Gulf Country 2014 daily trip notes: 13 — 26 July 2014
Notes on the Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland) birding tour: Philip Maher and Patricia Maher. Photos: Philip Maher.

Checklist of species seen

Sunrise, Georgetown 14 July 2014

Route: Cairns, Georgetown, Karumba, Burketown, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Hughenden, Malanda, Cairns. On board, new clients, Denise, John and Anthony and AOS veterans, Wendy and Darryl. Tour leader: Philip Maher, tour organiser: Patricia Maher.

13 July 2014
Cairns to Georgtown
A rufous owl in a fig tree on the southern end of the Cairns Esplanade kicked off the Gulf Country trip this morning; a first for the Gulf tour list. Down at the northern end, we walked along the edge of the mangroves, seeing several mangrove robins and a pair of collared kingfishers, another first for the tour list. We glimpsed a grey goshawk in the mangroves.

Our next notable sighting was a hundred or so red-tailed black cockatoos between Malanda and Atherton and eight sarus cranes feeding in a paddock near Atherton. A female double-eyed fig parrot, mountain thornbill and large-billed scrubwren were observed along the road into Mount Hypippamee National Park and pale yellow robin skirted the picnic area.

A swamp near Mount Garnet accommodated a pair of brolgas, two pairs of green pygmy geese, at least four great crested grebe and a pair of white-bellied sea-eagle.

A pair of squatter pigeons sauntered across the highway in Mount Garnet. Around the town, there were apostlebirds, blue-faced honeyeaters and a pair of white-bellied cuckoo-shrike. Just west of Mount Surprise, a mixed flock of masked and white-browed woodswallows was a surprise; probably a hundred or so kilometres further east than I have seen them previously. Trisha picked up some 'surprisingly' good orange cake at the Bedrock Village store in Mount Surprise.

Three euros (wallaroo) were seen as we approached Georgetown and great bowerbirds tarried around the swimming pool in the late afternoon at Latara Resort.

14 July 2014
Georgetown to Karumba
The sun was bleeding over the savannah as we left a decidedly cool and cloudy Georgetown. (It's just possible that breakfast was a tad too early). Heading to Cumberland Dam, we saw our first banded and rufous-throated honeyeaters feeding in flowering eucalypts and a pair of black-throated finches, the first of many for the morning. The bauhinia Lysiphyllum cunninghamii trees near the dam were laden with rufous-throated honeyeaters and little friarbirds, as were nearby eucalytpts with banded, yellow-tinted, brown and yellow honeyeaters. Diamond and peaceful doves fed on the ground. At a waterhole, large numbers of black-throated finches and some masked finches came in to drink along with many banded and rufous-throated honeyeaters. The dam itself was disappointing with just a few green pygmy-geese, hardheads, magpie geese and the odd comb-creasted jacana.

Diamond dove

We searched for the dark form of brown treecreeper (race melanotus) and owlet-nightjar, which we had seen last year, without locating either. Driving further in, past the dam, we found a bunch of black-faced woodswallow which led us to more feeding flocks of black-throated finches, which in turn led us to a male varied sittella carrying food to a female, sitting tight on a nest (race striata).

Varied sittella, race striata, female

After lunch we had only travelled about ten kilometres towards Croydon when a red-backed kingfisher flew across the road. Preparing to do a u-ey for the kingfisher, we noticed four rufous songlarks in a bush on the side of the road. Whle we couldn't see the kingfisher we did find the the dark form of brown treecreeper. On following the treecreeper we turned up an owlet nightjar.

Brown treecreeper (race melanotus)

Four little woodswallows warmed themselves on the highway, warding off an unusally cool day. Several jabiru fed in roadside pools and another pair of squatter pigeons was seen west of Croydon. A dozen sarus crane, a few brolgas including a pair with a juvenile, and four male bustards were seen on the Normaton to Karumba leg in the late afternoon. Fifteen or so Australian pratincoles flirted with death, darting in front of the vehicle. Half a dozen greenshanks fed in a roadside pool and in another pool near Kaumba, there were a pair of wandering whistling-duck and a single pink-eared duck. About ten Horsfield's bushlark were seen on the Karumba plain. Lots of agile wallabies dotted along the road verges and quite a few not so agile dead on the road. We arrived in Karumba Point at about 6 pm.

