Mount Lewis …

Jewel of the wet tropics, every Australian bird watcher makes a pilgrimage here.

Mt Lewis

Cooktown was our furthest north, we took the easy way from there via Lakeland. Two nights spent at Wetherby Station, a splendid place to camp, gave us a full day up the mountain.

To get there head north from Julatten on the Mossman-Mount Molly Road, turn left at the Highlander Tavern and follow the aptly named Mount Lewis Road as far as you want to go. The road is narrow and steep but in dry conditions it can be handled by 2WD vehicles, after rain the verges become very slippery and it becomes fairly easy to get stuck.

Most visitors head for a clearing which is the famous site for the Blue-faced Parrot-finch. It is also a good spot for Mountain Thornbill. There is some parking here and a foot path that leads up hill away from the clearing into forest that is home to such mythical and highly desirable creatures as Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Spotted Catbird …

Spotted Catbird

Chowchilla, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Atherton Scrubwren, Grey-headed Robin, Golden Bowerbird and Fernwren …

Fernwren

This little beauty was calling loudly right at my feet.

You can follow the track up and around to the left to a dam where you might add a cormorant or heron to your rainforest list. There was once a much visited Golden Bowerbird bower here but it is no longer tended.

Back at the car you can continue on the road for quite a ways until the road ends at a beaten up corrugated iron shelter. An old logging track heads off slightly to the right at the end of the road. This can be followed on foot although it becomes a little more overgrown with each passing year. And of course the birding is good along the Mount Lewis road itself. Beware of the stinging trees, remember, heart-shaped leaves with little hairs, often insect-eaten, contact equals months of pain. Progress off the roadside or the paths that I’ve mentioned is made difficult by the dense bush and the Wait-a-whiles, very spiky vines that grab your clothing or your skin and are reluctant to let you go. With typical Aussie humour they are often called lawyer vines.

As you wander about look out for Boyd’s Forest Dragon. This is a lizard that is often found quite stationary, a few metres up a tree trunk. It has a body up to about six inches in length (150 mm) plus a tail that is about twice that.

Mt Lewis is also home to some mammals that have a very limited distribution such as the Lemuroid Possum and the Daintree River Ringtail Possum, so we awaited nightfall at the end of the road and then slowly spotlighted down the hill. Our reward was a splendid view of a Daintree River Ringtail.

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