What a day. Sue from Kew was joining me for the day, having successfully tracked down a Sooty Owl with The Melbourne Birder earlier this year. We had a few birds we were after so we set off ultra early to get up to Toolangi State Forest for the dawn chorus. Calm and peaceful conditions up in the tall forest allowed us to hear and see birds well. We had a Brush Bronzewing on the side of the track, a very brief Pilotbird dancing a merry jig around us, albeit craftily concealed, a singing Olive Whistler who refused to show, 3 Large-billed Scrubwren in typical swarming fashion, and abundant Eastern Spinebill. We headed south to the mighty Western Treatment Plant, and here the birding was sensational. The Northern Shoveler was still in residence and allowed good scope views with several Aus Shoveler. Nearby on lake Borrie we spied a roosting Freckled Duck amongst the hundreds of Grey & Chestnut Teal, it's been a few years since this species graced the plant. Crakes and Rails again put on a show, with superb extended views of an adult Spotless Crake and many Australian Spotted Crake. A superb female Black Falcon seared across the sky down toward Pt Wilson, superbly searing its image into our memories, while at the Western Lagoon 2 Double-banded Plover looked immaculate in full alternate plumage. An early-arriving Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was also here, also looking the goods in its breeding plumage, accompanied by 2 Curlew Sandpiper. On the coast road we flushed a very early Brown Songlark, and to our right out over the Spit was a flock of about 30 Fairy Tern delicately hovering and diving for miniscule fish. A great way to end an awesome day, with 110 species seen. Thanks so much Sue for a fantastic day and loads of laughs.
4-14th August, 2011
This is the story of how Melbourne-based company, The Melbourne Birder, recently broke state lines and headed north, pushing the boundaries somewhat in terms of what one might call the "Greater Melbourne Tour".
Yay and verily it was on the fourth of August in the year of our Lord 2011 that myself, Steve Davidson, and the good David Richardson set out on an 11 day journey to Far North Queensland and Cape York in what could best be described as Dave's Big 50th Birthday Bash. The intention was to encounter a mouth-watering selection of the best birdlife that Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands, Cape York and most significantly, Iron Range National Park, had to offer. Our efforts bore fruit, with a dazzling array of new birds for David ranging from the mighty Southern Cassowary seen on no less than three occasions, Red Goshawk at the nest, over forty Golden-shouldered Parrots sparkling in the early morning sun, through to tiny pastel-hued Black-throated Finches and gob-smacking Blue-faced Parrot-finch.
Day One. We departed a somewhat balmy Melbourne at 6am on the 4th Aug, arriving in Cairns full of anticipation at the treats that lay in wait. First stop after retrieving luggage was to pick-up the pre-organised hire vehicle. Time: 09:45.
Thereafter followed a discombobulated turn of events that started with our agent enquiring as to why we were late and in the same breath informing us that the vehicle was still being serviced. No probs, we took his courtesy Hummer for a spin for a half hour while the car was finished.To this end Dave got his first lifer for the trip, a Helmeted Friarbird at the Cairns Airport Mangrove Boardwalk carpark. We headed back and waited some more; our agent eventually trotted the car out, only to furnish us with the information that the large crack in the windscreen was only a centimetre or two over the acceptable legal limit and that "she'll be right, just give us a buzz if it implodes, we'll replace it free of charge". Even with that re-assuring note in mind, we decided to push for an immediate replacement because, oh I dunno, even though it'd be a hoot waiting for a day and a half on the side of the road up near, say Coen, for a windscreen, it might affect our itinerary somewhat, with bookings, accommodation and all. So anyway, two and a half hours later, we rolled out of the industrial backblocks of Cairns with windscreen a la brand spanker. Time: 13:30. Three birds seen so far. Not a great start one might say...
The remainder of the afternoon involved a drive along the Cairns Esplanade and a short visit to Centennial Lakes. Many more birds encountered, highlights being 3 roosting Papuan Frogmouth, Collared Kingfisher and a recently arrived Great Knot in full breeding regalia.
