North Queensland, Day 12, 31 July 2017. Hasties Swamp, Mount Hypipamee, Springvale Road Heberton, Wondecla and Malandra/Forsyth Road

I was in for a surprise first things this morning as I emerged bleary-eyed from my campervan - the guy at the next door plot had bird feeders and literally the first thing I clapped eyes on was a male Australian King Parrot in all his glory - morning glory in fact! Althogether there were half a dozen of them plus Pacific Emerald Dove, Red-browed Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins.

Australian King Parrots
Chestnut-breasted Mannikins

Red-browed Finches

Pacific Emerald Dove

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin

Hasties Swamp was literally 5 minutes from the Big 4 Campsite in Atherton so it quickly became my temporary local patch while I was staying so close.
And that was with good reason because every time I went it was chock full of birds!
My first visit this morning and I was greeted with the cachophony of c8000 Plumed Whistling Ducks, Purple Swamphens were wandering about on the verges and everywhere, an Azure Kingfisher was right in front of the hide and 2 Swamp Harriers were flying up and down the far bank. I set about searching through the wildfowl and quickly found a few gorgeous, if a little odd-looking, Pink-eared Ducks plus c1000 Magpie Geese, several Hardheads and Pacific Black Ducks, a handful of Australasian Grebes, 4 European Coot and another tick in the form of c5 Dusky Moorhens. There were plenty of herons about too and I recorded White-necked Heron, White-faced Heron, Great White Egret and Intermediate Egret. A Torresian Crow was only my 2nd of the entire trip too.     

Purple Swamphen

Intermediate Egret

Dusky Moorhen

Plumed Whistling Ducks

Pink-eared Ducks

Azure Kingfisher

Swamp Harrier

Purple Swamphen

Just down the road from Hasties Swamp a small roadside farm dam held more Plumed Whistling Ducks but more importantly c12 Maned Duck, Little Black Cormorant, a single Black-winged Stilt (the only one of the entire trip)  and Mallard. Several Brolga flying over the road were what prompted me to stop and I was glad I did!

Maned Ducks and Plumed Whistling Ducks

Little Black Cormorant


Moving on I drove along the undulating road south to Mount Hypipamme NP. This upland site didn't really hold anything new for me as I'd previously cleaned up on Mount Lewis but it was a site it would have been a shame to miss. I'd been given the directions to a Golden Bowerbird bower which I found easily but no birds were present. Around the carpark and entrance track I did see several White-throated Treecreepers, Pale Yellow robin, Lewin's Honeyeater, Australian Brush Turkey, Grey Whistler, 4 Wompoo Fruit Doves, MacLeays Honeyeater, c6 Atherton Scrubwrens, Grey-headed Robin and c4 Mountain Thornbills so it was well worth the effort.

Pale Yellow Robin

Golden Bowerbird bower

White-throated Treecreeper

The next site I wanted to see was a place called Springfield Road which is between Heberton and Wondecla. It took a little effort to find as my map lead me down some dodgy tracks but I was so glad I made it because it was a great place to bird. The site is famous (or should that be infamous?!) for an unsolved honeyeater conundrum which is described in the book Bird of the Wet Tropics of Queensland by Lloyd Neilsen. He suggests that the 'Heberton Honeyeaters' don't fit with either Yellow-tinted or Fuscous Honeyeater and may even be a new undescribed species. No wonder I was keen to go! Upon arrival almost the first bird I saw was indeed one of these honeyeaters. To me they look like a dull Yellow-tinted Honeyeater but I'm certainly no expert and only have my field guide for reference and no experience! In all I saw about 18 of them including juvs and managed the following photos...

'Heberton' Honeyeaters

Regardless of the honeyeater id there were plenty of other birds to keep me amused as well. Most noticable were a small group of c12 Dusky Woodswallows flycatching either side of the track, a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Noisy Friarbird, 3 Bridled Honeyeaters, 2 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Little Shrike Thrush, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike, Grey Butcherbird, 3 Eastern Yellow Robins and 6 Noisy Miners plus 2 Little Lorikeets high up in the trees. Back at my campervan a superb Wedge-tailed Eagle and 2 Nankeen Kestrels were circling. What an amazing couple of hours!

Dusky Woodswallow

Little Lorikeet

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Eastern Yellow Robin

Grey Butcherbird

Noisy Miner

A stop just down the road at Wondecla Showground coincided with a downpour but before the heavens opened I managed a few bits and another tick in the woods at the back left of the sports field - Brown Treecreeper was the star bird for me but I also had a plethora of honeyeaters. c15 White-cheeked Honeyeaters, 1 Scarlet Honeyeater, 1 Yellow-spotted Honeyeater and 2 Lewin's Honeyeaters.

I made my way back to Hasties Swamp for another pop in next. The birds were similar to the morning but this time I added a lovely Nankeen Night Heron roosting in the tree to the left of the hide, a Little Grassbird next to the hide and some Grey Teal. Talking to a local in the hide I got a tip off about where to look for cranes along the Malandra Road so I hot-footed it there and scooped with a flock of c100 Brolga and more importantly 5 Sarus Cranes for the ever-growing list!  

Plumed Whistling Duck

Australasian Grebe

Magpie Geese

Little Grassbird

Grey Teal

Nankeen Night Heron

The day had one final and significant sting in its tail! Grabbing a take away KFC in Atherton I made my way out to the open fields at Forsyth Road ENE of the town. A couple of unidentified harriers flew through in the fading light as I munched my tea. Spotlighting for all I was worth I slowly drove the road, turned around and retraced my steps, it was now dark. Then - boom - an Eastern Grass Owl flew over the road turning its head to stare at me. Just wow!     


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