queensland II (longer)

Subject: queensland II (longer)
From: "Peregrine" <>
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 22:33:29 -0400 (EDT)
Monday-Wednesday  9/30 - 10/2

                Woke  up early for sea kayaking today.  (this part is 
short because  the kayaking was not the highlight of my trip.) We headed 
a couple of hours south of Cairns, where we hopped in our kayaks and took 
off for our island in the 30 knot winds.  Since I was in a boat with 
another small person, we had trouble steering  the right way, so we got a 
bit blown off course and had to be towed back by our guide.   I donUt 
remember the name of the island we ended up at, we were supposed to go to 
Kent Island, but ended up on one nearby.  After an exhausting paddle we 
crawled off onto the island and collapsed.   I did a bit of 
snorkelling...not really any coral around since we ended up on the island 
which wasnt so good for its snorkelling in the first place.  But there 
were a few fish about, including a peacock rock cod, gray green with 
bright blue spots, and a large fish with a brown geometic pattern...
Around sunset,  flocks of PIED IMPERIAL PIGEONS start to fly in from the 
mainland.  they breed on these offshore islands, and spend their days on the
mainland feeding.  All night long you can hear them cooing away, and in
the morning just before they leave they get even louder.
At dinner, two GREAT TROPICBIRDS soared over us, just hanging in one
place so I could spotting scope them for the others to see.
    In the morning we were awakened by the noisy MACLEAY'S HONEYEATERS 
flying all around our camp...I discovered that they
were were busy feeding two fluffy baby birds.   LITTLE
TERNS were feeding along the beech, and several FOREST KINGFISHERS were
moving about in the mangroves.  The island hosted a pair of nesting
WHITE-BELLIED SEA EAGLES, and several of the mound building YELLOW-FOOTED 
SCRUBFOWL.  Just inside the forest edge we found a mound, which didnUt 
seem to be very active.  Among the rocks near the edge of the trees were 
a couple of BAR-SHOULDERED DOVES, and the occasional SILVEREYE. Something 
tantalizing  and green and pigeon shaped flew off, which could have been  
some sort of fruit dove, but of course that was right when I didnUt have any 
binoculars with me.
 We took a walk around the island that afternoon and were rewarded with 
sightings of dolphins, a leopard shark, a sea turtle, and numerous shore crabs 
interesting tide pool creatures,  like brittle stars, sea cucumbers,  and 
hermit crabs with yellow tipped legs.  A GIANT SKINK scared me a bit when 
it rustled through the leaves in front of me like a snake.  We were told 
to watch out for cone snails, which have a poisonous dart that they shoot 
at their prey.  I found a few dead ones, including a TEXTILE CONE... they 
are really beautiful shells.
Returned home  to Cairns Wednesday with a sunburn, lots of sandfly bites, 
and a touch of seasickness or sunstroke.  Late in the afternoon on the 
mudflats of Cairns there was a PIED OYSTERCATCHER, and the usual gulls and 

