The Daintree River Cruise in North Queensland: birds and crocodiles

Although I have written many posts about Far North Queensland, this was the first time we had ventured down the Daintree River.

We had invited our Canberra friends (who are our neighbours) to holiday with us, so we decided it was time to go further afield.

We did this trip in August 2019, and as Covid arrived soon after that, I did not get the chance to write about it. However, this is one place in the world that probably remains the same much of the time. (unless they are experiencing flooding, which is very common)

We were staying in Port Douglas, and the river cruise started very early in the morning, so we left our accommodation in the dark, and watched the sun rise over this beautiful countryside…..

We drove through open farmland into coastal lowland rainforest, until we could see the Daintree river, which is one of the longest rivers on the Australian East Coast.

While we were waiting for our boat, I took the above photo, because it suddenly looked as if we were in the middle of Ireland the hills were so green! (as a result of recent flooding, we were told)

In this part of the world, the average summer temperature is 24 to 33 (C), 74-91 (F) and very humid. The average winter is between 16 and 26 (C).61-79(F)

It was pleasantly warm considering we arrived at 6.30 in the morning, but we did not abandon our raincoats!

This region has a wide range of birds, and is a very popular place with bird watchers.

I was thrilled to see the Azure Kingfisher, as this beautiful bird is very elusive, but perhaps, so early in morning the birds were happy to stay still for a while.

Here is the Tawny Frogmouth, a champion at camouflage…

and the green tree snake was also so well camouflaged, I would not have seen this snake unless the guide pointed it out.

The Daintree river is the habitat of the saltwater crocodile, known locally as ‘the salties’. Our guide pointed out a few resident crocodiles in this area, and we were happy enough to watch from afar (I used my zoom lens for these photos naturally)

I was surprised to see some birds standing quite still in vulnerable parts of the river..

The guide was concerned about one of the old crocodiles, locally known as Scarface, (old and battle-scarred ..we were told) who had not been seen in the river for a few weeks. When were back home we read in a local paper that Scarface had died. Perhaps old age?

It all seemed a bit like a slice out of The Godfather…another world!

The Heron

The white Egret had the very best view of everything it seemed!

Although the above photo is very blurry I thought it was interesting to show a house in the middle of a rainforest. No doubt a beautiful view!

The day began to clear as we ended the cruise, and what an experience it was!

Thanks for taking the time to read a little more about Australia, much as I love my home and garden, it is a pleasure, and quite an education to see another part of the country I call home.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Far North Queensland and Hemingway’s on the Hill..

Far North Queensland: Port Douglas

Canberra is well known for having cold winters (by Australian standards). June to August can be cold, rainy and miserable in Canberra.

Fortunately the temperatures in Far North Queensland are mild and pleasant during these months. Many Australians from the southern states, including our family, go on holiday to Queensland during our winter months.

This year in mid-June, Paul’s much loved mother, at the age of 96, passed away. She had eight children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren, and will be sadly missed by everyone.

The last few months have been very busy, and at times very sad. However, we had planned a holiday in Far North Queensland and a few weeks ago, we packed our bags, and flew to Cairns.

Despite the overcast view that day, it is always a pleasure to see the coastline as the plane turns to land in Cairns.

We decided to start our holiday with a few quiet days in the Atherton Tablelands, despite it being a little colder than along the coast.

Paul found us a small cottage in the Atherton Tablelands and it was called Hemingway’s on the Hill.

It was quiet, rustic and peaceful, and just what we needed….a break away from everything.

On the way to our cottage we stopped at a pretty country town called Yungaburra and bought pizzas, a bottle of wine, and a few extra food supplies for our first meal at Hemingway’s on the Hill.

The drive into the pretty town of Yungaburra and Nick’s Pizzas not far away..

The cabin had all kinds of interesting books and magazines. The owner of the cottage lived on a farm nearby. She had packed the fridge and kitchen with fruit, eggs, bacon, butter, jams, honey and yogurt.

