Australia) for five minutes, they've been too busy whingeing about being cold.
I am now up to 202 lifers seen on this trip so far, something like 224 in total.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles

I have just returned to Sydney from a 24 hour trip to Coonabarabran ('The Astronomy Capital of Australia') and back. This was actually supposed to be an astronomy trip, meeting some friends from the States who I know from the Texas Star Party, and not a birding trip. I say 'supposed' because it didn't turn out that way, thanks to the worst weather that Australia has experienced for 35 years...! Cyclone conditions ensured that a metre of rain has been dumped here, along with high winds, and the northern NSW and south-east Queensland coasts have borne the brunt of it with flooding, damage and deaths. The good news is that the drought here has ended, with dams almost full instead of almost empty, but it could have waited a week! I have had a lot of bad weather on this trip and can't help feeling slightly miffed about it.But now the Aussies have no grounds to take the piss out of the British climate! Still, the birding's been good here, even if the astronomy has been a no go.  We, that is my friends from the States and I, went to a local astronomy club meeting in  Coonabarabran (or 'Coona' to its friends and people who can't pronounce or be bothered to say 'Coonabarabran') which was entertaining and informative. The hoped-for clear sky didn't materialise and the rain went on all night. A fellow astronomer and birder, Anne, and myself were sharing a room and so we looked at my photos on her Mac until we gave up on the weather and went to bed at 1am. I have to say that I am very pleased with how well most of the pics have turned out, despite the conditions a lot of the time being poor for photography.  I'm hoping that the weather's better in peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand, it should be, the monsoon is further north, although the term 'rainy season' is relative as, according to Lonely Planet, it doesn't always rain any more than the non-rainy season.

Despite it being a washout as an astronomy trip, it wasn't a wasted one as I ended up with some new species, including Emu and Red-rumped Parrot, and I was able to - at last - photograph a male Superb Fairy-wren still in all his blue glory. Most have moulted out of their spectacular breeding plumage but a few are late changing into their drab colours and this little blue boy was one of them. I don't know how the pic will look on a computer but I am hoping it will polish up enough so I can put it on my site eventually. We went to the Warrumbungles National Park yesterday morning, where I was able to take pics of Emus and kangaroos, but it was a brief trip as I had to get a bus from Coonabarabran to Lithgow (very scenic) and then a train to Sydney Central (not scenic because it was by then dark and properly pissing it down). I am going on a pelagic from Wollongong tomorrow so I had to get back for that. It was a pleasant journey until I got back to Sydney Central and ran into a smashed-out-of-his-tiny-mind, probably intellectually-challenged weirdo who was roundly abusing all and sundry, calling everybody 'gooks' (a nasty, perjorative name for Chinese and south-east Asians) no matter what their race.  As I had my stuff with me, I got out of the vicinity as quickly as possible, with a terrified young Chinese woman in tow and trying to assure her the bloke was just stupid and drunk. I wasn't scared, just annoyed at stupid people who get wasted and then aggressive. If I hadn't been lugging my belongings with me and in a hurry to get to my hostel as quickly as possible I'd have got the twat nicked. I just hope the idiot did get arrested.

Mentioning the pelagic, I was concerned this morning in case it was cancelled due to the wild weather south-east Australia is experiencing recently, but on phoning the SOSSA folks I was told by a cheerful lady that the pelagic is very much on as the forecast is improving and the storms moderating. I have booked a hostel for tonight and Sunday night in Wollongong. Unfortunately they only have dorms available, but I hope that a cancellation might open up a single because I hate sharing. Sharing with friends is great but sharing with a bunch of strangers, particularly backpackers who get pissed off and whinge at you when you go out birding at 0630 is not (lazy, drunken student bastards will just have to put up with it!).

With the additions to the list from the trip out to the Warrumbungles, I am now up to 195 trip lifers and the pelagic tomorrow should hopefully provide a few more.

[caption id="attachment_160" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Male Superb Fairy-wren, still mostly in his breeding plumage."]Male Superb Fairy-wren, still mostly in his breeding plumage.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_162" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Galahs on telephone wire at Coonabarabran. Took pic while waiting for my bus to Lithgow."]Galahs on telephone wire at Coonabarabran. Took pic while waiting for my bus to Lithgow.[/caption]

Monday, 18 May 2009

Royal National Park and Scheyville areas

I met up with three other birders - Rob, Ed and Mark - for a day's birding in the Royal National Park, about an hour's drive south of Sydney on Saturday. Rob and Ed are expat Brits who, lucky them, now live and work in Sydney while Mark, like me, is just visiting for a few weeks.

