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Trip Report - Toucan2's 2nd trip to Oz - Sydney, Nabiac, Lockyer Valley, Lamington Nat'l Park, Atherton Tablelands, Julatten, Daintree - possibly of more interest to birders than non-birders

Trip Report - Toucan2's 2nd trip to Oz - Sydney, Nabiac, Lockyer Valley, Lamington Nat'l Park, Atherton Tablelands, Julatten, Daintree - possibly of more interest to birders than non-birders

Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 06:22 PM
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Trip Report - Toucan2's 2nd trip to Oz - Sydney, Nabiac, Lockyer Valley, Lamington Nat'l Park, Atherton Tablelands, Julatten, Daintree - possibly of more interest to birders than non-birders

I may now be competitive in the Longest Message Title contest! But, as I geared myself up to write my trip report I reviewed a lot of posts on writing trip reports. Some of the suggestions included putting the names of the places you visited in the message title. It doesn't quite cover it all, but the message title gets a lot of it in!

Other "how to write a trip report" messages included writing a bit about yourself so readers got a take on your particular point of view, and putting the details up front on things like accommodations etc and then following up with a day by day commentary. And of course, including paragraphs!

So, here goes. First, a bit about us. As I posted when I asked for input on our planned itinerary, my husband is a really avid birder. I like the birds, and the flowers, and the critters, and just in general being outside.

We had been to Australia in 2003, and had a wonderful time, and wanted to come back and explore some more. Because this was a second trip, we didn't repeat some of the usual must-sees like the Great Barrier Reef, although we would have loved to had we had the time. I'm a little concerned our trip might bore some people! We saw tons of birds, and wildlife, and beautiful country. Relaxed, and enjoyed each other's company after a busy year.

Next, details on logistics, accommodations and costs.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 06:58 PM
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Oh fantastic!!!!!!!!! it is about time that some wrote about our birds which are so prolific, facinating, get-attable-at and just plain beautiful. I for one look forward to your report and I don't care if you bore the pants off anyone else. Please continue...............
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 07:01 PM
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Travel

I apologize for not having the exact breakdown on this, but I just deleted the emails on it without thinking! I can still give close to some details.

I used award travel on American Airlines from Kansas City to LA (via Dallas).

Our air travel (on Qantas with one flight on Jetstar from Newcastle to Brisbane) included round trip from LA to Sydney, the flight from Newscastle to Brisbane, a flight from Brisbane to Cairns, and a flight from Cairns to Sydney for total $1835 USD per person.

We traveled the day before the US Thanksgiving, a notoriously busy travel day with accompanying delays, so I decided to take a morning flight out of KC, which meant a much longer layover in LA. This turned out to be a good thing as sure enough, later flights were delayed that day.

The saving grace was that for the two of us I purchased a one-day Admiral's Club pass for $75 for the two of us. It was great for the long wait...lots of separate rooms like tv rooms and music rooms, free water, soda, coffee and light snacks, light meals you can order right there in the club, complimentary shower facilities, and a Qantas check in desk! It's one of their key clubs, so a bit more than the average airline club.

Car - We only rented 8 days out of the trip, Budget at the Cairns airport, a 4wd. I wanted it for the high clearance, and it worked out very well, and I was glad of it for some of the roads we were on! About $400.

Accommodation & Guiding

Lamington National Park - O'Reilly's www.oreillys.com.au, $265 AUD/per night for lodging. Breakfast and Dinner Meal package $148/two people per day. Unfortunately, activities no longer include. I'll list what we paid in that part of my trip report.

$220 private car service from airport to O'Reilly's. $80 bus service from O'Reillys to Canungra to meet our bird guide for the next portion of our trip.

Lockyer Valley
Personal Bird Guiding Service - Bill Jolly www.abberton.org about $1100 AUD - this included the pickup and transfer from Lamington and the trip to the airport, and was from Saturday through Tuesday.

Helidon Natural Springs Spa Resort Motel www.helidonmotel.com.au $115 AUD per night, including light breakfast.

Atherton Tablelands
Chambers http://rainforest-australia.com $260 AUD for two nights.

Julatten
Kingfisher Park Birdwatcher Lodge www.birdwatchers.com.au $363.00 AUD for 3 nights

Daintree Village
Red Mill House www.redmillhouse.com.au $150 per night, including full breakfast.

Other guides we used.

Alan Gillander www.alanswildlifetours.com.au We only had him for a morning, but it was absolutely great, and really a long morning at 5 hours. For the two of us, $140.

www.daintreecruises.com.au - we went three mornings in a row! $100 for the two of us each time.

Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime - Mossman Gorge www.yalanji.com.au - narrated walk, $27.50.

Carol Probets - Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley, birding from about 5 the Thursday night to 5 the Friday night, $400. Overnight in the Capertee, $90. www.bmbirding.com.au

Whew! I haven't even begun writing the trip report and I'm tuckered out!

Next, the day by day report,
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 07:22 PM
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November 21 - 23 The trip begins!