Everything we ate there came from local farms.. what a feast!

Paul lit the fire on the first evening and we sat quietly watching the sun going down …..it was cold, but a very pleasant quiet time…there is nothing like a flickering fire for relaxing.

In the morning we had better views of the rolling hills, and farms dotted across the mountains. The Atherton Tablelands provides food for many parts of Australia, with its rich volcanic soil there are an amazing amount of crops grown in this area. (more of that in another post)

The owner of the property had left instructions for everything, but this little note at the back of the folder made me smile….be warned of noises when you are in the countryside in Australia.

We did hear the Curlew birds in the night….my impression is that they have a rather sad cry, and always late at night. However, my cousin, who lives not very far from this area, says she loves coming home and listening to their long song.

A Bush Stone-curlew bird Photo: Birdlife Australia

We have never had bandicoots in our garden, (thank goodness), but possums are a perennial problem and they bounce across our carport roof quite often in the night, usually looking for fruit and vegetables.

Our three days at Hemingway’s cottage was spent eating good nourishing food, having quiet times by the fire, and reading books…..we slept well, and were completely unaware of any night time activity during our stay.

Before we left for our second holiday house at the coast, I took some photos of the two colourful flowers that were growing in the gardens at Hemingway’s. As with all flowers and shrubs in this part of the world, they are large, bright and cheerful.

There are many interesting parts of Far North Queensland to see and enjoy, and I’ll write a few posts on some very different parts of Queensland.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my post today, and may you have some sunshine where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Maleny a warm friendly country town in Queensland

Many years ago, escaping the winter in Canberra, Paul and I stopped off at a small town in Queensland, called Maleny.

Maleny is two hours drive from the city of Brisbane

Our memory of this pretty country town was that it had three bookshops, and a huge expanse of land which was about to be developed into Maleny Botanic gardens. The setting was half way up a mountain, and my memory is that we stood looking at the carved out land, and said to each other….this is going to make a wonderful Botanic garden.

This is a photo taken by the Maleny Botanic Gardens

This year, we decided to make a trip to Maleny again, and the town and surroundings are as beautiful as ever. However, as with the best laid schemes, things did not go according to plan. First of all I left the battery for the camera at home. As everyone would know it is very hard to track down a specific camera battery unless in the city or online.

A wonderfully helpful young man in a Pharmacy cheerfully said that he could provide me with Hearing Aid batteries, but definitely no camera batteries.

So almost all the photos of this holiday are taken from my phone or Paul’s (many thanks to Paul)

The Botanic Gardens covers a large and hilly area and has many paths and transport vehicles to get around.

Our second setback was much bigger. Recently there had been severe rainfall and flooding around parts of Maleny, and many of the mature Botanic Garden trees and shrubs and small bridges were destroyed.

Very sad to see, and very costly to start again in some areas. However, we walked through the parts of the Botanic Garden which had survived.

We could see the Volcanic peaks of the Glass House Mountains in the distance
This photo shows how damage had been done, not only to the plants, but to the beautiful variety of waterfalls and ponds.
Fortunately, many of the lovely tree ferns stayed intact .
This photo shows the layers of colourful plants which had survived.

For anyone who is interested the website for the Maleny Botanic Gardens is very comprehensive, and the photos are gorgeous. (https://www.malenybotanicgardens.com.au/).

The website mentions the extensive aviary and colourful birds to see, however, we did not have time for this part of the gardens.

The town of Maleny still has three bookshops and we spent the afternoon in Rosetta Books which had a varied collection, from poetry to children’s books and many genres in between. The owner of the bookshop told us that Maleny has many book clubs and active readers, and some authors too. The local library is also known in the district to be very popular.

