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Australia: The Outback

From Golden-shouldered Parrot, Red Goshawk and White-streaked Honeyeater in the woodlands of central Cape York, Carpentarian Grasswren, Rufous-crowned Emuwren, and Pictorella Mannikin around Mount Isa, all the way down to Letter-winged Kite, Grey Grasswren, and Gibberbird in the remote Strzelecki Desert. We cover a huge portion of Queensland aiming to target some of the most out-of-the-way endemics that Australia has to offer.

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Add a Title

Price: $

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Leaders:

Add a Title

Single Room Supplement: $

TBD

Group Size Limit:

Deposit: $

TBD

We will be using three kitted-out 4WD vehicles carrying extra tires, fuel, and water, with two very well-travelled Australians who are used to remote outback adventures, and a Spanish man who desperately wants to see Letter-winged Kite. Most importantly, a maximum of three clients in each vehicle so that the very long drives are not uncomfortable!

Accommodation:

All comfortable hotels. Possibly use of a shared bathroom for two nights at Portland Roads depending on availability of rooms. 

Walking difficulty:

All easy, but sometimes walks through the desert for a kilometre or two are required to get close to some species. 

Tour cost includes:

All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes:

Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks, and other items of a personal nature.

Our much-anticipated inaugural Australia tour is here! We have finally sourced all the permits and insurances required to run this spectacular tour in the right way. Be prepared for a lot of driving, but look forward to some of the best birding this wonderful continent has to offer. Josh is also planning to do plenty of spotlighting for some special mammals and reptiles over the course of the tour! 


Day 1: Arrivals into Cairns International Airport (CNS). 


Day 2: Departing early, we will work our way north. An early stop will focus on finding Black-throated Finch, Squatter Pigeon, and melanotus Brown Treecreeper in some dry woodland before we continue north up the PDR to Coen. Just near our accommodation there is a nesting site for Australia's scarcest raptor, the stunning Red Goshawk. This species is near-impossible to see without a known nest, so we will be hoping that this year is one of their busy years. 


Day 3: In the early morning, a short trip to Artemis Station will allow us to get up close and personal with the beautiful Golden-shouldered Parrot; this specially protected area is now one of the last haunts of this Endangered species. In the area, we should also see adscitus Pale-headed Rosella, Great Bowerbird, Banded Honeyeater, Black-backed Butcherbird, and Masked Finch. Our afternoon in the nearby Rinyirru National Park will be focused on finding the stunning Star Finch, though we should also encounter Brolga, Australian Bustard, Australian Pratincole, Black-faced Woodswallow, and a lot more. If the grass is seeding, spotlighting can produce excellent views of Red-chested Buttonquail and Red-backed Buttonquail, while Eastern Grass Owl is a regular sight here. 


Day 4: After a morning session in the mangroves targeting Torresian Kingfisher and Red-headed Myzomela, we'll continue north to reach a few creek crossings on the west side of Kutini-Payamu National Park in the mid-afternoon. Here, we will be searching for one of the world's most beautiful honeyeaters (and a Cape York endemic), the White-streaked Honeyeater. We'll reach Portland Roads in the evening, where we will stay for the next three nights.


Day 5-6: Two full days in the remnant tract of ancient rainforest protected by the national park. In particular, the endemic Northern Scrub-Robin and Frill-necked Monarch are our main quarries, along with three near-endemics rarely seen in New Guinea: Graceful Honeyeater, Tropical Scrubwren, and Black-eared Catbird. We will also be able to enjoy the intriguing purpureicollis Australian Brushturkey, brightly-coloured simillima Noisy Pitta, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Trumpet Manucode, Magnificent Riflebird, and maybe Spotted Whistling Duck amongst a plethora of more widespread birds typical of the region like Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Palm Cockatoo, marshalli Double-eyed Fig Parrot, marmoratus Marbled Frogmouth, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Lovely Fairywren, Rufous Shrikethrush, peninsulae Grey Whistler, Yellow-legged Flyrobin, White-faced Robin, and Yellow-breasted Boatbill.


Day 7: Today we take a long drive back south to Cairns, keeping an eye out for Black-breasted Buzzard on the way. Night in Cairns. 


