Cape York Specialties - Wet Season
To the north of Cairns lies the jagged, tooth-shaped and very remote Cape York Peninsula, which almost links to New Guinea, and holds many similar species. Cape York is larger than the Australian state of Victoria, the American state of Utah, and the United Kingdom, all with a population of just 15,000 people split between two small towns; so....bloody remote. The Peninsula north of Cairns is dominated by open Eucalypt Savanna, Tetradonta (woodland) Savanna, and Tropical Rainforest, while there are areas of Tussock Grassland, pockets of Monsoon Vine Forest, Mangroves and even Heathland. The savannas are studded with large termite mounds, and in a very restricted part of the “cape” around Musgrave, these mounds become vital nesting sites for the highly endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot. The savannas also hold targets like Black-backed Butcherbird, Star Finch and the rarer 'chocolate' subspecies of Brown Treecreeper. The heathlands and monsoon forests have targets like the White-streaked Honeyeater and highly range-restricted Green-backed Honeyeater. Further north lies the largest tracts of Lowland Rainforest on the continent, around Lockhart River in the Iron Range. This area has a distinctly New Guinean feel to it, with primary rainforest species occurring that are found nowhere else in Australia, like Eclectus Parrot, Palm Cockatoo, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Papuan Pitta, Trumpet Manucode, and Magnificent Riflebird headlining. There is a mouth-watering list of other specialties in this area including Spotted Whistling-Duck, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Red-cheeked Parrot, Black-eared Catbird, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Green-backed, Tawny-breasted and White-streaked Honeyeaters, Tropical Scrubwren, Black-winged and Frill-necked monarchs, White-faced Robin, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, and the skulking Northern Scrub-Robin. Anyone looking for a dose of New Guinea or a very high Australian list just has to come here, because none of the species listed above are found elsewhere in the country. However, the supporting cast are not to be scoffed at either, with Noisy Pitta, Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, Wompoo, Superb and Rose-crowned fruit-doves, Rufous Owl, Marbled and Papuan frogmouths, White-throated and Large-tailed nightjars, Lovely Fairywren, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, White-eared Monarch and White-browed Robin all possible on this spectacular tour.
Other Tour Information:
Length: 5 Days
Starting City: Cairns
Ending City: Cairns
Physical Difficulty: Easy
Max group size: 8
Detailed Itinerary All page references are from the Habitats of the World: a field guide for birders, naturalists and ecologists
Day 1: Cairns to Lockhart River (Iron Range)
We take a late morning to early afternoon flight from Cairns up to Lockhart River. We will be transferred to an enclave within the Iron Range National Park. We will spend four nights at the magnificent Green Hoose which is surrounded by Iron Range National Park.
Days 2-4: Lockhart River (Iron Range National Park)
Lockhart River is one of the most revered sites in northeast Queensland, and indeed, all of Australia. It’s bird list reveals why; there are many species best found there, which are specialties of the region, and give it a flavor of the densely forested tropical island of New Guinea to the north. For Australians looking to build a country list, this is a must do site. In the rainforest canopy, fruit doves occur, with three species at this site, Superb, Wompoo and Rose-crowned. However, the stars of the forest canopy are the parrots, not least the gargantuan Palm Cockatoo, which has no likeness on Earth. Red-cheeked Parrot are another noisy Cape York specialty. However, the prince among parrots in Cape York is arguably the Eclectus Parrot, with its strikingly different plumage between the sexes, the females being the brighter gender, vivid vermilion red and blue, while the males are less colorful, but no less striking being brilliant emerald green with a red bill. Down on the forest floor, some of the avian targets require more effort to find but getting a view of the crimson-bellied Papuan Pitta makes the effort all worthwhile, ranking as one of Australia’s most stunning birds. Another terrestrial bird, the Northern Scrub-Robin is also of interest down in the leaf-litter. The forest is home to two striking kingfishers, Yellow-billed, which in Australia is confined to this extremity, and the beautiful Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a migrant that comes to breed in Cape York, having crossed the Torres Strait from its New Guinea wintering grounds. Within the understorey we may find the Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, one of the most distinctive sounds of Cape York, as well as the striking White-faced Robin. The forest is also home to a dazzling variety of monarchs, with five species occurring, including two specialties on our target list, Black-winged and Frill-necked Monarchs. As if that was not enough, these verdant rainforests are home to two species of bird-of-paradise found nowhere else in Australia, the Trumpet Manucode and Magnificent Riflebird, the latter restricted to this part of Australia only. Now all of this may sound daunting, but many of these birds will be seen without the grounds of the Green Hoose, so those people needing a little down time throughout the day will still be in the thick of it with Eclectus Parrots flying over, Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters feeding in the garden, and Yellow-billed Kingfishers calling from above the cafe'. In Mangroves (pp. 89) and areas outside the forest, other notable birds occur, like Mangrove and White-browed robins, and Fawn-breasted Bowerbird. Other specialties will be Tawny-breasted and Green-backed honeyeaters, and Yellow-legged Flycatcher. This is also a good site to venture out after dark, with an abundance of nightbirds in the area. Three nightjars occur, Spotted, White-throated and Large-tailed, as well as Rufous Owl, and both Marbled and Papuan frogmouths.
Day 5: Lockhart River to Cairns
After some final birding around Green Hoose, we will take a midday flight from Lockhart River back to Cairns. The details of the morning really depends on which birds have been accommodating and which have given us some trouble. We file expect to be spending time chasing better photos of birds we have already seen
PACE: The trip is not a particularly fast trip. The travel days north and south require early starts, but when we are based in Lockhart River there is plenty of opportunity for down time if required.
PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: There are no strenuous walks on this tour, but it is very important that clients remain very well hydrated. Please understand that the front seat is only to be used by the guides when there is more than one, otherwise is rotated on a daily basis. We cannot accept that any client reserves the front passenger seat even if they claim motion sickeness. If sitting in the second row sometimes is going to be a major issue then please organise medication more consider a tour that does not require long car travel.
CLIMATE: The temperature is warm through the day with very light weight clothing required. During the evening a thin jacket may also be required. Even during the dry season it is expected to rain sometimes, so a rain jacket is definitely required.
ACCOMMODATION: The Green Hoose in Iron Range is simple yet spectacular in the mould of an up market Amazonian lodge. You have a comfortable room with air-conditioning and wifi, but the experience is about nature so there is no television, bar fridge and the like.
OTHER INFO: For the five days of the trip there will be no opportunities to purchase alcohol of any type. You cannot transport alcohol by plane into Lockhart River. Please call the office to talk about alcohol ion intersted.
WHAT’S INCLUDED?: We include all guiding, food, entrance fees and transport.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Airfaires between Cairns and Lockhart River are not included in the fare, but will be booked by Tropical Birding Tours and charged to the client. Other things not included are Soft drinks, telephone, laundry, and other purchases of a personal nature.