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Darwin to Broome Via Kakadu
Tom Clarke

Day 1 Darwin

On Tuesday evening all 11 participants including Barbara Clarke group leader, her husband Tom, Nina Conn, Jim Hyde, Rod Coler, Mike Lilga, Richard Johnson, Bernice Wilcock, Rose Lau, Glenda Graves and Margaret Crane, along with leader Janene Luff, guide Sheryl Keates and driver Chris Willis met for drinks followed by dinner at the Quality Hotel Frontier Darwin. 7 participants had arrived from USA but unfortunately 4 without luggage. Various items were given to the visitors to carry them through until the luggage caught up with them 4 days later in Kakadu.

Day 2 Darwin

Our first day birding started in mangroves near the city. Birds seen included Helmeted Friarbird, Black Butcherbird and Collared Kingfisher.

At Nightcliff rocks, we saw 10 species of migratory waders, including 26 Oriental Plover and a lone Australian Pied Oystercatcher as well as an Eastern Reef Egret (grey phase). In the park nearby, a Little Friarbird was found sitting on its neatly constructed suspended nest.

On our way to Buffalo Ck, we stopped to view and photograph Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, some of which were feeding on the ground. By the time we arrived at the creek, the tide had receded enough to expose some muddy banks where we spent time hoping for Chestnut Rail to appear. We heard them calling, but they failed to show. While waiting we had excellent views of Azure Kingfisher and other mangrove species with Red-headed Honeyeater a highlight. A nearby active mound of Orange-footed Scrubfowl was viewed.

On the way to Howard Springs, a recently arrived Dollarbird was seen perched on power lines and a short stop at the Knuckey Lagoon beside the highway produced Brolga and a variety of waterbirds.

While lunching at Howard Springs, a Rose-crowned Fruit-dove was heard. Olive-backed Oriole was seen near the Black Flying Fox colony and finches were feeding on the grassy area. Barramundi, various freshwater fish and turtles looked cool in the water. A short walk in the midday heat was not productive so we returned to the hotel for a break with time to do some essential shopping for the unfortunate visitors without luggage.

Later we visited the botanic gardens where we found a pair each of roosting Barking and Rufous Owls. On to East Pt, where a Rainbow Pitta was observed feeding for quite a considerable time on dry grass parkland. Nearby, a pair of nesting Bush Stone-curlew drew the attention of birders and photographers alike. At dusk, we positioned ourselves near the monsoon forest, where we heard the unmistakable call of the Large-tailed Nightjar and managed to catch a couple in flight with the spotlight. A pair of Beach Stone-curlew called as they flew along the beach at high tide. We returned to our hotel for a hearty meal and first of our nightly bird tally.

Kakadu Birding
Day 3 Darwin to Kakadu

Participants were congratulated on leaving slightly ahead of schedule as we drove out of Darwin towards Kakadu NP. We could not resist a quick stop beside the highway to have another look at Knuckey Lagoon where we added Australasian Darter, Hardhead and Wood Sandpiper to the list.

We picked up our Kakadu NP tour guide Biggles aka Darryel Binns before reaching the turnoff to Arnhem Highway. On the way to Fogg Dam we saw Red-backed Kingfisher and Brown Songlark, the latter not common in the area. Apart from the waterbirds, highlights of Fogg Dam were Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Pallid Cuckoo, Crimson Finch and 4 species of flycatcher.

After entering Kakadu NP we saw thousands of waterbirds from the bird hide at Mamukala. At Jabiru the red-eyed form of Partridge Pigeon was found sheltering in the shade. On arrival at our accommodation at Cooinda, some of us enjoyed a swim in the pool before dinner.

Day 4 Kakadu

An early morning cruise before breakfast on Yellow Waters was enjoyed by all. A family of Brolga delighted us by dancing while many crocodiles were seen. Arafura Fantail and 2 Australian Bustard were highlights. Later a visit to the art site at Nourlangie Rock produced the sandstone form of the Helmeted Friarbird, Black-tailed Treecreeper and Sandstone Shrike-thrush was heard. After an enjoyable lunch beside Anbangbang Billabong, we retreated to the cool of the visitors centre before returning to Cooinda for another swim. Buff-sided Robin was seen at the start of our afternoon walk, while Mangrove Grey Fantail was seen later along with orchids growing on the paperbarks.

