Cairns RFI results

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Cairns RFI results
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 11:43:35 +1000
Hi Phil and everybody,

Back home at last and trying to catch up.  The first week home was spent 
thawing out
from that cold weather in southern Australia.  Boy! After 9 years in the 
tropics, it
certainly was hard to handle!

Regarding the Buff-breasted Button-quail - I honestly don't know what to advise
other than to say that if you do find it somewhere, I would like to hear about 
I recently completed a project (report yet to be written) for Queensland
Ornithological Society (Birds Queensland) to try to determine its current 
After 15 months, and about 15,000 km travelled from Coen and Iron Range in the 
to Georgetown in the south and most places in between, I am not much wiser
unfortunately, except to say that it seems numbers are extremely low and that 
species is probably in trouble.  I found only three pairs (between early 
1998 and early February 1999) - all about Mt Molloy.  However, after the initial
sighting of each pair, none could be relocated.  This does not mean that Mt 
is THE area for them - it was simply that being close to home I was able to
concentrate on them more often.  I was also able to keep the search up through 
Wet Season as well - most areas north of here are inaccessible through the Wet.

I still suspect quantity/density of grass has an influence on them.  We have 
had 2
long, very wet Wet Seasons which has resulted in a huge, dense body of grass.  
seem to prefer thinly grassed areas -  at least during the breeding season (Wet
Season).  The three pairs were all found in this habitat.

If  travelling as far north as Coen, look in the short grassy areas between the 
and the airport (north).  This seems ideal habitat at least for breeding .  
This is
also in the same general area where McLennan found them breeding in 1922 
April) and collected skins, and found nests.

Following the time and effort put in during the QOS study, I am pretty sure 
that the
size of the remaining population is very small and that the species is probably 
trouble - unless something else is happening which we have not realised as yet.

A couple of points on other matters:-

Regarding tree kangaroos -  a small lodge near Malanda (Atherton Tableland)  
has a
resident population of Lumholtz TKs which can usually be found and seen - but 
would probably have to stay there, which you would enjoy anyway.  Either the 
ABC or
BBC filmed them there a year or two ago.  Details -    Fur ?n? Feathers 
Tree Houses ? (Sandra & Harry Walker)  They have 100 acres of private rainforest
with a good list of rainforest birds and mammals including some of the 
possums. Email: 
Website:  Ph: (07) 4096 5364  Fax: (07) 
5380.  Postal address is Fur?N? Feathers Rainforest, M.S. 1877, Malanda  Qld  

Cassowary House and Fur 'n' Feathers are probably the two most reliable places 
the northern parts of the Wet Tropics to see Cassowary these days.

The other good way to see mammals as someone pointed out is with Bob Morrison on
his  Wait-a-While Tours - which starts from Cairns.  An excellent tour.

The fellow at Lake Tinaroo is Jack Leighton - 'Birds and Barra' - he does 
trips as well.  ('Barra' is the popular tropical eating and sporting fish -
barramundi.  Lake Tinaroo has been stocked with barramundi in recent years).  He
gets quite an impresive list of birds, mostly quite different from what Chris 
on the Daintree.  Really worth doing!  I think the reason he is not advertising 
that he is probably getting all the business he can handle so would be an idea 
book ahead.  Details  Email: 
Web:http//   Ph:  (07) 4095 8425  Fax: (07) 4095 

Red Goshawk - no I did not find a nest in Lakefield NP but found one on the 
River some time ago.  The bird in Lakefield was acting as though it had a nest -
actually chased a Black-breasted Buzzard away from the area of all things.   I 
back last year but did not see a bird.  There was a pair at a nest with a large
young not far from from Laura last year.  I think this was found by the group 
did the wet season survey (December ?) around Princess Charlotte Bay.  This 
would be
the nest that someone mentioned and would be worth looking at again this year.

