Friday, 31 January 2020

Queensland Australia - Jan 2020 : Part 2


Day 6:

We woke up early to catch a morning flight to Cairns, unfortunately my fever returned and I felt a lot worse then before, all I could do was pop two Paracetamol and soldier on. We arrived at Cairns without much hassle and proceeded to get our rental car, that fortunately also went smoothly. Our first stop was to get some medicine for me and on to supermarket to buy supplies for the next few days. Cairns was considerably hotter than Brisbane, and a lot more humid.

As I wasn't feeling particularly well, Hoiling took on driving duties. We arrived at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge around 1pm. Upon driving through the driveway towards the main house a Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher flew right across the road, perched and gave us great views. I haven't even got my cameras out! It flew off before I could reach for my bag. Lodge owner Andrew greeted us warmly and told us about where to find certain animals or birds around the lodge while we checked in. Once we got to the room I went for the bed straight away as my fever continued...

Reception of Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

Rooms at the lodge were basic but comfortable

Right outside a few Orange-footed Scrubfowls called loudly, but I could only manage a glimpse out the window. Hoiling grabbed a few photos of these funny-looking birds while I was in bed...

Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Feeling a little better after the rest I forced myself out of bed to walk around the lodge. The bird feeder right outside our room hosted a few Chestnut-breasted Munias, one of the better-looking Munias out there in my opinion. The bird baths also attracted several birds, including a Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

Chestnut-breasted Munia

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

We walked past the orchard towards the 'Platypus Viewing Platform', scanning the river we soon saw a Platypus upstream, it wasn't the best view but good enough for us to identify, it kept diving down and floating back up to surface.

Platypus - not a floating log!

Pale-yellow Robins were very common around the lodge, we saw numerous adults and several juveniles, race nana have buffish lores and brownish eye-ring.


Pale-yellow Robin - adult and juvenile

Macleay's Honeyeaters regularly visited the bird baths. They are one of the wet tropics endemics in Northern Queensland. Another bird that loved the bird baths around the lodge was Spectacled Monarchs. A Little Shrike-thrush also made an appearance before dark. We met Carol outside our room, she along with Andrew take cares of all the bird guiding around the area. We told her about my situation and asked whether we could reschedule, unfortunately she was already booked, therefore we could only hope that I get better through the night.

Macleay's Honeyeater

Spectacled Monarch

Little Shrike-thrush

After dinner I did not improve and the fever continued, this time I was really burning up! At around 9:30pm Hoiling decided it was better that we visit the emergency room just in case it was more than just flu. Having asked Carol for the closest 24 hour clinic Hoiling drove me all the way to Mossman District Hospital. Luckily, the doctor said I was OK after checking everything and diagnosed me with a bad case of influenza. She gave me some Ibuprofen to go along with the Paracetamol and sent us away.

Mossman District Hospital

Day 7:

Miraculously, I was feeling much better the next morning and the fever was gone! We met Carol outside at 7am, even she was a bit surprise I was able to gear up for birding. As we birders know, birding IS and proven to be the best medication in many situations. Our plan for the day was to drive up Mt. Lewis first and do some birding in drier habitats in the afternoon. Our first bird while going up Mt. Lewis Road was a brilliant Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, this species is simply the most stunning kingfisher (Banded Kingfisher arguably could give it a run for its money). Ever since I laid eyes on an illustration in the field guide as a kid I have wanted to see this species, to see it with your own eyes was really quite special.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher - a real stunner!

Carol told us to pull over near a flowering tree where lots of honeyeaters had been coming to. A pair of Pacific Bazas flew around and eventually gave great views nearby, they were likely trying to catch insects taking flight in the morning sun. We saw a few Eastern Spinebills and added numerous Bridled Honeyeaters, yet another wet tropics endemic.

Pacific Baza

Eastern Spinebill - juvenile


Bridled Honeyeater

There were a few Dusky Myzomelas darting around, this drab-looking honeyeater was a lifer for me. A few Silvereyes also made an appearance. High above a flock of Topknot Pigeons flew over.

Dusky Myzomela

Silvereye

Topknot Pigeon

Carol found a female Pied Monarch, a very smart-looking species that is also endemic to northern Queensland. It wasn't before long that she heard the distinctive wheezy song of the Yellow-breasted Boatbill which we eventually got good views. This unique bird belongs to family Machaerirhynchidae which contains only two species, which are related to Woodswallows and Butcherbirds.

Pied Monarch - female

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Spangled Drongos were also seen, being a little larger and darker I kept thinking I saw a male Riflebird when I see them. Just as we got into our car and was about to drive off, a large dark bird flew down from above and into the Tuckeroo Tree in front, a flash of blue reflected in the sunlight and I shouted 'Male Riflebird!'. We all got off the car and were soon marvelling at a stunning male Victoria's Riflebird, after 10 minutes it flew off into the distant.

Spangled Drongo


Victoria's Riflebird - male

Continuing on up the mountain, we added Mistletoebird which perched high up in the canopy. A Grey Fantail also made an appearance, there are 5 subspecies in Australia, those found around north eastern Queensland is suppose to be keasti,

Mistletoebird - male

Grey Fantail

Carol spotted another wet tropics endemic, a Bower's Shrike-thrush, this species inhabits the rainforests in higher elevation, and Mt. Lewis is one of the best location to find them. Nearby a female Golden Whistler showed well.

Bower's Shrike-thrush - another wet tropics endemic

Golden Whistler - female

We stopped at the clearing for a short break of tea and biscuits, from there we walked into a forest trail for some of the more elusive endemic species. Since I was not at full health, we decided not to try for the endemic Golden Bowerbird, as that required a lot more walking, so that species would have to wait! The first bird we encountered there was a Grey-headed Robin, another wet tropics endemic.

Clearing at Mt. Lewis

Grey-headed Robin

The song of yet another endemic teased us constantly, the Tooth-billed Bowerbird which mimicked a lot of different songs and calls. We could only find a disused bower which had not been tended recently.

Old Tooth-billed Bowerbird's bower

A pair of Chowchillas finally made an appearance after some search, this is another endemic species. Being a species of the undergrowth they were not easy to get a clear view, same as their smaller cousin the Logrunner, females are more brightly coloured with orange throat and breast.


Chowchilla - male & female

On our way back towards the forest clearing we added two more endemics including a Spotted Catbird which was missing a tail for some reason, and the very elusive Fern Wren was finally seen well despite being hidden by a hundred branches.

Spotted Catbird

Fern Wren

Finally, no trip up Mt. Lewis should end without having a go at the Blue-faced Parrotfinch. We indeed saw a few, but it wasn't until we came back out to the clearing that we got the best view of one feeding by the road. Although this species is quite widely distributed throughout New Guinea, in Australia it can only be found in the wet tropics of Queensland.



Blue-faced Parrotfinch - Mt Lewis specialty

We saw yet another Grey-headed Robin along the main road. Checking the little stream yielded a Mount Lewis Spiny Crayfish, an endangered species that is endemic to Mount Lewis. Spectacled Monarch was also added on the list of many birds we saw at Mt. Lewis that morning.

Grey-headed Robin

Mount Lewis Spiny Crayfish - Euastacus fleckeri

Spectacled Monarch

Upon returning to Kingfisher Park for a quick spot of lunch, we again saw a Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher along the driveway. Since I had my camera ready this time, I did not miss the shot. After wintering in New Guinea, this species returns to the area for breeding each summer, where they dig burrows in termite mounds and nest in there. Kingfisher Lodge is blessed for having quite a few pairs breeding in the property.



Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher

After lunch Carol took us towards Mount Carbine for some birding in more drier and more open forest. We first visited a stream where we hope to find bathing birds, although we didn't see much there we saw a small flock of Fairy Gerygones, which was a lifer for me. The area was also quite good for butterflies and dragonflies.



Fairy Gerygone

Orange Plane - Pantoporia consimilis

Painted Grasshawk - Neurothemis stigmatizans

We also added an Azure Kingfisher along the stream although it was too quick for me to get a photo, a beautiful Forest Kingfisher was a lot more cooperative.

Forest Kingfisher

Next we visited the Mount Carbine Caravan Park, there we were greeted with a good range of more common birds, including lots of Peaceful Doves, a species closely related to the Zebra Doves from South East Asia. There were also lots of Blue-faced Honeyeaters, although the subspecies differs from those found in Brisbane by having more white in the wing.

Peaceful Dove

Blue-faced Honeyeater

A bird bath attracted lots of different birds, including a Little Friarbird and Noisy Friarbird. A juvenile Olive-backed Oriole also came by briefly.

