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Published: June 10th 2008
"Queensland: where its beautiful one day, perfect the next". That's the tourism slogan. It was just bad luck that I arrived in Brisbane right at the same time as an unseasonable severe storm warning was announced. I left Brisbane for the Lamington National Park in the worst rain yet, monsoon-style rain.
Lamington is a couple of hours south of Brisbane just near the border with New South Wales. It is roughly divided into the Green Mountains section which is mainly rainforest (that's where I would be), and the Binna Burra section which is mainly dry eucalyptus forest. As well as such royally-titled birds as the regent bowerbird and Albert's lyrebird, the park also plays host to a freshwater crustacean called the Lamington spiny lobster, which must surely be a most delicious creature, being named as it is after two most delicious foods. I would be there for five nights and I was particularly looking forwards to finding the Albert's lyrebird and the paradise riflebird.
The rain had settled down to a gentle mist by the time we actually arrived at Lamington and it graciously stayed as such while I set up my little tent in the campground. Then it
started with the deluge once again. I went for a bit of a wander in the downpour and managed to score a few new birds, including what must be two of the most adorable little birds ever, the large-billed scrubwren and the yellow-throated scrubwren. They're generally pretty tame until the camera comes out and then they suddenly come over all shy and disappear. Once I'd had enough of the rain I headed back to my tent to discover that it obviously wasn't coping with the amount of water coming out of the sky and had decided to take this inopportune moment to spring a rather substantial leak or two. I ended up sleeping in the shower block for the night.
The campsite is pretty nice when its not being turned into a water-slide. There are red-necked pademelons all over it grazing down the grass, as well as brush-turkeys that steal anything that they think may be edible and that isn't nailed down. There was one brush-turkey with a severely deformed foot whom I nicknamed "Gollum, the Evil One, who crept up and slipped away with my soap, my soap, yeah" (just a bit of readjustment to a Led Zeppelin
song there). Up the road is O'Reilly's Guesthouse where the rich people stay -- prices per night range up to $680; the campsite run by the National Parks Service is $4.50 per night. There's a feeding area for birds outside the Guesthouse which attracts flocks of crimson rosellas and king parrots and great hordes of brush-turkeys. Its not that popular with the Parks Service because feeding wildlife en masse always ends in problems, but people can do what they want to do on their own land. There are also satin bowerbirds all over the show.
On the second day the rain had stopped and it fortunately remained fine for the rest of my stay in the Park, although some nights were so cold that even in my sleeping bag with three layers of clothing on and a woolly hat I was still shivering. I emptied my tent of water in the morning and dried it out, then went off in search of lyrebirds. There are just two species of lyrebirds in the world and I'd seen the superb lyrebird last year in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. The Albert's lyrebird is found in only a relatively small area around
the Queensland/New South Wales border, and Lamington is their stronghold. I was expecting them to be very shy and hard to find, but rather to my surprise I found three of them during the course of the day, and a total of eight by the time I left. They mostly turned out to be fairly trusting so long as I didn't get to within more than a couple of metres, but I found them almost impossible to photograph because it was pretty dark in the forest and they didn't like the camera being pointed at them. Other sights for the day were several paradise riflebirds (my first bird-of-paradise!) and green catbirds which are very nice to look at but sound like a cat being slowly strangled to death. Whipbirds proved very easy to see, unlike in other places I'd been. I think the major highlight however was the rain disappearing and the sun coming out to dry everything out. In the evening I tried a bit of spotlighting and found lots of ringtail possums, which are all brown and black and white and so cute, like tiny tree-climbing killer whales. Other finds were a couple of northern bobucks or short-eared
brushtail possums (like regular brushtails but with smaller ears; the northern bobuck is now the 70th species of mammal I've seen in the wild), a dingo!!, and a most excellent leaf-tailed gecko. O'Reilly's has a treetop walkway in the forest which is free for all to use so I took to going up there every evening and morning to look for possums. And possums there were in plenty but as for night birds there were none. I heard one boobook once, but that was as close as I got to finding any owls, and I certainly didn't find the hoped-for marbled frogmouth.
It was still fine on Wednesday, so no problems with rain that day. Order of the day was a walk to Yerralahla (aka "the blue pool") to try and spot a platypus in the river there. To all those nay-sayers back home who thought I'd never find one, well you were right. I did see another dingo and another lyrebird, but no platypus.
On Thursday I went on an unsuccessful hunt for rufous scrub-birds, described in the field guide as "amongst most difficult of birds to see". Found three lyrebirds, yawn. Actually I really like the
the bower of a satin bowerbird (Ptilinorhynchus violaceus)
this is his display ground, which he decorates with blue things to impress the ladies
Albert's lyrebird, in my opinion much more superb than the superb lyrebird.
Friday was a slow day because it was the last day in the Park for two lovely French girls I had been making the acquaintance of, who were travelling round Australia in their bright yellow van, so I just spent the day cruising with them. After they had left back for Brisbane I went off and found my eighth lyrebird, this one a displaying male (so now I've seen both species of lyrebird in display). He sounded like R2-D2, because some of the calls he was impersonating in his ventriloquistic display were those of the male satin bowerbird, which does a good Star Wars impression itself. Friday was also the day that the campground started filling up with weekend campers. It was funny watching them driving up in their cars and unloading tents that set up to about the size of small bungalows, and then setting up chairs and tables outside, probably swimming pools and casino too. I'm sitting there watching them in my amused sort of way and they're looking back at me thinking "look at that chump, with his tiny bivouac tent. He doesn't even
have a table. That's not camping!". Ah, the amusements of life.
Last day at Lamington, and I was going to go have a wander around the eucalyptus forests at Morans Falls but instead I found the bower of a satin bowerbird and spent ages trying to get photos of him on it. Then I met a lady and her daughter who told me where to go to finally find regent bowerbirds. Apparently you just go stand outside O'Reilly's with a handful of sultanas. Which I did, and promptly got three or four females and a male flying down to land on my hand. Pretty easy. Of course I couldn't get photos of them in that position and the male wouldn't hang around to perch nearby, but the females did.
Then I caught the bus back to Brisbane, and that was the end of my trip.
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