from the Top End

To: "birding Aus" <>, "Victor Yue Seong Swee" <>, "Jim Conrad" <>, "Ellen Rudolph" <>, "Anne H. Lindsey " <>
Subject: from the Top End
From: Goodfellow <>
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 07:54:03 +0930
My apologies for the long silence - it seems there are just not enough 
hours in the day to do everything!  I hope you are all having a restful 
Easter break.

Last week I was in Sydney albeit briefly to be bridesmaid at a friend's 

Christine and Duncan were married in the navy chapel at Watson's Bay, and 
what a magnificent setting!  Indeed the whole area with its rugged 
coastline,  bushland and old buildings made me wish I lived a damn sight 
closer than Darwin!  The only real let down were the feral birds 
everywhere - Indian mynahs and feral rock-doves in particular.   A brief 
walk to the Gap only yielded one endemic which I assume was New Holland 
Honeyeater (is White-cheeked Honeyeater more likely in this area?).

As Christine is Consul General for Nepal, she and we bridesmaids all wore 
traditional Nepalese silk costumes in all colours of the rainbow - 
certainly put the kybosh on the usual 'white' wedding!  And the reception 
carried through the Nepalese theme with Nepalese music and dancers, and 
each of us receiving a 'karta' as we arrived.  Many involved in Nepalese 
and Antarctic tourism were there - I enjoyed meeting the people behind 
the names.  Robert Swan, polar explorer, gave the one speech although I'm 
sure many there would have liked to have added their blessings in such a 
way as well!  However we all managed to control our exuberance!

Walking Sydney selling the bird book exposed me to more wonderful old 
buildings - there are so few in Darwin!  Tim Peach, if you're out there - 
my apologies for not getting back to meet you - I ran out of time!

A day trip to Canberra to visit Manning Clark house resulted in my 
wanting to live there immediately (in the house, not necessarily 
Canberra!)  The house was designed by Robin Boyd and is a maze of little 
rooms their walls loaded with  book cases crammed with the most 
interesting books on every topic under the sun.   Manning Clark's study 
was in a loft overlooking the garden - one had to ascend a ladder to 
reach it. As a member of the Manning Clark Association I was offered the 
chance to stay at the house overnight but had to decline as we had an 
appointment at Taronga Park Zoo early the next morning.  No time in 
Canberra for birding either, I'm afraid.

The only birds present at Circular Quay were Silver Gulls, a few 
rock-doves and the odd starling.  

We were shown around Taronga by a member of the Friends of Taronga Park 
Zoo, Judith Gibson.  I was impressed with all I saw, particularly the 
setting, the new enclosures; the dedication of staff and Friends, and 
their efforts to meet the needs of the animals.  

I had to return to Darwin too soon.  However I must admit that the 
diversity of flora and fauna in my garden alone goes a long way to the 
lack of a rugged coastline and old buildings.  

Now to my 'autumn' garden.  Green-backed Gerygones are much in evidence 
again this year although Little Bronze-cuckoos are thin on the ground for 
some reason.  An immature Helmeted Friarbird is hanging around the 
feeding table, chasing off both the immature and adult Yellow Orioles 
(they breed in the garden).  Brown and Rufous-banded honeyeaters are also 
breeding as is I suspect, Red-headed Honeyeater - they are chasing each 
other around madly!  White-gaped, Brown and Rufous-banded honeyeaters are 
happily feeding on the caterpillars of Catopsilia butterflies (eg Lemon 
Migrant) that cover my Cassia fistula.  The birds also insert their beaks 
into the rolled up shelters of caterpillars.   Incidentally, to those who 
haven't heard of this tree - cascara is derived from the pulp surrounding 
the seed.  Varied Trillers are having a great time feeding on the loopers 
infesting the Breynia cernua (a small shrub in the family Euphorbiaceae) 
while the Yellow Orioles and Figbirds stuff themselves with the pink 
berries.  Leaf-miners infesting the tree out the front (Polyalthia 
australis) attracted White-gaped honeyeaters by the dozen earlier in the 
Wet.  The new leaves of this tree are the most gorgeous bronze. 

Our three resident Orange-footed Scrubfowls have turned over much of the 
ground as if a miniature bulldozer has been through!  

The pond vegetation is flourishing.  There are half a dozen native fern 
species, two species of Ludwigia (one erect with yellow flowers (L. 
octovalvis) and the other prostrate with white flowers (L. adscendens)), 
sedges,  sundry self-sown figs and other tree seedlings,  the 
mauve-flowered Dysophylla stellata, and the blue and purple flowers of 
Commelinas (three species), Cyanotis and Murdannia (one species each).  
These edible plants look great in salads.  Red dragonflies are pursuing 
each other around the pond, and a Carpenter Bee (Xylocarpa) is busily 
digging holes in a dead weeping tea tree out the front, 

Over Easter I visited Robin Falls some 150 kms south of Darwin, and Fogg 
Dam to put together some natural history interviews for the ABC.   I'll 
post something of this later.
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