Monday, 26 April 2021

Birding Abattoir Swamp at Julatten

 Although not looking its best anymore Abattoir Swamp is still worth a visit. One of the main attractions here is the rather confiding pair of Northern Fantail which have made it their home.

Northern Fantail

Another attraction here is the Brown-backed Honeyeater which can be easily observed between the months of July and March. From October onwards their distinctive dome shaped nests can be seen hanging from the trees along the boardwalk to the bird hide.

Brown-backed Honeyeater

There is a great bird hide just above the swap but unfortunately the area around the hide is infested with Olive Hymenachne grass which covers the shallow water and discourages aquatic birds. When in flower however, the stand of Bottlebrush trees behind the hide attracts a wealth of Honeyeaters

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Olive Hymenachne grass covering the water

Other regular visitors to the area include Rufous Whistler, several species of Honeyeater and both the Red-backed and Lovely Fairywren. Have a look at this recent eBird  list for the swamp - Here is also the only place nearby where you can find the Eastern Yellow Robin.

Eastern Yellow Robin

White-browed and Spotless Crake can occasionally be seen near a small pond under the Bottlebrush Trees where the invasive grass has not managed to take hold. The best place for birding is actually the parking area, picnic table surrounding bushland. Abattoir Swamp is still well worth a visit especially if you want to photograph birds.

Brown Honeyeater on Bluebottle flowers

If you are interested in guided birding tours of the area please have a look at my website

Saturday, 10 April 2021

A Half Day Tour scoping birds around Port Douglas


We had a great half day tour yesterday, originally for four guests but one could not make it. Pick-up time was 7am at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas where I met Judy, Brian and Lindy. None had binoculars with them so we decided to go for the big birds and to use the spotting scope. The first stop was along the Captain Cook Highway just south of the Mowbray River where we viewed the Eastern Osprey on their newly constructed nest. We spied a third Osprey in the distance and found him to be feasting on a Garfish. Across the road in the fallow cane paddock, we saw a pair of Bush Stone-curlew standing statue like in the tall grass and several Masked Lapwing foraging in and around muddy puddles. The air was full of the calls of Golden-headed Cisticola but alas we could not get one in the spotting scope. A pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds paid us a very brief visit before we moved on.

Eastern Osprey


Our second stop was in Port Douglas where we sought the Eclectus Parrots. A lovely walk down a shaded road next to the golf course. We inspected the Eclectus nesting hollows and nearby perches and found nothing. We observed a Wandering Whistling Duck in one of the shallow ponds along the golf course fence. The poor fellow was missing one of his feet. Great views of a pair of Radjah Shelduck nearby were had. We had some really close views of a Comb-crested Jacana who stood still long enough for everyone to get great views through the spotting scope. A pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters were located on a hunting perch and the scope was very usefully to see them come and go as the pursued insects in flight. The Eclectus Parrot was heard calling and we hurried back to the nest hollow where two females where perched. We had great views through the scope before a Magpie-lark took exception to their presence and flushed them.

Eclectus Parrot


Warri Park with its lagoon and water lilies was our next stop. Here there were Dusky Moorhen and Australasian Swamphen as well as more Masked Lapwing. We got the scope onto a beautiful yellow breasted male Australasian Figbird and had a brief discussion about the Looking-glass Mangroves that grow around the edge of the lagoon.  Another interesting find was a fallen tree trunk that had Double-eyed Fig-Parrot nesting hollows bored into it.

Australasian Swamphen


Time for a break and a cup of tea at a shady picnic area along with a discussion of the birds seen thus far.


Next stop Newell Beach beginning with a visit to the sand spit at the mouth of the Mossman River. The scope was set up and we found Crested Tern, Little Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit and a couple of Great Knot. We had a majestic flyby from a Great Egret and a few minutes later a Grey Goshawk passed overhead. We took in the landmarks of Snapper Island, Low Isles and the Port Douglas headland to help orientate where exactly we were standing. Moving on to a patch of bushland we had magnificent views of an extremely confiding male Lovely Fairywren accompanied by a male Mistletoebird in his bright red waist-coat, several Olive-backed Sunbirds and a couple of Dusky Honeyeaters.

Lovely Fairywren


Heading back to Port Douglas we paused at a small private dam and were treated to a Pied Heron, Pied Stilt and some Australian White Ibis. We stood for awhile under the Golden Penda trees marvelling at the call of the Brown Honeyeaters. After a bit of “pishing” they came out and had a look at us along with a pair of Yellow Honeyeaters. Interestingly the White-breasted Woodswallows also came in for a look flying low around our heads.

Pied Heron


All good things must come to an end and we headed back into Port Douglas with a final stop at my Papuan Frogmouth day roost. We were treated to two of these wonderful creatures quietly sleeping on their favourite branch. We then found a shady spot at the Sheraton and filled out the bird list for the morning and bid each other farewell. Thankyou Judy, Brian and Lindy for a wonderful morning and some interesting conversation.

Papuan Frogmouth

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Virtual Mt Lewis Birding Tour

We begin our tour with a drive up the dirt track to the clearing on the Mt Lewis road. As you can see this is a single lane dirt track which can be rather rough in places.

On the lower section of the track we may see some of the regular rain-forest species like Spectacled Monarch, Brown and Fairy Gerygone, Wompoo Fruit-Dove and Pacific Emerald Dove.

Pacific Emerald Dove

During their breeding season we also stop to have a look at the display perch of the Victoria's Riflebird. This bird of Bird of Paradise is endemic to the wet tropics of Queensland

Male Victoria's Riflebird displaying to a female at the perch

As we get higher up the mountain we see the vegetation becoming more lush. Birds flit across the road and disappear down the steep slope to the left. They will mostly be Yellow-throated Scrubwren and Grey-headed Robin. We could also see the occasional Bassian Thrush.

When we reach the clearing we park the vehicle and explore the road in both directions looking for Atherton Scrubwren and Fernwren. We can find most or the birds endemic to the wet tropics along this section of the track as well as many other species of rain-forest birds.

exploring the track near the clearing
Grey Fantail are common along the track
We return to the vehicle for coffee and cake. At the same time we will be listening for the high pitched calls of the Blue-faced Parrot-Finch. During the summer months the Parrot-Finch feeds and nests in the area. We also see Red-browed Finch and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin here.

Blue-faced Parrot-Finch
 After packing up the car and getting our gear together we head out along the walking track. We can hear birds calling all around us. Eastern Whipbird, Mountain Thornbill, Supurb Fruit-Dove, Yellow-throated Scrubwren and many others.

The walking track

We usually encounter the Grey-headed Robin and Golden Whistlers first. The Robin usually perches just above the ground or is hopping along the path in search of a meal.

Grey-headed Robin
The whistlers are heard calling from the mid-story of the rain-forest and we need to search until we find one with a clear view.
male Golden Whistler
As we walk we keep our eyes open for small movements and rustles in the leaves which give away the presence of Atherton Scrubwren and Chowchilla. Both these species can be very confiding if approached slowly and quietly.
Atherton Scrubwren

female Chowchilla
In the wet season there are plenty of great looking fungi on all the rotting logs and interesting and colourful rain-forest fruits on the ground.

We eventually reach the dam and stop here for a break.

old tin miners dam
Here we can still hear the golden whistlers calling and the Mountain Thornbills are in the trees above. A little pish and these inquisitive birds come down for a look.

Mountain Thornbill with a wormy snack
From here we head out to visit the Golden Bowerbird at his bower. He is usually around somewhere and with a short wait he turns up. On our last visit we were lucky enough to watch him doing a bit of maintenance by placing fresh sticks on the towers of his bower.

Golden Bowerbird
It is now time to start heading back to the vehicle birding along the way. We have been hearing the Spotted Catbirds calling all along the track and soon get good views of the bird. We also happen on a Tooth-billed Bowerbird at eye-level next to the path getting great views. We usually visit his display court in the right season but it is all quiet at the moment.

Tooth-billed Bowerbird
Just before reaching the end of our walk we are lucky enough to encounter a Bowers Shrike-Thrush. It is always a pleasure to see this bird and hear its beautiful call

Bowers Shrike-Thrush
Well the tour is over and we pile into the vehicle and head down the mountain for lunch at the Julatten Tavern.

I hope you enjoyed the tour and would love to see you on a real one in the future!

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Brown Booby's at Michaelmas Cay

My wife and I recently visited Michaelmas Cay with the view to adding the trip to our Wet Tropics birding tour as an extra add on. Whilst there we observed the Brown Booby's in full breeding mode with many nests and chicks. The nests are just a pile of coral,sticks and other marine debris.  The Brown Booby is a common and widespread species but never the less a pleasing bird to watch.

The males have beautifully coloured blue facial skin which fades gradually into the bill. The females have a yellowish facial skin. Both sexes are a deep chocolate brown often appearing black.

Brown Booby's are strictly marine, usually feeding on inshore waters. Diet is comprised mainly of flying-fish and squid, mullet and anchovies which are usually caught by plunge diving. They also sometimes snatch prey off the surface of the water.

Brown Booby pairs can remain together for several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting ridicules and are also spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed.

They nest in large colonies. The average clutch consists of two chalky eggs that are placed on the ground in a mound of broken coral,shells and vegetation. One dominant chick is usually raised as it out-competes its sibling for food or just pushes it out of the nest.

