Wednesday Night

Kingfisher Park Lodge, Julatten


Whew, Iím finally not hot.† My thermometer says 75 degrees, but it is dry, and 75 feels great.† I just got out of the shower, the first time in days that I took a shower to get clean, and not to cool off.† It was only a couple of degrees Centigrade cooler here today than at Daintree (maybe 5 degrees cooler, F), but the lack of humidity made all the difference, and I can tell it is going to cool down very nicely tonight.† I might well end up being cold tonight, but there are blankets here.† The elevation here is about 1500 feet, and that makes a huge difference, and because we are across the divide, it is much drier.† I was hoping for this, and I seem to have gotten what I wanted.


On the other hand, I was hoping for a wireless internet connection that I could use in my room.† They had told me in March that they were hoping to have a network put in.† Well, they are still hoping.† I can use their computer to access the internet, but all I can do with that is check email and the declining stock market.† I canít upload any Ramblings or Photos using their computer.† I might end up driving for 40 minutes to a town, Mareeba, where I think I can get online with my computer at some kind of internet cafe.† I am planning to go over that way on Friday anyway, so I will probably try to get this up then.


I got out of Daintree about 9:30 this morning.† It was already heating up, and just getting my stuff into my car, which meant up and down the stairs four times, I was soaked with sweat.† I cruised through Newell Beach again, looking for Barn Swallows on wires, but again I dipped.† I got petrol and stopped at the Woolworths in Mossman and stocked up on groceries for the next several days.


My unit here at Kingfisher Park has a nice little kitchen, with a microwave and a fairly good sized fridge, as well as a gas cooktop.† I got several cans of Campbells Chunky soups, and I have cheese and crackers and bread, as well as dessert stuff.† No veggies for a few days, but I did get some fruit.† And some ham, of course Ė I couldnít go without my ham and cheese sandwiches, which seem to have become some kind of symbol of this particular trip.† I even got some eggs this time, which is a first for this trip.† I think I will hard boil a couple of them tonight, and make a ham and cheese sandwich tonight for my brekkie, and have some fruit as well.† A big breakfast for a big day.


Tomorrow is another early day for me, my only day with a professional, paid guide.† He is picking me up at 6:30, which is why I think I will make my brekkie tonight.† Up at 5:30, ready to go by 6:30.† It will be my last early morning, most likely, although I have been getting up between 6 and 6:30 pretty regularly, and always before 7, I think.† This is completely counter to my habit at home, but I have stuck to it for the whole trip so far.† Iím in bed by ten at the latest, and usually by 9:30, sometimes even by 9.† Early is good for seeing birds.


My guide tomorrow is Del Richards, and he is taking me up Mount Lewis, to an elevation of about 3000 feet.† It is rainforest, I think, and I hope to see 5 or 6 new species for my trip list, most of which should be lifers.† At this point, 5 or 6 more is a very big number.† We will no doubt see many great birds, but I have already seen so many on this trip that it will be hard to see many more.† Iím also afraid that my limited ability to walk very far will affect my totals.† As far as I know, I will be the only client on the trip, but he may have lined up more people, up to three, I think.† It is only a half day tour, which suits me fine at this point.† I am definitely running out of energy for hard core birding, and I am thinking more and more of home.


Back to today, I got to this area about 11:30, and that was too early to check in, so I went into the closest little town (and I do mean little), Mount Molloy, to get some lunch.† The bakery there seems to have closed, but I went to the Mount Molloy Cafť and got a plain meat pie and a beef and cabbage ďburritoĒ.† I declined the chili that I could have had in the burrito.† It was actually quite tasty, but instead of a tortilla, it was wrapped in pastry, which had been baked, kind of like a sausage roll, but thinner pastry.† I ate my pie and burrito in a little roadside rest area and read my book.


I checked in about 1 or 1:30, and got my stuff moved into my unit.† When checking in, I had a nice chat with Keith, my host, and he was full of great birding information.† He gave me several maps and lots of help with the birds I still need to see.† As I was getting settled in, he called out to me that a Bridled Honeyeater was calling from nearby.† That is a bird I still needed to see, a lifer.† I went outside and we looked for it for about 15 or twenty minutes.† Keith saw it several times, and I saw it once, but it wasnít a good enough look, but finally I did see it well enough.† Ahhhh.† A lifer, so today wasnít the day that I was going to get skunked for the first time.† What a relief.


