Day 1: Monday 11 November 2019 Depart London Heathrow
After relaxing in our airport lounge, we board our flight to Cairns.
Day 2: Tuesday 12 November 2019 Arrive Cairns
We arrive in Cairns late afternoon, and have some free time to settle in before meeting in the evening for a welcome dinner and orientation. Accommodation: Cairns
Day 3: Wednesday 13 November 2019 Cairns area
We will meet again this morning for breakfast before taking a walk along The Esplanade to look for local specialties like Varied Honeyeater, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Rainbow Lorikeet, Mangrove Robin, Torresian Kingfisher, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and Olive-backed Sunbird. If the tide is right, we will be able to see several different shorebirds out on the extensive mudflats here, such as Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper. There should also be Gull-billed Tern, Australian Pelican, Eastern Osprey and maybe an Eastern Reef Egret or two. Nearby botanic gardens hold several different species and we’ll look for Black Butcherbird, Cicadabird, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Australian Brush-turkey, Australasian Darter, Azure Kingfisher, Radjah Shelduck, Magpie Goose, Bush Stone-curlew, Helmeted Friarbird, Large-billed Gerygone and Orange-footed Scrubfowl.
Late in the afternoon we’ll visit a local park to see whether the resident pair of Rufous Owl is in residence. Accommodation: Cairns
Day 4 - 7: Thursday 14 - Sunday 17 November 2019 Cairns to Atherton Tablelands
After a pre-breakfast walk, we will head south of Cairns to look for one of Australia’s most amazing & prehistoric-looking birds, the Southern Cassowary. If our good fortune is in, we should see at least one or two of these stately ratites on the roadside at a coastal rainforest location on our way. Other birds seen here recently include Lovely Fairy-wren, Macleay’s Honeyeater, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Pheasant Coucal.
From here we will head up towards the famous Atherton Tablelands, where with a few road-side stops we should pick up birds like Yellow-spotted & Graceful Honeyeaters, Australian Swiftlet, Little Shrike-thrush, Australasian Figbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Metallic Starling, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Mistletoebird and Masked Lapwing to name a few.
Reaching our destination for the next four nights near the Crater Lakes National Park we will settle in and have a good look around. Surrounded by high altitude rainforest, our accommodation has a plethora of visitors to the gardens and fruiting trees, and birds like Victoria’s Riflebird, Spotted Catbird, Grey-headed Robin, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Pale Yellow Robin, Scarlet Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Red-browed Finch and Olive-backed Oriole are all regular visitors.
Over the next few days, using this as our base we will explore the wide variety of habitats that are within our reach here on the Atherton Tablelands. With high altitude rainforest, tropical savannah woodlands, grassland & agricultural fields, wetlands and swamps to explore, we will be looking at birds like Brolga, Sarus Crane, Great Crested Grebe, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Nankeen Night-heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-necked Heron, Black-necked Stork, Buff-banded Rail, White-headed Pigeon, Pacific Baza, Spotted Harrier, Lesser Sooty Owl, the rainforest-inhabiting race lurida of Southern Boobook (a possible future spilt - Little Red Boobook), Tooth-billed Catbird, Fernwren, Bridled Honeyeater, Atherton Scrubwren, Fairy & Brown Gerygones, Mountain Thornbill, Chowchilla, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Black-faced, Pied, Spectacled & White-eared Monarchs, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Grey-headed Robin.
Mammals in the area we will have a great chance of seeing include Striped Possum, Sugar Glider, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Musky Rat Kangaroo, Green Ringtail Possum, Red-legged Pademelon, Agile Wallaby and Giant White-tailed Rat. Accommodation: Atherton Tablelands
Day 8: Monday 18 November 2019 Atherton Tablelands to Daintree
After a final morning’s birding in the rainforest looking for any bird species we may still be missing we will leave the higher latitude rainforests of the tablelands and head north to the Daintree River region, via a range of open woodland habitats and tropical savannahs. Birds we hope to connect with today include Australian Bustard, Black-necked Stork, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Squatter Pigeon, White-throated Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, Noisy & Little Friarbirds, White-throated Gerygone, Red-winged Parrot, Great Bowerbird, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Pale-headed Rosella, Blue-winged Kookaburra and Yellow Oriole.
Our destination for the evening will be the famous Daintree River area and our accommodation will overlook this iconic waterway, where the following morning we will take an early cruise. Accommodation: Daintree Village
Day 9: Tuesday 19 November 2019 Daintree River cruise to Cairns
This morning we will enjoy a boat cruise on the Daintree River where we may enjoy sightings of Azure & Little Kingfisher, Large-billed Gerygone, Black Bittern Pacific Baza, Varied Triller, Shining Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Brown-backed Honeyeater and Fairy Martin, as well as a chance of the rare & localised Great-billed Heron. Additional species we may see in the area include Bar-shouldered Dove, Pacific Koel, Papuan Frogmouth, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Helmeted Friarbird, Dusky Myzomela & White-breasted Woodswallow. Reptiles to see include Saltwater Crocodile, Amethystine Python & Common Tree Snake.
We will then make our way back to Cairns where, depending on what species we have yet to see, we will spend the rest of the afternoon exploring. Accommodation: Cairns
Day 10: Wednesday 20 November 2019 Great Barrier Reef
Today’s activity will involve a group tour that departs from Cairns and heads out to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. Here we will have the opportunity to do a bit of snorkelling or just enjoy the vista that makes up this amazing natural wonder. We will also make a stop at Michaelmas Cay where there are thousands of breeding terns, noddies and boobies. We will be looking for Brown Booby, Great Crested, Sooty, Bridled, Lesser Crested, Black-naped & Roseate Terns, Common & Black Noddies, Great & Lesser Frigatebirds and a variety of shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstone, Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-tailed Tattler. Birds that are seen less often include such rarities as White-tailed & Red-tailed Tropicbirds and Masked & Red-footed Boobies. Accommodation: Cairns
Day 11: Thursday 21 November 2019 Cairns to Brisbane
This morning we will take a two-hour flight this morning to the Queensland capital of Brisbane in the state’s south-east. On our arrival, we will target some of Brisbane’s local specialties. Special birds here include Mangrove Honeyeater, Mangrove Gerygone, Wandering Tattler, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Torresian Kingfisher, White-throated Needletail, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Striped Honeyeater, Variegated Fairy-wren, Little Wattlebird, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Pheasant Coucal and the chance of Oriental Cuckoo as well. There will be an option for a night spotlighting drive in the nearby forested ranges for Sooty Owl, Powerful Owl and White-throated Nightjar. Accommodation: Brisbane
Day 12: Wednesday 20 November 2019 Brisbane to Rainbow Beach.
This morning we will visit an area of littoral rainforest, extensive sandplain heathlands and coastal forest north of Brisbane to look for a few of the specialties of this area. A little bit of trekking along sandy tracks may be required, but with some luck we will connect with Eastern Ground Parrot, Southern Emu-wren, King Quail, Red-backed Button-quail, Noisy Pitta, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Tawny Grassbird, Emerald Dove, White-eared Monarch and a chance at the rare and localised Black-breasted Button-quail. Accommodation: Rainbow Beach
Day 13: Friday 22 November 2019 Rainbow Beach to Kingaroy
After an early morning walk looking for King Quail, Eastern Ground Parrot and Eastern Grass Owl, we will head inland to the town of Kingaroy. In the afternoon we will search a patch of local forest for a better chance of finding the elusive Black-backed Buttonquail. Accommodation: Kingaroy
Days 14 & 15: Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 November 2019 Lamington National Park
If necessary, we will return to the same area of forest this morning for our last try at Black-breasted Buttonquail. En route to Lamington National Park, a visit to the Lockyer Valley region around the town of Gatton may net us a few more ‘western’ species like Blue-billed Duck, Ground Cuckoo-shrike and Plum-headed Finch.
From here we’ll head southward and up into the lush sub-tropical rainforests of the Border Ranges. Here in the world-famous Lamington National Park we will stay three nights at the world-renowned O’Reilly’s Guest House. Australian King-Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Wonga Pigeon, Satin Bowerbird, Bassian Thrush, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Red-browed Finch, Eastern Spinebill, Superb Fairy-wren and Lewin’s Honeyeater all abound in the picnic areas right at the lodge, with the star attraction, the spectacular Regent Bowerbird, a constant highlight.
Around the edges of the rainforest can be found Australian Brush-Turkey, Grey Shrike-thrush, Yellow-throated, Large-billed & White-browed Scrubwrens, Pied Currawong, Welcome Swallow and Brown Thornbill. A plethora of walking tracks radiate from the picnic grounds and we’ll make excursions into the forest to find some of the shyer denizens like Australian Logrunner, Noisy Pitta, Paradise Riflebird, Green Catbird, Russet-tailed Thrush, Rose Robin, Grey Goshawk, Topknot Pigeon, White-throated Treecreeper and perhaps the most sought-after bird there, the amazing Albert’s Lyrebird.
If conditions are favourable, on one of the mornings we can head off along the Border Track to an area of ancient forest where a couple of truly rare and secretive birds are found, the highly range-restricted Rufous Scrub-bird and the habitat-restricted Olive Whistler, here at the northernmost limit of its distribution. This walk will take several hours and although not particularly difficult, will require some bushwalking experience and a good level of stamina, so it is an optional exercise.
At night we have several opportunities for spotlighting around the grounds, with the chance of Marbled Frogmouth, Sooty Owl, Southern Boobook and Australian Owlet-nightjar. Mammals we can see here at night here include Red-necked & Red-legged Pademelon, Short-eared Brushtail Possum, Common Ringtail Possum, Greater Glider and Sugar Glider. Accommodation: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Day 16: Monday 25 November 2019 Lamington NP to Brisbane and depart
With a final morning to look around the local environs for anything we may still be missing, we will head back down the mountains today toward Brisbane. Along the way we will look for another regional specialty, the Glossy Black-Cockatoo, as well as Bell Miner, Variegated Fairy-wren, Pacific Baza, Red-browed Treecreeper, Dollarbird, Laughing Kookaburra, Little Bronze-cuckoo and Eastern Koel. Mammals include Whiptail Wallaby and Eastern Grey Kangaroo. We transfer back to Brisbane International Airport late morning for our afternoon flight back to London Heathrow (arriving Tuesday 26 November).