An encounter with paradise

SHOW OFF: The male  bird of paradise puts on a frantic and elaborate display for the female, making him quite hard to photograph. Your best chance is just as the female lands. Picture: Jim Thomson

SHOW OFF: The male bird of paradise puts on a frantic and elaborate display for the female, making him quite hard to photograph. Your best chance is just as the female lands. Picture: Jim Thomson

No doubt north Queensland is a birdwatcher and photographer’s paradise. 

My visit took me to the Atherton Tablelands and as far north as the upper reaches of the river at Cooktown.

The Atherton Tablelands is a magnificent landscape of rolling hills, crater lakes and rainforest, a dry heat and a great variety of bird life. 

The Atherton had consistent temperatures around 27 degrees with a gentle breeze blowing, just perfect and a great number of birds, some coming down from the north. 

This ritual is designed to show the female he is the strngest mate. Picture: Jim Thomson

This ritual is designed to show the female he is the strngest mate. Picture: Jim Thomson

Birds of the rainforest can be hard to find, which is why a bird guide such as Alan Gillender  from Yungaburra is so important. A guide with international experience saves time locating the subjects and gives more time photographing them. 

Our main subject this week is the Bird of Paradise, (Paradise Riflebird) nearly always found deep in the rainforest. 

But on this occasion we found one coming from the rainforest to a display perch in the car park of Lake Barrine Teahouse and Restaurant. This is a magnificent area run by charming people, the Curry family. Boat trips are also available at this point, as well as walks in the rainforest.

Our male bird of paradise would come out of the rainforest each afternoon about 4pm, to his display area, the stump of a tree. He would start calling, opening his beak and displaying his yellow throat. This would continue for some time, until a female appeared on the edge of the rainforest.

The ritual begins with the male calling loudly to attract a female. Picture: Jim Thomson

The ritual begins with the male calling loudly to attract a female. Picture: Jim Thomson

He would immediately start displaying and fanning his wings in a variety of positions. Photographing this was quite easy, but due to the male’s colouring the exposure had to be spot on. 

The difficult part of the operation was still to come. 

Your best chance of a nice composition was when the female landed on the stump, as once the ritual starts, the purpose of the male seems to be hide his head from the female, flip the head from behind the wing case, back and forward. The longer the female is there the faster he goes, so it’s pretty hard to get a shot of the male bird complete with head. 

The answer to this is to be there every night as I was for about a week resulting in some great shots. This week we have one shot for the paper and a few more on line. 

Next week the beautiful Sunbird.        

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