We wound our way up through the hills toward the famous Cassowary House in Kuranda, receiving a warm welcome from the lovely Sue Gregory who showed us to our digs for our two night stay. Pizza in Kuranda, then back to the rooms for Day One birdcall. Whilst Dave answered another call I turned on a torch, directing it out into the thick rainforest at the back of the property. First object the beam fell upon was a Lesser Sooty Owl, maybe 4 metres away, perched on a low vine. It looked at me, and I looked at it. Remaining perched and unfazed, the bird even allowed itself to be viewed by a seated David who was still located in the smallest room in the house. First dude bird for the trip. We actually ended up hitting the sack an hour later and the owl was still there. Sometime around 4.30am I heard it call a few times from down in the gully.
Day Two.After our rather tumultuous and frustrating first day things ran a little more smoothly on day two. With an incredible and sumptuous breakfast provided by Sue that resulted in us not needing to eat for 48 hours we got onto some awesome birds around Kuranda like Southern Cassowary, Superb Fruit-Dove, Victoria's Riflebird, Grey Whistler, Emerald Dove, Topknot Pigeon and Pale Yellow Robin. Hitting the drier country to the south-east of Mareeba we found Sarus Crane, Brolga, Red-winged Parrot, Pale-headed Rosella, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Blue-winged Kookaburra and a massive strung-out congregation of around 500 Red-tailed Black-cockatoo in woodland along the Kennedy Highway. New birds were coming thick and fast for Dave and his head was agog, but we continued on, adding Mountain Thornbill, Bridled Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Comb-crested Jacana, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, even Brown Honeyeater was a lifer!We comfortably amassed 94 species for the day, many of which are new for the big guy.
Day Three.We were cruising now, and we both had our eye in. On a pre-breakfast stroll we picked up Fairy Gerygone, White-headed Pigeon, Spotted Catbird, Little Shrike-thrush and Spectacled Monarch. Setting off across the tablelands with distended bellies again courtesy of Cassowary House, we made our way north toward Julatten, with stops of course. We got our first Bar-shouldered Doves, quickly followed by Australian Bustard along Pickford Rd,Wandering Whistling-Duck at Mareeba Wetlands, Magpie Goose, Green & Cotton Pygmy-Goose and Osprey at Lake Mitchell, Squatter Pigeon, Double-barred Finch and Great Bowerbird at Mt Molloy, and Brown-backed Honeyeater & Cicadabird at Abattoir Swamp. Driving into Kingfisher Park, Julatten late in the day we were tired but ebullient, and warmly welcomed by Lindsay & Keith Fisher, long term proprieters of the establishment. The accommodation was ace, and as we threw our bags inside we were serenaded at dusk by a Grey-headed Robin. Our night-time spotlighting walk around the property revealed faunal wonders in the form of Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko, Northern Barred Frog, Spectacled Flying Fox and a particularly large Water Rat down in the creek. Lots of Northern Brown and Long-nosed Bandicoot running around and squealing like little piggies too. On the avian front, Eastern Barn Owls were seen in nearby Geraghty Park.
Day Four.I must have slept the sleep of the dead, because David had yell in order to wake me this morning. Nevertheless I was ready in no time and keen as to get to a recently discovered and fairly reliable the site for none other than the elusive and enigmatic Blue-faced Parrot-finch.Bolting down the more than generous breakfast provided for us, we headed off, hoping and yearning for Parrot-finch glory.Half an hour later we were totally immersed in it, our senses awash, hands aquiver as we stood there gorging our eyes on three of the most beautiful little birds in the Animal Kingdom. And all we had done was step out of the vehicle, walk 30 or so metres and there they were. Little darlings.Dude bird number two.As if that wasn't enough there was a brilliant supporting cast at this particularly birdy location with White-cheeked Honeyeater, Northern Fantail, Little Lorikeet, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Grey-headed Robin, Large-billed Gerygone and Victoria's Riflebird also dropping in.
