Saturday Night


Well, I got out of Kingfisher Park about 9 this morning, or maybe a little before 9.  Just one more stop for birding, and then I would be heading for home.  Would this be the day that I didn’t find any new species for my trip list?  It seemed likely, unless I found something when I got to my next destination.


As I left Kingfisher Park, I decided to stop one more time at Abbatoir Swamp, which is just down the road.  Keith, from Kingfisher Park, had told me that Northern Fantails were nesting there, in the parking lot area, and I had already visited about 6 or 7 times, not seeing them or anything else of interest.  But, I decided that I was here to look for birds, and since I was driving right by the place, I should stop.  Then I drove right past it, daydreaming about something, and I had to decide whether to turn back.  Well, I did go back, and as I drove around the parking area, I saw a bird fly in to a branch right in front of me, and it was acting like a flycatcher (which fantails are).  I got the binoculars on it, through the windshield, and I could see right away that it wasn’t any bird I knew.  It looked different than I expected, so I got out the field guide, and sure enough, it was a Northern Fantail.  Amazing.  Just like that, without even getting out of the car, on the 7th or 8th time I had checked this site, there it was, a lifer!  So, I was less than five minutes on my way, and I already could quit worrying about whether I would see a trip bird today.


So, talking loudly to myself about how I now “owned” the Northern Fantail, and it was mine, I drove on.  I stopped at the site in Mount Molloy where Del had suggested looking for Squatter Pigeon, another site I had already checked 4 or 5 times, but lightening didn’t strike twice.  No Squatter Pigeons.


Farther on down the road, I stopped for the third time at the Mareeba sale yards to look for Channel-billed Cuckoo, but again I dipped on it.  So, I went on in to Mareeba and stopped at the same computer store I had used yesterday to get online.  I again got connected, although it was touch and go for a few minutes, as the boss had changed the network password, and the guy working didn’t know the new one.  He got the boss on the phone, though, and got it, so I got online.  I uploaded Ramblings30 and Photos13, and I was able to Instant Message with Christina. I also got all my email.  A good stop.


Continuing on south, I stopped at Rocky Creek War Memorial, where Del had suggested that I look for Weebill, a tiny bird that I had missed so far, although they are not all that uncommon, in many of the places I had been so far.  I didn’t find any, though, so I continued on.


I got into Atherton, which is near my current stopping point, but it was too early to try to check in, so I went to the Tourist Information place and got maps and info about birding in the area.  It turned out that Hasties Swamp, a place I wanted to go anyway, was nearby, so I went there.  I had my humble lunch there (home made ham and cheese sandwich and potato chips – surprise!) and took some pictures.  There is a nice two story bird hide there, see the next Photos for pictures.  Nothing new there for me, though.


After lunch I went to Woolies in Atherton and proceeded on to my new home from home, Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, or something long like that.  I’ll just call it Chambers from now on.   The place is situated in the middle of a remnant of rainforest, and the driveway is 0.4 miles of single lane dirt road.  I didn’t meet anyone on my way in, and I’m not sure what I will do when I do meet someone on the driveway.  I suppose one or the other of us will back up until there is a wide enough place for us to pass each other.  It will be interesting, I am sure.


My “lodge” is fairly basic, but nice.  It is large, with a separate bedroom with a king size bed.  A little kitchen area with everything I need.  A nice covered veranda to sit out on.  It even has a TV, something I haven’t had for almost a week.  I might not turn it on, though, as I haven’t watched much TV on this trip.  It has a phone, which I was planning to use to connect to the internet, via my dial up account.  Well, it does work to connect that way, but when I checked in, they asked that I not stay on the phone line for too long, as they have a limited number of lines to the outside world.  They didn’t say how limited.  There is a guest computer in the office, though, which is open until 10 PM, and they told me that I could connect my computer to their DSL line for high speed access, so that is pretty good.  As it turned out, I did use dial up a couple of times this afternoon, but I kept the sessions fairly short.  So, I am sort of connected again, better than some places, but not as good as others.


No air conditioning here, but I knew that coming in.  It was warmer than I expected when I checked in, about 79 or 80 degrees, I think.  But, there was a breeze, and it started cooling down by about 4 or so, and now, at 9 PM, it is down to 69 degrees here in the room, and nicely cooler outside.  The elevation here is about 2300 feet, and Kingfisher Park was about 1500 feet.  The extra elevation is enough to make a difference, which is what I was hoping.  I was comfortable at Kingfisher Park, and I am sure I will be comfortable here, temperature-wise.


I got my stuff moved in, which caused me to break out in a sweat, but then I cooled down on the veranda and looked over my lists and made plans.  I went online, as previously mentioned, and I read my book.  I went for a little walk around the grounds, which are fairly extensive, and I had my evening drinkie.  I had gotten here early enough that I was able to make some ice in the little refrigerator by the time it was drinkie time.  I read my book some more and just enjoyed relaxing on the veranda.


