A Grand Ten Weeks Out: Around Australia in 72 Ĺ Days


Keith Martin


Currently @ Groenstraat 30/2, B-3001, Heverlee, Belgium



Mission Statement:

To see a bit of the Top End, to find a Cassowary, to have a good time and to get back to Adelaide before deportation day in early July (not necessarily in that order of course...)



A 1980 metallic blue Toyota Corolla CS, a two-person Macpac Olympus tent, two camp chairs, an eski, and an extra pair of eyes.


Travel Plan (detailed):

To push north from Adelaide at a steady pace (Corolla willing), to stay up there for a while, to drive left for about a week and then to come back sometime.



A cardboard box full of books stuffed between the spare tyre and the jerrycan.


AUTHORíS NOTE: The following is not entirely ornithological, but has a distinct bias in that direction. Bird (and Cute Furry) lists for sites are incomplete, unordered and somewhat randomly selected from the full lists. Of course Iím not a twitcher (who is?) but birds in boldface generated an amount of extra excitement... Location next to each day is the overnight camp spot. If your home town gets insulted in what follows - Iím sorry!


** Please note the following things that this account is NOT: **



But if you are still interested then read on and....




A Grand Ten Weeks Out: Around Australia in 72 Ĺ Days



19th April 1996: Mambray Creek (Mount Remarkable N.P.)

Weíre sitting in the early evening light among the river Red Gums, listening to the screeching of the resident Galahs and fending off the ever hungry Emus. The usual uninspiring haul north out of Adelaide through the exciting wheat belt was relieved only by a tuna and corn slice at Port Wakefield. Mambray Creek is a very familiar spot for us, a nicely situated campground next to a dry creek at the southern edge of Mount Remarkable National Park, itself a compact version of the spectacular Flinders Ranges proper, further north. I am very excited. We are finally off. See that little blue car next to me? It might look junk to you, but itís going to Darwin. It bloody is!

Familiar spot birds: Emu, Laughing Kookaburra, Crimson (Adelaide) Rosella, Weebill, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Grey Butcherbird, Singing Honeyeater; Furries: Common Wallaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo.

Bird of the day: GALAH. If you canít sleep because of them then you might as well just appreciate them - theyíre just gorgeous...


20th April: Coober Pedy

I woke up this morning to find my face just a few metres from one of the inquisitive Mambray Creek Emus. Scary birds. A long push north today with fierce cross winds. The wheat faded into saltbush and then some wonderful myall and mulga country. The pump attendant at Glendambo was on his way from Adelaide to Broome and had stopped off at Glendambo for a quick break. He has been there for six weeks now. I tried to feel even vaguely tempted to do likewise, but it just didnít happen for me. And so welcome to the Stuart Campground, Coober Pedy. Iíve never been to Coober Pedy and now I remember why. No scary birds here, but there are several very scary looking pubs. I canít really believe that Stuart would have stayed here on his push north, especially if he had been asked to pay $10. For some reason Cooper Pedy is starting to look a whole lot better now that the light is fading into our first fiery orange inland sunset. Better watch that I donít descend down a mine shaft on my way to the toilet block.

Wonderful myall and mulga birds: White-browed Babbler, Brown Falcon, Kestrel, Australian Raven, Yellow-throated Miner, Ground Cuckoo-shrike.

Bird of the day: AUSTRALIAN RAVEN. Ah ah aaaaaaaaaah. The call of Coober Pedy.


21st April: Marla

A nice warm fuzzy feeling follows the fantastic discoveries that 6pm was happy hour in the roadhouse bar and that they had a fridge full of Coopers Sparkling Ale. Another decent northwards progression today, largely through mulga country. We stayed in Coober Pedy only long enough to have the car refuelled by an absolutely insane Greek who helped to confirm all my worst suspicions about the place. The Breakaways were a worthwhile stop, if only to take dramatic photographs of the car perched precariously on the edge of a giant mesa. Drive a bit, rest a bit, drive a bit. This is the way to travel. Taking a break from the road, listening to the wind howl through the mulga and casually scraping flies out of your eyes is really quite therapeutic. It is rather frustrating to roll through lots of nice country and then camp with everyone else behind the Marla roadhouse, but then the beer is colder here. And besides, Marla is not such a bad birding spot.

Not such a bad birding spot birds: Varied Sitella, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Southern Whiteface, Rufous Whistler, Zebra Finch, White-browed Babbler, Singing Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Little Crow, Willie Wagtail, White-winged Fairy-wren.

Bird of the day: CHIMING WEDGEBILL. First twitchety-plonk twitchety-plonk of the trip.


22nd April: Henbury Meteorite Craters

A face full of flies, but an outstanding light show as the sun sinks over some amazing "badlands" scenery. The wind died away to leave a wonderfully calm morning for romping through bluebush hunting for Whitefaces around Marla. The vegetation varied considerably over the proceeding drive north with thick mulga, desert oak and dense grassland contrasting with rocky granite outcrops and some shockingly degraded sections. "We like our lizards frilled not grilled" welcomed the Northern Territory border. The Territory has clearly made some major (and rather frightening) advances in intelligent robotics, as a hand painted sign at the roadside declared "danger - cattle crossing road at random". Itís slow and steady progress at a sedate speed of 85km/h, but it all counts, weíre not in a hurry, and it gives us plenty time to wave to all the Wedge-tailed Eagles that seem to line the sides of the road in anticipation of some road-train induced beef being served up. The Henbury Craters seem oases of green when seen from the ridge of the nearby outcrop and they are home to the first distinctly "northern" bird - Grey-crowned Babblers. I am rather blown away by the thought of some lumps of space rock travelling for light years through the universe and then falling "splat" just a hundred metres from my zap mat. I mean, what was wrong with falling on Coober Pedy?

Meteoric birds: Zebra Finch, Black-faced Woodswallow, Yellow-throated Miner, Major Mitchellís Cockatoo.

Bird of the day: SOUTHERN WHITEFACE. But only because the little sod was behaving very suspiciously at a Chestnut-breasted Whiteface site and just for a moment I had my hopes up.


23rd April: Alice Springs

I like Alice. You pass through Heavitree Gap and suddenly enter a world of colourful people, blooming jacarandas, and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters crooning at every street corner. We visited the rather unusual Strehlow Research Centre, refuelled both tank and eski, visited the bakery, and then escaped to the shade of Emily Gap to read away the heat of the afternoon while the Spinifex Pigeons fluttered high above us on the rock ledges. The MacDonnells seem so lush and peaceful after the last few dusty windy days. Last night after sundown our solitude was rudely broken by a German couple in a Brits-Australia rental van (surprise, surprise!) who drove up and literally parked just 5 metres from us. I mean, there probably wasnít anyone else for 50km in any direction! Oh well, they were nice enough. Iím such an antisocial animal sometimes. Anyway, it seems criminal not to explore more of the MacDonnells while we are here, but the Corolla has "done" these parts before and it wants to go north. And we are but slaves to its whimsical desires.

Lush and peaceful birds: Crested Pigeon, Whistling Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk, Pied Butcherbird, Black Kite, Peaceful Dove (naturally enough).

Bird of the day: RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOO. A cockatoo tree was in full fiery bloom just north of the Henbury turn-off on the Stuart Highway.


24th April: Devilís Marbles

Amazing large "onion-peeled" granite boulders, just east of the Stuart Highway. We are notably perched precariously on the insect border line. South of here itís flies, north of here itís mosquitoes, and guess what happens on the border? But let this be but a small deterrent for the scenery is somewhat more than pleasant. Another day of surprising variety. We started with a morning walk at the Old Telegraph Station and then left the granite country to enter stretches of open woodland where Black-breasted Buzzards soared above the highway. We lunched in an enormous lay-by next to central Mount Stuart, the "geographical centre" of Australia. So it has taken us five days to get somewhere that even Captain Sturt didnít succeed in his rowing his boat to. North of Mount Stuart, tall green grass, conical termite mounds and huge lumps of spinifex sprouted from a Martian soil, and clouds of budgies streamed over the highway. And we have just met a party of nuns on a big day out from Tennant Creek.

The Devilís birds: Budgerigar (abundant), Zebra Finch (abundant), Ground Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Diamond Dove, Painted Finch, Richardís Pipit, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Fairy-wren, Spinifex Pigeon.

Bird of the day: CRIMSON CHAT. Cute, cheery and very crimson. Also absolutely abundant in the flood plain of the creek to the north of the megaboulders.


25th April: Lake Woods

Something has happened. Termite mounds, eucalypt woodland, grass and ... water! It all started proliferating north of Attack Creek and we are now in country that resembles the Murray lands. Also on the increase for a while was traffic and the number of rusting VB cans at the side of the road, but these may have both been caused by the evil presence of Tennant Creek (presumably slightly less evil now that the nuns are home again). We turned west just beyond Renner Springs and trundled down a very exciting sandy track and are now bush camped at the shores of Lake Woods. The lake is stunning and there is nobody else here. The only drawback was the penetrating whine that started up at dusk. We didnít hang around for too long to experience the consequences and so erected the tent for the first time since leaving Adelaide. Now a new chorus has accompanied the string section, the trill of cicadas. The moon is getting much bigger and is casting a magnificent milky light into the sky. Oops - thereís one - quick - get it - ZAP!

Woody birds: Whistling Kite, Great Egret, Hardhead, Australian Pelican, Darter, Cockatiel, Jacky Winter, Rainbow Bee-eater, Pallid Cuckoo, White-winged Triller (abundant), White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Peaceful Dove (abundant), Black Kite, Eurasian Coot, Black Duck, Grey Teal, Galah, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-plumed Honeyeater, Horsfieldís Bronze-Cuckoo, Owlet-nightjar, White-necked Heron, Masked Lapwing.

Bird of the Day: BLACK-TAILED TREECREEPER. Very exciting - the first classic bird of the Far North that we have seen. Claire wants to know if that means we can go back now.



26th April: Buchanan Highway (70km east of Top Springs)

One of the great things about having a small car and a very small tent is that every drainage track off the highway is a potential overnight spot, and we are indeed occupying one such five star site at the moment amidst open tropical woodland. After a beautiful dawn at Lake Woods we abandoned the tedium of bitumen and headed west onto the smooth red Buchanan Highway. We have seen one car since. The ecosystem is now quite alien to the South Australian in me and the field guides are ready for action. Our first new mammal came in the form of two absolutely gigantic sandy Antelopine Wallaroos. These guys are big! We also passed some fresh corpses on the road which have been identified as Spectacled Hare-wallabies. I rather suspect that they met an unnatural end last night. Around our camp the birds are plentiful and quite ripe for some twitching. It is a beautiful calm evening and weíve now counted four species of night bird calling from the surrounding bush, and in particular a Spotted Nightjar is flying around very close. Claire is rather concerned about the number of mozzie bites she has, but I have done my best to persuade her that we are actually doing all this for fun.

Drainage birds: Brown Honeyeater (abundant), Restless Flycatcher, Varied Lorikeet, Boobook Owl, Tawny Frogmouth, Owlet-nightjar, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Crested Bellbird, Collared Sparrowhawk, Striated Pardalote, Pied Butcherbird, Little Woodswallow.

Bird of the day: BANDED HONEYEATER. Small, smart and dressed for dinner.




27th April: Buchanan Highway (25km west of Top Springs)

Now it would be very naive to conclude that we have travelled 95km today. We are camped off road on a rocky plain covered in pink everlasting daisies and adjacent to a small well-vegetated creek line. The Buchanan Highway changed character west of Top Springs, where we refuelled mid-morning - just in time to see the first fight of the day. The rather weary looking barmaid told me that the drinking had started at 7am. From here the Buchanan Highway subtly but steadily became narrower, rougher and more - how can I best put it - perhaps "overgrown" is the correct word. The country also changed, from grassland with metre tall yellow flowers and a plethora of Black-faced Woodswallows, to colourful red country dominated by silvery bushes and rusty termite mounds. And then just as the sound of unidentified botanical items against rear muffler box was beginning to cause grave concern, the Buchanan Highway descended in two monumental wheel ruts into the foaming torrents of the croc-infested Victoria River. Hmm.. so that answers the question I had about whether we were a bit too early in the season to be coming this way. Iím glad thatís sorted out now. Not really Corolla country at all. So there was just enough time to throw a quick tantrum before chucking a 180 and almost running over some Masked and Long-tailed Finches in the process. And thus a retreat to the present location. I have a feeling that might have been the grader in the Top Springs pub this morning...

Well-vegetated creek birds: Bar-shouldered Dove, Red-winged Parrot, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Long-tailed Finch, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Spinifex Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Torresian Crow, Restless Flycatcher, Magpie Lark, Grey Shrike-Thrush; Furry: Dingo.

Bird of the day: GREAT BOWERBIRD. This one I have been looking forward to, and the noises emanating from the creek for the last hour or so have been quite surreal to say the least.



28th April: Victoria River Crossing

We are sitting out listening to that most Australian of night sounds - the hum of a diesel generator. This one belongs to the Victoria river roadhouse and we are camped out in the extremely spacious grassy campground between the roadhouse and the river. A less than Agile Wallaby has just blundered into the bushes and our local Gouldian Monitor has crept off for a bit of a kip. It only took us three hours this morning to find the more conventional way over the Victoria River - this time via a high spanned bridge, just through the trees there. The river has carved out a spectacular red escarpment which by the standards of the journey so far is topographically significant. The birds here are really outstanding, with the twitching more akin to a genuine spasm, and we saw Freshies and Salties from the bridge which Claire didnít enjoy quite as much as me for some reason. To dampen the dayís jollity we heard about the Port Arthur incident at the bar this evening. What can I say? Hereís a bird list.

