North Queensland, Road, 9, 28 July 2017. Clacherty Road, McDougall Road, Sides Road and Mount Lewis

This was a day I'd been particularly looking forward to - a day of guiding with Carol Ilkes from Kingfisher Park. The main focus of the day was Mount Lewis but the morning dawned wet and foggy so until the weather cleared we made good use of the morning visiting a few local sites.
Clacherty Road produced a our first few goodies after a very quiet start - a Wompoo Fruit Dove literally flew down, posed for my camera and then flew off! On the opposite side of the road a mega White-eared Monarch showed nicely in the tree tops and we also had Brown Cuckoo-dove, Brown Gerygone, Pacific Emerald Dove, 2 Barred Cuckoo Shrikes, Rufous Fantail and 2 Grey Whistlers. At another site nearby in some private forest Carol managed to call in a much wanted Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo. Until recently this species was thought to be restricted to the Cape York Peninsular but has now been discovered in very small numbers in this area so this was a major scoop! In the same small area a Little Bronze Cuckoo was also seen.
A small wetland at McDougall Road gave me another tick with 5 Grey Teal plus Comb-crested Jacanas and a nearby fish farm had Australasian Pipit, another lifer, plus Golden-headed Cisticola.
Just before lunch we checked a small track opposite Sides Road and within just a few minutes had scored with a single Blue-faced Parrot-finch! As Carol said theses are so rare and difficult many Aussie birders still haven't seen one! Also there were 2 Bridled Honeyeaters making a racket in the treetops.
We retreated back to Kingfisher Park to grab a quick sandwich before hitting the slopes of Mount Lewis.  
  

Wompoo Fruit Dove

Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo (honestly!)

Grey Teal

The track up Mount Lewis was nowhere near as bad as I'd feared so it was quite a relaxed drive up. En-route a Victoria's Riflebird blasted out as we passed. Reaching the clearing which is as far as you can drive we paused for a coffee and cake whilst filling our boots with some great views of Eastern Spinebill, Atherton Scrubwren, Mountain Thornbill and the very dark ssp keasti of Grey Fantail which occurs only at these high altitudes. We then dived into the dark forest on the track that leads left from the clearing and eventually ends at a small dam/lake. We took out time along the track and boy did it pay off. Yellow-throated Scrubwren was first up with Atherton Scrubwrens a frequent distraction. Then we hit gold, quite literally with 2 Golden Bowerbirds high up in the canopy with a Tooth-billed Bowerbird for company! Carol had warned me we had virtually no chance at Golden Bowerbird this early! A group of c10 lovely Chowchillas moved across the track completely pre-occupied with their foot-scraping feeding. Only one of the targets eluded us and even that eventually fell just before we reached the dam - Fernwren. These birds take skulking to a whole new level inhabiting the darkest parts of the forest floor and moving mouse-like through the leaves. Other birds we noted on that memorable afternoon were c8 Topknot Pigeons, Spotted Catbird, c6 Bridled Honeyeaters, 2 Golden Whistlers, Little Shrike Thrush, 2 Varied Trillers, c6 Grey-headed Robins and then back at the clearing White-throated Treecreeper, 2 Lewin's Honeyeaters, 2 Mistletoebirds and finally a fly-over Collared Sparrowhawk! Non-avian highlights included several Musky Rat Kangaroos and an Eastern Water Dragon.
We had essentially cleaned-up!

I'd thoroughly recommend Carol as a guide. For us poor Brits not used to Australian prices it's quite steep at $260 for the day but it was a good long day (07.30 - 18.00), she's a great birder who knows all the calls and sites, is amusing company and cooks a mean date and ginger cake!          






Mountain Thornbill

 Grey Fantail ssp keasti

Atherton Scrubwren

Chowchilla

Golden Whistler

Eastern Water Dragon


Fernwren

Bridled Honeyeater

Mountain Thornbill

Grey Fantail ssp keasti


Back at Kingfisher Park the best birds seen during the day were 2 Large-billed Scrubwrens and Scarlet Honeyeater

North Queensland, Day 8, 27 July 2017. Mary Farms, Mount Carbine, Bradley Road and Kingfisher Park

I ventured west today, to the other side of the Mount Lewis massive. Luckily the weather that side of the mountain was good because it was wet and murky when I left Kingfisher Park.

My first stop after making the hour long drive was East Mary Road. Driving slowly along the farm road I stopped for a scan picking up a flock of huge Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (they are the size of a raven, no kidding!) followed by a Brown Falcon and then, driving along a little further my target species - 2 Australian Bustards literally right by the road!

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos


Australian Bustards





Agile Wallaby

Mount Carbine was next up, a few more miles away along the Peninsular Development Road.
I walked along the track to the south of the road just past the Mount Carbine Hotel for ages with very little reward. Several Australian Magpies, 2 Sacred Kingfishers, Blue-winged Kookaburra, a flock of Noisy Friarbirds, several Little Friarbirds, 2 Red-winged Parrots, Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Rufous Whistler and 2 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.  Back near the Mount Carbine Rodeo a Brown Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Torresian Crow were added. 


Red-tailed Black Cockatoos

Australian Magpie

Brown Falcon

Torresian Crow



It has to be said, Mount Carbine is a bit of a hole so I turned tail and headed back to stop at West Mary Road and try my luck there. It proved to be rather good with point blank views of a pair of Double-barred Finches, 2 Leaden Flycatchers, Olive-backed Oriole, 2 Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes, Yellow-faced Honeyeater plus 2 Nankeen Kestrels and a Brown Falcon. Back near the road junction at Rifle Creek a flock of 11 Helmeted Guineafowl were a nice find.

Double-barred Finch

 Noisy Friarbird

Brown Falcon


Helmeted Guineafowl



Bradley Road is a small dead-end road that runs off Wessel Road where I'd been yesterday. I'd had a tip off so spent a good couple of hours there in the afternoon. And sure enough my tip off was right - I smashed a very wanted bird in the form of Lovely Fairy Wren! I saw a small party that very quickly crossed the road and disappeared but further along another pair allowed longer but more distant views and even a record shot! I really thought I'd blown my chance of seeing this species after my failure at Daintree. The whole of Bradley Road was very birdy with Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Fantail, 2 Scarlet Honeyeaters, 2 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, 2 Double-eyed Fig Parrots, Dusky Honeyeater, Macleays Honeyeater, Little Shrike Thrush, Varied Triller, a mixed flock of Red-browed Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, Spectacled Monarch and Pale Yellow Robin. I even found another new bird - a Tawny Grassbird in an open area of sedge.  

Lovely Fairy Wren 

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher


Scarlet Honeyeater

Back at Kingfisher Park in the evening Pacific Emerald Dove, Spectacled Monarch, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Rufous Fantail, Red-browed Finches and Large-billed Scrubwren were all notched up before a long-standing ambition of seeing Duck-billed Platypus was realised with some wonderful views down at the stream. An Australian Hobby then screamed down the side lane chasing a bat! That evening a wander along the road after dark with my spotlight and an Eastern Barn Owl I'd been told about was showing nicely at the entrance to its hole. 

 Spectacled Monarch

Eastern Barn Owl (copyright Alex Jones)

North Queensland, Day 7, 26 July 2017. Kingfisher Park, Wessel Road and Mount Molloy

My first morning at Kingfisher Park so it would have been rude not to explore their excellent grounds. A Pacific Emerald Dove was wandering about as I had breakfast and then made my way down to the stream. Here a lovely Pied Monarch was having an early morning bath and a Spotted Catbird and 2 Large-billed Scrubwrens were nearby. Coming back through the orchard a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters were showing in beautiful light as I walked through to the side lane just by my van. Some flowering shrubs here were very productive with 2 Scarlet Honeyeaters, 2 Graceful Honeyeaters, Macleays Honeyeater, Yellow Honeyeater and 3 White-cheeked Honeyeaters all competing for position at the flowers. Further along the lane just 2 Forest Kingfishers and a Laughing Kookaburra were by the paddocks so I turned around and walked back towards the main road and around the corner to Gearhaty Park. Here several White-throated Honeyeaters were stripping the paper bark from trees and both Brown and Dusky Honeyeaters were also obvious. Wandering back I then got onto a mega pair of Double-eyed Fig Parrots feeding low down on fruits overhanging the road and the light was perfect for photographing them. A Fairy Gerygone also popped by briefly in the same tree. Also around the park that morning I had 2 Little Shrike Thrushes, Golden Whistler, Spectacled Monarch, Pale Yellow Robin and 2 Silvereyes.       

Pied Monarch

Rainbow Bee-eater

White-cheeked Honeyeater

Australian Brush Turkey

Graceful Honeyeater

Australian Figbird

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Double-eyed Fig Parrot

Fairy Gerygone

Pale Yellow Robin

Macleays Honeyeater

Yellow Honeyeater

Tearing myself away from the park I decided to try Wessel Road, a nearby site for dry woodland species. The most obvious species along the road were White-bellied Cuckoo Shrikes, White-throated Honeyeaters and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins but I also had 2 Striated Pardalotes, Golden-headed Cisticola (both new), Australian Swiftlet, 2 Laughing Kookaburras, a Scarlet Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler, 2 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Varied Triller and several Tree Martins. Around the obvious bend at the entrance to a private track though I had my first fairy wrens with a lovely party of 4 Red-backed Fairy Wrens

White-throated Honeyeater

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin


Red-backed Fairy Wrens





White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike




Wessel Road

Leaving Wessel Road I made my way back to Mount Molloy for a mid afternoon wander. Calling in at the honeyeater site again it was quieter this time with just plus 1 Blue-faced Honeyeater, Dusky Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Spangled Drongo, 4 Red-winged Parrots, Peaceful Doves and Bar-shouldered Dove plus a brief Great Bowerbird in the village that flushed all too easily! The sports oval at the other end of town proved to be very disappointing and hot. Despite trying hard all I managed were 4 Straw-necked Ibis, White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike and 2 Forest Kingfishers.

Spangled Drongo

Willie Wagtail

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike

Red-winged Parrot



Back at Kingfisher Park a delightful group of c10 Red-browed Finches were feeding right by reception before I went for a wander out to the main road and scored with more Red-backed Fairy Wrens, a distant Blue-winged Kookaburra, an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle and a plan for the next evening! That evening I went out with my flashlight and scored heavily with some nice flight views of Lesser Sooty Owl (awesome!!) and also a confiding Long-nosed Bandicoot.

Red-browed Finch

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Blue-winged Kookaburra

 Red-backed Fairy Wren

   Rainbow Lorikeets