Continuing my Darwin report..
No rest for the birder (and my apprentice birders), we were up at 5am for a
drive down to the township of Pine Creek. Despite the limited time I had in NT
I wanted to see at least one uncommon bird and Hooded Parrots seemed like a
nice choice with Pine Creek being mentioned as a reliable site. The drive down
was uneventful with mainly black and whistling kites, and one Wedge-tailed
We arrived at Pine Creek at 7:50am and went straight to the small park near the
hotel and gas station which is mentioned in Niven’s book. A quick scan
revealed a pair of birds on the ground, we moved closer and they turned out to
be Northern Rosellas, not what we were after, but another new bird anyway. The
park also had Galahs (much paler and less pink), Masked Lapwings, Magpie Larks
and Yellow-throated Miners but no sign of Hooded Parrots. We had all but
decided to move on to the next location when a single Hooded Parrot landed in
the tree next to our car. A couple of minutes later a further five birds flew
in, shortly followed by another group which included the beautifully colored
male. We spent some time watching and photographing these beautiful birds
which seemed completely at ease with us as they foraged on the grass near our
The mine lookout and water tower at Pine Creek were less exciting with only
Red-tailed Black Cockatoos being sighted. The Pine Creek Sewage Ponds had
Australasian Grebe, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Black-wing Stilts and Black-fronted
Dotterals. Driving back to the township we made a stop to photograph some
termite mounds which turned out to be a good choice as we saw Mistletoebirds,
Grey-crowned Babblers, White Bellied and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes,
White-throated Gerygone, Varied Sittella and three Bustards.
The Pine Creek Water Gardens had Galahs, Figbirds, White-gaped Honeyeater,
Rainbow Bee-eaters and another new bird, White-winged Triller. Thanks to a tip
by some locals we also found a Great Bowerbird's bower, although the Bowerbird
was somewhat shy and it took a while before we got good views.
Leaving Pine Creek, we stopped at the Adelaide River pub for lunch and enjoyed
barra and chips whilst surrounded by Great Bowerbirds, Kites and Pied Imperial
Pigeons. While there I also saw my first Lemon-bellied Flycatcher.
Arriving back in Darwin late afternoon we headed straight to the Botanical
Gardens for the Rufus Owls. Unfortunately we were out of luck as they could
not be seen in the regular tree or any of the surrounding trees. Nor was there
any sign of them in their second regular location near the garden’s higher
carpark/rainforest walk. The next day we phoned the garden’s caretaker and he
said the owls had not been seen since the tree had been pruned back???
My last day in NT and first stop was Fogg Dam. We arrived just before sunrise
and drove across the dam wall to the observation tower to watch the sunrise.
Sunrise was just magical, as the sun climbed the colors in the sky made for
great photos while the morning chorus of bird calls increased in intensity.
Flocks of Magpie Geese were all over the area, Egrets and Pied Herons could be
seen in the grass and water, Black-necked storks, Radjah Shelducks and
Wandering Whistling Ducks were all in the small lagoon close to the tower. The
surrounding native and Pandanus forest was alive with birds darting around and
calling, Crimson Finches, Mistletoebirds, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Yellow Figbirds,
Rose-crowned Fruit-doves, Pied Imperial Pigeons, Rufus-banded Honeyeaters, my
first Restless (Paperbark) Flycatchers and Broad-billed Flycatchers (another
new tick). The walk back across the wall was fantastic with great views of
Green Pygmy Geese, Jacanas, Pied Herons, Brolgas and a few more Pratincoles.
Next, we took the ‘woodlands to lilies’ walk through the forest. We didn’t see
a lot of birds but made up for it with another three Rainbow Pittas, Yellow
Oriole, Shining Flycatchers, Spangled Drongo and the ever present Scrubfowls.
The Adelaide River crossing is only a short drive from Fogg Dam and it came up
in my research as a good location to see the Mangrove Golden Whistler. Despite
spending an hour looking, we dipped on the Whistler. Plenty of
Restless/Paperbark Flycatchers though, more Crimson Finches and what I’m sure
were Green-backed Gerygones calling (although none were seen). Since we were
there we went on the Jumping Crocodile tour (which runs from the crossing). I
hadn’t planned to go croc watching, but I’m glad I did the tour as it was just
amazing. As boat turned around to go back, the crew started throwing small
bits of meat out to the Kites and all of a sudden we were surrounded by about
30 Whistling and Black Kites swooping and turning less than a metre from us.
Back at Darwin our next stop was Lee Point, but it was too hot for a lot birds
to be found with the highlight being a couple of the NT Striated Pardalotes.
Since we were close, we made a quick stop at Buffalo Creek but again the day’s
heat made birds very scarce.
My final location for the trip was the Nightcliff esplanade walk which was
quite good with Pied Imperial Pigeons, Brown Honeyeaters, Helmeted Friarbirds,
Figbirds, Bar-shouldered and Peaceful Doves, Red-collared Lorikeets and the
ever present Black Kites easily seen. After a long, hot day we all enjoyed
some Barra and chips while we watched the sun set over the ocean.
All up, my first trip to Darwin was excellent. I had a hit list of 30 new
birds which I reasonably thought I could find given the time available and
locations I wanted to see and I ended up with 26 so I’m very pleased. The final
total was about 115 birds.
I had some notable misses including Green-backed Gerygone (possibly ‘heard’ and
whilst I saw a few ‘Gerygone’ looking birds none stood out as being
‘Green-backed’), Silver-crowned Friarbirds also kept themselves well hidden. I
also dipped on Varied Lorikeets, Rufus-throated Honeyeater, Masked Finch, the
NT Whistlers (Grey, White-breasted and Mangrove), not one Fantail was seen and
I’m sure I heard a Black Butcherbird but it remained well hidden. No crakes or
bitterns were seen at Fogg Dam (we were probably too late by the time we got to
the lilies walk) and I ran out of time to try for the Chestnut Rail or
Great-billed Heron at Buffalo Creek. I also dipped on the Black-breasted
Buzzard which I hoped to see on our Pine Creek trip. All part of the fun I
guess and anyway, now I have an excuse to return.
Niven McCrie’s book is excellent and certainly made planning the trip much
easier. There is a wealth of info, details, trip reports and advice in the
Birding-Aus archives which was also very handy. If anyone wants further info
please drop me an email (use my work address if you need a quick reply
Thanks, hope you enjoyed my report and happy
birding. Lee Mason Hervey Bay, QLD
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