Bridge birds: Blue-winged Kookaburra, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Blue-faced Honeyeater, White-gaped Honeyeater, White-breasted Woodswallow, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Brown Quail, Crimson Finch, Double-barred Finch, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Pheasant Coucal.

Bird of the day: PURPLE-CROWNED FAIRY-WREN. Absolute stunners! A whole family party were very responsive to our rather peculiar attempts to call them up from the tall grass at the eastern end of the bridge (actually I rather think that they would have appeared even if weíd used a salvation army band) . And subsequently another group have been calling from the dense scrub next to the tent. The full-plumaged males defy description - you have to be here Iím afraid!


29th April: Victoria River Crossing

Weíre still here - you can never get enough of a good thing. Clouds of Little Corellas wheel overhead, an Osprey is lazily flapping over the camping ground and there is ice cold beer within 200m. Just why exactly should we go anywhere else? Just why exactly should we get out of our chairs? Just why exactly did we hike up the escarpment this morning? The Little Corolla appreciated a full day off and we appreciated a full day out of it. Some more on the late season rains from the roadhouse bar: apparently the tail effects of a late cyclone have led to late rains and two weeks ago the Victoria River, which is currently some 20m below the bridge, was just two metres from the roadway. Good grief! In South Australia we drained all our creeks millions of years ago - makes life much easier. Oh well, feet up, cup of tea in one hand, binoculars in the other. Canít you hear these Blue-winged Kookaburras cranking up for their evening screaming session? Life is good.

More bridge birds: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, White-throated Honeyeater, Rainbow Bee-eater, Masked Plover, Rainbow (Red-collared) Lorikeet, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Masked Finch, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Feral Pigeon.

Bird of the day: STAR FINCH. An utterly bizarre paint job, but a thoroughly satisfying find in the grassland on the other side of the river.


30th April: Timber Creek

It is cooler tonight and I am getting a free but rather involuntary listen to an episode of "Yes Prime Minister" from a live-in bus that is parked next to us. A very pleasant drive today through the tall grasslands of Gregory National Park. Timber Creek seems to be a couple of roadhouses turned into some sort of fishing resort. The talk of the campground is of "barras" and no-one seems as interested as me in the fact that the neighbouring campground has a tantalisingly attractive painted sign claiming to be the "Gouldian Finch Caravan Park". Not much sign of any, other than the two-dimensional one mind you, but the riverside pandanus has plenty of the Crimson variety. We thoroughly searched suggested spots such as the meadows of the Old Police Station and the caravan park swimming pool, and the local ranger showed us a dry-season Gouldian viewing station which seemed to involve sitting on a bucket next to a birdbath, but nothing materialised. Ah - thereís always tomorrow. Yes Prime Minister.

Couple of roadhouse birds: Banded / Rufous-throated / White-gaped / Yellow-tinted Honeyater, Double-barred / Crimson / Star / Long-tailed / Masked Finch, Golden-headed Cisticola, Red-browed Pardalote, Red-backed Kingfisher, Rainbow (Red-collared) Lorikeet, Brown Quail, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Kestrel, Black / Whistling Kite.

Birds of the day: YELLOW-RUMPED and PICTORELLA MANNIKINS. Itís simply not possible to pick one without the other. Forget the barras - itís finches that this place is all about. So thatís nine species in the Northern territory so far... whereís the tenth hiding??


1st May: Sullivanís Creek (Gregory N.P.)

Gouldians Gouldians Gouldians! Black-faced ones, Crimson-faced ones.... We had breakfast surrounded by them. Quite literally! If life is not perfect, then sometimes it gets damn close. I canít deny the sheer raw excitement about finding a small band hopping around the 60km/h sign to the east of Timber Creek this morning. I reported back to camp and we quickly packed up and they most obligingly hadnít moved far so we just whipped out the chairs and had our breakfast next to them. Thatís just the kind of birders we are. So a total of eight species of finch in the impressive grasslands around Timber Creek. Not bad at all. We made a detour south to Jasper Gorge to see what the other end of the Buchanan Highway looks like and then backtracked over the Victoria River to our present location in a small campground just off Highway 1. The birds are quieter here although notably a Northern Fantail is clinking away in the pandanus. The flies were quite abominable at sundown and the mozzies have been vicious thereafter, sort of ruining my "insect line" theory. And Sullivanís Creek contains at least one pair of red eyes and so the ever croc-alert Claire has retreated early to the tent. Time to follow and flee the entomological bombardment.

Red eye birds: Blue-faced Honeyeater, Great Bowerbird, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Galah, Crimson Finch, Striated Pardalote, Magpie Lark, Torresian Crow.

Bird of the day: GOULDIAN FINCH. Goes down very well with bananas, muesli and fermenting orange juice.


2nd May: Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk N.P.)

Now weíre camped in the relative civilisation of Katherine Gorge Caravan Park under such a big bright moon that I can read easily by it. Amazingly and refreshingly this is a mozzie-free zone. Weíve pushed about 180km east and are now finding one of the Territoryís most famous spots surprisingly quiet. Iíve discovered that Katherine Gorge is not a gorge at all - it is a series of many gorges. That may not seem much of a discovery, but I was a bit surprised. It certainly is a good tourist deal - visit one gorge and get a dozen more for free. The country was a good deal more open today and fauna "highlights" included a troop of Feral Donkeys and also a most amazingly huge roadside bull lying on itís back in an advanced stage of rigor mortis. More importantly we have a full eski and a decent supply of cheap tawny port courtesy of the Big W in Katherine.

Gorgeous birds: Magpie, Pied Butcherbird, Double-barred Finch, Crimson Finch, Brown / Banded / White-throated Honeyeater, Red-winged Parrot, Boobook Owl.

Bird of the day: BLUE-FACED HONEYEATER. Never have I seen these masked bandits so daring and so cheeky. They are even tamer than the Great Bowerbird who tends a bower 50m from our tent.


3rd May: Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk N.P.)

We have a new friend. A tiny 25cm Agile Wallaby is scrounging around the tent making beggarly sneezing noises. Mind you, that is nothing compared to the contented sneezing noises I was making while lying in a cool swimming hole this morning amidst white and pink lilies at the mid-point of our daringly energetic 20km hike. The escarpment country above the gorge is good for bush walking and consists largely of pleasant open forest on a bed of sometimes quite steep rocky scrambles. There were very many Friarbirds in action before the heat of the day silenced the birds and hailed the crickets. I think we were lucky today that it stayed "cool" until quite late into the morning. I also most usefully learnt a new mating technique from some Agiles in the camp this morning - if your advances are initially spurned then simply reach forward, grab tail and drag backwards. I rather suspect that this knowledge is solely of theoretical interest.

More Gorgeous birds: Little Woodswallow, Bar-breasted / White-gaped Honeyeater, Little / Silver-crowned Friarbird, Rainbow (Red-collared) Lorikeet, Diamond Dove, Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Common Bronzewing, Leaden Flycatcher, Brown Quail, Olive-backed Oriole.

Bird of the day: SANDSTONE SHRIKE-THRUSH. Not easy to see high up on the rock ledges, hopping along the ledges and blending rather well with the ... well, sandstone - what else?


4th May: Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk N.P.)

Nautical day. We couldnít resist doing the tourist thing and hiring some vessels for part of the day. Quite the best way to see the gorges and to just generally relax. Except for the portages of course. And the noisy Germans. And the noisy Poms. And the noisy Americans. Oh - and some bat crapped on my hat. But these things apart it was very relaxing. I am not always a fan of aboriginal rock art, but my goodness they know how to select a spot on which to do their sketching. Thatís enough culture. So now weíre relaxing at camp once again, admiring the sun setting among the appropriately named Salmon Gums. Now I know what youíre thinking - they are called Salmon Gums because they are fast swimmers, perform unbelievable feats of migration, and are rather tasty if lightly smoked, soaked in lemon juice and served on a slice of freshly baked Danish rye bread. But you are wrong. It is actually because their bark is a most exquisite shade of orangey, pnky, reddy, peachy,... Nope - itís no use, there is no other word - itís salmon coloured. They are, in essence, simply trees that are the colour of a fish.

Even more gorgeous birds: White-faced Heron, Rufous Whistler, White-breasted Woodswallow, Mistletoebird, Northern Rosella, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-winged Triller, Jabiru, Pied Heron; Furries: Common Wallaroo, Agile Wallaby.

Bird of the day: PEREGRINE FALCON. As twenty tourists gaped open mouthed upwards at the depicted dreamings, how many of them saw the ominous deathly dark silhouette streaking across the deep blue sky, wings folded back, effortlessly patrolling the gorges? The bored ones I guess.


5th May: Umbrawurra Gorge

Itís Saturday of a Darwin long weekend and we are crammed into the corner of a small field among some merry Territorians. But this is definitely a better option than Edith Falls which was very much a parking lot for Brits Australia rental vans full of healthy young German couples all trying desperately to ignore the fact that almost everyone else was young and healthy and German and had hired vans from the same company and had parked in the same place. Except for the ones that were in fact Swiss. And us. And the well meaning weathered Australian couple who were knowledgeably delivering a natural history lesson to the assembly of visitors. More precisely they were showing them a "baby crocodile", which rather looked like a fully adult Mertenís Water Dragon to me, but I wouldnít dare to ruin the experience for everyone. Naturalists can be such killjoys sometimes. I was too busy most embarrassingly observing my first White-throated Gerygone (yes - OK - but we donít get them much in South Australia !). The road to Umbrawurra was quite exciting, with several minor water crossings for the Corolla to landcruise through. But the end justified the undignified means and we arrived at this very fine little wild gorge. And all these very fine little wild people.

Little wild bird: Nankeen Night Heron.

Bird of the day: AZURE KINGFISHER. Nice long views in the gorge of one fishing from a broken branch. Just between the second and third branches - right out in the open now - blue - bright blue - the second and third branches! - what? - no - THAT branch!! Oh - heís gone...


6th May: Florence Falls (Litchfield N.P.)

There is a rather surreal atmosphere in our campground next to Florence Falls. It is late afternoon and the surrounding forest has all very recently been back burnt leaving charred stumps, blackened trunks and an ashy carpet broken only by occasional yellow tufts of hardy grass and ferns. All this and the lazy hint of smoke in the air leaves an atmosphere that reminds me somewhat of an autumn Sunday afternoon in Britain, when the fallen leaves are piled onto garden bonfires and Robins perch expectantly on pitchfork handles and the rims of wheelbarrows. This is all slightly disconcerting when I was in expectation of tropical jungle, dangerous reptiles and high adventure. Equally disappointing this morning was our Hooded Parrot Hunt around Pine Creek. They are clearly just one of these birds that artists invent in order to fill the pages of field guides. North of Pine Creek the country got more hilly and green, but under very yellow smoky skies in the presence of massive back burning. So Litchfield is a drier and blacker place than I expected, but the plunge pool at the base of Florence Falls is less dry, less black and far exceeded expectation, rather less typical of Scotland in November...

Burnt birds: Torresian Crow, Magpie Lark, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Great Bowerbird, Galah, Striated Pardalote, Black Kite, Little Woodswallow.

Bird of the day: GREY BUTCHERBIRD. The most visible life form within 100m of our smouldering cap spot. They almost certainly would perch on our wheelbarrow, if we had one.


7th May: Florence Falls (Litchfield N.P.)

Still here. A rabbit-sized hoppy thing has just bounced past the tent entrance. This rather backs up our empirical evidence that spotlighting seems to be more effective if you minimise the effort and just wait for visitations rather than polluting the night air with halogen beams. Maybe Iím only disillusioned because we couldnít trace the wailing Bush Stone-curlews earlier this evening. Mind you, the bush was alive with continuous rustlings from the piles of half burnt leaves that seemed to all be caused by tiny little mice with huge goggly eyes hurrying about their business in the darkness of the post-burn off Armageddon. Unfortunately the mammal books all seem to be full of pages of little mice with huge goggly eyes, but we thought that the goggliness best fitted Western Chestnut Mice. We spent the day obediently following some of the Litchfield "brown signposts" and enjoyed more dirty skies, especially above the astonishing magnetic termite mounds, where the fire crackled in the grass and a nervous and foolishly elusive Button-quail called from the yet unburnt stubble.

Incinerated birds: Rainbow Bee-eater (flocks of over 50), Mistletoebird, Northern Fantail, Shining Flycatcher, Brown Goshawk, Varied Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Partridge Pigeon, Pied Butcherbird, Leaden Flycatcher, Double-barred Finch, Weebill; Furries: Dingo, Northern Brown Bandicoot.

Bird of the day: BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA. Incredibly tame at Wangi Falls. They looked like carved wooden souvenirs as they sat over-fed in the trees of the picnic area and dreamt of the next sausage.


8th May: The Lakes (Berry Springs)

"Troppo" takes over. Yep - itís hot, itís sticky, there are more mozzies here than we have seen anywhere thus far, Claire is sitting in the tent singing some self-written composition whose chorus involves the phrase "Iím as loopy as a fruitcake", and Iíve just seen a Bush Stone-curlew lurking suspiciously by the toilet block. Actually the interior of the toilet block was even more fascinating with a 6cm flying cockroach, a yellow House Gecko, a beautiful triangular green moth and an angular frog that leapt 5 metres across the full length of the urinals. Letís face it - it makes brushing your teeth a much more educational activity. The campground even has a civilised little restaurant where the great and the good of Berry Springs share a veranda with two fat Tawny Frogmouths. And all this excitement after an interesting drive north out of Litchfield along a dusty dirt track where we saw our first Frill-necked Lizard sunning itself on a manicured lawn shortly before we persuaded it to play hide-and-seek up a tree. We also inspected the premises of the Territory Wildlife Park, which was a much more interesting location than the name suggests. Well worth a peek, although I was personally very disappointed that the Black Wallaroo had gone for an untimely holiday.

