Birding Watching & Nature Adventure
of the South East Queensland Region
From the Reefs to the Rainforests
A Bird Lovers journey through a most diverse set of beautifully scenic and natural Environments - The Best of South East Queensland
Sunshine coast and the Hinterland - Bribie Island and Palmerston Passage - Gympie Wetlands - Rainbow Beach - Inskipp Point - Cooloola National Park
Lady Elliot Island and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area - Great Sandy Strait - The South Burnett Gordonbrook Dam and The Bunya Mountains
Thursday 30th Jan to Monday 10th February 2025
Only 12 participants on this Small Group Birding Expedition
12 Days / 11 Nights Fully Escorted Small Group Birding Tour
Single Supplement Options Available
Tour Package includes All Meals, Accommodation, Guides, Sightseeing, Entry Fees to all activities, Porterage, Transfers, Taxes. All Land, Water and Air Charter Transport & Two Experienced Australian Tour Leaders.
This tours pricing includes Return Airfares for the chartered flight between Hervey Bay and Lady Elliot Island as well as all meals during your two full day stay with overnight accommodation in either a Reef or Garden Unit at this exclusive, much sort after and hard to book Eco-Resort. Lady Elliot Island is a bird lovers haven with thousands of sea birds nesting on Lady Elliot Island during the summer breeding season. Seabird breeders arrive on the island solely to nest and raise their young between September and March. Migrant birds inhabit the northern hemisphere and visit Lady Elliot Island during the northern winter.
Other activities include observing nesting and hatching turtles as well as snorkelling and diving. Lonely Planet voted Lady Elliot Island #2 of the ‘7 best beaches for snorkelling around the world’ in 2020. Lady Elliot Island is known as the ‘Home of the Manta Ray’ and these giant kites of the sea can be seen feeding around the island throughout the year. The manta ray is the world’s largest ray, with a wing span of up to seven meters. Three species of sea turtles frequent Lady Elliot Island throughout the year – Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead turtles. Green and Loggerhead turtles are the only ones that nest on the Island which occurs during our visit as will the turtle hatching season. Thousands of baby turtles push through their sand nest on their way to the sea. This wonder of nature occurs only metres from the resort beach front balconies and can be observed at close quarters.
Red Tailed Tropic Bird - note the red tail feathers
Meet tour leader and on tour birding and nature expert
Ken Cross is from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Ken Cross is a teacher by profession and a birder and naturalist bypreference. Raised on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, he has been birding for over thirty years and remains a committed conservationist. He has led birding trips to Western Australia, Outback Queensland, the Wet Tropics and Cape York. In addition, he has organised and led many shorter tours and trips in his role as Convenor for Birdlife Australia on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Ken has also led many birding tours internationally to Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Nepal, China, Canada, USA, Costa Rica, Spain, UK, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia and South Africa! “Nothing”, he claims, “is more wonderful than the first time birding in a brand new country where every call, song and sighting will be a brand new life experience!” Recently, since Covid closed borders, he started a not for profit, Backyards for Biodiversity SEQ Inc - dedicated to expand the amount of urban biodiversity within SEQ and educate residents about our flora and fauna and its importance.
Flynn's Tour Founder and Proprietor, Johnny Gannan will accompany Ken on the tour providing full logistical support. This will enable Ken to concentrate solely on assisting the tour participants to discover the natural world in it's entirety. Ken will help you spot as many birds and other creatures as possible. Johnny is also a Sunshine Coast resident when he's not conducting a tour somewhere on our beautiful Earth.
“My desire is to design and conduct safe and informative tours of adventure and excitement which cater for a range of ages and interests – respecting local communities, promoting the value of nature, culture and history and making possible special memories.”
Day By Day Presentation - Jan & Feb 2025
Day 1: Thursday 30th January - Sunshine Coast and Hinterland
Welcome to the Sunshine Coast! Depending on our arrival time we will do some birding adjacent to our accommodation, starting our SEQ bird lists with common species such as White cheeked and Brown Honeyeaters, Forest Kingfisher, Grey Fantails etc.
