For our final leg of our journey, and for this series, we drive down from the Atherton Tablelands and make our way to Cairns, the major tourist city for Far North Queensland, with its famous birding stretch known as the Esplanade Boardwalk, which runs along the waterfront through a beautiful bird rich reserve. This walk sports tree birds feeding in native fruit trees on one side and shorebirds, waders and sea birds on the other. We walked from our accommodation onto the waterfront reserve where we strolled with camera clicking for a couple of kilometers toward the town centre. Interesting sculptures and artworks were also along the reserve.
The very first bird to draw our attention with its very unique call, was the Black Butcherbird, which is only found up here in the top end of Australia. It was deep in the sub canopy of a very large fig tree, in quite poor light. Butcherbirds get their name because of their tendency to hang their prey of small reptiles and birds from the forks of trees or impale them on branches, though they are essentially insectivorous. Notice the hooked beak. Click on photos to enlarge them.
All along the reserve lined with fruiting rainforest fruit trees the sounds of frenzied feeding was heard from several species of birds aggressively and noisily feeding. The main bird is the Australian Figbird. The far northern race (subspecies) has a much brighter red eye ring than our southern race, and a more yellow throat and chest, but the female looks much the same for both races being brown with a bluish grey eye ring.
Another frenzied feeder was the Metallic Starling with its beautiful shining metallic plumage and bright red eye..
I had a little trouble working out who this one was. Was it a cross between a female Figbird and an Oriole, no, it actually is a immature Metallic Starling. Note the red eyes.
The Dusky Honeyeater, another bird found only up here, was checking the flowers for nectar with its long curved beak. This video has been slowed to half speed.
On the large lawn area of the reserve we saw a small flock of of the tiny finch like Nutmeg Mannikin grazing on the grass seed. They grazed in family units often, two adults and one or two juvenile. The juvenile lacks the patterns on the chest and front of body.
As we walked along the waterfront we were blessed with the fact that it was low tide coming in, as the shore birds, which included migratory waders that had not returned to Alaska to breed this season. The Bar-tailed Godwit was out first encounter foraging on the mud flats.
We were elated to find a small flock of Whimbrel a fare way out by the shore, many were sleeping but some exploring in the late afternoon sun.
I only managed one good shot at this Eastern Reef Egret in dark morph as it flew over.
The occasional Caspian Tern was also present.
Our greatest find was the Gull-billed Tern, another bird found only up the north end, Breeding plumage has the black cap on the head and non-breeding just a black mark on the eye.
This Great Egret gave a beautiful landing…
and then watched this pair of Australian Pelican glide just above the water line and land with its friends to hunt below the water.
There were some Sandpiper way out near the waterline, but I could not identify what kind they were. They are always difficult being so many so similar.
It was also a thrill to see the Black-fronted Dotterel pair in the late afternoon light…
Lastly, the Sacred Kingfisher, a beautiful bird often seen on the mud flats…
Before we left we took a walk along the Jack Barnes Mangrove Boardwalk near the airport where some very fast and tiny birds were seen. Here one can see several different species of mangrove in the one place. Lovely Fairy-wrens are also reported to be seen here, but not on the day we where there. These birds were too fast
Before I finish I would recommend a book to my Aussie birder friends, that I recently read, called ‘Where Song Began’. Tim Low, the author, has extensive experience as a biologist with Australian animals and birds and has rubbed shoulders with many of the world’s ornithologists and conversationalists. If you can read without letting the ‘millions of years’ evolutionary hypothetical reasoning get to you ( interesting enough, Tim mentions how the postulations of these so called scientists constantly change regarding the origins and evolutionary history) you will learn many interesting facts about our birds. What is interesting and scientific, is Tim’s observations and information he has gathered about Australia’s birds and how through the years up to today we can understand better why our birds are so different to those of the northern hemisphere. One interesting truth that he shares near the end of the book is how the early so called Naturalists (European settlers including John Guild) would wantonly kill with rifle so many birds, and steal their eggs in the name of scientific study, which of course was a hypocritical disaster. Many shot our birds and animals, some to extinction, and many depleted to the extent that they now do not exist in places in any great number. The good news is that man, the hunter, has traded his rifle for a camera and binoculars and can now shoot the birds and animals without causing their demise. Now most people actually feed the birds and water them instead of eating them and shooting them for sport, feathers and taxidermy. An interesting and enlightening read for every Aussie birder. This is a Penguin publication.
Have you checked out my website for interesting facts on birding from my menu on Homepage?
Have you checked out my Special Sightings page and seen my latest Powerful Owl photos?
Have you checked out my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’ on my Birdbook page. You can buy your copy here online through secure PayPal, or send me an email via my AboutUs page to buy several copies, as it makes a great Christmas or Birthday gift for all ages?
The lesson I learned for this week came from reading Tim Low’s book mentioned above. It was an interesting exercise to read a book heavily steeped in a philosophy I do not hold to and yet despite this, be edified and taught from Tim’s many scientific observations. The art of gleaning truth is much needed today more than ever in our humanistic society. Many of our youth today have become accustomed to believing information simply because it is on the internet, and so conclude it must be true, but that is far from the truth. God warns me in his Bible in these ‘last days’ to be alert and wise and not caught sleeping in the complacency of popular opinion as the ‘prince of this world‘ deceives and confuses the minds of God’s beloved children.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)
The good news is that we I not been left alone and helpless but God has provided for me as I partner and bond my life to Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus tells me:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13
Have a wonderful week and please pray for a break in our drought, as some inland towns have no water and food for their stock, and over 80 bushfires are burning many out of control, possibly more will start in the strong winds of today!
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