Greg Czechura from Qld Museum was doing theRed Goshawk work (for DEH) last 
year.  He
had a sighting from the vicinity of Abattoir Swamp.  Previously, other people 
saw a
bird of prey taking sticks floating in the water which they later thought was a 
Goshawk.   I searched most of the area in the direction it was flying but found
nothing.  There has been an occasional sighting about Maryfarms over the years -
there is a pair in the greater area but it seems that they have a huge 
Go down West Mary Road  (first road north of the bridge), take the first turn 
to the
right  and go to the creek (Mary Creek).  A very slim chance but this is 
where odd sightings have been made.   There was an active nest on the Mitchell 
a few years ago, about 6 km or so from Maryfarms which had been active a few 
before I first saw it and which probably belonged to this pair. They did not 
use it
the next year but used it the following year while I was in WA.  They have not 
it in the two years since.

A further point on a subject on birding-aus while I was away (after reading 
900 postings since I arrived home) - Tropical and Large-billed Scrubwrens being
lumped. The northern raceof Tropical (minimus)  and the Wet Tropics 
Large-billed are
as different as chalk and cheese, but have a look at the intermediate race of
Tropical around Cooktown (dubius).  Then go  to Shipton's Flat and look at the 
there.  Even in the field it is evident that there is much interbreeding.  I am 
surprised that Schodde etc.  have lumped them.

The two Cicadabirds - I looked at skins in Qld museum a couple of years ago - 
were two males which probably were of the lowland rainforest/mangrove form -  
from Cardwell  without looking at my notes.  They were slightly smaller and 
to have slightly darker lores and nape.  I wouldn't like to even guess which 
form I
was looking at around Cairns and the lowlands at this time of  year  when they 
not calling - most likely birds of the southern form which are wintering there
rather than go on to NG.  I would be surprised if these two do prove to be just
races.  Some of us here are convinced that they are two distinct species.

The thread on owls attacking people brings to mind an experience I had about 
(late April) with a Barking Owl.  The experience also made me realize how some 
react  in an extreme manner to a call of their own species  when breeding or the
breeding season is approaching.  I set up camp at Lake Bullawarra in far SW
Queensland for about 12 days filming  breeding colonies of waterbirds (big 
ideas of
becoming a wildlife documentary maker!).  I took a young fellow who was working 
my nursery  to give a hand putting up hides etc.  The first night  a Barking Owl
called less than a kilometre away.  I imitated the call rather casually not
realising what would eventuate.  Within seconds the bird was in a tree beside 
camp - calling quite agressively.  My young helper  imitated the call a few 
which  I did not think would do much harm, as we got the camp set up.  The bird
became more aggressive.  I told my young helper not to imitate the call - just 
quiet.  However, over the next few hours he inadvertantly went 'wook-wook' to 
the bird responded even more agresively and remained and called all through the
night - I am sure he did not leave the area to hunt.  He was still calling next
morning well after daybreak.  The next night he was there again, from dusk and
called frequently through the night right up until daybreak despite the fact 
neither of us imitated his call.   On the third night he returned at dusk, 
called a
couple of times and then was silent for a while.  A few hours later he called
again.  My young helper without thinking  gave just one call.  Immediately, it 
on again and the bird remained and called for most of the night.  I was 
considering shifting camp but the only practical thing seemed to be to stay and
instill into my young mates mind - no more 'wook-wooks'!   On the third night 
bird called frequently again (though less).  Over the next two  nights, he 
several times and gave a burst of calling but with no response he did not 
for long.   It took another two nights before he completely gave up visiting the
vicinity of our camp.  Some time later, I heard from a reliable source that a 
of  years before, two people camped at this spot and had been intrigued by a 
Owl diving at them and actually knocking a hat off one of their heads just after
dark, each time they immitated the call!  How long they tormented the bird I 
was not
told.  It was probably the same male.  Little wonder he took such aggressive 
to our few imitations and maybe in retrospect, we were lucky!

Lloyd Nielsen,
Mt Molloy   Nth Qld

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