14 October - 2 November 2023

by Mike Watson

The 2023 Australia’s Outback Queensland & Cape York tour marked our first return to some of the remotest corners of Australia after the pandemic lockdowns. Australia is very big! Our exciting 7000km road trip tracked down 130 of Australia’s endemics but it was mostly focused on those tucked away in the top right corner of the continent. We saw 9 of the 10 birds not possible on any of our other tours: Golden-shouldered Parrot; Opalton & Kalkadoon Grasswrens; White-streaked Honeyeater; Hall’s Babbler; Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush; Frill-necked Monarch; Northern Scrub Robin and Black-backed Butcherbird. We also recorded 64 regional endemics shared only with New Guinea, plus 7 of the 12 Queensland Wet Tropics zone endemics, as an unexpected bonus not usually included on this itinerary.

We started and ended our journey in the lovely city of Cairns, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, first making our way north up Cape York all the way to the remote rainforests of the Iron Range – Papua New Guinea in miniature across the Torres Strait. A host of fantastic specialities on the Cape York Peninsula included Spotted Whistling Duck, Australian Bustard, Squatter Pigeon, Wompoo, Superb and Rose-crowned Fruit Doves, Palm Cockatoo, Papuan Eclectus and Red-cheeked Parrots, the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot, Pale-headed Rosella, Papuan and Marbled Frogmouths, Eastern Grass Owl, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Noisy Pitta, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Black-eared Catbird, Tropical and Large-billed Scrubwrens, Lovely Fairywren, Bridled, White-cheeked, Lewin’s, MacLeay’s, Tawny-breasted, Graceful and Green-backed Honeyeaters, Hornbill Friarbird, Black-backed Butcherbird, Trumpet Manucode, Magnificent Riflebird, Yellow-legged Flyrobin, Black-faced and White-eared Monarchs, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, White-browed and White-faced Robins, Rufous Shrikethrush, Brown Treecreeper, Varied Sitella, Star, Masked and Black-throated Finches and, most notably, great views of the northern Cape York-only endemics; White-streaked Honeyeater, Frill-necked Flycatcher and Northern Scrub Robin. However, the most exciting encounter of this section of the tour was undoubtedly an off-trail encounter with the prehistoric and genuinely a bit scary Southern Cassowary that some of us had the privilege of setting eyes on deep in the rainforest of the Iron Range.

After returning to Cairns, we headed to the Winton region in west-central Queensland via another Southern Cassowary and then to the even more remote Channel Country of the far southwest. Here we scored with the range-restricted Opalton Grasswren, Hall’s Babbler and Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, as well as a wonderful supporting cast including Emu, Black Falcon and the rare Grey Falcon, Inland Dotterel, Bourke’s Parrot, Mallee Ringneck, Flock Bronzewing, Spinifex Pigeon, Spotted Bowerbird, Spinifexbird, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Orange Chat, Gibberbird, Plum-headed Finch and, bird-of-the-trip, a profusion of wonderful Letter-winged Kites.

Next, we explored the Mount Isa region in far western Queensland where we tracked down Kalkadoon Grasswren, the localized Cloncurry Ringneck and Spotted Bowerbird, Painted Finch and Black-tailed Treecreeper. The only significant blot on our copybook was missing Carpentarian Grasswren, whose favoured stakeouts had just been burnt to a cinder by cataclysmic bush fires days before our visit. We searched and searched old alternative sites to no avail.

On our return to Cairns, we completed our set of Australian frogmouths with Tawny and then we made a short detour to add the unique Platypus to our lists, along with a selection of northeast rainforest birds including Grey-headed, Eastern Yellow and Pale-yellow Robins, White-throated Treecreeper, Scarlet Honeyeater, Spotted Catbird, Pied Monarch, Victoria’s Riflebird, Eastern Whipbird and Atherton Scrubwren. Another couple of A-list Queensland Tropical Wet zone critters included Green Ringtail Possum and Boyd’s Forest Dragon. What a fabulous journey it had been. We certainly felt like we had seen plenty of Outback Australia and its special wildlife!

High tide in the lovely, leafy city of Cairns was in the early morning so we decided to grab some action along its famous Esplanade before breakfast but not before we took a quick look at Centenary Lakes, where there had been a Little Kingfisher the previous day. Happily, this little gem was still sat on its favourite palm frond, an uncommon bird on this itinerary and of the deep blue northeast subspecies halli. A Pacific Baza here was the only one of the tour and Australian Brushturkey and Orange-footed Scrubfowl were the first of many. Hornbill Friarbird and Metallic Starlings too. The mudflats of the Esplanade itself were very productive with some Siberian shorebirds already in their winter residence, including around 150 Great Knot, as well as Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Grey-tailed Tattlers and massive Far Eastern Curlews. A couple of equally massive Channel-billed Cuckoos flew south, and other notable sightings included Australian and Caspian Terns, Torresian Kingfisher, Rainbow Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig Parrot and Varied Honeyeater before we settled down to a classic breakfast at Muddy’s, one of the world’s top birding café locations!

After breakfast the temperature had already started to creep upwards, and we embarked on our long journey north up the Cape York Peninsula. It was a day of quick stops that broke up the long drive, the first at Jack Bethel producing the smart Black Butcherbird, Little Bronze and Brush Cuckoos, Laughing Kookaburra, Noisy Friarbird, Fairy Gerygone and Rufous Fantail before it was time to move on. The entrance road to nearby Mareeba Wetlands is still worth a look, even though the wetlands themselves are now off limits to the public and we added Pheasant Coucal, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Forest Kingfisher, the lovely Red-backed Fairywren, Leaden Flycatcher and Australian Pipit here. Just a little further down the road at Big Mitchell River, Yellow and White-throated Honeyeater were added to our lists. Before lunch at the quirky Mount Molloy café (maybe the only Swiss-Mexican café in Australia where they modestly serve the ‘best burgers in the world’! Definitely best in Mount Molloy at least) we checked a nearby dam where Wandering Whistling Duck, Green Pygmy Goose, Comb-crested Jacana, Wood Sandpiper, Little Pied Cormorant and Intermediate Egret were seen. A couple of roadside sightings included Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and some Australian Bustards.

We had a few other stops along the dusty Peninsular Development Road (the PDR), including Laura where Great Bowerbirds were feasting on fallen mangos before we reached the remote Artemis Station. We figured we could save a long back-track the following morning if we could see the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot this evening and sure enough, up to eleven of these fast-flying little parrots were on show as soon as we rolled up at their feeding station, including two males. I would usually say smart or something but at this time of year they are moulting and are not looking their best. Surely the rarest bird of the tour, now in three figures they are very vulnerable in their tiny present range at the base of Cape York. They are slim and can be tricky to spot in foliage!

Calling in at a Red Goshawk nest we were disappointed to find the young had fledged and ‘Elvis had left the building’ (we tried here and in the general area four more times during our stay in this area without any luck) so we continued to our accommodation for the next couple of nights, the awesome Lotus Bird Lodge. This is one of the nicest places I have stayed at anywhere! In an idyllic setting, a lovely veranda overlooks a large waterhole thronged with birds, surrounded by beautiful eucalypt savannah. The food was top class, the wooden chalets on stilts are gorgeous (the whole area can be inundated in the rainy season) and the staff were incredibly helpful and welcoming! The mint tea on arrival was very welcome indeed! Among many others, of note on the water were Magpie Goose, Plumed Whistling Duck, Radjah Shelduck, Royal Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, White-necked and Pied Herons. In the trees around the lodge were Red-winged Parrots and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and scores of Agile Wallabies were dotted around the lodge grounds – they get free meals here. Fab-u-lous! The first day of a tour in a new country is always full of new birds!

We had only scratched the surface of Lotus Bird Lodge’s grounds the previous evening, so we took a short walk next morning, adding the sought-after Black-backed Butcherbird and Pale-headed Rosella. After a second strike for Red Gos we made our way out onto Nifold Plains, in Lakefield National Park, a terrific area of open grassland dotted with innumerable huge termite mounds and the occasional clump of trees and billabongs. At our first stop we added the leggy Australian Pratincole, Black-shouldered Kite and a nice selection of finches – Star, Double-banded, Masked and Black-throated. Australian Bustards sought shade behind the termite mounds and a flock of Brolgas visited one of the billabongs. A large Yellow-spotted Monitor crossed one of the graded roads and as the temperature soared into the mid-thirties Celsius we checked a few more shady spots adding White-throated, Bar-breasted and Rufous-banded Honeyeaters and Large-billed and White-throated Gerygones. Nearby water bodies held White-browed Crake, Nankeen Night Heron and a huge Saltwater Crocodile (a reminder, if one was needed, not to venture too close to any water’s edge!).

We were back again after dark in search of creatures of the night and tallied at least 10 Eastern Barn Owls, four huge Papuan Frogmouths and a Spotted Python crossing the road. A very enjoyable day in a lovely landscape!

Next morning, we had another try for Red Gos, in the vicinity of their nest, again without success but we did see some good birds in the form of Varied Sitella and Little Friarbird, before it was time to continue on our journey. I can’t say driving on the PDR is enjoyable, it just has to be endured to get to some incredible places. For the most part, driving the second Land Cruiser I was peering into a dust cloud wondering when the next bull dust hole would appear. Archer River is the gateway to the Iron Range, we stopped to eat our lunch and there was a lad from Chester-le-Street, County Durham on the till at the roadhouse! Geordies here, Geordies there! From here the road winds through hills clad with lovely eucalypt savannah until eventually the trees following the watercourses grow larger, the peak of Mount Tozer appears on the right, and we were in the Iron Range at last. Although it is a rainforest, the tall, buttressed trees are mostly restricted to the watercourses and between them, the hills remain savannah and tropical heath vegetation, it is far from endless rainforest as far as the eye can see, that I recall from flying over the Fly River region in Papua New Guinea 20 years ago. Birding here is essentially roadside apart from a few trails that penetrate the forest, and our first stop was very busy with our first Magnificent Riflebirds calling all around us. It was not long before we got some views of the electric blue of the male! The noisy Papuan Eclectus Parrot was added to our list (another bird shared with New Guinea) as was Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, a little further on. The Metallic Starlings appeared to be breeding in an old dead tree and a female Shining Flycatcher put in an appearance.

Our base for the next five nights was the delightful Portland House. Another great place to get away from it all situated overlooking an idyllic mangrove-fringed beach with the Great Barrier Reef beyond. There were a few birds around too, Brown Noddies were feeding offshore, with Lesser Crested, Bridled and Common Terns among them. At what remains of the WWII jetty, built when invasion by Japan was a grave concern, we added Common Sandpiper. A Grey-tailed Tattler and Eurasian Whimbrel were also here, and a Zebra Shark swam by close inshore, its weird double dorsal fin breaking the water’s surface.

The next morning saw our first full day in the Iron Range, and we kicked off in style with three roadside Palm Cockatoos, some of our folks’ most wanted! Some of us saw our first Cape York-only endemic Northern Scrub Robin but the other half of us couldn’t manage a glimpse as it sang deep in a tangle of branches. However, a terrific Noisy Pitta was more accommodating, also singing not far away and everyone managed to set eyes on it without any difficulty. Rufous Shrikethrush (the recent split from Little) and White-faced Robin slipped by here as well. We added some new pigeons – Brown Cuckoo Dove, Wompoo and Superb Fruit Doves and some of us had a brief Trumpet Manucode. Honeyeaters abounded, with Graceful, White-throated, and Tawny-breasted all making appearances. A noisy Yellow-billed Kingfisher eluded us but the second Cape York-only endemic Frill-necked Monarch was spotted building a nest but was quite shy and the more widespread Spectacled Monarch was also seen. A very exciting start in the rainforest but we still had much to do. Swinging by Lockhart River itself we paused at a small dam where we counted 23 of the sometimes-elusive Spotted Whistling Duck among the commoner and more widespread Wandering. Brown-backed Honeyeaters foraged in the tree bark here.

After lunch a trip to the nearby Chili Beach allowed us to stretch our legs along its gorgeous sands, while watching a nice variety of shorebirds, including our first Pacific Golden and Red-capped Plovers and Pied Oystercatchers. A family of Little Terns was offshore here as an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle cruised down the beach. The wooded tangles inland from the beach produced Tropical Scrubwren (often missed in PNG apparently) and Varied Triller and the purple-wattled form of Australian Brushturkey followed us around. We had a night off this evening, after a couple of long days, there was plenty of time for spotlighting to come.

The following day was cloudy with a northeast wind and a rough sea! A Lesser Frigatebird was hanging in the wind over the hill behind Portland House. The skulking Northern Scrub Robin gave itself up in spectacular style today, affording walkaway views once we figured out it was singing at eye level not on the forest floor. While searching for the robin a Black-eared Catbird called nearby but we dare not give up on the scrub robin again, so we let it go for the time being. Today we hiked a little further into the forest, crossing one of the streams to access some quieter habitat away from the endless roadworks, that stretched along the entire course of the rainforest. Yellow-billed Kingfisher also showed nicely for us today, the false eyes on the back of its ginger head were particularly striking. Finally, we managed to see the third Cape York-only endemic (well there is a fourth, but no-one sees Buff-breasted Buttonquail), the beautifully marked White-streaked Honeyeater, not far from where we had ticked off the bowerbird the previous day. We saw some nice butterflies too including Capaneus Swallowtail and Eastern Red Lacewing. Lunch by the sea at Lockhart River added Greater Crested Tern but nothing else. The evening spotlighting was productive with highlights Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths, Large-tailed Nightjar, Dingo and White-tailed Giant Rat. As we left our evening meal a pair of eyes watched us from under the mangroves in the bay, a Saltwater Crocodile. Sheree told us that three live here! Fancy a midnight skinny dip? No thanks.

We retraced our footsteps today but now focusing purely on birds we had not seen yet seeing the highly elusive Yellow-legged Flyrobin, which came in silently and high in the canopy! A pair of Lovely Fairywrens deep inside the rainforest and a couple of Little Bronze Cuckoos of the russatus subspecies (formerly split as ‘Gould’s’) and Yellow-breasted Boatbill represented further progress today as was a bonus white morph Grey Goshawk, this stunning bird is a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo plumage mimic, in order to disguise its presence. It was quite shy though and did not pose for long! We also improved on previous views of such as White-faced Robin and Frill-necked Monarch – we found a second nest of the latter. However, prize of place today went to the fantastic Common Spotted Cuscus in the canopy at Cook’s Hut.

A daytime view and even climbing down a branch towards us at one point! Another afternoon visit to Chili Beach did not add anything to our bird list, but we did see an impressive Saltwater Crocodile hauled out on the offshore rocky islet here.

The rainforest of the Iron Range takes its time to reveal its more secretive birds! Today’s discoveries included White-browed Robin, Black-eared Catbird (generally thought to be the trickiest Cape York bird), White-eared Monarch and best of all, a Southern Cassowary, off trail and deep in the forest, expertly spotted by Michael. We were so lucky that it stood motionless and allowed everyone who had come on this slightly more intrepid hike to set eyes on it, before disappearing into a blur of tangled branches and tree trunks. One of the most exciting experiences of the whole tour!

Other notable sightings included a White-streaked Honeyeater in the rainforest, it is unusual to see it away from its preferred tropical heathland habitat and non-avian critters included Fiery Skimmer dragonfly, a Six-toothed Rainbow Skink on a fallen log and a Coastal Taipan, sadly moribund having been hit by the vehicle before us, its back broken. Probably just as well, as it is deadly venomous and can be aggressive, I am told. The diversity of wildlife in the Iron Range is quite stunning and so much of it special to this area. The last night drive did not produce the hoped-for Southern Green Python unfortunately, we left it for next time! It was probably too breezy and dry for it to be out hunting today. Instead, we had more Marbled Frogmouths, including our best sighting so far of the distinctive little subspecies marmoratus. Our final morning here only added the lovely Rose-crowned Fruit Dove in the mangroves in front of Portland House and then we were off, back onto the PDR and south to the lovely Lotus Bird Lodge. The journey produced a couple of Pied Currawongs of note and this evening we had another try in Lakefield National Park for Eastern Grass Owl, success at last, with a bird hovering right overhead in response to some (pretty poor) squeaking. Eastern Barn Owl was again ridiculously common and also more approachable than the EGO.

