Monday, December 27, 2010

Adventurous by Nature

The new slogan for Tropical North Queensland is Adventurous by Nature and this fits well with the range of activities offered by Mason's Tours. This shot shows the Woobadda River crossing on the Bloomfield Track.
Check out Mason's Adventurous Tours

Friday, December 3, 2010

Garden Predators

Nature can be cruel and whilst our favourite creatures may be green frogs and tiny birds, they also make great prey for some of the larger, more aggressive birds who share their habitat.
This week, we had a beautiful Olive-backed Sunbird nest, complete with two babies and with mum doing a fabulous job feeding and tending to them, just outside the busy lounge window. Safe as can be, we thought.
It only takes a second and the nest is raided and the babies gone - - the parents don't stand a chance. Unfortunately Black Butcherbirds also have babies to feed.

 Check out the size of the bill and the hook on the end - - no wonder they are such successful predators.
The other common garden predator is the Laughing Kookaburra, Australia's iconic symbol. Specialising in skinks, frogs, lizards and small rodents, they too are successful predators.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Birds on the Daintree River

 The Daintree River is famous for its' wildlife, particularly crocodiles and a large variety of birds. The summer migrants include Black Bittern, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Metallic Starling and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, most of which can be seen from the river.
This is also the time of year for the Papuan Frogmouth to be nesting, often high above the the water's edge, making it easy to see from the river. 'Easy' isn't really the right word - the colours and patterns of the plumage enable the bird to disguise itself beautifully as it sits quietly and perfectly still next to the trunk or branch of a tree. The nest consists of just a few sticks, but they are great parents and usually breed successfully.

The Papuan Frogmouth feeds at night, just after dusk, mostly on insects, frogs and lizards.
Only found in southern Asia, New Guinea and Australia, Australia's Frogmouths are a real treat for international birdwatchers - there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. The Papuan Frogmouth has a very small Australian range of distribution.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gaudy and Gorgeous!

The big news in the birding world is that the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher have returned from New Guinea for their breeding season. A spectacular bird - almost gaudy, with a bright red/orange bill, bright red feet, blue back and head, and orange breast. The long white tail, which is often seen first, flicks up and down as the bird sits and calls from perches in the mid-level of rainforest.

These birds arrive every year in late October/early November to nest in the small termite mounds on the forest floor. They are at least two weeks early this year and have arrived 'en masse' - some of which will continue further south as far as Mackay, while others will stay to settle in find a mate. The conditions are perfect this year with the termite mounds being moist and easy to excavate.
We look forward to a productive season for these very special birds.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Farming , pastures and birds

Daintree is famous for it's rainforest but, for birdwatching, a range of habitat is important. Part of that mix here in the tropical lowlands are the paddocks and pastures of local farmland.
The cattle that graze the pastures are followed by large numbers of Cattle Egrets, waiting expectantly for insects to be disturbed in the grass. Farm dams and waterways are homes to ducks, lapwings and plovers as well as egrets and kingfishers.
Various grasses in the fields, when the seeds mature, provide feed for a range of seed-eaters, including the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, that can be seen in large flocks feeding on the grasses.

Golden-headed Cisticola are often seen, during their breeding season, singing madly from the top of grasses or on the wires of fences. They enjoy wet, swampy areas and degraded paddocks and slopes.

Other birds often seen on fence wires include Red-backed Fairy-Wren, White Breasted Woodswallow and occasionally a treat like Australia's smallest cuckoo, the Little Bronze Cuckoo.

Don't underestimate a drive along one of the beautiful valleys of the Daintree River and it's creeks, if birdwatching in the area. You will almost always see Rainbow Bee-eater, Forest Kingfisher, Australian Pipit, Masked Lapwing, Cattle Egret and many more interesting species.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vines, nectar and Honeyeaters

While not a native plant, the commonly-grown Flame of the Forest (or New Guinea creeper) and Jade Vine both flower profusely at this time of year and the Honeyeaters love them.
A rampant climber, the Jade vine originates from The Philipines and has long racemes of up to 1/2 meter of stunning blue and green pea-shaped flowers.

These flowers are full of nectar and are extremely popular with green ants and also with Macleay's Honeyeater (pictured), Dusky Honeyeater, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Graceful Honeyeater and also the Olive-backed Sunbird.

The New Guinea Vine, also from the Leguminosae family, has vivid red flowers and similarly attracts the honeyeaters. Down at Scommazons, opposite the Mossman Golf Course, several Blue-faced Honeyeaters are also enjoying the nectar from the flowers. These are normally a dry-country bird, but are often seen at that part of the lowlands.They are a lovely bird.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Birding Updates

July is a busy month for visitors, but unfortunately the weather wasn't so great for the school holidays this year. It is still warm though, so everyone is happy.
Winter is often best for viewing raptors here in the lowlands, particularly throughout the cane harvesting season. The kites are the most common with Whistling Kite, Black Kite and Brahminy Kite often being seen circling the cane fields between Daintree and Mossman at this time of year..
A beautiful chestnut and white bird, the Brahminy Kite is also often seen along the Daintree River and it's associated creeks. It feeds on fish, crustaceans, insects, reptiles and sometimes small rodents.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Most common is the Black Kite, with it's distinctive shallow fork at the end. Often seen in groups, the Black Kite will eat carrion or live rodents, insects and small reptiles and can be seen perching out in the open.

Thanks to Dan Irby for the photos.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Birding Updates

A busy month for Daintree with Australian school holidays and summer holidays in the northern hemisphere, so lots of visitors to the area. The weather hasn't been so favourable for the Reef over the last week or so, so many people are having a day or two  in the Daintree instead.
Winter is an interesting time for birds in the Daintree - not so many species, but some of the more difficult birds can be easier to see. Spotted Catbird and Victoria's Riflebird are great examples of that. The winter wake-up call is often the Spotted Catbird.
The Cattle Egret numbers are high over the winter and the classic sight of them flying down the Daintree River in large flocks in the evening and in the early morning is fabulous.

Cattle Egrets feed in the fields alongside the cows, waiting to pick up grasshoppers and other insects that have been disturbed from the grass. They are an extremely successful species and the numbers worldwide are increasing. At night they roost communally in one of two trees, usually beside the river.

A great reason to do an evening, late afternoon or early morning river cruise on the Daintree River.
Thanks to Dan Irby for the photos.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Birding Updates

The sugar cane harvesting season (The Crush) runs from mid June until completion, which can be as late as December. Much of the coastal lowlands is under sugar cane, so it is a significantly busy time for the farmers, the Sugar Mill at Mossman and everyone else involved. This year the conditions have been favourable and the season has got off to a good start.
Interestingly for birdwatchers, the 'Crush' means an increase in birds of prey locally as they follow the harvesters searching for any rodents, snakes and other creatures that have been disturbed. Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Brahminy Kite and even Wedge-tailed Eagle (not a usual resident of the wet lowlands) descend on the cane fields, and you can see quite large flocks of Kites feeding on the ground after the harvester has been through.

Some other great winter birds include the Victoria's Riflebird ( an endemic to the Wet Tropics and one of the Birds of Paradise) and the Spotted Catbird. The Catbird's name is derived from it's call - not meow, but like someone is strangling a cat! A beautiful bird which is difficult to see because of it's colourings, but is more visible in winter as it comes out of the forest a little more to find fruit. They are happy with pawpaw and fallen citrus if there are no rainforest fruits about.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Over the last month, Mason's Tours have been using our spare time designing a new 1/2 Day Walk. A small hill at the back of our property looked like it might yield a view, and we actually found two of them!

