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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Birding On My Own
Australia &
New Zealand 2002
Emmalee Tarry
Revised 2015

Trip Reports

Table of Contents

 
Chapter 5

Lamington National Park Australia

Campground
Kangaroos
O'Reilly's
Python and Border Tracks
The Lorikeet Campground
Blue Mountain Park

Comments to webmaster

Regent Bower Bird Lamington NP Australia

Regent Bowerbird Lamington NP

Accommodations
At the top of the road at Lamington National Park there is the park campground and O'Reilly's Lodge. There is really no place to drive once you are here and I left my car parked for the next five days. Since the refrigerator requires that you drive every day I had to do without it.

I had picked the week of school vacation, the busiest week of the whole year to visit. I managed to get one of the last available camp sites which was almost level. Campervans can use a site intended for tent campers if it is fairly level. Unlike a caravan (trailer) there is no way to level a campervan with jacks. If your site is not flat you may have dishes sliding off the table and find yourself sleeping at an awkward angle.

The campground is built on a hill and from my siteit was a 200 yard uphill walk to the chemical toilets and hot showers. Water is available from several faucets in the campground. There are no powered sites or lights in the campground.The park ranger opens the visitors center only on Tuesday and Thursday. You can pay AU$7 a night for your site with a credit card by calling the central registration number or when the visitors center is open. Apparently you can just get by without paying at all. There is no supervision at the campground at night. For this reason the park campgrounds are not as safe as the private ones. I didn't have any real trouble except for some out of control children playing ball here and hitting my van with the ball. The next morning one of the boys was trying to shoot a Bush Turkey with a homemade sling shot. Fortunately he wasn't good at it.

Between the campground and O'Reilly's Lodge is a large parking lot used by day visitors. People with caravans must stay in Canungra and drive the 35 km each day to the park. I don't think this is a viable alternative for birders and I would not want to drive that road more than once myself. If you find yourself shut out of the campground you can park at the end of the parking lot and walk down a short path to the toilet block. Or at least you can get away with doing so in the winter. I noticed two campervans doing just that during the five days I was here. One van even had a table and lawn chairs out in the parking lot.

Camp ground at Lamington NP

Camp ground at Lamington NP

Brush Turkey Lamington NP

Brush Turkey

Lewin's Honeyeater

Lewin's Honeyeater

This was by far the best birding campground of all. A flock of Brush Turkeys (above right) make their home here although I didn't see any mounds or notice any of them being territorial. The Bush Turkey was my first mound builder of which there are three in Australia. Most Australians consider them a nuisance as they are very common and like to build their mounds in gardens and parks. One woman told me she had to quit using mulch in her garden because the Bush Turkeys loved it. Adult males have a large yellow collar which may hang down several inches. This bird is apparently a female or young male.

Lewin's Honeyeater (above right) was very common in the campground and even came into my van to sit on the table while I was eating breakfast. They love fresh oranges. Notice the crescent shaped yellow mark on the face. The cream colored gape extends under the eye. (colors does not show in this photograph) There are two very similar honeyeaters which you will see further north: Yellow-spotted and Graceful Honeyeater. At the Kingfisher Lodge you can see all three at the same time.The honeyeaters comprise a large group of Australian birds. They all have a downcurved bill and feed on nectar. Many Australian bushes and trees flower in the winter providing ample food for this large group of birds.

Regent Bowerbird fed by hand Lamington NP

Regent Bowerbird

The Yellow Robin (right) was at home here and also very friendly. This guy is expecting a handout. Can you see why I am excited about the Australian Robins. The yellow is the most common and has a yellow rump. Unlike some of the others he hangs around feeders and people.

Wonga Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, White-browed Scrubwren, Eastern Whipbird, Satin Bowerbird, Grey Shrike-thrush all made the campground list numerous times.

Obviously many people feed the birds here despite the Ranger's campaign against bird feeders. Here the male Regent Bowerbird is tempted by a sunflower seed. I did not feed although I kept a pan of water outside my van. I did take advantage of other people feeding to get some nice photographs and I think the reason the campground is such good birding is because of the feeding. O'Reilly's uses the Regent Bowerbird (left) as their logo. You will also see male and female Satin Bowerbirds.

