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Trip Report - Toucan2's 2nd trip to Oz - Sydney, Nabiac, Lockyer Valley, Lamington Nat'l Park, Atherton Tablelands, Julatten, Daintree - possibly of more interest to birders than non-birders

Trip Report - Toucan2's 2nd trip to Oz - Sydney, Nabiac, Lockyer Valley, Lamington Nat'l Park, Atherton Tablelands, Julatten, Daintree - possibly of more interest to birders than non-birders

Old Dec 25th, 2007, 05:50 PM
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December 6 con't - birding on the way to Kingfishers, and a bit about Kingfishers Lodge

Fodor's Moment
While traveling about with Alan, the conversation made it's way at one point to the fact that I was originally from Seattle. Alan then said something about this couple he had recently guided from Seattle. I said, Oh! That must be Sally from Seattle!

Alan paused and just looked at me for a moment. I then had to explain that I was on the Fodor boards a lot, and that he was spoken of highly here, and that I had recently read Sally's trip report which included references to their time with him. I don't actually "know" Sally. It was kind of a funny moment.

<Back to Birding - Stops at Mareeba Rotary Park, Big Mitchell Creek, Rest Stop just past Mt Molloy & Abbatoir Swamp

After taking Alan back to Chambers, we decided to use mid-day for travel time as that isn't the best time for birding. We headed back through Yungaburra to Atherton, then on the Kennedy Hwy to Mareeba.

Just on the north edge of Mareeba is the Mareeba Rotary Park. If you stop there and cross the rr tracks, there is some good birding. Steve had had some luck there in 2003, and we stopped there again this year.

He took off and I read a book for awhile. I wasn't thinking, I should have taken the opportunity to go to one of the coffee places like Skybury while I was there. Oh well.

He had some luck, and we continued on to Big Mitchell Creek where he got the white-browed robin and we also got great looks at a red-backed fairy wren. I love how they stick their tails up in the air!

On to the rest stop just past Mt. Molloy. It has a specific name, but I forgot to write it down. I know it is listed in the book on birding in Queensland though. This is where the last time we were there we had fun watching blue-faced honeyeaters feeding their young. This year I dropped Steve and went back to the Mt. Molloy General Store for a few groceries to use at Kingfishers.

Hints on Groceries if you are staying at Kingfisher Park
While you can get some basics at Mt. Molloy, this is not an big shop. We would have been smarter to shop at Mareeba coming from that direction. If you were coming from Daintree or Cairns, would suggest purchasing in either Cairns or Mossman.

After groceries and picking up Steve again, we did stop briefly at the Abbatoir Swamp which is located on the Rex Hwy not long after you turn off the Kennedy Hwy on to the Rex Hwy. We saw some sunbirds, but not a lot else that evening. We had better luck on a subsequent visit.

Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge
Kingfisher is another self-catering accommodation. It is great for birding right on the property, as well as a great jump off point for other locations.

When we arrived, Keith set us up with several mud maps of local birding places, and gave us lots of helpful hints. He does do some guiding on the grounds and night walks, but he seemed so busy when we were there that we never asked. They had a lot of Japanese birding groups coming through.

The big bird here is the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, and Steve sees one almost right off the bat when he goes out. I think he saw noisy pittas as well, and I got some great looks at kookaburras and a sunbird (of course there were many more birds, I'm just giving you highlights!).

Each room is spacious, and there is a pretty decent kitchen area with full stovetop, full fridge, and microwave. There is a dining bar inside, and there is a wide covered veranda across the front of the lodge. In front of each suite is a table and chairs.

Very nice and peaceful, and again great to walk out the door and go birding.

You can get a breakfast tray here, but need to bring in your other groceries. There is a washer and dryer available. A great place for birders.
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Old Dec 25th, 2007, 05:54 PM
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By the way, please feel free to correct me if I misspell the name of a place, or a bird, or a critter!

And I apologize in advance if I miss a their/there, its/it's etc. I figure you aren't grading me, right?
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Old Dec 25th, 2007, 06:44 PM
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December 7 - Birding-Abbatoir Swamp, Lake Mitchell Causeway, Mareeba Wetlands,Emus and a Breathalyzer!

I do like the places where Steve can get up and bird right away while I take my time getting ready Steve was out the door early, while I had coffee and toast on the veranda, caught up in my notebook, and watched a blue-faced honeyeater. Got a glimpse of the buff-breasted paradise kingfisher, and unfortunately that was all I got to see of it this trip.

