Cape York Peninsula, Bamaga, March 18th - 22nd 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


Phil Gregory, Trevor Bourgaize and Rich Austin


Tuesday March 18th: Departed Cairns on Aerotropics Bandeirante flying cigar tube at 0830 and arrived at Bamaga at 1015. Picked up the hire Land Cruiser just before lunch, and went out to Seisia and Lockerbie Scrub for the afternoon. Highlights were a flock of Fork-tailed Swifts over the Bamaga Resort at 1130 which had a Uniform-type Swiftlet amongst them, and nice looks at Palm Cockatoo flying near Seisia and perched out en route to the scrub.

Wednesday March 19th: Lockerbie Scrub area from 0700-1130, and Pajinka and the tip of Cape York 1500-1630. A terrific day, with a calling Red-bellied Pitta showing well some 2.5 km from the Lockerbie turning, good views of Trevor's most wanted species the Yellow-bellied Boatbill and male Lovely Fairywren nearby, more Palm Cockatoos, and male Magnificent Riflebird feeding on orange fruits, close views of the clown faced White-faced Robin by the road, a Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Kingfisher close together and a brilliant Trumpet Manucode calling and feeding on red figs in the car park at Pajinka.

Thursday March 20th: 0630-1300 Lockerbie scrub and Somerset, some 11 km from the turn- off. Frill-necked Monarch and Tropical Scrubwren were highlights, also Gould's Bronze, Brush and Oriental Cuckoos. Afternoon drove out via the main Cairns road to Muttee Point, seeing Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and Black-backed Butcherbird just 0.5 km down the main road turn off from the airport junction. White-streaked Honeyeater responded well at Cowal Creek again, as per July 2002.

Friday March 21st: Little Woody and Possession Islands 0730-1300. Highlights were Pale White-eye, Mangrove Golden Whistler, Sanderling, Beach Thick-knee, Lesser Frigatebird and Lesser Crested Tern.

Afternoon out at the scrub again, with Grey Goshawk and Palm Cockatoo the highpoints.

Saturday March 22nd: Birding along the Cairns road 0630-0800, then flight to Cairns at 1030 arriving 1215.


Thanks to Sue Gregory for logistics, Bamaga Resort for comfortable accommodation, Gary Wright of Custom Sport Fishing for setting up the boat trip and arranging a car at short notice when the resort ones failed to arrive, Neil Pryde for the boat trip itself, and to Trevor and Rich for good company and the chance to set up a trip to the Cape in the late wet season.

Species Lists

* Denotes a Cape York special

Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami purpureicollis. The far north race lacks the yellow collar of the Kuranda birds, and was much shyer.

Orange-footed Scrub-fowl Megapodius freycinet A few seen in the scrub.

Great Egret Egretta alba One near Seisia.

Reef Egret Egretta sacra A few at the tip of Cape York and also on Little Woody and big Woody Islands, both phases.

Striated Heron Butorides striatus A single on Little Woody Island

Nankeen Night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus An adult at Cowal Creek.

Australian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae Three off Seisia on Red Island.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus One at Muttee Point and one on Big Woody Is.

Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus One over Bamaga on March 21, surprisingly scarce.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster An adult over Big Woody Is.

Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae A pair on the edge of the Lockerbie Scrub on March 21.

Red-necked Crake Rallina tricolor One killed by a car in the road at the scrub, then an adult with five tiny black chicks in the bush nearby March 18.

Buff-banded Rail Rallus philippensis One in the road near the scrub.

Bush-hen Amaurornis olivacea (H) Heard some 2.5 km from the Lockerbie / Punsand Bay turning.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Five flying east at the tip of Cape York.

Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis One at the tip of Cape York in Frangipani Bay.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Several at the tip of Cape York, a couple on Big Woody Island and one on Possession Island.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos A single on Little Woody Island and a couple on Big Woody.

Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelus brevipes Three on Possession Island March 21st.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia One in Frangipani Bay at the tip of the Cape.

Greater Sand-Plover Charadrius leschenaultii Four at Frangipani Bay and three on Possession Is.

Sanderling Calidris alba One off Big Woody Island, a species I did not see last year!

Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris Two at the tip of the Cape were unexpected.

Beach Thick-knee Esacus magnirostris A single on the beach by the monument on Possession Island.

Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae Half a dozen around Seisia wharf.

Crested Tern Sterna bergii Singles at Seisia and a few off Big Woody Is.

Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis Thirty off Big Woody Is.

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia One in Frangipani Bay at the tip of the Cape.

Little Tern Sterna albifrons One on Big Woody Is.