Yellow Robin Lamington NP

Yellow Robin

Kangaroos
Australia is the only country where three types of mammals exist side by side.
·Monotremes - Echidna, Platypus
·Marsupials - Kangaroo, Wombat, Koala, Possums, Bandicoots, carnivorous marsupials
·Placenta Mammals - rodents, bats, marine mammals, people

The Monotremes lay eggs. The Placenta Mammals give birth to fully-formed young which they then suckle with mammary glands. Marsupials give birth to very incompletely-developed young which they may nourish in a pouch. Some marsupials drag the young around clinging to the mother's teats.

The Placenta Mammals are the mammals we are most familiar with: Bears, Cows etc. A naturalist in Australia will want to see as many of the unique mammals as possible and for this you need a field guide to the mammals. High on my initial list were Koala and Platypus and eventually I saw both. The mammal list is as important to me as the bird list.

I actually saw my first kangaroo on one of my first days in Royal National Park as I was driving. The Grey Kangaroo started to pop out of the brush on the side of the road but just in time he turned around and disappeared. Hitting a kangaroo is hard on the kangaroo and on the car. Most cars in the outback have what are called “Roo Bars” over the front bumper. This saves the car but is very hard on pedestrians who might get hit by the car so they are uncommon in the city. The campervan did not have Roo Bars.

One of my first marsupial was the Red-necked Pademelon, a small kangaroo that came out in the campground at dusk and hopped around.
The Red-necked Pademelon is active in the forest during the day coming out a night into the clearings. They feed on grasses, herbs, and leaves. One female seemed to have a baby in her pouch. The Red-necked Pademelon is not endangered. Like other kangaroos many are killed or injured by speeding cars. The best way to avoid hitting a kangaroo is to avoid driving at dusk when they tend to suddenly hop out of the brush at the side of the road.

Lamington Pademelon a small kangaroo

Red-necked Pademelon

Pademelon

 Red-necked Pademelon.Notice the red fur at the back of the neck and the small front limbs

O'Reilly Feeding Station

King Parrot

O'Reilly's
Uphill from the campground and the public parking lot is the famous O'Reilly Lodge. It is known to be a nice place to stay and Peter O'Reilly used to lead birding trips for lodge patrons. They still offer the trips to people staying at the lodge only, but I think one of the grandsons now does the leading and I have heard he is not as knowledgeable. One of the birds the guide is able to find is the Tawny Frogmouth. On way down from Lamington I tried to find the Frogmouth using the directions in Thomas and Thomas. I failed probably because I had no technique for finding this nocturnal bird which lies along the branch in the daytime. I did see the Frogmouth on a nest later in the trip.

While the park rangers try to discourage bird feeding, across the street from the visitors center, O'Reillys maintains a popular feeding station and sells small packets of bird seed. A flock of King Parrots hang around the feeding station. Here one feeds from an outstretched hand. The great thrill is to get one to sit on your head and have your picture taken. A few minutes here and you feel like you are at the O'Reilly zoo, but the people love it. That is they love it until one of the parrots dumps on their new jacket (jumper). Crimson Rosellas also feed here.

There is also a board walk known as O'Reilly's Treetop Walk open to all. Hordes of people use it even early in the morning. The walk sways and if several people walk at the same time or one person deliberately jumps the others scream. It is really a "Disneyland" amusement ride. Climbing the ladder to the upper platform is regarded as a physical test of macho. Bus loads of tourists come to the park. First they walk the board walk and then go to the feeding station. Then back on the bus.

Better management would limit the number of people on the board walk at one time and people should be cautioned to be very quiet. I would suggest closing it for a number of years until the birds come back and then restricting access to a few hours every other day. It is a shame to allow such a facility to be so abused. If it is not to be managed for bird watching, it should be removed. I tried the tree top walk very early in the morning and there were no birds to be seen anywhere near it. Even the Brush Turkeys stay away. Forget the tree top walk.The birding is better in the botanical garden near the tree top walk. It is a lovely quiet spot.