We have now found a workable track down off the ridge, and the next step is to plan the rest of the walk!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Birding Updates

Glorious weather in Daintree as 'winter' sets in - sunny, warm days and clear, cool nights.
'Winter' birds dominate with increased numbers of fantails, flycatchers and monarchs at this time of year.
The Daintree River is excellent for early morning birdwatching all year, and presently some of the special birds include Great-billed Heron, Little Kingfisher and Papuan Frogmouth can be seen from the river.
The Papuan Frogmouth feeds at night, usually on insects, frogs, small rodents and lizards, and roosts during the day - often close to the river. They have the soft, patterned plumage that allows them to be well hidden when sitting near the trunk of a tree. They are often very difficult to find and can easily be mistaken for a branch.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birding updates

Dryer weather and less humidity since the Easter deluge and the Daintree comes into it's own for visitors - it's a fabulous time of year.
A little quieter for birds, but some some great sightings nevertheless.
This is the season for flycatchers, monarchs,fantails and honeyeaters. In the colder months the Lewin's Honeyeater comes down from the cooler Atherton Tableands region to spend time in the lowlands. The rattling 'machine gun' call is distinctive and always a good sign that winter is on it's way.
A common large honeyeater in Daintree is the Helmeted Friarbird - noisy, gregarious and bossy, they are very versatile - eating fruit or insects. They are one of the easiest birds to attract to garden feeders.

Spotted at Jindalba boardwalk this week was the Noisy Pitta - a fabulously bright ground feeder which is often difficult to find, and also Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove - another favourite with birders.
Also seen along the Mossman Daintree road was Barking Owl, one of the few owls seen in the Daintree. Barking Owl, named for it's call, can often be heard in the wee hours of the morning in Daintree Village.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birding updates

As the weather dries out, there have been some great rainforest birds seen north of the Daintree River in recent days.
Regular sightings of a male Cassowary with three chicks picking up fallen fruit in the Daintree Icecream Company orchard, delighting visitors. Female Victoria's Riflebird has been seen along Dubuji Boardwalk and Wompoo Fruit-Dove at Jindalba Boardwalk.
On the Daintree River and on Stewart Creek there have been good sightings of the Great-billed Heron, Australia's largest Heron and one of the most elusive. This is one of the target species for birdwatchers visiting the Daintree.

Another target species for visiting birdwatchers is the Little Kingfisher, which has been seen regularly on the pond in the garden at Red Mill House in Daintree Village. A shy, elusive Kingfisher, it is Australia's smallest at only 11cm. An aquatic Kingfisher, it prefers dark, narrow places with overhanging vegetation. Everyone's favourite!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Birding Updates

An excellent week for birds in the Daintree, with the weather markedly improved. No rain to speak of and the hum of lawnmowers dominates as everyone tries to catch up with the ever-growing grass. Temperatures are still up to 30 degrees by day, despite it being mid-April.
The numbers of the summer migrants have reduced greatly - Pied Imperial Pigeons, Metallic Starlings and Black Bittern are all more difficult to see, and there seems to be just one or two young Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers remaining. The adults have all gone back to New Guinea where they will stay until the migration south begins again in October for breeding.
Some birds that have become easier to see though, over the past week or so include the Topknot Pigeon, Wompoo Fruit-Dove and Spotted Catbird. The Wompoo Fruit-Dove has the remarkable ability to disguise itself despite it's bright purples, greens and golds.

Another common, and colourful, bird at this time of the year is the Rainbow Bee-Eater, Australia's only bee-eater. They often sit on fences, fly out hawking for insects, and returning to the same spot to eat them. A pleasure to watch!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Birding Updates

A very, very wet Easter  and beyond with over 1 metre of rain falling in the past 12 days.
Birdwatching has been difficult due to the conditions, and it's difficult conditions for the birds as well with food supplies being harder to get.
Some good raptors have been seen lately with juvenile White-bellied Sea- Eagle in Daintree Village and Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Whistling Kite and Nankeen Kestrel all seen in the valley.

A common bird seen beside the road is the Pheasant Coucal, a member of the Cuckoo family. The poor things fly really clumsily, particularly when wet, and can be seen crash-landing in trees and in cane fields. The breeding plumage is particularly beautiful.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New website for the daintree

A new website has just been launched to provide detailed information to help visitors to the daintree. You can check it out here:

Destination Daintree

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Regeneration in the Daintree

Many local companies are committed to sustainablity and have projects in place to minimize their impact on the local area.

Jungle Surfing Canopy just donated its first "treedlings" to a local revegetation project! Their environment officer, Antoinette, set up the native nursery last year and has been lovingly tending the seedlings, hardening them off, and now they're ready to start re-foresting the Daintree. The first batch went to Whet Restaurant in Cape Tribulation.

