Trip of a Lifetime for Birders

Those in the know call them a lifer a first ever sighting of a bird species you can add to your personal life list.

Twitchers get pretty excited about these lifers, according to Allison Newton who runs the Ferryman sunset, bird watching and croc spotting cruises in the Norman River at Karumba.

She should know as she’s seen many an avid bird watcher go into raptures when they spy a great billed heron or a white-breasted whistler along the river.

“Most bird watchers are here to see our unique northern mangrove species, which includes the red-headed honey eater, mangrove grey fantail and mangrove golden whistlers,” she says.

“The great billed heron is the hardest to spot because it is reclusive, and when it steps into the mangroves it disappears completely.

“We are fortunate to have a breeding pair between the Bynoe River and here.

“He will make her seven or eight nest sites and she chooses her favourite. It’s hilarious as she will turn her back and ignore what he’s doing.

“It depends where they nest as to whether we see them and we were lucky enough to have a nest close to town just one year out of the 11 years I here been here.”

The other close encounter Allison remembers quite vividly is with the largest saltwater crocodile she has ever seen while cruising the Norman River.

“We were in our 22 foot boat (6.7m) fairly close to the bank and a 23 foot (7m) croc came up in the muddy water between us and the bank,” she says.

“Everyone moved from one side of the boat to another. It bashed into the boat so we turned off the engine and floated away from it.”

For more information on the Karumba Cruises go to