Date: Saturday, November 20, 2021

Project: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

Observers: John Porter & Richard Kingsford

Pilot: Tim Dugan

Today, we headed up the coast - all the way up to Cairns, surveying the wetlands adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

Coastal strip where we surveyed wetlands.

Given how much we did yesterday, we were confident that it was wasn't going to be anything like as challenging a day of aerial survey.

We began by doing a couple of large dams just north of Townsville. And then we surveyed various small creeks and lagoons, inland and along the coast.

Surveying two large dams, with no waterbirds.

As we went north, there were some impressive flocks of magpie geese particularly on the brackish wetlands which was a surprise.

Surveying the brackish wetlands along the coastal strip, with sometimes hundreds of magpie geese

Magpie geese on a brackish wetland.

Flocks of magpie geese.

Also, there was one very large flock of brolgas of hundreds of birds, on one of these brackish wetlands.


The few lagoons were scattered across the developed areas of the floodplain of the Herbert River. They mainly had egrets, black swans, magpie geese and a few black duck. But seldom numbering more than 20 to 30 of a species on any particular wetland.

Herbert River.

Sugar cane - widespread across the floodplain.

Surveying one of the small lagoons within the developed sugar cane areas on the floodplain.

Moving along this coastal fringe, we flew up the Hinchinbrook Channel.

As we surveyed north, we visited quite a few vegetated wetlands within rainforest areas, which either had water hidden under the trees or were dry.  

Surveying one of the more brackish wetlands here along the coastal fringe

We reached Cairns after lunch and refuelled, before heading back to Prosperpine – a lot faster in a straight line for this trip, compared to the surveying the day before.

Flying over Abbot Point Coal Port and Cayley Valley wetlands on the way back to Proserpine.

By Richard Kingsford