Trip report Cairns-Cooktown Part 1

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Subject: Trip report Cairns-Cooktown Part 1
From: "chris chafer" <>
Date: Sun, 2 May 2004 13:26:47 +1000
Cairns – Cooktown – Julatten 20-30 April 2004,   Part 1.

Having longed for many years to travel the Bloomfield track through the
Daintree rainforest and my partner’s family deciding to have a get-together
in Cairns (northeast Queensland), I headed north to the wet tropics for the
first time in 15 years. I still had a few species to get in the area and an
opportunity to snorkel on the reef and bird in the rainforest was all the
encouragement I needed.

I flew to Cairns late on the 20th and arrived at the rather up-market
apartment on Trinity Beach at 11pm. A brief stroll along the palm-fringed
waterfront produced the first bird for the trip a Bush Stone-Curlew,
surreptitiously patrolling the footpath outside the small seaside restaurant
area. This was my base for the next few days.

Next morning we walked along the length of Trinity Beach, exploring the
short track on the southern end of the beach that winds through remnant
rainforest to afford a stunning view back along the tropical shoreline. At
the northern end of the beach is another headland of broken granite boulders
and small, but delightful patch of forest. Both ends of the beach produced a
wealth of birdlife over the next few mornings including Spangled Drongo,
Metallic Starling, White-rumped Swiftlet, Oriental Cuckoo, Gould’s
Bronze-Cuckoo, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Mistletoebird, Osprey, Rainbow
Bee-eater, Helmeted Friarbird, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Pacific Baza,
Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Pied Oystercatcher and Leaden Flycatcher. A rainy
afternoon was spent shopping in Cairns with a brief walk along the new
esplanade boardwalk; nice enough though the tide was out and I only added
fairly common shorebirds, terns, ibis and egrets.

The third day saw us cruise out to Hastings and Norman Reefs for a magical
sun-drenched day of snorkelling on the reef in pursuit of multicoloured fish
and vibrant corals. The most spectacular fish was a 2 metre turquoise and
emerald-coloured Long Tom and the giant clams are quite impressive. Birding
was obviously minimal, though the cruise passed by Michaelmas Cay and the
reef had a helicopter landing pontoon full of roosting birds. We observed
most of the expected seabirds including Brown Booby, Roseate, Black-napped,
Lesser Crested, Bridled and Sooty Terns, Common and Black Noddy and Lesser
Frigatebird. This was to be the only day we experienced without rain.

On the fourth day we again went for a lazy stroll along the beach before
heading off Crystal Cascades west of Cairns. This delightful spot is set
amongst lush rainforest with towering slopes either side of the
boulder-strewn creek. The cascades and pools are lovely and are headed by a
small waterfall at the end of the paved walking track. A couple of tranquil
hours here produced Graceful Honeyeater, Spectacled Monarch, Fairy Gerygone,
Emerald Dove and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher. With two hours of
daylight left we headed for the mangrove board walk near the airport, here
we found curious mud-skippers emerging from the waters edge and fiddler
crabs waving their enlarged claws at each other. Birds were sparse though we
added Striated Heron, Broad-billed Flycatcher and Brown Honeyeater.

Day five saw us pick up our hired Britz 4WD Bushcamper (Toyota Landcruiser),
which was to be home for the next six days. We headed north from Cairns
enjoying the winding picturesque road that hugs the coastline until Mossman,
then its through canefields to the Daintree River crossing. Birding was
minimal as it rained most of the day; we added Pheasant Coucal and Black
Kite to the list. We crossed the river on the ferry and headed east for Cape
Kimberley where there is a very nice camping area amongst the rainforest
behind the beach. A wonder around the camp’s periphery in the evening and
the following morning added Spotted Catbird, Bar-shouldered Dove, Forest
Kingfisher, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Tree Martin and Brahminy Kite.

The following morning we retraced our route back to the Daintree and went on
one of the popular river cruises. Our guide told us that the
uncharacteristically wet April had seemingly caused the birds to disperse
and so no Great-billed Heron. We did have lovely views of Azure Kingfisher,
Shinning Flycatcher, Grey Goshawk, Large-billed Gerygone, Common Sandpiper
and Black-necked Stork. The highlight of the trip was a 3 metre saltwater
croc, which swam towards us, then did its submarine routine, disappearing
into the murky water without making a ripple – so much better than just
seeing them sit on the riverbank. After lunch we slowly headed north along
the sealed road through the rainforest, stopping here and there including
the Daintree Ice Cream centre, which surprised us with tropical
fruit-flavour delights in the humid afternoon, along with Dusky Honeyeater
and Restless Flycatcher amongst others. We also dropped in to have a look at
the new much publicised rainforest canopy walk. We decided that $20 a head
was way too much and while we were there about twenty others came to the
same conclusion and walked away disgusted at the ridiculous entrance fee.
Instead we drove 500m up the road and went on the free Jindalba boardwalk
through the lush vibrant rainforest. Here we added Bower’s Shrike-thrush, a
Southern Cassowary and great views of a Red-legged Pademelon. Further along
the road we added a white-phased Reef Egret on a small islet off Coopers
Creek and walked around the wonderful Marradja botanical boardwalk. This
didn’t produce many birds but floristically it’s well worth the effort, and
we saw Spectacled Flying-fox here. The rain set in around 4pm and we camped
the night at the new Cape Tribulation Camp Ground which I can highly
recommend for its spaciously well equipped camp kitchen and resident
Orange-footed Scrubfowl and Long-nosed Bandicoot. The beach is just through
the rainforest and here we added Lesser Sand Plover and Collared Kingfisher
in the small mangrove-lined creek.

continued in Part 2.
Chris Chafer
Wollongong NSW

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