Lamington National Park

This trip report - well, it's more of a summary of the birds there than a trip report really - covers the spectacular Lamington National Park. Without question, is one of Australia's premier birdwatching locations. The park, which is about 20,000 hectares in size, is located in southern Queensland,120 km west of Brisbane, and 85 km west of the Gold Coast. (Thanks to Greg Oakley for the use of some of his superb photographs.)

Regent Bowerbird - is this Australia's most spectacular bird?

Generally when I'm visiting Lamington, I travel in via one of the the two major access point - Green Mountains and Binna Burra. Both of these are near major guest house lodges.  

Where to Stay 

On the east side of the park there is the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, reached via Binna Burra Rd from Beechmont Rd. On the west side, in an are known as Green Mountains, is O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, reached via Lamington National Park Road via Canungra.Both lodges provide superb, albeit but somewhat expensive accommodation. The national park camping area is located at Green Mountains section, 200 m from the park's information centre. Binna Burra Mountain Lodge also runs a camping area adjacent to the Binna Burra section of the park.

Rainforest along the Coomera Track. 
The Forest

Lamington’s vast forested region contains Australia's largest preserves of pristine sub-tropical rainforest, being one of the major upland subtropical rainforest remnants in the world and the most northern southern beech cool temperate rainforest in Australia.

The park ranges from palm filled valleys with waterfalls and crystal clear rivers to mist covered tops (1100 metres) clothed in cool temperate rainforest dominated by Antarctic Beech trees. Amazingly the root system of one the oldest Antarctic beech trees has been measured at being over 5000 years old. 

With a myriad of ridges and cliff lined valleys, Lamington sits on a plateau that consists of the remains of a vast ancient volcano, the remnant core of Mount Warning. The central core of subtropical rainforest is bordered by a variety of other typical Australian vegetation types and the diversity of plants and animals reflects this. For example, Lamington boasts over 160 bird species, 900 species of vascular plants, and 70 mammal species.

Wompoo Fruit-dove. Image Greg Oakley.

The Birds

Lamington is famous for being a tremendous place to see a myriad of rainforest specialists, via it superb network of walking tracks - there is 160 kilometres of them. Sought-after species include Albert's Lyrebird, Rufous Scrub-bird, Eastern Bristlebird, Paradise Riflebird, Australian Logrunner, Noisy Pitta (
listen for their distinctive walk to work call), Regent Bowerbird, Russet-tailed and Bassian Thrush,  Eastern Whipbird, and robins such as Pale Yellow, Rose and Eastern Yellow.

Some of the exotic pigeons here include Brown Cuckoo-Dove,  Emerald Dove, Rose-crowned, Superb and Wompoo Fruit-Dove, and Wonga, White-headed  and Topknot Pigeon. In spring and summer you get a return of migratory species such as monarchs such as Spectacled, Black-faced and White-eared Monarch, Rufous Fantail, and White-throated Needletail. 

For birders, one of the most sought after species at Lamington is the rare and elusive Rufous Scrub-bird. When walking in Lamington in July 2007, I had good views of this species along the Coomera Circuit (which starts near the Binna Burra Kiosk). This was 4 km down Coomera Circuit, in a patch of grassy heath immediately behind the first rocky lookout. The best way to find them is to listen for their very load penetrating call, used to advertise their territory (typically about 1 ha in size), particularly during the breeding season. The call will ring in your ears if you stand too close. 

Perhaps the main trail for looking for Rufous Scrub-bird is along the Lamington's famous Border Track. It follows the border between NSW and Queensland along the top of the McPherson Range, linking Binna Burra to the O'Reilly's guest house at Green Mountains. The total walking distance of is about 21 km, so it's not short/ From a birders perspective it generally takes 7 to 8 hours to complete - this allows you time to stop and look at your target species along the way. From either end they can usually organise transportation back to the side that you've come from. Check with the lodges for details. Most of the Border Track is subtropical rainforest, although there are occasional sections where Antarctic Beech is very prominent. Some of the trees are estimated to be 4,000 years old. Concentrate your search the skulking Rufous Scrub-bird in areas of Antarctic Beech  particularly where there is grassy, heavily-grown understorey.

Specifically, probably the best area to looking  is between Mt Bithongabel and Mt Merino, and then along the Mt Merino loop. From Binna Burra, Mt Merino is reached by following the Main Border Track past Joahlah Lookout to the foot of Mt Hobwee and then west to the base of Mt Merino itself. Once you've reached the Mt Merino Track, which leads off to the left, about 400 m up the you come to the excellent Beerebano Lookout. From here the track continues to the summit and the spectacular Merino Lookout, where there is Antarctic Beech at the very top. Rufous Scrub-bird occur around the summit. 

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot. Image Greg Oakley.
There are also records of  'Coxen’s Fig-parrot' at Lamington - the southernmost subspecies (ssp coxeni) of the Double-eyed Fig-parrot.  It is one of the rarest and least known parrots in the world. Since it was described by John Gould in 1866 (he named it after his brother-in-law, naturalist Charles Coxen), it has been seen fewer than 200 occasions. At Lamington the only two species it could be confused with are Little and Musk Lorikeet (both uncommon species in the park) - Fig-parrot are distinguished from these two species by their dumpier build, seemingly tail-less silhouette and more rounded wings. Your only real chance of seeing one is when they are flying, due to the habit of foraging quietly quietly in the very top of large rainforest trees. In flight, they give a flight call, which is harsher, more staccato than Little and Musk Lorikeet, resembling a series of short, detached musical notes. With a size of about 14 cm, it is also Australia's smallest parrot. If you are fortunately to see or hear what you think is Coxen’s Fig-parrot, report it immediately to the Coxen's Fig Parrot Recovery Team (after you've given me a call!). 

Birding From O'Reilly's.  

Well known tracks include the Box Forest Circuit (10.9 km, 4 hr return from O'Reilly's), Toolona Creek Circuit (17.4 km, 6 hr return), and the Albert River Circuit (20.6 km, 7 hr return to O'Reilly's). It is also worth having a look at Python Rock Lookout (excellent for Albert's Lyrebird in wetter areas and Red-browed Treecreeper in drier areas) and Morans Falls, with the area around the car park a good sites for birding. Green Catbird can usually been seen in the trees immediately above the walks entrance. Mick's Tower is also a recommended stakeout for the Marbled Frogmouth. The walk to Yerralahla pool (also known as the Blue Pool) is an excellent walk, and a particularly good walk to see Noisy Pitta. 

Birding From Binna Burra

I can recommend the Coomera Circuit (17.4 km, 7 hr return to Binna Burra)  - or just do the walk to the Coomera Falls Lookout and back, which is approx 10 km. The Lower Bellbird Circuit (12 km return, 4 hr) is also worthwhile, or for a really nice short walk, head down the Border Track, cutting back across to the Coomera Track at Tallawallal (just over 1 km from the start), and then walk back again. Here the track passes through dense rainforest with occasional small creeks crossing the track, and you can seen most of the rainforest specialists birds along this trail.

Two birds that often create identification problems due of their similarities are Russet-tailed and Bassian Thrush. The Russet-tailed Thrush is actually more common and widespread than the Bassian at Lamington. The main difference is the white in the tail, looking specifically for the white outer tail feathers in the Russet-tailed Thrush. Only the corners of the Bassian Thrush's tail is white while the Russet-tailed Thrush has white sides for the greater length. I've also found the Russet-tailed Thrush to be slightly more slender than the Bassian Thrush, which can appear plumpish. As a rule, Bassian Thrush inhabited the higher altitudes down to about 850 m, while the Russet-tailed inhabit lower areas, up to 500 m, but sometimes as high as   1000 m. The call also is diagnostic - calling early in the morning, and just before dusk. The Russet-tailed Thrush's call is pheee-phooo sound, while, to me, Bassian Thrush sounds very similar to a Blackbird. Once you've worked at these differences both species start be distinctive and not overly difficult to differentiate. 

Brown Gerygone. Image Greg Oakley.

Duck Creek Rd (4WD) is a good site for drier eucalypt forest (rather than rainforest). Here you may see Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Red-browed Treecreeper, Spotted Quail-thrush, Variegated and Red-backed Fairy-wrens, Painted Button-quail and, in the drier scrubby areas of rainforest (often in association with Lantana), you have a chance of seeing Black-breasted Button-quail and Eastern Bristlebird (very rare this far north). 

Little Shrike-thrush. Image Greg Oakley.

If your keen, spot light for night birds along the roads on your return, looking for the rainforest dwelling Marbled Frogmouth and Sooty Owl, as well as  Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth, and Australian Owlet-nightjar. There are also the odd records of Powerful Owl and White-throated Nightjar. Raptors to look for at Lamington include Grey Goshawk (usually the grey morph, rather than white), Collared Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon and Wedge-tailed Eagle.

Some of the interesting mammals in the park include the Grey Kangaroo, Red-necked Pademelon, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Sugar Glider, Mountain Brushtail and Common Ring-tail Possum, Common Planigale, Greater Glider, Koala, Large-eared Pied Bat, while Platypus paddle around in the larger creeks. Other animals to be seen at Lamington include Carpet Python, Masked Mountain Frog, Richmond Birdwing Butterfly, Giant Panda Snail and the Lamington Spiny Crayfish, or Blue Mountain Crayfish. This is only found on the Lamington plateau in creek and pools above 450 metres - look for them in the pool at Goorawa Falls, reached via the Coomera Circuit. 

Lamington National Park Complete Bird List

See below Eremaea's ( complete list for Lamington National Park. Essentially 1 % represents a single sighting. Note also that birds such as the shorebirds and Mangrove Honeyeater were seen Coomabah Lake and the Coomera River.

Black Swan1%Pacific Black Duck3%Musk Duck1%
Australian Wood Duck4%Chestnut Teal1%
Australian Brush-turkey69%

King Quail1%

Australasian Grebe1%

Black-necked Stork1%

Great Cormorant1%Little Pied Cormorant1%
Australian Pelican1%

White-necked Heron3%Cattle Egret3%
White-faced Heron3%Nankeen Night-Heron1%
Australian White Ibis3%Royal Spoonbill1%
Straw-necked Ibis3%Yellow-billed Spoonbill1%
Pacific Baza1%Brahminy Kite1%Collared Sparrowhawk2%
Black-shouldered Kite3%Grey Goshawk11%Wedge-tailed Eagle10%
Whistling Kite2%Brown Goshawk1%Little Eagle1%
Nankeen Kestrel1%Brown Falcon3%
Australian Hobby1%Peregrine Falcon4%
Lewin's Rail3%Purple Swamphen1%Dusky Moorhen1%
Masked Lapwing10%

Black-winged Stilt1%

Comb-crested Jacana1%

Terek Sandpiper1%Eastern Curlew1%
Whimbrel1%Bar-tailed Godwit1%
Red-backed Button-quail1%Black-breasted Button-quail1%
Rock Dove1%Emerald Dove7%Wompoo Fruit-Dove14%
White-headed Pigeon15%Crested Pigeon6%Superb Fruit-Dove2%
Spotted Dove2%Wonga Pigeon44%Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove7%
Brown Cuckoo-Dove52%Bar-shouldered Dove2%Topknot Pigeon19%
Glossy Black-Cockatoo4%Galah2%Sulphur-crested Cockatoo22%
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo14%Little Corella1%
Rainbow Lorikeet17%Crimson Rosella67%Pale-headed Rosella7%
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet3%Eastern Rosella1%Australian King-Parrot66%
Brush Cuckoo2%Shining Bronze-Cuckoo9%Pheasant Coucal4%
Fan-tailed Cuckoo18%Australian Koel1%
Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo2%Channel-billed Cuckoo1%
Sooty Owl5%

Powerful Owl1%Southern Boobook11%
Australian Owlet-nightjar5%

Tawny Frogmouth4%Marbled Frogmouth3%
White-throated Nightjar1%

White-throated Needletail7%

Azure Kingfisher1%Collared Kingfisher1%
Laughing Kookaburra25%Sacred Kingfisher3%
Rainbow Bee-eater2%


Noisy Pitta28%

Albert's Lyrebird45%

Rufous Scrub-bird9%

Green Catbird59%Regent Bowerbird45%Satin Bowerbird69%
White-throated Treecreeper41%Red-browed Treecreeper5%
Red-backed Fairy-wren2%Superb Fairy-wren27%Variegated Fairy-wren5%
Eastern Spinebill48%Noisy Miner14%White-naped Honeyeater8%
Lewin's Honeyeater73%Little Wattlebird1%White-throated Honeyeater3%
Yellow-faced Honeyeater18%Scarlet Honeyeater5%Blue-faced Honeyeater3%
Mangrove Honeyeater1%Brown Honeyeater4%Little Friarbird1%
Bell Miner8%New Holland Honeyeater1%Noisy Friarbird5%
Eastern Bristlebird1%

Spotted Pardalote22%Striated Pardalote7%
Yellow-throated Scrubwren63%Brown Thornbill55%Weebill1%
White-browed Scrubwren67%Yellow-rumped Thornbill1%White-throated Gerygone1%
Large-billed Scrubwren42%Yellow Thornbill3%Brown Gerygone42%
Buff-rumped Thornbill3%Striated Thornbill11%Mangrove Gerygone1%
Australian Logrunner65%

Eastern Whipbird68%

Spotted Quail-thrush2%

White-breasted Woodswallow1%Masked Woodswallow1%White-browed Woodswallow1%
Grey Butcherbird10%Australian Magpie31%
Pied Butcherbird12%Pied Currawong61%
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike10%Cicadabird3%
Barred Cuckoo-shrike1%Varied Triller3%
Varied Sittella4%

Crested Shrike-tit5%Golden Whistler44%Little Shrike-thrush8%
Olive Whistler7%Rufous Whistler3%Grey Shrike-thrush48%
Olive-backed Oriole1%Australasian Figbird5%
Spangled Drongo4%

Willie Wagtail12%Grey Fantail45%Rufous Fantail30%
White-eared Monarch1%Pied Monarch1%Restless Flycatcher1%
Black-faced Monarch23%Magpie-lark5%
Spectacled Monarch8%Leaden Flycatcher1%
Torresian Crow39%Australian Raven5%
Paradise Riflebird40%

Jacky Winter1%Pale-yellow Robin16%
Rose Robin14%Eastern Yellow Robin70%
Welcome Swallow36%Tree Martin1%
Rufous Songlark1%


Bassian Thrush28%Russet-tailed Thrush16%
Common Myna1%Common Starling1%

Australasian Pipii1%

Red-browed Finch30%Double-barred Finch1%Chestnut-breasted Mannikin1%

    Mammals (personal list)
    Red-legged Pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica) Common Binna Burra and rainforest tracks.  
    Red-Necked Pademelon (Thylogale thetis) Grassy areas Binna Burra.  
    Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) Seen at night near the carpark at Binna Burra.  
    Black flying-fox (Pteropus alecto) Small colony along river near Cunungra.  
    Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) Farmland in lower areas.  
    Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus parryi).

      Copyright Tim Dolby