24-Days in Far Northern Qld Bird WatchingAuthor: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: November 2006
Later in the afternoon we went swamping. This part of the Tableland has heaps of swamps and wetlands. We saw Brown-backed Honeyeaters , Spectacled Monarch, etc, and 2 Green Tree Snakes.
At Abattoir Swamp we walked the boardwalk to the Bird Hide. We scared up a White-browed Crake, and saw a Latham's Snipe. Later we heard and then saw a Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher. I asked Dennis about the road to Cooktown. He said the Peninsular Road was a beautiful 221 Km sealed road. He said the coastal road from Cooktown south to the Village of Cape Tribulation (a.k.a. Bloomfield Track) should only be driven by 4WD vehicles because it was rough and you had to ford rivers.
On Nov 9 we were on the road at 6:10am driving north on the Peninsular Road. We stopped at lots of creek crossings and the Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary. We heard a multitude of birds and managed to see a juvenile Brown Falcon hugging against a telephone pole, 3 Red-chested Buttonquails darted across the trail in front of us, and heaps of Blue-winged and Laughing Kookaburras.
We checked East Mary River Road and found a male Australian Bustard in its courting display. The displaying Bustard has a rigid pose with the head held high; neck and face ballooned to double the normal size, and the front white waddle hanging to the ground. The tail was composed of three sections. The middle section was held vertically, while the two outer sections point down. People say when they get really excited they can roar like a lion.
We stopped at the Mt Carbide Roadhouse. The attendant told us the best birding in the area was in their garden -- they had 27 varieties of birds. She took us outside and pointed out some of her birds. While we ate Br we saw several Eclectus Parrots and a pair of Squatter Pigeons -- the male has an orange ellipse around its eye, the female has a yellow ellipse. A Pale-headed Rosella flew in and sat on a water spigot for a long time so we could observe its subtle shades of light blues and greens - absolutely gorgeous bird!
We drove over to Lake Carbide. There were stacks of Coots, Hardheads and Plumed Whistling-Ducks, with the odd Green Pygmy-geese, Pacific Black Ducks, and Australian Wood Ducks. There was a Great Egret watching over things, and a flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins frolicked by in the reeds. We had a great view of a Great Crested Grebe.
We saw dozens of Dollarbirds swooping down to the lake to drink. The sun shining on the wings highlighted their blue-green colors and Silver Dollar size white spot on each wing.
We drove down to the Mareeba Wetlands in the afternoon to see their Gouldian Finch breeding program. We were so impressed we stayed for the Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake and coffee/tea. It was way too hot by then to even think about walking around the wetland.
We headed back to East Mary Road to try to photograph the Bustard. The male we saw this morning was gone. We did find a female Bustard on the prowl -- till we scared her off. Later we found a male in another field still doing the courting display ritual.
On Nov 11 we were off at 5:50am. We stopped at Mitchell Lake and Big Mitchell Creek for a couple of hours of birding and saw 33 bird species
We stopped outside Youngaburra at the Curtain Fig Tree NP. Right off we saw a Gray-headed Robin. We found a rare Green Tree Possum balled up in a tree (a local bloke with a possum book ID'ed it for us). The "green" was formed by the white, black and yellow hairs.
We ate at Nick's Swiss-Italian Restaurant in Youngaburra. We had Veal Schnitzel and Pork Loin with stuffed zucchini (peppers, onions and tomatoes), glazed carrots, spiced pumpkin, potato au gratin, homemade sauerkraut, and Spaetzil (a baked pasta with nutmeg and Swiss cheese). The Chamber's Rainforest Lodge was hit hard by the cyclone in March 2006, but everything was back to normal when we got there. The owner said the government gave every business $10,000 a few days after the storm was over, and $15,000 a few weeks later. As a consequence, everything kept operating. However, when you walk in the forest you see heaps of giant trees being harvested for furniture -- the golden wood was especially beautiful.
We had the male Victoria's Riflebirds and Lewis Honeyeaters come to the feeder on our balcony in the afternoon. Later we went for a walk and saw a spectacularly brilliant Yellow-throated Scrubwren, a Tawny Grassbird, a White-throated Treecreeper, some Eastern Whipbirds, a White-eared Monarch, and a Brown Gerygone (pronounced Jeer-rig-a-knee).
The Red-Legged Pademelons (type of small Rainforest Kangaroo) started gathering around 6pm for their evening feeding -- free food still draws a crowd, even if its potato peels. They had to set up security before the family could feed. Eleven Pademelons came out tonight -- the other 17 were on guard duty.
Later we adjourned to the Sugar Glider viewing area. The Lodge puts honey on 2 trees to attract night critters. We saw 3 Sugar Gliders (small possums that can glide from tree to tree), a long-tailed Striped Possum, and a White-tailed Uromys (a.k.a. Rat with a possum nose).
On Nov 11 we went for a 2 hr walk around the lodge grounds in the early morning. We saw the Eastern Whipbird and heard its distinctive Whip-Crack call with lots of Atherton Scrubwrens twittering in the background. We saw a Gray-headed Robin, Mountain Thornbill and Satin Bowerbird. When we got back, the Tooth-billed Bowerbird was perched outside our lodge.
We had a good afternoon birding from our balcony. A pair of Golden Whistlers started building a nest near the balcony. We had Victoria's Riflebirds, Spotted Catbirds, Lewis Honeyeaters, Laughing Kookaburras, and Little Shrike-thrushes coming to feed.
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