Peregrine Bird Tours
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Peregrine Bird Tours

Iron Range

We began our Cape York adventure in Cairns, from here we flew to Lockhart River, where we stayed at the comfortable and more importantly, air conditioned, Iron Range Cabins. On most days we followed a pattern of early breakfast, followed by a mornings birding in the Iron Range National Park and then back for lunch. After lunch we enjoyed a siesta during the heat of the middle of the day, followed by a birding session in the late afternoon. During our seven days here we had ample time to find the many special birds of Iron Range, with the added advantage of staying in comfortable accommodation and enjoying delicious meals prepared for us by Connor, our host at Iron Range Cabins, this combination enabled us to do our birding at a comfortable, relaxed pace.

Iron Range National Park protects the largest area of lowland, tropical rainforest in Australia. It is a complex mosaic of intact tropical rainforest, eucalypt and paperback forest and heath-shrouded hills, which provide a backdrop to long sweeping beaches, rocky outcrops and mangrove forests. Almost 300 species of birds have been observed in the park, while many of these birds are resident, some of the most sought after birds are migrants from New Guinea, which only arrive from December onwards. Birding highlights were plentiful and we saw all of the most sought after specialities including such exciting species as Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus and Red-cheeked Parrots, Chestnut-breasted and Oriental Cuckoos, Papuan and Marbled Frogmouths, Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Red-bellied Pitta, Lovely Fairywren, White-faced Robin, Northern Scrub-robin, Yellow-legged Flyrobin, Black-winged, Frill-necked and White-eared Monarchs, Green-backed, White-streaked and Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters, Black-backed Butcherbird and Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, plus two species of bird-of-paradise, the Trumpet Manucode and the Magnificent Riflebird.

Iron Range is a tropical wonderland, we were surrounded by large expanses of dense tropical rainforest, giant trees festooned with creeping vines and aerial orchids. Much of the flora and fauna is unique, from giant epiphytes, rare ferns and moths to a spectacular variety of reptiles, birds, butterflies and animals. The flora and fauna is closely akin to that of New Guinea. Many of the birds found here are at their southernmost limit, while still others are summer migrants from New Guinea.
As always, early morning was the time when the forest birds were most active, so in the mornings we concentrated our efforts in the large stands of tropical rainforests, which radiated out from the rivers. On our first day in the park, we birded one of the narrow trails in the darkened interior and one of the wider, more open roads. We observed a staggering array of colourful tropical birds which included Whistling Kite, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Australian Brush-turkey, Masked Lapwing, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Bar-shouldered Dove, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Pheasant Coucal, Forest Kingfisher, Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, Varied Triller, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Frill-necked Monarch, White-faced Robin, Rufous Shrike-Thrush, Olive-backed Sunbird, Mistletoebird, Helmeted Friarbird, Tawny-breasted, Graceful and Dusky Honeyeaters, Yellow Oriole, Australasian Figbird, Spangled Drongo, Magpie-lark, White-breasted Woodswallow, Magnificent Riflebird, Trumpet Manucode, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Metallic Starling and Red-browed Finch.

On our second day in Iron Range National Park we watched a Brown Goshawk in flight, Curtis saw a pair of Brown Cuckoo-Doves, we enjoyed good looks at the aptly named Superb Fruit-Dove, had a quick look at a Palm Cockatoo in flight, saw our first of several Little Bronze-Cuckoos, watched a flock of Australian Swiftlets which also contained a few Fork-tailed Swifts, a Yellow-billed Kingfisher perched close by, we saw our first Noisy Pitta, a pair of Leaden Flycatchers, a female Shining Flycatcher, our only Black-winged Monarch of the tour, our first Spectacled Monarch, enjoyed our only sighting of the Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, saw Grey Whistler very well, watched the antics of a family party of Fairy Gerygones, observed a pair of Silver-eyes, observed our first of many Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters, had great views of a Black Butcherbird and a couple of Spotted Catbirds. We also saw a couple of Agile Wallabies today.

The following day we spent the morning birding in Iron Range National Park where we continued to find new birds for the tour. These included a few Straw-necked Ibis, a Wompoo Fruit-Dove which perched in the forest close to us, we watched an Emerald Dove walking around on the forest floor, a Blue-winged Kookaburra was observed very well, a Yellow-legged Flyrobin popped up for us and we enjoyed very good looks at both Northern Scrub-robin and Green-backed Honeyeater. In the afternoon we visited Quintell Beach, at Lockhart River. The tide was out and the mudflats were partly exposed, providing good feeding opportunities for a handful of waders which included Pacific Golden-Plover, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint. A number of rocks just a little offshore provided good roosts for Eastern Reef-Egret, Silver Gull and Crested Tern. An Osprey was observed sitting on a telecommunications tower, a beautiful Brahminy Kite perched in a tree along the edge of the beach and a single Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flew overhead. Following dinner we returned to Iron Range National Park and did a little spotlighting, which produced great looks at a Large-tailed Nightjar.

We spent the following morning birding along the coast at Portland Roads and Chili Beach. On the way there we past through some more open, drier forest, where we added several Oriental Cuckoos, good numbers of White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrikes, a few White-gaped and Brown-backed Honeyeaters and best of all, the endemic White-streaked Honeyeater. Along the coast at Portland Roads we spent a few productive hours observing both Lesser and Greater Frigatebirds, Little Egret, Royal Spoonbill and Bridled Tern. In the mangroves we saw Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Collared Kingfisher, Large-billed Gerygone and Varied Honeyeater. Close to town we saw Papuan Frogmouth, sitting on a nest and we also saw White-throated Honeyeater and a small flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins. In the afternoon we made a visit to the Lockhart River Sewage Farm and new birds here included Australasian Grebe, Pied Heron, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Hardhead, Green Pygmy-goose and Cattle Egret. A Wild Pig was also observed walking through a clearing in the forest.

We spent all of the next day birding in Iron Range National Park, where we found both Black Bittern and Rufous Night-Heron along the Claudie River, saw a single Australian White Ibis amongst a flock of Straw-necked Ibis and came across a family party of White-browed Robins.

As a contrast to the rainforest birding we spent the whole of the following day birding in heathland and open forest, as far south as the Pascoe River. This provided us with a good number of new birds for the tour which included the very attractive Pacific Baza, a single Brown Falcon, a pair of delightful Red-winged Parrots, good close looks at both Brush and Chestnut-breasted Cuckoos, we were pleased to find a male Cicadabird, there was also a pair of Grey Shrike-Thrushes, we enjoyed watching a pair of well named Lovely Fairywrens, a few Silver-crowned Friarbirds, a single Olive-backed Oriole, a couple of Pied Currawongs, one or two Torresian Crows and best of all a single Black-backed Butcherbird, which in Australia, only occurs in the dry country of the northern half of Cape York Peninsula. In the late afternoon while driving back to Lockhart River, we were driving through Iron Range National Park and added two new birds to our ever growing list, these were White-faced Heron and Intermediate Egret. Following dinner, we did some spotlighting in the rainforest and enjoyed good close looks at a Marbled Frogmouth and a Diadem Leaf-nosed Bat.

Our last morning in Iron Range National Park produced several new birds; a Grey Goshawk flew by carrying prey in its talons and was being mobbed by several small birds. I chased what I thought was a bandicoot in the grassland in a patch of open forest, when suddenly, it took flight and rapidly disappeared into the forest, it was a Rufous-tailed Bush-hen! A pair of Red-cheeked Parrots flew past us, we saw a few Azure Kingfishers, a single Red-bellied Pitta was observed in flight and we enjoyed great looks at a solitary White-eared Monarch. In the afternoon, close to our cabins a patch of dry forest produced the last new birds of the tour, a pair of Peaceful Doves and a pair of Red-backed Fairywrens, including a spectacular male in full breeding plumage. This was a fitting end to a very enjoyable and highly successful and memorable tour.



the tour which included the very attractive Pacific Baza, a single Brown Falcon, a pair of delightful Red-winged Parrots, good close looks at both Brush and Chestnut-breasted Cuckoos, we were pleased to find a male Cicadabird, there was also a pair of Grey Shrike-Thrushes, we enjoyed watching a pair of well named Lovely Fairywrens, a few Silver-crowned Friarbirds, a single Olive-backed Oriole, a couple of Pied Currawongs, one or two Torresian Crows and best of all a single Black-backed Butcherbird, which in Australia, only occurs in the dry country of the northern half of Cape York Peninsula. In the late afternoon while driving back to Lockhart River, we were driving through Iron Range National Park and added two new birds to our ever growing list, these were White-faced Heron and Intermediate Egret. Following dinner, we did some spotlighting in the rainforest and enjoyed good close looks at a Marbled Frogmouth and a Diadem Leaf-nosed Bat.

Our last morning in Iron Range National Park produced several new birds; a Grey Goshawk flew by carrying prey in its talons and was being mobbed by several small birds. I chased what I thought was a bandicoot in the grassland in a patch of open forest, when suddenly, it took flight and rapidly disappeared into the forest, it was a Rufous-tailed Bush-hen! A pair of Red-cheeked Parrots flew past us, we saw a few Azure Kingfishers, a single Red-bellied Pitta was observed in flight and we enjoyed great looks at a solitary White-eared Monarch. In the afternoon, close to our cabins a patch of dry forest produced the last new birds of the tour, a pair of Peaceful Doves and a pair of Red-backed Fairywrens, including a spectacular male in full breeding plumage. This was a fitting end to a very enjoyable and highly successful and memorable tour.

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