We had booked into AirBnB just a short drive out of Maleny. Here is the cabin we rented for four days. (apologies for the sun shadow across the photo)

Way up on the side of the mountain, the ever changing views of the mountains and valley below were wonderful. I did wish I had my camera, (and a long lens, which I don’t have)

Early morning view …no birds in sight, but we heard many of them…

The generous owners of the cabin had provided us with local milk, yoghurt, butter and fresh fruit. Looking in the fridge, I was reminded of a quote by a fellow blogger, Laurie Graves “Notes from the Hinterland” who wrote that Mainers have a saying,

‘when we go to town, bang goes the butter money”‘

Well, I have to say, ”when we went to Maleny bang went the low cholesterol diet!

The shadows come across every afternoon…

The day we left the mist was rising and it looked as if rain was coming, so we were very very lucky.

As we waved goodbye to the curious cattle, we also saw a few distinctive and interesting Queensland houses along this stretch of road. Characteristically Queensland houses are made of timber and raised off the ground, built on stilts or stumps for the sub-tropical climate. This is to counteract the extreme temperatures, flooding and to avoid termites and pests.

A sad goodbye to this dairy farming mountain and picturesque Queensland farm houses…including our lovely cabin.

Thanks for taking time to read my post, and as they say in Zimbabwe… go well…during these unsettling times.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Baby boom for birds amongst their favourite trees, scones and cream and a tree kangaroo

Crimson Rosellas in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree.

International Tree Day is coming up on Sunday 1st August. Time to celebrate all our beautiful trees in Australia. and the wonderful array of birds that rely on these trees.

The states surrounding Canberra (ACT), are either in Lockdown or just coming out of Lockdown, and everything is very wintery and quiet..

Despite a few blue skies you may see in some of today’s photos, don’t believe it…. Canberra is having a cold, rainy, windy winter.

The brightest colour in the garden this week was the cockatoo’s yellow crest.

Fortunately birds are still visiting the garden and we are also going for bush walks around Canberra, when the rain stopped. While we were walking along Coolamen Ridge, on a rare sunny day, we noticed the juvenile Kookaburra below calling for his family..

Why are we seeing juvenile birds in the middle of winter? Perhaps, as a result of the rain, there is an abundance of food… Paul suggested a bird baby boom. Well that would be something positive in these Covid times.

Two juvenile Rainbow Lorikeets exploring near the hollow in the tree…there’s always a daredevil isn’t there?

These magnificent Eucalyptus trees are providing a haven for the birds to feed on and nest in hollows. Imagine how safe and warm they would be on windy rainy days.

One of the adult Rainbow Lorikeets is the ”scout” and she has a good vantage point.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many Eucalyptus trees.

This Crimson Rosella has returned to a hollow in a Eucalyptus tree at the gardens
Gang Gang Cockatoos are quiet and elusive and never far from the protection of Eucalyptus trees

Australia has a wide variety of bird and animal life, and while we are on the topic of trees, there is a unique marsupial very much connected to trees, called the Tree Kangaroo.

While visiting my cousin in the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in 2017 we stopped off at the Nerada Tea farm. This is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, and not only do they have a lovely shop with lots of interesting teas and specially selected imported teas,

they also have a tea room with very inviting scones and cream.

As this is dairy farming country the lashings of cream on warm scones was delicious but messy!

After visiting the shop, we noticed a furry animal in one of the trees….a tree kangaroo! Very difficult to take photos of these shy animals, as it is very hard to see them. They look a bit like furry teddy bears with long tails. This was the first time for all three of us to see one in the wild.

Tree Kangaroos are kangaroos that live in trees. They have small ears and shorter legs and arms, their feet have curved claws for gripping and climbing. They are marsupials and are the largest tree-dwelling mammals in Australia. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos is the smallest of the species, and are found in the rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands.

Tree kangaroos feed on leaves and foliage and fruit and flowers of native trees in the rainforest.

This Tree kangaroo had a baby in its pouch.
A Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo: Photo National Zoo and Aquarium

Fortunately I was able to get a photo of a Tree Kangaroo from our own National Zoo. I must say this tree kangaroo is looking very well groomed and smart.

