Gulf of Carpentaria birding tour 16 June to 3 July 2023
16 June 2023
17 June 2023
Cairns to Georgetown
Leaving Cairns early, we'll spend most of the day travelling to Georgetown. We drive through the remnant rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands – always good for raptors. We'll be on the lookout for spotted harrier and grey goshawk and perhaps square-tailed kite. As we travel westward, the country becomes increasingly drier. The forests and woodland around Mt Garnet may yield such delights as apostlebird, red-winged parrot, cockatiel, red-tailed black cockatoo and with luck, the red-eyed form of squatter pigeon. Forty-Mile Scrub NP could produce little shrike-thrush, fairy gerygone; and the beautiful striated form of varied sittella.
18 June 2023
Georgetown to Karumba
Today we bird the dry tropical woodland around Georgetown – usually a good area for finches and in particular for the declining black-throated finch, as well as double-bar finch and the white-cheeked form of masked finch. Also, here we could see banded and rufous-throated honeyeaters and the delightful diamond dove, as well as red-browed pardalote and the rare dark form of brown treecreeper. We then head northwest to Karumba. Beyond Croydon we should also start seeing our first little woodswallows, as well as hundreds of apostlebirds.
19 June 2023
A great list of species is assured today. This morning we'll do a boat trip in the Karumba mangroves seeking out the mangrove specialties including white-breasted whistler, red-headed honeyeater, mangrove grey fantail, mangrove robin and yellow white-eye, plus ospreys and Brahminy kites and check out the mudflats for waders. We'll spend the rest of the day birding the Karumba area where species should include brolga, sarus crane, jabiru and Australian pratincole, as well as bush and waterbirds and a good bag of raptors.
20 June 2023
Karumba to Burketown
Today we travel west to Burketown in the heart of the Gulf Country. Birds we may encounter along the way include the highly nomadic pictorella mannikin, which can be in their hundreds one year and completely absent the next. The area can be good for raptors and we'll be on the lookout for black-breasted buzzard and square-tailed kite. Flock bronzwing, known to vex birding guides, will be sought, and like pictorella mannikin can be present in big numbers some years and conspicuous by its absence the next. This area often has the highest concentrations of brolga and sarus crane to be seen anywhere in Australia.
21 June 2023
This morning we bird the Gregory River. The Gregory is a picturesque river, lined with pandanus, and a good spot for purple-crowned fairywren. Other species we should see along the river include the buff-sided robin and crimson and masked finches, varied lorikeet and the golden-backed honeyeater, and perhaps an overwintering channel-billed cuckoo. Heck's form of long-tailed finch is also in the area.
22 June 2023
Burketown to Cloncurry
We'll bird the mangroves around Burketown this morning for mangrove whistler before moving on. We have another chance for flock bronzewing and maybe an Australian bustard or two in the Mitchell grass country around Burketown
23 June 2023
With much patience this morning we'll search for the denizens of the spinifex – the rufous-crowned emu-wren and spinifexbird. Painted finch, spinifex pigeon and grey-headed and grey-fronted honeyeaters may capture our attention, and conditions being favourable, so will budgerigar, crimson chat and white-winged triller. If the bloodwoods are flowering, big flocks or white-browed and masked woodswallows could be about. We'll scan the cliffs for purple-necked rock-wallaby.
Overnight: Cloncurry area
24 June 2023
Cloncurry to Mt Isa
This morning we'll bird around Cloncurry, searching the creek lines for the uncommon Cloncurry race of the Australian ringneck. We may also connect with black-tailed treecreeper, as well as varied lorikeet and banded and rufous-throated honeyeaters if the bloodwoods are flowering. The Cloncurry water storage dam can be productive for a good list of waterbirds and bush birds. We'll head to Mt Isa after lunch.
Overnight: Mt Isa
25 June 2023
Mt Isa area
Today we journey northwest of Mt Isa to seek out one of our most beautiful and least known grassswrens, the Carpentarian grassswren. This species, widespread in low numbers amongst the rocks and spinifex northwest of Mt Isa, was virtually unknown for most of the 20th century. It could take great cunning and know-how to secure good looks at this elusive species – or we may be lucky and fall over it! Other species possible here include spinifexbird, painted finch, black-tailed treecreeper, grey-fronted honeyeater and owlet nightjar.
Overnight: Mt Isa
26 June 2023
Mt Isa area
The Kalkadoon grasswren, a split from dusky, is on the agenda today. This species resides in the rocky hills around Mt Isa. We will spend what remains of the day checking out waterbirds and any waders that may be about at Lake Moondarra.
Overnight: Mt Isa
27 June 2023
Mt Isa to Winton
If we are still missing any birds around Isa we'll have a look for them before heading off to Winton. As we cross the Mitchell grass plains, east of Cloncurry, we'll be on the look out for the most nomadic of all the nomads, flock bronzewing. If seasonal conditions are good, spotted harrier could also be abou,t and it is a great area for Australian bustard.
28 June 2023
We will spend most of the day birding the Lark Quarry area south of Winton where our main target will be the recently split rusty grasswren Amytornis rowleyi. Other species possible here include rufous-crowned emu-wren, Bourke's parrot, Hall's babbler, western gerygone, splendid fairywren, inland thornbill and we have a chance for grey falcon (pair seen 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2021).
29 June 2023
Winton to Hughenden
We will do some more birding about Winton where we have a chance for more nomadic birds such as plum-headed finch and ground cuckoo-shrike. Chestnut-breasted quailthrush is resident about Winton. Crossing more Mitchell grass plains we have another opportunity for flock bronzewing, as well as bustards, brolgas and raptors.
30 June 2023
Hughenden to Lake Eacham
We leave the Mitchell Grass plains behind and head back into the tropical woodlands of the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. Here we could see the rare blue-eyed form of the squatter pigeon. Hughenden can produce surprises such as painted honeyeater, which we see some years. Plum-headed finches may be around and we are back in the range of pale-headed rosella. We swap spotted bowerbird for great bowerbird at Mt Garnett.
Overnight: Lake Eacham
1 July 2023
Malanda is situated in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands. We will be seeking the Atherton specialites such as golden bowerbird, tooth-billed bowerbird, spotted catbird, chowchilla, fernwren, Atherton scrubwren, mountain thornbill, Victoria's riflebird, Bower's shrike-thrush, grey-headed robin and Macleay's and bridled honeyeaters. After dark, we'll spotlight for lesser sooty owl and Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo.
Overnight: Lake Eacham
2 July 2023
We'll continue to bird the Tablelands this morning for any species eluding us before travelling down to the Cairns lowlands where we spend the remainder of the day birding Central Lake, Cairns Botanic Gardens and the Esplanade. Birds today could include white-headed pigeon, barred cuckoo-shrike, varied triller, pied monarch, yellow-breasted boatbill, white-eared and spectacled monarchs, grey whistler, eastern whipbird, pale-yellow robin, yellow and varied honeyeaters and double-eyed fig-parrot. We plan to arrive back in Cairns in the late afternoon.
3 July 2023
Tour finishes after breakfast.
Cost: $9,925.00 AUD per person twin share
Single supplement: $1,535.00 AUD maximum estimate.
Cost includes accommodation from pre-tour night to and including day 16; meals from breakfast first morning to breakfast post tour (day 17), guiding, land transport and park entry fees.
Tour leaders: Philip Maher & Patricia Maher