Welcome to Birdquest
Saturday 27th September - Sunday 12th October 2014
Birdquest has been operating tours to Australia for many years now but the northern part has never been explored with such an itinerary. So this was our pioneering tour to the Northern Territory, where we combined the Red Center and the Top End in one adventure in search of a wide range of special and exciting species. Although on a ‘first’ tour it is difficult to judge the results but we certainly saw most of our target birds amongst a total of 276 species seen (and for once none were heard-only!). Notable highlights included Chestnut Rail, Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, Inland Dotterel, Oriental Plover, Spinifex and Partridge Pigeons, Chestnut- and White-quilled Rock Pigeons, Black-banded Fruit-Dove, Hooded Parrot, Rainbow Pitta, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Purple-crowned Fairywren, Dusky Grasswren, Grey Honeyeater, Slaty-backed Thornbill, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Ground Cuckooshrike, Northern Shrike-tit, Sandstone Shrikethrush, Spinifexbird, Buff-sided Robin, Painted Finch and Gouldian Finch.
The timing of this tour is crucial as some of the hard-to-find birds in the Top End are most easily seen at the end of the dry season. This year we were lucky as the weather was normal (we cannot say this often nowadays) and although it did get hot, indeed very hot around Pine Creek and Katherine where daytime highs peaked at over 40C with all the great birds and the constant supply of ice creams we had a great time! We visited a variety of habitats and had some amazing landscape experiences, which included a short visit to the famous and second largest monolith in the World: Uluru or Ayers Rock.
In a mere 16 days we covered a lot of ground, which is normal for birding in Australia, however, with great infrastructure this was all done in a rather easy and relaxing way. The tour started at Alice Springs, where we spent a few days to explore the West Macdonnell Range, with its spectacular gaps and gorges plus the surrounding mulga, mallee and spinifex hummock grasslands. Later we drove further south to Erldunda and onto Kata Tjuta National Park. After a short flight we arrived in Darwin on the Timor Sea coast and drove to the famous Kakadu National Park with its uique tropical wetlands, open woodlands and the Arnhem Land Escarpment. Further south we spent some time around Katherine, where we explored some eucalypt woodland habitat before moving to Victoria River and finally back to Darwin and its lush tropical habitats.
Apart from the real Northern Territory specialities we also had a fine supporting cast which included a lot of migrant shorebirds around Darwin like masses of Great Knots, a fine Beach Stone-Curlew, the colourful Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, and day-roosting pair of Barking Owls, Blue-winged Kookaburra, the tiny Little Kingfisher, Black Falcon, the stunning Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos, a few Bourke’s Parrots, beautiful Crimson Chats plus some nomads such as Cockatiels, Budgerigars, Masked Woodswallows, White-fronted and Pied Honeyeaters, Yellow-rumped Mannakin and Long-tailed Fiches.
Non-avian highlights included mammals such as Red Kangaroo and Black-flanked Rock Wallaby and of course the amazing Ayers Rock at sunset!