Birding Cairns is a local bird-watching club
based in Cairns, N.E.Queensland, Australia. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Also hosting the Cairns Birding Forum http://cairnsbirding.blogspot.com/ and
Michaelmas Cay Report http://michaelmascay.blogspot.com
- ANDY ANDERSON, tel 07 40318803, mobile 04 38318804, Box 7999, Cairns 4870.Events Convener
- ANDY ANDERSON, firstname.lastname@example.org Cairns Contact
- JOHN CROWHURST, 40514194Public Relations Organiser
- JOHN SEALE, tel 40521195, email@example.comBOCA Challenge Count & slide evening co-ordinator
- DOMINIC CHAPLIN, tel 40562658
Activities of Birding Cairns, many of the members of which are also members of the original club which was a branch of the Bird Observers Club of Australia (BOCA). Current members of BOCA that belong to Birding Cairns can consider that they are still members of the Cairns Branch of the BOCA and are covered by BOCA's Public Liability Insurance.
Non-members of BOCA are not covered by this insurance and should arrange their own Accident Insurance if they feel that is necessary. Birding Cairns recognises that individuals should be responsible for their own actions and should be prepared to acknowledge that before coming out with us. This includes all visitors to Cairns who are most welcome to join us on any of our events.
For outings information and travel assistance ring one of those above.
Birding Cairns does something most Sundays -
Lakes Walks and out-of-town Field Trips in the mornings,
Esplanade watching at any time of day (depending on tides) and
Occasional Evenings together at the Cock and Bull or slide shows at 247 McLeod St, Pine Creek Pictures.
1st Sunday of the month - Monthly Lakes Walk, 0630 at the Freshwater Lake, Cairns.
2nd Sunday of the month - Esplanade birding sometimes followed by casual get-together, Cock & Bull, Grove St, Cairns.
3rd Sunday of the month - Monthly Field Trip
4th Sunday of the month - Esplanade birding followed by occasional slide evenings.
SUNDAY BIRDWALKS & (GIBBER) CHATS
1st Sunday of the month Lakes Walk starts at 0630 all year.
3rd Sunday of the month Field Days start at 0630 October to March, and from 0730 April to September.
FREE TUESDAY BIRDWALKS with JOHN SEALE and FRIENDS of the FLECKER BOTANIC GARDENS.
Every Tuesday morning, meeting at the Flecker Botanic Gardens Office, 0830 hrs to 1030
John Seale is also the manager of the hotline, Cairns Birds, available by phone from him directly (evenings mostly) or from the website www.cairnsbirds.blogspot.com
Updates are every 2nd day. Sightings of note to be emailed or phoned to him.
The Centenary Lakes as a Focus of the Natural History of the Cairns Area.
History and Natural History.
The Centenary Lakes in Cairns centre around a small freshwater lake and a small saltwater lake intersected by the mangrove-fringed Saltwater Creek which enters Trinity Bay through a tall mature mangrove coastal forest some three kilometers downstream at the south-eastern end of the Cairns Airport.
The freshwater lake merges into an adjacent swamp rainforest dominated at the edges by Pandanus solmslaubachii, Melaleucas and Red Beech (Dillenia alata) Further in from the inundated areas the forest contains more rainforest elements with emergent strangler figs (Ficus benjimina) Blue Quondongs (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) Pink Evodias (Melicope elleryana) and Leichhardt trees (�.) with Alexander Palms (Archontophoenix alexandrae) and Hibiscus tilliaceus dominating the understory.
Cleared parkland areas around the lakes contain remnant Melaleucas and tropical woodland species such as Cycads and Planchonia and Canarium. Introduced species, such as self-sown mangos, clumping bamboo, giant raintrees, Cohune Palms, rainforest species from higher altitudes and an exotic tropical fruit grove � all grow as if spilling out from the adjacent Flecker Botanical Gardens.
The Lakes were built from a Melaleuca swamp in 1972 to mark the Cairns Centenary. They represent the northern-most remnant of the Cairns Central Swamp, which once covered most of what is now Cairns. They are some seven kilometres from the Cairns CBD and are surrounded by suburbs except for the Botanical gardens and adjacent Whitfield Range on the northern side.
Being so close to Cairns they have been intensively and regularly surveyed by the local birding group and ever-present Old and New World birdos who maintain their numbers over the Hot/Wet Season when the common tourists have departed. More than 150 bird species have been recorded in the immediate area with some 94 being non-passerines. Bird numbers fluctuate over a two-season cycle. In the dry cooler season Magpie Geese numbers may build to 100 and Black Duck and other species become more common. The migration from north of Australia just prior the onset of the wet season brings a remarkable swelling in bird numbers and species diversity with the arrival of the Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Metalic Starling, and various Cuckoo spp.
Common but memorable calls from the lakes include the Orange-footed Scrub-fowl, Yellow Oriole and Black Butcherbird. Other common birds such as the Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Gould�s Bronze and Little Bronze Cuckoo, Large-billed Gerygone, Lovely Fairywren, Shining Flycatcher and Fairy Gerygone are all birds most often located through their frequent and distinctive calls. The Large-billed Gerygone has been seen annually for many years now feeding juvenile Bronze Cuckoos.
With the right time of day and year and a little of local knowledge species such as the Black Bittern, Red necked Crake, White-browed Crake, Pacific Baza (a regular breeding visitor) Rufous Owl (which also breeds nearby) and Papuan Frogmouth may also be seen. The Little Kingfisher is only difficult to locate in the November � February period which coincides with the middle of it�s breeding season.
