A Snail's Eye View will be a little quieter than usual for the next few days. I'm clearing my desk at work and preparing for my trip. With less than a week to go before I head north, I thought I'd better start organising accommodation. Because, unadventurously enough, I don't fancy camping at the side of the road.
I have to be in Cairns by Monday 28th April, so the drive up the Newell Highway will be the usual miss-all-the-good-bits run … but them's the breaks. After a week in Cairns talking to ecologists, I'll be free to see the sights. Unfortunately, the migratory waders will have probably already nicked off on their journey north so I'll been scanning Cairns Esplanade for stragglers and residents. Maybe also visiting the Flecker Botanical Gardens and Centenary Lakes to check out the common locals. Birds, that is, in case you're wondering. Birds Australia North Queensland (BANQ) have PDF brochures on birding in Cairns and those foreshore migrants that I'll be missing.
From Cairns I'll be travelling to Malanda on the Atherton Tablelands. I usually stay at Chambers Rainforest Lodge, which is a short walk from Lake Eacham National Park. One of the great joys of staying there is an early morning stroll around the lake before the hordes* get there. By the time I get back to the lodge, the Lewin's and Macleay's honeyeaters and Victoria's riflebirds — slugabeds that they are — will have stirred themselves sufficiently to perch on the verandah rail and eye off my breakfast. I know from experience that you can't trust them. Then a mid-morning walk around nearby Lake Barrine, before or after a plate of prize-winning scones from the Tea House, and back to the lodge for more leisurely bird-watching.
BANQ have also published a list of Lake Eacham birds (PDF)
After that, I thought I'd try out Kingfisher Park at Julatten. This place is well-known among birding circles for the diversity of species on the property and in its immediate vicinity. I've never visited the place before. (Come to think of it, I haven't even been to Julatten. What did I do when I lived in North Queensland?) They might already be booked out. If so, I'll stay at Mossman and bird at the Gorge. It's all good.
Another highlight — Undara Lava Tubes. I haven't been there for about 20 years, when I worked on vine thicket snails. (Vine thickets are low-growing, seasonally dry rainforests.) (I'll get pictures. It'll all become clear.) Undara has at least one endemic camaenid, a rather splendid little thing with a sculptured shell. It also has dry country birds by the dozen. And geology. Lots and lots of geology.
Then on to Dingo Beach and Shute Harbour in the Whitsunday region. Dingo Beach — another place I haven't visited in a couple of decades — has fringing reef, which is packed with brightly-coloured soft corals. At least, it did, twenty years ago.
After that, a stay at Broken River in Eungella township. The rainforests here are depauperate compared with those to the north but they have a small number of interesting endemic vertebrates and a rather larger number of endemic invertebrates, including — of course — snails.
And then sigh back home again.
* On occasions I've encountered as many as six people on the track.