This is exciting to no one but us, I'm sure. We were just happy to be on our way. Trip went smoothly, the pass for the Admiral's club as mentioned was a hit, we were so beat when we boarded the 11:45 pm flight in LA that we slept most of the way into Sydney. Arriving in the morning in Sydney, we adjusted almost immediately to the time zone.

We were lucky to have Mark pick us up and drop us at their apartment, which is in Pyrmont. He left for work, and my husband immediately grabbed his binoculars and video camera and headed for the Botanic Gardens.

The birdwatching could not start soon enough for Steve. It was also good to stretch his legs after the flight. There is so much green space with Hyde Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens and The Domain in Sydney. The city just seems so livable.

I opted for a shower, and sitting on the balcony gazing out at the Harbour Bridge, settling back in to being in Australia. From their flat I look on the oneside out over Darling Harbour towards the CBD, on the other side we look at the Anzac bridge.

My friend Fiona arrived late afternoon, and Steve returned about 5, and we hopped in a cab headed for Bondi to meet Mark for dinner. We ate at Ravesis www.ravesis.com.au - good meal, great company( Great location right across from the beach, and a great way to end our first night back in Australia.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 07:44 PM
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November 24 - Voting Day in Australia!

I love that it is mandated by law that you vote in Australia. And, that you can vote wherever you are (I have to go to a specific polling place, or send in an absentee ballot). We are spending our first weekend up at my friends' farm in Nabiac, and they are able to vote up there. I don't think they vote for the same people. There is a bit of tension in the car!

We leave very early from Sydney to drive north to Nabiac. A quick stop in Turramurra for some baked goods for the weekend also gives us the opportunity to buy a few pastries for breakfast, to munch on as we drive. Fiona buys a sausage roll. I love sausage rolls and meat pies. Why don't they catch on in the US? Maybe after Sweeney Todd sweeps the nation....

The drive up the Pacific Highway is just gorgeous. We had made it once before, but in early evening so that the last half had been after nightfall. We enjoyed the scenery as we crossed the Hawkesbury, and passed The Entrance (I write this because for some reason it amuses me that this is exactly as it appears on the highway signs...The Entrance - as the entrance to the Central Coast) and continued on to Nabiac.

Steve and I walked around the school as F&M voted. Naturally, we spotted a few birds. We also noticed how many gathering areas there were outdoors..the better to take advantage of the weather I suppose.

On to the farm. It's spectacular. They run about 120 head of cattle, so there are multiple paddocks. The house was built in 1920, and I want to say she said it was Federal style? I can't quite remember. Very high ceilings and doors, veranda all the way around the house, beautiful detail.

The gardens around the house are great, and flowers are kind of my thing so I particularly enjoyed walking around and identifying the flannel flowers, cooktown orchids, christmas flowers and more. The Jacaranda tree is in bloom and I love that blue. Lots of bouganvillea, and roses.

They could really be self-sufficient! I had fun picking and eating mandarins and oranges right off the trees. There's a great veg garden and lots of fruit trees. We all do some work over the weekend so I get very familiar with these!

In a tree in the yard, they have a tawny frogmouth family! I could have stood there and watched them for hours. The babies are so fluffy, and these birds really do just blend in to the tree, and look like another limb. They are so close I can even take a pic with my point and shoot digital. Steve takes some great film.

Steve takes the ute and heads out looking for birds (naturally). Fiona, Mark and I spend some time in hammocks, and take naps after watching Mark work on the chicken coop. Then F and I head out to the west paddock as well, as this is apparently the time of day the wallabies show up. Yep! There they were. One had a little joey poking its head out.

We had a blast watching them for awhile, then spotted my first Kookaburra for the trip! Then my first Australian Pelican for the trip! That is one big pelican, let me tell you. Without even working at it, we are seeing rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, white-faced heron, and more.

Drinks on the deck over the river, followed by dinner on the veranda, and the day is done.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 07:57 PM
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November 25 - A day at the farm

Steve and I are awake much earlier than the others, and creep out of the house as quietly as we can to seek out birds. I am a lazy birder so simply sit on the deck over the river and try to spot what I can.

I'm rewarded by a great look at the Azure Kingfisher. The blue on it seems to glow in the early morning sun. I see rainbow lorikeets, Steve tells me later that he saw some scaly-breasted lorikeets. ( won't list all the birds here!)

It's a nice day with our friends at the farm, won't bore you with those details We have to leave about 5 to drive to Newcastle so they can drop us with F's folks, and continue on to Sydney. We will be staying with Colin and Dee overnight, and flying out of Newcastle to Brisbane on Monday morning.

I have to mention one landmark of note on the drive back....passing "The Rockhouse". It is a gas station with a replica of Uluru built over it, complete with a guide rope path built on it! Kind of reminds one of the Corn Palace and Car Henge in the US.

