Saturday, 24 August 2013

Wonga Beach – Cooktown – Atherton

We are now in Atherton on the Atherton Tableland. Since the last post we have traveled further north from Wonga Beach just south of the Daintree River, to Cooktown where we spent three days before heading south to Atherton. After spending a couple of days here we will be heading south towards home via an inland route.
For a range of reasons we decided against going further north up Cape York and therefore Cooktown was the turn around point for the trip.
Compared to our last trip to Cooktown and the Cape early in the 2006 dry season we have found conditions in August this year much drier. As a result I think the birds have been scarce and hard to find.
Here is a mixed bag of photos and highlights from the past week or so.
Olive-backed Sunbird nest:
A fellow camper at the Wonga Beach Caravan Park pointed out a Sunbird nest with a female incubating her eggs very close to a number of van sites. The female builds the elaborate hanging nest and incubates the eggs without any help from the male.
However, the male does defend the nest (and help feed the young???). The Sunbird often choses to build her nest close to human activity, deriving the advantage of reduced predators. The first time I saw a sunbird nest was in 2006 while having our vehicle serviced in Cooktown. The nest was hanging above a workbench in the busy workshop where vehicles we being serviced and repaired.
The Olive-backed Sunbird nest hanging under the shelter of a tree trunk. A remarkable construction for one small bird working alone. The female, who builds the nest and incubates the eggs, is looking at me from the nest.
A close up of the female who is keeping an eye on the photographer standing about four metres away.
At Cooktown we investigated a number of mangrove habitats, looking without success for birds such as Mangrove Gerygone, Mangrove Robin and Mangrove Golden Whistler. By way of consolation we found mudskippers and crabs.
Mudskippers are fascinating vertebrate animals, that is fish, which have evolved to live partly out of water by being able to breath air and use their front side fins to move about. One can imagine this adaption is similar to the ones that lead to animals moving from the sea to the land.  
This mudskipper's modified fin for crawling about is clearly visible. The eyes on top of the head are another useful adaption for an animal that is at risk from above.
There are a large number of crab species that have adapted to living in mangroves. The most famous and possibly the largest is the mud crab, a much sought after and highly priced delicacy. One does not see these crabs at low tide and must set traps to catch them when they come out to feed during high tide. One crab that caught my attention has a very large bright orange and white display and fighting claw and one small feeding claw. I have seen these in Broome so they are no doubt widespread across northern Australia. They are far too small to be of food interest to humans however they are an attractively coloured animal in a drab mangrove environment.
Note the smaller left claw of the larger crab which is used for feeding. The smaller crab of same species on the left has a large left claw so they are not always on the same side? Both are close to their holes. Also note the eyes on long stems.
Black Butcherbird:
After looking for many weeks for Black Butcherbirds and only seeing one brown coloured juvenile bird high in a rainforest tree in the Daintree National Park I finally found a family group in paperbarks fringing Keating’s Lagoon near Cooktown. They were wary and kept moving away from me as I tried to get close enough for some photos. Eventually after scrambling through some scrub to the open understory of the tall melaleucas I managed to get reasonably close to one of the adult birds that had decided to take a bath in a small pool. It seemed comfortable with me nearby and I took a few shots which were difficult in the highly contrasting light of alternating patches of shade and full sun. I decided to get closer when the bird went back in for another dip and was ready to take a better photo when a woman on the nearby walking track greeted Ms Avithera with a very loud voice and the bird immediately took fright and flew off. No more photos of this group!
