Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mildura birding

finally got out to do some proper birding around mildura this arvo (as they say over here). knocked oof wrok early and spent some time looking around the murray river. flame robin, weebill, yellow billed spoonbill, diamond dove, white browed babbler, australian shoveller, hoary headed grebe, caspian tern and the star, a cracking crested shrike tit were all new birds for me.

Random fact of the day:

Some people may be able to rememebr some really naff adverts on talksport radio durin genglands last cricket tour of england for a place called Sunraysia, i think one of them went something like this, read by someone with a really camp austrlian voice

so if your coming ot australia, visit Sunraysia for a while,
and try our l0vely prune juice, its sure to make you smile (or give you the shits for 3 days)

well, Sunraysia is the district i'm in now, if you can remeber the advetrs that would be quite funny but if you never heard them you probably think i'm utterly bonkers, (if you didnt already that is)


Friday, July 28, 2006

Theres an Englishman, a german, a finn and and irishman

No, not the start of a really shit joke i stole off the internet, but the mix we have at the hostel i'm staying at. All a good bunch but communication is obviously quite difficult. The german, the finn and the irishman all speak very good english and talk alot, my lack of any grasp of the language leaves me feeeling quite left out. The irishman is from limerick

There once was a young man from limerick
who was a bit of a prick
he spoke utter tripe
smoked hash through a pipe
and was really rather thick

see what i did there, he's from limerick, and i made a limerick about him, clever eh! sorry
i'm now in the rather isolated town of mildura, just in the state of victoria on the edge of the murray river. Started some vineyard work today, it was the slightly odd job of cutting off sticks from the vines to be planted and earning 7cents per stick, on to hourly pay tomorrow so should be better. not had time for any birding so far, but managed to see dusky woodswallow, spiny cheeked honeyeater, black shouldered kite and yellow rosella whilst working, which probably didnt help my 'sticks per hour' rate.
Mildura is a bit of a strange place, without wanting to slag it off too much after being here for only a day, it seems like one of those places where everybody knows everbody, nobody trusts anybody and "have i met you before, maybe at a family reunoin" is likely to be the best chat up line in a club.
hopefully i'll be getting down to Hattah Kuklkyne NP soon for some of the mallee specialities

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Biting the bullet

i did something rather rash today. i woke up in the morning and thought it would be nice to go to fiji. so i've booked flights for the first two weeks of september. hopefully as well as doing the main island of viti levu i'll be able to get across to the smaller islands of kadavu and taveuni for the endemics.
Tommorrow morning i catch a 15hour bus ride to mildura for a months worth of vineyard work (to pay for the fiji trip), then i'm heading back to wollonong for another pelagic on the 27th august before flying out to fiji two days afterwards. i'm not sure what internet access will be avaiable in mildura so dont be surprised if the blog is not updated for a while.


p.s, if anyone reading this knows anything about birding near mildura of fiji please e-mail me at


Barren Grounds

I'm back in Sydney yet again for a short while after a good few days down in Wollongong.
On the pelagic i met acouple of english birders who offered to take me to Barren Grounds reserve. As is the usual for Australia in July it pissed it down all day which didnt help birding. However the Eastern Bristlebirds which are usually incredibly secretive were all over the place feeding on the paths. Beautiful Firetial was also seen well, as well as a Male superb Lyrebird. After Barren Grounds we went to Boomaderry Creek where we saw Rock Warbler and Yellow Tufted Honeyeater.

Eastern Bristlebird

Pelagic pics

Some pics from the Wollongong Pelagic the other day:

Black Browed Albatross
Solanders Petrel
Wandering Albatross

Humpback Whale and Black browed Albatross

Campbell Albatross

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wollongong Pelagic

Today was the day i had been waiting for for ages. My last pelagic was almost 11 months ago off the isles of scilly. Anyone who has done pelagics will know how addictive they are, and know that 11 moths is a long time to go without.
as i was down to the harbour i saw a car embedded in a lampost with the engine smoking and wedged nicely between 2 palm trees on a mini roundabout, engine running and lights on, it had obviously only just crashed. i ran towards the car and could see what looked like someone slumped over the steering wheel, shit, i had 5 minutes to get to the boat and i would have to peform first aid and call the emergency services all because some pillock couldnt be arsed to take the long route AROUND the roundabout, i would surely miss the boat, arses. i got up to the windowof the car and a bloke lifted his head up from sending a text message and asked if i had any cigarettes, thank god for that, he was alrite, he told me not to tell anyone cos he wanted to get the car out of the way before the rossers found out. relieved, i ran on down to the boat.

with that minor drama out of the way i boarded the boat full of anticipation, i was not to be dissapointed, within minutes of leaving the harbour i had seen yellow nosed and black browed albatrosses, along with fluttering and short tailed shearwater (which i rather embarrasingly called as a Sooty) and pacific gull.
By the time we arrived back at the harbour 9 hours later i had seen 18 lifers including 7 albatrosses: Yellow nosed, black browed, shy, campbell, wandering, antipodean and white capped. Also Nothern and Southern Giant Petrel, Solanders petrel, fairy prion, brown skua and cape petrel. Also seen were 2 Humpback whales, a probable minke whale, a pod of common dolphin and a couple of australian fur seal.
OK, it wasnt anything special as wollongong pelagics go, with no rares for the locals but it was great to be surrounded by such awesome seabirds and mammals.
Another important feature of the trip was the ringing of the seabirds. It was pretty special to such gargantuan birds as Wanderign alberts and Giant Petrels in the hand, check out SOSSA'S website for more details:

Off to barren grounds reserve tommorrow, then back to sydney and heading off to mildura for a spot of vineyard work fairly soon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

You can take the birder out of England...

but you can't take england out of the birder.

Today the weather was bloody terrible (the wettest July in Sydney for 5 years) so i decided on a rather lame day looking around the citys Centenniel Gardens. On arriving, a playing field was flodded and was covered in birds, so what did i do, admire the red rumped parrots, galahs, kookaburras and sacred ibis, no, i thouroughly checked the starling flock, despite the fact that "checking the starling flock for vagrants in winter" is listed no.7 in the book "101 ways to waste time in Australia", available from your local book store or Tescos. I did manage to pick up 4 new birds for the trip list but they are all so shamefully common i wont even list them. Then as i flopped in front of the fire to dry my soaking carcass, i turned on the telly and the news was reporting record heatwaves in Western Europe, someone up there really is "tekkin' piss", as they say in Yorkshire.
As an aside, congratulations to my new favourite aussie Justin Langer for beating several types of shit out of Surrey Cricket Club for Somerset

Somerset La La La

Thursday, July 20, 2006

pictures added

i've added a load of pictures on now i have decent internet access. theyre chucked in a load of random places so be sure to look through the whol blog to see them all

old singapore pics

Somerset MRT station in central Singapore

a few more pix from singapore cos the computers being gay and not letting me add them to the original posts:

White rumped Shama juv.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

older pics from kakadu and Pine Creek

Intermediate Egret
Bar Breasted Honeyeater
White bellied Sea-eagle
Rather large esturaine croc

Male and female Hooded Parrot

Final day in Blue Mountains

Me with the apparently famous "Three Sisters" rock formation

Am back in sydney with relatives now after leaving the blue mountains. I had been fairly disappointed as i had only seen 2 of the 5 target species for the area, rock warbler and superb lyrebird. i had a few hours to kill before getting the train so braved the rain for one final walk between katoomba falls and echo point. it ha djust got past the cable car station and practically bumped into a pilotbird feeding on the path just in front of me. it showed down to about 2 metres before notincing i was there and disappearing into the woods. i was pretty chuffed, i really hadnt expected to see pilotbird that day. i continued walking back to echo point and soon bumped into a honeyeater wave ( a flock of moxed honeyeater species moving through the forest from one flowering tree to another) i checked through them thoroughly, eastern spinebill, new holland, white naped, yellow faced and lewins honeyeater, and finally, a Crescent Honeyeater, on a branch right in front of me, then 3 more. In the space of 5 minutes my stay in the blue mountians had gone from a reasonable trip to a true success, i felt like punching the air but resisted, until the sun broke through and a blast of indiana jones theme music from the Scenic World Skway echoed down the valley and i couldnt help myself, a group of japanese tourists hurried away looking rather worried.
A rock warbler, being blinded by my camera flash, that'll learn it to sit still

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pine Grosbeaks

To anyone whos been to see that pathetic looking grosbeak in herts


go to a zoo and see captive macaws, as wild as the grosbeak and they do tricks.

(this point of view is based purely on smurfbirds photos which make it look very skanky)

birding and supermarket fun

had a nice day trekking around the blue mtns just south of katoomba today. it started well with a pair of rock warbler feeding on the path between echo point and the three sisters. After a knackering hike down the giant staircase i joined onto the dardenelles pass.
i wlaked through the woodlands, with white throated treecreepr being the only ne wbird there. After i arrived at the western end of the path i decided to walk the extra 50m to the scenic railway station instead of going straight back up the ferber steps, purely so i could cover as much ground as possible. this proved to be a very good (lucky) descision as i soon stumbled upon a group of 4 satin bowerbirds, while watching these i became aware of somthing rummaging through the leaf litter below me, i looked down and there was a superb lyrebird ,feeding on the floor just 15 metres down the valley side from me, nice.
I then hiked back up the steps to katoomba At the top of the steps was a sign saying "not recommended for those with heart or breathing problems", well by the time i got to the top i was breathing like a 60year old 40-a-day smoker and my heart felt weaker than elvis presleys, it probably didnt help that i did it in 15 mins when the sign reccomended 45, oops! also amusing was a disabled parking space at the top?

after getting back to katoomba i went into coles supermarket to buy some grub and just before i got to the checkout, i was stopped by a member of staff who asked to search my rucksack, apparently it was comapny policy yo search rucksacks, or maybe i just looked dodgy. I happily let them search the back and stood back withut kicking up a fuss at all, and they unsurprisingly found nothing other than a load of camera equipment. when the woman said i could now go to the checkout i told her that after the humilaition of basically being accused of shopliflting and the embarresment of having my bag searched in front of loads of other shoppers, there was no way i wasw going to buy anything and that i would go to a shop where the customer is treated with a little respect. I was ushered out before i could cause more of a scene but had enough time to deliver the stinging comment that they probably didnt understand "you're worse than tescos you are".

an afternoon visit to the three sisters scored with a red browed treecreeper and presumably the same pair of rock warbler on the path, feeding literally around my feet. Unfortunatley the light was terrible and even ISO stupidhundred struggled to freeze the birds, the bloody things just wouldnt stop moving. Other new birds today were white naped and yellow faced honeyeaters.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Blue Mountains

Grey Shrikethrush

Male Satin Bowerbird
arrived at katoomba in the blue mountains this afternoon. Despite failing light and increasingly atrocious weather i manged a short walk around echo point and the famous three sisters and managed to pick up 6 very soggy new species for the trip list including eastern spinebill,and grey shrikethrush. Tommorrow i will be trying for pilotbird, rock warbler, crescent honeyeater, gang gang cockatoo and superb lyrebird, which could all prove difficult to see if the weather stays this poor.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Yet again my timing is impeccable! Before coming to bathurst i was told that it was in the grip of a five year drought. Its been raining non stop since i arrived a couple of days ago, typical. I am of course taking all the credit for bringing the wet stuff me though.
Despite the weather i've managed to get out and about a few local sites. Highlights being Black Shouldered Kite, Yellow tailed black cockatoo, Eastern Rosella and Satin Bowerbird, plus loads of kangaroos at Bathursts Boundary Road reserve. And White browed treecreeper at wattle flats, where i was shown an "aboriginal scar tree", a tree that the abos took wood off to make canoes and stuff, because of clearing by the settlers these trees are very rare nowadys so that was pretty good to see.

