Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Darwin and the Top End

I’ve just spent ten days birding in Darwin and the Top End of Australia and learned that thist spent t simply isn’t enough time if you want to be able to give each area the going over it deserves!

Although I did find almost all of my target species it was an exhausting trip with virtually no “down time” to rest, swim, eat, sleep or catch up on writing this blog! If I had the opportunity to plan this trip again I would book for 14 days to allow for a more relaxed pace, allowing for a few afternoons off in the heat of the day.
The first few days were spent birding around the Darwin area. I was lucky to be able to catch up with Biggles the afternoon that  I arrived. During this time he was able to give me the latest info on the best places to visit during my stay and he showed me a few local areas. His knowledge and advise was extremely helpful !! Thanks Bigs!!
Comb-crested Jacana
Excellent areas in the Darwin area include the Botanic Gardens, East Point  is good for Rainbow Pitta & Knuckey’s Lagoon is a close to Darwin wetland and is stunning!
Beach Stone-Curlew

Pied Imperial Pigeon (PIP)
I also particularly enjoyed Lee Point and Buffalo Creek. This area is excellent and if you time the tide right and remain vigilant there is a good chance for Chestnut Rail! I dutifully made my pilgrimage to the boat ramp as the tide was going out and trudged into the mangroves alone, wondering if I was in the right spot and waited…..
and sank into the mud….
and waited some more….

90 minutes later I was rewarded!! The rail appeared, directly opposite to me on the other side of the river, he was feeding in the shadows. He was in view for about 30 seconds before disappearing again! AWESOME!

Chestnut Rail


Fogg Dam is definitely a must do, along with the Mary River area.  I wanted to check out the Marrakai track but only had a little jelly bean of a hire car which I was not able to take onto unsealed roads so I booked myself onto a day trip with Experience the Wild tours. Mike was very helpful and I got some great birds with him. I was particularly happy to see Buff-sided Robin, a gorgeous little robin and I think perhaps my favourite! We even had 4 dingoes!
Arafura Fantail

Rainbow Bee-eater

Red-collared Lorikeet
Black-tailed Treecreeper
Buff-sided Robin
Northern Rosella
Barking Owl at Fogg Dam

Grey Whistler

Pied Heron

Rainbow Pitta
Yellow-faced Turtle

Over 100 Brolga flew overhead at Knuckey's Lagoon!


I then headed out and spent 3 days in Kakadu. Happily found all my target species at Nourlangi Rock and Ubirr.  I booked into the Aurora Kakadu which was a lot cheaper than the other accommodation. It was clean and very comfortable, has petrol and restaurant. The location was good for birding with a small walking track and billabong on the property and another larger billabong 10 km away. The South Alligator Flood plain and river is only 1 minute away with Brolga feeding in the late afternoons. However there is no phone range (there is phone range 45 km away at Jabiru).  So each day I spent a lot of time (and petrol) driving to Jabiru to access  Nourlangi Rock and Ubirr. Both of which would have been much closer had I booked to stay at Jabiru!! 

My efforts were rewarded however with great views of Banded Fruit-dove and White-lined Honeyeater at Nourlangi Rock. Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeons and Sandstone Shrike-thrush at Ubirr. Partridge Pigeons were easy to find at the Bowali visitor Centre.
Australasian Darter

Black-necked Stork


Crimson Finch



Wandering Whistling-Duck

Banded Fruit-Dove

Black Wallaroo

Glossy Ibis

Magpie Goose

Partridge Pigeon

White-gaped Honeyeater

Black-breasted Buzzard

Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon


Green Pygymy-Goose

Partridge Pigeon

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Next stop was Mataranka where I was graced with crippling views of Red Goshawk! She even flew in to feed on a dead ibis only about 5 metres from me! Gotta be happy with that!
Red Goshawk

Red Goshawk

Exploring a waterhole between Katherine and Pine Creek I enjoyed a mixed flock of Masked, Long-tailed and Gouldian Finch!


Gouldian Finch cooling off at a waterhole

A walked through the Water Gardens at 6.30am in Pine Creek provided some lovely birds feeding in the cooler temperatures. I noticed a few Hooded Parrots under a tree. They then flew onto a lower branch to pose for me. A few minutes later the tree erupted as about 30 Hooded Parrots flew out and filled the morning sky! An awesome sight!



Arriving back into Darwin in the early afternoon I allowed myself a couple of hours off to rest by the hotel pool. I did manage 13 species on my “pool list” which is pretty good J It is always nice to watch Black Kites while swimming!

Roughing it on my last afternoon after cleaning up!!

Green Pygmy-Goose

Thank you to Mike from Experience the Wild and Biggles for going out of your way to assist me on the day of my arrival and point me in the right direction. I really appreciate your kindness.

 Black Wallaroo
Rainbow Bee-eater

Darwin sunset

Life list now sits on 645, so maybe my aim to reach 650 by the end of 2012 is realistic after all!!
Spangled Drongo