Queensland trip report I (long)

Subject: Queensland trip report I (long)
From: "Peregrine" <>
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 22:06:09 -0400 (EDT)
Hello all,
due to popular demand,here is my (rambling)trip report from far north 
Queensland.  If there are any glaring impossibilities, please let me know.  

friday 9/27

just a quick trip out to Brisbane, on my way north to Cairns.  I had a
long layover, since I got in at 10 am and my flight out wasnt until 6
pm.  So I took a bus out to Mt. Coot-Tha,  and the nearby botanic
gardens which sounded (according to the book "Where to Find Birds in
Australia") to be the best spot for a few birds within a decent distance
from the airport.  I managed to get to the gardens, which didnt turn out
to be such a good spot for birds after all, but they had a wonderful
fragrance garden.  All of the flowers were planted just for their scent,
 leaves or their flowers, so the perfume in the air was very nice.
Tons of big butterflies around, but I have no idea what any
of them were.  In the rainforest area I found my first  AUSTRALIAN BRUSH
TURKEY, which is a large, brown turkey shaped bird with a red head and a
yellow wattle around the neck of the male.   It was scratching about in
the leaf litter, and was pretty tame.  All around in the trees were
flocks of NOISY MINERS which tend to chase off most other small birds
which probably accounts for why there werent many other birds around.  in
the area were some noisy TORRESIAN CROWS, which unlike the ravens we have
in sydney call with a much more obvious "caw caw" rather than the whining
baby cry that the ravens have. They also don't have the throat hackles of 
the ravens I'm more familiar with.  On the pond were some PACIFIC BLACK
DUCKS, some DUSKY MOORHENS with little fluffy babies, and a couple of
EURASIAN COOTS.  A few FIGBIRDS in the trees around, and a pair of SCALY
LORIKEETS in one of the flowering trees near the planetarium.  I decided
to walk up Mt. Coot-Tha, which turned out to be a longer walk than I 
expected, and
it was very hot.  Not a lot of birds on the way up, since it was the 
middle of the day, hot and windy.  I only managed to get a single 
but not see.  However, the view from the top was nice, and fortunately 
there was a restaurant up there where I could buy a drink. Someone gave 
me a life back down to the bottom so I could get back to the airport in 
time to get my flight.

saturday 9/28

Woke up around 6am because it was hot in my room, looked out the window
at the esplanage shoreline and saw that it was low tide!! ack!!! jump out
of bed, throw on some clothes, and grab all the birding stuff to be
outside scoping those evil nasty little shorebirds.  you know the
story....imagine trying to do it without having any idea what is
possible, or rare, or even what the names are.  I managed to pick out the
ones I had seen on previous trips, the GREENSHANK, with its slightly
turned up bill and light coloring, and the SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER which
is smallish and has a lot of reddish brown spots on it.  One thing that I
thought was a SANDERLING which was a new one for me in Australia, and after
that, everything else was new.  I'm not going to try to describe the
array of bill shapes that were probing through the mud, but there were
long ones and short ones and up turned ones and downturned ones, straight
ones, thick ones....long legs, short legs, black legs, olve legs......all
in all for shorebirds I got   BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, BAR-TAILED GODWIT,
kingfisher I couldnt figure out, and quite a few birds in the trees
around the park that lines the Esplanade.
There were some little tiny PEACEFUL DOVES, and some big
black and white PIED IMPERIAL PIGEONS, which coo
incessantly.  The WILLIE WAGTAILS were hopping about in the wrack on the
shore.... Also common everywhere I've been in Australia were the 
MAGPIE-LARKS.  A pair of them on the grass (male and female) were noisily 
talking back and forth to each other.
The FIGBIRDS were of the northern subspecies ( I later found out) which 
is more yellow on the breast than the Sydney type.  New birds were 
juvenile METALLIC STARLINGS, which are white on
the front and black on top with bright red eyes, and VARIED HONEYEATERS
which were pretty much just brown streaky honeyeater type birds.  So,
after all that birding by 8 am, and having met up with Roland, a birder
from Holland, we decided to go check out the Cairns botanic gardens
and the Centennial lakes which were reputed to be a really good spot for 
birds.  The esplanade is a good meeting spot if you are travelling by 
yourself, I discovered, since there are so many birders around you can 
meet lots of people from all over and get some of them to travel with you.
                Funny how I always end up in gardens.  anyway, we decided
to walk there which was stupid since It was really far from the center of
town and theres a bus that goes there.  but Roland was on a tight budget
and didnt want to spend the 60 cents for the bus (silly).   On the way we
spotted a couple of WHITE-BREATED WOODSWALLOWS on the powerlines, and a
few MASKED LAPWINGS in a rugby field.    When we finally arrived at the 
gardens we were
greeted by HELMETED FRIARBIRDS and their odd chuckling noises.  They have
bare heads (hence the name) and a knob on their bill which distingushes
flew over head.  I think the brahminny is especially nice with its rust 
colored body and a beatiful white head and breast.  a BLACK BUTCHERBIRD 
checked us out, and a few DUSKY
HONEYEATERS made themselves irritatingly difficult to spot in the
bushes.   A single, fork tailed SPANGLED DRONGO made a brief appearance
before disappearing into the woods.  Roland managed to misname it as a
strangled drongo. The best bird of the day, I would say, were the 
beautiful yellow and
green and orange RAINBOW BEE-EATERS which were hunting bees around the
ponds.  one of them managed to sit still long enought to get a scope on
it, and it was just gorgeous.  The ponds were home to a few ducks, a
IBIS.  a KOOKABURRA was laughing somewhere off in the distance.
                        Walking back from the ponds we found some
gorgeous little YELLOW-BELLIED SUNBIRDS.  all yellow with curved beaks,
the male has an irridescent blue/black throat.  A few more BRUSH TURKEYS,
and a new chicken type megapode, the   ORANGE-FOOTED SCRUBFOWL, also 
about in the leaves.  We went up nearby Mt. Whitfield, which supposedly
has cassowaries, but we didnt see any.  They have closed off a large 
section of the blue trail because of the birds, and I'm not really one to 
hop a fence and risk my neck for a bird.  But I finally managed to see a 
YELLOW ORIOLE which I had been hearing all day but never seeing, and a
HONEYEATERS in the rainforest.  The rainforest has some really neat trees
with big butressed roots...huge tree ferns, ground palms, giant black 
bean seed pods containing rich brown seeds.  some of the trees had what's 
called cauliflory (sp?) where the fruit grows right off the trunk.  We 
had to watch out for the WAIT-A-WHILE VINES which are a climbing palm 
vine that have hooks to grab onto you with...if you get caught you have 
to wait a while.  eventually,  crawled back to the hostel and into bed.  
the guy at the desk wants to know what I did all day and I said 
birding...he looks at me funny,  I  guess not too many backpackers are 
birders and vice versa.  Maybe it's  because the scope is just to heavy 
to lug around.

sunday 9/29

        Another early morning excursion to the Esplanade revealed most of
the same birds as the day before, but John Crowhurst,  who is hired by
the city to help out birders, helped me ID some GREAT KNOTS, a GREATER
SAND PLOVER,  and a GRAY-TAILED TATTLER. An OSPREY flew by, and a gray
colored  REEF EGRET made a brief showing before heading off for the
mangroves.  This time I met up with a couple from Sweden who I had seen
the day before, and they managed to convince John to come with us up to the
Atherton Tablelands, since he technically doesnt work on weekends. ( I 
just realized that Anders (sp?!) told me he was on birding-aus so maybe 
he could elaborate on this story when he gets back to Sweden)  At the 
WHITE-THROATED TREECREEPER, and we heard a WHIPBIRD.  The highlight of
that spot was the male VICTORIA'S RIFLEBIRD, which did his cool display 
for us. When the female came in to visit, the glossy black male threw his 
wings up in an arc over his head, and puffed out his chest so we could 
see the irridescent green color. Apparently, if she shows any interest, 
the male will slap his wings against his chest, which John thinks is the 
source of its name since it sounds like a rifle shot.
               At Lake Barrine, there were more BRUSH TURKEYS, a few BLACK 
some HARDHEAD DUCKS, MOORHEN, and COOTS. a BLACK KITE gave a good look as
it soared over the lake, these are really common over the sugar cane
fields, and you can identify them by their forked tails.  I had one of 
those "stop the car there's a good bird back there!" moments....a good 
KING PARROT spot from the car, and it was a good one since the male was 
in fresh plumage and was bright red in front and bright green on its
back, and the lighter green on the wing was very obvious.  On the way to 
our next loaction, there were a few PIED CURRAWONGS on the sides of the 
road, LAUGHING KOOKABURRAS on the telephone lines,  a NANKEEN KESTREL 
hovering over a field, and a BROWN FALCON being mobbed by the currawongs.
At a place called Bromfield Swamp where we stopped briefly gave a few 
unidentifiable egrets, a PURPLE SWAMPHEN, and some SAURUS CRANES. we 
wanted to pick out a brolga from the cranes, but even the scope couldnt 
manage that one.
             At Longland Gap State Forest, I spotted a LUMHOLZ TREE 
KANGAROO which according to John was a really good find especially during 
the middle of the day.  It was big and heavy looking, with a long tail 
and a black face and paws.  he just sat there looking at
us for a while, and didnt move the entire time we were there.  we went on
to see  the GOLDEN BOWERBIRD which was my goal bird.  John showed us the
bower, which was construction of sticks piled into two cones around the
base of two trees.  The bird then decorates it with fresh lichen, which
is how you can tell if a bower is active.  He tells us that people used 
to think the bowerbird held the whole pile together with saliva, but 
people have found that it's actually held together with spiderwebs.  
After a bit, the male bowerbird showed up, beautiful yellow and caramel a dark forest he really shows up when he gets in a bit of 
sun.   on the way out of the forest, we had MOUNTAIN THORNBILLS, GRAY 
          At this point it was getting pretty late in the
afternoon, but that didnt stop us from getting lots of new birds on the
way home.  a BLACK SHOULDERED KITE  chased a large SPOTTED HARRIER across
the many hawks around we also saw quite a few black kites as
well.  a BUFF-BREASTED RAIL ran across the road in front of us and
obligingly waited for us to turn around and have a look at it, and a
BROWN QUAIL also did the same thing.  At a hawk stop we found a
WHITE-BREASTED CUCKOO-SHRIKE on a telephone wire, a new one from the
BLACK-FACED CUCKOO-SHRIKE which I am more familiar with from Sydney 
(which we also saw).
finally, just as the sun was setting over the mountains, we stopped at a
field filled with cranes and managed to pick out two BROLGA from the
SAURUS CRANES, to finish off our day with a bang. The brolga have less
red on their heads than the saurus, seem a bit paler and maybe a bit 
smaller.  took a few gratuitous sunset pictures, and we went back to 
Cairns where it was raining, hot and humid.
The weather up on the tablelands was much more pleasant.


Katie Bertsche .........If you're too busy to go birding, you're too busy.

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