Photographing the Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher is quite a journey. These amazing glorious birds migrate from New Guinea to our north and make their way to the tropical rain forest of the tablelands north west of Cairns.
One of the best locations to see these beauties is Kingfisher Park - a vestigial piece of rain forest located at Julatten, less than an hour and a half drive from Cairns airport. Only guests are allowed to use the property (no day visitors) and the small number of available units means the property is not overcrowded.
If you want to see Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher without staying overnight, a quiet drive up Mt Lewis road should provide opportunity to see them however you will probably only see their tails as they disappear into the forest. Buff-breasted kingfishers make the trip late November and return in March with their fledged young. Kingfisher Park is closed February and March as the wet season makes travel problematic.
Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher are only one of many species to be found here. For those who love furry little critters, the place comes alive at night with bush rats, antechinus, melomys and bandicoot. All congregate in a small area near reception and yellow light makes for easy viewing less than two metres from your chair.
During the day, Boyd’s dragon and major skinks can be seen scurrying through the leaf litter and Brush turkey and Orange-footed fowl are in abundance. Birds can be seen bathing and feeding from dawn to dusk although the couple of hours after dawn and before dusk are best.
Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher nest in termite mounds, not arboreal as with Sacred kingfisher, but small termite mounds on the ground. Whilst relatively easy to find and see at a distance, these birds are difficult to get close to. This is made all the more difficult by the large amount of crunchy leaf litter underfoot. Early morning is better as overnight dew softens the litter and this makes it a little quieter to walk on.
Photography is made more difficult by the extremely low light early morning and late evening under the rainforest canopy. You preferably need a 400mm f2.8 lens or at worst 500mm f4. I shot with the EF400mm 2.8L IS III and typically had to deal with 1/30 sec and 400 ISO. You will need a monopod or tripod for sharp images. Fortunately the bird usually sits quite still. You need to allow at least a couple of days to spend with these magnificent birds!
Hosts at Kingfisher Park are Carol and Andrew and they freely share their amazing knowledge of their property and it’s inhabitants!
I rate the experience 10/10.