Outside the cage birds: Comb-crested Jacana, Red-headed Honeyeater, Radjah Shelduck, Yellow Oriole, Brush Cuckoo, Green Pygmy-goose, Horsefieldís Bronze-Cuckoo, Red-winged Parrot, Blue-winged Kookaburra.

Bird of the day: BUSH STONE-CURLEW. Number one on my "most-sought-after" Australian bird list finally falls... Cassowary - youíre next!


9th May: Lee Point (Darwin)

Yes weíve made it to Darwin. Hello Mum! Weíre just back from the Mindil Beach Sunset markets and I am extremely excited by my discovery of the frozen chocolate-coated banana-on-a-stick. This is progress - and in Darwin of all places! Less progress is in evidence around our campground, which resembles a large holiday complex that has never quite happened. Large square buildings stand empty and each happy camper gets the use of a large concrete bus bay that comes complete with huge carport and sink. Unfortunately when I turned on the tap at our sink all I got was an impressive steady flow of green ants. Methinks that the lady in the van who took our cash knows a few interesting stories about this place. We reached the endless billboards of Darwin via Middle Arm Jetty where we went one better than Burke and Wills and actually glimpsed the ocean in order to confirm our crossing of the continent, and a sighting of a Mangrove Gerygone confirmed that birders can get excited by just about anything.

Jetty birds: Grey Whistler, Red-headed Honeyeater, Pheasant Coucal.

Bird of the day: BUSH STONE-CURLEW. Just like buses, you wait for years and then they stretch out for miles like an avian traffic jam. They are just everywhere around Lee Point and threaten to out howl the Dingoes tonight.


10th May: Lee Point (Darwin)

Hot, sticky and grimy. And that alas was the condition of the Corollaís radiator this morning. We had a panicky morning getting knocked back from most of Darwinís garages until we sussed out the technique - boy sits in car, girl pleads with mechanic. This change in tactic was immediately successful and one new pipe later and vroooommm.... We strolled along Casuarina Beach at midday and then sat on the Esplanade for the afternoon, writing postcards about how happiness is actually a new radiator hose, and about how lucky we were to be in Darwin during a major industrial dispute that threatened to partially close off the entire city centre. But I donít want to sound negative. There is something in the air up here. If someone came up to me and said "youíre stuck here for a whole year, mate", then I would happily bring the camp chairs down to the beach, pour myself a long pineapple smoothie, stick my feet up, and join the rest of Darwinís population. I really think I could do it. Iím already rather fond of Darwin.

Darwin birds (Casuarina Beach, Esplanade, Harbour): Eastern Reef Egret, Grey-tailed Tattler, Bar-tailed Godwit, Caspian / Gull-billed / Crested Tern, Red Knot, Great Knot, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Red-capped Plover, Mangrove Grey Fantail, Brahminy Kite, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Terek Sandpiper, White-gaped Honeyeater, Figbird, Eastern Curlew; Furry: Dingo.

Bird of the day: RUFOUS-BANDED HONEYEATER. Twitched from the relative comfort of our gigantic concrete bus bay. All birding should be this easy.


11th May: Lee Point (Darwin)

Weíre just back to rejoin the Stone-curlews after a visit to the immensely civilised outdoor Deckchair Cinema - the only cinema I have ever been to that provides complimentary "Rid". So we all lay back, smelling of poisonous insect repellants, and watched Tim Wintonís "That Eye the Sky", which couldnít have been more appropriate. A uniquely Darwin day, spent poking around the mangroves and drinking fruit smoothies. Zero out of ten to Darwin Town Council for locking the gates of the mangrove boardwalk however. Even the nearby remnant rainforest at East Point was threatening to disappoint until a passing jogger noted my discretely brandished optics and informed us that a pair of Rainbow Pittas usually hung out at the next bend in the road. We thanked him kindly for his eccentric information, patronisingly dismissed his outrageous over-optimism, strolled nonchalantly to the road bend.. and there they were. Amazing!

Jogging route birds: Spangled Drongo, Pied Ostercatcher, Mangrove Gerygone, Double-barred Finch, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Green-backed Gerygone, Varied Triller, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Bar-shouldered Dove, Fairy Martin, Masked Plover, Red-headed Honeyeater; Furry: Agile Wallaby.

Bird of the day: RAINBOW PITTA. What is it about Pittas that makes them so damn sexy?




12th May: Corroboree Park

Frogs, cicadas, mozzies, generators - the sounds of the usual suspects. We are 30km east of Fogg Dam. The name Corroboree Park suggests a more romantic wilderness than the reality of the worn out pool table and the "Barramundi Board" deliver. We called in at Howard Springs on our way here. It was full of excited aboriginal schoolkids and some very large passive Barramundi that must have been sorely tempted to take a nibble of all the floundering human limbs. Further down the road we stared out of the "Window in the Wetlands" visitorsí centre, where the most interesting thing I saw out of the window was a lone Elanus kite which had a disappointing lack of black on its underwing. Beyond the centre we did indeed start to see an increase in wetlands and started to get a real feeling that Kakadu might indeed be only a few kilometres away. But back to the things that matter at Corroboree Park: did you know that Mick Cull landed a 20.1kg fish at Wildman last week?

Bird of the day: STRAW-NECKED IBIS. I donít think that I ever really appreciated that they did have "straw" necks until I was able to scrutinise the very annoying ones that strolled around under our picnic table at Howard Springs. Quite educational really...


13th May: South Alligator (Kakadu N.P.)

We are now sitting by the tent in a spacious and quiet campground within the bounds of Kakadu National Park. As well as the quiet murmur of fellow campers I can hear several Boobook and Barking Owls, the quiet calling of roosting Black Kites and some squabbling Black Flying-foxes. We retraced our route slightly this morning to pay an early morning visit to Fogg Dam. The road in was obstructed by some Water Buffaloes that were being herded by a man on a "Buffalo buggy" - it looked like a pastime that fell somewhere between being heaps of fun and being downright dangerous. Still, probably a bit easier and safer than in the days of rugged Tom Cole when rampaging herds of buffaloes were pursued across this region on horseback. Most of us are really such woosses these days. Fogg Dam was very beautiful as the early light caught the vast flotillas of water lilies and stirred the Comb-crested Jacanas. The water level was rather high however and most of the birds were concentrated at a small pool at the far end of the dam, where a seething mass of Pelicans, Ibises and Little Black Cormorants dipped into the water, and regiments of geese and ducks stood by the banks. East of Fogg Dam the wetlands disappeared from view to be replaced by miles of dry open forest and creek names straight from the enticing travel brochures: Mary, Wildman, West Alligator, Flying-fox. Speaking of the latter...hear them?

Foggy birds: Australian Pelican, Magpie Goose, Jabiru, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Radjah Shelduck, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Nankeen Night Heron, Pied Heron, Glossy Ibis, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Long-tailed Finch, Rainbow Pitta, Clamorous Reed-warbler, Forest Kingfisher, Australian Pratincole, Straw-necked / White / Glossy Ibis, Pied Stilt, Little Pied Cormorant, Yellow Oriole.

Bird of the day: BROAD-BILLED FLYCATCHER. A beak like a boat.


14th May: Merl Campground, Ubirr (Kakadu N.P.)

So now we are entrenched deep within Kakadu, close to Ubirr Rock, most notable as one of the only places on the Australian mainland where you can guarantee a Thylacine sighting. We sedately rolled into Jabiru this morning via a wetlands lookout and the main Kakadu visitorsí centre. The centre was a bit disappointing although we watched a very good video about "handbag" management (Iím sorry - I learnt that word from some rough looking angling types at the Buffalo Creek boat ramp). Jabiru also has a fine bakery, just for the record. The road to Ubirr was everything that Kakadu should be: wetlands, escarpment, savannah, woodlands. It becomes terribly easy to get quite blasé about it all. And now weíre sitting in the thick of it with the trangia cooking up some subtle combination of the usual ingredients. I remain as ever greatly impressed by the ability of the likes of Captain Sturt to eat for years in the bush without cans of cream of mushroom soup and fresh garlic.

Bird of the day: COMB-CRESTED JACANA. A long overdue award. Baby Jacanas are particularly deserving, rather resembling ping-pong balls equipped for a waterskiing holiday.


15th May: Baroalba Creek (Kakadu N.P.)

A huge orange blob of a sunset is shining through the two metre tall spear grass tonight. We have escaped the Kakadu camping crowds by opting for a "facility free" campground just north of Nourlangie Rock. Our plans for some hiking around Ubirr were rather cut short by extensive track closures "due to unseasonal flooding". The memory of Victoria River lingers on. So we pushed south to Nourlangie Rock and went around the outdoor art gallery. The crowds of tourists did very little to diminish the impressiveness of the gigantic rock and its historical markings. I was rather amused by the stony silence that one guide got when replying to a question that the indicated painting dated back to 1964. Still - thatís old as far as Iím concerned. And we lunched out at the delightful Anbangbang Billabong which had the requisite number of Jacanas and Pygmy Geese scattered throughout. In fact letís just write that again: Anbangbang Billabong. Isnít that a great name!? Lots of burning around these parts also - the distant escarpment was forever shrouded in lingering grey smoke. More than a little bit haunting.

Anbillabongbangbang birds: Green Pygmy-goose, Cattle Egret, Radjah Shelduck, Jabiru, Osprey, Black Kite, Darter.

Bird of the day: WHITE-LINED HONEYEATER. They sit in the trees and scold the tourists trekking around the galleries of Nourlangie Rock. And we all deserve it...


16th May: Yellow Waters (Kakadu N.P.)

I really really hate cars. Technical hitch number two has struck. The Corolla failed to start in the car park of the Aboriginal Cultural Centre next to Cooinda Lodge. Why did we choose to stick with this miserable wreck. Why didnít we buy a decent car - such as a thirty year old Holden? Mind you, if you are going to get stuck somewhere then Yellow Waters ainít so bad... But thatís not the point. This is a disaster of "Dig Tree" magnitude. This has all rather dampened the ecstasies of the success of this morningís strategic ambush of some Banded Fruit-Doves. We stole back to Nourlangie Rock at the pre-tourist hour of 8am and in a remnant rainforest pocket beyond the main gallery we strained and peered into the depths of a dense fruiting tree for about twenty minutes before glimpsing two fat birds at the top of the tree. I am as always amazed that you can find peace and tranquillity if you are willing to walk that short distance further down the trails than everyone else. And I am even more amazed that we actually found the Fruit-Doves. We spent an equally pleasant hour at the top of a lookout just a short hike from the main highway. It was one of the few places we have been that gives a glimpse of the sheer scale of Kakadu. Just the kind of place for a decent breakdown. Back to reality - back to the loud cover band blaring from the Cooinda Lodge and of course the little Boobook who is hawking in a nearby camp light. I just hope we donít stay here long enough to become good friends.

Bird of the day: BANDED FRUIT-DOVE. There is something wholly satisfying about Fruit-Doves. I hope it is more than a primeval gastronomic reaction to the combination of the words...


17th May: Mardugal (Kakadu N.P.)

OK Corolla! We have an idyllic sheltered camp spot nestled in some dense scrub and surrounded by the calls of a healthy selection of Kakaduís avifauna. And we have a working car again! The Cooinda mechanic was defeated by the fault this morning so we were towed to the Mobil Jabiru - a notable event because at 110km per hour the car clocked up its maximum speed for the trip so far... An aboriginal wizard diagnosed a new coil resistor before he even opened the bonnet. All that fuss for a tiny bit of metal. We were back on the road before there was time to say "Anbangbang Billabong" again. I think it is time to have a celebratory game of frisbee. Oh my goodness - I quite forgot to mention that prior to the dayís technical dramas we "did" a Yellow Waters boat cruise. Very pleasant indeed and good close views of some "handbags". Yellow Waters is very "Kakadu" in a Pandanus Aquaticus, Great Egret and Magpie Goose type way. It is rather strange that we think of it thus, because the lasting image of Kakadu to me is endless kilometres of stunning savannah woodlands. Anyway, letís not get too picky about it....

Yellow birds: Magpie Goose, Plumed / Wandering Whistling-Duck, Jabiru, Sacred / Azure / Forest Kingfisher, Pied Heron, Shining / Restless Flycatcher, Tawny Frogmouth, Straw-necked / White / Glossy Ibis, Intermediate / Great Egret, Nankeen Night Heron, Australian Pelican, Whistling Kite, Rainbow Bee-eater, Crimson Finch, Comb-crested Jacana, Bar-shouldered Dove.

Bird of the day: WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE. Wins the honour for most obligingly swooping down in front of our tour boat and classically plucking a fish from the lagoon. How on earth did they train it to do that?


18th May: Waterfall Creek (Kakadu N.P.)

It is a beautiful starry and cool evening with the sounds of thousands of happy cicadas, the rush of water from the nearby falls, the echoing babble of Swedish and German campers and the hoots and raucous screams from a party of Australian cyclists (when I finally get around to writing my "Field Guide to the Tourists of the World" I think I will simply write of Australians, "Call: unmistakeable"). We are now of course located next to an ornithological sacred site and I have already made my first trip to the top of the hallowed escarpment in search of that mythological beast, the White-throated Grasswren. No joy today, but tomorrow is a new one and Iím feeling lucky. We had a very nice walk this morning behind the Mardugal campground. Plenty canopy activity, dominated by Varied Lorikeets and Banded Honeyeaters. Save for the actual species, the atmosphere and superficial look of the forest reminded me greatly of south-eastern Australia. Driving south from Mardugal the country became increasingly parched and we crossed our first dry creek for about two weeks. Turning east towards Waterfall Creek the landscape grew more dusty, lumpy and rugged, and so did the road... The falls at Waterfall Creek (how could anyone have ever named such a nice place "UDP Falls"?) create a little oasis and we had a very nice swim before my ascent of the escarpment. So a nice sleep is in order - got to rest these eyes for tomorrow - itís a big day.

