Two Go Mad in Australia - October 2006

Published by Chris Lotz, Birding Ecotours (info AT


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Rainbow Pitta
Rainbow Pitta
Gouldian Finch
Gouldian Finch
Plains Wanderer
Plains Wanderer
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove
Partridge Pigeon
Partridge Pigeon

My conveniently international job once again found me in birding territory in October 2006, and having got through a few business meetings in Sydney and Melbourne, (spiced up with a quick side-trip to Deniliquin between the two cities,) I headed up to the Top End and on to the South-Western corner of the continent South of Perth with my long-suffering other half. Our aim, (OK, my aim,) was to see as many of the Top End and Western endemics as possible in the limited time available, and we scored pretty well, although necessarily missed a few key birds due to the perils of ‘speed-birding.’

Flights: (London to Sydney via San Francisco for work)
Sydney-Melbourne Sun 15 Oct QF455 depart 1000 arrive 1130
Melbourne-Darwin Tues 17 Oct QF5978 depart 2140 arrive 0130
Darwin-Perth Sun 22 Oct QF793 depart 1515 arrive 1740
Perth-Singapore Thurs 26 Oct QF71 depart 1530 arrive 2050
Singapore-H'row Sat 28 Oct QF9 depart 2255 arrive Sun 29th 0430

Flights were with Qantas throughout, who are highly recommended; friendly, courteous and efficient. Total flight costs were around £1200 pp round trip total.


Weds 11th-Friday 13th October: working in Sydney.

Saturday 14th: Pelagic off Sydney.

Sunday 15th: Mid-morning flight Sydney to Melbourne. Landed Melbourne Airport 1130am, drove the c4 hours to Deniliquin arriving 430pm. Checked into Peppin Motor Lodge, met up with Phil Maher for Plains Wanderer expedition, returned c10pm. Night Deniliquin.

Monday 16th/Tues 17th: Returned to Melbourne early Monday morning; then working in Melbourne for two days, before evening flight up to Darwin arriving in the wee hours.

Weds 18th: Around Darwin from 1st light, (East Point, Buffalo Creek,) then drove to Jabiru via Fogg Dam, arriving early evening. Night Jabiru.

Thurs 19th: Nourlangie Rock for dawn, then North to Ubirr Rock, Mamukala Wetlands. Evening session at deserted Malabanbandju campsite and billabongs South of Jabiru. Night Jabiru.

Friday 20th: Merl Campsite near Ubirr for dawn, then Nourlangie Rock and Anbangbang Billabong before driving SW via Cooinda/Yellow Water and Gunlom Falls, finally arriving at Mary River 7pm. Night Mary River.

Saturday 21st: Creeks along road in to Gunlom Falls, then drove West and South to Edith Falls, on to Katherine Gorge NP and back to the road in to Edith Falls for the last of the light. Night Pine Creek.

Sunday 22nd: Umbrawarra Gorge South-West of Pine Creek, then birded around Pine Creek before driving back to Darwin to connect with our afternoon flight to Perth. Night Perth.

Monday 23rd: John Forrest NP North-East of Perth early morning, then drove South from Perth along the coast stopping at likely-looking spots e.g. Leschenault Peninsula, Lulworth Forest. Ended the day whale-watching at Cape Naturaliste. Night Dunsborough.

Tuesday 24th: Cape Naturaliste again early morning, then tried a couple of locations in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest. Drove further South-West to Cowaramup Bay, Boranup Forest, Hamblin Bay, and The Gloucester Tree, Pemberton. Night Pemberton.

Weds 25th: Big Brooke State Forest at first light, then drove West through Denmark to Albany, stopping off at the Treetop Walkway nr Walpole. Visited the Two People’s Bay Reserve 30kms East of Albany. Night in Middleton Beach just East of Albany.

Thurs 26th: Returned to Two People’s Bay Reserve for dawn, then drove directly from Albany to Darwin airport before catching flight to Singapore.

Fri 27th/Sat 28th: Chilling out in Singapore, with repeat visits to Tyersall Avenue next to the Botanical Gardens. Saturday night flight back to the UK arriving Sunday 29th.

