Day 1: Arrival in Cairns
Our Eastern Australia birding tour begins today. You can arrive anytime today.
Day 2: Around Cairns
We begin our tour by spending the day at local birding locations including the Cairns Esplanade and adjacent mangroves, Centenary Lakes and Botanic Gardens. The Esplanade is a hotspot for waders on their southerly migration. Likely species include Red-capped Plover, Terek & Common Sandpipers, Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Beach Stone Curlew, Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Masked Lapwing, Australian Pelican, Royal Spoonbill, Eastern Great, Intermediate, Little and Eastern Reef Egrets, Striated Heron, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Gull-billed Tern, Silver Gull, Torresian Kingfisher, Green Oriole, Rainbow Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Peaceful Dove, Mangrove Robin, and Yellow and Varied Honeyeaters.
Centenary Lakes and the adjacent Botanic Gardens provide habitat for rainforest, fresh water and salt water wetlands. Species expected include Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Australian Brush-turkey, Pacific Black Duck, Peaceful Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Frogmouth, Australian Swiftlet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black Butcherbird, Yellow-spotted and Brown Honeyeaters, Hornbill Friarbird, Varied Triller, Australasian Figbird, White-breasted Woodswallow, Spangled Drongo, Leaden Flycatcher, Magpie-lark, Metallic Starling and Olive-backed Sunbird. An after-dinner walk along the Esplanade provides a good opportunity to see Bush Stone Curlews. Overnight Cairns.
Day 3: The Great Barrier Reef
Today we take a Great Barrier Reef cruise from the Cairns wharf. We board our comfortable vessel, the Ocean Spirit, at 8.00am for a relaxing two-hour cruise out to Michaelmas Cay, a true coral cay and bird sanctuary located 40km north-east of Cairns, part of the 2000 km long Great Barrier Reef. Thousands of ground-nesting seabirds occur here: Sooty and Crested Terns, Brown Noddy, Silver Gull, Brown Booby and Greater Frigatebird, with chances of rarer terns and boobies. There will be opportunities for a refreshing dip or snorkel in these beautiful waters. Overnight Cairns.
Day 4: Daintree River Cruise and transfer to Port Douglas
Our destination today is the Daintree River, where we take a pleasant boat cruise through farmland and rainforest on the look-out for Great-billed Heron, several kingfishers including Little, White-rumped Swiftlet, Large-billed Gerygone, Spectacled Monarch, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Black-necked Stork and Green Oriole, and saltwater crocodile. We then go to the end of Stewart Creek Road to look for wading birds including spoonbills, Spectacled Monarch, and several fairy-wrens, honeyeaters and cuckoo-shrikes. Afterwards, we drive to the coast to our accommodation in Port Douglas where we stay for two nights.
Day 5: Mount Lewis, Julatten and McDougall Road
Port Douglas is a convenient location for birding with easy access to probably a greater range of habitats than any other location in Australia. Within an hour drive it is possible to visit mountain rainforest, wetlands, grassland, Eucalyptus woodlands and tropical savannah. In small patches of rainforest around Julatten are Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Emerald Dove, Noisy Pitta, Red-necked Crake, Buff-banded Rail, Black-faced Monarch, Red-browed Finch and an array of honeyeaters including Blue-faced, McLeay’s and Graceful Honeyeaters, along with many other species. The rainforest at Mount Lewis is home to most of the wet tropics endemics including Atherton Scrubwren, Fernwren, Mountain Thornbill, Bridled Honeyeater, Chowchilla and Tooth-billed Bowerbird. In the savanna, there are Australian Bustards, Red-winged Parrots, Tawny Frogmouth, Squatter Pigeon, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Pale-headed Rosella, Brown Treecreeper, and Great Bowerbird. Blue-faced Parrot Finch is high on most birders list for this area and time will be spent looking for this elusive species. Night in Port Douglas.