We are simply crazy about Fiona's parents, and enjoy our evening with them. After tea and Tim Tams, Colin takes us on a drive through Newcastle. We had stayed there four years ago when F&M got married, and enjoyed the beautiful beaches. There is a lot of building going on there! He pointed out the beach where the tanker had grounded, and took us to a beautiful park on a cliff top.

Dinner, and the day is done.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 08:20 PM
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November 26 - December 1 - Lamington National Park, and real birding begins

We have an uneventful flight from Newcastle to Brisbane on Jetstar. No problems with check in or excess weight or bagge - thanks to all the heads-ups on this board! Colin proudly wore the UMKC 'Roos hat I brought him as he takes us to the airport.

We are met at the Brisbane airport by Paul from Quiksilver Limosines. It's $220 for private car service. I know it sounds like a lot, but I didn't want to rent a car since we would need one once we got there, and I also didn't want to try that last bit of mountain road up to Lamington on my first go driving again in Australia. It's about 2 hours from the airport.

For others who may do this, if you take the train, or make your way to the transportation center in Brisbane, there is a bus you can take. But it leaves about 9 I think, and with the flight times we couldn't make it.

For us, just driving through the country is interesting, and after getting out of Brisbane, the countryside again does not disappoint. We pass lots of cattle and horses grazing, lots of beautiful flowering trees. I wish I could paint you a picture!

We arrived about 11:30 at O'Reilly's. For those of you unfamiliar with this, the O'Reilly family owns this private property within Lamington National Park. It's at the top of the mountain, in World Heritage Rainforest. Many people do take day trips up there, and there is a national park camping area, so if you are caravaning, that is another option.

The O'Reilly lodge has several different levels of rooms, a dining room, and offers guided walks, 4wd trips, and other activities. These used to be included in the room rate, but no longer. Personally, I think that is a mistake, but no one is asking me!

The place is a bit expensive, but for us, and our purposes, it was worth it. We probably won't go back a third time, but we really wanted to come back a second time so we could go on more of the walks and see more of the place.

I do think they have lost a bit of the warmth they used to have. Several others commented on it as well while we were there. It's hard to tell why that might be, and one can only hope they can bring it back.

You can get the three meals a day package, or a breakfast and dinner package. There's nowhere else to eat, so it's the best choice. Breakfast is a full buffet, and quite extensive.

A member of the O'Reilly family makes the toast each morning, to me the most enjoyable ones were when Mick was manning the toaster. He seemed genuinely happy to see the guests. Other family members looked a bit pained to be there.

They seem to have a new chef for dinner, and not to O'Reilly's advantage. The dinners were....okay. They no longer have the buffet dinner available, only a small antipasto type selection and salad bar.

The choices on the menu are without exception a bit complex and "frou frou." Fine for me, a more adventurous eater, but my husband couldn't find a thing he could just order off the menu. So each night he had steak, and asked them to hold all the sauces and sides. Another couple I talked to had actually sent their meal back one night.

Also part of the complex is the store/gift shop, and there is a cafe there where you can get coffees, breakfast and lunch. The kitchen was open to 3 I think.

This is getting lengthy, I'll continue in the next post.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 09:06 PM
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November 26 - 30 - Whoops! I said December 1 above. I didn't mean it

Since I promised you birds, you'd probably like to hear a bit about them at Lamington, wouldn't you!? Well, the birds abound. The Regent Bowerbird is the logo for O'Reilly, and there are tons of these deep black and gold, medium-sized birds at the area to the front of the lodge.

The gold and black glows, and the black just looks like velvet. Satin Bowerbirds are also abundant, with those freaky deaky violet eyes. There are bush turkeys walking about, and not nearly so attractive so definitely the poor second cousins in the group. Crimson Rosellas and King Parrots land on your head, and your deck railing. We had a regular Lewin's Honeyeater on our deck, and one day I had a bit of a hard time getting him out of the room.

I enjoy all the birds, but Steve is the true birder. One of the reasons we like this place is that he can go off and bird to his heart's content, and I can go on some of the guided activities and he knows I'm a) not bored and b) not alone. In particular, my husband likes to film the birds. So, if he is getting a good view, he'll stay on a bird for an hour. My patience doesn't extend quite that far.

We see Eastern Whipbirds, and Steve gets to see the Albert's Lyrebird. Others you can expect to see include logrunners, red brow finches, superb fairy wrens, and much much more.

There are several bowers of the Satin Bowerbirds close by. These are fascinating to me. The male has built this structure, very carefully, and placed all sorts of ornamentation about in front of the structure--such as blue bottle caps, straws, milkweed flowers, cough drop wrappers, etc, all in shades of blue. As I watched one, he "painted" the insides of the bower with the juice of some blue berries. This is the "bedroom" for the bowerbirds. There's so much more about these fascinating birds, but I won't go on here.

O'Reilly Activities
I went on several guided walks and 4wd activities while there. If you went to 6, you got a 25% discount on the total cost. These are the ones I participated in.

Luke's Bluff - $39 per person
This is a 4wd bus tour. Our guide was Chris, a great guy. In this tour they drive you to some of the O'Reilly property that was cleared back in the day, point out various flora and fauna on the way (stinging trees, Booyong trees, stopped for some tawny frogmouths, etc)

We walk around and look at all the amazing views, then Chris starts up a fire and makes us billy tea and damper. It really does taste better outside in the fresh air, doesn't it? Chris reads some passages from The Green Mountain by Bernard O'Reilly.

Moran's Falls Walk $25 per person
This was a walk I had taken before, but I wanted to do again since it was so beautiful. I did get to see a Paradise Riflebird on this walk, which was quite exciting. Again, the guide (this time Carol) pointed out the different flora and fauna. But of course when you are walking, you get a closer look.

She pointed out trapdoor spiders, a funnel web, the strangler figs, and more. Turns out she is an intern from Oregon State University, where my brother did his undergrad, so that was a small world momment.

The view point to Moran's Falls, and then crossing the stream that feeds it is all quite beautiful. At the end of this walk they pick you up and drive you back.

Introductory Bird Walk - $10 per person
Carol led this walk. While a very nice young lady, birds can be a bit more difficult than plants and spiders, and so it wasn't quite as good a walk as the one I took the last time I was there. If you can find out who is guiding the walk, try to go when Tim O'Reilly is leading it. I get the sense that there aren't as many true birders working there right now.

We did have an amusing moment where Carol pointed out the Pademelon with its Joey. Then she paused and said. Oh. That's not a joey, they are mating! Sweet young thing was kind of embarrassed so we moved on.

Side note. We couldn't afford the private guiding there. It cost about $350 for one half day and $600 for a full day there.

Balancing Rock 4wd tour $39/per person

Went to a different location than Luke's Bluff, so different view aspects, and some different plants etc. Again, tea and damper. Most exciting, we saw a dingo! That was quite a surprise and we sat there quietly watching for some time.

Wishing Tree Walk $25/per person
This was a great walk. There was just so much diversity in what we saw. Both Carol and Chris led this walk. They pointed out some amazing fungi, like the egg beater and champagne flute. The walk took us through the "Wishing Tree" which was a strangler fig, then down across a creek. We ended up down at the very bottom, and waited for the bus to come and pick us up and take us back up the hill.

Other walks I took or wish I had

As I aluded to, we also visited O'Reilly's in 2003. A walk I took then, so I didn't repeat this time because it wasn't offered on the days I was there, was the Elebana Falls walk. I highly recommend this walk if you go to O'Reilly's! These are the falls featured on their web-site, and you pass some beautiful scenery on the way. They leave you to walk back up on your own (probably don't want to wait on the slowpokes!)

I wish I had gone on Mick's Nature and History Tour. After I met him I was just so entertained by him, that I think I would have dropped one of the other 4wd tours and gone on this one with him (not that the other ones weren't entertaining!).

There are some adventure activities like Flying Fox and the Giant Swing that just don't hold any appeal to me, but may to you. There are also some evening activities like the glow worm walk, that I wish I could have been awake for. But Steve and I were getting up at 5 every morning so he could start birding, and after dinner, we were barely good for another 30 minutes before we went to bed!




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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 09:25 PM
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Final bits on Lamington, and off we go to our next birding location

Pros about O'Reilly's
Everything is right there. The views from your room are fantastic. To go birding, you walk out your door. To go on walks, you walk out your door.

Because of this, I also found it really relaxing. Between activities, it was easy to go back to the room and nap if you wish, or sit in the library and read. I sat on the deck at the cafe one afternoon and had coffee and wrote postcards. I took to getting up with Steve at 5, and having my morning tea on the balcony before meeting him at 8 for breakfast.

There is a pleasant library, and bar, in nice weather a small pool and hot tub. You find yourself getting to know your fellow guests as you go on activities together, and so mealtimes and tea times are very pleasant.

Cons about O'Reilly's
It's fairly expensive. It's fairly expensive to get to. The food is expensive.

All that said, if your first time to Australia and you are interested in birds and nature, you really should go here, and for at least 3 days in my opinion.

Notes on meals
As mentioned, we did the breakfast/dinner meal plan. Mainly because the last time we were there we felt like we were eating all the time! The meal plans (whether three or two a day) also include morning and afternoon tea. Scones and gingerbread were standard, and very tasty.

On the first day, because it had been a travel day and we hadn't eaten, I did have lunch at the Gran O'Reilly's cafe (I think that is what is called). I had fish and chips and coke for $17. It was really very good, and too much food! I couldn't eat it all and wished Steve had been with me. We also ate there on the last day because we knew we had a lot of travel in front of us.

As far as the dinners go, the best things I had were the barramundi one night, a chicken dish made with preserved lemons, couscous and kalamata olives, and an appetizer of a stuffed red pepper.

Other attractions I think I forgot to mention that there is a treetop walk you can go on. It's suspended about 30 metres (I think) in the tops of the trees. I went, and clutched the rails the whole way, but others are braver than I.

There is also a mountain botanic garden that I really enjoyed, and took lots and lots of flower pictures.

Leaving O'Reilly's
We took the bus back down the mountain. I think it was All-State Tours. Basically we rode back down the mountain with a tour group who had come up for a day trip. Because of this, it included a stop at the Canungra Valley Vineyards (also owned by O'Reilly's) for wine tasting. This sounded like a great idea to me! We stopped, we tasted, I bought two bottles of wine, and on we continued to Canungra where we got off the bus and Bill Jolly picked us up.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 09:31 PM
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LizzyF,

We've barely scratched the surface of birding in Australia! There is so much more we want to do and see. You are right, there are sooooo many beautiful birds, many of them fairly easy to see. And we have just met so many nice people while birding there as well.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 09:47 PM
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December 1 - 4, Birding with Bill Jolly

We had birded with Bill back in 2003. He quotes individual rates depending on what your needs are (transfers or self drive, etc). In our trip, he did the transfer from O'Reilly's, and back to the airport.

He has a beautiful property called Abberton, and some of the time you just bird on his property. For me, that means coffee on the veranda and watching them from there! He asks you lots of questions of what you are looking for, and then off you go.

He's a great guide, but frankly, we also used him again just because we like him. He's funny, and well-read, and a pleasure to spend time with. We've met his wife Eileen as well, and think she is perfectly delightful.

Driving from Canungra to Helidon Springs
As mentioned, Bill picked us up in Canungra. It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive to Helidon, so we really didn't bird on the way. However, Bill made it a quest to do the entire drive off the highway, so again we drove through some great countryside and small towns.

Most exciting though was when we saw several Eastern Gray Kangaroos. These were really powerful looking animals, quite tall. The tips of their tails, ear tips and muzzle were much darker, and you could see the outlines of their muscles in their chest. It was amazing to see when they bounded off. Bill surprised me the next morning with photos he had taken of them.

December 1 birding
Bill picked us up at 8. On this day we stayed mainly about the valley. At his place, he tried out his new coffee maker on me (quite good) and I birded from the veranda while Steve looped the property.

Just from the veranda I got to watch the beautiful zebra finches and doublebar finches, herons out over the creek, various honeyeaters and so on.

We drove throughout the valley, stopping at places Bill knew Steve could get good looks at things. We stopped at the University of Queensland at Gatton, where Steve got good film of red-rumped parrots, and we checked out the ponds below the piggery. I just wanted to type piggery.

This is already a long report, and if I put the whole bird list in, it will be even longer! Besides, Steve is the one who kept the list.

We ended the day back at the veranda, where I enjoyed a Victoria's Bitter. (or is it just Victoria Bitter?)

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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 10:01 PM
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December 2 - Birding
Picked up again at 8, and this day we were going up over the dividing range. Steve likes the yellow-tufted honeyeater, so Bill was taking us to a place where he was likely to get good film.

We drove through the western part of the Lockyer Valley up the escarpment, into Toowoomba, along along country roads. We then got on a two lane highway continuing west, and met up with some kangaroos hopping across the road.

Along we went, stopping for birds, stopping in Leyburn. I don't have the photo I took of the memorial there, but apparently it is a place where in World War II soldiers were trained and took off for Timor? Is that right?

Anyway, headed then along the Cunningham Hwy before we turned off into the Durakay (?) Nat'l Forest to the destination waterhole. As we pull up, a Nankeen (sp?) Night Heron lands right above our head. A pair is resident the entire time we are there.

The countryside is much different here. Not so green, lots of forest with very little understory.

After hanging out there a bit, we left and had lunch at the Gore Rest Stop (there is very little other choice!) Meat pies again! Seriously. I love those meat pies. This time I have chicken curry.

We drive up to Glen Elg, but there are new owners who don't let you on the property any more (big woolshed we had visited last time). We go off through the country adjacent, the guys bird, I see more kangaroos.

More stops, back at the watering hole for awhile, then back on down to Toowoomba where there is a Glossy Black Cockatoo hanging out at the Waterbird Habitat. Bill calls a birding pal to confirm it is still being seen, it is, so we go, and Steve gets great film.

Steve didn't get as good as film as he wanted of the yellow-tufted honeyeater, so he wants to go back the next day. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but Bill's car had been making some alarming noises earlier, and we suspected transmission trouble.

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Old Dec 23rd, 2007, 10:10 PM
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December 3 - Birding
Indeed, the transmission was gone on the car! Bill called a friend of his, Michael Wode, who was going to meet us and take us back out while the garage worked on Bill's car. Michael was a great guy, and it was a delight to meet him.

Unfortunately, with one thing and another, it was noon before we got back out to Durakay. We did go a different way than we had previously, so again saw some interesting countryside. Drove through fields of sunflowers, got to see more wallabies, this time black wallabies.

