Far North Queensland, Australia - 24 June - 5 July 2017

Published by Aidan Powell (aidan.j.powell AT gmail.com)

Participants: Aidan Powell, Grant Powell, Sally Mcctuchan



Night 1: Cairns - Melbourne
Day 1: Port Douglas
Day 2: Bump track and Port Douglas
Day 3: Port Douglas
Day 4: Mt Lewis birding tour
Day 5: Port Douglas
Day 6: Port Douglas - Cape tribulation via the Daintree
Day 7: Cape tribulation - Mungumby
Day 8: Laura dance festival, Spilt rock and Keatings lagoon
Day 9: Mungumby lodge - Cassowary house via Cooktown and Mt Molloy
Day 10: Cassowary house, Curtain fig, Mt hypipamee, tzarli lakes, Nerada tea plantation and Granite gorge
Day 11: Cassowary house - Cairns - Melbourne via northern end of the esplanade, banyan tree, Crimson finch site and black mountain road guided tour



Port Douglas - Mandalay: This was a great hotel opposite the bush stone curlew roost. It's well vegetated grounds were a good introduction to North Queensland birding. It had a pool and was directly opposite the beach. It is a great base for exploring the region. The accommodation is self catering apartments.

Cape tribulation - Cape tribulation fruit farm: Cabin accomodation, Delicious breakfast included with fantastic seasonally tropical fruit grown in the orchard. This is a working fruit farm, with fruit tastings every afternoon. It is bordered by rainforest and occasionally gets cassowaries, we managed to see and hear a superb fruit dove.

Near Rossville (Half an hour south of Cooktown) - Mungumby lodge: Cabin accommodation with breakfast included. It is a great location in the rainforest with large tailled nightjars on the driveway and agile wallabies in the dry woodland. In the rainforest surronding the lodge they occasionally get Bennett's tree kangaroo and striped possum, ask at reception. The powderpuff tree opposite the main building was flowering when we where there, this proved a Mecca for honeyeaters. Walking tracks crisscross the property

Kuranda - Cassowary house: We stayed in two rooms but there are also cabins. The breakfast is delicious and I loved it, there is an assortment of fruits, yogurts, cereals, eggs, bread and Jams.
The location is superb, it is situated in the rainforest and is half an hour from cairns. The wildlife is amazing, Victoria's riflebirds, spotted catbirds, yellow spotted honeyeaters, hornbill frairbirds and black butcherbirds visited the feeders while Australian brush turkeys,emerald doves and musky rat kangaroos patrolled the forest floor. We saw southern cassowary both mornings we were there, once next to our room and once underneath the main house. The bird walks that phil takes are amazing and usually sees many good forest birds including many monarchs and birds like chowchilla and double eyed fig parrot. I cannot recommend cassowary house highly enough, if you only have several days spend it here.


Mt Lewis half day tour: fine feather tours- This tour was amazing and I would highly recommend it. We saw many great birds and superb viewing was the norm.

Morning walk around cassowary house: Cassowary tours - This tour was a great tour which afforded us great views of species previously only glimpsed. One species that we found no where else was double eyed fig parrot.

Car hire:

We hired three cars. The first we used just to get to Port Douglas and to drive to the bump track was a Holden commadore station wagon. After we had visited the bump track we dropped the car back and picked up Toyota Camry Sedan for the birding tour then returned that and hired a Holden Colorado 4wd. This was a adequate car for the Bloomfield track and most tracks around Cooktown.

Far North Queensland report

Night 1: After our arrival from Cairns airport, we drove up the Captain Cook highway for an hour and arrived at Port Douglas. The drive was not eventful however, we did see a dingo on our way there and several bush stone curlews after arriving in the town.

Day 1: I was up early, much to the annoyance of my sleeping family, to catch the dawn chorus. Black butcherbird, orange footed scrubfowl, hornbill friarbird and green oriole were some of the birds active, (for info on the more common town birds throughout this trip report go to my list). To my surprise, I located a bush stone curlew roost by my hotel and was rewarded with great views of these strange birds. Later in the day, not much was active however, I did see a spangled drongo on a wire and there was a leaden flycatcher in some gums.

