Friday, July 23, 2010

Cairns Escape - Final Chapter

Finally, I can bring this endless stream of delayed far north Queensland blog post to an end. It has taken way to much time, but I most admit that I have truly had a lot of joy going through the pictures again. Great holiday with lots of highlights and a few things we would probably change for our next trip, here is a little sum up of goods and bads.

Weather and timing could probably have been optimized. Early April is just considered end of the rainy season and you should know that sometimes the weather does not respect this rule. However, all the rain probably meant that we encountered less Easter shenanigans. We could always find accommodation, no problem booking a car and no queuing to see the Cassowary :-) Price wise, the plane tickets were Easter-price i.e. expensive, however, a bit of looking around and there are always airfare deals out there. Biggest economical setback was probably the need for a solid roof above our heads every night. Despite of having brought the tent, we simply could not use it due to the amount of water pouring down. In most of the exotic locations that meant prices well above $100 a night, In Cairns motels can easily be found around $60 per night.

Birding up north was absolutely fantastic! Tactically we followed the Pareto principle - litterally we split the 5 day holiday into 5 events (i.e. 20%); Daintree, Julatten, Atherton tablelands, South of Cairns, and the Great Barrier Reef. We used 20% of the time each place to see 80% of what the place had to offer :-) Due to this tactic little G. managed to clock up an impressive 57 new bird species:

1. Southern Cassowary
2. Orange-footed Scrubfowl
3. Plumed Whistling-Duck
4. Wandering Whistling-Duck
5. Brown Booby
6. Intermediate Egret
7. Cattle Egret
8. Great-billed Heron
9. Striated Heron
10. Black Bittern
11. Brahminy Kite
12. (Spotted Harrier)
13. Little Curlew
14. Great Knot
15. Grey-tailed Tattler
16. Terek Sandpiper
17. Common Sandpiper
18. Bush Stone-curlew
19. Lesser Sand Plover
20. Little Tern
21. Common Noddy
22. Black Noddy
23. Pied Imperial-Pigeon
24. Wompoo Fruit-Dove
25. Emerald Dove
26. Double-eyed Fig-Parrot
27. Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoo
28. Channel-billed Cuckoo
29. (Barn Owl)
30. White-rumped Swiftlet
31. Azure Kingfisher
32. Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher
33. Forest Kingfisher
34. Blue-winged Kookaburra
35. Large-billed Scrubwren
36. Mountain Thornbill
37. Helmeted Friarbird
38. Macleay’s Honeyeater
39. Yellow-spotted Honeyeater
40. Graceful Honeyeater
41. Varied Honeyeater
42. Yellow Honeyeater
43. Mistletoebird
44. Yellow-bellied Sunbird
45. Chowchilla
46. Grey-headed Robin
47. Pale-yellow Robin
48. Little Shrike-thrush
49. Bower’s Shrike-thrush
50. Spectacled Monarch
51. Shining Flycatcher
52. Spangled Drongo
53. Varied Triller
54. Olive-backed Oriole
55. Figbird
56. White-breasted Woodswallow
57. Torresian Crow
58. Crimson Finch
59. Metallic Starling

I know there are 59 on the list, she had already seen the Barn Owl before (but it sort of deserve to be mentioned) and unfortunately she was very concentrated driving the little Toyota up a steep winding road when the Spotted Harrier took of next to us .. so it was only me that got a good look .. how sad! ;-)
No doubt that Julatten and Atherton tableland supplied most of the birding action, but I really would have been sad not to go south of Cairns to see the Cassowary or to take another day in the hinterland, but missing out on the reef. Cairns Esplanade deserves a mentioning, we used very little time there, probably less than 2 hours in total, but per minute no place delivered more new birds - an absolute must see for any binocular slinging birder.

Great Barrier Reef is a must go as well! No way around it - you have to dedicate at least a day for the reef, apart from some world class snorkeling it is a good way to get a bit out of town and to see something else .. including a few pelagic species, like two types of Noddys and a Booby. Tons of fish and good visibility, what more can you hope for? The snorkeling equipment supplied were excellent and with good flippers we both managed to do a bit of free diving, just to feel alive :-)

Good stuff, still dark and Jetstar brought us back to Sydney, I managed to arrive at work nearly normal morning time, still smelling of saltwater and full of energy.

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