jabiru (black-necked stork)

Australian pratincole

15 July 2014
Karumba: boat trip on the Norman River
We took a quick look at the Norman River estuary before heading down to the Karumba boat ramp for a Ferryman cruise. Birds seen on the cruise included red-headed honeyeater, a female mangrove golden whistler, an osprey with young and a Brahminy kite on a nest. Also observed were four female and one sub-adult white-breasted whistlers, three mangrove robins, mangrove gerygone, mangrove grey fantail, jabiru, yellow white-eye, one pied cormorant and little bronze-cuckoo, probably the bird of the cruise. Fine, sunny conditions prevailed but there was an unseasonal very high tide. Birds were scarce.

Brahminy kite

Eastern osprey

Heading back for lunch, we pulled up at a spot between Karumba and Karumba Point where I'd seen star finches in 2012. No star finches but zebra and double-bar finches were about. We heard but couldn't locate a red-browed pardalote but did find a pair of white-throated gerygone. Red-kneed dotterel was seen at a waterhole just off the Karumba Point road.

After lunch we checked out some waders past the airstrip. The unusually high tide was slowly receding. Waders included curlew sandpiper, red-necked stint, one greater sand plover, a couple of eastern curlew and a couple of grey-tailed tattler, common greenshank, red-capped plover, great knot, pied oystercatcher; as well as a radjah shellduck. In the mangroves we had mangrove grey fantail, mangrove gerygone, three white-breasted whistlers including one fully adult male, a bustard on the edge of the mangroves, striated heron, and Caspian, gull-billed and whiskered terns.

In the late afternoon we had a group of red-backed fairywrens including an adult male; scores of agile wallabies, four bustards, a pair of brolga with a large juvenile and two channel-billed cuckoos near the Karumba Point turnoff. Further out, in the grasslands, we had an immature Horsfield's bronze-cuckoo, a single adult flock bronzewing flying over, a bunch of red-tailed black cockatoos coming in to drink and yellow honeyeaters feeding in a batswing coral tree Erythina vespertilio.

Little bronze-cuckoo

16 July 2014
Karumba via the Savannah Way to Burketown.
We breakfasted early before heading over to Karumba to fuel up. The depot yard was awash with white-winged trillers. Leaving town, we stopped to admire a batswing coral tree
that had a crown of yellow white-eyes, as well as white-gaped, yellow and brown honeyeaters and two yellow orioles. A last ditch effort to locate star finches near Karumba proved fruitless but we had instead, three spangled drongoes, an olive-backed oriole and a white-throated gerygone. We checked out cranes as we drove across the Karumba plain. Nearly all, in that section of the plain, were brolgas, in contrast to some other years when they've been nearly all sarus cranes. (Only about a third of the brolga pairs had one chick, indicative of the poor wet season experienced this year. Neither the sarus cranes seen yesterday nor those seen today west of Normation had chicks). As we travelled south across the Karumba plain, a group of chestnut-breasted mannikins was seen in the tall grass. More flocks of finches were spotted on the other side of the road, some zebra finches but most were the much sought star finch. Nearly all were juveniles.

Star finch

Three male bustards crossed our path.

Pictorella mannikin was our target species west of Normanton. We investigated some finches that flew over the road into tall grass; these turned out to be zebra finches. Shortly after, a pair of pictorella finches flew in. This pair fed on the ground briefly. Not satisfied with this scant sighting, we continued our pictorella hunt.
Thirty or forty kilometres further west in another area of tall grass we saw another four pictorellas, two adults and two juveniles. Then four more pictorellas flew across the road as we were leaving. Satisfied with the sighting.

Several flocks of twenty to thirty brolga and one flock of ten sarus cranes were seen.

We met up with Trisha in a shady, dry creek bed for lunch. A collared sparrowhawk sallied through.

The only sightings of note after lunch on our drive to Burketown was a sub-adult spotted harrier, our first small flock of cockatiels and many groups of Australian pratincoles.

At a Melaleuca swamp, white-throated honeyeater was added to the list.

