Friday, 2 November 2007

Daintree, Far North Queensland

May 28th - Moving on today and heading north back up the coast. After saying goodbyes to Charlie, Cassie, Colin and co we set off for Cairns, which, like the trip down was fairly uneventful (lots of sugar cane fields!) As we reach the outskirts of Cairns a grocery run at the first Coles supermarket produces the first Peaceful Doves. Continuing north we start to see a few more Black Kites, a single Black-shouldered Kite and, as we reach The Daintree, a Black-necked Stork is spotted coming up from some fields. We arrive in Daintree village mid afternoon and soon find our accommodation, The Red Mill House. Andrew and Trish own the Red Mill House and they happen to be birders-what a coincidence! From the main veranda we see birds at close quarters- Spotted Catbirds, Orange-footed Scrub-fowl, Sulphar-crested Cockatoo, Spangled Drongo, Yellow Oriole, Helmeted Friarbird and plenty of Honeyeaters with Yellow-spotted, Graceful, Maclay's and a new one, Dusky Honey-eater. A fruiting tree just a long the street had attracted tens of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding making a hell of a racket, with Spectacled Fruit-Bats waiting nearby to take over for the night shift!
Spotted Catbird

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater

Sulphar-crested Cockatoo

Yellow Oriole
Spangled Drongo
Helmeted Friarbird
Just before dusk we drive a couple of miles south to Spa and Eco lodge where we met our guide, Dan Irby for our pre-booked twilight river trip. This was another great experience (plus we were the only ones on the boat!) and was enjoyed by the whole family. At dusk 100's of Egrets were seen moving up the river to roost, and looking back on one occasion I jammed in on a huge Great-billed Heron heading off down river and around the corner. With the darkness came the powerful search light and Dan expertly picked out eye reflections on the banks of the widening river, giving us great views of Salt-water Crocodiles, White-lipped Green Tree frog, a roosting Azure Kingfisher down to 3 yards and a spectacular red eyed Papuan Frogmouth looking down on us totally disinterested! The excitement of the trip soon dissipated to reality, as we then realised that being 2000hrs on a Sunday evening, every food joint in Daintree was shut! We ended up going down to Daintree Palms Hotel near Wonga where they rustled up a rather...erm...interesting pizza covered in BBQ sauce! Not high on my recommendations! Back at RedMill we spent an hour stalking Tree Frogs before finally hitting the sack.

Daintree River

Baby Salt-water Crocodile

Not so baby Salt-water Crocodile
Papuan Frogmouth
White-lipped Tree Frog

Frog sp
May 29th - Up early doors this morning and a walk down to Stuart Creek before breakfast was order of the day.
Stuart Creek Road, Daintree
Along with the now more familiar rainforest species a smart male Shining Flycatcher was added to the list and on return to RedMill House Andrew put me on to a female Leaden Flycatcher in the garden before enjoying breakfast and their delicious home made yogurt! After breakfast we decided that having come this far we had to take a trip up to Cape Tribulation and set off (with a couple of sites for Noisy Pitta and Beach Stone Curlew for good measure!) towards the ferry. The small car ferry crossing the Daintree River was a reasonable $16 return and we were up and running on the other side in no time.

Daintree River Crossing

A couple of stops enroute (at Jindalba Boardwalk for Pitta and Oliver Creek for Thick-knee) both drew a blank although the former did produce Pale-yellow Robin. We visited the Daintree Exploration Centre, which was informative but too noisy/populated for birding, and also stopped off at the Daintree Ice-cream Company, which is well worth calling in for some unique tastes! We finally reached Cape Tribulation and walked the beach to the point where the 'rainforest meets the sea' and finding a fruiting tree, which held Dusky Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird and 3 Bridled Honeyeater. The parking lot here held an impressive Lace Monitor Lizard which was well over a metre long.

Daintree River leading into The Pacific

Prime Rainforest

Yellow-eyed Aeroplane
Cape Tribulation, 'where forest meets the ocean'

Lace Monitor

Returning back to Daintree Andrew and Trish gave us another Thick-knee beach to check out at Wonga, though they admitted it was fairly hit and miss. We duly drove down the coast and on arrival found the tide line fairly low with a mass of exposed sand, as I scanned the horizon I locked on to the huge billed wader out in the distance and grabbed for my scope, with this, my wife piped up 'isn't that one just there' and there, right in front of us was another stonking Beach Thick-knee! The bird performed superbly and I can honestly say that I left on cloud nine! Once again returning to RedMill this time with a successful glow, and on our arrival Trish hurried us up on to the veranda to see a female Satin Bowerbird that had just visited the garden and showed really well. We ate at Eleanor’s in Daintree Village which was a marked improvement on last nights offering! Again be aware that BBQ sauce can be potentially put on anything so ask them to hold on it if you don’t fancy it!

Beach Thick-knee

On the move
Bird of the Trip?

May 30th – Down on the quay this morning at six o’clock for another boat trip, this time with local birder Chris Dahlberg. We had an enjoyable couple of hours along the river and although some prime targets did not give themselves up (Great-billed Heron, Nankeen Night heron, Black Bittern, Papuan Frogmouth) we did see several Azure kingfisher, a tiny Little Kingfisher, Tree Martin, Large-billed Gerygone and a fairly hefty looking Amethystine Python coiled around some branches over the water. Returning to Red Mill, and after a delicious local fruit and yogurt breakfast (followed by a fry up!) we packed up and headed south and into the Tablelands.
Azure Kingfisher
Little Kingfisher (video grab)

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