Australia The best of Birding Down Under!

Monday 15th September – Monday 29th September 2014

Blue-winged-Kookaburra-by-Steve BirdOur tour will commence in Darwin where we will visit the world famous Kakadu National Park, acclaimed for its incredible wildlife and amazing scenery which includes superb aboriginal paintings on cave walls. The birdlife here is spectacular and we will search out specialities that could include the gorgeous Gouldian Finch, Hooded Parrot, and Rainbow Pitta. One morning we will take a cruise on Yellow Water, one of Australia's most important areas for waterfowl, where it is possible to see up to 70 species, including Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Black-fronted Dotterel, Forest & Little Kingfishers and nearby we will look for Banded Fruit-dove, Great Bowerbird and Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeon. Leaving the fabulous Northern Territory behind us we fly to Queensland for the second part of our tour. This beautiful area and its superb lodges hold a wealth of sought after birds including Golden Bowerbird, Victorias’s Riflebird, one of Australia’s few Birds-of-Paradise, the strange Pink-eared Duck, Australian Bustard and a wealth of other birds. We will also get the chance to look for the very strange Duck-billed Platypus and take a fantastic boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef one of top natural wonders of the world. Queensland holds some of the most outstanding birding areas in Australia and this amazing tour takes in the very best from coastal mudflats to mangroves and lowland tropical rainforest giving the chance to see a host of endemics and much sought after species. This is by far the best itinerary combining the NorthernTerritory and Queensland! Join us for a birding adventure down under! 

TARGETS: 

  • Rainbow Pitta
  • Arafura Spinetail
  • Golden Bowerbird
  • Tawny Frogmouth
  • Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo                
  • Chestnut Rail
  • Nankeen Night-Heron
  • Azure Kingfisher
  • Little Kingfisher
  • Galah
  • Striated Pardalote
  • Partridge Pigeon
  • Sandstone Shrike-Thrush
  • Victoria's Riflebird
  • King Parrot
  • Duck-billed Platypus
  • Gouldian Finch
  • Hooded Parot
  • Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon  
  • Blue-winged Kookaburra
  • Lovely Fairy-Wren
  • Papuan Frogmouth
  • Topknot Pigeon
  • Chowchilla
  • Fernwren
  • Spotted Catbird
  • Tooth-billed Bowerbird
  • Australian Bustard
  • Squatter Pigeon
  • Apostlebird
  • Pink-eared Duck
  • Sugar Glider

Day 1    Darwin – 15th Sept
Plan to arrive on Monday 15th Sept in Darwin where we will commence our tour. Note that if you are leaving the UK you will probably be Rainbow-Pitta-by-Steve-Birdleaving on Saturday 13th in order to arrive in Darwin on the 15th. If arranging your own flights please try to arrive before midday as we will going out in the afternoon. If you cannot arrive by midday then we suggest you arrive a day ealier and we can arrange an extra nights accommodation for you. In the afternoon, we will visit the Botanic Gardens to look for roosting Barking and Rufous Owls. Then we drive to Lee Point for waders and interesting bush birds including Rainbow Pitta, Rainbow Bee-eater, the rare Arafura Fantail, Northern Fantail, White-gaped Honeyeater, Forest Kingfisher, Silver-crowned Friarbird and Restless Flycatcher. Orange-footed Scrubfowl and even Agile Wallaby could be seen and in the mangroves at Buffalo Creek, we will search for Red-headed Honeyeaters, Green-backed Gerygone, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Gray Whistler, Yellow White-Eye, Red winged Parrots and with luck the rarely seen Chestnut Rail, as well as Beach Thick-knee and Large-tailed Nightjars that frequent the area at dusk.
Night Central Darwin

Day 2    Darwin – Fogg Dam – Kakadu National Park – 16th Sept
After a very early breakfast, we will drive to Fogg Dam to experience it’s spectacular diversity of water birds including Comb-crested Jacanas, Royal Spoonbill, Black-necked Stork, Magpie Geese, Straw-necked Ibis, Pied Heron, the scarce Black Bittern, Plumed and Wandering Whistling Ducks, Green Pygmy Geese, Whiskered Tern, Caspian Tern, and Gouldian-Finch-by-Steve-BirdBrahminy Kite. Saltwater and Freshwater Crocodiles are also found here, and a boardwalk on the edge of the lake is a good place to find the endemic Rainbow Pitta along with other species such as Little Kingfisher, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Shining Flycatcher, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Horsfield's Bushlark, Rufous-banded Honeyeater and Broad-billed Flycatcher. Along the Arnhem Highway we will stop at a small waterhole to look for Crimson Finches, Long-tailed, Double-barred, and if we are very lucky the nomadic and unpredictable Gouldian Finch. At another stop along the Adelaide River we could find Mangrove Golden Whistlers. Continuing our route, we keep a look out for Black-faced Woodswallow, Marsh and Spotted Harriers, Black-shouldered Kites, Nankeen Kestrels, Black-breasted Buzzard and Red-backed Kingfisher. The next stop will be in the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park at Mamukala Wetlands. The sheer numbers of water birds should be spectacular and there may be the possibility of seeing some species not seen at earlier sites. Amongst the many birds here should be Broad-billed and Restless Flycatcher, Rufous Fantail, White-gaped Honeyeater, Tawny Grassbird and Golden-headed Cisticola. Other birds could include Partridge Pigeon, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Blue-faced Honeyeater and Black-tailed Treecreeper. Pacific Baza and Australian Hobby are likely around the lodge as well as Varied and Rainbow Lorikeets. Accommodation for the next two nights is Gagadju Lodge, Cooinda which is owned and operated by the local Aboriginal people or the safari tents at Lakeside Caravan Park in Jabiru.

Day 3    Yellow Water – Kakadu NP – 17th Sept 
PLumed Whistling-DuckToday we will take a cruise on the Yellow Water, one of Australia's most important areas for waterfowl. It is possible to see up to 70 species here including Great-billed and Pied Herons, Darter, Straw-necked Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Black-fronted Dotterel, Forest & Little Kingfishers, Plumed and Wandering Whistling-ducks, Green Pygmy-Goose and Restless Flycatcher. Large Saltwater Crocodiles are also a feature of this cruise. White-bellied Sea-Eagles have territories along the billabong. Large numbers of Nankeen Night-Herons roam the banks and Bar-breasted and Banded Honeyeaters live in the riverside vegetation. Later, we will visit Nourlangie Rock to view the famous aboriginal rock art. A fascinating area that is also great for birds where we could possibly see Banded Fruit-dove, Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeon, Great Bowerbird and White-lined Honeyeater. Other highlights around the Ubbir and Gubara Gorge may include Partridge Pigeon, Little Corella, Northern Rosella, Little Woodswallow and Sandstone Shrike-thrush. Sunset at Ubbir is a Kakadu tradition and a great way to finish the day. Night Jabiru 

Day 4    Kakadu National Park - Pine Creek - 18th Sept
We will drive south today in Kakadu visiting Mardugal and Gunlom (Waterfall Creek) areas looking for species such as Banded Fruit-Dove, Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeon, Partridge Pigeon, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, various honeyeaters and finches and possibilities for the rare Red Goshawk. As we head towards Pine Creek we have the opportunity to look for another of Australia’s rarest raptors, the Gray Falcon which has almost mythical status because it is so elusive. Other species may include Brown Goshawk, Australian Hobby, Black-breasted Buzzard, Chestnut-quilled-Rock-Pigeon by Steve BirdWhistling Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk, and both Black and Brown Falcon, although the former is more difficult. In the dry scrub we could come across Masked Finches, Weebills, Black-tailed Treecreepers, Brown Quail, Dollarbird, Brush Cuckoo, Black-eared Cuckoo, Northern Rosella, Varied Lorikeet and Variegated Fairy-wren which are all possible. If road conditions are suitable a side trip to Gunlom Falls can offer the opportunity to see species that may have been missed elsewhere. The rough escarpment country above the falls is renowned as the best location to see the locally endemic White-throated Grasswrens but fires in the area recently have made this very difficult. We will, however, give it a try if it is at all possible. The little town of Pine Creek where we stay the night is a good location for Hooded Parrot, Varied Lorikeet, Cockatiel, Diamond Dove, Striated Pardalote, Magpie Lark, Crested Pigeon, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Blue-faced Honeyeater and sometimes Gouldian Finches. The nearby sewage treatment plant is home to Australian Pratincole, Black-fronted Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Gray Teal while Chestnut-backed Button-Quail have been seen at the nearby cemetery, although difficult. Accommodation is at the Pine Creek Railway Resort.

