I flew to Cairns this morning – I love this place but its the first time I have visited it in the ‘big wet’.
Without ado I headed that afternoon down to the Esplanade mudflats which were 0.5 km from my hotel. Met a Swedish birder there and then the legendary John Crowhurst as well as super experienced John Searle – these guys know the birds of Cairns as well as anyone. As I learned the time to go to the Esplanade is high not low tide – the migratory waders then feed closer to the shore.
I knew that a Laughing gull had been spotted in north Queensland the previous few weeks (from birding websites I follow) and that it had been spotted on the Esplanade mud flats. Within a few hours I had seen it myself – certainly the biggest addition to my Australian list for several years. The bird has been recorded in Australia about 4 times. It is a vagrant from North America that seldom reaches our shores. It was this young bird between one and two years old that was changing into winter plumage. I was thrilled to see it.
Further down the Esplanade I saw Terek sandpipers and Lesser sandplovers both of which were new to me. During the afternoon I also saw Osprey, Peregrine falcon, Braminy kite, White-bellied seaeagle, Sharp tailed sandpiper, Curlew sandpiper, Common greenshank, Red necked stint, Bar-tailed godwit, Eastern curlew, Great knot, Whimbrel, Reef egret, Cattle egret, Great egret, Grey-tailed tattler, Eastern reef heron, Royal spoonbill as well as the more common birds you expect in this location plus assorted terns. The distinctive calls of Varied honeyeater kept us entertained for most of the afternoon and, when I wandered back into town – after a great seafood meal – I went to the Cairns Casino where, as in my recent past, I found a Bush stone curlew prancing around the gardens. I did a little jig I was so overjoyed. No foxes in the far north mean that remarkable biodiversity can survive.
It was a wonderful afternoon. If you have an interest in nature Cairns is a paradise.
Update: Tuesday morning I went birding between Port Douglas – Mossman – Julatten – Mount Malloy. I have been here many times but never in the wet season so there were some seasonal opportunities. Most importantly I wanted the Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher which indeed we discovered in comparative abundance. This is it.