Australia, Northern Territory - August 2021

Published by Sandra Harding (sandraharding234 AT

Participants: Sandra Harding, Ron Dowling


15 Days - Timber Creek, Victoria River and Kakadu


Now that overseas birding was on hold, a check of my species list for Australia suggested that the Northern Territory was the best option. Ron found a detailed trip report by Ian Reid (Aug 2020) that covered our targets giving us potential sites. My original birding trip to the Northern Territory in 1992 did not get this far west. This visit was after a drought, making it harder and we found some of the sites had been burnt. The trip was from 21 August 2021 to 4 September 2021.

I was successful in obtaining my targets – Yellow-rumped Mannikin, Chestnut-backed Button Quail, White-quilled Rock pigeon and Star Finch. Ron’s targets were the Northern Shrike-tit and western subspecies of the Purple-crowned fairy-wren. We also got those. The Red Goshawk is one for Ron to go back for.
Total cost for both of us was around $3500.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

We flew Qantas from Brisbane to Darwin. The hire car was from Bargain car rentals, located just outside the airport and the daily kilometre limit suited our purposes. We shopped for food and for camping equipment that we needed and could not take on the plane. Our first night was at the caravan park in Batchelor.

Days 2 - 4 Darwin to Victoria River Road-house

Birds found while travelling and stopping at wetlands and a sewerage treatment plant included Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Black kite, Black-faced wood-swallows and White-faced Heron. The night at a Katherine caravan park was memorable for the thousands of flying foxes flying over at dusk. Searching the Central Arhnem Hwy for the Northern Shrike-tit was unsuccessful. We were also spending as much time as possible looking for Chestnut-backed Button-quail. We walked the area around Chinaman Creek as the habitat looked suitable.

Arriving at the Victoria River Road House we found the Purple-crowned fairywren (sub-species coronatus) at the boat ramp. Finches were absent. But I enjoyed watching a pair of Agile wallabies drinking and an Azure Kingfisher.

Days 5 - 7 Victoria River roadhouse to Timber Creek

The main objective was looking for finches. We checked Policeman’s Point, not much activity and a poor road for the hire car. At last, we had a male Star Finch at the old Victoria River crossing, a very pretty spot with lots of birds coming into drink. As we were walking out an Australian Hobby flew in snatching a Star Finch. We did the escarpment walk in the Gregory National Park in the early morning aiming to be first on the track and up flew the White-quilled rock-pigeon which we followed and sighted on a ledge. Great to see. A further trail in the afternoon was scenic, walking along an escarpment with flowering kapok bushes and red-flowing kurrajongs.

Camping at Timber Creek firstly provided a Barking Owl roosting in the large trees and these also supported a colony of Little red flying foxes. Birding sites included Timber Creek airstrip, Big Horse camping ground and Bradshaw Bridge.

The Timber Creek airstrip while having been recently burnt still had good numbers of Masked, Gouldian, Star and Crimson finches. A Brown Falcon stayed in the vicinity.

Eventually leaving the caravan park at 4 pm back to Little Horse Creek near Bradshaw Bridge we found the Yellow-rumped Mannikins (about 10), what a relief. Then with that under the belt, there was a road opposite heading up to a lookout which we thought would be a pleasant area for birding. Driving slowly along the road, four Chestnut-backed Button-quails walked across the road in front of the car. Mega.

Days 8 - 9 Katherine and Central Arhnem Hwy

It was back to the Central Arhnem road (direction to Beswick Creek) to find the Crested Shrike tit (Northern Shrike-tit subspecies whitei). To maximise our chances, we decided to camp in the bush close to recent ebird sightings. We found a great place off the high way and the sunset was spectacular. It still took many attempts playing the tape every 100m but then we heard it respond and we were able to track it down. Our persistence paid off.

We were in Pine Creek for the 29th and enjoyed a wonderful display of fireworks for the Northern Territory cracker night. Hooded Parrots were in the trees in the caravan park.

Days 10 - 13 Nourlangie Rock, Kakadu

Driving through Kakadu we stopped at each creek crossing to check for any Red Goshawks. The park was quiet now that it was hot and dry and some campsites were closed. We selected a free camp at Muirella Park with toilets and showers. Our focus was Nourlangie Rock, we took the second road to Gubara where the walk goes around the rock and saw Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeons and Black Wallaroo and Partridge pigeons on the drive back. The walk around the wetland at the campsite provided Pallid Cuckoo and Green pygmy-goose. I missed the Banded Fruit Dove so the next day we walked in again and had a great view of two of them and also saw the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher.

A morning at Fogg Dam was highly successful in seeing the Rainbow Pitta. Pied Herons were numerous around the dam and we also saw a Brown Goshawk feeding young in the nest.

Day 14 Lee Point, Darwin

Deciding to stay in a cabin at the Lee Point caravan park was lucky given there were showers that night. A morning visit to Buffalo Creek was very productive, as a Chestnut Rail wandered out of the mangroves to wash and preen in the creek.

Day 15 We flew from Darwin to Brisbane on Virgin arriving in the evening.

We enjoyed a perfect birding trip in very scenic landscapes. Ron entered several ebird lists for the trip. My list totalled 166 species using 2019 IOC taxonomy.

Species Lists

Orange-footed Scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt
Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora
Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata
Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arcuata
Raja Shelduck Radjah radjah
Green Pygmy Goose Nettapus pulchellus
Grey Teal Anas gracilis
Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides
Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis
Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus
Pallid Cuckoo Cacomantis pallidus
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus
Pacific Emerald Dove Chalcophaps longirostris
Common Bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera
Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes
Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii
Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon Petrophassa rufipennis
White-quilled Rock Pigeon Petrophassa albipennis
Diamond Dove Geopelia cuneata
Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida
Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis
Black-banded Fruit Dove Ptilinopus alligator
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove Ptilinopus regina
Torresian Imperial Pigeon Ducula spilorrhoa
Chestnut Rail Eulabeornis castaneoventris
Australasian Swamphen Porphyrio melanotus
Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
Chestnut-backed Buttonquail Turnix castanotus
Bush Stone-Curlew Burhinus grallarius
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris
Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus
Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
Little Pied Cormorant Microcarbo melanoleucos
Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae
Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia
Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis
Nankeen Night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus
White-necked Heron Ardea pacifica
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana
Great Egret Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Pied Heron Egretta picata
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
Eastern Osprey Pandion cristatus
Black-breasted Buzzard Hamirostra melanosternon
Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus
Spotted Harrier Circus assimilis
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Barking Owl Ninox connivens
Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii
Forest Kingfisher Todiramphus macleayii
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus
Azure Kingfisher Ceyx azureus
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides
Australian Hobby Falco longipennis
Brown Falcon Falco berigora
Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii
Galah Eolophus roseicapilla
Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita
Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus
Hooded Parrot Psephotellus dissimilis
Northern Rosella Platycercus venustus
Varied Lorikeet Psitteuteles versicolor
Red-collared Lorikeet Trichoglossus rubritorquis
Rainbow Pitta Pitta iris
Great Bowerbird Chlamydera nuchalis
Black-tailed Treecreeper Climacteris melanurus
Purple-crowned Fairywren Malurus coronatus
Red-backed Fairywren Malurus melanocephalus
Dusky Myzomela Myzomela obscura
Red-headed Myzomela Myzomela erythrocephala
Banded Honeyeater Cissomela pectoralis
Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta
Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis
Silver-crowned Friarbird Philemon argenticeps
Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis
Black-chinned Honeyeater Melithreptus gularis
White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis
Rufous-banded Honeyeater Conopophila albogularis
Rufous-throated Honeyeater Conopophila rufogularis
Yellow-tinted Honeyeater Ptilotula flavescens
Grey-headed Honeyeater Ptilotula keartlandi
Grey-fronted Honeyeater Ptilotula plumula
White-lined Honeyeater Meliphaga albilineata
Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus
Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris
Large-billed Gerygone Gerygone magnirostris
Green-backed Gerygone Gerygone chloronota
White-throated Gerygone Gerygone olivacea
Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus
Little Woodswallow Artamus minor
Black Butcherbird Melloria quoyi
Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen
Silver-backed Butcherbird Cracticus argenteus
Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis
Black-faced Cuckooshrike Coracina novaehollandiae
White-bellied Cuckooshrike Coracina papuensis
White-winged Triller Lalage tricolor
Varied Triller Lalage leucomela
Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera
Crested Shriketit Falcunculus frontatus
Grey Whistler Pachycephala simplex
Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris
Grey Shrikethrush Colluricincla harmonica
Sandstone Shrikethrush Colluricincla woodwardi
Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti
Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus
Green Oriole Oriolus flavocinctus
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus
Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys
Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris
Arafura Fantail Rhipidura dryas
Magpie-Lark Grallina cyanoleuca
Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula
Broad-billed Flycatcher Myiagra ruficollis
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto
Paperbark Flycatcher Myiagra nana
Torresian Crow Corvus orru
Apostlebird Struthidea cinerea
Lemon-bellied Flyrobin Microeca flavigaster
Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans
Horsfield's Bush Lark Mirafra javanica
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena
Fairy Martin Petrochelidon ariel
Australian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus australis
Rufous Songlark Cincloramphus mathewsi
Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis
Canary White-eye Zosterops luteus
Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum
Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton
Star Finch Neochmia ruficauda
Masked Finch Poephila personata
Long-tailed Finch Poephila acuticauda
Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii
Gouldian Finch Erythrura gouldiae
Yellow-rumped Mannikin Lonchura flaviprymna