Jann and I spent two weeks this month travelling from Darwin to Kakadu NP
to Katherine to Kununurra and back to Darwin.
Fabulous weather up there at this time of the year, with maximum
temperatures in the low 30's and relatively low humidity. Unfortunately
this also increases the number of tourists around, but you can't have
As far as the birds go, I make two observations about a June trip to this
part of Australia. Firstly, it is early in the dry season, and particularly
this year after a near record wet, there was a lot of water around (most of
the creeks still had water in them and many were still running) so the
birds are much more dispersed than they will be later in the dry. Secondly,
being the southern winter, there are no waders or other migrants (the only
exception we observed were a couple of Pied Imperial Pigeons which may be
Good news on the introduced species front - the only ones observed were
Feral Pigeons in Darwin, although these seemed to be around in much greater
numbers than we have previously seen there.
In Darwin we managed some firsts (for one or both of us) being Zitting
Cisticola, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Chestnut Rail and Rufous Owl. Great start.
Other northern goodies we spotted there included Long Tailed Finch, Rajah
Shelduck, Green Pygmy Goose, Lemon Bellied Flycatcher, Black Butcherbird,
Crimson Finch, Mangrove Robin, Yellow Oriole, Helmeted Friarbird, White
Gaped, Dusky and Red Headed Honeyeaters, and Rainbow Pitta.
Off to South Alligator River via Fogg Dam where we added to our list,
including Australian Pratincole, Comb Crested Jacana, Red Backed
Kingfisher, Brush Cuckoo, Shining, Restless, Leaden and Broad Billed
Flycatchers, White Throated, Rufous Banded and Rufous Throated Honeyeaters,
Forest Kingfisher, all of the Egrets (except Cattle and Eastern Reef which
we had seen in Darwin), Black Bittern, Pied Heron, Black Necked Stork, and
Wandering Whistling Duck. At South Alligator, we added Red Winged Parrot,
Varied Lorikeet, Black Tailed Trecreeper and Bush Stone Curlew among
others, but the day's highlight came from some after dinner spotlighting
we spotted four Barking Owls and two Southern Boobooks within a few
of the bridge over the South Alligator River. Barking Owls were also
calling (all night it seemed) at the motel.
At Jabiru and Nourlangie Rock we added several species including Partridge
Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Great Bowerbird, Australian Hobby, and Silver Crowned
Yellow Water at Cooinda held fewer birds than I have seen on several other
trips (including in the dry) but included Brolga, Rufous Night Heron and
White Bellied Sea Eagle. The first Magpie Geese had arrived only about a
week earlier, and were still few in number (approx 500).
At Waterfall Creek we picked up Bar Breasted Honeyeater, Chestnut Quilled
Rock Pigeon, Variegated Fairy Wren, and what for us was another first and
the highlight of the trip, White Throated Grasswren. We have looked at
Waterfall Creek on three prior occasions without success. We think there
were four birds in the group, although we didn't ever see more than three
at one time. YAHOO !!
At Pine Creek our additions to the list included Red Backed Fairy Wren,
Masked Finch, Yellow Tinted Honeyeater, Grey (Silver Backed) Butcherbird, a
much more striking bird than its southern cousins, and Little Woodswallow.
West of Katherine our additions included Apostlebird, Diamond Dove,
Australian Heron, Blue Faced Honeyeater, and at Victoria River Black
Breasted Buzzard and Banded Honeyeater.
At Kununurra we spotted amongst others Star Finch, Long Tailed Finch
(Yellow bills compared to the orange bills further east) Owlet Nightjar,
Brown Quail, Spinifex Pigeon, Red Browed Pardalote, White Browed (Buff
Sided) Robin, Northern Rosella, Tawny Grassbird, Spotted Harrier,
Australian Bustard, and Yellow Rumped Mannikin. We spent a morning on Lake
Argyle, where we totalled 72 species mainly around where the Ord river
enters the lake - a fabulous place. Highlights included Sandstone Shrike
Thrush, Plumed Whistling Duck, Caspian Tern, Swamp Harrier, Black Eared
Cuckoo, Purple Crowned Fairy Wren, Budgerigar, Glossy Ibis and White
Quilled Rock Pigeon. A disappointment here was our failure to find Yellow
Chat which would have been a first. They had been reported on an island in
the lake but we dipped - I guess a lot of birders have done a lot of
searching for Yellow Chats!
A side trip to Wyndham and Marglu Billabong (SE Wyndham) added a few
species including Little Eagle, Brahminy Kite, and Yellow White Eye.
On the return journey we stopped at Timber Creek for a night, adding Little
Shrike Thrush, Grey Fronted Honeyeater, Spotted Nightjar and best of all,
Gouldian Finches. We saw several in the town, including a red faced male,
and 15 near the town including two separate families each with two adults,
one pair feeding five and the other pair four fledged young. The big wet
has left grass flourishing, and I suspect the finches will have a good
season. We also spotted two other groups of Gouldians on our trip, in
Gregory National Park near the old homestead, and about 10km down the
Buntine Highway (Delamere Road), a total of 29 in all. Not bad considering
our only previous sighting of Gouldians was on the Fergusson River several
years ago when a large flock flew just as we spotted them and just as our
binos fogged up (wet season and we jumped out of an air conditioned car!) A
disappointment here was that we did not see Pictorella Mannikin (although
we have on a previous trip).
We again spotted Purple Crowned Fairy Wrens a few km west of the well known
site at Victoria River Crossing, and back in Darwin we added a few more
including Collared Kingfisher.
Altogether a great trip, especially given we missed the very cold weather
Sydney experienced over the Queen's birthday weekend. Total 191 species
including five lifers!!! EMail me if you want a list.
Special thanks to Denise Goodfellow for her advice and assistance in
Darwin, and to Steve Sharpe of Lake Argyle Cruises who took us out on the
lake, to Frank O'Connor and Niven McCrie for their Web Site information,
and to those who responded to our RFI before the trip.
Ross and Jann
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