Cairns / Atherton Interlude

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Cairns / Atherton Interlude
From: "Michael J Hunter" <>
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 22:14:46 +1000
    Needing to twitch the Lesser Sooty Owl and use up a few FF points, son
Alex and I spent a productive 48 hours in Cairns and hinterland over the
weekend of July 5th-7th.

    John Crowhurst introduced himself to Alex on the ESPLANADE, and Alex to
the local avifauna, including Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit,
Great Knot, Great and Little Egrets, Striated and Eastern Reef Herons,
Blackfronted Dotterel, Royal Spoonbill, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern,
Brahminy Kite, Yellow and Varied Honeyeaters.

   I came later, in time to drive to KINGFISHER LODGE by dusk,  seeing eight
Barn owls which were usurping the smaller Lesser Sooty's previous nesting
holes, and frightening off the Owlet-Nightjars, but the LSO itself obliged
by perching on its nesting cavity lip, flying fifty metres and glaring back
at the Isles' guiding spotlight for a great twitch. Later spotted Bush Stone
Curlew , Bandicoot, Striped Possum and Leaf-tailed Gecko.Ron had two
fledgling Grass Owls, reared from hatchlings after cane slashers had minced
the rest of their family.

 Dawn next morning at "the clearing" on MT. LEWIS was hectic with birds
moving and calling in every direction. Brown Cuckoo-Doves feeding in the
tobacco trees on the left and Topknot Pigeons overhead, perching on treetops
to catch the early morning sun; it was very cold. Yellow-throated Scrubwrens
feeding on the roadside even in the dark, picked up in the headlights.
MACLEAYS  HONEYEATERS plus Eastern Spinebills darting all over,
White-cheeked and  Lewins Honeyeaters all at the clearing, with the local
subspecies of Grey Fantail. A single YELLOW-BREASTED BOATBILL flew out to
have a look, and a female Golden Whistler.  Just up the eroded track to the
left, Three families of FERNWRENS and three of CHOWCHILLAS very actively
foraged on the forest floor, virtually ignoring us. Heard a Victoria's
Riflebird, saw a Spotted Catbird.
  Walked the walk to the Golden Bowerbird's bower, but the builder wasn't
there at the time.

 An hour after leaving we returned to the clearing and it was almost

 Back at the Lodge for a breakfast of tea, buscuts and mixed nuts, (New
Zealanders were taking over), Banded Rail, MACLEAYS, Lewins, YELLOW-SPOTTED
and GRACEFUL Honeyeaters and more BRIDLED from the veranda as well as
Spotted Catbird and Red-browed Finches and a Rufous Fantail.  PALE-YELLOW
ROBINS, Eastern Yellow Robins, GREY-HEADED ROBINS  back in the orchard,
Orange-footed Scrubfowl and Brush-turkeys all over. Black Kites overhead.
The odd Laughing Kookaburra.

     In the office as we left, I picked up (and paid for} a copy of LLOYD
NIELSEN'S new book, "BIRDING AUSTRALIA".  This is, in brief, a peripatetic
Australian birdwatchers bible, covering all of the Countries' birdwatching
regions with relevant information including times of daylight!  Headings
like Highlights, Key Species, Endemics, SIGNIFICANT SUBSPECIES, Good Birding
Spots, Best Times, Regional Field Guides, Audio Cassettes, Suggested
Itineraries, Time Needed, Getting there and about, Maps, Accommodation and
Dining including birder oriented beds., Guiding services and Tours, Local
Birding Organisations, Websites, and Weather and more really makes this a
must aquisition for travelling twitchers. ( This is not advertising, just a
great unexpected twitch. The book is not commercially available, but try you
luck with Lloyd at PO Box 55 Mt. Molloy Qld 4871)

   "THE LAGOONS" is near Kingfisher Lodge and although privately owned, Ron
Stannard might give you entree if the birding there is good. We saw ca.>100
Scarlet Honeyeaters in blossoming eucalypts there, hundreds of Lorikeets,
mainly Rainbow but a few Littles, and low-flying WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTLETS,
Spectacled Monarch, Forest Kingfisher, Little Friarbirds.

  Great Bowerbirds were in the chookyard behind the Swiss-Mexican cafe in
the main Street of MT. MOLLOY. They sell luscious 15cm high hamburgers,
unsuitable to eat while driving.

   LAKE MITCHELL  had  most of the local waterbirds, including Jabiru, the
local form with resplendent blue neck, Green but no Cotton Pygmy-geese,
Plumed Whistling-Duck and Magpie Geese, Radjah Shelduck and Jacana. Also
Marsh Harrier, and Lemon-bellied and Leaden Flycatchers at the far end of
the causeway beyond the gate. Golden-headed Cisticolas along the margins
plus about 20 other commoner spp. A pair of SARUS CRANES flew south low

HASTIES SWAMP at dusk and the following dawn had Brloga and Sarus cranes, as
did BROOMFIELD SWAMP,  Hasties has a great new two-story hide. Hundreds of
Plumed Whistling-ducks were there.

  The Lake Eacham Hotel hosted "Christmas in July" on the Saturday Night.
Four of the macleayeana race of Double-eyed Fig-Parrot were feeding in a
fruiting Ficus benjamina just out side our bedroom window, looking back at
us with very blue faces. The "Atherton Hotshots sixteen piece  Big Band"
lullabyed us to sleep, dreaming of the Christmas candles setting the
beautiful old timber building on fire.

  Lake Eacham had numerous GREY-HEADED ROBINS, very approachable, and a
lovely female VICTORIA'S Rifle-bird sharing the flowering sprays of a
Queensland Umbrella Tree  with Macleays Honeyeaters and Rainbow Lorikeets.

    CAIRNS CROCODILE FARM was quiet. Adult and young White-browed Crake,
Brown-backed Honeyeater, Sacred Kingfishers, Jabiru, Yellow-bellied Sunbird,
Golden-headed Cisticola, and Nutmeg Finches, Brown Goshawk being attacked by
Black Kites on the road in.

Black Butcherbirds resting in mangroves (it was early afternoon and hot),
Large-billed Gerygone and nest, Mangrove Gerygone and Dusky Honeyeater in a
small patch of Avicecenna marina below the saltwater lake.

    There were plenty of other less notable unlisted species. It was a great
intro. for Alex.

Michael Hunter
Mulgoa Valley
50km west of Sydney Harbour Bridge

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