Congratulations on your great shots - I love your Little Kingfisher! Your trip
wasn't really that disappointing - you got a lot of good bird species up there.
The lizard at Gunlom is a Ctenophorus caudicinctus (Ring-tailed
----- Original Message ----
From: Jeremy Weiss <>
Sent: Thu, June 24, 2010 7:28:09 PM
Subject: Top End in June, trip report.
I want to thank everyone for all the great advice for my trip to the Top
Had an amazing time and absolutely perfect weather compared to what
Melbourne is going through :)
Here's a trip report i've scrawled out, my first trip report so be gentle.
Me and my Dad left Melbourne Friday night.
The basic outline of the trip was to stay 2 nights in Darwin, 3 in Kakadu
and 3 at Fogg Dam, leaving Saturday morning.
I was lugging around a Canon 7d, 300/2.8 and teleconverters throughout the
trip so doing a lot of walks was a bit of a hassle but ultimately it was all
worth it. Anyway on to the trip:
Saturday 12 June
We arrived in Darwin at 12am on Saturday the 12th of June. After getting a
4wd from the airport we headed to the Holiday Inn in Darwin and slept till
After some breakfast we headed for Buffalo Creek as our first stop.
There we saw about a half a dozen Black and Whistling Kites around the beach
area and flying overhead. We would see hundreds more by the time the trip
A power line running through the area gave us Rainbow Bee-eater,
Bar-Shouldered Dove and a very indifferent Forest Kingfisher that I took
about a hundred shots of.
Around the area was: Varied Triller (new), Rufous-Banded Honeyeaters (new),
Green-backed Gerygones (new), Yellow White-eye (new), Brown Honeyeater
(new), Double-barred finch (new), Red-headed Honeyeaters (new) and Masked
Flying overhead were the first Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (new) of the trip,
would see a lot more of them later as well.
Over the creek I got a blurry shot of a Gull-billed Tern (new) and at the
boat ramp we saw a grey morph Eastern Reef Egret (new) fishing.
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes and Figbirds were also pretty common.
Also got a glimpse of an Azure Kingfisher by the boat ramp but it flew off
right away :/
Completely failed to find the Chestnut Rail but honestly I wasn't really
looking that hard for it. There was a muddy log suspended over a creek to
get to the path following the water which we only realised after a few
hours. By then the mosquitoes and midges were getting a bit much and the
monsoon forest was way too dense to see anything.
A large water barrel near carpark was a great spot to camp out for
Double-barred Finches and Red-headed Honeyeaters but by around 11 we decided
Midday we headed to the Darwin Botanic Gardens to look for the Rufous Owl.
Didn't see it unfortunately although it had been sighted the previous Sunday
along the Rainforest Loop.
Not much else of interest in the Gardens, just more Bee-eaters, a Spangled
Drongo and the first White-gaped Honeyeater (new) of the trip.
Did see an nice lizard in the leaf litter as well.
After a quick rest we headed for East Point in the afternoon.
Wasn't too much around, the forest walk we took was very quiet. Two birds we
did pick up were Northern Fantail (new) and Lemon-bellied Flycatcher (new).
Not much besides that except some Orange-footed Scrubfowl and a family of
Spent the second night at the Holiday Inn in Darwin.
Sunday 13 June
Sunday morning we headed for Howard Springs, arriving just after 8 am. No
one else was around at that time and the large lake was closed to swimming
due to micro-organisms. It was also host to a few turtles that swam very
close to the causeway.
Taking the rainforest walk clockwise we immediately saw Rainbow Pitta (new)
and got a few shots off.
This area was absolutely swarming with mozzies!
Only the first half of the rainforest walk seemed to have any birds and we
saw: Leaden Flycatcher (new), Shining Flycatcher, Sacred Kingfisher,
Large-billed Gerygone and more Spangled Drongos.
Looking around the lake we saw the first Red-winged Parrots (new) of the
trip flying overhead. Around the carpark side of the lake we also saw
Rose-crowned Fruitdove (new) feeding in a tree. Also around the picnic area
was a very confiding pair of Mistletoebirds.
At 11am we headed back to Darwin to check-out, saw a Brahminy Kite, and
drove off to the next destination: Kakadu.
Along the highway we got Blue-winged Kookaburra (new), some Red-winged
Parrots outside a service station and lots of Whistling Kites and RTBCs.
Midway to Kakadu we searched for the Mary River excavation pits and
accidentally went to an active mining site. Apparently they were going to
start blasting soon so we had to leave! Whoops
Clearly I needed to plan better directions for this area, which I eventually
did in Kakadu.
Unsuccessful in finding the pits we headed to Bird Billabong in Mary River
NP (proposed.) Right away I spotted a small family of finches along the
walk. I got some pictures but couldn't ID them at all since the one I found
had rather faded colours.
It was only when I arrived home that I found out that it was a black-faced
Gouldian Finch! (new).
Oh if only i'd known, I would have looked for a more colourful one...
