Cape York Specials Tour 31st May - 9th June 2020

Eclectus Parrot - Photograph by Alfred Schulte - Inala Nature Tours
Eclectus Parrot - Photograph by Alfred Schulte - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Sunday, 31 May 2020 to Tuesday, 9 June 2020
9 days
Tour Price: AU$ 6,560.00 per person twin share based on a minimum of 4 participants. Single supplement: AU$750
Enjoy searching for specials and endemics in far north Queenland's top three birding destinations: Iron Range National Park, Lakefield National Park and Kingfisher 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!

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 peninsula juts out into the tropical water of the Coral Sea and is home to the largest unspoilt patch of rainforest on the continent. This adventure includes 4 full days birding in 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 also explore the riches of Lakefield National Park where Golden-shouldered Parrot and Red Goshawk will be likely highlights. And we also bird in the area around Julatten, a region widely regarded for it's abundance of species. Simply put, this tour is hard to beat: it covers the highlight areas in this region and we travel at a comfortable pace. This tour is also one of our best sellers and you are welcome to join us on this next trip.

2019 Dates - Friday 30th August 2019 – Saturday 7th September 2019 

Start Location: 
Cairns QLD
Finish location: 
Cairns QLD

Inala’s Cape York Specials Tour  - Special and endemic birds of the Cape York Peninsula - 31 May to 9th June 2020

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 peninsula juts out into the tropical water of the Coral Sea and is home to the largest unspoilt patch of rainforest on the continent. This adventure includes 4 full days birding in 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 also explore the riches of Lakefield National Park where Golden-shouldered Parrot and Red Goshawk will be likely highlights. And we also bird in the area around Julatten, a region widely regarded for it's abundance of species. Simply put, this tour is hard to beat: it covers the highlight areas in this region and we travel at a comfortable pace. This tour is also one of our best sellers and you are welcome to join us on this next trip.

 This itinerary has been designed to adjoin our Outback Queensland birds, mammals and dinosaur tour. We have added an additional night in Cairns to allow participants to join both sections if they wish.

2019 Dates - Friday 30th August 2019 – Saturday 7th September 2019 

Itinerary Outline:

Day 1. Sun 31 May 20. Arrive Cairns
Day 2. Mon 1 June 20. Cairns to Julatten
Day 3. Tue 2 June 20. Julatten area.
Day 4. Wed 3 June 20. Julatten to Musgrave.
Day 5. Thu 4 June 20. Musgrave-Lakefield National Park
Day 6. Fri 5 June 20. Musgrave to Lockhart River.
Day 7. Sat 6 June 20. Lockhart River.
Day 8.  Sun 7 June 20. Lockhart River.
Day 9. Mon 8 June 20. Lockhart River.
Day 10.  Tue 9 June 20. Fly Lockhart River to Cairns. Depart Cairns.

Detailed itinerary:

