The Top End in the late dry

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: The Top End in the late dry
From: Phil & Sue Gregory <>
Date: Sat, 2 Nov 2013 18:03:30 +1000
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 
were plentiful:


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 
Great Knot.


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  
(simplex) there.


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 
same day.


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 
rare species.


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!


Phil Gregory
Website 2: Http://


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