Welcome to Birdquest

NORTHERN AUSTRALIA

Sunday 11th September - Monday 26th September 2016

Mike Watson

Red Goshawk at its nest in the Top End (Mike Watson).

Red Goshawk at its nest in the Top End (Mike Watson).

This was the second time we had operated this itinerary, the best of Australia’s legendary Northern Territory combining the Red Centre and the Top End. Again we had a fabulous series of encounters with some of Aus- tralia’s most sought after birds (as well as some of its other fauna). Standout moments included: point blank Inland Dotterel with a thunder storm approaching on the gibber plains near Erldunda; an equally approachable White-browed Treecreeper in the ancient Ironwood forest at Alice Springs; insanely habituated Spinifex Pi- geons at the beautiful Ormiston Gorge; perky little Dusky Grasswrens and Rufous-crowned Emuwrens in the Spinifex grass near Alice Springs; a nomadic honeyeater-fest at Uluru where Black and Pied were breeding in profusion with the desert in bloom; a Chestnut Rail watched gathering nesting material in a tidal creek in Darwin; a huge Rufous Owl peered down at us in Darwin’s Botanical Garden; a pair of majestic Red Goshawks tended their nest in Kakadu; a roosting ock of gaudy Hooded Parrots disgraced themselves at our resort in Pine Creek; a pair of (Northern) Crested Shrike-Tits was building a nest in the highest twigs of a gum tree near Katherine, the feisty little Purple-crowned Fairywrens at Victoria River and gorgeous Rainbow Pittas that lit up several monsoon forest locations in the Top End, to mention just a few highlights. Aussie specialities new for this itinerary were: Great-billed Heron; Square-tailed Kite; Little Eagle, White-browed Crake, Little Buttonquail, Australian Raven, (Sandhill) Striated Grasswren; Star Finch and Pictorella Mannakin.

A long list of Birdquest diamond birds included the trio of Arnhemland endemics, Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon, Black-banded Fruit Dove and White-lined Honeyeater. Three widely scattered ocks of the red-faced nominate form of Partridge Pigeon gave rst timers a wrong impression of the status of this sometimes tricky- to-find species. Despite water now lying everywhere, some nches continued to visit their favourite pools, although not always to drink and we saw the lovely Gouldian Finch (including both red and black faced adults) at a couple of places.

Australia also has a rich diversity of endemic mammals and reptiles and we enjoyed some very interesting sightings such as: cute Black-flanked Rock Wallabies and majestic Red Kangaroos in the Red Centre; Short-eared Rock Wallabies on the escarpments in the Top End; the awesome Saltwater Crocodiles of Kakadu’s Yellow Waters cruise; Central Bearded and Gilbert’s Dragons in the Red Centre and Central Military Dragon at Uluru. However, we also found a heart-breaking moribund Thorny Devil (maybe the world’s most spectac- ular lizard?) on the road near Uluru, which had been hit by a vehicle and literally died in our hands. The North also has some wonderful landscapes from the red sandstone gorges of the Western MacDonnell Range to the awesome red monolith of Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock) in the south to the wild and untamed escarpment country of the Kakadu and Gregory regions in the Top End. Other non-avian attractions included aboriginal rock art in Kakadu, Darwin’s pretty coastline complete with numerous WWII relics and a couple of the territory’s famous roadhouses at Erldunda and Victoria River.

Rufous Owl at Darwin's lovely George Brown Botanical Gardens (Mike Watson).

Rufous Owl at Darwin's lovely George Brown Botanical Gardens (Mike Watson).