Iron Range/Cape York trip November 2012

To: <>
Subject: Iron Range/Cape York trip November 2012
From: "Alan Stuart" <>
Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2012 17:10:57 +1100

A group of 6 of us (Lorna Mee, Jim Smart, Eula McKane, Peter Struik, Toni
Marsh, Alan Stuart) are recently returned from a birding trip in Cape York
over 19-29 November. This included 5 nights camped at Cooks Hut in Iron
Range NP. The Wet had not started and the creeks and rivers were either dry
or had only small water flows, so getting around was quite easy.


Peter and Toni were already at Mareeba, with their incredibly well set up
campervan and its great off-road camping capabilities, which meant the
others of us were able to travel more lightly and share their kitchen etc.
We hired a 4WD in Cairns, stocked up and then headed north, initially to
Artemis Station where we had arranged to camp on the Tues night. This turned
into a catch-up with Grant Brosie and his 4 co-travellers, who were
returning from Iron Range and therefore able to give us lots of good tips.
The 11 of us went out that afternoon and the following morning with the
Artemis Station owner, Sue Shepherd, to look for Golden-shouldered Parrots.
It was great to talk with Sue about the many things she has learned about
these rare birds. Eventually we found a feeding party of the Parrots and
later, we had very good views of a few perching pairs. Ten people were
ticking and I felt a bit left out, but nevertheless enjoying to see those
beautiful birds once again.  We found many other good birds on Artemis while
searching for the Parrots, and they have a basic camping area set up
alongside the homestead, with toilets and hot showers. We were pleased to be
able to make donations that will help Sue and her husband with their
conservation work.


Heading north, we detoured at Musgrave Roadhouse towards Lakefield NP, where
a pair of Red Goshawks was known to have been nesting. The young were
already off the nest, and flying around, so we were pleased that we had
decided to look for them on the way north instead of waiting for when we
were on our way back. We had fantastic views through a 'scope of a perched


We arrived at Cooks Hut late on Wednesday afternoon, having already seen a
group of 3 Eclectus Parrots as we drove in. The rest of the Iron Range
goodies had to wait until the next day (or later, in some cases). Most of
our birding was done within walking distance of the Cooks Hut campsite, plus
expeditions to the Chilli Beach, Portland Roads and Lockhart River areas.
The Eclectus Parrots were seen frequently, and heard even more so. We saw
Green-backed Honeyeaters a few times, and had a great view of a Palm
Cockatoo a few km before the Chilli Beach turn-off. Red-cheeked Parrots were
less cooperative - we had them doing flyovers several times but were never
able to find them perched. The best spot for Northern Scrub-robins was the
Rainforest Campsite but we heard them at other locations too. Magnificent
Riflebirds were calling constantly and were able to be tracked down without
too much effort. Trumpet Manucodes were less cooperative but eventually all
of us were able to see one (they were heard reasonably often). The
Black-winged Monarchs (a tick for me) were calling frequently and quite easy
to track down. Yellow-billed Kingfishers and Yellow-legged Flycatchers were
also calling very frequently but it took us a lot of work to see them. 


We had both Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths around the campsite, plus several
Large-tailed Nightjars. On a trip back from Portland Roads (after an
excellent dinner there - highly recommended) we encountered many
Large-tailed Nightjars sitting on the road or just alongside it. They flush
quite late and we were disturbed to find that one bird had been killed by a
vehicle earlier in the night - when we came along, its mate was sitting
alongside it and only flew off after we had stopped. We moved the body off
the road.


We dipped on Fawn-breasted Bowerbird (we did hear one at the Lockhart River
sewage works, but it was beyond a tall fence and it refused to show itself,
and eventually went silent). Also, although we heard Buff-breasted
Paradise-Kingfishers in the NP only a couple of our group were able to lay
eyes on one (several birds seen later by all, at Julatten).


At a dam a few km out of Lockhart River, we found 20-25 Spotted
Whistling-ducks - another tick for me. When we arrived, 17 of them were
swimming and several more of them were roosting on a fallen tree trunk.
After a while, a few birds swam out of sight while the others joined the
roosting group. There were 3 Wandering Whistling-ducks also present, and it
was nice to be able to compare the two species.


We went out to Chilli Beach a couple of times, and found a few different
waders and terns, but not in big numbers and nothing unusual. It was a
similar story at Portland Roads, although my companions all ticked
Large-billed Gerygone there.


After 5 nights at Iron Range, we returned south, calling in at Lotus Bird
Lodge (it is officially closed now until the Wet is over) and then making
our way through Lakefield NP. We found large numbers of Star Finches at a
drying waterhole in the Nyfold Plain, also several Sarus Cranes (and many
Brolgas) and several displaying Bustards. Next day, we found small numbers
of Crimson Finches at Twelve Mile Bore.


We spent our final 2 nights at Kingfisher Park, which was its usual
wonderful self. Red-necked Crakes and Bush-hens were present but they were
elusive and not seen by all of us.  Interestingly, a monarch with black on
its wings was seen by some of our group - but I understand there is a bit of
a story to it and that it is considered to be a Black-faced Monarch. I
didn't see the bird and will leave it to others to shed light about it.


Just north of Craiglie, as we returned towards Cairns, we found a flock of
25 Bush Stone-curlews roosting under trees on the west side of the highway.
They were spread out over a 50-80m distance, in groups of 2-4 birds.


We called in at Cattana Wetlands, which coincidentally others today on
birding-aus have been commenting favourably about. Although it was quite hot
when we were there, we too were quite impressed by it and I would certainly
aim to go there again. Also, we had good views of a White-browed Crake on
the edge of one of the lagoons there.


Our tally for the trip, after topping up on a few shorebirds on Cairns
Esplanade before we returned the car, was 235 birds. Two new birds for me,
10-25 new ones for most of the others, and a massive 66 ticks for Eula who
had never been birding in Cape York before.


Alan Stuart



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