Atherton Tablelands

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Subject: Atherton Tablelands
From: "A J & L BLOOM" <>
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2004 11:46:17 +1000



A wonderful two day trip to the Atherton Tablelands with Del Richards and his guest Robin Todd from Baltimore, Maryland USA. 

Pick up was in Mossman.  The tone was set for the trip by a quick visit to the sports oval to watch the Metallic Starlings who are busy starting their nesting colony.  A few kilometers north of Mossman a visit to a fruiting fig tree at the side of the road was not only full of Figbirds and Yellow Orioles but a pair of Double-eyed Fig-parrots who were busily inspecting and preparing the underside of a branch where hopefully they will nest.

Sugar harvesting started here in early July and this carries on until November.  Driving past these heavy machines cutting through the thick cane is always fascinating especially as they were being followed by a selection of Kites - 2 Brahminy, lots of Black and  a couple of Whistling.  A White-bellied Sea Eagle completed the picture.

Up to Julatten and a stop at Del?s place to watch the Buff-banded Rails potter around his property quite unconcerned about the excitement they generated.   Feeding on bananas were Yellow, Yellow spotted, Graceful, Lewin?s and Mcleay?s Honeyeaters.  A short trip up the road from Del?s home, whilst looking for Victoria?s Riflebird we were serenaded by a very vocal Chowchilla.  Also seen along this track were Wompoo Fruit Doves, Little Cuckoo Shrike, Spectacled Monarch and my favourite little bird the Pale Yellow Robin.  Although we dipped out on the riflebird at this spot we did see 4 the next day and one especially at Lake Eacham that flashed its turquoise bits to great effect in the sunlight.

Back on the main road again a pair of Pacific Bazas flew into a tree right in front of us affording us crippling views.  And so the morning carried on with never a dull moment. 

We stopped in Tolga for lunch and then made our way to Lake Tinaroo where we met Jack Leighton of Birds and Barra Tours, who took us out on his boat to get up close and personal with the birds.  Lots of Cormorants, mostly Little Black and Little Pied with the odd Greater Black nesting on every available dead tree, sometimes three or four at different levels on one stump.  Interestingly enough they preferred to plop into the water rather than fly into the air on take off.  Darters were there in numbers holding their wings out to dry.

A very interesting form of behavior was pointed out by Jack and we watched in fascination as Pelicans held cormorants underwater with their bills until they were forced to give up the fish they had caught.  I don?t think the cormorants minded as when the pelicans moved on they went with them.  Jack explained to us that Australian pelicans don?t dive so can?t catch fish in the deeper water and have thus devised this clever method of getting their food.  I wonder if pelicans in other parts of Australia do this?

We then headed to another part of the lake and there spotted a mixed flock of 64 Sarus Cranes and Brolgas with the former being the greater number.

There were Great Crested Grebes as will as Australasian Grebes on the water.

A stop for tea and cake supplied by Jack and sitting quietly in the boat we watched a Little Kingfisher perched on a branch nearby fly back and forth.  4 Nankeen Night Herons perched in the taller trees.  A couple of Barred Cuckoo Shrikes flew over and a Rufous Fantail was observed in the bushes.

On another part of the lake we watched Comb Crested Jacanas stepping lightly along the lily pads and Whiskered Terns over the water.  A solitary Black Necked Stork paraded along the shoreline.

On the return journey Jack suddenly did an about turn as he spotted a Latham?s Snipe on the water?s edge.  Always a good bird to see.

A Spotted Harrier set off a flurry of wing beats.

Masked Lapwings were in abundance and have the appearance of being that much smarter and cleaner looking than their southern relations because of the difference in chest markings.

That evening we went spotlighting just outside Yungaburra with Alan Gillanders who showed us 13 Coppery Brush Tailed Possums, 4 Green Ringtail Possums and a Long Nosed Bandicoot that amusingly squeakily bounced away when we spotted him.  We heard a Barn Owl hiss.

What an absolutely perfect day and how lucky was I that I had Del, Jack and Alan for enthusiastic company and wonderful expertise.

A total of 145 birds seen in two days.


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