Thinking About Birds

I only update the gallery photos occasionally. Sorry about that, too busy. See my Sri Lanka gallery though and also  the latest additions to my UK and Denmark galleries.

March 2020

21 March

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey in the morning, with a very early start. We found one Eastern Curlew at Milhams Pond, presumably the others have all flown north already. At Phoenix Flats there were 31 Pacific Golden Plovers and a group of four Black-fronted Dotterels. At Teal Waters, a pair of Chestnut Teal flew off leaving a single panicky duckling behind (they returned as soon as we left). There were very few waterbirds around at the main ponds of area E, but a male Black-necked Stork and two Caspian Terns partly made up for the absence of anything else. It being autumn, the Welcome Swallow numbers had spiked and there were two Tree Martins amongst them.

19 March

I joined a pelagic trip from Swansea for the day. On our way out we had a Streaked Shearwater keeping pace with the boat for a while, and plenty of Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters at times, and they were the main birds seen during our drift at the shelf. At the shelf it was quiet most of the time, interspersed with brief visits from some pelagic species. We had a few Grey-faced Petrels and Wilson's Storm-petrels, and one each of both Black-browed and Campbell Albatross showed up. On our way back in we found many Pomarine Jaegers and young Australasian Gannets, having seen none of either species on our way out.

17-18 March

I walked from New Lambton to Swansea and back again over these two days, staying overnight in Swansea. The total distance I walked was 48km. Although I took no optical equipment (to keep the weight down), I had wonderful birding experiences especially along the Fernleigh track. I found 50-52 species each day, for a total of 59 species overall. The highlight was to see a Lewin's Rail (and hear another one) near Belmont on Wednesday morning. The only downside to the walk was a stretch of ~3 km along the Pacific Highway, where there is no footpath.

February-March 2020 (Queensland trip)

I flew to Cairns on 28 February and spent two nights there, followed by four nights at Port Douglas. Then I went back to Cairns for another four nights. I used those two towns as my base for trips to other parts of Cape York (e.g. Etty Bay, Innisfail, Mossman, Daintree) and the Atherton Tableland (e.g.Mt Lewis, Julatten, Mt Malloy, Lake Eacham).

9 March

For my final morning in Cairns, I walked the length of the esplanade (and back). The tide was remarkably high and there were no muddy margins anywhere. Hence the only shorebirds I saw were Bar-tailed Godwits; there was a flock of 14 birds feeding on the lawn. There were the usual Cairns-type birds around, such as Varied Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Metallic Starling and Torresian Imperial-Pigeon. Also, a flock of five Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew across the bay, quite noisily. I had very good views of the Starlings, including of many young birds feeding on the ground. My best views were of a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, just a couple of metres in front of me. 

8 March

Acting on a tip, I went to the Cairns water supply, Copperlode dam, first thing this morning. That turned into a long winding climb up a mountain with nowhere much to stop and only roadside birding. I didn't have much success. After that I went back to Cattana Wetlands. It was nowhere as good as last weekend although I saw eight Comb-crested Jacanas and had good views of Yellow Honeyeaters. I then went into nearby Yorkeys Knob, where I found a very large group of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos, at least 40 birds, feeding on Beach Almond seeds (and making rather a mess of the foliage). I spent ages trying to get a photo of one in flight with its tail feathers spread out - a hard thing to do (or, hard for me to do). I got talking with a local birder (I had bumped into him earlier at Cattana) and he told me that the cockatoos had only turned up locally after Cyclone Yatzi hit about ten years ago; presumably displaced from somewhere. The fellow also told me how to get to a shorebird site at the mouth of the Barron River, Redden Island. Although it was low tide when I called in, I found several Greater Sand Plovers and a Common Greenshank plus a smattering of other shorebirds. An Eastern Reef Egret flew through and there was a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds where I had parked. A nice finish to the day's birding! However, to top it off, when I got back to my apartment and hit the swimming pool, a male Sunbird was feeding in a shrub just above the pool.