Keith had told me about local locations for three of the birds on my wish list, so I set off to see what I could find.† I dipped on Northern Fantail, but Iíll check that nearby location each time I go by it.† Next, I went to a park where he had told me the location of a nest for Square-tailed Kite.† That is a bird I had not even had on my wish list, because I never thought I would see one.† I did indeed find the nest, and there were two almost full grown chicks in it, and I got a good look at them.† It is an interesting question about whether I should count them, as I canít really say that what I saw positively defines Square-tailed Kite, since they were only chicks.† However, they completely meet the description of Square-tailed Kite immature birds, and I am quite sure that the nest is a Square-tailed Kite nest, based on what Keith told me, so I am counting the species, which is a trip bird only, not a lifer.


Next I went to the school in Mount Molloy to look for the Great Bowerbird.† This is a site that is well known for this bird, and I have read many trip reports by people who have seen the bird there.† It is in the school grounds, though, so I didnít get there until about 3:50, and school got out at 3.† Keith had told me I could see the bower from the street, so I was in my car looking, and a woman pulled out of the house adjacent to the school.† I am sure she was the teacher, because Keith had said that house was the ďschool houseĒ, where the teacher in this very rural area lived.† She saw me looking, and she stopped and rolled down her window and asked if I was looking for the bowerbird.† I said yes, and she said that he no longer used the location near the front fence, but she told me I was very welcome to go into the school grounds, and she described where to look.† Very friendly and very considerate, I must say.


The deal with most bowerbirds, and there are eight species of them here in Australia, is that the male builds a ďbowerĒ and decorates it with bits of colored things he finds.† Each species uses its own colors.† This species seems to use red.† The bower is a structure made of sticks or twigs.† See the next Photos for a picture of this birdís bower, with light colored stones at each end, and bits of red stuff around.† The idea is that the bower impresses female birds so much that they drop by to mate with the male.† The female then goes off and makes a nest, lay eggs, and raises the chicks by herself.† Interesting system.† I guess the rest of the year, outside of mating season, the male just hangs out with the guys and drinks beer and watches sports on TV.† What a life.


So, I found the bower where the teacher had described it to be, and I soon located the male bird in a tree above it, because of his screechy calls.† I got pictures of the bower and the bird, and I was happy.† I could get fairly close to the bird, but it was hard to get good pictures of him, because whenever I had an open shot, he immediately moved until he was behind some leaves.† I guess he felt safer if there wasnít a direct line of sight from me to him.† Anyway, it was another lifer.† How exciting for the old Rambler.† Isnít it nice how easily I can be pleased?


On the way back ďhomeĒ I stopped again to look for the Northern Fantail, but again I dipped (didnít see it).


So, that is the story of my exciting day.† I checked my email and had my drinkie Ė there was ice in the freezer here.† I donít know what the story is, but I have found it much, much easier to get ice this time, compared to the last trip.† Maybe it is because I am in the tropics now.† I was in the south the last time, where the climate is much more temperate.† I have updated my spreadsheet and made a new list of target species to concentrate on, and now I need to have some dinner (chicken vegetable soup tonight, with crackers and cheese, and some coconut macaroons) and make my brekkie for tomorrow.† Iíll get this up on the website when I can, but it could be a couple or more days.


My trip total stands at 274, of which 64 are lifers and 65 are new for my Australia list.† My spreadsheet now projects a total of 283.9 species, based on my estimated probabilities, so not all that many more to go.† 300 ended up being overly-optimistic, but 280 looks like it is within reach.† Maybe even 290?† That would take a lot of luck, and I doubt I will get that many.


It is 7:15 now, it is down to 74 in here, and it feels great, without the damn humidity.† I need to put some socks on, my feet are getting cold.


Barry Downunder, finally cool again (well, Iím always cool, but I mean temperature-wise, in this case)


Thursday Afternoon


Iíll just add to this one, since I havenít been able to get it up to the website yet.† I was in bed by 9:30 last night, and I had my alarm set for 5:30, for my 6:30 scheduled pickup by Del.† I slept well, with the temperature about 70 or so all night, but I woke at 4:30 and couldnít get back to sleep.† Still, that was 7 hours, which is okay for one night, as long as I catch up tonight.† I got up about 5:10, when I realized I wasnít going to get to sleep again.


Del picked me up at 6:30, and I was indeed his only client on the tour.† He said he normally leaves at 7:30 for that tour, but he thought it would be better to get up on the mountain earlier, to have better chances to see the birds I wanted to see.† That was great with me, I was raring to go.