Day 2: Today was my first real birding day! We explored Bump track, (port end), in Mowbray National Park, seeing many new birds. While we arrived around midday there was still plenty of bird activity. Opposite the start of the track was a forest kingfisher sitting in the sun. It was a bird I thought would be rare but, it was actually very common along telephone wires and on fences throughout the region. Rainbow bee-eaters soared overhead dwarfing the tiny Australian swiftlets.

The track itself is a mountain bike and walking track and can be extremely steep in parts. While we did see many birds, it is probably best not done in the heat of the day. I think the track would be superb early in the morning. The track starts in eucalyptus forest and winds its way up into some open rainforest, (not the best habitat but, I suspect it still sustains quite a few rainforest birds). The eucalyptus were very productive and we managed to see many flycatchers and honeyeater species. Rufous fantail, grey fantail and leaden flycatcher were extremely prominent and we even found a northern fantail. Along the eucalyptus section we also saw many honeyeaters in the treetops but the only one we could focus on was a white throated. There was a lack of ground foragers for the most part on the track but I managed to see one emerald dove foraging on the track near the rainforest section. There I stumbled across a mixed feeding flock. Among the fantails and flycatchers I discovered fairy gerygone. The beautiful yellow birds flitted and hovered around and were easy to watch where the track passes the tops of the trees. After a long look at that feeding flock we moved onto the true rainforest, (albeit fragmented), and heard the distinctive call of the Victoria's riflebird. We missed the bird but were compensated by a sighting of the northern race of the pale yellow robin and the dusky honeyeater. We then turned around and had an uneventful walk back to the start of the track except for some more forest kingfishers.

Day 3: Today was mostly a relaxed day on the Port Douglas beach, with not much around except an Eastern reef egret.

Day 4: Mt Lewis day: On Wednesday the 28th of June 2017, my dad and I went on a birding tour at Mt Lewis. Our original tour was booked for Sunday but, had to be moved due to dark damp conditions. We woke early, prepared our gear and soon got in the car to drive to the nine mile store in Julatten where we would meet our guide, Del. On switching vehicles to Del's birding van, we immediately drove to the closest birding road. My lifer streak would soon start. When we got out of the car Del instantly spotted dusky and graceful honeyeaters in with a flock of silver eyes and sunbirds. A graceful honeyeater even flew into the car's open door! After ushering it out, we started walking down the road and came upon a flock of fairy gerygones, pale yellow robins, little shrike thrush, red backed fairy wren and the stunning lovely fairy wren. Brown cuckoo doves and Australian swiftlets flew above and the rainforest abounded with the sounds of wompoos and riflebirds.

We continued walking until we were in the true lowland rainforest. There we saw bee-eaters soar above the clearing, Macleay's honeyeater in the tree tops and spectacled monarch in the undergrowth. I then turned around and glimpsed a red-necked crake running across the road. We heard a riflebird calling in the tree tops. It was tantalisingly close but, we could not see it. We did however see two individual spotted catbirds before it was time to set off to the higher altitudes of Mount Lewis.

On the drive there, we saw forest kingfisher, white breasted woodswallow, peaceful dove and rainbow bee- eater. We went to two boatbill sites. At the first one we only saw a brown gerygone however, at the second site we were rewarded with superb views of yellow breasted boatbill as well as grey whistler. After missing pied monarch there, we crossed the river, switched vehicle to a land cruiser and had morning tea. We then commenced the drive up to the high altitude forest at 1,000 meters. On the way up, still no pied monarch nor chestnut breasted cuckoo but we managed pacific emerald dove and grey headed robin.

At the top, we commenced our walk at a small clearing. The weather was terrible and so we struggled to see much except for grey headed robins for the first 500 meters of the walk. After a while, we managed two more Atherton endemics. One was the endearing Atherton scrubwren the other, the tiny mountain thornbill. I thought the scrubwren was much more beautiful than the familiar large billed which I had seen elsewhere and on the earlier walk.

Fortunately, the weather slowly brightened up and we walked on to the dam where we made a decision to keep walking to the golden bowerbird bower that was nearby. This proved to be extremely rewarding as not only did we see the actual bower we also saw the elusive Chowchilla. We were extremely close to the stunning pair and I got some photos. On the way back we managed to see the mountain race of grey fantail and bridled honeyeater in the same tree, as well as, an Eastern spinebill. On the way back we saw more Atherton scrubwrens, yellow throated scrubwrens, mountain thornbills and even a tooth billed bowerbirds bower.

