Trip report - Eastern Australia - October/November 2002 - Part 2

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Subject: Trip report - Eastern Australia - October/November 2002 - Part 2
From: "Robert Grimmond" <>
Date: Sat, 4 Jan 2003 10:47:06 -0000
Friday 18th October

In the morning we flew to Cairns, where we picked up a rental car from Avis
for a week. We drove up to Julatten where we were to stay three nights at
Kingfisher Lodge, run by Ron Stannard. It was fabulous,
though again the dry conditions were not ideal for rainforest birding.
Seeing the birds at the feeders was great - particularly the amazing
Orange-footed Scrubfowls!

Saturday 19th October

A 5.00 am start was required so we could drive north to Daintree for Chris
Dahlberg's early morning river cruise. On the way we saw Black
and Whistling Kites leaving their roosting sites. In some respects the
cruise was disappointing
because we didn't see Little Kingfisher but did manage to get good views of
birds like Papuan Frogmouth (doing a good impression of a branch), Wompoo
Fruit-Pigeon (on the nest), Torresian Imperial-Pigeon (a black and white
stunner), Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo, Common Koel, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Shining
Flycatcher, Large-billed Gerygone, Little Shrike-Thrush and Brown-backed
Honeyeater. Birding around Daintree village was good. From the car we had
White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Forest Kingfisher. At Red
Mill Cottage we managed to find a Azure Kingfisher.

After returning to Julatten we and Ludo and Katia, a couple of Belgian
birders, went out with
Carol Iles (she and her husband, Andrew, are the resident birders at
Kingfisher Park) to nearby Mount Lewis.  After picking up Nankeen
Night-Heron on the way, we managed to see all the specialities that were
around (it being too early for Blue-faced Parrot-finch), including Superb
Fruit-Dove (easy to hear but tricky to see), Topknot Pigeon,  Chowchilla,
Atherton Scrubwren, Fernwren, Mountain Thornbill, Bower's Shrike-Thrush, and
Golden & Tooth-billed Bowerbirds. Perhaps the star was the male Victoria's
Riflebird who delighted us by showing his lemon-yellow gape when calling and
briefly displaying from one of his perches! We also had an encounter with a
Red-bellied Black Snake (about 5' long!) - luckily they are pretty docile.
This was much to Katia's delight since she was very keen on snakes!

Sunday 20th October

That morning I joined Andrew on one of his early morning bird walks around
Kingfisher Park. We tallied some 60 species, including my first
White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Grey Whistler, Fairy
Gerygone, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Yellow Honeyeater and Spotted Catbird.
In all we found 11 species of Honeyeater.

Acting on information from Andrew we spent the morning in the Mount Carbine
and Mount Molloy areas. We had great views of Australian Bustard (27 in all)
along East and West Mary Roads. At a pool just outside of Mount Carbine we
saw our first Blue-winged Kookaburra, and a noisy flock of Apostlebirds. At
the nearby Mount Carbine roadhouse we sat at a picnic table, eating an
ice-cream, beneath a tree with roosting Apostlebirds! Moving on to Mount
Molly, we had good views of the Great Bowerbird in the
schoolyard after a short wait.

That night we went on a spotlighting walk with Carol and Andrew and saw a
Barn Owl and heard Lesser Sooty
Owl. The stars though were the mammals - Long-nosed Bandicoot, White-tailed
Rat, Fawn-footed Melomys, Striped Possum (stunning) and Spectacled
Flying-Fox. We also
saw a variety of reptiles and amphibians, including Leaf-tailed Gecko,
Boyd's Forest Dragon, Lesuer's Frog and White-tipped Tree Frog.

Carol and Andrew are excellent birders - I can highly recommend them. Their
rates represent good value.

Monday 21st October

An early morning walk by myself produced nothing new though I did find two
Bush Thick-Knees roosting in Geraghty Park, near Kingfisher Park. We then
said our goodbyes to Ron and Carol (Andrew not having returned from his
walk) and headed for Atherton.

On the way we made a long stop at Lake Mitchell, where we had a good variety
of birds (42 in all), including another Black Falcon, Australian Hobby, both
Pygmy-geese, Black-necked Stork, Radjah Shelduck and some very obliging
White-winged Trillers. Here we came upon Woody and Betsy (Bahamas based) who
had been staying at Kingfisher Park at the same time as us.

Down Tinaroo Creek Road, east of Mareeba, we managed to find some Squatter
Pigeons, in a stockyard just beyond the crossroads where Thomas & Thomas
said in their book that the tarmac ended (it's obviously been extended since
their visit). In Mareeba we saw another Blue-winged Kookaburra by the
Kennedy Bridge. Just north of Tolga we were lucky enough to come across a
flock of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos feeding in roadside trees.  We then
checked in at the Blue Gum B & B at Atherton, run by John & Helen Donovan,
another really nice couple. Here we saw our first White-cheeked Honeyeaters.
Late afternoon we drove over to Hasties Swamp where we managed to find both
Brolgas and Sarus Cranes feeding in nearby fields.

Tuesday 22nd October

Just as we were loading our car we found a White-gaped Honeyeater in the
garden of the Blue Gum - a good start! We headed for Cairns via Lakes Eacham
& Lake Barrine. At the latter we managed to find our only Wandering
Whistling-Ducks of the trip. While we sat having cream tea there we had a
very tame Willie Wagtail joining us on our table!

Just before Cairns we took a detour down Thomson's Road, Edmonton. We failed
to find any Little Kingfishers or any mangrove specialities but we did come
across the Cicadabird of the trip and nesting Brahminy Kites with a
well-grown juvenile on the nest.

Wednesday 23rd October

We had booked a trip to the Great Barrier Reef on the Seastar II. At first
light though I took a walk down the famous esplanade. Because of the tide
there weren't many shorebirds though I did see my first Red-necked
Stints.As I was heading back to our hotel I saw a face that I recognised -
it was Larry, whom we'd met at Lamington! By coincidence he and Andrea were
booked on the trip as well so Larry agreed to pick us up from our hotel.

Unfortunately, because of the swell, we couldn't land on Michaelmas Cay but
did manage to see here and at Hastings Reef Brown Booby, Lesser Frigatebird
(at least one among a number of Frigatebirds), both Crested Terns,
Black-naped, Little, Bridled and Sooty Terns and Brown and Black Noddies.

Thursday 24th October

An early morning walk along Cairns Esplanade was good and yielded all of the
expected shorebirds, including
Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, both Sandplovers, Red-capped and
Pacific Golden Plovers and Red-necked Stint. In all there were 17 species of
shorebird. Other good birds were lots of Pied-Imperial Pigeons, several
Varied Honeyeaters, a Mangrove Robin at the northern end of the Esplanade
and flocks of Spangled Drongos flying into town from the mangroves.

That morning we paid a visit to the Cairns Crocodile Farm. It was very hot
here. We failed again to find Little Kingfisher but did
manage to get good views of 2 White-browed Crakes and a nice Crimson Finch.
In the afternoon we visited Cairns Botanic Gardens and Centennial Lakes,
where we saw a few Red-necked Crakes along the boardwalk at around 5.00 pm..

Friday 25th October

Our last day in Queensland. I took another early morning walk along the
Esplanade, where shorebirds were fewer in number than the day before. Just
before heading back to the hotel I was lucky enough to find a pair of
Double-eyed Fig-Parrots - the male obligingly sat in a tree for several
minutes. The Mangrove Boardwalk near the airport produced very little in the
way of birds, though lots of fascinating crabs. Late morning we took a
Qantas flight down to Sydney for the next stage of our trip. We picked up a
rental car and headed for Wollongong.

To be continued.

Robert Grimmond
Kent, UK

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