Tanami & East Kimberley trip report: Part 2

Subject: Tanami & East Kimberley trip report: Part 2
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 2004 18:21:31 +1000
[One more try to get this through properly....]
Part 2: East Kimberley and the trip home.

The last remaining participants in the Night Parrot search packed up camp, said goodbye and headed off so, with about 9 days before I had to be home in the Blue Mountains, I decided to travel northwards to Wyndham. Some time later that afternoon, just as I was driving past a sign saying "Welcome to Wyndham" there was a huge 'clunk' and a jolt, and I saw my front wheel rolling along the highway ahead of me, as I slid to a halt on the axle!

That's how I came to be stranded in Wyndham for 3 days while my vehicle was fitted with a new disk and wheel bearings. And I couldn't have chosen a better place to be stranded!

Wyndham, WA, 18-21/7/04

For two days I was limited to places I could get to on foot. However this proved barely a handicap as I found there were many great birding spots in and around the town. For example, just behind the aboriginal statues in a park in the middle of the town is a small pond with a table and seat beside it. Here I watched the constant comings and goings of GOULDIAN FINCHES - both black and red headed forms with many immatures - as well as STAR FINCHES, MASKED, LONG-TAILED and a single PICTORELLA. RUFOUS-THROATED HONEYEATERS were also common.


BROLGAS were wandering around at the back of the caravan park, where I also found GREAT EGRET, ROYAL SPOONBILL, NORTHERN ROSELLA, WHITE-THROATED HONEYEATER, GREY-CROWNED BABBLER, VARIED SITTELLA (white-winged form), WHITE-BELLIED CUCKOO-SHRIKE and many more. I might add that the caravan park in Wyndham is among the best I've ever stayed at with their friendly, laid-back attitude, very reasonable pri ces and good facilities including a camp kitchen - not to mention the birding. Highly recommended.

It's 5km to the Old Town and port and while walking along the way I saw many SPINIFEX PIGEONS, RED-BACKED KINGFISHER, WHITE-BREASTED WOODSWALLOWS, RED-WINGED PARROTS, a BRAHMINY KITE, more GOULDIAN FINCHES and a MANGROVE GERYGONE in the mangroves near the Pioneer Cemetery.

At the port I found a flock of about 20 YELLOW WHITE-EYES feeding on something on the bitumen road surface near the boat ramp and a walk out onto the wharf produced MANGROVE GREY FANTAIL, more MANGROVE GERYGONES and YELLOW-WHITE-EYES and a single COMMON SANDPIPER. I searched for the Collared Kingfisher here but could only find 4 SACREDS feeding on crabs in the mud. I also saw a large Saltwater Croc beside the mangroves near the boat ramp, probably waiting for unwary birdwatchers!

I also saw several small groups of RED-TAILED BLACK-COCKATOOS in and around the town.

Fortunately I had printed out information on Wyndham birding sites from Frank O'Connor's website before I had left home, "just in case" - although at the time I thought it unlikely I would end up going there. It proved to be extremely useful.

Marlgu Billabong
By the time my car was ready, time was getting on and I knew I had to start the long journey home. However I made time to squeeze in a visit to Marlgu Billabong late afternoon on the 20th. What a fantastic place - huge numbers of birds including hundreds, possibly thousands, of PLUMED and WANDERING WHISTLING-DUCKS. What a spectacular sight, and sound, when they all took flight, literally darkened the sky. There were also PIED HERONS, GREEN PYGMY-GEESE, BLACK-NECKED STORK, 3 EGRET spp, NANKEEN NIGHT-HERON, GLOSSY IBIS, BROLGA, RADJAH SHELDUCK, HARDHEADS, COMB-CRESTED JACANA, CAXPIAN TERN..... the list goes on. In the fading light of dusk, a SPOTTED NIGHTJAR flew over. How I wished I could spend more time here.

The Grotto (21/7/04)
I reluctantly said goodbye to Wyndham and headed first to The Grotto, about 30km to the south. This was a beautiful spot, and provided a chance to get into a completely different habitat. The first birds I saw on leaving the carpark were WHITE-QUILLED ROCK-PIGEONS which were numerous and very easy to get close views of on the rocky ledges below the track. A pair of LITTLE WOODSWALLOWS were also easy to find.