Friday, July 14, 2006

as youmay have noticed, i've finally managed to get a few photos but then the site seemed to stop letting me so there'll be no more until a) the computer lets me and b) i can be bothered
i'm in bathurst at the moment, the other side of the blue mountains from sydney. caughtup with a few incredibly exciting additions to the trip list today, introduced, house sparrow, starling and blackbird, thrilling! also saw somevery dull boring looking birds like cimson rosella, bell miner and grey butcherbird. will be heading back to sydeny thorugh the blue mountians sonn stopping at katoomba to try for rock and piltobird, rare but very shitty looking birds. Then at the end of the moth i've got a pelagic with SOSSA off Wollongong which i'm really looking forward to.

also counted up the trip list today: 215

Sydney stuff

have spent the last couple of days staying with relatives in Sydney. Had a bit of a break from birding and did all the tourist things, looking at the opera house and the harbour bridge, not all its hyped up to be. Now out at bathurst for a while, we travelled out throught the blue mountains, more grey than blue thanks to some very english crap weather. will be stopping off there on the way back to sydney in a few days. apparently they're called the blue mountains because of a blue "ether" the trees give off, hopefully if i inhale deep enough near these magical trees a scene similar to something out of the film "fear and loathing in las vegas" may result, not sure if its the right kind of ether though.
Anyway ,back to sydney, i managed t osqueeze in a bit of birding at the botanic gardens and saw Superb fairy wren, buff banded rail, white browed scrubwren and laughing kookaburra along with a load of really boring stuff.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pine Creek

Golden Headed Cisticola


Just a quick uodate while killing time in darwin before my flight to sydeny. i have been down at pine creek, midway between darwin and katherine for the last few days in search of a couple of outback specialities. Key birds i was looking for were hooded parrot and gouldian finch. on arriving in the town and asking the locals i wsa told i was out of luck for for the finches as they were allat edith river.
I decided to spend the last light of the day having a quick mosey around the town for good looking sites to try the next day, not really expecting to see much. i was scrambling up a hill on the west side of the town, climbed over a small ridge, and there in front of me was a large flock of small parrots, a quick look with the bins conformed them as Hooded Parrot, a supposedly rare and difficult bird to see, there was 42 of them right in fornt of me, without even trying. The birds proved very easy to see and over the next few days saw them well at several different sites.
Also good on the first evening in pine creek was catching up with some relatively common australian birds that i hadnt seen elsewhere including red backed kingfisher, pied butcherbird and grey crowned babbler.
A good look around the bush around town on the first full day produced Northern Rosella along the old railway line (not to e confused with the new one for obvious reasons), black faced woodswallow, white winged triller, mistletoebird, pallid cuckoo and brown quail. As only a birder could be, i was delighted to discover the towns sewage works which gave me my first black fronted plover, grey teal, pacific black duck ,australian grebe and black winged stilt.
The final day added varied sitlla and black eared cuckoo.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Back from kakadu

Hi all
Am now back in darwin for one night after spending three nights in kakadu, wish it had been longer really.
highlights included seeing 13 species of raptor including 9 on one day, with all three aussie eagle species within 2 hours of each other. Also saw my first crocs of the trip. The mary river where i stayed for a night, has the highest concentration of crocodiles of any river in the world. Saw plenty of both freshwater and estuarine (salties) crocs including one beastie of a saltie that was roughly 6 metres long and was estimated to weigh about 1000kg, awesome. other stuff seen at mary river included rufous throated honeyeater, little woodswallow, great bowerbird, crimson finch and blue winged kookaburra.
another great part wa sthe yellow water cruise at cooinda that i did this morning. plenty of herons and egrets, with the usually secretive nankeen night heron and black bittern both showing within metres of the boat. Jabiru and Brolga were also seen well. In the bush around the cooinda resort i saw bar breasted honeyeater, Brush Cuckoo, square tailed kite, re backed fairywren, grey goshawk, restless flycatcher and rufous whistler.
Off to pine creek tomorrow to try and see hooded parrot and gouldian finch, heres hoping.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mangrove stomping

spent all day today squelching around the mangrove swap on the south west edge of darwin in search of some of the mangrove specialist birds. My main target was Chestnut Rail, a ver rare and elusive bird. I could hear the birds calling the other side of a channel that was far too deep and wide to negotiate which was incredibly frustrating. I waited for ages for to see if the yshowed along the far edge of the channel but with no luck, it only resulted in me getting slowly covered in mud, eaten alive by sandflies and constantly shitting it that a croc was about to launch itself aout of the channel, great fun!! The lack of the rails was slighlty compensated for by having good views of other mangrove birds including the stunning red headed myzomela. Other good sightings included, white breated whistler, Mangrove robin, rufous banded honeyeater and large billed warbler.
Early tommorrow morning i'm off to the mary river park, o nthe edge of kakadu national park, the setting of the film crocodile dundee, then a few more days further into the park. may not be updatig this for a while.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mindil beach andEast Point