Generally the bird numbers were low through the savannah woodlands and grasslands. Eucalyptus pruinosa wasn't flowering so there weren't huge flocks of woodswallows and honeyeaters that occur in some years.

At Trisha's request, Rosita at The Morning Glory Restaurant in Burketown had her chef Marjun prepare something Filipino for dinner. Marjun made curried chicken and vegetables with rice, which was great. Birders visiting Burketown should email Rosita at or phone 07 47455295 for a good meal in an area not renown for its food.

17 July
Gregory River
Good start to the morning with about seven flock bronzewings a few kilometres south of Burketown. The males were displaying over the grassland. Further along the road there was a group of six and then a group of seven bustards. (We finished with nineteen bustards for the day). Scattered through the same area were about five pairs of sarus cranes and about five pairs of brolga. One pair of sarus cranes had two fully grown young (the only pair of sarus cranes seen with young ones).

There was a pair of purple-crowned fairywrens and a pair of buff-sided robins at the first place we pulled up on the Gregory River. It was windy and not great views were had but we did see three species of fantail at that locality, including our first ever record of Arafura fantail on the Gregory River. The others were northern and grey fantails. Paperbark flycatcher was also seen.

Lunch was by the river behind the Gregory Downs Hotel where we saw our first crimson finches, one budgerigar and great views of four or five pairs of purple-crowned fairywrens; all the males were in full colour, which is unusal for this time of year. Lovely looks at two or three pairs of buff-sided robins.

West of the Gregory River, we searched the woodland for long-tailed and masked finches wihout locating either. These species were previously common along the Gregory. Three of the golden-backed form of black-chinned honeyeater were seen. About ten varied lorikeets and a couple of banded honeyeaters were feeding in the Eucalyptus pruinosa trees.

Varied Lorikeet in Eucalyptus pruinosa

As well as more bustards and more flock bronzewings, we had a little eagle and a hobby as we were driving back to Burketown. Marjun at The Morning Glory Restaurant made us a Filipino pork dish, which again was good.

Australian bustard

18 July
Burketown to Cloncurry

Great success in the Burketown mangroves. Straight up we had a not overly co-operative pair of mangrove golden whistlers. On moving to another spot, close-up views were had of an overwintering channel-billed cuckoo that was calling loudly above our heads, then a much more co-operative pair of mangrove golden whistler.

Mangrove golden whistler ................................................Channel-billed cuckoo

Having about 450 kilometres in front of us, we headed out of Burketown. There were about ten flock bronzewings flying about and a couple coming in to drink at a borrow pit a few kilometres south of town. Further on, a pair of sarus cranes and about thirty brolga were seen. East of Gregory Downs the bauhinia and Eucalyptus pruinosa were in full bloom and there was a frenzy of budgerigars, woodswallows, honeyeaters and varied lorikeets around the trees. Masked and white-browed woodswallows chased the varied lorikeets from the bauhinia flowers. Rufous-throated and singing honeyeaters fed voraciously on the bauhinia and banded honeyeaters and varied lorikeets fed in the E. pruinosa. There were lots of brown and yellow-tinted honeyeaters and a mistletoebird as well.

Rufous-throated honeyeater on a Bauhinia

The first jacky winters for the tour were recorded east of Gregory Downs, and lots of white-winged trillers seen.

We lunched by the Leichhardt River. Grey-crowned babblers fed young in a nest nearby.

Good numbers of honeyeaters drank and bathed at a dam near the Burke and Wills Roadhouse; primarily brown but a few yellow-tinted and our first grey-fronted honeyeaters. The first reedwarbler for the trip was also sighted. Quite a few waterbirds were on the dam including one great crested grebe. Rainbow bee-eaters hawked insects around the dam.

There were flocks of budgerigars, and to a lesser extent, cockatiels all the way to Cloncurry.

About six spinifex pigeons were seen on the side of the road about fifty kilometres north of Cloncurry.

South of the roadhouse, we encountered a large black-headed python, about seven foot long.

The Gidgee Inn, with its deep terracotta-coloured rammed-earth walls, is our abode for the next two nights. it was steak night tonight in the Gidgee Bar and Grill and I think we all agreed it was excellent except Trisha, who's a vegetarian.