Thankfully we would soon be rid of the dust and bumps of the PDR, there was just one more day to go. Another quick stop at Dave’s Dam produced Brown Treecreeper this time, as well as an impressive 50 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and then followed some very productive stops in the Mount Molloy area, it would have been rude not to! On our way to the famous café there we added Banded Honeyeater at one of Michael’s hotspots as well as three point-blank Australian Bustards, gasping for air in the midday heat. We added Bridled and MacLeay’s Honeyeaters and Bower’s Shrikethrush (all Queensland Wet Tropics endemics) as well as Aussie endemics: White-cheeked and Lewin’s Honeyeaters and Large-billed Scrubwren plus Black-faced Monarch (shared with New Guinea) and Common Cicadabird and Silvereye (lowly regional specialities). A little further south we filled a pigeon gap in our list with Squatter Pigeon at a ridiculously easy spot for them, Granite Gorge, just walking around at close range in the open on the lawn of the nature park there. Some enormous Channel-billed Cuckoos were perched in the trees here as well, unusually not hastening on their way somewhere as we so often see them. Back in lovely Cairns a lonely Australian Pelican standing on the beach at Muddy’s Cafe was a nice welcome back to our favourite spot.

Our tour continued to feel like a road trip the following day and with 950km ahead we started early with a brief stop at Etty’s Bay, the classic Southern Cassowary site but the closest we got were the numerous cassowary warning signs along the roads in this area. By a stroke of luck, a friend Laurie Ross rolled up while we were there and gave us a hot tip, another spot just down the road, which quickly came up trumps with this monstrous creature. One sauntered across an area of short grass between forest patches for all to see this time. Phew, that was a relief! The rest of the day was punctuated by rest stops here and there, a couple of bakeries, a Crimson Finch stakeout, and a rest area with our first of many Yellow-throated Miners, otherwise it was familiar Aussie roadside birds all the way out west to Winton, where we finally reached our destination in the early evening sunshine, to find three enormous Brolgas on the tiny strip of lawn next to our motel. They visit almost every evening to drink water put out for them as well as bird seed! It had been over 40 Celsius today in Winton, not unusual here of course.

The temperature was due to soar again the following day, so we made an early start, spending the morning in Bladensburg National Park. We were now in spinifex country! With a whole new set of birds to find. The park is an 85,000 hectares semi-desert grassland landscape with patches of mulga and gumtree woodland. We had four big targets in this region and the first of these, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush proved tricky today, with only some of us catching a glimpse of this shy songster that prefers to run away rather than fly and keeps its distance as a matter of course. We would have to wait for better views of this one. Easier additions to our list in this excellent park, empty of people, were: (Mallee) Australian Ringneck; Collared Sparrowhawk (the only one of the tour!); Purple-backed and White-winged Fairywrens; Crimson Chat; Grey-headed, White-plumed and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater; Inland Thornbill; Crested Bellbird; Rufous Whistler and the super-smart Red-capped Robin. We explored spots like Skull Hole (the site of a massacre of 200 aboriginal people in c.1872) and Engine Hole. Spinifex Pigeon was very common indeed here with more than 70 noted! On the outskirts of town, we came across a flock of around 50 Plum-headed Finches at a small dam, where Black-tailed Nativehen was also new for the tour. We frequented a splendid old bar during our time at Winton, the Australian Hotel, established in 1897 – a quintessential Aussie watering hole, complete with an incredible mural dating back to the 1920s featuring the locals of that time and said to have been painted by a guest in lieu of his keep. Joe kept us supplied with Lemon, lime and bitters, a particular favourite of Dave and mine. After a much-needed siesta in the 44 degrees Celsius today we ventured out again in the afternoon, keeping the ‘tickometer’ busy at the water treatment works with Australasian Swamphen, Baillon’s Crake, Eurasian Coot, Great Cormorant, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Australian Reed Warbler and Little Grassbird. The nearby Long and Pelican Waterholes added Hardhead, Orange Chat (an inconspicuous female!), Singing Bushlark and a good number of Budgerigars (some of our folks’ first outside captivity).

I also discovered that Kelly gets excited every time she sees a Cockatiel! 10/10 for enthusiasm. There were even flocks of them flying to roost over the high street as we sat outside for our evening meal.

The weather had changed today, apparently a product of what was happening almost 1000km away on the coast. It was cloudy and ten degrees cooler, with a wind from the southeast that picked up in intensity during the day, making birding in the spinifex country decidedly more difficult. The day started off very nicely with some live Emus (at last!) before dawn. Target number #2, Hall’s Babbler was very co-operative, with a small party spotted by Michael from the moving vehicle! This is another smart and very range-restricted Outback speciality. The third of our four targets was also seen, the rare budgie-nemesis Grey Falcon! A pair was at a nest site on a sky-high telecom aerial, fortunately not too far up in the wind. We didn’t realise how lucky we were as they weren’t present the following day! A positively glowing male Splendid Fairywren performed beautifully for us, although for the photographers there was always something in the way! Three Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens were seen, they rarely leave the safety of their spinifex knitting needle clumps. Spinifex grass tips are reinforced with silica and can be troublesome if they enter your skin and break off. Other new additions included Spotted Harrier, Red-backed Kingfisher, Bourke’s Parrot, Singing Honeyeater, Hooded Robin (one sat next to a Crested Bellbird) and Spinifexbird (one of which was an outrageously showy individual in a bare bush!). There was no sign of any grasswrens though, again! Time was ticking away.

What a relief it was to see Opalton Grasswren the next morning! It could have been more obliging, showing for only for a few seconds each time, probably owing to the wind, which was still blowing, but at least everyone got on them. We had resorted to checking a sighting from August this year and immediately got a bingo! It was interesting that they seemed to be in very old spinifex, where the expanding cushions had joined and become whirling alleyways of the spiky grass. We could now press on further into the Channel Country towards Boulia. We passed by typical birds of this open country such as Emu, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Falcon and Nankeen Kestrel until car no.#1 pulled up suddenly by some fleeing Red Kangaroos. Michael had only been saying moments before ‘and this is the kind of landscape we see Gibberbird’, when the roos flushed one by the roadside. We could approach it closely too and give a good ‘digiwasting’. What a treat to see this enigmatic Outback special. The weird honeyeater that least likes trees, swapping them for desolate stony gravel plains. We continued to Boulia, population 301, stopping for a definite Little Crow and to pull some feathers out of a roadkill wedgie. Boulia’s claim to fame is the Min Min light, thought to be an atmospheric refraction when cold air is trapped between warm air. It has become a tourist attraction with a take of a frightened stockman on horseback being chased by it and there is a Min Min Encounter Information Centre in Boulia! We had an enjoyable excursion along the Boulia River this evening, adding Little Eagle, which almost slipped by overhead among the ever present Black and Whistling Kites, as well as Varied Lorikeet and Rufous Songlark. A Spotted Bowerbird’s bower was another interesting find, but its maker was not around this evening.

