North Queensland, Day 16, 4 August 2017. Cairns Esplanade, Redden Island and Cattana Wetlands

My final day.
Due to the campervan rental office closing at 15.30 it was sadly not even a whole day but I was determined to make the most of it.

Cairns Esplanade was once again my site of choice. Mainly because Alex Jones had tipped me off about a couple of potential lifers which would round my trip off nicely! I began at my Mangrove Robin spot and had one almost straight away again and then just a few yards away taget number one fell - Varied Honeyeater. I went on to see several along the length of the esplanade but this one showed the best in low bushes. Exploring the trees around the northernmost carpark I had Spangled Drongo, plenty of tame Peaceful Doves, Magpie Larks and a Double-eyed Fig Parrot. After a while I then got onto my second target and another lifer - a stunning Rose-crowned Fruit Dove feeding on fruit and allowing a few photos before it flew off towards the mangroves. On the adjacent beach was the last trip tick in the form of 2 Collared Kingfishers plus 5 Grey-tailed Tattlers. I set off to walk the length of the esplanade in a rather good mood! There wasn't much to add birdwise with just Common Mynas, House Sparrows, Metallic Starlings, Rainbow Lorikeets and a couple of White-breasted Woodswallows. I had a relaxed coffee and walked back considering my next move with Brahminy Kite and Eastern Osprey both livening up the walk.   

Mangrove Robin

Varied Honeyeater

Peaceful Dove

Rose-crowned Fruit Dove

Brahminy Kite

Magpie Lark

I decided to give nearby Redden Island a look next. This patch of dry woodland on the north side of the Barron River mouth was plagued with mozzies but I stuck with it and despite a few bites ended up with some nice birds - Northern Fantail, Dusky Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Varied Triller, Rainbow Bee-eater and Scaly-breasted Munias. Down at the river mouth itself a Gull-billed Tern was flying up and down asking to be photographed and Crested Tern and Agile Wallaby were also seen. 

Northern Fantail

Agile Wallaby

Gull-billed Tern

With time beginning to run out I drove the short distance north and back to Cattana Wetlands for one last hurrah. Birdwise it yielded nothing new but a showy Leaden Flycatcher, Green Pygmy Geese, Pacific Black Ducks, Comb-crested Jacanas, Black Butcherbird, Brown Gerygone and Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike followed up by an Azure Kingfisher along the boardwalk are not to be sneezed at.

Leaden Flycatcher

Black Butcherbird

Green Pygmy Goose

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike

Azure Kingfisher

A 'Hungry Jacks' burger, a petrol stop and then a campervan drop off later and the trip was over.

The total tally was 231 species seen with 192 of those being lifers. Not bad for an Australian rookie!

North Queensland, Day 15, 3 August 2017. Michaelmas Cay and Cairns Esplanade & Town

And now for something completely different - seabirds!

I'd been looking forward to today, a day-long boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef including Michaelmas Cay for its seabird colony. The 'Seastar' boat left the marina at 08.00 and within an hour the whole boat load of people were whooping and hollering as a pair of Humpback Whales with a calf showed superbly well for everyone. One of the adults breached completely out of the water twice which has to be one of the best wildlife experiences I've ever had! and we also had a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins playing by the boat too!

The Cay itself was equally magical with seabirds so close I had to be careful not to stand on chicks and juvs! Variety was limited to Common Noddys, Sooty Terns, Crested Terns, Brown Boobies, Silver Gulls plus Great and Lesser Frigatebirds but the spectacle was immense!  

 The Seastar

Humpback Whales

Bottle-nosed Dolphin

Michaelmas Cay

Great Frigatebird

Common Noddys

Sooty Terns

Crested Terns

Brown Boobies

Silver Gulls

Lesser Frigatebirds

The 2nd port of call on the trip was the submerged reef of Hastings Reef where I undulged in some snorkelling. Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef?! I could hardly believe I was there! The following pics are courtesy of the good guys at Seastar Cruises who I would heartily recommend.

Back in Cairns I relocated the car to one of the numerous free spaces just off the Esplanade and made my way down to the sea. This time the Double-banded Plover was literally the first bird I saw on its favoured patch of shingly beach!  There were also 11 Red-necked Stints on this visit plus 19 Red-capped Plovers plus the usual waders and herons that I'd seen the previous day.

The day wasn't finished there though. Talking to a helpful local I discovered that Rufous Owl is actually breeding at the site I'd been to the previous evening! So needless to say I hot-footed it there straight away and within a little while I was met by another local who'd only discovered the female in a nest hole the day before. He was a little bemused that a visiting foreign birder knew about them already but was also very friendly and within about 20 mins we were both getting some amazing views after the female emerged from her hole and sat around for 10 mins before disappearing head-first into her hole.

If Carlsberg did birding days...

Double-banded Plover

Red-necked Stints, Double-banded Plover and Red-capped Plovers

Red-capped Plover

Far-eastern Curlew

Australian White Ibis

Metallic Starling


Little Egret

Masked Lapwing