Bird of the day: VARIED LORIKEET. Regularly present in these parts, but always a bit hard to get a good look at. However at Mardugal they were dripping off the trees. I think the world canít get enough bright green birds - maybe itís the Celt in me...


19th May: Waterfall Creek (Kakadu N.P.)

Some things in life are guaranteed. For example, if you camp somewhere in Australia and some moron is playing a didgeridoo continuously and suitably badly that it really pisses you off then you will find that they are from Germany. This is guaranteed. But Grasswrens are alas not guaranteed. Sigh. But fortunately I am not really bothered by the fact that not a squeak nor a glimpse was had of the little sods today. After all, this is a beautiful location and the top of the escarpment is a wonderfully untamed place to scramble over. I saw a lone Flying-fox hanging from a tall bush and being severely mobbed by a mixed party of birds including a White-lined Honeyeater and a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike. I must admit that I thought this kind of odd - why was the bat all alone and what was it doing to cause such offence? And why were there not also a party of Grasswrens noisily scolding the bat from the top of a nearby rock? Running around excitedly, trilling, darting among the clefts in the sandstone... But I digress. Back at the base, defeated, we discovered a quiet billabong overlooked by a pair of noisy Galah trees. As I sat at the bank and scanned the far bank for lost aquatic grasswrens, I fleetingly became homesick for the Adelaide Hills. Sorry, I think Iím emotionally confused today.. donít worry about it. Little sods...

Non-white-throated birds: Little / Silver-crowned / Helmeted Friarbird, White-browed / White-breasted / Black-faced Woodswallow, Bar-breasted / Brown Honeyeater, Whistling Kite, Variegated / Red-backed Fairy-wren, Double-barred / Masked Finch, Rufous Whistler, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Little Corella, Northern Rosella, Peaceful Dove, Torresian Crow.

Bird of the day: WHITE-BROWED CRAKE. Just to prove that hunting for grasswrens by the shores of billabongs is not an entirely futile exercise. This lone bird had very few places to hide and we had some excellent views of it foraging in the scant cover.


20th May: Edith Falls (Nitmiluk N.P.)

Back at the falls, but this time it is quieter and we have a nice site in the back corner complete with obligatory fireplace and Great Bowerbird. Rather notably I have just seen my first birders for the trip. I had quite forgotten that there are other masochists out there. Two Americans loaded with camera gear and clutching well thumbed copies of "Slater" have been staggering about the campground aiming their binoculars at every available piece of vegetation, most of which seemed embarrassingly close to the other innocent campers. It is all rather scary - do we all look that lost and intimidating? We broke camp early this morning and stopped off at Yurmikmik for a hike out to Motor Car Falls. They may be the least attractively named water drops in Kakadu, but they turned out to be quite exquisitely located on the shores of a tiny island of rainforest, and we had them all to ourselves. Having had sufficient exercise for the day (and probably several days) we crossed Kakaduís southern border not far from the Mary River Roadhouse. The "Yes - weíre open" sign probably sums the place up nicely. Food is a bit on the low side, but our favourite supermarket, the over air-conditioned Big W in Katherine beckons tomorrow. Now it is dusk and the army of National Park grass cutters and tree hackers have retreated. A flock of approximately 2000 Black Flying-foxes have been steadily drifting overhead and some are noisily squabbling further down the creek. Ho hum. Life isnít so bad is it?

Bird of the day: SQUARE-TAILED KITE. Hunting low over the trees at Yurmikmik. Iíve always been intrigued by the field guides claiming that Square-tailed Kites are almost always seen "hunting low over trees". Donít you ever see them do other things? Donít they perch, roost, soar and maybe on days when they are feeling very rebellious "hunt a significant distance above trees"? But this one was low. Definitely very low. Amazing. Field guides are so indispensable.


21st May: Twelve Mile Yards (Roper River)

So this is really it - the land of the "never never". I know it is a very corny touristy thing to do, but Iíve just read the book. Consequently I was rather disappointed with Matarankaís attempts to recreate cheeky "Cheonís Kitchen", the "Malukaís Bar" etc. But it is a success if the busloads of tourists are anything to go by. Or maybe they were all bringing occupants for the thermal bath tubs. Or maybe it is just such a convenient stop on the long haul up and down the Stuart Highway. Anyway, I am quite partial to the odd doze of Livingstone Palm, so it was worth a quick look. This morning we had a really superb hike up into the escarpment country behind Edith Falls and had some extensive views of the surrounding landscape. As always I am impressed by the attempts of Australians to do such rocky hikes in a pair of thongs... And then a successful dayís hunting was had at Katherineís Big W. It is a venue for great street theatre and today was no exception. We watched an anxious local woman abusing the cops as they bundled her husband into some sort of mobile cage. I was quite disturbed by this incident - was I witnessing police brutality and racism at first hand? Well possibly.. but it all resolved itself very amicably when it became clear that all she wanted was her husband to fork out the "beer money" that he owed her. It all happens at the Big W in Katherine...

Really superb hike birds: White-throated Gerygone, Double-barred / Long-tailed Finch, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Sulphur-crested / Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Little Pied Cormorant, Mistletoebird, Northern Rosella.

Bird of the day: GREY FALCON. Ho ho... A deceivingly butcherbird-sized bird of prey, sitting quietly admiring the view over the escarpment way above Edith Falls. Needless to say, I was quite happy with this one. J


22nd May: Carpentarian Highway (70km west of McArthur River)

Weíre on the move again. We woke up after a very chilly night (this is of course relative) to the braying of Feral Donkeys and watched the sun spectacularly burn off the overnight condensation, making the Roper River appear literally to steam. Dramatic stuff for 7am. We gave up on the solar powered shower and backtracked to Mataranka and stole a shower among the hordes of aged southerners putting their teeth back in for the day. A "Dingoís Breakfast" at the grotesquely tacky Daly Waters Pub later, we turned east onto the single bitumen laned Carpentarian Highway. A big scenery change today as the woodlands have retreated in favour of more open lower scrubbier arid vegetation. The road was fairly quiet, except that every half an hour or so a large car towing a massive caravan would trundle past in the opposite direction - clearly the Carpentarian Highway is a good place to observe the annual northern migration of retired Australians to their winter fishing grounds. We are now camped off-road on the edge of a pipeline track in a bed of pink daisies (ahhh). There are lots of small yellow signs which probably say "do not camp off-road on the edge of this pipeline track in a bed of pink daisies or else we will send the boys round to beat the shit out of you", so I have chosen not to read them. So now it is all peace and quiet save for cicadas and a little Owlet-nightjar who is threatening to land in the billy. No German didgeridoos, no Feral Donkeys, no worries. Except that it is probably illegal.

Pipeline birds: Budgerigar, Cockatiel, Red-winged Parrot, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Singing Honeyeater, White-throated Gerygone, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Galah, Rufous Whistler, Black-faced Woodswallow.

Bird of the day: CRESTED BELLBIRD. I must admit that I find it pointless when people tell you that some species is their "favourite bird". This is a meaningless utterance which is neither constructive nor informative. It is the human conciousness regressing to the sophistication of a small child. It is a waste of space and time. And mine is the Crested Bellbird.


23rd May: Highway One (160km east of Barkly Homestead)

A land where cows are cows, and bush campers are nervous. This is possibly our most uncomfortable overnight location yet, off-road on a sparsely vegetated rocky red plain surrounded by the gentle lowing of unseen cattle. And sadly this is the best spot that we have seen for some time. We are back in big-time bush-fly country, but hey - itís free and there were no shortage of Budgies zipping overhead before the sun mercifully packed up for the day. After some spectacular gorge scenery near McArthur River, we crossed the Barkly Tablelands and my goodness, that is a pretty barren spot! All these travellers to Western Australia who moan about the Nullarbor Plain should take their holidays up here. We lunched on fly sandwiches at a repeater station and counted blades of grass - I saw about thirty. And then what about that 99 cents a litre at the Barkly Homestead? OK - I am one for promoting environmental economics and I think that Australians donít pay enough for their fuel... but that was exploitation! No wonder they lock their pumps. Claire is sleeping in the car tonight apparently - something to do with dangerous cattle and Big Reds. Hmm.. I kind of see the point.

Rocky red birds: Willie Wagtail, Singing Honeyeater, Cockatiel; Furry: Red Kangaroo.

Bird of the day: RED-BACKED KINGFISHER. I have untold admiration for kingfishers that laugh in the face of convention, and set up home in places that closely resemble the surface of Mars. Mind you, Iím not sure why we have chosen to do likewise tonight...


24th May: Mount Isa

Uh-huh. When you enter a town and the second billboard sign you see is advertising a helpline for battered spouses you have to wonder a bit. Itís all a bit ominous. But Mount Isa seems spacious and functional and we have a very nice shady camp spot under a big red gum, which is probably going to give Claire nightmares about branch shedding. Despite the view of industrial warehouses, there is a small wetland and we are being entertained by the rather eccentric Mancunian campground proprietor. As soon as we crossed the Queensland border it would be fair to say that Highway One simply fell apart. The deterioration in road was however accompanied by an improvement in scenery as spinifex plains and rocky hills relieved the flatness of the tablelands. Mount Isa just kind of appears from nowhere. Iíve always wanted to visit Mount Isa - itís the classic town in the "middle of nothing". I donít think I ever worked out what I would do when I finally got there though. Any ideas? Apart from twitching a Spotted Bowerbird that is...

Industrial warehouses birds: Rainbow Bee-eater, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-plumed Honeyeater, Black Falcon, Dusky Moorhen, Australian Pelican, Black-fronted Dotterel, Caspian Tern, Australian (Cloncurry) Ringneck, Sacred Kingfisher, Varied Lorikeet, Yellow-throated Miner, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Great Egret, Red-winged Parrot, Apostlebird.

Bird of the day: AUSTRALIAN BUSTARD. I just love them. I donít know why. They are just exciting ungamely things. "Bush Turkeys" is a quite undeserved nickname. Several seen close to Highway One.


25th May: Julia Creek

I really am not sure what we are doing here. The wind is howling among the trailers in the van park and there is a monstrous cloud formation spiralling ominously into the huge sky above the prefabs of the town. It looks like the setting for a David Lynch movie. There is a "camp draught" on, but nobody seems to know exactly what that is. The guy in the house next door to our corner of the campground has drilled a little hole in his fence so that his little doggy can crawl underneath and shit in the tent area instead of on his lawn. Thatís nice isnít it? Oh well.. whatever. Our morning perambulation took place at the artificial Lake Moondarra, to the north of Mount Isa. A very nice spot in its own way, but the scenery got even better as we headed further east and into big red country, where hills densely clad with spinifex baked under a deep blue sky. But there was a strong head wind which got worse and worse, and more than anything else simply just blew us to a stop here at Julia Creek. Iím really not sure this place deserves to have a Dunnart named after it.

Artifical lake birds: Budgerigar, Cockatiel, Weebill, Pied Butcherbird, Apostlebird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Whistling / Black Kite, Black Duck, Grey Teal, Hardhead, Great Egret, Glossy Ibis, Brolga, Australian / Great-crested Grebe, Caspian Tern, Spotted Bowerbird.

Bird of the day: SPINIFEXBIRD. Itís in the spinifex, stupid! Where else? Very satisfying little find in a way that all elusive small brown birds seem to be. On the road to Lake Moondurra (Iím sure thatís a song).


26th May: Charter Towers

So we have arrived at some approximation to mass civilisation after a day of flat Mitchell grass plains and sleepy towns. The day was partially rescued by the Richmond Fossil Museum, which was considerably more exciting than you might think. Great hunks of saurs (Icthyo ones and Plesio ones) were strewn around the floor of an old hall and a very amenable fossil guided us around, disseminating much local knowledge and anecdote. Well worth a stop. I am sure we saw a small hill at Hughenden, but I wouldnít swear to it. We are now sitting in the Mexican Camping Park (no - I donít know either..) in central Charter Towers. We have a little concrete toadstool set on which to sit and prepare dinner - very functional if I might say so. There were some great plans about partaking in a cool and refreshing ale at one of the two old pubs downtown, but we discovered that one had burnt down and that the other had a fight brewing in the doorway, so an early night very quickly has become the most attractive option.

David Lynch birds: House Sparrow, Black Kite, Singing / White-plumed Honeyeater, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Zebra Finch, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Australian Bustard, White-faced Heron.

Bird of the day: BROLGA. Big, grey, silly and looking very out of place standing in the ditches at the side of Highway One.


27th May: Paluma Dam

And now for something completely different. It is dark, it is cold, it is windy and it is wet. This is the first rain since Adelaide. And weíve just had a fresh pineapple for dinner. This is no Julia Creek. This is probably also the first day that weíve actually needed brakes on the Corolla as we wound our way from sea level up to Paluma, through cool luxuriant rainforest. Beyond the village of Paluma the road got a bit rough, but nothing the blue beast couldnít handle. And thus we came to the shores of a small reservoir and have now pitched the tent in magnificent solitude amidst some dense forest very close to the shore. Now weíre listening to a new camp sound, an Eastern Yellow Robin tuning down for the night. Stand by for a major flora and fauna change...

Cool luxuriant birds: Grey-headed Robin, Satin Bowerbird, Victoria Riflebird, Bowers Shrike-thrush, White-throated (Little) Treecreeper, Brush Turkey, Yellow-throated / Large-billed Scrubwren, Chowchilla, Topknot Pigeon, Pale-yellow Robin, Bridled Honeyeater, Spotted Catbird, Crimson Rosella, Silvereye, Brown Gerygone, Eastern Whipbird, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo.