Little Friarbird

Noisy Friarbird

Olive-backed Oriole

Parrots were everywhere at the caravan park. They were mainly Rainbow Lorikeets, but we also saw some Pale-headed Rosellas. Best species there was no doubt the small flock of Red-winged Parrots feeding on a mango tree, their colours seemed almost luminance under the bright sunlight.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Pale-headed Rosella


Red-winged Parrot - female & male

Flocks of Galahs congregated around the caravan park and made an awful lot of noise. This common species is probably one of the most widespread Cockatoos throughout Australia.



Galah gala!

The now split Pacific Koel is not a rare bird in Australia, although just like those in Hong Kong they are not a species that sits right out in the open all the time. A male showed fairly well at the caravan park. We also saw quite a few Blue-winged Kookaburras there, a species I missed the last time I was in Australia. The male have more colourful wing panels and a blue tail while females have barred tail.

Pacific Koel - male


Blue-winged Kookaburra - male & female

The caravan park was also home to quite a few Great Bowerbirds, they are probably the most plain-looking of all Bowerbirds, but their bowers were just equally impressive. In one of the bower we saw it was obvious that the host's favourite colour was white and red.


Great Bowerbird

Tawny Frogmouths are fairly common in Australia, but it doesn't make them easy to find if you don't know where to look. We saw two of these cryptic birds, both tried hard to look like a stump or part of the branch, although their bright orange eyes betrayed them.



Tawny Frogmouth

We searched for the Squatter Pigeons which were supposed to frequent the area but had no luck. High above a few Black Kites drifted past. A single Dollarbird was also seen, along with a White-throated Honeyeater.

Black Kite

Dollarbird

White-throated Honeyeater

Our last location was just down the road to West Mary Road, where we looked for Australian Bustards. As soon as we turned into the road we saw Bustards after Bustards just feeding along the roadside! This impressive species are still common in various parts of Australia.



Australian Bustard - the smaller cousin of Kori Bustard from Africa

To our surprise, we even saw a displaying male further along the road. Carol said this is unusual as it was outside their breeding season, but birds can do crazy things sometimes... Our last bird of the day was a White-bellied Cuckooshrike.

Australian Bustard - male in display

White-bellied Cuckooshrike

Day 8:

Since I had only just recovered, we took things slowly the next day. After a nice breakfast we looked outside our room window, there we saw Pacific Emerald Doves and the usual Chestnut-breasted Munias and Red-browed Firetails.

Pacific Emerald Dove

Chestnut-breasted Munia & Red-browed Firetail

We drove up to the tuckeroo tree at Mt. Lewis in the hope to see the male Victoria's Riflebird again. Numerous Bridled Honeyeaters were there along with most of the similar species from the day before, and the only new addition was a beautiful Scarlet Myzomela.

Bridled Honeyeater

Scarlet Myzomela - male

Another brilliant-looking Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher stopped our car. I don't think I will ever get bored watching this species, their colours and plumage is simply other-worldly, especially that long white tail plume that cascades down.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher - honestly you can't get bored with them!

Another species that I really like is the Yellow-breasted Boatbill, their colouration does remind me of the Narcissus Flycatcher, although it surely got a way more interesting bill than the flycatcher. We got good views of one individual which came down to eye-levels for us. Nearby we also saw a beautiful Delias ennia butterfly.

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Delias ennia

It is no secret that all birders love Fruit Doves, I myself is no exception. Luckily for us we connected with two species on our way up the hill, first the impressive Wompoo Fruit Dove which is by far the most insane-looking species of the pigeon family I've ever seen. Next, we saw a few Superb Fruit Doves, a male fortunately stayed long enough for me to get a decent photo.

Wompoo Fruit Dove

Superb Fruit Dove - male

We heard numerous Spotted Catbirds along the way but only a few were willing to show. While male Golden Whistlers are always a lovely bird to see. 

Spotted Catbird

Golden Whistler - male

A pair of agitated Rufous Fantail alerted us, and it turned out we were intruding their privacy by getting too close to their nest, although we didn't have much choice as it was built right next to the road below eye-levels! A single egg was observed inside.


Rufous Fantail - parent & nest

We headed back down to Mount Molloy for lunch, after that we visited the local school where they have a Great Bowerbird bower inside the school yard. It was a shame though that the school had fenced it off, likely to keep naughty children from disturbing the bird, but it does hinder the views of this impressive-looking bower, I am sure the females will think the same.

Bower of Great Bowerbird at Mount Molloy State School

We dropped by Hunter Creek Park afterwards, which turned out to be a very birdy area. One of the best bird found there was a Pale-vented Bush-hen feeding along the bank and gave full views. Along the stream we also saw an Azure Kingfisher.


Pale-vented Bush-hen

Azure Kingfisher

The mango trees and various flowering trees in the area attracted a lot of birds, adding to that many bathing birds in the creek, the area was teeming with birds. Up above were numerous Australian Figbirds, race flaviventris with yellow throat and breast. A White-bellied Cuckooshrike also made an appearance.

Australian Figbird - race flaviventris

White-bellied Cuckooshrike

Many Honeyeaters made an appearance, first a Yellow-faced Honeyeater, a female Scarlet Myzomela also came by. A Honeyeater that looks similar to Lewin's Honeyeater showed up. With a roundish yellow ear spot instead of a half-moon shaped ear spot, the Yellow-spotted Honeyeater also has a bill shape slightly thicker and straighter than that of the similar Graceful Honeyeater.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Scarlet Myzomela - female

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater

We saw a small flock of plain-looking Brown-backed Honeyeaters with brownish spots and streaks on the chest. Finally, a few White-throated Honeyeaters came by to bath in the creek as well.

Brown-backed Honeyeater

White-throated Honeyeater

Near the entrance of Kingfisher Park we saw two Buff-breasted Kingfisher perched together, most likely a breeding pair that is already preparing their nest.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher - breeding pair, male with longer tail plumes on right

After we got back to the lodge, Hoiling needed to rest. It was most unfortunate that she had contracted the flu from me. After taking care of her I spent a little while birding around the lodge. There were quite a lot of Torresian Imperial Pigeons visiting the garden, this species had been split with the Pied Imperial Pigeon, main difference is the spotted vents. 

Torresian Imperial Pigeon

A few Silvereyes were seen coming into the bird baths, along with Chestnut-breasted Munias. Spectacled Monarch were often seen dancing around the lodge garden.

Silvereye

Chestnut-breasted Munia

Spectacled Monarch

I walked towards the sports ground to look for the Metallic Starling colony. The social birds build communal nests and congregate in large flocks like most starlings. Their nests are similar to those of Weavers. A few perched lower down for me to truly appreciate their iridescent plumage. Most Metallic Starlings migrate from New Guinea to breed, although some do stay over winter now.



Metallic Starling

Nearby a Forest Kingfisher was also seen, I love their almost turquoise back which contrasts nicely with the rest of the blue and white, overall a very smart-looking kingfisher.

Forest Kingfisher

After dinner Hoiling was feeling a lot better, so we decided to go ahead with the night walk. The night walk was led by local wildlife guide Kahleana Stannard. We began with a very handsome Boyd's Forest Dragon, a fairly large tree lizard that is diurnal.

Boyd's Forest Dragon

We walked towards the sports ground to hopefully find Barn Owls, which we unfortunately dipped...We heard two Lesser Sooty Owls calling but neither of them showed. Around the buildings we saw plenty of geckos, which were likely Gehyra dubia, a species of Four-clawed Gecko. 

Gehra dubia

We saw the first of the many Cane Toads, this notorious invasive species had taken over much of Australia and wrecked havoc on local wildlife. Kahleana found us a very cute Desert Tree Frog and later the impressive White-lipped Tree Frog.

Cane Toad - the notorious invasive species from South America

Desert Tree Frog

White-lipped Tree Frog

Back into the orchard we added a Wilcox's Frog which kind of resembles our Gunther's Frogs in Hong Kong. The most interesting frog was probably the Northern Barred Frog, a beautiful species that freezes whenever it senses danger. You can get really close and even pick it up (we didn't) and it wouldn't move an inch!

Wilcox's Frog

Northern Barred Frog

There wasn't a lot of moths for Hoiling but there were other insects to keep her interested. A very pretty cockroach likely to be a Methana species was seen. A few large, wingless crickets belonging to the genus Anostostoma were very impressive.

Possibly Methana sp.


Anostostoma sp.

Our only nocturnal mammal that night were a few Spectacled Flying Foxes feeding on the mangoes in the orchard. Unfortunately for us even the Papuan Frogmouth decided not to show up, which meant we dipped on all the night birds there!

Spectacled Flying Fox

Day 9:

Since Hoiling was still feeling unwell, we didn't go anywhere for the last morning at Kingfisher Park. After breakfast we took a casual stroll around the park, where I noticed two rat-like animals in the forest. The Yellow-footed Antechinus are in fact not rodents but small rat-like marsupials.

Yellow-footed Antechinus

Around the lodge we saw a few Large-billed Scrubwrens. Another small Honeyeater made an appearance, this was a Graceful Honeyeater, identification with Yellow-spotted can be very difficult, but this one was smaller and bill is thinner with downward curve that resembles a Myzomela. 

Large-billed Scrubwren

Graceful Honeyeater

I waited around the bird bath outside our lodge, hoping to glimpse the Red-necked Crake. A Major Skink came through the bird bath. Bar-shouldered Doves were regular visitor to the feeder there and can be seen and heard almost constantly. By patiently waiting I was rewarded with good views of both the Superb Fruit Dove and a few Wompoo Fruit Doves.

Major Skink

Bar-shouldered Dove

Superb Fruit Dove - male

Wompoo Fruit Dove

Finally, a Red-necked Crake came into view and took a quick dip inside the bird bath. The usually very elusive species is regularly seen around Kingfisher Park, making this the ideal place to go if you are into these shy and elusive crakes and rails.


Red-necked Crake

Finally, it was time to say good-bye to the lovely Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge. Andrew even surprised us with a Trapdoor Spider at check-out, based on the fact that it doesn't have projecting spinnerets mean it is most likely a Barychelidae species. We saw our final Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher on our way out and off we went towards Atherton.

Possibly Barychelidae sp.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher - our last one of the trip

Along the way we didn't really stop much for birds, Straw-headed Ibis was a new addition to our trip list. We stopped for supplies at Mareeba and drove straight to Atherton Tablelands Birdwatchers Cabin. We arrived in the afternoon, Christina our host greeted us and showed us where everything was. She was very friendly and most helpful.

Straw-necked Ibis

Ahterton Tablelands Birdwatchers Cabin

Hoiling unfortunately felt unwell again and opted for more time in bed, I therefore stayed on the veranda all afternoon looking at birds coming into the bird feeder and bird bath. I was very impressed with the amount of birds that comes and goes, even species that doesn't come in to feed often came through to check out all the action! These includes White-throated Treecreepers and Eastern Yellow Robins.


White-throated Treecreeper - male & female

Eastern Yellow Robin

The bird feeder was constantly occupied with various Honeyeaters, if you like sitting there to photograph birds, this is the place for you! The most prominent species being Macleay's Honeyeaters and the very noisy Bridled Honeyeaters. They were larger so had an advantage over smaller species.


Macleay's Honeyeater

Bridled Honeyeater

Other regulars includes the beautiful White-cheeked Honeyeater, the very common Lewin's Honeyeater, and the delicate Eastern Spinebill.

White-cheeked Honeyeater

Lewin's Honeyeater

Eastern Spinebill

Red-footed Pademelons were also regulars at the lodge, they come in to feed on the sweet potatoes and bananas left out for them. They do come very close if you sit still, but always jump off at the slightest movement.

Red-footed Pademelon

Later in the afternoon, more birds came in to use the bird bath, including a White-naped Honeyeater and a very beautiful male Scarlet Myzomela. This made seven Honeyeater species just by sitting on the veranda!


White-naped Honeyeater

Scarlet Myzomela

Some smaller birds also came in, including many Mountain Thornbills, another regional endemics that I finally nailed a good photo of. Brown Gerygones also came through, while Grey Fantails danced their way into the bath like ballerinas. Pale-yellow Robins were also fairly common in the lodge ground, but showed best when they came into the bird bath.

Mountain Thornbill

Brown Gerygone

Grey Fantail

Pale-yellow Robin - juvenile

After dinner we noticed some movements outside on the feeder, and turned out two possums had taken up the place where honeyeaters came in and ate all the bananas! The greyish one being a Common Brushtail Possum, the more rufous one being a Coppery Brushtail Possum. As Hoiling was just starting to get better, we decided to skip spotlighting and went to bed early.

Common Brushtail Possum

Coppery Brushtail Possum

To be continued...

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