Abbatoir Swamp
Our first stop on this day was the Abbatoir Swamp. We knew it could be a great place, and today it really was! Right out of the parking lot we watched a sunbird, which was simply beautiful.

Then, on the boardwalk, we had the privilege of watching a brown-headed honeyeater building its nest. It was cool to watch it flutter down in the nest, flapping it wings, and it looks like it was trying to shape it from the inside. Then it would take a piece of the nest in its bill and pull it tight, as if it were pulling on a needle and thread. Saw lots more blue-faced honeyeaters there, very pretty.

Lake Mitchell Causeway
Next stop was the Lake Mitchell Causeway. We were so glad that Keith had given us the mud map and told us that the gate here was unlocked and that we could go through.

We lingered a long time here. The water and sky was so blue, the hills in the distance were reflected in the water, tons of waterbirds, including pelicans and jacanas and a darter. Steve chased golden-head cisticolas for awhile.

I saw some of the prettiest dragonflies here as well. One had gold and black tiger stripes on its wing, another had a long red tail and the wings shimmered with gold and red.

Mareeba Wetlands
After enjoying the birds, and sun, and dragonflies, and views at the Lake Mitchell Causeway, we headed on to the Mareeba Wetlands. One of the funnier things I have seen is on the side road into the wetlands.

At the Birooba BnB, someone had dressed up a log as an alligator, and a termite mound as a lady with a green afro and vest. A bit further they had placed a toilet seat on top of a stump and had a guy's head popping out of it with a beer in hand and a "no junk mail" sign. This gave me a giggle and I took pictures.

We kept driving through the termite mound moonscape, and came up on 3 emus! We were told later that these were probably the three females. There is a family of five in the wetlands, and the male and young one hang together, and the three females hang together. Apparently they were brought to the wetlands when very young, so while they are not tame, they are used to people and very curious.

They were very curious, and didn't run off. Steve got within 8 feet of them, and got some good film. I took pics from the car, and then they started walking towards me! One was right outside my window, and do I think to take a picture then? No! This was the absolute highlight on this day.

We got to the vistors centre, planning on going on one of the guided walks....and they weren't doing them. They thought they were too hot. We didn't want to wait an hour for the boat tour (there weren't many waterbirds about) so we decided to have lunch then go to Mareeba.

They had a decent salad and chicken filo there, and I bought some post cards and posters for my nieces. They also had the Gouldian Finches there that they are working to save. What absolutely fantastically colored birds. They look like they have a purple easter egg in their breast.

On the road back out we saw the blue-winged kookaburra, which was gorgeous! That blue in their wing is so cool when they fly.

We have now lingered so long that yet again I have missed going to the coffee places for tours (they all closed at 4) I had dropped Steve again to bird at the Rotary Park, and drove out towards the Skybury location. Alas, closed.

I did notice the cemetery on the way seemed to have all the graves above ground. I wonder if this is because the water table is high? They were like the ones we see in Louisiana.

Road Trains and a Breathalyzer

Driving the Kennedy, we passed our first (and only) Road Train! I knew this because they had a big banner across the front of the truck that said Road Train. Big.

Heading back to Kingfisher, there was a random checkpoint on the Kennedy Hwy! I got to meet my first Australian police officers, and take a breathalyzer. This was pretty funny as I had never done that before and did it wrong the first time ): Hey, what can I say, I don't drink much! So it was an exciting day on the highway.

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Old Dec 25th, 2007, 07:10 PM
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December 8 - Mt. Lewis, Barramundi Gardens, West Mary Road and Bustards!

Steve's early morning birding had provided him with some good looks at Metallic Starlings, so we started out about an hour later than we intended. This was the day we headed up Mt. Lewis.

This was where I was particularly happy to have the SUV. The high clearance was helpful. The road is, however, much better than it was in 2003. There was only one red clay patch that was a bit slippery from the rain two nights before. It's about 12 K up the mountain, but it takes awhile because you can't exactly zoom up!

Right out of the car we saw a scarlet honeyeater, which was beautiful. A fleeting glimpse of a blue-faced parrot finch, and another later in the day, and that was about it for that elusive finch.

I am decidedly not dressed appropriately for this day. I should have had on long trousers as we got pestered by marsh flies and pulled off a lot of leeches. One got all the way through Steve's sock on a vein on his foot, and he bled for quite a while. That blood-stained sock can be a little Australian memento for him.

