Trip Report: Australia July/August 2004 - Page 4
July 26, Katherine
We drove slowly along the Bonrook track looking in vain for Bustards, only getting a large covey of Chestnut-backed Button-quail. Another look around Pine Creek before heading down to Katherine. Raptors enroute included two Black-chested Buzzards and a Wedge-tailed Eagle. At Katherine we checked in at the Shady Lane Caravan Park before visiting the Sewage Ponds; here we added a single Red-kneed Dotterel, the only one of the trip. In the afternoon we drove down to Chainman Creek where we finally got a cracking male Red-backed Fairy-wren, all previous ones had been females or immatures. Finally, the star bird fell; at Chinaman Creek we found Hooded Parrot, at first just a single bird, then more arrived and at one point we were surrounded by them, ending up with an incredible tally of 47!
July 27, Victoria River
We left at dawn for the long trip down to Victoria River. Close to Chinaman Creek, three more Hooded Parrots flew over the road. Shortly afterwards we watched a Wedge-tailed Eagle drop down and snatch a roadkill from several Kites. The change of scenery into the more arid heartland also meant different birds and we saw several small flocks of Cockatiel fly over. We turned off the Victoria Highway and drove down the Buntine Highway for a short way. This is an excellent birding area and we added several new birds here including Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, Spotted Harrier and Starfinch. At Campbell Springs we had good views of four Banded Honeyeaters. We arrived at Victoria River Roadhouse in time for a late lunch and siesta before exploring the area. At the bridge we saw several Yellow-rumped Mannakins in a mixed flock that also contained Chestnut-rumped Mannakins as well as many hybrids. Near the boat ramp on the service road we scored with another target bird: a pair of Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens, the male being an absolute stunner. The Escarpment Walk couldn't be put off any longer and it was a long hot climb up to the summit. The views were amazing and we were well rewarded with several White-quilled Rock-Pigeons. After dinner we heard a noise that could only be Barking Owl and we managed to see it perched in a tree by the roadside.
July 28, Pine Creek
A pre-breakfast walk to the bridge produced close views of another three Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens. We drove slowly back to Katherine, looking for raptors but could only find seven Brown Falcons, two Wedge-tailed Eagles and a Red-collared Sparrowhawk. We went down the Buntine Highway again and this time got Pictorella Mannikin and another two Star Finches. Continual scanning of roadside wires finally got us a bird we'd been missing: Red-backed Kingfisher. As we hadn't booked any more accommodation because we wanted a bit of flexibility we pressed on to Pine Creek so that we could stay at Bonrook again. The nearest birding spot to here is Copperfield Dam so we spent the rest of the afternoon here. Recent reports had suggested this was a place for Gouldian Finch and towards dusk we had poor views of four birds that could only have been this species.