birding-aus NT trip report part2 - LONG

Subject: birding-aus NT trip report part2 - LONG
From: Ian Fraser <>
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:17:00 +1000 (EST)
KAKADU: GUNLOM. I have to confess that I'm not as smitten with this as a
campsite as others have been, but to be fair I don't really regard it as
camping if I am aware of anyone else! Even in the pre-peak season when we
were there, the campground was very crowded. The expected mammals didn't
eventuate, partly because there was nowhere vacant to shine a spotlight!
Unless you really feel you need the facilities you might consider the basic
Kanbolgie Creek site on the way in; no-one used it while we were there, and
in addition to T&T's Rufous Owl (7.19) we are told it is good for mammals at
night. The walk up onto the plateau is a delight, though needless to say the
White-throated Grasswrens didn't oblige (nor at nearby Jurmikmik, or other
likely roadside spots - well over 6 hours in all. Next time?)
At Gunlom, no Pittas have been reported to the camp manager (not a birdo) in
the past 2 years; this doesn't of course that mean no-one's seen and not
reported however!
KAKADU; STAG CREEK. (T&T 7.14) Unfortunately this old mine site is now
sternly labelled with official radiation signs warning you to keep well out,
which is probably good advice. (While on the subject, you might like to
enjoy the lovely Gimbat, on the South Alligator below Coronation Hill,
before the same signs go up there?)
KAKADU; BAARK WALK, NOURLANGIE ROCK. For this one we are indebted to Andrew
Taylor's report on birding-aus (sorry Andrew - I didn't keep your address!).
It's one of the best walks we've ever done. I hesitate slightly before
giving full access details, since the NT Parks Service doesn't widely
advertise it, because of the potential hazards of unprepared people doing a
somewhat strenuous 12k in the heat. On the other hand, we're 50ish, and
don't mind a decent meal and a glass, so there's a good statistical chance
that you're younger and fitter than us! To get there walk past the
Anbangbang art sites to the last one, take the loop track to Gunwardewarde
LO; the Baark Walk, finally sign-posted and with a map in the box, leaves
from it. At the top of the climb on to the plateau we saw our first Banded
Fruit-dove. Sandstone Shrike-thrushes called to each other in the sandstone
maze, just above our heads, and as we looked down into orange-flowering
Eucalyptus phoenicea, a mixed feeding flock finally brought with it a single
White-lined Honeyeater. Just a minor warning; on the plateau they have been
profligate with their orange arrows, scattering them like confetti in
places. However at the start of the walk, and during the descent and
thereafter, they were much more parsimonious; watch ahead, and for signs of
feet! The spectacular Nanguluwur art site is an added bonus.
To camp near here, you could use the pleasant-looking Muirella campground,
but another 6k past there will take you to the sublime Sandy Billabong,
which is like camping in a Kakadu postcard. There are no facilities, and
likely to be no people! (If you plan to go, please check first that we won't
be using it?)
KAKADU; SOUTH ALLIGATOR CROSSING. (Donato p52). We called up the Zitting
Cisticolas quite easily from the tall grass by the boat ramp. The
illustrations in Pizzey and S&D differ ridiculously; we relied on the advice
in Lloyd Nielsen's Birds of Queensland's Wet Tropics?, and easily saw the
white tail tip as they perched high on the grass.
FOGG DAM. At the beginning of the 'Woodland to waterlilies' walk we got
excellent views of Broad-billed Flycatchers, including from below. It's one
of those birds that you agonise over in advance, but when you finally see
it, you know without doubt!
ADELAIDE RIVER. (T&T 7.12) Unfortunately there are now very anti-birding
signs telling you to keep off the bridge, and the track under it stops
immediately at a locked gate!
DARWIN; EAST POINT. The only place we saw Rainbow Pitta (thereby becoming
the only people in history not to see them at Howard Springs?).
DARWIN; BUFFALO CREEK. (Donato p29). A lovely and accessible area of
mangrove; note that to go along the creek as recommended, you must cross the
subsidiary creek by the carpark by a little weldmesh bridge. Thereafter is a
maze of little sandy tracks. We saw nothing very unusual in a couple of
short visits, but closeups of Collared Kingfisher, Yellow White-eye,
Broad-billed Flycatcher were nice.
DARWIN; CHANNEL ISLAND. (Donato p33). This really is a superb mangrove walk!
If the gate is locked, you don't strictly need the key - there is room to
slip through. After the walkway, just after the 'Mangrove Walkway' sign, I
can assure you that it IS possible to miss the right turn over the small
ridge, despite the branches across the track to prevent you! It was just
here, where the mangroves and woodland meet, that I found a very curious and
obliging Mangrove Grey Fantail. Be cautious of the last few metres of
walkway, especially if the tide is up - the support beams are badly rotted,
and the whole structure lists alarmingly! On the drive back, it is worth
checking down into the mangroves from the road on both sides of the bridge
for White-breasted and Mangrove Golden Whistler.
GREGORY NP; VICTORIA RIVER CROSSING. This really is the only place to camp
in the east section of the park; Sullivan Ck is tiny, and packed like a
caravan sales yard. It's behind the VRC service station, and has lots of
birdy trees and tall grass fringing the river. There were Star Finches by
our tent. (And I have no problem with Star Finches; I don't require birds to
