Saturday, 12 May 2012

A White-eared Monarch and Tawny Frogmouth Day

Having heard of a sighting of a White-eared Monarch in Julatten a few days previously, I decided to go and have a look. Accompanied by my friend Murray, we arrived at the site shortly after 8.30 am. We sat in the vehicle and listened to a recording of the call of the White-eared Monarch a few times as we were both unfamiliar with it. After locking up the vehicle we set off along the dirt road. Almost the first birds we saw, was a small flock of Lovely Fairy-wrens. Try as I might to get a photo of a male in full plumage this was the best shot I could manage.
Lovely Fairy-wren (female)
There were quite a few Grey Fantail and Rainbow Bee-eater about. We also saw Rufous Fantail, Red-browed Finch, Little Shrike-thrush, Silvereye and a Spotted (now Green) Catbird. After about half an hour searching along the road, Murray heard the White-eared Monarch calling. Now the game was on to actually see the bird. These little critters like to forage high in the outer canopy and can be very difficult to see in thick rainforest. We eventually managed to spot one and then another. Goal achieved! Photography at the angle, height and density of foliage for this new photographer however proved impossible. The male Riflebird in the area showed up as usual but would not stay in the same place long enough for a good photo. I will just have to wait for breeding season when he starts to display.

We moved on to Devil Devil Creek to search for honeyeaters. We were rewarded with Yellow Spotted, Graceful, Dusky, Lewin’s, Macleay’s, Brown and Scarlet Honeyeater. We moved on to Mary Farms in search of Australian Bustard. Just on the point of giving up and leaving two birds popped up from the long grass and gave us some great views.
Australian Bustard
Next stop was Mt Carbine. We took a drive through the bush to look at the old mine dam but were disappointed at the lack of bird life on the water. A mining company is processing all the old mining tailings to extract Wolfram (I think?). They have set up a noisy pump at the water’s edge which has scared the birds off. All we saw was one lone Darter and a Little Pied Cormorant. A great pity as this used to be a good spot for Great Crested Grebe. On our route back through the bush we did find Red-tailed Black and Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. We also saw Black-faced and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Galah, Laughing and Blue Winged Kookaburra.

Grumbling tummy’s signalled lunch time and we headed for the Mt Carbine pub where Nick served up great steak sandwiches and ice cold beer. While discussing what to do for the rest of the day, we decided to take a drive up Mt Spurgeon Road to the McCloud River just for the fun of it. The track has become very rough after the wet season with some rather tricky spots. We stopped at a good vantage point where we could look down on Mt Carbine and the mine. 
Mt Carbine mine from the view point
While sitting here admiring the view we heard Spotted Pardalote calling and were lucky enough to have them pass right by where we were sitting. Where was my camera? In the vehicle of course! I noticed Murray scrounging around at the base of the rock I was sitting on. After a few minutes he popped up with a plastic bottle. This apparently was a “geo-cache”(?). People hide things all over the world and put the co-ordinates on the internet and then others go looking for them, fill in the logbook in the bottle and then say on the internet that they have found them.
When we reached the McCloud River, which is in a National Park, we found a bunch of rednecks in 4x4 utility vehicles camping on the bank of the river with their pig dogs. We did not hang around long as the noise from their stereo was deafening!  What is the point of going to a quiet spot like this and listening to loud music?
Back down the track we visited the Mt Carbine caravan park to have a look at the Tawny Frogmouth usually roosting in the trees near the reception area. It did not disappoint and I managed to get a few good photos. 
Tawny Frogmouth

There were so many Apostlebirds around the place it looked as if there had been an invasion!  Tired and happy with the day’s adventure we headed home.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Three Days On The Atherton Tablelands

Friday 20th April saw me off to the Atherton Tablelands. With the BirdLife NQ AGM on Saturday at Yungaburra, the chance for a few days birding was too good to miss. A booking was made at the Kookaburra Motel (with a name like that where else would one stay!) for Friday and Saturday night and I was off.
First stop was Lake Mitchell near Mareeba. I stopped at the viewing area at the roadside. The lake was very quiet, probably due to the amount of water everywhere at the end of the wet season causing most of the birds to disperse far and wide. There were however Pacific Black Duck, Great Egret, Black Swan, Darter and Magpie Goose. Australian Magpie also put in an appearance along the roadside as well as Osprey, Black Kite and Whistling Kite. The small swamp at Brady Road, just before reaching Mareeba, was little better with much the same as Lake Mitchell. There were also Straw-necked and White Ibis, Australian Grebe, Crested Pigeon, Apostlebird and a Blue-winged Kookaburra.
Crested Pigeon

Next stop was Hastie’s Swamp near Atherton. The water here was a little bit more lively. Much the same as at Lake Mitchell was seen with the addition of Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Plumed Whistling-duck and a lone Pelican fishing in the shallows. A walk along the road proved to be a better option with Grey Fantail, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Rufous Whistler.

