Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Queensland Road Trip 15: Eungella & Mackay

Eungella Honeyeater

Following our visit to Paluma (see following post), we had a two-day stay at Townsville's Rowes Bay which was pretty well birding-free, although I saw a pair of Black Falcons hunting in the distance on the Town Common.

Eungella Range
We continued south to Eungulla, the isolated plateau of highland rainforest and dairy farms west of Mackay. We had booked online for a two-night stay in the Eungulla National Park's Broken River camping ground, but it was crowded out with freeloaders and day-trippers, so we squeezed our camper trailer into a tent site at the nearby Fern Flat camping ground.  
 The performance of Queensland national parks authorities in managing camping areas is woeful.

Diggings Road, Eungella
Eungella has two claims to fame. It is probably the easiest site in Australia to see Platypus, and we found them quickly in the Broken River day use area.

It is also the only site frequented by the Eungella Honeyeater. This is a fairy scarce bird that can be difficult. I tracked one down along Diggings Road but it proved difficult to photograph in the gloomy light conditions.

Eungella Honeyeater
I trawled without success for Sooty Owls in the early morning; they are reported from Eungella but the subspecies is uncertain. The weather was lousy during our stay.

Topknot Pigeons
A flock of Topknot Pigeons made the most of a rare glimmer of sunshine. Russet-tailed Thrush was calling commonly. A list of birds seen at Eungella can be found here.

Sandfly Creek, Mackay
We headed eastwards to Mackay for a two-night stay at Blacks Beach in the city's northern suburbs, camping in the local caravan park. Mackay is where north meets south. Orange-footed Scrubfowl are about the park, close to the southern extremity of their range, while in mangroves nearby, Mangrove Honeyeater replaces its close northern relative, the Varied Honeyeater.
Mangrove Robin
I checked out the mangroves in Sandfly Creek Reserve at the mouth of the Pioneer River. Here I found a pair of Mangrove Robins, also near the southern end of their range. I heard a third robin.

Broad-billed Flycatcher male
I also found 3 Broad-billed Flycatchers in the mangroves. 

Broad-billed Flycatcher female
Like Mangrove Golden Whistler and Yellow White-eye, this species has a strange distribution, occurring in parts of central Queensland but not the north-east coast, while they are widespread across the rest of northern Australia. A list of species seen at Sandfly Creek can be found here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Queensland Road Trip 14: Tully to Townsville

White-browed Robins

Following our visit to Etty Bay (see following post) we headed further south to Tully for an overnight stay with friends Jason Grotherr and Debbie Grant. Then onwards to Ingham for a brief visit to Tyto Wetlands.

Tyto Wetlands
Like Catanna near Cairns, this is another artificially created wetland on former sugar cane land, and an example of the potential for developing the Yandina Creek Wetland on the Sunshine Coast as a first-class wetland and waterbird habitat.

Crimson Finch
A male Crimson Finch emerged from the vegetation at the start of the Tyto trailhead.
Then I found a pair of White-browed Robins in a shady glade; this species had unexpectedly eluded me until now on this trip.

White-gaped Honeyeater was common here.

White-gaped Honeyeater
We drove further south to the Paluma Range National Park for a two-night stay in the Big Crystal Creek camping ground. This is the first national park camping we've had on the trip. It is extraordinary that in the whole of the wet tropics from Cooktown to Townsville, there are almost no government camping grounds in state national parks and reserves.

Big Crystal Creek
We drove up the mountain early in the morning for a day in the highland rainforests around Paluma on Mt Spec, walking the village roads and trails including the H2 circuit, McClellands Lookout and Cloudy Creek.

It was good to reconnect with wet tropics rainforest birds at the southern extremity of their range and finally to snare some reasonable snaps of the elusive Fernwren; 5 were seen and others heard.

I also photographed a Chowchilla, though the images are not first-rate. These birds typically keep to the dark forest floor. It was interesting to see Bower Shrike-thrushes hopping about the lawns of Paluma.
Macleay's Honeyeater
We had lunch at the delightful Ivy Cottage, where birds visit a feeder next to the dining tables.  Mcleay's Honeyeater, Lewin's Honeyeater and White-cheeked Honeyeater were the commonest visitors.

Victoria's Riflebird male

Victoria's Riflebird female
Victoria's Riflebird, male and female, were the star attractions.

Spotted Catbird
Spotted Catbirds put in appearances.

