Another dry week with a few threatening clouds but still no rain. Plenty of bush fires in the district making it very smoky. Temperatures were 14ºC to 30ºC here and up to 36ºC in Mareeba 40 minutes away. Bird numbers were up with 79 species seen and 12 heard. 13 mammal/reptile/amphibian species were recorded which was down on last week.
Bird highlights were the return of Noisy Pitta towards the end of the week when one was seen along our driveway to the reception and another sighting of one in our neighbours garden, this one was also heard calling during the evening. It has been over 2 months since the last reported sighting, lets hope they are back for good. Just a reminder below of what they look like!
A Nankeen Kestrel was seen taking a Metallic Starling in Geraghty Park (adjacent) then pursued by a Blue-faced Honeyeater and two Common Myna. The Kestrel landed beside the Rex Highway and began eating the starling whilst the Common Myna were perched on a fence scalding it. A few days later the kestrel was seen chasing then being chased by a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo for a period of at least 5 minutes – both birds are nesting in the same tree. A pair of Pacific Baza continued to build a nest and White-throated Honeyeater were seen carrying food to another nest. An uncommon visitor to Julatten was a Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring over a paddock next to Geraghty Park, they are usually seen only a few times a year. 14 species of honeyeater were recorded including Brown, uncommon in the Lodge grounds and Noisy Friarbird an occasional visitor. Spangled Drongo numbers built up during the week passing through on southern migration with 12+ in one Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta). Also on southern migration were several Satin Flycatchers seen around the area. A first for spotlighting one night was a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher which was flying around at dusk.
Further afield the Spotless Crake was still showing well at Abattoir Swamp as were Brown Quail and Red-backed Fairy-wren. A Square-tailed Kite was seen on the way to Mount Molloy via the back way along Wetherby Road, it was soaring on upswept wings with a Whistling Kite before swooping down and perching in a tree at eye level for great views. Endemics showing well on Mt. Lewis during a visit in the week were; Tooth-billed Catbird, Fernwren, Atherton Scrubwren, Mountain Thornbill, Bridled Honeyeater, Chowchilla, Bower's Shrike-thrush, Victoria's Riflebird and Grey-headed Robin – still no sightings of the Golden Bowerbird which should be calling at this time of year. Plenty of other good birds there as well including the dark race of the Grey Fantail (keasti) and Satin Flycatcher.
Grey Fantail - race keasti
Lake Mitchell had a good variety of waterbirds including Magpie Goose, Black Swan, Green-pygmy-goose, 4 White-necked Heron, at least 5 Glossy Ibis and more Red-backed Fairy-wren on the causeway. The East Barron Storage Dam on the way to Emerald Creek Falls (east of Mareeba) had a good selection of waterbirds including Great-crested Grebe, Little Pied, Great and Little Black Cormorant, an Eastern Osprey on a nest and a lone Wood Sandpiper. Emerald Creek Falls had a Rufous Owl and White-browed Robin but an approaching bush fire coming down the hills cut short our visit.
A dam north of Mt. Carbine had Grey Teal, Squatter Pigeon, Brown Treecreeper (Cape York dark form), Banded Honeyeater, Double-barred and Black-throated Finch. Full lists for the further afield sites can be found on the Eremaea Birds site.
An early morning boat trip on the Daintree River with Chris Dahlberg was once again a terrific experience. Plenty of great birds including Papuan Frogmouth on a nest, Great-billed Heron, a pair of Black-shouldered Kite investigating an old Whistling Kite nest, Common Sandpiper, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot at nest, Eastern Koel in mangroves, Little Bronze (Gould's) and Brush Cuckoo and an Azure Kingfisher perched at the entrance to Barrett Creek
Also a brief glimpse of a Little Kingfisher as it sped down Barrett Creek, Forest and Sacred Kingfisher plus other good birds such as Black Butcherbird, Australian Reed-Warbler and Tawny Grassbird. A full list of birds on Chris's morning trips can be found on his web page www.daintreerivertours.com.au
Mammal sightings were down but we only went out once and had good views of Giant White-tailed Rat, Agile Wallaby foraging in the orchard, Spectacled Flying Fox eating Blue Quandong and plenty of Northern Brown and Long-nosed Bandicoot were digging up the orchard. Large numbers of Cairns Birdwing butterfly were attracted to a flowering tree in the orchard and a few Ulysses butterfly fluttered past the units showing off their bright blue wings.