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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spring is in the air!

After two weeks of very windy, and often wet, conditions we have beautiful sunshine and warm clear days to 30 degrees.
You can hear new signs of spring every day at the moment - cuckoos lead the way.
Brush Cuckoo has been calling incessantly every morning for a couple of weeks now, Australasian Koel also calling for the last week and now Channel-billed Cuckoo, our 'storm season' indicator has also arrived.
Other summer migrants recent arrived include Pied Imperial Pigeons feeding on rainforest fruits, Metallic Starlings madly building their communal nests and Brown-backed Honeyeater noisily building nests and feeding in the paperbarks.

Female Australasian Koel
Other wonderful birds at present in the garden at Red Mill House include monarchs - Black-faced Monarch, Spectacled Monarch and our endemic Pied Monarch. Satin and Leaden Flycatcher complete the flycatcher types enjoying the plentiful insects after some reasonable rain in the last couple of weeks.It is a fabulous time of year in the Daintree as new growth abounds on rainforest trees and the figs are fruiting.

Spectacled Monarch

Pied Monarch
Other sightings on the Daintree River include Lathams Snipe, Papuan Frogmouth, Australian Reed-Warbler and Great-billed Heron preparing for nesting.

The local roads in the Daintree Valley have been very productive also - all the herons, Black-necked Stork, Black-fronted Dotterel, Australian Pipit, Royal Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and many more. Red-backed Fairy Wrens have been seen carrying nesting material. A favourite for everyone is the flocks of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins feeding on the seed heads of grasses in the  fields. Such fun to watch!

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Winter birding magic!

It's such a nice time of year to be birding in the Daintree.

The Daintree River has been very productive with early morning river cruises offering good views of Great-billed Heron, Papuan Frogmouth, Azure Kingfisher and even sightings of White-eared Monarch.
A few of the strangler figs are fruiting profusely, and on Stewart Creek Rd there have been good numbers of Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike, Barred Cuckoo Shrike, Topnknot Pigeon and Metallic Starling enjoying the fruits.

Topknot Pigeon

Excellent sightings of Southern Cassowary, Victoria's Riflebird and Bridled Honeyeater north of the Daintree River.
Great daily sightings of Little Kingfisher in the pond at Red Mill House, plus Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Black-faced Monarch and Wompoo Fruit-Dove in the garden.

Little Kingfisher

 Macleay's Honeyeater, Spangled Drongo and Helmeted Friarbird are all enjoying the small quantities of banana on the feeders each day.
Macleay's Honeyeater

The nectar-rich, bright red Calliandra flowers are a great attraction for the nectar feeders, particularly Olive- backed Sunbird, which are plentiful at the moment, and the honeyeaters.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Back in beautiful Daintree at last!

After 3 months holiday - 6 weeks in South America and then six weeks driving into central Australia and back, it is great to be back in Daintree with the familiar lush green rainforest, warm winter's days and our local very special birds.
Highlights from Bolivia included a four day hike from the freezing cold Andes at 5,,000metres down into the sub-tropical Yungas at 2000m, just out of La Paz. Hard on the knees and much more difficult than we imagined but a fabulous experience and our first sighting of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, which was on life's 'wish list'.

El Choro Trek Bolivia 

Many birding highlights of Ecuador, but the day in the company of Mr Angel Paz at his farm, watching him interact with Antpittas, Cock-of-the-Rock, hummers, Toucanets etc was magic. An ex hunter who now has a refuge for wildlife, he provides opportunities to see many of the more difficult birds, and in a most delightful manner.

Toucan Barbet

Home for a day, packed the ute and then headed off camping to Central Australia. Great weather, great country and some great birds including this Western Bowerbird at Ormiston Gorge in the West Macdonnell Ranges.

Western Bowerbird

 Camping in the bush on the Plenty Highway between Boulia and Alice Springs. No caravans - yeah!!!

Back to Daintree, which is about as good as it gets in mid winter!
Busy here for the school holidays, particularly with day visitors from Cairns and Port Douglas. For those lucky enough to stay overnight in Daintree the birdlife is fantastic. There have been 5 different kingfishers on the Daintree River, seen from the early morning boat tours, plus favourites like Great-billed Heron and Papuan Frogmouth.
The Little Kingfisher feeds on the pond at Red Mill House each day and Spangled Drongo, Pacific Baza and Brown Cuckoo Dove frequent the yard.
Nice winter specials here in the lowlands include Brown Falcon, seen on the Mossman-Daintree Rd, Lewin's Honeyeater, Pacific Baza, Victoria's Riflebird and Black-faced Monarch.
Southern Cassowary seen on Cape Kimberly Rd, Wompoo Fruit-Dove nesting on Stewart Creek Rd and the first Pied Imperial Pigeons recently seen, presumably returning from PNG for the breeding season. Metallic Starling also returned and busy as can be.
It's nice to be home!!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Last days

Our last few days before packing up to go to South America for 6 weeks - just Bolivia and Ecuador, but think of the birds - - - -!
Some good 'wet season' rain at last in Daintree this week and the sun is out again, so the wonderful butterflies, frogs and birds all appear. It has been fabulous.
Little Kingfisher and Azure Kingfisher on the now-full pond at Red Mill House. Pied Monarch, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher and Double-eyed Fig-Parrot also in the garden.
White-browed Robin (a newy for us) at the end of Stewart Creek Rd.
Papuan Frogmouth and Barn Owl feeding at night along Stewart Creek Rd. Unfortunately Ellen Terrell also picked up a dead Sooty Owl from the road at Wonga.
Pink-eared Duck at the Barra Farm at Wonga.
Wompoo Fruit-Dove nesting again near the Ergon Track on Stewart Creek Rd.
Victoria's Riflebird, Nankeen Night-Heron and Great-billed Heron all spotted on the Daintree River this afternoon. An amazing sight this afternoon as we drifted into the bywash to watch a Great-billed Heron perched up high and calling for 10 minutes. Neck stretching upward and outward then distending as the deep, throaty booming is emitted. Extraordinary!! This is when you wish you had a good camera.

Great-billed Heron calling Daintree River March 2013
All the good wet season birds (and frogs!) are very active - Red-necked Crake, Pale-vented Bushhen, Black-necked Stork, Little Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher - just to name a few.
Great views of Southern Cassoawary near Maardja Boardwalk yesterday morning. What a beautiful bird!!

Southern Cassowary  Miki Dengel Mar 2013
We're off for a few weeks, but will do quick update in mid-May.
If you want to see what is happening on our South American trip check out the following Blog:
Have fun!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A crazy 'wet' season

To date we have had less than 700mm of rain for the year, which for lowland rainforest, in the wet season, is extraordinarily low. We normally would have had close to 2 metres of rain.
It has been hot and humid with isolated thunderstorms - some of which have been spectacular.
Trees are flowering, thinking the 'wet' is over, and birds (like the Rainbow Bee-eater) are returning early - it is a little crazy.
A great time for birding locally though, with a lot of activity as the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers feed their fledglings.
This photo is of a young stray a few years ago who came for worms off the verandah. Sweet thing!

"BUFFY" 2007
Good numbers of Black Bittern on the Daintree River and a family of Great-billed Heron near the bywash. Hard-head, Wandering Whistling-Ducks, returning Egrets, Black-necked Stork and Black-fronted Dotterel on the river banks.
Lots of rainforest figs in fruit at the moment, so excellent for Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Koel, figbirds, starlings etc. Dollarbird hawking in the streets of Daintree.
Little Kingfisher and Azure Kingfisher in local waterways.
Despite being rather uncomfortable conditions, it is a great time for birding in Daintree.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Daintree River

After a good clean-out from last month's rain, the Daintree River is looking fabulous. The water is clear, the Barramundi fishing season is open and recreational fisherman are endeavouring to catch this prized fighting (and eating) fish.
It's also a great time for birds on the Daintree River.
A trip out in 'the tinny' on Weds morning gave us excellent views of the Great Billed Heron, Black Bittern, Shining Flycatcher, Yellow Oriole and many more. The tide was a little high for Kingfishers.