Bird of the day: MOUNTAIN THORNBILL. Probably the least spectacular of the birds at Paluma. My neck is rather sore from chasing them however.


28th May: Jourama Falls N.P.

Full marks to the Queensland National Parks service - a very attractive green camping area immediately adjacent to a small creek that flows from the base of Jourama Falls. The campground is carved out from an area of woodland and was alive with birds just before the sun went down and a large moon took over. Weíve just had a rather poor night walk which turned up nothing more than some very large Cane Toads. The track was much better by day with a pair of Noisy Pittas guarding either side of the ford across the river. We awoke in Paluma this morning to the explosive dawn chorus of Chowchillas and the steady tinkle of the nightís rain pouring off the rainforest canopy. Back down in Paluma village we couldnít resist Devonshire Teas at Ivy Cottage, just for the novelty of chasing Macleay Honeyeaters out of the jam and extracting Brush Turkeys from our hair. Then we rolled back downhill and drove a short distance north through cane country, crossing over some choicely named creeks such as Log, Mosquito and Insulator. Jourama seems a nice little spot to chill out, but letís hope not quite as literally as last night.

Falls birds: Forest Kingfisher, Red-browed Finch, Yellow Honeyeater, White-rumped Swiftlet, Northern / Grey Fantail, Dusky / White-throated Honeyeater, White-browed Robin, Grey Whistler, Spectacled Monarch, Green-winged Pigeon, Little Eagle, Spangled Drongo, Varied Triller.

Bird of the day: SCARLET HONEYEATER. Very very cute tiny honeyeaters with a wispy silvery call to match. Yep -an unashamed twitch for us Adelaideians.



29th May: Mission Beach

Well well well - no doubt what the job to do here is! Especially as this may be the only Australian bird that Claire has seen, but I have not. Pressure pressure. This is yet another ornithological sacred site and there can be no slipping up this time. We have a rather fine view at the moment. Weíre perched in the small council campground next to a patch of mangroves, with a view over the sea through some tall coconut palms. Ha ha - life.. Sauntered north today via Ingham (for a supply raid) and Kennedy National Park. To get to Kennedy we took the little dirt track some 5km north of Cardwell which passed through a Melaleuca swamp and then entered some coastal forest. The road ended at a beach directly opposite the bulk of Hinchinbrook Island. I got out the car to take in the majesty of the view and was immediately savaged by mosquitoes.. oh-oh - bad spot. But a sea breeze kept the beach insect free and were able to take a stroll across the sand to the mouth of a small channel. Several hours later we are now at base camp for "Operation Bigbird". The road to Mission Beach was suitably adorned with yellow signs warning of the threat of large chooks strolling across the highway. Yeah yeah yeah...

Oh-oh bad spot birds: Sacred Kingfisher, Pied Oystercatcher, Jabiru, Eastern Reef Egret, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Yellow Oriole, Great Egret, Whistling Kite.

Birds of the day: BEACH STONE-CURLEW and LITTLE KINGFISHER. Both from the beach at Kennedy. The Stone-curlews were distant, but unmistakeable, prancers in the heat haze. The Kingfisher was initially just a tiny splash of purple at the channel mouth. We watched it for a couple of minutes - such a tiny bird that it could perch on the lignotubes of the mangroves.



30th May: Mission Beach

The day of the chook. I am pleased to declare Operation Bigbird a resounding success. Got up at first light, impatiently negotiated the local roadworks, struggled up the hill in third gear under pressure from a big truck filling the rear-view mirror, pulled off the road at the summit to let the truck pass, heard the truck slam on his horn, and glory be - there was a road hazard in all its metallic necked splendour, casually wandering along the verge oblivious to the traffic - gormless bird! Some days the Gods of birding smile down most benignly from the heavens. The closest we came in all our subsequent attempts to consolidate this encounter at Lacy Creek and elsewhere were sightings of neat piles of freshly dumped seedy droppings. So we set up breakfast in a forest glade, listening to the tall fan palms rattling like sails in the wind and watching Musky Rat-kangaroos hopping at the clearing edge. After recovering from the morningís excitement we hiked out to Kennedy Bay, a wide sandy beach opposite Dunk Island, where Pelicans fished and Ospreys patrolled the shallow water. Back at Mission Beach the sea is now crashing with more ferocity than last night and the clouds are gathering above the twin peaks of the Dunk. So I guess itís bananas for dinner again then...

Mission birds: Brown Booby, Crested Tern, Large-billed Gerygone, Sacred Kingfisher, Brahminy Kite, Striated Heron, Lewins Honeyeater, White-faced Heron; A mixed feeding flock in the mangroves at Kennedy Bay: Rufous Fantail, Fairy Gerygone, Little Shrike-thrush, Varied Triller, Silvereye, Spectacled Monarch, Pied Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher, Grey Whistler, White-eared Monarch.

Bird of the day: SOUTHERN CASSOWARY.



31st May: Cairns

Cairns municipal caravan park is a bit packed, but there are two Bush Stone-curlews standing under the light next to camp and a couple of pints of Kilkenny have mellowed any anxieties I might have had about the overcrowding. Weíve dined on fresh pasta, chinese vegetables and fresh rambutans, so that should keep the scurvy at bay for a few more weeks. Avocados are three for a $1. Welcome to Cairns. Actually this side to Cairns rather hides the disappointment of the seemingly endless stretch of used car lots and fast food joints as we approached from the south. I really did think we had made a major route error and were all of a sudden in Southern California. Last time I came to Cairns I magicked my way into the city from the air and didnít have to go through all that. And this isnít such a great time of year for the old Esplanande - itís a bit quiet down there. And there is nobody home in the Venables village, so our reasons for hanging around here have kind of run out already. Oh well - do you want another rambutan?

Esplanande birds: Metallic Starling, Nutmeg Mannikin, Whimbrel, Australian White Ibis, Gull-billed Tern, Striated Heron, Varied Honeyeater, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Osprey, Royal Spoonbill, Common Mynah, Australian Pelican, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Peaceful Dove, Black Kite.

Bird of the day: BUSH STONE-CURLEW. Nope - sorry - I havenít tired of them yet. These ones are almost tame. Lots of fun to chase between the caravans.


1st June: Daintree

Itís all a little bit dark and gloomy up here, from our perch on the savagely cleared banks of the Daintree River, looking out over a tree full of Cattle Egrets. The road literally ends here, at a boat ramp. We left Cairns to the parties of Japanese tourists from the Sheraton, but not before a visit to the Centenary Lakes and a coffee at the Botanic Gardens. It rained and rained. We probably shouldnít have called in at Port Douglas because Claire was there ten years previously, and it is no longer the sleepy fishing village that she fondly remembers. Daintree is slightly on the sleepy side, but that may be just because it is the quiet season. And because the weather is so crap. Maybe that makes it not such a bad time to be here really. Weíve had a 5cm long green cricket chirping continuously from the wheel arch of the Corolla this evening. All of a sudden it stopped and there was a crunching noise. Iíve just flicked on the torch in time to see our friendís back legs protruding from the mouth of a monstrous Cane Toad. Ahhh - nature...

Centenary birds: Brahminy Kite, Forest Kingfisher, Figbird, Metallic Starling, Yellow Oriole, Spotted Catbird, Azure Kingfisher, Striated Heron, Black Duck.

Bird of the day: PACIFIC BAZA. Being mobbed by four Sulphur-crested Cockatoos above the Centenary Lakes. A rather bizarre bird, but the Baza seems a lot more plausible in real life than it does in most field guide illustrations.


2nd June: Julatten

Now this is civilised living. We have a nice cooking shelter, a rainforest view, a toaster and even a live-in Fawn-footed Melomys who is keeping a close eye on the food preparation process. We are at the deserted and washed out Kingfisher Park Lodge. I was most attracted by the sign "No sightseers, no day visitors, children by prior appointment". This is a serious place! This morning was much less serious, on Chris Dahlbergís manic river cruise. The object of the exercise was clearly to find as many bird species as possible in two hours on the river, which is of course a quite admirable goal, if a little exhausting. Chris certainly knows his local patch and his immense enthusiasm at finding each bird is rather too spontaneous to just be a well-rehearsed show. Despite being soaked to a such a degree that made swimming the Daintree quite possibly a drier option, we found 49 species which made it about an average day for the time of year apparently. He made quite an effort to find a Little Kingfisher which seemed a little unnecessary given that he has one living conveniently by the pond in his garden. Still - it doesnít count on the list if you canít see it from the boat! And so having got about as far north as time and transport dictate, we retreated south via a busy Mossman Gorge to Julatten, on the Tablelands. Oops - here comes the rain again.

Dahlberg birds: Shining Flycatcher, Great / Little / Intermediate / Cattle Egret, Pacific / Striated Heron, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Gouldís Bronze-Cuckoo, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Black Butcherbird, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Azure / Sacred / Forest Kingfisher, Brush Cuckoo, Barking Owl, Leaden Flycatcher, Grey / Rufous Fantail, Spectacled Monarch, Spangled Drongo, Yellow Oriole, Helmeted Friarbird.

Bird of the day: GREAT-BILLED HERON. Chris has a family fairly well staked out and this was a real highlight. We watched a rufous coloured juvenile begging an adult for food and Chris got even more animated than normal, shaking the boat and whispering "we could sell this to Attenborough". He was probably right.


3rd June: Lake Eacham

More rain. There simply canít be much more water up there to fall on us, can there? This time it is drumming down on the roof of the camp cooking shelter and the campground itself is turning into some sort of swamp. The most bizarre event of the day occurred just a short while ago when we watched a fully clad elderly woman swimming around the nearby soak in the pouring rain trying to persuade her labrador to come out and stop chasing the ducks. Made my day that. We pulled a rather wet tent down this morning and evacuated Julatten. It is a nice peaceful place, with a little orchard surrounded by a small patch of forest where Yellow-spotted Honeyaters gorged themselves on fallen fruit and Red-legged Pademelons grazed in the thick grass. We made a brief stop at the point where the Atherton Highway crosses Big Mitchell Creek. Lunch was at an outrageous little private park called Granite Gorge. It turned out to be well worth the dollar entrance fee. A rather detailed hand painted map included the intriguing topographical feature "rock wallabies", and sure enough, at almost the exact spot sat a bevy of Mareeba Rock-wallabies, just hanging out and acting cute. Anyway - letsí stick another log on this fire and try to recall the concept of being "dry". Itís been a wee while now...

Orchard birds: Lewins / Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Pale-yellow Robin, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Barking Owl, Spectacled Monarch, Emerald Pigeon, Spotted Catbird,. Satin Bowerbird, Red-browed Finch, Peaceful Dove, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo; Furries: Red-legged Pademelon, Spectacled Flying-fox, Fawn-footed Melomys.

Big Mitchell birds: Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Double-barred Finch, Black-throated Finch (black rumped form), Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Great Bowerbird, Scarlet Honeyeater, Swamp Harrier, Jabiru, Forest Kingfisher.

Bird of the day: YELLOW-BREASTED BOATBILL. A very nice bird to have in your garden (Julatten). It looks rather like itís beak has just been run over by a truck.


4th June: Lake Eacham

Now more than rain - we have gales. The cooking shelter is a real sanctuary and the campground has now been closed to all newcomers, although swimmers already in residence are not yet facing eviction orders. A wet and blustery day on the Tablelands except for a brief respite at lunchtime when we were able to sit outside at Lake Eacham and eat our lunch while being attacked by six Brush Turkeys and a Lewinís Honeyeater. We visited a gigantic Red Cedar which helped to ram home the true meaning of "old growth forest" as it made the surrounding forest look rather wimpy to say the least. Visiting "big trees" is a very popular pastime on the Tablelands and not without its merits on a day when standing under little trees doesnít offer much shelter. We took the torches out to the Crater a little earlier this evening but it was not a good evening for spotlighting with only a Green Ringtail and several Common (Coppery) Brushtails putting in an appearance. The weather did not stop "wait-a-while" tours speeding in at one point and lighting up the forest with something resembling a stadium quality floodlight. Hmm.. no wonder there wasnít much around. I have a feeling the Crater is rather too popular these days.

Big tree birds (Wongabel State Forest): Pale-yellow / Grey-headed Robin, Grey Whistler, Eastern Whipbird, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Brown Gerygone, Yellow-throated Scrubwren; Furry: Red-legged Pademelon.

Bird of the day: SARUS CRANE. A few loitering with the Brolgas in Bromfield Crater. Itís got red legs.. no theyíre grey.. no theyíre red.. oh my binoculars are shaking too much.. oh the red stops at the back of the head.. no hang on.. no it comes further down the neck.. Ridiculous. One day Iíll grow up and develop some sensible interests...


5th June: Broadwater Creek State Forest

Weíve abandoned the Tablelands, and a very wise decision it seems to have been. There was no end to the forecast wind and rain, and yet down at the coast it has only been intermittent showers and as I write it seems to be clearing completely. We are in an excellent campground next to Broadwater Creek, north-west of Ingham. It is very spacious, almost empty and a couple of Laughing Kookaburras are sitting in the tree next to our covered picnic shelter wondering what we are about to prepare them for dinner. Sorry lads, its veggie slop again, go and catch a snake or something. The birds are still quite boisterous around the forest clearing and the rush of the creek suggests that it is rather full. The road through the state forest was a bit greasy and pot-holed, and there were numerous four legged hazards, including a pack of little black Porkers, but the detour from our southerly bearing seems fully justified. We called back in at the Crater this morning for a quick look but it was not a morning that supported that Australian urban myth "Sunny Queensland".

