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Cairns

Enjoyed an afternoon off from the Conference I am attending to look around Cairns. I haven’t been here for 5 years so was surprised at the extent to which the town has grown.

Yes, Cairns is acquiring some unpleasant touristy aspects – groups of grinning Japanese who laugh inanely at the same time, lots of crappy tourist shops selling nicnacks etc. But still one of the most pleasant places to reside in Australia – warm, tropical and very scenic. I walked the length of the Esplanade this afternoon. This is one of the great conservation zones in Australia with mud flats that head out to sea, at low tide, for hundreds of meters. The mudflats and the narrow band of hinterland are a fantastic place to look at native birds and migratory waders. Previously under threat from the pro-development zombies it is now hopefully secure.

In about four hours of wandering along the shoreline, and around clumps of mangrove, the bird species I saw were: Australian pelican, Eastern reef egret, Great egret, Intermediate egret, Straw necked ibis, White ibis, Royal spoonbill, Black-tailed godwit, Eastern curlew, Whimbrel, Common greenshank, Marsh sandpiper, Grey-tailed tattler, Red knot, Red-necked stint, Sharp-tailed sandpiper, Curlew sandpiper, Red-capped plover, Lesser sand plover, Masked lapwing, Silver gull, Whiskered tern, Spotted turtle dove, Rock dove, Peaceful dove, Bar-shouldered dove, Pied imperial pigeon, Rainbow lorikeet, Double-eyed fig-parrot, Crimson rosella, Rainbow bee-eater, Little friarbird, Noisy friarbird, Yellow honeyeater, Honeyeater species several (?), Willie wagtail, White-bellied cuckoo shrike, Figbird, White-breasted woodswallow, Magpie lark, Australian magpie, Spangled drongo, House sparrow, Mistletoe bird, Welcome swallow, Clamorous reed-warbler and Common myna. On the way home in the evening I found a Stone Curlew in the park outside the Cairns Casino which further blew me away.

And I didn’t start to keep a list until I realized I was seeing quite a lot. To celebrate I went to Barnacle Bills at 103 the Esplanade and devoured a dozen oysters Kilpatrick, a 1 kilogram mud crab in chili and ginger source, a passion fruit pavlova, 2 crown lagers and a few moderately reasonable glasses of South Australian sauvignon blanc. I would have had more but always watch my diet when I am traveling.

It is hard battling through life in the tropics particularly when you are making key scientific advances at an important international conference at the same time. The heat and the humidity just sap you. But someone has to do it and, yes, its my turn.

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