And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cape York Birding

In just over two weeks, 226 bird species and 35 new lifers for me. Not bad for this time of year in northern Queensland when it's hot and there can be torrential rain most days, but it's the best time of year to get the Cape York migrants and endemic birds.

This was a birding-on-the-go trip with binoculars, scope/tripod and my small HV40 camcorder and Lumix TZ6. The reason for the smaller gear was the bird tour and flight to Cape York with a baggage limit of 16kg, my bag already weighed 16.5kg plus 7kg in my small backpack.

The plan was birding and wildlife spotting around Cairns, Daintree and woodland areas east of Cairns. Then a flight to Bamaga near the tip, staying at Seisia and birding in the Lockerbie Scrub, Woody Islands and the tip of Cape York.

A walk in the rainforest around Cairns will often find a prehistoric-looking Boyd's Forest Dragon (Hypsilurus boydii) resting on a small tree.

At this time of year many colourful female Boyd's Forest Dragons were laying eggs in sandy soil on the edges of forest tracks. At the end of the holiday we had seen 19 reptile species in total.

One of the great places to stay at Daintree for birdwatchers, Red Mill House. Wonderful area the Daintree, but the heat, humidity and mosquitoes were insane in the rainforest.

During the hot afternoon the best place was on the veranda under the fans. Where you could have a cup of tea and still do all your birding, watching birds flying through the rainforest.

The ever present Australian Brush-turkeys were always digging or running around in any rainforest area.

One of the smallest common tropical birds, an Olive-backed Sunbird. This female was nesting in her long sock-like woven nest, right near the stairs and window at Red Mill House and didn't seem the least bit worried about all the visitors.

The green and non-green war goes on. Near Julatten on a road were most residents have registered their rainforest blocks as small nature reserves or wildlife refuges, someone is rebelling!

The dreaded menace of northern Australia, the introduced Cane Toad (Bufo marinus). These big guys were everywhere plus thousands of young ones. With poison sacks on their bodies, they have reduced or wiped out many mammals, reptiles and birds that eat them across areas of the north. They have recently crossed the Western Australian border and may in time even reach Perth.

One of the more beautiful native large rainforest frogs, a White-lipped Tree Frog (Litoria infrafrenata).

Found on a walkway along a swamp, a wonderful small frog of eastern Australia, a Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog (Litoria fallax).

Even these poor fellows have to suffer the mosquitoes, Northern Barred Frogs (Mixophyes schevilli). At night you could hear their deep 'Wop' calls of these large frogs and and pick them up without them trying to escape.

Australian Bustards are generally an uncommon shy bird in Western Australia, but in the dry farm fields near Mt Carbine we counted more than a dozen birds in about two square kilometres.

One of our goals of the trip was to also see the mammal species of the area, so a journey to find the Mareeba Rock Wallaby (Petrogale mareeba) at Mareeba Gorge was made. We saw 12 mammal species in total, with the highlights being a Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo near Cairns and a Spotted Cuscus at Cape York.

The journey ended at the northern most point of Australia, the tip of Cape York. There once was a nice big stainless steel sign till some thieving idiots cut and stole it recently. Now it's only an old car license plate with writing on it.

This trip was a highlight for me as the beautiful Red-bellied Pitta cracked my 500 Australian birds life list.


S.C.E. said...

Wonderful stuff.

The Daintree is one of my the best places I've ever been.

I lived and worked in Cooktown for a couple of months back in the mid 90's..........happy happy times indeed.

Richard King said...

Wow SCE, from hot, humid tropics to freezing winters in Japan.

S.C.E. said...

Actually I quite like winter, tropical weather is nice for a holiday but my north European genes struggle when the temperatures hit 30 or above and I don't 'do' humidity very well...........Cooktown was hard at times. Not only the heat but the sandflies, I was working outside in summer................and those aggressive green ants!!!!