Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mount Lewis in the Summer

Recent tours to Mt Lewis have been turning up some really good birds. We usually manage to get most of the Wet Tropics Endemics and sometimes all 12. (Or 13 if you wish to include the Spotted Catbird which is also found further north on Cape York Peninsula.)

Spotted Catbird
 The Tooth-billed Bowerbirds are still very active at their respective display courts and can be heard calling all along the track.

Tooth-billed Bowerbird

We have also seen Superb and Wompoo Fruit-dove, Topknot Pigeons and Barred Cuckoo-shrike. Up to 5 flocks of Chowchilla are usually encountered along the length of the track. Both the Bridled and Lewin’s Honeyeaters are abundant and we have occasional sightings of the Eastern Spinebill.

Lewin's Honeyeater
Victoria’s Riflebird are also showing well. The hardest of the endemics to find at the moment seem to be the Golden Bowerbird and the Pied Monarch.

Pied Monarch
The recent rains have encouraged the fungi to grow and we see some really fancy looking growths

Various Fungi photographed on Mt Lewis

The  Brush Mistletoe,  Amylotheca dictyophleba, and the Climbing Guinea Flower , Hibbertia scanders, are flowering at present and add vivid splashes of colour to the usually green rainforest.

Brush Mistletoe,  Amylotheca dictyophleba
Climbing Guinea Flower , Hibbertia scanders
The Yellow-breasted Boatbill is also frequently seen along the track

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Dry Savannah in November

What a busy month November has been. I have had many tours with some very exciting bird encounters.  I am really enjoying the dry savannah section of my tours at the present time. This is possibly because I have managed to get two lifers for myself, including one I never expected to see in this area.  A Grey Falcon! Many thanks to John Pearson for putting me onto this bird. Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a photograph.
Early morning on the road to Mt Carbine
I did however get a photograph of my other lifer, the Little Curlew, which we came across at the rodeo grounds at Mareeba where he remained for almost a month, much to the delight of guests.
Little Curlew
Mary Farms has been fantastic for Bustards with up to 20 birds seen per visit. We have had cracking views of male birds displaying close to the road. Two guests from Red Mill House even managed to video a bird doing his boom and roar call.
Australian Bustard
Further north at Mt Carbine caravan park, breeding season is in full swing. Blue-faced Honeyeaters carrying nesting materials, Apostlebirds building their mud nest above the road and the Tawny Frogmouth rearing a beautiful fluffy chick. The Blue-winged Kookaburra's have hatched two chicks in an arboreal termite nest which are now well feathered.
Tawny Frogmouth
Since the rains began, water birds at Lake Mitchell and Brady Rd Swamp have dispersed far and wide. We have been seeing White-faced and White-necked Heron in pools of water at the side of the road and many species of duck as well as Sharp-tailed Sandpiper on muddy pools in the farm paddocks.
Australian Pratincole
Eastern Grey Kangaroo

Other interesting sightings have been a Grey Wagtail, observed for about 30 minutes, at Brady Road and several Australian Pratincole.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Birding in the Rain?

A grey and overcast morning. To bird or not to bird? It looks like rain. Oh well, let’s go anyway. Off to Port Douglas along the Captain Cook Highway. There are plenty of White-breasted Wood-swallows about and even a few Pacific Black Duck around in the muddy pools in the sugar cane paddocks. Ferrero Road may be worth a look. Last week there were three Barn Swallow about near the pond. Not today though. There are some Wandering Whistling-duck, a tree full of Little Black Cormorants and two Australasian Grebe. Well, here comes the rain. Wipers on and off we go. Glancing at a herd of cattle I notice a lone Cattle Egret still with some of his breeding plumage. A quick look down Heritage Lane turns up a bedraggled Horsfield’s Bushlark on the fence. The rain eases off to a light drizzle and then sunshine. I put the windows down and hear Golden-headed Cisticola calling and then the humid heat hits me like a wet slap in the face.
Australasian Grebe

Turning into Port Douglas Road the Purple Swamphen line the roadside to give a birdie welcome. Swing a left at the first traffic circle and visit the lakes in St Crispin’s Street. Bugger, here comes the rain again. The usual Grey Tattler has company today. A Pacific Golden Plover. The rain is really belting down now. Hang on, what was that? I back up and see a large bird on the green at the golf course. I open the window a crack and peer through the sheets of rain. A Beach Stone-curlew! On the golf course?

It’s Sunday and the markets are on so I head into town. Maybe I should take a look at the mangroves near the Marina before stopping at the markets. The rain is easing. Two Nankeen Night Heron. Worth the detour. A quick whip around the muddy markets is uneventful. I get back to the car just in time to watch a young fisherman pull in a mug crab. He has no idea of what to do with it and it eventually plops back into the water.

Ah! here comes the sun again. Pass another golf course. This time it’s two Bush Stone-curlew on the golf course. And a Magpie Goose! A stop at Warri Park and its lake full of water lilies is rewarding. More Purple Swamphens, a few Dusky Moorhens and one White-browed Crake. No – make that two! Dash back to the car to grab the camera, focus on the crake. What’s that? A two and a half meter croc! These birds are inches away from becoming a snack! Last time I was here I’m sure there were three crake...  Here comes the rain again.
Crake 'n Croc (Bottom right)

Back on the Captain Cook Highway again I think a quick visit to the local rubbish tip may be rewarding. The skip bins are swarming with Australian White Ibis. Two Pied Heron are also scavenging for a free feed. A Black-fronted Dotterel dashes across the road. Even a couple or Radjah Shelduck are enjoying the roadside puddles. Down at the settling ponds a flock of Hardhead are cruising about watched by a few Black-winged Stilt. A Collared Kingfisher shoots out of the mangroves followed by a Sacred Kingfisher. A Brahminy and a Whistling Kite float overhead. There are Chestnut-breasted Mannikin and Golden-headed Cisticola in the grass. Am I really at a rubbish tip?
Pied Heron and Australian White Ibis
Radjah Shelduck

Time to go home. Yes it is worth birding in the rain.