Black-headed python .............................................................................Rainbow bee-eater

19 July
South of Concurry

Rufous-crowned emu-wren was the main target today. It got drier the further south we went and the poor wet season is pronounced in the Cloncurry area. Not far south of Cloncurry four ground cuckoo-shrikes were being harassed by an aggressive hobby. The cuckoo-shrikes numbered three adults and a juvenile. The juvenile looked like he had worn out his welcome with the adults. Two wedgetail eagles hung motionless in the wind over the hills.

We spent a couple of hours searching unsuccessfully for the emu-wren in an area where we had them last year. It was desolate enough last year but we did get a pair with two recently fledged young.

I inadvertently flushed a tawny frogmouth when I walked under a limb.

Two wild camels loitered on the roadside.

At the Malbon River we had a red-backed kingfisher and while looking at the kingfisher, we heard a red-browed pardalote and eventually found it. Striated pardalotes were going into a nest hole in the riverbank and the red-browed pardalote appeared to be chasing the striateds.

Lunch was had on a creekline where we have had painted finches many times but this year it was bone dry and no painteds were seen.

Heading back towards Cloncurry a single male black-tailed treecreeper was observed; the female was probably on a nest. Our first yellow-rumped thornbills and first variegated fairywrens were recorded, as was another group of four black-chinned honeyeaters (golden-backed form). Swathes of budgerigars were seen closer to Cloncurry,. A black-breasted buzzard soared overhead at the the Mt Isa/Barkly Highway T junction.

Black-chinned honeyeaters ..................................................................Purple-necked rock-wallaby

Purple-necked rock-wallabies loafed around the hills at Chinaman Creek Dam.

At the Cloncurry River, back in town, varied lorikeets fed in a bloodwood tree. We had a pair of Cloncurry ringnecks. Suffused in the late afternoon light, a troupe of hundred or more galahs huddling together on power lines was a picture.

Galahs in the late afternoon light ...................................................................Cloncurry ringneck

Back to the Gidgee Inn at 6.15 pm. Trattoria Italiana in the Gidgee Bar and Grill tonight. Not great value for vegetarians but the food at the Gidgee Bar and Grill has been good.

20 July
Cloncurry to Mt Isa via Duchess

As we were getting ready to to leave the Gidgee Inn at about 7.30 this mornng, there were red-winged parrots, Cloncurry ringnecks, varied lorikeets and banded honeyeaters feeding in flowering trees around the motel units and a spotted bowerbird sitting, briefly, on top of a tree. We drove around town looking for better looks at spotted bowerbird and, as well as the bowerbirds, came across a large group of grey-crowned babblers in a garden. The town was awash with budgerigars. The Cloncurry waste treatment plant gave us a nice lot of waterbirds, including about eighty plumed whistle-ducks, a dusky moorehen (first for the trip), twenty Australasian grebes including a pair with two babies and at least fifty pink-eared ducks. We looked for spinifex pigeons at Chinaman's Dam, without success.

Heading south towards Duchess, we birded the spinifex south of the Malbon River. About an hour and a half was spent looking for spinifexbird and rufous-crowned emu-wren. I briefly saw a spinifexbird but couldn't coax it up for the group. Half a dozen grey-headed honeyeaters were a first for the trip. Giving the spinifexbird one last shot in tall spinifex beside the road, the first bird heard was a rufous-crowned emu-wren. There were three birds, an adult male and two females, flitting around in the spinifex.

Moving further south we met up with Trisha for lunch in gidgee woodland not far outside Duchess. Our first red-capped robin and a pair of inland thornbills were had as we were finishing lunch. Trisha reported four ground cuckoo-shrikes in Duchess and later had another near the Duchess—Mt Isa intersection.

We searched in the spinifex-covered hills near Duchess for Kalkadoon grasswren. One was seen, in the same area as last year's sightings, but it was too timid to get a look at. Further on, north of Duchess, we tried some rocky hills close to the road. I went up to scout for grasswrens, leaving the group to watch from the road. Locating at least one bird high up on the hill, I retreated to fetch the group but on returning to the spot where I had seen the bird, the grasswren had vanished. We were halfway back down the hill, when another grasswren was spotted on the other side of the gully, about a 150 metres from where it had been seen originally. A long drive on a slow road to Mt Isa was ahead of us so the pursuit was abandoned. it was 7.20 pm when we arrived at the smart Spinifex Motel and dinner was had at the Abyssinia Restaurant, a couple of minutes' walk down the road. Good food.

