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.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 13: Etty Bay & Cassowary

Southern Cassowary

Following our visit to Cairns (see following post) we headed south to the pretty coastal settlement of Etty Bay, south-east of Innisfail.

Southern Cassowary
Etty Bay is arguably the best place in Australia to see the Southern Cassowary - the avian icon of the wet tropics. We had a cassowary wandering by the roadside as soon as we arrived at Etty Bay.
Arrival at Etty Bay
We saw the birds repeatedly during our two days camped in the caravan park, seeing about half the local population of 10-12 birds.

Southern Cassowary checks out the campervan
Cassowaries wandered freely through the camping ground and along Etty Bay's small street, oblivious to human interlopers other than hoping to be fed. Feeding the cassowaries is discouraged but people were doing it anyway.

Southern Cassowary
The female cassowary appears to be larger with brighter wattles. The birds were mostly singles but occasionally a pair would wander through the camping ground.

Cassowary on road
I found one bird 2.5km before the settlement and another 1.5km before; both cassowaries were wandering along the road. They ignored vehicles that slowed to let them pass and even the tooting of horns left them unmoved. Too many cassowaries are killed along the so-called Cassowary Coast between Innisfail and Tully, which contains the highest concentration of the species in Australia.

Etty Bay
Our camp at Etty Bay was by a lovely beach with its backdrop of the rainforests of Moresby Range National Park.
Blue Ulysses
Butterflies included the spectacular Blue Ulysses.

Shining Starlings
Shining Starlings again were in unusually large numbers for this time of the year.

Spectacled Flying-Fox
Spectacled Flying-Foxes were in the camping ground trees at night.

No stranger to humans

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 12 - Out and About Cairns

Australian Swiftlet

After our visit to the Daintree (see following post) we shifted south to Palm Cove for a 2-night stay in the local caravan park, driving down the scenic road from Port Douglas.

Port Douglas-Cairns road

Buchans Beach
The nearby Buchans Point Beach has always been one of my favourite beaches.

Catanna Wetland
We checked out the Catanna Wetlands near Yorkey's Knob - Green Pygmy-Goose was showing nicely. Excellent to see how the local authorities have converted a sugar cane farm into a first-class wetland; lessons here for the still undecided fate of the Yandina Creek Wetland on the Sunshine Coast. 

Green Pygmy-Goose

Green Pygmy-Goose pair and Jacana
White-browed Crake was less co-operative, but I managed a decent shot during a second visit to the wetland. Over both visits I saw 4 crakes and heard 6-8. A Chesnut-breasted Cuckoo had recently been reported here; I saw a Fantailed-type cuckoo and considered it a well-coloured Fantailed Cuckoo. List of species at Catanna is here.

White-browed Crake
White-browed Crake
Australian Swiftlet finally availed itself of photographic opportunities on a headland at Yorkeys Knob.

Australian Swiftlet

Our next destination was Cairns where we stayed with friends Bart Grother and Jane Bentley, with superb views over Cairns from their City View home. I have spent a good deal of time in Cairns over many years and it is always a pleasure to be here.

We checked out the Fletcher Botanical Gardens/Centenary Lakes site where a Radjah Shelduck was keeping company with a Magpie Goose; up to 5 shelducks were present on subsequent visits.

Radjah Shelduck & Magpie Goose
Then it was on to the mangroves at the northern end of The Esplanade, where Mangrove Robin was found easily along the mangrove edge about 300m north. One bird was feeding in open parkland on the edge of the mangroves.
Mangrove Robin
I failed to find the Rufous Owl at a couple of known roosting trees in the Cairns CBD so made do with Varied Honeyeater in flowering trees along the esplanade.

Varied Honeyeater

Cairns Esplanade

Back in City View, Shining Starlings were in surprisingly good numbers for this time of year, while Red-necked Crake and Pale-vented Bush-hen were heard in the distance.

Shining Starlings

Monday, 20 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 11- The Wonderful Daintree

Olive-backed Sunbird

Following our three-day visit to Daintree Village (see following post) we crossed the Daintree River on the vehicular ferry for a two-night stop at Cape Kimberley. This little-known camping ground is beautifully situated by the beach just 10km from the river crossing.

Cape Kimberley
The facilities are a little shabby but this place is hard to beat for location. It is surrounded by a mix of rainforest and melaleuca and mangrove swamp.

Cape Kimberley
Snapper Island is a short distance offshore.

Snapper Island
The Daintree River mouth is an easy 3km walk along the beach. A Beach Stone-Curlew was encountered on the beach.

Beach Stone-Curlew 
Daintree River Mouth
Side streams were well populated by mud skippers.

