The Top End in the late dry season Oct 24-29 2013
As expected, very hot and fairly humid with most days around 38°C and up to
44°C at Victoria River, very little rain, just a sudden heavy shower in Darwin
when we arrived.
No rain had fallen in the central and south of Kakadu and everything was bone
dry, though pleasingly not like the awful burned blackened mess of FNQ where
inappropriate late dry fires are causing such havoc each year. Finding many
species was very hard and it was notable that we dipped entirely on Partridge
Pigeon and Northern Rosella despite checking many good sites, but highlights
Nesting Rainbow Pitta at Howard Springs, giving great photo ops as it built in
a small cycad
46 Oriental Plover at Nightcliff on a high tide on the morning of Oct 25, along
with Mongolian and Greater Sand-Plover, Terek Sand, Grey-tailed Tattler and
Red-headed Honeyeater at Buffalo Creek and Adelaide River Crossing.
Mangrove Golden and Grey (Brown) Whistler at Adelaide River Crossing, also
Arafura Fantail by its nest, and both Paperbark and Broad-billed Flycatcher.
The very distinctive Little Shrike-thrush (parvula presumably) at Howard
Springs, quite unlike the Rufous Shrike-thrush of FNQ, and with distinct
vocalizations too, surely a split-in-waiting. Ditto for the Brown Whistler
Barking Owl at Yellow Waters, giving great views without undue tape harassment.
Banded Fruit Dove at Nourlangie late pm on Oct. 27, looked like an imm. as it
had pale fringes to the wing coverts, with another in flight there next morning.
9 Budgerigar near Victoria River and two small flocks of Cockatiel near Pine
Creek Oct 26.
Hooded Parrot at Pine Creek after dipping late one afternoon and again the next
morning! I was fearing I’d lost my perfect record, but thanks to a local guy we
heard they had been seen by the sprinklers at the Lazy Lizard at 0700, and we
found 3 females and 2 males sheltering in dense gums at the very edge of the
Water Gardens at 2pm in baking conditions Oct 27.
Varied Lorikeet at Fergusson River, near Chinaman Creek and then at Victoria
River, small numbers only.
The wonderful male Lilac-crowned Fairywren at Victoria River after a lengthy
search in very hot conditions. A lone Star Finch also seen there, a very good
pick-up Oct 26.
White-lined Honeyeater and Sandstone Shrike-thrush at Nourlangie Oct 28, both
very vocal. Two vocal family groups of Black-tailed Tree-creepers at Mardugal
Finally getting both Long-tailed and Masked Finch on the last day Oct 29 near
Mamaluka, they seemed absent from the drier country to the south but as soon as
we entered the region where rain had fallen and grass was seeding there they
My long-standing quest for Northern Shrike-tit failed miserably at km 41.3 on
the Victoria Highway Oct 26, despite much tape playing and careful checking of
rough-bark woodland areas. However, next day (Oct 27) despite an initial miss
at km 6.6 on the Central Arnhem Highway, we found a lone female at Km 8- I was
surprised at how green it was on the mantle, not yellow like the book pictures,
but it seemed small, lacked a crest and had a blackish-green throat patch, also
seemed paler yellow below than Eastern, though regrettably we never heard it
vocalize and it ignored my playback efforts entirely!
My thanks to Dion Hobcroft for help with sites and habitat preferences for this
The big surprise came right after, as we were driving back not 2 km away from
the Shrike-tit spot I saw a pale raptor flying towards us, and on leaping out
found it was a big falcon. What colour is it above Pete, I think it's grey?
-and the underparts including the underwings were entirely whitish with dusky
wing tips and a few small dark feathers in outer secondary edges. It soared up
higher and was joined by a second bird, this one also grey above and whitish
below with small dark wing tops and a pale looking head, a slighter more
gracile bird altogether and with no obvious tail markings on these views.
Anyway it all adds up to my bogey bird, a pair of Grey Falcon, missed multiple
times at various sites with a UTV years back as my only near encounter! Yay, at
long last and saves me a long-delayed twitch off to the Birdsville Track or
Borroloola where there are fairly good sites for it!
Website 2: Http://www.cassowary-house.com.au
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