Tearing ourselves away from bird utopia, it was time to head north as we had to reach Musgrave Station by evening time. Along the way we stopped at Mt Carbine for a coffee and the chap there said there was a good little waterhole just to the west of town where we might see a Jabiru. I kindly informed him that the current correct nomenclature for that bird was now Black-necked stork or Satin Stork, due to the title being originally given tothe a large South American species of stork. "Yeah, na, Jabiru mate" came the reply. In any case we didn't see a bloody stork, or any other waterbirds for that matter. However we did manage to get onto a Little Bronze-cuckoo, a big flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, and just as we were about to leave two gorgeous Black-throated Finch alighted not 5 metres away. Fantastic stuff and a much wanted bird; they turned out to be the only ones for the trip. Several hours of dirt road later, with extended periods of corrugation followed by expansive roadworks that snake the bitumen ever northward, we rolled up at Musgrave Roadhouse. Which itself was like a little oasis of human activity, quite convivial and abuzz with tourists, travelers and campers alike. Our little accommodation units were more than acceptable and the burgers were, as they say, the biggest in FNQ. Apart from the ones at the cafe in Mt Molloy, to which that title also goes. Guess I should have measured bun diameters. As we relaxed for the evening we reflected on the birds of the day, and special mention should go to the avian gems that punctuated the long drive. We had our first Black-backed Butcherbird, Yellow Oriole and Little Friarbird at Laura, a wonderful congregation of many Banded Honeyeater, Little Woodswallow and White-winged Triller near Hann River, Pheasant Coucal, Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-faced Woodswallow and finally a beautiful Black-necked Stork (Satin Jabiru to some) at Kennedy River.
Day Five. This morning happened to be David's 50th birthday, and we were all set to meet the famous Sue Shepherd at Artemis Station just south of Musgrave, who would be helping us in our quest to see none other than the mighty Golden-shouldered Parrot. I had waited a long time for this bird, as had Dave, and the anticipation was through the roof. We poked about for a bit around the area south of Windmill Creek, until like a dream three small parrots flew in and alighted close by. There they were, a little gang of three young males just starting to color up; the turquoise around the face especially noticeable. With time to set up the scopes, we drank the birds in until they decided we'd had enough and shot through. We would've been happy with that, but not Sue. She suggested we try another location nearby that they had burnt a month before to encourage the parrot's favoured grasses to drop seed. And as if the first sighting wasn't enough, we soon had up to forty GSP all around us, in trees, on the ground, preening, feeding, whatever. Pure magic.I had said that the parrot-finches were the most beautiful little birds in the Animal Kingdom but I recant that statement now and bestow it upon the Golden-shouldered Parrot. I have the image of a male & female perched together in the morning sun indelibly etched into my mind forever. I can't thank Sue Shepherd enough for her time as well as the conversation (we could've talked about GSP all day) and the years of work she has put in to help these birds, truly remarkable and totally admirable. Happy birthday Dave!! Anyway we had to let Sue get back to the station, so we headed back to Musgrave for a celebratory instant coffeE, I even splashed out and had bacon & eggs with fried tomato on toast. And lo & behold it was just like those BP Roadhouse breakfasts we used to have when we were kids on holiday. Definitely old school. After leaving the oasis-like conditions at Musgrave Roadhouse we headed east for a way along the road toward Lakefield National Park, ending up at Lotusbird Lodge where we bumped into the proprieter, Gary. Gary was able to show us the resident Southern Boobook family as well as the abundant waterbirds on the main lagoon, including good numbers of Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy-goose and Hardhead. He also gave us a tip for a Red Goshawk site on a side-road back toward Musgrave. Upon reaching the site we soon found the bird sitting quietly alongside the large nest. Imperious, magnificent and many other superlatives, it wasn't too fazed by our presence, although we were a good fifty metres away.Walk away views. Happy Birthday again Dave. Also at this spot were Yellow-tinted & Banded Honeyeaters and Red-browed Pardalote.
