Mae Ping ‘peckers’

Yesterday we drove north from our overnight stay at Li to Doi Inthanon, and our accommodation at the internationally renown ‘Mr Daeng’s’. The morning was spent in the woodlands of the Mae Ping National Park in a rather unproductive search for some of the areas specialities – mostly Woodpeckers. In a four hour search we only saw Grey-capped Pygmy and heard a couple of other species. Highlight of the mornings birding was this Ultramarine Flycatcher, a bit of a ‘belter’.


Bueng Borapet – Baer’s Pochard


Male Baer’s Pochard, Bueng Borapet, Thailand

It’s our first full day in Thailand and we spent the morning at Bueng Borapet – Thailand’s largest fresh water lake and swamp, looking for one of the world’s rarest duck. In a four hour boat trip around the lake we managed to locate just one male of this critically endanger species, which breeds, in small numbers, in eastern Russia and northern China. Numbers of this Aythay have declined dramatically in the past two decades and during a recent survey of it’s traditional wintering grounds, less than a hundred birds were found. This truly amazing sighting gets our Thailand trip off to a flying start!

Flight shot of Baer’s Pochard (foreground) showing under-wing detail, in comparison with the similar Ferruginous Duck 


Australian Wildlife Miscellany

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a nice mixture of Australian wildlife. Here are a few photos of some of the stuff we’ve seen on our travels in New South Wales and Victoria, starting with the mammals..

Tasmanian Pademelon




Bennett’s Wallaby – white form


One of the undoubted highlights was to come across a Platypus, swimming in a Tasmanian mountain stream, in the middle of the day! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to obtain anything other than a poor grab shot..


We only came across a couple of snakes, unfortunately. This is Lowland Copperhead – described in the text as ‘extremely venomous’!


Some of the fabulous birdlife, which probably didn’t get the attention it deserved whilst in the pursuit of my 500th species for Australia. This is the very eye-catching New Holland Honeyeater


Hooded Plover, a rarity – only found on the remote beaches of Victoria and Tasmania 


This wasn’t a ‘parrot trip’ – so this Blue-winged was a welcome bonus


Pink Robin, a bird of the dense rainforest


and to finish, a nice male Satin Flycatcher. Reasonably common but stunning nonetheless


We’re finishing our four week family holiday in Australia with a trip-list of just short of 260 species, including 15 Australian ‘Life ticks’. This is a great country for wildlife in general and birds in particular. What makes it particularly special is that practically everyone you meet is keen to share their knowledge – without their kind assistance I certainly wouldn’t have reached 500 species on this trip. With grateful thanks.. we’ll be back for more!

Next post will be from Thailand.

Van Diemen’s Endemic Clean-up

Last week we took a family holiday on Bruny Island, Tasmania. Interspersed with doing all the usual touristy things with the grand-kids, we were also in pursuit of the island state’s endemics. Traditionally, there were twelve resident endemic species: Tasmanian Native-hen, Green Rosella, Forty-spotted Pardalote, Scrubtit, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Tasmanian Thornbill, Yellow Wattlebird, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Black-headed Honeyeater, Dusky Robin and Black Currawong, which, together with a recent addition, Morepork – a split from Southern Boobook and two breeding endemics, Swift and Orange-bellied Parrot, formed our targets. In the six days we were on Bruny Island we cleaned-up on all but the Orange-bellied – which fortunately we’d seen previously on their wintering grounds in southern Victoria. Now sadly critically endangered and on the brink of extinction.

Easiest to see by far was the Native-hen, common in most pastures near water


Yellow-throated Honeyeater were readily located by their vocal habits


In the tree at the bottom of our holiday accommodation garden was a family party of Dusky Robin


Green Rosella were also regular over the garden


In the nearby adjacent woodland were Black-headed Honeyeater and Yellow Wattlebird



A trip to the coastal woodlands around Adventure Bay produced Tasmanian Thornbill and Strong-billed Honeyeater


IMG_1500 Forty-spotted Pardalote is regarded as one of the trickier species to find – it’s certainly one of the rarest. We eventually found a small group high up in the White Gums, in McCracken’s Gully. Record shot only


An expedition up into the rainforest was required for our next two targets – Tasmanian Scrubwren and the similar looking, but rather more elusive, Scrubtit



Amazingly, the last of the traditional twelve to fall was the Black Currawong


Morepork, the recent split from Southern Boobook, was found whilst attempting to relocate a Masked Owl, seen a few nights earlier. This, a screen shot of the back of my camera, texted by Dan to his mates in Newcastle, moments after our ‘tick-up’! 

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As if this ‘tick-fest’ wasn’t enough, we also saw several Tassie sub-species, which are potential splits for the future, including Masked Owl (not photographed) Brown Quail and Grey Shrike-thrush

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All this ticking-up has taken me well over the 500 target for my Australian List!

We’re now on Wilson’s Prom with my brother for a few days R&R before heading off to Thailand, to join up with Neil and Bob & Sue, for what I hope will be an intensive and rewarding tour of the top sites in the north of the country.


500th Aussie tick


Tasmanian Thornbill – my 500th Australian bird species!