Steve set up a blind so he could get film of the birds, and as photographers know, at a certain point it is all about patience. So we were there a fairly long time. Finally we ended the day back at Abberton for some final birding and a cup of tea.

Cricket
I forgot to mention that on our first day as we came through Helidon, we saw the Helidon Cricket Club out on the field. Bill pulled up the car and attempted to explain the whole game. We watched for awhile, and he kept explaining. I think Steve is getting it, but not so sure about me!
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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Toucan2 I am enjoying your trip report very much having lived on Tamborine Mountain till fairly recently and in Toowoomba some years ago and I know that area very well.
I have said a number of times on Fodors that although O'Reilly's is nice it is very expensive and you can have the same encounters with birds as you do there on Tamborine Mountain where you do not have to pay anywhere near the cost of O'Reilly's and there are great restaurants around together with lots of other things as well.
When I lived on Tamborine Mt I had a resident Satin Bower bird in the garden and when I had a B&B there we used to get many of the birds O'Reilly's do coming to the verandah and sometimes if we were lucky a pair of little butcher birds would fly into the dining room, sit on the back of a chair and do a duet for guests. Across the road was one of the National Parks and there were lovely walks through that NP where lots of other birds lived including the Lyre birds. At night there are lots of walks to see gloworms and if you miss those there is Natural Bridge not far away with a huge cave with gloworms and a beautiful swimming hole.......... all for free!!!!
For future information for birders - the bird life at Bunya National Park is wonderful and there are cabins there for rental as well. The birds also fly down and pay you a visit on anything you have that they can land on and also there are roos, wallabies and other critters to boot.
So, for any birders out there who would like a trip to Australia to see our birds write a post here on Fodors and we can help you with areas that you either don't have to pay as much and free activities as well.
Toucan2, if I had known about your trip I could have told you where to find a really great place for Bellbirds as well as being a nice drive. Next time perhaps.
Loved your report and I hope that other bird lovers will take note of what you have said.
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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 04:10 PM
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Thank you LizzyF. Next time we visit, we will be exploring some new areas, and will be wide open for suggestions. So many places to visit and so little time!
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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 04:36 PM
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December 4 - A rotten day
On a posting I read about trip reports, someone commented that no one put the bad stuff. That seems logical to me, as who want to remember the rotten stuff?

This just wasn't a good day. There was a miscommunication between Bill and ourselves, and I take full responsibility for our part in not being clear about where we wanted to go, and think he wasn't really "hearing" what we were saying either.

No need to go into details, and it certainly doesn't impact how highly we regard Bill and I hope the same is true of him in how he regards us. All it really does is highlight how important it is if you are using a private guide, that you are very clear about your wants, and that is your responsibility as much as it is the guides.

Along with that, a couple of other hiccups, but then the big one.

I can't even believe that I didn't check the flight to this day. However, before we began our trip, I double checked everything, checked the airline site, and knew that I had always received updates via email in the past if there were schedule changes.

That morning, I checked my email, no schedule change, but for some still unknown reason I didn't go to the Qantas site. We arrived at Brisbane airport at 2:30 for our 3:30 flight, and there simply wasn't one.

The gate agent claimed there never was one (I knew that wasn't true) and we had been expected on a 1:30 flight. The next flight was at 7:55, which put us in Cairns around 10 pm.

It was a looooooooong wait for that next plane. I was upset, Steve was upset, and more importantly, I was looking at a long drive late at night up the Gillies Highway!

We got through the day, however, and made it to the Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge at Lake Eacham at midnight.

In our effort to give our cloud a silver lining, we decided that the benefit of arriving that late was that there were hardly any other cars on the road while I got used to driving on the left again, and, on the very very (did I say very? Let me say it again, very!) windy Gillies Hwy I could easily see the headlights of any oncoming traffic.
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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 05:06 PM
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December 1-4 - comments on lodging and meals

As mentioned in the section on lodging above, we stayed at the Helidon Natural Springs Spa Resort Motel. This was primarily because it was very close to Abberton, where we started and/or ended most days.

If you find yourself traveling on the Warrego Hwy between Brisbane and Toowoomba and need a place to stay, you might like to know a few details. There were, of course, many options in Toowoomba as well.

This is a small family run property, and the folks running it when we were there previously are still running it. It is a young couple, and the young woman's parents.

The rooms are quite spacious, and the one we had had a little seating area outside that was pleasant for morning tea. They've built in butler cupboards, so if you want your breakfast brought to your room, you can fill out a sheet and they will deliver it to the cupboard in the morning.

The property is on top of springs, so the rooms have a big spa tub and you can take a nice mineral bath. I didn't have a chance this time, but did in 2003, and it was very relaxing. There is also a small outside pool, and hydrotherapy pool, but we've never had the chance to use them.

There is AC (although we never used it, preferring to simply have the windows open) and TV with Austar, as well as small fridges, and the requisite kettle.

This is not a fancy place, but the price is very reasonable (includes a light breakfast), it's clean, the shower is hot, and the people who run it are really nice.