It was an 8am start and the drive took an hour or so. The first stop was a place called Wattle Forest and this was alive with birds, producing loads of new species for me. The Bassian Thrush was elusive; we were told it was there by a group of Aussie birders, and we eventually tracked it down and got good views in the end.

Wattle Forest birds:

Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Lewin's Honeyeater
White-throated Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater
Azure Kingfisher
Scarlet Robin
Eastern Spinebill
Wonga Pigeon
Green Catbird
Yellow-throated Scrubwren
Golden Whistl
Bassian Thrush (very similar to White's Thrush, split, I think, fairly recently)
Superb Blue Wren (Superb Fairy Wren)
Red-browed Finch

After the Wattle Forest we drove round to Lady Carrington's Drive, a nice track through the forest. Unfortunately, as well as being a good place for birders, it's also popular with joggers and pain-in-the-arse mountain bikers. The latter come along the track far too fast and the potential for a nasty accident is rather high. We were constantly having to watch out for these idiots and dodge them. One nearly ran me down while another shouted at us 'Move out of my way', rude bastard.

We walked about 4 or 5km along this track, hoping for Superb Lyrebird but, while we saw evidence of these and also heard one, we didn't get so much as a glimpse of one.

Lady Carrington birds:

Scarlet Honeyeater
Superb Blue-Wren
Satin Bowerbir
d (one male, four or five females)
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Pied Currawong
Noisy Friarbird

After dodging the cyclists and adding some good stuff to my list, it was on to the final birding place of the day, Mount Bass Fire Trail. This is heathland, with good views over the national park and also towards Sydney.

Mount Bass Fire Trail birds:

New Holland Honeyeater
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
Little Wattlebird
Collared Sparrowhawk
Variegated Fairy-wren

The following day, yesterday, it was just Rob and myself and we headed west of the city to the Blue Mountains and Scheyville (pronounced 'Skyville') National Park. This is forest and, like Royal National Park, a lot easier to bird in than the rainforests and mangroves of the north.
There's also an open area where trees have been cleared to make way for pylons carrying power lines, known as the Power Line Cut, which is also good for birding.
The most obvious birds were Bell Miners and their carrying 'tink' calls, endearing at first, soon became tiresome, especially as Bell Miners are aggressive and drive other birds away, meaning if you come across Bell Miners not much else will be around.


Jacky Winter
Yellow Thornbill
Striated thornbill
Crested Shrike-tit
(looks like a weird Great Tit)
Red-browed Finch
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Buff-rumped thornbill
Rose Robin
Grey Shrike-thrush
Bell Miner
Golden Whistler

From Scheyville NP we went to Bussells Lagoon where the birding was brilliant. It was hot but the birds were active, including the surprise Zebra Finch, we weren't expecting to find these so close to Sydney.

Zebra Finch
Swamp Harrier
Black-winged Stilt
Pink-eared Duck
Black-winged Kite
Australian Raven
Black-fronted Dotterel
Superb Fairy-wren
Whistling Kite
Grey Teal
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Great Cormorant
Pied Cormorant
Australian Darter
Australian Pelican
Australasian Grebe
Tawny Grassbird
Little Grassbird

Also saw Turtles and water dragons.

All too soon it was time to head back to Sydney, where we managed to get in the wrong lane of traffic and ended up crossing the Harbour Bridge. We had to go round and recross it to get back to the right side of Sydney (the south)!

My trip list overall is 208, with 186 of those being new birds. That makes my overall world total something like 730. I might make it to 1000 in total by the time I get home in June, but I'm not too fussed if I don't.

Today (Monday) I went for a walk round the city. I got a ticket from King's Cross to Central and walked back via Darling Harbour. It was a nice walk but took ages.

I am supposed to be going to Coonabarabran on Wednesday to meet some astronomy friends from the US, but it's a 7 hour train and bus ride and I will be up all night before heading back to Sydney on Thursday! It'll be nice to see my friends again, but I'm not looking forward to the travelling or the cost of it.

The hostel I am staying in may be tatty, and the room smells like someone has been smoking in it in the recent past, but it has proved to be nice and quiet - however, the neighbourhood is well dodgy. I am sure next door is a brothel, judging by the superannuated slappers and dodgy blokes I've seen going into it, there are prostitutes everywhere (usually with cops rounding them up!) and there was a shooting in the next street in the early hours of yesterday morning! Still, it's an interesting place and I actually quite like it.

