Trip Report:North Qld,9-27 Oct 2005

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Subject: Trip Report:North Qld,9-27 Oct 2005
From: "Dam Lamb" <>
Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2005 22:54:27 +1000
Crossed the NT/Qld border with the intention of reaching the cool coast as soon as possible.Spent the night as  the only occupants of the Julia Creek caravan park, walked along a very degraded creekline and counted 20 species in over two hours, with Diamond Dove and Clamorous Reed-Warbler the best.The next day saw us drive all day to reach Townsville.After a brief morning-tea at the Fossil Center at Richmond we spied a single Ground Cuckoo-Shrike only 3kms from town, followed by great views of Grey Falcon a few kms on.(We had also seen the falcon around Richmond on our '98 trip).Lunch at Prarie, arvo tea at Charters Towers, and finally the cooling sea breezes of Rowes Bay, Townsville for tea.We quickly fell asleep to the whoof whoof of the resident Barking Owls.
We spent a restful week in Townsville enjoying the proximity of the sea.Made a couple of visits to a very dry Common where could only find 3 Brolga a party of Brown-backed Honeyeaters.A trip up Castle Hill revealed Yellow Honeyeater and Nutmeg Finch, as well as spectacular views of Townsville and surronds. We saw the usual waders , never in large numbers, on the foreshore.A day trip to Magnetic Island gave us Brown Booby from the ferry on both trips, whilst we saw Bush Stone Curlew and Sooty Oystercatcher at Geoffrey Beach..
Feeling refreshed, my mind turned to what new birds were possible in NQ.Next day we headed to Paluma with two targets in mind.We choose the "H" walk behind Lennox St and within the first 100 metres heard the loud and strident calls of Tooth-billed Bowerbird (tick),quickly finding the songster sitting still about a metre above the forest floor.As expected we saw Grey-headed Robin,Victoria's Riflebird, Spotted Catbird, Bridled Honeyeater on the walk, and then in the last 100 metres, a party of three Fernwren (tick)quietly appeared by the track, scratched around the floor, then disappeared.We had got our two targets within an hour.We celebrated with tea and jam at Ivy Cottage and the close-up views of riflebirds and honeyeaters.
We drove on towards Lake Paluma, stopping at Birthday Creek Falls where locals proudly showed me the resident male Golden Bowerbird and his well-used bower.Nothing much bird-wise at the lake, but a good lunch spot.After descending the range we poked about some side roads north of Rollingstone and found a farm dam beside a canefield where over 200 Chestnut-breasted Mannikin were flying in to drink.
The pull of the Atherton Tableland was too great so we headed north, stopping at Ingham for a brief exploration of the Tyto Wetlands.I was fortunate to run into local birder Tony Ashton you offered to show me around.Within 10 minutes we had stunning views of a Little Bittern in the reeds.Further on we same both Whistling-Duck,Glossy Ibis, Marsh,Curlew, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Both Forest and Sacred Kingfisher were seen, along with Dollarbird and Rainbow Bee-eater.We found nesting Willie Wagtail and Yellow Honeyeater,and I heard a Little Grassbird calling.Whilst scanning some edges I caught a glimpse through the scope of a large dark bird flopping into reeds which Tony confidently called as Black Bittern.Soon after setting-up at Atherton, we headed for Hasties Swamp where both species and numbers of birds were low compared to previous visits.We did see a dozen Sarus Crane fly-in, and there were newly-fledged Masked Lapwing being aggressively protected by their parents on the edge opposite the hide.Swamp Harrier and White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over, putting the frighteners on the ducks.We listed over 30 birds in the caravan park in 4 days including 9 honeyeaters (Noisy and Little Friarbirds , Lewin's, Yellow-faced,White-naped,White-cheeked, Banded, Scarlet, and Eastern Spinebill). Visited Mt. Hypipamee Crater and Bloomfield Swamp, nothing exceptional found at the Crater, but counted 263 crane (some Sarus, but mainly Brolga) at the swamp.
Spent a day doing the Dundalla Forest Drive on the north side of Tinaroo Dam.Saw Latham's Snipe , and at one little bay, both Green and Cotton Pygmy-goose. Also encountered the tamest Buff-banded Rail ever seen near a camping area.Were disappointed we couldn't locate the Boatbill and Pied Monarch we had found on this route in 2002. Best part of the day was being taken-out by Alan Gillanders for his famed nocturnal walk at Yungaburra. We were shown Rex, the resident male Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, as well as the Coppery and Common Brushtail Possum, Green Ringtail Possum,and a single Spectacled Flying-fox flying past.Allan is an expert on matters mammallian and his tour should not be missed.We also enjoyed seeing the Platypus in Piebald Creek next door to the Chinese museum and temple in Atherton.
 We tried for Black-throated Finch on Pickford Rd, which leads into the Mareeba Wetlands, but without success, but did see Latham's Snipe in a drain line.Down to Cairns for a couple of days, only managed a bit of birding on the Esplanade, nothing of note.Couldn't leave the north without a visit to Kingfisher Park, now managed by Keith & Lindsay Fisher. On our first night Keith took us next door to Geraghty Park where we waited expectantly for night to fall.After a 20 minute wait, a Masked Owl (tick) appeared at a hollow entrance, looking at us looking at it.It flew-off and was immediately followed by its mate.Both were very pale birds and needed careful observation to distinguish them from Barn Owl.The Masked Owl completed my set of Aussie owls and nightbirds, what a treat.The night finished with good views also of a Lesser Sooty Owl  in an adjacent tree.During the afternoon Lindsay had shown us the nesting Papuan Frogmouth as small groups of birders scoured the area for Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher seen earlier that morning, and first heard the day before.We were up bright and early next morning and after an hour got good views of the Kingfisher with its long trailing white streamer.Even better views were obtained the next morning as a bird flew across open space behind the creek at the back of the park.Kingfisher Park had again lived up to its reputation with over 60 species recorded, two ticks, and other great birds like Barred Cuckoo-Shrike, Macleay's and Graceful Honeyeater, White-rumped Swiftlet, Metallic Starling. We drove up Mt Lewis hoping for the Blue-faced Parrot Finch. Alas, no such luck, but we did get Mountain Thornbill, Topknot Pigeon, lots of Tooth-billed Bowerbirds and more Barred Cuckoo-Shrike.The rain had begun so we headed for home, only venturing out again to Abbatoir Swamp in the late afternoon where there were few waterbirds, but we did get Brown-backed Honeyeater. We tried a few back roads hoping for the Parrot Finch but dipped.
By now we were hearing the call of home, so packed-up and headed south, stoping at Bowen overnight, and then a long days drive to home.No more birding, except through the windscreen.
We had been on the road for 13 weeks, had driven 18,500 km, spent a king's ransom on petrol, but had travelled without incident.We had seen 208 species  since re-entering Queensland, with four new birds.All-up we saw 349 species on the trip (amazingly the same number we saw in three weeks in India in Feb), and I got 30 new birds, more than I had hoped for or believed possible.I had seen all of Australia's raptors on the trip, and completed the owls and nightbirds.And I had finally seen my bogey birds, the Black Bittern and Great-billed Heron.Time for a rest before the next adventure.
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