Birdwatching at the Cattana Wetlands, Smithfield, Queensland
We wasted the morning driving up to Karanda in search of the Southern Cassowary, and we didn't get to the Cattana Wetlands until 11 am. It was a shame, as it really is a fabulous place and we would have preferred to spend the entire morning there. Oh, well. That's the nature of these kinds of epic birding trips into unknown lands: you don't know the best spots until you've had a chance to visit them.
We had an auspicious greeting by a Black-Necked Stork, known locally as the Jabiru, flying overhead as we got of out of the car. Not a bad beginning at all. They day was already beginning to get warm (it would hit about 92°F/33°) and it was pretty gusty as we made our way to Jabiru Lake which is directly adjacent to the parking area. (The Cairns Regional Council has a great map of the reserve for planning your trip.)
We saw quite a Darter and a few cormorants waaaayy across the lake, but the birds were smarter than us and had been there for hours. Now, they're were getting out of the wind and sun and were resting in the shade, making it tough to get a photo.
As we made our way along the west side of Jabiru Lake, we got some great views of the Comb-Crested Jacanas as they scurried across the water lilies. I didn't know how bizarre these birds look until I had a chance to look at my photos later, but they have incredibly wide feet that allow them to distribute their weight across a large surface area and skip across the vegetation.
As we watched one, we saw it find its nest perched on a water lily and sat on the eggs to incubate. The eggs and nest were very well-camoflauged and we never would have seen it without watching the bird rest on it.
As we made our way around to the south end of the lake, we got some great views of the Spangled Drongo, Metallic Starlings, Australasian Figbird, and a quick view of the Green Oriole (also known, confusingly, as the Yellow Oriole!)
The day was really heating up, and we still needed to get up to Daintree Village, so we headed back to the carpark. As we were walking past the Crake Pond, we flushed two Black Herons out of the grasses. They flew across the pond and perched. Because of the distance, heat, wind, and my terrible photographic abilities, I got a lousy photo of this beautiful bird.
To demonstrate how terrible the birding conditions are, here's my video of the Green Oriole. Not a great view of the bird, but it does capture the lovely sound of its call.
As we were making it back to the carpark, it began to rain, effectively ending our birding at Cattana. Next, it was off to Daintree!