Went to Mindil Beach market last night, in Darwin. A really busy market with music and food galore. one small band was playing an aborigine/rock/dance style mysic called Didge'n' drum, real quality music, especially good to listen to whilst watching the sun set over the timor sea with rainbow bea eaters hawking overhead. Tried a kangaroo kebab from the glamorously named ' Roadkill Cafe' with the motto, 'you kill it ,we grill it', also on offer were crocodile kebabs and possum sausages.

Went to east point reserve today. Highlight was one of the target birds for this part of the trip, a cracking Rainbow Pitta feeding in the leaf litter just metres away. also had cracking views of rainbow bea eater, long tailed finch and shining monarch, masked woodwallow. After singapore, birding is incredibly easy here, with bird seemingly vying for attention rather than constantly skulking.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Australia at last

Rainbow Bee Eater
Striated Pardalote
Finally arrived in darwin early this morning. Only had time for a short walk around today as i overslept int he hostel from not managing to sleep on the plane. I was woken up by an Orange Footed scrubfowl noisily scratching around outside my bedroom window ,Despite not visiting any nature reserves today i still managed to see a load of good birds (for me anyway) just around the city. Rainbow Bee eaters were easily seen between the hostel and the cliff top, along with figbirds, Varied Triller, White bellied cuckoo shrike and forest and sacred kingfishers. The clifftop in the city centre itself had incredibly tame magpie larks, straw necked ibis and yellow wattled lapwing. The walk was slighlty spoiled by groups of drunkenaborigines hurling abuse at anyone walking by.
i have 2 more nights here in darwin, then its off into kakadu national park for a week.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Goodbye Singapore

i'm writing this while waiting for my plane to darwin, australia. its's been an interesting few days here. i didnt see as many bird species as i'd hoped, but as i had based my expectations on internet trip reports by people who had hired local guides, that wasnt really surprsing. i finished off on 73 species. Many of the locals i spoke to said "singapore no good for nature, go to malaysia instead, much more there", not a lot of pride in what they do have. Given how close the two countries are, that statement would be like hearing the following conversation in england:

Visitor to Berry Head: "seen much"
Berry Head local: "Nah, seawatchings crap here ,try portland instead"

Today i went to paulu Ubin island, between singapore and malaysia. The boat over was just like one of the inter island boats on scilly, you even get proper drenched if you sit in slightly the wrong place! A very nice island and by far my favourite part of singapore, despite the mossies, i got eaten alive in the mangroves. Best birds seen were Oriental Pied Hornbill and a White Rumped Shama which showed down to a few metres. Had awesome views of White bellied sea eagle as they soared over the jungle. it was slightly wierd to see Red Junglefowl in the wild, they looked just like our old rooster, and sounded like him too.

Last night i went out to Little India and Bugis Street Markets. The food from the street vendors was awesome. After stuffing myself with Seafood Ramen and soem beef dish that i couldnt even read, let alone type out, i tried some yam ice cream and was slighltly surprised to be handed a block of ice cram the size of a bag of sugar sandwiched between two tiny wafers that were really only there to keep your hands clean. After eating that and two more i collapsed from a sudde nattack of obesity (dont yopu just hate it when that happens). A few bats flying around were also entertaining, these were nothing like the shitty little pipistrelles we get at home, no these things were massive, roughly the size of a light aircraft.
I managed to get totally lost at one point, but the neon lights of sim lim tower guided me home. Sim lim should've been like heaven for me as it is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy digital cameras. Unfortunately i didnt have money to spare as i needed it for the only 2 thongs more important in life than cameras- beer and pelagic trips, not sure which one of these takes priority though.

i'll miss singapore, considering i normally avoid cities like the plague, i quite liked this one. it has a very clean and safe feel, mainly due to extortionate fines for doing anything slightly wrong, i swear i saw a sign declaring the prohibtion of farting in public! Also, how many other cities are there where you can listen to orioles singing whilst you watch the football at an outside bar.

anyway, must fly.