7 March

I spent much of the morning at Centenary Lakes in Cairns and later climbed the first section of Mt Whitfield.  The only "new" bird was a Channel-billed Cuckoo just as I arrived, and overall things seemed a lot quieter than my visit the previous Saturday. There were Australian Swiftlets flying around often, and I had a nice session of watching a pair of Green Orioles interacting with each other and with a Helmeted Friarbird. The afternoon was hot and muggy so I spent it partly by  the pool and partly on my computer with the A/C on.

6 March

I went south today, down to Etty Bay (just past Innisfail). It is a known area for Southern Cassowary. Access to the forested areas was poor and I was swatting at mosquitoes near the beach and wondering about my decision to come ... when out popped a Cassowary! It was a young bird and I followed it for about half an hour, taking lots of photos. There wasn't much else around by way of birdlife, not that I was paying much attention to anything else. Eventually I left, only to find an adult Cassowary by the roadside just a little way along. In fact, by the time I departed, the adult and immature birds were almost together.

Things quietened down after that. I tried Mourilyan harbour, where there was a very large flock of Nutmeg Mannikins (at least 150 birds) but little else. Some other sites near Innisfail proved fruitless. Eventually I ended up at Josephine Falls, at the foot of Mt Bartle Frere. This had lowland rainforest but the birding was quiet (although there were some calls I didn't recognise and I couldn't track down the caller). Eventually I gave up and went back to Cairns to rest up. Late afternoon I walked around the marina area, and saw a Little Tern and a Crested Tern (both being firsts for my trip).

I later realised I'd just achieved a milestone - having done that stretch south of Cairns today I have now covered (in my lifetime)the entire eastern seaboard, from Mallacoota in the south all the way to Bamaga and the tip of Cape York.

5 March

I left Port Douglas early and once again climbed up to the range but this time not turning off to Mt Lewis. My first stop was at Big Mitchell Creek (which was quite overgrown). I couldn’t find my target robin (White-browed) but I did find Yellow Honeyeaters, Forest Kingfisher, Golden-headed Cisticolas and my first Lemon-bellied Flycatcher for the trip. Next I tried to find my way to Mareeba Wetlands but they have taken down all the signs (presumably for the wet season). A brief stop near Atherton yielded some Red-backed Fairy-wrens. I had a longer stop at Hasties Swamp just past Atherton. Here were several Wandering Whistling-Ducks and a pair of Cotton Pygmy-geese (not cooperating for my camera) and a really young Dollarbird which threw me for a while. My final stop was at Lake Eacham where I saw several Pale-yellow Robins and some Grey-headed Robins, and I watched a Little Shrike-thrush capture a massive butterfly. I don’t know how it managed to eat it (the bird flew off, I couldn’t re-find it),

I got into Cairns late afternoon intending to have some non-birding time. However, when I got to the foreshore on my walk, the tide was high and there were many shorebirds in close! I raced back for my binoculars and camera. There were 214 Great Knot, also some Curlew Sandpipers and Bar-tailed Godwits and a handful of birds of other species. And Bush Stone-curlews started calling as I was about to leave.

4 March

I went back to Mt Lewis, which turned out to be a good decision. On the ascent I had Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher at a couple of spots. I found a group of five Blue-faced Parrot-finches at the clearing (and later, one more in the forest) and there was a Victoria's Riflebird and some Bower's Shrike-thrushes hanging around as well. I was able to get photos of an Atherton Scrubwren and later, of a Mountain Thornbill. Some Double-eyed Fig-Parrots were flying around too. On the walking track I heard Tooth-billed Bowerbirds at a few locations and then eventually, I had one in clear view and even managed a few (poorish quality) photos of it. The walk also yielded some Bridled Honeyeaters and a couple of Spotted Catbirds.

3 March

I started my birding at Mossman Gorge, which involved an almost 3 km walk to get there as the shuttle buses don't start until 8am. I was disappointed with the few birds present plus there was a constant helicopter overhead (doing training exercises), but then I saw a Pale-yellow Robin and all was forgiven. A bit later I was seeing a Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher and thinking what a good morning! I also had good views of Spectacled Monarch and a group of Large-billed Scrubwrens. I was booked on a noon Daintree River cruise which gave me quite a while to fill in and struggling to find anywhere worthwhile. I saw some Australian Swiftlets and Tree Martins at Daintree Village though. But eventually the cruise was underway,  with a very heavy emphasis on crocodiles (of which we saw several). But there was a Papuan Frogmouth roosting on an old nest, that we stopped to look at, and a Large-billed Gerygone at a nest that probably was active. And then, a Great-billed Heron flew past the boat! My plan had worked!

I couldn't find anywhere else to go afterwards. The ferry crossing over the Daintree River was $30 return andso I passed on thoughts of going up to Cape Tribulation. Instead, I went back to Port Douglas and wandered the marina for a while, considering (and eventually rejecting) cruises to the outer reef tomorrow. It would be a lot of money for a couple of potential tern species and no other birds! Late afternoon I wandered a path along the cliff - I found no birds at all!

2 March

I spent the whole day in the Atherton Tableland, including all morning on Mt Lewis. I arrived at "The Clearing" early and almost immediately found two Blue-faced Parrot-finches. That was fortunate, because I couldn't find any more of them when I looked again later on. I also found Atherton Scrubwrens and Chowchillas early on, and again had both species at other times. I was able to get photos of Bower's Shrike-thrush and Victoria's Riflebird. but not Superb Fruit-Dove (which were calling at many of my stops). At Julatten later, I found a Metallic Starling breeding colony, seemingly in full swing, and saw Forest Kingfishers with a juvenile on the outskirts of Mt Malloy, followed by three Squatter Pigeons just near the school. I saw Black Kite a couple of times around Mt Malloy (possibly it was the same bird).

1 March

I left Cairns earlyish (humid night, didn’t sleep well) and drove through Kuranda to Barron Falls where I spent about 2 hours. There was a Graceful Honeyeater above the car as I got out but after that birds were hard to find in the rainforest. I finally was able to see Varied Triller and Spectacled Monarch, both of which I was hearing but not seeing yesterday. Little Shrike-thrushes were calling and eventually I saw one. I heard a Superb Fruit-dove and photographed a Spotted Catbird. Next I did the Jumrum Creek walk on the outskirts of Kuranda. I saw a group of Large-billed Scrubwrens and heard, then later saw, a Victoria’s Riflebird.

En route to Port Douglas I stopped at the Hartley Crocodile Park. It was less birdy than I was hoping, but I saw Brown-backed Honeyeaters, Large-billed Gerygones, a Nankeen Night-Heron and a Black-necked Stork.

28-29 February

I arrived into Cairns late afternoon on Friday. Not long afterwards I was down at the esplanade where I stayed until the light began to fade. The tide was way out so most of the shorebirds were distant specks. But there were good birds in the park alongside the walkway. Highlights included Varied Honeyeater, Metallic Starling, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Helmeted Friarbird and Bush Stone-curlew. I had all those and more next day as well. I started at Centenary Lakes, an old favourite site. Here I had my first Orange-footed Scrub-fowls of the day (with many more to follow!), a Superb Fruit-dove, some Nutmeg Mannikins, Green Orioles, Black Butcherbirds and Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters. I also saw some Nutmeg Mannikins. My next major stop was the esplanade at high tide. I went to the northern end of it, but the only shorebirds present were some Bar-tailed Godwits. However, happiness soon followed, as I had sensational views of a group of three Double-eyed Fig-Parrots. Even some of the photos turned out OK. I took a break in the heat of the afternoon, then late afternoon went to Cattana Wetlands. This as usual was rather good. New birds for my trip were Comb-crested Jacana (at least six birds including a juvenile), Australasian Darter and Great Bowerbird, and I coaxed a Brush Cuckoo out (briefly).