There was only one major highlight this week and it was the return of the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers, Hooray! (from Papua New Guinea). At least 4 were calling on the morning of the 28th at 5.32am, which was a week later than last year and the latest since we started keeping records in 1994. Single birds have been sighted in the district since 1st November (maybe some were migrating further south) but this was the main contingent arriving as we have now heard and seen at least 8-10 birds. They appear to be sorting out the same territories as last year but we will not know for sure until they come down and start digging their termite mounds.
Welcome home - Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher
Our 1st White-throated Needletail appeared over the Lodge grounds in a mixed flock with Australian Swiftlet on 16th November. On the 21st a Red-necked Crake walked out of the rainforest near the crake pool in the orchard area, it then walked around the pool before jumping up onto the rock wall and along the edge of the rainforest before disappearing into the forest where it started to call. Sightings lately have been hit and miss but hopefully they will start using the pool now it has more water in it. Another sighting of a Superb Fruit-Dove was had during the week, despite them calling throughout the day they are hard to track down. Topknot Pigeon numbers are dropping off with only small flocks of 5-10 birds around and a Pied Imperial-Pigeon was still around the Lodge grounds. A Papuan Frogmouth was seen early evening flying out from the area of the crake pool and across the orchard which may indicate they have a nest in the crake pool area. We will keep looking as they should be nesting at this time of year. A Nankeen Night-Heron was also in the crake pool one morning dozing off in the shallow water, none of its mates around though.
Nankeen Night Heron
A pair of Grey Goshawk were perched along Mt. Kooyong Road and being harassed by a few Blue-faced Honeyeater before they gave in a flew away. A Bush Stone-curlew was seen one evening with a chick walking around Geraghty Park and 3 Eastern Barn Owl were also in the park. Most of the heard species were cuckoos, Pheasant Coucal, Shining and Little-bronze, and Brush with Eastern Koel and Channel-billed being seen. Noisy Pitta have become noisier as the week went on with 2 being seen at the crake pool early one morning – the crake pool has been busy this week! The pitta has also been seen in the rainforest at various locations calling from the ground as well as up in the trees. Plenty of honeyeaters around with 14 species including Lewin's still here as are Bridled and White-cheeked returned after a few weeks away. Five Black-faced Monarch were seen together bathing in Bushy Creek along with two Pied Monarch.
Further afield a Black Bittern and White-gaped Honeyeater were seen at the McLeod River north of Mt. Carbine. The Daintree River was still turning up Great-billed Heron which was also seen in the Centennial Lakes area of the Cairns Botanic Gardens. A search for the Little Curlew that had been near Port Douglas was unsuccessful which was not surprising as they should have headed south by this time of year. There was a small flock of 20-30 Pacific Golden Plover in the spot where the curlews had been.
Another trip to Cairns to drop off a friend at the airport allowed a quick trip to the Esplanade where once again I dipped out on the Laughing Gull, Asian Dowitcher and Broad-billed Sandpiper but there was plenty of other waders to check out. Plenty of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and Great Knot plus a few Terek Sandpiper and Pacific Golden Plover. Also present were Grey-tailed Tattler, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper, Pied Oystercatcher, Lesser and Greater Sandplover, Silver Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Australian Pelican (keeping the tourists busy with their cameras), Great and Intermediate Egret, Striated Heron and Royal Spoonbill. Behind in the trees the Varied Honeyeater were very vocal.
Interesting mammals and reptiles this week included a Macleays' Water Snake Enhydris polylepis which insisted on swimming around the foot valve on our water pump whilst I was trying to repair it! This snake is rear fanged and weakly venomous but not considered dangerous. A Lace Monitor was seen after a few months absence and two male Boyd's Forest Dragon put on a show one morning. They were squaring up to each other and displaying with their skin colour changing to bright green and creamy – yellow bands, the skin under the chin was inflated before they charged each other and ran up separate trees then back down on the ground to commence battle again. There did not appear to be a winner with each heading off to separate trees again and posing whilst getting their breath back and a few images taken. Whilst all this was going on we heard the plaintive cry of a frog which we found was a Giant White-lipped Tree Frog being eaten by a Green Tree Snake – hard life being a frog. A Green Ringtail Possum was seen on the edge of the rainforest by the orchard roosting on a tree limb during the day and a couple of Striped Possum were seen late at night.