Jim Thomson | Dazzling birdlife of North Queensland

With the coming of the next season, perhaps this is a good time to look at some of the species I found last year in the Daintree and Atherton Tablelands region of North Queensland.

It is a birdwatcher’s dream, an area I love to visit.

Last year one of my early finds was the small Pale Yellow Robin. The nest was spotted by my friend and top bird guide in that region, Alan Gillander.

It was a good find, too, a lovely small robin nesting low down in dense rainforest. They’re usually hard to find, so it was a great start.

Photographing was simple – due to the thick vegetation and dull conditions, short duration flash worked like a charm, freezing the action.

Also in this area was our largest robin, the Grey Robin. Just sit still and they will come very close.

Travelling a bit further north on the way to Cooktown I came across a swamp on my right that was simply teeming with bird life.

Most prominent was the Jacana hopping on the lily pads.

One bird that caught my attention was the Brahminy Kite which was swooping down over the water searching for food. I kept waiting for the strike but it was not to be, but I did get some great shots of the bird as it swooped around.

Another spectacular bird I found was the little Sunbird and was lucky it had a nest with chicks. The Sunbird tends to nest all over the pace – on verandas, tent ropes, seemingly wherever there is human contact.

The male bird has great colour, the female is yellow, and both are very swift. They are stunning little birds. 

These are just a few of the birds we came across – take my word for it, there’s birdlife everywhere up there.

Another outing I enjoyed in the Atherton region was searching for owls in the evening.

They are there in great numbers along the gravel roads of the cane fields and I was really surprised how close I could get to them.

They paid no attention to me – hallelujah!

The method I used to get close was drive slowly in first gear, headlights on.

You could spot them easily on fence posts ahead of you. I would move in very slowly with the bird lit up by the head lamp, focus, bang.

I found in one case I could get even closer on foot, and it paid no notice of me.

I was three metres from the bird, I had changed the camera to short duration, bang.