Sunday, 29 October 2017

Hasties Swamp - Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge

So today we were heading to our next digs at Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge - another excellent place to stay. But first, on a tip off from Andrew, we headed to a nearby site where we spent rather too long getting on a group of Blue-faced Parrotfinches. We picked them up as soon as we arrived but they disappeared almost instantly and then we had to track them down in the tall grass along a stretch of woodland. We also saw our first White-cheeked Honeyeater here as well. 

Then we headed off and drove for a while to the excellent Hasties Swamp - the best wetland we visited on the entire trip. It was choc full of birds with thousands of Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Magpie Geese, Pink-eared Ducks, and loads of other common wildfowl.

Pink-eared Ducks were common here...

Plumed Whistling-Ducks

We also enjoyed views of Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kites here as well.... It was hard to drag ourselves away but we wanted to get to Chambers and check into our lodge and explore the grounds. And what a place this was, situated in its own rainforest. We spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and just chilling. After dark we visited the mammal viewing platform and saw a Sugar Glider feeding on some honey poured on a tree trunk...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Daintree River - Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

We drove up to Daintree in the early hours, and headed straight to the boat ramp where we were to meet Murray for our cruise along the river. The scenery up here was very different, with rolling hills and green meadows more reminiscent of Devon than Australia. As the boat left we saw our first Yellow Oriole of the trip, followed by several nice sightings of Shining Flycatcher, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Azure Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher and best of all, a huge Great-billed Heron.

Great-billed Heron

Sacred Kingfisher

Shining Flycatcher (male)

Shining Flycatcher (female)

One disappointment was that the resident Papuan Frogmouths had disappeared, and our best shot at seeing them has disappeared..... 

So we drove back to Kingfisher Park and made a short detour along a side road. We were fortunate to see a group of Lovely Fairywrens in the Eucalypt wood here...

Lovely Fairywrens

Anyway, back at Kingfisher Park, Andrew gave us directions to the roost site of their resident Papuan Frogmouths. After a bit of a search we located a pair high up at the edge of the orchard. Result! And that was lifer 5,988...

Papuan Frogmouths

Down at the river we staked out the Duck-billed Platypus site and after another wait we nailed it! What a weird creature... A Pied Monarch also showed here as well...

Pied Monarch

Also nailed a couple of animals we saw in the gardens tonight: Fawn-footed Melomys and Northern Brown Bandicoot.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Mount Lewis Road, Queensland

This was our main day to bird Mount Lewis. We didn't really have any exact spots to try for the specialities so just 'winged it' in the grandest sense. So we headed up there early and it wasn't very far at all from Kingfisher Park before we made our first stop. There was nothing doing so we drove higher and walked along the road for a bit. A pair of Chowchillas were feeding in the leaf litter beside the road and showed really well...


We also saw the first of many Yellow-throated Scrubwrens here before reaching the clearing where we parked for the rest of the morning. An Atherton Scrubwren showed well and sang right in front of us, a Fernwren appeared just for me, Bridled Honeyeater appeared, and a Bower's Shrike-Thrush put on a great performance.

Atherton Scrubwren

Bower's Shrike-Thrush

We followed a trail for several kilometres, watching warily for any snakes that we had previously been warned about! No snakes fortunately but our first Tooth-billed Bowerbird and Varied Triller were nice. We also saw several Victoria's Riflebirds at a fruiting tree, with several Spotted Catbirds as well. And this Fernwren gave really close views for several minutes as it sang from various open perches...


By lunchtime we had pretty much cleaned up and headed back to Kingfisher Park. Andrew gave us some ideas of where to find more lifers so instead of just chilling around the gardens we drove just over an hour to a site in an arid area where a group of Apostlebirds were coming to drink. The bonus here was a few Black-throated Finches also flying in to drink that brought my life list up to 5,985. The dream of getting 6,000 on my 50th birthday in a few days lives on......

Lake Mitchell to Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

Was really looking forward to heading up to Kingfisher Park today. But we had another great, close Southern Cassowary encounter....

Southern Cassowary
And the Spotted Catbirds were coming to the feeders at breakfast as well.... So after saying our farewells to our wonderful hosts Sue and Phil Gregory, we set off to Lake Mitchell. This was a huge area of water, grassland and swamp. Our only Brolga of the trip was here, along with commoner species such as Black Swan. Nice views of Red-winged Parrot here too....

Nice views across the marshes...

Red-winged Parrot


Leaving here, we headed towards Abattoir Swamp with a roadside Pheasant Coucal the only bird of note. Oh, and getting stopped by the police for driving too slowly was also noteworthy.... At Abattoir Swamp we saw our first Northern Fantail and not a lot else - it was rubbish here.

Just a few minutes further along the road was Kingfisher Park - and what a fantastic place this turned out to be. After checking into our unit we set out on foot exploring the gardens. My countdown to 6,000 picked up momentum here with lifers such as Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Grey-headed Robin, Graceful Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater and Yellow-breasted Boatbill bringing me up to 5,976. 

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin at the feeders

Grey-headed Robins are still present. Its an altitudinal migrant from Mount Lewis

So a great day and we are really excited about the birds to find in this area. The river here is home to Duck-billed Platypus but despite staking it out for several hours we didn't see it. Yet, Noisy Pitta was feeding out in the open grassy area at dusk.... Result....!