There is a small restaurant on the grounds where we ate dinner each night as we did not have a car. We did notice that the average price of the meals had gone up considerably since 2003.

In general, we noticed this in most of the places we went in Australia. I was chatting about this with my friend who lives there, that the price of food seemed so much higher, and she talked to me about the floods, and the droughts, and the cost of transportation, and that yes indeed there had been an impact on prices.

Back to the restaurant on-site, our meals ranged from 37.30 for two to 48.90 for two during the nights we were there. Generally we only had a main and a soft drink.

If you do happen to go there, be aware that the meals are huge! (so it's really not like the meals are overpriced) One night I asked for an entree as a main, and finally on the last night, asked them to just leave off the salad.

Lastly, I thought the barramundi was their best meal, and had it the last two nights.

We did have two loads of laundry done by them, at a cost of $11.

Lunches during this time were grabbed on the go from bakeries, and in one case McDonalds, where I had a chicken tandoori sandwich (Steve just had fish sandwiches, and Bill had a healthy burger of some type that they had there).

It was interesting to see the tandoori sandwich on the menu, along with some others I can't remember right now...it's kind of like seeing grits on the McDonald's menu in the southern part of the US, when you don't see it anywhere else.

I find all the bakeries a bit fascinating as well. Along with what I'm used to seeing in a bakery...breads, pastries, etc...it seems you can always get sandwiches, meat pies, and sausage rolls.

Other interesting differences we took note of, and continued as a theme, was the use of sugar beets (actually, I said that once and was corrected to beetroot - same thing in my book!) shredded carrots, and some kind of sprout that seemed to always show on on salads and hamburgers.

I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just saying it's different to us!

Lastly, ice tea. I know, bring it on, many people can't even understand why you would do such a thing to tea. But I love ice tea. And I got some rather odd flavor combinations when I did try some of the bottled stuff when I could find it.
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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 06:01 PM
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December 5 - Chambers, Lake Barrine, a Leech, Yungaburra, the Curtain Fig Tree, and loads of Pademelons

I will change the structure of my report for this day a bit, and do it in a chronological format.

Chambers

Not a fancy place at all, but again just fine for our purposes. We were the only ones there. At all.

It was nice in the sense that it felt like our own private resort, but we didn't get the nightly talk on pademelons that you are supposed to get (guess that they didn't want to do it for two people) and the lights didn't work for the sugar gliders that night so we didn't get to see them either. Those two things were rather disappointing.

These are self-catering rooms, with stove top (two burners), microwave, fridge, and kitchen ware. There was a satellite fed tv in the room, which surprised us.

The bedroom is separate from the front area and there was another bed in the front area with the kitchenette and lounge chairs, tv and table. There is a covered deck with table and chairs as well.

I can't remember if there was AC. I think this is probably a fine place for birders and families. If you like more upscale comforts, then this will not be for you.

For us, it was great to walk out the door and start birding. Steve was up early the next morning while I slept in, beat from the night before. He had quite a few birds already before we left for the day. Key birds there were the Victoria Riflebird, Toothbilled Bowerbird, gray-headed robin, and spotted catbirds.

The gorgeous Ulysses butterflies were also flitting about. That blue is just impossible.

When we did head out, we first headed to Lake Barrine. Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine are both volcanic crater lakes, and are beautifully blue. At Lake Barrine there is a privately run Tea House, circuit track around the lake, and rainforest walk.

The minute we stepped out of the car at Lake Barrine we got great looks at Eastern Spinebills and Dusky Honeyeater. Steve has the camcorder out right way.

Eventually we make our way into the teahouse for lunch. This was one of the better meals of the trip! Steve had "The Lot" burger--without the pineapple. But it still had an egg and beetroot on it. I must research "The Lot" and general hamburger garnishments in Australia. He said it was pretty good.

I had the fish salad, which was really good. Lots of chopped vegetables such as corn, red pepper, cucumber and more (as well as the sprout like thing I mentioned in an earlier post)chunks of grilled salmon and chopped macadamia nuts with a light dressing. Yes, I recommend it if you stop here for lunch.

These and two soft drinks for 30.10 total.

There are tons of gorgeous flowers about, and I take a lot of pics, trying out the new camera (not very successfully as it turns out later, but it is truly operator error).

We walk the 600 m rainforest walk, see logrunners, and got great looks at a toothbilled bowerbird hanging around the base of a tree for a very long time.

Once the walk met up with the circuit track boardwalk, I sat down on the edge of the boardwalk for a bit, watching a musky rat-kangaroo for awhile while Steve is still filming some birds on the rainforest track.

This turns out to be a mistake as I got my very first leech on the back of my ankle! Yuck. I couldn't get a good grip since it was behind me so Steve had to pull it off. Sticky little buggers.

It's starting to drizzle, which eventually turns to rain. So we turn back on the circuit track, walk past the Kouri (sp?) Pines and look at them in awe for a moment, and head for the parking lot. More great shots of the Eastern Spinebills feeding on the bottlebrush edging the parking lot.