The group in Kalkadoon country

21 July
Carpentarian grasswren day

First thing this morning we headed out the Lady Loretta Road for the Carpentarian grasswren. The scene out there is reminiscent of Apocalyse Now. Enormous roadtrains hauling ore created huge dust clouds that hung in the windless air, making it impossible to see the road. The road is now 100 metres wide in parts and some of the hills are being mined and carted out. At the 8 kilometre mark, where the grasswrens were once close to the road, it's now unrecognisable. Birders are advised not go down Lady Loretta Road; it's extremely dangerous. Most of the habitat was burnt a few years ago and there's only small unburnt patchesremaining. In the first small patch we looked at, we located a spinifexbird that wouldn't leave us alone. A kilometre or so down a sidetrack, in the sparest of spinifex, on a rocky outcrop, a pair of Carpentarian grasswrens fed on the side of the track. The male went racing up the hill but excellent views, if poor quality camera shots, of the female were had from the bus.

Spinifexbird ..................................................................................Carpentarian grasswren, taken taken through the bus window

Scores of grey-fronted honeyeaters, including many juveniles, and three black-chinned honeyeaters were feeding in the snappy gums. At a nearby leaking water trough, many grey-fronted honeyeaters were coming in to drink and feeding in a corkwood tree. Large flocks of masked and a few white-browed woodswallows and dozens of diamond doves were also around the leaking trough. A group of about eight spinifex pigeons were leaving the water as we arrived.

Grey-fronted honeyeater, juvenile ........................................Red-winged parrot

Lunch at Lake Moondarra. The water level was low and few waterbirds were on the lake. Better birds seen around the cliffs and the edge of the lake included red-winged parrot, little woodswallow, and after some effort, three or four painted finches. A pair of purple-necked rock-wallabies chased each other across the cliff face. We saw a couple of spotted bowerbirds and a male collared sparrowhawk shot through the trees on the edge of the lake. A large freshwater crocodile leapt into the water on our approach.

We hung around waiting for the painted finches to come back but at 6 o'clock called it a day. Dinner was down at the Isa Hotel, which was nothing to write home about. The birding today however really was something with an unbelievably easy Carpentarian grasswren, a spinifexbird who didn't know when enough was enough and a group of painted finches.

22 July
Another go for the Kalkadoon grasswren
Headed down to Sybella Creek first thing for Kalkadoon grasswren. I set off up the ridges near the creek to scout for grasswrens and the group waited down below. Neither sight nor sound of a Kalkadoon grasswren was had. Two male painted finches were seen separately collecting nesting material. A few grey-headed honeyeaters and one group of variegated fairywrens were seen and five ground cuckoo-shrikes flew over but there were very few birds about. We went back to Lake Moondara for lunch — the highlight of the day, I'm sure.

We had a short break after lunch and then headed back to Sybella Creek and repeated the operation with the same result — no Kalkadoon grasswren. Some of the habitat looks excellent for grasswrens but the poor wet season for the last two years appears to be having a deleterious effect on the Kalkadoons. Home about 6.15 pm and dinner again at the Abyssinia Restaurant.

Painted finch

Grey-headed honeyeater ........................................ Sybella Creek area

Group at Sybella Creek

23 July
Mt Isa to Hughenden via Pamela Street for Kalkadoon GW

We checked the area around the water tanks at the end of Pamela Street in Mt Isa in a last ditch effort to get better views of Kalkadoon grasswren. We gave it two and a half hours to no avail. Part of the area had been burnt but there is probably still enough suitable habitat. As far as I know, the grasswrens haven't been seen there recently. but I thought it worth a go. About six purple-necked rock-wallabies that were quite tame were seen including one that had a lovely purple hue to its head.