Driving down the mountain, we again dipped on pied monarch but, heard a chestnut breasted cuckoo tantalisingly close to the road. Despite much searching the cuckoo was not to be seen but, returning to the car we did see some Agile wallabies. After, much thanks and farewells to Del we drove back to Port Douglas.

Day 5: Today was spent relaxing in Port Douglas with little activity on the birding front.

Day 6: Today we travelled across the Daintree river to Cape Tribulation. We were short on time for birding in the Daintree but, we did see the azure kingfisher on the ferry as well as the most enormous saltwater crocodile. We also managed to see about 10 wompoo fruit doves sitting in a tree and a spectacled monarch in the canopy at Jindalba forest Boardwalk. Due to heavy rain, southern cassowary proved elusive and we were forced to spend the rest of the day inside.

Day 7: Today we travelled to Mungumby lodge via the Bloomfield track. In the morning at our accommodation at the Cape Trib fruit farm, I spotted a superb fruit dove flying overhead but, despite several attempts, I could not relocate it. Along the Bloomfield track we stopped at South Cowie beach where we saw the resident beach stone curlews as well as many rainbow bee-eaters.

We continued up the Bloomfield track and beyond to Mungumby where we started birding right away underneath the flowering powderpuff tree. There we had amazing looks at yellow spotted honeyeaters, hornbill friarbirds, dusky honeyeaters and Macleay's honeyeaters. A walk around the property failed to produce the much awaited tropical scrubwren but again more of the favourite, spectacled monarch as well as azure kingfisher on the river.

Day 8: Today we went to the legendary Laura dance festival where we watched the aboriginal communities of Cape York in a dance off. In addition to the amazing performances we also watched black breasted buzzards soar over the road and red winged parrots, bustards and brolgas by the side of the road. A few kilometres back towards Laura, at Split rock we marvelled at the celebrated aboriginal rock painting.

In the afternoon we visited Cooktown, where more rain cut short our visit. We did however manage a walk at Keatings lagoon in the late afternoon but only saw a couple of comb crested jacanas from a long distance away.

Day 9: Today was a travel day to Cassowary house in Kuranda. Before heading south we visited the Captain Cook museum at Cooktown. After a long drive, an afternoon tea stop at Mount Molloy produced dusky and brown honeyeaters, red winged parrots and a great bowerbird. We arrived at Cassowary house just after dark so were forced to wait until morning to explore.

Day 10: Atherton Day: Today we got up and went birding. I kick started the day with some fantastic wildlife in seeing a female Victoria's riflebird outside my room. Then it was downstairs for Sue's amazing breakfast where we also saw spotted catbird and some male riflebirds. Within about two seconds we had spotted the majestic southern cassowary, a truly spectacular bird. Musky rat kangaroos and Australian brush turkey patrolled the ground, with emerald doves on the outskirts and hornbill friarbirds ruling the nectar.

After a long time observing the feeders it was time to move on to curtain fig in Yungaburra. This is where I finally caught up with my beloved pied monarch. A truly stunning bird, the pied monarch is in my top five favourite birds. We also saw a grey headed robin. Moving on to Mt Hypipamee, we got even better views of the pied monarch, saw more Atherton scrubwrens and also some great views of a grey headed robin. The Lewin's honeyeaters there were so tame I bet I could have hand fed them! After lunch we travelled to the Nerada tea plantation where we managed to see 3 Lumholz tree kangaroos. Lumholz tree kangaroo are among my favourite mammals because they are unique and localised. The female there also had a Joey. The finale of the day was at Granite gorge where we saw many Mareeba rock wallabies and a yellow honeyeater.

Day 11: Cairns day: Today we left at 7:30am to do the morning walk at Cassowary House with Phil. This proved extremely successful because we saw barred cuckoo shrike and the amazing double eyed fig parrot. Before the walk, I went down to have a closer look at a yellow spotted honeyeater that I could see calling and stumbled across a cassowary! After another delicious breakfast provided by Sue and some bird site tips from Phil, we said goodbye to Cassowary House and headed to Cairns. We saw Crimson finch between Smithfield and Caravonica by the roadside and then walked along the Cairns esplanade where we saw overwintering great knots and two mangrove specialties the varied honeyeater and the mangrove robin. Then we said our farewells to the tropical north and headed to cold Melbourne.

