Trip Report Cairns-Cooktown Part 2

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Subject: Trip Report Cairns-Cooktown Part 2
From: "chris chafer" <>
Date: Sun, 2 May 2004 13:29:11 +1000
Cairns – Cooktown – Julatten  20-30 April 2004,  Part 2.

Day seven began with a walk around the Dubuji boardwalk at Cape Tribulation,
only a few hundred metres along the beach from the camp ground. Excellent
habitat diversity along this walk and we added Bridled Honeyeater, Pied
Monarch, Shinning Flycatcher, Little Kingfisher, Fairy Gerygone and superb
views of Victoria’s Riflebird. We left the bitumen north of Cape Tribulation
and entered the 4WD section of the Bloomfield track, where the recent rains
made sure all the creek crossings had at least knee-deep water-crossings.
Soon after we began this section of road, it started to pour and it rained
all the way to the Bloomfield River. Birding was curtailed as the track
became a real 4WD adventure and the rising creeks and steep slippery hills
made for some adrenalin-charged crossings, especially the Bloomfield River,
with the back of the landcrusier being unnervingly pushed sideways as we
clawed across the causeway. The lush lowland rainforest is fantastic and
despite the rain the track surface was in excellent condition, even so we
did the 40km track in low range. A short side-journey to the Bloomfield
falls only confirmed the volume of water passing downstream – a
spectacularly powerful waterfall that must be seen to be appreciated.
Clearly the most awesome waterfall I’ve seen in 30 years of travel around
the country. We continued along the track through the beautiful Cedar Bay
National Park before hitting the welcome bitumen at Black Mountain, rain
preventing a planned side trip to Shiptons Flat. Just east of the mountain
the sun came out for about 20 minutes and we had amazing extended views of a
Red Goshawk weaving through the open woodland along the roadside. A brief
stop at a flooded Keating’s Lagoon produced Green Pygmy Goose, Cicadabird,
Northern Fantail, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Brown-backed Honeyeater and
Silver-crowned Friarbird. Once again the humid rain set in and it poured
well into the night making a damp welcome to Cooktown. Birding with an
umbrella can be frustrating.

Day eight dawned overcast but fine and we began our exploration of Cooktown
area. I had been told that Finch and Quarantine Bays were good spots for
Mangrove Golden Whistler, but several forays over our two days here in the
mangrove fringe failed to deliver. We stayed at Peninsular Caravan Park,
which has resident Bush Stone-Curlew and Black Butcherbird. We also visited
the shore of Endeavour River, Grassy Hill, Mt. Cook National Park and the
road out to Endeavour Falls, and while heavy rain falls were common during
stay we observed over forty species including Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Yellow
Oriole, Lovely Fairy-wren, Dusky Honeyeater, Mangrove Gerygone and Torresian

Day nine, and by now sick of the wet we headed slowly west towards
Lakelands. We stopped at the West Normanby River for lunch adding
Blue-winged Kookaburra, Superb Fruit-Dove, Striated Pardalote and Red-tailed
Black-Cockatoo. This is a magic campsite and we were deciding to spend the
night when once again it began to rain. Reluctantly we hit the road deciding
to head to Julatten. Along the way we had afternoon tea at Palmer River
roadhouse, adding Great Bowerbird, Apostlebird, Blue-faced Honeyeater,
Black-backed Butcherbird, Pale-headed Rosella and Red-winged Parrot. We
arrived at the famous Kingfisher Park with about an hour light left and had
a good yarn to Ron as to what was about and where to go. Unfortunately the
recent rain we experienced in Cooktown had been widespread and the camping
area was a quagmire. Even worse, the resident Red-necked Crakes had
disappeared and the Lesser Sooty Owls hadn’t been around for a week. We set
up our camper and enjoyed  a late dinner after which we did a quick
spotlight around the grounds (the only night it didn’t rain) enjoying great
views of Papuan Frogmouth. We had the park to ourselves…well us and lots of
Green, Leaf Green and Dainty Green Tree Frogs.

Day ten and a lengthy watch along the rank grassy verge across from the park
failed to produce the elusive Bush-hen. I did add Buff-banded Rail,
Chestnut-breasted Manakin, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Lemmon-bellied
Flycatcher. After breakfast it was off to Mt. Lewis. The recent rain had
made the tack up the mountain slippery in places and definitely only
suitable for 4WD. An hours birding at the bottom of the track failed to
produce the Blue-faced Parrot-Finch, but we added Pale Yellow Robin,
Black-faced Monarch and another Pied Monarch. The climb up Mt Lewis was
slow, but our Landcruiser camper handled the conditions with ease. As we
slowly approached the well-known clearing at the top of the mountain, a
group of finches took-off  and disappeared into the adjacent rainforest. We
waited 20 minutes in the vehicle but alas the finches didn’t return. I had a
quick look around before the light drizzle started to get heavier and I
decide I didn’t want to get stuck on the mountain top. We added Grey-headed
Robin, Atherton Scrubwren and Spotted Catbird. In the afternoon we went to
Abattoir Swamp which is quite a nice spot and added Wandering Whistle-Duck,
a few common waterbirds, Reed Warbler, Yellow, Bar-breasted, White-cheeked,
Black-chinned and White-gaped Honeyeaters, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and
Swamp Harrier. We headed back to Kingfisher Park to finish the day with
Wompoo Fruit-Dove, White-throated and Macleay’s Honeyeater, Emerald Dove,
Spectacled Monarch, Varied Triller, Double-eyed Fig Parrot and Grey

All too soon it was time to head back to Cairns, drop off the Bushcamper and
catch our flight back to a chilly Sydney. It had been a very wet trip to the
wet tropics, but we also had a lot of fun, plenty of 4WDing, wondered at the
floristic diversity in the rainforest, explored the coral reef and ended up
with 165 species for the ten days.

Cheers and thanks to all those who responded to my RFI on Mangrove Golden
Whistler, I’m sure I’ll catch up with it one day.

Chris Chafer
Wollongong NSW

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