Thursday, 25 September 2008

Atherton Tableland Birding

A day out on the Atherton Tablelands combined business with a bit of bird watching. Raptors were in evidence starting with a Square-tailed Kite soaring over the treetops of the Rifle Creek rest area in Mount Molloy. From here to Mareeba were Black and Whistling Kites and an Eastern Osprey sitting on a nest at Lake Mitchell. At Hasties Swamp, near Atherton was a White-bellied Sea-Eagle and beyond Atherton we saw Brown Falcon and Little Eagle.

Hasties Swamp with its two story birdhide, designed by birdwatchers not a committee, is always a favourite spot and it did not disappoint. We were greeted by the usual Purple Swamphens dashing across the entry road and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle perched in a tree overlooking the swamp. The Swamp was teeming with Magpie Goose (2000+) and Plumed Whistling-Duck (800+),

Plumed Whistling-Duck

also here was Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, and more Purple Swamphen – some with young and Buff-banded Rail. Nothing out of the ordinary but this swamp is always worth a look as it can turn up some interesting birds. A lunch stop at Hallorans Hill picnic area produced White-naped and Scarlet Honeyeater, White-throated and Brown Gerygone.

Along the road from Atherton to Malanda just past Marks Lane was a field with at least 500 Sarus Cranes foraging, there may have been some Brolga but we did not have time to do a detailed scan. Heading back towards Mareeba a loose feeding party of over 100 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding beside the highway beyond Rocky Creek.

It made a welcome change to see some dry country birds instead of our rainforest ones and emphasises the diversity of species found within a few hours drive.

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