This illustrates one of the frustrations of birding and bird photography in public parks. The opportunities to access good habitat are often limited to the sites provided by park authorities. These facilities on the whole are very good including many of the walking trails, which often have signage explaining the importance and significance of the environment. However the down side is that you will often be sharing these areas with other visitors who unfortunately scare many of the birds away, particularly some of the rarer species which are usually the very ones your are most interested in seeing. So if you are doing a loop walk through a rainforest and there are a couple of rowdy groups only a few minutes ahead of you then don’t be surprised to find no birds in their wake. The other situation I found on a few occasions was after finding a bird and finally managing to get close it is frightened off by other visitors.
This Black Butcherbird has been bathing, the water has added extra sheen to the feathers which can be black or blue depending on the sun angle.
Yellow Oriole:
The Olive-backed Oriole is a summer migrant to southern Australia. Their presence in the south is announced early each spring by their distinctive calls in the lead up to breeding. Once breeding is underway their calls tend to reduce, making them hard to find even though they are still about.
The Yellow Oriole is closely related to the Olive-backed however they are confined to the tropical north of Australia. Their call is much loader and richer and more frequent and is regarded by some as the sound of the tropics. Even though the Yellow Oriole can be heard in many tropical habitats from dawn to dusk they are hard to find and photograph because they tend to spend most of their time high in the canopy. The Morcombe guide refers to them as “inconspicuous and rather elusive birds” and I agree.
After much searching and trying I eventually managed a few photos of the Yellow Oriole.
Yellow Oriole captured at last at the Cooktown Botanic Gardens.
A juvenile Yellow Oriole - note the grey/brown bill and eye - Cooktown Botanic Gardens.
Brown Goshawks:
Brown Goshawks
are fast, agile and powerful forest and woodland hunters big enough to bring down rabbits. Their presence is often signaled by the warning calls of birds that rightly fear them.
There are two races of this widespread raptor in Australia. The tropical north Australian race didimus is smaller and paler than the southern race fasciatus we see in Victoria. While birding at Keatings Lagoon near Cooktown one flew in terrorising the local birds and landed briefly near me where I was able to get a couple of shots which clearly show the paler colouring of the northern race.
The northern smaller and paler race Brown Goshawk at Keating's Lagoon near Cooktown.
We have often seen Brolgas in our travels up north but never the closely related and very similar Sarus Crane. The Sarus Crane is common on the Atherton Tableland during the dry season and after some local advice we managed to find a number of flocks. They can be found in maize stubble and on paddocks under cultivation where along with other species such as Black Kites, Cattle Egrets and Ibis they pick up small animals disturbed by the plough. They are shy easily frightened birds, more so than Brolgas. One flock we found seemed happy enough to share a paddock with a noisy tractor at work ploughing, but when we moved along an adjacent road in our vehicle they took flight. However not before a few long shot photos were hastily snapped off. To our surprise we also discovered a good number of Australian Pratincoles feeding on the same ploughed ground.
Sarus Cranes on the rich red volcanic soil of a ploughed sugar cane field near Atherton. Note the red on head extends well down the neck whereas it ends at the base of the head on Brolgas.
Around Atherton we found many water bird species at Hasties Swamp National Park just north of town and a male Pied Monarch in rainforest at Lake Eacham in the Crater Lakes National Park not far from Atherton. I needed to get the Pied Monarch to catch up with Ms Avithera who had already sighted this elusive bird further south!
Two Plumed Whistling-Duck at Hasties Swamp near Atherton. These two were enjoying the sunrise. There were at least a thousand Plumed Whistling-Ducks on the swamp along with Freckled, Pink-eared and Pacific Black ducks, Grey Teal and Hardhead. Also Magpie Geese, Ibis, Egrets, Grebes, Coots, Herons, Stilts and so on. A great place for birds and highly recommended.
This Pied Monarch darted about looking for food in the rainforest at Lake Eacham a crater lake in the Crater lakes National Park near Atherton.

Another shot of the bird above. Note the blue eye ring and frilled white collar.

We are returning home via an inland route west of the Great Dividing Range where the habitat and birds will be very different from those found on our journey north along the east coast.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Daintree River bird watching cruise and Daintree National Park

From Julatten we headed down from the Atherton Tableland to Mossman, skirting the northern edge of Mowbray National Park descending steeply through rainforest. Once again, as soon as the terrain flattened we were in sugar cane country. It would seem all of the lowland rainforest between the coast and the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland has been cleared, mainly for sugar cane. No sizeable chunk has been preserved; only the rainforest on steep country near the coast has survived?
After stocking up with food we drove north to Wonga Beach where we have been for the past three days. Wonga Beach is only 12km short of the Daintree River, so we could easily access our birding cruise and a day trip north of the river to Cape Tribulation and beyond.
There were two operators offering small boat, small group, specific bird watching and photography cruises on the Daintree River. Both operate from the jetty at Daintree Village and both run for two hours starting at dawn. Almost on the flip of a coin we chose to go with Ian Worcester who runs Daintree River Wild Watch, see details at
Early morning on the Daintree River
Other larger cruise boats operate from Daintree Village however these are large group tours focused more on the scenery and seeing crocs. Crocs are also seen on the small boat birding cruises. Personally looking for crocs is not of great interest however they are impressive ancient predators and seeing a large one sunning on a river’s edge is always a good reminder to be croc aware in these northern waters.
This is a nearly fully grown female salt water crocodile at about 2.5m long. It is the males that grow really big. She looks as if she is smiling? This should not betaken as any sign of friendliness, to all crocs you are simply a meal opportunity.
It was a refreshing change to be out early on the river in scenic country looking for birds. It is often impossible to access river environments without a boat. Going with an experienced guide is a huge extra bonus – we would not have found two of the rare species, Papuan Frogmouth and Great-billed Heron without a guide.
Our first encounter was a pair of Shinning Flycatchers feeding along the edge of a backwater. When I first saw this species some years ago I thought the female was more attractive however when the light is right, the black plumage of the male lights up with glossy satin blue colouring which is very attractive.
The female Shining Flycatcher.

The above females mate? The male often looks black however when the light angle is right they are blue.
After making our way downstream, our guide, without announcing any purpose, nosed the boat in under a large mangrove tree at the junction of a side creek. With some difficulty at first we spotted our guide’s objective, a pair of very cryptic Papuan Frogmouths perched together in the mangrove above us. One was a grey coloured male and the other was a brown or rufous coloured female. The birds must roost in this location on a regular basis. Finding them from scratch would be a difficult task as there are many kilometres of suitable mangroves along the Daintree River to roost in.
The birds did not seem to mind our intrusion. After a cursory glance through half opened eyes they resumed the typical dead tree limb pose of all frogmouths while we snapped away below them.
The pair of Papuan Frogmouths roosting in a large mangrove tree on the Daintree River. The brown coloured bird on left is the female and the grey bird is the male.
The female Papuan Frogmouth. Note the long tail.

The male.

We left the frogmouths to their daytime sleep and made out way up the narrow side creek. It brought back memories of a river trip on the Tambopata in the Peruvian Amazon in 2011, lush jungle growing down and over the river banks. In the side creek our guide located a Great-billed Heron, an elusive bird many twitchers come here to tick, including many overseas birders. On board we had a German birder who first made a birding trip to Australia 23 years ago and has made many visits since.
We only found one Great-billed Heron, a juvenile bird about 10 months old according to our guide. The bird was perched high in a dense tree making photography difficult. Fortunately the bird decided to fly a short distance downstream where we found it again perched more or less in the open in the top of a leafy tree canopy.
The elusive Great-billed Heron. This is a juvenile bird about 10 months old. They are large birds and the name great-billed is certainly an appropriate description.
The bird moved a few times giving some varied photo poses. It was good to see our guide suggest it was time to leave the bird in peace. I am sure he wants it to be there again for the next group coming through however this ensures the bird's welfare.
Our trip north of the Daintree River was disappointing from a birding point of view. We did short walks in beautiful rainforest at Jindalba Boardwalk, Marrdja Boardwalk and Dubuji Boardwalk plus a short walk up a creek bed north of Emmagen Creek and found very few birds at all locations. Birding in rainforest is frustrating. You can hear birds calling in the canopy but cannot see them. Because you are new to the area many of the calls you do not know. Down at mid story and below there are very few birds. I suspect the best place to look for birds is on the margins of rainforest where there is an opening such as forest clearings. 
There are a number of fruit eating pigeons and doves in the rainforest. They are mostly only heard however I did manage a few shots of a Brown Cuckoo-Dove and an Emerald Dove. We often heard the amazing calls of Wompoo Pigeons however have only had a few brief glimpses of these birds.
The Brown Cuckoo-Dove. There were two feeding on the fruits in this tree. This is how you often see them, just a brief glimpse as they emerge from the foliage. Note the long tail.

An Emerald Dove - they seem to forage on the ground.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Double-eyed Fig-Parrots and some Queensland endemic honeyeaters

From Mission Beach we moved to Deeral to access a day trip out to Normanby Island in the Frankland Group National Park to do some snorkeling on coral reefs. The trip involved a half hour cruise down the scenic Mulgrave River and a short run out to the islands. There were not many birds to report on the river run, a few egrets (Great, Intermediate and Cattle), Masked Lapwings and kingfishers (Sacred and Forest) plus six Eastern Curlews in flight. Out at sea there were very few sea birds in this area, which is inside the Great Barrier Reef; in fact only one Silver Gull was sighted. On Normanby Island I saw only Bar-shouldered Doves and Varied Honeyeater. The honeyeaters and doves turned up for lunch. They have learnt there are scraps to be picked up when fifty odd people have lunch al fresco on a tropical island. Also on the shoreline of the island were three Beach Stone-curlews (see Fraser Island post for photos of this species), a couple of Sooty Oystercatchers, a Reef Egret and an Osprey. Still it was a great day out and a good way to see some magical coral and some of the many and varied animals that live on coral reefs.
Leaving Deeral we climbed steeply through rugged and very scenic country up to the Atherton Tableland passing through Atherton and Mareeba on our way to Kingfisher Birdwatchers Lodge at Julatten where we have been for the past three days. This is a good base to explore a range of birding habitats, especially tropical rainforest, savanna woodlands and wetlands. For more information about this renowned birding location I suggest a visit to the Kingfisher Birdwatchers Lodge web site:
Birding highlights captured with photos over the past five days or so include some honeyeaters endemic to Queensland and a pair of Double-eyed Fig-Parrots constructing a nest hollow.
The Fig-Parrots were found one morning when I was looking, with no success, for the Blue-faced Parrot-Finch. 
The female Fig-Parrot was constructing a nest hollow exactly as shown in the Morecombe Field Guide. She was chewing a hole in the side of a dead rainforest tree branch some 10 metres up. The wood was obviously soft as she ripped out a good quantity of chips during the ten minutes I observed the pair. It seems that the female does all of the work, while the male perched on the end of the limb about a metre away, no doubt fulfilled a very important guard duty role, as the female is vulnerable with her head inside the slowly deepening hollow. While I watched them the male spent most of the time hanging upside down from the end of the limb. I am not sure how this position enhances surveillance however it may be that it gave him a better look at me standing below with a large camera trained on them.
During this time the male uttered short calls to the female. At the end of the session the male walked down the top of the limb to the female where he appeared to inspect progress and then proceeded to pass food to her. This looks as if the birds are kissing. He did this five times and then returned to the end of the limb. It was then that they both flew off together. I returned to the tree once that afternoon and three times the following day but did not find them there.

The Double-eyed Fig-Parrot is Australia's smallest parrot. The name double-eye comes from a PNG race which has a dark spot near the eye giving the appearance of two eyes. There are three races within Australia.
The following photos unfortunately are not sharp due to distance and lighting however I thought they were good enough to show the nest hollow construction activity and interaction between the two birds.
Note female Double-eyed Fig-Parrot on left of dead limb at hole under construction and the male at end of limb on watch duty.
The male hung upside down while on guard?
The female takes a break from nest excavation and checks me out before resuming work.
The female back at work. Another shot shows her further into the hole so it is a little deeper than her position indicates in this shot.
The male coming to inspect progress.
Is he complimenting her on progress?
They are not kissing. The male is feeding the female.
Apart from the Hooded Parrot and sadly the now extinct Paradise Parrot which excavate nest hollows in termite mounds, Double-eyed Fig-Parrots are the only Australian Parrots that excavate nest hollows. The other parrot species use existing hollows, though they may enlarge them or improve entry a by chewing out wood.
Due to its location and sheer size Queensland is the most bird rich state in Australia and has the largest number of endemic birds, that is bird species found only in Queensland. Many of the endemic species are honeyeaters and we have managed to find some and photograph a few.

The Bridled Honeyeater is a large honeyeater. We found them in a variety of habitats.
The Macleay's Honeyeater. I found this species very approachable. Note the pollen on the bird's head. They obviously help fertilise the plants they feed on. This one is feeding in a hybrid grevillia at Kingfisher Birdwatchers Lodge.
I found this species very attractive so couldn't resist including another photo.
This is one of the Varied Honeyeaters that joined us for lunch on Normanby Island.
The Graceful Honeyeater feeding in an exotic South American tree growing in the orchard at Kingfisher Birdwatchers Lodge. I found this wary species hard to capture with a shot as they only seemed to stop moving for a second or two.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Southern Cassowary encounters at Mission Beach north Queensland

The Southern Cassowary is a bird we have never seen in the wild before, so we were keen to see one on this trip, as we would be travelling through their range in northern coastal Queensland. An inhabitant of dense tropical rainforests, and being a rare and wary bird, they are not easy to find. It does come out into forest clearings and cleared areas along the edge of forests and roadsides, especially in the early morning and late afternoon so these are the best places and times to look for them.
The Cassowary is an ancient avian species along with the Australian Emu, African Ostrich, the South American Rheas to which it is most closely related and the extinct New Zealand Moa. I have seen Rheas in the Bolivian Andres at 4,000+ metres and the general shape and jizz of the two species is very similar. They both live in very different environments however.
Most Australian bird species lists are now arranged along taxonomic lines in order of when birds evolved starting with the earliest birds and ending with the most recently evolved species. Hence the Australian lists usually start with Ostrich (an introduced species with some free living birds in SA, hence their inclusion in the list) then Southern Cassowary, the first native Australian species on the list followed by Emu.
The ancient Cassowary has co-evolved with tropical rainforest where there is now a co-dependency. Some fruiting trees rely exclusively on Cassowary to spread their seeds and the cassowary needs the trees for food. So the complex species webs within northern Australian tropical rainforests can be upset if key species such as cassowary are lost from the system.
For more information about the fascinating biology of the Southern Cassowary and other details see the following web sites:
They are large and impressive birds and potentially dangerous, especially when the males, who incubate the eggs and raise the young (as with emus), feel their chicks are threatened. The Cassowary has very powerful legs and each foot is equipped with a dagger like inner toe, which can be lethal to dogs and humans.
The Cassowary is an endangered species in Australia so it is good to see conservation efforts to protect their habitat and also to reduce the chance of them being run over by vehicles on roads. We have seen a lot of signage warning motorists to slow down and watch for these birds. Also signage asking people not to feed them and explaining why feeding them is a problem.
Our first sighting of a cassowary was in a small zoo at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Captive birds however do not count for a life bird list and I do not photograph captive birds as a matter of principle. The first real opportunity to find wild-living cassowary was in the Paluma Range National Park inland from Townsville. Road signage indicated they were about however, no show for us here. The next opportunity was in the Girringun NP inland from Ingham, again, road signage but no cassowary.
While in Ingham we received a report from a family member that a cassowary with chick was spotted by the side of the road near Mission Beach. As we were heading there next, this would be our third chance to find one. The wet tropics rainforest stretches right down to the sea at Mission Beach and once arriving it became apparent that Mission beach might well be the Australian Cassowary capital. There were many signs advising of cassowary conservation areas and a lot of road signage warning motorists of their presence. Also a large number of local businesses have included the cassowary in their name or other features of their business promotion.
On our first afternoon at Mission Beach we decided to do one of the many short walks in Djiru NP, the Licuala (Fan Palms) walk. We found a number of fairly fresh cassowary droppings and they were very impressive being both large and full of large seeds. One could see immediately how this bird spreads the seeds of rainforest giants.
This Cassowary dropping contains some large seeds of a rainforest tree. An excellent information display at Lacey Creek in Djiru NP explains the relationship between the rainforest and cassowary. Some tree species rely exclusively on the cassowary to spread their seeds.
The droppings were a good sign that there were plenty of cassowary in this area.
No birds showed.  However, we decided on a whim to make a short side trip to South Mission Beach on our way back to the caravan park at Mission Beach and as we drove I spotted a cassowary on a mown grass easement adjacent to our road.
There are warnings not to pull up to see these birds, I guess sudden stops could cause a road accident and persistent attention focused on birds by eager tourist could interrupt their daily activities. However as there were no other vehicles in sight we pulled off the road and I took a couple of long shots for the record. As the bird seemed to be quietly walking along the forest edge I decided to cross the road and take a couple of closer shots. The bird did move slowly away and after a few shots it disappeared into the thick vegetation.
Here are a series of three shots based on one photo with progressive enlargement to show more details of this magnificent bird and a shot from the beach at South Mission Beach the destination that took us by the Cassowary.
The Southern Cassowary seen near road on way to South Mission Beach. Note the two long feathers which seem to emerge from what is left of the wing of this flightless bird.

This is a cropped version of the above photo showing more detail. I think this is a female as females are larger and have brighter colour around the neck than males. The female is dominant. If two males meet they will assert dominance and one will back down and leave. When a male and a female meet the male always defers and gives way.

This is an older bird judging by the size of the casque on top of the head. The casque has a horn surface but is internally spongy and not boney. It it thought this structure may have developed to protect the bird's head by absorbing impacts when it runs in the dense dark rainforest. Also note the two long wattles dangling from the neck.

Shortly after seeing the cassowary we arrived at South Mission Beach. This is a view from the beach looking south east with a small island to the left and the north end of Hinchinbrook Island in the distance. Dunk Island is just out of the photo to the left.
Although this sighting on the roadside was clearly exciting and very successful in terms of good photos, grabbed quickly in the “heat of the moment”, this gem of an opportunity was eclipsed the next day by Ms Avithera.
This is her account of her own special Cassowary experience.
We were out on the Dreaming Trail in Djiru National Park, enjoying the rainforest but hearing birds rather than seeing birds. Having decided that the mozzies were too annoying to hang around while Avithera captured a Spectacled Monarch or some such elusive bird flitting about in the dark foliage, I started back to the car to get some repellant. Looking ahead on a straight stretch of the path I realized there was a Cassowary about 50 metres away, coming my way. I stopped, well, froze would be more accurate, and soon realized that there were also two chicks. Trying to move my hands slowly I reached for the camera and, hoping to goodness the settings were all Ok, started snapping.
I remembered all the warning signage I had read about not “approaching” males with chicks and maybe started to hold my breath and wonder what to do. My main thought was to not startle it and miss seeing it at closer range. I felt it knew I was there but was not at all concerned as it just kept bringing its chicks forward. Then my rational brain told me this male is calmly approaching me and so were his chicks, so I just couldn’t help but stand there to see what he would do.
I clicked a few shots and that did not seem to deter them, so I just waited till they were really close and in a sunny spot and clicked again. Mozzies were biting me but (for once) I was prepared to put up with them, not daring to swot or slap, or even shoo them away.
Then I just stood and watched while the male came and stopped within a metre of me, then moved to my right. Even though one of the chicks went past me on the right he seemed reluctant to pass through the one meter space between me and the rainforest. So here I am, probably not breathing, with his amazing head no more than a meter from mine, while he looks around deciding what to do, and looks me right in the eye. He calmly abandoned the possibility of going to my right and maneuvers around me to check out the other side. This side there was also only about a meter to the dense vegetation and he was not comfortable with “squeezing past” me. I was in a dilemma about whether to move and let him through – knowing this would really give him a fright and cause too much disturbance with the chicks – or just stay frozen and leave it up to him to resolve. I did not feel at all threatened, probably because his behavior suggested to me that he was not threated by me.
So he began making a noise to summon the chick which had passed through the gap on my right and then he slowly turned and started heading back up the track looking for a spot to enter the rainforest and proceed in a different direction. With a bit more vocal interaction between the male and the chicks, he assembled himself and them and pushed his way quietly into the rainforest.
Dad and two chicks coming down the Dreaming Trail towards me.

Rather than pass me on the narrow trail dad summoned the chicks to him with a couple of grunts and proceeded to make a detour into the dense forest.
 It took some time for my breathing and heart rate to settle down while it slowly sunk in that I had had a “once in a lifetime” close encounter of a special kind. This magnificent bird and the two chicks had allowed me to experience their beauty in the wild, up close and personal with no fear or confrontation on either side.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Tyto Wetlands Ingham north Queensland

We have just spent a couple of days in and around Ingham where the famous Tyto Wetlands are located adjacent to the Bruce Highway and Information Centre on the southern edge of town. Ingham is a small rural town similar in size to our own hometown Bairnsdale in East Gippsland Victoria. However the climate is tropical here and the main rural industry is sugar production.
The Tyto Wetland gains its name from the Grass Owl, Tyto capensis, which can be found at the wetland. Tyto of course is the genus name and also covers three other species of owl in Australia, the screech owls, Barn, Masked and Sooty. The other Australian owls are within the genus Ninox, the hooting owls, and include Rufous, Powerful, Barking and Southern Boobook.
I visited the wetland reserve for several hours on two occasions and as both were not at dawn or dusk my chances of finding a Grass Owl were near zero and this proved to be the case. However the birding there is excellent with many dry land and wetland species.  
Crimson Finches are easy to find across the reserve. We managed to find a small flock in a garden bed in the Information Centre carpark on the first morning. Here are a few photos of the male, a possible juvenile male close to reaching full maturity, and then a female.
This is the male Crimson Finch

The male from behind showing the pointy tail.

This is possibly a young male that has not quite reached full maturity.

The more somber coloured female Crimson Finch.
Another plentiful and easy to find species is the Red-backed Fairy-wren.
It is hard to resist taking yet another photo of this fairy-wren.
Not so easy to find are the Tawny and Little Grassbirds. Both of these species have a reputation for remaining hidden in dense grass and if they do appear then only briefly. I managed to find and take a couple of poor shots of a Tawny Grassbird. Another similar species in terms of looks and habitat use is the Golden-headed Cisticola, which I also found and photographed.
The Tawny Grassbird peeping out from the long grass.

I was lucky to get this shot as the Tawny Grassbird departed the scene. Note the short wings - this species does not spend much time flying, it mostly jumps and makes short flights in dense grassy vegetation.

The smaller but similar Golden-headed Cisticola.
The only water bird shots taken were of a Comb-crested Jacana. The photos are not great however I have included them because the two flight shots show the bird’s amazingly long toes evolved to allow this species to exploit wetlands by walking on water lily leaves and other aquatic vegetation.
A Comb-crested Jacana - note the incredibly long toes trailing behind the bird in flight.

Coming in to land on a water lily. It would be good to capture the moment before landing to see how the bird manages the long toes at touch down. One could imagine the odd tangle up?

Even walking with such long toes seems a hard task however the bird appears very nimble as it dashes about on the lily leaves chasing food.
Another unexpected highlight at the Tyto Wetlands was running into a fellow birder and what’s more, a bird blogger! A lucky encounter as my planned early visit to the wetland was delayed by rain. Sadly I have to say that I rarely see other birders in my travels, we are a rare breed. However the birder turned out to be the local Ingham resident Tyto Tony. Needless to say when two binocular and serious camera totting birders cross paths in a wetland there is no prize for identifying the other as a birder. An enjoyable discussion followed covering the Tyto Wetland, cameras and lenses, blogs, etc etc. Thanks Tony for the local information.
You can visit Tyto Tony’s excellent blog site at: