N Qld Trip Report (Late) part 4

Subject: N Qld Trip Report (Late) part 4
From: Frank Hemmings <>
Date: Thu, 07 Apr 2005 15:09:33 +1000
11/1-15/1 cont'd...

Mt Lewis

A fantastic spot. Depending upon who you talk to the road up there is either treacherous or fine for a 2WD vehicle. Suffice it to say that it is no doubt terrible when wet, but it did prove alright when it had dried up - as long as you take the woo-boys (drainage hump/ditches) carefully. Since I wasn't certain of being able to go all the way up to "the Clearing", 12.5km form Kingfisher Park, I did a reccy trip part of the way (11/1) Ron had told me that Blue-faced Parrot Finches had been seen at a small clearing at about 2.5km up near a sign, but that if you saw Red-browed Finches, then stop and wait because if Blue-faced Parrot Finches were nearby, they would eventually join the Red-browed Finches. He also suggested stopping on the road near where it joined Bushy Creek and to look in the grass near here. I stopped at this spot first. On the creek area itself, I saw a pair of PIED MONARCHS, a pair of Eastern Whipbirds and a group of Brown Gerygones, but no finches in the grass of any sort.

I drove further to the 2.5km site and parked the car. The road had seemed not too bad up til then. I failed to see any finches again, and I walked up the road for a km or so. This produced great views of both Wompoo Fruit Doves and SUPERB FRUIT-DOVES, in addition to a few others such as Rufous Fantail and Grey Fantail.

On 14/1 I ventured all the way to the Clearing, the site famed for the Parrot finch. This was a great area, and I eventually saw almost all the birds which I had seen at Mt Hypipanee, in addition to most others expected. Getting out of the car I was greeted first by Grey-headed Robins on the road edge. A few Pale Yellow Robins were active through the shrub layer, and a Rufous Fantail was hawking after insects. MOUNTAIN THORNBILLS were particularly common in some small Acacia sp. near some large grass clearings, and, particularly surprising for one who is used to seeing them in coastal heath, White-cheeked Honeyeaters were flying through here also. I investigated these and patiently watched the Red-browed finches, but they didn't seem to want to settle and feed, being much more interested in collecting nesting material instead. I gave up for the time being on the finches and walked for some time down the trail which led away from the clearing.

Atherton Scrub-wrens were evident, and I later came across a group of three Yellow-throated Scrub-wrens together with two Atherton Scrub-wrens and a single FERNWREN. Bowers Shrike-thrush was found here, as were Spotted Catbird, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebill and Bridled Honeyeater, and eventually, a TOOTH-BILLED BOWERBIRD(CATBIRD). I had started to work my way into the forest from the track, following directions of Ron's towards a Golden Bowerbird's bower, but as time was pressing (as always) and I wanted to maximise my time to see the Parrot-Finches, I abandoned this part way through and headed back to the track just in time to see a pair of CHOWCHILLAS work there way through the leaf litter in front of me.

Upon returning to the road, I started to look for Red-browed Finches which were at least feeding by now. After standing stock still in the middle of the road for about ten minutes, a bird flew into a tree nearby. I moved my bins to look for it, thinking as I did so that I would possibly miss my Parrot-finches joining the others. Much to my surprise, sitting on a nicely exposed twig in the canopy of a low tree was a beautiful male BLUE-FACED PARROT-FINCH. He joined the Red-browed Finches feeding on the seeding grass and I was able to get some very good views, although I only saw the one bird. He flew into the canopy a couple of times, and clearly took some time to settle back into feeding in the low grass. The call was very distinctive, and not like anything I had expected. After leaving this grass clearing and heading back up the road, I saw either the same bird, or another, being chased through the acacias by a pair of White-cheeked Honeyeaters, and I had picked this bird out initially on the distinctive call. This pretty much wrapped up Mt Lewis for me, although I have to say that I saw my only Grey Whistler of the trip whilst waiting for the finches. By the way, some fascinating plants up here also, including the distinctive palm Oraniopsis appendiculata, and I also saw a Musky Rat Kangaroo here too.