Great-billed Heron Feb 12 (Trish Forsyth)
Other good sightings in the area include Spotted Whistling Ducks, Latham's Snipe, loads of Magpie Goose, Red-necked Crake and Pale-vented Bush-Hen. Having some water lying around in the fields at last is excellent for these birds.
Wonderful weather - you wouldn't believe it is meant to be the 'Wet Season'.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The rainy season

After a comparatively dry 2012 (2830ml), this year's "wet" season is off to a good start. A monsoonal low on Cape York is bringing good rains to the Daintree (200ml+ in the past 4 days), filling the wetlands and flushing the Daintree River. No flooding yet but, the ground is now saturated so, continued heavy rains will cause local flooding.
Excellent for birding though, with Pale-vented Bushhen frolicking in drains along the side of the road, Red-necked Crake calling at night and both Little and Azure Kingfishers returning to their traditional spots (including Red Mill House pond) after the breeding season.

Azure Kingfisher (Russell Jones)
A visit to Maardja Boardwalk last week gave us two sightings of Little Kingfisher, and three separate sightings of Southern Cassowary were reported yesterday north of the Daintree River.
A large flock of Wandering Whistling Duck (40+) flying over Daintree Village each evening, and several hundred Magpie Goose are still in the area - roosting near Barratt Creek and feeding in the fields throughout the valley.

Magpie Goose (T.Forsyth)

The perils of the rainy season, unfortunately, are obvious. The Papuan Frogmouth nest we have been watching has had a large branch fall on it during the rain. We are not sure of the result.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The perils of the breeding season

Conditions are good and fruit is plentiful in the Daintree rainforest at this time of year and, to coincide with this, many birds are breeding before the wetter and more difficult conditions arrive.
A Yellow Oriole nest we have been faithfully watching in the garden struck problems a couple of days ago when the single chick left the nest too early - it seems it could 'fly' downwards, but not upwards! After us picking him up and popping him on a branch, Mum and Dad continued to follow him around, feed him and protect him. Fingers crossed they still doing it, despite us not seeing him today. The Black Butcherbirds are feeding their own young at present and are ferocious predators.

Yellow Oriole fledgling Jan 13

Hatched and going well (and in great form) are this family of Spangled Drongo juveniles. Mum was sitting nearby, looking pretty tired - all those mouths to feed! 4 healthy and hungry babies.

Spangled Drongo Jan 13

At the other end of the scale, we chanced upon a pair of Wompoo Fruit-Dove just building their nest, along Stewart Creek Rd. A precarious nest at the best of times, with only a shallow platform of a few sticks. The ritual of 'passing the stick' is beautiful to watch though. Good luck to them!

Wompoo Fruit-Dove Jan 12
A quick trip out on the Daintree River and up Stewart Creek with friend and birding guide Ellen Terrell, yesterday evening, yielded a great haul of very special birds. Great-billed Heron, several Black Bittern, Nankeen Night-Heron, Papuan Frogmouth and chick, Azure Kingfisher, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, and many, many more. It was a great pleasure to be there.
Still plenty of Magpie Geese feeding in the fields during the day, plus a flock of about 40 Wandering Whistling Duck and 7 Hardhead. Still looking for the Spotted Whistling Ducks!

Magpie Geese Daintree River Jan 13
Red-necked Crake in the garden at Red Mill House (a summer treat) and Pale-vented Bushhen frolicking in a drain opposite the town rubbish tip. (sorry - - Waste Transfer Station!)