It has now become traditional that we do a big day on New Years Day in the surrounding district of the Lodge trying to see as many species of birds as possible. This years big day started around 6.00am with a brisk walk around the Lodge grounds and adjacent Geraghty Park which took 45 minutes and clocked up 33 species seen and 10 heard. The bonus bird here was the nesting Pied Imperial Pigeon.
Pied Imperial Pigeon
Next destination was Mt. Lewis where we stopped on the lower slopes but heard more than saw with only Brown Gerygone added to the list. By the time we arrived at the 10km parking area we were in the cloud but thankfully no rain. We decided to have a muffin and a cuppa whilst watching birds from the comfort of a camping stool! Blue-faced Parrot-Finch were chasing each other around and copulating whilst Red-browed Finch continued feeding oblivious to the antics of the blue-faces above in the trees. Mountain Thornbill obligingly came down low for good looks and Mistletoebird flew through the canopy. Walking further along the main road/track we heard a Tooth-billed Bowerbird and then saw one as well as the Grey Fantail (race Keasti) flitting around. We were hopeful that the Golden Bowerbird we saw here last week would fly across again but no such luck. Back to the car park then along the dam track where we saw a few of the “Wet Tropic” endemics, Fernwren – male and female foraging in front of us on the track, Atherton Scrubwren foraging in the undergrowth before popping out onto a branch, Bridled Honeyeater was foraging along the rainforest edge
Chowchilla were foraging along the edge of the track making soft contact calls to each other, Bowers Shrike-thrush posing on open branches and calling whilst Grey-headed Robin were common all along the track. Yellow-throated Scrubwren were common on the ground, Spotted Catbird were calling and seen lurking in the rainforest, Eastern Spinebill were foraging in the Mistletoe and about 10 Fork-tailed Swift made a great whooshing sound as they went by in a blur at tree top level. Back down off the mountain it was back to the Lodge for smoko, yes it was a laid back day with no rushing around. Next swamps at McDougall Road just along the road from the Lodge did not yield anything special. Abattoir Swamp was good for honeyeaters with Yellow, Brown-backed, Dusky, Brown, White-cheeked and White-throated, also here was Red-backed Fairy-wren and Striated Pardalote. The biggest dip here was the usually reliable Northern Fantail who must have been on his holiday this day. Nearby Abattoir in a patch of swampy closed forest we saw a Pied Monarch low down who posed just long enough for a photo.
Dragonflies such as Painted Grasshawk were a distraction here. Another downpour saw us scampering for the vehicle and heading back to the Lodge for lunch by which time we had seen 82 species and heard a further 13.
After a leisurely lunch, waiting for the rain to stop, it was back on the road. First stop Mt. Molloy to look for Great Bowerbird which are all over town and easy to find. Also here was Red-winged Parrot and Blue-faced Honeyeater along with non-birding highlights Frill-necked Lizard and Green Tree Snake. Heading south towards Mareeba first stop was Lake Mitchell where the most exciting birds were a White-necked Heron, two Eastern Osprey and a Golden-headed Cisticola with not much else. This dragonfly, a Graphic Flutterer, was another distraction.
Viewed whilst driving the road were Royal Spoonbill, Nankeen Kestrel and Torresian Crow, (the only ones seen). Out near Mareeba Airport were Pale-headed Rosella, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Australasian Pipit plus plenty of Agile Wallaby. Next location was Pickford Road, the access road to Mareeba Wetlands (now closed until at least April), where an Australian Hobby was perched alongside the road and Grey-crowned Babbler were calling but not seen. Quite large flocks of Double-barred Finch were alongside the irrigation gullies by the cane fields. By now the rain was coming down in bucket loads so it was back to the Lodge. The evening turned up Papuan Frogmouth and Eastern Barn Owl with an Australian Owlet-nightjar heard but not seen.
So ended a frustrating day weather wise with rain for a good part of the day. As for the birds we ended up with 115 seen and 13 heard, totalling 128 which was way off our best Big New Years Day of 154. Major omissions were the waterbirds most of which are in inland Australia breeding and dipping a few “certs” like Northern Fantail at Abattoir Swamp car park, the single Australian Pelican which has been on Lake Mitchell for the last few weeks and Grey Whistler, a common species in the Lodge, which called but we failed to see it despite several searches. It was a fun day without too much travelling, we only went 50km south of Julatten and stopped for breakfast, lunch and smoko within a 13hr period.
Full list for the day can be found here
Full list for the day can be found here