Mowbray State Forest

A site in the Julatten area which held a number of good rainforest species, of which almost all I had seen at Kingfisher Park or nearby. Ron recommended this site for Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo. I had originally not been that hopeful, but I was told that a very high proportion (99%) of people who had visited there from Kingfisher Park had seen it, so I must have been unlucky. In fairness I may have heard it. I did hear a call on two occasions which sounded like Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and I gather that the two species have very similar calls. I waited patiently for this bird to appear but it didn't, so maybe it was a Chetsnut-breasted Cuckoo, and maybe it wasn't

General Roadside Sightings

I saw a number of birds only from roadside sightings. These included Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (twice, one group of two birds flying overhead near Mareeba, and one group of 4 passing over pasture and rainforest near the Mowbray State Forest), Wedge-tailed Eagle (1, over pasture and rainforest near Mt Lewis Rd at Julatten), a small flock of Topknot pigeons (flying high over road to Mt Hypipanee), Red-necked Crake (finally, on drive back from dinner at Mt Molloy on my last night, crossing the road, halfway back to Kingfisher Park),Peregrine Falcon (Captain Cook Hwy north of Wangetti Beach), Brahminy Kite (flying over Captain Cook Hwy about 10km south of Mossman), Grey Goshawk (Flying over canefields about 2km north of Mossman). Most unusual was the only Feral Pigeon, a single bird landing in a recently ploughed roadside paddock between Mareeba and Atherton.

16/1 - Julatten-Cairns

I left Kingfisher Park early in the morning and intended on visiting a number of sites. The rain which dropped occasionally held off for most for the morning.

A visit to the lagoon at Yorkey's Knob produced the same birds as before, but with Crimson Finch also present, and the addition of Pacific Golden Plover to the trip list. A visit to Smithfield Sewerage Treatment Plant which had a number of Hardheads, Wandering Whistling Ducks, Wood Ducks, Black Ducks and Little Black Cormorants, but neither place had any Cotton Pygmy-geese or Yellow Wagtails.

A return to Centennial Lakes had me more wary of crocodiles this time (ie at least I kept an eye for them lounging on the lawn). Still no Cotton Pygmy-goose. I did surprise myself by getting good views of a Little Kingfisher feeding near the edge of one of the creeks leading into the freshwater lake. Also saw Large-billed Gerygone, Orange-footed Scrub-fowl and Brush Turkey here this time. Heard a Gould's Bronze Cuckoo, based upon the call Peter had pointed out and imitated on the Mossman River trip, but failed to see it.

The mangrove boardwalk near the airport yielded Varied Honeyeater in addition to species previously seen, but no Mangrove Robin unfortunately. I then headed off to the Esplanade.

Although I had initially planned on having lunch first, I started at the top end of the Esplanade looking for Mangrove Robin in the mangroves - again no luck. I headed off down the path, and after starting to see quite a few birds, I decided to have a good look on the way and have lunch at the end, rather than having lunch first as originally planned. Just as well. The tide was great, with many waders being forced up onto the last areas of mud to roost. Most of the birds were concentrated in the lower esplanade, where the boardwalk was. I managed to see Greater Sand-plover, Lesser Sand-plover, Red-capped Plover, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Great Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Eastern Curlew Whimbrel, BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed tattler, Common Greenshank, Pied Oystercatcher. Great egret, Little Egret and Eastern Reef Egret (dark) were all present, as were Little Tern, Black naped Tern and Caspian Tern.

After having a nice lunch outside watching a storm roll in, I was stuck with walking back to my car at the far end in the rain with no umbrella or jacket (the one time I took a chance). I was saturated by the end, but happy because if I had waited to bird the Esplanade til after lunch, it would have been unsuccessful due to rain and the tide being too high - most areas where the waders had been were under water. I dragged my sorry soaking carcass into the car after a very long & very wet walk, managed to get changed into dry clothes in the small car (not easy) returned the car and caught the plane home.

Great Trip!

List of species to follow in parts 5 & 6



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

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