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Published: July 19th 2018
I started the day with the best thing to do first thing in the morning in Cairns: birding the Cairns Esplanade at sunrise. Although it’s not wader time of year in Australia, plenty of waders do overwinter anyway, I believe first year birds especially, and given how urban and in the middle of the city it is, the trees that line the esplanade do hold lots of interesting birds too including Metallic Starlings, Figbirds, and Fig Parrots. The latter is surprisingly easy to find just in the trees right around there. Despite having birding the esplanade on several mornings when I was last in Cairns, I even managed a rather nice lifer in the form of a Yellow Honeyeater which is quite an attractive honeyeater species.
I birded the esplanade for a good couple of hours until all of my family was awake and ready for breakfast and we decided that today we would do a daytrip to Kuranda. Daytrips aren’t ideal for wildlife watching because you get there in the middle of the day and can’t be there for spotlighting, but it doesn’t actually get very hot at all at this time of year especially by the
standards of a rainforest, only into the mid-twenties, and I actually found it a little chilly given that it was a bit of a cloudy day today. At one point I intended to spend a couple of nights in Kuranda at the end of my time in Cairns, but that has been axed because I decided it was not worth the money and so I’ll just do it on this day trip.
However being a day trip meant we could take the skyrail up. The Kuranda Skyrail is a cable car that goes right over the rainforest of Barron Gorge National Park and it’s a really long cable car, 6.5km according to the signs and a good 30+ minutes each way actually in the air above the canopy. There are a couple of stops on the way too with short boardwalks to look in the forest and at the Barron Falls as well which is quite an impressive waterfall. Although it is a rather pricey $80 per person for a return trip, it is an excellent view and a great experience of the forest from above. In Kuranda there are a number of zoos, but I have been to
Kuranda before for a two night stay on my last trip here so I did most of the zoos then. The one I missed then was BatReach which is a small bat rescue centre just in the garden of a private house so I wanted to visit that place this time but it was again closed, this time for bat breeding season because they had a lot of orphan bats to look after. It’s also worth noting that the Australian Venom Zoo now seems to be completely shut. This is a rather interesting facility that I visited last time that has some nice displays of venomous animals and produces venom for antivenom production, so it’s a shame that the place seems to have shut. There are three other zoos here: the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Butterfly Sanctuary, and BirdWorld but I went to all of these places last time so didn’t feel the need to revisit, especially given more limited time in Kuranda and over $60 in entry fees to visit the three places.
Instead, I did some birding along the rainforest walks around the town, which were not bad birding and I saw a number of rather nice species.
Mostly not lifers given a two night stay in the area two years ago (at the famous Cassowary House where I did see wild cassowaries), but I did actually manage a couple of lifers which I’m pleased with. There were a fair few Wompoo Fruit Doves and some Pale-yellow Robins around too which are two species that I really like, the former for amazing colour and looking awesome, the latter for very entertaining and interesting behaviour to watch. I wanted to see a Chowchilla but I missed those, as I did last time I was in Kuranda. Hopefully I will find one on this trip since it’s a regional endemic. There was even a tree in the Kuranda village centre that was so full of fig-parrots that it was raining bits of fig fruit from above. They really are wonderful birds, such cute stubby little things.
I just had a few hours to bird in Kuranda but racked up a fair species list. I really want to see a Noisy Pitta on this trip too and that’s definitely one of my top target birds for this leg of the trip (though my real main targets are mammals) so hopefully
I will get one at some point.
Upon return to Cairns there were still a couple of hours of daylight left so we popped by the Jack Barnes Mangrove Boardwalk which is a very extensive several kilometre long boardwalk that goes through the boardwalks right near the airport. It was very quiet bird wise with slow bird activity, but there were things like Mistletoebirds and Rainbow Lorikeets around. I did see a female Lovely Fairy-wren though near the edge of the mangroves proper. Not the really pretty male, but the female is actually nice looking than the females of most Fairy-wren species. There was a sign at the boardwalk encouraging people to lick the leaves of a specific mangrove because it excretes salt onto the leaves. There was no identification advice for which mangrove you were supposed to lick though and I’m not sure about the hygiene levels of it, but I licked all of the different mangrove species and none of the leaves were in the slightest bit salty. I’ll probably get dysentery or something now. Oh wait, done that one already.
After dinner back at the hotel, my dad kindly agreed to drop me off and
pick me up from the Botanic Gardens for my spotlighting. They’re just under 3kms away which is probably walkable but slightly too far to be a comfortable walk. My dad dropped me off after dinner and agreed to pick me up at 10 which was very convenient giving me a good bit of time for spotlighting at the gardens. The main thing I was looking for here was/is a Striped Possum which is supposed to be relatively easier to see here compared to most other places. However ‘easy to see’ and ‘Striped Possum’ are two concepts that don’t really mix and I didn’t find any striped possums. However that’s not to say the spotlighting was unsuccessful and I’m quite pleased with what I found. In addition to Spectacled Flying Foxes and Bentwing Bats which are both common and not surprising to see, there were four particularly interesting sightings. The first were some Eastern Blossom Bats, then a White-tailed Giant-rat which ran along the branches near the boardwalk with a pandanus nut, occasionally sitting for a few seconds on branch. I then got a surprise species that I wasn’t really expecting at all which was only my second ever wild Echidna
after my first one four years ago in the South West. This echidna was foraging around near the boardwalk and walked around a bit and was not at all shy so it was great to watch. Finally, just as I was heading back to the car, high up in a tree I spotted a Papuan Frogmouth! It was so much bigger than a Tawny Frogmouth that it took me a while to realise what it was, and of course being at night it wasn’t in a roosting position but instead was sitting on a branch and looking around and had its feathers puffed up so that probably made it look very different to the roosting frogmouths from two days ago but I think Papuans are genuinely bigger anyway. Not a bad night of spotlighting at all!
Tomorrow is my last full day in Cairns and the plan is a half day on Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef with some local birding in the afternoon.
Lesser Crested Tern
Greater Crested Tern
Straited Heron (should be on the list much earlier
but seems to have been missed off)
Common Sandpiper Yellow Honeyeater
Barred Cuckooshrike Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Macleay’s Honeyeater White-throated Treecreeper White-eared Monarch Lovely Fairy-wren Papuan Frogmouth
Mammals: Eastern Blossom Bat
White-tailed Giant Rat
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