Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Winter birds

Beautiful winter weather here in Daintree with cool nights, foggy mornings and clear warm days - just the way we like it! I must say, though, that it is about time after 6 months of wet weather and making it to 3.7 metres of rain so far for the year. Everything is starting to dry out, which is very satisfying, considering the amount of mould we have had to deal with this year.

The garden is also starting to reshoot quite nicely after the cyclone. We still have a few stumps and chunks of wood to move, but things are looking better.
One of the effects of having a cyclone go through is that it wipes out all the fruit and flowers in the forest and the garden for several weeks, if not months. It's hard work keeping up with bananas and pawpaws, coconuts, seed and nectavite for all the hungry honeyeaters, friarbirds, drongos, riflebirds, doves, scrub fowl and turkeys that are standing around rattling their feed bowls every morning!
Even the scrubfowl have taken to jumping up onto the feeders.

We have never seen so many Victoria's Riflebird (female only, unfortunately) in the garden as this year. This poor girl hit a window, but survived to tell the tale.

Victoria's Riflebird (female)

Fortunately some of the palms are starting to fruit again, so the riflebirds are having daily disputes with the figbirds and orioles for each fruit as it ripens.

A visit from a lovely Amethystine Python this week as it warmed up in the sun for a while before disappearing into the shed. Only about 2 metres in length and not very big. Some horrible 'frog-strangling'- type noises from up high a couple of days ago suggests that it hasn't gone far.

Amethystine Python

Good news for birding locally with good sightings of Little Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Great-billed Heron all on the Daintree River and some great winter specials such as White-eared Monarch and Black-faced Monarch also. Spotted Whistling Ducks (2) also on the river for a day or so, but not seen since.
Great sightings of Southern Cassowary north of the Daintree River at various locations such as The Icecream Company, the Beach House and Jindalba Boardwalk. It seems that the sub-adults have been sent away and are looking for their own territory - several have been seen alone in the last week or so.

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Wompoo Fruit-Dove and Fairy Gerygone are birds of note in the garden at Red Mill House as well as the Victoria's Riflebird.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Back - - and into it!!

After a rather turbulent first half of the year, we are back at Red Mill House, ready for the season ahead.
Our old friends Peter and Vicki, who were looking after Red Mill for us, and our beloved Silvia busted their proverbials to make the place look as good as possible before we returned. Bless 'em!
It still breaks the heart to see the broken-off tree tops and the great holes where there were once trees, and the stumps still lying there, and having coconuts dominating the skyline rather than rainforest trees, and being able to see cars drive past - -  - but they have done a great job cleaning up, removing rubbish, painting etc. We are very grateful to them all.

To first-time visitors Red Mill House looks just fine.

And - in this climate the holes will fill again fairly quickly with something that has been waiting for the opportunity to get some light and get going, for a long time. And - - - I'll have enough light to grow a few vegetables!! Give it a couple of years - - - - - .

The rain has kept going, with now 3.7metres of rain recorded for the year to date. The odd dry and beautiful day here and there, and hopefully that will improve as the 'dry' season sets in.

Lots of exciting things happening for us - a new Daintree Regional map which will be printed in the next few days, and a new Red Mill House website to go live in the next few days - both of which we have been working hard on.

Birdwise - Cyclone Ita has taken so much of our fruit and flowers from the forest that we can't keep up with the nectar feeders and fruit trays. It is certainly a good opportunity to get a close look at our honeyeaters et al as they squabble for food. There are opportunities to see Victoria's Riflebird, Red-necked Crake, Azure Kingfisher and others in the garden. The river is a little quite at present, but will start to flourish again soon with some fine weather. Good Cassowary sightings north of the Daintree River.

Our UK trip was fabulous with the Birdquest trip along the west coast of the UK and up through the Outer Hebrides living up to our expectations. Puffins, Guillimots, Razorbills, Gannets etc galore and the great opportunity to see the sea stacks and breeding colonies. Also managed to catch up with wonderful birds like Chough, Corncrake, Ptarmigan while in Scotland. We loved the wilderness in Scotland and sacrificed a few nights in London to stay in the Sottish Highland area of the Cairngorms for a bit longer, while the weather remained favourable.

Now, back to work for the year!!!

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://redmillhouserenos.blogspot.com.au/ ) 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.