Emerald Ground-Dove Chalcophaps indica A few in the Lockerbie scrub.

Peaceful Dove Geopelia striata A few along the tracks

Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis Common along the rain forest margins and in the drier woodlands.

Wompoo Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus magnificus Nice views in the scrub.

Superb Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus superbus A single glimpsed in the scrub, where we heard a few calling.

Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus regina (H) Heard calling near Somerset and on Big Woody Is.

Torresian Imperial-Pigeon Ducula bicolor Quite a few feeding in the scrub and flying over, max. 30, and a few on Little Woody Island.

* Palm Cockatoo Probosciger aterrimus Singles seen on two days over the Bamaga Resort, maximum day count was 5 birds out by the scrub or on the way to the airport; the species was seen well every day. Three were flushed from the ground in rainforest on March 21, otherwise they were in the eucalypt forests with rain forest patches nearby, a much drier habitat than they occupy in New Guinea.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita Small numbers out in the eucalypt forests.

Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus Small numbers daily

Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus Six en route to Seisia on March 18th, including a lovely male, and a female by the garage on March 22.

Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus One perched near Somerset March 20.

Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus One along the road near Bamaga, and another along the Cairns road, also heard a few times.

* Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis castaneiventris One heard and then seen the next day March 19 in the Lockerbie Scrub. Also one that was either this species or Fan-tailed calling near Bamaga.

Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx russatus Good views of three males chasing and calling noisily on March 19. Heard calling daily.

Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae Three flying near Seisia March 21.

Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus A few out along the roads each day.

Fork-tailed Swift Apus pacificus Forty over Bamaga Resort ahead of a storm on March 18th.

White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus Six over the airport road on March 22nd.

Uniform-type Swiftlet Collocalia (vanikorensis) sp. A single swiftlet with Fork-tailed Swifts on March 18 would have been this species without qualm had I been in Port Moresby. Initially looked black, then a dark blackish-brown above with no white on the rump as it came nearer, dark below with a paler more brownish throat, much smaller than the long winged Fork-tails it was flying amongst though still spiky winged, and tail just slightly notched. Jerky fluttery flight, stiffer winged than the more fluid and graceful Apus pacificus. Views to 50m in dull light ahead of a heavy shower, watched for about 2 minutes from 200m to 50m as it came in over the buildings. Given that out of range dark Collocalia are probably unidentifiable, the likeliest species is the Uniform or Lowland Swiftlet so common just a few hundred km to the north in the lowlands of PNG. The bird certainly fitted the profile.

Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera sylvia I have never seen so many, we were into double figures each day and they were one of the commonest birds along the Lockerbie scrub rainforest section, many more heard calling than we saw. Most birds were adults, though a few juveniles were seen, daily figures recorded were 14, 12, 12 and 6.

Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae Three along the road to Cairns on our last morning, non-introduced wild ones for Trevor and Rich.

Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii Quite common in the eucalypt forest, and calling loudly by the resort at dawn each day.

* Yellow-billed Kingfisher Syma torotoro Very few were calling, 2 H on March 18 and 3H on 19th. Luckily we got nice views of a male in the Lockerbie scrub on March 19th, which initially called near the Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo and interrupted our quest for that species!

Forest Kingfisher Halcyon macleayii Singles in the eucalypt forest on 3 dates.

Sacred Kingfisher Halcyon sanctus One on Little Woody Is. on March 21 probably en route to NG.

Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus The northward movement was well under way, we saw 30 or so each day including over the islands at the tip of the Cape and out on Little Woody Is.

Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis Up to 10 in the eucalypt forest, both adults and immatures.

* Red-bellied Pitta Pitta erythrogaster We heard one calling in the rain forest on March 19th some 2.5 km from the Lockerbie turning, and went in after it, getting fine views as it called after an initial flight view. The throat is an opalescent pale pink colour as it calls, not white as described in Pizzey and Knight. Also heard two others in the scrub proper on March 20th, but calling in both pittas was very limited at this time. An Australian tick for me.

Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor Only two heard all trip, both calling briefly and not tape responsive.

Lovely Fairywren Malurus amabilis Three on March 19th included an adult male, a moulting male and one female. A male and female on March 20th.

Red-backed Fairywren Malurus melanocephalus Good views of males several times, and a few female birds.

* Tropical Scrubwren Sericornis beccarii Nice views of two on March 20th low down in vine tangles, the white eye crescents and white wing bars showing well, but these birds lacked the dark breast streaking so evident on the one we saw last July here. Long pink legs again obvious.

Fairy Gerygone Gerygone palpebrata Good views of the black throated males at several sites.

Large-billed Gerygone Gerygone magnirostris One heard on Big Woody Is. and one seen on Possession in a small patch of mangroves on March 21st.

Helmeted Friarbird Philemon buceroides yorki Fairly common along rain forest edge

Silver-crowned Friarbird Philemon argenticeps Two out in the eucalypt forest about half a km along the main Cairns road on March 20th. Quite prominent bill knob on this race, like a Noisy Friarbird.

Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis Common in the drier forest.

* Tawny-breasted Honeyeater Xanthotis flaviventer Common in the rainforest and very vocal, we saw them daily with up to five birds.

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater Meliphaga notata The commonest passerine in the forest and along the edges, very vocal and sounding a bit different to Kuranda birds.

Graceful Honeyeater M. gracilis We saw and few along the forest edge, the plik call much as at home.

Varied Honeyeater Lichenostomus versicolor One seen and a few heard on Big Woody Is.

Yellow Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavus Seen at the resort and in the eucalypt forest.

White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis Common in the drier forest.

Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta Seen on Little Woody Island.

* White-streaked Honeyeater Trichodere cockerelli Two calling noisily and eventually seen well in the wet heath by Cowal Creek on March 20th.

Brown-backed Honeyeater Ramsayornis modestus A pair nesting by the lagoon at the Bamaga Resort.

Dusky Honeyeater Myzomela obscura A few in the drier woodland.

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher Microeca flavigaster Several out in the dry forest.

* White-faced Robin Tregellasia leucops Very nice close views of one just as we got into the main belt of the Scrub rainforest, the white clown face very distinctive with the black dividing line down the forehead.

Mangrove Robin Eopsaltria pulverulenta (H) Three heard in the fringing mangroves on Big Woody Island.

Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis Parties of four and six out along the Cairns road.

Mangrove Golden Whistler Pachycephala melanura Great views of three males and three female plumaged birds on Little Woody Island. A Queensland tick for me.

Little Shrike-thrush Colluricincla megarhyncha Common in the rain forests.

Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica Seen in the drier woodlands.

Yellow-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus flaviventer A male showed well on March 19th and heard on other days.

Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis Three singles in the rainforest, unfortunately all this species and not Black-winged Monarch.

Spectacled Monarch Monarcha trivirgatus Common in the rainforest.

* Frill-necked Monarch Arses lorealis Lovely views of two males of this split from Frilled Monarch, one by the turn off to Somerset and the other in a gully at Somerset.

Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula Common in the drier woodlands.

Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto (H) Heard in the Lockerbie Scrub on the first afternoon.

Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons A few in the rainforest.

Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus A few along the rain forest edges.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis Common in the drier country.

Varied Triller Lalage leucomela Quite common.

Yellow Oriole Oriolus flavocinctus Commonly heard, and one seen nicely at Bamaga Resort.

Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus One in the dry forest along the Cairns road.

Figbird Sphecotheres viridis A few only.

White-breasted Wood-swallow Artamus leucorhynchus Eight on Little Woody Is and a few on Big Woody.

* Fawn-breasted Bowerbird Chlamydera cerviniventris Four in the eucalypt forest half a km along the road to Cairns on March 20th. They seemed to be moving through and we did not find them there again.

* Black-backed Butcherbird Cracticus mentalis One at the bowerbird site some half a km along the main Cairns road, it seems very scarce up here.

Black Butcherbird Cracticus quoyi Heard in the rainforest and glimpsed once.

* Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus yorki Seven heard on March 18th, a great view of a male on March 19th feeding on small orange fruits in the mid-level of the rain forest, and three or four heard each day.

* Trumpet Manucode Phonygammus keraudrenii Terrific views of one calling and feeding on small red figs in the car park at Pajinka on March 19th, and another along the road not far from Bamaga on March 20th. Also heard calling a few times in the rain forest.

Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum A few around the forest fringes.

Yellow-bellied Sunbird Nectarinia jugularis Common along the forest edges, and four on Big Woody Is.

* Pale White-eye Zosterops citrinellus They were common on Little Woody Island, with a flock of 9 birds repeatedly calling excitedly and flying out over the sea before heading back in. Very bright yellow heads when in sunlight. Also heard on Big Woody Is. A life bird for PG.

Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica Fairly common in the rainforest.

Nutmeg Mannikin Lonchura punctulata One in Bamaga town.

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin Lonchura castaneothorax Seven on Little Woody Island and two at Cape York tip.

Phil Gregory PO Box 387, Cassowary House, Kuranda, Queensland 4872.