Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Atherton Tableland, Townsville, Mission Beach and Cairns

Atherton Tableland, Townsville, Mission Beach and Cairns 22nd  November - 3rd December 2019

Lindsay's sister Janet from England had a three week visit to Far North Queensland and as part of that we went on a road trip from Julatten to Townsville and back to Cairns doing the tourist trip along with birding. This gave us the opportunity to visit places we had not been to before or had not visited for many years.

Hasties Swamp National Park protects a wetland refuge known for its diverse range of migratory and resident bird species. It is a remnant of the once extensive Nyleta Wetlands before most of it was cleared. 

Hasties Swamp National Park
At least 231 species have been recorded in the wetland and surrounding woodland, a species list can be found on the Birdlife North Queensland website

The water levels in the swamp change as the annual cycle of wet and dry seasons occur. Large numbers of waterbirds can occur here with counts of up to 15,000 Plumed Whistling- Duck not uncommon, personal observation. Sarus Crane and Brolga come here to roost and were coming in early evening after 6.00pm for the night. They nearly all left at first light so were difficult to photograph, plus the weather wasn't good as the early morning mist hung around every day we were here.

Plumed Whistling-Duck
Our accommodation for the four nights we were at Hasties Swamp was a newly built house called Nyletta Lodge, adjacent to the National Park, which is ideal for birdwatchers. The house is well appointed with views to the swamp and only a short walk to the hide. The house is for rent on Stayz

Nyletta Lodge viewed from Bird Hide
Nyletta Lodge

We used the house as a base to visit places you only go when you have visitors, such as the National Trust property Hou Wang Chinese Temple and Museum in Atherton and Herberton Historic Village in nearby Herberton, both were excellent.

Chinese Temple
Chinese Temple - interior

The Herberton Historic Village is a collection of over 50 restored pioneer buildings all with different themes. There are shops, pub, bank, chemist, grocer, printer and garage, all packed with period memorabilia. We spent a morning here, but you could easily spend a full day here. A couple of buildings here were of particular interest to us as they came from Julatten.

The house above was our neighbour when we were running Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge in Julatten

Radio Display
Sewing Display

Not everything has been restored.

Rusty Gold - Old Vehicles

Meanwhile back at Hasties Swamp the birds were performing for us. The Rufous Whistler and Yellow-faced Honeyeater were foraging next to the Hide.

Rufous Whistler (m)
Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Waterbirds were close to the hide going about their foraging in the vegetation, as was the dragonfly, which we think is a Red Arrow, however our ID skills for dragonflies are not the best!

Royal Spoonbill


Australian White Ibis

Australian Swamphen
Glossy Ibis
Red Arrow

Opposite the hide was a pair of Bush Stone-curlew with two chicks trying not to look obvious.

Bush Stone-curlew

A few Cattle Egret were flying past the house and the Australian Swamphen were doing over the lawn pulling out the grass and eating the roots.

Cattle Egret
Australian Swamphen

One day we headed out to Tinaroo Dam for morning coffee, here we had one Little Pied and two Little Black Cormorant at the dam wall. 

Little Black Cormorant and Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant

After coffee we drove the circuit road, stopping along the way at Downfall Creek camp ground, here we had a Caspian Tern.

Caspian Tern
We ended up at the Cathedral Fig Tree for lunch - always a good rainforest birding location. We had a few Grey-headed Robin checking us out during lunch.

Grey-headed Robin

From the fig tree we drove back to Malanda and out to the Nerada Tea Factory, which is a great place to see Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo, we were not disappointed as we saw three. After a great four night stay we headed south for a morning break at Mt. Hypipamee National Park (The Crater) where we saw an immature Golden Bowerbird and a single Satin Bowerbird.

Satin Bowerbird (F)

We also walked down to the crater, something we had not done for many years.

The Crater
We continued on to the Millaa Millaa Lookout on the East Evelyn Road, where we stopped to admire the view.

Millaa Millaa Lookout

A bonus here was a Lumholz Tree Kangaroo sitting out in the open a few metres away from us.

Lumholz Tree Kangaroo

We continued on down the Palmerston Highway with a stop at Henrietta Creek Camping Area, which is usually quiet during the week when we normally visit, but as this was a weekend it was packed. We found an empty spot for lunch, which was hurried due to the hundreds of marsh flies intent on biting us. Next we stopped at Cardwell.

Cardwell Foreshore

The tide was low with much mudflat exposed but only a solitary Eastern Curlew along with a Masked Lapwing were to be seen.

Eastern Curlew

Next leg of the journey took us to our Airbnb at Belgian Gardens, Townsville. In the evening we went out to a local Thai restaurant with a couple of birding friends. Next morning we headed off to walk along Rowes Bay, a very pleasant start to the morning.  Not much happening on the foreshore, only Silver Gull and Masked Lapwing, but there were plenty of other birds in the trees along the walk. A Channel-billed Cuckoo flew overhead as did a few Torresian Imperial Pigeon and a pair of Masked Lapwing were carrying on as they protected their chick from passing walkers.

Masked Lapwing

We had breakfast with our friend sitting on her veranda watching birds coming into her bird bath, including Little and Helmeted Friarbird (Hornbill) plus Varied Honeyeater.

Little Friarbird
Helmeted Friarbird (Hornbill)
Varied Honeyeater

A Brahminy Kite and Pacific Baza flew overhead. The rest of the day was relaxing and going up Castle Hill for a fantastic view over Townsville and Magnetic Island, our destination for tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and we caught the ferry for the 20 minute journey to Magnetic Island. It was at least 30 years since we last visited the island, so we saw a few changes. The ferry docked in Nelly Bay, it was Picnic Bay on our last visit. 

Nellie Bay Ferry Terminal

We decided to hire a car to make the most of our visit. We hired a Toyota Rav 4 from MI Car Rentals. There are bus services, which cover most of the island.

Image result for magnetic island map australia

First stop was Picnic Bay where we had a coffee on the beach front, only one Silver Gull here! There were a few other birds here, including Whistling Kite and Dollarbird.


West Point is accessed along a gravel track and a place the buses don't go. Great views looking back to Townsville. 

West Point

Quiet for birds but there was an Eastern Reef Egret foraging along the mud.

Eastern Reef Egret

From here we backtracked and went to Horseshoe Bay, which is far more touristy. Had lunch overlooking the bay, plenty of Silver Gull looking for handouts, but they got nothing from us. A White-bellied Sea-Eagle made a very brief appearance before disappearing over the houses.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

After lunch we headed up to the Forts Walk to try and find Koala's but it was getting hot and the walk is quite steep. 

The views over the island were great, but no sign of Koala's. From here we drove down to Alma Bay and had a rest in the park overlooking the beach. 

Alma Bay

Behind us in a tall pine tree was an Osprey nest with at least one chick in it. The parent birds were making frequent visits with food. A single Orange-footed Scrubfowl was scratching a living in the park.

Orange-footed Scrubfowl

A lone Galah was alongside the road as we returned the hire car before catching the ferry at Nellie Bay back to Townsville.


The next day we visited Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park the site of a historic Quarantine Station—established in 1915, to quarantine passengers on incoming ships. A short walk from the car park takes you to Shelly Cove and the site of WWII gun emplacements. Here we found a Black Kite soaring out to sea. Along the walk there were a variety of honeyeaters, Blue-faced, Brown-backed, Dusky, Brown and Helmeted Friarbird (Hornbill).

Black Kite

From there we went into the Townsville Town Common Conservation Park. Usually good birds here, best ones were Pacific Golden Plover, Black-necked Stork, Brolga, Red-backed Fairy-wren and Horsefield's Bronze-Cuckoo.

Black-necked Stork (male-dark eye)

In the afternoon we took a walk along Kissing Point to the Jezzine Barracks.  The area of 15-hectare has been developed at a cost of $40 million into a commemoration of the Aboriginal and military heritage. There are plenty of interesting public artworks and many interpretive signs along with the Kissing Point Fort , which has some parts restored. There are views across to Magnetic Island and of course a few birds along the way. Brahminy Kite was soaring over the cliffs, a few Great Bowerbird were feeding in a fruiting fig and and a Brush Cuckoo was calling from a frangipani.

Brush Cuckoo

The following day a group of us headed north to Paluma. The turnoff is about 80km from Townsville where the road winds its' way up to Paluma at about 1000m. We had booked a cottage for a few days in the Paluma Village alongside the rainforest - a great location. A male Victoria's Riflebird came to visit and show off.

Victoria's Riflebird

The next few days started off in the mist, but cleared enough for us to travel around the area, visiting the Village of Paluma, walking to Cloudy Creek, Puzzle Creek, the Grandis Forest and Birthday Creek Falls. Plenty of interesting birds in this area including Tooth-bill and Golden Bowerbird, Noisy Pitta (heard), Eastern Yellow Robin and Red-necked Crake (

This female Rufous Whistler was in the Grandis Forest and probably taking the moth to a nest nearby.

Rufous Whistler (F)

The Golden and Tooth-billed Bower birds were at Birthday Creek.

Golden Bowerbird (M)
Tooth-billed Bowerbird
The Eastern Yellow Robin was in the Grandis Forest.

Eastern Yellow Robin

After three days with friends in Paluma we headed down the hill and took the highway north, stopping at Cardwell, where we had lunch at the Coral Sea Park. A quiet spot away from the highway traffic. Continued north, stopping at the Hinchinbrook Lookout to admire the views to Hinchinbrook Island. Further north we passed through Tully turning off the highway to Mission Beach. Stopped at the Licuala Day Use Area in the Dijiru National Park and went for a walk along the 1.3km Fan Palm Walk. Interesting walk but only saw 3 bird species, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater and a Little (Rufous) Shrike-thrush.

Little (Rufous) Shrike-thrush

Drove into South Mission Beach and booked into the Mission Beach Resort, which was adequate for an overnight stop. There were a few birds around the grounds, which backed onto a patch of lowland forest. A couple of Orange-footed Scrubfowl were calling from the forest and Australian Figbird along with Rainbow Bee-eater were in the trees. Three Bush Stone-curlew were lurking around in the resort grounds.

Bush Stone-curlew
That evening we went out for a farewell dinner as Lindsay's sister Janet was flying back to London the next day. We went to Pepper Vine Restaurant as Lindsay had a $100.00 voucher she had bid for at an auction a few weeks before at the Cassowary Festival.

The following day we got organised to leave Mission Beach and head back to Cairns. Called into Lacey Creek to look for a Southern Cassowary, but none around. So continued on a headed for Etty Bay, usually reliable for the cassowary. Sure enough we came across one about 500m before the beach alongside the road. Lindsay's sister Janet managed to get a phone photo.

Southern Cassowary
After this excitement we continued on to the beach, where there were plenty of people. From here we travelled back to Cairns, calling into the Cairns Esplanade before dropping Janet off at the airport for her evening flight to Singapore and London.

Trip Species List  
Southern Cassowary - Casuarius casuarius
Magpie Goose - Anseranas semipalmata
Plumed Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna eytoni
Wandering Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna arcuata
Cotton Pygmy-Goose - Nettapus coromandelianus
Pacific Black Duck - Anas superciliosa
Grey Teal - Anas gracilis
Pink-eared Duck - Malacorhynchus membranaceus
Hardhead - Aythya australis
Australian Brushturkey - Alectura lathami
Orange-footed Scrubfowl - Megapodius reinwardt
Australasian Grebe - Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus
Rock Dove - Columba livia
White-headed Pigeon - Columba leucomela
Spotted Dove - Streptopelia chinensis
Brown Cuckoo-Dove - Macropygia phasianella
Pacific Emerald Dove - Chalcophaps longirostris
Crested Pigeon - Ocyphaps lophotes
Peaceful Dove - Geopelia placida
Bar-shouldered Dove - Geopelia humeralis
Wompoo Fruit-Dove - Ptilinopus magnificus
Superb Fruit-Dove - Ptilinopus superbus
Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove - Ptilinopus regina
Torresian Imperial-Pigeon - Ducula spilorrhoa
Topknot Pigeon - Lopholaimus antarcticus
Pheasant Coucal - Centropus phasianinus
Pacific Koel - Eudynamys orientalis
Channel-billed Cuckoo - Scythrops novaehollandiae
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo - Chrysococcyx lucidus
Little Bronze-Cuckoo - Chrysococcyx minutillus
Brush Cuckoo - Cacomantis variolosus
Australian Swiftlet - Aerodramus terraereginae
Buff-banded Rail - Gallirallus philippensis
Dusky Moorhen - Gallinula tenebrosa
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Australasian Swamphen - Porphyrio melanotus
Red-necked Crake - Rallina tricolor
Sarus Crane - Antigone antigone
Brolga - Antigone rubicunda
Bush Stone-curlew - Burhinus grallarius
Pied Stilt - Himantopus leucocephalus
Australian Pied Oystercatcher - Haematopus longirostris
Pacific Golden-Plover - Pluvialis fulva
Masked Lapwing - Vanellus miles
Red-kneed Dotterel - Erythrogonys cinctus
Black-fronted Dotterel - Elseyornis melanops
Comb-crested Jacana - Irediparra gallinacea
Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
Eastern Curlew - Numenius madagascariensis
Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Calidris acuminata
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Grey-tailed Tattler - Tringa brevipes
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Silver Gull - Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae
Little Tern - Sternula albifrons
Gull-billed Tern - Gelochelidon nilotica
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Crested Tern - Thalasseus bergii
Black-necked Stork - Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
Australasian Darter - Anhinga novaehollandiae
Little Pied Cormorant - Microcarbo melanoleucos
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Black Cormorant - Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Australian Pelican - Pelecanus conspicillatus
White-necked Heron - Ardea pacifica
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret - Ardea intermedia
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Eastern Reef Egret - Egretta sacra
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Nankeen Night-Heron - Nycticorax caledonicus
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Australian White Ibis - Threskiornis molucca
Straw-necked Ibis - Threskiornis spinicollis
Royal Spoonbill - Platalea regia
Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
Pacific Baza - Aviceda subcristata
Swamp Harrier - Circus approximans
Black Kite - Milvus migrans
Whistling Kite - Haliastur sphenurus
Brahminy Kite - Haliastur indus
White-bellied Sea-Eagle - Haliaeetus leucogaster
Azure Kingfisher - Ceyx azureus
Laughing Kookaburra - Dacelo novaeguineae
Blue-winged Kookaburra - Dacelo leachii
Forest Kingfisher - Todiramphus macleayii
Sacred Kingfisher - Todiramphus sanctus
Rainbow Bee-eater - Merops ornatus
Dollarbird - Eurystomus orientalis
Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo - Calyptorhynchus banksii
Galah - Eolophus roseicapilla
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Cacatua galerita
Australian King-Parrot - Alisterus scapularis
Red-winged Parrot - Aprosmictus erythropterus
Crimson Rosella - Platycercus elegans
Rainbow Lorikeet - Trichoglossus moluccanus
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet - Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus
Noisy Pitta - Pitta versicolor
Spotted Catbird - Ailuroedus maculosus
Tooth-billed Bowerbird - Scenopoeetes dentirostris
Golden Bowerbird - Amblyornis newtoniana
Satin Bowerbird - Ptilonorhynchus violaceus
Great Bowerbird - Chlamydera nuchalis
White-throated Treecreeper - Cormobates leucophaea
Red-backed Fairywren - Malurus melanocephalus
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater - Meliphaga notata
Lewin's Honeyeater - Meliphaga lewinii
Yellow Honeyeater - Stomiopera flava
White-gaped Honeyeater - Stomiopera unicolor
Yellow-faced Honeyeater - Caligavis chrysops
Noisy Miner - Manorina melanocephala
Bridled Honeyeater - Bolemoreus frenatus
Varied Honeyeater - Gavicalis versicolor
Brown-backed Honeyeater - Ramsayornis modestus
Dusky Honeyeater - Myzomela obscura
Scarlet Honeyeater - Myzomela sanguinolenta
Brown Honeyeater - Lichmera indistincta
White-cheeked Honeyeater - Phylidonyris niger
Blue-faced Honeyeater - Entomyzon cyanotis
White-throated Honeyeater - Melithreptus albogularis
White-naped Honeyeater - Melithreptus lunatus
Macleay's Honeyeater - Xanthotis macleayanus
Little Friarbird - Philemon citreogularis
Helmeted Friarbird - Philemon buceroides
Noisy Friarbird - Philemon corniculatus
Atherton Scrubwren - Sericornis keri
Large-billed Scrubwren - Sericornis magnirostra
Mountain Thornbill - Acanthiza katherina
White-throated Gerygone - Gerygone olivacea
Large-billed Gerygone - Gerygone magnirostris
Brown Gerygone - Gerygone mouki
Chowchilla - Orthonyx spaldingii
Barred Cuckooshrike - Coracina lineata
Black-faced Cuckooshrike - Coracina novaehollandiae
White-bellied Cuckooshrike - Coracina papuensis
Varied Triller - Lalage leucomela
Common Cicadabird - Edolisoma tenuirostre
Eastern Whipbird - Psophodes olivaceus
Bower's Shrikethrush - Colluricincla boweri
Grey Shrikethrush - Colluricincla harmonica
Little Shrikethrush - Colluricincla megarhyncha
Golden Whistler - Pachycephala pectoralis
Grey Whistler - Pachycephala simplex
Rufous Whistler - Pachycephala rufiventris
Olive-backed Oriole - Oriolus sagittatus
Yellow Oriole - Oriolus flavocinctus
Australasian Figbird - Sphecotheres vieilloti
Yellow-breasted Boatbill - Machaerirhynchus flaviventer
White-breasted Woodswallow - Artamus leucorynchus
Pied Butcherbird - Cracticus nigrogularis
Black Butcherbird - Cracticus quoyi
Australian Magpie - Gymnorhina tibicen
Pied Currawong - Strepera graculina
Willie Wagtail - Rhipidura leucophrys
Rufous Fantail - Rhipidura rufifrons
Grey Fantail - Rhipidura albiscapa
Spangled Drongo - Dicrurus bracteatus
Victoria's Riflebird - Ptiloris victoriae
Black-faced Monarch - Monarcha melanopsis
Spectacled Monarch - Symposiachrus trivirgatus
Magpie-lark - Grallina cyanoleuca
Leaden Flycatcher - Myiagra rubecula
Torresian Crow - Corvus orru
Pale-yellow Robin - Tregellasia capito
Eastern Yellow Robin - Eopsaltria australis
Grey-headed Robin - Heteromyias cinereifrons
Australasian Bushlark - Mirafra javanica
Golden-headed Cisticola - Cisticola exilis
Australian Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus australis
Welcome Swallow - Hirundo neoxena
Fairy Martin - Petrochelidon ariel
Silvereye - Zosterops lateralis
Metallic Starling - Aplonis metallica
Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis
Mistletoebird - Dicaeum hirundinaceum
Olive-backed Sunbird - Cinnyris jugularis
Scaly-breasted Munia - Lonchura punctulata
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin - Lonchura castaneothorax
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Australasian Pipit - Anthus novaeseelandiae

185 Species