N Qld Trip report (Late) part 2

Subject: N Qld Trip report (Late) part 2
From: Frank Hemmings <>
Date: Thu, 07 Apr 2005 14:56:52 +1000
11/1-15/1 cont'd...


I visited a number of sites nearby which were recommended by Ron Stannard of Kingfisher Park. Most were within 40min drive. The only ones which were further were Macleods River and Hurricane station/ Kondaparinga Station Rd ( which I visited in my futile quest to see Black throated Finches, but they were good spots anyway), and Mt Hyppipanee National Park (The Crater). I visited the latter because I was told that my 2WD vehicle which I hired would not get me up to "the Clearing" on Mt Lewis earlier in the week given recent rain etc, but that all species found at Mt Lewis, with the exception of the Blue throated Parrot Finch, could be easily found here instead. This was the furthest site from Kingfisher Park and was about 1.5 hours drive away. The Mt Lewis Rd dried up toward the end of the week and I was able to drive along this without any problems - be warned that when this road is good it is fine, but it is apparently very bad in wet weather.

McDougall Rd Wetland:

This was a small wetland on the northern side of Mc Dougall Rd, after the Bushy Creek crossing. Although it had a number of wetland species, such as Wandering Whistling-Duck, Black Duck, Coot, Intermediate Egret and Little Black Cormorant and Australasian Grebe, it lacked the one I was really hoping for - Cotton Pygmy-Goose. The water seemed to be quite choked up with Azolla, but no more so than the lagoon at Yorkey's Knob.

A large farm dam on the southern side of this road just after turning off from the road to Mt Molloy, and easily visible form the road produced all the species found at the wetland, in addition to Magpie Goose. Chestnut-breasted Mannikins and Rainbow Bee-eaters were particularly common near the road.

Abbatoir Swamp

This is a small wetland halfway to Mt Molloy. I am told that it is not a patch on what it used to be, ever since it was turned into a reserve and the cows were excluded from grazing here which has resulted in rank grass growth and the water surface area reduction. Nervtheless it was a good intorduction to the more open-country birds. Honeyeaters abounded, with Yellow Honeyeater, Brown-backed Hoeneyater, WHITE-THROATED HONEYEATER, Brown Honeyeater. Forest Kingsfisher, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Pale-headed Rosella, Olive-backed Oriole, White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike were all obvious. Red-backed Fairy-wrens flitted through regrowth of Blady Grass, as did a covey of Brown Quail. Although there were few waterbirds, Purple Swamphen, Black Duck were present, and I saw a White-browed Crake on my second visit. A Buttonquail was calling in the thick grass beyond the boardwalk which I was assured would be Red-backed, but I never saw it.

Station Creek

This was on the Cape York Devlopment Rd (or Cooktown Hwy as Ron, but not my map, told me) about 10 min drive north from the turnoff from the Mareeba road. The place to see Banded Honeyeaters, or so I was told. Others managed to do so whilst I was there, but I popped in on several visits on my way up to the Mt Carbinbe area, and failed to see any. There is Melaleuca woodland fringing the creek, and Bloodwood/paperbark woodland further away from the creek. A good selection of drier country birds were present, most of which were seen at most other drier sites, but this was the only place at which I saw Scarlet Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush and Spotted Pardalote.

East Mary Rd (Mary Farms)

Mary Farms is about another ten minutes further on up the Hwy from Station Creek. An AUSTRALIAN BUSTARD walked through the grass in a paddock near the road edge only a couple of km from the turnoff. Apparently West Mary Rd is just as good, but I tried the first one twice and saw a Bustard each time.

Mt Carbine Dam

A very good spot, but I was here at a very hot part of the day (both visits) so birds were diverse, but low in individuals and not easy to spot. Nevertheless this produced Crested Pigeon (one of the only two individuals I saw on this trip) in addition to the numerous Peaceful Doves, Red-winged Parrot, BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA, PALE-HEADED ROSELLA, Koel, Dollarbird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Pied Butcherbird among others already seen. Raptors were quite good, and included Whistling Kite, Black Kite and great views of a Square-tailed Kite. In addition to large numbers of Coots and Wandering-whistling Ducks, several Great-crested Grebes were present, apparently quite rare in the north. Royal Spoonbills hunched up in some sedges near the waters' edge, Intermediate Egrets were around, as was a single Little Egret, and both Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants could be found. Darters were conspicuous, and on the second visit, a single Black-necked Stork lurked near the waters edge.

McLeod's River

Nice but creepy. I visited here on the way to a later afternoon visit to Hurricane Station Rd/ Kondaparinga Rd as part of my never-ending quest for Black-throated Finches. The McLeod's River crossing is from memory about 15-20min drive further from Mt Carbine dam/pub. A river winds it's way through the dry countryside, with Figs and denser vegetation along the river channel, larger melaleucas in the dry overflow areas, and all this winding through low open woodland of eucs, bloodwoods and melaleucas. A track followed up stream from the road crossing, but this was a popular camping area, and the track went through a number of people's camping sites, so I opted to follow a track which went downstream instead and ran along a high bank next to the main channel. This produced little other than pair of Pacific Bazas, some Spangled Drongos, and White-throated Honeyeaters. Although I had tried to avoid people the track led through a group's campsite and I went through only to have to return again to stares which otherwise suggested I had a second head, and then later, as I was further away again, laughter, scorn and bad bird impersonations. Huh!! And they thought I looked wierd! The scorn was mutual, but I didn't risk laughing myself, the place was a little too Deliverance for my liking.

I crossed the road and headed off on an old track into the surrounding woodland on the southern side of the creek bed. This was more productive. I had my first views of a bird which up til then had also proved elusive - SQUATTER PIGEON - a group of 6 walking along the track some 10m in front of me. A number of species were here which I saw at other woodland areas, and I heard what was probably a Common Bronzewing but couldn't see it. This area was also good for raptors, with Brown Goshawk, Whistling Kite and Black Kite in addition to the Bazas.

Hurricane Station Rd/ Kondaparinga Rd

I was given alternate names to this Rd by different people. This road leads off from the main road about another ten-fifteen minutes further on from McLeods River, and the site was some km drive from the turn off down the worst road of the entire trip. Another site recommended by several people for Black-throated Finches, but not the day I went, with a small ground tank in low open woodland with Ironbarks. This was possibly the driest, most open site I visited. Also the worst as far as flies which bite you. No amount of insect repellant worked on them, and I was bitten more times than I could remember.

As far as the birds went, no finches of any sort. A great selection of woodland birds, and the only site at which I saw Brown Treecreeper, White-throated Gerygone and Galah. With the exception of the Blue-winged Kookaburra and Pale-headed Rosella, all the birds present would have fitted in the Central Western Slopes of NSW. Also great views of a Square-tailed Kite swooping low over the trees over the road a couple of km before the site

More sites visited 11/1-15/1 in part 3...

Frank Hemmings
John T. Waterhouse Herbarium
School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences
University of New South Wales

Tel +61 2 9385 3274
Fax +61 2 9385 1558

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