Cairns trip report - 28-30 October

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Cairns trip report - 28-30 October
From: John Graff <>
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2011 16:18:05 +0800
Hi everyone,
Steve Burns, Alan Collins, Mark Newman and I have just returned from a lighting 
3 day trip to the Cairns area, organised by Mark. We flew out from Perth on 
Thursday night and stayed Friday and Saturday nights at Kingfisher Park, before 
returning to Perth late Sunday afternoon. Below is a brief report from the trip 
- as always, any comments are welcome. I don't think we had too many unusual 
sightings, although a Great-billed Heron showing well at Centenary Lakes may be 
a little unusual, and a local we met at the Esplanade suggested the Grey Plover 
there was also relatively uncommon. Below is a relatively long report on the 
Friday 28th
We arrived at about 4.15am and picked up our first birds in the airport 
carpark, including White-breasted Woodswallow. We then headed for the 
Esplanade, where we saw Pied Imperial Pigeon, Figbird, Metallic Starling, and 
House Sparrow, plus good numbers of waders on the mudflats (these were still a 
fair way out though, so we planned to return later). We then headed for 
Centenary Lakes. Our first (and probably best) sighting was a Great-billed 
Heron on the eastern most lake, initially on the grassy shore, then on some 
mangrove roots in the lake - I'm not sure how regularly these are seen here, 
but they can be very tricky to get onto so to get one so easily was great! We 
added a few more species like Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Yellow Oriole, 
Olive-backed Sunbird, Brown-backed and Dusky Honeyeaters, Australian Swiftlet, 
and more imperial pigeons overhead. We also saw a Black Bittern which flew over 
us near the walking bridge over the main saltwater creek, plus Striated Heron 
and Bu
 ff-banded Rail along the creek. On the freshwater lagoon, we added Magpie 
Goose, Green Pygmy-Goose, Eastern Great & Intermediate Egret, plus two Pacific 
Baze overhead, Helmeted Friarbird and Scaly-breasted Lorikeet.
After a quick stop for a Macca's breakfast, we tried the boardwalks along the 
road to the airport for some mangrove species. The mosquitoes were seriously 
fierce, but we did pick up some nice birds including Large-billed Gerygone, 
Collared Kingfisher, Shining Flycatcher, Varied Honeyeater, and Mangrove Robin. 
We returned to the Esplanade but found that my calculations were a little off 
and the tide was too high for any waders. We did pick up a Common Tern perched 
on a buoy offshore, plus more Australian Swiftlets and Welcome Swallows. This 
meant we had some spare time before we needed to head for Julatten and Steve 
suggested that we drive up to Copperlode Dam. This proved to be a good 
suggestion, as whilst the dam area itself was fairly quiet, we picked up a good 
variety of birds at various stops along the road up there. These included 
Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Spectacled Monarch, Fairy 
Gerygone, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Little Shrike-thrush, and excelle
 nt views of Pacific Baza.
>From here, we headed for Julatten via Mareeba (where we stopped for supplies). 
>We stopped at a roadside wetland just north of Mareeba which had Black-necked 
>Stork, Magpie Goose, Plumed Whistling Duck, Pied, White-necked & White-faced 
>Heron, Intermediate & Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, and a Pheasant Coucal. A few 
>other brief roadside stops between here and Julatten yielded some more 
>species, including Comb-crested Jacana, Little Friarbird, Yellow Honeyeater, 
>Black Swan, and plenty of Eastern Cattle Egret. Having arrived at Kingfisher 
>Park, we immediately saw Red-browed Finch and Bar-shouldered Dove on the 
>feeders. We spent the rest of the afternoon birding the grounds, picking up a 
>good variety of species including Little Shrike-thrush, Macleay's & Graceful 
>Honeyeater, Metallic Starling, Pale Yellow Robin, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, 
>Bassian Thrush, Spotted Catbird, Pied, Spectacled & Black-faced Monarchs, 
>Grey-headed Robin, Superb Fruit-dove (only seen by a couple of us after bein
 g spotted by another guest), Emerald Dove, and Buff-breasted Paradise 
Kingfisher (eventually seen by 3 of us), plus a Platypus in Bushy Creek. We 
also found the rufous Tawny Frogmouth roosting just outside our room, and 
thanks to one of the other guests, the Papuan Frogmouth roosting in the 
orchard. After dinner, we headed out for a night drive to try and pick up some 
owls - unfortunately, we soon found an Eastern Barn Owl in the middle of the 
road with a badly broken wing. We were able to catch it and take it back to 
KFP, but sadly nothing much could be done and it died overnight.
Saturday 29th
We were up at and birding around the grounds at KFP at sunrise for about an 
hour before heading to Mt Lewis. We mostly saw similar things to the previous 
afternoon, although a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew overhead, and we had decent 
views of female Yellow-breasted Boatbill. We left for Mt Lewis at around 
6:30am. An Azure Kingfisher flashed under the bridge at the Nissen Creek 
crossing, and we saw Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Brown Gerygone and a few others at 
the Bushy Creek crossing. We then passed a couple of people filming something 
in the forest, which turned out to be a male Victoria's Riflebird on its 
display perch. We stayed back to avoid disturbing the bird for the people 
filming, but still had magnificent views. Further stops along the road yielded 
Lewin's Honeyeater, Mountain Thornbill, Varied Triller, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, 
Golden Whistler, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, and brief views of a Wompoo Fruit-dove. 
We reached the clearing at Mt Lewis, and headed up the trail to the left. 
 We soon had good views of Grey-headed Robin and Bower's Shrike-thrush, and 
Bridled Honeyeater not long afterwards. Further along the track, we added 
Chowchilla and Yellow-throated Scrubwren. Unfortunately, we only heard 
Tooth-billed Bowerbird and Fernwren (except for very brief view of a possible), 
and had no sign of Golden Bowerbird or Atherton Scrubwren, plus we were too 
early for the Blue-faced Parrot Finch :(.
Having returned from Mt Lewis, we took a brief lunch break at KFP, although we 
still picked up excellent views of a Grey Goshawk from our table outside the 
room! We were considering trying for the Spotted Whistling Ducks, but first 
checked Abbatoir Swamp, which produced a reasonable selection of species 
including Blue-winged Kookaburra, Red-backed Fairy-wren, plenty of Brown-backed 
Honeyeater and a few Yellow Honeyeater. On the way, we also picked up three 
Bush Stone-curlews standing in an orchard by the road. We then checked 
directions for the ducks, but decided against it as we were told it was a 40min 
drive each way and the birds hadn't been reported for a while. Instead, we 
headed to Station Creek for a quick check, and picked up Lemon-bellied 
Flycatcher, Scarlet Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, and Pale-headed Rosella. A 
quick stop at Luster Creek then yielded another brief flypasss by an Azure 
We returned to KFP to bird the grounds for the rest of the afternoon to try to 
pick up some of the local birds we were still missing. We didn't have much 
success though, as the species we were seeking generally proved elusive. We did 
see our first Australian Brush Turkey of the trip though, plus many of the same 
species we'd seen that morning and the previous evening. We then joined Keith 
and Lindsay Fisher for a guided night walk around the grounds. An Eastern Barn 
Owl was seen well in Geraghty Park, and a Papuan Frogmouth and Bush 
Stone-curlews were heard calling, but the birds were fairly quiet overall. We 
did see a good variety of mammals though, including Long-nosed & Northern Brown 
Bandicoots, Spectactled Flying-fox, and Giant White-tailed Rat. The local 
possums proved elusive though unfortunately.
Sunday 30th
We were again up and birding the grounds by sunrise as we each tried to pick up 
a few of the species we were each missing. Steve picked up a Noisy Pitta, but 
he was the only one of us to have already seen them. In the end, none of us got 
any new birds, but I was lucky enough to get an excellent look at Buff-breasted 
Paradise Kingfisher. We packed up and left by 7.45am and headed back to Cairns 
with a few stops on the way. A few quick stops yielded Great Bowerbird, 
Wandering Whistling Duck, and (Eastern) Osprey. The first major stop was Big 
Mitchell Creek for White-browed Robin, but we dipped. A Brush Cuckoo was seen, 
along with plenty of Yellow Honeyeaters, plus Steve found a group of 
Pale-headed Rosellas. We then dropped into Mareeba Wetlands. Unfortunately, the 
birds were fairly quiet in the warm weather, but we did pick up some new 
species for the trip including Caspian and Whiskered Tern, Brolga and Royal 
Spoonbill on the lagoons, plus Emu, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Brown Tr
 eecreeper (northern QLD race), Leaden Flycatcher, Varied Sitella and 
Double-barred Finch in the surrounding bush. The road in also produced some 
nice birds including a pair of Australian Bustard, a small flock of Glossy 
Ibis, Brown Goshawk, Eastern Koel, and some of the local Helmeted Guineafowl 
population (debatably tickable?)
Back in Cairns, we briefly checked the water level at the Esplanade, but it was 
still high so we moved onto Centenary Lakes again (via KFC!). It was much 
quieter being later in the day, but we did see Black Butcherbird, Radjah 
Shelduck, and Australian Brush-turkey, plus Little Bronze-cuckoo was seen by 
Steve and Mark. We went back to the Esplanade and finally got onto some close 
waders on the first areas of exposed mud at the north end. The selection 
included Whimbrel, Bar-tailed & Black-tailed Godwits, Red & Great Knot, 
Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Greenshank, Sharp-tailed, Curlew & Terek Sandpiper, 
Red-necked Stint, and a single Grey Plover, still with showing remnants of 
breeding plumage. We also saw Little & Eastern Reef Egret, Little & Gull-billed 
Terns, and a Collared Kingfisher. We also saw a distressed Terek Sandpiper that 
had one leg caught on fishing wire on the edge of the mangroves. Fortunately, 
Mark was able to remove the fishing line and the bird flew off strongl
 y, although its leg appeared damaged and it hobbled around when it landed - 
hopefully it'll do OK. By then, it was time to head for the airport and our 
flight back to Perth. 
All up between us, we recorded around 200 species (not sure of the exact number 
at present), a decent return given we were relatively unfamiliar with the area 
and the birds. Thanks go to Keith & Lindsay at KFP, and all the other birders 
we met around the place for sharing info on where we might pick up certain 

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