Iron Range Trip

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Subject: Iron Range Trip
From: "Purcell's" <>
Date: Mon, 1 Jan 2001 20:30:57 +1100
These are some notes from my Iron Range trip completed just prior to Christmas, for those who may be interested.
I once heard that if you could live through one summer on Cape York, you were regarded as a local. The heat and humidity makes life uncomfortable. The pyrotechnic thunderstorms sweep through and dump huge quantities of water in a short period. But summer is also the time when exotic New Guinea birds arrive in Iron Range, to swell the already impressive species list.
All this I was reminded of on day 4 of our Iron Range Tour with Klaus and Kirrama Wildlife Tours. It only took 5 seconds to get thoroughly soaked when caught by a storm when dashing for our accomodation. Standing on the balcony with fellow participants Bill and Anne, Ted, Stuart and Kathryn, drenched to the skin, we had reason to celebrate a superb day. Not even the tropical storm and the huge warm wet raindrops could change that.
On this day we saw some amazing birds. (We had also on the previous days). We had worked long and hard to get a series of views of a Northern Scrub Robin. We briefly sighted Red Cheeked Parrots, which had landed obligingly in a nearby eucalypt, then proved to be largely invisible in the foliage. We marvelled at a Red Necked Crake which crossed our path in the rainforest. We were watched by a gloriously coloured female Eclectus Parrot from her nest hole high in a tree. And we had excellent views of both Red Bellied and Noisy Pittas, a Yellow Billed Kingfisher, and Green Backed Honeyeaters. This made for a really good morning, capped off when a male Cassowary and chick ran across the road ahead of our vehicle.
Kirrama's tour was excellent, with good accomodation in an airy house above Portland Roads, fantastic meals, and enthusiastic guiding. Klaus has strong 'bush sense', with superb long distance bird recognition and a very good ear for calls. His knowledge of fauna and flora (beyond birds) meant that he could put a name to all the frogs, butterflies etc which we asked about.
Highlights of the trip (in addition to the Cassowary) were many; Climbing through the damp still jungle at night, looking for and finding the Marbled Frogmouth; Seeing the Spotted Whistle Ducks in the melaleuca swamp behind Chili Beach; the sighting of three monarchs in one tree (Black Winged, Spectacled, and Frilled); Saving a fledgling White Breasted Woodswallow which for some reason was swimming (not very well) in the ocean; Seeing 4 Mangrove Robins in one place, after missing out during an earlier mangrove walk; etc
Having read about Queensland rainforest experiences with ticks and leeches, I found the Iron Range forests to be relatively "user friendly". There were no ticks and leeches. Mossies were ever present however (as were March Flies in the savannah country). Further, the forest was relatively open, permitting access to observe some of the more retiring birds when we heard their calls.
In the end we had seen all the target birds, with the possible exception of the Oriental Cuckoo and Rufous Owl. One participant decided to add the Papuan Harrier to his target list. Not even Klaus could conjure up that one! We returned to Cairns with some fantastic memories.
Our birdlist for the visit was greater than 100. For me as a southern watcher, about 50 of them were first time observations.
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