Archive for October, 2008

Australia’s Smallest Parrot

October 25, 2008

Back in the little town of Kuranda we spotted some fig parrots!  Looks like they were excavating a nest but they were busy and fast and I got pathetic footage of them.  I said so long to my mate Greg in Cairns after our 10 day Cape York/Atherton Tablelands adventure and started searching for pig ferrets  .. whoops I mean fig parrots in earnest.  


athertontablelandsfiggiebestThen I tried the Cairns graveyard… no not to pay my respects to those passed on but thinking fig parrots might like the extensive treed grounds.  BINGO!!!!  I discovered a large shrub-like tree that had figgies coming and going at different intervals all morning.  



Etty Bay and One Huge Bird!

October 20, 2008

We spent the night at Etty Bay hoping to see Cassowaries which were rumored to come right down on the beach to play in the surf and catch crabs.  We didn’t see a thing and decided to head back to Cairns.  


Just as we were heading out of the area on a curvy road, a Cassowary crossed the road right in front of us!  In about 2 seconds I was out of the vehicle and filming!  This one had a taste for the local residents dog food as opposed to its normal diet of Quon dongs.  I was intrigued by these oversize blueberry like fruits.  



Off to the Tablelands and Beyond!

October 19, 2008

We had an extra day to  play with schedule-wise before turning in the rental, so I decided that it would be a real shame not to attempt to see one of Australia’s largest birds, the Cassowary.  I also kept hoping I would come upon some great opportunities to film Fig Parrots.



En-route to a place called Etty Bay to see Cassowaries we drove by this harvested peanut field filled with about 300 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. They were feeding on the leftover peanut crop.  Their bugle like calls carried on the wind and were so hauntingly wild.  I was so captivated I spent hours filming them.  By the looks of things they had used this field for years because there were dozens of feathers everywhere.


Washed Out?

October 17, 2008

After about 4 days of damp camping gear and continual light rain with only periodic sunny periods we began to get worried.    We weighed our options and tried to decide about leaving.  Perhaps the seasons “wet” was here already and we would never get across the Wenlock and Pasco Rivers.  


This dingo was hoping we would stay longer I bet so he could do some more scrounging.  I was elated with his early morning visits though. Finally a dingo I could observe at close distance!



CapeyorkredgoshawkOur fears about swift rivers, too deep to cross proved to be unfounded.  Despite the constant light rain the crossings were pretty tame just as a local man named Stu told us they would be.

On the way back to Cairns past Artemis Station we found this Red Goshawk which was an exciting find for Greg.

Chili Beach

October 16, 2008

We saw a few folks in Iron Range Park but overall things were fairly quiet.  I read that Chili Beach is where most folks want to camp so we headed out there and spent the evening.  Not the place to go for a casual swim though!  We saw our first Fawn Breasted Bowerbirds and hordes of Metallic Starlings from New Guinea going to roost on these remote rock islands.



CapeYorkchilibeachcrocwarningsignCapeyorkchilibeachneatrockCapeyorkmetallicstarlingsflockI loved discovering all of the exotic doves in the Iron Range including Emerald Doves and this Wompoo on her well camouflaged nest. 



We also spotted some fig parrots which got me real excited but they were too far off for any kind of decent filming.


Spiders and Snakes oh My!

October 15, 2008

After a humid warm rain Greg and I headed out to go night lighting.  I had no idea what to expect.  I thought perhaps a frog or two like this White lipped frog.  Boy was I in for a surprise! We saw not one but several species of snakes including a death adder!  

CapeyorkwhitelippedfrogCapeyorkdeathaddergregsmileSo while I film from a respectful distance Steve Irwin…  I mean Greg gives  me an in-depth color commentary on this very toxic species.  Note the short thick muscular body for lightning fast strikes.  (below right)

CapeYorkdeathadderGregpicsCapeYorkdeathadder4Then there were other snakes but I haven’t a clue which species they were.  Okay Greg….  mate we need you to tell us what they were.


The next day I was attempting to film magnificent riflebirds by waiting patiently at the edge of a forest road for one to show.  Then what was that!!! ??
A sudden stabbing in my knee!  Oh no!!!!  My first thought was Death Adder!!!!Nope…  just some sort of prickly bush…  ha ha..  the night of snakes took their toll on me psychologically I am afraid, even though I am normally fine with crawlies. CapeYorkSpiderhandCapeYorkspiderhugeHmmm…   Just a bit bigger than some of the old 1.5 ” barn spiders I saw as a kid growing up in Canada!

Exploring the Iron Range – Looking for the big 3

October 14, 2008

The landscape changed abruptly near Lockhart River.  Dry scrubby forest gave way to plant communities with more variety and lushness.  Pockets  of vegetation including huge towering trees looked like they belonged in New Guinea not Australia.



Our first exotic parrot sighting was the Red-cheeked parrot.  As we pulled over to view them they kept flying nervously around chattering incessantly.  They seemed unnerved by eye contact and even after remaining in the Iron Range for several days I never got either excellent looks at them or even something resembling decent footage!Red-cheeked Parrot2Capeyorkbutterflygorgeous

I kept worrying that we wouldn’t even get a decent look at Eclectus or Palm Cockatoo at all, let alone film them!  Fortunately we found several nesting eclectus that offered some super looks.  I noticed when sulphur crests tended to use the same tree with multiple hollows the eclectus ruled!  Loud and gorgeously colored a remarkable species!capeyorkelectusmalenestentry

CapeYorkecletusfemaleheadshotWe saw Palm cockatoos almost every day we were there.  Some closer than others.  At one point Greg spotted one fashioning a drumming stick.  They use those to beat on a nest hollow to attract females to it.  I was very impacted as I spent a great deal of time with the Palms.  From their curious human like voice saying…”hellloooo” to the way they even looked at you.  Obviously a lot going on in that gorgeous feathered head!CapeYorkPalmcockatoogoodlightingCapeYorkPalmcockatoowindyheaddress

Enroute to Iron Range National Park

October 13, 2008

Like most travelers we fueled up and got a snack at Musgrave Roadhouse. Along the way it was prudent to read the Aboriginal do’s and don’ts when traveling in their land.  

When we were in Outback Western Aus we each had tents to sleep in.  On Cape York we moved on up in the world with the Toyota Landy which had 2 built in bunks.  However it was so humid we each stayed in our tents anyway.

The famous Musgrave Roadhouse


I was surprised we weren’t required to obtain permits to drive in the area but we maintained a respectful attitude while driving through.  After all this was their area not ours.  We were just enthusiastic guests!CapeYorkaborulesgunshots


I kept expecting to see huge croc infested rivers that were almost impassable. Especially dreaded were the Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers. We heard tales of folks flooding their vehicles while crossing and lots of other horror stories.CapeYorkRoadsigns 


Fortunately none of the water crossings proved to be an obstacle since we were still several weeks away from the serious seasonal “Wet”.  We were cautious about crocs wherever we went and had no problems whatsoever.

Artemis Station

October 12, 2008

We Phoned Sue Shepherd who, along with her husband Tom, run a cattle station called Artemis.  Sue has been managing their expansive property to best provide habitat for the rare Golden Shouldered Parrot.  Golden shouldered is one of those unusual species that will only nest in termite mounds.

CapeYorkSueShepardGoldenShoulderedtermite Mound

Sue took time out from her hard work and spent several hours with us, patiently navigating through the immense dry forest on foot searching for any signs of Golden Shoulders.  Then there they were!  A small flock feeding in the parched grasses.  The females typically duller in this species as well.


I would have liked to have gotten much closer but was thankful for the short video clip I obtained of them.  A long way to travel to see the species and definitely worth it!

Off to Cape York!

October 11, 2008

It took a long while for me to get organized for the next leg of my journey and of course the warm beaches of Cairns kept calling me.  Finally I began organizing my trip to Cape York.  I made a deal with Greg that he couldn’t resist.  Somehow I managed to pull him away from his wife and family to join me on an 11 day excursion to the Iron Range in Cape York.  We had no time to waste because we didn’t want to run into serious summer rains.  Cape York has some very unforgiving roads and tough river crossings.  


With Hundreds of Kilometers to go before we reach our destination of Iron Range National Park high up on the Cape York Peninsula,  road houses like this one on route 81 at Laura were few and far between and were a welcome sight.



I kept expecting to see lush growth like Papua New Guinea anytime but it was dry and dusty all the way to the Iron Range National Park.  Many Kms short of Iron Range  would be our first stop – Artemis Station to search for Golden Shouldered Parrot!

We met some friendly fellow travelers at some of the places to rest and pull over.  It was always great to chat with local Aussies especially those native to the area.