Days 6 and 7: Atherton Tablelands
The Atherton Tableland is a region of beautiful scenery with lakes and waterfalls, green pastures, open woodlands and scattered wetlands nestled in national parks and state forests, as well as Queensland’s highest mountains rising to over 1600m. Birding can be superb including Sarus Crane, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Forest Kingfisher, Pied Monarch, Chowchilla, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed and Spotted Catbirds and Victoria’s Riflebird. On our drive, we visit wetlands for Green and Cotton Pygmy-Geese and Brolga, and woodlands for Squatter Pigeon, Apostlebird, Great Bowerbird, Black-throated Finch, and the distinctive local race of Brown Treecreeper. We stay near Yungaburra, a National Trust village that has a platypus viewing platform. Two nights at Chamber's Wildlife Rainforest Lodge.
Day 8: Back to Cairns and Cairns Esplanade
We head back to Cairns, stopping at Davies Creek to look for Rufous Owl and White-browed Robin and Kuranda where we have a reasonable chance of seeing Southern Cassowary. Time and tide permitting, we will check the Esplanade and other locations for any species we might have missed on the first day and any new arrivals. Overnight Cairns.
Day 9: Transfer to Lamington National Park
We catch an early morning flight to Brisbane and drive to the Green Mountains in Lamington National Park. This park covers most of the spectacular Lamington Plateau, a geologically fascinating plateau with deep gorges and caves that drops into the caldera of an extinct volcano and is covered in temperate rainforest. A feature attraction is the amazing Albert’s Lyrebird, and we make a special attempt to find this incredible mimic. Other goodies include Logrunner, Green Catbird, Regent Bowerbird, Paradise Riflebird and Marbled Frogmouth among others. We stay two nights at O’Reilly’s Guesthouse.
Day 10: Lamington Park
We have a full day of birding in the area surrounding O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park.
Day 11: Transfer to Brisbane Airport and flight to Sydney
We spend the day transferring to Brisbane airport for an afternoon flight to Sydney. On arrival, we transfer to Kiama for two nights.
Day 12: Pelagic Trip
Today we have an all-day optional pelagic trip out of Kiama to the edge of the continental shelf. Beyond the shelf, the ocean floor drops abruptly to depths of more than 4000 m. We could encounter a plethora of seabirds – shearwaters including Flesh-footed, Fluttering, Short-tailed & Wedge-tailed, Pomarine Jaeger, Great-winged & Solander Petrels, Shy & Wandering Albatrosses, and much more.
Day 13: Barren Grounds
We visit coastal heathlands of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve for a chance at the critically endangered Eastern Bristlebird, as well as Powerful Owl, Superb Lyrebird, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Southern Emu-wren, Brush Wattlebird, Rockwarbler, Pilotbird and Ground Parrot. We then head inland to the Blue Mountains. Overnight in the Blue Mountains.
Days 14 and 15: Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley
The Blue Mountains feature some of most awe inspiring scenery in Eastern Australia, and some great birding too. From the tiny Spotted Pardalotes to the legendary Superb Lyrebird, and perhaps even the endangered Glossy Black-Cockatoo, our tour through the mountains will be breathtaking. We will also sample some of the local wetlands and lakes where in search of Blue-billed, Musk, and even Freckled Ducks. Australasian Shoveler, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, and a host of other waterbirds can be expected as well. But it is the Capertee Valley, one of New South Wales’ premier birding locales, that will really impress. The isolated valley is a mixture of open eucalyptus woodland and open grasslands, which are home to an fantastic diversity of birds as well as wallabies, wallaroos, kangaroos, and Eastern Wombat. The potential bird list for Capertee Valley is long and includes Little Lorikeet, Turquoise Parrot, Plum-headed Finch, Diamond Firetail, Pallid Cuckoo, Olive-backed Oriole, several Woodswallows, and Red-capped Robin. There’s a chance for the charismatic Crested Tit-Shrike, the cooperatively-breeding White-winged Chough, and the iconic Zebra Finch. The critically endangered Regent Honeyeater also occurs in the valley, and if luck is really on our side we may just see one. Overnights in Capertee.
Day 16: Transfer to Sydney
Today we spend time looking for species missed up to now, perhaps Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Swamphen, Wandering and Plumed Whistling-Ducks, or Fuscous, White-plumed and White-naped Honeyeaters. Overnight Sydney.
Day 17: International flight departs Sydney or transfer to Tasmania
Our Eastern Australia birding tour draws to a close and you will transfer to the airport for flights home or connections to our Tasmania tour.