On the 19th November, Nick & Liz Livanos, Rob and I flew off to Cairns for a 5 night tickathon. Nick and I had previously visited the north but for the two tropics virgins it proved to be a real boost to their life lists.
19th Nov: Our flight was delayed so we didn't arrive in Cairns until late but as it was pelting down it didn't really matter. The first northern birds for the trip were the many Pied Imperial Pigeons flying around the streets. That night after our gourmet pizza on the Eplanade we spotted Nankeen and Striated Herons, Common Greenshank and Royal Spoonbill in the dark.
20th Nov: We awoke early and headed for the mangrove boardwalk just south of the airport. On our drive there we saw Bush Stone-curlew, Metallic Starling and Helmeted Friarbird in the suburbs. The mangroves were silent until a pair of Collared Kingfishers started calling nearby and we got excellent views. Then a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds darted through. At the end of the walk we could hear a Mangrove Robin calling mournfully and was easily called in with a similar whistle. Black Butcherbird, Shining Flycatcher, Varied Honeyeater, Aust. Swiftlet and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike were seen on the walk back to the car.
Rob and I then dropped the other two off at the wharf where they were catching a barrier reef cruise. 100+ Swiftlets were flying low over the street trees. Yellow Figbirds were very common.
Cairns cemetary was a great place to go birding. The bush was alive with Yellow, Brown-backed, White-throated and Dusky Honeyeaters, Varied Triller, Drongo and a single Fig-parrot whilst amongst the headstones Bee-eaters hawked, Stone-curlew hid and Peaceful Doves wandered. A Grey Goshawk flew over and Nutmeg Mannikins flushed from the grass.
Kuranda was our next port of call with touristy stuff to be done. Whilst walking around the markets and attractions we spotted more Fig-parrots, Wompoo Fruit-dove, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Spotted Catbird, Macleay's Honeyeater and a Barred Cuckoo-shrike. We also had the best supreme pizza I've ever eaten at the cyber cafe.We then headed back down the mountain to pick up Nick and Liz. Crimson Finch and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin were in the cane fields north of Cairns.
That afternoon was spent searching for Dowitcher on the Esplanade to no avail. Luckily there were still heaps of waders to scan through and we quickly added Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed, Curlew and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, Greater Sand, Lesser Sand and Pacific Golden Plovers, and Little and Eastern Reef Egret.
21st Nov: We started the day in torrential rain at Centenary Lakes. Birding was very hard with few birds being seen. Large-billed Gerygone feed low in the mangroves and more Nutmegs feeding in the grass. The highlight however was seeing a magnificent Great-billed Heron up close and personal. It actually flew towards us and landed in the mangrove opposite. Due to the rain none of us had our cameras but we had all scored a massive tick.
We then revisited the cemetary, only adding Yellow Oriole to the list.On our way to Atherton Rob ticked off Forest Kingfisher and Intermediate Egret. Brilliant male Red-backed Fairy-wrens sat on the wire fences. At Cathedral Fig Tree we had Grey Fantail, Large-billed Scrubwren, Grey-headed Robin, Little Shrike-thrush and a pair of nesting Chestnut-breasted Mannikins.We stopped for lunch at Lake Barrine where we got smashing pics of Macleay's Honeyeater. A raft of several hundred Great-crested Grebe sat on the lake.A pair of Baza and a Tree Kangaroo were seen near the Malanda Waterfall. We had a wonderful hour further down the road at the Curtain Fig Tree. Everyone got great views of Victoria's Riflebird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Pied Monarch, Pale-yellow Robin and Yellow-spotted Honeyeater on nest.We then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find Sarus Cranes between Malanda and Atherton. Buff-banded Rails were common along the road, as were Magpie Geese and Plumed Whistling-ducks. Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Nankeen Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon patrolled the roads. The only birds we weren't seeing were cranes!Our last attempt was Bromfield Swamp right on dusk.....nothing! We were standing around feeling very sorry for ourselves when two Sarus Cranes flew in and landed in front of us. Lovely views through the scope and a great way to end the day. The drive to Julateen was done in the dark.
22nd Nov: Kingfisher Park. Almost immediately Rob found a beautiful Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfisher sitting on the clothes line. Pale-headed Robin, Macleay's Honeyeater, Spectacled Monarch and Emerald Dove were the most common birds around our room.
We then headed up the Mt. Lewis Rd. A Paradise-kingfisher flashed across the road and as we searched for Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo along the road we had awesome views of 4 Chowchillas calling and displaying, and a pair of Superb Fruit-dove high in the canopy. A Russet-tailed Thrush flushed from the road.
On the dam walk from the top 'parrot finch' clearing we easily found Bower's Shrike-thrush, Atherton Scrubwren, Topknot Pigeon, Mountain Thornbill and a male Fernwren calling from his exposed branch. The biggest bummer/highlight for the trip was when Rob startled a Southern Cassowary from the track!!! Unfortunetly the rest of us were too far behind to see the bird so Rob scored himself an impressive first attempt tick.
Back at the Park and we finally saw a Graceful Honeyeater feeding in the Grevillas. Very hard to tell apart from the Yellow-spotted Honeyeater. Luckily I got pics.
After some advise from Keith (the park owner) we headed south of Julateen and on our second stop we had Lovely Fairy-wrens, 3 males. Also at this location we had Cicadabird, Leaden Flycatcher, Pheasant Coucal, Graceful Honeyeater and Blue-winged Kookaburra.
Abbatoir Swamp was lousy for water birds but did have Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Fantail and Pale-headed Rosella in the carpark.
Around Mt. Molloy we ticked up Great Bowerbird, Red-winged Parrot, more Rosellas and a Koel. Helmeted Guineafowl were roadside at Mareeba, as were Double-barred Finches and another Coucal.
Last stop of the day was at Lake Mitchell and in the late afternoon light we saw Green Pygmy-goose, Comb-crested Jacana, Black-necked Stork, Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, Little Friarbird and Grey-crowned Babblers.
On arriving back at the Park we joined the spotlighting tour and had lovely views of Barn Owl, Striped Possum, Green Ringtailed Possum, Northern Bandicoot, Fawn-footed Melomys and White-tailed Rat.
23rd Nov: We started the day on the lower rainforests of Mt. Lewis. Nick finally saw a Pied Monarch and we came very close to a calling Noisy Pitta. Wompoo Fruit-dove, Catbird and Paradise-kingfisher called regularly. The rain had started to become more frequent and we spent a bit of time sheltering in the car. Between showers however we could hear a Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo calling and after much patience we finally scopped one high in the canopy. We shared the moment with a local bird guide and his customers. A great moment.
Coming down off the mountain we stopped at a little creek that looked ideal for Boatbill and within a minute of playing their call a pair flew in straight to the source and showed off nicely for the cameras.The rest of the afternoon was spent around the park watching Pacific Baza on nest with two chicks, Fig-parrot and wonderful views of Paradise-kingfishers.
24th Nov: We sadly had to leave Kingfisher Park and head back to Cairns for our flight. We dipped on Cassowary around Kuranda and Papuan Frogmouth at Centenary Lakes. The rain was now falling heavily again so we called it quits.
We recorded around 200 species on our 5 night stay in the north, 11 of which were ticks for me.