Friday, 15 May 2009


I am now in Sydney after a quick 3 hour flight (just under 3 hours actually) from Cairns. It beats the horrible five day bus ride I made when heading up there and flying's surprisingly cheaper too; Cairns to Sydney via Jetstar cost me $249 while Brisbane to Cairns on a Greyhound Australia bus (sorry, I mean coach; they hate you calling them 'buses' as I overheard a driver telling a young German tourist the other week).

I have bought a coach ticket (a mere two hours on a coach, as opposed to several days, is no big deal) to Wollongong for next week (people keep asking me 'Why on earth are you going to Wollongong, it's a bloody shithole, mate' and when I tell them it's for ocean-going birdwatching they are even more sceptical! Besides if I want to go to Wollongong, then I bloody well will!) and arranged accommodation in the local backpackers, just up from the harbour. Sadly, I can only get dorm accommodation but it's better than nothing and it's only for 2 nights - I am then returning to the scruffy backpackers I am esconsed in here in Sydney for a couple of days before heading to Asia (it's scruffy but adequate and I have a room to myself with - oh the decadence - a TELEVISION!!). I am definitely splurging on a decent hotel when I get to Asia - I gather that Thailand is so cheap that even a four star place is within my budget! I hope that particular gen is spot on!

I am glad to be in Sydney, I was here briefly a couple of weeks ago (I think - I have lost track of the passage of weeks!) and the bus coach I was in drove over the famous Harbour Bridge and I got a brief look at the Opera House. I got a better look at the Opera House today from the airport shuttle and it looks better from ground level than it did from the bridge. I'll do the touristy bollocks at some point and take pix of the bridge and Opera House before I leave Sydney next week.

The main reason I am glad to be here is not because of famous buildings, but because the weather is nice, pleasantly warm and with clear skies, unlike the tropical rain and relative heat and humidity of the Wet Tropics. Being a fair skinned Briton of Celtic extraction, the Sydney autumn weather is much more to my liking! I like visiting tropical places and seeing the tropical birds (bird species are more numerous in the tropics) but I am always happy to leave.

Must remember to look into getting to Coonabarabran (about 7 hours/500km from here) by train. There's an astronomy event on and I am hoping to spend the night of the 19th and 20th there before going to Wollongong for next Saturday's pelagic. By the way I'm getting the same questions about Coonabarabran I'm getting about Wollongong...!

Going birding tomorrow hopefully, with a fellow Bird Forum member who lives in Sydney.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Great Barrier Reef

Went to the Great Barrier Reef yesterday. I made sure that I went on a trip that included Michaelmas Cay, known for its seabirds. Well, it was not a disappointing trip, that's for sure! I added Lesser Crested Tern, Least Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Noddy and Sooty Tern to my list, bring the lifer total to 147 (can't remember the overall trip total).

I also did some snorkling, for the first time ever, and once you get over the urge to hyperventilate (very unpleasant) it's easy. The hyperventilation soon passes, especially when you encounter your first corals and brightly coloured fishes! I saw brain coral, mushroom coral, giant clams, and many fish whose identities I have no idea of. A couple I do know of were Yellow-tailed Fusilier and Batfish, and that's because they came begging to the boat and the crew ID'd them for us. Being a strong swimmer, I also dispensed with the fins as I found them a hindrance not a help.

Michaelmas Cay was easy to do snorkling in, you could just swim from the beach but the other place, Paradise Reef had to be done from the back of the boat in choppy seas but that was good fun too.

I am flying to Sydney tomorrow and while Cairns has been a bit wet for most of the time I've been here, it has been relatively hot and I'll be quite glad to duck back down below the Tropic of Capricorn again to a cooler climate. Sydney will be chilly and probably windy. I'm not ruling out wet either but I hope it's not too wet. Going birding this weekend, then a trip to the Warrumbungles if I can work out how to get to Coonabarabran from Sydney.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Wet wet wet

It was another vile wet day in Cairns. I know this is the 'Wet Tropics' but the rain is getting more than a little tiresome, especially when I am told the couple of weeks prior to my arrival was glorious warm sunshine. I met expat birder Tony for some birding around Cairns Esplanade and despite the shit conditions in which we both managed to get soaked feet (I was wearing soft shoes) we managed to get three more lifers for my list:

Beach Stone Curlew
Mangrove Robin - these proved easier to see than we thought, we eventually saw 4 and I even managed to get some (bad) photos of one as it perched briefly on a pillar at someone's front gate
Golden-headed Cisticola - this was on some 'waste ground' and it was only as we were leaving the area we saw it.

