Day 7: Hasties Swamp & Crater Lakes
Leaving the arid lands of Chillagoe, we drove east-southeast to the Atherton Tableland, a fertile plateau extension of the Great Dividing Range. The Barron River is the principle water source flowing across the plateau. Within the Tableland, small remnants of rainforest dot the landscape, which are now protected by national parks. Numerous endemic species inhabit this area. The most memorable attribute was rolling, lush, grassy hills dotted with trees. The cattle were fat and happy in the Tablelands. Grass grew to knee- or waist-height in some fields.
Our first stop was a birding haven called Hasties Swamp. Locals built a 2-story bird hide (or “blind” for folks back home), which looks out over 56 hectares of wetland. We saw our first and only black-necked stork, thanks to a local birder who saw us leaving and pulled us back inside. Other finds: Australian pelican, wandering whistling-duck, hardhead, swamphen, sarus crane, jacana, Latham’s snipe, darters, spoonbills, yellow-faced honeyeater, and ibis, to name a few.
Upon reaching the Chambers Wildlife Lodge in Crater Lakes National Park, it took our breath away. Exotic birds flying everywhere, rainforest surrounding us, and the sound of a waterfall. The staff brought out a vat of honey in the evening and smeared it on a couple of large trees. Spectators watched as a striped possum and sugar glider appeared out of the darkness and foraged on the honey.
Sugar glider (above) and striped possum (below)