Thursday 10/3

Another day in Cairns, before I have to leave for the Daintree this
afternoon.  I rented a bike and rode out to see the mangrove sanctuary
near the airport.  There's a boardwalk through the mangroves there, and
it's really pretty neat, though not many birds.  The tide was wrong for
shorebirds today, so I didnt bother with the esplanade.   In the 
mangroves, I spent a long time swatting at  mosquitoes  trying to 
discover the source of a weird song.  It turned out to be a BLACK 
BUTCHERBIRD, although I had hoped it would be a rail or something 
exciting like that.  Hanging about in the tops of the mangroves were a 
couple of MISTLETOE BIRDS which I think must have been migrating  to 
somewhere else since there was no mistletoe around.  a couple of 
BEE-EATERS flew overhead, presumably chasing after insects, and a 
WHIMBREL was poking about in the mud of the creek.  my new bird of the 
day was  a BROAD-BILLED FLYCATCHER female, with her red breast and gray 
back...I identified mostly by habitat so I could be know how
bad those flycatchers can be.  a VARIED HONEYEATER, a SPANGLED DRONGO and
a few SUN BIRDS  finished off the small mangrove list of birds, however 
there were quite a lot of mangrove crabs about, and some large mud 
snails, and of course, the mangroves themselves were interesting, with 
their odd seeds, branching roots and salt excreting leaves.  After 
another go with the OFF!bugspray I got on my bike and rode back over to 
Mt. Whitfield to look for cassowaries again.  My skin is beginning to get 
a little tired of the noxious chemical mixture of sunscreen and insect 
repellent that I put on each day. 
        I saw mostly the same birds as before on my walk up,  like the 
turkeys and the scrubfowl,  but this time I walked a bit furthur into the 
rainforest and managed to spot a NOISY PITTA which is green and yellow 
and black and rust colored, about the size of a starling.  They hop about 
on the floor of the forest, and they are supposedly really noisy,
but I never actually saw this one singing., although I must have heard it 
sometime during the day and not known waht it was. There was a lot of 
singing going on that I couldnt find the owners of.  Also in there I saw a 
GOANNA which was 3 feet long or so.  on the way back down there were a 
                 A bit of a mix up with the bus got me to Daintree 
village, 2 hours north of Cairns, several hours late and 30 extra dollars 
out of budget. If you ever use Coral Coaches make sure that they know 
where to pick you up. Call them repeatedly, and donUt expect them to be 
on time anyway. Denise and Chris at the Red Mill house bed and breakfast 
were very nice,  and it was good to sleep in a bed with real sheets and 
have a real  shower, with a clean towel.  In their house were two yellow 
treefrogs which lived in the potted plant at night and
take care of bugs during the day.  natural and beautiful mosquito control.
As I was walking upstairs outside,  I almost tripped over a large animal 
the size of a big cat, with a pointed nose and a rat-like tail.  He 
looked at me and  looked at him, and eventually he went on his 
way...Denise told me it was a BANDICOOT.

Friday 10/4

Got up very early to go on Chris Dahlberg's rive tour of the Daintree.
Our first bird was a STRIATED HERON, which looksed a lot like a night
heron or a bittern when itUs hunched up, with brown stripes.  a SHINING 
FLYCATCHER was next, the female is rufous brown with a black head and a 
white belly, while the male is shiny black.  ther birds included 
WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTLETS  flew everywhere....apparently they have 
echolocating ability so they can find their way out of the caves that 
they roost in.  a few other swallow-type birds were the  WELCOME SWALLOWS 
which look pretty much like barn swallows.  Chris tried to find some 
pacific swallows perched on the powerlines, but there werenUt  any there 
today. The highlight of the boat trip was the GREAT-BILLED HERON which is 
supposedly  one of the rarest and most elusive herons in the world 
(although if you asked me that honor  would go to the American Bittern 
which IUve been trying to see for years...).  The field guide  doesnUt do 
it justice, since it is huge like a great blue and has an enormous bill. 
Otherwise it is mostly unimpressively brown colored.  Chris also has a 
nest of the great-billed,   cryptically hidden, you can see why they went 
undiscovered for so long.  
               Back in the garden of the house after breakfast we found a 
black and white VARIED TRILLER singing away, and a SATIN FLYCATCHER.  A 
couple staying there but who were leaving gave me a ride up the road 
about 4km out of Daintree to the "Eco Lodge" (300$ a night for your own 
little cabin in the rainforest) where I walked up
their nature trail to a little waterfall.  In the stream was a single
crayfish, and I kind of wonder how he got into such a small pool.  Lots
of nasty little biting things up there though, but before I was chased 
out,  I  saw a SPECTACLED MONARCH, and a BLACK BUTCHERBIRD, and a few 
other little brown  jobs.  On the walk back  into Daintree, I found a 
pair LOVELY FAIRY WRENS which look just like the variegated fairywrens 
I've seen in Sydney, but  the female has some blue on her head instead of 
being plain brown , and  some tiny green DOUBLE-EYED FIG PARROTS. The 
FIGBIRDS and YELLOW ORIOLES were noisy and everywhere.   The GRACEFUL 
HONEYEATER looks just like the YELLOW-SPOTTED HONEYEATER, except that the 
graceful is more active and has a different call.  I saw both of these 
today, and they were tough to figure out.  a couple of red black and 
white MISTLETOEBIRDS followed me along, and a few FOREST KINGFISHERS were 
perched on the powerlines.  also, I got a better look at the SPECTACLED 
FLYING-FOX bats which have a roost on one of the creeks of the Daintree.  
Chris and Denise have an enclosure in their back yard where they take care of
orphaned flying foxes.  All along the way were ubiquitous skink-type
lizards, but I never figured out what they were.  No crocodiles either,
oh well.  I had lunch at one of the shops in the village...a Rtropical 
fruit plateS with some really  odd fruit that IUve never seen in my 
life.  When faced with this, you have to ask...Show do I eat this?S do 
you eat the skin, the seeds?  they need to come with instructions.  Back 
to Cairns tonight  so I can go to Michalmas Cay tomorrow.  I really wish 
I had more time to stay in some of these places.