Novotel Twin Waters or similar
Day 2 – Fri. 31st January - Bribie Island & Palmerston Passage
Depart From our accommodation we drive south-east to the coastal village of Toorbul. Toorbul, looking east over Pumicestone Passage - a small channel of water separating Bribie Island from the mainland, is an excellent birding location. Here we will see our first Kangaroos; Eastern Greys.
The exact plan for today will be determined by the tide times. There should be a good variety of migratory waders plus resident waterfowl; Chestnut Teal and good numbers of Black Swan. Mangrove species that we should encounter include Mangrove Gerygone, Mangrove Honeyeater and Torresian [or Mangrove] Kingfishers. Some waders we should see include Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew, Common Greenshank, Gray-tailed Tattler, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers. Resident birds should include Pied Oystercatcher, Royal Spoonbill and Masked Lapwing. We should not miss common coastal species such as Silver Gull and Australian Pelican.
In adjacent bushland we will observe a variety of common passerines; Honeyeaters, whistlers, fantails and cuckoo-shrikes to name a few. We will also begin our parrot list with the loud and gaudy Rainbow Lorikeets plus the slightly more subtle Pale-headed Rosellas.
Towards evening we will travel to Blackall Range. Here, after dinner, we will try some spotlighting for Marbled Frogmouth and perhaps some Owl species.
Novotel Twin Waters or similar
Day 3 – Saturday 1st February - Sunshine Coast Hinterland
Today we will start birding at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. This park protects a small area of upland rainforest which offers easy walking. We should see such bird species as Yellow-throated, Large-billed and White-browed scrubwrens, Gray and Rufous fantails, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Brush Turkey; to list a few. We should also see Red-legged Pademelons – a small rainforest kangaroo species. Mary Cairncross also offers fantastic views over the Glasshouse Mountains; a series of large volcanic plugs that rise spectacularly from the flood plain. These mountains were first named in 1770 as Captain Cook sailed past; the first features on the Sunshine Coast to receive an English name.
After a picnic lunch, at a small park where we will encounter common waterfowl, we will further explore some habitats on the Blackall Range; birding in wet sclerophyll forests for Yellow-faced and White-naped honeyeaters, White-throated Tree-creepers, Eastern Yellow and Pale-yellow robins in addition to our first bowerbirds – most likely Satin. The sound of passing Cockatoos, Sulphur-crested, Yellow-tailed Black or both, will be impossible to ignore.
In the afternoon our exploration of the Sunshine Coast will continue as we visit a range of wetlands and beaches, concentrating on coastal species. Coastal headlands should offer us such species as Crested Terns, Pied Cormorants, Sooty Oystercatchers, Reef Egret, overhead Ospreys and Brahminy Kites and the possibility of visiting Wandering Tattlers. Over the sea we could also encounter Caspian, Little, Gull-billed and perhaps Common tern. As you would expect the Sunshine Coast is famous for its beaches and, if there is interest, we will factor in time today for a brief swim at a patrolled beach.
Also today, we will search for a rare Cockatoo – the Glossy Black.
Novotel Twin Waters or similar
Day 4: Sunday 2nd February - Gympie Wetlands & Tin Can Bay
Depending on species missed we may spend the morning in and around the Sunshine Coast before heading north-east to Tin Can Bay for a two night stay. Tin Can Bay is a sleepy little town that overlooks a sheltered inlet. It has been suggested that the town's name derives from the indigenous word, "Tuncanbar", thought to refer to the dugongs that frequent the inlet.
Enroute we will check out several of the wetlands around Gympie searching for Cotton Pygmy Geese, Cattle Egrets [in breeding plumage] and a variety of other egrets, herons and waterfowl.
Sleepy Lagoon Motel, Tin Can Bay
Day 5: Monday 3rd February - Greater Rainbow Beach Area
The greater Rainbow Beach area, including Inskipp Point and the nearby region of Cooloola National Park, is a well-known tourist location. The region's name derives from the rainbow-coloured sand dunes surrounding the settlement; according to the legends of the indigenous Kabi people, the dunes were coloured when Yiningie, a spirit represented by a rainbow, plunged into the cliffs after doing battle with an evil tribesman. Much of the sand colours stem from the rich content of minerals in the sand, such as rutile, ilmenite, zircon, and monazite.
The Rainbow Beach area is home to two difficult to see species – the Ground Parrot and the Black-breasted Button-quail. While trying for these species we will hopefully run into such species as Leaden and Restless flycatchers, Varied Triller, Variegated Fairy-wren, Brown Honeyeater, Brown Quail and, if we are very lucky, the rather elusive King Quail. We will scan sandy beaches home to the unique Beach Stone-Curlew. Along with the rainbow sands we will see Rainbow Bee-eaters.
At some point of the day we will make a 600 metre walk through woodland to the picturesque Carlo Sand Blow. This is a unique bare dune system that covers some 15 hectares and offers great views of the Ocean where it is possible to see southward moving Humpback Whales as well as the cliffs of coloured sands. Captain Cook named the area in 1770 after one of his deck hands.
Sleepy Lagoon Motel, Tin Can Bay
Day 6 : Tuesday 4th February - Great Sandy Strait
Before we leave Tin Can Bay we will visit a dolphin feeding centre. This business has been operating for over fifty years and allows visitors to see a few Australian Humpback Dolphins. Recently described as a species in its own right this is an uncommon cetacean with a small population and slow population growth found in coastal waters along the Queensland coast.
Sooner or later we will continue driving north aiming for the seaside town of Hervey Bay. Guarded from the wilds of the Pacific Ocean by the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island, the Bay looks over calm waters. Here, overlooking the Bay, we might be tempted to try some local fish and chips.
Enroute to Hervey Bay we will visit some coastal villages on the great Sandy Strait and hopefully we will add to our list of migratory waders.
The Mantra - Hervey Bay
Day 7 : Wednesday 5th February - Lady Elliot Island
From Hervey Bay airport we fly for a two day visit to Lady Elliot Island, one of the most significant seabird breeding sites in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This island is the southern most coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. It is small; only 45 hectares, meaning it is easy to explore.
Naturally it is well known site for snorkelling and snorkelling gear will be provided to everyone who would like to enjoy the reef from the water. This is especially recommended!
Large numbers of seabirds can be found at this site between October and April each year. Some of these species include Black and Common noddies; Black-naped, Bridled, Crested, Roseate and [sometimes] Sooty terns; Pied and Sooty oystercatchers; Wedge-tailed shearwaters, Silver Gulls and the threatened Red-tailed Tropic Bird. Both Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds are usually present.
Lady Elliot Island Resort
Day 8 :Thursday 6th February - Lady Elliot Island
At Lady Elliot on the Great Barrier Reef, step off the beach and snorkel, swim or dive in an underwater world of brilliantly coloured marine life. Tour the reef in a glass-bottomed boat, learn to scuba dive, feed the fish, take a guided reef walk or stroll to a deserted beach and live the dream. The lagoon protects and nurtures the curiosity of beginners while further out experienced snorkellers and divers can descend into the stunning Coral Sea. Lady Elliot is famous for its amazing coral gardens and a resident population of 40 Manta Rays. Year-round encounter turtles, dolphins, and a great variety of fish, coral and other marine life, while in season see birds nesting, turtle hatchlings or migrating humpback whales. Late in the afternoon after another great day on Lady Elliot Island we return to Hervey Bay in their planes. We will drive to the South Burnett town of Murgon where we will stay overnight.
Overnight - Wondai
Day 9 – Friday 7th February - South Burnett Birding
We will spend the day birding a variety of sites around the South Burnett area. Target birds include Superb Blue Wren, Jacky Winter, Golden headed Cisticola, Weebill, Red rumped Parrot, Red winged Parrot, Red tailed Black Cockatoo, Grey crowned Babblers, Yellow Thornbill, White winged Chough, Apostlebirds and Speckled Warbler. We will also look out for Whiptail Wallaby, Swamp Wallaby, Herberton Rock Wallaby and Koala.
Kingaroy is an agricultural town and is known as the "Peanut Capital of Australia" because Australia's largest peanut processing plant is located in the town and peanut silos dominate the skyline.
Overnite - Kingaroy
Day 10- Saturday 8th February - Gordonbrook Dam & Bunya Mts
In the morning we will visit a large dam, Gordonbrook near Kingaroy. Here is a great spot to see a variety of waterfowl and wetland species, plus occasional local rarities such as White backed Swallows and Black Falcon!
In the afternoon we will make our way to Bunya Mountains.
Day 11 – Sunday 9th February - Bunya Mountains
Today, a day’s birding in the forests of the Bunya Mountains. The area, the remains of a shield volcano which was built from numerous basalt lava flows about 23-24 million years ago and rises to an average height of just under 1000 metres, offers wonderful views of the surrounding plains but more importantly allows great views of an excellent range of species including Regent and Satin bowerbirds, Paradise Riflebird, Pied Currawong, Topknot and White-headed pigeon, Eastern Yellow and Pale-Yellow robin, Superb Blue and Variegated fairy wren, Russet-tailed and, Bassian thrush, Crested Shrike-tit, Gray Goshawk, Yellow and Brown thornbill and many others. If we are lucky we will see both Red-necked and Black-striped wallabies.
Day 12 – Monday 10th February - Bunya Mountains
AM in Bunya then depart for Sunshine Coast and / or Brisbane Airport
Any question or want to make a booking, contact us Here:
Did you know?
On Australia's Great Barrier Reef, tourists can play a role in an island's epic regeneration story.
By Sarah Reid 27th Sept 2023 - BBC Travel
Master Reef Guide Kirsty Whitman didn't need to tell me twice. Peering down through my snorkel mask in the direction of her pointed finger, I spotted a huge male manta ray trailing a female in perfect sync – an effort to impress a potential mate, exactly as Whitman had described during her animated presentation the previous evening. Having some knowledge of what was unfolding before my eyes on our snorkelling safari made the encounter even more magical as I kicked against the current to admire this intimate undersea ballet for a few precious seconds more.
It's a moment I could have been lucky enough to experience just about anywhere on the Great Barrier Reef. But manta sightings are exceptionally common in the aquamarine waters lapping Lady Elliot Island at the remote southern tip of the World Heritage-listed reef, some 85km north-east of the mainland city of Bundaberg. Its proximity to the continental shelf helps, but studies have indicated that the island's regeneration likely also plays a role in the phenomenon.
"I love being told that something can't be done," said Peter Gash with twinkling eyes, as the managing director of Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort led me into a structure resembling a giant chicken coop, its open-air design allowing the sea breeze to naturally cool the 248 batteries inside. Storing the energy captured by more than 906 solar panels, this humble solar power station generates enough renewable energy to run the entire resort. And that's including custom-built desalination and wastewater treatment plants, as well as the staff quarters.
When the Gash family secured the lease to the 45-hectare island in 2005, switching to solar was a priority – not just for the environment, but also the bottom line. "We had three generators using 550 to 600 litres of diesel a day, and they were so noisy," said Gash. "I'd be out snorkelling and I could still hear them."
With no how-to guide, Gash took himself off on a trip around Australia to research solar power stations. "People said I was mad to attempt something like this out here, but I knew we'd find a way," he grinned.
The father of two finally achieved his goal in 2020. But the island's renewable energy journey is just one chapter of an incredible regenerative tourism story with lessons for the world.
Stripped almost bare by guano miners in the late 1800s, with the establishment of new growth prevented by goats placed on the island by the Queensland Government to ensure food for shipwrecked sailors, Lady Elliot had been reduced to little more than a field of compacted coral by the mid-20th Century. Yet, keen aviator Don Adams saw a business opportunity when he landed on the degraded Commonwealth island in 1969, opening a small resort and commencing a DIY revegetation programme.
A decade later, a young Peter Gash became similarly smitten with the island – or more accurately, its potential – during a sailing trip accompanied by the woman who would become his wife, Julie. Gaining his pilot's licence, Gash began flying tourists from Brisbane and the Gold Coast to Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave, 40km north-west, for a taste of the Great Barrier Reef without the need to travel up to the main reef tourism hub of Cairns. Struck by the contrast between stark Lady Elliot and its densely vegetated neighbour, where colonial-era mining was less extensive, a seed was planted.
Building on Adams' legacy, Gash estimates more than 10,000 native seedlings have since been planted across the island. Combined with an invasive plant eradication programme, Lady Elliot is an isle transformed, with guest cabins now protected from north-easterly winds by a neon-green wall of octopus bushes, and a forest of pisonia trees rising up from the western side of the island providing a home for nesting seabirds. Pandanus trees anchor dunes frequented by nesting green and loggerhead turtles, and Gash's team is currently exploring ways to replant the island's airstrip with native grasses.
The revegetation of the island, now home to the second-highest diversity of bird species on the Great Barrier Reef, is also having a ripple effect on the surrounding reef, with seabird nutrients naturally filtered by the shingle coral cay recently found to have a fertiliser-like effect on coral.
"In high concentrations, the phosphate and nitrogen in bird poop could kill the reef, but it's a bit like chocolate – if you have a little bit, it's OK," Gash explained.
Plunging in for a scuba dive, I was spellbound by the vitality of Lady Elliot's fringing reef. Circling the base of a coral reef outcrop, I spied a green turtle the size of a dining room table dozing beneath an overhang. There was a flash of colour as a pair of parrotfish – a key indicator of a healthy reef – darted past, and every anemone seemed to be filled with robust family of clownfish.
But as I'd seen earlier, these sparkling blue waters, protected as a marine national park "green (no-take) zone", are best known for their majestic manta rays. Showcased in David Attenborough's three-part Great Barrier Reef documentary, a semi-resident manta population swells to some 700 individuals during the winter months, making the island one of the best places in the world to swim with these kites of the sea.
Here guests don't just admire mantas, but also help protect them by participating in Project Manta. Hosted in collaboration with the University of Queensland, the initiative allows tourists to photograph and upload images of the mantas they see, with data collected directly impacting science on the reef.
It's one of a handful of citizen science projects guests can get involved with during their stay on the laid-back island, where visitors are also encouraged to join staff in making a pledge to protect the ecosystem via actions including minimising the use of electricity and water, leaving birds and marine life undisturbed, and even going easy at the dining room buffet to limit food waste. While many other Great Barrier Reef Island resorts have since stepped up their sustainability initiatives, there is still nowhere else quite like this family-friendly outpost on the Great Barrier Reef.
With no phones, TVs or wi-fi in the simple but comfortable guest cabins (refurbished between 2021-23), visitors are invited to engage instead with the island, with a packed daily schedule of included presentations and experiences to mix and match. I was intrigued by the Climate Change Trail, and the irony wasn't lost on me when I discovered that the self-guided walk – installed years before the climate crisis became a global flashpoint – had been almost entirely consumed by regenerated vegetation. One still-accessible signboard highlighting the impacts of rising global temperatures on the sex of sea turtle hatchlings stands testament to the global importance of the dedication of Gash and his team to minimise the carbon footprint of the island, which was also the first on the Great Barrier Reef to ban single-use plastic bottles, in 2012.
"The more we give back to the island, the more it gives back to us," says Gash. "It teaches a story of hope, showing people that if we can fix this little place, we can fix our big place, too."
His efforts haven't gone unnoticed, with Gash awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2020 for his services to ecotourism and aviation. Lady Elliot has also drawn some the world's biggest names in conservation over the years, including King (then-Prince) Charles, who visited in 2018 as part of a roundtable discussion with business leaders on the role they could play in protecting the reef. The same year, Lady Elliot was selected as the first "climate change ark" to be established through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's Reef Islands Initiative, a 10-year project to establish a network of climate change refuges to protect critical habitats on key reef islands.
With a barge arriving just three times a year to transport just 15 bins of garbage to the mainland and top up supplies, nothing is wasted on Lady Elliot. Rubbish is diligently separated, food scraps are churned into compost by a machine affectionally known as Oscar, and treated wastewater is used for irrigation. Yet guests don't go without, with sundowners served out of the back of an electric buggy on Lighthouse Beach every evening at sunset adding a touch of luxury.
With the fleet of small, fuel-efficient planes used to transport guests to the island accounting for most of the resort's emissions (guests can opt to pledge $2 to support its carbon-offsetting programe in partnership with Greenfleet), Gash now has his sights set on transitioning to electric aviation.
"I had hoped to be flying an electric aircraft to Lady Elliot by my 65th birthday, but with only a year to go now, it might have to be by my 70th," he grinned, with that twinkle in his eyes again.