Saturday, July 3, 2010

Birding South of Cairns - Cassowary at Etty Bay

After a night in one of Cairns cheapest motels we were on the road again. Having spend time north and west of Cairns it was now time to head south. We had found a(nother) favorite folder "Bird Trails Tropical Queensland", which gives advice on where to go and what to see between Mission beach in the south and Cape Tribulation in the north. there is also a web page with more information here.

The plan was once again to push as hard as possible in an attempt to see it all :-) Eubenangee Swamp National Park, Etty Bay and Mission Beach were on the list. It had rained most of the night and we were driving into a were wet north Queensland countryside! As we approached our first stop for the day, Eubenangee Swamp National Park, it became clear that all that water would give us more trouble than just the usual wet camera gear and moist socks. After negotiating the first road flooding in the little Toyota we gave up at the second one, after I had reached above knee high water levels on my bare footed walkthrough - I most have walked nearly 1 kilometer in water that day.

We decided to eat a bit of lunch while enjoy to be being back on land and little G. managed to narrow the gap once again by spotting a Crimson Finch in the sugarcane - I had seen it in Ubirr during my Kakadu trip. Great little bird!
Etty Bay is famous for Southern Cassowary and Beach Stone-curlew, so obviously we were going to give it a go! Cassowarys like tropical rainforest, however, the denseness of the forest up north makes it nearly impossible to see anything that bothers to hide, so the chance of seeing this astonishing bird is often better on an open beach with fruiting trees - like around Etty Bay.

What a fantastic creature! You cannot avoid getting hit with a feeling of awe when a Cassowary majestically passes by and in the back of your head, the stories about how this bird with its blade-like claws are capable of killing humans and dogs if it feels threatened, starts to spin ... :-)

We arrived at Mission Beach and weather had turned absolutely terrible! The few seconds I had the lens upright to take the picture of the White-bellied Sea-Eagle resulted in multiple stains on the front element. Instead of exploring the beach, we voted for cover in the rain forest.

We did the Bicton Hill walk in the Clump Mountain National Park. Photographically it was near worst conditions ever, everything was wet and the rain forest was very dark. However, nearing the end of the trip I had caught up on the battery situation and dared again to let the flash fire. When everything else is impossible, you can always do a bit of macro :-)

We managed to see a Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher and probably our only Chowchilla of the trip so decent outcome, but towards the end I must admit it was not exactly fun having been rained upon all day and we were happy to make it to the car and begin our return to Cairns. We had booked a snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef for our last full day - at least we were supposed to be wet while doing that! :-D


Anonymous said...

The eagle (or some bird of prey. I am not a bird watcher, they all look the same to me!) picture is nice!

AGL said...

Thank! :-) It is indeed an eagle - a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. It came in really close, I have hardly cropped the picture. Guess it could be because the weather was so bad that it did not really care about me standing with the camera, it just wanted to get away from the rain.

Cheers Allan