Saturday, 15 February 2014

FNQ Trip October 2013 - Part 3: Daintree and Cairns Esplanade

After 2 days at Kingfisher Park and seeing the majority of what I wanted to see (don’t mention that Lesser Sooty Owl!), it was time to head to the next stop – the Daintree – 9 October 2013.

View from the Atherton Tablelands
Coming down from the Tablelands there were a few areas where you could pull off the road and take photos of a scenic lookout. I did the touristy thing and took a photo with my mobile – that’s how many tourists take photos nowadays anyway!

Getting back to sea level, I decided to pop into Port Douglas for lunch – a very touristy town. In the trees of the main street, I heard Yellow Oriole (a lifer), but I was buggered if I could see it up in the fig tree. I managed to get a glance of two birds flying away which were probably Yellow Orioles, but ummed and arred whether or not to tick it. I needn’t have worried – the bloody things were everywhere in the Daintree!

In the Daintree that afternoon, I only managed to tick off Yellow Oriole (nearly in every second tree along the Daintree River) and Shining Flycatcher – a bird I am sure I have seen before, but was not ticked off on the life list. The next day however was the one I was waiting for – to hopefully see the Great-billed Heron and Papuan Frogmouth on the Daintree River cruise. I had reservations however, as some Americans at Red Mill house said that the Great-billed Herons have only been seen 50% of the time on the Daintree River cruises. I was sure to be in the 50% who dipped!

Shining Flycatcher (Myiagra alecto)

Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)

Early the next morning on the 10th, I decided to drive the 50m down the road to the jetty given I could barely walk on my leg and I had heavy equipment to carry. After somehow getting bogged in the car park at Red Mill house, waking up the owners who had to drag me out, I was off with Ian ‘Sauce’ Worcester to see what the Daintree River had to offer.
The first part of the trip yielded no new birds; so I was starting to worry that I might well be in the 50% who dipped on the Heron. Just as we rounded a corner in the River, there sitting out in the open on the bank of the River was a beautiful adult Great-billed Heron. Ian manoeuvred the boat to allow for good light and photographic opportunities before the heron flew off to another part of the river. It was the best sighting I could have hoped for as many just see it concealed in the bushes. Although there were some distracting elements around the bird, at least it was a clear shot – even if we ended up getting a bit too close to fit the bird in the frame.

Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana)

Juvenile Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana)

Ian then said it was time to show me the Papuan Frogmouth. We entered a creek which runs of the Daintree River and Ian slowed the boat under a tree which looked to have nothing in it. But after having a proper look and guided by Ian’s pointing, there was a male Papuan Frogmouth sitting on a nest. Another tick! We were also greeted by a young Great-billed Heron who lived in these parts who apparently is harassed quite regularly by an older immature.

Papuan Frogmouth (Podargus papuensis )

Finishing the cruise it was time to head back to Red Mill House for brekky and to head off to Cairns for the next leg of trip.

Arriving in Cairns at about 11:30am, a quick walk along the boardwalk quickly yielded Great Knot, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Curlew Sandpiper which was already ticked off earlier in the trip, Terek Sandpiper and Varied Honeyeater. Also on the beach of the Esplanade were two Pink-eared Ducks – a weird location for these birds.

The next day was the trip to Michaelmas Cay, so after dinner and a bit of TV and repacking and dressing the leg, it was time for bed. With the list currently at 30 new species and 3 days to go, I started to believe that I may just make the 37 species required to hit 300! Although after Michaelmas Cay, my only real chance of a new bird I thought would be Cassowary at Mission Beach or Etty Bay, so I worried that I might just fall short of 37.

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