The Coast north of Cairns

The island continent of Australia is about the same size and shape as the continental 48 states of the USA. Cairns is where Boston is, Perth is San Diego, Melbourne is New Orleans, and Sydney is Washington DC. Just about the same. Now the weather is a different story; February in most of Australia is very hot. It is in the 90s and humid in Cairns and over 100 but drier in Alice Springs. The Australian Open played in January in Melbourne is usually played in unbearably hot stadia.

Well, all that aside the coastal road north from Cairns to Port Douglas, Mossman, and Daintree is a treat in any weather. What a lovely uninhabited coastal edge. The tropical rain forest reaches nearly to the sea the whole way and the vistas are easy on the eye. There is a bit of sugar cane grown here and that has altered the native flora    significantly … but it is still a very nice road. I was driven by a birding friend over this route as we chased after a flock of Spotted Whistling Ducks. We never found them but we found where they were the day before. The large open area, a paddock in these parts, with the grassy wet spot they were once in was being mowed and surveyed and no self-respecting duck would have hung around – and these didn’t. But, we did have some good luck, good birds, and a very nice morning. Below is a scene or two and a bird or two.

This was a taken on the return trip looking south. There mountains are part of the tropical rain forest and the very north portion of the Great Dividing Range which runs the whole eastern edge of Australia. Most of the people in this country live along that eastern shore line; the whole of the country west of the mountains is arid, often very arid.
The water is lovely to look at but you should only swim inside the “nets”. There can be stingers (nuisance) and box jelly fish (deadly) along the shore. In certain seasons great care should be taken when thinking about swimming. There are occasional floats in the water with netting hanging down to the sandy bottom to keep the bitty stuff outside and allow for safe swimming inside. This sort of signage is found at most roadside pullouts. 
Bar-shouldered Doves are quite common but not as easy to see was I thought they would be. This one sat still as we looked up and down the beach for waders (shore birds); but we had to settle for this guy as the waders were just not there.
The honey-eaters are a large group of birds that are honey and pollen eaters. They have a long, brush-tipped tongues to help gather their food. This Brown Honeyeater is quite common and widely spread throughout Australia
Aaah, finally found our target birds – at least the best target after we missed the ducks – a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers. Though this bird can be found on rocky shores all around Australia it is rather uncommon up here in Far North Queensland. Obviously this pair was looking for a sandy spot to vacation on, getting away from the rocks for a while I guess.

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