Birds about the camping ground included Olive-backed Sunbird and Brown-backed Honeyeater.

Brown-backed Honeyeater
We drove to Cape Tribulation, stopping at various sites along the way including Hutchinson Creek, Thornton Beach (where a woman was killed last week by a crocodile), Noah Beach and Cooper Creek. 

Daintree River mouth & Cape Kimberley from main road
Many of these places I know well, having camped here a few times over the years. What has changed is that these days, a constant procession of traffic reflects how the Daintree has emerged as a top tourist destination.

Thornton Peak
Above it all towers Thornton Peak, Queensland's third largest mountain and the home of Lampropholis robertsi, a skink named after me by the venerable Glen Ingram.
Birds are pretty quiet at this time of year.

Macleay's Honeyeater
 Those commonly about included Macleay's Honeyeater.

Australian Swiftlet

While Australian Swiftlet was predictably difficult to photograph

Friday, 17 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 10: Great-billed Heron & Daintree River

Great-billed Heron
After our visit to Cooktown (see following post) we headed south to the village of Daintree for a 2-night stay in the Daintree Riverview Caravan Park, located pleasantly beside the famed Daintree River. We had considered returning by the coastal Bloomfield track but decided that our vehicle and campervan would have trouble on the steep sections in the wet conditions.

Daintree River

Our main plan here was an early morning boat ride up the river with Murray Hunt's Daintree Boatman Nature Tours.

Rainbow over the Daintree

While unseasonal wet weather continued to plague us, we managed a relatively fine couple of hours on the river which, as usual, never disappoints aesthetically.

Great-billed Heron
A Pale-vented Bush-hen flushed from near the boat ramp before departure and flew across the river. Not a bad start. 
Daintree River
Soon after we found an adult Great-billed Heron on the southern shore of the river; this was our main objective.

Great-billed Heron
The herons had nested on Stewart Creek – check out Murray's videos on his Facebook Page – and a single youngster had recently fledged. However, the parents had not been seen for some time so to find an adult – and at such close quarters - was an unexpected bonus.

Papuan Frogmouths
We saw Little Kingfisher briefly a couple of times along Barratt Creek. Here we also saw an adult female Papuan Frogmouth and 4 well-grown youngsters perched side-by-side a couple of metres from her.  

Amethystine Python
Other species included Azure Kingfisher, Shining Flycatcher, Large-billed Gerygone, Black Butcherbird and White-bellied Sea-Eagle.  A large Amethystine Python was curled up in the top of a tree. It is a matter of regret that not everyone on the boat saw the python because Murray failed to stop, apparently because of the presence of a rival tour boat operator nearby.

Great-billed Heron juv
Then we motored up Stewart Creek, finding the recently fledged Great-billed Heron – much browner and plainer than its parent - perched on a creekside palm. Full list of birds can be found here.

Great-billed Heron in flight 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 9: Cooktown - Kath & Dave & Papuan Frogmouth

Papuan Frogmouth
Following our visit to Shiptons Flat (see next post) we moved on to Cooktown, where we spent 3 days at the home of our good friends Kath Shurcliff and David Houghton. We were most impressed with the building skills that Dave employed to erect their wonderfully tropical abode.

Kath & Dave in Cooktown
We visited several spots around Cooktown including the Botanic Gardens (which adjoins their property) and the lookout where Captain Cook surveyed the reef after The Endeavour ran aground offshore.
Endeavour River fromm Lookout Hill
We checked out Finch Bay, the Endeavour River National Park, the old railway track to the cemetery, Keatings Lagoon, Walker Bay and Quarantine Bay with its granite beach.

Quarantine Bay
We found some more White-streaked Honeyeaters in the national park, just a few kilometres from town. 

Keatings Lagoon
At Keatings Lagoon we saw another Little Kingfisher.

Little Kingfisher
And a pair of Green Pygmy-Goose.

Green Pygmy-Goose
Large-billed Gerygone also showed here.

Large-billed Gerygone
A nice Tropical Scrubwren was seen along the road to Walker Bay (again, thanks to Kath & Dave for site information). This bird looked decidedly more marked and colourful than the scrubwrens seen at Shiptons Flat - an area that marks both the northern and southern extremes of the range of quite a few bird species.

Tropical Scrubwren

Helmeted Friarbird and Yellow-spotted Honeyeater were common about Kath and Dave's home. We were bothered by unseasonally wet weather but it was a pleasure to again visit this delightful town, our visit marking the half-way point for our trip both in terms of distance and time..

Helmeted Friarbird
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater
A Papuan Frogmouth was found at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.

Papuan Frogmouth