Friday 12 August 2022

Trip Report Cape York 27 May - 30 June, 2022 - Cecile Espigole Part 2



A day in Cairns was necessary to check whether or not we could still cope with civilisation, and look at a few birds on the Esplanade: we heard the Mangrove Robin but didn’t see it, and if the Rufous Owls were in Les Davie Park, they were hiding well. We drowned our sorrows in sashimi fish and other Japanese delicacies before heading back for the Atherton Tablelands.


Atherton Tablelands

Highlights were the numerous Wompoo Fruit-Doves and Victoria’s Riflebirds feeding early morning in the palm trees at Lake Barrine together with a Tooth-billed Bowerbird guarding its nest; Barred Cuckooshrikes and Double-eyed Fig-Parrots feeding on the great fig tree at Lake Eacham; three Herberton Honeyeaters at Wondecla thanks to another tip from Belinda; and a Lesser Sooty Owl at its hollow at Curtain Tree Fig thanks to Paul from Wait a While Tours in Cairns, who we met by chance on Thomas Rd. The following night, Cam and I went to Curtain Fig Tree on dusk equipped with red lights, telephoto lenses, tripods, thermals and beanies. While we were patiently waiting for the owl to come out, a bloke arrived, just looking for anything and everything that could eventuate in the dark, and seeing we were onto something, he decided to stay with us (damn). At the crucial moment the owl started emitting sounds from inside its hollow, the bloke’s point and shoot camera run out of battery. By the time he finished wrestling with his gear to fetch a spare battery, the owl appeared, and that’s when he realised that his camera didn’t have an SD card. The annoying situation was becoming comical, and I don’t know how the bloke managed to photograph the bird but he did! and we all left happy after looking at each other’s images in the carpark.

We also heard Lesser Sooty Owls every night at Bonadio Nature and RV Park which was a great base to bird the Tablelands. Even though the place was packed (until the first cold snap anyway when many of the grey nomads must then have left for warmer places to stay along the coast), the owners who visited every day created an amazing atmosphere in this park located along a wildlife corridor stuck behind the corn fields.

We also heard Spotted Catbirds, Yellow-breasted Boatbills, and Brolgas among other rainforest beauties from the camper.

Lesser Sooty Owl Tyto multipunctate             Sarus Crane Antigone antigone

Grey-headed Robin Heteromyias Cinereifrons


Fuscous Honeyeater Ptilotula fusca subgermanus aka Herberton Honeyeater


Barred Cuckooshrike Coracina lineata                                   

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma marshalli


Girraway NP, Murray Falls

To stick to nature spots to overnight, our next stop was Murray Falls in Girraway NP, south of Tully. There were not many birds but the site was great for photography and swimming.

 Murray Falls

NP, Wallaman Falls

West of Ingham, we climbed the range and saw an adult Southern Cassowary disappear in the thick vegetation shortly before arriving at Wallaman Falls. At the campsite, we found birds moving and feeding in groups of mixed species and is where we saw our first Pied Monarch of the trip. The section of road between the campsite and the top of the range was rainforest with Rose-crowned, Superb and Wompoo Fruit-Doves heard as well as Yellow-breasted Boatbills. Brush-turkeys were a real menace at the campsite. Something we learned about Brush-turkeys during our trip when looking at photographing a male ssp purpureicollis in Iron Range is that their pouch is shrunk when they are not breeding and therefore look like females.

 Wallaman Falls


Banggurru walk

Macleay's Honeyeater Xanthotis macleayanus

                                    Pied Monarch Arses kaupi kaupi 

Paluma Range NP, Jourama Falls

Nothing memorable when we visited towards midday except for a very cold swim.


Paluma Range NP, Big Crystal Creek

After photographing more Yellow-breasted Boatbills, another Pied Monarch and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher/Flyrobin and other birds feeding in the same flock, Cam got himself a new bird when checking pictures back at the camper in the evening: a Lovely Fairywren that we had originally called a Variegated Fairywren.