conform to a late 20thC Euro-Australian code of aesthetics! In fact I' m
quite promiscuous in enjoying all birds as they are!)
GREGORY NP; ESCARPMENT WALK. This is the walk described, but not named, by
T&T. We saw White-quilled Rock-pigeons just above us (I reckon the key is
their very loud wing clatter) even before we got to the escarpment. This is
just below where T&T recommend you leave the walk at Stop 4 and do a search.
Aside from this, it is yet another stunning walk, well interpreted, great
views; and looking down onto the cliff faces near the end, we had good views
of basking Short-eared Rock-wallabies.
Incidentally, we had trouble with Donato's 'River Lookout' walk. In fact,
we've got no idea where it is!
GREGORY NP; JOE CREEK WALK.  See Donato et al p70. Another 'must'; we did it
later in the day than ideal (you can't do everything first!), though most of
it, being at the cliff base, is shaded until midday. I reckon you'd be a
show for the Rock-pigeon here too, if they descend like the Chestnut-quilled
does. Worth it for the (undescribed) palms alone!
GREGORY NP; OLD VICTORIA RIVER CROSSING. More Star Finches, and Pictorella
Manikins. Unfortunately for birdos, most of the finches here breed late wet
- early dry, so there are large flocks consisting solely of hard-to-identify
brown juveniles!
GREGORY NP; BULLITA (WESTERN) SECTION.  Large flocks of finches (especially
Pictorellas) on the way in. Astonishingly too, a Grey Wagtail on the road on
15 June, just 2k off the main park road, on the track into Limestone Gorge.
Was also a flock of 36 Spinifex Pigeons along here.
On the way out, about 5k back on the park access road, after turning out of
the Limestone Gorge road, 1 adult (red-headed) and about 5 immature
Gouldians with a large flock of Long-tails.
TIMBER CREEK. Whilst undoubtedly the centre of Australian finchdom, none of
the 'specials' were home when we were there. The airport's got us bluffed
too; the 'No Admittance' sign on the gate was a bit discouraging!
ELLIOTT. We were defeated by Donato's Longreach Waterhole (p79). The track
west 'immediately after the grid just north of Elliott' skirts a sale yard
and ends just afterwards in a sand quarry. This was disappointing, as it
sounds great!
ALICE SPRINGS. This section of the trip was seriously disrupted by a seized
front wheel bearing 300k north of AS, 20k north of Barrow Creek. [Memo; if
you intend to do such a thing, try to have a partner who is willing to bowl
up to the first semi-trailer that pulls up, and negotiate a lift for the car
to AS for one sixth of the towing fee!] We couldn't camp as planned in the
MacDonnells, and were hampered by the non-4WD hire car.
In a tree just off of Todd Mall, central AS, a Western Bowerbird!
AS; TELEGRAPH STATION. As an introduction, try the Stuart Walk (unnamed on
the ground, but crosses the river at the foot of the picnic area). It is
very attractive, and gives a good selection of dry country birds, including
WEST MACDONNELLS; ORMISTON POUND WALK. This walk is just stunning. Do it!
It's an easy 7k circuit, and is one of the loveliest and most dramatic walks
we've ever done. (This despite the fact that, as with our whole stay in the
centre, we were severely impeded by a hard cold wind which kept any sensible
bird deep in the spinifex, and made them impossible to hear.) In fact we saw
neither Spinifexbird and Emu-wren on this one; even the 'very common' Dusky
Grasswrens' didn't appear until the sheltered gorge towards the end.
WEST MACDONNELLS; OCHRE PITS. (see Donato p99). The only place we saw
Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, at the edge of the ochre, alongside the creek
opposite the walk start. While unobtrusive, they were not at all shy, and
allowed us to watch them from less than 10m.
ANDADO TRACK.  This comprises sections E and D of Donato's 'South-east
Desert Loop'; we continued down to Dalhousie Springs and Oodnadatta. It is
simply beautiful. You don't strictly need 4WD (though a couple of sandy
sections could be a bit challenging), but you need high clearance and some
pretty tough suspension! On the high dune just 4k before the turnoff to Mac
Clarke Acacia peuce Reserve (30 south of Highway Bore) we easily found
Eyrean Grasswrens; they're probably all along, but this was our only
non-windy day! Gibber Chats are pretty common, and we found a flock of 20-30
Banded Whiteface by the track south of Old Andado - much easier than when we
previously tracked them down on the Strzelecki Track!
WITJIRA NP (SA).  You can camp with everyone else at the pretty exposed
campground at Dalhousie Springs, or have a sheltered site probably to
yourself at the 3 O'Clock Creek camp ground 13k north of it. As a bonus,
Bourkes Parrots are common along the creek (and probably at any Red Mulga
(Acacia cyperophylla) creek).
LYNDHURST WHITEFACE SITE. Just for the record; while we missed them in the
couple of middle-of-the-day hours we had, we met up with Lyn Peddler
studying them for the SAOA, and they'd been around that morning (of
course!). In the current dry season they are apparently not easy.
Well that's about it - hope it's of some use (especially as my portable word
processor threw a wobbly, and I've had to reconstruct much of this!). A good
trip of 366 spp, ending inauspiciously with our trusty 4WD on its side in
the notorious black soil north of Willandra NP in the Riverina. But you
can't let a small thing like that spoil the other great memories!

Ian Fraser, Canberra  
Environment Tours; Vertego Environmental Writing Consultancy
GPO Box 3268, Canberra, ACT 2601
ph: 02 6249 1560  fax: 02 6247 3227

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