Species Lists

Australian Pelican - Seen through the wetlands along the coast
Australasian Darter - one seen at Keatings lagoon
Little Pied Cormorant - one seen at Keatings lagoon
Silver Gull - Seen along cairns esplanade and in Cooktown
Gull-billed Tern - 3 along the cairns esplanade
Greater Crested Tern - Common in Port Douglas and cairns
Bush Stone Curlew - Very common in farmland, there was also a roost in Port Douglas and several seen in Kuranda.
Beach Stone Curlew - An individual seen at south cowie beach
Red-capped Plover - One seen on the esplanade
Black-fronted Dotterel - One seen on the esplanade
Masked Lapwing - Very common throughout
Comb-crested Jacana - Two seen in a ditch in port Douglas, three at Keatings lagoon
Whimbrel - One overwintering bird on the cairns esplanade
Great Knot - At least 15 overwintering on the cairns esplanade
Magpie Goose - At least 5 along the road at lake Mitchell, a flock flew along the car at cape trib
Pacific Black Duck - Several where seen by the roadside at Yungaburra
Cattle Egret - Abundant throughout
Intermediate Egret - One bird at Keatings lagoon
Eastern Reef Egret - One bird at the port Douglas beach
Australian White Ibis - Abundant throughout
Straw-necked Ibis - Abundant throughout, including in towns
Brolga - Several seen by the highway towards Laura
Red-necked Crake - One seen dash across the road on dels tour
Australasian Swamphen - Many where seen at Nerada tea plantation and near Yungaburra
Australian Bustard - One was seen between Laura and Lakeland
Southern Cassowary - This magnificent bird was seen twice at cassowary house on two different days.
Australian Brush Turkey - Abudant on the Atherton tableland and around mungumby lodge & cassowary house
Orange-footed Scrubfowl - Abudant throughout, a common bird in port Douglas
White-bellied Sea Eagle - Common along most stretches of coastline, A hunting bird at Keatings lagoon
Wedge-tailed Eagle - Seen once or twice along the mulligan highway
Black Kite - Abundant throughout the dry country
Whistling Kite - Several seen around Mareeba, much less rarer than black kite
Black-breasted Buzzard - Once seen soaring near Laura
Grey Goshawk - One seen at Mt hypipamee, one seen at Mt Lewis
Collared Sparrowhawk - One seen below Mt Lewis
Black-shouldered Kite - One seen along the road to Malanda
Brown Falcon - One seen in between Laura and Lakeland
Galah - Abundant in Laura
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Common throughout, especially in port Douglas
Little Corella - Common in the dry country
Rainbow Lorikeet - Abundant in most coastal towns.
Double-eyed Fig Parrot - Two seen on black mountain road
Red-winged Parrot - Several in Laura, Lakeland and Mt Molloy
Rock Dove - Common in cairns, absent in Port Douglas
Brown Cuckoo Dove - Common in most rainforest habitat
White-headed Pigeon - Several seen around Cassowary House
Pacific Emerald Dove - One seen at cassowary House, one on the road up to Mt Lewis
Crested Pigeon - Seen in most inland towns
Bar-shouldered Dove - Very common throughout
Peaceful Dove - Very common throughout
Topknot Pigeon - Many seen around Cassowary House
Wompoo Fruit Dove - 10 seen in one tree by the Daintree discovery centre
Superb Fruit Dove - One seen flying above the cape tribulation fruit farm, despite hearing it call I could not relocate it.
Laughing Kookaburra - Common throughout
Forest Kingfisher - Surprisingly common throughout in any wet habitat
Azure Kingfisher - One was seen at mungumby lodge, one seen when crossing the Daintree ferry
Rainbow Bee-eater - Abundant throughout
Australian Swiftlet - Very common throughout
Welcome Swallow - Very common throughout
Chowchilla - This stunning species was seen well at Mt Lewis, however we had to work for it.
Yellow-throated Scrubwren - Several where seen at Mt Lewis
Large-billed Scrubwren - Abundant resident in all lowland rainforest pockets
Atherton Scrubwren - We found this species very easy to see on Mt Lewis, we may have seen the southern subspecies at Mt hypipamee but it was gone quickly and may have been a large billed.
Mountain Thornbill - Abundant on Mt Lewis
Fairy Gerygone - Very common in rainforest pockets, a characteristic bird of the feeding flocks
Brown Gerygone - Common in the rainforest
Large-billed Gerygone - One seen on the northern end of cairns esplanade in the mangroves, however could of been mangrove gerygone
