A Brief trip to the Top End - even briefer!!

To: Birding-Aus <>,
Subject: A Brief trip to the Top End - even briefer!!
From: Steve Potter <>
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2010 21:24:52 +0700
Hi all,
Sitting in Medan, North Sumatra, waiting to fly to Nias Island, so not nuch
Flew to Singapore from Adelaide via Darwin on Jetstar (emphasis 1 star..) so
had a day to kill and wanted to pick up a few my Bro and I had missed Oct
Arrived 1.30am - 30 mins early?? Slept in hire car in airport carpark til
Maccas opened for breaky.
Drove to Mary River Excavation pits for dawn. Found it to be flooded after
the wet and held nothing at all. Sucks - there goes my Gouldian Finch...
Drove to Mary River Park. 2 hours of exellent birding but no targets found??
Next Marrakai Track (5 kms in). Road was good and dry!! Grass too high for
Button-quail but did get onto Banded HE (lifer) amoung many others.
Next Adelaide River crossing for Mangrove Golden Whistler. 2nd bird I saw
(lifer). Still amazed this is a seperate species.. save a few extra golden
feathers up the neck, it's the same bird as its southern friend, call and
all!! Especially when you compare it to a Yellow version of the Crimson
Rosella!! Oh well - leave that to the experts.....
Off to Fogg Dam. One of my favorite spots on earth... Brilliant and capped
off with excellent veiws of Rainbow Pitta, and Mangrove Robin (lifer). Still
can't find Leaden Flycatcher but I did see what I thought to be many
Broadbills??? Oh more Nankeen Hight Herons than you could pock a stick at.
Lastly flew to Baffalo creek to see if I could find the Redshank. No, but
did manage a few other fun ones including Red-headed HE.
9 hours straight. No food, One bottle of water, No wees. 289kms. 79 species,
3 lifers, 50 new ones for the year!!
Check for details....
Next day I picked up 4 lifers in Singapore including Blue-eared
Now to Nias!!
Fun times.
Steve Potter

 A Brief trip to the Top End
  from [*Rob 
] [Permanent 
  *To*:   *Subject*: A Brief trip to the Top End *
From*: Rob Geraghty <  *Date*: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 00:18:38 -0700 (PDT)

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).



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