Memories of a tropical North Qld trip (long)

Subject: Memories of a tropical North Qld trip (long)
From: Celia & Russell Browne <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 12:44:19 +1000
I?ve recently returned from a 25 day trip to north Queensland which
netted 60 lifers, an embarrassingly large total but this was my first
time on Cape York Peninsula.

After flying from Melbourne to Cairns, I spent a couple of days
exploring the esplanade of course, followed by the crocodile farm, the
mangroves, Flecker Botanic Gardens and Centenary Lakes and the Mangrove
Boardwalk. Walking for a couple of hours in midday heat and humidity, I
was grateful to find a tall tombstone against which to rest while
watching seven somnolent resident Bush Stone-curlews in Cairns Cemetery.

The next 11 days were most expertly guided by Klaus Uhlenhut of Kirrama
Wildlife Tours    We stayed 2 days at
Musgrave Roadhouse, 2 at Kingfisher Park, Julatten, 2 at Yungaburra, 1
each at Georgetown and the Undarra Lava Tubes, finishing with 2 days at
Mission Beach.

Returning to Cairns for four days I became a tourist again with some
?retail therapy? before walking the Red Arrow Circuit on Mt. Whitfield. 
I took the Skyrail trip to Kuranda, returning by train.  Alone in a
gondola on the way up, I enjoyed the silence and the scenery while
floating over the rainforest.  The interesting return trip on the
Cairns-Kuranda Railway took 1-3/4 hours.  Sadly the once mighty Barron
Falls now harnessed for hydro-electricity coupled with the recent
extremely dry Wet Season were but a trickle.

I then hired a car and drove 80 kms north for three nights at a
comfortable b & b at Newell Beach  I had previously arranged with
Del Richards of Fine Feather Tours  
for two days birding to fill any gaps in my list.

This was followed by five nights in the rainforest at Cassowary
Guesthouse at Kuranda   which gave me
plenty of time to explore Black Mountain Road and to re-visit some good
birding spots.

The following are my personal highlights of the trip:

A Jabiru perched incongruously atop a lone palm tree on Nifold Plain,
Lakefield National Park at sunset.  Also on Nifold Plain lolling in
watery mud a thick water python, as long as the bus, a ?rainbow serpent?
Klaus said.

While staying at Musgrave Roadhouse, great sightings of the endemic
Golden-shouldered parrot and the Red Goshawk, a rare bird indeed.

Close views of the stunning little Yellow-breasted Boatbill at The
Crater, Mt. Hypipamee, looking from underneath up at its unlikely broad

While on the early morning cruise on the Daintree with Chris Dahlberg
spotting an Amethystine python curled up in tree just above us on the
riverbank, replete from its last meal, possibly a spectacled flying
fox.  Although not new birds, I enjoyed great sightings of the
Great-billed Heron and the dazzlingly fast flash of the Little
Kingfisher zipping over the surface of the river.

At dusk at Bromfield Swamp watching brolgas and Sarus cranes fly
majestically in to roost and being able to compare and separate them.

For many years I'd wanted to see Yellow-bellied Sunbirds as featured on
the front cover The Readers? Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds so
an especially memorable sight was an elongated nest hanging on a hulk on
the Daintree River while on the afternoon cruise.  The decurved beak and
head of a female were just visible at the entrance and the male was in
close attendence.

Surprisingly not one Cane toad was seen but a beautiful green tree frog,
found by Klaus and brought inside for a photo opportunity, was much
admired.  If he hadn?t moved, he could have been plastic!

Observing a pair of Rufous Owls and learning that the smaller, darker
bird was in fact the female - unusual in predators.

Lesser Sooty Owl at Kingfisher Park, Julatten, along with many
honeyeater species coming in to the feeders.

After much effort by Del Richards at last good looks at Double-eyed Fig
Parrots feeding high in a fruiting fig tree at Newell Beach.

With Del watching a male Lovely Fairy-wren pluck a small yellow petal
and fly with it to a female as if offering a gift, a colourful moment in

During an early morning stroll along Newell Beach, finding my first pair
of Beach Stone-curlews at the mouth of Saltwater Creek.

Thru the ?scope watching a jabiru on the far side of Lake Mitchell when
suddenly an Osprey flew into view clutching a large fish, held head
first, panning around, following it - like watching a David Attenborough

The resident rather scary cassowaries at Cassowary House. The three
chicks born last August had recently been kicked out by their father and
he was feeling very antagonistic towards them. Sue Gregory warned
visitors not to get between him and his offspring but to stand quite
still and definitely not turn their backs.  One evening I got out of the
car, walked round the corner and there on the left were the male and the
larger female with two of the juveniles on the right.  ?Oh s***?  I
muttered, coming to an abrupt halt and quietly pulling my back-pack
round to the front.  Sue came to my rescue and we both watched silently
until minutes later he sauntered away.

At 7 AM at Cassowary House watching ripples and bubbles before sighting
the resident platypus.  Later, breakfast with the Black Butcherbird,
Victoria?s Riflebird, Macleays Honeyeater, Spotted Catbird, etc. etc. 
At dusk easy viewing of the Red-necked Crake under the verandah.

A relaxing day?s birding with the ?scope from the verandah of the superb
visitors centre at Mareeba Wetlands  
and the helpful rangers there.

The Grey-headed Robin, a plump, easy to see, easy to identify,
birdo-friendly bush bird was much enjoyed.

Pink-eared ducks, working in pairs, vortex feeding at Hasties Swamp.  At
the same location thousands of Plumed Whistling-Ducks and hundreds of
Magpie Geese.  The recently constructed two-storey hide makes for easy
viewing.  A loo would make conditions for birdos even more comfortable! 
Also 11 feral pigs rummaging in mud and long grass on the far bank,
three swimming strongly across to my side before disappearing into the
vegetation.  Pigs might fly - I didn?t realise they could also swim!

My sincere thanks to Klaus & Brenda Uhlenhut of Kirrama Tours, to Del
Richards of Fine Feather Tours, to Margaret at SidetheSea, Newell Beach,
to Phil & Sue Gregory of Cassowary House, and to Annie in Cairns.

Happily I returned with 60 big ticks but dipped on the Grass Owl on
Nifold Plain and the Blue-faced Parrot Finch on Mt. Lewis - an excellent
reason to plan another trip to amazing tropical North Queensland.    
Celia M. Browne, Melbourne

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