Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Queensland Road Trip 15: Eungella & Mackay

Eungella Honeyeater

Following our visit to Paluma (see following post), we had a two-day stay at Townsville's Rowes Bay which was pretty well birding-free, although I saw a pair of Black Falcons hunting in the distance on the Town Common.

Eungella Range
We continued south to Eungulla, the isolated plateau of highland rainforest and dairy farms west of Mackay. We had booked online for a two-night stay in the Eungulla National Park's Broken River camping ground, but it was crowded out with freeloaders and day-trippers, so we squeezed our camper trailer into a tent site at the nearby Fern Flat camping ground.  
 The performance of Queensland national parks authorities in managing camping areas is woeful.

Diggings Road, Eungella
Eungella has two claims to fame. It is probably the easiest site in Australia to see Platypus, and we found them quickly in the Broken River day use area.

It is also the only site frequented by the Eungella Honeyeater. This is a fairy scarce bird that can be difficult. I tracked one down along Diggings Road but it proved difficult to photograph in the gloomy light conditions.

Eungella Honeyeater
I trawled without success for Sooty Owls in the early morning; they are reported from Eungella but the subspecies is uncertain. The weather was lousy during our stay.

Topknot Pigeons
A flock of Topknot Pigeons made the most of a rare glimmer of sunshine. Russet-tailed Thrush was calling commonly. A list of birds seen at Eungella can be found here.

Sandfly Creek, Mackay
We headed eastwards to Mackay for a two-night stay at Blacks Beach in the city's northern suburbs, camping in the local caravan park. Mackay is where north meets south. Orange-footed Scrubfowl are about the park, close to the southern extremity of their range, while in mangroves nearby, Mangrove Honeyeater replaces its close northern relative, the Varied Honeyeater.
Mangrove Robin
I checked out the mangroves in Sandfly Creek Reserve at the mouth of the Pioneer River. Here I found a pair of Mangrove Robins, also near the southern end of their range. I heard a third robin.

Broad-billed Flycatcher male
I also found 3 Broad-billed Flycatchers in the mangroves. 

Broad-billed Flycatcher female
Like Mangrove Golden Whistler and Yellow White-eye, this species has a strange distribution, occurring in parts of central Queensland but not the north-east coast, while they are widespread across the rest of northern Australia. A list of species seen at Sandfly Creek can be found here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Queensland Road Trip 14: Tully to Townsville

White-browed Robins

Following our visit to Etty Bay (see following post) we headed further south to Tully for an overnight stay with friends Jason Grotherr and Debbie Grant. Then onwards to Ingham for a brief visit to Tyto Wetlands.

Tyto Wetlands
Like Catanna near Cairns, this is another artificially created wetland on former sugar cane land, and an example of the potential for developing the Yandina Creek Wetland on the Sunshine Coast as a first-class wetland and waterbird habitat.

Crimson Finch
A male Crimson Finch emerged from the vegetation at the start of the Tyto trailhead.
Then I found a pair of White-browed Robins in a shady glade; this species had unexpectedly eluded me until now on this trip.

White-gaped Honeyeater was common here.

White-gaped Honeyeater
We drove further south to the Paluma Range National Park for a two-night stay in the Big Crystal Creek camping ground. This is the first national park camping we've had on the trip. It is extraordinary that in the whole of the wet tropics from Cooktown to Townsville, there are almost no government camping grounds in state national parks and reserves.

Big Crystal Creek
We drove up the mountain early in the morning for a day in the highland rainforests around Paluma on Mt Spec, walking the village roads and trails including the H2 circuit, McClellands Lookout and Cloudy Creek.

It was good to reconnect with wet tropics rainforest birds at the southern extremity of their range and finally to snare some reasonable snaps of the elusive Fernwren; 5 were seen and others heard.

I also photographed a Chowchilla, though the images are not first-rate. These birds typically keep to the dark forest floor. It was interesting to see Bower Shrike-thrushes hopping about the lawns of Paluma.
Macleay's Honeyeater
We had lunch at the delightful Ivy Cottage, where birds visit a feeder next to the dining tables.  Mcleay's Honeyeater, Lewin's Honeyeater and White-cheeked Honeyeater were the commonest visitors.

Victoria's Riflebird male

Victoria's Riflebird female
Victoria's Riflebird, male and female, were the star attractions.

Spotted Catbird
Spotted Catbirds put in appearances.

Satin Bowerbird
As did the small northern race of Satin Bowerbird. For reasons that escape me, I failed to see a single Tooth-billed Bowerbird on this trip although I heard a couple today. The list of birds seen at Paluma is here.
Crimson Rosella
The northern race of Crimson Rosella was feeding on a lawn nearby. The weather is improving with the rain, unexpectedly warm weather and abundance of biting midges hopefully behind us.

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher
Birds about the Big Crystal Creek camping ground included Fairy Gerygone, Brown-backed Honeyeater and the first Lemon-bellied Flycatcher of the trip.

Rockslides, Big Crystal Creek
While walking the 2km to the Rockslides from the camping ground I saw several more of the hitherto elusive White-browed Robins. And a Little Kingfisher – my fifth encounter with this normally difficult species on the trip. We moved on to Townsville for a 2-night stay at the Rowes Bay Caravan Park.