24-Days in Far Northern Qld Bird WatchingAuthor: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: December 2006
About 4:30pm we left for Bromfield's Crater and almost ran over a Buff-breasted Button-quail. At the Crater we saw 53 Sarus Crane and 2 Broglas. The Cranes are very tall with a huge beak. They had red heads and legs. The Broglas are about the same size and general appearance, but had gray legs and only a small red patch on the head. Also, Broglas honk, Cranes squawk.
The Sarus Cranes are extremely rare. There are only a few hundred in Australia. They were not identified till 1966. They stay in the Atherton area from June to December, and them leave for Cape York to breed. We got here just in time.
Dingoes were howling tonight at the Lodge, and scared off some of the Red-Legged Pademelons -- only the dominant male and 5 females (some with Joeys) came out for feeding. The Lesser Sooty-Owl finished off the night-show with its piercing "Bomb Drop" whistle.
Back in our cabin, a Giant White-tailed Rat had discovered the bird food we left on the balcony. The rat was the size and shape of a Soccer ball with a 4 ft tail -- the first 2 ft was black and the last 2 ft was white. We ended up tossing all the seeds and fruit into the bush so the rat wouldn't have any reason to hang around our room.
On Nov 12 we were off at 6am for Hasties Swamp NP. There must had been a 1000 Purple Swamp-hens there. Later we drove around the area and stopped at several other parks.
About 4pm we went on a walk around the grounds. We found a Saw-tooth Bowerbird and listened to him calling. Two females were answering, but we couldn't see his bower. Saw-tooth Bowerbirds are pretty lazy -- their display stage was green leaves spread on bare ground, pale side up.
On Nov 13 we got to Wongabel SF at 8:20am. We walked the 2.7 Km track in just under 3 hours. The male Rufous, Gray, and Northern Fantails were out in force flashing their tails trying to attract a mate.
We found a male Virginia's Riflebird displaying. First the male would make the loud/harsh call -- sort of a "Yasser". If a female called back, the male would raise his wings. If the female came over, the male would arch his wings over his head and begin to dance around the female with his mouth open. In this case, apparently the lining of the mouth wasn't yellow enough, because the female flew off. But hope springs eternal, and the male kept of calling and flashing.
On the way back to the Lodge, we spotted a Cairns Birdwing Butterfly. It was breathtakingly beautiful!
After lunch, the Lewin's Honeyeater was scarfing down the apple chunks as fast as we could put them on the veranda railing. In the afternoon we walked back the entrance road and found the bower for the Tooth-billed Bowerbird we saw yesterday. We saw the bird bringing in big green leaves to form his "circle of love".
We went to Lake Barrine for our evening walk-about. We were amazed by the number of Great Creasted Grebes on the lake -- strikingly beautiful birds. We went for a walk in the Rainforest and saw the giant Kari trees (150 ft tall). For the last 3 days there has been a group of Canadian birders here. Saturday they left at 6am and got back at 11:30pm. They were guaranteed to see 170 birds and 10 kangaroos while here -- even if it killed them. I made a mental note never to sign up for a trip like that. A morning of birding followed by a relaxing afternoon is the way to go for us.
Mission Beach Area
On Nov 14 we were up for an early morning walk. Later we drove the 15 Km Waterfall Loop near Millaa Millaa. The three waterfalls were booming, which was surprising since it hasn't been raining. There was heaps of Red Salvia and Impatience around the falls.
The Waterfalls Loop went thru lush cattle country. We saw a farmer on his 4-wheeler, with his 4 Australian Sheep Dogs, going out to get the cows. We saw many birds, including: some White-throated Needletails, Glossy Swiftlets, a Western Gerygone, and a knock-out-Beautiful Yellow-breasted Boatbill.
We came down the steep Palmerston Highway to the coast, and headed south to Mission Beach. The coast is sugar cane country. We saw lots of harvesting and had to stop to let a sugar cane train with its miniature cars go by. On the way to the Sanctuary a Southern Cassowary crossed the road in front of us. Mission Beach was "ground zero" for the Cat V Cyclone in March 2006. Susan, the co-owner of the resort, told us it took them a week to cut the hundreds of trees across their 600m road so they could get back to the resort after the storm. There were no leaves on the trees after the cyclone. Things had greened up in the last 7 months and you can hardly tell that anything unusual had happened.
We ate lunch at the Sanctuary. My wife had salad with fete cheese and sun dried tomatoes. I had Thai Fish Cakes with a garden salad and bush tomatoes (smaller than Cherry tomatoes).
For dinner we started with pumpkin and coconut soup, and Italian bread with baked pesto and cheese. The main course was 1.5-inch thick Fillet Mignon streaks with potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onions and garlic with a fabulous gravy (they use cream in the gravies).
On Nov 15 we were up at 5:15am to see the pre-dawn pastel colors in the sky from our balcony. The sun peaked out of the ocean at 5:37am. We went out for an early morning walk. We saw heaps of Cairns Birdwing butterflies, and one female Yellow-bellied Sunbird sitting on her nest.
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