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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Birding On My Own
Australia &
New Zealand 2002
Emmalee Tarry
Revised 2015

Trip Reports

Table of Contents

 

 
Chapter 11

Queensland North

Kingfisher Park
Mount Lewis
Abattoir Swamp
Mt. Molloy School - Great Bowerbird
Daintree River
Chris Dahlberg Specialized River Tours
Mangrove Man
Cape Tribulation

Comments to webmaster


Buff-banded Rail at Kingfisher Park

Kingfisher Park

It is the end of August and the temperature is rising. My plan is to go as far north in Queensland as I can without leaving the sealed road and then work my way south. I spent the first night in Caines and then drove up on the Atherton Tablelands . This was one of the easier drives up the Great Dividing Range.

I stopped at the Rainforest Park to see the Koalas. This is a zoo, but they do have Koalas that you can see and photograph. Early in the afternoon I reached the Kingfisher Park.

This is the entrance to Kingfisher Park. Birdwatchers are very welcome here and I overheard the owner telling a travel agent that he really didn't need to advertise the park because birders had their own network and found  their own way here as indeed I did. . There are rooms with kitchenettes and a campground with powered sites for AU$13 per night. They have a fine amenities block with showers and laundry facilities and a full camp kitchen.

There is excellent birding on the grounds and you can use this as a base to bird the north end of the Atherton Tablelands. I stayed here 3 days and then went on to Daintree for several days and came back here for another night. The

My favorite activity was to sit on this lovely veranda and watch the many feeders at either end. The campground is to the left of this building.

Both Bush Turkey and Orange-footed Scrubfowl live at Kingfisher and you can see their mounds back in the woods.

Peaceful Dove, Emerald Dove, Spectacled Monarch, Rufus Fantail, Grey Fantail were all porch birds.

MacLeay's Honeyeater was one of the first birds I identified.

Lewin's Honeyeater, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, and the Graceful Honeyeater are three very similar species. The feeders here are one of the few places where you see all three at the same time. Lewin's and Yellow-spotted can be separated by the shape the yellow mark on the face. The Graceful looks very much like Yellow-spotted, but you can tell it apart by its very shy approach to the feeders.

Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Yellow Honeyeater are also seen from the porch.

Flocks of Red-browed Finch frequent the feeders. Metallic Starlings usually frequently one of the bird baths in the late afternoon..

Ron, the owner took me down to see three Papuan Frogmouths roosting in their favorite tree.

Two Robins are easy to add to your list at the Kingfisher. My favorite was the Grey-headed Robin shown at right. The most outstanding field characteristic of this bird is the very long legs. Simpson and Day show it with almost no legs.. The owner of the Kingfisher, Ron Stannard feeds the robin shredded cheese. I have never seen anyone in North America feeding shredded cheese to birds.

The Pale-yellow Robin replaces the Yellow Robin in north Queensland.

I first saw the Buff-banded Rail sneaking around in the brush behind my campervan. It also visits the feeder every day for shredded cheese. There is a Red-necked Crake on the property, but it wasn't visiting the feeders while I was there.

Park Managers and resident Bird Guides Andrew and Carol Isles lead walks in and around the park for modest fees.

Carol made reservations for me for the Daintree River trips with Chris Dahlberg and the Mangrove Man. They both have a lot of good birding information to share. It is a good idea to start your north Queensland birding at the Kingfisher Park.

I was able to purchase the
Where to find Birds in North-East Queensland book here. I did not see it anywhere else and it was not available from ABA. You absolutely need this guide.

Of all the places I have stayed on my many trips, the Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge was the best. 

Since my visit in 2002 some changes have been made at the Kingfisher Lodge.  Carol and Andrew Iles have taken over the ownership of the lodge and continue to run it as a wonderful place for birdwatchers,.  Here is a paragraph from their new website.

 Your hosts Carol and Andrew Iles have been birding for over forty years. They met at University in Norwich, England where Andrew was studying Biology and Carol English and French Literature. On a University Bird Club trip to the Pyrenees organised by Andrew and his fellow club committee members they discovered they both had a love of natural history, culture and travel and have since travelled the world together in search of birds, animals and culture, visiting around 100 countries and also living in France, Greece and New Zealand. They visited Australia many times before finally emigrating in 1996. They began their guiding business at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge in 1999 and quickly established themselves as the people to go to for friendly, personalised service as well as their ability to locate and identify birds and other wildlife. Finally, in Feb 2015, they managed to buy both the land and the business at Kingfisher Park Birdwatatchers Lodge and now are always ready to welcome guests, new and old, to this wonderful patch of Queensland."

Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

Contact Details

Address:

RN 6, Mt. Kooyong Road
Julatten Qld 4871

Phone:

(07) 4094 1263

International Phone:

61 7 4094 1263

Email:

sootyowl@bigpond.com

To make reservations see their website

http://www.birdwatchers.com.au/index.htm

Night Spotlighting Trip

Andrew and Carol lead a night trip around the grounds for AU$20. We started with a stakeout at the nesting hole of a Lesser Sooty Owl. By late August, the Sooty Owl chicks have usually left the nest hole. This year the Sooty Owl got a late start perhaps because there is a proliferation of Barn Owls in the area and one of the Barn Owls took over the Sooty's nest hole forcing the Sooty pair to find another. Lucky for me, one of the Sooty chicks is still hanging out at the nest hole and with some quiet waiting we were able to see it in the spotlight. North Queensland did not have a normal wet season this past year. The lack of the wet may have caused the proliferation of Barn Owls. We also saw the Barn Owls.

Back at the feeders we were able to spotlight the Giant White-tailed Rat. Back home one doesn't look for rats on a spotlighting trip, but this is a rabbit sized native rodent not the imported Norway Rat that has become such a pest around the world.

Andrew wanders away from the group finding interesting frogs, toads, and other critters. When he finds something of interest he signals Carol who brings the group. We heard the Bush Stone-curlew calling. Andrew found the Papua Frogmouth sitting upright in a tree. This is a hard bird to see at night when it is at work.

The rabbit sized Long-nosed Bandicoot is another nocturnal marsupial we saw that night. We ended the night at the creek hoping to see the Platypus. The female is sitting on eggs at this time and only the male is out feeding. The nocturnal Platypus is one of my most wanted targets for this trip. I came back in the morning and still was not able to see the Platypus here.

Morning Bird Walks

The next morning Andrew took two birdwatchers on a morning trip. This trip also costs AU$20 and he usually only offers it if two people want to go. The highlights of the morning walk: Northern Fan-tail, Leaden Flycatcher, Little Shrike-thrush, Grey Goshawk, White-throated Honeyeater, Golden Whistler, White-eared Monarch, Large-billed Gerygone, Silverye, Sunbird, Barred Cuckooo-shrike, Golden-headed Cisticola, Tawny Grassbird, Large-billed Scrubwren, Olive-backed Oriole, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Torresian Crow..

Later I was able to talk Andrew into another morning trip with just me because he really just loves to bird. Again we walked about the park and adjoining land.Dusky Honeyeater, White-faced Heron, Grey Goshawk, Brahminy Kite, Brown Falcon, White-rumped Swiftlet, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater, Sunbird, White-breasted Woodswallow, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Bowers Shrike-thrush, Little Shrike-thrush

Andrew is a good birder and a good leader. After the morning walks I would make the same rounds by myself usually seeing some of the birds again. In this way I began to get better at identifying the smaller birds.


Mount Lewis

Carol took me on a guided walk up Mount Lewis for AU$110. To get to Mount Lewis go 1.5 km past the gate to Kingfisher. Turn on Mount Lewis road and go 1.5 km to the bridge. We had 11 Bush Stone-curlew at the bridge.

After the bridge the road is graded dirt and very steep. Carol drove her 4-wheel drive vehicle and I would not recommend that you attempt this road without such a vehicle. We stopped only once for Brown Cuckoo Dove on the way up. We parked at a clearing and took a hidden path to see Victoria Riflebird perched on a display post. A display post is usually a bare broken off tree or high branch. The bird had its wings raised, but I missed it. We heard the Tooth-billed Bowerbird. We also saw: Wompoo Fruit Dove, Yellow Scrubwren, Grey-headed Robin, Atherton Scrubwren.

We climbed up another path to the bower of the Golden Bowerbird. The Golden Bowerbird builds an elaborate bower of 3 stacks of dry sticks laced up the trunks of small trees. This type of bower is the maypole type. A horizontal branch from the stacks is kept decorated with flowers. The owner is an immature male. He is here moving around in the upper branches. Carol has been guiding people to this bower for some time. This male recently took over from a fully mature bird.

We saw a Grey Fantail of the race Keasti which is darker and may be split as the Mountain Fantail. A very active pair of Fernwrens were seen with nesting materials. Near a small pond Carol pointed out a very poisonous Red-bellied Black Snake. We looked in the pond for Platypus but they are not usually active during the day. We did see Rufus Night-heron. We also saw the race of White-throated Treecreeper which may be split into the Little Treecreeper. On the forest floor we had a family of Chowchilla with large eye rings. We rounded out the day list with: White-cheeked Honeyeater, Topknot Pigeon, Pale- yellow Robin, Varied Triller, Bowers Shrike-thrush, Figbird.

This is a beautiful birding area. Carol is an excellent birder and guide. I certainly recommend this trip.

Abattoir Swamp

One of the places you can bird from the Kingfisher is Abattoir Swamp where a boardwalk leads to a nice bird hide overlooking a small bit of water. This is reported to be a site for White-browed Crake, but I did not see one on two visits. Bridled Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, White-necked Heron, Magpie Lark, Willy Wagtail, Spectacled Monarch, Forest Kingfisher, White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Masked Lapwing. Straw-necked Ibis.

Mt. Molloy School

The Mt. Molloy State School is home to at least two Great Bowerbirds. The best time to visit the school is on Saturday or Sunday morning when you can wander around by yourself. If you visit during school hours you will need to go inside and ask permission.  Since my visit was some time ago I suggest checking on the availability of this site with the Kingfisher Park managers,.

Entering the town of Mt. Molloy look for Fraser Road. The volunteer fire department is on the north corner and on the south a general store. Vain Park is on the highway is just south of Fraser Road. Follow Fraser several blocks to the school. Park outside and walk in the gate.

On the left of the school building you will see a tool shed. Next to the shed I saw two bowers. (see pictures below) 
Mt. Molloy School Great Bowerbird bower


The red object on the pebble path is a head band. There was also a pair of pink sunglasses and other plastic objects around the bowers.

This is the avenue type of bower. There is an arch of dried grass or twigs and a path of stones leading the eye into the bower. The bower is not a nest, but rather a display area for the male to attract females. A single bird will build several bowers at one site.

Here is the Great Bowerbird owner posing in front of his creation. There were two birds hanging out around the bowers, but this was the only one I could photograph. You can see the red headband and the pink sunglasses to the left.

It takes patience to get the bird to pose in front of the bower. Usually the owner will fly up into nearby trees when you approach..
Daintree River

The day before my trip with Chris Dahlberg, I drove to Daintree Village. The road goes through Mossman, a town large enough to have a bank and grocery stores. There is another steep drive down the Great Dividing Range. The Daintree River separates North Queensland from the York Peninsula most of which is without paved roads. There are two places to take boat trips on the Daintree. The ferry terminal is 8 km from the mouth and Daintree Village which is further up river. I arrived about 10:30 and went to the ferry terminal area.

The ferry terminal is home to several tourist oriented boat trips which operate on large flat boats. At the far end of the road I found a shaded parking lot with a ticket office shaped like a crocodile. I really didn't intend to take one of these trips, but it was already hot and muggy. What else was I going to do in the afternoon. I ended up buying a ticket on the 12 o'clock tour for AU$32

While waiting for the trip to start, I hung out at the picnic table by the ticket office chatting with Masie the ticket agent. Masie lives up on the York Peninsula and commutes to work every day on the ferry. Business was slow and Masie had plenty of time to talk. She is very interested in birds and knew most of the common birds. She gave me hints on where to bird on the road to Cape Tribulation and especially where I might have a chance for Cassowary. While we chatted I was watching for birds in the surrounding trees: Spectacled Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher, Sunbird, MacLeay's Honeyeater, Large-billed Gerygone, Fairy Gerygone.

The Daintree River area was first exploited for Red Cedars Trees some of which were 800 years old. The trees were cut up river and floated down to the ocean. In a short 20 years they were wiped out. With the trees gone, the river economy is totally dependent on tourism and sport fishing. This is the end of the tourist season so there were only about five people on the boat trip.

Adam was both the boat driver and tour guide. In his spare time his favorite activity is pig hunting and he has a scrapbook of pictures of himself with dead pigs. Feral pigs are a menace to wildlife and the world needs more pig hunters.

Crocodiles are the main objective of the tourist trips and we moved from one croc to another seeing a total of five. The river is quite warm at this time of the year and the crocodiles can stay in the water rather than sunning themselves on the banks so they are actually pretty hard to find.

This guy fully hauled out on the mud was an exception. In the closeup of the jaw notice the teeth outside the upper and lower jaw.

. I managed to see Great, Intermediate, and Little Egret, Masked Lapwing, Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew, Mangrove Striated Heron, Darter, White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Black Cormorant, Jaiburu, and Brahminy Kite.

I looked very hard for Great-billed Heron. I am not sure of the proper strategy for finding this bird, but I was told they had seen one several days prior to this. This turned out to be one of the big misses of the trip. The trip goes to the sand bank at the mouth of the river where we got out and walked on the beach. The beach was covered with cuttle bones from the squid fishing fleet.

Daintree Village

If you really want to see the birds you need to take an early morning trip on a quiet boat that can navigate the shallow channels of the river. Chris Dahlberg's trip leaves at 6:30 AM from the boat dock at Daintree Village. Daintree Village is very small tourist town. A Bed & Breakfast (reservations required) provides accommodations and there are several restaurants.

The campground is right next to the boat dock. The campground is under new ownership and everyone is furious about the new owner. His first act was to cut down most of the trees in order to increase the number of sites. In adding sites, he somehow managed to break the power outlets. When I arrived about 3 PM, he was gone but the sign said I could pull in and pick a site. It didn't say anything about the power not working something I figured out after trying several spots. One thing I learned here was to always test the power outlet before you get too established. Finally someone told me that the only place to get power was to go to the lower level and plug in to one of the purple extensive cords. I moved Willy down to the lower level and managed to get the last spot with a purple extension cord. It was under a lovely flowering tree with Sunbirds and Honeyeaters. Then I realized that I would have to climb up a long flight of steep stairs to get to the amenities block on the upper level. It was long after dark when the campground owner finally showed up to collect AU$10. I was too tired by then to berate him about the problem with the power. He is hopeless anyway.

Daintree Village is quite nice and I had dinner at the outdoor restaurant where the waitress filled me in on the gossip about the new campground owner. He is from Britain and quite lazy. The locals dislike him and have managed to block his getting a permanent resident status. Every 3 months he has to leave the country and then come back with a tourist visa.

This was the first I heard about the visa problem. I had applied for a 3 month visa over the internet. I assume I would be able to extend it without leaving the country. When I entered the country, immigration did not even ask about the visa. I had forgotten all about it. There certainly wasn't anything I could do about it at Daintree Village so I forgot about it again until  It became an issue when I left Australia.

The campground was quiet and I watched a pair of Sunbirds in the tree over the campsite. Biting insects were not much of a problem. With only one purple extension cord, I had to choose between running the refrigerator and lights or using the fan. . As it turned out it wasn't too hot at night and I didn't need the fan.

 


Chris Dahlberg's Specialized River Tours

Chris has a small open, flat bottom boat . It is very stable and perfect for birding. Trips last 2 hours and cost AU$40. They are popular and you need reservations in advance.

At the ticket office in the village, I paid for the trip with my credit card and picked up a brochure with a list of the expected frequency of possible sightings. With Chris' permission, I have reproduced the list below.

The only trip of the day is at 6:30 AM (6 in summer ) and you need to be in Daintree Village the night before unless you are really in to getting up early.

  Jan Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Saltwater Crocodile < < > AC AC AC AC > <
Great-billed Heron > > > > > > > > >
Black Bittern AC AC >         > AC
Spectacled Flying-Fox AC < < < < < < AC AC
Little Kingfisher < > > > > > > > <
Paradise Kingfisher < <             <
Papuan Frogmouth > > > AC AC AC AC AC AC
Double-eyed Fig-Parrot < < < < < < < < <
Green Tree Snake < < < > > > > < <
Channel-billed Cuckoo > <         > > >
Gould's Bronze Cuckoo < < < < < < < < <
Shining Flycatcher AC > > > > > AC AC AC
Large-billed Gerygone < < < < < < < < <
Azure Kingfisher > AC AC AC AC AC AC AC AC
Key Less Than 50% - < More than 50% - > Almost Certain - AC

The Azure Kingfisher posed as many kingfishers will do. It is very hard to take good pictures from a boat full of people as someone is almost always moving. This is the same kingfisher I saw at Kakadu.

We saw the Little Kingfisher and Laughing Kookaburra.


The birdinig is great because the flat-bottomed boat can navigate the shallow side channels lined with thick rainforest and because Chris encourages people to be quiet.

On one of these channels that we saw a Wompoo Fruit Dove sitting on her nest.

We also saw the Pied Imperial Pigeon.

Look closely at this picture. A harmless Green Tree Snake is sliding along the branch. Chris actually plucked this snake from the branch and showed it to us. This was taken after he returned it to the branch. Poor guy probably gets picked up every day.

This beautiful spray of flowers bloomed on the river bank. The upper part of the river supports a thick rainforest. Birding in a rainforest can be tough. The open river makes it possible to see birds as they move across the channel or come in for a drink.
The trip built quite a bird list:Yellow Oriole, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Tree Martin, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Graceful Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Papuan Frogmouth, Figbird, Royal Spoonbill, Australian Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Pied Grebe, Rainbow Lorikeet, Darter, Sunbird, Leaden Flycatcher, Little Egret, Large-billed Gerygone, Shining Flycatcher, Pacific Black Duck, Striated Heron, Hardhead.
Chris Dahlberg Boat Trip on Daintree River
c.o. PO Daintree, QLD 4873
winter April 1 to Oct 31 6:30 AM
summer Nov 1 to Mar 31 6:00 AM
no trips during Feb and Mar
Phone: (07) 4098 7997
Email:
chrisld@austarnet.com.au
http://www.daintreerivertours.info

Mangrove Man

Peter Cooper is a retired tobacco botanist who now offers tours into the mangrove swamps at the lower end of the river. His boat docks near the ferry terminal amid the crocodile boats. Note: Peter has moved his main focus to the Mossman River. See below.

He bills himself as the "Mangrove Man" and his tour covers the biology of the mangroves.

A mangrove is any plant that only grows between high tide and mean sea level. Many unrelated species of plants are classified as mangrove species. There is even one orchid that meets the criteria of a mangrove species.

Peter knows his birds and drifting slowly among the mangroves we saw:Mangrove Robin, Collared Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Little Kingfisher (right) , Azure Kingfisher, Grey Fantail, Dusky Honeyeater.

Peter really likes to have at least two people on his trips, but he did a trip just for me as a favor to the Kingfisher Lodge. I strongly recommend combining this trip with Chris Dahlberg's trip as they visit two entirely different parts of the river.

Mangrove Man                     Phone (07) 40982066
                                                Mobile: 0409 982 066
                                                mangrovemantours@bigpond.com.au

Peter Cooper

Recent Correspondence from Peter Cooper

I now also work the Mossman River for my bird watching trips. I do a run there every morning starting at around 6.00am (depending on the season). It is a great river for birding as it is much smaller than the Daintree. In a 2 hour cruise I get to look at a wide variety of habitats. We start at the river mouth and go about 5 K upstream to the rainforest to turn around. I think we are averaging 45-50 bird for the trip so far. I am still working the Daintree but to a lesser degree these days. It still is a beautiful river and I do enjoy going there.
Cape Tribulation

After my Mangrove Man tour I drove a short distance south to the Wonga Beach Campground. This is a large campground with lots of facilities and an internet terminal. My campsite was under a huge curtain Figtree. One of the strangler figs, the tree grows as a vine around a living tree until finally the host tree dies leaving the fig tree. The center is usually hollow and the roots of the fig hang down like a curtain. It makes a great fort.

A group of about 15 children from several families were playing in the tree. One very articulate young man told me that his family had sold their home and taken to the road in a small caravan and tent. I asked what they were doing about school and he said his mother was home schooling them. I didn't see any schooling going on while I was there, but this young man was obviously receiving some education. In the hot afternoon, the children took to the two pools at the campground. Of course they could also enjoy the adjoining beach.

The next morning I was first in line for the 6:30 AM ferry across the river to Cape Tribulation. Welcome Swallows landed on the boat and I saw Emerald Dove and Little Shrike-thrush. Past the ferry there is a sealed road north for about 20 km. There are several campgrounds, hotels, beaches, restaurants along the road. I drove up and back in one morning hoping to get lucky and see a Cassowary.

Jindalba Boardwalk

My first stop along the road was at the Jindalba Forest where there is a beautiful boardwalk through the rainforest. I was the only car in the parking lot in the early morning. The boardwalk is mostly uphill and quite steep. The most exciting bird was a Noisy Pitta hopping among the leaves. Usually you can see this bird at the Kingfisher Park, but this year they have been quite scarce.

A Cassowary was reported from this boardwalk recently. I certainly did not see one, nor did I notice any Cassowary pooh long the trail. . I did see Pale Yellow Robin and MacLeah's Honeyeater.

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