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Crikey! : Queensland has cassowaries, kingfishers and kangaroos that live in trees.


Treepol
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I have just returned from a couple of weeks in North Queensland with Mum and @@GnuGnu. The itinerary was:

 

Day 1 : Fly Hobart-Cairns, overnight at the Hilton Double Tree on the Cairns Esplanade
Days 2-6: Overnight at
Chambers Rainforest Lodge at Lake Eacham
Days 7-9: Overnight at Red Mill House, Daintree
Days 10-11: Overnight at Milkwood Lodge, Cooktown
Day 12: Overnight at the Hilton Double Tree on the Cairns Esplanade

 

My last visit to Northern Queensland was in 1991 when I travelled overland to the tip of Cape York and visited Thursday Island. This was before I became interested (obsessed some would say) with wildlife viewing which was the focus of this year’s trip. This year in addition to wildlife we were seeking sun as a respite from the Tasmanian winter, local food and produce and a relaxing trip with some downtime for reading and birding. High on my list of ‘want to sees’ were wild Cassowary, Kingfishers, Rainbow bee-eaters, Striped Possums and Tree Kangaroos.

 

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Lumholtz tree kangaroo

 

 

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Rainbow bee-eater

 

 

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Striped possum

 

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Sugar glider

 

 

I was delighted to be leaving a chilly Hobart with a forecast top of 10C to fly to tropical North Queensland. Large raindrops and a cold wind blew as I hurried across the tarmac to the plane for the flight to Brisbane and from there I had one connection to the Cairns flight. Flight times were 2.5 hours to Brisbane and then a further 2.5 hours to Cairns. I arrived at the hotel around 9pm and found Mum and @@GnuGnu before settling in for the night.

Next morning I took an early morning walk along the boardwalk where pelicans preened in the early morning sun and Welcome Swallows wheeled and dived overhead.

 

 

After breakfast we picked up the hire car and headed west to Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tableland where Chambers Rainforest was to be our base for the next 5 nights. This hide-away is tucked away in the rainforest and is a peaceful haven. My first visitor was a Victoria’s Riflebird followed closely by Spotted Catbirds and Lewin’s Honeyeaters.

 

 

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The resident Brush Turkey jealously guards the territory around Chalets 1-3, chasing off all other birds.

 

 

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Whenever I heard a quiet step and a rustle on the stairs, it would be him trying to creep onto the deck - think vervet monkeys with wings and you will get the idea. The first night 2 sugar gliders came to the feeder.

 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Nice pics. Lucky you. Such a good selection of Aussie birds & mammals.

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post-49296-0-68136300-1439203483_thumb.jpg

~ @@Treepol

 

Your Victoria's Riflebird — SENSATIONAL !!!!!!!!!!!

Tom K.

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Really looking forward to this. An area that is on my "some day" list!

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@@Treepol, excited for this report, lovely marsupial photos of creatures Ive never seen yet. Been up that way a couple of times but beach-based, so a different kind of trip to consider. The Striped Possum is a beauty.

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Great pics of rarely-seen fascinating animals! Very much looking forward to this. :)

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Thanks for this thread @@Treepol. Australia is on my list of must-visit places, especially the Cape York peninsula, so I appreciate the info.

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Next day I had booked local guide Alan Gillanders for a half day wildlife tour of the Yungaburra area. We were very unlucky with the weather as a light drizzle fell most of the morning, the skies were grey and photography conditions were bad. Still we saw many species and were able to return to the sites that Alan showed us on another day when the weather had improved.

 

We met Alan at the Yungaburra Platypus viewing platform where this small animal ducked and dived in the early light.

 

 

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Our first stop with Alan was the Curtain Fig tree, a giant rainforest strangler.

 

 

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We then took some backroads in search of Brolgas and Sarus Cranes that feed in favourite farm paddocks. Grey day, grey rain and grey birds!

 

 

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Alan was keen to show us the Golden Bowerbird and we all wanted to see a wild cassowary so we drove to Mt Hypipamee NP. Alan located both the Golden Bowerbird and its bower.

 

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Iain Campbell and Nick Athanas from Tropical Birding were also bush-bashing in search of the Golden Bowerbird. Nick watched the bowerbird with us and we enjoyed a quick chat about our 2010 stay at Tandayapa Bird Lodge. He also told us that our guide Andrew Spencer had just finished a Pantanal tour – small world! After this stop the rain really set in so we drove to Nerada Tea Plantation for morning tea and to try our luck with tree kangaroo viewing. This young female was around 12 months old and looked soggy and miserable as she huddled against the rain.

 

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Venturing out into the damp weather again we searched unsuccessfully for Double-eyed Fig Parrot near the Rainforest Discovery Centre at Lake Eacham. We returned to Chambers via a local strawberry farm where we purchased fresh fruit and homemade jam. A Yellow-footed antechinus (ante-kynus), a type of marsupial mouse visited the feeder together with the sugar gliders.

 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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Really enjoying the start of this @@Treepol, you got to have a more detailed look at the area than we had time for.

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@@Treepol

Wow -great sightings - I didn't think you would have a chance of seeing a platypus!

I am really enjoying this.

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@@Geoff, @@Tom Kellie, @@Alexander33, @@elefromoz, @@michael-ibk, @@offshorebirder, @@Zubbie15 and @@TonyQ thank you for following along and for your encouraging words.

 

The next day was also grey and overcast with a few showers. I walked around the chalet and startled a shy Musky rat-kangaroo as it foraged for fallen fruit and seeds. This small marsupial lives in rainforests and has reddish-grey fur. This Fan-tailed cuckoo looked down from an over-hanging tree.

 

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We went looking for the brolgas and cranes again but only managed distant views. Malanda Dairy was our morning tea stop where a local information and heritage centre provided a glimpse of the history of the Atherton Tableland dairy industry. We saw many large dairy herds on the Tablelands and there were at least 2 dairy-based visitor centres in the area that underscore the importance of this key local industry. Driving towards the coast at Innisfail we stopped at the well-known and scenic Millaa Millaa Falls.

 

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The Mamu Skywalk outside Innisfail looked like an interesting activity and if we had more time this would have been worth a visit. Oh well, next time….

 

The following day we welcomed blue sky and sun and set off to re-trace part of the trip we had done with Alan. We found the Double-eyed fig Parrot at the nursery and searched unsuccessfully for the Amethystine Python that suns on a low bank near Lake Eacham.

 

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A flock of Brown Cuckoo-doves fed noisily in a tree near the car park.

 

 

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Hastie’s Swamp delivered Purple Swamp Hen, Forest Kingfisher, Darter, Australasian Grebe and one of the microbat species.

 

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After lunch at the Barron River Hotel we returned to Mt Hypipamee. We re-located the bower but the Golden Bowerbird wasn’t around. The last stop was a return to Nerada to try for better photos of the tree-kangaroos.

 

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Nerada tea plantation

 

 

Sugar gliders, striped possum and the antechinus were all at the feeder this night. As well as being a memorable wildlife viewing day during which we saw cassowary, Double-eyed fig parrot and a second tree kangaroo, it is memorable for another reason - @@GnuGnu bought a house! Oh the wonders of modern technology that enable the purchase of real estate from the rainforest!

Edited by Treepol
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And again what luck with those marsupials, fantastic. Congrats @gnu gnu on the real estate purchase, how to blow the holiday budget big time.

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@@Treepol. Thanks for this TR. So nice to see less familiar (to me anyway) wildlife. A duck billed platypus too. Lovely.

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Next day we looked again for the Brolgas and Sarus Cranes. The birds were more easily seen today, but grey day and grey birds does not make for good photos. We persevered through the drizzle and drove to Lake Barrine for the 11.30 am cruise, enjoying a delicious home-cooked Devonshire Tea in the tearooms, built in 1927 that overlook the lake before the cruise began. Eurasian Coots paddled around the moored boats.

 

 

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Lake Barrine is a crater lake that is fed only by rainwater. The crystal clear lake is home to saw-shelled turtles, eels and tilapia. The Parks and Wildlife Service are keen to remove the introduced tilapia, however slow progress is being made towards achieving this goal.

 

 

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The Pacific Black Ducks followed the boat while we searched for Amethystine Python with no success, however I did see a few coils of a dozing Carpet Python in a basket fern from the roof of the boat.

 

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After the cruise we returned to Yungaburra for lunch at the Whistle Stop Café and to Chambers around 2.30 for an afternoon of relaxing, reading and birding. Here are a couple more photos of the impossibly cute striped possum.

 

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This was our last day at Lake Eacham, next day we had a longish drive north to Daintree Village where we had booked a 3 night package at Red Mill House . The package included a full day’s birding trip with local guide Doug Herrington, a Daintree River cruise with Murray Hunt the Daintree Boatman and a birding walk around Daintree Village as well as accommodation on a B&B basis.

Edited by Treepol
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Love the striped possum, especially the initial shot you got of it in post #1. "Cute" is the right word, and I must say I've never seen a cute possum. The one species we have here in the States, the Virginia opossum, looks like a giant gray rat.

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Great images, Treepol. Hadn't thought of platypus being in that area. The possums are so appealing. Looking forward to the continuation.

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That Opossum reminds me of Gremlin's Gizmo - impossibly cute indeed!

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@@elefromoz @@Alexander33 @@Rosa banksia @wilddlog @@michael-ibk thank you for your kind words.

 

We left Chambers at around 9 am and were all sorry to be leaving this peaceful haven in the rainforest. Mum was keen to visit a local market which we found in Atherton and later a larger market in Mossman on the drive north. We stopped at Dino’s Europa Deli in Mareeba for morning tea, an authentic European deli with many locally home-made and home grown products together with a wide range of imported goods. Arrived at Red Mill House around 4 pm where we were welcomed by owners Andrew and Trish Forsyth who had planned our 3 day package to maximise wildlife opportunities.

 

I overslept the next morning and had to rush to make the 7 am river cruise with the Daintree Boatman, Murray Hunt. An Azure Kingfisher flitted around the launching ramp whilst further downstream Royal Spoonbills, Cattle Egrets and Masked Lapwings enjoyed the sun. The first big sighting was a 3.5m saltwater crocodile at the mouth of a small creek.

 

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We turned into Barrett Creek, a small tributary of the Daintree River. The creek is lined with mangroves whose distinctive breathing tubes are easily seen at low tide.

 

 

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It is a very scenic area that affords views of the creek and surrounding rainforest. On this first of 3 river cruises we saw Azure Kingfisher, juvenile and adult Great-billed heron, 3 Green Tree snakes and 2 Eastern Water Dragons.

 

 

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These Water Gums leaned into the sunlight.

 

 

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A pair of Papuan frogmouths roosted high in a river side tree.

 

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Back at Red Mill House Trish and Andrew had prepared a tasty breakfast and after this feast, Trish and I did a mid-morning walk around Daintree Village looking for birds. It was an overcast day and there weren’t many birds around, although I did see Red-backed Kingfisher Spangled Drongo and White-breasted Woodswallow.

 

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Spangled drongo

 

 

Early in the afternoon we crossed the Daintree River on the ferry and drove towards Cape Tribulation stopping to complete the Jindalba Boardwalk in search of Noisy Pitta and Cassowary and were unsuccessful on both counts. Having expended all this energy we drove to the Daintree Ice Cream Company that Mum remembered from a previous visit to sample the local produce. The ice cream is freshly produced, utilises local produce and is sold in prepared serves of 4 flavours. We enjoyed wattle-seed, jackfruit, mango and coconut ice-creams.

 

We returned to Red Mill House in time for the 4 pm cruise. The tide was much lower than this morning and the mudflats and sandbars provided roosts for a greater variety of birds and reptiles. A Rainbow bee-eater fluttered around the boat ramp, a pelican fished closed to the shore and a lone Royal Spoonbill waded in the shallows.

 

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A huge male saltwater crocodile basked on a sandy beach whilst a couple of beaches along a female who shares his territory was also on the sand.

 

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Murray explained that until the 1970s crocodiles had been heavily hunted and the declining numbers prompted the federal government to offer the species protected status. Therefore, most of the large crocodiles in easily accessible areas are between 35-40 years of age, such as this male. As these already large individuals age and grow bigger, the threat to both people and livestock increases. I wondered how much larger this guy could possibly grow. Murray said that crocodile teeth are all canine teeth, designed to tear prey into small pieces ready for digestion.

 

 

In Barrett Creek we saw White-faced Heron and the juvenile Great-billed Heron. A flock of fruit bats flew over the river and the Papuan Frogmouths had remained stationary throughout the day.

 

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Great-billed Heron

 

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Murray was surprised to see a pair of crocodiles on a muddy corner, the croc from the mouth of the creek that we saw upriver during the morning cruise had swum down to Barrett Creek seeking females. A Little Kingfisher fluttered ahead of the boat, leading us along the mangroves as we turned into the main river.

 

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The trip back to Daintree Village was quite slow due to low water and a lot of sandbar dodging. Cattle Egrets circled some trees near the boat ramp, preparing to roost for the night while a flock of 100-200 egrets flew towards us, low to the water. This spectacular sight appeared as a floating white cloud moving downriver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Wow @@Treepol, your time on the Daintree was much more productive than ours. Really nice photos in the beautiful light.

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@@Treepol

The possum is so cute!

Beautiful shots on the water - and that crocodile looks really scary.

It looks like a fascinating place.

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Lucky you on the cassowary! I wish we'd had more time to explore North Queensland. I couldn't believe the variety of wildlife we saw in just one afternoon and evening in the Atherton Tablelands. It was our second favorite place, after Tasmania of course!

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@@Zubbie15 I'm very pleased with the number and variety of sightings this holiday. The 5 night stay at Chambers Rainforest Lodge and hiring a local gide for half a day set us up well for the local species. The multiple cruises on the Daintree River gave us ample opportunity to see the local wildlife.

 

@@TonyQ and @@Patty thanks for your kind words

 

Next morning I was up early in search of the Azure Kingfisher at the boat ramp but no go. After an early breakfast local guide Doug Herrington arrived to take us on a day’s outing in search of mammals and birds. First stop was the local barramundi farm where Raja Shellducks and a large flock of Black-winged stilts had congregated during fish-feeding. We searched unsuccessfully for Beach Stone-curlew at Wonga beach but drew a blank, however the coconut palms and clean sand depict a truly tropical beach.

 

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At nearby Newell Beach Crested Terns and Bar-tailed Godwits had settled on a distant sandbar. A pair of Bush Stone-curlews hugged the shade on a nearby farm fenceline.  At Port Douglas Doug knew of a small park with a pond which supported interesting birdlife. We saw Comb-crested Jacana, Dusky Moorhen, Forest Kingfisher and Purple Swamphens.

 

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Comb-crested jacana

 

 

Driving on, Doug searched for Rainbow Bee-eaters along a fenceline and found this co-operative bird.

 

 

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Further on, we saw a Brahminy Kite nest where the female was incubating eggs while the male flew nearby.

 

Before lunch we stopped to see a Great Bowerbird and his bower. He hopped along with a comical gait, on the lookout for female bowerbirds.

 

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Lunch was at the Mt Molloy pub and then we drove north, stopping at a farm dam to see a juvenile Black-shouldered kites and a jabiru. A pair of Red-backed Fairy Wrens provided distant views on a backroad.

 

Doug took us to a private garden that was alive with honeyeaters, Peaceful Doves and Rainbow Lorikeets.

 

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Macleays Honeyeater

 

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Peaceful dove

 

The final stop was in the garden of an old folks home where Figbirds, Papuan Frogmouths and a Spectacled Monarch provided good views.

 

 

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Back at Red Mill House a Northern Brown Bandicoot nosed around the lawn after dinner.

