VS: Birding down under.3.The Atherton Lake district

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: VS: Birding down under.3.The Atherton Lake district
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 22:58:09 +0200


Fra: Wim Vader
Sendt: on 27.09.2006 22:57
Kopi: Ebn ; Sabirdnet ; birdchat
Emne: Birding down under.3.The Atherton Lake district


This is the area (one of the areas, rather) that was heavily hit by cyclone 
Larry in October 2005, and in spite of lots of hard work since then the ravage 
was still considerable, with lots of trees down or broken, lianes hanging every 
which way, and the whole aspect of the forest changed, with much more daylight 
penetrating to the ground than normally. In fact, the people at Chambers 
thought that this might be the reason that the season was so advanced, with 
catbirds and riflebirds starting to display at least three weeks earlier than 
normally. It was quite sad to walk along the trails (which had largely been 
cleared again) in the rain forest here and see all the destruction everywhere; 
this was the first time I have seen an aera hit by a cyclone, and I also had 
been here before, in 1993, so knew the normal situation.

In addition this was also the area where Alan Gillander very kindly sacrificed 
almost a whole day to show us around, in spite of the fact that he was 
extremely busy, had to leave the next day, and in addition had a burst water 
main in his house! We are extremely grateful, Alan!! One of the things Alan 
showed us, after the obligatory Curtain Fig in Yungaburra---indeed a most 
impressive sight---, was a loose flock of at least 40 Sarus Cranes on a field 
outside the village. Here we could study these stately birds in peace, and even 
were regaled on some dancing steps now and then. From there we drove to the 
very impressive two-floor hide at Hasties Swamp----It is amazing and gratifying 
to see how good the infrastructure for nature visits and birdwatching is in 
Australia----, full of droll Magpie Geese and almost artificial looking Plumed 
Whistling Ducks.

In the early morning we had already been at Lake Barrine, where brown 
Cuckoo-Doves called their 'Did you walk?', and where colourful Wompoo Pigeons 
for once sat out in the open, eating palm fruits. (All fruit doves have a hard 
time after the cyclone, and were this year much harder to find than in a normal 
year). An Azure Kingfisher sat on the cruiseboats, and a small flock of Great 
Crested Grebes swam and dived on the other side of the lake. We walked a bit 
along the lake, and Alan was a fount of knowledge, wisdom and lore about the 
trees, herps, birds and mammals of the area---the latter represented by the 
small dark Musky Rat Kangaroos--. We looked at coniferous trees with leaves 
instead of needles, i.a. the monumental Karri trees, and I renewed my 
acquaintance with some of the small rainforest birds, such as Brown Gerygone 
and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens.  In the evening Alan took us on one of his 
famous spotlighting tours, and we greatly enjoyed the various possums and the 
tree kangaroos, all of whom he almost seemed to know personally.

We stayed at Chambers these nights and also here we had a great time. Outside 
our unit both Spotted Catbirds (clearly the dominant species) and Victoria's 
Riflebird came to take bits of apple we had out out, and when neither species 
was present Lewin's Honeyeater grabbed their chance . (There were also 
Tooth-billed Catbirds here, but somehow I contrived to miss them every time). 
The riflebirds delighted us most of all, as the male several times went into 
full display just outside our porch, flashing each wing alternately, together 
with compensatory swinging head movements. It is a display fully worthy of a 
bird of paradise!

 This is also the only place during our trip, that we constantly hear the 
unmistakable whiplash calls and duet of the Eastern Whipbird; as always, the 
birds are heard all the time, but seen only rarely. Around the lodge, where 
pademelons and the cute Sugar Gliders are fed daily in the evenings, there are 
also lots of other birds: various honeyeaters, with the localized Bridled and 
Macleay's, as well as the lookalike Lewin's and Graceful were much to the fore, 
King Parrots and Crimson Rosella's, and of course the ubiquitous Rufous 
Whistler and the very localized, but here tame and common Grey-headed Robin.

A walk around Lake Eacham once more brought home the enormous destruction waged 
by cyclone Larry, but there was still enough to see and admire: the slopes full 
of lacy Adiantum ferns, the enormous fig trees, the strange cauliflorous trees. 
And there were also plenty of birds: Spectacled Monarchs fossicking thought the 
epiphytic ferns, Large-billed Scrubwrens with their bland faces and large dark 
eyes, and Pale-yellow Robins clinging sideways to the tree trunks. We discover 
the flimsy, though elegant hanging nest of a Large-billed Gerygone, and I have 
the great good fortune to come across a Bower's Shrike-Thrush, a lifebird for 
me, that poses patiently on a bare branch. Later we find the always pleasantly 
active White-throated Treecreepers; in contradistinction to the also present 
brown Treecreepers, this species clearly occurs in pairs. Here is at last also 
a thornbill; as far as I can see the Mountain Thornbill.

Back at the chalet, I finally have good views of the spectacular Pied Monarch, 
foraging along the tree stems almost like a nuthatch. In the evening, suddenly 
there is a n enormous racket everywhere around, the Orange-footed scrubfowls go 
to roost, and clearly do not agree who is to sit where.

        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
       9037 Tromsø, Norway

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