O'Reillys has a nature path behind the lodge for guests only. You can see and access part of the walk from the parking lot. A Satin Bowerbird has decorated his bower with blue plastic straws from the O'Reillys restaurant. The bowerbird himself was not around the nest this week. A beautiful Eastern Spinebill was feeding on the flowering hedge in front. There is also a small store that sells canned food and snacks.

Python and Border Tracks
A short walk down the road takes you to the head of the Python and Moora Falls Tracks. There is room for one or two cars to park here. I was accompanied on my first walk by a photographer from Brisbane. A Java Programming instructor he is temporarily out of work and focusing on his hobby bird photography.

The Python trail is well paved but steadily downhill. A pair of Logrunners were scraping about near the entrance. Birding in a full grown rainforest is a tough job. Overhead in the high canopy a bird was loudly rooting around in a cluster of ferns growing on a tree. I could see it was a large bird with a large downcurved bill. With head back, I peered up into the foliage. I could only see part of the body at a time. I was finally able to identify it as a female Paradise Riflebird. I saw the white eyebrow and brown chevrons on the tan breast. Not bad for a beginning birder fumbling with a bird book.
On another day I walked the Moora Falls Track seeing a Brush Cuckoo and on the way back Alberts Lyrebird scratching around in the leaves. The Logrunners were still around.

Perhaps the best track is the Border Track at the back of the visitors center. The track is built into the side of the slope so that on one side you look up into the undergrowth and on the other side into the canopy of the trees lower on the side of the hill. I was looking into the canopy when I saw the male Paradise Riflebird. He too was working on a nest of ferns. I am pleased to have seen both birds. When he turned just right I could see the blue of its tail.

The Eastern Bristlebird was foraging in the undergrowth uphill from the trail. Further along I had another Albert's Lyrebird and was able to show it to a family with two small children. Unfortunately the mother was so anxious to take a picture with a point and shoot camera that she chased it off.
After the Lyrebird I had a brief look at the Rufous Scrub-bird. I got most of the important birds to get at Lamington except the Noisy Pitta. I am told it is hard to get this bird in winter. I met a guy on the pelagic trip who told me if I didn't get this bird elsewhere he would meet me back at Lamington and see that I got it. It didn't come to that as I had the bird other places. It was a friendly offer that I appreciated.

I met a Texas woman and her twelve year old son on the Border Track. She was on a business trip to Australia and had brought her son along. The boy was very interested in birds and was trying to identify the birds using a North American field guide. I identified several birds for him and explained that he needed a guide to the birds of Australia. I suggested that he could buy one in the gift shop and also told them about the ABA young birders program.

The Lorikeet Campground
I have plenty of time to make a leisurely trip to Wollongon for the long awaited pelagic. I have decided to make a stop stop in the Blue Mountains on the way south . Leaving Lamington I have   Black-shouldered Kite, Brown Goshawk along the road.

I stopped just short of Coffs Harbor at the Lorikeet Campground. This was one of the nicer campgrounds on the trip. The owner leads you to your site on a bicycle. For the first time I was able to rent an ensuite site and I decided it was the way to go. It was AU$26 vs $19 but he gave me a coupon for a $2/night discount at any campground associated with "Family Campgrounds". I used this discount several times. Most often ensuites are not available without prior reservations.

I have time on my side. Coffs Harbor is a nice place and I decide to stay a few days. The campground is right on the beach and the birding is good here. With a four night stay I got to know some of the neighbors mostly retirees from Melbourne or South Australia here for the winter. They travel in caravans, usually a fold down trailer or a large trailer pulled by car or truck. trailers. Everyone has a canvas annex which makes an extra room usually over the concrete patio.

With a four night stay I got to know some of the neighbors mostly retirees from Melbourne or South Australia here for the winter. They travel in caravans, usually a fold down trailer or a large trailer pulled by car or truck. trailers. Everyone has a canvas annex which makes an extra room usually over the concrete patio.

This caravan attracted my attention because of the outside faucet just over the little bucket. Notice the towel rack above and the soap dish to the left of the gas bottle. This family was on the move so they didn't put up their annex for one night. The tool cabinet above the gas bottle had hooks for every tool. After completing his setup including a careful adjustment of the satellite television disk, the guy washed and dried his hands and then went inside for supper.