 

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Edited by Treepol
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" The final stop was in the garden of an old folks home where Figbirds, Papuan Frogmouths and a Spectacled Monarch provided good views".@@Treepol, that's a first, is this a regular birding stop? You've seen some nice Kingfishers, very handsome Sea Eagle, the only time I've seen one was in Tassie, on the Arthur River. Love the Frogmouths, so tricky to spot and both times a pair, lucky.

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@@elefromoz yes, the old folks home is a regular stop for Doug's clients. He had reliable spots for a number of species like the Great Bowerbird and the Comb-crested Jacana which meant that we saw quite a lot on the day we spent with him. I thought there were 2 Papuan Frogmouths too, however lurking in the shadows to the left is a juvenile - very had to pick in the photo.

 

 

Next morning we drove to Newell Beach to do a cruise on the Mossman River with Murray Hunt, the Daintree Boatman. An Eastern Curlew patrolled the shallows near the boat ramp whilst at the river mouth Crested Terns shared a small sandbank.

 

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Our first sighting back in the river was a large male crocodile with a serious wound to its snout, probably gained during territorial fighting.

 

 

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The morning was outstanding for birds, we saw so many. A Sacred Kingfisher perched in a riverside tree, green feathers glinting in the sunlight and a Great-billed Heron waded amongst the mangroves before flying away, lazily flapping downriver.

 

 

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An Australian White Ibis and 4 Whimbrel fossicked on the river bank before also disappearing downriver as the boat approached. A Beach Stone-curlew rested on a muddy corner at the high tide mark, close to the shade of the mangroves whilst further on a Striated Heron perched on an over-hanging branch and a Black-fronted dotterel raced a rising tide searching for food on exposed rocks.

 

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Beach-stone curlew

 

 

Overhead, a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle watched us as we travelled along the mangroves. Closer to the river bank a pair of Olive-backed sunbirds searched for nesting material. One of the other passengers had been searching for Mangrove Robins for about 5 years and was delighted when Murray stopped at the mouth of a creek and listened for the birds. Before too long 4 robins appeared, hopping along the branches of riverside trees. Sadly, the light was low and the birds were 2 tones of grey and photos didn’t work. Suddenly, an Osprey with a fish in its claws flew overhead and quickly disappeared over the tree-tops. I was delighted when Murray pointed out 3 Rainbow bee-eaters catching flies from a dead branch. They were very relaxed around the boat and continued to return to the same perch, providing many photo ops.

 

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We were lucky to see the adult Great-billed heron again lurking amongst the mangrove roots where it was very well camouflaged. Returning to the river mouth we saw Crested Terns, Bar-tailed Godwits, Pacific Golden Plovers, an Eastern Curlew, Tattlers and Pied Oyster Catchers.

 

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It was a perfect day on the water with a mid-morning temperature of around 30C – very hard to believe it was snowing in Hobart at the same time!  After morning tea at the Junction Café in Mossman we began the drive north along the Mulligan Highway to Cooktown. During the lunch stop at the Palmer River Road house 4-5 Great Bowerbirds and Rainbow Lorikeets rested in the shady trees.

 

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Closer to Cooktown, a large kangaroo hopped along the roadside next to a peaceful waterhole.

 

 

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We arrived at Milkwood Lodge in Cooktown during the late afternoon.

Edited by Treepol
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Next morning we went to the Botanical Gardens where Mum was interested in flowering rather than foliage plants. The intense colours of the hibiscus and a late flowering orchid were amongst my favourites.

 

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This White-lipped frog was resting on a handrail.

 

 

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This turned into quite a lazy day – I finished a book before we drove to Keating’s Lagoon late in the afternoon. Large flocks of Magpie Geese were arriving and beginning to roost, while a White-necked Heron fished in the last of the afternoon sun.

 

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All too soon it was time to begin the trip south to Cairns for a final night before flying home. We stopped again at Keatings Lagoon where the Magpie geese lingered late into the morning. Further down the road we stopped at a small waterhole where 2 brolgas, a Australian White Ibis and Comb-crested Jacana waded amongst the waterlilies. Back at the Palmer Roadhouse, Rainbow Lorikeets and Great Bowerbirds jostled for attention in the trees in the beer garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Treepol
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