May 22nd - Mostly travelling today, with a flight north from Brisbane to Cairns and then a drive down the coast to Mission Beach. The drive down was fairly uneventful although we did pick up Nankeen Kestrel, Cattle Egret and first House Sparrows in Inssfail. It was here that the devastation of Cyclone Larry was most evident, both to buildings and the surrounding countryside. As we approach the Mission Beach area we start seeing Cassowary warning signs all over the place and slow down, certain that we're gonna run one over any minute now (yeah right!), although we did have a pair of Orange-footed Scrubfowl fly over the road. We arrive at our accommodation, the excellent Licuala Lodge, and are almost immediately greeted by not one or two, but three Cassowaries! These have been pretty much resident here since the cyclone went through because of the damage done to the regions fruiting trees. With big bird well and truly under the belt I could relax a little more, being another of my target species.
Cassowary, female 'Cassie'
Cassowary, male 'Charlie'
and juvenile, 'Colin'
Whilst relaxing in the tropical grounds, along with many butterflies (including Cairn's Birdwing and the stunning Ulleccess) and lizards, we also manage great views of Wompoo Fruit Dove, Emerald Dove, Olive-backed Sunbird and several White-rumped Swiftlet overhead. In the evening we headed to the Mission Beach Resort for their eat all you want buffet, excellent value and quality, we ate here for a number of nights!
Albin's Hampstead Eye
May 23rd - Spent the day around the lodge and brief jaunt down to the beach due to the wet weather that showed little sign of breaking. Around the Lodge in the morning we see our first Yellow-cheeked Honeyeater (4), Spectacled Monarch (4), Fairy Gerygon(4), Maclay's Honeyeater, Spotted Catbird, imm Black Butcherbird and a hoped for Victoria's Riflebird. Along the beach we see a couple of Sacred Kingfisher and a White-headed Heron, then on the outskirts of town a rolling cattle enclosure gives us prolonged views of Agile Wallaby and White-breasted Wood-Swallows on the power lines. Back at Licuala Lodge in the afternoon we watch the Cassowaries, with 'Cassie' the female dominating the territory over 'Charlie', her mate and 'Colin', her offspring. We also see a pair of Varied Triller and a Rufous Fantail.
Agile Wallaby with Joey
May 24th - Spent an hour from dawn birding off the veranda this morning and added Spangled Drongo and Graceful Honeyeater with 3 Forest Kingfishers on overhead cables a short walk away.
Today we had planned on visiting the Great Barrier Reef, and it was touch and go as to if the weather would break for us, as luck would have it did! We went out with the Calypso Dive team, and after seeing Brown Booby, Crested Tern and our first Brahiminy Kite the birds came second to the best experience of the holiday, snorkelling and my first Scuba dive amongst some amazing creatures including Parrot Fish, Giant Clam, White-tipped Reef Shark,Wobbygong, Butterfly Fish, Christmas Tree Worms, Mother-in-law Fish, Turtle, Clownfish, Cleaner Wrasse, Spiney Cucumber and TriggerFish to name but a few!
Christmas Tree Worm
Lurking, menacing White-tipped Reef Shark
May 25th - Visits both before and after breakfast to the Licuala Walking Track drew a blank on my target bird, Noisy Pitta but new sightings included Mistletoe Bird(3) Little Shrike-Thrush(6) Large-billed Scrub Wren and brief views of Eastern Whipbird, even though their distinctive calls were frequently close by. Many of the endemic Licuala Fan Palm have taken a battering by Larry, along with many other trees. A walk along Wongaling Beach produced a single male Satin Flycatcher but little else. On some cleared land close to the lodge I see another Pheasant Coucal and my only Australian Pipit. In the evening, after visiting the coolest butcher ever in the village (surfs up dude!) we enjoyed that quintessential Aussie cooking equipment- the Barbie!!
May 26th & 27th - With the sun now putting in regular appearances the family managed to enjoy some R&R around the pool area, where for the most part they had it to themselves! Not being able to sit still for much longer than 10 minutes, I got to do some more birding in the immediate area and, on top of seeing plenty of birds that I had already seen I managed to add Double-eyed Fig Parrot at Clump Point Beach, a Musky Rat-Kangaroo at the walking track (drawing another blank on the Pitta), a very obliging Pacific Baza near the Lodge and Figbird with Yellow Oriole at the Lodge itself.