Yesterday I ‘ticked up’ my 500th bird species for Australia! We’re down on Tasmania attempting to see all the island’s endemics – my 500th happened to be one of the more uninspiring of them! Tasmanian Thornbill is similar to the more common and widespread Brown Thornbill, only rather more range-restricted. This reasonably modest total has been accumulated over a number of family holidays, but including visits to most of the geographic regions of the country, with the exception of the north west corner – which we’re saving for a future visit. Most of our trips have been in the Australian summer months.

Great Ocean Road


The Great Ocean Road and the ‘Twelve Apostles’ – photo by Jane

On the last morning of our road trip from Newcastle to Melbourne we drove along the wonderfully scenic Great Ocean Road – looking for the range-restricted Rufous Bristlebird!

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The target species – safely ‘under the belt’!


Singing Honeyeater –  was a surprising find along the coastal strip


Koala – just chilling! Found in eucalypts near our morning coffee stop. Photo by Jane

We’re off to Tasmania first thing tomorrow, so I fear it may be a week before we’re back in internet range. It’ll be a mixture of sight-seeing, beach  and hunting down Tasmania’s thirteen endemic bird species. Watch this space…


Visiting relatives

We’re out in Australia, visiting our son Dan, Morgan and the kids. A couple of days ago we stopped off on our way to Melbourne to see my brother and his family at Sovereign Hill, to look up an ancient branch of the Williams clan!


Hunter Account closes on 291


Jane and I, at Aylmerton, NSW

We’re now in Ned Kelly country, having left Dan & Morgan’s, heading south towards Melbourne. After our trip up the NSW coast and Sunday’s pelagic, we spent a couple of days in the Hunter trying to boost my list – interspersed with a bit of DIY, installing a ceiling and electrics in Dan & Morgan’s ‘garden room’! With the help of Mick Roderick, Dan’s birding friend and top ‘Hunter 400’ man, we managed to track down the elusive Spotted Quail-thrush and Painted Button-quail in HEZ. On an extended tour of the Upper Hunter we added Pink-eared Duck and Red-capped Robin – bringing my Hunter list to 291. We spent several nights in a desperate attempt to find some owls but, as usual, failed miserably. It’ll take another winter trip to get me over the ‘novice’ bar of 300 – oh well, so be it!

The 750k drive down yesterday was interesting, the first stop being at the small settlement of Aylmerton – NSW, not Norfolk! At one point on the journey the temperature reached an uncomfortable 43 degrees, immediately followed by a heavy thunder-storm, which caused the temperature to tumble by 20 degrees.

Here are a few more Hunter highlights before we reach Melbourne, our jumping-off point for a weeks holiday on Tasmania:

Painted Button-quail – found and photographed by Mick

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Yellow-billed Spoonbill – arrived in the Hunter after the rains


Red-capped Robin


White-browed Woodswallow


Horsfield’s Bushlark. Never easy to see – this one gave exceptional views





Sunday Pelagic


Kermadec Petrel – a Lifer, from New Zealand

It’s Sunday morning and we’re up early for the drive to Port Stephen to join the monthly pelagic – a nine hour boat trip out to the shelf and back, to look for deep ocean birds. The sea was incredibly calm, with only a slight swell but we still managed to see: three species of petrel – Great-winged, Kermadec, & Gould’s; six species of shearwater – Wedge-tailed, Sooty, Short-tailed, Flesh-footed, Fluttering & Hutton’s; White-faced Storm-Petrel, Australasian Gannet, Pomarine Jaeger and Crested Tern. Two were ‘life ticks’ and one was a Hunter ‘tick’.

Some photos:

Flesh-footed Shearwater – a Hunter ‘tick’


This one has sadly been snagged with a fish-hook in it’s left wing


Gould’sPetrel, another Lifer – breed on nearby Cabbage Tree Island



Fluttering Shearwater


Off-shore Bottlenose Dolphin – bow-waving


Local birding, adverse weather

Since our New Year’s Day ‘Big Sit’ the weather has deteriorated dramatically, with strong winds and heavy, occasionally torrential, rain. Apparently we’re heading for a 1 in 50 year/24 hour event! – it’s  just like being at home! As a consequence, our birding activities have been severely curtailed. We have managed to visit a few good sites in the Lower Hunter, pushing our trip total to 170 and nudging my Hunter list up to 280, but that’s about it. Yesterday we even went to the cinema to watch a Disney film with the grandkids..! Today, flooding permitting, we leave Newcastle for a short trip up the NSW coastal belt, as far as Port Macquarie – hoping to meet up with some friends and do a bit of birding on the way but, as the rain continues to lash down, the latter looks increasingly unlikely.

Here are a few randomly chosen photos of some of the local birds we’ve come across so far:

Little Black Cormorant – with it’s amazing ‘cork-screw’ neck


Black-fronted Dotterel


Grey-crowned Babbler


The always delightful male Zebra Finch


A small selection of waterbirds at Stockton sand-spit, including Royal Spoonbill, Black-winged Stilt & Gull-billed Tern. We saw 15 species of wader and five Terns..


White-plumed Honeyeater


Rufous Songlark


Restless Flycatcher


That’s all for now, we’ll be ‘off-line’ for a few days but more blogging at the weekend – prior to what I hope will be a memorable pelagic on Sunday!