Finch Trip report September 2015

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Finch Trip report September 2015
From: Bernard O'Keefe <>
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 2015 06:26:38 +0000
Hi All
Below is a brief summary of the last two weeks birding around NT and North-east 
My attachments have not worked in the past so I have just pasted the whole 
I hope you enjoy it!
Bernie OKeefe

I have just finished a very successful birding trip with my friend Ken Haines.
We spent two weeks around the Northern Territory and North-East WA with our 
main targets being finches. We had around 20 species we wanted to target as we 
are both extremely enthusiastic bird photographers. But as Ken had many sub 
species to track down, it was going to be a busy trip!
Here is a brief summary of our trip and we hope it can provide others with 
valuable information and motivation to visit this great part of Australia.
We have both been researching for this trip for around 6 months and I must 
thank any people who have kindly shared information. It is interesting that the 
more we researched, the luckier we became!
The targets we wanted are highlighted in Bold and underlined.
Here is a brief summary:
Saturday September 19:  Flew into Darwin around 1 am. We grabbed a couple of 
hours sleep and then picked up our campervan at 9 am. Our plan was to drive as 
far as possible in daylight so our planned destination was Timber Creek 
(approx. 550 km’s). We stopped briefly at the Pine Creek town water gardens for 
a break and immediately picked up two targets in the Banded Honeyeater and 
Bar-breasted Honeyeater. Lots of Brown HE’s and Rufous-throated HE’s gave us 
much enjoyment as the thirsty birds came down to the waters’ edge to drink. We 
eventually made it to Timber Creek for an early night. A Tawney Frogmouth(the 
northern sub-species is much smaller) gave us great views in the camping ground.
Sunday September 20:                    At dawn we checked out Policeman’s 
Point and the Timber Creek airfield. Lots of finches around PP but not the 
ones’ we were looking for! Finches included heaps of Crimson and Double-barred 
as well as more Banded HE’s. Great shots of Brown Quail were extended to us! It 
looked like the grass around PP had been burnt in recent days with most of it 
still smoking! No sign of Oriental Plover or Little Curlew at the airport. We 
continued on our travels to get to Lake Argyle for a morning bird cruise 
leaving at 5.30am on Monday morning, so spent the day travelling the 220 km’s. 
We stopped at a number of small waterholes along the way without too much 
excitement. We camped at the Lake Argyle Caravan Park and as we enjoyed a 
couple of beers in the gardens, we had sensational views of Silver-crowned 
Friarbirds and Great Bowerbirds(male in full breeding plumage) enjoying the 
Monday September 21:                  We boarded the Lake Argyle Cruises with 
our host Greg at 5.30am. A great day out with exciting species seen. But the 
most amazing experience we had was a visit to Chat Island, where we had close 
up and prolonged views of Yellow Chat! We estimated that there were about 30 
birds on the island and they allowed us to approach them within metres! The 
books do not do justice to the males and their brilliant colours! We also 
picked up a number of waders including Long-toed Stint and Common Sandpiper. 
Australians Pranticoles were also prevalent. Other highlights on the cruise 
were Sandstone Shrike-thrush and White Quilled Rock Pigeon. We also saw 
Brolga’s, White-browed Crake and Black-necked Stork on the cruise. We arrived 
back at 11.30am and immediately began our travels again with our planned 
destination Parry’s Farm Lagoon(about 15 km’s short of Wyndam). We arrived at 
around 3pm and went out to the billabong where we photographed a number of 
birds including a White-bellied Sea Eagle chick on the ground. We spotlighted 
for Barking Owl that night at Parry’s Lagoon Farm which gave us great photos!
Tuesday September 22:                  We were up at 5.30am to watch around 80 
Gouldians drinking from the sprinklers in front of the office. Mainly juveniles 
but both Red and Black headed adults gave us great close up views. Then we 
headed to a small waterhole around 2 km’s from the camping ground which we had 
been given a tip about. In all my time birding, this would have to be one of my 
best experiences! We sat away from the small pool where we watched and 
photographed SEVEN different finch species in the hour we were there. These 
included two of our targets! A rough estimate includes the following: Star 
Finch(500+), Pictorella Finch(80), Double-barred Finch(50), Zebra Finch(50), 
Crimson Finch(15), Masked Finch(5), Long-tailed Finch(10). Many other birds 
came to this waterhole and it was amazing to witness the ‘pecking order’. We 
left about 7am and made our way to Wyndam in extremely windy conditions. We 
spent a couple of hours in the mangroves around the wharf and picked up 
Mangrove Grey Fantail and Mangrove Golden Whistler (Black-tailed Whistler). 
Because of the extreme conditions, we decided to head back to Kununarra, 
foregoing the chance to find the White-breasted whistler. On the way back, we 
stopped at Maggies Creek(about 30 km’s south of Wyndam), to look for more 
finches and were greeted with extremely close up views of a Pacific Baza. The 
monkey is finally off my back as this has been my biggest bogey bird!
Wednesday September 23:           After a tip from a local birder, we went out 
at dawn to a location on Ivanhoe Rd to look for Yellow-rumped Mannikin. We 
found the spot and amid about l000 Star Finches, we found 2 Yellow-rumped 
Mannikins! After this, we went to the national park in Hidden Valley(Mirima) 
where we were treated to great views of White quilled Rock pigeon and Sandstone 
Shrike Thrush again. We continued on to our destination for the day which was 
again, Timber Creek.
Thursday September 24: Next morning, we checked at Policeman Point again and 
this time found about 20  Star finches with the other birds we had seen the 
other day. Then we made our way to the Victoria River crossing bridge where we 
were able to locate Purple-crowned Fairy wren. Later that day, we landed back 
in Pine Creek to enjoy a few hours around the town water gardens. Around 5.30 
pm, the local Hooded Parrots came in so we enjoyed spending time with around a 
dozen of these birds.
Friday September 25:                      We set off early next morning 
checking out Copperfield Dam for Partridge Pigeons(unsuccessfully) then started 
to make our way to Kakadu. We stopped at the road house just inside the park 
for breakfast and watched Red-collared Lorikeets and Northern Rosellas enjoying 
the sprinklers and bird baths. We continued on and checked out a number of 
sites along the way before heading to Nourlangie Rock, where we quickly found 
White-lined Honeyeater around the main cave paintings. We checked out the 
Bowali Visitors Information Centre near Jabiru looking for Partridge 
Pigeons(again dipped) but found an accommodating Channel-billed Cuckoo at the 
entrance.  We would booked in for a 4.30pm Yellow Waters tour so we quickly 
made our way back to Cooinda. On a previous trip, we were very disappointed 
