A Brief trip to the Top End - correction

Subject: A Brief trip to the Top End - correction
From: Rob Geraghty <>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2010 02:50:19 -0700 (PDT)
I incorrectly identified the Black Cormorants I saw at Fogg Dam as Great 
Cormorants.  They were in fact Little Black Cormorants.  My apologies.  I 
confess to being too dazzled by the Pied Herons, Royal Spoonbills, Crimson 
Finches and Jacana at the time. :)

Rob Geraghty

----- Original Message ----
From: Rob Geraghty <>
Sent: Tue, April 13, 2010 5:18:38 PM
Subject: A Brief trip to the Top End

Hi Everyone!

On the weekend I had the opportunity to have a quick look at a few 
places close to Darwin.  Unfortunately since I was rushed, I missed a 
lot of birds which were heard but not seen.  My thanks in advance to Denise 
Goodfellow as well as folks from the COG mailing list for pointers on places to 

Around Darwin itself, the most common birds I saw were Magpie Larks and Brown 
with Figbirds (ashbyi) crowded into their favourite food trees.  A 
couple of trees in the CBD were also a roosting site for hundreds of 
Rainbow Lorikeets.  In open areas, Masked Lapwings seemed very common, 
as well as Bar-Shouldered and Peaceful Doves.  Outside urban areas, 
Whistling Kites seemed to be everywhere.  A short walk at East Point 
Reserve saw Masked Lapwings, Magpie Larks, Brown Honeyeaters, Peaceful 
Doves, Red Tailed Black Cockatoos (macrorhynchus), Helmeted Friarbirds, 
Bar Shouldered Doves, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Grey Tailed Tattler, and 
Lesser Sand Plover, as well as a pair of passing Herons which were 
probably Great Billed Herons.  Where I was staying at Cullen Bay, Beach 
Stone Curlews could be heard calling at night from time to time.

In the farmland and forest edges to the north east of Darwin, I saw both 
Pied Butcherbirds (picatus) and one Silver-backed Butcherbird, as well 
as more Red Tailed Black Cockatoos and ubiquitous Lapwings and Whistling Kites.

On Saturday, I drove out to Fogg Dam, which was by far 
the highlight as far as birds were concerned.  Unfortunately, visitors 
were being advised not to walk across the causeway since a large 
Estuarine Crocodile had been spotted in the area, but you could drive 
across to the well-built observation platform on the far side.  The dam 
was filled with a profusion of water lilies and fish.  In the middle of 
the causeway, a narrow section had water running over it to a depth of a few 
centimetres.  Just above it, giant Saratoga could be seen hunting 
small fish in the shallow water.  Just below, any fish which made it 
past the Saratoga would have to run a crowded gauntlet of Pied Herons, 
Little Egrets and Great Cormorants.  The road ends at the observation 
platform.  In the stream just beyond, ranks of Little Egrets, Royal 
Spoonbills, Great Cormorants, Little Pied Cormorants, and White Ibis 
were fishing along with a lone Jabiru and a lone Radjah Shelduck.  In 
grass at the water's edge, about a half a dozen Crimson Finches 
and a Willie Wagtail flitted from place to place.  After taking a few 
photos, I got back in the car and drove slowly across the causeway.  
Just near where the water broke over the road, a pair of Comb-crested 
Jacana froze at the edge of the water lilies, giving me the chance to 
take photos of everything except their amazing feet.  Later, a local 
explained to me that the popular name for them is "the Jesus bird" 
because of the way their feet allow them to walk across the lilies as 
though they are walking on water.  While I was watching the Jacana, a 
Whistling Kite landed on a short post at the water's edge, apparently 
hoping to snag a fish.

Sadly, one of the walks was closed due to 
the crocodile threat, but the Monsoon Forest walk gave me a great view 
of a Leaden Flycatcher and a Yellow Footed Scrubfowl.  There were many 
other birds high up in the trees, but the only other one I managed to 
get a look at was a Little Bronze Cuckoo.  At one point I disturbed a 
Quail of some sort, but it escaped identification.

I then drove a little further along the Arnhem Highway to the Adelaide River 
and took a trip on a boat with "Jumping Crocodile Cruises".  The crocs were 
spectacular, as was the White Sea Eagle and Whistling Kites.  The only 
other birds I noted were a single and scared Little Egret and a lone 
Magpie Goose, presumably winging its way somewhere less dangerous.

I then backtracked west and saw the last couple of hours of daylight in 
Litchfield National Park.  At the Magnetic Termite Mounds, I saw Blue 
Faced Honeyeaters, Brown Honeyeaters, Bee Eaters, and a Sulphur Crested 
Cockatoo and although I could hear many finches amongst the grass that 
was pretending to be miniature bamboo, I saw none.  At Florence Falls I 
tried a short loop walk upstream of the waterfall which is paved with 
stones and very educational in terms of the informative signs.  Two 
signs include a thermometer and a hygrometer, making it possible to 
compare the temperature and humidity on the open-forested hill (24.5C, 
78%) with the monsoon forested gully (33C, 100%).  The signs provide 
inspiration for gardeners from the natural forest.  There weren't a lot 
of birds, but I caught a glimpse of a Great Bowerbird as well as 
Spangled Drongos, Brown Honeyeaters, a White Bellied Cuckoo Shrike and 
an unknown Friarbird, probably a Helmeted.  Further into
the park, 
Tolmer Falls were spectacular, but surprisingly devoid of birds at 

More experienced birders would have spotted many more 
species even in the same short trip, but I was quite happy with the new 
species I'd seen.  I do wish I'd got to Fogg Dam a little earlier, so I 
could have walked to the end to the Monsoon Forest walk and perhaps 
caught a glimpse of a Rainbow Pitta.  Perhaps another time, except if I 
get another chance to look for birds in NT, I'd like to try to track 
down a Gouldian Finch.

I managed to find a copy of "Finding Birds in Darwin Kakadu & the Top End" by 
Niven McCrie and James Watson at Dymocks in the Casuarina shopping centre on 
the Friday night; it was 
apparently the only place in Darwin where late night shopping happens.  
The staff member at Dymocks was extremely helpful, discovering the book 
for me in the travel section rather than with the rest of the bird and 
animal books.  The book is very detailed with respect to the areas that 
it covers, and includes species specific information for the region as 
well as a checklist.  My main suggestion for an improvement would be to 
consider the addition of GPS coordinates to assist travelers from 
distant lands.

In my description I haven't mentioned the 
weather.  Over the last week in Darwin it has been around 33C every day, with 
daily tropical showers and thunderstorms.  The humidity varied 
between steamy and soaking wet.  In the swampy areas, the mosquitoes may carry 
Ross River virus or possibly Dengue.  The sea is off limits due 
to Box Jellyfish, and great care needs to be taken near water due to 
crocodiles.  Sadly, the number of smaller reptiles is falling due to the 
profusion of Bufo marinus (Cane Toads).


Rob Geraghty


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