Day 5    Pine Creek - Litchfield N P - Darwin - 19th Sept
An early walk around the water park and other locations around town will give the opportunity to see species that may have been missed during the previous day, such as Silver-backed Butcherbird. We will then head back to Darwin via Litchfield National Park which is renowned for the huge magnetic termite mounds and is the only location where we might see Emus. Near Darwin, we will visit the Palmerston Sewage Works to see Black-winged Terns, Yellow White-eye, Mangrove Gray Fantail and other Mangrove species and waders including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint and Greater Sand Plover. And, we'll stop in another special spot for Silver-backed Butcherbird. In Darwin, we will use whatever time we have left to visit locations where birds we haven’t seen may be located. Overnight in Central Darwin.

Day 6     Darwin – Cairn’s – 20th Sept
Beach Thick-knee by Steve BirdThis morning we will take a flight to Cairn’s where we will then check into our hotel before visiting the famous esplanade. Two of the best birding locations in Cairns, the Cairns Esplanade and the adjacent mangroves hold a wide variety of birds and we will spend the rest of the day exploring these habitats. Along the esplanade we will be able to look out over a large expanse of tidal mud flats for species that may include Australian Pelicans, Australian Darter, Little Black Cormorant, White-faced Herons, Masked Lapwings, Great Knot, Gray-tailed Tattler, Black-fronted Dotterel, and near the mangroves if we are lucky we could find Mangrove Robin, Shining Flycatcher and perhaps the rare Beach Thick-Knee. We can expect to see many Silver Gulls and several tern species and this is a hotspot for waders often including unusual species for Australia. Possible other species include Red-capped Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Eastern Curlew, Royal Spoonbill, Eastern Great, Intermediate, Little and Eastern Reef Egrets, Striated Heron, and Australian Pied Oystercatcher. In and around the trees and bushes, we will look for White-bellied Woodswallows, Welcome Swallows, Peaceful and Spotted Doves, Varied Honeyeaters, Helmeted Friarbird, Willie Wagtail, Magpie Lark, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Metallic Starling, Mistletoebird and possibly White-bellied Cuckooshrike. In one of the local parks with its collection of small ponds and botanical gardens, we will search for Straw-necked Ibis, Little and Collared Kingfisher, White-browed Crake, Australian Figbird, Yellow Honeyeater, Yellow Oriole, Laughing Kookaburra and skulkers such as Australian Brush Turkeys and Orange-footed Scrub-Fowl. A short detour to the local cemetery should find us lots of confiding and photogenic Bush Thick-knees, while another local pond could produce Nankeen Night Heron, Pacific Black Duck, Gray Teal, Green Pygmy-Goose, Plumed Whistling Duck, Hardhead, Australian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen, and sometimes Radjah Shelducks. The surrounding scrub can also play host to small flocks of Nutmeg and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins where we could also see Fairy Martins, Olive-backed Oriole and Leaden Flycatcher. Night Cairns.

Day 7     Cairn’s – Daintree - 21st Sept 
White-bellied-Sea-Eagle-by-Steve BirdAfter a final look around Cairn’s we drive north to Daintree Village and our accommodation for the next two nights at beautiful Red Mill House. On the way we visit birding locations at Yorkey’s Knob, Wonga Beach and Dillan Road. At Daintree, an afternoon walk down Stewart Creek Road and around the gardens at Red Mill House should produce some excellent new birds. Possible birds include Radjah Shelduck, Emerald Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Australian White Ibis, Pacific Baza, Brahminy Kite, Pheasant Coucal, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Forest Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Lovely Fairy-wren, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Torresian Crow, Fairy Martin and Nutmeg and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. Night Red Mill House.

