Wednesday 13 March 2019

Australia part 3

Another early start from Townsville for the long drive north towards our final destination in Queensland - Cairns!  We had been told of a place called Tyto Wetlands which we would pass on our journey, so stopped for a walk around there to stretch our legs. This proved to be a great area, with birds of note - Green Pygmy-goose, Yellow Honeyeater, Crimson Finch and Indian Peafowl. As we were getting back into the car, there was a commotion overhead and a Nakeen Kestrel was being mobbed by some local crows.  We also saw our first Wallaby and perched on a lamppost - a pair of White-breasted Woodswallows looking all loved up


White-breasted Woodswallows

Onwards toward Cairns.....
As I said previously - we had also been given some good info on a possible area for the magnificent and elusive Cassowary. We decided to detour into Mission Beach en route in the hope that we might be lucky - and guess what? we were! As we were approaching a left hand bend, a car coming the other way started flashing his headlights and signalling us to slow down; this could only mean one of two things - a speed trap or.........  see below!

Male Cassowary

Juvenile Cassowary

Prehistoric or what?

Arrived at our accommodation - On The Beach at Trinity Beach - for our last week in Queensland before flying to Adelaide 

Our next bird watching adventure was to the Daintree River for a very early cruise. We had to set out VERY early, as Sue thought Daintree was about 30 km north of Cairns, when in fact, it was more than 100km! - and we needed to be there for 0600.....  Well worth the early start as Alex, our guide (Daintree River Wild Watch) was extremely knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and avifauna.
We saw some wonderful birds including Black Bittern; Papuan Frogmouth; Spotted Whistling Duck; Great-billed Heron; Shiny Flycatcher; Yellow-spotted Honeyeater; Azure Kingfisher and Macleay's Honeyeater. Below are a few images of the birds we saw on our river trip

Shiny Flycatcher

Azure Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher

Great-billed Heron

Papuan Frogmouth

Papuan Frogmouth

Spotted Whistling Duck

 Australian Darter

Cattle Egret coming in to roost - Alex said sometimes there can be hundreds coming in to roost.

Welcome Swallow (this was nesting on a moored boat at the jetty)

White-faced Heron

 Glossy Ibis

After leaving Daintree, we decided since we were in the area, we would get the little river ferry over the Daintree River and have a look at Cape Tribulation.  Not much of note - but we did see signs 'Beware Cassowary'.  We never thought we would be this lucky......

 Locals told us they have never seen one - and we were lucky enough to have two separate sightings!

We were just sitting quietly when we heard some rustling in the leaf litter and saw these Scrubfowl.

 Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Rae Clarke of Birds Queensland had put us in touch with a local birder who took us to several sites including Lake Morris Road which was up in the mountains, ending up at a lovely overview of a reservoir. We had Forest Kingfisher - and a free cup of tea! (there's a hot water tank with free tea bags, coffee, sugar and milk - you just help yourself! - Very civilized!!)  We had brief views of Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher (what a tail!) and Pied Monarch. After a nice lunch in the Cairns Botanical Gardens, Graham took us to a mangrove swamp near the airport, which really was birdless - but the light was fantastic through the trees - and we saw some mud-skippers! Then we continued on to the infamous Cairns Esplanade where we had great views on Nankeen Night-heron. We waited a while for the tide would turn, bringing the many waders closer to us, where we noted Grey-tailed Tattler; Terek Sandpiper; Great Knot; Eastern Curlew and lots of Godwit, before Graham left us and we headed off towards our apartment.  

Forest Kingfisher (sorry about all the 'noise' but it was distant)

Nankeen Night-heron

Grey-tailed Tattler

Great Knot and Terek Sandpiper 

Gull-billed Tern

Today is one of our R&R days so we headed out onto The Great Barrier Reef with Seastar Cruises. The crew were very welcoming and also very knowledgeable about things above and below the waterline. Our trip consisted of two opportunities to snorkel the reef, and a landing on Michaelmas Cay. What a fantastic day we had - saw a Green Turtle along with huge Giant Clams and hundreds of colourful fish swimming around the reef. Michaelmas Cay has only a small area for humans, the rest being roped off to protect the many birds breeding there, which include Crested and Lesser Crested Tern; Sooty Tern; Common Noddy and Brown Booby. We also saw two Lesser Magnificent Frigatebirds perched on the far side of the Cay.

Our boat

Lesser Crested Tern colony

Brown Booby with Chick

Common Noddy

Common Noddy with chick

More Lesser Crested Tern

The boatman coming to drag me away from the Cay and back to the boat. If you are ever lucky enough to visit this area, I can strongly recommend going out to snorkel the reef - it is absolutely amazing.

On our penultimate day, we set off to find Mareeba Wetlands (a drive of about 75 minutes inland)  Imagine our dismay when we got there to find it was closed for some maintenance work! We did manage to tick Australian Raven and Eastern Koel, along with Spangled Drongo; Torresian Imperial-pigeon and Australian Pipit during our journey, so not a complete waste of time.

Spangled Drongo

Torresian Imperial-pigeon

Australian Pipit

Our final day in the Cairns area, so we decided to go find Hastie's Swamp in the Tablelands. It proved to be very profitable not only for the bird life (Swamp Harrier; Pink-eared Duck; Forest Kingfisher with mouse and Common Sandpiper) but we met a couple of ladies in the hide who asked if we had seen Tree Kangaroo or Platypus at all??  We hadn't as people had said it's a case of 'right place, right time' so we were really excited when one of the ladies (Sandy Carroll) told us of two different sites which were (kind of) on our way home where she could almost guarantee they could be found.

Great Egret with catch

Forest Kingfisher with mouse

Red-backed Fairy-wren

After thanking the ladies for the info, we left Hastie's Swamp in search of these mammals.
The nearest site was for the Platypus, at Peterson's Creek in Yungaburra. When we arrived there, we checked out the viewing platform but didn't see anything, however, a young Canadian couple had seen one and took us to the site further along the creek. Within a few minutes, there it was - just going about it's business, totally oblivious to us. What a truly enigmatic creature - and what a wonderful experience as we never expected to see one!

Duck-billed Platypus (smaller than I realised they are)

 Never expected it to show so well!

Having a bit of a wash and brush-up

The next place we had been directed to was the Nerada Tea Plantation on the road between Malanda and Milla Milla, They serve a lovely cream tea, of which we partook, before going outside with one of the staff who directed us to the tree where one was feeding. We didn't even know there was such a thing as a Tree Kangaroo!  As we drove out of the plantation, we spotted a Buff-banded Rail on the roadside - another tick and another great day.

Tree Kangaroo

Buff-banded Rail

We set off back towards Cairns, arriving back on a different route which left us about 20km further south with dusk drawing in but our fantastic day still had more to give. We were driving back along the Bruce Highway when I suddenly started to see large black birds coming onto the street lights, and realised they could only be Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. We counted approximately 36 birds. Great end to our Queensland experience.  

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos

Tomorrow we fly down to Adelaide and a much cooler climate, in readiness for our trip to Kangaroo Island (or K.I if you're a local)  This will be the last part of our adventure Down Under!
As always, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed reading about the third part of adventures in Australia. I shall be doing a blog on our exploits in Kangaroo Island soon.