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Reef Report for Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Do-It-Yourself Cairns Wildlife Tour:

While almost all visitors to the area visit the Great Barrier Reef, few realize that the wildlife found in the local tropical rainforests and bush land are just as unique and impressive. A few species have been quite successful in adapting to life in the city area, you might consider having a look for them. © Joel Groberg In true DIY style, we have put together pieces for a do-it-yourself wildlife tour. Pick and choose what suits the time you have available during your visit.

As you do this keep in mind that wildlife is wild. If you approach wildlife closely enough to disturb it they are consuming time and energy avoiding you that they should be spending feeding, growing and reproducing. You can also cause them to be defensive and get hurt.

Rainbow Lorikeets: These brightly colored parrots are as colorful as a parrot can get, the adults sport a wild combination of, blue orange, yellow and bright green plumage. These gregarious birds spend the night in large groups in trees in the downtown area. They change their nighttime roosting spots every so often, so we canít send you to a specific location, but if you go on a walk along the esplanade around sunset you canít miss the racket that several hundred of these birds can make in the trees.

Fruit Bats: Fruit bats are pretty amazing animals. They are huge bats, bigger than most seagulls, and eat fruits and flower parts, rather than insects like the smaller bats that we are all familiar with. Most times of the year there is a fruit bat colony roosting in the downtown business district, in a huge fig tree at the back of the Public Library on Abbott Street.

Shorebirds: The Cairns Esplanade is one of the best bird watching areas in the region, as it has a very rich diversity of bird life. If you take a walk there you will almost always see birdwatchers with their telescopes. What is there to see? Too many birds to mention here, as hundreds of species have been spotted here. We really enjoy the huge white pelicans and spoonbills that are nearly always present.

Have a closer look at the mud flats here as well, and you will spot mudskippers a very active and unique fish that spends itís life on the mudflats. This unique fish spends much of the day with most of its body out of the water, and are quite animated characters.

Rainforest Birds: If you can make it out to the Tanks/Botanic Garden area on Collins Street, (about 2km from the downtown area) have a walk up the red arrow track. You will always find rainforest and great views of the city on this short hike. Two large birds are also commonly spotted here, Orange Footed Scrub Fowl and Bush Turkeys are unique animals, as rather than incubate their eggs by sitting on them they scrape up large mounds of vegetation, lay their eggs in these heaps, and let the heat of the composting vegetation do the job. You will also find the bright white sulphur-crested cockatoos here, they are loud and bright, if thereís one around you wonít miss it!

The blue arrow walk also branches loops off the Red Arrow Walk. This longer hike is really worth doing, but bring plenty of water, and leave yourself time to complete the hike before dark.

Wallabies: The Wallaby found locally is a grassland/forest resident, so itís very rare to spot them in the downtown area. The largest local population is found near the highway, just north of the turnoff to Trinity Beach. There is a large grassy area on the east side of the highway, and you can see a couple of hundred wallabies calmly grazing and going about their business.

Goannas: If you head out to Lake Placid, about 14km to the north and east of Cairns, you can sometimes spot these very large lizards, which come down from the forest canopy to feed. You wonít always spot them here, but this is a lovely spot for a walk, or to just relax and have a cup of tea at the teahouse.

Crocodiles: Crocodiles are one species you are unlikely to spot in city. These animals are both reclusive and mobile, and can move up and down the coastline, and enter nearby rivers and estuaries. Every year there are a few crocs spotted nearby and any crocs of size are removed, to protect human populations.

Want to get out and see wildlife with a guide? Have a look at all the local wildlfie tours in the area:

Willdlife tour index

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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