Bird watching in Port Douglas: expect the unexpected….

We are on a bird watching tour near Port Douglas, in Far North Queensland….and this little family are called Wandering Whistling ducks 

They have loud whistling calls, and their wings also make a whistling sound as they roosting flocks have a continuous high-pitched whistling noise, interspersed with twittering calls. In other words, they are a noisy bunch!

We have exchanged the very cold Canberra winter for the warm Far North Queensland coast, and today we have driven from Palm Cove to Port Douglas, to meet our tour guide, Del.

I love the morning light wherever we are, and this is a fine start to the day…

It is a cold morning, by local standards, 7 degrees C… and the locals are in shock, because  it would usually be double that on a June morning.

…but this is very pleasant for Canberrans, living in the south of Australia, as our temperatures are often about 11/12 degrees maximum in winter.

We do a tour around some of the suburbs of Port Douglas, where tropical trees and shrubs and water are all part of the landscape, and bring bird life from far and wide.

Our local guide book says,

“‘Sacred Kingfishers are often seen sitting on lamp posts and goal posts around Port Douglas,

and, sure enough, Del, points out this little fellow on the goal post…looking a bit like a young kookaburra..

Sacred Kingfisher

…and nearby, equally slow to start on this cool morning is a Rainbow Bee Eater, almost luminous in the warm sunshine.

Rainbow Bee Eater

These little birds eat flying insects, but have a real taste for bees. They are immune to the sting of a bee, but  instinctively rub the bee’s stinger against their perch before eating the bee.


The trees and shrubs are full of berries, fruit and flowers, and in the early morning, it is like bird supermarket….so much choice.

Australasian Yellow Oriole


Tawny Frogmouth

Here are two Tawny Frogmouth, sleeping peacefully in a palm tree between holiday townhouses. With such great camouflage, tourists and locals are completely unaware of them.

This is a Freshwater Mangrove shrub, with a stunning flower…

Everything is enormous in Queensland, even the seed pods….

A family of Bush Stone Curlew have taken up residence under the trees near the supermarket.

….they spend most of the warm days settled under the trees with half shut eyes, and then have a high pitched wailing contact call to other curlews at night.

Bush Stone Curlew

That call could wake the dead!  However, I’m sure, for locals it is one of the familiar sounds of home.

(These birds reminded Paul and I of the Hadedas in Cape Town, and I’m sure they are a relative. While we were visiting we noticed Hadedas seem to spent a lot of time trampling around in gardens and messing in trees, but are affectionately tolerated in the city….and, as one gardener said, they aerate the lawn!)

The colours of the tropics are bedazzling when surrounded by water, and there are many small reserves and nature trails..

Monet in the tropics..


These Magpie Geese, tend to gather in aquatic vegetation, are very common in some parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Magpie geese

They are considered pests by mango farmers as their crops are often damaged by these birds…

…. looking at their strong beaks, legs and feet, it is easy to see how they could damage crops.

This Comb-crested Jacana, and her young are  sometime called Lily trotters, as they live in floating vegetation of tropical wetlands..






Here are the Wandering Whistling ducks again, enjoying the sun…but what are they all collectively looking at?

are they alerted, but not alarmed in their lakeside resort…..

 Just then, Del points out, in that laid-back Far North Queensland way, that there is a crocodile in the water, not far from the birdlife..

…he tells us that he is pretty sure the (approx.) 12 foot croc is getting its food from fish coming down from the river, and so the croc hasn’t bothered the birds during the few weeks it has been in this area. However, Del says, in a matter of fact way,

”he can move like a flash when he wants to..”

We are standing on a slight mound of grass nearby, and Paul and I are silently measuring the distance between this croc, and us, not far really…..

We stroll back to the car, keeping a watchful eye on the croc, yet not wanting to look like wimps from the city. When we are safely back, I’m hoping one of us took a photo of the croc, not quite what we were expecting  on a bird-watching tour!

With hindsight, we were lucky to see a crocodile in a relatively undisturbed natural setting, and none of it was staged for tourists (something  that, unfortunately happens a great deal in Australia and Africa.)

However, having said that, I’m a bit of a peaceful Monet girl myself, so these scenes below are the ones I love best..

A typical winter’s day in Port Douglas, not far from the town centre.

Fish and chips and a glass of wine, while looking at the view, all in a day’s work of bird watching!


It is about two years since I started my  blog, Canberra’s Green Spaces….many thanks to all visitors, local and overseas who have visited, whether casually or regularly.

I appreciate all visits, and comments and, in turn, enjoy the many blogs I follow. Blogging has broadened my horizons immensely..


Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.




22 Replies to “Bird watching in Port Douglas: expect the unexpected….”

  1. What an interesting and beautiful tour, lots of birds I have never seen before and lovely views as well. I particularly liked the last one.

    1. Thanks Susan, and yes, now that we are back home in very cold Canberra, that last photo looks particularly idyllic …lucky people!

  2. What cool birds! I am especially taken with the bee eater. On the other hand, I really don’t want to be anywhere near an alligator.

  3. I have to say I am one of those locals who loves the curlew call. One of my friends loves it so much he it as his phone ring tone!

  4. What amazing photos – beautiful landscape, gorgeous flowers, and the birds just blow me away. That last photo is amazing, and the ones with reflections are wonderful as well. I really liked the Wandering Whistling ducks, but being too close to the alligator would have sent me into flight mode which wouldn’t have been smart. 🙂 The blogging world is a nice place to be a part of, and without it I wouldn’t experience the wonderful travels you go on. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judy and I feel the same way seeing your part of the world. By the way, if you use a Mac do you have some editing programs you are happy with?

  5. I just love your blog and am so glad that met up in the blogosphere. Australia’s animals and vegetation are just fascinating to me because most are so different than anywhere else in the world–such vibrantly colored birds and flowers-as-artwork. Thanks for bringing us along on this trip. I almost could taste the wine and fish and chips at the end of a satisfying day. But my favorite photo is the next-to-last one with the lilies and zzzzz’d up water reflections. Gorgeous and very Monet-worthy.

    1. Thanks Brenda, I enjoy the window into your world just as much. Thank goodness I’ve retired from teaching and have time to enjoy blogs and blogging.

  6. Those photos are great! We used to live on the Atherton Tablelands so we are familiar with those curlews. I found their calls quite mournful and spooky.

    Congratulations on the anniversary of your blog!

    1. Thanks Yvonne, we do visit the Atherton Tablelands regularly, there is so much interesting history up that way too and some very good museums/heritage centres now too. Enough history for a few life times to study up on!

  7. Hadeda is an ibis and LOUD.

    Your noisy bird looks like our dikkop, which has been renamed thick knee (such ungracious names for the bird we hear indignantly complaining in the night)

  8. A wonderful post I was smiling from beginning to end. Congratulations on two years I always love seeing the wildlife that is native there and so unfamiliar to us apart from in zoos. Sarah x

  9. What a lovely post, Gerry. Like several others of your friends, I particularly liked the last view. Those lines of blues intersected by the straight trunks of palms make it very artistic. Regards, Shirley

    1. Thanks Shirley … I took that photo quite casually as an after thought … There are so many beautiful scenes in Port Douglas.

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