with this cruise but this one was sensational. So many birding highlights but 
we were after one target, Little Kingfisher. Near the end of the trip, we were 
ready to accept defeat when the call from the cruise guide came out that she 
had a spotted a small kingfisher. To our great delight, it was a Little 
Kingfisher which our guide took us very close to! Another sensational tick! We 
stayed that night in a caravan Park in Jabiru.
Saturday September 26:  Up at 6am to check out the Visitor Information Centre 
near Jabiru again for Patridge Pigeon without any success. Then we heeded off 
to Gubara (about 20 south of Jabiru) for a 4km hike into the creek and pools 
surrounding the large rock formation. At the base of the rock, we collected 
another 2 White-Lined Honeyeaters. We continued onto the pools and after a long 
search, we finally found our key target species, the Banded Fruit Dove. It gave 
us sensational views as it sat on a dead tree and in the sunlight! Soon after, 
another one flew past the pools. Yahoo!!! After a long but happy hike back to 
our vehicle, we decided to head into Jabiru for an early lunch. As we left the 
township, we found about 15 Partridge Pigeons sitting in the shade on the side 
of the road on Jabiru Drive. They gave us excellent photo opportunities. This 
was a species we were desperate to photograph as it had eluded us before on 
many occasions in our travels around Australia. We then made our way to the 
Aurora campground about 80 kms away which would be our last place to stay in 
Kakadu. Amazingly, as we set up our campsite, a Rose crowned Fruit Dove flew 
into the small tree next to our van which gave us sensational views as it feed 
on the berries. This was another key target for the trip but we thought we 
would have to work a lot harder for this species!
Sunday September 27:                    We left our campsite early so we could 
do some birding before we hit Darwin. We stopped at the famous Adelaide River 
crossing bridge where we immediately go onto two Mangrove Golden Whistlers but 
they were not showing well. But a Rainbow Pitta was extremely accommodating so 
we enjoyed photographing this amid the mangroves. After this, we could not go 
into Darwin without a visit to Fogg Dam. On the way in, we had great views of 
an Australian Bustard on the road. It was extremely dry at Fogg Dam but we did 
manage to spend some time there and saw Jabiru, Arafura Fantail, Shining 
Flycacthers, Lemon bellied Flycatchers, Brush Cuckoo and more Rainbow Pittas in 
the carpark before the drive across the road that separates the waters. Then 
onto to Darwin we had an hour on the rocks at Nightcliffe searching for waders. 
We saw a number of good species including Pacific Golden Plovers in almost full 
breeding plumage and a Beach Stone Curlew.
Monday September 28:                  After checking out tide time, we ventured 
to Buffalo Creek in an endeavour to locate the Chestnut Rail not far from the 
boat ramp. We waited in the mangroves for 3 hours without any joy but we did 
hear it call from both sides of the creek a number of times! The rest of the 
day was spent checking out shore areas for Oriental Plover but again no joy 
although we thoroughly enjoyed the many waders around. That evening, we set 
ourselves up at Buffalo creek just before dusk hoping to see Large-tailed 
Nightjars. They began calling about 6.30pm and over the next two hours we found 
at least 4, but probably many more. But they were very difficult to photograph 
because as you shone the spotlight onto a bird, it would fly off. We were 
disappointed we did not get photos but the experience was well worth it despite 
being eaten alive by midgies.
Tuesday September 29:                  After a quick visit to the chemist for 
midgie bites, we headed back to Buffalo creek for another 3 hour stake out. 
Joining us were a group of birders with the same intention. Again, no joy and 
one theory was the super tides that have been occurring this week  basically 
means that the rails can feed further inside the mangroves. But we did get 
great photos of Common Sandpiper and Red-headed Honeyeaters at this location. 
Black Butcherbird and Striated Herons were also showing well. I have never seen 
so many Azure Kingfishers in the one location at Buffalo Creek so it is a great 
place to photograph them. Again, more time checking at known shore lines and 
visits to Knuckey Lagoons and other well-known birding sites around Darwin 
looking for Little Curlew although we realised it was a bit early for them. We 
managed great photos of a Grey Plover in full breeding plumage at East Point so 
that was exciting. After many calls to Leanyer Sewerage Farm, we were again 
denied access (having tried the day before) even though we had done the 
induction course on-line. Too many crocodiles around apparently! So we walked 
to the outside fence in very hot conditions but could not see the Little-ringed 
Plover which was one of our targets.
Wednesday September 30:           Yes, another trip to Buffalo Creek for 
another 3 hour stake out and again, no joy, even though we heard them calling 
every so often. Scoreline: BOK 0 Chestnut Rail 3! There were two Radjah 
Shelducks feeding in the saltwater at the mouth of the creek which was very 
unusual from my experiences. More visits to shore lines and we were eventually 
rewarded by locating a single Oriental Plover amid around 25 Pacific Golden 
Plovers at the rock shelf at Nightcliffe around 5pm as the tide was gushing in! 
Other waders there included Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, 
Whimbrel and Grey-tailed Tattlers. We were very excited about the Oriental 
Plover as that had been on our target list!
Thursday October 1:                       With a hide tide happening, we 
thought it would be a good idea to check out the Nightcliffe rock shelf again. 
This was a great idea as we found 30 plus Oriental Plovers! We think that they 
must have arrived during the night.  We also managed great shots of Gull-billed 
terns in full breeding plumage and Lesser-crested terns. More time at Buffalo 
Creek with again the same results. We again heard them calling but they would 
not present! We had a local tip that the Little Curlews had arrived back around 
Knuckey Lagoons’ but after checking these sites out, no joy! We spent the 
afternoon catching up on some sleep after such an exhausting trip in the 
comfort of an Air-conditioner – something very foreign to us over the last 
couple of weeks!
Friday October 2:                             Our last day in the NT. We 
decided to concentrate our search for the Little Curlew. Even though it was not 
on the target list, we felt that we may have a small chance of success, as we 
both have never seen one. We tried the potential spots but had no luck this 
time. A visit to the Mangrove Boardwalk at East Point proved terrific with the 
high tide where we photographed Yellow White Eye, Black Butcherbird and 
Broad-billed Flycatcher on a tiny nest with both male and female sharing nest 
duties. A walk out on the point at East Point gave us stunning views of both 
forms of the Reef Egret. Time to pack up and get ready for our trip home 

All in all, this has been an amazingly successful trip. Of our 20 targets, we 
managed to photograph 16 of these, saw another and heard the Chestnut Rail on 
many occasions. Another target we were denied access to and the last target, 
the Black-naped Tern, is just not here in Darwin from all recent reports. We 
did dip on the White-breasted Whistler in Wyndam but this was not on our target 
list as it was only a very, very remote chance.
I guess from all birding experiences, you come away a little wiser! There are 
mixed emotions of joy and disappointment. In this trip, there was far more joy 
than disappointment and the adrenaline rush of seeing and photographing a new 
bird is what drives us! But to spend time in a part of the country which is 
very unique, you can’t help but feel that your life is just that little bit 
more enriched!
I hope you have enjoyed this report and feel free to contact me for more 
details, copies of photo’s or advice.
Kind regards
Bernie OKeefe

Bernard O'Keefe

Applied Learning Coordinator
Caroline Chisholm Catholic College
204 Churchill Avenue, Braybrook. 3019

T:  03 9296 5311 | F: 03 9296 5381
E:  <>

[cid: <>  

This Email and any attachments may be confidential and, if you are not the 
intended recipient, you must not disclose or use the information in this mail. 
If received in error, please notify us immediately and delete the Email and all 
copies. Caroline Chisholm Catholic College does not guarantee that this Email 
is virus or error free.

The attached files are provided and may only be used on the basis that the user 
assumes all responsibility for any loss, damage or consequence resulting 
directly or indirectly from the use of the attached files, whether caused by 
the negligence of the sender or not.

The content and opinions in this Email are not necessarily those of Caroline 
Chisholm Catholic College.


Description: imagee29811.JPG

Attachment: imagebf7dc6.PNG
Description: imagebf7dc6.PNG

Attachment: image8eb64f.PNG
Description: image8eb64f.PNG

Attachment: image65db49.PNG
Description: image65db49.PNG

Attachment: image15c86d.PNG
Description: image15c86d.PNG

Attachment: image54e181.PNG
Description: image54e181.PNG


Description: image61c65f.JPG

Attachment: ATT00001.txt
Description: ATT00001.txt

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU