Hello fellow birders,
I was lucky to have a great birding trip to Far North Queensland from 30th
of May to June 17th, with my wife Deb and 9 month old bubs. The trip almost
didn't happen as bubs got sick the night before we set out, but thankfully
we got to Cairns intack and after a week bubs was back to her healthy self.
Arriving at Cairns and checking into our room opposite the esplanade, I
noticed some waders out on the mudflats so I set off with my scope to check
it out and found a very laid back group of local biders sitting quietly with
scopes at the ready at the foreshore. When I asked if there was anything
interesting, I was told that there was a Red-necked Crake hanging out in the
shrubs behind them. How could this be true? Well Paul and Tony gave me a
hand to have a look and eventually we had great close up views. Deb missed
out but the next afternoon while I was out chasing a White-browed Crake, at
Cattana Wetlands, Tony kindly helped Deb to see it.
Our next birding was staying at Chambers at Lake Eacham. Right from the
driveway into Chambers, we started to see new birds. The ever curious
Grey-headed Robin and then again outside our bungalow the Pale-yellow Robin,
and the Victoria's Riflebird, of which we were to see a lot of.
The next day was my long awaited treat of several hours with guide Alan
Gillanders. I figured that with bubs, birding might be hit and miss and so
it made sense to go out and get to see some birds with a local expert. We
had a great day out seeing Blue-faced Parrot-Finch and Yellow-breasted
Boatbill were two highlights. The Yellow of the Yellow-breasted Boatbill is
a great rich clour. The foreshore birders at Cairns assued me that I
wouldn't find a Cotton Pygmy -Goose, but Alan showed me a lake with around
24 Cotton Pygmy -Goose. It was a place of stunning natural beauty.
The mornings birding ritual at our bungalow was quite fun. We put out some
banana in a piece of hanging netting on the veranda (which our neighbours in
the next bungalow gave us the lowdown on the process and a couple of
bananas). The first birds to come were the female Victoria's Riflebird, with
sometimes 2 of them, to a tree right in front of our veranda. Then 2
Spotted Catbirds would come to an overhanging branch and wait. Next a
Lewin's Honeyeater would appear and wait a little distance from the fruit.
The female VR would then busily attack the friut. At some stage the male
Victoria's Riflebird would swoop in like a filmstar and take over the top
spot. Otherwise he would entice the female away with a display and then
sometimes chase one of them. Meanwhile with the slightest chance up would
pop the Lewin's HE. Deb got some great photos. The main lawn at Chambers was
an interesting spot to observe Shrike-thrushes, both the Little and Bower's.
I got a bit confused trying to ID then until Alan Gillanders mentioned that
both were at Chambers.
on June the 5th, Deb and I had planned to go to Lake Barrine (a 10 minute
drive) hoping to see either a Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove or Superb FD (both of
which Deb has wanted to see for years) and Alan mentioned that if we got
there early we would have our best chance. We didn't see either of them but
right by our car we got very close views of the Bridled Honeyeater and in
the morning light the white part of the bridle near the ear was like a
crystallized snow flake, just lovely. We poped up to the large palm trres in
the top carpark and spotted a Wompoo Fruit-Dove. And what a great view we
had. Eventually it flew to a large tree where we still had great views. It
was our best sighting after hearing on a few occassions and then seeing one
briefly at Red Mill house in 2009.
We set of for Port Douglas on the 6th of June and Alan Gillnders had
mentioned that a good spot for the Pale-headed Rosella was at Granite Gorge
and to turn off at Walkerman. While driving along the road I suddenly
spotted what I thought might have been Squatter Pigeons, so stopped the car
for a look. They turned out to be HELMETED GUINEA FOWL. Deb thought they
were a new bird for us but some reason I thought we had seen them before.
About a kilometer further down the road we came accross some more and got
some all the features in the guide book. And close by was a Pheasant Coucal
which I thought an odd place util the field guide mentioned that they can be
seen at cane fields. At Granite Gorge we had no luck with Pale -headed
Rosella but Deb spotted a male Leaden Flycatcher, which she said was the
exact colour of a lead pencil, which was a new bird or us. When I had a
moment at the car I looked up the field guide and realised that we hadn't
seen a Helemted Guinea Fowl and birding euphoria started to spread through
my system. More so when with bated breath I phoned Alan Gillnaders while we
were having a coffee at Mareeba and he confirmed that they were on the
Australian list and that the ones we saw had been feral for around 20 years.
It was my greatest birding high of the trip.
On the 9th of June, we dove up to Cape Tribulation for the day, hoping,
wishing and praying fervently to see a Southern Cassowary. I missed the turn
off to where we had met some non-birders who had seen one on the Jinalba
Boardwalk and we were just past Noah Creek, and Deb kept making comments
about the number of signeage about Cassowary Crossing somewhat despondently
(I think she was thinking about how dissappointed I might be if we didn't
see one, while I was shoring myself up with the knowledge that people had
seen them, Roy Sonnenburg's group that we had met up with at Red Mill House
had seen one on the road, Alan Gillanders the same, so it was possible.
Suddeny Deb said, "Cassowary," and there was one right by the side of the
road. Was I excited? Apparently, I kept saying, "It's a Cassowary, it's a
Cassowary over and over. On the way back back to Port Douglas, at the first
place where the road touches the sea, near Mossman, we stopped to feed bubs,
and I wondered onto the beach. A short distance away was a Beach Stone
-curlew. I was able to get very close and ID every feature and poped back so
Deb could get a look. We had seen one for the first time in Cairns in 2009
but not this close.
We managed to see 18 new birds (we saw 48 in 2009 with Cape York as well).
One I'm not completely sure about is I may have seen a Broad-billed
Flycatcher at Redden Island near Cairns. I saw the white border or strip on
the tail that in Michael Morcombe's Field Guide makes it a BBFC, very
clearly as it contrasted with the grey in the rest of the tail.
Happy birding and thanks to all the poeople that made it a great trip,
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