We are still working on our new website. We have now gone live so do click on the link and have a look at what we are doing 

Happy Birding!
Doug Herrington
Birdwatching Tropical Australia

Sunday, 8 September 2019

New Website

Wow! - I have been so busy with tours over the past couple of years I really have not has time to blog! This is just a quick note on a new website I am putting together. It has been published but not yet completed so some links go nowhere whilst others will lead you in a circle. Have a look and see what you think. Please leave comments as they can be very helpful.

I have added some recent kingfisher images for you to enjoy as well.

 Azure Kingfisher
 Azure Kingfisher
 Little Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Golden-shouldered Parrot trip report

This trip report covers a recent trip to see the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot at its nesting site. We begin our trip from Cairns at 7:00am with pick-ups from various accommodations and head north via Smithfield, Kuranda and Mareeba. A quick stop at Maryfarms nets us great sightings of the Australian Bustard and again a coffee break at McLeod River nets us the White-gaped Honeyeater.

Australian Bustard

We reach Lakeland Downs at about 11:30am where we have an early lunch then onward through Laura and onto the dirt roads of Cape York. Road kills net us great close views of Wedge-tailed Eagle, Black and Whistling Kite. Mid May still has plenty of water at the sides of the road with some ponds containing many Brolga’s, White-necked and White-faced Heron. We arrive at Musgrave Roadhouse at about 3.30pm, off load our gear into our rooms and enjoy a quick cup of tea. Then it’s off to the parrot nesting site. Golden-shouldered Parrots make their nest in chamber which they hollow out of a conical termite mound usually about a metre above ground level. Our host approaches the nest and we hear the chicks within start calling. She allows us a quick look and we see 4 chicks almost ready to fledge. At this point I must make it clear that our host documents the chick’s progress daily and manages the habitat for the parrots and insures minimal disturbance. We arrange our chairs behind some covering bushes well back from the mound and begin the wait for the parrots to come in to the nest. An hour passes and no parrots appear but in the mean time we have seen Pied and Black-backed Butcherbirds, Australian Magpie and a host of other birds. At 6:00pm we walk back to the car so as to avoid getting caught out in the dark. We return to Musgrave Roadhouse for dinner and early to bed.

Golden-shouldered Parrot

On day two we are up before dawn so as to arrive at the nest sight before the sun appears over the horizon. We settle into our chairs and watch the bush around us come to life with the early morning calls. Yellow Honeyeaters chatter noisily just above our heads seeming oblivious of our presence. We watch a Magpie with a lizard being harassed by a young Pied Butcherbird. Movement catches our eye and we see the first appearance of our target birds. They survey the nest from about 30 metres away for about 5 minutes and then leave. 15 minutes later they are back, this time much closer. They sit in the dead tree branches looking about and preening for about 20 minutes. They seem to be waiting for the butcherbirds and magpies to vacate the area before entering the nest. Sure enough, as soon as the area is clear the male alights on the mound and drops down the nest entrance. He remains here for a few minutes whilst the female continues to survey the area. He soon disappears into the hole and feeds the chicks. A short while later he is gone in a flash of green and blue. High fives all around and we head back to the vehicle for a well deserved coffee. 

Red Goshawk

We spent the rest of the morning birding the road from Musgrave in an easterly direction. Some species of note where the Bar-breasted, Banded and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters. We visited the Red Goshawk territory but alas it was still too early in the season for the birds to be attending the nest. After a lovely lunch under a shady tree we visited an enormous Orange-footed Scrubfowl mound around which the bush was festooned with flowering Cooktown Orchids. Next stop was the Annie River fishing camp with a very rewarding walk along the edge of the mangroves. Red-headed Honeyeaters, Shining Flycatcher, Brahminy Kite and Rufous-banded Honeyeater where amongst the sightings. The remainder of the afternoon was spent searching for Zitting Cisticola of which we managed to find two. We also saw Australian Pratincole, Black-necked Stork, two Black-breasted Buzzards and plenty of Brolgas. 

Bar-breasted Honeyeater

We watched the sunset whist we ate a dinner of cold roast chicken and salads followed by fruit, cheese and crackers. As soon as it was fully dark we set out so see what we could find with our spotlight on the return journey to Musgrave Roadhouse. We saw Barn Owl, Tawny Frogmouth, Owlet Nightjar and a host of Spotted Nightjar. At a river crossing we were also rewarded with two very large estuarine crocodiles up on the bank. We were back at the roadhouse by 10pm and after a quick shower we were off to bed.

We arose quite late the next morning and had a leisurely breakfast before birding our way to the lunch stop at Palmer River. We arrived back in Cairns at about 4:00pm. More information on tours is available at