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.

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