Red-backed Fairy Wren - Several seen around jullatern
Lovely Fairy Wren - A stunning species seen well around jullatern
Varied Honeyeater - Common along the northern end of the esplanade.
Yellow Honeyeater - Several seen at granite gorge
White-throated Honeyeater - A few seen around flowering trees on the bump track
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater - Common around Cassowary House and Mungumby Lodge
Graceful Honeyeater - Abundant throughout all rainforest pockets, the best way to distinguish this species from the previous one is their call
Lewin's Honeyeater - Common on Mt Lewis
Bridled Honeyeater - One bird seen on Mt Lewis
Dusky Honeyeater - The most common honeyeater of the trip, they seemed to be in every habitat
Brown Honeyeater - Much less common then dusky, observed only once in Mt Molloy
Macleays Honeyeater - Very common in rainforest, seen extremely well at mungumby lodge and cassowary house
Hornbill Friarbird - Abundant throughout, seen extremely well frequently.
Eastern Whipbird - One bird running across the track at Mt Lewis was the only bird we saw, however we heard many
White-throated Treecreeper - The northern race was seen several times up on Mt Lewis
Varied Triller - Very common in rainforest pockets
Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike - Seen throughout in small numbers
White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike - Several seen in port Douglas
Barred Cuckoo Shrike - One seen on Mt Lewis, the other gave us superb views on black mountain road
White-breasted Woodswallow - Abundant in towns
Black Butcherbird - Very common in rainforest and in Port Douglas, visited the feeders at cassowary house
Pied Butcherbird - Common around Laura, no sign of the black backed butcherbird.
Australian Magpie - Abundant throughout
Torresian Crow - Common throughout
Victoria's Riflebird - Heard many times and finally gave superb views at cassowary house
Spotted Catbird - Seen once near jullatern, many seen at cassowary house and around black mountain road
Great Bowerbird - One was seen in Mt Molloy, an amazing feat considering we were only there for fifteen minutes and not even looking!
Australasian Figbird - Very common throughout, the northern race is much brighter
Olive-backed Oriole - Common around Laura
Yellow Oriole - Common throughout
Spangled Drongo - One seen in Port Douglas and several seen in cairns
Magpie Lark - Very common throughout
Leaden Flycatcher - Common in dry country
Spectacled Monarch - Several in jullatern, the Daintree and at mungumby lodge
Pied Monarch - This fabulous bird has to be one of my favourites. We missed it at Mt Lewis but saw it at curtain fig and Mt hypipamee.
Yellow-breasted Boatbill - This amazing bird was seen superbly well in jullatern
Grey Fantail - The nominate race was seen in the lowlands, the darker "mountain fantail" was seen on Mt Lewis
Northern Fantail - Seen once on the bump track, identified by its upright posture and it not moving often
Rufous Fantail - Very common in all forest times around the coast
Wille Wagtail - Very common throughout
Pale Yellow Robin - Common throughout the rainforest at all altitudes
Grey-headed Robin - Common on Mt Lewis and on the Atherton tablelands
Mangrove Robin - Seen very well around the northern end the esplanade, came out of the mangroves and onto the grass
Golden Whistler - One seen in jullatern
Grey Whistler - One seen at cassowary house, one seen at jullatern
Little Shrike Thrush - Abundant throughout the rainforest
Bowers Shrike Thrush - One seen on Mt Lewis
Olive-backed Sunbird - Abundant along the coast
Mistletoebird - Common in port Douglas
Silvereye - Common at jullatern
Golden-headed Cistacola - One seen at Crimson finch sight
Australian Pipit - Seen on the road near the Crimson finch site
Bassian Thrush - Seen along the road on the way up to Mt Lewis
Common Myna - Abundant throughout
Metallic Starling - Seen in Cairns and Port Douglas in high numbers. I think that there is a large Resident population as well as many migratory individuals.
Crimson Finch - We saw this beautiful bird between Smithfield and caravonica by the side of the road
Red-browed Finch - Seen throughout the rainforest
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin - Seen at the Crimson Finch site
Nutmeg Mannikin - Common in Port Douglas
House Sparrow - Common in Cairns