Monday, April 21, 2014

Cyclone Ita

Life takes some funny turns sometimes, doesn't it.
10 days to go before our big trip to the UK - getting organised, studying the birds, finishing the painting, getting the place looking gorgeous, etc, etc and then - - - - -along comes a late season cyclone called 'Ita'.

Red Mill House before

Red Mill House after

Ita crossed the coast near Cooktown at about 9pm on Friday and headed pretty-well slightly inland and parallel from there. It started blowing here at about midday that day and continued, culminating in us being slammed at between about 3 and 7am in what was, I think, a Cat 3 still at that stage.
She raced up the Daintree Valley from all directions but chose a swathe of about 200m wide at this point - -our 200m! You can see the strip for miles.
We had trees and branches crashing down all over the place, bouncing off the roof and in some cases piercing the roof.

Front garden before
Front garden after
Our bedroom roof
In all we lost eight of our biggest trees and picked up three from our neighbours – they fell in three different directions in the space of minutes. Fortunately our great big milky pine out in the front yard chose just to shed all her branches rather than topple over – we are extremely grateful for that! She would have flattened the house if she’d gone down. Pretty scary though as she threw them down at us.

Poor old pool fence
The pool

We are fine, the buildings are basically fine, and one day the garden will look good again. Unfortunately the top come out of the big Syzygium out the front, rending it dangerous, so it had to go - - -
I can’t believe that our tallest trees out the front are now coconuts – horrible!

Three trees on top of each other

The joy of living in the tropics is that everyone grows so quick.
We have been blessed to have good people nearby to help out and a tree-lopper and builder who are available.

Our new building 'the doghouse''
 We've worked our butts off to clean up and things are looking much better - -  all the other things will just have to remain undone.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

We're back!!

After two months of rain, demolition and re-building, Red Mill House is back and open for business as of Monday.  All the plans of weekends away camping, trips to the Reef etc have been replaced with days on the paintbrush, sawing and hammering. The place looks fresh and fabulous, albeit very soggy underfoot, and we look forward to a great season ahead.

There has been almost 1 metre of rain in Daintree in March to date, most of it happening in very heavy falls, which have tested the new drains and gutters - and they have passed! . Daintree has been flooded in four times so far this wet season and we are all just about ready to see the end of it! Oh, for it to dry out enough to mow the lawn!

One of the great pleasures of being closed for a few weeks, so less people around, is the fact that the birds become much more confiding. A family of Red-necked Crake speed past our bedroom door every morning as they move from the cover around the pond to the cover around the pool. Gorgeous things, and so, so bright!

Red-necked Crake (Ian Worcester)

Birding has been difficult as everyone shelters from the wet, but lots of Channel-billed Cuckoo and Koels around this year, plus Dollarbirds, Rainbow Bea-eater and Double-eyed Fig-Parrots.

All will be calm soon enough - - - -

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas in the Daintree

Hot and dry this Christmas and New Year, which has been fabulous for visitors and locals alike.
No mozzies, no mould and no muddy feet - very nice!
We are busy renovating at the moment - (see our blog for that h ttp:// ) so between that and having guests in, there hasn't been much time for birding.

A quick trip out onto the Daintree River late afternoon on New Years Eve reminded us of how wonderful the river is. Magpie Geese line the banks along the farmland section, herons (Great-billed, Nankeen Night and Striated) feed in the shallows along with three types of egrets, Royal Spoonbill and two types of ibis.
Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Wompoo Fruit-Dove enjoying the fruits and Azure Kingfisher in the mangroves.

Magpie Goose Daintree River

Great news from Bushy Creek in Julatten with Yellow-billed Kingfisher being photographed at Christmas. Papuan Frogmouth chicks seem to have all fledged successfully along the Daintree River and many birds are feeding young in the garden at Red Mill House.
Will there be a wet season this year? We are all wondering.
Great weather for building projects though!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Spotted Whistling Ducks

Hiding on the edge of the local barra ponds, well off the road, are 5 Spotted Whistling Ducks. A New Guinea species which seems to be moving south fairly rapidly, they are still a great treat to see.
No photo unfortunately, they are just too far away, but they are there!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Seed-eaters of the Daintree Valley

Whilst you may associate Daintree with it's famous World Heritage-listed rainforest, the area is well known for birds because of it's diversity.
Between the rivers, mangroves, wetlands and rainforest is productive farmland which creates it's own habitats. At this time of year many of the pasture grasses are seeding, providing food for many species.
Common residents, but no less beautiful because of it, include Chestnut-breasted Mannikin which travel together in large flocks, feeding, at this time of year.

Chestnet-breasted Mannikin (Fred Forsell)
Also resident in the local fields is Golden-headed Cisticola. Typically the breeding male attracts attention by calling from the top of fences or tall grasses and is a common sight in the fields just prior to the "Wet' season. This beautiful photo shows their demeanor perfectly.

Golden-headed Cisticola (Fred Forsell)
Everyone's favourites are fairy-wrens and the Red-backed Fairy-Wren is no exception. Widespread throughout north/eastern Australia they are often seen in the fields and on the fencelines of the Daintree Valley. The contrast of the black and flashy red of the male is easily spotted. Females are less conspicuous, but they will often be in family groups of 4 or 5 birds.

Red-backed Fairy-Wren Male (Fred Forsell)

Red-backed Fairy-Wren Female (Fred Forsell)

Other Daintree news includes the presence of 5 Spotted Whistling Ducks on the Daintree River! Considered outside their range, but occasional visitors, they are a treat to see.
Good numbers of Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher nesting along Stewart Creek Rd.
Pied Heron, Hardhead, Plumed Whistling Duck, Grey Teal at a dam on Ferraro Rd near Pt Douglas.
Pale-vented Bushhen loving the water left around from recent rains. Seen skittling across the road near Pt Douglas and locally.
The pond is full at Red Mill House so regular Azure Kingfisher, not Little unfortunately. Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Pied Imperial Pigeon and Figbirds loving all the fruits.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

At last - Paradise Kingfishers galore!!

Rather late, this year, but the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers have arrived from New Guinea for the breeding season and are here in Daintree in large numbers. Particularly active and calling madly along Stewart Creek Rd - the patch of forest at the end of the road is home to at least 8 birds at present.
Another 3 or 4 can be seen and  heard at the beginning of the road, close to town.
These birds are a favourite with everyone.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher
Also, in the same areas are other fabulous birds like Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Superb Fruit-Dove, Pied Monarch, Black-faced Monarch and Wompoo Fruit-Dove. Early morning seems to be the best time!

The Daintree River cruises have been spectacular lately with good sightings of nesting Great-billed Heron and Papuan Frogmouth, Cotton Pygmy Goose and Latham's Snipe, Little Kingfisher, Shining Flycatcher and many others.

Great-billed Heron

The garden at Red Mill house has been excellent for Azure Kingfisher, Cicadabird, a range of honeyeaters, Varied Triller and Eastern Koel.

Eastern Koel Female
 Our two Olive-backed Sunbird nests have suffered different fates - one taken by a Black Butcherbird and the other surviving (fingers crossed) with the aid of a very unattractive 'Scarecrow' near the nest. It even frightens us when we forget it is there, but the sunnies don't seem to mind it!
No photos - we may get done for defamation!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What a fabulous time of year!

How great is this?
Warm days, warmish nights, no rain, low humidity, no mosquitoes and birds galore. It doesn't get much better than birding in Daintree and the Wet Tropics of Tropical North Queensland at this time of year.
Red Mill House is full of guests from around the world and it has been great fun showing them some of our local birds.
The Daintree River is always the best place for birding locally and both Murray, the Daintree Boatman, and Sauce from Daintree River Wildwatch have been having excellent runs on the river.
Papuan Frogmouth are nesting in several locations, Black Bittern has returned for the season, Great-billed Heron are regularly seen, several cuckoo species, Cicadabird and many more. Little Kingfisher seems to be visible on about half the mornings.
The end of Stewart Creek Rd has given us treats like Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Superb Fruit-Dove, Satin Flycatcher, all the Monarchs, Grey Whistler, Golden Whistler, Red-backed Fairywren etc.

 Just out of Daintree township on the first part of Stewart Creek Rd have been Lovely Fairywren, Channel-billed Cuckoo, nesting Papuan Frogmouth and nesting Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Leaden Flycatcher, Little Bronze-Cuckoo and many more.

North of the Daintree River there have been nice Cassowary sightings with a guest taking some of the nicest footage we have seen of two adults and little stripy chick playing in the water at Marrdja Boardwalk. Just beautiful!
The Daintree Saltwater Barramundi farm are happy for birders to visit the ponds for a small fee. Many waders, raptors, terns, ducks, pelicans, egrets, stilts etc can be seen and photographed at these fish ponds.

In the gardens of Red Mill House we have a pair of Azure Kingfisher on the pond each day and we wake to the calls of Brush Cuckoo, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Cicadabird, Yellow Oriole, Macleay's Honeyeater, Australian Koel and others each morning. It doesn't get much better!

While it is dry at present, the signs of an impending rainy season are growing. We have nine Giant White-lipped Green Tree-frogs in the lounge room, hiding behind the paintings during the day and making their way to the yard and pond after dark. Every morning at about 4am we can hear the 'plop, plop, plop' as they make their way back to the safety of the house. They are just starting to call, which is lovely - not long before they drive us mad!  We love them!

 All our summer migrants seem to have arrived except the much-anticipated Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher. A matter of days, I'm sure as a couple have been recorded passing through the region already.