Mossman River, NQ - a new and great birding spot

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Mossman River, NQ - a new and great birding spot
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003 11:16:39 +1000
Spent a couple of hours yesterday morning birding with Del Richards and David Johnston (David is the author of Bird Routes of Baradine & the Pilliga and is currently visiting the Wet Tropics). The intention was mostly to do a boat tour on the Mossman River with Peter Cooper. Peter has recently commenced a birding/botany boat tour on this beautiful and very impressive tropical river which runs through the town of Mossman in N Qld - about 25 km S of Daintree and less than an hour's run north of Cairns. This river is a much shorter, narrower river than the Daintree with the advantage that it has all the habitats compressed into a couple of km rather than spread out over about 20 km as happens in the Daintree River. One can start with waders and terns at the river mouth (where there is sometimes a Beach Stone-curlew), work through the mangrove birds and end up with tropical rainforest birds, all within an easy distance.

Birding was excellent for a July morning. Double-eyed Fig-Parrots were flitting around everywhere as were very large numbers of White-rumped Swiftlets. Numerous Azure Kingfishers and many Striated Herons about. A young Great-billed Heron recently left the nest - the parents were downstream a little way - though we did not see them, Peter has been seeing them regularly. Several Little Kingfishers - probably some of the best views I have ever had of this secretive species. Mangrove Robin - we had at least 6 birds about 3-4 metres from us, a couple even whizzing right past our faces to the other side of the river - this must surely be one of the best spots to get this species. Quite a few Collared Kingfishers perching in conspicuous places usually on the tops of dead mangroves (the Collared K. in the NE tropics is quite different from the birds I was used to in SE Qld - much bluer on the upperparts and almost browny-blue on the wings). A few wintering Sacred Kingfishers in typical very buff-breasted fresh winter plumage as we see them up here.

Plus many other tropical birds - Graceful, Yellow-spotted, Macleay's, Dusky, Varied Honeyeaters, Helmeted Friarbirds, Spotted Catbird, White-bellied Sea-Eagles, Ospreys (fishing), Yellow Orioles, Figbirds, Large-billed Gerygones, Black Butcherbirds etc etc. Plus a colony of Spectacled Fruit Bats.

And the tropical rainforest/river scenery is absolutely stunning - some of the best the north-east can offer. One of the nice things about this river other than the great birds was that we had the river to ourselves - none of the tourist congestion which often occurs about the Daintree further north! Another bonus was that Peter is an expert on mangroves so those interested in botany can discuss this amazing eco-system with him (this part of the tropics has one of the greatest concentrations of mangrove species in Australia - 29 species along this river).

All in all a great morning. David got about 10 new birds, getting fantastic views of the GB Heron, Little Kingfisher, Mangrove Robin, Collared Kingfisher etc. My unbiased opinion is that the Mossman River is destined to become one of THE birding sites in the Wet Tropics. It is amazing in a way that we have just discovered the birding potential of this river. We cross it many times through the year but have never had time to explore it. For those people visiting the Wet Tropics, try it for yourselves - Peter's contact details are Ph: (07) 4098 2066, Email: Postal address: 9 Thomas St, Mossman Qld 4873. He leaves from Newell Beach, a few km north of Mossman town (the Red-rumped and Barn Swallow spot).

Also interesting was the cabin cruiser moored way up the river, remote from everywhere. This was Peter's "office" where he spends his day's off and when he has no chores at home in Mossman. What a way to get away from it all!!

And on the way home, we called on a local Julatten identity who had recently found a nest of Grass Owls. He took us to it. It contained 5 half-grown owlets. The continuous hissing of the young as one near's the nest is quite alarming. They began hissing loudly when we were 5 metres from the nest - an effective defence mechanism. Quite an amazing experience!

Lloyd Nielsen,
Mt Molloy  Nth Qld

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