Overall a very successful three weeks in far north Queensland with plenty of fine weather. In total I managed to photograph 28 new species, not bad when you consider that I got about 30 on my last trip up north a couple of years ago. I also managed to catch up with a few friends from the forum and make a few more.
The highlights in the order we visited them were:
Cairns Esplanade (minus the sandflies), Five new waders photographed. I never saw more than a couple of hundred birds on the mudflats. This is way down on what the numbers (thousands) used to be there according to the locals. The common species seen this time were Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Great Knots, Eastern Curlews, Red Necked Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Terek Sandpipers and Greenshank. The mangroves adjacent to the northern end are good spot to find Varied Honeyeater, Mangrove Robin and Collared Kingfisher, plus more sandflies.
Cattana Wetlands A spot recommended by Greg Oakley. I reckon this could be a bit hit and miss. However for me it was an excellent location to photograph some very obliging Green Pygmy Goose and Jacana. I also got a fuzzy image of a Latham’s Snipe, a first for me. . There were also some good bush birds in the surrounding area.
Michaelmas Cay A couple of hours from Cairns, this cay is right out of a David Attenborough documentary. Thousands of breeding birds, the noise, smell and sight have to be witnessed first-hand to appreciate the spectacle. Six new species here, including Lesser Frigatebird, Sooty Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Common Noddy, Black-naped Tern and Brown Booby. Bird photography can be a bit tricky as you’re not allowed on the cay early or late to take advantage of the good light. Also you are restricted to about 300metres of the beach, which again limits opportunities.
The real bonus on this day trip is the opportunity to dive on the reef for a few hours. Much appreciated because it was stinking hot. I’m bloody glad I’m not a fish twitcher, so many of them and they don’t perch.
Maryfarms This is in the dry north western area about 20km north of Mt Molloy. One of the places where the bird books get it right. They said look for Bustards and Pratincoles, we did and we found plenty of both. Though I think if you went at a different time of year you would struggle. This was a hot and humid location during our visit so you need to plan for heat haze.
Mt Molloy One of my favourite towns. There must be more reserves scattered about this town than there are residents. The sort of place where you wander about, talk to the locals and turn up plenty of birds. The place is famous for its Great Bowerbirds and they certainly performed with a bower being attended to right next to the Post Office in the main drag. The walk around town turned up Olive-backed Sunbird, more Great Bowerbirds, Figbirds, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Yellow Honeyeater, Forest Kingfisher. But no Squatter Pigeons. Not to worry, I got these at Granite Gorge.
Possum Valley Definitely the find of the trip. If you want very reasonably priced accommodation in cottages in pristine high attitude rainforest this is the place for you. Much more relaxing than a rushed trip up to Mt Lewis (unless you want that finch). We stayed three nights and I managed to photograph Golden Bowerbird (I located 4 Bowers, thanks to a Japanese Doco team’s help) Fernbird, Atherton Scrubwren, Bridled Honeyeater, Chowchilla, Satin Bowerbird, Spotted Catbird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird....... Like everywhere else on the tablelands during this visit the Golden Whistler was the most easily seen and heard bird. The one thing to be aware of is the driveway, which is very steep. Though still manageable in a decent car.
Tyto Wetlands/Ingham Caught up with Tyto Tony here for a chat and to gain a bit of local knowledge. This place as usual proved very productive not as you would expect for waterbirds, but for bush and grassland birds. These included Yellow Honeyeater, White-browed Robin, Crimson Finch ...better still check out Tony’s blog if you want to know anything about this place. Right in the middle of Ingham I located a Metallic Starling colony tree. The good thing about this is that some of the nests were just above eye level.
Paluma It’s a toss-up between here and Possum Valley for my current favourite location. It’s pretty obvious that some of the difficult to photograph species, such as the Victoria’s Riflebird are fed by the locals, as a well placed grape will bring them into camera range. We met Dale Mengel, another forum member here and even though the weather was not the best, I think we managed most of Dale’s target birds,. These included; Spotted Catbird, MacLeay’s Honeyeater, Fernwren, Chowchilla, Large-billed Scrubwren, Golden Whistler, Grey-headed Robin and Noisy Pitta. In the small time I spent with Dale I tried my best to tip him towards bird photography rather than birding. Why would you want see a bird and not photograph it???
On the way to Lake Paluma we were able to reacquaint ourselves with the resident Golden and Tooth-billed Bowerbirds. Lake Paluma has great little camping area. However, as for previous visits it proved to be a bit bird dead. Though I find this to be a reliable spot for Bridled Honeyeater and Grey-headed Robin.
Kingfisher Park As usual this place is good for the sheer number of species that can be found within the grounds. Unfortunately my main reason for visiting was to photograph the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher and I missed out. A superb photograph was taken by Chris Ross the day after I left grrrrrr.
A couple of places were a disappointment for various reasons. This included the Daintree River cruise which only turned up one new species the Papuan Frogmouth, no Great-billed Heron. The Townsville Common was closed without notice just after we arrived. We’d only bothered to travel to Townsville to spend time here so we were a little pissed.......
Back to Cairns and home.