Birding Cairns

Birding Cairns is a local bird-watching club based in Cairns, N.E.Queensland, Australia. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Also hosting the Cairns Birding Forum and Michaelmas Cay Report

Thursday, February 03, 2005



A Bird report of a Frankland Islands Cruise

On the 10th November 2004, we were invited to join a day cruise down the Mulgrave River and out to sea to the Frankland Islands, a group of five small islands south-east of Cairns.
Our Cairns pick-up bus dropped us at the jetty at Deeral for the 0830 Frankland Islands Cruise departure, and we spent the next half-hour or so quietly boating down the river to the mouth of the Mulgrave River. After another half-hour of cruising across a very calm stretch of open sea we landed on the northern-most Norman Island. The main island activities are snorkelling and beach lounging but we spent our time bird watching, with a break only for an excellent picnic lunch supplied by the company.

The birds we identified were of four distinct habitats -
- river-edge forest
(very thin or absent in places);
- sea shore (river mouth and island shores);
- open sea; and
- small off-shore island forest.
Norman Island is a small continental-derived rocky outcrop with a coral cay attached to the leeward side and covered with trees, some surprisingly tall. We also walked to a very small island to the south by a connecting sand bar. The other three islands are separated by channels of varying length, and although camping is permitted on the southern-most one, the Frankland Islands Cruise does not access any of them. We were on the island for 4.5 hours, from 0930 t0 1400 hrs.
Bird species are listed below, by habitat and in the accepted systematic order.

River-edge Forest
Along the river on the way down were Little Black Cormorant, Striated Heron, Osprey, Peaceful Dove, Rainbow Lorikeet, Brush Cuckoo, and Collared Kingfisher. Large-billed Warbler was heard, Helmeted Friarbird and Brown-backed Honeyeater seen, and Yellow-spotted and Graceful Honeyeaters also heard only. Varied Triller, Peewee, White-breasted Woodswallow, Figbird, and Sunbird were other passerines seen too.
On the way back about 1430-1500 hrs, Black Butcherbird, Yellow Oriole, Mistletoe Bird, and Metallic Starling were added to the list, making 21 species identified along the river edge.

Sea Shore
At the high tide roost on the river-mouth sand were Caspian, Crested, Gull-billed, and Little Terns, and on the ??? Island shores, which were a mixture of sandy beach, coral beach, and rocky shore, were Eastern Reef Egret, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Wandering Tattler (2 birds), Ruddy Turnstone, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Beach Thick-knee (one pair), Sooty Oystercatcher (2 pairs), Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Masked Lapwing, and Bridled Tern (several at and near a roosting site on the boulders at the seaward end); 18 species.

Open Sea
One species was added to the list in this habitat - Black-naped Tern.

Small Island Forest.
The following are to be expected on most well forested, small, off-shore islands in the Cairns area.
Orange-footed Scrubfowl, White-bellied Eagle, Bar-shouldered Dove, Rose-crowned Dove, Torresian Fruit Pigeon, Varied Honeyeater, Spectacled Monarch, and Silver-eye. This is a further increase to the trip list of 8 species.

Total Frankland Islands Cruise species identified - 48.

Total Norman Island species identified - 24.


The Frankland Islands Cruise can be a rewarding day out for a birder. Although most of the species seen would be common enough around Cairns city some uncommon or hard to find species would make the trip well wortwhile. Of these, Beach Thick-knee, Sooty Oystercatcher, Bridled Tern, and Rose-crowned Dove would probably be permanent residents, with Wandering Tattler present seasonally, probably Sept to March.

Andy & Greg Anderson


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