Leaving Mt Isa, we called in to Corella River Dam/Clem Walton Park on the Isa side of Cloncurry. Below the weir, it was almost dry where there is normally a good stream of water. There were just two pools but they were attracting good numbers of birds, including dozens of grey-headed honeyeaters, scores of zebra finches and good numbers of double-barred finches, budgerigars and spotted bowerbirds. There was a sombre recital from a choir of diamond doves.

We met up with Trisha for lunch in Julia Creek. The town is putting greater effort in promoting the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi and we visited the tourist information centre where there's a nocturnal enclosure. The Julia Creek dunnart is the largest of the nineteen Sminthopsis species; it's about the size of a small rat. It is one cute critter.

East of Julia Creek, we called in at a railway siding swamp. Not for the first time, we got a pair of black-breasted buzzards here. A whistling kite and a wedgetail eagle were being harassed by the buzzards. The first spiny-cheeked honeyeaters for the trip were recorded. Dusty moorhen, swamphen and reedwarbler were in the cumbungi edging the swamp. A bustard and an emu were spotted between Julia Creek and Richmond, the emu a first for the trip. While the Mitchell grass looks better than last year in places, it is still very dry and some areas bare. it was a long drive today and our 7.20 pm arrival into Hughenden was due to our late departure from Mt Isa because of the unscheduled search for the Kalkadoon grasswren and then by numerous, unmanned, red lights along stretches of roadworks.

24 July
Hughenden to Malanda: 517 kilometres, mostly a travelling day.

Driving south of Hughenden towards The Lynd, we saw about eight bustards in two groups of three and five in the first ten kilometres. Quite a few flocks of budgerigars, cockateils, white-winged trillers and spotted bowerbirds were flying about. A little eagle soared overhead. Sixty or so kilometres out we stopped at a dam where there were sixty plumed whistling-ducks and also recorded at least twenty plum-headed finches; only the second time we've recorded this species on the Gulf Country tour. A single squatter pigeon of the intermediate form was sighted at the back of the dam near a cattle trough. The eye ring colour was blue with a small amount of orange in it.

Squatter pigeon ..................................................................Plum-headed finches

We didn't do much birding until we met up with Trisha for lunch on Einasleigh River. The first noisy friarbirds of the trip were had. Noisy miners were seen again, having only had yellow-throated since Georgetown; and there was a jabiru feeding on the river.

At the next creek further south, there were about twenty-two cotton pygmy-geese feeding with Australasian grebes and a few other waterbirds. A beautiful forest kingfisher was spotted further up the creek. Back at the crossing two pale-headed rosella were recorded and a couple of white-throated honeyeaters heard.

We'd only seen one emu up until today. We had a group of eight between Hughenden and The Lynd and another two between The Lynd and Mount Garnet. We also got our first grey butcherbird between Hughenden and The Lynd.

Two squatter pigeons were seen between The Lynd and Mount Garnet and between Mount Garnet and Ravenshoe, there was a pair of squatter pigeons on the highway. One, tragically, was hit by an oncoming vehicle.

The kitchen was closing early at the Malanda Lodge, so we pressed the metal to make it to dinner, arriving at 6.20 pm.

Beetle on Pimelea decora....................................................Lesser wanderer on Pimelea decora

25 July
Atherton Tablelands
There is a pair of bush stone-curlews with two babies here in the grounds of Malanda Lodge, Their eerie call could be heard before dawn. We breakfasted on the verandah outside our room. Misty rain moistened the bacon and eggs. Buff-banded rails ventured out of the undergrowth in the garden.

We set off for Mount Hypippamee National Park in drizzle, seeing a few more buff-banded rails along the way. Almost as soon as we were out of the bus at least three adult male golden bowerbirds with about four brown birds (females and/or immatures) flew in and fed in a tree with large black fruit. The rain was easing but the birding was slow. Mountain thornbills and pale yellow robins worked the carpark. There was a mass movement of satin bowerbirds, with about eighty birds flying in one direction and about fifteen minutes later flying back in the opposite direction. Poor looks at Bower's shrikethrush were had down on the entrance road. Large-billed scrubwrens were seen and a group of chowchillas came by, called and moved on. Fifty or so top-knot pigeons flew over and we had two tooth-billed bowerbirds feeding in a fruiting tree in the carpark. Walking down to the Crater, there were brief views of Atherton scrubwren. On the way back we found a pair of grey-headed robins putting the final touches to a nest and some of us had good looks at fernwren. While we were watching the fernwren, satin bowerbirds showered us with partially eaten figs for fifteen minutes before flying off. Back at the carpark again, a spotted catbird was in the same fruiting tree that had had the tooth-billed bowerbirds and we had better views of Atherton scrubwren.

