Saturday, October 19, 2019


The second trip has been completed and despite a few small reservations I think that it went very well. Thanks are due to the participants whose enthusiasm and energy and patience were very much appreciated. Thanks are due especially to Steve Grainger for his leadership, experience and endurance! I truly hope to have the opportunity to travel with you all again.

On this trip we saw   - [06/10]a great range of bird species – 277 to be exact. [The first group scored some 261]
For a quick qualitative description of our trips birds I will present two pieces of information.
First the list of Birds of the Day. Every day each person voted for their bird of the day – the criteria being determined by each person.

Day 1  - [06/10] - Rufous banded Honeyeater
Day 2   - [07/10] - Papuan Frogmouth
Day 3   - [08/10] - White-streaked Honeyeater
Day 4   - [09/10] - Double eyed Fig Parrot
Day 5   - [10/10] - Frill necked Monarch
Day 6   - [11/10] - Yellow legged Flycatcher
Day 7   - [12/10] - Golden shouldered Parrot
Day 8   - [13/10] - Black throated Finch
Day 9   - [14/10] - Barking Owl
Day 10   - [15/10] - tie - Fernwren & Chowchilla
Day 11   - [16/10] - Little Kingfisher
Day 12   - [17/10] - Plumed Whistling Duck
Day 13   - [18/10] - Golden Bowerbird
Day 14   - [19/10] - Black Bittern
Day 15 - [20/10]  - TBA

At the end of the trip we determined the birds of the trip. Each person had to nominate their best three birds in order. Each bird was given points 3 for their best, 2 for their second best etc. After all nominations scores were determined for each nominated bird.

So the birds of the trip;
1. Golden Bowerbird
2. Golden shouldered Parrot
3. Double eyed Fig Parrot
3. Frill necked Monarch
5. Yellow billed Kingfisher
5. Palm Cockatoo
5. Black breasted Buzzard
5. Black throated Finch
9 . Northern Scrubrobin
10 Spotted Catbird
10 Little Kingfisher
10 Red cheeked Parrot
10 Black Bittern
10 Pale-vented Bushhen
10 Barking Owl


Michaelmas Cay, 20 October 2019
The last day of the trip with Group 2 was to Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef, off Cairns. The weather was sunny and hot with light winds, making for comfortable cruising aboard Seastar. Not many birds seen on the way out, but soon we could see flocks of birds flying over the Cay. A close inspection of some anchored craft nearby revealed a couple of Bridled Tern. The crew arranged transport for us by glass bottom boat to the Cay roped area. Some 2000 Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern dominated the nesting grounds with eggs and young. Some Brown Booby had young at various stages of development. The heat was being felt by everyone including the birds, looking for the slightest bit of shade. Circling overhead were Great Frigatebirds, looking for pirating opportunities. Some Silver Gulls were skulking, searching for abandoned eggs. A couple of Black-naped Tern also seen. After a brief swim to cool off, the Skipper took us on a private circumnavigation of the Cay. This gave us nice opportunities to see the beautiful Lesser Crested Tern (100+), Greater Crested Tern (10+) and Ruddy Turnstone (20+). After some snorkelling with Sea Turtles and fish we headed out to Hastings reef for some lunch and further birding opportunities. Black Noddy was seen along with some Bridled Tern. After a fabulous day on the Reef, we headed back to Cairns for dinner and farewell drinks.

Watching an Island in the making.
I first visited Michaelmas Cay 32 years ago. No vegetation existed at that time. It’s humbling and fascinating to watch an Island develop. Michaelmas Cay is a large sand cay that is slowly turning into an Island. Sand builds up trapping floating logs, debris and seed pods. The nesting and resting birds provide guano an important ingredient, placing nutrients in the sand. Some seeds germinate and the beginnings of a Tropical Island commence. Many of the Great Barrier Reef Islands we visit today were created in this way, like Green Island and Low Isles. Without the birds, these Islands would not exist.

Steve Grainger


It is impossible to tire of Wet Tropics birding so on the day we were to depart it was easy to say, "just a bit longer...' So we were taken down to the nearby Lake Eacham car park and spent a decent hour or so strolling back. Wet Tropic endemics [or Wet Tropic sub spp] were the main targets.
Pale Yellow Robin

Victoria's Riflebird - young fella

Victoria's Riflebird - young fella practising the moves

Victoria's Riflebird - young fella, "YES!"

Finally leaving Chambers we headed north across the Tableland for the contrast of some dry country birding near Mareeba. The creek that ran through the western slopes provided the habitat for White browed Robin, our target. Sadly the bird stayed both mute and invisible. We did see some nice stuff though....
Yellow bellied Flyrobin nesting

our first Eastern Yellow Robin

male Rufous Whistler

Rainbow Bee eater

Cairns, getting the tide 'more right' this time.... We arrived right on high tide. It was a lower tide and, as a result, there was still exposed mud and a relatively small group of waders sitting atop it. Staying for a few hours allowed us to eat our last lunch together and view  a few coastal birds with an emphasis on the migratory waders.

Esplanade Waders
How many spp can you spot?

Sharp tailed Sandpipers and ....

Terek Sandpiper

Terek Sandpiper + and then clockwise from top left; Great Knot, Black tailed Godwit, Great Knots and then Sharpies.
Centenary Lakes is always a good option; especially as they recently hid a small group of Spotted Whistling Ducks..... We missed them however we did score some good birds.
Black Bittern [BIRD OF THE DAY!!!]
Pale vented Bushhen
Pale vented Bushhen

Esplanade again
Mangrove Robin
We returned to attempt to ensure that few would go home without Mangrove Robin as their lifer. Torresian Kingfisher was heard but not seen.

We finished our second trip with a pool-side Pizza and beer party. I, for one, was buggered!


Picnic area at Lake Eacham

Lake Eacham is just around the corner from our accommodation and when Alan Gillanders, naturalist extraordinaire, suggested starting our day there we were in no mood to argue. Why would one when there is such a great variety of species and the possibility of good views - Fig Parrots, Barred Cuckoo Shrikes, Doves, Flycatchers, Robins and Riflebirds.
Black faced Monarch
Vince Lee - always a good looking rooster
Wompoo Fruit Dove - a female

We visited next the Cathedral Fig -

Next on the agenda was a visit to the property of one of Alan's friends; neatly surrounded by good forest and vacant it was populated by a few endemics including a disobedient Victoria's Riflebird male named Ollie. He was to be the star attraction however the generous bellows of Alan encouraging him to come to a favoured perch were ignored as was the promise of fresh banana as Ollie continued away apparently chasing the sex of females. Typical. Views of the riflebird were fleeting however the garden and its surrounds held other delights.
Barred Cuckoo Shrike

Barred Cuckoo Shrike

Pied Monarch

We then went to see a very special beautiful bird that has become synonymous with Alan's wildlife tours; The Golden Bowerbird. When you see the Golden Bowerbird, and sadly very few folks get to, it tends to dominate your thoughts and emotions. It is, of course, our Bird of the Day and will become the bird of the trip. Why? This bird has everything. It is an architect, an artist, an acrobat, an experienced performer with a flair for the dramatic. Its endangered and endemic. It is beautiful. We were enchanted and some of us were literally overcome.

The Golden Bowerbird has suffered habitat loss and poaching such that it is the rarest bowerbird species of them all, including those to our north in New Guinea. It builds a large bower or platform so as to impress its potential ladies with its strength and stamina. It decorates this bower with luxuriant mosses and lichens and selects the finest pale forest fruits and seeds with which to enchant her further.
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Our story started with a visit to a secret bower so we, along with female bowerbirds, could marvel at its scale and structure. All the while Alan Gillanders slowly and softly described the bird's behaviour - both as he has seen and as we would witness. Alan had managed to condition this bird to close visits through endless time and patience and, I think it is fair to admit, love. Alan then quite naughtily removed one of the bird's love trinkets from the main display area of the bower and placed it on an adjacent log. And then we quietly moved into position.
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Soon the male bird flew near. It sat in what should have been clear sight however the browns and golds of the plumage morphed into the surrounding mosaic of light on greens and reds and yellows rendering it near invisible. It flew again - closer this time - close enough to witness the injustice and close enough to spring into action. In a flash it had sailed to the log, snatched the seeds and replaced them triumphantly back in the display area. Through all this there was no sound from the bird; the soundscape being provided by the cacophony of a nearby Tooth billed Catbird and, to a lesser extent, the determined clicking of cameras.
male Golden Bowerbird
male Golden Bowerbird set to restore justice!

All in all it was magic theatre.

A performer of a different kind was in attendance near his stage as we left the Golden. The Tooth billed Bowerbird.
Tooth billed Catbird

Tooth billed Catbird
Two other endemics, Mountain Thornbill and Atherton Scrub-wren, were seen nearby.
Mountain Thornbill - sadly my best pic

Mt Hypipamee aka the Crater was our, by now, late lunch spot. Strolling to the hole that is the crater and back we spied this beautiful Wet Tropics endemic skink.
Concinnia tigrinus : Yellow-Blotched Forest-Skink

Concinnia tigrinus : Yellow-Blotched Forest-Skink - This species is found in rainforest and high altitude heaths, and basks on roots and logs (Wilson and Swan 2013, Cogger 2014). It is often found high on trees and in natural crevices such as tree holes, as well as on rocky outcrops. It's population is stable. 

Herberton Honeyeaters

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Today, waking up at Chambers Rainforest Lodge, we had the easiest birding assignment; spend a day happily birding around the southern Atherton Tableland.
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We began at Lake Eacham.
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Nerada Tea Plantation

Hastie's Swamp
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Yungaburra Pub
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Spotlighting with Alan
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