Day 5 Kakadu to Katherine

While preparing to leave Cooinda, we saw a couple of immature Channel-billed Cuckoo begging Torresian Crows for food. We revisited Nourlangie Rock in the hope of seeing Banded Fruit-Dove and other sandstone species. We heard a Cicadabird calling nearby but were unable to locate it. Biggles saw a fruit-dove perched not far from the rock art. By the time we all made our way there, the bird had flown. However, White-lined Honeyeater was seen by most.

Mary River Roadhouse was our comfort stop where we saw Northern Rosella under the sprinklers while the Pied Butcherbird sang its flute like song. Grey-crowned Babbler joined us for lunch at Pine Creek and our first Crested Pigeon were seen. Cockatiel sightings began as we drove further south. At Edith River crossing on the way to Edith Falls, we saw about 30 Gouldian Finch. Black-faced adults accompanied many juveniles. We removed our footwear to cool off at the edge of the rather large swimming hole at the falls. Honeyeaters and Weebill were seen there. We arrived at our accommodation in time to do some washing and cool off in the pool before dinner.

Wyndam Lookout
Day 6 Katherine to Mataranka

Our drive south to Mataranka was worth it to see one of AustraliaÕs rarest raptors, the Red Goshawk nesting. On the way back we saw Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring. A detour to Roper Ck along the Central Arnhem Rd produced Rufous-throated and Banded Honeyeaters. Lunch was at Katherine Gorge where we saw Apostlebird and a male Great Bowerbird put on a mating display at its bower, also a good view of Grey Butcherbird. After a well deserved rest, we ventured out to Chinaman Ck where we saw a pair of Hooded Parrot feeding on the ground with Cockatiel. An Australian Hobby perched nearby and a flock of Varied Sittella was a delight.

Day 7 Katherine to Timber Creek

We called into Manbulloo Homestead to see Australian Bustard feeding with cattle and Water Buffalo. On leaving, Masked Finch were seen perched on the wires. Just before the turnoff to Flora Nature Reserve, we stopped to see a beautiful male Red-backed Fairywren with a few females. Our detour to Humbles Ck was not fruitful so we continued on to Victoria River Access Rd. Our target species Purple-crowned Fairywren was seen here along with Dollarbird. After lunch we continued on to Timber Ck.

After a rest we visited PolicemanÕs Pt where Timber Ck meets the Victoria River. Freshwater crocodile was exposed on a rock with a White-bellied Sea-eagle perched on the other side of the river. At the air strip many Agile Wallabies were grazing.

Day 8 Timber Ck to Kununurra

On our detour to Bullita Access Rd we saw Jacky Winter, our first Striated Pardalote, with the highlight being great views of Spinifex Pigeon. Our lunch stop was at Cockatoo Lagoon in Keep River NP where an Australian Hobby was nesting on the tower. Along the way we saw our first Little Eagle and Brown Falcon. We arrived for a 3 night stay in Kununurra with time to cool off and do some washing which dried very quickly in the less humid heat.

On our afternoon walk at the golf course, 2 Australian Bustard flew by while Dollarbird hawked for insects. Buff-sided Robin and Zebra Finch were both seen.

Day 9 Mitchell Plateau/Wyndham

The Australian contingent flew to Mitchell Plateau while our American visitors went to Wyndham. Various creeks were visited along the way as well as sewage ponds, the hospital and the lookout where the 5 rivers meet. The Aussies were dropped at Mitchell Falls by helicopter to walk back to the campground for the return flight. Along the way we saw the Kimberley form of Variegated Fairywren, the newly split Kimberley Honeyeater, Bar-breasted Honeyeater and White-quilled Rock-pigeon. We hoped Black Grasswren would come to Little Merten Falls to drink but despite searching the nearby rocky Spinifex habitat, we failed to see them. While waiting for the helicopter to return for the remaining 3 of us, we were lucky to see the Yellow-eyed form of the Partridge Pigeon come into to a bird bath to drink.