Aside from that, the walk around Bird Billabong produced: Banded Honeyeater
(new), a family of Rufous Whistlers, lots of Little Woodswallows (new),
White-throated Honeyeater, White-winged Triller and Plumed Whistling-ducks
On the road again and still looking for the ephemeral excavation pits we
stopped at a small pond of water just before Mary River and found a Radjah
Shelduck (new) with a dozen ducklings in tow and a Forest Kingfisher.
Aside from Black and Whistling Kites along the road to Kakadu we didn't see
anything new and stayed at the Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn (very
overpriced but seemed to be the only good accommodation in the area)
Monday 14 June
Monday was full of disappointments. I had told myself to avoid Gunlom but I
just couldn't shake the feeling that we might find that stupid Grasswren. So
I figured we could head for Pine Creek to look for the Hooded parrot and on
the way we would stop at Gunlom.
As soon as the trip began we saw a pair of Partridge Pigeons (new) along the
side of the road. Couldn't stop anywhere for a picture and they were gone by
the time we returned.
We then stopped at the Mardugal billabong to look for some birds. Couldn't
find the way around the billabong and aside from a Blue-winged Kookaburra
there wasn't much around.
On the way to Gunlom we stopped at some large termite mounds to take some
pictures. Wasn't expecting to see any birds but sitting on one mound was a
bunch of Little Woodswallows and a young Masked Finch (new). Also in the
area was a Jacky Winter and Peaceful Dove.
Arriving at Gunlom we hiked up the escarpment and searched in vain for the
sandstone species. We found one, a small bird in a far off tree which I
later IDed at home as a White-lined Honeyater (new). The climb back down was
a bit depressing after the lack of birds but seeing a nice lizard was a bit
of a consolation prize.
Finally we got to Pine Creek in the middle of the day, I'll spare the
foreshadowing and say outright that we didn't see any Hooded Parrots around.
Did get Grey-crowned Babbler (new), Red-browed Pardalote (new), Great
Bowerbird (new), Yellow-throated Miner (new), Blue-faced Honeyeater and Pied
The Miner was the only bird we didn't see again on the trip but I guess
that's something at least.
Heading back to Jabiru we again found a pair of Partidge Pigeons on the side
of the road at the junction between Arnhem and Kakadu hwys. Finally got some
pictures of one through the car window although the light was fading. Also
overhead we saw the first Black-necked Stork (new) of the trip.
Stayed in the crocodile inn again this night.
Tuesday 15 June
Tuesday morning we went out on the dawn cruise at Yellow Waters.
This was a great cruise and I got lots of great shots of White-bellied
Sea-eagle and Whistling Kite in the morning light.
Birds we saw included: a pair of Brolga (new), Nankeen Night-Heron,
White-breasted Woodswallow, pair of Black-necked Storks in a nest, pair of
Wandering Whistling-ducks (new), Intermediate Egret (new), Pied Heron (new),
Glossy Ibis (new) and an extremely close look at a Sacred Kingfisher. Lots
of nice photos there :)
Only saw one crocodile though, a small one that didn't move at all.
For me the highlight of the cruise was a Red-backed Kingfisher (new) which
we never saw again on the trip. The cruise operator told everyone it was a
Sacred Kingfisher but I couldn't bear to correct him.
After breakfast with the cruise we headed to Mamukala Wetlands.
There we saw our first Comb-crested Jacanas (new), some Crimson Finches
(new), a pair of Long-tailed Finches (new) and a dark morph Brown Falcon. We
also met a couple who recommended the Corroboree Billabong cruise saying it
was better and cheaper than the Yellow Waters one.
Back in Jabiru we booked the 3 hour Corroboree cruise for the next day and
had a rest,
In the afternoon we headed for Nourlangie Rock to make another attempt at
some sandstone birds. I really wanted to see that Rock-pigeon but we only
saw a Brown Honeyeater and female Mistletoebird.
It was amazing how many tourists were trying to find that Mistletoebird just
because I had my lens pointed at it :P
Before we left, the ranger at Nourlangie told us that she regularly saw a
lot of finches around the lake in Jabiru. We decided to give it a go and
headed there in the late afternoon.
The lake at Jabiru was a very nice spot for birds. Gold-headed Cisticolas
were out in force as were the Red-backed Fairy-wrens. I only saw one male
but managed to chase him down for some shots.
Little Friarbird (new) and Bar-breasted Honeyeater (new) were also some good
finds as was a cooperative Blue-winged Kookaburra.
The light was going to we eventually called it a day and stayed the third
night in the crocodile inn.
Wednesday 16 June
We headed out from Kakadu in the morning to try and make it to the
Corroboree Billabong Cruise by midday.
Along the highway we got great views of a Black-shouldered Kite and a pale
Brown Falcon. We stopped at the Gungarre Walk but the forest was pretty
By this time I decided Monsoon forests aren't all that great, lots of
mosquitoes and often very quiet.
Did see an Arafura Fantail (new) and outside the walk was a flock of Little
Corellas (new). Also saw the first and only Rainbow Lorikeets of the trip
Back on the road we stopped at the REAL excavation pits whose location I had
researched in Jabiru. It was rather dry and there wasn't much there in the
middle of the day, just a few Crimson Finches hiding in the trees :(
Around the Corroboree, before entering the cruise we saw a family of Brolga
and a White-necked Heron in a shallow wetlands area.
The Corroboree Billabong cruise was great but we didn't see any new birds.
Highlights were: White-bellied Sea-eagle nests, Comb-crested Jacana nesting
with chicks, nesting Magpie Geese and a Darter with chicks.
We saw 4 or 5 Saltwater Crocodiles one of which leapt out of the water right
in front of us!
After the cruise we headed for Fogg Dam and drove along the dam wall. Due to
a large crocodile on the loose we couldn't walk the dam wall but driving it
seemed fine. We saw the crocodile from the large viewing platform at the end
of the wall as well as getting some nice shots of Crimson Finches.
Finally we checked into Eden B&B near Fogg Dam.
Thursday 17 June
Thursday I was on a mission. Azure Kingfisher had eluded my camera the
entire trip and I hadn't even seen a trace of the Little Kingfisher.
We headed out at dawn and went down to the Woodlands to Waterlilies walk at
As we entered the flooded section of the forest we saw Azure Kingfishers
right away. I also found a Rufous-throated Honeyeater(new) and a Grey
Looking around from the boardwalk I saw a small shape flit into a tangle of
roots and vines coming out of the water. It was the Little Kingfisher
He was very far away but I managed to get some recognizable shots.
The mozzies were beginning to drive us insane and it had been a few hours so
we took drive down the dam wall again.
This time we got some unobscured photos of a White-browed Crake (new), Tawny
Grassbird (new) and a Whiskered Tern (new) with a fish in its mouth.
After driving back we headed for the Monsoon Forest walk which was long and
uneventful. Did see a green tree snake on the boardwalk but that was it. My
camera gear was beginning to feel like an anchor around my neck at this
Driving along Middle Point Rd we saw another Brown Falcon and White-winged
After a brief rest at Eden we headed out to the Woodlands to Waterlillies
walk again for more Kingfisher photos.
Got some clearer shots of the Little Kingfisher, was still very far away
though. This was the last time we would see the Little Kingfisher.
Also some better shots of the Arafura Fantail and Azure Kingfishers.
Again I can't overemphasize the amount of mosquitoes in this place. You stop
for a minute to photograph the kingfishers and find yourself in an absolute
cloud of them. ugh.
Heading back to Eden at dusk we saw a Rainbow Pitta and borrowed a torch to
go spotlighting around Fogg Dam.
Spotlighting at around 9pm we saw Barking Owls (new), a few Tawny
Frogmouths, a family of Radjah Shelducks feeding along the dam wall, lots of
snakes on the road and a Barn Owl (new)
After that we turned in for the night.
Friday 18 June
Friday morning was a bit of a comedy of errors. We were told at Eden that
Gouldian Finches had been reported recently around Bird Billabong. Now keep
in mind I only IDed the one I saw after I got back home so I still thought
we hadn't seen them yet.
So we headed for Bird Billabong in the morning, stopping off at the
excavation pits (nothing there again). This journey turned out to be rather
fruitless; a Red-browed Pardalote and some Flycatchers and Honeyeaters were
about the only things we saw.
After that we did the Wetlands to Waterlillies walk again for more
Kingfisher shots. Not much to say, we saw a Rainbow Pitta briefly at the
start of the treack and I think i got some better shots of Azure Kingfishers
time but no new birds seen.
We then went to Howard Springs to try and get better pictures of the Rainbow
Pitta and Rose-crowned Fruitdove. My dad had been the only one to get shots
of the Fruitdove so I was stewing a bit over that.
We saw a Rainbow Pitta at Howard Springs again but I got better pictures the
first day. A bold Little Shrike-thrush (new) was the only new bird we saw
and there was no sign of the Fruitdove.
In the afternoon we did the Wetlands to Waterlillies walk AGAIN FOR MORE
You have to understand that I love Kingfishers and I still don't think I had
an unobscured picture of the Azure yet.
As the mosquitos began to pile up we were about to head back when we saw our
first Pacific Baza (new) sitting very close. Such an amazing bird.
This was the final night of the trip. We went out spotlighting along the dam
wall again turning up the usual suspects: Barking Owl, Tawny Frogmouths and
Barn Owl on the powerlines.And the same Radjah Shelduck family feeding on
the dam wall, are they nocturnal?
The flight back to Melbourne left at 7 am so that was effectively the end of
All in all it was an amazing trip. Lots of disappointments but lots of great
highlights as well.
The Gouldian Finch fiasco really came out of left field but at least I can
say I've seen one now.
In total we saw 6 species of Kingfisher missing only the Collared which we
never bothered to look for.
Total count of new birds from the trip is at 54. Not sure if Paperbark
Flycatcher is a species or not but that would make it 55.
Best moment of the trip: Little Kingfisher landing in a palm tree right next
to me. Couldn't get my camera up in time but WOW.
Worst moment of the trip: Spending like 2 hours looking around Pine Creek
for Hooded Parrots.
Here are some quick pictures:
The dull Gouldian Finch:
Lizard at Gunlom:
The irresistable Azure Kingfisher:
Anyway thanks everyone for the advice on where to see birds. I'm happy with
what I got from the trip and now have 5000 + photos to weed through :)
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