There are quite a few star attractions on this itinerary, but I had been looking forward to this day in particular, as we embarked on a big loop that would take us to the remotest point on our road trip, skirting the Diamantina National Park and deep into Channel Country where we would only be a stone’s throw from the Simpson Desert. Heading southeast from Boulia we neared Coorabulka Station, where a lovely Inland Dotterel appeared by the roadside, unfortunately it did not pose for photos and flew away out of sight into the vast flatness, so we continued onwards. Such remote cattle stations usually have their own airstrip! Emus and Australian Bustards were noted here and there. A Spotted Bowerbird was seen by a small waterhole and a flock of around 100 Budgerigars was at another. A couple of close roadside Black Falcons, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Spotted Harrier were also seen. Leaving the gibber plains behind we joined the Diamantina Development Road and checked a tiny wetland, which held a few interesting birds notably our only Freckled Duck of the trip, an intricately marked female in the loose company of Grey Teals. Small flocks of Australian Pratincoles by the roadside kept us entertained and when we stopped to have a closer look, we noticed a good number of Orange Chats as well. By lunchtime we had reached the furthest southwest point of the tour, Cuttaburra Crossing, a connecting channel between Lakes Machattie and Koolivoo/Mipia. We were now only 110km north of Birdsville on the South Australia border. A Great Crested Grebe was a good bird for this part of Australia and other waterbirds were in abundance, including around 75 Maned Ducks. We paused for diesel and ice creams at the tiny hamlet of Bedourie (population 122), where there was a girl from Basingstoke on the till! Nice to see that some youngsters still have that wanderlust. We were now just 575km east of Alice! What a place to come and work. The outstanding highlight today (and of the whole tour for most) came at a stop just south of the Tropic of Capricorn by one of the many river crossings on this stretch of the Bedourie to Boulia road. We scoured the south side of the road, where Michael had some luck on his last visit a few months previously without any luck but almost as soon as we turned our attention to the north side there it was, Letter-winged Kite. Great big goggly eyes sitting in one of the low gum trees. Within minutes the kite broke cover and took to the air, followed by a flurry of others, at least 50 in total! They flew directly towards and over us, before towering high into the sky and then gradually descending back into their favourite trees, just like pal Pete said they would! What a terrific experience! The ground along the watercourse here was riddled with rodent burrows but when this food source runs out, the kites will pitch up somewhere else, maybe 1000km away! These breeding events usually follow good rains but they are unpredictable, so it was good to have the opportunity to see them here. Without the letterwing experience, a gathering of around 3000 Flock Bronzewings would have been the highlight. They packed every inch of shade under isolated gum trees and even blocked the road at one stage. This is another unpredictable Outback Enigma that you must go out of your way for! What a fab-u-lous day, my favourite of this Australian adventure. We returned to some more lemon, lime and bitters at Boulia, population 301! As well as the Min Min light Boulia has a crater on Mars named after it.

It was time to drive north to Mount Isa, a worrying prospect as we had already heard that the roads around the town had been closed for the last few days owing to cataclysmic bush fires. However, lucky for us they had just reopened. We stopped off at a Kalkadoon Grasswren site near Dajarra. We quickly saw two of them on a rocky spinifex slope, but they did not linger for photos and disappeared in typical grasswren style. It’s not easy to arrange photographic distance views with a large group. A little further Brown Songlark put in its first rather underwhelming appearance. Approaching Mount Isa there were still clouds of smoke whirling here and there and to the north and west was a wall of darkness, where the fires were most intense and still at least smouldering. We stayed near the city this afternoon, checking the water treatment plant first. Another two Baillon’s Crakes were noted, as was new-for-the-tour Australian Spotted Crake. The Silver Gull colony here had around 10 well-grown youngsters, apparently the furthest inland breeding site of this mostly coastal gull. A Grey Shrikethrush was seen by the first vehicle and the marshes around the nearby horse paddocks added Red-kneed Dotterel and Marsh Sandpiper among the more familiar waterbirds. As we checked in at our hotel a party of Grey-crowned Babblers in the car park were also new. The afternoon excursion was to the Pamela Street Reservoirs, on the edge of town, where we saw another Kalkadoon Grasswren and afdded Black-chinned and Grey-headed Honeyeaters to our list. Common Wallaroo and Purple-necked Rock Wallaby were also noted here. As we gathered for our evening meal a steady exodus of Little Red Flying Foxes was heading south, numbering in the thousands! We were in Gulf Country now, where the water flows north again into the Gulf of Carpentaria. That sounds nice but Mount Isa (population 18,317) is far from nice. It is home to the most productive mineral mines in the world – lead, silver, copper and zinc and the mining infrastructure dominates the town in a ‘Mordoresque’ way. The 270m tall lead smelter chimney particularly. The town in divided by the Leichhardt River (after the 19th century explorer) into mineside and townside and another of its claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of golfer Greg Norman!

Now allowed out of town, we headed west next morning to find that all of Michael’s Carpentarian Grasswren sites had been burnt to a cinder, what a mess! A real tragedy for these birds and all the other creatures of the spinifex country here. Spinifex burns very well. So, we were reduced to exploring historic sites and unfortunately came up with a blank after trudging around for hours. We did see the other more common birds of this area where there was still some habitat left untouched, such as Pallid Cuckoo, (Cloncurry) Australian Ringneck, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, Weebill (which seems to be attracted by grasswren sounds) and the lovely Paperbark Flycatcher in a patch of Melaleuca Forest. There were a couple of Northern Water Dragons in the car park this afternoon. The temperature was still quite high at 37 Celsius today, and although we saw some dramatic storm clouds all they managed to produce were a few drops of rain on the windscreen.

Today was another big transfer day but before we left the Mount Isa area, we spent some hours at another suggested spot for the grasswren but all we could add here was Jacky Winter. It was quite common at this spot but was not seen anywhere else on the tour! A Frill-necked Lizard on the graded road was more exciting! We also called in at Moondarra Lake, now the road to the north of town had been reopened and luckily the fire had not quite reached the lakeshore, although much of the surrounding area had been burnt. The lake itself was great, with lots of waterbirds, The tame juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpipers along the shore deserve a special mention and Australian Pied Cormorant and (the feral) Indian Peafowl were new. Also new were Long-tailed Finch and the attractive Painted Finch along the rocky lakeshore. A couple of excellent reptiles were also here: Freshwater Crocodile (one cruising by in a sheltered bay) and Slater’s Ring-tailed Dragon (Ctenophorus slateri). The seven hours journey to Hughenden seemed to pass by quickly, with stops in Cloncurry, Julia Creek and Richmond and we arrived with still some time to go spotlighting after evening meal. The landscape was on fire to the north of Hughenden as well! Fortunately, not close enough to stop us seeing a couple of Tawny Frogmouths, a Common Brushtail Possum and the range-restricted Spectacled Hare Wallaby very nicely! Hughenden (population 1136) is mostly a sheep and cattle grazing town, although it was settled by native people around 11,000 years ago! The town of Hughenden was established by European settlers in 1870 and is named after the Buckinghamshire manor of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli!

We had another seven hours of driving to get back to Cairns by nightfall so what to do? There was nothing new for us in the Hughdenden area so we decided to go off piste and make a slight detour to the Atherton Tablelands. Arriving in the early afternoon we made a few whistle-stops for our folks who would not be returning to Australia, the first of these at Wurrama Swamp, where Black Swan and Cotton Pygmy Goose were common. The next spot was Mount Hypipamee, we were back in the Queensland Wet Tropics (QWT) again. As well as a few birds we had already seen in the Mount Molloy area, we added: Grey-headed Robin (a QWT endemic) and Pale-yellow Robin of the northern subspecies nana; White-throated Treecreeper; Grey Fantail; Scarlet Honeyeater and in the crater here, Peregrine Falcon. The crater is worth a look in its own right, it is a 58m deep diatreme (a volcanic pipe created by a volcanic gas explosion) with a further 70m deep lake. Next came Curtain Fig Tree National Park, named after a very impressive 500 years old fig tree, with 15m+ tall roots. This session was very exciting with new birds and other creatures coming at us thick and fast. QWT endemics Pied Monarch, Victoria’s Riflebird (nest-building) and Atherton Scrubwren as well as Australian endemics Spotted Catbird and Eastern Whipbird all obliged. We saw a couple of A-list QWT critters from the fig tree boardwalk – a roosting Green Ringtail Possum and the spectacular Boyd’s Forest Dragon (Lophosaurus boydii). What a place! Our final excursion was to the very lovely Peterson’s Creek, where the main reason for this detour, Platypus performed exceptionally well, swimming along the narrow creek only a few metres away. What a bizarre thing it is too, a monotreme with features shared with birds. No wonder it was first thought to be a hoax by 18th century scientists. We could watch it using its bill to forage in the shallows reminiscent of a spoonbill. We added our last two birds to the trip list here – the pretty Eastern Yellow Robin and the not-so-pretty Brown Gerygone. The many flying foxes here were also new – the range-restricted and endangered Spectacled. Sadly, the tree kangaroo did not appear, it will have to wait until next time. We had a lovely farewell dinner at Yungaburra and made our way back to Cairns, where some of us went shopping at the famous night market. What a great way to end our amazing Aussie adventure! Thanks to all our very enthusiastic group and particularly to our main man Michael Greenshields for leading us so expertly around his home country. 7000 km to some of the remotest spots in Australia and not so much as a flat tyre! We will be back!

