Recently on the river there was a surprising new sighting. Significant enough to stimulate me to write the following for the local newspaper…
Over the last 15 years or so, Tropical North Queensland has undergone an intriguing influx of new international visitors. Increasing numbers of Papua New Guineans are seasonally visiting our shores to enjoy cooler climes. Not only is the level of visitation increasing but influx is moving ever further southwards. Anti-immigration sentiment though is not required as on this occasion the migrant is a pretty little duck.
Originally from Papua New Guinea, Spotted Whistling-ducks are delicately spotted and engendered with a distinctive whistle call. They have slowly been colonising North Queensland. First they were only seen around Weipa. Then they were also observed in the wilds of Lakefield. A few years later their most southerly limit was Cooktown. More recently they have found the delights of Cairns. Cattana Wetlands is a favourite, as is Centenary Lakes. So far the southern limit of their travels is Lucinda. Visitation seems to be highly seasonal with a preference for the summer Wet Season. Their future range is debatable, as is whether they will eventually become permanent residents.
Spotted Whistling-duck were first observed enjoying the Daintree five years ago. Now they seem to have been enchanted by its romantic spell. In late April, a family with 5 mature ducklings was observed on the Daintree River. In the following days, local breeding was confirmed with another family, including 8 tiny duckings, found on the wetlands of Daintree Village property ‘Wild Wings and Swampy Things Nature Refuge’. This event is significant as it is the most southerly breeding record for this species in Australia. It must be particularly pleasing for the owners, Barbara Maslen and Allen Sheather, after spending an immense amount of effort revegetating their property.