Monday, 13 June 2011

Port Douglas, or birds of Northern Australia

Over the Easter break we took a little trip up to Port Douglas.  This was very much a rest and relaxation holiday after the mammoth physical exertions of our last two trips.  In the end though it turned into more of a eating, drinking and telephoto lens loving holiday.  Lets just say bird watching is a lot cooler with some binoculars and a telephoto lens.

The view south from the bar area
We were staying at Thala Beach lodge, which was the best place I think I've stayed, particularly in Australia.  The staff were all so incredibly helpful and friendly.  The rooms were great too, you felt completely isolated from everyone else, perched amongst the trees, but then it was only a very short walk to the main reception.  Really good.  Every morning we would have breakfast looking out over the coast and watch the rainbow lorikeets have their morning bath. 

A young stork, bred in captivity
My favourite bird, the tawny frogmouth.  I almost walked right past these.

The first morning we went to the wildlife habitat, just on the outskirts of Port Douglas.  There were serious numbers of birds here, all completely used to humans meaning you can get really close.  I wonder if twitchers think it counts if you spot them in an aviary?
The classic Torres-Straight pigeon

Freaky looking spoonbill trying to groom itself

Mohawked water bird

Eclectic parrot, the lyrebird of the tropics

Snakes, to keep the birds on their toes

It wasn't just in the wildlife habitat where we went crazy with the birds.  Just walking around the lodge grounds in the morning we saw butterflies and birds.  The binoculars really got a work-out.

Slightly ratty looking butterfly

A much smoother looking one

What is this bird? Love the colours              

We also wandered around the grounds at dusk so got to see the wonderful tropical sunsets.  This turned out to be a bit of a longer walk in the dark than we anticipated.  I guess maps handed out by the lodge are not as detailed or scaled as topographic maps.

Aaaah sunsets

We also took a bit of a trip up to the Daintree, mainly to stop off at Mossman gorge on the way back.  That place doesn't change really.  On the way back from the Daintree, we stopped off at a family run zoo, that was a bit of a strange place, you don't come across too many family-run zoos these days, particularly ones which aren't violating numbers of animal cruelty laws.  But this one seemed OK, had a whole bunch more birds, just in case you weren't sick of them.

This parrot was crazy.  Check out it's pupils too.

I love owls.  My favourite type of birds.

The final stop on our tour of tropical wildlife was at the butterfly farm in Kuranda. Kuranda was a weird place with hundreds of bizarre tourist attractions.  There was the butterfly farm, the venomous animals zoo, the skyrail and heaps more. 

The butterfly farm was kind of cool, just to see that many butterflies flying around.  We also got to see their caterpillars.  The big butterflies had some monster caterpillars.  They were all very professional about it too.  The workers would be in a sterilised area and they washed each individual egg before placing it in with the leaves.  I'm not sure who the end buyer of the butterflies is though, whether they are used solely in the zoo, or whether there are other people buying them.  Does it count in your butterfly collection if you collected it from captivity?

This was one of the famous butterflies they had.  Something to do with living only around Cairns

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Final Days In New Zealand

Since we had finished the Kepler quicker than what we thought we might we got to spend some extra time around Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park.  We got to do all the classic outings.

I have to say Te Anau felt like it was a place where old people go to holiday, the average age of the typical tourist was a lot higher than that out on the track.  Te Anau certainly seemed to be a town of two tourists.

The Bond-esque power station
We did get to go to Doubtful Sound, which is the much more remote fiord than the famous Milford, so there were far fewer tourists out there.  We had to catch a ferry across a lake to a hydro-electric power station then take a bus along a dirt road to the coast where we could board another boat to check out the sound.

We did get to tour the underground hydro-electric power station.  That was a rather strange interlude on the tour.  We got loaded into two buses and then drove a couple of kilometres almost straight down before stopping at the end, unloading and being shown this rather strange room lit up by fluorescent lighting.  I think it was the power station owner's way of trying to engage the public, in what had initially been a very contentious power station.

It was a pretty wet day so the scenery wasn't spectacular, actually I'm sure it would have been spectacular, we just couldn't see it.

One bonus was that we got to see a lot of New Zealand fur seals and one lone crested penguin.  He was a pretty cool looking little dude.  I think the rest of his gang had already left land, I think they only come into the sound when they have to moult.
Little crested penguin, chilling by his cave

The following day, the weather cleared and we got to experience the famous Milford Sound in really fantastic weather.  The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is really something else.  Highly recommended, as is a trip on the sound.  Basically there's no point coming to this part of New Zealand if you aren't going to tour up the fiord.  What was more amazing was how great the weather was given how truly terrible it was for the proceeding three days.

Clouds still covering the peaks

Clouds streaming off Mitre Peak in the early morning

Dave on the boat with the dramatic scenery of the sound

One of the many waterfalls along the route

The unassuming entrance to the sound

Apparently the cliffs extend straight down under the water

A clear view of Mitre peak

A waterfall at the start of the Routeburn
On the way back to Te Anau we stopped off at the end of the Routeburn track to walk a little ways up and try and get some alpine scenery.

What the kepler would have looked like

A cool duck back in Te Anau