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24-Days in Far Northern Qld Bird Watching

Author: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: November 2006

On Oct 31 we left Cairns at 7:30am driving north on the Captain Cook Highway toward Port Douglas. We stopped in parts of the World Heritage Rainforest. This is the oldest continuous forest on Earth - going back 400 million years.

We drove 50 miles and arrived at Port Douglas at Noon. We had lunch at a small café in town. We had a Turkish Stack Sandwich -- grilled Ricotta cheese on Turkish bread with sautéed peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and onions with great tasting olives on the side served over salad greens with a olive oil balsamic vinegar drizzled on then topped with grated parmesan. Beautiful!

beach australia cairns port douglasWe slowly pressed on north stopping at the enormous stretches of white-sand beach along the road. At Newell Beach we saw a rare Beach Stone-curlew flying down the shoreline. There are only a thousand of them left. We arrived at the Red Mill House in Daintree Village at 2:30pm. We spent a few hours talking to the resident guide Ellen about places to go birding here. We went out with Ellen on her evening walk-about of the outskirts of town. We saw the Graceful Honeyeater, Little Shrike-Thrush, Brown-backed Honeyeater, and Macleay's Honeyeater.

On Nov 1 we met Chris Dahlberg at the Daintree boat dock at 6am for a 2-hour bird watching cruise (http://www.daintreerivertours.com.au/). The two best birds of the trip were the Papuan Frogmouth and Black Bittern. They were both from Papuan New Guinea and come here in the Southern Spring to nest.

The Papuan Frogmouth was sitting on a nest on a horizontal tree limb (where it has nested for several years). It was almost indistinguishable from the tree.

Later we saw a pair of Black Bittern nesting over the river. The nest was small for such large birds and looked flimsy, but Chris said they could stand-up to Cyclones. This was the first sighting of a Black Bittern this season.

There are not a lot of choices for eating in Daintree Village, but fortunately, they are all good. We had lunch at the General Store. My wife had the Crock Burger (looked like deep fried fish). I had the Max Burger -- 3 large hamburger patties with bacon, pineapple, tomatoes, beetroot, and lettuce. My wife got Ice Coffee that came in a Milkshake glass with a scope of ice cream and 3 inches of Dollop with chocolate sprinkled on top. I had a real Chocolate Milkshake.

In the afternoon we spotted a Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo in the garden of the B&B. Later we piled into Ellen's small car to go Bat counting -- until my wife screamed and nearly jumped thru the roof -- she had seen a snake in the car, or maybe it was a Skink. Ellen stopped but could find anything. Later a Rainbow Skink (sort of a gecko) jumped on her leg -- more screaming and nashing of teeth. We finally got to the meeting place for Bat counting, but the boat driver didn't show up -- O well. No worries, there is always tomorrow.

On Nov 2 we crossed the Daintree River by ferry at 6am and headed into Cape Tribulation NP. We stopped at a beautiful lookout where you could see the rainforest meeting the ocean. In the distance was Low Isles from which 10,000 Torresian Imperial-Pigeons commute to the mainland each day to hunt.

Our next stop was the Jimdalba Boardwalk (pronounced Jim-dall-Ba). The 700-meter boardwalk passes thru dense rainforest as it meanders around the contour of the basin. We spotted a male Victoria's Riflebird doing his courtship display -- bill pointed up and wings arched overhead. Pretty soon a female came along and did the same display. Then they were flying from tree to tree displaying together. Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!

After the walk we ate the Br that Ellen had fixed for us -- fruit salad, sausage, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and home made salsa. During Br my wife spotted a baby Southern Cassowary, then there were 2 babies, and then Dad appeared. The Mom is a party girl and splits after laying the eggs. The Dad raises the chicks.

The chicks were not the least bit afraid of us. They were "chicks" in name only -- even though they were only a few months old they were already 3 feet high. I had to retreat from taking pictures when they got too close. The Dad stayed in the shade eating, not particularly worried about the growing number of people around watching.

We drove north to the Heritage Lodge (16.165S 145.412E). Out in the jungle Wilma spotted a Musky Rat-Kangaroo -- it looked like a huge rat with rufous fur and a long tail, but is a true kangaroo.

We stopped at Thornton Beach (16.173S 145.441E). In the car park we saw a pair of Black Butcher Birds that had caught a snake. A 6-year-old girl came over and told us the Butcher Birds had got a Green Tree Snake. Then she gave my wife a seashell flower she had made. We were touched.

Our final stop was at the Marrdja Boardwalk (16.144S 145.438E). It highlights the living fossil plants of the Wet Tropic Rainforest -- the survivors of the original Gondwana land super continent. The road to this point was fine for normal cars. At 5:30pm we were at the Daintree Cruise Center to try Bat counting again. This time the captain showed up. We had a nice boat ride and about15 minutes of "work". We counted 20,800 Spectacled Flying Foxes as they lifted off at sundown.

Back at the B&B we went to the Mederiterian restaurant for dinner. We had Croc Wonton, Spring rolls, and Stuffed Prawns on a Sugar Cane stick, followed by Chinese BBQ chicken.

On Nov 3 we got to the Jimdalba Boardwalk in Cape Tribulation NP at 6:45am. We got a good look at a Pale-yellow Robin that is only found in this part of the Rainforest. We also found Cat-Whiskers plants that had turned into shrubs.

We got to the Marrdja Boardwalk just after high tide. We decided to take the walk to see how deep the water would be on the Mangroves. We heard a splash and looked-up to see a heart-thumping deep royal-blue Little Kingfisher. We drove further north to the Dubjji Boardwalk near the Village of Cape Tribulation. The highlight from this area was seeing 2 large Dragons. Not many birds, but we did find a soft drink today made by Jim Beam -- "Kentucky Straight Whiskey and Cola".

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