On this wild and wet day we stopped off at small cafes and shops selling delicious foods, specialist food products and coffee. A very satisfying day indeed.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today. With so many people in Lockdown or quarantine, or just being careful during these Covid times, I noticed a Zulu saying (undoubtedly meant for hunting) but true for us today ..

”To be clever is to be still”

Go well.

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright All Rights Reserved.

Far North Queensland, sunshine and colour…and dodging the snow back home.

Almost every year we go to Far North Queensland in the winter. We leave our coats at home and freeze all the way to the airport. Then we board the plane for a  three hour flight into another world, casual clothing, hats and a pair of sunglasses…nothing can prepare you for the colours of Queensland.

As the plane circles to land in this beautiful part of the world my heart always gives a lift…..

the vast azure sea, the tropical mountains, and the long blue skies.

This year we went with friends and family, and visited three different places, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, and Palm Cove.

Palm Cove, a short distance from Cairns, is a pretty beach surrounded by palm trees and winding paths, and a mostly gentle sea.

We spent our time in Palm Cove with our family and lovely granddaughter, and it was interesting to see this colourful world through her eyes.

From our apartment, on the third floor, we had a great view of the lush green palms and tropical plants…

Giant Palm Lily.. growing up to 5 metres. White and cream flowers appear during the months of Feb to July. The berries ripen from yellow to red.

Birds play an important role in distribution of rainforest seeds, and we were heartened to see that Queensland has its share of cockatoos, eating and spreading seeds.

We woke every morning to the familiar sound of cockatoos screeching overhead as they flew from palm tree to palm tree. This must be an unsettling start to the day for unsuspecting overseas tourists.

Looking down from our apartment we saw a flash of iridescent blue, the Ulysses butterfly, common to this area…almost camouflaged by the rich green surroundings.

I know that many bloggers are interested in butterflies, especially Jason and Judy from https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ so here are a few striking Queensland butterflies from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda.

Ulysses a large swallowtail butterfly abc.net.au

The Red Lacewing Butterfly Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

Cairns Birdwing butterfly  Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

The Cairns Birdwing butterfly is the largest of all Australian Butterflies

On our walk through the gardens to the beach we saw so many colourful and unusual plants and flowers…..as our granddaughter said ”Oh Wow!”

heliconia: part of the banana family

Golden Penda xanthostemon chrysanthus

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of this pretty pink/red flower..

The palm below is a striking entrance to a garden.

We have been coming to Palm Cove for about 25 years, and one thing is a constant, Pete’s Place. This is the shop where you can buy milk, bread, magazines, summer clothes and hats,

….and THE best best fish and chips in town. Especially the fresh Barramundi.

a pretty dusting of snow on the Brindabella Mountains.

Meanwhile, we read and heard about the changing weather, back in Canberra.

Canberra does get the occasional dusting of snow in our winter,  but this year …. especially in the National Park and some parts of Canberra, the snow kept on coming !

Social media went mad with clips of kangaroos hopping around in the snow, wombats and even a platypus pushing through the snow..

The ABC and BBC news and the Washington Post had clips of kangaroos bounding around in snow.  What a confusing time to be an Aussie animal…this photo says it all..

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Tasmania: Photo Bernadette Camus

SO….who is responsible!

…..and how about booking us into Palm Cove next year?

I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, especially if you should be out in the garden!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Brisbane: Southbank, sun, shade, food and green spaces..

We recently left our lovely garden visitors, the King Parrots, and flew to Queensland to escape Canberra’s cold weather and to enjoy a family holiday …

Queensland has a tropical and subtropical climate, and for those of us who live in the southern states, winter is the perfect time to visit this part of Australia.

Our first stop was the city of Brisbane, a friendly and relaxed city of about 2.4 million people.

We stayed at Southbank, overlooking the city and along the Brisbane River.

Southbank has restaurants, gardens, river walks, ferry rides, water play for children….something for everyone.

Here along the River Quay, we arrived just in time for the last day of a local festival celebrating the food grown around this area. I wish we had been here earlier to write more about this festival…another time.