Day 8: Another long day of driving towards the desert, but we'll stop for a few hours at Etty Bay and hope that one of the regular Southern Cassowary makes an appearance in the campground. Arriving at our hotel this evening, we'll look for Spotted Bowerbird before some spotlighting for the strange Spectacled Hare-wallaby and cute Rufous Bettong near town. Night in Hughenden. 


Day 9: Onwards across the barren blacksoil plains, sometimes playing host to Emu, Cockatiel, Brown Songlark, and the occasional Ground Cuckooshrike. The sewage ponds in Winton are often excellent, with chances for Red-kneed Dotterel, Black-tailed Nativehen, Hoary-headed Grebe, Pink-eared Duck, and Plum-headed Finch. The afternoon will be spent out in the spinifex, listening intently for the thin calls of Opalton Grasswren and Rufous-crowned Emuwren. We may see Crested Bellbird or Spinifexbird, and hopefully at dusk the elusive Grey Falcon will fly in to roost on his favourite radio tower. If not here, we have other chances in the coming week! Night in Winton. 


Day 10: A full day in Bladensburg National Park, a lovely area of mulga-covered rocky mesas. Here, the range-restricted Hall's Babbler and Chestnut-breasted Quailthrush are fairly easy to see, along with our first arid zone birds like the incomparable Spinifex Pigeon, Splendid Fairywren, Grey-headed Honeyeater, Red-browed Pardalote, Little Woodswallow, Zebra Finch, and more. We can try again for the spinifex specialties if needed, or just enjoy the excellent birding this area has to offer. This is as good a spot as any to look for Australian Owlet-nightjar, and maybe Spotted Nightjar after dark. Night in Winton. 


Day 11: Luggage back in the car, we head towards the mining town of Mount Isa. Along the way, we'll make stops searching for Varied Lorikeet, "Cloncurry" Australian Ringneck, and the unpredictable Pictorella Mannakin. This evening, we'll have our first attempt at finding Kalkadoon Grasswren in the nearby hills, along with the spectacular Painted Finch and the intriguing Purple-necked Rock-Wallaby. Night in Mount Isa.


Day 12: This is the morning for the threatened and highly range-restricted Carpentarian Grasswren, which we stand a good chance of finding in some remote woodland on the west side of the town. The area also holds Grey-fronted Honeyeater and Black-tailed Treecreeper. Later in the day we can explore the shores of Lake Moondarra, looking through the various waterbirds and maybe also bumping into Long-tailed Finch. We should also see Freshwater Crocodile here. Night in Mount Isa.


Day 13: An extra morning to search for anything we still need before driving south to Boulia, this tiny town a real gateway to the outback! Night in Boulia. 


Day 14: Car-based birding at its best, today we work south through some really remote country, crossing seemingly endless expanses of gibber plains, dotted with (typically dry) shrubby watercourses and no other landmarks in sight for hundreds of kilometres. This is the realm of Letter-winged Kite, an amazing nocturnal raptor which is abundant in some years, and near-absent in others. Thankfully this area is the best place, and they are usually present! 


Depending on the amount of rainfall during months preceding the tour, we may see throngs of birds today, or just a few. Either way, targets will include Inland Dotterel, Banded Lapwing, Flock Bronzewing, Black Falcon, Budgerigar, White-winged Fairywren, Gibberbird, Crimson Chat, Orange Chat, Black Honeyeater, Pied Honeyeater, Cinnamon Quailthrush, and White-backed Swallow. Red Kangaroo dot the plains, while Wedge-tailed Eagle feed on any which have met their demise on the roadside. In the evening we'll arrive in Birdsville, and certainly visit the local watering hole for a beer or two with the locals. Night in Birdsville.


Day 15-16: Two full days to explore this remote corner of Australia, including sections of the Birdsville Track. Lying at the border of the Strzelecki and Simpson Deserts, we have more chances to see many of the species from previous days, particularly tricky ones like Grey Falcon. The stars of the show however are two excellent endemics: the lignum-loving Grey Grasswren and dune-loving Eyrean Grasswren. Depending on water levels and access, we may also be able to find Yellow Chat, though it is unpredictable. Other new species might include Red-backed Kingfisher, Banded Whiteface and Chirruping Wedgebill. Nights in Birdsville.


Day 17: The tour ends this morning with a flight from Birdsville to Brisbane International Airport (BNE).

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