Brief Trip to North Queensland 7-10 June 2002


This is a quick account of a brief trip that we made to north Queensland during a long weekend in June this year. We decided to have a break as we had planned to take an overseas trip next year (2003)

Our schedule began with an early flight from Brisbane to Cairns on 7 June. On arrival at Cairns Airport we picked up a small hire-car and travelled to Kuranda pausing for a quick walk through the Mangrove Boardwalk near the airport. A school party had just visited so the list of new species was restricted to Olive-backed Sunbird and Striated Heron.


Cairns Mangrove Boardwalk

Striated Heron


On arrival in Kuranda we checked into Cassowary House and were greeted by Sue Gregory, whose husband Phil was leading a birding tour to PNG. Sue introduced us to her three resident Cassowaries, a full-grown male and female and a juvenile who had taken to hanging around the house but was in the process of being ousted by his father. Sue informed us that it could be dangerous to stay too close to the youngster as dad could be so focused in his attack that he would run right over us!

Fortunately we didn't see this but they don't expect the juvenile to have a very long life-expectancy as he has little chance of finding his own territory with the lack of available habitat in the area.


Southern Cassowary

Southern Cassowary


After a terrific afternoon and evening at Cassowary House, where we saw Pied Monarch, Victoria's Riflebird, and Barred Cuckooshrike (amongst others!) we got up very early on saturday and drove about 100 kms to Daintree Village, to take one of Chris Dahlberg's Specialised River Tours. On arrival at the jetty at 6am (in the dark) we found Chris preparing his boat.

As dawn broke we were soon viewing birds, and Marie saw her first Shining Flycatchers fairly close to the jetty and despite Chris's excellent manouvering I was unable to get any useable images. Chris was slightly concerned by the incoming tide so he made his way to Barratt Creek where we saw a host of new species - Grey Whistler, Lovely Fairywren, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Large-billed Gerygone and my most sought-after NQ species - Little Kingfisher.


Daintree River

Daintree River


Once again I failed to get shots of the 'star-bird' but Chris suggested that after the cruise we visit Red Mill House in Daintree Village as there is often a resident Little Kingfisher there. We duly did this after our excellent cruise sadly came to an end, and although we failed to see the kingfisher, we did manage to see a very-late (or very-early!) male Australian Koel. Our host gave us a nice guided tour of the guest-house surroundings and after tea we set off for Kingfisher Park in Julatten.

Taking the road up to Mt Molloy we were surprised how quickly the weather changed from pleasant to very wet, and on our arrival at Kingfisher Park (KP) it was raining very heavily. This did not seem to bother the owner, Ron who informed us that north Queensland was currently suffering from a bad drought. The birds around the reception seemed to enjoy the rain too, and we saw all three of the 'Lewin's-type' Meliphaga honeyeaters on the feeders, Lewin's, Yellow-spotted and Graceful. Also in the garden we saw Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Grey-headed and Pale-yellow Robin, Spectacled Monarch, Spotted Catbird and Macleay's Honeyeater.

Whilst enjoying a well-earned cup of tea with Ron, Carole and Andrew we spotted a familiar face at Reception and were surprised to see Noel an Irish birder from Cork who had visited us a few weeks before. He joined us whilst Ron made some very intricate 'mud-maps' for the afternoon birding session.

Noel, Marie and I drove out to Mt Molloy and had lunch at Angela's Mexican Restaurant (possibly the largest burgers in Australia?) and outside saw Great Bowerbird. We then followed Ron's excellent instructions to Lake Mitchell where we saw Sarus Crane, Square-tailed Kite, Green Pygmy-Goose and a large selection of other waterbirds. Returning to KP we stopped at the Abbatoir Swamp Environment Centre where we saw Northern Fantail, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Forest Kingfisher and Yellow Honeyeater amongst others. Very close to the turn-off to KP, we stopped at the roadside and saw Lemon-bellied Robin, Red-winged Parrot and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.


Forest Kingfisher

Wandering Whistling-Duck


Northern Fantail

Sarus Crane


That evening we had arranged to take a nocturnal evening walk with Andrew and Carole but Andrew warned us that due to a nearby theatrical evening our chances of seeing Lesser Sooty Owl would be diminished as people had placed their tents under the nesting-tree. Fortunately we did see the female briefly as she quickly fled the tree, though despite waiting for a while, she didn't return.

Carole showed us the previous nest-hole of the Lesser Sooty-Owls which was now occupied by Barn Owls and we saw an Owlet-Nightjar nearby. As we crossed back into KP Andrew spotted a Striped Possum,  a species new for most of the observers.

Later near the orchard Andrew also found a Prehensile-tailed Rat, a seldom seen and rare species known from only a few locations in N Qld (another being Cassowary House) and a couple of frog species the Northern Barred and Graceful Treefrog.


Striped Possum

Northern Barred Frog


Sunday began rather quietly with few new birds, so we decided to drive up the rainforest track up Mt Lewis and search for some harder species. At the famous clearing we stopped the car and immediately 'ticked' Bridled Honeyeater and Mountain Thornbill and a few hundred metres further on I saw the most sought-after, the Blue-faced Finch. Unfortunately there was only one, though there were supposed to be more at the top of Mt Lewis. Following the trail through the forest we had great views of Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Grey-headed Robin and I was fortunate to get a nice look at male and female Golden Bowerbird high in a tree. After a while we finally discovered the turn-off for the well-known Golden Bowerbird's bower and found it fairly easily just off the track. Positioning ourselves several metres away from the asymmetric bower we heard a noisy bird return but it turned out to be a female or immature male, brown not golden in colour.


Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater


Noel and Marie

Orange Bushbrown


After all this excitement we decided to head back to Kuranda, pausing briefly near Mareeba Wetlands. We would have liked longer there as it seemed like an excellent example of northern australian savannah and it was also supposed to be a good place to see Black-throated Finch and Squatter Pigeon. I saw Red-browed Pardalote and the blue-cheeked variety of Pale-headed Rosella and it was a hard decision to leave. As we entered Mareeba I was convinced that I saw a Black Falcon passing over but it was travelling so fast that I couldn't confirm this.

We arrived back in Cassowary House late-afternoon and Sue told us to come to their feeding station where we saw Spotted Catbird, Black Butcherbird, Macleay's and Yellow-spotted Honeyeater and right on dusk a fantastic Red-necked Rail appeared!

As it got dark we were also treated to views of the huge White-tailed Rat, which legend has it, can chew through tin-cans!


Red-necked Rail

White-tailed Rat


This was only a brief trip to N Qld but was made great by the kindness and generosity of all the folk at Kuranda, Daintree and Kingfisher Park. We hope to return soon to revisit and sample some more of the great wildlife and atmosphere that North Queensland has to offer. Hope you've enjoyed this summary of our trip.

Tom and Marie Tarrant, Samsonvale, Queensland 4520 Australia


Species List