saturday 10/5

Great barrier reef today!   I wake up excited.  It looks to be another
beautiful day too.  I've got my ticket and my swimsuit on and my 
binoculars packed up when I head over to the Ocean Spirit, which is the 
giant tour boat  that  is going to take me out. This is the only one that 
can actually  land on the Cay, or so IUve been told ( I kind of doubt 
this), which is why I justified spending so much money  on it. I had 
wanted to go on a tour with fewer people, however there are plenty of 
activities  on this boat so all of the 90 or so people get spread out.  
There are a lot of older people who I think will take the glass bottom 
boat option instead of   snorkelling,  all the divers have disappeared 
somewhere,  so I think I'm pretty safe to have some space to myself..  
Before we leave Cairns I spot  the OSPREY cruising the Esplanade again, 
and this time he flies by with a large fish.  The usual
morning cacophany of RAINBOW LORIKEETS is also in full swing.  The boat
finally gets underway, a huge catamaran sail boat with an airconditioned
cabin for those unlike me who donUt want to sit up front and get the bow
spray.  I was rewarded with several FLYING FISH sailing out in front of
us and a BROWN BOOBY flying overhead.  The booby looks a lot like an immature
gannet...which I suppose it could be misidentified with.   Michalmas Cay 
is a bird sanctuary, with hundreds of nesting CRESTED TERNS,  SOOTY TERNS, a
see a white bird that  I would like to turn into a WHITE-TAILED
TROPICBIRD.  SILVER GULLS were also around.  The sooty tern babies were
all lined up on the beach....a lot of dead ones around since apparently a
large storm recently drove off the parents so they were dying of
starvation.  Birding done fairly soon, since the birds werenUt going
anywhere, I threw on the wetsuit that I borrowed, miraculously get  the
contact  lenses  in without  a mirror, and gleefully run into the water.
snorkelling is GREAT! better than the Cayman  Islands I think. The coral 
comes in so many different sizes and shapes and colors; bright blue, 
purple, yellow, orange, red....the fish are also incredibly  varied in 
shape, size and color....there are parrot fish all around in 
brightrainbow colors, as well as red and pink and green ones, yellow and 
white and black striped butterfly fish in many different patterns...I come
around a corner to find a big blue-green sea anemone and an orange and
white clownfish swims out at of ther people from the boat told 
me that she is the agressive female, the males are hidden away.  If she 
dies, then the biggest male will turn into a  female.  Small barracuda 
shaped garfish swim in a large school at the surface of the water.  Tiny 
little blue-green chromis fish hover over an outcrop of coral, when I 
swim by they all drop inside of it, only to tentatively   re-emerge when 
I move my shadow out of their way..  Black and white damselfish defend 
their territory, one bites me on the elbow  when
I stay too long.  I spot a blue-spotted lagoon ray swimming away from me,
and when I chase it, it burrows into the sand.   There are giant clams 3
feet wide with bright blue eyespots covering their mantles and smaller
clams  embedded in the coral that are bright purple.  Christmas tree 
worms are brightly colored and oddly shaped in a tiny whorl.   I see a 
birdfish with a bizarre beak shaped face, wrasses cleaning off a parrot 
fish, gobies with their little bug eyes.  Theres a starfish that's bright 
blue that shows up really well against the white sandy bottom, and a 
white and yellow and tan triggerfish that blends in really well.   Since 
I have the wetsuit on,new experience for me, I could stay in the water for 
almost the entire  time we were on the island and not get cold.  It's 
great because it also  keeps you afloat so you dont have to get tired by 
swimming.  What a good way to end my trip.  
Why didnUt I go snorkelling more? I spent the ride home inside the cabin 
(since I sunburnt the back of my knees  despite the fact that I was 
extra-sure to put lots of lotion on there....oh well),  and looking up 
all the fish I had seen, none of which  I could really remember because I 
had seen so many. They say that up  there, fishwatching is really similar 
and as popular as birdwatching, I can see why. 
Sunday 10/6

get up at 4:30 am to catch a bus (dodge the happy drunks in the street)
to the airport, get on my plane and fly back to rainy, cold, dreary
Sydney.  There  were many places that I wished I could have gotten to 
see, birds that I think I missed because I just didnUt have time to get 
to the right places.   There are probably cheaper ways to do things 
there  as well.  But, I did have a wonderful time, and I think another 
trip up there  is in the cards for me sometime.
so thats my trip.
hope you enjoyed reading about  it 

* = life bird

*orange-footed scrubfowl
*Australian brush turkey
*brown quail
Australian pelican
*brown booby
*great frigatebird
(white-tailed tropicbird)
Little pied cormerant
*Magpie goose
Black Swan
Pacific Black duck
*buff-banded rail
dusky moorhen
purple swamphen
Eurasian coot
*Great-billed heron
whitefaced heron
*Great egret
*little egret
*reef egret 
*striated heron
Australian white Ibis
*straw-necked Ibis
*royal spoonbill
*Saurus crane
eastern curlew
*gray-tailed tattler
common greenshank
*terek sandpiper
*black-tailed godwit
*bar-tailed godwit
*great knot
sharp-tailed sandpiper
*red-necked stint
*broad-billed sandpiper
*pied oystercatcher
masked lapwing
pacific golden plover
*greater sand plover
silver gull
*caspian tern
*sooty tern
*little tern
crested tern
*common noddy
*black-shouldered kite
*black kite
*whistling kite
*brahminny kite
white-bellied sea eagle
*spotted harrier
*brown falcon
nankeen kestrel
*pied imperial pigeon
rock dove
spotted turtle dove
*peaceful dove
*bar-shouldered dove
sulfur crested cockatoo
rainbow lorikeet
*double-eyed fig parrot
Australian king parrot
*white-rumped swiftlet
azure kingfisher
laughing kookaburra
*forest kingfisher
*rainbow bee-eater
*noisy pitta
white-throated treecreeper  (minor race)
*lovely fairy wren
*red-backed fairy wren
*large-billed scrubwren
*yellow-throated scrubwren
white-throated gerygone
*large-billed gerygone
*mountain thornbill
*helmeted friarbird
noisy friarbird
*Macleay's honeyeater
noisy miner
Lewin's honeyeater
*yellow-spotted honeyeater
*graceful honeyeater
*varied honeyeater
*white-streaked honeyeater
*brown-backed honeyeater
eastern spinebill
*dusky honeyeater
eastern whipbird
*gray-headed robin
*pale-yellow robin
*little shrike-thrush
gray fantail
willie wagtail
*broad-billed flycatcher
*satin flycatcher
*shining flycatcher
*spectacled monarch
magpie lark
*spangled drongo
*yellow oriole
*Victoria's riflebird
*golden bowerbird
black-faced cuckoo-shrike
*white-bellied cuckoo-shrike
*varied triller
*white-breasted woodswallow
*black butcherbird
australian magpie
pied currawong
*Torresian crow
welcome swallow
tree martin
house sparrow
*yellow-bellied sunbird
*metallic starling
common starling
common mynah

total life birds: 76
total species:  129

also, lots of fish, butterflies, plants, flowers, invertebrates, lizards, 
frogs, mammals, etc...


Katie Bertsche

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

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