#5 Inala’s Cape York Specials Tour - Special and endemic birds of the Cape York Peninsula 21-28 Aug 2023 ( Fly Up - Drive Back)

Frilled Monarch - Pat Kelly - Inala Nature Tours
Frilled Monarch - Pat Kelly - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Monday, 21 August 2023 to Monday, 28 August 2023
8 days
AU $6285 per person sharing, single supplement: AU $760
Enjoy searching for specials and endemics in far north Queenland's top birding destinations: Iron Range National Park, Lakefield National Park and surrounds The rich diversity of species includes: Golden-shouldered Parrot, Red Goshawk, Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Magnificent Riflebird, Yellow-billed Kingfisher and many more!

1 PLACE LEFT ON THIS TOUR - This tour visits some of the most remote, bird-rich areas in Australia. In the country's far north eastern corner, the distinctive Cape York peninula juts out into the tropical water of the Coral Sea and is home to the largest unspoilt patch of rainforest on the continent. We begin this adventure birding the Iron Range National Park for a host of species found nowhere else in Australia including Palm Cockatoo, Frill-necked Monarch and White-faced Robin. We then move on to explore the riches of Lakefield National Park where Golden-shouldered Parrot and Red Goshawk will be likely highlights. 
Simply put, this tour is hard to beat: it covers the highlight areas in this region, we travel at a comfortable pace. Join us an unbeatable Cape York birding experience! 


Start Location: 
Cairns QLD
Finish location: 
Cairns QLD

#5 Inala’s Cape York Specials Tour  - Special and endemic birds of the Cape York Peninsula 21-28 Aug 2023 ( Fly Up - Drive Back)


Day 1. Mon 21 Aug 23. Fly Cairns to Lockhart River. 
Day 2. Tue 22 Aug 23. Lockhart River. 
Day 3. Wed 23 Aug 23. Lockhart River. 
Day 4. Thu 24 Aug 23. Lockhart River. 
Day 5. Fri 25 Aug 23. Lockhart River to Musgrave. - Artemis
Day 6. Sat 26 Aug 23. Musgrave-Lakefield National Park - Musgrave Roadhouse
Day 7. Sun 27 Aug 23. Musgrave to Cairns. 
Day 8. Mon 28 Aug 23. Depart Cairns. 


B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner.

Day 1. Fly Cairns to Lockhart River, Iron Range National Park.
This morning we will board a flight to Lockhart River on the boundary of one of Australia’s most treasured, yet remote, birding destinations: Iron Range National Park. This park protects the largest area of lowland rainforest in Australia and is home to a host of range restricted species found nowhere else in the country. The forests and woodlands of the Iron Range teem with birds and, hemmed by white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, there can be few places on earth as delightful to bird. On arrival in Lockhart River we will settle into our accommodation and make our way into the forest to enjoy our first thrilling afternoon birding in Cape York.
Accommodation: Lockhart River (en suite cabins).  Meals included: L, D.

 Days 2 - 4. Iron Range National Park.
We have 3 full days to explore this rich corner of Australia. Our time will be spent searching for the many area specials, as well as several interesting mammals and reptiles. We will bird a diverse mosaic of habitats from verdant monsoon rainforest and tropical woodland, to wetlands and a variety of coastal habitats. The selection of birds is impressive with no shortage of outstanding species including two members of the Bird-of-paradise family - Magnificent Riflebird and Trumpet Manucode – and other showy species like the raucous Palm Cockatoo, Red-cheeked Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Yellow-billed Kingfisher and Frill-necked Monarch. Additional range-restricted species include White-streaked, Tawny-breasted and Green-backed Honeyeaters, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Northern Scrub-robin and White-faced Robin. The area is also rich botanically, and several fig tree species are found here attracting frugivores like Wompoo, Superb and Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves, and the endearing Double-eyed Fig-parrot. Another regular, but often nocturnal, visitor to fig trees is the delightful Spotted Cuscus, an arboreal marsupial with woolly fur, and bizarre orange eyes. Other nocturnal mammals we may find are Striped Possum, Rufous Spiny Bandicoot and Sugar Glider, and we will also spotlight for Rufous and Masked Owl, Marbled Frogmouth and Large-tailed Nightjar.
Accommodation: Lockhart River (en suite cabins as for last night).  Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5.  Iron Range National Park to Musgrave.  
This morning we begin the journey south leaving this fabulous park via the rich heathlands of the Tozer’s Gap area. While we have a big drive today there will be plenty to see en route, and we will make regular stops for comfort breaks and birds. Passing through endless miles of great birding habitat, we will spend the day on the blandly named Peninsula Development Road, one of the most remote roads in Australia, and the only road connecting the settlements of Cape York with the rest of the country. In the mid to late afternoon we will arrive in Musgrave on the edge of the spectacular Lakefield National Park. We will settle into our accommodations and if time permits enjoy some birding in the area. 
Accommodation:  near Musgrave (cabins). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6.  Musgrave and Lakefield National Park.
Today we have a full day to explore the riches of Lakefield National Park and surrounds. Gallery rainforest, open tropical woodland, grasslands, and extensive wetlands, home to vast numbers of waterbirds, are the main habitats we will explore today. With a number of target species in mind we will make a pre-breakfast foray for one of our star birds of the trip, the stunning Golden-shouldered Parrot. Interestingly, this endangered and brilliantly coloured bird makes its nest in termite mounds, a landscape feature of this area. As with the Iron Range, this area is rich in species, many of which are only (or easiest) found here. Red Goshawk, Black-backed Butcherbird, Bar-breasted, Rufous-throated, Yellow-tinted and Scarlet Honeyeaters, Red-browed Pardalote, the distinctive Cape York race of Brown Treecreeper, Northern Fantail, Emu, Great Bowerbird, Pale-headed Rosella, Red-winged Parrot and Lemon-bellied Flycatcher are all species we may find. Finches are a feature here too, with possible species including the delightful Star Finch and Masked and Black-throated Finches. Wetlands species includes the likes of Magpie Goose, Green Pygmy-goose, Radjah Shelduck, Comb-crested Jacana and Wandering Whistling-duck. Not forgetting mammals we will be on the lookout for Antilopine Wallaroo, Agile Wallaby, and if we are fortunate, Cape York Rock Wallaby.
Accommodation: near Musgrave (cabins). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 7. Musgrave to Cairns.
Today we continue the journey south through this vast area of tropical woodland. En route we’ll be on the lookout for species like Pheasant Coucal, Grey-crowned Babbler, Banded Honeyeater, Little & Black-faced Woodswallow, Silver-crowned & Little Friarbirds, White-winged Triller and Double-barred Finch. We will then head towards Cairns, arriving late afternoon. 
Accommodation: Cairns (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 8. Depart Cairns.
Tour ends this morning, please make your own arrangements for your departure after breakfast at a time that suits your flight arrangements.  Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.


Tour Price: AU$ 6,285 per person sharing based on 4 paying participants with one specialist guide/driver in one vehicle

Single supplement: AU$760

Price includes: All accommodation as per the itinerary, specialist guide and transport, the flight from Cairns to Lockhart River and meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the above itinerary.

Price does not include: International and domestic airfares except the Cairns to Lockhart River flight, airport transfers, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature.

Please note: 
The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline.  Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to.  The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.

Remoteness: Please note that for much of this tour we will be birding in a wonderful yet remote part of Australia. Most of the roads are unsealed and rough and travel will be in 4WD vehicles. If you have medical conditions or health concerns, it is important you make us aware of these in advance of this tour.

Click here for a separate online doc that answers many of the frequently asked questions about Small Group Tours

Inala’s Cape York Specials Tour Trip Report - September 2019
Guided by Ben Blewitt

( slightly different order of itinerary than 2021 )

This very successful tour visited two of the best birding destinations on Cape York Peninsular, Iron Range and the Musgrave/ Lakefield area. We also had two nights at Julatten in the extremely diverse Wet Tropics region. Overall the weather was fine with fairly strong wind building up on some days.

Day 1. Friday 30 August 2019. Fly Cairns to Lockhart River, Iron Range National Park.

The group arrived on the afternoon flight from Cairns into Lockhart River and after a quick turnaround we headed to the rainforest for some birding.  Although the rainforest suffered severe damage from Cyclone Trevor earlier in the year, the birds were all still around.  We soon had views of our first of the Cape York endemics in the very showy Frill-necked Monarch. A visit to the Eclectus Parrot nest tree produced a stunning female at the nest cavity, and great excitement as two Palm Cockatoo’s gave low fly by views. A great start to the trip

Day 2. Saturday 31 August 2019. Iron Range National Park.

Early morning we drove through tropical woodland towards the community searching for Palm Cockatoo. Before too long we spotted one of these iconic birds perched up on a tall tree. We all enjoyed prolonged views and many pictures were taken. A visit to the Farm Dam was excellent with plenty of bird activity. As we observed a large Saltwater crocodile, a Yellow-billed Kingfisher began calling, and after a short battle was seen well by all the group.

Later, in the rainforest there were some good sightings including Tawny-breasted and Green-backed Honeyeater, and Lovely fairywren. Late afternoon we reached the beach where we picked up a few waders and Great Frigatebird. Around dusk the Metallic starlings put on an absolutely stunning show with thousands of birds joining a massive swirling display. After dinner at a café we drove back to the rainforest and managed to spot a Marbled frogmouth. This cryptic and often elusive bird was sitting quite low which allowed exceptional views and even some pictures.

 Day 3. Sunday 1 September 2019. Iron Range National Park

This day was spent mainly in the best parts of the rainforest in search of the local specials. It proved difficult at times, but with patience and persistence we managed our first looks at Magnificent Riflebird, White-faced Robin, Tropical Scrubwren, and Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo.  Late in the afternoon our hard work was rewarded with absolutely crippling views of a pair of Yellow-legged Flycatcher.  These tiny birds can be very hard to locate so it was a real treat to have such a close sighting.

 Day 4. Monday 2 September 2019. Iron Range National Park

There was an early morning return to the rainforest for Northern Scrub-robin. This species is a cryptic skulker and proved very difficult, with brief or obscured views only.  In the mangroves at Portland Roads we found the bower of the Fawn-breasted Bowerbird (our best sightings of this species were at the cabins). The Bridled and Black-naped Terns were a good pick up at Chilli Beach.

One of the absolute highlights of the day was encountering a pair of Spotted Whistling Duck. These have been scarce in recent times.  A return to the rainforest resulted in a number of good sightings including extended views of a male Magnificent Riflebird. We watched this bird foraging for around twenty minutes and there were some nice pictures taken.

 Day 5. Tuesday 3 September 2019. Iron Range National Park to Musgrave.

In the morning we called in to say goodbye to the Eclectus Parrots and were very lucky to have a male Red-cheeked Parrot feeding at eye level.  This was very welcome as we had only obtained flight views previously. In the hills as we left Iron Range we stopped to look for White-streaked Honeyeater, a Cape York endemic.  The birds did not disappoint with good numbers of these and other species feeding on Fern-leaved Grevillia.

We continued south on the PDR through Coen. About half way to Musgrave we found a Black-headed Python on the road. We stopped and made sure the impressive animal made it safely off the road.
Later we were welcomed to the Musgrave area by a small group of Golden-shouldered Parrot. A real treat to see this beautiful and endangered Cape York endemic.

Day 6. Wednesday 4 September 2019. Musgrave area and Lakefield National Park.

We took a morning walk and saw Golden-shouldered Parrot and a variety of tropical woodland species. Of particular interest were Masked Finch, which is usually in small groups, and the Black-backed Butcherbird, one of the New Guinea/ Cape York specials.

By late morning we were heading for the areas east of Musgrave and the northern section of Lakefield National Park.  Just before Musgrave we had a Black-breasted Kite soaring above the trees, with the distinctive wing markings showing well. The next great sighting was a stunning male Red Goshawk perched nicely in the vicinity of an active nest. We had fantastic looks at this rare raptor without risking any disturbance to the sitting female.

Our lunch stop was at a beautiful lagoon where a good selection of wetland species put on a show. The cast included Magpie Goose, Green Pygmy-goose, Radjah Shelduck, Comb-crested Jacana, Wandering Whistling-duck, and many others. Later we reached Nifold Plain within the park. This is an amazing landscape dominated by cool shaped termite nests. Birds seen here included Australian Bustard, Black-necked Stork, and Brolga. We got back to the roadhouse for dinner and then managed to call up an Australian Owlet-nightjar.

Day 7. Thursday 5 September 2019. Musgrave to Julatten.

Today was a big travel day as we had decided to head down through the National Park to increase our chance of finding finches. We retraced our path and were rewarded with a small flock of Star Finch coming in to drink at a dam. A little further south there were several species of Honeyeater, including Rufous-banded, and Double-barred Finch bathing and drinking at the river crossing.

As we reached Laura, there were good flight views of a male Red-winged Parrot. We discovered a nice shady garden area with bird baths and feeders attracting Great Bowerbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Black-backed Butcherbird and others.

We arrived at our accommodation late in the afternoon and soon had our first Wet Tropics endemic, Macleay’s Honeyeater on the feeders. A walk around the grounds and down to Bushy Creek produced Grey Whistler, Pale-yellow Robin, and much to the astonishment and delight of our international visitors, a Duck-billed Platypus.

 Day 8. Friday 6 September 2019. Julatten and surrounds.

This was an exceptional birding day with sightings of all but two of the Wet Tropics endemics plus many of the special birds of the North East. We started with a noticeably quiet Noisy Pitta in the lodge grounds, where we also saw Rufous Fantail, Spectacled Monarch, Scarlet Honeyeater, Emerald Dove and many others. We then drove to an environmental park and were entertained by a pair of Northern Fantail feeding in the car park. In Mount Molloy we observed the antics of several Great Bowerbird around a very well built and decorated structure, and also found a party of Red-backed Fairy-wren with a very dashing male giving great views.

It was then time to try our luck on Mount Lewis. As we wound our way up into the ancient forest a Victoria’s Riflebird called and we soon had views of this endemic Bird of Paradise. We reached the famous clearing and had our lunch, listening to the calls of our target birds inside the forest. As we made our way out on the track we saw Atherton Scrubwren, and Grey-headed Robin. Then Mountain Thornbill and Bridled Honeyeater, soon followed by our first party of Chowchilla. A little further along we encountered Bower’s Shrike-thrush and Spotted Catbird, another party of Chowchilla, this time with a pair of Fernwren in attendance. There were no decorations on the bower of the Golden Bowerbird and we had to retreat after only hearing the strange call.  Back at Julatten we tried an area for Pied Monarch, and within minutes a quite animated individual was showing extremely well. To top it all off the elusive Red-necked Crake came for an evening bath at the feeders back at the lodge.

Day 9. Saturday 7 September 2019.  Cairns and airport.

This morning it was time to travel to Cairns to meet our conections.
We managed to add a few waterfowl and some more bush birds,including finally catching up with White-browed Robin which we had heard on the Peninsular.  We finished with the Rufous Owl at the roost in Cairns.

An absolutely great way to finish an excellent tour.
Thanks to the guests for their enthusiasm, humour, and help finding the birds.

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