The road up Mount Lewis is only a single lane, unpaved, and in places was a bit rough.† You could have done it in any car, but I was glad that Del was driving his Toyota Land Cruiser, if that is the right name.† I took some pictures of the road.† We didnít meet any cars on the way up Ė there isnít anything at the top, it was originally a logging road, but they now maintain it as a road into the natural area, and mostly birders go up there.† On the way down, we did meet a pickup from the Department of the Environment (forest rangers, in other words), but that is the only other vehicle we saw up there all morning.


Del knew right where to stop to see each bird I had identified on my target list, and he knew all the calls, which is crucial, as I have mentioned before.† Every now and then he would stop to listen, and then sometimes we would get out, and sometimes we wouldnít.† We saw some birds on the way up, and I started adding lifers.


Eventually, after an hour or so, including our stops, we got to the top where there is a parking area.† At that point we had a little snack, and then walked up a trail.† I ended up walking about a mile, I think Ė half a mile up and then back.† I did okay with the walking, mainly because it was pleasantly cool up there, maybe about 70.† Del had put on a long sleeve sweatshirt and he had long pants on, but I was quite comfortable in my shorts and unbuttoned short sleeve shirt.


We saw more stuff along the trail, including really incredibly close and long looks at a Fernwren, a little dark bird that walks around on the forest floor, scratching in the leaf litter.† It is one that is hard to see, and I had only estimated a 10% chance of seeing one on the trip.


When we got back to the car, we drove down the mountain with only a couple of stops.† Once we got down, Del took me to a couple of places where he has seen Lovely Fairy-wrens, but we didnít see any today.† We got back to Kingfisher Park about noon.


So, how many did I see, you ask?† Well, Del made a list of what we had seen, and it was only 24 species, since it was rainforest environment, but I needed 7 of those for my trip list, and an incredible 6 of those were lifers.† I was very pleased with that total, especially because of the quality of the species.† Del also gave me tips and drew me a couple of sketch maps, to help me find 3 or 4 others that I have not seen yet.† I really made a good decision to hire Del at this stage of my trip and for the Mount Lewis tour.† There is no way I would have seen four of the lifers I saw today without his help, and the other two I might have seen later, but not today.† He was the only paid guide I had on the whole trip.


So, now my total stands at 281 for the trip, of which 70 are lifers, and 71 are new for my Aussie list.† That already exceeds my best previous trip (by 15), and it is more than I had expected to see.† It is going to be tough from now on, though.† I have a list of about 10 or 12 species to try for, but if I see 5 more species, I am going to be surprised.† Since I have four more days of actual birding to do, I am almost bound to get skunked on one or more of those days, but at this point, that wonít bother me.


I feel like the trip is winding down quickly, and I am not worried about seeing many more species, anyway.† I most likely wonít see any more lifers at this point, but adding 70 to my life list and 71 to my Aussie list is outstanding, so I feel quite satisfied.† I may try for bird pictures on the remaining days, or maybe Iíll just go into sightseeing mode.† Tomorrow I plan to go looking for an internet cafť in Mareeba, to get this up on the website, and tomorrow afternoon, maybe I will try to put a Photos album together.† This evening, I think I will just read.† I brought five books to read, and I am just finishing the third one, so I have reading material available.


I may or may not update this before it gets posted.† I am going to use their computer here now, to check email and see what the financial markets did on Wednesday in the US.


Barry Downunder, with the trip winding down


Friday Morning


I had Campbells Chunky Vegetable Beef soup for dinner last night, and some more of my macaroons.† I got to bed by 9 and was up at 6.† I am quite the early bird on this trip, which was my intention.† I went out and walked around the Kingfisher Park property for an hour this morning, before brekkie, and I saw about a dozen species.† There are only two that I need that I have any kind of chance of seeing here, though, and I didnít see either of them.


I made a plan for today, which includes stopping at 4 or 5 places to look for specific birds, and going into Mareeba to find an internet cafť, to get this posted and check my email and the financial markets, which are very interesting these days.† Maybe if I can get back early enough this afternoon, I can make a Photos album to put up tomorrow.† This will most probably be my first day to get skunked on new species, as none of the ones I am looking for could be called likely.† But, I certainly wonít see any if I donít look, so we will see.† It is fun just to find the places that people have told me about and have a go.


As I type this, I am enjoying my eggs and ham, cooked in the microwave, with a couple of slices of bread, butter, and cheese on the side.† I made a ham and cheese sandwich to take with me for my lunch, and I have some potato chips, so I am set for lunch. †The trip rolls on.