Lily Engles, MD
Past-President, Texas Ornithological Society
James Reveley, DDS
James and I have re-oriented to
our regular lives and it became hectic in a hurry. I wish we could be
holidaying in Australia and birding. I was reviewing the field guide and
reminiscing about the trip. We marked our field guide with the birds we saw and
the first sighting, 1/2 of them have your name next to them. From our trip up
to the the Daintree, we have Southern Cassowary on our list. You worked hard to
find us that bird, and succeeded. The Cassowaries weren’t cooperating in going
to usual spots at predictable times, but thanks to your keen eyes, and arduous
research, we found that female on the side of the road. One of Australia’s
rarest bird. She was stunning and posed cooperatively.
Without you by our side we would have been hopeless to be able to identify the
Brown Falcon, and would never have found the Bush Stone Curlew or the Papuan
Frogmouth in Port Douglas. We had difficulty making out the Frogmouth from the
start, as it was perfectly camouflaged on the branch. The Chestnut-breasted
Cuckoo, one of the rarest birds in Australia, would have left us paging through
the book as it flew away, but fortunately your familiarity with the bird allowed
you to ID it immediately for us. The Kingfishers on the Daintree River Cruise,
Little and Azure, were stunning. I remember well how easily you spotted the
Blue Winged Kookaburras on the telephone pole as we returned to Port Douglas
after being out all day on the first of our days with you, which was your full
day birding tour. That first day out I was constantly amazed at how you were
able to ID every call and chip note and find and show us the birds that matched
them. No easy task in heavily foliaged areas. We have seven honeyeaters that
you helped us find, as well as the Whistlers, Monarchs and the Lovely Fairy
wren. The Great Bowerbird’s bower and the bird itself were spectacular. I love
showing people my photos of that bower at the elementary school with all the
offerings of love - snail shells and the red and green glass. Remarkably, I
remember how we would encounter other birders that day who were puzzling over
their field guides at some birds at the wet areas we stopped at. They were
perplexed until we showed up and you named the birds so we (and they) could go
directly to the bird and page in the field guide. Amazingly, you were
unfailingly correct. I loved the double barred finches we found at the water
tank up in the dry country. We had almost one hundred bird species spotted that
Your flexibility and
willingness to accommodate birder requests, such as Fiona’s wish to see the
Brown Cuckoo-Dove, resulted in our finding some of our great birds, the Chestnut
breasted Cuckoo and the Yellow breasted Boatbill. Extraordinarily, we found
another Boatbill on our second day with you, when we went to Mossman Gorge, at
my request, then up to the Daintree to search for the Cassowary, which I knew
might easily elude us, but it didn’t, and the River Cruise. Lastly, you were
able to re-arrange your schedule so that you could take us to Cairns our last
day in the area, so that it coincided with viewing the waders of the Esplanade
at high tide, and ultimately dropping us at the airport to make our flight to
Sydney. My favorites of the Esplanade were the Royal Spoonbills, Grey tailed
Tattler, and the Black fronted Dotterel. We truly enjoyed the Botanical
Gardens in Cairns, and especially seeing the two Whistling ducks of Australia,
the Plumed and the Wandering.
When we think of our trip to Australia in 2004, we have fond memories of you.
In you, we found an excellent birding guide, a knowledgeable historian and
interpreter of local culture, and a friend. Trust that when we have birder
friends planning to tour Australia, we will give them your name and highest
recommendations. I have sad news, the Lamingtons you gifted me with never made
it to my friends at work. I ate them all and they were good. Our trips with you
were one of the best experiences we have ever enjoyed in all our years of
birding. We hope to see you again.
Sybil and Steve Kohl
Brush Prairie, WA, USA
In April 2002, we went on a long-planned
and much anticipated nature adventure to the eastern part of Australia. In addition to scuba diving the
Great Barrier Reef and taking rainforest tours in Cape Tribulation, we had
the most wonderful fortune to hook up with Del Richards of Fine Feather
Tours for 1˝ days of birding in the areas around Mossman and the Daintree River. What a treat as the two of us
traveled with Del through multiple ecological niches, from the coast to
lowland rainforest to arid savannah, in his comfortable, air conditioned
van. He always had us emerge at carefully chosen sites to view several
specific species at each stop! His
calm guidance and patience always resulted in both of us viewing the new
bird. We were excited to see
the colorful and more common birds such as the sulfur crested cockatoo, the
rainbow bee-eater, the fig parrot and the sacred and azure kingfishers. Del was more pleased with the rarer
sightings of the yellow wagtail, the chestnut breasted cuckoo, the red
tailed black cockatoo and the blue winged kookaburra. We were all delighted with the
Papuan frogmouths hidden in their daytime tree sanctuaries, not to mention
the little king fisher, which really does look like a flying golf ball?! We saw 132 birds in the 1˝
days, in the presence of a gracious gentleman who shares his abundant
knowledge and love of nature with great ease.
We highly recommend this experience, if one is fortunate enough to
get to that part of the world and one should certainly try to do so!
- USA ...
Del Richards was our guide for two days of birding around Cairns in July
2001. He was excellent - very knowledgeable about where to find the birds
and very easy to bird with.
We have birded fairly extensively in Australia, the USA, and Canada, and
to a lesser extent in Europe and Costa Rica. Del is one of the best guides
that we have met. He is the only one for whom we have volunteered to write
an unsolicited testimonial. He is modest and low-key, but he knows where the
birds are, and he is careful. Our time with him was delightful, and we will
not hesitate to bird with him again the next time we visit Cairns. We
recommend him very highly.
- UK ...
You asked me at the end of the trip about my feelings about the day and whether
the experience had lived up to my expectations. The day in fact exceeded them
and I can truthfully say that I had a brilliant time.
I did not expect to see as many of my target species (Fig-Parrot, Frogmouth,
Paradise-Kingfisher, Great Bowerbird, Bush Thick-Knee etc.) and certainly did
not expect to get such amazing views of them. The imagines of the
fig-parrots will always remain one of my best birding memories. The
sightings of Black Swan, Pink-eared Duck and the rest helped round off the day.
PAUL R. EHRLICH
BING PROFESSOR OF POPULATION STUDIES DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGICAL
STANFORD UNIVERSITY. STANFORD. CALIFORNIA
This is just a note to thank you for the sensational guiding you did for our bird expedition just completed. As you know, I've seen the majority of Australian birds, and am thinking of writing an Australian version of my BIRDER'S HANDBOOK, so I was surprised and thrilled by seeing many more species in the field than I had anticipated. I had thought that perhaps I would get 5 "lifers," in fact I got two dozen. Particular highlights were the Papuan Frogmouth, the Lovely Wren, and, of course, the Golden Bowerbird. Seeing the latter so well, watching its flight behavior, and hearing its "machine gun" call were all unexpected bonuses. It was also great to reacquaint myself with species I had only seen once before - sometimes only with glimpses. For instance, it was wonderful to spend so much time with Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Yellow-eyed cuckoo-shrikes.
But more than that, I was impressed by your deep knowledge of the biology of the northern Queensland avifauna and its habitats, and by your thoughtful concern for their conservation. I learned a lot from you, and my biologist colleagues were equally impressed. All in all, a triumphant field trip. Many, many thanks.
US birders may email these folk to hear of their experiences on our tours - Linda and Dave Felkar, Janet and Terry Hough, and Stephen H Schneider.
UK birders may feel free to contact Dominic Johnson or Colin Humphrey, who have also kindly offered to relay their experiences with us.