Thursday, June 30, 2016

Golden-shouldered Parrots and More

Mr. Golden-shouldered Parrot
Anne Collins, our dear friend and advisor, has been an amazing resource of birding, accommodation, sights and other knowledge during our travels. When we were planning the last couple of months of this trip we were thinking about a lot of things and Golden-shouldered Parrots were close to the top of the list. Anne had suggested that if we decided to pursue them, we should get in contact with David Mead at Great Northern Tours. She had gone up there with him last year and had a wonderful time. So that’s what we did! And I too could not recommend him more highly. I am so grateful that we met him and his lovely wife, Janet.

We arrived at their home Tuesday arvo and David had us set Troopi up in his beautiful yard beside his garage. We plugged her in, popped the top and we were sorted. After a quiet night, we headed off the next morning in his Landcruiser toward Artemis Station.

On the way out, we stopped at Laura, QLD on the off chance that Black-throated Finch were there. He had seen a few last year, and thought it was worth a look. It was. We walked maybe 100 meters along a creek and there were two finches in the pandanus right in front of us and they had Black-throats! I looked first with my bins and then grabbed two quick recording shots as they flew off. First lifer of our trip, sweet! Grateful! Thank you, David!

Black-throated Finches
We headed on up the unsealed road to Artemis Station and had a quick look around. We got our second life bird of the day, Black-backed Butcherbird, in several spots. Then we set up camp at the station. We had their camping area to ourselves and it was lovely and peaceful.

Black-backed Butcherbird
We met Sue Shephard, truly THE Golden-shouldered Parrot Lady. It’s her place and in a way, they really are “her” birds. She and David are good friends and later that afternoon, she took us out to an active nest she had located a few weeks before. I saw GSP chicks! It was cuteness overload. They had color on their feathers and all (she has a tiny light on a “wand” that she can peek into the nests with). I was so grateful to see these little treasures. Just… damn.
The Golden-shouldered Parrot nests in termite mounds. There are three kinds. Bulbous, which are rounded and like big blobs. Then there are Magnetic, which are angular and aligned north to south to minimize the exposure to the sun. And lastly there are Conical, the “witch hat” shaped ones and they are the only kind in which the parrots nest.
An old nest site.
The GSP parents were not around that evening and we retired back at the station to a nice supper (David was feeding us) and then an early night to sleep. Lynn and I had never slept on “stretchers,” but the cots were pretty comfortable. I slept well, though fitfully, as I was ridiculously excited about the morning’s possibilities. I first awoke at 10:30pm, thank heavens I went back to sleep.
Lynn enjoying the warm arvo sun. The weather was excellent.
The tent in which we slept on stretchers for the first time.
Our front yard view.
The next morning we were out at the nest area at dawn. We positioned ourselves on little camp chairs away from, but in view of the nest. And we waited, and waited. After about 45 minutes mom and dad flew into a tree above the nest mound. I gasped, “There they are!” They appeared to have full crops. We watched these two gorgeous parrots on that branch for the next thirty minutes or so (as I took way too many photos). Then the male dropped down toward the nest mound immediately followed by the female who went straight into the hole. The male perched atop the mound making for insanely wondrous views. Eventually he too dropped down and slipped quickly into the hole. We chose that time to quietly walk back to the vehicle. I am so grateful to have seen these magnificent endangered parrots. Such a thrill that was.

Brace yourselves, lots of photos of GSPs are coming...
A literal OMG moment(s). They had flown in and were sitting there.

As he left, he basically disappeared down through the leaves.

She, however, flew straight off to the nest mound and into the hole.
And he perched on top of the nest mound... OMG again.

Dropping down to the nest hole. 
Going in...        

Joyous Golden-shouldered Parrot Lifer Selfie... David Mead, Lynn and me. 
On the way back to the station, we stopped and found the “White-eared” Masked Finches, a distinct sub-species and perhaps one day, a split.

"White-eared" Masked Finch
We packed up the camp and decided that, since we had hit all our targets, we’d head back a day early to David and Janet’s. And that’s what we did. Back in Cooktown, we had wonderful take-away Barra and Chips as our Lifer supper. After dinner, David discovered on eBird that a friend of his had seen Large-tailed Nightjars on a road just five minutes from the house. So we weren’t done yet.

The next morning we were parked on that road before 6am. We walked a couple hundred meters up the road without seeing or hearing the birds. On the way back down, right beside me, a Large-tailed Nightjar flew up and looped around (it was feeding on insects I think). Then it flew back over us to land on the road ahead twice. We had excellent views. That was the last of my Australian nightjars (Lynn still needs White-throated).

I am so very grateful! Thank you David, for a wonderful few days with a perfect grand finale!

RB AUS Life List: 663
Lynn AUS Life List: 644
Couple’s AUS Year List: 626
Peace. Love. Birds.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hanging Out At Kingfisher Park

For a few (often soggy) days, we’ve been hanging out here at Kingfisher Park Birdwatcher’s Lodge. It is a place that I love. Lynn has had some much needed down time and I know she has been enjoying that. I have been getting out and doing some birding and wandering in the mornings and I need to do that, or I go even more crazy than I already am. I am grateful when we can reach balances. That is sometimes difficult in this journey.

Carol and Andrew Iles, the owners of KP are delightful. These are funny, fun, smart, caring and very knowledgeable people, who I consider friends. I know that Andrew would hate for me to tell people how nice he is, but he will probably never read this so I am safe. We will be heading north tomorrow to areas again where there will probably be no internet or mobile signal, and I wanted to post some photos from our few days here. I sometimes find myself just looking, more than photographing, and that is both good and bad. I do want to share the visuals with y’all, so I try and remember to take some pictures, but sometimes I forget. Anyway here are some photos…
I was walking up Mt. Lewis when this little bit of gorgeousness hopped up beside me. I love me some Double-eyed Fig-parrots! 
Looking out off Mt. Lewis.
The road up the mountain.
The old man on the mountain... rainforest selfie.
Spotted Catbird on the mountain.
Spectacled Monarch
Another of the insanely cute Double-eyed Fig-parrot
Another walk not far down the road from KP 
Beautiful but filled with mozzies!
Little Shrike-thrush is not bothered by mozzies.             
At the end down there is where we saw Fig-parrots last year and to my right and behind me is where we saw White-browed Crakes last year. It was a bit quiet this year, but lush, green and lovely.         
The cane fields next door viewed from the creek.
I love this track.
There was a family of Brown Quail, but I only seem to have photographed one.
One of the family of Brown Quail 
Keeping it real. Ugh. As I’ve mentioned in several previous entries, things aren’t always all shits and giggles out here. Life is complex, more complex than life birds and selfies. I am grateful, but. There’s a sentence for you. Years ago I read somewhere that when you add “but” to a sentence, you are negating everything that came before it. But… I AM grateful. I am also struggling every day (particularly during that deadly awake time just before actually getting up) with depression and anxiety. Yes, as I am experiencing these magnificent areas, there is often a massive, metaphorical cloud above me. Part of this is my natural tendency toward anxiety and depression, but I am also struggling with the fact that we have to return to the US in September and we have no settled plan for what we’re going to do, or how we are going to do it. No, I am not sure what the future holds and I am not good with that kind of not knowing. But… (I cannot not use that word) as John Lennon said, “It will all be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” I am grateful for those words and for that thought.

Peace. Love. Birds. Truth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Back In FNQ

We took about ten days to travel from the Centre across Queensland to the coast and up here.
Not exact, but pretty close...            
Troopi in the palms at Crystal Creek, one of our very favorite caravan parks and where we picked up Australian Swiftlet for the year list that morning.
I am now sitting in one of my favorite places in the world. I am writing this from Kingfisher Park Birdwatcher’s Lodge in Far North Queensland, or FNQ as it is called. I truly love this place. And the people who run it are wonderful. Andrew who purports to be a grumpy guy, but is a very nice, as well as a very funny man, and his lovely wife Carol who is also very nice and a lot of fun. We spent a week here last September/October Kingfisher Part One (and be sure to read the other parts too) and LOVED it and got a ton of incredible birds! This time it is more of just a visit and chill for a bit. This place relaxes me and I am grateful.

We did get to do the Lifer Selfie thing Wednesday morning. We were in Cairns to go to Cattana Wetlands to look for Pale-vented Bush-hen. It is one of the few birds up here that would be both a lifer and a year list bird for us and they had been reported there on eBird. Tuesday arvo we checked into an insanely crowded caravan park in northern Cairns and then drove over to the wetlands.
We walked in and in less than 15 minutes we were listening to a Bush-hen. We then spent over two hours listening to it (I even recorded a little of it). It was calling from the dense reeds right in front of us (seriously less than three meters away). And then… I finally glimpsed it. There was movement in the reeds, a little color and a “rail-shape” from where the call had been coming. Lynn worked her way into where I had been standing and a bit later she got a little better glimpse of the bird. Heard and seen, that is a tick! Although not what I would call the most “satisfying” looks, I am 100% satisfied that we got the bird. I am grateful.
Where the Bush-hen was... 
Still hoping for a better look, Lynn and I were back there just before sunrise Wednesday morning. It was still there, same call, same place. This time after an hour or so, I worked my way a meter or two into the reeds. As I did this, the Pale-vented Bush-hen flushed and flew almost over Lynn’s head, giving her great views, although not so much from my vantage point. Regardless, I am very grateful. We got a tough bird.

Early morning listening, and watching, and waiting, and looking, and listening, etc and so on
Over Lynn's left shoulder, deep into the reeds behind that palm-looking thing is where the bird was.
So I am here at Kingfisher. We just had a wonderful meal at the pub. I had Lifer Pie in the form of a Brownie with ice cream and I am a happy boy and I am grateful.

Peace. Love. Birds.

RB Life List: 659
Lynn Life List: 640
Couple’s Year List: 622