Some serious driving was required after our golden morning as we were intending to reach Portland Roads and we made good time until about 5 km north of Archer River Roadhouse. A roadblock was in place and the policeman told us there had just been a head-on collision between truck and car. So we were diverted back to ARRH where we waited with an increasing number of folk for about two and a half hours. The day was pretty warm so it was nice sitting there in the shade with a cold can of the famous cola flavored liquid that shall remain un-named. A Hobby flying through was of some interest. Eventually the road was re-opened and we headed off again. We later learned that the driver of the truck was killed in the incident, although how the events unfolded we didn't hear. Sad news and a sobering reminder that it can all unravel so easily...
Due to the wait at Archer River we didn't manage to get to Portland Roads till well after dark, and it was a long and slow trip, although a massive-looking Papuan Frogmouth flying across the track in the headlights was kind of surreal.Sheree & Greg were there to greet us at Portland Roads Out of the Blue Cafe when we finally arrived, with a fantastic meal of Sweetlip, chips and salad, before showing us over to Portland House. In our tired and addled state we still managed to be blown away by the place, and I urge anyone who intends on traveling up that way to stay here, it is just fantastic. We crashed out, dreaming of Iron Range National Park and the specialties that lay in wait the next morning.
Day Six.It was a bit of a slow start for us old buggers today after last night's extended drive, and we found it quite easy to have a relaxed breakfast in our beautiful beach shack. In fact Dude Bird number four for Dave was a Great Frigatebird watched cruising around just off the beach while he sipped on freshly ground and plunged coffee. Also seen from the couch were Fairy & Large-billed Gerygone, Yellow-bellied Sunbird who happened to have a nest inside the lounge, a lone Pied Imperial Pigeon, Brown Booby, Yellow Oriole, the purple-wattled purpuriecollis race of Brush Turkey and Rose-crowned Fruit-dove heard calling from the mangroves. Eventually we dragged our arses into gear and headed into Iron Range National Park itself. We stopped at the first patch of vine scrub/rainforest and we were instantly hit with singing Yellow-billed Kingfishers. Over the next hour a game of cat and mouse ensued, with three birds recognized to be in the vicinity that continually shifted position and remained unseen, criss-crossing back & forth across the track and only calling at 5-10 minute intervals. Eventually a male bird gave it up and landed at head height right in front of Dave 3metresfrom where he was standing. Both parties were equally as surprised as the other and the bird quickly realised its mistake and melted back into the scrub, however not before the image was burned into the big man's psyche forever. Fantastic. Also here we had a few very brief fly-overs from one each of male Eclectus Parrot and Red-cheeked Parrot, barely tickable views but enough to learn the calls well. A bit further down the road we stopped at some nice riparian rainforest along Chili Creek and almost straight away had a pair of Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters and a magnificent female Magnificent Riflebird who was magnificent in her magnificence. Our first Shining Flycatchers for the trip were here also. A nice diversion was a Spectacled Monarch of the northern white-bellied race albiventris and a pair of Yellow-breasted Boatbill.Further on we stopped at a drier ridge and picked up Dave's first Lemon-bellied Flycatcher who sang sweetly for us.
Descending into the dense rainforest proper along the Gordon Creek and Cooks Hut areas was like a lush green wonderland and we soon had our first absolutely mind-blowing Frill-necked Monarch which is a ridiculously beautiful bird quite unlike anything I'd seen before. It left its more southern cousin for dead I'm afraid. Along the road near Cooks Hut a pair of Green-backed Honeyeater was coaxed down from the canopy with a bit of pishing, thus enabling Dave to live out a long-held dream of seeing this species. Noisy Pitta were commonly heard singing all around, however none were seen. Also of note was the apparent abundance of Mistletoebird in this part of the world, with birds heard and seen at almost every stop we made.Varied Triller and Black Butcherbird were also quite common.