Despite the Canberra winter, I am always looking for shade in hot weather, and this was a perfect promenade for people to sit, walk or ride bikes along the river.

After my accident earlier in the year, ( being knocked over by a rogue cyclist in Austria)  I am, for the first time, a bit nervous of bikes.

However, Southbank is designed for all. There is a second extra wide path, easy for walkers, and prams and strollers, and people who just want to stroll along with a camera, or to sit under the trees and watch the world going by….

I loved the curved paths around the water features, space for children to play and splash in water fountains, and for adults to sit close by and enjoy some food and the subtropical warmth and greenery.

The town planner’s attention to shade was obvious….(Australia has a very high rate of skin cancers)

This Arbour is a shady walkway going the whole length of Southbank, made from 406 curling galvanised posts, all covered with Bougainvillea..

My photo shows some flowering bougainvillea but the photo below shows just how lovely this walkway can look, and how cool in summer…  it is used constantly by the locals and tourists alike as a connection between the ferries going to and from the city..

The Arbour : Photo by Tjunction Media -Oz Roamer

Mature trees have been used for shade and design

 In the centre of Southbank there is the Epicurious Garden, for foodies, garden enthusiasts and children …

This garden, with lots of herbs and vegetables, is for people to see, feel and smell and taste all that is in the garden.  All plants are grown organically and there are volunteers available to talk about the gardens and methods used.

Every Tuesday to Thursday morning, free produce is available from the gardens….this is done on a ”first come, first served, basis”.

I enjoyed seeing plants I haven’t seen since my childhood…(I was brought up in Central Africa)

Here is the Guava tree…..I had a flashback to the many long hot afternoons I sat with friends under shady trees just like these, eating Guavas.

I believe guavas are very high in Vitamin C…..who knew in those days!

The Goodwill Bridge is shaped to capture the views of the Brisbane River and the shoreline.

 

There is a pedestrian walkway which links Southbank to the city’s Botanic Gardens. There is even a coffee shop at midpoint if you are walking across the bridge.

Photo by Visit Brisbane

After a hard day of walking and looking at gardens…the food choices in Southbank were wonderful……..such a positive refection of a multicultural city.

So here are the decisions we had to make every night… Italian, Turkish, Mexican, Indian, Creole, French, Vietnamese, fish and chips, and burgers.

We tried a few, all good, but the Turkish was up there with the best…

This dessert was called Baklava (better known to me as Lady Fingers) with wonderful soft pastry, dripping with nuts and honey, a glass of wine and a refreshing apple tea to finish it off.

….which restaurant would you choose?

The perfect end of the day spent in Southbank….. the city’s green spaces,  designed and built by town planners and architects for the people.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Thala Beach…where the forest meets the sea..

I have a wonderful Australian’s children’s book called ”Where the Forest Meets the Sea” and while I was teaching I kept many a restless class captive with this book.

I wish I had all those students (and my daughters) here now to see the real thing….a lodge perched on a mountain, literally where the forest meets the sea.

We are in Far North Queensland, escaping the winter in Canberra, and we have stopped off for coffee at a wonderful place called Thala Beach Lodge.

A painting of White-bellied Sea Eagles

A sweeping staircase takes us up to the circular guest lounge perched high amongst the trees, with breathtaking views of the Coral Sea.

The whole lodge is made from local timbers, and it is just like walking into a grand tree house.

 

 

My apologies, I have taken a photo of the seating rather than the beautiful Coral Sea..

The building is designed to bring the breeze from the sea and the scent from the trees.

There is a  long cool veranda and thoughtful local flower arrangements and pieces of interest for even the casual visitor here at Thala..

Each year, between June and September Southern Humpback whales are seen passing by this part of the coast. They mate and give birth along the shores of Queensland, after migrating from their Antarctic feeding grounds.

carving by Brent Vincent

Adult males establish dominance by ”singing” their complex songs, which can travel more than 100 kilometres underwater and can last 20 mins without repetition.

cairnspost.com au Humpback whales frolic off the coast of Cairns in North Queensland

This photo, in the local newspaper, shows the whales along the coast near here.

How I envy locals being able to witness such a sight!

Near the lounge is an eye-catching painting, by the Australian artist Ray Crooke. He is best known for his Gauguin-inspired paintings of islander life in Fiji and the Torres strait.

Archibald prize winner, Ray Crooke lived nearby, in Palm Cove, until his death last year.

He was inspired by the people and history of Far North Queensland and the islands of Torres Strait and the Pacific.

This striking painting told an interesting slice of history of this area.

In 1876 gold was discovered inland from Kewarra Beach. The government paid for a track to be cut through the forest to reach the gold, and in 1877, some bushmen were sent out to cut the track.

One of the bushmen set up camp near the track, and awoke to find his horses had strayed in the night. While he was searching for them he shot at a large black snake, and to his surprise

”a naked greased white man with a red beard stood up and politely asked him not to shoot”

He and four other companions had lived in the area for 14 years with local Aboriginal families. The mystery of where they came from was never solved.

One clue to their identity was that they carried American made axes and there were the ruins of a ship wreck off White Cliffs,  where Thala beach sits today.

So much fascinating history is never told unless there is someone to record it…

The Lodge today is surrounded by natural stands of Eucalyptus forest/ dry woodland forest.

Tall canopies of trees protect an under-layer of ferns and vines…

Guests staying in the Lodge can swim in this peaceful pool, or go down to the beach below.

It is a credit to the owner Rob Prettejohn that he was inspired to build a place for people, yet treading lightly on the surrounding habitat, the forest and the beach front.

The Lodge specialises in bird watching, nature walks and star gazing.

Imagine lunch here, with kookaburras in the trees, and Rainbow Lorikeets flying (occasionally) through the dining room.

We are so tempted to stay here and have lunch looking out on that beautiful view…another day we will …and that is a promise..

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

This is a flashback photo of Paul, myself and my cousin Theresa during our recent holiday in nearby Palm Cove.

Theresa, has lived in Far North Queensland for many years, and like me, she is a teacher. We were both born in Africa and have shared many adventures in both Africa and Australia.

She has introduced us to many new places in Queensland  (like Thala Beach Lodge) and if she wasn’t a teacher, I would highly recommend her as a  wonderful tour guide….

 

 

 

 

 

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 fly..so 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.

 

 

 

Far North Queensland, Melaleuca Trees in Palm Cove

On a cold June morning, we flew out of  Canberra, and four hours later we landed in a very different Australian city, Cairns, in Far North Queensland.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Forests, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

Despite its international airport and city status, Cairns has lost none of its original laid-back Queensland character.

view of the cane fields and the mountain range as we drive from Cairns airport to Palm Cove

Driving from the airport there are cane farms on either side of the road, and some original old Queensland houses dotted around the countryside.

We are heading just a short distance away to our favourite spot, Palm Cove…where the winter temperatures at this time of the year are around 14 degrees to 26 degrees.

…let’s just keep that a secret…

We have been visiting Palm Cove with our family for about twenty years.

When our children were young, you could take camel rides along the beach, and an old hippie had a little wooden stand where you could have a foot massage…..those were the days!

In  the colder southern states of Australia, the gardens and parks have died back for the winter, so it is almost like sensory overload seeing the glorious colourful flowers and shrubs that seem to grow anywhere and everywhere…

 

 

 

 

However, Palm Cove’s signature for me, are the most incredible Paperbark Melaleuca trees.

The trunk of the tree is layered with papery bark, which is in a continuous process of peeling and replacing. In a monsoonal tropical climate like Palm Cove, this discourages parasites from getting a hold on the tree.

(It is also very hard to pass a tree and resist peeling a fine layer of bark as you go.)

