Monday, February 09, 2009

Cairns in the wet & birding

I flew to Cairns this morning - I love this place but its the first time I have visited it in the 'big wet'.

Without ado I headed that afternoon down to the Esplanade mudflats which were 0.5 km from my hotel. Met a Swedish birder there and then the legendary John Crowhurst as well as super experienced John Searle - these guys know the birds of Cairns as well as anyone. As I learned the time to go to the Esplanade is high not low tide - the migratory waders then feed closer to the shore.

I knew that a Laughing gull had been spotted in north Queensland the previous few weeks (from birding websites I follow) and that it had been spotted on the Esplanade mud flats. Within a few hours I had seen it myself - certainly the biggest addition to my Australian list for several years. The bird has been recorded in Australia about 4 times. It is a vagrant from North America that seldom reaches our shores. It was this young bird between one and two years old that was changing into winter plumage. I was thrilled to see it.

Further down the Esplanade I saw Terek sandpipers and Lesser sandplovers both of which were new to me. During the afternoon I also saw Osprey, Peregrine falcon, Braminy kite, White-bellied seaeagle, Sharp tailed sandpiper, Curlew sandpiper, Common greenshank, Red necked stint, Bar-tailed godwit, Eastern curlew, Great knot, Whimbrel, Reef egret, Cattle egret, Great egret, Grey-tailed tattler, Eastern reef heron, Royal spoonbill as well as the more common birds you expect in this location plus assorted terns. The distinctive calls of Varied honeyeater kept us entertained for most of the afternoon and, when I wandered back into town - after a great seafood meal - I went to the Cairns Casino where, as in my recent past, I found a Bush stone curlew prancing around the gardens. I did a little jig I was so overjoyed. No foxes in the far north mean that remarkable biodiversity can survive.

It was a wonderful afternoon. If you have an interest in nature Cairns is a paradise.

Update: Tuesday morning I went birding between Port Douglas - Mossman - Julatten - Mount Malloy. I have been here many times but never in the wet season so there were some seasonal opportunities. Most importantly I wanted the Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher which indeed we discovered in comparative abundance. This is it.

Apart from that 80 species seen including Osprey, Black kite, Jacana, Lesser crested tern, Black bittern, Cicada bird, Brown cuckoo dove, Emerald dove, Imperial pigeon, Blue-winged kookaburra, Forest kingfisher, Sacred kingfisher, White-bellied cuckoo shrike, Lemon-bellied flycatcher, Little shrike thrush, Black-faced monarch, Spectaculed monarch, Red-backed fairy wren, Little friarbird, Brown-backed honeyeater (new for me), Yellow honeyeater, Yellow-faced honeyeater, Yellow spotted honeyeater, Macleay's honeyeater, Graceful honeyeater, White-throated honeyeater, Brown honeyeater, Dusky honeyeater, Yellow-bellied sunbird, Double-barred finch, Chestnut-breasted mannikin, Nutmeg mannikan, Metallic starling, Victoria's riflebird, Yellow oriole, Figbird, Spangled drongo, Great bowerbird, White breasted woodswallow, Black butcherbird and absolutely stunning views of male Red-winged parrots.
We dipped on Red-rumped swallows and Barn swallows which have been seen over the past fortnight but excellent views of Fork-tailed swifts and White-throated needletails.
After going to the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics opening sessions I decided to reward myself for a good day's work with a 1.2 kgm mud crab which I devoured with a reasonable chardonnay.


Steve said...

So Harry, you went to the Cairns Esplanade but have not spotted any Great Tits? Must be disappointing.

Boom boom.

[I am guessing that such jokes are held in poor regard in your hobby?]

hc said...

There is no sand beach there so the notable attractions are in the water.

References to "seeing a couple of Great White Pointers" are considered acceptible in bird watching circles.