Trip Report: Birding Australia (388 species in 3 weeks!)

In November of 2005 my partner and I spent 3 weeks in Australia. We planned our trip itinerary to combine birding, dramatic scenery, and variations of habitat. We started our trip with 3 days in the Brisbane area traveling to O’Reilly’s Guest House and the Lamington National Park area. From Brisbane we traveled to Cairns to take advantage of the tropical rain forest as well as to snorkel and bird the Great Barrier Reef. Leaving Cairns, we went to the Great Ocean Road section of Melbourne to see the dramatic ocean cliffs, then on to Grampian National Park and ultimately the open plains of Denniliquin. From Melbourne, we went to Tasmania to see the Tasmanian Devil, and kayak Frechinet National Park. Our last stop was the Sydney area for a little city life, plus the Blue Mountain region and Three Sisters Monument.

We amassed 362 life birds over the course of an amazing three weeks. All bird names reflect naming at the time in 2005. Here are our trip highlights. – Diana


The first segment of our trip had us arriving in Brisbane on Sunday, November 13th for 3 days of birding with Roy Sonnenberg. Our trip itinerary was planned as follows:

  • Day 1: Arrive Brisbane on QF176 from LA at 7.55 am and met by Roy at Airport. Depart for O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park. Stop at a few spots en route including wetlands at Tamborine. Arrive O’Reilly’s late morning and spend the afternoon birding along trails in the area. Target species include Australian King Parrot, Satin Bowerbird and Regent Bowerbird, Green Catbird, Paradise Riflebird, Australian Logrunner, Olive-tailed Thrush and Albert’s Lyrebird. Spotlight at night for Marbled Frogmouth and Southern Boobook. Overnight at O’Reilly’s Guesthouse.
  • Day 2: Up early for walk to look for Albert’s Lyrebird etc before departing along Duck Creek Road. Target species include Spotted Quail-thrush and Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Spotted Pardalote and Red-browed Treecreeper. Leave area along Kerry Valley to Boonah where we will look for Zebra and Plum-headed Finches, then west across the Great Dividing Range, southwest to Stanthorpe and possibly Girraween National Park. We will be looking for Speckled Warbler, Red-rumped Parrot, Cockatiel, Diamond Firetail and a number of Honeyeater species. More spotlighting at night. Overnight Top of the Town Cabins – Stanthorpe.
  • Day 3: Another early start as we will head west along Springdale Road looking for various bush birds, more finches and Lorikeets to name a few species. Then north to Coolmunda Dam near Inglewood where we will look for various waterfowl, Emus, Bluebonnets and Blue-winged Fairy-wrens and more Honeyeaters. Then back east with a brief stop at Durikai State Forest. Then a late 200 km drive back to Brisbane looking for owls etc along the way. Late dinner at Sonnenburg’s Birderwatchers’ B&B. Overnight at Sonnenburgs B&B
  • Day 4: Up for an early breakfast and local birdwatching before an early flight to Cairns.

Overall we totaled 160 species of birds on this segment, of which 148 were life birds. Personal favorites were the Rufous Fantail with his animated and proud displaying and the Australian Logrunners diligently working and vocalizing along the canopy floor.

A lunchtime hilltop stop on our drive to O’Reillys gave our first views of the black and yellow Regent Bowerbirds and the purple-eyed Satin Bowerbirds.

Satin Bowerbird

Satin Bowerbird  © Diana Fruguglietti

Upon arriving at O’Reillys, we were greeted by Brush Turkeys wandering the grounds, as well as Crimson Rosellas and Australian King Parrots being hand fed by tourists. The trails around O’Reilly’s rainforest were filled with Rufous Fantails, White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, the calls of the elusive Lyrebirds (yet to be seen), the Eastern Whipbird, and the child like cries of the Green Catbird. An after dinner excursion allowed us to call in and spotlight the Marbled Frogmouth.

As we were leaving O’Reillys we finally got our previously elusive Paradise Riflebird. The drive out along Duck Creek Road brought us through an enchanted forest with intermixed tallgrass fields that yielded the Southern Boobook Owl, and ultimately to open grazing lands presided over by Brown Falcons.

We crossed the Great Divide that brought us more fabulous scenic vistas.

Our cabin in Stanthrope had us greeted by a flock of Galahs that were roosting for the night. The houses throughout Stanthrope had Zebra Finches, Plum-headed Finches and Silvereye upon the feeders and trees.

The mixed flock of birds at the sheep shearing pens outside of Stanthrope included Double-barred Finch, Diamond Firetail, Rufous Whistler singing, and Turquoise Parrot. We stumbled upon a family of Wedge-tailed Eagles perched in the fields outside of Coolmunda Dam. The Coolmunda Dam area was filled with Black Swans and White-winged and Superb Fairy-Wren.

Upon the return to Brisbane we made a quick stop at Tinchi Tamba Mangroove Reserve as the sun was setting. The White-breasted Wood Swallows huddled together to hunker down for the night.

Other highlight birds included the Black Falcon, Little Eagles, and the colorful Rainbow Lorikeets.

Next up: Cairns


Diana Fruguglietti

Diana Fruguglietti

Diana Fruguglietti of Woburn, MA is an avid birder, photographer, animal and nature enthusiast, and traveler having visited 48 countries to date. She started intensely birding in 2002 and has birded in Uganda, Madagascar, Vietnam, Read More
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