For the past ten years, Alice and I have planned to visit Australia and New Zealand. After Alice's doing lots and lots of research, and getting recommendations from our travel agent and others, we decided on a 21 day tour run by Tauck. Although the tour was not structured as a wildlife tour, there was plenty of opportunity for me to see and photograph wildlife; sometimes more often than Alice would have preferred as I wandered away from the tour group trying to get a photo.
I am fairly confident of most of the species identifications; however, as most of the species I saw were new to me, I would appreciate any comments if you have a different opinion. There were a few disappointments: I only saw Koalas and Crocodiles in wildlife sanctuaries, and not in the wild. Although I heard Kookaburras on several occasions, the only time I saw one in the wild was on my last full day in Australia, and after getting out of a car and walking back about 50 feet with my camera, it had flown away, so I will have to be satisfied with the Kookaburro photos that I took in a wildlife sanctuary. But all in all, I was very happy with what saw, as I was able to view more than 110 species of birds in the wild, and a number of other species of wildlife. I also saw 20 to 30 bird species from moving cars or buses that were most likely additional species that I could not identify.
This web page highlights the wildlife that I saw in Australia. There is a separate web page for New Zealand wildlife. As I took 3000+ wildlife photos, these two pages only show one, or perhaps two photos of each species. More photos of these species can be seen on my wildlife photography web pages.Click here to go to my Australian wildlife photography page
Prior to our departure, we had seen the news about the 7.1 magnitude earthquake centered in Christchurch, NZ (our last tour stop), massive rains and terrible flooding along the east coast of Australia, and cyclones that were striking both Australia and New Zealand. Of course we felt bad for all of the Aussies and Kiwis who were living through these natural disasters, and it was always in our thoughts as we enjoyed our visit.
Melbourne; January 8-11, 2011
After some nail-biting concerning missing our connection in Los Angeles for our flight to Australia on January 6th, it turned out okay and we arrived on schedule in Melbourne on January 8th. The first bird I saw in Australia was a Common Myna that was flying around near the airport terminal. We arrived at our hotel, situated along the Yarra River, and walked along the river bank and saw several species of birds.
There were numerous Silver Gulls flying along the river and sitting on the banks. Also seen were quite a few Common Mynas, Rock Pigeons, House Sparrows, and a Feral Goose.
The next day we went to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary 40 miles from Melbourne. The wildlife sanctuary had lots of birds and other animals in pens and avaries, and an interesting bird show. The sanctuary habitat also attracted a number of wild birds. I heard but did not see a few Kookaburros, but did see these wild birds: Australian Magpie, Rainbow Lorikeet, Common Blackbird, Australian White Ibis, Sulpher-crested Cockatoo, Dusky Moorhen, Grey Fantail, Galah, Regent Parrot, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Common Bronzewing, Brown Cuckoo-Dove(?), and a Satin Bowerbird.
Australian White Ibis
This little Grey Fantail must have just fledged from its nest.
There were several Galah parrots in the trees and foraging on the ground.
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (banded)
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Wood Duck
This bird was above my head, and I am not sure about the species, but Brown Cuckoo-Dove is the best match I could find.
The tour group traveled around Melbourne, and then Alice and I walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens. I saw more House Sparrows, Silver Gulls, Pacific Black Ducks, and Dusky Moorhens. New birds included Magpie Lark, Purple Swamphen, White-throated Treecreeper, Black Swan, Little Black Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Eurasian Coot, Noisy Miner, and a Wille Wagtail. On the way back to our hotel, a Red-rumped Parrot landed in some grass a few feet away from us, and let me get close for photos.
Uluru; January 12-14, 2011
While La Nina plus the Pacific decadal oscillation in a strong negative phase brought heavy rains, cyclones, and flooding to Australia and New Zealand, it also brought more rain to the Australian outback (bush) than had been seen in more than a decade. The normally brown bush was covered with green grasses and other vegetation that provided rare habitat for a number of species. The bush flies that usually swarm in your face during the summer months were not so bad, and I saw many species. We stopped for a couple of hours in Alice Springs, but it was raining there, and I could only identify a Crested Pigeon and a Yellow-throated Miner. I saw a number of smaller birds while riding in the tour bus, but could not identify them. The rain had stopped by the time we landed in Uluru for our visits to Ayers Rock and the Olgas.
Our desert hotel was an oasis for wildlife. Bird species I saw were Crested Pigeon, Yellow-throated Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Magpie Lark, Willie Wagtail, Australian Magpie, and Galah. Each morning a Straw-necked Ibis was walking on the grass, and a 3-foot long Perentie lizard was looking for its hotel room. Several large bugs were there as well.
Our visit to Ayers Rock was very interesting. Bird species I saw were Crested Pigeon, Fairy Martin, Rainbow Bee-eater, Torresian Crow, Diamond Dove, Willie Wagtail, Australian Magpie, Little Woodswallow, and a female White-winged Triller(?), in addition to a raptor and a small flock of Grey-headed Honeyeaters.
Rainbow Bee-eater - Success!
female White-winged Triller(?)
A Grey Currawong made its way stealthily through the tall grasses.
A small flock of birds were in a nearby bush. They had grey heads, black eye markings, yellow throats, white bellies, and yellow highlights on their wings and tail feathers. After doing some more research, I think that they are Grey-headed Honeyeaters.
There was a Dingo (wild dog) climbing on the rocks.
I phtographed a light-colored raptor circling high above. It looks to me to be a Brown Falcon.
And there was a rock formation on Ayers Rock that looked like a mythical bird!
The next morning we headed over to The Olgas about an hour drive away. On the way we saw wild camels! Who knew they were in Australia?? As soon as we arrived, I saw a Brown Falcon sitting at the top of a nearby tree, Crested-Pigeons, and a pair of Diamond Doves. And then two Black-breasted Buzzards flew overhead. One of the buzzards had different markings, and I assume that it was a juvenile. As we walked on the rocks, there was a large flock of Zebra Finches, and I spotted another Willie Wagtail.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a viewing stand to get a good distant view of The Olgas, and there was a 4-foot long Perentie Lizard resting in the cool shadow of the stand. On the return trip, a pair of Budgerigar Parrots flew by, and a Black Kite flew up from the side of the road, but too quickly for me to get a photo of them.
Port Douglas, Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda Tropical Rain Forest; January 15-16, 2011
Near our hotel in Port Douglas, I was able to photograph a few species of birds: Rainbow Lorikeet, Pied Imperial-Pigeon, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Figbird, Tree Martin, and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, and saw more Common Mynas and a Peaceful Dove.
The Great Barrier Reef was an amazing location for shore and pelagic birds. Correct identification of some of these birds are based on minor physical differences, so I would appreciate any comments on mis-identifications that I may have made. There was a nest of Welcome Swallows on the pier at Cairns, and a Common Redshank flew by the boat as soon as we left the dock. Enroute and at the reef I saw Red-footed, Masked, and Brown Booby; Gull-billed, Common, Roseatte, Fairy, Crested, White-fronted, and Black-naped Tern; and Common Noddy.
On the return trip, we passed a couple of feeding frenzies. There appears to be at least two different pelagic species in the mix,and the darker ones are most likely Sooty Terns.
The next day we headed up to the Kuranda tropical rain forest. There were spectacular waterfalls with all the rain, and I even managed to see a few species of birds! My favorite of the day were a couple of Double-eyed Fig Parrots. Also saw some Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, a few Masked Lapwings, and an Emerald Dove. Heard a couple of Kookaburras, but did not see them. There were a couple of very large spiders that Alice did not like, but felt a little bit better when she learned that the female eats the male after mating :-). But she liked the turtles and cane toads.
Double-eyed Fig Parrot
Double-eyed Fig Parrot
Double-eyed Fig Parrot
Sydney; January 17-20, 2011
Our last stop in Australia - we had a spectacular view of part of the harbour and the Royal Botanical Gardens from our hotel room. The first birds I noticed were flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and a few Australian White Ibises flying in and around the Gardens, and then some rather strange creatures - "flying foxes" - very large fruit bats! There were also a good number of Silver-back Gulls.
We went on a harbour cruise, and I saw a Little Pied Cormorant drying out its wings at the wharf. On the harbour, a White-faced Heron and a Pied Cormorant made fly-bys, there was a Little Blue Penguin swimming in the water, and a few days later I saw a Little Black Cormorant at the wharf.
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Blue Penguin
Little Black Cormorant
A few trips to the Royal Botanical Gardens produced some interesting results. I was able to get close-up photos of these species: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian White Ibis, Noisy Minor, Torresian Crow, Buff-banded Rail, Rainbow Lorikeet, Common Myna, Spur-winged Plover (now listed as a race of the Masked Lapwing), Welcome Swallow, Dusky Moorhen, Black Swan, House Sparrow, Rock Pigeon, and a Mallard variety. The Fruit Bats hung in the trees by the hundreds, and watching them stir and awaken late in the afternoon was quite a sight.
Fruit Bat awakening
We had a free day and went boating on the bay at Pittwater near Sydney with some Australian friends. It wasn't supposed to be a wildlife day, so I left my good camera at the hotel, but did have a small point and shoot camera with me. Of course, that meant that I was to miss a great wildlife photo opportunity, and I did - several times a large raptor made passes directly over the boat, and I couldn't get the camera to autofocus in time for a close-up shot. However, I did get a good look, and got a few distant shots of it. I thought that it might have been a Black Kite, but after processing the photos, I am fairly confident that it was a Square-tailed Kite.
We went with the tour group to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. We first stopped at the Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary. Although most of the wildlife was captive, there were some wild birds in the trees and walking about, including Great Egret, Cattle Egret, House Sparrow, and a Spotted Turtle-Dove. One of the Cattle Egrets was protecting its nest from intrusion by a Great Egret.
The first half of the trip was rainy and quite foggy, but when we stopped at a fruit market along the way, I saw a very large raptor sitting in a tree about 1/4-mile away. One of the photos has an Australian Magpie nearby, and based on size alone, the raptor has to be a Wedge-tailed Eagle.
The sky cleared a bit, offering some great scenic views. Along the way, a pair of Crimson Rosella Parrots flew by the bus (no photo - drats!). But then a mob of 40 to 50 Kangaroos was spotted in the woods, and the bus stopped so we could get some photos.
After a lunch break where I saw some more Australian Wood Ducks, we headed into a temperature rain forest. Three Australian Ringneck Parrots flew by, and in the forest I saw a Lewin's Honeyeater, a Red Wattlebird, and a female Satin Bowerbird.
Australian Ringneck Parrot
Female Satin Bowerbird
Our Australia adventure ended with dinner at the house of our Sydney friends, and my seeing but just missing a photo of a Kookaburra near their house. After the sun had set, a pair of Possums living in a tree box in their garden came out to wish us farewell.
Kookaburra, Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary