Birding Tour Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics 2017
Duration: 17 days
Australia, the island continent, is a remote landmass that drifted away from Antarctica tens of millions of years ago. Without significant volcanic activity and other mountain-building forces, it is also the flattest continent with the world’s oldest soils. Despite its lack of topography, this incredible landmass is one of extremes. The Outback, the continent’s core, is a vast and hostile desert with unpredictable weather patterns that sometimes flush the landscape with green. Along the edges, more regular precipitation allows ancient rainforests, heathlands, and fire-resistant sclerophyll woodlands to grow. Due to its long isolation and harsh environments, Australia is now home to birds of a different feather, including eight endemic bird families and a further seven shared only with neighboring New Guinea. About 300 bird species are endemic to Australia, making it second only to Indonesia in this regard. Throughout this country’s every extreme, its amazing avifauna has shown the adaptability and resiliency to survive in even the most challenging environments. In addition, this avifauna is just dripping with charismatic species, from bowerbirds to parrots to fairywrens to kookaburras to cassowaries to lyrebirds. Throughout the course of this tour we sample habitats ranging from the arid plains north of Deniliquin to the wet rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands in search of as many of these wonderful birds as possible, while also appreciating the many other unique plants and animals along the way. This continent is a naturalist’s dream!
Our journey begins at the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne in southeast Australia, visiting coastal heathland for several localized habitat specialists such as Gang-gang Cockatoo and Beautiful Firetail. Further north and west towards the interior, arid Mallee vegetation and saline lakes provide habitat for the mound-building Malleefowl, the impossibly blue Splendid Fairywren, and the evocatively named Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, among a host of other species. On one evening we make a special effort to observe the monotypic Plains-wanderer in the dry plains north of Deniliquin, before swinging southeast through the sclerophyll forests of Chiltern and the temperate forests near Melbourne for targets such as Turquoise Parrot and Superb Lyrebird.
After an internal flight from Melbourne to Brisbane we drive up to the famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, nestled within a large tract of subtropical rainforest, for a totally new set of birds such as Regent Bowerbird and Australian Logrunner.
On the last leg of our journey we explore the wet tropics of far northern Queensland to explore one of the world’s most ancient rainforests for key species such as Southern Cassowary and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher. We also take a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, where the colors and diversity of the fish and corals rival those of the birds. Evening spotlighting sessions on many of these days should also produce a host of endearing and unusual nocturnal birds and mammals, which may include Tawny Frogmouth, green ringtail possum, and sugar glider.
This tour can be combined with our Australia Pre-tour: Tasmania and the Orange-bellied Parrot 2017 tour (25 – 30 October 2017). We are also planning to run an extension to Australia: Northern Territory 2017 (17 – 24 November 2017) between this tour and our Birding Tour Australia: the Southwest 2017 (25 November – 3 December 2017), so that eventually all four Australia tours could be combined. Please watch this space.
We can also arrange other extensions for Australia (e.g., Uluru for sightseeing, and pelagics).