Birding in Australia is ace. For the British birder, very little is familiar and some of the commonest and most conspicuous species are big, colourful and noisy. It can feel like birding in a zoo! There is good info on the internet and some good books available which can help you get the best out of a trip. As usual, I juggled birding around a family holiday, so we failed to visit some good sites, and some easy birds were missed. However, in a couple of weeks, we were lucky enough to see about 200 species, including some restricted-range endemics, and some truly iconic species. I am grateful for the guidance given by Alan Gillanders who took me out in the rainforest around Yungaburra for a morning's birding and to Philip Precey of Wildlife Travel and Andy Walker of Birding Ecotours for some advice before the trip.
We flew into Cairns from London Heathrow, with the excellent Emirates airline. A brief stop in Perth gave us our first handful of Aussie birds, with Willy Wagtail (above) taking pride of place as first bird of the trip, and a large roost of Rainbow Lorikeets illuminating our wait for our connection.
Cairns offers great birding, both along the esplanade where fringing mudflats teem with waders and fruiting trees attract a variety of birds, and nearby with a number of good birding spots. Waders were relatively sparse on the front at Cairns, although a good selection of birds present, including Curlew, Terek and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Great Knots, Eastern Curlew, Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwits, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Red-capped Plovers, Red-necked Stints and Grey-tailed Tattlers. A solitary Austrlian Pelican lingered and Eastern Ospreys fished offshore. Nothing exceptional was seen in the trees along the esplanade, though it was a gentle introduction to Queensland's commoner species. A good passage of Pacific Swifts (c1500) was noticeable on 2nd April ahead of a thundery downpour.
The only other site visited in the Cairns area was Cattana Wetlands. It was late afternoon, so very quiet and the only bird of note was Comb-crested Jacana, several of which were doing their thing, lily trotting.