Day 8     Daintree River Cruise - 22nd Sept  
Before a beautiful breakfast overlooking the gardens at Red Mill House we will walk down to the dock in town and embark on a cruise on the Daintree River. The magical mist of the morning will soon lift and hopefully reveal local specialties including Mangrove and Large-billed Gerygone, Shining Flycatcher, Dusky Honeyeater, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Spectacled Monarch, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Little Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Blue-winged Kookaburra, and Azure_Kingfisher-by-Steve-BirdGreat-billed Heron. Surrounded by lush tropical forest this is a wonderful way to relax amidst a wealth of wildlife. Other species we hope to see include Nankeen Night Heron, Royal Spoonbill, Black Bittern, Sacred, Collared and Forest Kingfishers, Rainbow Bee-eater, Papuan Frogmouth, White-rumped Swiftlet, Helmeted Friarbird, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Varied Triller, Yellow-bellied Sunbird and several species of honeyeaters. With luck we could come across some of the less frequent species such as Pacific Baza, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and even Saltwater Crocodile. Later in the day, we will cross the Daintree River by ferry and travel along the Cape Tribulation Road visiting magnificent lowland rainforest at Dubiji and Mardja and walking trails at Cow Bay and the Cooper Creek river mouth. If we were very lucky, we could see the endangered Southern Cassowary, while other possibilities include Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Red-necked Crake, Noisy Pitta, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Pied Currawong, Topknot Pigeon and Silvereye.
Night Red Mill House.

Days 9 - 10     Daintree – Julateen - 23rd & 24th Sept  
We have two busy days with extraordinary diversity of habitats from lowland tropical rainforest to dry savannah. After an early morning walk down Stewart Creek Road, we drive Golden-Bowerbird-by-Gina-Nicholup the coastal range on to the Tablelands to Julateen then up to Mt Lewis. The high mountain rainforests of Mt Lewis are home to a range of species endemic to North Queensland including Mountain Thornbill, the rare Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Chowchilla, Spotted Catbird, Fernwren, Graceful and Bridled Honeyeater, Bassian Thrush and Pale-yellow Robin. Back down the mountain at Sides Road the targets are Blue-faced Parrot Finch, Lovely Fairy-wren and Gray-headed Robin. For a complete change of habitat, we travel a relatively short distance in to dry savannah country to see Australian Bustards, Great Bowerbird, Tawny Frogmouth, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Squatter Pigeon, Pale-headed Rosella, Galah, Black-throated Finch, Apostlebird, Pied Butcherbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-throated Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, White-throated Treecreeper, Black Kite, Little Eagle, Square-tailed Kite and Wedge-tailed Eagle. Our lodge has feeders that make for excellent photo opportunities and even Long-nosed Bandicoots can be seen here in the evenings as well as several species of Possum. A night walk will have us looking for Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Barking Owl and Eastern Barn Owl, while early morning down at the creek has given us great looks at the strange Duck-billed Platypus. Accommodation for these two nights will be at Kingfisher Park Lodge.

Days 11 - 12     Julateen – Yungaburra - 25th & 26th Sept  
The patch work of farmland, rainforest, Eucalyptus forest, woodlands, grasslands, creeks and lagoons on the bold volcanic plateau called the Atherton Tablelands creates a wonderful hot spot for birds. Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are conspicuous along the roadsides near Mareeba. At Big Mitchell Creek we look for the elusive White-browed Robin and, at Hastie’s Swamp, a range of wetland species are found Eastern-Yellow-Robin-by-Steve-Birdincluding Black Swan, Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Hardhead, Gray Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, Australasian Grebe and Buff-banded Rail. In the rainforests at Wongabel State Forest, Hypipamie National Park, and Malanda there is a chance to see Large-billed Scrub-wren, Atherton Scrubwren, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Whipbird, Fairy Gerygone, Rufous Fantail, Golden Whistler, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Brush Cuckoo, and Yellow-breasted Boatbill., while at Lakes Eacham and Barrine and the Cathedral and Curtain Figs, birding highlights could include Victoria’s Riflebird, Superb Fruit Dove, White-headed Pigeon, Grey Goshawk, King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Koel, Dollarbird, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Australasian Pipit, Eastern Yellow Robin, Cicadabird, Spotted Pardalote, Gray Shrike-thrush, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Noisy Friarbird, Tawny Grassbird, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Red-browed Firetail, Australian Magpie, and Satin Bowerbird. We will also keep a look out for mixed flocks of both Sarus Cranes and Brolgas. Our rainforest accommodation for these two nights is the fabulous Chambers Lodge. Here in the evenings Red-legged Pademelons come to the lawn in front of the restaurant to feed, with a special built shelter and spotlights in the forest is a marvellous place to sit and watch Sugar Gliders and the striking Striped Possum coming down to honey smeared on the trees.
Nights Chambers Lodge

Day 13    Yungaburra – Cairn’s - 27th Sept
After a final morning at Chambers we will head back to Cairn’s where we have the opportunity to re-visit any of the sites mentioned on the 20th Nov. We will always take time to re-visit the Esplanade as things change day by day and who knows what shorebirds will greet us today. Night Cairn’s

Day 14    Michaelmas Cay – Cairn’s - 28th Sept
Michaelmas-Cay-by-Gina-NicholWhat a fantastic way to finish off our tour! Today we have a full day boat trip out to Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef. During our leisurely boat crossing to this small sandy cay we will look out for Brown and Masked Boobies, Common Noddy and Black Noddies, Roseate, Black-naped, Sooty and Bridled Terns, plus the piratical Lesser Frigatebirds. Several tern species nest on the island and offer wonderful photo opportunities. We will spend a few hours anchored beside the island where we have the chance to either snorkel or even scuba dive. The undersea reef here is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and the marine life simply incredible. A glass-sided semi-submersible belonging to our boat can take you on a short journey around the reef with great viewing of many tropical fish and even Green Turtles and Giant Clams. After this wonderful day with superb buffet food and drinks we will return to Cairns and the end of our Australian tour. Night Cairns.

Day 15    End of Tour - 29th Sept
Today is the departure day and depending on your international departure time you may have time to look around Cairn’s before your transfer to the airport. Note if returning to the Uk you will probably arrive back on 01st Dec

Leaders:  Barry Davies (Acclaimed Australian Bird Guide)

Tour Price:   £2995.00 

Flights:  Between  £895 - £1295  depending on airline and time of booking

Striped-Possum-by-Steve-BirdPlease note that this tour is very competitively priced and as such the price is based on minimum of 6 persons. If the group is smaller (between 4 – 6 persons) then a small group supplement will have to apply of £350 per person.      

Single supplement: £462          Deposit:   £500.00

Group size:   Minimum for tour to go ahead 4 with and maximum 10 with 1 leader.

Included in cost:   Accommodation based on twin rooms en-suite, all meals from Dinner on 15th Sept to Breakfast on the 29th Sept, transport throughout the tour, national park and reserve entrance fees, 2 river boat trips, all day boat trip to Michaelmas Cay and services of local bird guide and leader.

Not included:   International flight (which needs to include the Darwin to Cairn’s domestic flight on 20th Sept), note this is easy to include with your international ticket when making the booking. Please check with us for the times of this flight Insurance, and any items of a personal nature such as Laundry, drinks, phone calls etc.

Accommodation: A range of accommodation with most being very good. All lodges and hotels are en-suite. And importantly all accommodations are close to the birding areas we wish to visit.

Tour Code:  This is a standard birding tour with full days of birding in a variety of habitats, most of which are dry. We have several boats trips , and will be birding within National Parks and many areas that offer easy birding.  

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