The greatest numbers of birds are seen in or from open areas around the lakes and along mangrove verges. Some grassland species such as quails, rails, the Golden-headed Cisticola and Pheasant Coucal vary in numbers with the frequency of grass mowing and poisoning of the lake verges. With the exception of species such as the Spectacled Flycatcher, Rufous and Grey Fantails, surprisingly few other passerines are commonly seen along the boardwalk inside the closed forest.
Other nearby good birding areas include the lowland rainforest of the Whitfield Range which contain far greater numbers of passerines and where the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher breeds annually between October and April. The Southern Cassowary became locally extinct here in the 1990s after being moderately common since a number of birds were released locally from the old Botanicals Gardens zoo in the early 1950s. Extensive circuit walking tracks through this area start near the Tanks Cultural Precinct.
Nesting colonies of Metallic Starlings can be seen nearby at the Cairns Airport (on the highway side) in an Albizia lebec tree and in suburban Edge Hill (Heavey Cresent) in a row of Eucalyptus torrileana street trees. Over-wintering Metalic Starling numbers appear to be increasing in recent years.
Some 5 kilometers further on from this nesting colony is the Lake Morris Road which winds some 27 kilometers up the Lamb Range to the Copperload Dam. Most? of the wet tropics highland species can be seen along this road with night time sightings of the Lesser Sooty Owl not uncommon.
The mangrove forests near the Cairns airport also have boardwalks. The out and back walk through the tall Rhizophora forest is a reliable place to locate the Mangrove Robin.
The Cairns Esplanade is known internationally for its easy access to viewing migratory waders at their high tide roost. Some 32 species of waders and an additional 200 other aquatic and terrestrial birds have been have been recorded there.
Long-nosed and Northern Brown Bandicoot are present and placental mammals in the area include the Water Rat Hydromys chrysogaster, Swamp Rat Rattus lutreolus, and a colony of Spectacled Flying Foxes which live in a neighbouring remnant of the Cairns Central Swamp and these along with the Striped Possum have been recorded locally as prey of the Rufous Owl. The boggy areas on the verge of the freshwater lake provides ideal Saltwater Crocodile Crocodilis porosis nesting habitat, and sightings, mostly of smaller crocodiles, are not that uncommon. The relocation policy of the Department of Environment has recently been implemented here. Other reptiles include the Amethystine Python, and Boyd�s Forest Dragon.
Invertebrates of particular note include species of Mosquito and Sandfly which are very, very common.
The Cairns City Council has recently announced a $5 million redevelopment of the area with staged developments occurring after that. Proposals include the clearing of a number of small areas for car parks, interpretative centres, restaurants and other public place infrastructure. While it is designed to attract and possibly educate more visitors about the natural environment there is the possibility it will become for many committed late drinkers nothing more than a pretty backdrop for such pleasurable social activity. More seriously, the development gives rise for concern that the character and natural values of the area will be destroyed by a theme park development run on commercial imperatives rather wise management of the botanical gardens and precious piece of remnant wetland.
Those of you who were at the November Field Day which started and finished at my place on Lake St, saw me present two small gifts. One to Patrick Sollitt because of his professionalism at such a young age - he is probably as good as any birder of his age (13, or is he 14 by now?) in the world - and the other to Dick Bolton for still giving it his best shot.
After all, it was Dick that actually photographed a Redshank on the Cairns Esplanade earlier this year (one of the few records from the eastern seaboard of Australia), and what follows is a meticulous bird survey of a common bird that the rest of us try to ignore.
I've been to several ornithological conferences over the years where key speakers have acknowledged the part that amateurs have played in the building-up of knowledge in most species in most countries. This report of Dick's may well add important knowledge to what we know about the Indian or Common Myna.
Maybe we should all be trying to do things like this with our common, everyday birds. After all, we here in Northern Australia are at the cutting edge of Australasian ornithology. So many things about our local birds are unknown.
So, is there anyone else out there who has material to publish?
INDIAN MYNA SURVEY, BAYVIEW HEIGHTS, CAIRNS
DICK BOLTON, OCTOBER 2005.
The daily survey route taken was along Marti St, right into Villa St, left into Bayview St, left into Toogood Rd, and back to Marti St. Approximate time taken each day was 25 minutes.
Date Nos of Mynas Time walk began. Notes
1 38 0910
2 41 0930
3 36 0840
4 37 0930
5 41 0945
6 33 0945
7 50 0845
8 36 1000
9 28 0930
10 29 0910
11 13 1100 Late start.
12 41 0830
13 26 0900
14 14 1530 Very late start
15 22 0830 (
16 22 0830 (
17 11 0930 (A dry patch
18 12 0930 (
19 21 0945 (
20 44 0900
21 37 0930
22 48 0945
23 37 0930
24 36 0950
25 31 0930
26 32 0930
27 34 1000
28 36 0920
29 34 0915
30 28 1000
31 34 1500 Very late start
Conclusions and comments.
There are about 36 resident mynas in the area described, breeding from October to May.
Each pair (there may be 18 pairs) rear approxiamately 10 young to adulthood each year with 3 broods per year.
They lay 2 eggs in small areas such as pipes and concrete blocks and up to 6 eggs in larger nesting areas.
In very dry weather they scavenge at sewerage works and refuse dumps.
One of the little-known benefits of Common Mynas is that they eat army worms.
Dick Bolton, Nov 15th, 2005.
TRIP REPORTS compiled by John Seale unless otherwise stated.
Innocents in Africa
Field Trip to Uganda, July 2005 led by Chris Doughty and Herbert Byaruhanga.
�Don�t plantains grow underground�? I asked bemusedly on being told that the big grey bird in the tree is and Eastern Plantain Eater. It�s my first time in Africa; I�m definitely the junior in our group of 10, in experience if not in years because everyone else has been in Africa at least once in the past. So it�s going to take me a long time to sort out what I�m seeing and what�s rare and exciting and what�s isn�t and it will take me longer to stop obviously looking at TNN�s (otherwise Take No Notice birds or Common Bulbuls) which are everywhere. We�re in the garden of our hotel in Kampala. And there�s a sudden flash of the most brilliant lipstick red-it�s a Double-Toothed Barbet or at least it�s two of them prospecting a nest hole. Marabou Storks stand guard on the roof tops and Pied Crows are calling and a Hadada Ibis is strutting past. At tea the chips are cold; well who cares?
Next day we�re off in search of the Shoebill Stork. A flotilla of old wooden canoes run a shuttle service. They�re taking successive groups of bird watchers out through the reeds on the edge of Lake Victoria. On the way we�ve stopped by a Papyrus swap where right on cue the handsome Papyrus Gonalek flashed his brilliant colours. Our guide knew just where to stop and look, of course. I have my first sight of Weaver birds, glorious in yellow and black. There�s a Brown Throated Weaver and a Black Faced Weaver���.and the Great Blue Turaco flies past.
The canoes don�t just transport white fellas to see the Shoebill; the also run a ferry service for locals with bicycles, personal belongings and even a motor bike. We glide quietly through the reeds and come to the open space where the canoes are congregating and there on the opposite bank is the Shoebill. Just like on the Life of Birds video, or better, because we see him or her flying and standing and there�s actually two of them. And later I see my first African Sunbirds. They are glorious, in changing iridescent colours. I start to imagine them as an embroidery pattern. The Turaco keep appearing and we�ve seen the African Green Pigeon, a Long Crested Eagle (which will keep turning up on the way) and a Speckled Mousebird which also is everywhere, as well as the Bare Faced Go Away bird.
In the afternoon noon we visit Mpanga Forest and realise that forest birding in Uganda isn�t so easy as birding in the open country � well isn�t that the case everywhere? But there�s a Red Headed Malimbe and a loud noise heralds the arrival of a Black and White Casqued Hornbill. We�ll be seeing quite a lot of them but they�re spectacular.
The more expert members of the group start sorting out Swallows and Swifts. I found it hard to get enthusiastic about anything that stays up there on the edge of visibility such as Swifts, or birds of prey seen as a speck half way to the Kenya border���..
A first impression, as our vehicles brave Kampala traffic and venture out of town, is of women everywhere in colourful long dresses and the bicycle used instead of a hand cart or wheelbarrow; men and very rarely woman are seen trundling rather than riding bicycles laden with huge loads of bananas and further west they will be trundling bicycles laden with multiple jerry-cans of water. There are tiny brick houses in lines, tiny shop fronts some purporting to be medical clinics. Everywhere there are tiny beauty salons but our favourite called itself �THE REALISTIC BEAUTY CLINIC�. No that one won�t send you out looking like Halle Berry?? The upfront straight forward Anti-AIDS adverts advising variously �abstinence, faithfulness � or use a condom�. Everywhere there are children in bright simple school uniforms.
At a roadside stop, a Diederick Cuckoo, a Marico Sunbird�..
And so onto ? Camp Confusion ? Where are staying in a banda or (? Panda, according to our new and eccentrically worded itinerary) We have reached Lake Mboro and are seeing big animals now. Zebras crossing? Yes. Impala, Waterbuck, Topi, Water Buffalo and Baboons oh yes and great birds as well. The camp ground has non-optional Warthogs.
After arriving at the camp ground, choosing a banda (or panda) and exploring that camp essential, the location of the very simple toilets, each of us went roaming around the campsite soon to find the notice that forbid us to proceed further unless we have an armed guard! Not that�s there�s anything to stop the wildlife coming right into the camp when the armed guard isn�t around! Fortunately � as due to an annoying rather than serious medical condition, I�m an inveterate night-walker � no one tells me in advance that I might have meet a hippo on my usual nightly walks to the toilet. Fortunately I don�t meet one.
We go out in search of birds and there�s Crowned Cranes more Gonaleks, an African Blue-Flycatcher, and Starlings. The first one I see is Ruppell�s Long-Tailed Starling; we�ll be seeing more varieties. They come in glorious iridescent shades of purple. The Wattled Starling also seen, but not so exciting. There�s a Broad-billed Roller and we�re starting to see Kingfishers, Little Bee-Eater, Coqui�s Francolin�.
Next day we are up at first light or before, to go on our game drive and also some savannah land birding. I�m still bemused by the sheer variety and the colour of the birds we�re seeing. What�s that? A Twinspot Trivia, sorry it�s a Chinspot Batis����.Emerald-Spotted Wood dove, Common Scimitarbill,
Wow�s there�s a Lilac-breasted Roller in full sun. There are Ibis and an African Wattled Lapwing, but Moses our guard from the Uganda Wildlifes Authority, is calling us to move quietly and quickly back to the bus as a Water Buffalo is looking grumpily in our direction. Don�t Water Buffalo always look grumpy? After breakfast, we�re off in search of a RARITY. It�s a Finfoot. We stand around in the mud by the lakeside but the Finfoot doesn�t show. However we see hippos aplenty, Striped, Pied and Woodland Kingfishers, a Crowned Hornbill, and Fish Eagles. We�ll see plenty of these; wherever there�s a lake or a waterway they stand like sentries at intervals all along the waterside. We see Water Thicknees � they look just like our mates the BSC�s in the Cairns cemetery. Pack up and we�re off again. There�s a distant view of vultures feeding. We really don�t want to see too much of that.
Now it�s the first quest for a Cisticola, the Long-Tailed Cisticola. Chris wants to see it as it�s a rare one. There are actually about 35 sorts of Cisticola in Africa � we�ve only got two or three in Australia. People must have had great fun naming them. There�s a Croaking a Winding a Wailing and a Rattling Cisticola � isn�t there one that sings Country and Western? What on earth can a Siffling Cisticola be and how do we know the feelings of a Rock-loving Cisticola? Anyway the downside is that there�s lots of them to sort out and they�re very small but the upside is they�re the most obliging little birds, usually perching high on grass stems at eye level, twittering chittering wailing winding or rattling etc in bright sunshine so that one can actually see them. However I was beginning to think the Cisticola search reminded me of our search for the usually legendary Pardalote out at Georgetown � except the Cisticolas have less spots � when suddenly Chris found it and of course we all saw it.
Herbert the guide assured us cheerfully that we�d soon be leaving the tarmac for the rough Murrum roads; for the next seven days, he said, but in fact we wouldn�t see tarmac again until we were returning to Kampala. We�d move slowly at times and there�d be lots of dust, yes. As we travelled we saw plenty of signs of poverty and yet the people mostly they looked healthy, with good skin, and everywhere there were the squads of children in their favoured bright school uniforms. We wondered how their mothers kept them looking so clear and neat given the poor conditions they lived in.
So we travelled onto Travellers Rest close to the Bwindi impenetrable forest. This was base from which Dian Fossey used work and in the hotel garden evermore birds. There were Crowned Cranes again and a Bronze Sunbird and another Sunbird which I never managed to identify but the colours were iridescent, really incredible. There was a Common Fiscal and a Fox�s Weaver and a Red Billed Fire Finch and just for something different a Blue Monkey showed up.
Next day, the Gorilla Trek. Our group had to split; three of us elderly and not so elderly ladies set off to join three American ladies; one talked non-stop the other one didn�t get a word in edgeways and Jill the eldest was delightful but recently ill. Three of us were over 60 and very small; the porters waiting to be asked to accompany us must have silently cheered to see three tiny ladies and three who looked quite fit enough to manage without assistance. And we were in luck; the gorillas had been sighted near the forest boundary. So we set off with our gun carrying guides from the Uganda Wildlife Authority and our own guides and our handsome charming porters. Mine was called Gilbert. Off down a steep path where I learned on the way how to use my trekking pole, but we had hardly left the cleared land on the forest edge that when the guards called out that the gorillas were right here and then two gorillas trooped across the path in front of us. It was something like something from a wildlife film. Then in deep undergrowth an inquisitive baby kept trying to approach us but almost out of sight his Big Mama would pull him back, then she laid down and examined her huge feet, still holding onto the baby and another juvenile, then we realised there were gorillas all around us, especially a big Silverback right behind. And then just as the guides said our hour was up and we must leave, the Big Daddy rose to his full height, looked rather boredly at us, obviously didn�t fancy what he saw, reached up and pulled down a small tree to hide himself, just like a final curtain to bring the show to an end.
Gilbert got me back at the hill efficiently and fast so I didn�t see many birds; Jill however was unable to complete the climb so a porter was sent to run up the hill, passing us all, and before we�d all gone much further, down ran four big strong porters carrying a basket litter and then they passed us again running uphill, carrying Jill in the litter. As she past she waved cheerfully and said �I feel like I�m in a bad movie�.
As we trudged on up the hill, of course, we were past by an agile small boy carrying a big jerry-can of water and two barefoot women carrying baskets of vegies on their heads. We made it up the hill and slept most of the way home. Next day, while most of the others trekked, the three of us and Peter who most unfortunately had trouble with his knee and couldn�t do the gorilla trek, set off without guides to the Mhaginga forest. We had the services of Emanuel, a local guide. The birding was marvellous! We were walking in fairly open country not in deep forest and so the birds were actually visible! and the weather was perfect. Sunny but not too hot. We were now close to the Ruwenzori mountains and in the territory of the Albertine Rift Endemics � rare birds only found in that area. And the Ruwenzori Turaco came out to give a command performance in the trees and we saw the Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. As usual I failed to see an Illiodopsis. I am certain that they are illusory. However Emanuel�s expertise made sure that I and the others saw a great many more birds. Next day we were onto Ruhiza where our eccentric itinerary promised us �drop-in toilets�. Naturally I had to be the first to investigate these but alas without my camera so I missed the picture of our local staff trotting downhill from the camp carrying, clearly, an old Indian army thunderbox? No, a seat installation to place over the usual slot in the wooden floor in the ladies toilet. Cooking was by our camp cook, Moses, and the food was great. Off we went for some night spotting after supper but I�m afraid the noise made by Herbert�s tape recording of some owl or other might have caused us to be followed by crowds of excited bird watchers had any been around but it certainly didn�t attract any birds!
Next day however we�re off to search for some rarities. A long pleasant walk in the woods took us to a small research camp where two local researchers easily showed us the nest of the African Green Broadbill � a bird which apparently is very rare and seldom seen. Of cause it�s an Albertine Rift Endemic! There was a bird sitting on the nest: we saw it�s front end but it absolutely refused to come out and show us more, no matter how long we were willing to stay around. We wandered on down to a swamp where we had a very brief glimpse of a fly past by the Grauer�s Rush Warbler. I wondered irreverently if they were called Rush Warblers because they generally rush past and that�s all you see.
Butterflies! Whenever we were in the forest there were butterflies, crowds of them, clouds of them. Red and blue and white and yellow. The next day we�re off to Buhoma. We start off walking down the forested road and the sightings are good. There�s a Northern Puffback and a White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, a Dusky Blue and a Cassin�s Flycatcher. More Sunbirds. A Blue-throated Roller, and a Black and White Strike-Flycatcher with young. Oh yes and once we reached Buhoma I spotted a Red-Faced Panting Pakeha����..
Next day off to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest again. I�m always pleased when I actually manage to see the small birds and though I missed out on the Chestnut Wattle-eye that time I did score the Brown-throated Wattle-eye. Chris however wanted to see the Mountain Illiodopsis. I have a theory that Illodopsis�s actually live under ground rarely emerging���..but we did in fact see it. Lurking in the undergrowth and wearing the expression of a naughty pet caught out hiding under the bed. We also saw the Black-billed Turaco and Petit�s Cuckoo Shrike, another Red Headed Malimbe a White Headed Wood Hoopoe and we hunted in vain for the Scaly Anteater, no I mean Woodhouses Antpecker and saw the Mountain Black Boubou, Paradise Flycatchers, Yellow Rumped Tinkerbirds and a Pink Footed Puffback as well as any number of Greenbuls, which all look alike and in any case are in camouflage colours to look like foliage and usually hidden deep among the leaves.
Next day we meet Rosa the bus and Herbert Two, our driver. We�re off to the Queen Elizabeth National Park with a prolonged delay on route while Rosa has some necessary brake parts replaced. There was sparse birding until we reached the park but in the grounds of the resort a Black Headed Gonalek and Red Chested Sunbird awaited us; once again there are warthogs on the lawn and Banded Mongooses in the garden. Some of them were playing around outside unit, probably making baby mongooses. Next day at first light or before we�re up and into the bus for some bird and animal watching and then late in the afternoon we�re off for a cruise on Kazinga Channel, expertly guided by a local lady called Janet. There are water birds aplenty, Ibis�s, Egyptian Geese and of course the Fish Eagles and the Pied Kingfishers in numbers. A Malachite Kingfisher, and among the commoner animals around the lake side we saw the uncommon Giant Forest Hogs. And so many hippos!
I slept better than usual, I so missed the hippos cavorting on the lawn that night, no one else slept so much. Next day were on the road again to Kibale here, stopping en route in the Maramagambo Forest. African Paradise Flycatcher, Northern Black Flycatcher and Swamp Flycatcher and Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush and White Browed Robin Chat and�����Bulbuls of course. And some Greenbul or other. Baboons, - we saw some baboons and Guerega Colobus monkeys and a colony of small bats in a cave with the big monitor lizard and a much bigger python that feed on them.
And on the way we saw the spectacular Black Bee-eater. On the road we passed a hotel hopefully called the Snow View Hotel and more realistically opposite it was the Factory View Hotel which faces a cement works. We could vaguely see the cement works through the red dust but I can not swear to there being any snow!
At Kibale we settled into our banda (or panda) and read the visitor�s book; a recent guest had nearly stepped on a Black Mamba on the forest path so it made my nightly toilet excursion more of a challenge! But we survived the night and next morning we set off with our local guide to view the chimpanzees. And we were not disappointed, though we didn�t close; a young male draped himself gracefully over a high tree branch, eating fruit, and looking down lazily at us. There were Red-tailed monkeys, Red-headed Colubus monkeys and at camp a Chestnut Wattle-Eye; we saw a Black-crested Turaco, Black and White Hornbills and Violet-headed Starlings and a Pygmy Kingfisher.
Next day we set off into the forest in damp drizzly weather. Deep gloom in the forest and damp gloomy trekkers? First we�d searched in the car park for the Brown Illiodopsis; some saw it but of course I didn�t. In the dark woods I thought we might meet Little Red Riding Hood or an Ent, but birds? Herbert our guide played repeatedly a recording meant to attract the Red-chested Owlet; I thought it more likely to attract werewolves. In the dim light I thought we�d be hard put to see a Brush Turkey unless it were wearing fluorescent pink, but then Austin our local guide found us the rare Green-chested Pitta. Apparently hardly anyone ever sees the Green-chested Pitta; we must rely on the expertise of local guides who know where to look, but when we saw it it was wearing florescent paint! It had brilliant splashes of kingfisher blue on its back. And it just sat there, nonchalant, letting us have a good look, before puttering off into the bracken with a mate. There were actually two of them! Well our spirits rose immediately. So further down the track we just had to find the Scaly-breasted Illiodopsis, which flew around us in undergrowth and let itself be seen. Then a brief glimpse of the Red-crested Alethel and then back to camp where Moses had once again prepared for us a delicious lunch. In the afternoon we�re off to a swamp to look for the elusive Flufftail and White-winged Warbler. Unsuccessfully, and not surprisingly as we were on a boardwalk used as a main thoroughfare for everyone from a near village but when we walked into the cultivated land away from the swamp there were Great Blue Turaco, Black Bishop, a Red-billed Quelea or other, Purple-headed Starlings, Violet-backed Starlings, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-necked Weaver, Vieillot�s Black Weaver, Grosbeak Weavers, Slenderbilled and Yellow-backed Weavers and a Velvet Mantled Drongo and Western Black-headed Oriole.
And rejoice we saw the Joyful Greenbul. Next day however mostly starred Rosa the Bus. We were toiling along worsening roads, slower and slower, blowing a tyre and eventually we finished the journey in taxis which had been hastily summoned while Rosa stayed behind for some essential repairs, and so we arrived at Murchison Falls National Park after nightfall, eventually crossing the Nile on the ferry to find Bushbucks at the landing stage. �They�re down here because of the lions� said one of the staff reassuringly. No lions come to greet us and at the hotel the patient staff conducted us to a late but welcome meal and on the way a lady meticulously dusted off our luggage with a feather duster. I asked her if she�d dust me down too please because we and all our belongings were by now entirely coated with the red dust.
Next morning however we woke to sunshine on the river Nile, birds in the garden and Rosa the Bus had been repaired overnight and was ready and waiting to take us on our game drive. In the garden there was a Pin-tailed Whydah and a Scarlet-chested Sunbird and then we were off on our game drive to see Oribi and Hartebeeste and Buffalo of course and some splendid Giraffes quite happy to pose for photos if we didn�t come too close, and among the birds Red Bishops and a Red-throated Bee Eater which looks nothing like its picture in the book which is rather dull but in reality appears in glorious technicolour. We went in search of the poxy - sorry - the Foxy Cisticola but I failed to see him. There were more Wattle-Eyes and Cordon Bleus and Silverbirds and later a Yellow-mantled Widow Bird, White Browed Sparrow Weaver, and then we saw the Bustard. In fact we saw Denham�s and the Black-bellied Bustard but not before our first sighting which drew our attention to CATS! Yes there at last were lions, the male lion asleep and looking like a bit of moth-eaten rug but the ladies were alert and on guard. We saw Piapiac, some of them perched on the back of big animals like the buffalo, and a Martial Eagle. What a horrid name I thought, Obviously bestowed on it by some flag-waving, testosterone-laden twit who hadn�t even stopped to notice that approximately half of the population must be females. Now we lingered deliberately as the sun went down, then drove on slowly through the dark, looking for Nightjars. We had some sightings, but merely flashes of white flying past. And the moon rose full and huge and red over the Nile.
We were back at the resort in daylight where there was a charming little lizard by the swimming pool, golden and orange and black, about 12 inches long, who would run around and stop and do a few push-ups and run on and do his push-ups again, clearly working out on his exercise program!
It also appears that the smaller bird the longer the name. The Camaroptera for instance is considerably shorter than it�s name so it�s difficult to see in foliage. The Crombec being tailess is even shorter and being the colour of foliage is even harder to see and the Illiodopsis I still swear lives underground.
But it�s Friday and we�re off the Nile on another boat to the base of the Murchison Falls once again we have a very good female guide. There are lots of water birds, also obliging because they�re big and inclined to stand still except of course for the fast moving Kingfishers. Pied Kingfishers of course and the inevitable Fish Eagles, African Open-billed Stork, Maribou Storks � did we ever miss them? � and the ubiquitous Hadada - Ibis, Egyptian Geese and a lovely fly-past of Knob-billed Ducks. Long-tailed Cormorant, lots of African Darters, Black Crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egrets of course Common Squacco Horn Heron, Striated Heron, a Great Egret and a splendid Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron and the frequently seen Hamerkop of course. None of these rarities, but satisfyingly easy to seem, but up close by the falls we see the Rock Pratincole. Our rarity for the day. Needless to say in the way of big animals there were all the usual suspects, mournful looking buffaloes, antelopes aplenty, hippos, hippos, hippos, hippos and crocodiles; other people got pretty excited but if you live in Far North Queensland one is a little blas� about these. It was also exciting and so lovely however that it was really incomprehensible that one fellow passenger, a large young female, sat with her nose in a book most of the way there and back again except for waking up little to look at the falls when we got there.
After lunch we set off with Rosa the Bus again to the top of the falls; we were driving through country much lusher than the dry savannah we�d been travelling in, but curiously there were far fewer animals to be seen. Once again there were Sunbirds at the top of the falls, the Scarlet-chested and the well named Beautiful Sunbird. Once again we lingered until the sun started to go down and then drove slowly back towards the lodge, looking for Nightjars. Once again the local guides knew where to go and turned off the road into a place where we did have better sightings of spectacular the Pennant-winged Nightjar and Long-tailed Nightjar. And then we drove home with that great red full moon coming up over the Nile.
In the night it rained. Dale, our assistant guide had said �I prefer the dust� and we soon found out why. On a single lane road recently graded to a marked convexity about wide enough for one vehicle, we found the mud. The bus began to skate and slip. The first time Rosa got into a serious predicament, stuck up against the verge, we got out and pushed but a little further down the road we met two lorries stranded in the mud facing in the opposite direction. We were doomed to stay here, in this sad little village where we had stopped, until the end of the wet season? The villagers were turning out en masse to enjoy the spectacle; they think we are the best entertainment in weeks. However, Herbert our guide took control. Some money changed hands and a large number of villagers were marshalled to push Rosa along one side of the road and the lorries along the other side of the road, leaning heavily towards the verges on either side until Rosa was well past the lorries and the same was done for a crowded taxi-van that had come up behind us. Many photographs were taken and then we were on our way with lunch and some deep forest birding ahead. Alas, Puvels Illiodopsis proved, as usual, legendary and probably was hiding underground but we did see our first Narina Trogon.
So now we had come safely to Masindi, gateway to the Royal Mile. We asked for our wake up call for 6.00 am next morning and dutifully were given our wake up call at 5.00 am after which we slept through, till fortunately we were wakened by the Call to Prayer. Up and off to the Royal Mile, which I expected would be at least sign-posted, and not approached by a road that more and more resembled a muddy cart track as we got closer, but we arrived, seeing some nice birds on the way such as a Black (or Red-collared) Widowbird and a Yellow-mantled Widowbird and a Blackwinged Red Bishop.
As we got into the forest, the bird watching wasn�t as easy as I might have expected, but my trip-list starts to sprout exclamation marks! I did manage to see a Rufous-crowned Eremomela, even though it�s one of these small ones that appear to lurk in the treetops and has a name longer than the bird. Black and White-casqued Hornbills and White-thighed Hornbills performed for us, a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird of course, an African Dwarf Kingfisher and the elusive Chocolate-backed Kingfisher both made their appearance. The Chocolate-backed actually appeared for us again next day! A Spotted Greenbul was indeed spotted and is apparently pretty rare but it does take some imagination to get excited about it, after all these Kingfishers! An African Thrush turned up and White-browed Scrub-Robin oh yes and an Olive Green Camaroptera, and a Buff-throated Apalis. The Chestnut-capped Flycatcher put in an appearance and a handsome Western Black-headed Oriole. Also, Masked and Speckled Weavers, a Black-necked Weaver and a Grosbeak Weaver appeared and a Compact Weaver, most of these later in the day and on the way home. In the more open country, a Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Indigo Bird, Yellow-fronted Canary and the rather spectacular Western Citril and out among the maize fields, Cabanis� Bunting, a reputed rarity. Oh yes and at the end of our walk down the Royal Mile, one more search for the Flufftail. The elusive White-spotted Flufftail. I have no expectations of success but we peer into the mud near the little River and, yes, there he or she is. Hard to see despite being bright red in front with black and white spots behind but undoubtedly there he or she is! We wander off happily for our picnic lunch. On the way back I failed to see the White-winged Warbler at the Papyrus Swamp because I fall into a hole just as Chris is trying to show it to me but I�m small enough to not need to fall into any holes to make my problem worse! Next day we were up early again and off back to the Budonga Forest. Highlight of the day�s sightings is the Nahans Francolin which actually looks like a small black Bantam but our guide cleverly induces it to fly across the road a couple of times by playing it a tape. We also see some Crested Guinea Fowl. A spectacular Collared Sunbird puts in an appearance, the lovely Chestnut-capped Flycatcher appears again.
We�re coming to the end of our trip and next day we�re going to be up early and after a little birding in the grounds are off on Rosa the Bus to Kampala; we�re dreading another long dusty and interrupted journey but soon we�re on the tarmac and we�re moving fast towards our relatively luxurious final hotel stop. Phyllis, our oldest group member, is amused when we were having lunch in a caf�, to see some local lady start to enter the caf�, look at us in obvious horror, and retreat. Have we got that much red dust on us? Having spruced up a little at the hotel, we have a very pleasant walk up the hill behind the resort. Alas, Kampala obviously has a bad attack of the developers but in the open country the birds are highly visible. There�s a Red-headed Lovebird, a White-throated Bee-eater, Marico Sunbird, and a beautiful Variable Sunbird; and a sharp eyed person spots two Northern White-faced Scops Owls trying to roost quietly in a tree beside the path. Once again there are Weaver birds, many and varied, assorted Kingfishers and as we are walking back to our supper, our old friend the spectacular Doubled-toothed Barbet. A variety of Weaver birds, and that lovely Ruppell�s Long-tailed Starling.
Next day we go birding at the Entebbe Botanical Gardens before, with some reluctance, boarding our plane. Velvet monkeys, much tamer than in the forest, are abundant. The Hornbills and Turacos are inescapable; there�s a Great Blue Turaco and a Ross�s Turaco too, the ubiquitous Eastern Grey Plantain Eater, Crowned and Black and White-casqued Hornbills and since we�ve not yet stopped adding to our bird list, there�s an Orange Weave, reputed to be at the edge of it�s range here, quite spectacular, and (reputedly at it�s most easterly point of it�s range in Africa) the Superb Sunbird. Absolutely superb! There�s a Red-chested Sunbird too to keep it company. Oh yes a Madagascar Bee-eater, obviously enjoying a holiday on the mainland, and, beautiful and a treat to see up in the sunlight, a Broad-billed Roller. More Pied Kingfishers, a Striped and a Woodland. I have failed to mention that several days ago, from our bus on one of our lengthy journeys, we had one solitary sighting of a Giant Kingfisher.
So it�s time to head for home via hot hot gray birdless Dubai.
To be continued next year?
(Editor's comment - was in Dubai last year, birding. This last comment deserves a reply! Someday. Also you can access my own experience in Uganda on aabirding.com)
APRIL 3rd 2005 - Centenary Lakes walk.
Today we had a turnout of approx 14 people. Another SUN advert seemed to attract one new person. None of
the 7 new people from last month showed up!!. Also we were joined by Bengt, a Swedish tourist, who saw our
group and tagged along. An early morning shower did not dampen our birding. The number of species that
turned up for us to see was 51 for the morning. A juvenile White-browed Crake may have confirmed the
black ball of fluff that was glimpsed last month. We had five separate Striated Herons, Black Bittern,
Little Kingfisher, a Wompoo Frit-Dove and a couple of Dollarbirds. Water birds were very few. A pair of
Black Duck, 2 Little Black Cormorants and a Great and a Little Egret on the saltwater pond. We all had
excellent views of a Juvenile Brush Cuckoo whose incessant begging calls ensured that the pair of
Brown-backed Honeyeaters feeding it, were kept very busy. A Rufous Fantail was seen in the mangroves of
Saltwater Creek. Thanks to Patrick and, later, John Seale for keeping the bird count and to all those who
looked after our newcomers and answered their queries.
MARCH 6TH 2005 - Centenary Lakes walk.
Today we had a great turnout of approx 23 people. Andy was back from the Philippines and Mark back from
Thailand/India and John C back from the clutches of the 'flu. John S brought along a couple of Americans
and half way through the walk we were joined by 4 more Americans who had heard about the walk via the Bird
Routes section of our NEW website. In addition, an advert in the previous week's Cairns SUN had attracted
7 locals. Luckily we had a good show by the birds giving us 50 for the morning. It was good that so many
newcomers were able to see new birds. The prolific Carpentaria Palm fruits attracted the Pied Imperial
Pigeons as well as the odd male Koel. The White-browed Crakes showed well and we had excellent views of 2
separate Striated Herons (1 Juv and 1 adult). Fleeting glimpses of Black Bittern and Little Kingfisher kept
us all alert. Water birds were very few. A pair of Black Duck, a Wandering Whistling Duck arrived as we
watched the Osprey and NO egrets. A pair of juvenile Brahminy Kites soared high overhead and we all had
good views of an Osprey preening and then trying its luck at fishing in the freshwater lake. The
open area near the boardwalk start/end, produced 6 or 7 Fig Parrots high up near nesting holes as well as a
Dollarbird. The Bush stone Curlew + 1 juv and the saltwater lakes' Mangrove Kingfisher and Common
Sandpiper showed up as did a Gould's Bronze Cuckoo being fed by Large-billed Gerygones. The mild weather
and the large numbers ensured that we did not finish until 0930. Let us hope that some of the new locals
continue to join our trips. Thanks to David A and Patrick for keeping the bird count and all those who
looked after our newcomers and answered their queries.
FEBRUARY 20TH 2005 - Mt Haren Road, Kuranda.
Today we had a small turnout of approx 8 people, 4 of whom had not visited the location before. While
waiting at the meeting point, King Parrots were feeding on a nearby tree. With the warm weather and
the early chorus of cicadas the birding was a bit difficult. We parked at the entrance to the Flying
Doctor Hill and walked up to the gate and then back down and to the end of the bitumen. The highlight was
a great view of a Grey Goshawk perched in a tree followed about half an hour later by 3 Grey Goshawks
flying up above the road. We got Fairy Gerygone, Wompoo Pigeon, Grey Whistler and Spotted Catbirds. The
day ended early. Thanks to David A and Patrick for keeping the bird count .
FEBRUARY 6TH 2005 - Centenary Lakes walk.
Today we had a turnout of approx 9 people. The weather was threatening rain and the crocodile had been
removed from the freshwater lake. We recorded 43 species. We had excellent views of Black Bittern and a
Striated Heron as they worked the same pond edge about 3 metres apart. The Little Kingfisher kindly put in an
appearance after several weeks absence. A pair of Masked Lapwings were fiercely protecting their newly
hatched young. A fawn coloured Indian runner duck was not shy in walking after us. How do these birds get
here??. The Bush Stone Curlew + 2 juvs and the saltwater lakes' Mangrove Kingfishers plus 2 young are
still hanging around. The showers made us take shelter Thanks to David A and Patrick for keeping the bird
JANUARY 20th 2005 - Rifle Creek/Mt Carbine.
Today we had a very small turnout of 4 people. Unfortunately, the birding was very patchy.
We started around Rifle Creek and got Pale Yellow Robin etc. We then walked up Wetherby Road opposite
Rifle Creek and picked up a Northern Fantail. Off to Mt Carbine. Wegot the Bustard on East Road at Mary Farms.
We saw 2 birds one bigger than the other. The smaller bird caused problems as to whether it was a female or a
juvenile. The lakes at Mt Carbine had Great Crested Grebe, Wandering Whistling Ducks and a raft of
Eurasian Coot. We explored the local cemetery with little return. Despite a huge downpour on our way back
we waited and stopped at Station Creek where we drove in for about 1 km and got Scarlet, White-throated and
? Honeyeaters in the blossoms there.
JANUARY 2nd 2005 - Centenary Lakes walk
Today we had a turnout of approx 11 people including 2 visitors from NSW. The weather was warm rain. We
recorded 40 species. A pair of Masked Lapwings were fiercely protecting their nest on a mud island in the
freshwater lake. No Little Kingfisher but plenty of Black Ducks and other waterbirds. The Bush Stone Curlews
proved popular with the NSW visitors as did the Mangrove Kingfishers plus 2 young. The showers proved
very persistent, but warm, and curtailed the morning somewhat.
Thanks to David A and Patrick for keeping the bird count.