Satin Bowerbird
As did the small northern race of Satin Bowerbird. For reasons that escape me, I failed to see a single Tooth-billed Bowerbird on this trip although I heard a couple today. The list of birds seen at Paluma is here.
Crimson Rosella
The northern race of Crimson Rosella was feeding on a lawn nearby. The weather is improving with the rain, unexpectedly warm weather and abundance of biting midges hopefully behind us.

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher
Birds about the Big Crystal Creek camping ground included Fairy Gerygone, Brown-backed Honeyeater and the first Lemon-bellied Flycatcher of the trip.

Rockslides, Big Crystal Creek
While walking the 2km to the Rockslides from the camping ground I saw several more of the hitherto elusive White-browed Robins. And a Little Kingfisher – my fifth encounter with this normally difficult species on the trip. We moved on to Townsville for a 2-night stay at the Rowes Bay Caravan Park.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 13: Etty Bay & Cassowary

Southern Cassowary

Following our visit to Cairns (see following post) we headed south to the pretty coastal settlement of Etty Bay, south-east of Innisfail.

Southern Cassowary
Etty Bay is arguably the best place in Australia to see the Southern Cassowary - the avian icon of the wet tropics. We had a cassowary wandering by the roadside as soon as we arrived at Etty Bay.
Arrival at Etty Bay
We saw the birds repeatedly during our two days camped in the caravan park, seeing about half the local population of 10-12 birds.

Southern Cassowary checks out the campervan
Cassowaries wandered freely through the camping ground and along Etty Bay's small street, oblivious to human interlopers other than hoping to be fed. Feeding the cassowaries is discouraged but people were doing it anyway.

Southern Cassowary
The female cassowary appears to be larger with brighter wattles. The birds were mostly singles but occasionally a pair would wander through the camping ground.

Cassowary on road
I found one bird 2.5km before the settlement and another 1.5km before; both cassowaries were wandering along the road. They ignored vehicles that slowed to let them pass and even the tooting of horns left them unmoved. Too many cassowaries are killed along the so-called Cassowary Coast between Innisfail and Tully, which contains the highest concentration of the species in Australia.

Etty Bay
Our camp at Etty Bay was by a lovely beach with its backdrop of the rainforests of Moresby Range National Park.
Blue Ulysses
Butterflies included the spectacular Blue Ulysses.

Shining Starlings
Shining Starlings again were in unusually large numbers for this time of the year.

Spectacled Flying-Fox
Spectacled Flying-Foxes were in the camping ground trees at night.

No stranger to humans

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Queensland Road Trip 12 - Out and About Cairns

Australian Swiftlet

After our visit to the Daintree (see following post) we shifted south to Palm Cove for a 2-night stay in the local caravan park, driving down the scenic road from Port Douglas.

Port Douglas-Cairns road

Buchans Beach
The nearby Buchans Point Beach has always been one of my favourite beaches.

Catanna Wetland
We checked out the Catanna Wetlands near Yorkey's Knob - Green Pygmy-Goose was showing nicely. Excellent to see how the local authorities have converted a sugar cane farm into a first-class wetland; lessons here for the still undecided fate of the Yandina Creek Wetland on the Sunshine Coast. 

Green Pygmy-Goose

Green Pygmy-Goose pair and Jacana
White-browed Crake was less co-operative, but I managed a decent shot during a second visit to the wetland. Over both visits I saw 4 crakes and heard 6-8. A Chesnut-breasted Cuckoo had recently been reported here; I saw a Fantailed-type cuckoo and considered it a well-coloured Fantailed Cuckoo. List of species at Catanna is here.

White-browed Crake
White-browed Crake
Australian Swiftlet finally availed itself of photographic opportunities on a headland at Yorkeys Knob.

Australian Swiftlet

Our next destination was Cairns where we stayed with friends Bart Grother and Jane Bentley, with superb views over Cairns from their City View home. I have spent a good deal of time in Cairns over many years and it is always a pleasure to be here.

We checked out the Fletcher Botanical Gardens/Centenary Lakes site where a Radjah Shelduck was keeping company with a Magpie Goose; up to 5 shelducks were present on subsequent visits.

Radjah Shelduck & Magpie Goose
Then it was on to the mangroves at the northern end of The Esplanade, where Mangrove Robin was found easily along the mangrove edge about 300m north. One bird was feeding in open parkland on the edge of the mangroves.
Mangrove Robin
I failed to find the Rufous Owl at a couple of known roosting trees in the Cairns CBD so made do with Varied Honeyeater in flowering trees along the esplanade.

Varied Honeyeater

Cairns Esplanade

Back in City View, Shining Starlings were in surprisingly good numbers for this time of year, while Red-necked Crake and Pale-vented Bush-hen were heard in the distance.

Shining Starlings