..... .
Golden bowerbird...................................................Grey-headed robin

Heading back to Malanda on the Upper Barron Road for lunch, and looking down into the valley, we had a dorsal view of an adult spotted harrier flying parallel but below us. A carpet python, warming itself on the road, reluctantly surrendered its dangerous possie.

Carpet snake

After lunch we birded Lake Barrine in still drizzling rain. Around the teahouse a pair of Victoria's riflebird was feeding in some large pink flower spikes. Also, in a nearby flowering tree were Lewin's, Macleay's and dusky honeyeaters and eastern spinebills. On the walk around the lake, and with the weather improving, we had adult and immature Bower's shrikethrushes and yellow-breasted boatbill, spectacled monarch and a golden whistler.

Victoria's riflebird

Back to the accommodation for an early dinner. A spotlighting excursion produced our target bird: lesser sooty owl in our first attempt in a patch of rainforest. Barn owl and Papuan frogmouth were seen and a boobook called. A white-tailed rat ran across the road.

Lesser sooty owl

26 July
Malanda to Cairns: final day

Twenty or so king parrots and flocks of white-headed pigeons flew over while we were having breakfast.

We returned to Lake Barrine National Park with three target species: bridled honeyeater, pied monarch and chowchilla. The first species we saw at the teahouse, feeding in introduced trees, were two bridled honeyeaters. Lewin's and dusky honeyeaters and eastern spinebill were also feeding in the same flowering trees. A couple of Macleay's honeyeaters were feeding close by. All these species were seen here yesterday except bridled honeyeater, which was our first bird today.

.. .........
Bridled honeyeater ..............................................................................Macleay's honeyeater

Initially, for an hour or so it was quiet around the lake with few birds about but we did see a couple of musky rat-kangaroo. Yellow-breasted boatbill was the first good bird we saw. Five eastern whipbirds were seen, some chasing each other around. There seemed to be an association between another musky rat-kangaroo and a small group of chowchillas. We followed the chowchillas for about half an hour before getting decent looks at them. A pied monarch called and came in. Mission accomplished: our three target species. On our way back to the carpark, a white-eared monarch called but he got away on us. Bower's shrikethrush and another musky rat-kangaroo were seen. A female Victoria's riflebird flew in and appeared to drink from a small hollow high up in a tree trunk. A male varied triller fed in a tree above our heads, another first for the trip.

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Bower's shrikethrush ............................................................... .. Spotted catbird ................ ................. Pied monarch

Our final lunch spot was Winfield Park at on the edge of Malanda. There were about a dozen top-knot pigeons sitting in a tree until a grey goshawk flying over put them up, and there were about six brown cuckoo-doves feeding nearby. As we were driving out of the Park, we had a pair of boatbills, a Bower's shrikethrush and a spectacled monarch.

Pale yellow robin ........................................................................Yellow-breasted boatbill

A lovely spotted harrier was seen as we were heading to Curtain Fig Tree. At the Curtain Fig carpark, a pied monarch worked its way up the truck of a tree. A pair of white-eared monarchs fed high up in the canopy. Ten top-knot pigeons loafed in a tree.

In another piece of rainforest, not too far away, four Victoria's riflebirds, a pair of varied trillers, half a dozen figbirds and another pied monarch were seen. A wompoo pigeon called. About ten red-browed finches, a new bird for the trip, fed in the tall grass.

At about 4.45 pm, we called it a day and headed back to Cairns, arriving at the Mercure Harbourside at about 6.15 pm. Dinner was at the Blue Lagoon restaurant. Glasses clinked — a lot.

What a great little group we had. It was a joy to share this Gulf Country adventure with Wendy, Darryl, Anthony, Denise and John.


27 July: home
Tour checklist posted soon ...