Noisy Pitta

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Black Mountain Road to Granite Gorge

Another action-packed day began along Black Mountain Road at first light. At first we could only hear lots of birds and we weren't actually seeing anything. But a random bit of tape playing resulted in several Noisy Pittas calling back from several spots. All were a little distant and there was no way of getting 'inside' so we had to stay on the road but eventually one inquisitive bird came in a lot closer. We did find somewhere to view the forest floor from the road and after a thirty minute battle we had a couple brief views. However, on the opposite side of the road we got excellent views of a bird that circled us several times - didn't get any photos but was so happy just to nail this bird. it was one of my most wanted species for the trip, so I didn't care. We also saw a Pied Monarch and a pair of Bar-shouldered Doves as well. 

After breakfast we drove to Tinaroo Creek Road. It wasn't that far away and the habitat was much drier and arid than at Cassowary House. First new bird was our only Blue-winged Kookaburra of the trip....

Blue-winged Kookaburra
I saw a Great Bowerbird fly across the road and into the dry creek bed next to us. We walked in and discovered a bunch of new birds resting in the shade of the huge trees. Here we had White-winged Triller, Pale-headed Rosella, Rufous Whistler, White-throated Honeyeater and Lemon-bellied Flycatcher. Other goodies included Grey Shrike-Thrush, Australian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, Red-browed Finch and Shining Flycatcher amongst others....

Olive-backed Oriole

Further exploration along the road began to get a little harder as it was really hot, but we saw Weebill, Whistling Kite, and finally a good view of Great Bowerbird. So with the temperature soaring we drove to Mareeba Wetlands, which proved to be a bit disappointing. But the drive did turn up Brown Falcon and a close Australian Bustard....

Brown Falcon

Australian Bustard

At Mareeba we had a coffee in the Visitor Centre overlooking the lake. The water levels were way too high and the Emus were plastic! But our first Red-backed Fairywren was stunning in the Eucalyptus forest and we also scored with Barred Lorikeet, and a White-necked Heron was cool. A flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos flew over the road as we drove to granite Gorge for our date with the endemic Mareeba Rock Wallaby. Sure enough the wallabies were easy but I was more impressed seeing Squatter Pigeon and Grey-crowned Babbler....

Mareeba Rock Wallaby

The wallabies were quite confiding....

The Grey-crowned Babblers were rather frisky.....

The evening light was superb and we found Granite Gorge a great place to spend an hour. 
But there was still one more lifer to be had, although I didn't expect to tick Bush Thick-Knee walking around the pubs patio this evening.......

Bush Thick-Knee taken by my iPhone

Friday, 20 October 2017

Cassowary House - Cattana Wetlands - Centenary Lakes

Our first full day at the wonderful Cassowary House started with a Little Shrike-Thrush in the gardens, followed by our first Rufous Fantail and Fairy Gerygone. All of a sudden we heard the shout of "cassowary" form Sue and we legged it onto the verandah where a male Southern Cassowary and his 3 young were feeding below us. What a strange looking bird, almost prehistoric in fact. So we ate an awesome breakfast on the verandah overlooking the Cassowary family and also enjoying our first Macleay's Honeyeater and a very obliging Black Butcherbird coming on to the feeders. With Dusky Rat Kangaroo and Orange-footed Scrubfowl feeding below us.

Southern Cassowary
Phil Gregory told us that the high street in Kuranda was full of fruiting trees and we should try there for fig-parrot, so off we went straight after breakfast. The small 'touristy' town was alive with birds, with hundreds of Australian Figbirds, many Barred Cuckooshrikes, stonking Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Mistletoebird and our only Double-eyed Fig-Parrots of the whole trip. We had to wait quite a while before the fig-parrots came in but the wait was definitely worthwhile - what a bird. A flyover Grey Goshawk was a real bonus here too.

Australian Figbird (female)

Australian Figbird (male)

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot
Grey Goshawk

From here we visited the Cattana Wetlands, a series of lagoons surrounded by some decent habitat. One of the main prizes here is Crimson Finch and a small group were seen here, but not by me! But we did get Comb-crested Jacana, Azure Kingfisher, Green Pygmy-Goose, Leaden Flycatcher, Large-billed Scrubwren, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Straw-necked Ibis, Little Eagle, Magpie Goose, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Black-necked Stork and White-faced Heron. 

Azure Kingfisher

Nearby, a small pond beside a golf course at Yorkey's Knob was pretty quiet although an Eastern Osprey, White-bellied Cuckooshrike and Brown Honeyeater were seen.

White-bellied Cuckooshrike

Our last stop of the day was at Centenary Lakes in Cairns and this was one of our favourite places. It was something of a surprise to find such a bird-filled place in the middle of the city. Upon arrival we noted lots of Torresian Imperial-Pigeons flying around and some Rainbow Bee-eaters perched in the trees overhanging the lake. A pair of Radjah Shelducks looked stunning in the late afternoon light, whilst Australian Swiftlet, Common Cicadabird and Large-billed Gerygone were all new. We also got lucky bumping into a local birder who gave us a tipoff about a spot for Little Kingfisher, which showed nicely albeit distantly.

Bird of the day was this Little Kingfisher - the only one of the trip

Pacific Black Duck is very common

Radjah Shelduck

Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis

We stayed until after dark in the vain hope of some nightbirds before returning to Cassowary House.