A couple of months ago, I had had some email correspondence with a well-known local bird guide by the name of Alan, and I had wanted to hire him for a day of guiding, but he was booked for the two days I will be here.  He had suggested that I call him when I got here, though, and he would give me tips about what was being seen where.  That was a great opportunity for me, so I called him at 6, as he had suggested.  His wife answered the phone and said he was out with a client but would be back about 7.   I told her who I was and why I was calling, and when I said I was staying at Chambers, she said that is where he would be finishing his day of guiding, as his clients were staying here too.  Anyway, the bottom line is that Alan stopped by my unit when he dropped off his clients, and I had 5 or 10 minutes with him, and he gave me some tips on where to look for about 4 or 5 of the birds I still need to see.  Very helpful, and very kind of him to do that.  Now I have some places to go to, and a chance to add to my lists.


After Alan left, I had my humble dinner of Campbells Chunky soup (chicken and vegetables tonight) and a packet of microwaved frozen veggies.  Very nice, just what I needed.  I finished off the coconut macaroons for dessert.


So, tomorrow I will wander around and try to find another few birds for my lists.  I am at 283 now, and I will be lucky to add three more species.  But, I have some places to look, and I will enjoy navigating my way around the area to find the places and look for the birds.


This area is very pretty.  It is a big plateau, and it has rolling hills and lots of farmland, including lots of dairy farms.  Very green and beautiful.  There are a couple of volcanic lakes, and one big lake behind a dam, as well as a number of waterfalls.  I stayed near here on my first trip, in 2002, for three nights, so I have seen much of the area before.  I like waterfalls a lot, though, and I might go to see some of them again, just for the pleasure of seeing them and taking pictures.  I expect it will be a relaxing, slow-paced couple of days here, and maybe I’ll even see a couple of species of birds while I am here.  I am well satisfied with my totals now, so I don’t feel any pressure to go birding, but it will be fun to check out the half dozen sites I have, and to look for these last elusive species.


Totals are now 283 species for the trip, of which 71 are lifers and 72 are new for my Aussie list.  I now have seen 425 different species of birds here in Australia, over the years, which I feel good about.  They theoretically have 700 or 800 species here, but many of those are rare, some are what are called “vagrants”, meaning they have only been seen here a few times, and there are also maybe 70 or more species that are either sea birds (that you have to go out on a boat to see) or live on offshore islands like Christmas Island, which is an Australian territory or protectorate or something.  So, I am quite happy with my 425 count.


The trip is really winding down fast now, and I will be home very soon, God willing and the creeks don’t rise.  I am ready for it to end, although I am still looking forward to these last couple of days.  I am not looking forward to the long plane flight home, but I can endure it.  I am definitely ready to stop packing up and loading up the car every one, two, or three days.  With my CPAP machine, my computer, my clothes, my birding equipment, and my food and beverage items, I am not traveling lightly.  It will be nice to be at home and not have to pack up for a while.


Barry Downunder, back at a nice elevation and nice temperatures at night again



Sunday afternoon


I’ll just update this, then see if I can upload it to the website with my slow dial up connection.


I was in bed last night by 9:30 and up at 6 this morning.  I was away from here by shortly after 7.  The first thing I did was try the Curtain Fig Road for Brown Quail, which is something that Alan had suggested last night.  No luck.  Next, I went over to Lake Tinaroo and looked for Common Sandpiper, another tip from Alan.  Again, no joy. 


So, I decided to look for Great Cormorant at Lake Barrine.  This was a tip that my birdingpal, John, in Cairns had suggested.  He had seen one at Lake Barrine a couple of weeks ago, and he described exactly where to look.  I got there and looked where he said, and there were about 8 or 10 Little Black Cormorants, one Little Pied Cormorant, and one beautiful Great Cormorant, sitting on a fallen tree, right where John had said to look.  Great Cormorant was a trip bird, but not a lifer.


I cruised Curtain Fig Road again, but still no quail.  So, what else is a guy to do, I went on in to Atherton and had a second brekkie at McDonalds.  Celebrating my Great Cormorant.  My first brekkie had only been a chicken and vegetable pie from Woolies and a couple of pieces of cheese, and it was early.


Thus fortified, I continued my quest.  I stopped at Hasties Swamp, but nothing new for me there.  I went on to a site that Cairns birdingpal John had described for the Fuscous Honeyeater, and he said that there were Little Lorikeets around there, too.  At the first place I stopped, there were a lot of bird calls, and one of them was the call of the Little Lorikeet.  I am no good with calls, but this one is easy – “zeet”  “zeet”  ‘zeet” repeatedly.  I saw the birds fly away, and even though I couldn’t see them well enough to count Little Lorikeet on the basis of the sighting alone, with the call, I did count it.  It was one I had not expected to get.  I didn’t hear or see them again while I was in the area – I had arrived at just the right time.