After walking down to the creek area, we headed up the trail in the Brooklyn Wildlife refuge. It's a very pretty trail. Saw more sexy ginger (see Alan, I remembered!) and a really cool flower that maybe is an orchid. It is five petals in the shape of a star, in a slight pinwheel orientation. The tips curl under slightly, and the leaves were a really thick glossy green.

We saw a chowchilla, then Steve filmed a fern wren. It was pretty bad light, so he still has to check the video to see how it looks. It was a pretty nice hike.

We run into Del Richards in the clearing where the cars are parked. He seems like a really nice guy and we chatted with him a little bit. With one thing and another we didn't end up calling him for guiding this time around, but I could see contacting him in the future.

Spotted a mistletoe bird back in the clearning as well.

Barramundi Gardens
After heading back down the mountain we stopped at Barramundi Gardens which is just by the lodge. We bought some Barramundi filets and mixed greens for a salad. As well, they had barramundi spring rolls for sale.

Again, if you are cooking for yourself at Kingfisher, this is a good recommendation for a dinner. The fish was good, as were the salad greens. If you buy the spring rolls, be sure to thaw them first no matter what they might tell you. Frozen, the fish in the spring roll never really gets cooked.

West Mary Road and Bustards!
After dropping the dinner fixins at the lodge, it's time to look for bustards! I love their bustard strut, and looking for these is something I've looked forward to.

Soon we see the first one, being all sneaky and hiding behind a bush in a field. Eventually he comes out, and Steve starts filming. Closer, closer, closer he comes. We can see that he is in breeding plumage, which we had not seen before. Then comes another one! Also in breeding plumage.

They fly across the road, and the two start running kind of quickly, parallel to each other, and they take flight. That is one big bird to be airborne.

They landed in the next field, and then they started swirling about in some kind of display! They were two males, so I don't know if this is some kind of show off moment, or face off moment, or what, but it was fantastic.

We saw several more after that, some smaller with none of the breeding plumage, which we thought were probably females, and some much smaller ones which we thought might be babies.

We made a couple of other stops, none as exciting as that, and the rest of the evening was laundry and dinner.
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 12:00 AM
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Yes Toucan2 you are being graded, however you are doing well. :0)
Enjoying your post very much and I am sure that when the Aussies get over the Christmas drinks and get to reading Fodors they will all enjoy it.
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 12:54 AM
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Yes Toucan2, Dell Richards is a great guy and a top birder. Tough luck on those parrot finches. Actually, I paid someone to scare them off so you would come back. Also a shame that you did not get a good view of the Paradise Kingfishers at Kingfisher Lodge. When I was there a couple of weeks after you we were almost at the stage of swatting them out of the way as we walked around the grounds. The Fern Wrens have been hard to find of late so I am glad steve got onto one of them. if they came out where the light was good they would not have been Fern Wrens. ;-)

Your discriptions of the Brown-backed Honeyeater building its nest are most accurate and discriptive.

Lizzy, what do you mean, "when the Aussies get over the Christmas drinks." If you stay drunk all year there is nothing to get over! It is getting sober that hurts, not getting drunk.
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 01:35 PM
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OK I should stay drunk all year then Saltuarius and that would solve any problems. Should go a long way in getting that effect with the bottles of the fine stuff I got for Christmas.
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 02:40 PM
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Glad to know I'm doing okay LizzyF

So that's the reason we couldn't see those parrot finches S! We'll definitely have to come back.
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 03:47 PM
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December 9 - Baby Kookaburras, Great Bowerbirds, Blue-Faced Honeyeaters everywhere, The Freaky Red-eyed Figbird, Mt. Molloy and shopping in Daintree Village

Baby Kookaburras
Steve is out the door early, as usual, while I take my time, drink my coffee, etc. I do decide I better walk around the grounds a bit as I really haven't much. First I spot a black skink running across the birdge, then I wander around taking pictures of lots of flowers.

At the red-necked crake pond I see two baby kookaburras. They are much smaller than regular kookaburras, and kind of fluffy, and clearly kookaburras, so they have to be the babies don't they? They are so close I can even take pictures with my point and shoot.

Great Bowerbirds
Back up to Mt. Molloy to look for great bowerbirds. Keith had told us to walk down the bike path which you can spot by the Public Toilets sign. Sure enough, there are several bowers, and many great bowerbirds around.

Even trying to keep our distance so as not to disturb them, we got very good looks at the bowers. The adornments for these bowers were more shades of white than the Satin Bowerbird. There were a couple of red straws, but mainly small rocks, clear and white bottle caps, etc.

One male was turning and preening as we watched, and we got to see the beautiful neon fuschia marking on the back of its head.

Note: While we were in the area, there was a book launch for a book on bowerbirds by Frist and Frist. I don't remember the title. The book is beautiful. I've been trying to find cost and order info online, but haven't been successful. So if anyone has that info, please do share!

Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Figbirds
There were loads and loads of blue-faced honeyeaters (I don't get tired of watching them though!). A fair amount of the freaky deaky figbirds with their big red eyes. I'm convinced they were models for some of the creatures in Lord of the Rings.

Mt. Molloy
We explore Mt. Molloy a bit, driving down Vain's Close to the school, noticing lots of property for sale. We looked with envy at a Queenslander with gorgeous stain glass doors and wondered if they'd take Visa? (looks like it is under contract, just looked it up on Century 21).

Bicentennial Park (?) is quite pretty, and then we decide to try out the Mt Molloy Cafe which advertises Mexican food. Hm. There was very little in the way of Mexican food on the board--no enchiladas, no chile rellenos, no tacos--so we decide we will wait. But hey! They have chocolate milkshakes! Hmm. more like slightly chocolate flavored pepto-bismol. Interesting.

Shopping in Daintree Village

It's time to head on, going down the winding Rex Hwy, through the sugar cane fields, through Mossman, past the brilliant blue ocean and into Daintree.

We are greeted by Trish and Andrew at Red Mill House, and it is good to see them. They are just sitting down to lunch, and I don't want to disturb that, so we take off too and will worry about check in later.

Lunch at the Big Barramundi. The kitchen closes at 3, and sometimes earlier if it has been slow! (we tried to eat lunch there the next day at 20 to 3 and she had already cleaned of the grill ) 2 hamburgers, one basket of fries and soft drinks $22. Good Burgers.

Now I want to shop. The shops in town generally close at 4, and we are out a lot at that time, so I want to make sure I get the opportunity!

I had checked out the Daintree Timber Gallery online, and knew I wanted to buy some pieces. I ended up with two vases, one Purple Gidgee and one Banksia Nut. They are beautifully turned. The heartwood of the purple gidgee turns a beautiful violet color as it is exposed to light. www.daintreetimbergallery.com.

At the store across the street I end up with some sea snake bangles for my nieces. They are made with the skin of sea snakes that have been caught in prawn nets. Some are just brilliantly colored.

What I wish I had bought - a pottery piece by Ellen Terrell. Kingfisher Park had some in their gift shop, but I was indecisive at that point, then I forgot to follow up when we were in Daintree Village.

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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 04:13 PM
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Good grief this is a long report! Well, it was also a long trip. Only 6 days to go.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 04:23 PM
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December 9-12 - Staying at Red Mill House

Trish and Andrew Forsyth have running a bnb down right. They have the perfect blend of warmth, helpfulness and professionalism.

As happened when we stayed there previously, they also were great about helping us with tour information, dining information, etc. Trish can really get you organized in a hurry! She really listens and points you in the right direction. As you can tell, I can't say enough about them, and hope if you go up to that area you are lucky enough to stay at Red Mill House.

The rooms are really nice and comfortable. There is AC, but we never plugged it in. Open windows and a fan were fine. The rooms are beautifully decorated, with lots of nice personal touches.

There are wide covered verandas, with table and chairs outside each room. There are small fridges available on the verandas. The veranda outside the guest lounge is where you will have your breakfast, and there is a hot water dispenser for tea and coffee any time you like.

Breakfast is very good, includes a tropical fruit place, and hot breakfast of your choice. Homemade fruit and yoghurt is provided, along with a variety of cereals.

The grounds are quite nice, and there is a great pool on the grounds as well.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 04:30 PM
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Dining in Daintree Village

We ate at three places in Daintree Village. In fact, I'm not sure there are any more than that?

The Papaya
This was new from our last visit. It's not open every night, so watch the opening hours so you can have some variety in your evening dining. It was very good. Steve had his regular steak and potatoes, I had a really good marinated pork tenderloin dish served over asian style greens and rice. Definitely recommend.

The Big Barramundi
Open for lunch, and I think this is also open for breakfast. We just ate there once, and had really good hamburgers. We got there at 20 to 3 the next day and they had already cleaned up because it was slow, so be aware! Standard burger and sandwich fare.

Ellenor's Place
I believe this is open every day. You'll want to let them know you are coming if you plan on eating dinner there, again if it is slow they may close up. I had a pretty decent seafood basket, Steve had, guess what? Steak. Also good. The salads served with the meal were particularly good. It's not an extensive menu, so eating there every night won't give you much variety.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 05:07 PM
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December 10 - Daintree River Experience with Ian Worcester & Ellen Terrell, Heading over the Daintree River, A Cassowary! Why they are called Mud Maps, and Lychees

Daintree River Experience
This river boat tour leaves from Barrett Creek Landing. Ian Worcester is such a nice guy, and so enthusiastic about the river. We enjoyed him so much, we actually went out with him three mornings in a row.

We met him at six, and on the first morning Ellen Terrell came out with us too, which was just great. Between the two of them we didn't miss much! In addition to her other talents, Ellen knows a ton about the plants and trees, so it was fun to learn from her.

Beautiful looks at shining flycatchers, little kingfisher, azure kingfisher, several papaun frogmouth (they look so cool with their babies under their breast).

Double-eyed fig parrots where fluttering about in the tree tops, taking a bath in the morning dew.

One beautiful plant we saw was the Blooming Barringtonia. I can't describe them very well, but here are some links to the family. The ones we saw were white, and just really lovely. http://toptropicals.com/catalog/uid/...a_racemosa.htm

Got back to RMH about 8:30 for breakfast. Cool fruit of the day-chocolate pudding fruit. yum.

Heading Over the Daintree River, a Cassowary, and why they are called Mud Maps
Ellen came back to RMH too, and she and Trish gave us some pointers for going over the river. They got us a mud map, and finally I had to ask...why are they called mud maps?

I was told it was from the habit of drawing a map with a stick in the mud. Makes sense doesn't it?

So, Trish packed us an esky with some ice water, handed us some sunscreen and mosquito repellant, and sent is on our way.

Ferry, $18 return ticket. It's very efficiently done. Not that many cars go over at once, but it all really seems to go smoothly, it's only about 10 minutes across the river.

First stop, Jindalba Boardwalk. It's a pretty cool boardwalk loop through the rainforest. We both agree standing in these rainforests makes you feel relatively small and insignificant! We can hear birds, but not really see any very well. Didn't matter, we enjoyed the stop.

Next stop, the Daintree Icecream Company. Today they had a four-flavor icecream cup for $5. It was mango, Jak fruit, apricot and wattleseed. Pretty different flavors, and good.

Here the grounds are also beautiful, and we wander it a bit. There is a cage with the Jak fruit curing, as well as some soursop. Apparently the Jak fruit is the largest fruit in the world (it is pretty darned big!)

We drive further up the highway to Cooper Creek. Steve birds up a side road, I watch some flying foxes.

The birding has slowed down at the mid-day, so we decide to take that slow time to drive back to Daintree Village. The big old SUV that had been so handy in other locations was unnerving on this very winding road. It's a lot bigger than my normal car, and I was ready for a swim by the time we got back to RMH.

But, before we get back, we do see a cassowary! It was an immature, and we didn't get a long look. Alas, there were two cars right behind me, no opportunity to even slow down.

This was the day we didn't get to the BB before they cleaned the grill. So, we wandered over to Ellenor's Place and shared a bowl of the potato wedges with sourcream and chilli sauce since it wouldn't be all that long until dinner.

Another thing I don't understand why it never gets served over here (not even at Outback Steakhouse! Okay, I'm just kidding, for all I know they do serve potato wedges with sourcream and chilli sauce).

It's time for Steve to bird around town, and me to go to the pool. Yay.

Lychees
I described our dinner at Ellenor's Place above. We got to chatting with Ellenor, and told her we had been there four years before and remembered her. She came out later with a couple of lychees for us. I had never tried one, so peeled it and nibbled on it. They are really sweet and juicy, but I'm not sure I can get over the odd gelatinous texture!


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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 06:05 PM
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December 11 - Back out with Ian "Sauce" Worcester, Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime, a low-key day

Another great morning out on the river with Ian. Fantastically close looks and Steve gets great film of the azure kingfisher. Get to see the bright red inside of the male shining flycatchers mouth. Ian handles a green treesnake-beautiful.

After breakfast, we head out to Mossman Gorge. Steve wants to walk around Mossman Gorge, and I wanted to go to the guided walk conducted by the Kuku Yalanji. I took Steve up to the gorge and headed back.

Our guide was Robert, and he was really interesting. There is much of what you would expect of such a walk--pointing out plants and their uses, a display humpy, and so on. But Robert makes it even more interesting, talking about his experiences growing up.

He tells us of hunting cassowary, his initiation at 11, marrying a Tjukapai at 15, cooking fish in ginger leaves. There is a huge boulder with rock paintins that we view. As I said, he was really interesting, but a little hard to understand. You need to concentrate. There are different guides as well.

After they serve tea and damper, and he talks a bit more. Unfortunately, it had started kind of late, so I was running up against the time I had to go back and pick up Steve, so had to leave. I'd really recommend this walk if you are in the area.

We are pretty low key the rest of the day, so not much of interest to report. Lunch in Mossman, bought some sandwiches to eat for dinner, found a cash machine, looked around at a newstand, walked up and down. Most amused by the Christmas tree decorated with gold and white balls...and cans of Gold XXXX.

Pool and laundry for me, Steve went back out with Ian at 4:30.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 06:23 PM
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December 12 - On the river again, Lex the Crododile Hunter, Flecker Botanic Gardens, Cairns Esplanade

Lex the Crocodile Hunter
We went out with Ian again, another great morning. Lex went along as well, and Ian introduced him like this "Lex has an interesting hobby--he likes to hunt crocodile nests." So naturally I ask what he does when he finds them. "Look at them and take pictures." Makes perfect sense to me!

Lex is also a blast, has lots of stories. He has a great eye too, and can mimic birds like nobody. He spots a little 18 inch crocodile for me, so I can say I saw a crocodile too (we did see the bubbles and mud trail the first day as one went up the creek in front of us)

Alas, we have to fly out later this afternoon, so we breakfast, pack and hit the road. The Captain Cook Highway is a gorgeous drive down to Cairns.

First stop, Flecker Botanic Gardens for me, Centenary Lakes for Steve. There's a bit of construction on the main road, so we actually end up parking by the back gate and walking through.

I'm so glad we did! I didn't get to stop there the last time, and the gardens are fantastic. I took all kinds of photos, and was just in awe of some of the specimens. The fern house as well had some fantastic plants, including some outrageous looking pitcher plants.

I was really excited and thought I saw the Cairns Birdwing butterfly, but realized later that it wasn't. Not big enough and had some red spots. It was a really gorgeous, quite large, green butterfly though!

Next I drop Steve at the Esplanade by the mangroves while I go fill up the rental car and buy us some sandwiches for lunch. He gets the mangrove robin and spiny-cheeked honey eater while there, and then unfortunately we have to go get on a plane. It's never enough time!

We catch a flight back to Sydney, and spend the night again at Fiona and Mark's.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 06:50 PM
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Toucan2--I just found your trip report, and settled back with a cup of tea to read it. You are doing such a wonderful job. I just finished reading "Kangaroo Dreaming" (in preparation for our trip next Sept./Oct). Your trip report has been extra fun for me to read, because you are "reinforcing" what I picked up about various birds and animals by reading that book! Gives me hope that we may actually be able to see some of those birds too!

It seems like part of the reason you had such a wonderful trip is that you really took time to slow down and experience each area. Would love to see any pictures you might have!
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Old Dec 28th, 2007, 12:50 PM
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Caligirl, I'm glad you aer enjoying it. It's turned out to be such a novel, that you may need more than one cup of tea to finish it!

Sally in Seattle's recent trip photos put mine to shame. There is a link to them here on the board. I hope to put up my photos, but I have a feeling it may be awhile...after I finish this trip report I start school again, so just don't know when I'll get to it.

A book I got last year and enjoyed is Lonely Planet's Watching Wildlife - Australia. I ordered it through Amazon. It's not a super in-depth field guide, but a good overview of lots of critters, and where to see them. May give you some ideas as well for places you may want to go.
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Old Dec 28th, 2007, 01:15 PM
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December 13 - Boo--Google Maps!, Royal National Park, Blue Mountains, Capertee Valley

You would think I'd know better. We didn't have a map, so I got on Google the night before to get directions from where we were staying to Royal National Park. I know you should never completely trust these things, but I was about to find out just how bad online maps could be.

Good grief, I can't even bear to relive it in words, but suffice it to say that we wasted an hour lost, and we finally simply returned to the apartment, located a map, and were on our way. Once we had a good map, it took us about 30 minutes to get to Royal National Park. Grr.

We'd also gotten a later start than we intended, so we weren't all that hopeful of seeing the lyrebird, and we were right. On our last visit here 4 years ago, we were treated to magnificent displays and a lengthy concert. I even got close enough to take pictures with my camera. We just have to rely on those memories cause we didn't see them this year.

It was just one of those days. For some reason, I didn't change into my regular shoes, and we took off down Lady Carrington drive with me in my sandals. We suspected rain, and I threw my rain jacket in my pack, but still I didn't change my shoes.

This was regrettable. We were about 1 1/2 miles out when it started raining buckets. The rain jacket helped, but my trousers were soaked through, and my feet, well, not pretty.

There were fairy wrens to be seen, however, and a crested something (see, my husband is the birder)but towards the end I was a bit miserable.

However, if you are a birder, and you want to see the lyrebird, Lady Carrington Drive in RNP is still apparently the place to see them. The walk itself is nice as well. A helpful hint is that after you turn off (just by the visitors center) don't stop at the first parking lot. If you keep going, there is one further down before the drive is blocked off. We stopped at the first one again, exactly as we had before. You'd think we'd learn.

The park has all kinds of terrain and flora and fauna. When you are down on LCD, you are walking just above the river, and below cliffs to the new main park road above. The river side tends to be lush, and there is one area with what I can only describe as a palm grotto. The cliff side is mostly gum trees, of every type. Some with such beautiful trunk patterns.

Apparently, back in the day, this was where the genteel folk took carriage rides. In one spot some of the original stone pavers remain.

This wasn't the most beautiful of days, so we didn't get to enjoy RNP to it's fullest. Still, we stopped at the Kiosk right by the visitors centere (oh yes, $11 for visitors pass)picked up a cappacino,sausage roll and chips, and a burger, and drove on to Wattamolla beach. We didn't exactly picnic on the beach, but we had our lunch, and we were at the beach, right?

No beach swim today, but I did change out of the wet clothes and put on shorts, so it wasn't too freezing. It is a lovely area. If you walk down to the beach, there is a sheltered area where the stream comes to meet the sea, and last ime we were there, plenty of people were swimming there.

We hiked up and down the coastle trails a bit, although not as long as we had originally planned. So, I guess we have to come back again and give RNP the attention it deserves

We have short-changed RNP because we made a change in our final plans. We had contacted Carol Probets and arranged to meet her in the Blue Mountains and go out to the Capertee Valley. This was a great decision as we really enjoyed this as well.

There was no really straight route for quiet a ways from RNP to Katoomba. Thank goodness we now had the map. It took about 2 hours to get up there. We met Carol, and dropped our car (really Fiona's car) at Carol's.

There was still a bit of daylight yet, so Carol started birding right away. She took us to some spectacular lookouts in the Blue Mountains. One was called Hargroves Lookout. She and Steve hiked quite a ways out on one of the ridges. Again, not being the most surefooted, I stopped about midway out. All the viewpoints were quite beautiful. A few more stops, and we started heading out to the Capertee.

We stopped for dinner on the way in Little Hartley at the Talisman. We had really good wood-fired pizzas. Carol's was an interesting one with roasted sweet potato, carmelized onions, and goat cheese. I mention this because if you are on that western highway past Katoomba, you might want to stop! It was really good. There is an art gallery attached with metalwork.

Carol had a great eye, and in addition to the birds, we saw a swamp, or black kangaroo--very dark, some eastern gray kangeroos, and a fox trotting across a field with a rabbit in its mouth.
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Old Dec 29th, 2007, 12:35 PM
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December 14 - Capertee Valley, Lake Wallace, Blue Mountains and another good pizza in Sydney

We had arrived in darkness the night before.

We stayed at: Binalong, (situated between Glen Davis and Glen Alice). Two guestrooms in a private house available for self-catering accommodation for up to 5 guests, situated on 140 acres of prime bird habitat. Sit on the deck and watch a variety of honeyeaters coming to the birdbaths. The property boasts a list of over 120 bird species. Full kitchen facilities, linen and towels provided, very reasonably priced. For enquiries and bookings phone April Mills on (02) 6379 7326. (from ww.bmbirding.com.au)

Again, Steve was up before me to meet Carol and start birding. Later he told me he got to see two kangaroos playboxing, so I def wish I had gotten up earlier!

Boy, but when I did! The Capertee Valley is fabulous. Sheer cliffs rise from the valley floor. I think I read or heard that this is the largest enclosed valley in Australia. Here you go, a better description than I can give you is here on Carol's web site: http://www.bmbirding.com.au/valley.html.

If you are a birder, make this a must see stop on your trip. We squeezed out a day to go here, but it definitely deserves more.

After leaving April's property, we went to visit Carol's property, which was 300 acres backing against the cliffs. The closer you get to the base of those cliffs, the more awe inspiring than ever.

We enjoyed the birding there, then made some more stops. The Capertee river was one such lovely spot. On the way out, Carol spotted a bearded dragon on a fence post, so we stopped and took a look.

Heading back through Glen Davis and Glen Alice, we headed for Lake Wallace. Lunch here by the lake, and did get to see the Musk Duck.

Back to the Blue Mountains, more beautiful look outs with magnificent rock outcroppings and house sized boulders.

One of the places we stopped was where the Blaxland Expedition had crossed, and where the tracks for the old Cox road start. There were a lot of plaques detailing the crossing, the mail runs, etc.

It was amazing to see the pickmarks in the stones, and remnants of the old stone hand-cut gutters where these maniacs took carriages down the mountainside. I wouldn't want to go down that mountainside in any kind of vehicle, much less a horse-drawn one!

It was a truly fantastic day, and we really have Carol Probets to thank for that. See contact info in initial posts.

After leaving Carol about 5 in Katoomba, it took us an even 1 1/2 hours back to Mark and Fiona's.

Pizza in Pyrmont
At home, we rarely eat pizza, but here we were eating it two nights in a row! So, a brief note here to tell you that if you do happen to be in Pyrmont, the pizza from Little Italy was really very good!
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Old Dec 29th, 2007, 01:04 PM
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December 15 & 16 - Lunch at Swagman's Post Cafe, Shopping at the Rocks, Paddy's Market, Harbourside, and saying Good-bye

Fiona and I leave the boys sleeping and head down to the Rocks. We take a circuitous route, and that is nice. We hop off the bus and walk over via Circular Quay. Since we spent most of this trip outside of Sydney, I have to drink in what I can of the harbour sights.

Someone said they are talking about taking down the sails for the Saturday market at the Rocks...why is that? Fiona and I settled in for some powershopping. She hadn't bought any Christmas gifts, and I had a few final gifts to buy. There is a great mix of items here, including glassworks, wood, food items, and much more.

We lunched at the Swagman's Post Cafe right there by the market. Fi ordered a chicken avocado sandwich on Turkish bread, I ordered a Thai beef salad, then we shared halvsies. The sandwich was good, but that salad was fantastic! Two watermelon juices for Fiona, one for me, and a bottle of water for the table, $50. Very reasonable for a tasty meal.

After cabbing back, we left Fiona and Mark alone for a bit and Steve and I headed back for Paddy's Market. Steve had done no souviner shopping at all, and had several kids he wanted to get mementos for.

Paddy's Market is definitely the place for the really inexpensive stuff if you need a lot. The quality of the shirts and hats isn't fantastic, but we got six shirts for $5 apiece and six hats for $5 apiece, and 2 jackets for $10 apiece. These were some of the kids he coaches, so we didn't want to spend a lot, but wanted to get them something they would enjoy. At least they can wear them when practicing, right?

It does take a lot of time to wind through all these booths. Upstairs are even more shops, and a food court and several restaurants above that. Here we paid the most I have ever paid for a can of coke - $3.50! Oh well, we were thirsty and it was only once.

Eventually all the decisions were made, and we began our walk back via harbourside. We knew this was our last taste of summer for many months. We enjoyed the sun, and walking past all the different waterfeatures of this area. People sunning on the grass, children running through fountains, buskers drawing a crowd.

We stopped in at Harbourside for yes, more shopping! There were several shops here with some higher quality shirts and jackets. We bought some more, then stopped in at the grocery store at the end of the mall area and bought Tim Tams, which had been requested. (Fiona had also gone out grocery shopping while we were away, and bought more Tim Tams! So we had a lot to hand out when we got home).

Back at the apartment, Fiona fixed an absolutely fantastic meal as I decorated the tree as I had promised her I would do. It was a fun and relaxing final evening with our friends in Australia.

This was it. Saturday we headed out for the long trip home. One note here. The Qantas web site will tell you you only need two hours in advance at the airport. Fiona told us two hours at the airport. That was true in the strictest sense, but if you want to look at the shops at all, buy a bottle of water, or even catch your breath, frankly I would recommend 3.

I haven't figured out how to make that trip home work as well as the trip over. Part of it is of course that you are returning from vacation, not embarking on vacation.

But we just never got more than a few stolen snatches of sleep leaving at noon and arriving at 6:30 in LA (where the immigration guy was amazingly friendly and chatty!) 5 hours there, not long enough flight to Dallas to catch sleep, then flight delays there before the short flight to KC. I still haven't gotten completly over my jet lag almost two weeks later, and it has never ever taken me this long from anywhere. Oy.
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