Down in the shady gorge there were birds everywhere. I found NORTHERN FANTAIL, SILVER-CROWNED FRIARBIRDS and many BROWN, WHITE-GAPED and BAR-BREASTED HONEYEATERS feeding in the flowering grevilleas. A GREY SHRIKE-THRUSH was singing the most beautiful rich, varied song I have ever heard for this species, enhanced by the echoing off the cliff walls. The bird then spread out its feathers and sunbathed on a branch right in front of me - it was one of those magic moments. Unfortunately the Sandstone Shrike-thrush eluded me. (Have to keep something for next time!)

Ten kilometres south of the Grotto were 2 Black-breasted Buzzards lazily soaring around.

Kununurra (21/7/04)
Because of time constraints my visit to Kununurra was limited to an hour or so in the middle of the day, but during that time I walked around the vegetated area on the western side of the Kimberleyland Caravan Park and found 40+ species. The tall grasses harboured many finches, best of which were 2 YELLOW-RUMPED MANNIKINS along with many CHESTNUT-BREASTED and, I suspect, a few hybrids. I particularly loved the CRIMSON FINCHES, spectacular birds! There were also STAR FINCHES, YELLOW-TINTED, RUFOUS-THROATED & WHITE-GAPED HONEYEATERS, TAWNY GRASSBIRDS, GOLDEN-HEADED CISTICOLAS, GULL-BILLED TERNS and on the lagoon, nice views of JACANAS. I wished I had time for an overnight stay at this spot.

Timber Creek, NT (22/7/04)
I camped beside the lush forest along the creek at the back of the caravan park and awoke to see BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA, WHITE-BROWED ROBIN, NORTHERN FANTAIL and heard the song of a GREEN-BACKED GERYGONE which I unfortunately didn't see. A eucalypt was in flower and attracting a myriad of honeyeaters including BANDED, BAR-BREASTED, YELLOW-TINTED, WHITE-GAPED, RUFOUS-THROATED, GOLDEN-BACKED, BROWN and BLUE-FACED as well as SILVER-CROWNED FRIARBIRD and RAINBOW LORIKEETS.

I then headed down to the 'River Access' on the Victoria River which had a much drier, more open habitat than the creek. Here I saw BLACK-TAILED TREECREEPER, VARIED SITTELLA, CRIMSON FINCH and many of the above honeyeaters including the BANDED, in addition to SINGING HONEYEATER and LITTLE FRIARBIRD.

From Timber Creek I took the Top Springs road, a very scenic drive but care should be taken as there are unexpected rough patches. Jaxper Gorge is spectacular.

Victoria River Downs (22/7/04)
I stopped to eat lunch on the banks of the upper Victoria River, at the causeway. Again several honeyeater species but I thought the most interesting sighting was a group of immature CRIMSON FINCHES coming down to a small puddle of water where they were eating the bright green algae. This was in longish strands which they were gobbling up like spaghetti. I've checked in a few books and have found, in the NPI volume "Finches, Bowerbirds & Other Passerines of Australia" (p.50), a photo of Crimson Finches feeding on green algae. I wonder if this is a common food item for this species?

Camooweal, Qld (24/7/04)
Large numbers of VARIED LORIKEETS flying over. While trying to find where they were headed, I discovered a great campsite at a waterhole on the Georgina River, access via the 'Stock Route' signposted on the west side of the main bridge (or between the two bridges). Here there were many BROLGAS, along with many other waterbirds and a flock of about 200 BUDGIES wheeling around the water's edge, coming in to drink.

There were more VARIED LORIKEETS in the Cloncurry area, especially at Elder Creek, 33km SE of the town.

By this stage I was not able to stop for extended birding as I had to be home, which required fairly solid travelling through Queensland and into NSW. I look forward to future trips, especially into the Kimberley as this visit merely gave me a taste of the beauty of that part of the country.

Carol Probets
Blue Mountains NSW
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