 

BIRD OF THE TOUR

1 =       Letter-winged Kite

2 =      Southern Cassowary

3 =        Platypus

4 =       Flock Bronzewing

5 =      Gibberbird

6 =      Grey Falcon

7 =      Splendid Fairywren

8 =      Purple-backed Fairywren

9 =      Spotted Bowerbird

10 =    Yellow-billed Kingfisher

 

SYSTEMATIC LIST OF SPECIES RECORDED

Species marked with the diamond symbol (◊) are either endemic to the country or local region or considered ‘special’ birds for some other reason (e.g., it is only seen on one or two Birdquest tours; it is difficult to see across all or most of its range; the local form is endemic or restricted-range and may in future be treated as a full species).

The species names and taxonomy used in the bird list follows Gill, F., Donsker, D., & Rasmussen, P.(Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v13.2) (this was the current version when the checklist for the tour report was created).

Where the subspecies seen is/are known, these are often given in parentheses at the end of the species comment.

BIRDS

Southern Cassowary ◊  Casuarius casuarius  Singles Iron Range & Mourilyan Harbour

Emu ◊  Dromaius novaehollandiae  Endemic. 50+ sightings in the Outback

Magpie Goose ◊  Anseranas semipalmata  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Spotted Whistling Duck ◊  Dendrocygna guttata  23 Lockhart River

Plumed Whistling Duck ◊  Dendrocygna eytoni  Endemic. 13 Lotus Bird Lodge

Wandering Whistling Duck  Dendrocygna arcuata  First noted Wetherby Dam

Black Swan ◊  Cygnus atratus  Endemic. 30+ Wurrama Swamp

Freckled Duck ◊  Stictonetta naevosa  Endemic. Female Diamantina Development Road­

Radjah Shelduck ◊  Radjah radjah   First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Pink-eared Duck ◊  Malacorhynchus membranaceus  Endemic. First noted Bladensburg NP

Maned Duck ◊  Chenonetta jubata  Endemic. c 75 Cuttaburra Crossing

Cotton Pygmy Goose ◊  Nettapus coromandelianus  17 Wurrama Swamp

Green Pygmy Goose ◊  Nettapus pulchellus  First noted Wetherby Dam

Pacific Black Duck  Anas superciliosa  First noted Cairns

Grey Teal  Anas gracilis  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Hardhead ◊  Aythya australis  First noted Long Waterhole, Winton

Australian Brushturkey ◊  Alectura lathami Endemic. First Cairns, ssp purpureicollis & lathami

Orange-footed Scrubfowl  Megapodius reinwardt  First noted Cairns

Indian Peafowl (introduced)  Pavo cristatus  Male Moondarra Lake

Large-tailed Nightjar  Caprimulgus macrurus  Three sightings Iron Range NP

Marbled Frogmouth ◊  Podargus ocellatus  Three sightings Iron Range NP

Papuan Frogmouth ◊  Podargus papuensis  Eleven Lakefield NP, one Iron Range NP

Tawny Frogmouth ◊  Podargus strigoides  Endemic. Two Porcupine Gorge

Australian Swiftlet ◊  Aerodramus terraereginae  Endemic. First noted Cairns Esplanade

White-throated ­Needletail  Hirundapus caudacutus  One Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

Australian Bustard ◊  Ardeotis australis  First noted near Mount Molloy, 32 sightings

Pheasant Coucal ◊  Centropus phasianinus  First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Pacific Koel ◊  Eudynamys orientalis  Noted Etty Bay

Channel-billed Cuckoo ◊  Scythrops novaehollandiae  Nine, the first Cairns Esplanade

Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo ◊  Chrysococcyx basalis Endemic. One Winton WTP

Little Bronze Cuckoo ◊  Chrysococcyx [minutillus] minutillus  One Jack Bethel Park

Little Bronze Cuckoo ◊ (Gould’s B C)  Chrysococcyx [minutillus] russatus  2 Iron Range

Pallid Cuckoo ◊  Cacomantis pallidus  Endemic. Noted at Mt Isa

Brush Cuckoo  Cacomantis variolosus  One Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Rock Dove (introduced)  Columba livia  Small numbers noted

Spotted Dove (introduced)  Spilopelia chinensis  Noted in urban Cairns

Brown Cuckoo-Dove ◊  Macropygia phasianella  Endemic. Nine sightings Iron Range NP

Pacific Emerald Dove  Chalcophaps longirostris  Iron Range NP & Peterson’s Ck

Common Bronzewing ◊  Phaps chalcoptera  Endemic. Eight sightings in the Outback

Flock Bronzewing ◊  Phaps histrionica  Endemic. c 3000 in the Bedourie area

Crested Pigeon ◊  Ocyphaps lophotes  Endemic. Common in the Outback

Spinifex Pigeon ◊  Geophaps plumifera  Endemic. c 130 noted in the Outback

Squatter Pigeon ◊  Geophaps scripta  Endemic. Eight Granite Gorge and two N of Hughenden

Diamond Dove ◊  Geopelia cuneata  Endemic. Common in the Outback

Peaceful Dove  Geopelia placida  Small numbers from Cairns onwards

Bar-shouldered Dove ◊  Geopelia humeralis  Common Cape York

Wompoo Fruit Dove ◊  Ptilinopus magnificus  2 Iron Range NP & 1 at Peterson’s Ck

Superb Fruit Dove  Ptilinopus superbus  Three sightings Iron Range NP

Rose-crowned Fruit Dove ◊  Ptilinopus regina  Noted Portland Roads, Iron Range NP

Torresian Imperial Pigeon ◊  Ducula spilorrhoa  Abundant in Cairns

Australian Crake ◊  Porzana fluminea  Endemic. One Mt Isa Water Treatment Plant

Black-tailed Nativehen ◊  Tribonyx ventralis  Endemic. 17 sightings in the Outback

Dusky Moorhen  Gallinula tenebrosa  Five sightings after the first at Lockhart River

Eurasian Coot  Fulica atra  Two at each of Winton and Mt Isa

Australasian Swamphen ◊  Porphyrio melanotus  Five Winton and c30 Mt Isa

Baillon’s Crake  Zapornia pusilla  Seven Winton and two Mt Isa

White-browed Crake ◊  Poliolimnas cinereus  One Lakefield NP

Brolga ◊  Antigone rubicunda  c80 noted including the surreal Winton Motel experience

Australasian Grebe  Tachybaptus novaehollandiae  c200 noted

Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus  One Cuttaburra Crossing

Little Buttonquail ◊  Turnix velox  Endemic. Five sightings

Bush Stone-curlew ◊  Burhinus grallarius  Endemic. Several in suburban Cairns

Pied Oystercatcher ◊  Haematopus longirostris  Endemic. A pair Chili Beach, Iron Range NP

Pied Stilt  Himantopus leucocephalus  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Masked Lapwing  Vanellus miles  Very common

Red-kneed Dotterel ◊  Erythrogonys cinctus  Endemic. Three Mt Isa

Inland Dotterel ◊  Peltohyas australis Endemic. A single bird near Coorabulka Station

Pacific Golden Plover  Pluvialis fulva  16 sightings

Red-capped Plover ◊  Charadrius ruficapillus  Endemic. c10 Iron Range NP

Greater Sand Plover  Charadrius leschenaulti  First noted Cairns, 14 noted Iron Range

Black-fronted Dotterel ◊  Elseyornis melanops  Endemic. c55 noted

Comb-crested Jacana ◊  Irediparra gallinacea  First noted Wetherby Dam

Eurasian Whimbrel  Numenius phaeopus  Five sightings, Cairns and Iron Range NP

Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis  Two Cairns Esplanade

Bar-tailed Godwit  Limosa lapponica  c30 Cairns Esplanade, 1 Iron Range NP

Black-tailed Godwit  Limosa limosa  One Cairns Esplanade

Great Knot  Calidris tenuirostris  c150 Cairns Esplanade

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper  Calidris acuminata  c35 noted, the first at Cairns Esplanade

Curlew Sandpiper  Calidris ferruginea  c10 Cairns Esplanade

Red-necked Stint  Calidris ruficollis  5 Cairns Esplanade & c40 Iron Range NP

Common Sandpiper  Actitis hypoleucos  Five sightings Iron Range NP

Grey-tailed Tattler  Tringa brevipes  c50 noted, the first Cairns Esplanade

Marsh Sandpiper  Tringa stagnatilis  Two Mt Isa

Wood Sandpiper  Tringa glareola  One Wetherby Dam, One Mt Isa

Australian Pratincole ◊  Stiltia isabella  First Lakefield, max. c50 Diamantina Dev Rd

Brown Noddy  Anous stolidus  Some hundreds far offshore at Portland Roads

Silver Gull ◊  Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae  Common at the coast & c110 Mt Isa

Australian Tern ◊  Gelochelidon macrotarsa  One Cairns Esplanade

Caspian Tern  Hydroprogne caspia  Four Cairns Esplanade

Greater Crested Tern  Thalasseus bergii  c20 Iron Range NP

Lesser Crested Tern  Thalasseus bengalensis  Two Iron Range NP

Little Tern  Sternula albifrons  1 sightings Iron Range NP

Bridled Tern  Onychoprion anaethetus  Six Iron Range NP

Common Tern  Sterna hirundo  One Iron Range NP

Whiskered Tern  Chlidonias hybrida  One Lotus Bird Lodge, max c20 Moondara Lake

Black-necked Stork ◊  Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus  8 sightings, first Lotus Bird Lodge

Lesser Frigatebird  Fregata ariel  One Portland Roads

Australasian Darter ◊  Anhinga novaehollandiae  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Little Pied Cormorant  Microcarbo melanoleucos  First noted Wetherby Dam

Australian Pied Cormorant ◊  Phalacrocorax varius  One Moondarra Lake, Mt Isa

Little Black Cormorant  Phalacrocorax sulcirostris  c350 noted at Boulia

Great Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo  Singles Winton and Boulia

Australian White Ibis  Threskiornis molucca  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Straw-necked Ibis ◊  Threskiornis spinicollis  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Glossy Ibis  Plegadis falcinellus  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Royal Spoonbill ◊  Platalea regia  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Yellow-billed Spoonbill ◊  Platalea flavipes  Endemic. Two Boulia

Nankeen Night Heron  Nycticorax caledonicus  First noted Lakefield NP

Eastern Cattle Egret  Bubulcus coromandus  A scatter of sightings

White-necked Heron ◊  Ardea pacifica  c40 noted

Great Egret  Ardea alba  First noted Iron Range NP

Plumed Egret  Ardea plumifera  First noted Wetherby Dam

Pied Heron ◊  Egretta picata  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

White-faced Heron  Egretta novaehollandiae  First noted Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

Little Egret  Egretta garzetta  First noted Cairns

Pacific Reef Heron  Egretta sacra  Three noted Iron Range NP

Australian Pelican ◊  Pelecanus conspicillatus  One at Muddy’s Café, Cairns

Black-shouldered Kite ◊ Elanus axillaris  Endemic. First noted Lakefield NP

Letter-winged Kite ◊  Elanus scriptus  Endemic. Minimum 50 Between Bedourie and Boulia

Pacific Baza  Aviceda subcristata  One Centenary Lakes, Cairns

Little Eagle ◊  Hieraaetus morphnoides  Endemic. One pale morph Boulia

Wedge-tailed Eagle ◊  Aquila audax  21 sightings, mostly in the Outback

Grey Goshawk ◊  Accipiter novaehollandiae  Two Iron Range NP, one a white morph

Brown Goshawk  Accipiter fasciatus  Seven sightings, the commonest accipiter

Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus  One Bladensburg NP

Spotted Harrier ◊  Circus assimilis  Seven sightings, the first near Lark Quarry, Winton

Black Kite  Milvus migrans  Very common in the Outback

Whistling Kite  Haliastur sphenurus  Common in the Outback

Brahminy Kite  Haliastur indus  First noted Lakefield NP

White-bellied Sea Eagle  Icthyophaga leucogaster  Three sightings Iron Range NP

Eastern Barn Owl  Tyto javanica  17 tallied on night drives at Lakefield NP

Eastern Grass Owl ◊  Tyto longimembris  One Lakefield NP

Oriental Dollarbird  Eurystomus orientalis  Five sightings, the first Iron Range NP

Laughing Kookaburra ◊  Dacelo novaeguineae  Endemic. First noted Cairns

Blue-winged Kookaburra ◊  Dacelo leachii  14, first Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

Forest Kingfisher ◊  Todiramphus macleayii   Nine, first Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

Torresian Kingfisher ◊  Todiramphus sordidus  Singles Cairns and Iron Range NP

Sacred Kingfisher  Todiramphus sanctus  Noted at Boulia

Red-backed Kingfisher ◊  Todiramphus pyrrhopygius  Endemic. Two in the Outback

Yellow-billed Kingfisher ◊  Syma torotoro  One seen and five heard Iron Range NP

Azure Kingfisher  Ceyx azureus  One Iron Range NP

Little Kingfisher ◊  Ceyx pusillus  One Centenary Lakes, Cairns ssp hallii

Rainbow Bee-eater  Merops ornatus  First noted at Artemis Station

Nankeen Kestrel  Falco cenchroides  Endemic. First noted Lakefield NP

Australian Hobby ◊  Falco longipennis  First noted Mount Molloy area

Brown Falcon ◊  Falco berigora  c30 sightings

Grey Falcon ◊  Falco hypoleucos Endemic. Pair south of Winton

Black Falcon ◊  Falco subniger  Endemic. Three sightings

Peregrine Falcon  Falco peregrinus  One in the crater at Mt Hypipamee

Cockatiel  Nymphicus hollandicus Endemic. Common in the Outback

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo ◊  Calyptorhynchus banksii Endemic. c80 noted

Palm Cockatoo ◊  Probosciger aterrimus  Five noted Iron Range NP

Galah ◊  Eolophus roseicapilla  Endemic. Common in the Outback

Little Corella  Cacatua sanguinea  Common in the Outback

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo  Cacatua galerita  Common

Red-winged Parrot ◊  Aprosmictus erythropterus  A total of 22 tallied

Papuan Eclectus ◊  Eclectus polychloros  Nine noted Iron Range NP

Red-cheeked Parrot ◊  Geoffroyus geoffroyi  Five noted Iron Range NP

Golden-shouldered Parrot ◊ Psephotellus chrysopterygius  Endemic. 11 (2 males) Artemis Station

Pale-headed Rosella ◊  Platycercus adscitus  Endemic. Eleven, first at Lotus Bird Lodge

Australian Ringneck ◊ (Mallee R)  Barnardius [zonarius] barnardi  Endemic. Nine Winton-Boulia

Australian Ringneck ◊ (Cloncurry R)  Barnardius [zonarius] macgillivrayi Endemic. Four Mt Isa

Bourke’s Parrot ◊  Neopsephotus bourkii Endemic. Two Lark Quarry area, Winton

Varied Lorikeet ◊  Psitteuteles versicolor  Endemic. c30 noted Boulia-Mt Isa

Rainbow Lorikeet ◊  Trichoglossus moluccanus  Endemic. Common

Budgerigar ◊  Melopsittacus undulatus  Endemic. Common in the Winton area

Double-eyed Fig Parrot ◊  Cyclopsitta diophthalma  First Cairns, a few Iron Range NP

Noisy Pitta ◊  Pitta versicolor  Four sightings Iron Range NP

Spotted Catbird ◊  Ailuroedus maculosus Endemic. 1 Curtain Fig Tree NP & two Peterson’s Ck

Black-eared Catbird ◊  Ailuroedus melanotis  1 seen and another heard Iron Range

Great Bowerbird ◊  Chlamydera nuchalis  Endemic. Maximum c10 Laura

Spotted Bowerbird ◊  Chlamydera maculate  Endemic. Eight sightings Boulia – Mt Isa

Fawn-breasted Bowerbird ◊  Chlamydera cerviniventris  Three sightings Iron Range

White-throated Treecreeper ◊  Cormobates leucphoea Endemic. One Mt Hypipamee

Brown Treecreeper ◊  Climacteris picumnus Endemic. One seen and another heard Dave’s Dam

Black-tailed Treecreeper ◊  Climacteris melanurus  Endemic. Five noted Mt Isa

Lovely Fairywren ◊  Malurus amabilis  Endemic. Two Iron Range and two near Mt Molloy

Purple-backed Fairywren ◊  Malurus assimilis  Endemic. Nine sightings starting at Bladensburg

Splendid Fairywren ◊  Malurus splendens  Endemic. Five noted Bladensburg NP

Red-backed Fairywren ◊  Malurus melanocephalus  Endemic. First Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

White-winged Fairywren ◊  Malurus leucopterus  Endemic. First noted Bladensburg NP

Rufous-crowned Emu-wren ◊  Stipiturus ruficeps  Endemic. Three near Lark Quarry, Winton

Opalton Grasswren ◊  Amytornis rowleyi  Endemic. Three noted Lark Quarry, Winton

Kalkadoon Grasswren ◊  Amytornis ballarae Endemic. Two Dajarra and one Mt Isa

Green-backed Honeyeater ◊  Glycichaera fallax  One sighting Iron Range NP

Gibberbird ◊  Ashbyia lovensis  Endemic. A great encounter Winton–Boulia

Crimson Chat ◊  Epthianura tricolor  Common in the Winton Outback

Orange Chat ◊  Epthianura aurifrons Endemic. One near Winton and c10 Diamantina Dev Rd

Rufous-banded Honeyeater ◊  Conopophila albogularis  One Lakefield NP

Rufous-throated Honeyeater ◊  Conopophila rufogularis Endemic. Six noted Mt Isa

Bar-breasted Honeyeater ◊  Ramsayornis fasciatus Endemic. One Lakefield NP

Brown-backed Honeyeater ◊  Ramsayornis modestus  Several Iron Range NP

Dusky Myzomela ◊  Myzomela obscura  Common

Scarlet Myzomela ◊  Myzomela sanguinolenta  Endemic. Noted Mt Hypipamee & Peterson’s Ck

Little Friarbird ◊  Philemon citreogularis  First noted Lilyvale Road, Musgrave

Hornbill Friarbird ◊  Philemon yorki  Endemic. Common in Cairns

Silver-crowned Friarbird ◊  Philemon argenticeps  Endemic. First noted Iron Range NP

Noisy Friarbird ◊  Philemon corniculatus  First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

MacLeay’s Honeyeater ◊  Xanthotis macleayanus  Endemic. Mt Molloy & Curtain Fig Tree NP

Tawny-breasted Honeyeater ◊  Xanthotis flaviventer  Six sightings Iron Range NP

White-streaked Honeyeater ◊  Trichodere cockerelli Endemic. Two sightings Iron Range NP

White-cheeked Honeyeater ◊  Phylidonyris niger Endemic. Six Mt Molloy

Brown Honeyeater ◊  Lichmera indistincta  First noted Cairns

Banded Honeyeater ◊  Cissomela pectoralis Endemic. One near Mt Molloy

Blue-faced Honeyeater ◊  Entomyzon cyanotis  Common

Black-chinned Honeyeater ◊  Melithreptus [gularis] laetior Endemic. Four noted Mt Isa

White-throated Honeyeater ◊  Melithreptus albogularis  First noted Jack Bethel Park

Yellow Honeyeater ◊  Stomiopera flava  Endemic. First noted Big Mitchell River

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater ◊  Meliphaga notata Endemic. First noted Iron Range NP

Lewin’s Honeyeater ◊  Meliphaga lewinii  Endemic. Noted Mt Molloy and in the Yungaburra area

Graceful Honeyeater ◊  Microptilotis gracilis  Four sightings Iron Range NP

Varied Honeyeater ◊  Gavicalis versicolor  First noted Cairns Esplanade

Singing Honeyeater ◊  Gavicalis virescens  Endemic. First noted Bladensburg NP

Yellow-tinted Honeyeater ◊  Ptilotula flavescens  First noted Lilyvale Rd, Musgrave

Grey-headed Honeyeater ◊  Ptilotula keartlandi Endemic. First noted Bladensburg NP

Grey-fronted Honeyeater ◊  Ptilotula plumula  Endemic. Common Mt Isa

White-plumed Honeyeater ◊  Ptilotula penicillate Endemic. First noted Bladensburg NP

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater ◊  Acanthagenys rufogularis Endemic. First noted Bladensburg NP

Bridled Honeyeater ◊  Bolemoreus frenatus Endemic. Noted Mt Molloy and Mt Hypipamee

Yellow-throated Miner ◊  Manorina flavigula  Endemic. First noted Hughenden

Red-browed Pardalote ◊  Pardalotus rubricatus Endemic. Noted at Boulia

Striated Pardalote ◊  Pardalotus striatus  Endemic. One Lilyvale Road

Weebill ◊  Smicrornis brevirostris Endemic. Common Mt Isa

Large-billed Scrubwren ◊  Sericornis magnirostris  Endemic. First noted Mt Molloy

Atherton Scrubwren ◊  Sericornis keri  Endemic. Two Curtain Fig Tree NP

Tropical Scrubwren ◊  Sericornis beccarii  Five sightings Iron Range NP

Brown Gerygone ◊  Gerygone mouki Endemic. Noted Peterson’s Creek

Large-billed Gerygone ◊  Gerygone magnirostris  First noted Lakefield NP

White-throated Gerygone ◊  Gerygone olivacea  First noted Lakefield NP

Fairy Gerygone ◊  Gerygone palpebrosa  First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Inland Thornbill ◊  Acanthiza apicalis  Endemic. Six noted south of Winton

Grey-crowned Babbler ◊  Pomatostomus temporalis  Seven sightings Mt Isa

Hall’s Babbler ◊  Pomatostomus halli  Endemic. Five noted south of Winton

Eastern Whipbird ◊  Psophodes olivaceus  Endemic. One Curtain Fig Tree NP

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush ◊  Cinclosoma castaneothorax  Endemic. Four Winton

Yellow-breasted Boatbill ◊  Machaerirhynchus flaviventer  One Iron Range NP

White-breasted Woodswallow  Artamus leucorynchus  Common Cairns

Masked Woodswallow ◊  Artamus personatus  Endemic. Noted from Winton onwards

White-browed Woodswallow ◊  Artamus superciliosus Endemic. One sighting Mt Isa

Black-faced Woodswallow ◊  Artamus cinereus  Several from Winton onwards

Little Woodswallow ◊  Artamus minor  Endemic. First noted Lark Quarry near Winton

Black Butcherbird ◊  Melloria quoyi  First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Australian Magpie ◊  Gymnorhina tibicen  Common even in the remotest Outback

Black-backed Butcherbird ◊  Cracticus mentalis  Five sightings Lotus Bird Lodge

Pied Butcherbird ◊  Cracticus nigrogularis  Endemic. First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Pied Currawong ◊  Strepera graculina  Endemic. Several sightings, the first on the PDR

Black-faced Cuckooshrike  Coracina novaehollandiae  First noted Iron Range NP

White-bellied Cuckooshrike  Coracina papuensis  First noted Big Mitchell River

Common Cicadabird  Edolisoma tenuirostre  Three Mt Molloy

White-winged Triller ◊  Lalage tricolor  First noted Lakefield NP

Varied Triller ◊  Lalage leucomela  First noted Iron Range NP

Varied Sittella ◊  Daphoenositta chrysoptera  Endemic. c10 Lilyvale Rd, Musgrave

Crested Bellbird ◊  Oreoica gutturalis  Endemic. Two sightings south of Winton

Grey Whistler ◊  Pachycephala simplex  Several sightings from Winton onwards

Golden Whistler ◊  Pachycepahala pectoralis  Endemic. Heard at Mt Hypipamee

Rufous Whistler ◊  Pachycephala rufiventris  First sighting Lakefield NP

Bower’s Shrikethrush ◊  Colluricincla boweri Endemic. Abbatoir Swamp & Curtain Fig Tree NP

Rufous Shrikethrush ◊  Colluricincla rufogaster  Several sightings Iron Range NP

Grey Shrikethrush ◊  Colluricincla harmonica  Two sightings Mt Isa

Australasian Figbird ◊  Sphecotheres vieilloti  First noted Cairns

Olive-backed Oriole ◊  Oriolus sagittatus  First noted Iron Range NP

Green Oriole ◊  Oriolus flavocinctus  Common Lakefield NP and Iron Range NP

Spangled Drongo  Dicrurus bracteatus  First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Willie Wagtail  Rhipidura leucophrys  Noted from Cairns onwards

Grey Fantail ◊  Rhipidura albiscapa  Two Mt Hypipamee

Rufous Fantail  Rhipidura rufifrons  First noted Jack Bethel Park, Mareeba

Spectacled Monarch ◊  Symposiachrus trivirgatus  First noted Iron Range NP

Black-faced Monarch ◊  Monarcha melanopsis  First noted Mt Molloy

White-eared Monarch ◊  Carterornis leucotis  Endemic. One Lockhart River

Frill-necked Monarch ◊  Arses lorealis  Endemic. Seven sightings Iron Range NP incl two nests

Pied Monarch ◊  Arses kampi  Three noted Yungaburra area

Magpie-lark ◊  Grallina cyanoleuca  Ridiculously omnipresent, even at the airport

Leaden Flycatcher ◊  Myiagra rubecula  Male Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

Shining Flycatcher ◊  Myiagra alecto  Five sightings Iron Range NP

Paperbark Flycatcher ◊  Myiagra nana  Four sightings Mt Isa

Torresian Crow  Corvus orru  Common

Little Crow ◊  Corvus bennetti Endemic. One definite near Boulia

Australian Raven ◊  Corvus coronoides  Endemic. Common in the Outback

Apostlebird ◊  Struthidea cinerea  Endemic. Common in the Outback

Trumpet Manucode ◊  Phonygammus keraudrenii  1 Iron Range – a poor showing

Victoria’s Riflebird ◊  Ptiloris victoriae  Endemic. A nest-building female Curtain Fig Tree

Magnificent Riflebird ◊  Ptiloris magnificus  Common Iron Range NP

White-faced Robin ◊  Tregellasia leucops  Four sightings of this little gem Iron Range

Pale-yellow Robin ◊  Tregellasia capito  Endemic. One Mt Hypipamee

Eastern Yellow Robin ◊  Eopsaltria australis  Endemic. Two Peterson’s Creek

Hooded Robin ◊  Melanodryas cucullate Endemic. A female near Lark Quarry

White-browed Robin ◊  Poecilodryas superciliosa Endemic. Packer’s Creek, Iron Range NP

Grey-headed Robin ◊  Heteromyias cinereifrons  Endemic. Mt Hypipamee & Curtain Fig Tree

Northern Scrub Robin ◊  Drymodes superciliaris Endemic. Three sightings Iron Range NP

Lemon-bellied Flyrobin ◊  Microeca flavigaster  Noted Lakefield NP

Jacky Winter ◊  Microeca fascinans  Common Mt Isa but none elsewhere!

Yellow-legged Flyrobin ◊  Kempiella griseoceps  Two Iron Range NP

Red-capped Robin ◊  Petroica goodenovii  Endemic. Male Bladensburg NP

Singing Bush Lark  Mirafra javanica  A singe sighting near Winton

Welcome Swallow  Hirundo neoxena  Common Cairns

Fairy Martin ◊  Petrochelidon ariel Endemic. Common in the Outback

Australian Reed Warbler ◊  Acrocephalus australis  c10 Winton WTP

Spinifexbird ◊  Poodytes carteri Endemic. Three near Winton and two Mt Isa

Little Grassbird  Poodytes gramineus  Three Winton WTP

Brown Songlark ◊  Cincloramphus cruralis  Endemic. Two Boulia

Rufous Songlark ◊  Cincloramphus mathewsi  Endemic. One Mt Isa

Zitting Cisticola  Cisticola juncidis  One Lakefield NP

Golden-headed Cisticola  Cisticola exilis  Two Lakefield NP

Silvereye ◊  Zosterops lateralis  First noted Iron Range NP

Metallic Starling   Aplonis metallica  Common Cairns and Iron Range NP

Common Myna (introduced)  Acridotheres tristis  Common Cairns

Mistletoebird ◊  Dicaeum hirundinaceum Endemic. First noted Lilyvale Rd, Musgrave

Olive-backed Sunbird  Cinnyris jugularis First noted Cairns

House Sparrow (introduced)  Passer domesticus  First noted Cairns

Crimson Finch ◊  Neochmia phaeton  Five noted Tyto Wetlands

Painted Finch ◊  Emblema pictum Endemic. c15 Moondarra Lake, Mt Isa

Star Finch ◊  Bathilda ruficauda  Endemic. c40 Lakefield NP

Plum-headed Finch ◊  Aidemosyne modesta  Endemic. c50 Winton

Double-barred Finch ◊  Stizoptera bichenovii Endemic. First noted at Laura

Australian Zebra Finch ◊  Taeniopygia castanotis  Endemic. Common in the Outback

Masked Finch ◊  Poephila personata Endemic. Five Lakefield NP

Long-tailed Finch ◊  Poephila acuticauda Endemic. Four Moondarra Lake, Mt Isa

Black-throated Finch ◊  Poephila cincta Endemic. Five Lakefield NP

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin  Lonchura castaneothorax  First noted at Laura

Australian Pipit ◊  Anthus australis  First noted Mareeba Wetlands Entr. Rd.

 

MAMMALS

Platypus  Ornithorhynchus anatinus  One Peterson’s Creek

Common Spotted Cuscus  Spilocuscus maculatus  One Iron Range NP

Common Brushtail Possum  Trichosurus vulpecula  Porcupine Gorge, Hughenden

Green Ringtail Possum  Pseudochirops archeri  One Curtain Fig Tree NP

Spectacled Hare Wallaby  Lagorchestes conspicillatus  Three Porcupine Gorge

Eastern Grey Kangaroo  Macropus giganteus  First noted Winton area

Agile Wallaby  Notamacropus agilis  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Common Wallaroo  Osphranter robustus  First noted Bladensburg NP

Red Kangaroo  Osphranter rufus  First noted Bladensburg NP

Purple-necked Rock Wallaby  Petrogale purpureicollis  One Mt Isa

Grey Wolf (Dingo)  Canis lupus  One Lakefield NP and another Iron Range NP

Domestic Horse (introduced)  Equus caballus  Sev. Lockhart River, probably owned?

Eurasian Wild Pig (introduced)  Sus scrofa  First noted Lotus Bird Lodge

Little Red Flying Fox  Pteropus scapulatus  First noted Laura

Spectacled Flying Fox  Pteropus conspicillatus  c200 Peterson Creek, Yungaburra

White-tailed Giant Rat Uromys caudimaculatus  One Iron Range NP

REPTILES

Yellow-spotted Monitor  Varanus panoptes   Several sightings, first Lakefield NP

Frill-necked Lizard  Chlamydosaurus kingii  One Mt Isa

Northern Water Dragon  Lophognathus temporalis  Two Mt Isa

Boyd’s Forest Dragon  Lophosaurus boydii  One Curtain Fig Tree NP

Slater’s Ring-tailed Dragon Ctenophorus slateri  One Lake Moondarra, Mt Isa

Six-toothed Rainbow Skink  Carlia sexdentata  One Iron Range NP

Taipan  Oxyuranus scutellatus  One, moribund, Lockhart River

Spotted Python  Antaresia maculosa  One Lakefield NP

Saltwater Crocodile  Crocodylus porosus  Noted Lakefield NP and 2 at Portland Roads

Freshwater Crocodile  Crocodylus johnstonii  One Moondarra Lake, Mt Isa