Basics: Australia is big and a bloody long way away for most people, (except Australians.) From the UK it’s a 13 hr flight to Singapore or Bangkok or similar, and then another 9 hours to Sydney. (In addition, the time difference is 11-12 hours ahead of the UK, so basically you are toast when you arrive.) Due to work commitments I came the longer way round via the US (c10 hours to San Francisco, then 13 hours to Sydney.) If you have the luxury of a few spare days, break the journey and do some birding in Singapore/South Malaysia or central Thailand en route/on the way back. Although it’s a long haul, Australia is a stunning continent with well over 700 species and thus well worth the effort of getting there. The language spoken is (approximately) English, (though strictly speaking it’s ‘Strine’, and there are a few great colloquialisms e.g. “stickybeak” for a nosey person.)

Reading: John Bransbury’s “Where to find birds in Australia” (published by Waymark ISBN 598.0723494) remains absolutely invaluable for site directions, species guidance etc. My copy is c1992, there may be later versions, but even this relatively old information remains extremely accurate for the most part; indispensable.

I used the trusty “Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds” (Slater, Slater and Slater, published: Weldon and Associates,) which is compact and very useful, although my ‘revised’ edition (1992) was rather out of date with regards to the most recent splits etc. “Birds of Australia” by Pizzey & Knight Harper Collins (1997) (ISBN: 0002201321) may be more up to date.

Maps - we used the following:
Eastern Australia: Reise Know-How, 1:1,800,000 ISBN 3-8317-7150-2
Top End and Gulf: Hema Maps 4th edition 1:1,650,000 ISBN-10 1-87599-261-8
Western Australia: Hema Maps 1:2.500,000 ISBN-10 1-86500-242-9
Perth, City and Suburbs: Gregory’s map 618, 3rd edition 1;10,000, ISBN 0-7319-1788-X

Lonely Planet: we used “Western Australia”, “East Coast Australia” and the generic “Australia” guides to find accomm. and for general background etc. There’s a lot of overlap however, and either the general tome or the two smaller East/West volumes would be sufficient.

Trip Reports etc: There are a few reports on, and the other usual suspects, and there’s a useful Oz checklist showing endemics and the latest splits/potential splits etc at

Amongst the most useful resources were:
See also posted since.

A useful database of mammal distribution with maps can be found at:

A useful map of the Kakadu NP can be found at:

Car Hire: We rented via Avis throughout (Avis Australia: 1300-137-498) booking everything on the web from the UK before departure. Vehicles included a 4x4 for the Top End, although a basic rental car would have sufficed given that the Wet season had not yet started. Almost all roads are sealed, except the c40 kms in to Gunlom in SW Kakadu; however, even this ridged dirt road would have been perfectly passable in a standard 2WD in the dry season. A 4x4 would probably be required in The Wet, and even then access may not be possible in some areas- check road conditions locally after heavy rain etc. Total kms driven were c1750 in the Top End and c1500 in the SW.

Weather: HOT and dry in the Top End (Darwin, Kakadu,) and also, (unusually for the time of year,) equally hot in Sydney. Melbourne was the usual ‘4 seasons in one day’ mix, the SW was pleasantly cool/occasionally cold in the early morning. The Top End wet season runs approx. Oct-April.

Accommodation: We booked most in advance on the ‘net, but just stopped wherever we liked the look of in the South-West, (Dunsborough, Pemberton, and Middleton Beach Albany,) and had no problem finding somewhere to sleep. Most small towns have a tourist information bureau where the staff can hook you up with accommodation at a range of prices. In high season (we were there in the Austral Spring and most resorts etc were not yet busy,) it would be sensible to book in advance. Note also that the number of hotels is far more limited up in the Kakadu, and booking ahead is advised. Discount rates can often be found at, which covers all manner of establishments throughout Australia. There are numerous campsites available too, though facilities are often very basic. Our accommodation included:

Deniliquin: The Peppin Motor Inn, Tel: +61 3 5881 2722, Fax: +61 3 5881 1661. A twin/double room is approximately $69 AUD and a single $63 AUD. All birders seem to stay here; it’s pretty cheap and very friendly, located on the Southern edge of town. Sandwiches can be ordered for Plains Wanderer evening jaunts etc.

Darwin: Darwin Airport Resort, Cnr Henry Wrigley and Sir Norman Brearley Drive, Marrara 0812 NT, (Darwin Airport Precinct.) Nice resort style hotel within staggering distance (350m) of the airport.

Jabiru (NE Kakadu): Gagudju Croc Hotel, Flinders St, Jabiru +618-8979-2800. The hotel is shaped like a croc. (you enter through the mouth (reception) or one of the four legs…) If you get bored, try to count the number of crocodile motifs liberally scattered around the décor, but do bring a calculator as fingers and toes will not suffice…For trivia buffs, the hotel is named after an Aboriginal floodplain language.

Mary River (SW Kakadu, just outside the National Park boundary) Wirnwirnmila Mary River Road House. A basic but friendly truck-stop/motel. The barman’s accent threw us for a while until he told us he was from Chester! Telephone: +61-08-8975 4564. Useful map and more details at

Pine Creek (further SW of Kakadu, 220km South of Darwin): Digger’s Rest Motel, 32 Main Tce, Pine Creek. Book with the proprietress, Pat +618-8976-1442. Basic fixed-caravan-style cabins. A good base to try for Hooded Parrot (edges of Pine Creek town,) Gouldian Finch etc. The motel is apparently up for sale ( so contact details may change.

Middleton Beach, Albany: Norfolk Sands, Tel: 9841-3585 Simple but classy, and only 30 yards from the (beautiful) beach, c2 miles drive East of Albany town centre. Discounted-for-residents and utterly wonderful breakfast is available at the Bay Merchants café next door. A convenient base for endless Noisy Scrub-bird attempts.

Sites: Top End

East Point, Darwin:
A nice site, and only c10 mins. drive from central Darwin. I saw Rainbow Pitta here very easily, a few metres beyond the restaurant on the left hand side as you drive in; park in the lay-by on the left just after passing the restaurant and walk back 20 metres or so. The open parkland and coastal habitats at the point itself are also worth scouring for Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Bush Stone-curlew etc.

Buffalo Creek, Darwin: A mangrove site marked on Darwin street maps etc, this is an easy c20 mins drive North from central Darwin on sealed roads. There have been security issues here, so pay the fee to park by the boat ramp where there’s a parking attendant, (and a small kiosk selling food and drink etc.) This is the site for Chestnut Rail, and Beach Stone-curlew, not that we saw either, and is also rumoured to hold Little Kingfisher (which we also failed to score) plus Red-headed Honeyeater, Rainbow Pitta etc. Others have birded Bleeser’s Creek, Howard Springs etc, see reports elsewhere.

Kakadu: Access is on excellent sealed roads East from Darwin. Three main roads surround the Kakadu in a c600km triangle; the Arnhem highway runs across the top from Darwin to Jabiru, (220kms) the Kakadu highway runs SW from this NE corner to Pine Creek beyond the SW park border, (210kms) and the Stuart highway runs up the West side back to Darwin (220kms.) Other roads are few and far between, so it’s pretty tough to get lost. We took 5 full days to complete the circuit, but an extra day or two would be better to give more time to bird the sites around Darwin/explore further South and West from Pine Creek, (we missed Beach Stone Curlew, Chestnut Rail and other good stuff through lack of time.) Alternatively you could drive all the way South from Pine Creek to Alice Springs and leave a rental car there, though it’s an 1100kms trek one way. One other noteworthy thing is that we were unable to get an unlimited mileage deal on our 4x4 booked in advance, which would certainly be a prerequisite for an Alice mission. As it was we used more than double our 750kms limit. Key Kakadu sites, (starting in the NW and then heading East/South i.e. clockwise,) include:

Fogg Dam: Outside the NW corner of the Kakadu reserve, situated just North of the main Arnhem highway c70kms East of Darwin, this is an easy site to visit with a good array of wetland species, and with the bonus of monsoon, paperbark and open forest and floodplains, hence a good species mix. A road leads across the top of the raised dam allowing ample opportunity to bird from a vehicle without disturbing the flocks of waterbirds. We didn’t have time to bird the forest here, which per other reports holds Rainbow Pitta, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and other good stuff.

Nourlangie Rock: c40 kms/45 mins drive SE of Jabiru, South of the Kakadu highway in the NE corner of the Kakadu proper, clearly signed on the ground and on maps. (Do not confuse the Rock with Nourlangie Camp which is further West, off to the other side (North) of the Kakadu highway.) Highlights here include Arnhem Sandstone escarpment specialities such as Banded Fruit-dove, Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeon, White-lined Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, and Sandstone Shrike-Thrush. As this is a premier site for Aboriginal Rock Art, (as is Ubirr Rock, another good birding site an hour’s drive North of Jabiru,) it can get mildly busy with regular tourist types, but if you are there at dawn you’ll likely have the place to yourself as I did. Nourlangie is also supposed to be home to the rare Black Wallaroo but we saw nothing remotely bouncy on either visit.