After a bit we decide the rain isn't going to let up, so decide to take advantage of the enforced downtime and head to Yungaburra for some groceries. We hadn't had time to pick up anything as we had gotten in so late the night before, and we would be in self-catering mode for four nights so needed a few things.

I won't bore you with the grocery items! I peeked in one of the gem shops next to the grocery store while I was there, but didn't take much time to browse.

Next we headed for the Curtain Fig Tree. Wow! Another one of those sights that is so much more in person than in a post card. The boardwalk approach doesn't even give the full impact until you round the other side. We ooo'd and aw'd a bit, then headed back to the lodge to put away the groceries.

As it happened, we ended up staying there the rest of the afternoon/evening. Steve birded, I read, then walked down to the Suger Glider Viewing area that Chambers has. The information packet mentioned that sometimes you could see bearded dragons on the logpile there, and I wanted to see if I could spot any.

No bearded dragon, but I watched an Eastern Whipbird for awhile, then a pademelon approached with a joey. She was quite cautious once she spotted me, and I tried not to make any sudden moves and startle her.

There were some beautiful butterflies about, so I went to the guest lounge area to take a look at some of their books. I did find a butterfly book and identified a few.

After we ate dinner in the room, about 6:50 I headed back to the lounge area for the pademelon viewing. Each night there is supposed to be this viewing where they give a talk about the critters and you get to watch them for awhile.

I had seen plenty at O'Reilly's, but was interested in the talk. This was not to be. The lights were on, but no one was there. Eventually a girl came out and threw out bunches of what looked like chunks of potatos, which brought more pademelons in.

When I first got there, there were three off to the side of the grassy area in front of the lodge. They slowly worked their way in. One was the largest, and seemed to be the only one that made noise. It was kind of like an old man clearing his throat.

After the potato chunks were distributed, that brought more in, there were 12 to 13 at one point. All ranges of sizes, and very fun to watch the interplay among them.

There is also supposed to be a Sugar Glider viewing each night. They put this sugar syrup stuff on trees in front of the viewing area. Unfortunately, the lights did not work that night, so they gave us flashlights to take down with us. Unfortunately, none showed up. We rather wondered if the lights were a kind of signal to the gliders, and without them they didn't have their trigger.

The day is done. Well, not completely. We haven't watched any tv on this trip, but find ourself surfing the channels and we came across a highlight show of Chasers War on Everything. This was hilarious!
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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 06:20 PM
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December 6, birding with Alan Gillander, seeing Platypus!, Stops in Mareeba, a birding rest stop, Abbatoir Swamp and Mt Molloy, and on to Kingfisher Park

What a great day. Steve got up early and birded on the property, while I finished packing and made breakfast. Alan Gillander arrived about 7, and we headed out with him. I was glad to have the SUV at this point for the high clearance for some of the roads he took us on!

Steve was in search of the blue-faced parrot finch, so we first headed up to Bartle Frere. Again, for us just the drives through the countryside can be fascinating, and I don't know that we would have made our way up some of these roads on our own (just knowing about them). The Atherton Tableands is gorgeous country.

There are lots of chesnut mannikens and red-brow finches about, but only fleeting glimpses of the blue-faced parrot finch. Beyond the birds, Alan knows so much natural history.

I love plants, so he pointed out plants and flowers such as the sexy ginger (so called because the underside of the leaf is soft and velvety) as we searched out the birds, and we came across a red-bellied black snake sunning itself.

No luck for the bird Steve wants here, so we drive back thorugh the dairyland and worn lychee orchards to the Old Cairns Track. Alan explained that this was the old stock track to Gordan vale.

We drove a fair way along the track, but again no luck. The vistas from this track out over the tablelands was astounding though.

Steve knew I wanted to see a platypus, so had mentioned it to Alan. So, Alan took us off to this place where there is a lot of daytime activity of the platypus. Within minutes of arriving at the pond, the first platypus appeared, and then another and another....It was so cool!

Next we drove to a place that I think is called the Cloud Mountain Reserve. Alan was taking Steve to see a Golden Bowerbird. I started down the track with them, but it was a bit steep, and I'm not the most surefooted of individuals, so I headed back for the car. Steve was pretty excited when they got back as he had gotten really close and lots of good video.

It had also started raining at this point, which made for some exciting moments on the track back down this mountain as the red clay became slicker than, well, you know. Again, glad for the car we had.

All too soon it was time to head back to Chambers and drop Alan back at his car. He had been able to squeeze us in, but had other obligations that day. for 7 to 12:30 we paid $140. We definitely hope to use Alan again, and go on one of the night tours. He's knowledgeable, and entertaining.

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Old Dec 24th, 2007, 06:45 PM
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Well pooh! I wrote the entire rest of the post above, and it only posted through the part with Alan!

Sorry the heading was misleading, but I'm going to need to come back to it tomorrow, too late tonight.
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