Other birds were:

Sacred Kingfisher
Black-fronted Dotterel
Fairy Martin
Varied Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater
Brahminy Kite
Forest Kingfisher
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Silver Gull
Caspian Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Straw-necked Ibis
Australian White Ibis

We drew a blank on Bar-shouldered Dove, Far-eastern Curlew and Nankeen Night-heron.
The total number of lifers now comes to a nice round 140 and I hope I can add a few more before leaving Australia on the 26th.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Yorkey's Knob

This afternoon Tony (local expat British birder) and myself went to Yorkey's Knob (oh go on, giggle, I know you want to ;) ) which is a 20 minute bus ride from Cairns and is a good little birding spot, especially by the golf course, where there is a lagoon holding plenty of waterfowl. As usual with golf courses there are plenty of people 'ruining a good walk' and there is the outside chance of an errant golf ball coming your way but it's relatively safe.

Thanks to Tony I added four new species to my list:

Green Pygmy Goose
Rajah Shelduck
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

With these four additions that makes 137 lifers on this trip so far.
The Mistletoebird was a right little sod - we could hear them, but they were very difficult to see but we eventually tracked down a male and female over by the football pitch and I managed to get some good (I hope) shots of the very pretty male bird, all decked out in black, white and red.

Other birds were
Yellow-bellied (Olive-backed) Sunbird
Spice Finch
White-breasted Woodswallow
Little Black Cormorant
Rainbow Bee-eater
Brown Honeyeater
Dusky Honeyeater
Australian Darter
Intermediate Egret
Little Pied Cormorant
Forest Kingfisher
Double-eyed Figparrot
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Grebe
Laughing Kookaburra
Spangled Drongo

According to Tony they are thinking of renaming Yorkey's Knob because of the ridicule and giggles the name causes - it's a bit like the unfortunately named village of Fucking which is in Austria and which tourists from English-speaking nations just love to visit purely for the novelty of visiting a town with a rude name. Actually, there's a place called Twatt in Shetland. I've seen photos of birders posing by that sign.

[caption id="attachment_155" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Laughing Kookaburra"]Laughing Kookaburra[/caption]

This coming week

I have booked myself a trip to the Great Barrier Reef on Wednesday. I now have to nip into town tomorrow or Tuesday and buy a new cossie, shorts and underwater disposable camera! The trip I've booked on goes to Michaelmas Cay where I should see a few seabirds such as frigatebirds, noddies and boobies (why do the last two names sound rude?!), but even if I don't see many birds, I should see some cool, colourful fish.

Off to Yorkey's Knob (now that's a name guaranteed to raise titters among British schoolchildren) this afternoon. I have no idea who Yorkey was or why a place is named after his knob (titter) but it is a good Cairns birding spot, I'm told.

Planning to spend rest of week birding round Cairns before flight to Sydney on Friday morning. Then I have to work out how to get myself from Sydney to Coonabarabran for the 19th May (astronomy event in the Warrumbungles) - doing much in Australia without your own vehicle is a pain.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Rain, Cassowaries, big spiders and more rain

I went to Cassowary House for three days, which was quite nice and I am now back in Cairns. I havent got any lists to hand, as I'm in a dingy city-centre internet cafe and everything is back at the hostel I'm staying at (Castaways in Sheridan Street - a dear little place, highly recommended). I'm in Cairns for another week before flying to Sydney.

I did manage to - easily - see the Southern Cassowaries, both the male and the much larger female (she's a big bird, standing head high to me, and I am not short) plus Victoria's Riflebird, Helmeted Friarbird, Red-necked Crake, Macleay's Honeyeater, Spotted Catbird (makes a sound like a catfight), and others which I can't remember off the top of my head.
I had two geckos in my room, a little one which lived on the ceiling and a much larger, foot long one, which lived behind the fridge. Unfortunately I didn't see much of the bigger one, he preferred to remain mostly out of sight. I had the misfortune to be visited by a large black huntsman spider the first night, it took me ages to gather the courage to evict it, using a large glass. It wasn't a big one, as hunstmen go, but at three inches across, plenty (too) big for me. It was duly turfed out.