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

Day 1. Sunday 31st 2020. Arrive Cairns.
Arrive Cairns Airport and own transfer to the Cairns hotel in time to meet the group at 18:00 for a welcome dinner and briefing on the tour. Participants continuing from the Inala Outback Queensland tour will fly Mount Isa to Cairns with Steve, arriving after dinner this evening.
Accommodation: Cairns (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Monday 1 June 2020. Cairns to Julatten.
The group will meet this morning at breakfast. There is plenty to see in and around Cairns. A wealth of tropical habitats here supports one of the richest assemblages of birds and wildlife in Australia. Not far from the town centre are the Botanical Gardens with adjoining wetlands and conservation areas, offering a fine mix of water and bush birds. Australian Brush Turkey, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Superb and Wompoo Fruit-Doves, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Australasian Figbird, Black Butcherbird, Green Oriole, the stunning Noisy Pitta and Lovely Fairy-wren may all been seen here as might Spectacled Flying Fox. In the wetlands of the area we will search for Comb-crested Jacana, Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy Geese, White-browed Crake and the handsome Crimson Finch.  Nearby mangrove habitat is home to Mangrove Robin, Shining Flycatchers and the odd-looking Beach Stone-Curlew. This afternoon we will travel to our accommodation at Julatten.
Accommodation: Julatten (en suite cabins). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Tuesday 2 June 2020. Julatten area.
Today will be a full day exploring the Julatten area. Birds here include Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Chowchilla, Bridled Honeyeater, Mountain Thornbill, Fernwren, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Grey-headed Robin, Atherton Scrubwren, the rare and localised Blue-faced Parrot-finch, Red-necked Crake, Noisy Pitta, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Graceful, Yellow-spotted, Brown & Dusky Honeyeaters, Leaden Flycatcher, localised North Queensland race of Bassian Thrush, Grey-headed Robin, Yellow Oriole, Spangled Drongo, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Little Shrike-thrush, Emerald Dove, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Cicadabird, Red-browed Finch, Papuan Frogmouth & Pale-vented Bush-Hen.
Accommodation: Julatten (en suite cabins as for last night). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Wednesday 3 June 2020.  Julatten to Musgrave.
This morning if time permits, we will travel up the famous Mt Lewis Road and search for some high-altitude rainforest specialists such as Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Chowchilla, Bridled Honeyeater, Mountain Thornbill, Fernwren, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Grey-headed Robin, Atherton Scrubwren and Blue-faced Parrot-finch. We will then travel to Musgrave, our home for this evening.
Accommodation: Musgrave (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Thursday 4 June 2020. 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. We will also look for a range of mammals including Antilopine Wallaroo, Agile Wallaby, and if we are fortunate, Cape York Rock Wallaby.
Accommodation: Musgrave (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Friday 5 June 2020. Musgrave to Lockhart River.
Today will be mostly a day of travel but we will do some birding towards Lakefield National Park hoping to pick up any birds we might be missing (such as Red Goshawk) before heading north. Our target for this evening is Lockhart River in the Iron Range National Park.
Accommodation: Iron Range (en suite cabins). Meals included: B,L,D.

Days 7-9. Saturday 6,Sunday 7, Monday 8 2020. Lockhart River, Cape York Peninsula.
Iron Range National Park contains the most extensive example of lowland tropical rainforest remaining in the country, and its avifauna is indicative of a time when Australia and Papua New Guinea were connected during the last Ice Age and we will spend 3 days exploring this amazing area. There are around 18 species of bird restricted to Cape York Peninsula that have more extensive distributions in PNG, and it’s these we will be concentrating on whilst we are here. These birds are as follows: Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Green-backed, Tawny-breasted and White-streaked Honeyeaters, Northern Scrub-robin, White-faced Robin, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, Tropical Scrubwren, Frilled-necked Monarch, Trumpet Manucode, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and the incredible Magnificent Riflebird. Other specialties in this region are almost as good, with birds like Southern Cassowary, Spotted Whistling-Duck(rare), Double-eyed Fig-parrot (race marshalli), White-eared Monarch, White-browed Robin, Sooty & Bridled Terns, Common Noddy, Great Frigatebird, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Forest Kingfisher, Grey Goshawk, Eastern Reef Egret, Beach Stone-curlew, Grey Whistler, Pacific Baza, the small northern race of Brown Goshawk and Pied Heron.  Red-headed Honeyeater, Striated Heron, Large-billed Gerygone, Mangrove Robin, Varied Honeyeater and Little Kingfisher can be found in the Mangroves in the coastal areas. A night drive with spotlight may reveal Marbled & Papuan Frogmouths, Rufous Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Spotted Nightjar and Masked Owl. There are a few mammal specialties here as well with the chance of Spotted & Common Cuscus, Striped Possum, Northern Quoll, Red-cheeked Dunnart, Rufous Spiny Bandicoot, Red-legged Pademelon and Cape York Melomys. At night we may be lucky enough to see some of the tube-nosed and blossom-feeding bats around Portland Roads, as well as flying foxes of various species. Some encampments of Little Red and Black Flying-fox can number literally in the millions.
Accommodation: Iron Range (en suite cabins). Meals included: BLD each day.

Day 10. Tuesday 9 June  2020. Fly Lockhart River to Cairns and depart.
This morning you will travel to Lockhart River airport and transfer to your flight to Cairns. The guides will say goodbye to you here as they will need to drive back to cairns in the vehicles over the next 2-3day period. On arrival at Cairns airport, transfer to your onward flight.
Accommodation: none. Meals Included: B



Tour Price: AU$ 6,560.00 per person twin share based on a minimum of 4 participants (1 Guide in 1 4WD vehicle)

Single supplement: AU$750

Tour Size: Up to max 9 participants and 2 guides in 2 x 4WD vehicles.

Price includes: All accommodation as per the itinerary (now 9 nights), specialist guide and transport, the flight from Lockhart River to Cairns and meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the above itinerary.
Price does not include: International and domestic airfares except the Lockhart River- Cairns flight, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature.

Price for both Cape York and Outback Queensland sections: $13,250 per person twin share and $1600 single supplement (over $300 discount for joining both sections).

Please note: 

Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee.  Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations.  Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink.  Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.

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.

Tour leaders: Steve Davidson & Tonia Cochran
Trip Report - Cape York Tour 2017

Day 1. Fri 16 June 2017: This much-anticipated tour commenced in far north Queensland at the remote Cape York settlement of Lockhart River.

After stepping off the mid-afternoon flight from Cairns and a meet and greet on the runway, we all settled into our accommodations at the nearby cabins. With just enough time to head out for a spot of late afternoon birding, we headed into the Lockhart River township and the nearby sewage ponds; always a great spot to visit in any town. Present on the water were just 5 Australasian Grebe, however overhead were squadrons of the dainty Australian Swiftlets, in the nearby trees were some Olive-backed Sunbirds & White-throated Honeyeaters, and in the gathering gloaming we saw  our first Eclectus Parrots (rather distantly it has to be said) over the horizon, heading to a hitherto unknown roost in the rainforest...

Dinner was a hearty affair of chicken curry and rice, followed by magnificent fruit salad (with dragon fruit!). Following on from some lively dinner conversation the group decided to hit the sack early, keen as mustard for the following day’s action to ensue.

Day 2. Sat 17 June 2017: The promise of a brand-new day in brand new habitats awaited us as we enjoyed a delicious continental breakfast at dawn, before the calls of a nearby bowerbird galvanised the group, as if they needed any.

We grabbed optical equipment and were soon feasting our eyes on the first of the Cape York specials – a fine adult Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, who for some reason had decided to forage in trees just adjacent to the tarmac at the airport! 

Eventually the bird flew over yonder but not before we’d all had a great view through the spotting ‘scopes. It was a fantastic start as this is normally a tricky, if not very difficult species to track down.

Birding along the road in vine scrub and savannah woodland near the airport we soon picked up a gorgeous party of Red-backed Fairy-wren, Little Bronze-cuckoo ( ssp russatus), Gould’s Bronze-cuckoo), Shining Bronze-cuckoo, an immature Dollarbird, Helmeted Friarbird, Dusky Myzomela and Rainbow Bee-eater. A Northern Scrub-Robin, singing from deep within a patch of dry rainforest refused to show, much to the chagrin of us all…

Delving into the wonderful lowland rainforests of Iron Range National Park, we soon struck upon a few more of the Cape York specialties in the form of the breathtaking Frill-necked Monarch, foraging in characteristic fashion on trunks, large limbs and hanging vines, pugnacious Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters and the first of many parties of Tropical Scrubwren.  All the while we would frequently hear overhead the strident calls of both Eclectus Parrot and Red-cheeked Parrot. Frustratingly we would never obtain a single view of the latter species despite hearing them on many occasions.

Late in the day we rolled into the tiny coastal hamlet of Portland Roads, where our dinner at the famous local Café was simply unbelievable…

Driving back to Lockhart River after dark gave us an opportunity for some spotlighting on the hour- long drive. We managed brilliant views of a couple of Papuan Frogmouth, however none of the hoped- for mammals decided to show.

Day 3. Sun 18 June 2017: The second morning of our tour saw us once again slowly birding our way along roads through the fantastic Iron Range NP. The park encompasses a variety of habitats, from dense lowland rainforest, tropical savannah woodland, heathlands and monsoonal vine scrub. Areas of rainforest along Gordon Creek and Cook’s Hut today produced brilliant views of a suite of Cape York specialties, and in no particular order, we took in the incredible Palm Cockatoo, the first of many we’d see this trip, and likened by one member of the group to a flying set of Stillson’s (wrenches).

Another highly-sought after bird was Yellow-billed Kingfisher; we heard one singing close by at one point, and after a tense watch-and-wait we finally lucked onto the bird sitting quietly on a vine after we'd almost given up. Scope views, many photographs and even video footage were obtained of this most obliging individual, and the high fives came thick & fast.

Not to be outdone was a host of other goodies, with incredible views of a male Magnificent Riflebird close by as we ate lunch, his whooping whistle, iridescent blue-violet gorget and taffeta-like plumage leaving us all agog.  We chanced upon the strange Green-backed Honeyeater with its far-off sounding song, White-eared & Spectacled Monarchs, diminutive yet sharp-dressed Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Little Shrike-thrush seemingly everywhere.

In a patch of monsoonal scrub fringing a lagoon we came across a small party of Lovely Fairy-wren, with two adult-plumaged males in dispute over a female, their blue cheek patches flared as they flew about in a super-charged frenzy, carrying bright yellow flower petals and singing almost hysterically. Here also were a pair of the sexually dimorphic Shining Flycatcher, some Green Pygmy-goose, a fine male Darter,  a pair of Forest Kingfisher and a brightly-plumaged Yellow Oriole; its colour always reminds me of Greengage Plums.

Later in the afternoon we visited a Beach at the Lockhart River community, with the highlights being a pair of Lesser Frigatebird flying low overhead, a white phase Eastern Reef Egret and a furtive Large-billed Gerygone in a nearby vegetated creek line.

Reptilian highlights over the past few days had included a large Amethystine Python, a recently sloughed Spotted Python, Lesser Black Whipsnake and Brown-headed Snake. Slaty-grey Snakes were also very much in evidence with about half a dozen seen, unfortunately all road-killed…

Day 4. Mon 19 June 2017: Our run of brilliant birding did not abate today, and we continued amassing a fantastic compliment of regional endemics, including the Cape York ssp purpuriecollis of Australian Brush-Turkey with its violet-mauve neck pouch, more Palm Cockatoos including a pair at close range perched atop a dead tree, whistling and screeching. An hour- long vigil with a close-calling Northern Scrub-Robin once again produced a negative result and proved how difficult this species can be. In this particular patch of vine scrub, we were, however, treated to close views of the gorgeous White-faced Robin, with an inquisitive pair providing great close views for everyone.

At Portland Roads where we stopped for lunch we were treated to the sight of several Brown Booby just offshore, flying by as well as diving for fish. However, the major excitement for the afternoon was when one sharp-eyed member of our posse picked up a tiny green parrot sitting ever so quietly in a palm, revealing itself to be none other than the normally very difficult Cape York race of Double-eyed Fig-parrot, ssp marshalli. A bit of panic ensued as we all jostled for the best position from which to see the bird, and it soon became apparent a female was present as well, diligently inspecting a nearby hollow in a palm trunk while the male snoozed. Some great photos were obtained given the birds were only 5-6m above the ground. Cock-a-hoop, the group had walk away views and then relaxed with a lavish lunch, looking out over Coral Bay…

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the nearby Beach, and here we managed excellent overhead views of both Lesser & Great Frigatebirds with diagnostic features of both sexes showing well and providing easy comparisons. Also here, were a few dainty Black-naped Tern just offshore, as well as flocks of Great Crested Tern and on the sand flats some Red-capped Plover. Brian’s birthday was celebrated in style with a candle in his home-made cheesecake and a hearty rendition of ‘happy birthday’.

A short night walk near our accommodation revealed a very obliging and very close Marbled Frogmouth, perched low on a branch in vine scrub by the road. Close inspection of photos later showed the bird had a tiny praying mantis hanging onto the lower mandible of the frogmouth, eventually leaving the area of its own accord, and either very stupid or very lucky…Glow-worms were very much in evidence in the still night air as we wandered back, giving us a brilliant end to another massive day.

Day 5. Tue 20 June 2017: Our final full day here in Iron Range NP was an opportunity to seek out a few species we were still missing, and we started with another foray into the rainforests en route to Portland Roads. Success came in the form of a sprightly pair of Yellow-legged Flycatcher, an uncommon regional endemic found only in a small area of Cape York, and like some of the other species here found also in Papua New Guinea.

Wompoo Fruit-dove gave us wonderful close views, as did subtly beautiful Brown Cuckoo-dove. Other birds we saw included further views of Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, the sweet-voiced Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Fairy Gerygone (Cape York ssp personata), the bizarre and reptilian Pheasant Coucal, more amazing Frill-necked Monarch and Green-backed Honeyeater. We even heard a call from the rather cryptic and elusive Cape York ssp joanae of the Spotted Catbird, a taxon seen by few people.

Late in the day we were treated to another sighting of Fawn-breasted bird, as well as a fly-by Grey Goshawk, and finally, no less than thirty or more Eclectus Parrot overhead in loose groups as they winged their way to roost; we could clearly see the colour differences between the mostly green males and the gaudy red & purple females. After yet another sumptuous meal provided by the fabulous Cafe, we wended our way back home, finding a few more Papuan Frogmouth en route , as well as a great chance encounter with another Marbled Frogmouth, whom had a rather large and bulbous-looking phasmid firmly clamped in its bill. Other critters included an Amethystine Python on the road and a brief view of the regionally endemic Rufous Spiny Bandicoot.

Day 6. Wed 21 June 2017:  Today it was time for us to leave this incredible area and commence our journey down south through the Cape. Before we left however we managed another relatively difficult-to-find species in the form of a pair of territorial White-browed Robin that gave us terrific views in the dappled sunlight of their gallery forest environs. On our way out of the national park, we had some more nice views of a Yellow-legged Flycatcher, and yet again heard but did not see Red-cheeked Parrots.

At a location right on the western edge of the national park in some flowering heathlands, we were fortunate to eventually obtain close views of one of only two species endemic to Cape York – the White streaked Honeyeater, a bird found nowhere else on the planet. The other endemic we would have a chance of in a couple of days time…

At Archer River Roadhouse, we made a welcome stop for drinks, coffee, snacks and a pair of Spotted Whistling-duck on the nearby lagoon. This species, a resident of Papua New Guinea, has in recent years been recorded with increasing frequency in Far North Queensland and is now almost annual in small numbers. The remainder of the afternoon was somewhat of a drive-fest given the distance we needed to cover, punctuated nicely by a chance sighting of a Frill-necked Lizard crossing the road. Scaling a nearby tree trunk this brilliant beast posed beautifully for everyone only 3 metres above the ground.

Pulling in at the Roadhouse late in the afternoon we relished the prospect of a cold beer, a hot meal, and an early night. Tomorrow was going to be a big day

 Day 7. Thu 22 June 2017: A hastily bolted breakfast was in order today as we needed to be at a particular site early, for a very special bird. Our target for the morning was the other Cape York endemic we still hadn't seen, the localised and endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot. Sue, a local cattle station owner and long-term custodian of these parrots, met us on site and knew exactly where to look, for within ten minutes she'd found a small flock of about a dozen birds, mostly juveniles from the previous breeding season, as well as several females and a couple of beautifully plumaged males. In the early morning sun, they positively shone. We were unable to thank Sue enough for her time, expertise and generosity. Sue has been carefully and painstakingly monitoring the birds on her property and nearby properties for many years now and has been instrumental in procuring knowledge of how best to manage the habitat here for the birds’ continued well-being. Time was pressing however and we needed to move on toward the wonderful Lakefield National Park. First stop along the way was for what is considered Australia’s rarest raptor, the Red Goshawk. With large territories in tropical woodland habitat across the northern part of the continent, this bird is essentially a low- density species, and having contracted from many parts of their range, especially in the south, there is much concern about their current status. However here in this part of Cape York, they have been reasonably reliable for some years now, and no sooner had we pulled up the vehicles than we saw one and then two birds. One was consuming a prey item and the other was tending to nest-building duties, and seemed completely unperturbed by us; indeed, we had walk away views. Whilst we were there another striking raptor flew low over the trees in the form of a Black-breasted Buzzard.

Moving on toward Lakefield National Park we started to pick up a few of the specials of the region, with numerous sightings over the course of the afternoon of a number ofseveral finch species. In no particular order, we achieved excellent views of Star, Black-throated and Masked Finches, as well as the more common Double-barred Finch. There were Diamond Dove present in a few places  and Little Woodswallow was fairly common. We lucked upon a few Australian Pratincoles in a drying swamp, as well as several Spotted Harrier and a few Swamp Harrier out on the plains. A single Australian Bustard was seen near the roadside as well. Our last stop at Hann River before we headed back produced several Bar-breasted, Banded & Yellow Honeyeaters in flowering paperbarks.

On the drive back, we had a few non-avian highlights in the shape of quite a large Yellow-spotted Monitor, and a more than sizeable & grumpy Black-headed Python that tried to get into the vehicle with us. A great meal back at the Roadhouse ended what had been simply a fantastic day.

Day 8. Fri 23 June 2017: The environs of the Musgrave Roadhouse have created a bit of a haven for wildlife and a quick walk after breakfast produced a few resident Nankeen Night-herons roosting in a large tree, and in a small lagoon at the rear of the property several Freshwater Crocodiles lurked, accompanied by the strange Krefft’s Turtle, a freshwater species here on the northernmost edge of its range.

Continuing further south we made good time, picking up a few key species en route such as the regionally endemic Black-backed Butcherbird, Red-browed Pardalote, Weebill, White-throated Gerygone, a single Masked Finch, a pair of huge Red-tailed Black-cockatoo, our one and only Red-backed Kingfisher for the trip, and a group of beautiful Sarus Cranes on a lagoon by the roadside.

Late in the afternoon we pulled up at our Lodge in Julatten, our base for the next two nights. In the lush rainforest gardens here and in between juggling luggage we spotted Macleay’s, Yellow-spotted & Graceful Honeyeaters, as well as Grey-headed Robin and the always prehistoric-looking Orange-footed Scrubfowl.

Dinner at the nearby pub was a fine affair, and an early night followed soon after…

Day 9. Sat 24 June 2017.  After a few days of solid driving, today was a much more relaxed affair with a sumptuous breakfast provided by the proprietors. Several slices of toast with macadamia-nut butter and four cups of coffee later I was ready for some birding, so we ventured out onto the property – a Land For Wildlife sanctuary containing rainforest, open woodland and riverine habitats both in and around the lodge. Here we picked up some nice birds like Azure Kingfisher, Rufous Fantail, Emerald Dove, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (race macleayana), Varied Triller and Lewin’s Honeyeater. Yellow-breasted Boatbill was present and a Pied Monarch was seen by only a few.

In some nearby gallery forest and vine scrub we had great close views of Bridled, Scarlet and White-cheeked Honeyeaters in flowering eucalypts, and Mistletoebird in Long-flowered Mistletoe.

In the afternoon, we visited an area of higher altitude rainforest in search of recently reported Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo (an elusive and rarely reported species) however they were a little tricky to come by, so we made do with some Fairy Gerygone (race flavida), Grey Whistler, a beautiful adult-plumaged Brown Goshawk, a brief appearance from a Black Butcherbird and more stunning Lovely Fairy-wrens in the undergrowth. A Bassian Thrush was heard nearby but did not show itself, as did a frustratingly close Victoria’s Riflebird… 
After another great meal at the local pub a few of us took a short spotlighting walk around the grounds of the lodge where we saw a Spectacled Flying-fox feeding on fruiting Quince, a Blossom Bat and a few Red-legged Pademelons. Also present were Northern Brown & Long-nosed Bandicoots, and a few Bush Rat, a native species of rodent.

Day 10. Sun 25 June 2017. (Day 1 of Wet Tropics) This morning was the final part of the Cape York Specials Tour and for some members of the group it was the end of their trip with us. Four members would continue on to complete the next section which is theInala Wet Tropics Tour.

The owners once again provided a beautiful breakfast for us, after which we had a peek at a day-roosting Eastern Horseshoe Bat in a nearby shed, a species of micro-bat not otherwise easily seen or identified.

Topknot Pigeons and Australian Swiftlets flew overhead as we left this amazing location, and we slowly made our way to Cairns to visit a few sites for a few special birds.

First off was a pair of Rufous Owl, thankfully easily located in a regular roost tree. Such a beautiful species and not always easy to find, this pair has developed a taste for flying fox and Rainbow Lorikeet, and they are often seen clutching the remains of one or the other.

Next, we made a visit to the mangrove edges at the northern edge of the famous Cairns Esplanade, where we saw our first Varied Honeyeaters for the trip in some fruiting palms, followed by a true mangrove denizen, the normally shy Mangrove Robin. Here however they have taken to frequenting the edges of the mangrove forest, and regularly sally for insects in the adjacent parklands. Also close by was a flock of Nutmeg Mannikin, an introduced species and the last new bird for this part of the tour…

We all decided to meetmet for a final dinner together that night and went to a local Balinese restaurant in Cairns, which it has to be said was a great way to end this section of the tour, as the food and of course the company, were exceptional.

.....more of wet tropics trip report on the Wet Tropics 2018 Tour page


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