White-browed Crake Kununurra
Day 10 Ord River Cruise

The early morning cruise was very enjoyable with sightings of Australian Little Bittern, Black Bittern, White-browed Crake, nesting Comb-crested Jacana being the highlights. Breakfast/morning tea was served at a comfort stop. On the return trip we saw Short-eared Rock Wallabies resting while a pair of White-quilled Rock-pigeon mated nearby.

After lunch at our accommodation by the lake, we had time for a rest before a little retail therapy followed by a visit to the diversion dam. Good scope views of a perched Dollarbird showed its true colours. There were hundred of birds at the sewage ponds, mainly Wandering Whistling Duck. Star Finch was found nearby and Black-shouldered Kite perched for us.

During our drive along the irrigated agriculture areas, we saw thousands of Magpie Geese, Australian Bustard and Brolga. After dinner we used the spotlight to see the eye shine of many freshwater crocodiles in the lake.

Day 11 Kununurra to Turkey Ck

After packing to leave, we went to Hidden Valley where we saw Sandstone Shrike-thrush calling from high on the rocks. We lunched at Parry’s lagoons where we saw waterbirds as well as Diamond Doves, Horsefield’s Bushlark, Australasian Pipit and finches including Star, Masked, Long-tailed, Double-barred and Crimson.

Having arrived at Turkey Ck for our overnight stay, some took the opportunity to fly over the Bungles Bungles as an optional extra. Others rested before an afternoon walk when we added Black-chinned Honeyeater to our list.

Day 12 Turkey Ck to Fitzroy Crossing

Along the way to Halls Ck we stopped to view a Black-breasted Buzzard with its distinctive flight. We added White-plumed Honeyeater and Grey-fronted Honeyeater to our list before lunch at Mary Pool, where we watched the birds coming down to drink at the remaining water. 3 freshwater crocodiles were there when we left after lunch.

After our arrival at Fitzroy Crossing, we had time to cool off in the pool before an afternoon walk at Geike Gorge. Along the river we found a White-gaped Honeyeater nesting and a Sandstone Shrike-thrush calling from high on a rock. After dinner some of us took the opportunity to view the night sky through the telescope. During the night and early morning we heard Barking Owls from our permanent tents.

Roebuck Bay 900,000 Waders
Day 13 Fitzroy Crossing to Broome

Our early morning walk along the river was productive with good views of HorsefieldÕs Bronze-cuckoo and Black-fronted Dotterel. Along the way we stopped at a pull off where a huge Boab tree stood. Upon alighting from the bus we heard Red-browed Pardalote and eventually saw the bird along with White-throated Gerygone and Rufous Songlark.

In the cool sea breeze at the jetty, it was an excellent place for lunch at Derby. With the high tide we saw a few waders including Eastern Curlew and heard Mangrove Gerygone at the boat ramp. A local took us to see a pair of Tawny Frogmouth roosting in a very low palm tree before we went to the sewage ponds where we added Hoary-headed Grebe. We set off for our final destination, 2 nights in Broome.

Day 14 Broome

After breakfast we drove to Roebuck Bay to view the waders preparing to roost at high tide. Most were migrants having not long returned from their breeding grounds as far away as Siberia and Mongolia. Many of the 23 species had been individually banded and coloured flagged for scientific purposes. Terns and gulls were also present.

We had our lunch at the bird observatory while watching honeyeaters, doves and finches use the bird baths. Later we went to One Tree to see the thousands of waders feeding on the rich mudflats of Roebuck Bay. A flock of Oriental Plover were standing cooling their feet in the wet mud before flying to feed on the grassy plains. While walking to Crab Ck we found a Mangrove Grey Fantail but the highlight was a lovely male White-breasted Whistler.

On returning to Broome we visited Cable Beach and then on to the Port where we found a Brown Booby perched on the rocks with a Lesser Frigatebird and Osprey free flying in the strong breeze. We made our way to the sewage ponds where we added Eurasian Coot to our list which now totalled 222 species. After our final dinner together a group photo was taken and farewells exchanged.

Our Wonderful Group
Day 15 Broome

After breakfast some of us took the opportunity to do some shopping before our departure to various destinations around midday. We had safely travelled 3,804 km with Chris as our driver. Thank you to everyone for a memorable adventure.

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
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Avalon NSW 2107
Sydney Australia
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer