Top Ten birds we love to photograph at O’Reilly’s

Everyone loves a good countdown. So grab a cup of your favourite warm beverage and settle back for our top 10 birds we photographed at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park in Queensland Australia.

10. Eastern Spinebill

One of the smaller honeyeaters we photographed is the Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris). These little speedsters can be seen flitting about in bushes, feeding on the pollen in native flowers and you may even spot one hovering like a little hummingbird as it feeds from a flower. They are erratic, they sound cranky at times with their piping songs, but they truly are sweet little birds.

Netra’s wonderful behavioural image showing the spinebill feeding on a grevillea flower. Olympus OMD-E M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO3200, f/4, 1/640th.
Olympus OMD-E M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO3200, f/4, 1/640th.

9. Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) are a common flycatcher species of the eastern seaboard and forests. Very brazen in areas of human activity, they will often hop around at one’s feet in places where there are camping/picnicking areas, and the birds often become accustomed to human foot traffic.

Netra pushed the OM-1 body hard to get this shot of an Eastern Yellow Robin. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO10,000, f/5.6, 1/400th.
OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO10,000, f/5.6, 1/400th.

8. Australian King Parrot

The third bird on our popular list is none other than the gorgeous Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) another medium-sized bird that is sexually dimorphic, meaning there is a visual difference between the red and green-coloured males and the green females and juveniles.

These birds are quite bold and will not hesitate to sit on your hands and shoulders, as well as your head when you offer them free food. They are very cheeky and quite forward and think nothing of landing on you to demand food or preen one’s hair.

7. Crimson Rosella

Another favourite and quite common bird around the feeding station or the general lawn area is the Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans), a beautiful red/blue parrot of around medium size. We try to take action images of them rather than static portraits, but it doesn’t matter in the end. Pro capture in the OM System camera is a remarkable feature which allowed us to catch the wings in the most optimal position as the birds take off for a flight.

This stunning image, captured by Netra, shows a Crimson Rosella taking off, and you can still see some greenish plumage remaining, which is from its juvenile state. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO2000, f/5.6, 1/6400th, pro capture.

6. Eastern Whipbird

Hearing the loud whistle and whipcrack call of a male Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus), which is often followed by the two-note chew-chew response from the female, will most certainly make our hearts race with excitement. These amazing – and often skulky – characters hop along the ground as they forage for insects and other invertebrates. At O’Reilly’s, they can be rather “friendly”, so a long super telephoto lens will not always be a necessary addition to your camera.

A male Eastern Whipbird posing nicely. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro, ISO6400, f/4, 1/125th.
A tame Eastern Whipbird male approaches me with my wide angle lens. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro at 12mm, ISO6400, f/4, 1/160th.

5. Green Catbird

With a call that reminds us of a baby crying in the forest, the Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) is a truly unique character. Often hiding among the foliage, up high in the treetops, they can be difficult to see in the dappled light, with their beautiful plumage and the backlight coming through the canopy all contributing to this difficulty.

We love them, though, as at times, they do come low or pop up in some unexpected spaces.

Green Catbird photographed along The Wishing Tree Track. Olympus OMD-E-M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro and MC-20 teleconverter, ISO2000, f/8, 1/25th.
OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO3200, f/4, 1/50th.

4. Australian Logrunner

One of the more difficult to spot birds is the Australian Logrunner (Orthonyx temminckii). These small forest dwellers stay on the ground as they forage in the undergrowth. More often heard rather than seen, but with a bit of legwork and observation, you too could spot them skulking around.

Netra took this photo of a male logrunner peeking above a log. Olympus OMD-E M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO6400, f/5, 1/60th.

3. Satin Bowerbird

The fourth bird we admire is none other than the spectacular Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus), which can be found in Sydney, where we reside. Males have a beautiful black/purple sheen with violet eyes and females/juveniles are green also with violet eyes. They appear to be a little more stand-offish than the Regent Bowerbirds, however, they still present nice photographic opportunities.

Netra nailed this in-flight shot of what we thought was an immature Satin Bowerbird. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO8000, f/4.5, 1/4000th.
Olympus OMD-E M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO1600, f/4, 1/800th.

2. Albert’s Lyrebird

Another bird that many birders and photographers come to see and photograph is the famous Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti), which has a very limited distribution and this is one of the more reliable places to observe them. During two separate trips to O’Reilly’s, we had the best encounters with this beautiful bird on our February trip, where we had up to four foraging near the old dam between the cafe and the campgrounds. Since a lot of these birds live in a dark rainforest, or there are many times ambient light is low, high ISO and super slow shutter speeds are necessary to capture a sharp image. The lyrebird below was taken at a shutter speed of only 1/25th of a second, hand-held, which was made possible by the incredible image stabilisation found in Olympus equipment – both in body and in-lens stabilisation.

An Albert’s Lyrebird scraping among the leaf litter near the old dam. Olympus OMD-E M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO6400, f/4, 1/25th.
Olympus OMD-E M1X, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO6400, f/4, 1/25th.

1. Regent Bowerbird

Let’s face it: there is one bird most birders and photographers go to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat to encounter… and that is the Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus) a sexually dimorphic summer visitor to this high altitude retreat. These spectacular birds usually arrive around September and depart back down towards their overwintering grounds closer to the coast at the end of January.

When Netra and I first visited O’Reilly’s in mid-February 2022, only one lone male was hanging around, which she spotted on our very last day through heavy rain. Those same rains inundated the southeastern areas of Australia, creating a flood disaster of immense proportions.

Netra took this incredible image of a stunning male Regent Bowerbird in flight. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO8000, f/5.6, 1/3200th

The birds are fed by visitors and staff at O’Reilly’s daily which means that most birds, both resident and visitors, are quite accepting of human presence and will often land on you. Of course, this is a great opportunity to take amazing photos. While you don’t have to work as hard to approach within shooting distance of the birds, you still need to understand your camera settings and shooting skills as the opportunities arise quickly and you have to be on the ball to catch a shot like the one above. But with practice, anyone can do it.

We were much luckier in November 2022, and we captured hundreds of frames of these spectacular birds. At times you may have up to 10 male Regent Bowerbirds, and many more females and juveniles hanging about, which look completely different to the incredibly gaudy-looking males.

Female (top left) and two male Regent Bowerbirds. OM System OM-1, M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 Pro, ISO2500, f/5.6, 1/6400th. High ISO and shutter speed selected to freeze flight images while using the camera’s pro capture feature.

With some patience, skill and persistence, even a beginner photographer can achieve images they will be proud to show off.

O’Reilly’s is one of our favourite places to photograph birds in Australia.

To achieve images like the ones above, join us on an immersive, 5-day/4-night bird photography intensive at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. During our informative walks and hands-on tutorial classroom sessions, we will take you through the best way to capture images like these with your own camera and photographic equipment.

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