On the road to Kakadu

Subject: On the road to Kakadu
From: "Charles E V Nixon" <>
Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2001 18:07:40 +1100
                On the Road to Kakadu [Mary

I?ve recently come back from a short stay in N.T., starting with 3 days in
Darwin (my first visit), where, with more than a little help from Denise
Goodfellow, I caught up with the Zitting Cisticola and Rainbow Pitta, the
latter at Howard Springs. Alas, the Chestnut Rail proved elusive, as I
gather it often does, but I had no trouble with another ?lifer?, the
common Rufous-banded Honeyeater. Then I decided to explore further
afield: the helpful bloke behind the counter at the bus terminal
recommended staying at a place called Mary River Park, which I did, and
this proved to be the highlight of my trip. The Park is a privately run
establishment on the river in a lovely setting, with very cheap cabins
with ceiling fans, and more upmarket ones with A/C, plus a pool, BBQ
facilities, a vast dining area and a large shaded veranda from which in the
heat of the day I watched Forest Kingfishers, Red-tailed Black Cockies, a
Hobby, lots of Yellow Orioles and Blue-faced HEs, a gaggle of Blue-
winged Kookas, a very noisy Brush Cuckoo, scavenging Magpie Geese,
Corellas and much else. You can camp down near the river ( there are
powered sites), where the owners water in the Dry to encourage
rainforest vegetation which gets so systematically discouraged
elsewhere by burning. What decided me to try it out was the information
that the owners, Mike and Gina Ostwald, are actively seeking
birdwatchers as guests, and run specialised river (and land ) trips
catering specially for them: i.e. Mike stops for interesting birds, big or
small: crocs, though pointed out, are not top priority. This proved
correct. I am sure Mike would be the first to acknowledge that he still has
a bit to learn about birds, but he certainly knows what?s on ?his? river,
and where to find it.
        My bird list is a bit distorted because I spent more time on and along
the river, where the vegetation is dominated  by melaleuca and native
bamboo ( arnhemensis?), with some River Redgums and the odd
Leichhardt tree and red and white apple, than in the Darwin woollybutt
open woodland ( even hotter and less shaded!). Hence a lamentable lack
of finches, Partridge pigeons and the like.
Below is my list for the 3 days I spent there ( Oct.31 - Nov.2). I
?got? most of these by Day 2, some by walking along the river, many
others via the boat, plus a few more at nearby Bird Billabong. For a 1st
time visitor to the Darwin area without ground transport I would highly
recommend the ?Park?, though I stress that my experience in the area is
very limited !!

Brown Quail, Pelican, Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Magpie
Goose, Wandering and Plumed Whistling Duck, Burdekin Duck, Black
Duck, *Great-billed Heron ( 2 ad., 1 juv.), Pacific and Pied Heron, Cattle,
Great and Intermediate Egret, Nankeen Night Heron, Black Bittern ( 3 ),
Glossy, Sacred and Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Jabiru, Brolga,
Jacana, Bush Stone-curlew ( heard from my cabin at night), Masked
Lapwing, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel, Pied Stilt, *Osprey (a
way inland), Crested Hawk ( all right, Pac. Baza if you must: at least 6
individuals, a couple indulging in great courtship flights low over the
river), Black-breasted Buzzard (1), Whistling Kite, White-bellied Sea-
eagle, Brown Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Hobby, Brown Falcon,
Pied/Torresian Imperial Pigeon,  Peaceful and Bar-shouldered Dove, Red-
tailed Black and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Rainbow (Red-
collared) and Varied Lorikeet ( the latter common; one flock 70+), Red-
winged Parrot, Northern Rosella, Brush and Little Bronze Cuckoo, Koel,
Channel-billed Cuckoo, Pheasant Coucal, Azure, Forest and Sacred
Kingfisher, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Red-
backed Wren, Weebill, Green-backed Gerygone, Helmeted and Little
Friarbird, Blue-faced , White-gaped, White-throated, Brown and Dusky
Honeyeaters, Grey-crowned Babbler, *White-browed Robin, Little Shrike-
thrush, Rufous Whistler, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Fantail,
Leaden, Shining and Restless Flycatcher, Magpie-lark, Spangled Drongo,
Yellow Oriole, Figbird, Great Bowerbird, Black-faced and White-bellied
Cuckoo-shrike, Varied Triller, Torresian Crow, Double-barred and
Crimson Finch, Mistletoe-bird.  ( 90 sp., if I count aright!).
On my last morning I came upon an agitated Shining Flycatcher
hovering over the ground near a thick clump of bamboo: sure enough, a
huge olive(coloured) python with egg-breakfast on its mind. I dashed
back to get my camera, and naturally missed the drama ?
I next took the bus to Cooinda, where I was aghast at the
number of tourists ?the locals said it was awfully quiet ? but as usual, a
walk puts most of them behind one, and I was delighted to be able to
look down on White-browed Crakes from a metal ?board?-walk at Yellow
Waters, and watch Brolgas dance nearby, and add some more birds to
my trip list.
But I?ll have to go back and track down those Chestnut Rails!

Happy Birding all,
        Ted Nixon ( N. Sydney)

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