Big Crystal Creek

 Paluma Range NP, Mount Spec

The village green had the most Pied Currawongs and Crimson Rosellas (nigrescens ssp) and the forest the most Chowchillas I have ever seen. While heading to the track to Witts Lookout, we were swooped by a Victoria’s Riflebird in the main street. We heard Fernwrens on the McClelands Lookout track and ended up seeing one on the Witts Lookout track feeding with Chowchillas. Cam described this bird as the hardest ever to photograph with hectic movements that couldn’t be anticipated in the low light conditions of the rainforest. If you though like us that the Fernwren is related to scrubwrens, then you might be interested to know that the Fernwren Oreoscopus gutturalis has its own genus, and is believed to be sister to Acanthizinae (gerygones, thornbills, whitefaces, Scrubtit, and Weebil) and Sericornithinae (scrubwrens, fieldwrens, mouse-warblers, Redthroat, Pilotbird, Rockwarbler, and Speckled-warbler).

 Pale Yellow Robin Tregellasia capito nana 

Chowchilla Orthonyx spaldingii melasmenus

Eungella NP

We went directly at the end of Chelmans Rd, Dalrymple Heights, where I had seen the Eungella Honeyeater in 2017 and 2019, and we were not disappointed as it was the dominant species in this patch. We caught up with Mary Cruickshank who was one of my French students in Maryborough, she now lives in Mackay and is involved in the Eungella Bird Week organised by Mackay branch of Birdlife Australia every year. The bird surveys will continue every year but they are now going to alternate a big and a small year with accommodation and most food provided during the big year on the village oval, and people accommodating and feeding themselves at Broken River during the small year.

 End of Chelmans Rd                                                                             


Eungella Honeyeater Bolemoreus hindwoodi

St Lawrence Wetlands

We are getting very close to home now but Brolgas, the first Australian Bustards of our trip and the call of a Lewin’s Rail somewhat pumped our birding enthusiasm up a bit.



Springers Lagoon and Sullivan Rd, Gracemere

We had lunch at Springers Lagoon on Sullivan Rd which was one of Peter Tierney’s favourite birding spots. Peter passed away while we were on this trip, and this was my way of saying goodbye.

 Port Alma Rd and Twelve Mile Rd, Marmor

We didn’t see any Yellow Chat nor Zitting Cisticola but the Twelve Mile Rd site is beautiful.

Twelve Mile Road Site

Thanks to Cecile and Cameron for sharing their trip Text and Photographs

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Trip Report Cape York 27 May - 30 June, 2022 - Cecile Espigole

Cathu SF

First stop northwest of Mackay, Jaxut camping area in the rainforest section of Cathu SF is about 30min from the A1. Complete with lookouts, waterfalls, and swimming holes, Cathu SF definitely deserves more time to explore. Morning birding before heading off to Ingham was quite good. We’ll be back! 

Tyto Wetlands

Shorter drive on day 2 to allow time in Tyto Wetlands which were… closed! due to recent rain, flooded paths and crocs moving about. Highlights of our afternoon venture were White-browed Robin and White-gaped Honeyeater, but no Crimson Finch. We didn’t go back at night for the Eastern Grass Owl, as planned. Another quick stop at the Wetlands on our way back home in June yielded great shots of the Crimson Finch for Cam, and good views (but crappy shots) of the White-browed Crake in the drain just before the main lagoon at the back of the Wetlands.

   White-browed Robin Poecilodryas superciliosa
                                                                                                                      White-browed Crake Poliolimnas cinereus

Mount Hypipamee NP

Weekend and mid-morning was definitely not the best time to visit this site. Of the three Golden Bowerbird bowers we know, only one was standing but didn’t look attended. The path leading to the bowers looks well used. We met people in the carpark who couldn’t tell the difference between a Rufous and a Golden Whistler who also knew the location of the bowers which reinforced our impression that this site is suffering excessive visitation. A subsequent visit in June only yielded scrubitch. Notable on our second visit was a flock of 25+ Satin Bowerbirds in the fig tree above the carpark accompanied by 3 adult males. A local met in Wongabel SF explained that she sees Satin Bowerbirds in big flocks every winter. Of the recent sightings of male Southern Cassowary with chicks, we only got fresh poo along the road.



With Feathers’n’Friends and Kingfisher Park not accommodating campers anymore, Tableland Caravan Park, at the back of Nine Mile Rd, was our next best option, and boy! did the birds perform on Nine Mile Rd: Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Superb Fruit-Dove, Spotted Catbird, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot excavating a cavity for nesting on a Victoria's Riflebird’s display stump, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo within the first 500m of the road (attention, Fan-tailed Cuckoo also present here), Cryptic, Yellow-spotted and Macleay's Honeyeaters, Large-billed and Brown Gerygones, and an immature Red-necked Crake close to the cattle yard. Later, Del Richards explained that the Crakes had bred in the caravan park last season. Memorable on the morning we were headed for Mount Lewis in the dark in hope to see the Lesser Sooty Owl, was that very bird calling above the camper! We went looking trying not to wake everybody up but were not successful. We then heard several on the Mount Lewis Rd but had to wait until our return to the Atherton Tablelands in June to finally see one. Del was a mine of information: we talked bird locations in Iron Range and Atherton Tablelands, Buff-breasted Buttonquail and his book: My Country Life.

Olive-backed Sunbird
Cinnyris jugularis                                                 

 Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis baileyi                                 

 Mount Lewis

We arrived at the clearing on Mount Lewis at first light in an enchanting dawn chorus. The usual suite of bird species was seen (see trip list attached, by location), including two Blue-faced Parrotfinches. We often hear that this species is only found at lower altitude in winter, but a few must prefer the hills as this is my third winter visit with Parrotfinches sighted within half an hour after daybreak, but not later in the day. Notable sightings: high number of Bridled Honeyeaters, a pair of Tooth-billed Bowerbirds camped above the road for 20+ minutes, a small group (4 or 5) of Shining Bronze-Cuckoos, the lucidus ssp from NZ (I had been on the lookout for that subspecies for some time, was told that the colours were unmistakable, I know what this means now), and an incredible number of banded birds. On our way down, we met and had a chat with Leo Joseph, Director of the Australian National Wildlife Collection, who is interested in publishing the information we gathered about the Marbled Frogmouth at Bulburin NP following our sightings last year which extends its distribution north by 350km+ (according to the distribution map in The Australian Bird Guide).


Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus lucidus                         Tooth-billed Bowerbird                                                                                                                             Scenopoeetes dentirostris



Finally on Cape York, our first stop was Quincan Split Rock art site where Cam and I had our second common lifer for the trip: White-streaked Honeyeater which was the dominant species in the carpark. A splendid bird, one of our favourite sightings of the whole trip.

 Split Rock art site



White-streaked Honeyeater Trichodere cockerelli

 Artemis Station

With only about 50 Golden-shouldered Parrots left on Artemis and the end of the breeding season, we saw a few birds only at the feeder. We caught up with Steve Murphy (who did his PhD on the Palm Cockatoo but is mostly known for his work on the Night Parrot, also Will’s nephew) who is now working on restoring the habitat on Artemis which includes 1) thinning areas which have become too thick with trees and shrubs making them favourable to predators such as cats and butcherbirds, 2) managing cattle to allow grasses to recover, and 3) pig and cat control. For more info and to become a friend of Artemis For the subject that I’ll be doing at CSU between July and October – Conservation management of birds – I  have to write a Husbandry manual (ex situ conservation) and I’m thinking of doing it on the Golden-shouldered Parrot (as a backup to the habitat restoration strategy currently in place to save this species).

Iron Range NP

Next stop was our target destination for this trip: Iron Range NP. The Peninsula Developmental Road was not as bad as in 2020 with the section between Musgrave Roadhouse and Coen still being the worse. With a car rally ahead of us, Archer River Roadhouse almost ran out of diesel. The road to Lockhart River wasn’t bad, many crossings have been concreted since my last visit, but the Wenlock and Pascoe crossings remain tricky, especially after rain as we found out on our way out.  

The weather was overcast during most of our stay and there were fewer birds than during my previous visit in Nov 2020 (no cyclone between the two visits). We met James Watson and Nigel Jackett from the Rares group doing research on the kimberli ssp of the Australian Masked Owl; they also commented on the lack of birds. We managed to see most of our target species except for the Yellow-legged Flycatcher that had been seen recently in the Rainforest camping area, the Green-backed and Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters (seen last time) and the ssp marmoratus of the Marbled Frogmouth.  Highlights were Northern Scrubrobin (heard in the Rainforest camping area and seen close to Greenhoose), Black-eared Catbird, and an immature Southern Cassowary watched in comfort from the bed in the camper (can’t think of any better ways of starting the day) wandering around leisurely the Cooks Hut camping area. When we got 75mm of rain instead of the 5mm forecast, we decided to break camp as the two main river crossings to Iron Range were already quite high when we drove down from the late wet season. During this rain event, after wading to the toilet with water just under my knee, the camper became my second-best friend. Without Yookie, we would have been very sad cuscus in wet swags.

A permit is now needed to go to the dam on the Old Mission Rd but we saw Spotted Whistling-Ducks and Fawn-breasted Bowerbird at the evaporation ponds in town. Not much about at the Claudie River boat ramp except for a pair of Shining Flycatchers. Eclectus and Red-cheeked Parrots must have had a good season as we saw lots, unlike the Palm Cockatoo which we only saw twice: evaporation ponds and Chili Beach. At Chili Beach, we caught up with Mim, a friend from Bauple who now lives with Neil on the sheltered side of Chili Beach. They will soon be opening a campsite and cabins at their place, so watch this space, birding amigos, for better accommodation in this part of the world.



Black-eared Catbird Ailuroedus melanotis                                                 Frill-necked Monarch Arses lorealis



Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus                                          

Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius


Pascoe River crossing                                                                                   


Lakefield NP

We wanted to detour via Lakefield NP for the Black-throated Finch and the evangelinae ssp of the Crimson Finch on our way back but Lakefield was still closed due to the late wet season. We looked for Red Goshawks on the Lilyvale Rd early morning but were later told by Chris MacColl and colleagues from the Rares Group team (who were having a lab at Artemis station), that the best time to sight the bird is actually the middle of the day. What can we say? We’ll have to go back!


Daintree River

Murray from Daintree Boatman Wildlife Cruises was booked out, so we went with Sauce from Daintree River Wild Watch. We saw many kingfishers (Azure, Sacred and Little) but bird numbers were down here as well, and the variety wasn’t there either so we decided to go back to Julatten to catch up with Del after seeing the Great-billed Heron along the Upper Daintree Rd, where Belinda & Bill had seen one last year.

Part 2  Coming soon

Monday 13 June 2022

Myall Park Botanic Gardens

A  return to Myall Park Botanic Gardens planned for May 2022 happened to coincide with a continuation of a major weather event which had saturated Queensland and New South Wales.  A three night stay in Avochie Cottage with warm beds and self catering facilities was our chosen option.  Unfortunately we had no control over the weather.  
A stop at Wooroolin Wetlands on the Bunya Highway, south of Wondai revealed the  rains had filled the wetlands.  Magpie geese, Black swans and a number of ducks and egrets were the waterbirds most in evidence: a Giant egret finally took flight.

Chestnut breasted Mannikins, Yellow-rump Thornbills, Yellow Thornbills, Superb and Variegated Fairy-wrens were spotted on the far side of the reserve.

Red-winged Parrots and Golden headed Cisticola were captured on film

West of Dalby a visit to Lake Broadwater revealed no Blue-billed Duck (a wild duck chase) but a lake full to overflowing. White-winged choughs, Cockatiels and Diamond Doves were the highlight sightings.

Myall Park suffered badly in the drought years. With the rains, the amazing volunteers of Myall Park Gardens have progressed a replanting program.  Spring promises to be quite a spectacle.

Gallery, Front gate panels.  It needs to be remembered that the Gardens were the original home of Dorothy and Dave Gordon and their family, where Dave developed his range of outstanding Grevilleas- Robyn, Sandra, Dorothy and Merinda Gordon. A collection of plants from arid and semi-arid locations was the focus for Dave Gordon. 
Eucalypts from Western Australia:  E. Kingsmilli, E.Orbifolia.

A full dam, strong natural grasses growth present a potentially wonderful source of  seed for doves and finches. 
 Some bird species were absent but should soon return

Striped, Spiny-cheeked, Brown-headed Honyeaters posed in the grevilleas
Selected Bird list: White-eared & Singing Honeyeater, Red-capped Robin, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Western and White-throated Gerygone, Spotted Bowerbird, Brolgas and chick, Cockatiel, Red- rumped Parrot, Weebill, Speckled Warbler.

Photos: Kerrie O'Donnell
Explorers: Cameron, Cecile, Rahima, Annette.
May 2022