Crater birds: Grey-headed / Pale-yellow Robin, Chowchilla, Bowerís Shrike-thrush, Bridled / Lewinís Honeyeater, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Grey Fantail, Atherton Scrubwren (yes- fortunately I always carry a full DNA testing kit around in the field with me).

Bird of the day: FERNWREN. It took some time to track down the whistle in the gully at the start of the Crater track. A small dark bird of small dark places.


6th June: Broadwater Creek State Forest

A great day at Broadwater. The sounds of the night have taken over with the river roaring in the background and mysterious rustlings in the bushes, although the latter might just be Claire rearranging the plastic bag mountain in the back of the car. We at last had some glorious drying sunshine today and made some pleasant short walks in the forest and along the river. The track to "Willieís Rapids" was particularly good, passing an inverted colony of Spectacled Flying-foxes, catching up on last nightís gossip. More disturbingly an enormous hump-backed bull wandered into the camp and we are not exactly sure if he is still at large. And at last a night walk has proved a worthwhile exercise - the picnic area is alive with Long-nosed Bandicoots, Agile Wallabies and impressively an enormous White-tailed Rat. I am rather inclined to stay here but unfortunately the clock is ticking and we should keep pushing south.

Great day birds: Eastern Yellow / Grey-headed Robin, Northern / Grey Fantail, Little Shrike-thrush, Rainbow Bee-eater, Spotted Catbird, Grey Whistler, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Bush Stone-curlew, Brush / Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Fuscous / Yellow Honeyeater, Victoria Riflebird, Yellow Oriole, Silvereye, Red-browed Finch, Striated Pardalote, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Spangled Drongo, Brush Turkey, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo.

Bird of the day: RED-NECKED CRAKE. At dusk I staked out a rainforest pool in the hope that a crake would show, and as the light faded and the cicadas piped up, one obligingly hopped into view at the far side of the pool. I have to confess, I am a bit surprised that this worked!


7th June: Rowes Bay (Townsville)

Another long weekend apparently, and Townsville seems busy. It is amazing how much drier it is here compared to a short distance north. We are fairly uninspiringly but functionally located, however the local shopping plaza had four Pacific Bazas in a tree by the car park, so itís not an ornithological wasteland. We now have a bottle of plonk on the go and all will seem perfect in about an hour I am sure! Highlight of the day was without doubt the stop at the Frosty Mango. Sour-sop and guava ice-creammmmmm. Claire consumed officially the "best milk-shake ever", which is an accolade the severity of which the words can only poorly reflect. We cruised up to the Papaya Fruit-fly inspection point on the highway with our mouths still full of the last of our supply of tomatoes and apples, and through a combination of sign language and several wipes of the mouth managed to pass through without too much hassle. And now weíre here. Time to cook up some chook and guzzle more of that wine. Lovely.

Chook and wine birds: Common Mynah, Feral Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Peregrine Falcon, Brahminy Kite, Great Bowerbird, Australian White Ibis.

Bird of the day: BRUSH CUCKOO. The dawn chorus of Broadwater Creek. The "headache bird" indeed.


8th June: Bowen

Bowen is OK, I suppose. Our campground is OK, I suppose. Food from a trangia stove is OK, I suppose. The local cinema is OK, but the films it is showing are all crap. Our neighbours are OK, but the side of their van is painted "Go against the flow - Jesus Loves you". We went to Townsville Common this morning. It was of course OK. Maybe we have been on the road too long. OK?

Common birds: Royal / Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Brolga, Jabiru, Australian Pelican, Australian Grebe, Golden-headed Cisticola, Swamp Harrier, Brown-backed Honeyeater, White-breasted Woodswallow, White-faced Heron, White / Straw-necked Ibis, Black-fronted Dotterel, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Forest Kingfisher, Red-backed Fairy-wren.

Bird of the day: TAWNY GRASSBIRD. An OK bird, seen from one of the hides.


9th June: Broken River (Eungella N.P.)

It is misty and cool up here. Eungella National Park seems to be one of the "islands" that is still attached to the mainland and has the potential to offer tremendous views down over the coastal plain. I emphasise the word "potential". There are a scattering of people up on the bridge behind us looking for Platypus but being veterans of Platypus watching, we have our minds set on cooking dinner. I felt quite OK (of course) about leaving Bowen and we pushed south to Airlie Beach. Some lovely forest around there, but developments are proceeding there at a rather frantic pace and I wonder how the area will cope with increased land-use pressures. Certainly a sailing paradise. We had half a mind about camping at Conway National Park, but the campground was closed and only contained a South African surfie planning on an illegal overnight stop, and a couple of Bush Stone-curlews who no doubt had rather similar thoughts. Continuing on our merry way we encountered the namesake town of my parental home, Ayr. Visitors are warmly welcomed to "Cane Toad Country" which deserves full marks for the wildly optimistic attempt to convert an ecological disaster into a tourist marketing gimmick. I am glad that we have thus far been spared from the "Big Cane Toad", although no doubt this is in their plans. And then up and up a narrow valley to get to Eungella. There is no denying that I have my head in the clouds now...

OK birds: Pied Oystercatcher, Eastern Reef Egret (white phase), Osprey, Sacred Kingfisher, Cockatiel, Grey Fantail, Black Kite, Brown Honeyeater, Grey-shrike Thrush.

Bird of the day: MANGROVE HONEYEATER. An incredibly active species that seems to have found much more to do in Bowen than we did.


10th June: Broken River (Eungella N.P.)

Wash out! The day started in fog and has progressed to incessant rain. I suspect that it is dry down by the coast - there is just a massive cloud parked on top of the hill and it has been leaking all day. We suffered the indignity of getting bogged in the campground this morning but some muscular Frenchman shoved us out. I am quite surprised that Claire opted to stick with me - it might prove yet to have been a missed opportunity. We had a hunt for the local endemic Eungella Honeyeater on the Mount Dalrymple road, but the twenty metre visibility made this all rather unrealistic and the track quickly degenerated into a mud slide. The entire population of Eungella seemed to be in the Eungella Hotel but the size of the beers and the plate of nachos that we ordered didnít encourage a very long stay. However all is not gloom and doom because next to camp is a viewing platform over a dark pool and we watched three Platypus (Platypi?) swimming around quite unperturbed by the viewers. I doubt that there are better possible views of these animals anywhere in the wild. And I thought all those people had come here to look for honeyeaters....

Broken birds: Pied Currawong, Barking Owl, Eastern Spinebill, Red-browed Finch, Golden Whistler, Brown Gerygone, White-throated Treecreeper, Brush Turkey, Torresian Crow, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-browed Scrubwren, Lewinís Honeyeater, Grey Fantail; Furries: Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Mountain Brushtail, Platypus, Long-nosed Bandicoot.

Bird of the day: DARTER. Very impressive views of a Duck-billed Darter swimming underneath the platypus viewing platform.


11th June: Mount Morgan

So where are we now? At the very cheap and, as you can imagine, quiet, Pinnochio Van Park in Mount Morgan. The police have just been round to visit one of the few other residents and the owner has finally ceased his large-scale lawn mowing operation. We dropped down out of the clouds this morning and made a fairly major push south. We lunched on a ridiculously huge picnic table at the Lionís Park in Marlborough (my feet couldnít touch the ground from the bench). The local swimming pool sternly frowned upon "topless or nude bathing, open wounds or urinating in the pool", which totally ruled it out as an option. South of Marlborough the countryside became very luxuriant with healthy green grassland heavy with white seed heads. We skirted the pleasant looking Rockhampton and then climbed up a pass to reach Mount Morgan, mining town. Apparently they have a very big hole here - so big that it is in the Guinness Book of Records. Iím glad that we have come.

Bird of the day: GREY GOSHAWK. A grey shadow in the mists of Eungella this morning.


12th June: Auburn River N.P.

See that little lump over there? Thatís a Herbertís Rock-wallaby. He is our camp companion tonight in an otherwise deserted , undeveloped and quite delightful campground just 40km from Mundubberra (home of the Big Mandarin). We are by the edge of a reasonable gorge and surrounded by Bottle Trees and Ironbarks. The country definitely changed again today. Gone are all traces of tropical fruit stalls and sugar cane, and in their place are roadside pumpkins and extensive cow pastures. We called in at Cania Gorge on our way south where a small colony of Common Bent-wing Bats lived in a small cave on the hillside. Now itís getting kind of chilly. We know that nobody has been here recently because we had to move a small tree off the road to get in. Once again, boldly going where no Corolla has gone before...

Reasonable gorge birds: Pied / Grey Butcherbird, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Weebill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Scarlet Honeyeater, Boobook Owl, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Bar-shouldered Dove, Spotted / Striated Pardalote, White-throated Scrubwren; Furry: House Mouse.

Bird of the day: WHITE-EARED HONEYEATER. A blast from the past - we must be heading south.


13th June: Peach Trees State Forest

Wow. This is a gigantic camping area. We have just arrived and I estimate that it is fully 500m long and has been generously adorned by Queensland DPI with Black-striped Wallabies. The facilities are excellent and there are neatly stacked piles of firewood, if these are the kinds of things that turn you on when you go camping. The frogs are calling loudly from the creek and this plastic mug of port is going down very nicely. Beautiful sunrise at Auburn River this morning and we had a healthy scramble on the gorge before packing up and steering the ship south again. We took some more backroads and ended up at the now infamous peanut (or should that be salmonella) capital of Australia, Kingaroy. But did you know that Kingaroy is also the "baked bean capital" of Australia? And did you know that Australians consume 6500 tonnes of baked beans every year? Frightening. So we have done a dangerous thing and gained some height again, and it looks as if we have our just desserts - the rain is coming on again. Oh sod it - cheers!

Peach birds: Jacky Winter, Eastern Whipbird, Satin Bowerbird, Wonga Pigeon, Australian King-Parrot, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Striated Thornbill, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Australian Wood Duck, Rainbow Lorikeet, Brown Thornbill, Brown Gerygone, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Noisy Miner, Welcome Swallow; Furries: Echidna, Red Deer.

Bird of the day: BELL MINER. An active colony performed the normal carillon service. I am just stunned by the inability of my ears to accurately locate a calling Bell Miner. On my first visit to NSW, each time we heard them I always got out and inspected the car because I thought weíd got something stuck in the wheel. But enough of my paranoias...


14th June: Boolumba Creek

Now that the night has fallen, Boolumba Creek has taken on a rather more sinister atmosphere as it is extremely dark tonight and there is a lot of rustling in the bushes. But our camp is actually quite idyllic - it is a 30m square sheltered clearing in the rainforest with a view (well there was a view) across the creek at a curtain of tall forest. We could be miles from anywhere. Well I suppose we are really. Iíve flashed the torch around a bit and found some big furry Mountain Brushtails. There is a little Melomys scampering around the tent. Actually, not so little. We had a nice stroll in Peach Trees Forest this morning and saw plenty possible evidence of Black-breasted Button-quails, but no birds. The drive to Boolumba was quite spectacular as we criss-crossed creeks and ridges on the edge of Conundale National Park. Dry schlerophyll forest abutted rainforest with huge palms and hoop pines. The ascents and descents were of a new severity for the Corolla and first gear got more use than normal. I have a feeling that we are thrashing this poor car to bits. Itís for sale when we get back to Adelaide by the way. Interested?

Boolumba Birds: Rose Robin, Green Catbird; Furries: Long-nosed Bandicoot, Mountain Brushtail, Black-striped Wallaby, Fawn-footed Melomys.

Bird of the day: GLOSSY BLACK COCKATOO. Very elegant birds perched high above our camp at Boolumba. Why do all Black Cockatoos have beautifully haunting whistles, lonely cries from the wilderness, whereas White Cockatoos sound like victims of torture?

15th June: Brisbane (12km north)

Whatís this big flat thing above our heads? A roof! The first non-camping night since Adelaide. A little bit of luxury partly because it has pissed all day, but more because Scotland and England clash in the European Soccer Championship tonight. It turns out that you have to get close to Brisbane to get good SBS reception, so here we are, in a cabin somewhere in the Brisbane area. I canít claim it has been our best day. It started badly as overnight our "idyllic camp" became a swimming pool, and we only just made it out of the state forest by crossing a rapidly rising river. I guess the garlic cheese at Kenilworth counted for something. Quite a lot in fact - you should smell the eski now!

Bird of the day: TAWNY FROGMOUTH. Bizarre birds. Utterly bizarre. Spotlit sitting on a gate at camp during the night.


16th June: Manorina Bush Camp (20km west of Brisbane)

This place kind of sounds more rustic than it actually is. The reality is a sea of mud next to a busy road in Brisbane Forest Park, infested by not so feral Peafowl from the farm across the road. But it is good to get back to nature after that real bed last night, and good to be made to appreciate the important things in life again after that big bubbly child Gazza scored such a cheeky goal just seconds after McAllister ballooned from the penalty spot last night. We took a little drive back out to Glasshouse Mountains, which were quite nice in a sort of picture postcard type way. We seemed to drive a hideous distance today for reasons which are not entirely clear. I think we underestimated the twists and turns of the roads in the Forest Park. Anyway, I canít believe we have shelled out $5 for this camp - never mind. Peafowl for breakfast...

Bird of the day: EASTERN WHIPBIRD. They are calling away behind me at the moment. Letsí face it - it is a pretty special noise isnít it?



17th June: Green Mountains/OíReillyís (Lamington N.P.)

Brrr... it is not so warm here either. Weíre camped in the bushes in exactly the same place that I camped three and a half years ago on my first visit to this wonderful place. But this time it is a little bit different. The sunshine, scent of blossom, decorated hats of Crimson Rosellas and Australian King-Parrots, and breakfast with Regent Bowerbirds has been replaced by thick cloud, damp sticky mud and a couple of scraggly Brush Turkeys. After some stocktaking in suburban Brisbane we headed directly here under a brilliantly blue sky but, as has become the norm, as soon as we tried to gain altitude and wind our way up the hill to OíReillyís, the heavens opened and we actually had to pull off the road just short of the entrance, such was the intensity of the downpour. It is some compensation however to discover that the hardy souls who have been here for the previous week are all hailing today as a clear change for the better. Some of them even managed to get out for a walk this morning apparently. So it is mushrooms for dinner again. It has been mushrooms for a number of nights now - ever since we stopped at a mushroom farm and I was conned into buying 2kg of them. Theyíre good for you arenít they? I donít think the Brush Turkey is that impressed mind you...

Green birds: Lewinís Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Whipbird, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Eastern Spinebill, Crimson Rosella, Tree Martin, Striated Thornbill, White-throated Treecreeper.

Bird of the day: RUSSET-TAILED THRUSH. This one only qualifies as a proper twitch as the splitters are currently holding out against the lumpers. It was good to discover that there was more to the dawn chorus of Manorina Bush Camp than wailing Peafowl.




18th June: Green Mountains/OíReillyís (Lamington N.P.)

A bit of a bizarre day. Well, they are all bizarre in their own little way, but this one was particularly bizarre. I am now officially slightly lighter than I was this time yesterday. This is because a considerable section of one my teeth fell out during lunch. It just dropped out into my lap. This is the kind of thing that happens to us explorers. We sacrifice everything, career, money and sometimes pay the ultimate price. Itís worth it though. Anyway, I have no idea what the resident camp Red-necked Pademelon made of it all. We have also adopted a White-browed Scrubwren, who seems to have taken a shiner to the Corollaís wing mirror. Can we take him home? Hmm.. Iím sure there will be some officious rule against that kind of behaviour... Some good hiking today, and wait for it, in sunshine! And a major pantomime on the Picnic Rock Trail as I pursued an Albertís Lyrebird call from half way down the track, while Claire patiently waited at the top of the track and reported seeing a "large brown bird" walking across in front of her. Very fortunately for Claire we saw another large brown bird, which helped to make the evening conversation more civil than it might otherwise have been. In fact the lyrebirds seemed very plentiful and in contrast to my last visit: this time they were singing loudly and gloriously all day. Now it is getting cool again which probably makes it time for bed. Lamington has proved, as always, to be a very fine spot.

More green birds: Regent / Satin Bowerbird, Wonga Pigeon, Yellow-throated / Large-billed Scrubwren, Bassian Thrush, Logrunner, Green Catbird, Australian King-Parrot, Variegated Fairy-wren, Spotted Pardalote, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Paradise Riflebird, Crested Shrike-tit, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo; Furries: Mountain Brushtail, Common Ringtail, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Red-necked Pademelon.

Bird of the day: ALBERTíS LYREBIRD. A large brown bird. With a nice tail.


19th June: Cadell Forest

This is kind of fun because I donít think I actually know where we are at the moment. We have been driving through State Forest not far from Mount Warning and have just descended a fairly muddy and worryingly steep track to arrive at a large deserted bush camping area. The clearing is surrounded by tall Pinus Radiata and some mixed eucalypt forest which makes the surrounding topography almost impossible to determine. Apart from the added problem that it is now almost pitch dark that is. So hopefully all will become a bit clearer in the morning! We crossed the New South Wales border earlier today and plummeted down into a steep valley whose slopes were almost exclusively being used for banana plantations. The surrounding geology was very interesting and the views as we went over the pass were quite excellent. I have some hot news from the afternoon navigator. We think we are at Mebbin Recreation Area. Oh well - I feel a whole lot better already.

Donít know where birds: Noisy Miner, Grey Butcherbird, Lewinís Honeyeater, Pale-yellow Robin, Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Whipbird, White-headed Pigeon, Pied Currawong, Brown Thornbill; Furry: Red-necked Pademelon.

Bird of the day: SOOTY OWL. An amazingly unexpected treat. Two birds emerged at dusk and flew directly overhead. They called all evening in a mixture of bizarre silvery twitterings and the classic "falling bomb" . We didnít get much of a look at them, but we had a wonderful listen.


20th June: New England N.P.

Well, Mount Warning may be the first part of the Australian mainland to catch the morning sun, but it takes several hours for it to filter through to the Mebbin Recreation Area. Blimey. I think we are having a bit of trouble acclimatising at the moment! Todayís route planning was more on the artistic side rather than the practical, but it has now taken us to a land of snow gums and Eastern Grey Kangaroos. I got out of the car to find a suitable tent spot and to greet the only other camp occupants, but they seemed to stare at me as if I had just beamed down another world. The first thing that I noticed was how overdressed they were in their thick wool beanies, lined jackets and thermal tops. The second thing that I noticed was that it was bloody freezing and that I was clad only in shorts and a t-shirt. They smiled accommodatingly and returned with some urgency to their firewood gathering exercise, probably thinking "more Queenslanders". So now we are huddled around a campfire that it would be generous to describe as "pathetic" and we are listening to a little Sugar Glider yipping in a tree next to the creek. Yip to you too.

English birds: Brown Thornbill, Crimson / Eastern Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, Pied Currawong, Lewinís Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, White-browed Scrubwren, Superb Lyrebird; Furries: Common Brushtail, Sugar Glider, Common Wallaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo.

Bird of the day: WHITE-HEADED PIGEON. The soothing call of Mebbin Recreation Area as we sat patiently trying to dry the heavy condensation from the tent.


21st June: Scone

Fish, chips and a pint of Tooheyís Old. Ha- gourmet or what? Have you ever been to Scone? I think we have just "done" it. It is not quite as pretty as the sight that greeted us early this morning from Point Lookout in New England National Park. The land just stops and suddenly you gaze out over a 1200m drop, over the escarpment and out to the mists rising over the Pacific Ocean. It really did seem like the kind of view that you normally only get from an aircraft as it pulls away from the airport and you think "is everything really that small?" Dramatic stuff for breakfast time. We made a little walk into the Antarctic beech forests, but away from the view it became less easy to take our minds off the fact that the ends of our fingers were about to snap off from frostbite. So we packed up (good exercise for the circulation) and ploughed south once more, skirting around Armidale, but directly through the Uralla Bakery. As the drive proceeded south it seemed as if someone had been gradually spray painting all the nice green grassland with a rather dull shade of yellow paint, and the concerted effort of generations had obviously done their best to rid the fields of that old aggressive weed, the tree. Not in such poor supply were roadworks. Queensland and New South Wales must employ a significant percentage of the Worldís signmen. It is good to see a job that machinery has not yet supplanted. And here is a statistic for you - today we saw, for the first time since Adelaide, a living Bunny. Amazing. It is. Itís amazing.

Scone bird: Noisy Friarbird.

Bird of the day: SUPERB LYREBIRD. A very close encounter with one of the many calling at and below Point Lookout. Another large brown bird with a nice tail.


22nd June: Dunnís Swamp (Wollemi N.P.)

A ghostly camp. This has much to do with the silver barked trees, the pale wet rock and the fact that we have a bit of a moon on the go tonight. The most sexy thing about this place is that there are rather many Greater Gliders close to camp - quite improbable looking animals that look rather like small arboreal sheep. The drive here was reasonably unmemorable except perhaps for The Drip. When you see a hand painted sign pointing to "The Drip" you kind of have to go. No really, you do - Iím sure you would. And it proved to be, quite as billed, a drip. A series of handmade signs guided us down a little creek, over a small stream, around a rock face and ended up at a steep concave cliff, lined with dark green moss and indeed dripping. Dripping rather a lot in fact. My only bone of contention is that maybe it should be called "The Drips", but perhaps in drier times there is only one. I think Iím rambling again. But I do like these Greater Gliders. An even greater glider has just flown high overhead, blinking red in the night and reminding us that civilisation is getting ominously close again.

Swamp birds: Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Little Black Cormorant, Brown / Striated Thornbill, Crimson Rosella, Superb Lyrebird, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Masked Lapwing, Magpie; Furries: Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Red-necked Wallaby, Greater Glider.

Bird of the day: RED-BROWED TREECREEPER. Theyíre bloodshot eyes always make them look a little hungover to me, or maybe a little hungunder. Hmm. Iím not sure that behavioural pun really worked, did it?


23rd June: Blackheath

Strange places I have pitched a tent, number something quite large. We are the sole occupants of a tiny council reserve on the Blackheath to Megalong Road in the Blue Mountains. It lies in a neat little bowl in the midst of some dark forest and fortunately has a covered picnic table under which we are trying desperately to cook up dinner (under the cover, not the table..). Another atrociously wet and windy day which made for a very slippery and greasy drive out of Wollemi and into the Capertee Valley. At least we were treated to a number of spectacular rainbows on our way through, not the least of which was one which glowed high above the Capertee escarpment. Not a day for hunting for Capertee things such as Plum-headed Finches though. I actually think we are rather lucky to have found this camp as it is as good a place as any to ride out the wild weather tonight. I might have to gently negotiate with the large Feral Cat that is trying to clean the bins out though. I am confident that I have the weaponry to win my case.

Little bowl birds: Superb Lyrebird, White-naped Honeyeater, Magpie, Pied Currawong, Striated Thornbill, Eastern Yellow Robin.

Bird of the day: GANG-GANG COCKATOO. Creeeee-aaaaak. Just up there - see them?


24th June: Cobbity

So this is living it up again. Iím in the process of rediscovering that there are some advantages to living in big square stone boxes rather than portable plastic bags. We are within the walls of Jude and Malcís house near Camden, the ancestral home of Australiaís first rampant "Liberal" (in the modern sense of the word) John Macarthur. Malc and Jude have an amazing garden and a nice swimming pool from which the diligent floater can notch up to thirty species. This is birding at its terrific best. Unfortunately the reason for the attraction of their garden to birds is probably the fact that they have the only "sizeable" patch of bush in the surrounding sea of farmland. They even have a pair of Eastern Whipbirds. I canít imagine another pair hopping through the surrounding fields of horses to get here, so this may be an example of island biogeography at its scariest level of vulnerability. We have had a sunny day and obtained picture postcard views of the Three Sisters from Echo Point. And a wicked coffee from a ponsy coffee shop in Leuca. But being within a hop and a skip from Sydney, it now feels mentally as if we have finished our trip. After all, there are only 2000km to go now back to Adelaide. Peanuts.

Swimming pool birds: Red-browed Finch, Eastern Whipbird, Crested Shrike-tit, Double-barred Finch, Silvereye, Bell Miner.

Bird of the day: ROCK WARBLER. A pair at Echo point that hopped into the ladiesí toilets. I had to reluctantly leave them there before anyone became too suspicious of my loitering.


25th June: Canberra

Go west young Corolla. Weíre staying with friends in Canberra and enjoying one of these confusing "hello, goodbye, see you sometime, some continent, yes the World is small place isnít it" type sessions. Thereís not that much to say about a trip from Sydney to Canberra. I must confess though that I quite like Canberra. I know that is rather unconventional, but I really wouldnít mind spending more than 24 hours there sometime. Iím serious!

Bird of the day: RED-WHISKERED BULBUL. What - a feral?? Iím sorry. I can explain. When I was a very little chap and we used to go on holidays to Aberdeen, they had a fantastic aviary at Camperdown Park which had, among other things, Red-whiskered Bulbuls. I used to love staring at them and when I discovered that Australia had feral ones I was actually quite excited about seeing one. Itís a true story! But I knew I wouldnít convince you.


26th June: Chiltern State Forest

Back in the bush at one of my favourite places in Australia, and pitched in the moonlight next to the romantically named Cyanide Dam. And all around is that lovely mixed forest of Ironbark, Red and Grey Box, among other things. I donít think Box is a good name for a tree by the way. Just my humble opinion. Chiltern is also a convenient first night stop on the slog west from Canberra. Well it is if you have a Corolla., maybe other cars would make it to Bordertown. The forecast high today was eight degrees, so weíll not be skinny dipping in Cyanide Dam. For several reasons of course. We rolled through many small and fairly forgettable towns, including one that claimed to be a "Premium Driver Reviver Town". And presumably because the local fathers doubted that passing drivers would automatically appreciate this fact, they were in the process of installing a complete submarine at the side of the highway. I have to confess that I for one was rudely awakened from my slumber by this sight...

Bird of the day: PIED CURRAWONG. There are more Currawongs than people in Gundagai. Fact.


27th June: Yea

Oh yea. Emm.. yea. We are 70km north of Melbourne. If this is the last daily entry and this journal is being used to piece together our last days then that is because the extremely swollen Yea river has burst its banks and probably swept us away in the night. The owner of the campground seems rather unusual (but who isnít?) and felt it necessary to apologise for his smell as he had allegedly just tipped aftershave all down his woollen jumper. This was a nice explanation, but I have to say that I rather thought he smelled of mice. Anyway, we had an enjoyable morning at Chiltern. It turned out that the only other camper was Tony Marsh, a "friend" of Chiltern who was down to check out Glider nesting boxes in the park. Well, I had never seen a Squirrel Glider and Tony had never seen a Regent Honeyeater , so we slapped each other on the back like old mates and set to work. Tony managed to persuade me that the first lump of grey fluff that bolted out of a box and up the tree was indeed a Squirrel Glider and then he quite excelled by finding a Feathertail Glider in his next box. It looked like a tiny mouse with a quill stuck in a rather odd part of its anatomy. And of course the deal was sealed handsomely when we found three Regent Honeyeaters not far from Rileyís Road. So everyone was happy.

Cyanide birds: Regent / Black-chinned / White-naped / Fuscous / Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Scarlet / Flame Robin, Peregrine Falcon, Swift Parrot, Crested Shrike-Tit, Jacky Winter, Restless Flycatcher, Australian Raven, Mistletoebird.

Bird of the day: TURQUOISE PARROT. A flock of some 50 birds glowed yellow and blue in the morning light as they rose from the ground each time a Noisy Miner swooped them. Third time lucky at Chiltern for me for this one.


28th June: Brisbane Ranges

We are camped at a bend in the road next to a dead Koala. Give us a break - we didnít know it was there did we? We were hoping to connect with some Melbourne friends but it hasnít quite worked out, so itís the dead Koala or nothing. We woke still on dry land, but how securely so wasnít immediately evident because Yea was shrouded in dense fog. Had a quick morning look at Kinglake National Park, where the Lyrebirds were in particularly good voice and the Swamp Wallabies grazed by the roadside. It seemed to take hours to circumnavigate Melbourne by a series of remote farm tracks and twisty narrow roads. Now it is Kookaburra OíClock which means lights out for us. And of course for the Koala.

Liarbirds (not all seen in Kinglake, but formed the repertoire of one Superb Lyrebirdí call): Laughing Kookaburra, Crimson Rosella, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Pied Currawong, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Treecreeper (sp); Furries: Swamp Wallaby, Koala.

Bird of the day: CRIMSON ROSELLA. We were savaged by them at lunchtime in Kinglake, much to Claireís displeasure. It helped to make up for their placidity at OíReillyís.


29th June: Little Desert N.P.

Back in something resembling my adopted natural habitat: Mallee, low heath, Red Gums. Iíve got a nostalgic lump at the back of my throat because I know that the next camp in this kind of country, and indeed in this whole goddamn great country, may be a little while in coming. Or maybe it is just a remnant bit of carrot from tonightís dinner. Anyway, the drive through south-western Victoria was, as always, a little bit tedious as we did not have time to take the coast. Why do they insist on planting these squat yellow pine trees as windbreaks? We shot past the Grampians, because our time has unfortunately become a bit short for any further self-indulgent little diversions. Except for this one of course.

Little birds: Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Hooded / Scarlet Robin, Shy Heathwren, Yellow-rumped Pardalote, Southern Scrub-robin, Weebill, Boobook, Brown-headed / White-fronted / White-plumed / New Holland Honeyeater, Painted Button-quail, Scarlet Robin, Brown Treecreeper, Grey Currawong, Magpie, Laughing Kookaburra, Galah, Jacky Winter, Grey Shrike-thrush; Furries: Western Grey Kangaroo, Brown Hare.

Bird of the day: TAWNY-CROWNED HONEYEATER. My absolute favourite crooner from the mallee heath (unless thereís a Crested Bellbird around). Their dawn chorus would make a woodwind ensemble chew their instruments in frustration.


30th June: Adelaide

A beautiful mallee morning, but they all are. We had a farewell hike in the heath and left Little Desert reluctantly. Trundled homewards and were joyfully embraced and welcomed back into the bosom of South Australia by a worn painted sign "Do not bring disease into South Australia". Lunched at Bool Lagoon, which was dry. But nearby Hackís Lagoon was suitably infested with birds, both fowl and fair. And so, after a last obligatory junk food binge at Tailem Bend, the twinkling lights of fair Adelaide sparkled in the distance from the top of the freeway, some 16000kms since we last clapped eyes on them. Let me tell you with new found wisdom that Australia is a very, very, very big place. And that was only half of it.

Hack birds: Musk / Black Duck, Grey Teal, Australasian Shoveler, Hardhead, Cape Barren Goose, Magpie Goose, Black Swan, Purple Swamphen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Royal Spoonbill, Golden-headed Cisticola, White-fronted Chat, Swamp Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite.

Bird of the Day: My EXTRA PAIR OF EYES.



LISTS: No outing of any sort is complete without some lists, so there follows two complete lists of birds and mammals seen on the Grand Ten Weeks Out. Bird nomenclature follows the current RAOU checklist (see L. Christidis and W.E. Boles, The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories, RAOU Monograph 2. RAOU, Melbourne, 1994). Mammals are rather more chaotically assigned a name (but see for example L. Cronin, Key Guide to Australian Mammals, Reed, Australia, 1991, for most species, with the notable exception of the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby complex). As to whether these lists mean anything, are any use to anyone, or are in the least bit interesting... well that is of course an entirely different matter...



Bird List

Southern Cassowary

Nankeen Night Heron

Collared Sparrowhawk


Glossy Ibis

Grey Goshawk

Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Australian White Ibis

Spotted Harrier

Australian Brush-turkey

Straw-necked Ibis

Swamp Harrier

Brown Quail

Royal Spoonbill

Square-tailed Kite

Painted Button-quail

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Black Falcon

Australian Pelican

Black-necked Stork

Peregrine Falcon

Brown Booby


Australian Hobby


Sarus Crane

Grey Falcon

Pied Cormorant

Australian Bustard

Brown Falcon

Little Pied Cormorant

Ruddy Turnstone

Nankeen Kestrel

Great Cormorant

Eastern Curlew

Banded Fruit-Dove

Little Black Cormorant


Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove

Great Crested Grebe

Grey-tailed Tattler

Wompoo Fruit-Dove

Hoary-headed Grebe

Terek Sandpiper

Pied Imperial-Pigeon

Australian Grebe

Bar-tailed Godwit

Topknot Pigeon

Magpie Goose

Red Knot

White-headed Pigeon

Black Swan

Great Knot

Rock Dove

Cape Barren Goose


Spotted Turtle-Dove

Wandering Whistling-Duck

Australian Pratincole

Brown Cuckoo-dove

Plumed Whistling-Duck

Comb-crested Jacana

Peaceful Dove

Australian Shelduck

Bush Stone-curlew

Diamond Dove

Radjah Shelduck

Beach Stone-curlew

Bar-shouldered Dove

Pacific Black Duck

Pied Oystercatcher

Emerald Dove

Grey Teal

Sooty Oystercatcher

Common Bronzewing

Australasian Shoveler

Masked Lapwing

Crested Pigeon


Red-kneed Dotterel

Partridge Pigeon

Australian Wood Duck

Red-capped Plover

Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon

Green Pygmy-goose

Black-fronted Dotterel

Spinifex Pigeon

Musk Duck

Black-winged Stilt

Wonga Pigeon

Red-necked Crake

Silver Gull

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

White-browed Crake

Whiskered Tern

Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Black-tailed Native-hen

Caspian Tern

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Dusky Moorhen

Gull-billed Tern

Gang-gang Cockatoo

Purple Swamphen

Crested Tern


Eurasian Coot

Pacific Baza

Long-billed Corella

Great-billed Heron

Black-shouldered Kite

Little Corella

White-necked Heron


Major Mitchellís Cockatoo

Pied Heron

Black-breasted Buzzard

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

White-faced Heron

Black Kite

Rainbow Lorikeet

Cattle Egret

Whistling Kite

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Great Egret

Brahminy Kite

Varied Lorikeet

Little Egret

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Musk Lorikeet

Intermediate Egret

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Purple-crowned Lorikeet

Eastern Reef Egret

Little Eagle

Little Lorikeet

Striated Heron

Brown Goshawk

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot


Australian King-Parrot

Variegated Fairy-wren

Varied Honeyeater

Red-winged Parrot

Lovely Fairy-wren

Mangrove Honeyeater


White-winged Fairy-wren

White-gaped Honeyeater


Red-backed Fairy-wren

Yellow Honeyeater

Swift Parrot

Spotted Pardalote

White-eared Honeyeater

Crimson Rosella

Red-browed Pardalote

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Eastern Rosella

Striated Pardalote

Grey-headed Honeyeater

Pale-headed Rosella

Rock Warbler

Yellow-tinted Honeyeater

Norther Rosella


Fuscous Honeyeater

Australian Ringneck

Atherton Scrubwren

Grey-fronted Honeyeater

Red-rumped Parrot

Large-billed Scrubwren

White-plumed Honeyeater

Mulga Parrot

White-browed Scrubwren

Black-chinned Honeyeater

Turquoise Parrot

Yellow-throated Scrubwren

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Pallied Cuckoo

Shy Heathwren

White-throated Honeyeater

Brush Cuckoo


White-naped Honeyeater

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

White-throated Gerygone

White-fronted Honeyeater

Horsfieldís Bronze-Cuckoo

Fairy Gerygone

New Holland Honeyeater

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo

Green-backed Gerygone

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater

Little Bronze-Cuckoo

Brown Gerygone

Brown Honeyeater

Gouldís Bronze-Cuckoo

Mangrove Gerygone

Bar-breasted Honeyeater

Channel-billed Cuckoo

Large-billed Gerygone

Brown-backed Honeyeater

Pheasant Coucal

Mountain Thornbill

Rufous-banded Honeyeater

Southern Boobook

Brown Thornbill

Rufous-throated Honeyeater

Barking Owl

Inland Thornbill

Eastern Spinebill

Sooty Owl

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill

Dusky Honeyeater

Tawny Frogmouth

Striated Thornbill

Red-headed Honeyeater

Spotted Nightjar

Buff-rumped Thornbill

Scarlet Honeyeater

Australian Owlet-nightjar

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Banded Honeyeater

White-rumped Swiftlet

Southern Whiteface

Crimson Chat

Azure Kingfisher

Red Wattlebird

White-fronted Chat

Little Kingfisher

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater


Laughing Kookaburra

Helmeted Friarbird


Blue-winged Kookaburra

Silver-crowned Friarbird

Eastern Whipbird

Forest Kingfisher

Noisy Friarbird

Chiming Wedgebill

Red-backed Kingfisher

Little Friarbird

Cinnamon Quail-thrush

Sacred Kingfisher

Regent Honeyeater

Grey-crowned Babbler

Rainbow Bee-eater

Blue-faced Honeyeater

White-browed Babbler

Noisy Pitta

Macleayís Honeyeater

Rose Robin

Rainbow Pitta

Bell Miner

Flame Robin

Albertís Lyrebird

Noisy Miner

Scarlet Robin

Superb Lyrebird

Yellow-throated Miner

Red-capped Robin

Varied Sitella

Lewinís Honeyeater

Hooded Robin

White-throated Treecreeper

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater

Eastern Yellow Robin

Red-browed Treecreeper

Graceful Honeyeater

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher

Brown Treecreeper

White-lined Honeyeater

Jacky Winter

Black-tailed Treecreeper

Bridled Honeyeater

Southern Scrub-robin

Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Grey-headed Robin

Superb Fairy-wren

Singing Honeyeater

Pale-yellow Robin


White-browed Robin

Satin Bowerbird

Brown Songlark

Crested Shrike-tit

Regent Bowerbird

Clamorous Reed-warbler

Crested Bellbird

Spotted Bowerbird


Little Shrike-thrush

Western Bowerbird

Golden-headed Cisticola

Bowerís Shrike-thrush

Great Bowerbird

Tawny Grassbird

Sandstone Shrike-thrush

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

House Sparrow

Grey Shrike-thrush

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike

European Goldfinch

Golden Whistler

Ground Cuckoo-shrike

Double-barred Finch

Grey Whistler

White-winged Triller

Zebra Finch

Rufous Whistler

Varied Triller

Long-tailed Finch

Northern Fantail

White-breasted Woodswallow

Masked Finch

Grey Fantail

White-browed Woodswallow

Black-throated Finch

Mangrove Grey Fantail

Black-faced Woodswallow

Crimson Finch

Rufous Fantail

Dusky Woodswallow

Red-browed Finch

Willie Wagtail

Little Woodswallow

Star Finch

Broad-billed Flycatcher

Black Butcherbird

Diamond Firetail

Leaden Flycatcher

Grey Butcherbird

Painted Finch

Shining Flycatcher

Pied Butcherbird

Pictorella Mannikin

Restless Flycatcher

Australian Magpie

Nutmeg Mannikin

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Pied Currawong

Yellow-rumped Mannikin

Spectacled Monarch

Grey Currawong

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin

Pied Monarch

Australian Raven

Gouldian Finch

White-eared Monarch

Little Raven

Yellow-bellied Sunbird


Little Crow


Spangled Drongo

Torresian Crow


Yellow Oriole

White-winged Chough

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Olive-backed Oriole


Bassian Thrush


White-backed Swallow

Russet-tailed Thrush

Paradise Riflebird

Welcome Swallow

Common Blackbird

Victoriaís Riflebird

Tree Martin

Metallic Starling

Spotted Catbird

Fairy Martin

Common Starling

Green Catbird

Richardís Pipit

Common Myna


Mammal List


Herbertís Rock-wallaby

Common Bent-wing Bat

Short-beaked Echidna

Red-legged Pademelon

White-tailed Rat

Northern Brown Bandicoot

Red-necked Pademelon

Fawn-footed Melomys

Long-nosed Bandicoot

* Spectacled Hare-wallaby

Western Chestnut Mouse


Black-striped Wallaby

House Mouse

Common Ringtail Possum

Red-necked Wallaby

Brown Hare

Green Ringtail Possum

Agile Wallaby


Common Brushtail Possum

Eastern Grey Kangaroo


Mountain Brushtail Possum

Western Grey Kangaroo

* Fox

Greater Glider

Common Wallaroo

Feral Cat

Squirrel Glider

Antelopine Wallaroo

Feral Horse

Sugar Glider

Red Kangaroo

Feral Donkey

Feathertail Glider

Swamp Wallaby

Feral Pig

Musky Rat-kangaroo

Black Flying-fox

Red Deer

Mareeba Rock-wallaby

Spectacled Flying-fox

* denotes roadkill only


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