I went farther down Springvale Road, looking for Fuscous Honeyeater and stopping a few times.  No luck.  Eventually I came to the place that I think John was talking about, where the road went into the forest.  I stopped there once or twice, and then as I was moving on down the road, a pickup truck came toward me, and the guy stopped when we passed.  He asked if I was looking for birds, and I said yes.  He described where he had seen Fuscous Honeyeaters, as well as a really good bird, Crested Shrike-thrush.  So, I stopped where he had described and walked down the track.  Not much bird action, but I did see an Eastern Yellow Robin, a common bird I had seen many times.  I also saw a honeyeater that I was pretty sure was a Fuscous Honeyeater in breeding plumage.  My field guide doesn’t show a picture of the breeding plumaged bird, it only describes it, and this looked like the real deal.  I was going to count it, but as I got back to my car, a bird flew in and landed right in front of me, and it was a Fuscous Honeyeater in non-breeding plumage, which is what my book shows.  This bird matched perfectly, so I felt good about counting Fuscous Honeyeater.  It was so close that I could just barely focus my binoculars that close, which means less than ten feet away.  That was three trip birds for the day, more than I had hoped for, really.


After that, I tired to find a site for the Golden Bowerbird that Alan had described, but I couldn’t find it.  So, I decided to go see a couple of waterfalls that I had liked on my first visit here.  First I went to Millaa Millaa Falls, which is a classic tropical waterfall – check out Photos14 when it gets posted, probably tomorrow.  While I was there, I had my humble lunch of tuna and crackers, along with the rest of my house brand potato chips, and a Diet Coke.  I sat at a picnic table with a view of the falls and had a very nice lunch, watching the sightseers coming to see the falls.  The table was under cover, which was fortunate, as we had a heavy rain shower while I was eating.  I love the rain, so I enjoyed it.  All day was showery, with rain, clouds, and sun, and I enjoyed it all, as it held the temperature down nicely.


Next, I went to Malanda Falls, on the edge of the town of Malanda.  It is also a very pretty falls, not as high as Millaa Millaa Falls, but they have made a swimming pool at the base of the falls, and it is filled by the creek or river as it flows through.  Very pretty and very practical.  Again, see Photos14, when it is available.


Since I was so close, I decided to visit Bromfield Swamp.  In the late afternoon, Brolgas and Sarus Cranes fly in, to spend the night.  They are closely related large cranes, and the only difference in appearance is the extent of the red crown on their heads.  I was figuring on visiting in the late afternoon, to get Sarus Crane for my trip list (I had seen Brolgas a number of times, and there are photos of them from earlier in the trip), but I thought I might as well stop by and see if any of them hung out there all day.  It was about 2 PM by that time.


The swamp is in an old volcano crater, and you view it from up on the rim.  I scanned the area, first with my binoculars and then with my scope and I saw four cranes in the distance, but when I looked with the scope, they were Brolgas.  I think Brolgas are more common than Sarus Cranes.  Then I spotted three more, and two of them were Brolgas also, but the third one was definitely a Sarus Crane.  That surprised me, because I thought that each species would sort of hang out with their own kind, but I guess not always.  I put my tele-extender on my camera and took a number of pictures of the three cranes, and I hope that at least one or two show that one is a Sarus Crane.  They were a long way away so I don’t know how good the pictures will be.


Anyway, Sarus Crane was bird number four for the day.  Outstanding.  Then what should I see flying around over the swamp but the very aptly named (in this case) Swamp Harrier.  Lovely.  A beautiful bird of prey, sweeping over the swamp and fields, looking for little furry creatures.  This bird has a white rump that makes it very easy to identify, and they are fairly common, but I had not seen one yet on this trip.  I watched it swoop around through the scope for a couple of minutes, and I was on five species for the day.  Amazing.


So, by that time, I had had enough, so I went into Atherton and filled the tank with petrol, and headed for home.  Along the way, I tried one more site that Alan had suggested, for Channel-billed Cuckoo, but had no luck.  I stopped at the roadhouse at the “corner” (a couple of miles away from home) and picked up an order of lasagna and a dinner salad, to have for my dinner later, and I boogied on home.


So, that was my Sunday, and I am now at 287 species for the trip, which is really great.  71 lifers and 72 for my Aussie list, which now stands at 425.  I don’t expect to get any more, although I will probably go looking again tomorrow for the quail and the sandpiper, and maybe the cuckoo as well.  There is also a bird here on the grounds that I think I have heard, Cicadabird, and it is remotely possible that I would see that, but I doubt it.  So, my lists are probably complete now.


Just one more day of birding and whatever else I do tomorrow, and then I start the long journey home.  It has been a great trip.


Barry Downunder, ready to head for home