Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Atherton Tablelands North Queensland Birding

A 3 day weekend based at Kingfisher Park is always a rewarding experience.  Keith and Lindsay Fisher are wonderful hosts and the Unit accommodation is very comfortable.
I arrived in Cairns Saturday lunch time, collected my hire car and went straight to the mangrove end of the esplanade.  Thankfully the tide was just going out and the waders were in good numbers and I felt like a kid in a toyshop! A “5 minute look”  ended up being a walk between the mangroves and playground and lasted 65 minutes. I got burned to a crisp as I had not taken the time to apply sunscreen.  My war wounds were worth it though, with a wonderful selection of waders.

Greater Sand Plover

Grey-tailed Tattler

Grey-tailed Tattler

Bar-tailed Godwit

Eastern Curlew

Common Myna (yeah ok, so it's not a wader)

Gull-billed Tern

The Atherton Tablelands is one of the only places in Australia where you can find the introduced Helmeted Guineafowl. I found 2 populations between Tolga and Mareeba.

Great Bowerbird

Helmeted Guineafowl

Birding at Kingfisher Park provided quick but good views of a pair of Red-necked Crake as they scurried across the orchard and into the bushes. Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfishers were in good numbers and calling constantly.

                                                                          Noisy Pitta
I caught up with my friend Carl Billingham and we enjoyed dinner (he cooked) and wine and chatted into the evening while watching a Tree Mouse - Pogonomys coming in and out of its burrow.
Sunday morning I went up Mount Lewis with Chook and we enjoyed great views of Fernwren taking worms to it's nest. It was wonderful to watch  a young male Victoria Riflebird displaying and a female was taking great interest.

Chowchilla were feeding and scurrying in the undergrowth and a Pied Monarch was on a nest.

Atherton Scrub-wren & Mountain Thornbill were along the narrow walking tracks.

It was great to get good views of Tooth-billed Bowerbird!

Also seen were Bridled & Dusky Honeyeater, Bassian Thrush, Superb Fruit-dove and Yellow-throated Scrub-wren. 

Bridled Honeyeater

I had forgotten just how difficult it is to try and photograph birds in the rainforest! The slow shutter speeds and all the vegetation make it VERY challenging!  Especially as I am too lazy to carry a tripod… oh well….

I was keen to find a Golden Bowerbird so I followed Chook to the Crater in the afternoon (2 hrs drive each way) making a brief stop in Mareeba for a Brush Cuckoo. 

                                               Grey-headed Robin was a nice find!

The drive was well worth it as within 5 minutes we were enjoying 3 Golden Bowerbirds!! NOICE!  The dark canopy made it difficult to take a photo without a tripod.

Then it was a long drive back to Julatten! I stopped near Hastie’s Swamp as there were 3 Sarus Crane at the back of a ploughed paddock.  TICK
A couple of hours spotlighting that night produced Green Possum, Barn Owl, White-lipped Tree-Frog, Amethyst Python,  Northern-brown Bandicoot, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Spectacled Flying-fox, Boyd's Forest dragon, Giant White-tailed Rat and Bush Rat.

Amethyst Python

Green Possum

Northern Brown Bandicoot

White-lipped Tree-Frog

Bush Rat
This morning Carl, Michael and I went searching for Buff-breasted Button-quail. They had staked out a site yesterday and had found one. I only had an hour or so to search before driving to the airport so we searched in a line – up and down, up and down. It was so hot and humid!!  Well, we got 2 Painted Button-quails before flushing a single bird which we suspect may have been the same bird they found yesterday as it was in the same spot and its rump was pale. Having flushed it within a few minutes of the Painted Button-quail it helped with comparison.  However it was not a tickable view.

Carl and I at the Button-quail search site

Buff-breasted Button-quail prefer Eucalypt woodland with sparse grass and stony ground

I left the guys searching (and melting) in the woodland and I drove to the airport for a shower before catching the plane home.

2011 Yearlist as of Dec 12 -  541.
Australia Life List - 587.

I want to reach 600 before May 2012.
A great weekend with good birds, a few lifers, catching up with Carl, Chook, Keith and Lindsay and thankfully I still  a few feathered  reasons to return!