We were booked to stay a night at Iron Range Cabins at Lockhart Airfield, and here we eventually found ourselves late in the afternoon, checking in and chillin' out. Having to fill out a Census Form was a bit weird though. What a day it had been...
Day Seven.Up at the crack of dawn we were straight into it, bolting down a bit of toast and heading out. We didn't get much further than the road out of the airfield as it quickly became again apparent that this was a regular early morning flight path for both Eclectus & Red-cheeked Parrot as well as Palm Cockatoo. We had quite good views of reasonably distant but nonetheless perched male Eclectus & Red-cheeked Parrot through the scopes, and also soon realized we were again surrounded by Yellow-billed Kingfishers. We eventually tracked down one bird and watched it perched high in a tree along the Lockhart River Road for some time, even getting photos and video through the scope. What an amazing kingfisher, and really vibrant colors especially in the early sun.We had several close fly-over views of Palm Cockatoo here as well, looking a bit like flying black dinosaurs or something...
Heading into Lockhart River Community for a bit of diesel and food supplies we stopped at a grove of tall, flowering Melealeucas that were dripping with Helmeted & Little Friarbirds and many honeyeaters, and as I went to pull away I noticed a largish bird in the scrub by the roadside. It was squawking and buzzing away and I didn't realize what it was at first as it was partially obscured. For a second it jumped out on a perch into the open and I had a clear view of a Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, before it scurried away. This was the only FBB we had for the trip and so brief was the view that it flew before my unfortunate colleague could get onto it.
After our town visit we made our way back toward Portland Roads where we had another two-night stay. Along the journey we encountered a pair of the small northern didimus race of Brown Goshawk. It looked very little like the bulky Brown Goshawk I'm used to from down south, appearing more like a Collared Sparrowhawk in build, manner and jizz. The black wing-tips in flight also looked very different, as did the finer legs and talons.
Stopping between the Lockhart River turnoff and Cooks Hut we were very fortunate to hear a pair of Yellow-legged Flycatcher singing and chasing each other through the canopy. We eventually secured excellent views of the birds as they clung to some vines not far above our heads. Surprisingly yellow legs, hence the name, but also bright yellow lower mandibles on both birds was unexpected. Seriously cute little birds. Further on at Gordon Creek we got onto out first White-faced Robins, which are even more serious in their cuteness, and without wanting to anthromorpize, seemed quite friendly. Also here was a richly colored Little Bronze-cuckoo of the russatus race, or Gould's Bronze-cuckoo. It was a male bird with a bright red eye-ring, rusty underparts and a particularly rufous tail. Nice to see and quite confiding.
Near to Portland Roads we took the turnoff to Chili Beach, and along the way stopped at a particularly swampy little creek crossing. Straight away as I switched off the engine I heard a Red-necked Crake calling. It called a few times and so we decided to investigate. Dave got out and went to the bridge to have a squiz, while I stepped out from the driver's side. As I did so the crake exploded from its little hiding place in some rush-like vegetation and bolted. It had been a lot closer than we'd realized. All I got was a flash of brown as it disappeared. A big dip and again the only encounter with this species for the trip.
Chili Beach revealed several Brown Booby off the coast as well as small flocks of Common Noddy, one each of dark and light phase Eastern Reef Egret and a flock of Pied Imperial Pigeon migrating south just offshore. In the vine scrub behind the beach we had a Palm Cockatoo feeding on the ground, as well as Shining & Leaden Flycatchers. Back at Portland Roads again we had an early night, but not before being sung to sleep by a chopping Large-tailed Nightjar nearby. Day Eight. I was woken at 5am by a mysterious throbbing, pulsating, ooming sound and it took me some time before I realised it was the dulcet tones of a Papuan Frogmouth singing from the scrub behind the shack. A nice start to the day and as good an excuse as any to get up and make coffee. Driving back into the national park we made several stops in random places, seeing a flock of Metallic Starling and a male Lovely Fairy-wren near Chili Creek, and a beautiful Southern Cassowary as it slowly crossed the track in front of us. We were stoked when we had no less than three Trumpet Manucode in a sing-off along a ridge above a strip of riparian rainforest. The view of one bird as it filled the scope in the morning sun was just incredible, they are truly bizarre and ancient looking birds, and really look like they are vomiting as they call. Also here we had a brief fly-by from a pair of Double-eyed Fig-parrot, race marshalli.
At Gordon Creek we heard a Northern Scrub-robin call once but that was it.
Near Cooks Hut we got onto our first Noisy Pitta, requiring much patience and perseverance until the bird finally stopped in a tiny gap in the scrub and preened for a few minutes in the sun.It was a significant moment indeed as it was possibly Bird of the Trip for Dave, much wanted for many years and finally seen so well in such a magnificent location.
Drifting along quite elated we achieved more and better views of Frill-necked Monarch, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, White-faced Robin and Green-backed Honeyeater. At Cooks Hut we saw our first Wompoo Fruit-Dove for the trip as well as a juvenile Black-faced Monarch. Singing Tropical Scrubwren refused to reveal themselves from within dense scrub despite much pishing.
At Rainforest Campground we stopped to look at some Ant Plants just in case there was a roosting Marbled Frogmouth amongst them, and as we headed back to the car a riflebird was heard to fly in, and looking up we saw a male Magnificent Riflebird as it fed on palm fruits. An incredible bird to say the very least and we were totally mesmerized for a good fifteen minutes.
We made a quick stop at the turnoff to Lockhart River Airfield as I had recognized a call I'd heard there a day previously as being that of the Northern Scrub-robin. As soon as we pulled up it we could hear it calling away. So we snuck in to the edge of the vine scrub and waited, and pished, and waited. The bird did come close, but the scrub was just too thick and all we got for our troubles were a couple of brief shadowy movements, or all too slow we'd catch a glimpse at the log the bird had just bounced over .0035 seconds before. We vowed to return first thing next morning...
Back at Portland Roads for dinner I had possibly the best fish & chips I've ever had, and while watching from the balcony as dusk passed to night we saw both Large-tailed Nightjar and Papuan Frogmouth fly past.A fantastic end to a brilliant day's birding.
Day Nine.True to our word, we managed to be back at the Northern Scrub-robin site in fairly snappy fashion on this our last morning in the fabulous Iron Range National Park. However not before we had made a quick stop on the way in at some beautiful and floristically diverse heathy woodland on the section of road just north of Gordon Creek where there happened to be quite a bit of Fern-leaved Grevillea in flower. In a stroke of blind luck we soon found ourselves surrounded by at least 4-5 White-streaked Honeyeaters, allowing wonderfully close inspection of this unusual Cape York endemic. Also along the way we heard more Trumpet Manucodes calling, as well as Magnificent Riflebird and Yellow-billed Kingfisher, and saw a beautiful pair of Lovely Fairy-wren.
At the Northern Scrub-robin stake-out we had slightly better fortune this time and the bird was a little more curious, allowing itself to be viewed ever so briefly before again melting away. Unfortunately David had less than satisfactory views and didn't allow himself the honour of saying he had seen this species. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the whole time we were trying to glimpse the robin there were a number of Red-cheeked Parrot perched directly above us screaming away; we couldn't see them from where we were and didn't dare mover for fear of scaring off the robin.
As we made our way out of the national park we saw a Striated Heron on the West Claudie River where it intersects the Portland Roads Rd, a fair way inland for this mostly coastal species.
Our last and most significant sighting was a pair of Palm Cockatoo perched along the roadside, a memorable ending to what had been some of the best birding either of us had experienced. The drive back to Musgrave seemed a little more long and tedious than on the way up, but we made it back with plenty of daylight and after checking in we had a brief look along the road for Masked Finch, none of which made their acquaintance. I was starving and virtually inhaled one of the magnificent Musgrave burgers, all the while between chews listening to the eerie wailing of several Bush Stone-curlew. At our birdcall that night we worked out that Dave had so far seen over 100 new birds for the trip!! Not a bad return.
Day Ten. On this our penultimate tour day we rose super early and were out on the Lakefield road at dawn this morning and it was just wonderful to hear the succession of bird calls as the dawn chorus started up. First off were the Bush Stone-curlews just before dawn, then the Blue-winged Kookaburras, followed by Pied Butcherbird, then Blue-faced Honeyeaters, etc, until the morning was in full swing. We drove along a little way, stopping at a few good looking spots. At the first one we lucked onto our sought-after Cape York race of White-eared Masked Finch, race leucotis and had short but very satisfying views of this cracking little bird. A little further on we had a speedy group of four Emu cross our path, as well as Silver-crowned Friarbird, a big flock of Varied Sitella race striata, several Red-browed Pardalote, Collared Sparrowhawk, a Brown Goshawk trying to chase down a rather swift Common Bronzewing, and a small flock of Pale-headed Rosella, one of which had a predominately red head, which was indeed an incongruous sight.
Making our way down the Cape we didn't make too many stops as we wanted to reach Julatten with a fair chunk of the afternoon left, but we had to on a couple of occasions for example to look at a pair of Sarus Crane and chick on a roadside dam, whilst another time we had to slam on the anchors in order to get brilliant views of an adult Black-breasted Buzzard as it circled over the road getting hammered by Blue-faced Honeyeatere; at times they even stood on its back in flight to send home the message. The old buzzard didn't seem to give a toss and just soared lazily away. A fantastic sight!!
Reachingthe Julatten area we headed straight up to the famous Mt Lewis, hoping to pick up a few of the Atherton endemics before the day was out. At our first stop we managed to coax in a Pied Monarch who performed beautifully for us. Driving on we soon entered dense rainforest and before long had a trio of Atherton Scrubwren skipping through the undergrowth scolding us, as well as Mountain Thornbills in the canopy above. Further down the gully we could hear a singing Fernwren but unfortunately it remained there. Several Bridled Honeyeater were present, as were Wompoo Fruit-dove and squadrons of Topknot Pigeon overhead. Apair of White-throated Treecreeper, race minor put in an appearance, as did a lovely dark Grey Fantail of the mountain race, keasti.
Daylight was fading and so we headed back down and checked in again at the fabulous Kingfisher Park for the night, hoping to chance upon a Red-necked Crake down by the creek on dusk. Unfortunately the resident birds hadn't been seen for some weeks so we dipped again on that one.
Completely exhausted, we retired for the evening with the promise from Keith Fisher of a large fruiting fig along nearby Sides Rd likely to have several Double-eyed Fig-Parrot feeding in it in the morning.
Day 11.Our last day on tour, but with a little bit of time left for birding we zoomed out into the delicious tropical morning air to see what treats remained for us. On McDougall Rd there was a cute pair of Cotton Pygmy-goose in the lagoons there with an equally cute pair of Green Pygmy-goose, and at the start of Sides Rd we flushed a Pheasant Coucal that Dave managed pretty good flight views of, as well as White-cheeked, Scarlet and Graceful Honeyeaters, and a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher.True to his word, Keith's promised fig-parrots were present in the massive fruiting fig; I had forgotten what little gems they were, the males are just amazing. Also in the tree and the immediate area were many Figbird, Wompoo Fruit-dove, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Brown Gerygone. Nearby we found a Bassian Thrush feeding along the edge of some forest, accompanied by a Grey-headed Robin and a Pale Yellow Robin.
Soon enough it was time to bite the bullet and head back to Cairns, where our mighty trip ended. David ended up with 110 lifers, and we amassed a respectable total of 234 species forthe trip.
As usual all trip reports and birdlists can be viewed on Eremaea Birds www.eremaea.com