|Subject:||Top End trip report (longish)|
|From:||Rod Gardner <>|
|Date:||Mon, 22 Nov 2004 10:16:25 +1100|
I recently spent a few days in the Top End, with a hit list of nine species. Successful with seven.
After arriving in Darwin in the late evening of tenth, I was down at the Darwin Botanical Gardens before dawn, and the first confirmed sight record of the trip was the first target species: Rufous Owl, two individuals giving great views. A very good start.
I spent much of the day at Knuckey Lagoon, an excellent area at this time of year, a retreat for water birds of all sorts, and at the Snipe Swamp section I tried unsuccessfully for Garganey, but did see a Ruff, and whilst walking round the lagoon, flushed a Red-backed Button-quail from long grass. At the Fiddler's Land section, there was little water, hundreds of Magpie Geese, over 100 Little Curlew, another Ruff, but no Pectoral Sandpiper, Oriental Pratincole or Long-toed Stint that had been reported earlier, but I did pick up on a snipe, and good views through the 'scope suggested primary projection, clear white tail tips, a broad supercilium: enough for me to tick Swinhoe's Snipe, not only on geography. At least I tried.
The next day I headed towards Kakadu, making a couple of stops on the way. At Mary River, the owners were very welcoming. A half hour boat trip up the river was eventful, with another target species, Great-billed Heron, very obligingly allowing close approach, with two Barking Owls up in the trees in the background giving a nice binful of birds. Also seen on this trip were Black Bittern, several Rufous Night Herons, and a Saltwater and Freshwater croc loafing next to each other in the water.
Further on, into Kakadu, stopped at Mamukala, where an estimated 800,000 Magpie Geese had been reported a week or two ago. Numbers were down to maybe 10,000, but the walk turned up another bird from the hit list, unexpected at this site: Zitting Cisticola. The wet had not hit yet, so the cisticolas were not performing their singing dance, but this bird popped up to squeaking, and proceeded to show itself from all sides, so that the streaking, the white tail tips, the pale face etc. were all seen well. Out on the mud, all the pratincoles were Australian, rather than the hoped for Orientals.
Next major stop was Gunlom for White-throated Grasswren. The night was unpleasant: very hot and humid, and I couldn't sleep outside the tent because of insects. Next morning the trek up to the escarpment was hot and hard, and at the top I found virtually the whole valley burnt out: just about all the mature Spinifex was gone. That meant no grasswrens, though I did try at all the (few) remaining stands of Spinifex, and great views of Sandstone Shrike-thrush were a minor compensation.
So the first dip of the trip, and that afternoon, exhausted by the heat, and not prepared to spend more time in hot, blackened country, I headed back towards Darwin, stopping at Adelaide River for the night. On the Monday I was going to try for three more. After a good early morning at Howard Springs, with highlights being great views of Rainbow Pitta to a few feet, and Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, I set off to pick up the permit for Leanyer Sewage Works. There were thousands of birds here, including the third Ruff of the trip, three Yellow Wagtails, and a single Little Ringed Plover (three had been reported), the sixth target bird of the trip.
A Holmes Jungle Swamp an Oriental Pratincole had been reported a few days before, but the dry lagoons had only three Brolga and a few Golden-headed Cisticolas, though I did flush a second Zitting Cisticola for the trip on the way back to the car.
It was then back to Knuckey Lagoon, and the Stuart Highway site, which had ten wader species, including two more Australian Pratincoles, but alas no Orientals. Back to the Snipe Swamp section for the fourth time, and once again I carefully went through the hundreds of stripe-faced duck looking for a stripe-faced duck, and finally, after hours of searching, there it was: a female/immature Garganey out in the open feeding. Also seen on this visit were two White-browed Crakes.
I spent the rest of the day visiting a number of Darwin spots, bringing the wader species total for the trip up to thirty (without really trying), and finding out only after I'd left that there had been 'hundreds' of Oriental Pratincoles at Fogg Dam. Still, seven out of nine had to be satisfactory. The total was 158 species for the trip, though I didn't go out of my way for any of them, apart from the targeted birds.
Many thanks to Niven McCrie for his help and advice in planning this trip.
Dr Rod Gardner
Department of Linguistics
School of Modern Language Studies
University of New South Wales
Tel: ±61 2 9385 1454
Fax: ±61 2 9385 8723
CRICOS Provider Code 00098G
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