The walk at Wongabel State Forest was the next stop. The Mabi type forest here is unique to the Atherton Tablelands. Most of the usable timber was removed from these forests more than 100 years ago and the rest was extensively cleared for farming. In 1903 the importance of this forest was recognised. It was declared Crown Reserve and work began on reintroduction of the red cedars. Here I saw Green Catbird (the northern sub-species previously known as the Spotted Catbird), Eastern Whipbird, Mountain Thornbill, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Grey-headed Robin and Grey Fantail.
Green (Spotted) Catbird - (not a very good picture)

Just before reaching the Curtain Fig near Yungaburra, I spotted a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a Black-shouldered Kite worth stopping for. The Curtain Fig yielded White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Victoria Riflebird, Large-billed Scrub-wren and Little Shrike-thrush.
After booking in to the Kookaburra Motel I took a drive around town and down to Lake Tinaroo to see what was about. There were Australian Pipit, Black-fronted Dotterel, Purple Swamphen, Pacific Black Duck, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant and a Great Egret all near the boat ramp. 
Australian Pipit
A nearby fruiting fig had attracted a flock of Figbirds.  On the way back into town I spotted an Eastern Yellow Robin in a hedge. 
Eastern Yellow Robin
On the opposite side of the town is a good walking track along the creek. Here, I saw Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Brush Turkey and Brown Cuckoo-dove. I was lucky enough to find a mixed feeding party of birds and followed them for about half an hour. There were Spectacled Monarch, Pied Monarch, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Brown Gerygone, Fairy Gerygone, Varied Triller, Silvereye, Grey Fantail, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Little Shrike Thrush all moving along the path in the same direction as I was walking. Also seen where Red-browed Finch, Cattle Egret and Bar-shouldered Dove. 
Fairy Gerygone
After dinner at Nick’s Swiss Restaurant I was ready for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2 began with breakfast at the road side at Broomfield Swamp while watching a Black-shouldered Kite and a Brown Falcon. There were only a few Pacific Black Duck on the water but the surrounding area produced Buff-banded Rail, Pied Butcher Bird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow and a flyover of Topknot Pigeon.
Black-shouldered Kite

At Mt Hypipamee National Park I met up with Townsville birders, Len and Chris Izzy. We visited two Golden Bowerbird bowers and managed to see two male birds and one female. Len said the highlight of the day must have been when one of the birds pooped on me! We were also lucky enough to see Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Fig Parrot, Eastern Whipbird and Atherton Scrubwren. This was followed up by tea and a long chat about past and up-coming birding trips in and around the Winton area.

An early lunch was eaten at Herberton followed by a walk along some of the trails around the mining information centre. These walks definitely deserve another visit early in the morning, not only for the birds, but for some futher investigation of the old mine shafts, buildings and equipment scattered around the area.
I returned to Yungaburra at about 2pm for the BirdLife AGM. We had a very interesting talk on Cassowary before the meeting and then a great slide presentation on the birds of Tasmania after dinner.

Day 3. I started the day with a quick look at the railway cutting at Yungaburra before meeting up with other Birdlife members for a day’s birding on the Tablelands at 7am. The bush was alive with birds feeding on the Grevillia and Bottlebrush as the sun was coming up. There were Scarlet Honeyeater, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater, White-throated Honeyeater and for good measure, a Grey Shrike-thrush and a Green Catbird. What a great start to the day!
Scarlet Honeyeater
At the school we met up with local guide, Alan Gillanders, who would be our leader for the day. Around the streets of the town we saw White-headed Pigeon, Black-faced, Barred and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike.
White-headed Pigeon
The Curtain Fig is much more lively in the morning than the afternoon. More BirdLife members joined us here to view the Wompoo Fruit-dove, White-headed Pigeon, Vicrotia Riflebird, Green Catbird and Yellow-breasted Boatbill.  
Wompoo Fruit-dove
Broomfield Swamp was much the same as the day before with the addition of Black Swan and Nankeen Kestrel. 

Hypipamee was much better with more birding and less talk than the day before. The Golden Bowerbird was at his bower for all to see.  Other birds seen were Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Grey Goshawk, White-throated Treecreeper, Pied Monarch and Grey-headed Robin.
Golden Bowerbird
We moved on to one of the members private properties for lunch and then to find Blue-faced Parrot-finch. We found Crimson Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, Grey Fantail and another Grey Goshawk, but no Parrot-finch. The name of the property, I think, was Possum Hollow. The owners are doing a great job of re-vegetation. We all parted ways here and headed of home. What a great three days birding with more than 130 species seen.