Tuesday, 27 February 2018

2016 - Short trip Brisbane, Julatten, Atherton Tableland, Cairns, Ingham, Townsville

We drove to Atherton Tableland in late November 2016 for a short break to the region. We had visited all of the region during our 2014 trip, but is was great to be visiting there again in the warmer climate of early December.
We travelled via Miles to Charters Towers & Atherton Tableland via the Gregory Development Road.

I found this juvenile Common Koel early in the morning when we stayed over night at a free camp south of Charters Towers.

Our base for several days was at a small caravan park at the back of a farmers property outside  Yungaburra. We were beside the Barron River & we had a small riparian rainforest out the back. Birding here was wonderful & there were many trees in fruit or flower. I wandered about for quite some time to discover many bird species.
There were plenty of Silvereyes  about in the early morning light.

Also in the canopy of the fruiting trees were Double-eyed Fig-Parrot.

Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on Black-bean flowers

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet.

We visited many iconic birding places on The Tableland, including a day trip to Mt Hypipamee to chase down some of the birds I'd seen in winter 2014.
Australian Brush Turkey.
Another sub specie of Brush-turkey with a purple neck can be found in the Cape York Peninsula north of Cooktown region.

Grey Fantail ssp keasti looking for insects on the road

Bridled Honeyeater a little high in the canopy.

Female Superb Fruit-dove

Male Superb Fruit-dove

Wompoo Fruit-dove

Walking around I was impressed by the light shining through the tall Tree ferns.

Ferns attached to rainforest trees.

Hubby found this deceased Cicada along the walking track.

We eventually moved camp to a place I love in Julatten - Kingfisher Park Bird Watchers Lodge is  an internationally renowned site for birdwatchers to visit when in the Cairns / Atherton Tableland region.
The owners are avid bird watchers themselves. It is advisable to pre-book your stay there as it is quite popular & accommodation is limited.
Walking around our camp ground I found numerous species of flowering Halaconia's.

Macleay's Honeyeaters coming in for a drink on 1 of the accommodation verandas.

Walking around the back of the accommodation area is an oasis of flowering or fruiting rainforest trees.
Pale-yellow Robin.

Yellow Honeyeater

Dusky Honeyeater.

It's really difficult to grab a decent photo of these Orange-footed Scrubfowls as they run or move on the forest floor very quickly once they spot you.

Large-billed Scrubwren.

Emerald Dove can be difficult to see in most rainforests, but at Kingfisher Park they walk around the gardens & buildings grounds without fear of our presence.

The Crake Pond has a wooden seat near it to view the birds that come & go for a drink.
I quietly waited for nearly 3 hours for this bird to appear (I brought along a cushion for my butt)
I was nearly ready to give up when out of nowhere, not 1, but 2 Red-necked Crakes appeared.......wow. I was also expecting the bird to appear further back at the back of the pond, but these  2 came to the front. I was happy to take photos at a distance & slowly get a little closer, but  another birder was able to approach within 10 m of 1 of then  Crakes.
"Life" tick for me..... I left a very happy birder.

I also missed seeing this bird during my winter 2014 trip as these Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher migrate to New Guinea for winter / dry season as it is in northern Qld. They are so gorgeous &  one sat patiently for photos. Another "life" tick. I also ticked off Toressian Imperial Pigeon, but I have better photos further down this page when I was  in Cairns.

Papuan Frogmouth adult & a youngster.

In the gardens also were Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters. Actually they're everywhere, but can be difficult to photograph.
As a NQ visitor, I found it difficult to tell these birds apart from Graceful HE....apart from their calls which made identification easier.

Out on the roadside I found this Forest Kingfisher visiting a termite mound....a nest with young birds in it as I could hear the begging calls. The parents were quite busy bringing in food to possibly 3 - 5 youngsters (reference Pizzey & Knight)

The tell tale white patch on the birds wing is another form of ID for the Forest Kingfisher.

In the park opposite the lodge were hundreds of nesting Metallic Starlings.

We went for a drive up to Mt Lewis clearing. I found a lot of the specialist birds up there except for the Golden Bowerbird & my much needed Blue-faced Parrot-finch which has become a bogey bird for me each time I visit the Julatten region. None of the birds I saw were new to my life list, but I was still very pleased to see them again as they can be challenging to find.
Mountain Thornbill were out in the open near the track entry.

Brown Cuckoo-dove....these pigeon sized birds can be found all along the Qld coast down to the Victorian border with NSW. There are 3 sub species to be found. 

These Chowchilla are also very hard to photograph as they're constantly moving, scratching about in the leaf litter on the forest floor. Female Chowchilla

Male Chowclilla

Fernwren can usually be found not far from Chowchillas

Male Golden Whistler

In the middle of this photo.....Atherton Scrubwren are difficult to photograph

Fungi on the forest floor or on trees are a favourite of mine too.

We packed up camp again & moved down the range to base ourselves in Cairns for a few days.
I walked along the Esplanade looking for anything interesting.
There's a lot of grey birds there that's confusing to a new birders eyes. Thankfully I've had a few years to get to know most shore birds now so I'm getting the idea in looking at a sea of grey birds, though I still have lots to learn about them.
All of these birds fly 20,000 + km each Autumn to breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere.....& return a couple of months later around September to spend the Australian summer scattered around the entire continents shorelines.

Mostly Great Knots in non breeding plumage.

 Whimbrel are nearly twice as large as the birds above.

The bird in the centre of the photo was a great find amongst the other waders.....a single Grey Plover.
These birds are more common along the top end coastline & but there's scatterings of this bird around most of the coast of Australia.

An Eastern Reef Egret - dark morph was also in front of the esplanade.

Walking along the Esplanade I found these flowers, but I don't know what they are.

I found another group of Metallic Starlings feeding on fruit...this 1 is a young bird.

Nesting in the trees all the way along the Esplanade were Pied Imperial-  Pigeons....now called Torresian Imperial - Pigeon

Walking further along the Esplanade towards the mangroves were some birds amongst the mangroves.
Torresian Kingfisher aka Collared or Mangrove Kingfisher.

Several Varied Honeyeaters were moving about & singing their heads off.

A sought after bird hidden in the mangroves was this Mangrove Whistler....another life tick.

This Australasian Figbird sub specie are much more colourful in NQ....male bird.

Lastly on the beach near the mangroves was this Beach Stone Curlew.

I visited the Cairns Botanical Gardens, a place I'd not been to before.

I found a flowering Jack Fruit along 1 of the paths.

I walked into the Australian Butterfly House in the Botanical Gardens & found a beautiful oasis.
There were many butterflies & orchids everywhere. Thankfully there was an information board describing each of the butterfly species.
I spent loads of time following the butterflies to capture each of the different species there.
Unfortunately I couldn't see any Ulysses Swallowtails or Cairns Birdwing Butterflies though.

Orange Lacewing Butterfly.

Orange Lacewing again.

Cruiser Butterfly on the information board ....resting in the most appropriate of places.

Orchard Butterfly.

This butterfly was fascinating....the iridescence shows colour changes....perhaps enhanced by the presence of the nearby female or it could be the angle of the light on the butterflies.
Varied Eggfly Butterfly.

Cruiser Butterfly.

Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly.

The garden paths within the Butterfly house had a myriad of plants that love a moist environment.
Miniature Pitcher Plants.

Sundew plants

I think this flower may be from a water lilly plant.

Ferns....I think


As you will notice, I'm a huge fan of orchids. There were dozens of different species of orchids in the Butterfly house, so of course I photographed a lot of them.
I don't know the names of them, but the colours & petals were exquisite.

Back amongst the main gardens I found a Black Butcherbird trying it's best to be incognito.

Also blending really well in with the leaf litter was this Bush Stone-Curlew.

A Magpie Goose  & youngster behind.

Radjah Shelduck was a surprise presence.

En route to Etty Bay I checked Eubenangee Swamp NP to see if I could find a Large-billed Gerygone, but alas I didn't get a chance to photograph the bird I saw.

I found another Yellow Oriole though.

We stayed at Etty Bay to hopefully see a Cassowary.
I'd missed seeing this bird by 30 mins when in Cape Tribulation 2.5 yrs earlier.
Edna is her name, & she wandered past as we were checking in to the little caravan park right opposite a beautiful beach. She's a wild bird, but calls the little caravan park & beach her home.
Life tick was finally achieved for this specie.

About 6 brave tourists with tour company from Innisfail dropped out of the sky onto the beach at lunch time.

We next stayed at Ingham for me to visit a couple of local hotspots for birds.
Our caravan park had a couple of Black-faced Woodswallow.

Juvenile Black-faced Woodswallow.

Rufous -throated Honeyeater was a surprise at the back of our caravan.

 I found these Red-tailed Black-cockatoo feeding on the lawn in Lucinda.

We took a trip out to Mungalla Station. The cattle station is popular for birders too & we needed permission to access the property which I'd obtained by a phone call to the manager.
At the front of the station not far in from the front gate entry was a wetland of lagoons & drains.
I found this Lathans Snipe feeding along the muddy parts. Sadly the sun was in the wrong direction for a decent photo.  Lathan's Snipes are also migratory wader birds, preferring fresh water wetlands.

In the trees near the front gate was this Barking Owl that I woke up by my presence.

The Masked Lapwing in north Australia's Top End is a different sub specie to the southern states.

White-gaped Honeyeater.

Tyto Wetlands was my main target hotspot for the Ingham area. This wetland is man made, but an internationally popular birding spot with over 240 species of birds being seen at Tyto.

I started the visit an hour before sunrise, using my torch to navigate along the 1st part of the track. as I wanted to locate at least 1 Large-tailed Nightjar that had been reported there 2 wks earlier & see it before they went to roost for the day.
I saw not 1 but 3 Large-tailed NJ along the track, but I have no photos. They were a "life" bird for me.
Further in next to 1 of the bird hides there was plenty of muddy edges to that lagoon.
Patchy photo of a Red-backed Button-quail walking right next to the bird hide. I was using a new camera & I just wasn't getting the closer focus going esp with vegetation in front of the bird, but I was still quite happy to see this elusive bird.

Another "life" bird was this White-browed Crake.

Comb-crested Jacana moving quickly over the water.

Photo bomb......taking another photo of the White-browed Crake when this Buff Banded Rail appeared.

Distant photo of Spotless Crake.

Yellow Honeyeater.

Green Pygmy Geese on a bigger lake.

The lilly pads were quite impressive after the rain from the previous evening.

Another White-browed Crake. I not only saw 1 of these birds, but lucked up with about 5 of them.

White-browed Robin was a great find.

Crimson Finch

These Bush Stone-curlew were used to seeing people walking past their habitat as they just stand there.

An unknown moth was seen on amenities block wall.

I also stopped off at Paluma NP to bird around the rainforest at the top next to the township & Little Crystal Creek, but I don't have any photos to show here.
I saw the northern sub specie of Crimson Rosella, Noisy Pitta & Bowers Shrikethrush at Paluma in my collection of birds seen there, but my visit was with very cloudy grey skies & the photos are very grainy.
I didn't do anymore birding for this trip after Townsville. It was mid December & we needed to get home.
I had a great time collecting many more "life" birds & seeing many more that I don't get to see that often as the birds are endemic to North Qld.

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