An interesting rig

The men spend the day working on the rig. They like to rotate the tires, change the oil, clean and arrange storage compartments. All these activities require a good deal of conversation with the guy next door.

Women seem to do laundry. Where on earth do they find all this stuff to wash. They must change the bed sheets every night. They launder lots of throw rugs. Everyone cares for their camp sites. There are potted plants and some full gardens. They maintain bird feeders usually made from milk cartons.

I soaked in the spa and took a swim in the pool. I did my laundry and dried my clothes on the line. I haven't done that since my husband was in medical school and we didn't have any money. What I learned is that in dry Australia clothes actually dry faster on the line than they do in an electric clothes drier. The clothesline is free and there is less need to iron. This being retired business is still new to me. You finally have that precious resource of time. I attended the morning coffee hour and met some of the people. Everyone was interested in the bird watcher traveling alone from America .Several people wanted to talk about and expressed their sympathy for September 11. Of course they have bird stories from their travels. Several people gave me directions to birding locations. Australians are very friendly people.

 

One of the regulars at the campground told me an eagle flew up and down the beach almost every day about noon. He was right or at least partly right. It was not an eagle but rather a beautiful Brahminy Kite. He came down at noon to make sure I was seeing it and while there pointed out the holes in the sand bank of some little birds he didn't know. I watched the holes and it turned out to be Striated Pardalot.

Down at the beach a pair of White-cheeked Honeyeaters were having a territorial dispute and I saw my first Mistletoe Bird. A pod of dolphin swam along the beach and every now and then the whole pod turned and surfed the waves toward the beach. Australian Gannets, Caspian and Crested Tern were seen from shore..The beach was great,

I saw several
Eastern Grey Kangaroos feeding at dusk. One had a Joey in her pouch. How I wished to show this to my granddaughter. Masked Lapwings, Grey Shrike-thrush, Rainbow Lorikeets, Myna Birds, Little Pied Shag, Little Black Shag, Australian Woodduck, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead or White-eyed Duck, Royal Spoonbill, White-faced Heron, Lewin's Honeyeater, Eatern Whipbird, Laughing Kokaburra, Little Wattlebird, Variegated Fairy-wren, Kingfisher sp., Spangled Drongo.


I made a little side trip to Red Rock following Thomas and Thomas directions but failed to find Beach Stone-curlew. I did see Pied Oystercatcher.


Brahminy Kite

I spent the next night at Port MacQuarie this time on the other side of the river where the campground had a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-necked Heron and a raptor I could not identify. I visited the Seabird Shop and got a new swim suit and some mosquito netting at a camping store. When it got hot in Darwin I draped the netting over the front doors of the car and left the windows open at night for more air. The two small windows at the top of the campervan do not provide much circulation. The next night I was back in the La Mancha campground north of Sydney trying to plot a better route through the city the next day.

Blue Mountains
I tried to take the M7 across Sydney and it didn't work out much better. In fact the M7 evaporated and I found myself lost in downtown Parameta. This was because at one crucial right turn the road is marked for the Cumberland Highway when it really means M7 and Cumberland Highway. I finally got on the M4 which turned into 32 and went up into the Blue Mountains.

The top of the Blue Mountains is mostly private land incorporated into several small towns. I got to Katoobe and found a campground. The next day I walked to Katoobe Falls lookout. I was disappointed that this area is so commercialized . To make the best of it all I walked 1.7 km down the mountain on the steps. The steps go through beautiful woods and past a waterfall.

At the bottom I rode back up on the funicular. This is a very steep 52 degree assent in 100m. This funicular is not up to US safety standards. They warn you not to put packages or babies on the seat. I had a hard time holding onto my backpack. A package or a baby on the seat would fall out. There are no seatbelts. It was certainly worth the $6 not to have to walk back up. That night it was very cold. Rain was almost never a problem on the trip except this night when it rained all night. I am sure there is some good birding somewhere in the Blue Mountains National Park, but I saw few birds at the top and the next day drove on to Wollongong and the Fairy Meadow Campground. I am in position for the July pelagic.

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