Wednesday 5 February 2020

Queensland Australia - Jan 2020 : Part 3

Day 10:

We decided it was best to get some more rest and slept in, it was a good call as it was raining that morning, which apparently was the first proper morning rain in months. We made breakfast and enjoyed views of various Honeyeaters coming onto the feeders. 

Bridled Honeyeater - always noisy...

Lewin's Honeyeater

White-cheeked Honeyeater - fabulous looking bird

Australian King Parrots were also regular visitors to the lodge, and small flock of them often congregated near the feeder. The Red-legged Pademelons were also regulars here and we enjoyed company of a few of these cute creatures.

Australian King Parrot

Red-legged Pademelon

By mid-morning when the rain subsided, we decided to visit Mount Hypipamee National Park which was only a short drive away. There is a short walk towards the crater, the area is well sign-posted and the trail fairly well maintained. There are supposedly Southern Cassowaries in the area but we didn't see them. A very handsome Boyd's Forest Dragon greeted us and a Northern Barsided Skink stayed still enough for a photo.

Trail entrance at Mount Hypipamee National Park

Boyd's Forest Dragon

Northern Barsided Skink

The crater itself was very interesting, these craters were created by an explosion caused by the volcanic gases blasting through the granite, which left a very big hole in the ground. You can get great views from the viewing platform. There is also a circular trail which goes past Dinner Falls and various rapids.

Overlooking the crater

Dinner Falls

The only bird of interest there was a female Victoria's Riflebird which showed briefly. We did however saw a male Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, a species that is endemic to the region. It is now listed as near threatened due to habitat loss. Back at the carpark we saw a very confiding Grey-headed Robin.

Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo - a large male

Grey-headed Robin

We drove back to the lodge for lunch, upon entering the gate to the property, I spotted two more Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroos! this time a mother and her joey sitting up on the tree along the access road! The joey remained still and didn't lift its head up, while the mother eyed us from above.

Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo - mother with joey

After lunch we sat on the veranda to relax. A few Atherton Scrubwrens came along but only stayed briefly, I only managed a recognisable record shot of this wet tropics endemic. At the feeder, a female Victoria's Riflebird came in for the bananas, it stayed along enough for me to get some decent shots.

Atherton Scrubwren

Victoria's Riflebird

Christina was kind enough to take us spot-lighting around their property after dinner, and it was extremely productive! We first had a beautiful Striped Possum which is surely one of the most incredible looking possum out there. A Yellow-bellied Glider was also spotted, this interesting looking marsupial is listed as near threatened due to habitat fragmentation, they are especially rare in northern Queensland.

Striped Possum - a beautiful creature

Yellow-bellied Glider

For herps, our best find was a Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko wrapping itself on a tree! This insane looking creature certainly got the most bizarre tail I've ever seen. The rain also helped bring some more frogs out, including a Wilcox's Frog, a few Green-eyed Tree Frogs and a lot of Southern Ornate Nursery-Frogs.

Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko

Wilcox's Frog

Green-eyed Tree Frog

Southern Ornate Nursery-Frog

Christina also put up a moth light and sheet which attracted plenty of insects and moths. A large green cicada came in which was the Green Grocer, although this one certainly don't sell any vegetables. We were also introduced to the 'Christmas Beetles', these scarab beetles belongs to the genus Anoplognathus, all with various metallic colours from red to green. They always emerge around Christmas time, hence their common name 'Christmas Beetles'. There were also a few Cacostomus squamosus, a species of stag beetle.

Green Grocer - Cyclochila australasiae

Christmas Beetles - Anoplognathus sp.

Cacostomus squamosus

A few large moths we were not familiar with dropped by, these belongs to the genus Anthela, they are however known to be extremely varied even within one species, therefore I am not even going to try and identify these...

Anthela sp.

A hawk moth also dropped in, it was a Hippotion scrofa. Although it was clearly outshone by a stunning looking Donuca rubropicta, a Noctuidae found in forests of Queensland and New South Wales.

Hippotion scrofa

Donuca rubropicta

There was also a Bracca rotundata, a very colourful species with beautiful patterns, although this individual was already quite worn out. A smaller moth with scruffy hair was a Aglaosoma variegata, lazily named the Patterned Notodontid. There was another notodontidea, a Epicoma melanospila with an equally lazy common name, the Black Spot Moth.

Bracca rotundata

Patterned Notodontid - Aglaosoma variegata

Black Spot Moth - Epicoma melanospila

Two larger crambidae that night were Palpita margaritacea and a Parotis species, both equally  beautiful. There was also a beautiful green Geometridae that is a Comibaena mariae.

Palpita margaritacea

Parotis sp.

Comibaena mariae

There were quite a few Gelechioidea that came to the light, including a very colourful Crocanthes micradelpha was amongst the most eye-catching. There were also a few which I don't know the identity of, but were just as stunning.

Crocanthes micradelpha

Gelechioidea sp.

Gelechioidea sp.

Finally, there was a rather large spider of the genus Eriophora. This genus is difficult to identify as many species share similar size, colours and patterns.

Eriophora sp.

Day 11:

We decided to enjoy one last enjoying morning at the Atherton Tablelands Birdwatchers Cabin. A Pacific Emerald Dove came near the veranda to feed below the feeder.

Pacific Emerald Dove

Other than the usual honeyeaters, a Grey Shrike-thrush also came by, although it did not feed on the feeder nor use the bird bath. I guess all the activities from the honeyeaters just attract the attention of other birds in the area.

Grey Shrike-thrush

Before we left, a female Victoria's Riflebird came onto the feeder once again. I am not sure whether it is the same one from the day before, but it was nice to see it one last time before departing.

Victoria's Riflebird - female

Christina was very kind and accompanied us all the way to the gate and bid farewell. At the bottom of the road from their gate was a small creek, here we saw a fairly confiding Azure Kingfisher.

Azure Kingfisher

Before heading back to Cairns we made a stop at Lake Barrine, one of the larger crater lakes in the area. The lake itself was very scenic with forest surrounding the circular lake. The forest around the lake was quite beautiful with interesting plants such as huge Basket Ferns growing out from tree trunks like tree houses. The twin Rough Barked Kauri Pines are probably the most well known botanical feature around the lake, where these two giant trees tower over the canopy, they are estimated to be over 1,000 years old.

Lake Barrine

Basket Fern

Rough Barked Kauri Pines

The forest was home to many rain forest species, we heard birds such as Spotted Catbirds and Victoria's Riflebirds, but none of them showed. A few Atherton Scrubwren made an appearance, and a Yellow-breasted Boatbill also showed well. The lake hosted a few wetland species such as Australian Pelicans, Great Crested Grebes and Eurasian Coots, they were all too far for photos, only the Australian Darter was close enough for a decent photo.

Atherton Scrubwren

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Australian Darter

There were also more Boyd's Forest Dragons and Eastern Water Dragons along the trail. This is supposedly a good area to look for Musky Rat Kangaroos, although we did not see any.

Boyd's Forest Dragon

Eastern Water Dragon

We arrived at the Pacific Hotel Cairns in the afternoon, it was not a particularly fancy hotel, but it was situated right next to the esplanade and the reef fleet terminal. The funniest (or least funny) thing about this hotel is the name of their restaurant, 'Bushfire Flame Grill' sounds like a really bad joke in the midst of terrible bushfires in New South Wales...

After some rest we went out for a walk along the fabulous Cairns Esplanade, it was a very nice public area with a pool and lawns, the esplanade overlooks the bay which at low tide is a tidal mudflat with many waders.

Mudflat looking out of the esplanade

One of the most prominent species there were a flock of Australian Pelicans which rested near the esplanade. Silver Gulls were fairly common here, while the odd Gull-billed Tern flew past us from time to time.

Australian Pelican

Silver Gull

Gull-billed Tern

There were good numbers of waders on the mudflat, including numerous Bar-tailed Godwits, a few Curlew Sandpipers and a pair of Pied Oystercatchers in the distant. Other waders seen there includes Greater Sand Plovers, Whimbrels, Far Eastern Curlews and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Curlew Sandpiper

Pied Oystercatcher

One of the more interesting sighting on the mudflat was a single Royal Spoonbill in full breeding plumage. It was feeding along the tidal pools right next to the esplanade.

Royal Spoonbill

The most common bird species along the esplanade however is not a waterbird, it was in fact hundreds of Torresian Imperial Pigeons, all roosting and nesting around the trees at the esplanade. Amongst the pigeons roosted there we spotted an odd one out, to our surprise it was a Topknot Pigeon! It must have followed the wrong crowd home...

Torresian Imperial Pigeon

Topknot Pigeon

We added two new species of honeyeaters in form of a Varied Honeyeater and the rather nondescript Brown Honeyeater. We only saw Varied Honeyeaters along the esplanade on this trip.

Varied Honeyeater

Brown Honeyeater

Cairns city centre is also home to thousands of Spectacled Flying Foxes which roosts next to the city hall. At dusk they all fly out to feed, making a huge amount of noise.

Spectacled Flying Fox

Day 12:

We decided to head out early to try and bird around the rainforests of Kuranda. The drive wasn't very long and we stopped along Black Mountain Road just north of Kuranda for a spot of birding. Kuranda is a known location of Southern Cassowary, so we thought we would try our luck there. We started with a few Wompoo Fruit Doves, they showed well under the morning sun.

Wompoo Fruit Dove

A Varied Triller perched very high up, while a few Olive-backed Sunbirds gave close views around the roadside bushes.

Varied Triller - male

Olive-backed Sunbird - male

We saw yet another female Victoria's Riflebird (Where are the males?) foraging on a tree trunk, their harsh calls always often giveaway their location. A few Little Shrike-thrush sang beautifully in the undergrowth, only came out to the edge of the vegetation briefly before disappearing into the forest again.

Victoria's Riflebird - female

Little Shrike-thrush

We didn't get the cassowary in the end, although along the road we added a Grey Goshawk which flew past. Next we visited the famous Barron Falls, the walk to the waterfall was pretty easy going, and the viewpoint was excellent, there wasn't a lot of water at the waterfall due to the limited rainfall in recent months.

Barron Falls

Before we headed back to Cairns we went to Cattana Wetlands just north of Cairns city. As soon as we parked the car I noticed a bird walking around the carpark, to my surprise it was a Helmeted Guineafowl, a species I have previously seen at South Africa. This was either an escaped from someone's farm or a feral bird.

Helmeted Guineafowl

The wetland was really scenic, although the lack of waterbirds was unexpected, whether this was seasonal I do not know. Not far from the entrance we saw a few Yellow Honeyeaters and many Australian Figbirds on a fruiting tree.

Lakes at Cattana Wetlands

Yellow Honeyeater

Australian Figbird - female

There was only a single Glossy Ibis feeding along the lake, I scanned for Black-necked Storks but didn't see any. I spotted a Bronze-cuckoo in a tree nearby, this was a juvenile Little Bronze-cuckoo.

Glossy Ibis

Little Bronze-cuckoo - juvenile

A female Mistletoebird came down to eye-levels, but it was so quick that I couldn't get a good photo. Numerous Willie Wagtails around the reserve were far more cooperative. We also added a few Brown-backed Honeyeaters.

Mistletoebird - female

Willie Wagtail

Brown-backed Honeyeater

I finally spotted a few ducks swimming on the water, these were Spotted Whistling Ducks, they soon took flight when they saw us coming, their speckled breast showed well inflight. This is a species which had shown range expansion southwards from Cape York. A pair of beautiful Green Pygmy-geese were swam past us, their metallic green backs were especially bright under the sun.

Spotted Whistling Duck

Green Pygmy Goose - female on left, male on right

There were a lot of Rainbow Bee-eaters around the reserve, some perched fairly low for a good look. I scanned the long grass and saw a red bird feeding on grass seeds, it was a Crimson Finch! We later saw a few more of these stunning birds, although they were quite shy and flew off as soon as we got closer. Chestnut-breasted Munias were far more cooperative.

Rainbow Bee-eater - juvenile

Crimson Finch

Chestnut-breasted Munia

Hoiling found a Golden-headed Cisticola, which sang from the top of the grass. In Hong Kong we rarely see one in breeding plumage. A Black-faced Monarch was also spotted in the nearby trees.

Golden-headed Cisticola

Black-faced Monarch

We got to a pond with many floating plants, just as I thought this was perfect for Jacanas, a Comb-crested Jacana flew in! Soon we realised it was tending to a few chicks, the family showed very well, demonstrating to us their super power to 'walk on water'.

Comb-crested Jacana

We saw yet another juvenile Little Bronze-cuckoo. A beautiful Yellow Oriole came into a fruiting tree and gave great views. We also added a Helmeted Friarbird which looks similar to the Noisy Friarbird, only with 'hair' on it's head.

Little Bronze Cuckoo - juvenile

Yellow Oriole

Helmeted Friarbird

We went back into Cairns for lunch and rested in the hotel room, mainly to get away from the heat. Around 4:30pm we headed back out despite the slight drizzle, we visited the Centenary Lakes around Cairns Botanic Gardens. Having missed Papuan Frogmouth at Julatten, we were hoping to find one in the botanic garden, but finding such a cryptic bird in amongst all the vegetation proved to be more difficult than one expect...we did however got great views of many Black Butcherbirds.

Black Butcherbird

There were a few Common Cicadabird foraging above, we saw a male caught what looks like a mantis in it's beak. A small flock of Large-billed Gerygone came through giving excellent views.

Common Cicadabird

Large-billed Gerygone

At the lake we saw Magpie Geese, they somehow resembles oversized Muscovy Ducks. Along the bank of the lake were a flock of Little Black Cormorants. We looked for Radjah Shelduck here but couldn't find any.

Magpie Goose

Little Black Cormorant

Just before we were about to leave, I noticed the song of Fairy-wrens in amongst the mangroves, surely enough these were Lovely Fairy-wrens, a female was accompanied by two males. Males look almost identical to Variegated Fairy-wrens, although females have a completely blue head and probably the prettiest out of all female Fairy-wrens. Unfortunately, the female did not like coming out into the open for photos, so I only got photos of the males, but it was still great to see this north eastern Queensland specialty.

Lovely Fairy-wren - male

To be continued...

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