Sunday, 21 August 2011

Daintree River to Mt Lewis

Up before dawn on Saturday morning and off to Daintree Village to join Murray on his 7am birding boat cruise. Passing Rocky Point the sun is just a red ball peeping over the horizon. The Daintree river is shrouded in mist as we cast off. Our first sighting is a dead tree poking out of the mist covered in Cattle Egrets with a Little Pied Cormorant perched right at the top. As the mist begins to clear we head for a spot where Great Billed Heron have recently been seen. No luck. We see an Azure Kingfisher and Shining Flycatcher. These Flycatchers seem quite common here. Small flocks of Metallic Starlings and Topknot Pigeons fly overhead as the sun finally starts to warm us.

A flash of blue and white as a Little Kingfisher crosses the River. We move slowly closer for a better view and some photo's. We ended up seeing 10 of these birds! Up in the branches of an overhanging tree Murray points out a Papuan Frogmouth. Eyes closed and beak pointing to the sky pretending to be a dead branch. 4 of these birds where seen. Still no Great Billed Heron.

We also saw Macleay's Honeyeater, Double-eyed Fig-parrot, Whompo Fruit-dove, Little Egret and Osprey. Our total number of species for the boat trip was 38.

On the way home I stopped to see what was at the Barramundi Farm near Wonga Beach. Many Black-winged Stilt, Great Egret, pacific Black Duck, Black Fronted Dotterel, Sacred Kingfisher, Gull-billed Turn, and Brahminy Kite. Total number of species was 14 all in a 10 minute stop.

Up bright and early again on Sunday morning and off to Julatten. An hour at one of my regular stops yielded 3 Cotton Pygmy-goose, Darter, Pacific Black Duck and Australian Grebe. Also seen where Golden-headed Cisticola, Topknot Pigeon and Spectacled Monarch. Total 27 species.
Cotton Pygmy-goose on far left center.
(Awful photo - use imagination!)

Next stop Mt Lewis. The drive up the track was enjoyable as always with many Grey-headed Robin flitting across the road in front of my truck. The clearing at the 10km mark was cold and semi overcast and very quiet. I started off down the track to the dam at about 9.30am. After a few meters I stop in the gloom and listened. Nothing. Oh well, a quiet day then. I listened some more and sure enough there was a rustle of leaves nearby. Peering into the gloom I made out a Bower's Shrike-thrush bludgeoning a grub to death on a branch. Soon I also made out a Mountain Thornbill and Atherton Scrubwren.

Futher down the path all was still very quiet. A soft pattering of debris falling to the path alerted me to the presence of something in the tree above. Scanning with my binoculars I caught a movement of brown. A Brown Cuckoo-dove. There to the left, a flash of black. Slowly the bird moved into a good viewing position. A male Victoria Riflebird with his irredesant blue-green throat-shield!

Working slowly along the track listening for rustles in the leaves I was also able to locate 2 groups of Chowchilla both of which were accompanied Yellow-throated Scrubwren. Finally I heard a Spotted Catbird calling and was able to track it down. Also seen where Large-billed Scrubwren, Pale-yellow Robin, Grey Fantail, Bridled Honeyeater, Shining Bronze-cuckoo and a tiny Musky Rat-kangaroo. A total of 18 species. Not bad for variety and a very quiet morning!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

On a quick cycle around Shanonvale today I found the first Pied Imperial-pigeons of the season near the South Mossman River causeway. More Metalic Starlings are arriving everyday. Also seen was a Pacific Baza and a Pied Monarch

On a later visit to Newell Beach with my birding friend Peter, we found a flock of about 40 Red-tailed Black-cockatoo feeding on the seeds of Beach Almond along the Esplanade. We also saw Silver Gull, Caspian Tern, Crested Tern, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, and Pied Oysercatcher. Along the mangroves were Large-billed Gerygone, Sacred Kingfisher, Mistletoe Bird and Leaden Flycatcher.

The find of the morning was however a small flock of Lovely Fairywren. The total list of species for the morning was 45.

A visit to the Atherton Tablelands 9 & 10 August

I left Shannonvale at about 2pm and headed up the Rex Range to Lake Tinaroo. After passing through Mareeba hundreds of Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoo were seen along the side of the road. On the approach road to the lake after passing through Kairi I spotted a Red-backed Kingfisher perched on the power lines - the first I've seen in a long while. At the campsite a quick scout along the waters edge before setting up camp revealed Pacific Black Duck, Black-fronted Dotterel, Little Pied Cormorant, Magpie Goose, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Bush Stone-curlew and Australian Wood Duck.

On a later walk along the forest track I saw White-cheeked Honeyeater, Brush Turkey, Pale-yellow Robin, Spectacled Monarch, Large-billed Scrubwren and Grey Fantail amongst others. After dark a spotlighting walk revealed nothing at all.

It was icy cold when waking up before first light to head off to Hasties Swamp. A quick coffee from the McDonald's drive thru in Atherton soon took the chill out of my bones.

The first thing I saw at Hasties were hundreds of Sarus Crane taking off from their night roost. From the hide I could see Purple Swamphen, Pacific Black Duck, Darter, more Sarus Crane, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Grebe, Magpie Goose, Grey Teal and Plumed Whistling-duck (There were so many I gave up counting when I reached 500!)
A walk along the road is always rewarding and this morning revealed Australian Reed-warbler, Tawny Grassbird, Grey Fantail, Bridled, White-cheeked and Lewen's Honeyeater, Little Shrike-thrush, White-browed Scrubwren, Nankeen Kestreland, Golden-headed Cisticola and more.

On to Wongabel State Forest. Here all the birds seemed to be in a small flowering tree in the center of the parking area. Golden Whistler, Brown Gerygone, Brown Treecreeper, Grey Fantail, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Eastern Spinebill. Overhead I saw a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a low flying Grey Goshawk.

On to Mt Hypipamee. Once again the parking area and the first 50m of the walking track proved to have the best birds. In the trees above the picnic table where I was making tea I saw another Grey Goshawk. Also on the grass were Grey-headed Robin, Grey Fantail, Brush Turkey, and Lewen's Honeyeater. Along the track I found Large-billed Scrubwren, Atherton Scrubwren and Brown Gerygone. Alas, the Golden Bowerbird's reported from this site still elude me.

Next I headed for East Evelyn Rd from where I had heard some Satin Bowerbird's had been seen the day before. They were not to be found. Lunch was had at the Miillaa Millaa lookout where I was joined by another birder and two Pied Curawong begging for scraps which it appeared they were carrying off to their nest. A familiar call led us to a nearby patch of scrub where we found several Mountain Thornbill.

Well, time to head home. A quick stop along the road at Lake Mitchell turned up two Brolga. It seems that these birds are slowly being replaced by the Sarus Crane. The total species list for this laid back trip was 93.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A few hours bird watching this morning took me down to Cooya Beach. Poking around the mangroves turned up Collared and Sacred Kingfisher, Mangrove Robin and a Broad-billed Flycatcher. Further back from the beach I found Double-eyed Fig-parrot, Emerald Dove and to my surprise a Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and a small flock of Red-tailed Black-cockatoo flying overhead. Also seen in the area were Reef Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, White Faced Heron, Little Egret and Little Pied Cormorant.

Further down the Highway towards Port Douglas, in a spot near the mangroves, I found a flock of seven Lovely Fairy-wren. Also in the area I found Sea Eagle, Black and Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk and Torresian Crow.

The find of the day however, was two Beach Stone-curlew.
(Appologies for the poor quality photo!)

The total number of species for three well spent hours was 49.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A short 1 hour cycle around my local area in Shannonvale this morning turned up 37 species despite the cool drizzly conditions.

A small flock of Metallic Starlings, the first of the season, was spotted at the causeway over the South Mossman River. Three species of cuckoo were sighted - Brush Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Little Bronze-Cuckoo. Fairy and Tree Martins  were seen in numbers swooping for insects over a recently harvested sugar cane field. Several flocks of Top-knot Pigeons were also observed flying overhead. The thick rainforest edge along the road side yielded Rufous Fan-tail, Double-eyed Fig-parrots, Wompo Fruit-doves, Brown Cuckoo-doves and Fairy Martins amongst others.

A most satisfying morning before the rain came down!