Mason's Tours have just started to reveg a three hectare area adjacent to the site of their proposed rainforest centre, the process begins with killing the weeds and grass that prevents the natural regeneration. The site has been allowed to naturally regenerate over the past ten years and Mason's have now signed a Voluntary Declaration (VDEC) over it and plan to have it fully reveged over the next 15 years. The VDEC is their way of compensating for any potential damage done by the construction of boardwalks along Myall Creek.

The Daintree Discovery Centre is also heavily involved in local revegetation and is a Carbon Neutral company.

The picture above shows an area where introduced lantana has been killed and the area is now ready for replanting with native species

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birding updates

Mixed weather in the Daintree in the last fortnight with some heavy falls of rain mixed with hot and humid days and some gorgeous star-filled nights.
Some excellent birds seen locally with Little Kingfisher, Shining Flycatcher and Great-billed Heron on the Daintree River and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Spotted Catbird and Victoria's Riflebird (all special rainforest birds) seen on the local birdwatching walk of Stewart Creek Rd near Daintree Village.
A Southern Cassowary has been a regular visitor to the Daintree Discovery Centre.
A favourite bird with locals is the Olive-backed Sunbird (previously called the Yellow-bellied Sunbird), who charms us all by building beautiful little hanging nests, often very close to human activity - in doorways, at the top of stairs etc. They are nectar feeders, but at this time of year when the flowers are wet, they will glean under the eaves of buildings gathering insects for food.  Australia doesn't have any hummingbirds, and these little chaps are the closest thing we have with quite similar rapid wing movements.
The male has a bright blue-black chest, while the female has a plain yellow chest and belly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cape Trib Road to be all weather

Cooper Creek Causeway 'over' after rain...take a close look because after this year it will be a thing of the past! The Cairns Regional Council are currently calling tenders for the construction of high level causeways over both Cooper and Mason Creeks. This will mean that the road all the way to Cape Trib Beach House more or less all-weather. This work is long overdue, and will mean that the last real excuse not to visit Cape Trib in the wet when the forest is at it's best is removed. See you next Green Season!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Birdwatching in the Daintree

Welcome to the first of the updates on the birdlife of the Daintree.

A little background:
Daintree, in Tropical North Queensland, is internationally recognised as one of Australia's premier birdwatching locations. Over 430 species of birds have been recorded in the area encompassing the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia. This is more than half the bird species for the entire continent. By combining visits to Daintree on the coastal lowlands, the upland rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands and the drier country of Mareeba and beyond, plus the tidal flats and off-shore islands, birders can appreciate the great diversity and number of the region’s birds within only 1 ½ hour’s drive from Cairns.
Summer migrants to Daintree, including Black Bittern, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Metallic Starling, are seen from October/November until March/April, making it the best time of year for Daintree birdwatching, despite the chance of rain.
So, with this in mind, it is a fabulous time of the year to be birding in Daintree.
Recent sightings of interest include Southern Cassowary (both north and south of the Daintree River), Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher as they feed up their young preparing to fly back to New Guinea for the winter,

Great-billed Heron building a nest on the Daintree River, Azure Kingfisher and the elusive Little Kingfisher, who disappears into the Mangroves for breeding over the wet season, but is becoming much more visible again in the last week or so.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Green Season in the Daintree

On the night of Saturday 20th 2010, Cape Tribulation received 256mm of rain, or about 10 inches in the old money. This is entirely normal for this time of the year, and not a really big fall. Our record for a day, set in 1981, is 818mm, or about 33 inches!

In fact the road was open again at about 4pm, despite one remaining low level causeway at Cooper Creek. This causeway will be raised this year, and make the road nearly an all weather prospect.

The photo shows Woobadda River on the Bloomfield Track north of Cape Tribulation, with one of Mason's Tours's 4WDs crossing after rain.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paddling around the Cape Trib Headland

A recent video showing the view of Cape Tribulation from a different perspective. Sea Kayaking at Cape Tribulation
A pleasant morning spent paddling around the Cape, exploring the coastline of the Daintree, where the rainforest meets the reef.