Went for a walk down Black Mountain Road (dropped off 3km up the road from Cassowary House) and walked back. Unfortunately the heavens opened and I got both soaking wet, then boiled when the sun came out, and plastered in mud. I saw very little and was not happy when I got back. The sole addition to the list was a Barred Cuckoo-shrike.

I don't know if this is the tail-end of the Wet season or not, but Queensland isn't living up to its Sunshine State tag - it's done nothing but chuck it down for days.

I have been stung for $164 to change my Qantas ticket. Austravel told me that it would be GBP50 (why can't foreign keyboards have a pound sign on them? Ours in the UK have $ signs and even, in some cases, Euro signs!) or $100 to change the ticket but what they didn't say was that Qantas would relieve me of another $64 for the privilege. The reason I changed my ticket is that I am burning through dosh quicker than if I'd chucked it on a fire. I knew Australia had got more expensive since my visit in 1997, but what I didn't realise was just HOW expensive - I bought some groceries the other day, just a few items, and it came to an outrageous $23. In some cases it's even worse than rip-off Britain - and the Aussies are rightly complaining.
So, I am leaving Australia on 26th May instead of 12th June. However, because of Thailand's visa rules my flight to London  has also had to be brought forward so, unless I can be bothered to change it again, I'll probably be going home a couple of weeks early. No bad thing, as I want some money left to get my car back on the road (needs MOT) to look for a job - what jobs are left after the latest round of redundancies, the Isle of Wight has had a real hammering recently, I'm told.

[caption id="attachment_157" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Southern Cassowary"]Southern Cassowary[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_158" align="alignnone" width="479" caption="Male Victoria's Riflebird - my first ever Bird of Paradise"]Male Victoria's Riflebird - my first ever Bird of Paradise[/caption]

Monday, 4 May 2009


Very busy couple of days here in Cairns. Went birding round Cairns, including the local Cemetery, Centenary Lakes and the Esplanade yesterday with Tony (a UK birder who moved to Cairns 2 years ago) and today we went to Lake Barrine and Picnic Crossing Road (near Yungaburra), courtesy of local birder and guide John, which meant the list grew quite nicely.


Yellow Oriole
Brown Honeyeater
Bush Stone-curlew
Rainbow Bee-eater
Brush Cuckoo
Fig Parrot
Scrub Fowl
Dusky Honeyeater
Yellow Honeyeater

Spangled Drongo
Large-billed Gerygone
Straw-necked Ibis
White-breasted Woodswallow
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
Black Butcherbird
Little Kingfisher
Wandering Whistling-duck
Intermediate Egret
Australian Goshawk
White-rumped Swiftlet
Great White Egret
Black-fronted Dotterel
Red-capped Plover
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Bar-tailed Godwit
Varied Honeyeater
Masked Lapwing
Red-necked Stint
Royal Spoonbill
Spice Finch
(also known as Nutmeg Mannikin)
Metallic Starling (or Shining Starling)
Rainbow Lorikeet
Yellow-bellied Sunbird
(aka Olive-backed Sunbird)

 Other animals: Mudskipper; Spectacled Flying Foxes (very pretty)

Lake Barrine and Picnic Crossing Road (birding was a bit quiet today):
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Large-billed Scrub-wren
Brown Gerygone
Lewin's Honeyeater
Eastern Spinebill
Eastern Whipbird
(great views, normally hard to see)
Little Shrike-thrush
White-throated Treecreeper
Pied Currawong
Grey-headed Robin
Spectacled Monarch
Pale-yellow Robin
Forest Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
Brush Turkey
Pied Monarch
Red-browed Firetail
Leaden Flycatcher
Black Kite
Spotted Harrier

Other animals: Agile Wallaby and Duck-billed Platypus.

I am off to Cassowary House tomorrow for three nights before coming back to Cairns for a week - I want more photos of those gorgeous Bee-eaters! - then I am flying (no more bloody coaches!) to Sydney. I am planning to go to the Warrumbungles, Wollongong and Sydney before flying home via Asia.

Can I get another 362 species to get to 1000 birds on my life list?

Sunday, 3 May 2009


I have managed to edit and uploaded some photos, courtesy of my friend Tony in Cairns. I used his Mac to edit them so, as I have never used a Mac in my life before, they might be not quite as well edited as I'd like, but they're on line and looking pretty much okay if a bit big.

If you click on my Flickr RSS link to the right, you'll see them. Click on 'More Photos' to go straight there or go to