Driving south the first site I wanted to visit was Mareeba Wetlands. I'd been warned that I may be disappointed. In some ways I was but thanks to perseverance and some good Aussie helpfulness I saw some really good birds.
The drive into the reserve is along tracks from the main road and on the way in I had some good birding - trackside wires held Nankeen Kestrels and a Blue-winged Kookaburra enabling me at last to get some good shots of them. Also along the entrance track I scored with my only Pale-headed Rosellas, Double-barred Finches, a White-bellied Sea Eagle, 1 Australian Bustard and 2 Australian Pipits. The lagoon by the centre held very little except Green Pygmy Geese, Magpie Geese, Little Pied Cormorants, Australasian Darter, 2 Australian Grebes, 1 European Coot, 1 Little Black Cormorant and Comb-crested Jacanas. Against my better judgement I paid an entrance fee which enabled me to walk the trails down to the other lagoon. That proved the be almost birdless and even the birding the dry woodland on the way and back was very hard work. I eventually winkled out 2 Varied Sitella, 1 Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Dusky Honeyeater, 1 Striated Pardalote, Grey-crowned Babblers and 1 Lemon-bellied Flycatcher. Nearly back to the centre I ventured a couple of hundred yards down a side trail and flushed what was later id'd (by the reserve warden) as a Brown Quail plus White-necked Heron.
Little Pied Cormorant
Arriving back at the reserve centre I was then amazed and delighted to see 4 Emus wander nonchalantly past! After a celebratory coffee in the cafe I then found my only Australian Reed Warbler of the trip in a small reedy depression right outside the centre. It was time to head out and find the property I'd been invited to.
The lady working behind the reception desk at the reserve centre had very kindly invited me to her property off the main entrance track when I told her I wanted some good views of Squatter Pigeon because they have some resident ones. I followed her directions and found the property easily followed by Squatter Pigeon before I'd even gone through their gate! She invited me out onto their veranda where i was able to feast my eyes on a point blank pair of Red-winged Parrots, Great Bowerbird (and its bower complete with plastic adornments!), another Squatter Pigeon, Australian Magpies, Double-barred Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins at their feeders. They then told me about their Crested Pigeon and I was soon filling my boots with that too!
Double-barred Finches & Chestnut-breasted Mannikins
Not wanting to outstay my welcome I bid my temporary hosts farewell and moved on to my next site. That was the country park of Granite Gorge. Famous for it's Mareeba Rock Wallabies these proved extremely easy to see but my main target was of course avian. With directions from the lady on their reception desk I found their 2 roosting Tawny Frogmouths very easily as they were perched in the open on a pine trunk! Otherwise the site was very quiet for birds, probably due to it being afternoon and full of people! Nevertheless I got some good pics of a confiding Forest Kingfisher and also managed Yellow Honeyeater, c6 Indian Peafowl and Green Oriole. Just down the road as I was leaving a Pied Butcherbird posed on a telegraph wire and 2 Black Swans were on a roadside flash.
Mareeba Rock Wallaby
I then drove into Atherton stocked up on food at a supermarket and checked into my new home the Big 4 Campsite on the southern edge of the town. With time short I had a wander for an hour in the hilly woodland just behind the site. Eastern Spinebill, Red-backed Fairy Wren, Dusky Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler and several Red-browed Finches were my reward. That night Bush Stone Curlews were very vocal!