Brisbane, Alice Springs and Victoria
21 Sep - 1 Oct, 1999

View from Binna Burra campsite After having an amazing experience in Australia in 1995, I wanted to share it with my husband, Tom.  I knew I wanted to see Uluru (Ayer's Rock), since I had regretted missing it on my previous trip.  I was also interested in seeing Satin Bowerbirds, and some of the other coastal species, as well as possibly Malleefowl and Lyrebirds in the south.  I decided that in two weeks, we could hit southeastern Queensland, western Victoria and the area around Alice Springs.

I hadn't done much preparation this time, aside from researching the best wildlife viewing locales.  When we arrived in Brisbane, we rented a car and grabbed a room for the night at a place near the airport.  In the morning, we decided to check out the City Botanical Gardens in downtown Brisbane.

Brisbane

The botanical gardens were located on a small peninsula of land right in the downtown area, yet it was packed with birds.  There were Rainbow Lorikeets nesting in holes in the trees along the main path, and Sacred Ibis milling around the ponds, along with many other kinds of water birds. 

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet Our next destination was Lamington National Park, so we got on the highway and headed south.  As we drove along, we were already seeing big flocks of colorful Galahs, Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets as they streamed across the sky.  That may have been a distraction, since we missed our exit, and ended up sort-of lost.  This was not entirely bad, since we ended up at a place we otherwise wouldn't have visited: the Natural Bridge.  Brush Turkeys were hanging around in the parking lot, and there was even a colony of Pacific Swallows nesting under the rock formation that constitued the natural bridge.  There were many more birds in the area, but it had begun to rain, so we decided to cut our losses and continue on toward the park.

Brush Turkey On the drive back, I spotted a Blue-cheeked Rosella in the trees, and then a Baillon's Crake and a Straw-necked Ibis in a field down the road.  This was nothing compared with what was coming up.  I had been hoping for a Blue Satin Bowerbird, and to my great pleasure, they were just sitting next to the road at the park entrance!

The park headquarters was on the top of a hill that overlooked the Gold Coast.  Their parking lot was also full of Brush Turkeys, and even tiny rabbit-sized marsupials they told us are called Padimelons.  We were assigned a cabin, and settled in for our stay.

Padimelon Our accommodations were perfect.  The cabin was located at the far end of the campsite, with trees in front, and a partial view of the landscape below.  In the morning and evening, there were lots of birds scraping around the place, including Satin Bowerbirds, Blue-cheeked Rosellas , Eastern Spinebills , Lewin's Honeyeaters, Green Catbirds, King Parrots, Brown Fruit-doves, Laughing Kookaburras, Pied Currawongs, and the list goes on.  I didn't see a single non-native species while we were there.

Blue-cheeked (Crimson) Rosella The surrounding forest was very thick, yet I was able to see an big variety of birds, including Regent Bowerbirds, Rufous Whistlers, Rufous Fantails, White-eared Monarchs, all kinds of Thornbills, and Eastern Whipbirds.  The whipbirds had the neatest call.  They were so secretive that it took me a while to figure out what they were.  They got my attention by repeatedly making a very musical whip crack-sound.  I was finally able to track down a medium-sized olive-green bird with a prominent white sploch on its cheek.

Eastern Spinebill That night, I woke up at around one in the morning with severe jetlag.  It was very cold, but I decided to go outside and listen for nocturnal birds.  I kept hearing a dog barking in the distance, and assumed it was a dingo.  I had forgotten from my previous trip that dingos don't bark, and the owls do.  (This, in fact, is the subject of an Aborigine legend!)  Sure enough, within a few minutes, I noticed a Barking Owl perched on a branch of the tree right in front of me, barely illuminated by the lamps around the cabins.

At the same time, I was hearing a definite owl-like hooting from a different direction, a "book - book".  This sound was also coming closer, but from behind!  Suddenly, the Barking Owl flew right past me, and met the Southern Boobook, and it sounded like they had a little skirmish, after which both birds flew away. 

Pale-headed Rosella After another morning hike, we returned to Brisbane.  All this camping and wildlife viewing was a little too intensive for Tom, so I thought we could break form and go see a koala park. 

Noisy Miner We had a little trouble finding the place, but I was very glad we did.  We enjoyed seeing all the captive koalas, as well as some of the other native animals.  There were a few wild birds around, including Magpie Larks, and even a Pale-headed Rosella that landed in a tree next to an aviary full of cockatoos!

Afterwards, we dropped by Mt. Coot-tha.  The whole mountain was a park, and there was a cafe and a city overlook at the top.  At the base of the mountain was an expansive and beautiful botanical gardens.  We walked through the gardens, and later hiked up to the cafe along a path that follows a stream and passes a waterfall.  In that general area, we saw more of the commoner birds, including Rainbow Lorikeets, Blue-eyed Honeyeaters, Noisy Miners , Eurasian Coots, Maned Ducks and Sacred Ibis.  The ibis were even jumping on the tables at the garden cafe to feed on the leftovers.  It was quite a sight to see someone's leftover crumpet being carefully maneuvered down such a long, curved beak!

 

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