Sunday, 29 April 2012

Daintree River Birding with Murray

On Saturday afternoon my friend Murray asked me to assist him with some repairs and upgrades to his boat at Daintree village. We followed this with a test drive on the river and a bit of a look around to see what birds we could find for his guests on the following mornings 7.00 am Daintree River Boatman cruise. We went to Murray’s special spot where a Great-billed Heron was sitting on a nest. The river was flowing very strongly and we had to be careful weaving our way through hanging vines and fallen trees. We found the heron on its nest on a tree limb about 10 metres above the river. 
Great-billed Heron
After a few photos we headed back down river in search of Papuan Frogmouth. We managed to find a pair who had just arrived and were at the same roost as they had used last year. 
Papuan Frogmouth
We also found a flycatcher which on closer inspection turned out to be a Restless Flycatcher. This is the first one I have seen on the Daintree River. 
Restless Flycatcher

We also saw Azure, Forest and Sacred Kingfisher but only managed to hear the Little Kingfisher. The river was high and the tide was in, flooding all the mud banks and mangrove roots, which makes this beautiful little bird difficult to see. Just before we took the boat out of the water, we flushed what must have been the last Black Bittern of the season.

Peter and I had been invited along on Murray’s 7.00 am cruise the following morning which we gladly accepted. The Great-billed Heron obliged providing the guests with some good photo opportunities. One of the Papuan Frogmouths had moved but the other was still there. These birds will move around until a bit later in the year when they settle down to breed. We also saw Rainbow Bee-eater, Great Egret, Brown Gerygone and several pairs of Shinning Flycatcher.

As a final treat, a young Great-billed Heron posed for us right near the slipway. 
Great-billed Heron

Great-billed Heron

After Murrays guests had left we ate scrambled eggs and toast at the local cafe before finishing the morning with a spot of birding in Julatten.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Visit to the Rubbish Tip

A spur of the moment visit to the local tip / rubbish dump this morning proved to be a pleasant few hours of birding. The weather was overcast with light rain threatening but we went anyway. We saw two Radjah Shelduck in a muddy puddle in the sugar cane fields on the way in as well as two Nankeen Kestrel. One was being harassed by a White-breasted Woodswallow. The dam produced 3 Black-winged Stilt and a duck of domestic origin (not sure what type). We could hear Mangrove Robin calling from both sides but were unable to sight them.

Black-winged Stilt

A loader working at the green waste pile was chasing up a lot of insects. A Willie Wagtail and a flock of Welcome Swallows were taking full advantage of this and swooping in to catch as many as possible. We also saw a mixed flock of Nutmeg and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Olive-backed Sunbird, Spangled Drongo and what may have been a Pallid Cuckoo.

On the way out of the gate we stopped to look at some Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in a flowering Paperbark tree. There seemed to be about ten birds in the flock as well as two Mistletoe Birds.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Something disturbed them and more than thirty birds exploded from the tree! How can so many brightly coloured birds remain unseen!

We decided on a quick visit to Cooya Beach to try and find the southern form of the Masked Lapwing I saw last week but had no luck. We did see a lot of Rainbow Bee-eater and one Straw-necked Ibis.

Rainbow Bee-eater
On the way home we took a back road detour to see if there were any Fairy Martin about. We came across a small flock of about thirty all swooping through a drain pipe under the road. On closer inspection we found their bottle shaped mud nests clustered on the roof of the drain.

Fairy Martin

According to Pizzey and Knight’s Field Guide to the Birds of Australia and HANZAB, Fairy Martins do not breed as far north as here. Perhaps this merits further investigation!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

2012 The First Three Months and a Bit

What a busy few months! January started with a Big Day Out to see if we, my friend Peter and I, could bag 100 or more birds on New Year’s Day, After a quick scan of the local area around Shannonvale, we headed up to Julatten and Mt Molloy. The weather was good until just before lunch time when the rain came down. This was just after we had met Keith from Kingfisher Lodge and his neighbours Carol and Andrew who were doing much the same thing. Needless to say, the rain was not welcome and Peter and I headed home.

Later in the afternoon I was off again to reach the 100 target which was still shy by about 20 birds. I visited Cooya Beach and Newell Beach and upped the list to almost 100. I met up with my friend Murray at Newell Beach where he was showing a friend around. I told him what I was up to and he suggested we go to Daintree Village, where he keeps his bird spotting tour boat, and take it for a spin. How could I refuse!

On the way to Daintree I stopped at the Wonga Barramundi Farm and padded out my list with a few Black-winged Stilt and Radjah Shelduck which can usually be found here. Murray put the boat in near the ferry crossing and we headed down river all the way to the heads. I could now add Little Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Shining Flycatcher and several terns to the list.  Thanks to Murray the list topped out at 112 birds! If I had gone up Mt Lewis as did Keith, I could have added at least 10 more birds.

During January I paid a rare visit to the Cairns Esplanade to view the shore birds. I had just bought a new camera with a 500mm zoom lens and so hope to improve, with a lot of practice, the quality of photographs included in this blog.

Bar-tailed Godwit

The highlight of January however was a visit to Michaelmas Cay to view the Red-footed Booby with the BirdLife North Queensland group. What a fantastic trip! The snorkelling was also great. It is a shame that only two of us took advantage of this great opportunity.

February went by with a blur as I took delivery of the new Toyota 4x4 for Birdwatching Tropical Australia, fought red tape and managed to get my driver authorisation and “Certificate of the Registration of a Business Name”.  Getting operator accreditation was another long winded affair. I managed to get my temporary accreditation from the Department of Transport by the end of the month. I also received a workbook and computer disc with all the information I needed to complete my full accreditation.

The new Toyota 4x4

Whilst doing all this, I still managed a few rewarding birding trips and managed to expand the bird list for 2012 to over 200 species.

During March the rain finally arrived and soaked everything. Thank goodness it also brought the temperatures down a bit. I managed to finish my workbook and sent it off to one of the Department of Transport Approved Assessors for assessment. To my delight I received a phone call just before the Easter weekend telling me everything was in order and my Accreditation Certificate would be arriving soon.  March saw another trip on the Daintree with Murray and several visits to Julatten and the surrounding areas.

Murray Hunt - Daintree River Boatman

I ended the month attending the Wave the Waders Goodbye gathering at the Cairns Esplanade. My list for the afternoon can be found here. I found the Wader ID course which took place beforehand most helpfull.

Common Greenshank

April arrived and things have begun to dry out a bit. We had great weather over the Easter Weekend and managed to squeeze in a trip up Mt Lewis on Saturday morning. Another birder who had arrived earlier reported at least 40 Blue-faced Parrot-Finch (we only saw 3) and a male and female Golden Bowerbird. We were lucky enough to see a small flock of 7 Australian King Parrot.

Last week Cooya Beach turned up a rather unusual visitor. A lone masked lapwing at the roadside looked a bit unusual. On Closer inspection it turned out to be the southern form, Vanellus miles novaehollandiae.
Masked Lapwing (southern form)
Masked Lapwing (northern form)

With most of the hard work of setting up a new business behind me, I hope to be able to keep my blog a bit more up to date.