FL33 Cassowaries and Conferences in Cairns

Visiting Cairns

The weather in Cairns continued to be rainy and windy well into June, keeping me grounded in Townsville. With school holidays fast approaching, I decided to drive up to Cairns to meet my school visit commitments before the end of the month then drive back down to Townsville to fly up later on.

I visited four school while in Cairns – St Gerard Majella State School, Trinity Anglican School, Edge Hill State School and Machans Beach State School.

Edge Hill State School
Trinity Anglican School
Red-necked Stint drawing
St Gerard Majella School

The day after visiting Machans Beach, I received the loveliest text message from one of the parents from the school (see photo below). Her son Darcy attended the STEM incursion and was really inspired by the visit. I was really touched because I don’t often hear about the responses of students directly. It’s moments like these that really make what I’m doing feel worthwhile!

Machans Beach State School
Message from Darcy's mum
Darcy drawing shorebirds

I was also invited to be the keynote speaker at the Smart Green Economy Conference, which was held at the Cairns Colonial Club Resort. The conference was run over three days and focused on empowering young people aged 13-18 years old to be a part of envirnomental change.

The conference kicked off with an evening at the Cairns Aquarium and was followed by two days of talks and workshops with some of Queensland’s top scientists and business people with sustainable business practices. The talks covered everything from plastics cleanup, reef restoration, building your own hydrogen car and using drones as a way to reduce our carbon footprint for farming. One of the highlights of the conference was a demonstration of the drones used to spray crops.

It was an amazing conference! I felt priviledged to be invited to speak and know I would have loved something like this for myself when I was in high school. Congrats to Janine and Irene for creating and organising such a wonderful initiative! 👏👏👏

At the Smart Green Economy Conference
Moray Eel at Cairns Aquarium
Me and Janine
Dronoe display at the Smart Green Economy Conference, Cairns

Of course my visit to Cairns wouldn’t be complete without a few birding outings! I’d been looking forward to birding in Cairns for some time as there are many endemic species only found in the wet tropics of North Queensland and it didn’t disappoint!

Grant and I caught up with the Cairns Birders who took us to a local turf farm, which didn’t look like much but is one of the best sites for seeing shorebirds in town where we got to see Australian Pratincole. We also visited the Cairns Botanic Gardens, Centenary Lakes, Lake Eacham, the Curtain and Catherdral Figs, Cairns Esplanade, Etty Bay and Mount Lewis.

While at Centenary Lakes, we just happened to bump into well known birder, Jon Coleman from the Queensland Wader Study Group! Jon was in town to do some bird banding up at Julatten with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and invited us along to come banding with them. We spent two days up at the AWC Brooklyn site and I got to see Chowchilla, Fernwren, Pacific Emerald Dove, Golden Bowerbird, Atherton Scrubwren, Spotted Catbird and Mountain Thornbill in the hand 🐦🥰

Other highlights included a Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo nomming on an elkhorn at the Cathedral Fig Tree, snuggling Papuan Frogmouths at the Cairns Botanic Gardens (which were roosting in the exact tree Shane from Cairns Birders said they would be), Little Kingfisher, Black Butcherbird, Pied Monarch at Lake Eacham, Cassowary at Etty Bay. All my birding dreams come true! 🤩

The turf farm in Cairns
Papuan Frogmouths
Little Kingfisher
Me and Jon Coleman at Centenary Gardens
Curtain Fig
Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo
Catherdral Fig

Eventually, the weather came good at the end of the month and I was able to get through to Atherton on June 23rd. The night before the flight, we camped at Donnington Airpark and I was able to take our hosts, Erica and Christian Smith, for a fly in the trike as a way to say thank you, which they really enjoyed!

In the morning, I took off from Donnington and made my way up the coast. Cloud hindered me crossing the mountains to Atherton AGAIN and I had to land at Innisfail where I met Grant and we hung out in town for the day. By the afternoon, most of the cloud had cleared and I took off about 3.45pm.

I was met by fellow trike pilot, John Cresswell and his wife, Gayle, in their trike at the escarpment near Mount Bartle Frere – Queensland’s highest peak – and they showed me the way to Atherton. I gotta say, this was one of the most beautiful flights I’ve ever done! Flying through the Hinchinbrook Channel and past Mount Bartle Frere with its peak covered in cloud was equal parts amazing and intimidating! You can watch the video footage of this flight on my Instagram profile here.

Flying through Hinchinbrook Channel
Flying past Mount Bartle Frere
Taking Christian for a fly in the trike
Jack Cross checking over the trike
Me with John and Gayle Cresswell

We were hosted at Atherton by another trike pilot, Jack Cross, who also gave my trike a look over and made sure it was all ok 😄 Thank you so much to Jack, John and Gayle for a memorable flight to Atherton! I look forward to catching up with you all again sometime soon!

The trike and my car in the hangar at Atherton

The next stop after Atherton was Georgetown and I took off the next morning. Check out my next blog posts to read about my adventures in Georgetown here.

If you missed the livestream of Flight Leg 33 from Donnington Airpark to Innisfail, you can watch the replay on YouTube by clicking the link below.

Milly Formby
Milly Formby is a zoologist, pilot, and illustrator of the children’s book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure She is currently flying her microlight around Australia in 2022/23 to share,A Shorebird Flying Adventure with primary students.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Available Now

Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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