Tea tree oil is distilled from the fresh leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca, and come to think of it, this is probably what the hippie used, all those years ago, for his foot massages.

These distinctive Melaleucas were here when Captain James Cook sailed his ship, the Endeavour, within three leagues of the Palm Cove foreshore on 10 June 1770….some of the species are reported to be over 400 years old.

It is said that Captain Cook tried using the oil from the leaves to make tea, as a possible way of preventing scurvy.

The beauty of the Paperbark Melaleucas in Palm Cove is the seamless way the buildings, paths and people fit around the trees.

I have read that the local council regulated, many years ago, that buildings in Palm Cove could not be built higher than the Melaleucas…what a visionary decision!

Palm Cove will never be one of the many beaches lined by generic high rise buildings, all looking exactly the same.

Rainbow lorikeets, the busy noisy local parrots in this area, are regular visitors to the trees, as are honey eaters, sunbirds, fruit bats, native bees and many other species that feed on the Paperbark trees.

My apologies, I couldn’t find a Rainbow Lorikeet in Palm Cove the day of taking photos, so  I had to borrow a busy Lorikeet from a trip we did to Sydney’s Centennial Park. This Lorikeet is feeding on equally striking flowers from a tree called Cape Tulip Red, originally from Africa, but also very common in the warmer parts of Australia.

The camels and hippies have gone, but, thank goodness some things stay the same, Pete’s Place, with the best fish and chips in Palm Cove.

Barramundi is a locally caught fish here, and is absolutely out of this world….may it never change.  I haven’t got a photo of any of our fish and chip meals because they were eaten so fast!

….and, I need never feel too far away from home, because one of the noisiest cockatoos I’ve ever heard, is nesting just across the way from our balcony

…well, if you can’t find an almond tree in Canberra, then a Paperbark Melaleuca tree is a pretty good second…

Not even a cockatoo winging in like a Boeing 747 could ruin an evening walk on Palm Cove beach.

I hope you are enjoying your good fortune if it is summer in your part of the world, and if you are in the middle of winter, as Monty Don says, make it a restorative time.

In my next post Paul and I will go on a bird watching tour in Port Douglas…

 

Copyright:Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cairns, sunshine and green spaces all the way to the Botanical gardens…

In early August we flew out of Canberra in our coats (minus 2 degrees) and arrived in Cairns, Far North Queensland, at midday…I took this photo as we had some coffee in the 27 degree sunshine….now the secret is out..

Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but the city council should also be congratulated on their town planning and green spaces.

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In Cairns is it possible to walk from the centre of the city all the way along the Harbour to the Botanical Gardens on the edge of the city….all that land preserved for the public.

The Esplanade has a collection of wonderful shallow pools for children to play and swim. Further along the boardwalk are playgrounds and spaces for older teenagers and young adults to play games such as volley ball.

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The path is wide enough for pedestrians to walk either way….and, there is a separate wide path for cyclists….

These sorts of green spaces give a whole community a sense of wellbeing and belonging.

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We took a leisurely stroll into Cairns in the evening…

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…and then a leisurely stroll back towards the Botanical gardens…

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Unfortunately we missed our booked guided tour of the Botanical Gardens due to rain…but here are a few photos of the gardens and the plants ….

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….so very different from our plants in the south..

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Acanthaceae Justicia Carnea Jacobinia

 

 

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Leguminosae Brownea grandiceps

 

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Ground orchid

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Waeszewiczia Coccinea

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heliconia

The plant below was my  absolute favourite, called Bumpy Satinash…The sign on this tree says,

it has aromatic flowers that attract many animals and insects, including possums, lorikeets and fruit bats to feed on the copious nectar,

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It looked wonderful growing beside the magnificent Paperbark Melaleuca tree ..

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And back at our hotel…..it is goodnight from the resident Kookaburra…

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and in the dawn chorus of kookaburras, here is Junior Kookaburra just enjoying some early morning sun, and learning the ropes..

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I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you live…..and that you have many paths to choose from…

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved