Trip Report: Australia July/August 2004

Trip Report for Northern Territory & SE Queensland, Australia July/August 2004 by Andrew Self

A two week trip to the Northern Territory followed by a weekend in South East Queensland began on 16 July with a Qantas flight from Heathrow to Darwin via Singapore. We had booked most of the accommodation over the Internet beforehand as some places are fully booked in Kakadu NP at this time of year. This was my first trip to Oz whereas my travelling companions, Roy Beddard & Neil Bowman had been before. However, this was their first time to the Top End and we were all particularly keen to see the area's specialities.

July 17, Singapore
An hour or so before dusk found us in the open air 'Cactus Lounge' taking a break between flights and eager to see a few birds. We saw Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Intermediate Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, House Crow, Javan Mynah, Olive-backed Sunbird and a swift sp.

July 18, Darwin
Arrived at 04.30 and took a cab to our accommodation, the Barramundi Hotel, situated next to the Botanical Gardens. After a few hours rest, the dawn chorus proved too irresistible and we walked around the golf course across the road to acquaint ourselves with some of the common birds, although just about every time I lifted my bins I got a tick! At 10.00 we walked to Mitchell Street (a young Estuarine Crocodile was found here later the same day!) and picked up our hire car, a very roomy Toyota Camry. Although the terms meant we had to stick to tarmac roads it was the best option as a 4WD was too expensive. Our first stop was at Tiger Brennan Drive and the mangroves accessible from Bayview. With a low tide this was the best place to look for Chestnut Rail and it wasn't long before we found one, we were well pleased with our first target bird. Lunch at the harbour (Barramundi & Chips – we were going to get through a lot of that in the next three weeks!) also added a few species, including Eastern Curlew. A short stop along the Esplanade got us a Beach Stone-Curlew before we headed into the Botanical Gardens. Although mid-afternoon on a Sunday might not be the best time to visit here it worked to our advantage. After watching a couple of Orange-footed Scrubfowl (actually quite common around Darwin) we were approached by a couple with a baby in a pushchair who informed us about a 'frogmouth' they'd just seen. We got him to show us and we could hardly believe it when he took us straight to the Rufous Owl we'd been searching for!

Rufous Owl Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

We ended the day in Charles Darwin NP, adding a few good species such as Northern Rosella and my first Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, which is one huge parrot!

July 19, Darwin
An early start so we could be at East Point for dawn. We walked along the forest trails and one of the first birds we saw was a roosting Tawny Frogmouth. A little while later and the unmistakable sound of a bird hopping in the leaf litter brought us cracking views of a Rainbow Pitta, just what we'd been looking for. The point produced a few birds on the reefs such as Australian Pelican and Grey-tailed Tattler, while the trees and grassy areas held species such as Mangrove Gerygone and Paperbark Flycatcher, a recent split from Restless as well as Brush Cuckoo and more Orange-footed Scrubfowl.

Brush Cuckoo Orange-footed Scrubfowl

We also saw the first of many Agile Wallabies, the most commonly seen marsupial in the Top End. In the afternoon we worked our way north, calling into Casuarina, where we got Red-headed Honeyeater and Long-tailed Finch; Lee Point where we saw our only Sooty Oystercatcher of the trip; and finishing up at Holmes Jungle NR, an excellent place where we could easily have spent a lot longer. We saw three Brolga, Mangrove Golden Whistler and Rufous-banded Honeyeater.

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