Saturday, December 4, 2010

Family time

By the end of November Daintree had a reached over 4 metres of rain for the year - an extraordinary amount of rain for most of us who were brought up in much drier climes than these! There has only been minor flooding though, but it won't take long once the 'wet season' arrives in a month or so - the ground is well and truly saturated now and will not hold big inundations.
Birding has remained interesting though, with good numbers of summer migrants about. The Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers are excavating the termite mounds, Black Bittern have chicks on their nests along the river, and Metallic Starling juveniles are busily helping with the next generation.
Rufous Owl have been seen in the garden at Red Mill House on several occasions in the last month, and a reported family of three Rufous Owl at Jindalba Boardwalk took us out looking for them early one morning. No owls, but a lovely Southern Cassowary family, dad with two chicks, not worrying about us at all as they slowly moved through the forest feeding on fruits. A wonderful sight! A good ten minutes of watching before they wandered off.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paradise Kingfishers - colourful and stunning.

One of the great joys of spring in Daintree and the Wet Tropics is the return of the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher from New Guinea every year to breed. Arriving in late October ( a little early this year), they call madly for mates from high in the forest  for the first few weeks, making them easy to locate. They will soon settle down to nest in the terrestrial termite mounds on the forest floor of lowland and mid-level rainforest.

Photo by Lynne Perree 2010
The colours are extraordinary, with a bright red bill and red feet, a bright orange breast, bright blue back and head with black markings, and a long white tail and patch on the rump. As the bird calls the tail flicks up and down, and is often the first thing you see.
This bird is a favourite with visiting birders and we locals alike, and they can be seen and heard at the moment along Stewart Creek Rd in Daintree.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Birds and other creatures

The garden at Red Mill House has been a treat for birders in the last couple of weeks with many of our trees fruiting and flowering. Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, flocks of Metallic Starling and Spotted Catbird are all enjoying the fruits.
The unseasonal rain throughout the winter and spring means lots of green, lots of new growth and lots of insects and other creatures about. Spotted in the garden yesterday, having just devoured a very large spider was this Boyd's Forest Dragon.

A rainforest species, this dragon can be difficult to see. Often sitting perfectly still on the side of a tree trunk, they are easily missed. We were lucky to see this one feeding and with this posture.

Butterflies have been abundant with all the rain, plus some spectacular moths. This Lyssa spp moth has a wingspan of about 14cm, as seen by the comparison with the book, and a beautiful swallow-tail form.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Unseasonal conditions

Normally the months of July, August and September are perfect in Daintree - dry, clear and sunny weather. Not so this year. Apart from a few days here and there, it has been a very wet 'dry season'.
The paddocks are green and lush, the dams and wetlands are full, there is lush new growth on the rainforest trees, the lawn needs mowing weekly and the birds and other animals seem to be nesting and breeding early.
None of this stops good birding though!
A return visit from one of our favourite Japanese birders, Yoshihito Tanaka, last month has supplied us with a range of new photos, including this classic of a Wompoo Fruit-Dove with chick.

Sightings on the Daintree River include Black Bittern, Great-billed Heron and Papuan Frogmouth - all starting to nest it seems. Double-eyed Fig-Parrot have been spotted feeding young, and immature Black Butcherbirds are noisily searching for food.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


In the past month the Red Mill House team have been involved in displays at both the British Birdfair in Rutland UK and the Australian Birdfair in Leeton NSW, and have very much enjoyed the experience.
Representing Australian Birdwatching in the UK, we had a 3m by 6m area decked with fabulous images of Australian birds and with the brochures of 33 businesses/organisations from around the country.

Nearly 23,000 people attended the event over the three days, most of whom are birdwatchers. Displays ranged from tourism products to conservation groups, artists to book sellers, optics suppliers and many more, all in 7 huge marquees.There were also two lecture marquees running flat-out for the weekend, as well as entertainment and scheduled events. HUGE!! We had a great time catching up with old guests and meeting and talking to large numbers of people, encouraging them to visit Australia for their next birding holiday. It was a busy time.

The Australian Birdfair, held in Leeton each year, is in it's infancy still. Not huge numbers of people, but those who attended were very committed. Again, a lecture programme with excellent speakers and diverse topics, plus tours and displays. Andrew and Keith from Kingfisher Park represented Birding in Tropical Queensland and generated good interest amongst the birders present.
We are hoping to attend both these events again next year.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Lovely Fairy-Wren

Overseas people often say that they love Australian birds because they are 'colour-coded'. It's true - we have some wonderful colorful species, and the uniquely Australian family of Fairy-Wren is a great example. With names like Superb, Splendid and Lovely Fairy-Wren, it says it all.
The Lovely Fairy-Wren is only found in Far Northern Qld, and is the brightest of them all. The female is quite blue (whereas in other species they are mostly brown) and the male is stunning with blue, red and black.

Family groups of Lovely Fairy-Wren are seen around Daintree Village, with Stewart Creek Rd and the gardens of Red Mill House being likely locations. A group seen this week had two brightly coloured males - usually it is one male to three or four female or immature. Such a treat to see.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Andrew and Trish from Red Mill House will be running the Australian Birdwatching stand at this year's British Birdfair, representing birdwatching businesses from around Australia.
The British Birdfair is the largest birdwatching event in the world, with over 20,000 people attending and over 300 displays.
The aim for "Australian Birdwatching" is to convince the British birdwatcher that it is still good value to visit Australia and, with over 300 endemic species, Australia is a 'must do' for birdwatchers.
Come and see us Marque 4, stands 41 and 42. We'd love to see some familiar faces!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Winter in the garden

Winter in the garden at Red Mill House is a very special time. This is the only time of the year that birds regularly visit the feeders because normally we have so much fruit and nectar available naturally that they can't be bothered. There is less so in winter. Banana, papaya and black sapote are the fruits of choice for the honeyeaters, Spangled Drongo, Spotted Catbird and Helmeted Friarbird. Even the Rainbow Lorikeets have decided to have a dabble this year. Needless to say our pair of Orange-footed and the array of Australian Brush-Turkey will clean up the scraps from the ground.
We have one poor old grapefruit tree, which unfortunately is dying, just off the breakfast deck. This is great perching and feeding spot as the following two images show.

Both the Spangled Drongo and Helmeted Friarbird seem to start their days here, announcing their presence to the world

This same tree has a bunch of Mistletoe on it, and this is the favourite food of the aptly-named Mistletoe Bird, a tiny but gorgeous bird, particularly the male. This bird is instrumental in the spreading of the mistletoe seed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Holiday Season

July is the busiest time of the year here in Daintree with visitors from the cold southern states of Australia plus those from the northern hemisphere who have summer holidays. It's great meeting so many varied people from around the world.
One of the joys of birdwatching (and meeting people) is introducing people to our local birds and increasing their awareness and appreciation of our feather friends and our local environment. Andrew and I particularly enjoy helping young people to develop their interest in wildlife. It's great to meet seven year olds who know the difference between a male and female Figbird! The Cribb kids from Cunamulla were perfect examples of aspiring birders.

The gardens of Red Mill House have been excellent for several birds in the past week - Spotted Catbird, Victoria's Riflebird, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Azure Kingfisher and Little Bronze-Cuckoo plus all the usual suspects.
There is also a variety of doves and pigeons around at present with flocks of Top-knot Pigeon flying through and Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Emerald Dove and Bar-shouldered Dove in the garden
The Emerald Dove is a lovely unassuming bird who feeds on the forest floor generally and camouflages well with it's bronze and emerald green tones which change with the light.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The 'Dry' Season

Winter is the best time for seeing Monarchs in the coastal lowlands of the Daintree. The most common is Spectacled Monarch who can be seen and heard easily in many habitats. They are very active chasing insects and will often be seen with other insect eaters such as Little Shrike-Thrush. They love to bathe in birdbaths in domestic gardens.

The Pied Monarch is one of the Wet Tropics' 12 endemics and is found in both the lowlands and the upland areas of the Cairns Highlands. It is also easier to see in winter as a rule.The distinctive habit of running up, down and around tree trunks searching for food, plus the distinctive markings, make identification easy.

Both these birds have been in the gardens of Red Mill house in Daintree Village in the past few days.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Winter Magic

Glorious weather in Daintree, making it the perfect time of year to visit. Lots of campervans and caravans about as winter descends on Southern Australia, but we still have 27 degree days and start complaining if the night-time temperature drops below 17 degrees.
Some great winter birds about with flycatchers, monarchs and fantails being more obvious foraging for insects in the morning and late afternoon light. Spotted Catbird and Victoria's Riflebird (female) are also easier to see at this time of year.  A favourite, Lovely Fairy-Wren, is also reasonably easily seen along Stewart Creek Rd - a family group of five, including one gloriously coloured male.
The Blue Quandong fruit are maturing up, making great food for the Wompoo Fruit-Dove. Despite being remarkable colouful with it's purple breast and gold flashes on the wings, the Wompoo has the ability to disappear into the foliage. A beautiful bird, particularly when you catch it in the sunlight.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A glorious time of year

Warm, dry, gorgeous autumn weather with cool nights, misty mornings and glorious days. (And the mosquitoes have disappeared!)
Some great birds in Daintree this week.
A short visit to Jindalba Boardwalk today gave us great views of the Noisy Pitta, with at least three birds heard or seen. As often happens, the carpark area is better than the boardwalk, with Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and Pale-yellow Robin seen as well. It is always worth taking some time at Jindalba.

Lovely views of a Barking Owl in the early hours on the Mossman Daintree Rd during the week - presumably feeding from the canefields.

The sugarcane harvest season will start within the next couple of weeks and there is always increased activity of raptors over that time. A Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australia's largest eagle, was seen in the same area a couple of days ago.Not a usual sighting for the wetter lowlands.
Pied Monarch, Lewin's Honeyeater and Spotted Catbird in the garden at Red Mill House - all good signs that winter is on it's way.
Great-billed Heron seen fishing in the shallows near the bridge along Stewart Creek at low tide and Blue-winged Kookaburra on the wires in Daintree Village.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Autumn news and weather

At last the sun is shining and the ground is drying out. Perfect weather returns to Daintree.
Some excellent birdwatching locally in the Daintree Valley with lovely views of large numbers of Rainbow Bee-eater and Forest Kingfisher feeding from the fences and posts along Upper Daintree Rd. Sharing their space is the lovely little White-breasted Woodswallow - a very sociable species who often nest in the top of fence posts.

As the local wetlands (and puddles in the paddocks) start to dry out a little we are seeing Royal Spoonbill, Great Egret, Little Egret and Black-fronted Dotterel in the fields.A colouful resident (and migratory) shorebird which inhabits freshwater ponds, puddles and mud. A pair have settled in around a small pond and lots of mud along Upper Daintree Rd.

An escape for the Daintree Birdwatching team yesterday as we had a day birding the dryer country around Julatten, Mount Molloy, Mareeba and Mount Carbine. Over 85 species for the day with some classic Australian birds that we never see here like Galah, Australian Magpie, Pied Butcherbird, Apostlebird and many others. A great day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The serious rains seem to have finished for the season -we have had 2.88 metres of rain for the year to date, so are pleased to have had good 'wet season'.
Some great birds about Daintree in the past couple of weeks.
Great views of Channel-billed Cuckoo (30+ birds) flying around Daintree Village -they should start to disappear soon as the season changes. Black Bittern is a still a regular on the Daintree River, as is Great-billed Heron, Shining Flycatcher and Large-billed Gerygone.
New additions for the new season include Lewin's Honeyeater and Satin Flycatcher. Little Kingfisher has returned to the pond of Red Mill House as a regular visitor, along with the Azure Kingfisher
The last of the juvenile Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers seem to have left the Daintree Valley for New Guinea (where they have never been before, and have no guidance to as the adults left a couple of weeks ago! The joy of nature.)
The Orange-footed Scrubfowl, a very successful species of mound builders, seem to be particularly busy at present tending heir mounds and enjoying the drier conditions.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rain, rain and more rain

Daintree has received over 1 metre of rain in the past 12 days! 318 ml on Saturday alone. It's tough - so sloshy underfoot, mould growing on everything, nothing dries, the river, creeks and roads are flooded, people get stranded, landslides and trees coming over because the soil is so waterlogged. Nothing major really, but we feel like we are ready for a break!
The poor old birds are feeling it as well as the nectar and fruit supplies are so much less available. Two of most endearing local birds are also two of the most enduring, despite the conditions.
Any moment the Olive-backed Sunbird sees a break in the weather, they are straight into the ginger flowers for nectar.  The male is particularly beautiful.

The Rainbow Lorikeet is another fabulously busy bird who will eat fruit or nectar (they have specially developed brush like tongues) and adapt well to any conditions.

Big groups of Channel-billed Cuckoos about in Daintree at present, sharing the tops of the trees with the large numbers of Spectacled Flying Foxes that seem to surviving 'the wet' as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We had somehow lost this blogspot in deep, dark cyberspace, but having spent three months blogging from Argentina recently and realising how much people enjoy and appreciate news, we've decided to kick-start this one again. The aim will be weekly birding updates from Daintree, hopefully with photos, to compliment the website
The wet season may be coming to an end in Tropical North Queensland and we were fortunate to have missed the cyclone on the weekend that crossed the coast well south of Townsville.
Some excellent rainforest birds locally at this time of year with regular sightings of Southern Cassowary, Victoria's Riflebird and Spotted Catbird. On the Daintree River there has been good sightings of Black Bittern, Great-billed Heron and Little Kingfisher - all target species for visiting birders to the Daintree..
While the special and more difficult to see kingfishers are Little Kingfisher and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher (pictured right), we are fortunate to have both Azure Kingfisher

and Forest Kingfisher 

as permanent residents and they always delight birdwatchers visiting the Daintree.