N.T., Kimberley and Canning Stock Route trip highlights, August 2003.

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Subject: N.T., Kimberley and Canning Stock Route trip highlights, August 2003.
From: "michael hunter" <>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2003 12:49:10 +1000
Hi All.
         With about ten mainland birds to tick, depending on splits, and
several "BVDs" (better views desired), we spent a couple of weeks up North
illustrating the Law of Diminishing Returns as it applies to twitching.
Princess Parrot, Black Grasswren and Pictorella Mannikin were on our most
wanted list, with Northern Shriketit, the Kimberley yellow-faced form of
Partrdge Pigeon  and a BVD of Hooded Parrot also on the agenda.
          The Frequent-Flyer-fly-in-and-hire-a-troopie  formula worked
pretty well again, this time via Darwin, always a great place to visit.
Headed south to Pine Creek, no Hooded Parrots, another birder had been there
for three days, knew the sites but had no luck.

         Picked up six  PICTORELLAS towards the end of the track running
along the Golden Gate creek, 14km. west of the Quarantine roadblock going
into Kununurra, mentioned in Thomas & Thomas. Five star views. Plenty of
Long-tailed and Masked Finches as well. BUSH STONE CURLEWS at the Timber
Creek racetrack en route.
            A two day search around Lake Tobin on the Canning Stock Route
between Wells 42 and 39. was fruitless as far as Princess Parrots were
concerned, the Spinifex was seedless, we were too late, again.
            Plenty of PIED HONEYEATERS. BUSTARDS and CRIMSON CHATS in large
numbers in the swales, several BLACK FALCONS, and WHITE-RUMPED SWALLOWS  at
the pool at Well 40, PINK-EARED DUCKS and GREY TEAL also there as well as
Coots and Australasian Grebes among others. Heard later that some of George
Swann's group saw Princesses flying over around the same time.

            Backtracked via Lake Gregory, a great spot. At least a thousand
Brolgas around its perimeter on our drive-by. Mulan and Balgo Communities an

            Over the Kimberley Plateau to Mitchell Falls via the Gibb River
and Kalumburu Roads. At 7.00 am next morning three BLACK GRASSWRENS jumped
onto a flat rock 25m ahead of us when I sqeaked in response to hearing their
calls from the spinifex. This was just before Little Merton Falls, maybe two
hundred m.downstream from the campground which is just over the creek
itself. Very handsome birds those Black Grasswrens, gave us great looks,
almost showing off. Saw them again about 2.00 pm on our way back from
Mitchell Falls.
             Great prehistoric, and more recent Aboriginal, Rock Paintings
in the area, some very spectacular ones in a spectacular setting below the
Little Merton Falls overhang, metres from our Grasswren sighting. The
resident Ranger guided us, and gave a great talk, illustrated from laptop
images powered from his vehicle batteries in the evening! Quite incongruous
in that very remote spot, with no campground facilities, only water from the
creek which has to be boiled.
             Several quite tame WHITE-QUILLED ROCK PIGEONS, but no Partridge
Pigeons, around the rocks. KIMBERLEY FLYCATCHERS (lemonless form of
Lemon-breasted Flycatchers) around the campground and a dozen Brown Quail
there as well.

              Detoured for cultural reasons via Kalamburu, last visited by
us with the kids twenty years ago. Worth the visit and the daily talk by
Father McFee, an original.
              A hundred laconic RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOOS at the Drysdale
River crossing on the way back to the Gibb River Rd. but no Northern
Shrike-tits despite stops at likely looking spots along our journey.
Longtailed Finches have a contact call similar to that of Shrike-tits, which
caused some excitement at several localities.

             At Parry's Lagoon just before Wyndham, ZITTING CISTICOLAS,
darkly streaked with white tail-tips and not a tinge of gold, in the
waterside vegetation, obviously contrasting with numerous Golden-headed
Cisticolas in dead grass on the dried mudflats nearby. A pair of STAR
FINCHES, and PAPERBARK FLYCATCHERS, a Storr Split from Restless. A good
selection of water and wetland birds, and a very large Monitor Lizard
waiting for handouts. Two RUFOUS SONGLARKS seemed out of place. Australasian
Bushlarks, a juvenile Nankeen Night Heron, Black-fronted Dotterels.

             Two SQUARE-TAILED KITES on the road back to Victoria River.

        On the way back to Darwin, super prolonged close-up views and 'scope
detail of  HOODED PARROTS at 4.00pm in the trees alongside the park below
Lookout Hill in Pine Creek, a group of perhaps twenty. Sound a bit like
Budgies when flying, like Red-Rumped Parrots when perched. Very attractive
with the afternoon sun on their golden wings, obvious in this light even
when in flight.

              The Gibb River and Kalamburu roads are badly corrugated in
many places. Our troop-carrier, admittedly well used when we picked it up,
shook off its drinking-water tank, back step, external rear-vision mirrors,
main-battery mountings, an externally housed gas cylinder, and loosened the
plastic lenses on its indicators. Otherwise didn't miss a beat.  Most
expensive fuel, $1.50/l at Bililuna.  El Questro, an oasis of civilisation
at the eastern end of the Gibb River Rd, about an hour from Kununurra, has
expensive camping, but the Kimberleys' best cuisine, although we have yet to
sample George Swann's; maybe next time, it would be easier and cheaper.

             Will just have to go back again for the birds we missed. Can
hardly wait. Almost (but not overwhelmingly) glad not to have seen only
flying Princess Parrots, tickable, making a return trip unlikely, but we are
now desperate for really good views, like those of the Hoodeds.


Michael Hunter
Mulgoa Valley
50km west of Sydney Harbour Bridge

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