Yellow Water/Cooinda: South-Central Kakadu, accessed North off the main road and clearly signposted. The boat trip is supposed to be worth doing for Kingfishers etc, (needs to be pre-booked a couple of miles from the quay, follow signs on arrival,) we didn’t have time.

Gunlom Falls: (aka Waterfall Creek camping.) Most people visit to try for White-throated Grasswren. However, I had been told in Sydney that the birds are only present in the latter half of the year, and also that birds had not been seen for at least six months prior to October 2006. In previous years the birds have apparently been found throughout the area, even calling right beside the path at the top of the escarpment. Much of the area immediately adjacent to the top of the trail by the upper rock pools, (on top of the escarpment, excellent for swimming,) had been recently burnt over, so if the birds are still present it may be necessary to traipse considerably further from the top of the trail; the higher slopes are rumoured to be better anyway, I didn’t check, see below for detail of my speaker tragedy. The lower pool is fed by the waterfall and is also great for a refreshing dip after schlepping up the steep escarpment trail, (which starts from the SE corner of the car park just to the right of the entrance road as you head in,) and getting all hot and bothered whilst dipping the WTG’s.

Access to the site is off the Kakadu highway, to the left just before you pass the southern entrance into Kakadu National Park if travelling from Jabiru, (or on the right just after entering the park if coming from Pine Creek, which is c40 kms to the West.) Follow this dirt road for v. approx. 20 kms to an obvious t-junction, turn left and keep going for a further c15kms until you arrive at the car park by the pool (not visible from the car park) at the base of the escarpment.

Pine Creek: The Pine Creek area (c200 kms/2.5 to 3 hours drive South of Darwin,) is situated between the tropics and the semi-arid zone, and holds species not easily found further North/East, including the un-cooperative Hooded Parrot, (which feed around the Northern edges of Pine Creek town in the early morning (before 830am) and evening,) and Gouldian Finch, (best chance is around the Katherine area, or the Fergusson River crossing; ask at Digger’s Creek/ any local NP wardens for details of current watering hole stake-outs.) Edith Falls and Katherine (90kms) are less than an hour’s drive to the South.

Victoria Crossing (195kms South-West of Katherine) and Timber Creek (approx. 300kms South-West of Katherine) additionally hold Star Finch, Yellow-rumped Mannikin, White-quilled Rock-Pigeon, Spinifex Pigeon plus Gouldian Finch and Pictorella Mannikin in the dry season. Purple-crowned Fairy wren is also supposed to be easy in the riparian vegetation near the bridge at Victoria River. We did not have time to visit; see Bransbury for details as ever.

Katherine/Edith Falls: Very easy to access from Pine Creek, an hour’s drive South on excellent roads. Edith Falls is off to the East of the main North-South PC/Kath. highway. The general area holds Hooded Parrot, Gouldian Finch and Chestnut-backed Buttonquail. The damn parrots are supposed to occur anywhere on the road in to the falls, especially, (per an Edith Falls warden,) around the entrance to the Aboriginal reserve on the South side of the road about two-thirds of the way in. Take all this gen. with a pinch of salt since we dipped! We did however score Gouldian Finch here, wahoo.

Sites: South West

We basically drove South from Perth and followed the coast to the South-West corner, then headed East as far as Albany. See Bransbury for main site details, his information is so good I haven’t bothered to duplicate here; the key as ever is to get into as many habitats as possible in the various areas. Having birded a fair amount before in the South-East (South of Sydney, North up the East coast, around Melbourne, Deniliquin etc) and in the North East (Cairns, Atherton Tablelands etc) we focused on the Western endemics. I’d recommend that any mini-itinerary include the following two sites:

Two People’s Bay: Less than an hour’s drive East of Albany, (which is a direct 4-hour/410 km drive South-East from Perth Airport on the Albany highway,) this reserve is allegedly home to three key scarce/restricted range endemics; Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Whipbird and Western Bristlebird, plus other bits and bobs such as Shy Heathwren.

Cape Naturaliste and the Leeuwin Naturaliste forest: Half an hour’s drive from the charming town of Dunsborough, the Cape includes a single breeding site for Red-tailed Tropicbird, (we were too early in the year,) and is a good whale- and sea-watching spot. The forest a few miles further West is good for some of the Western endemics.

Sydney Pelagic logistics:
Sydney pelagics depart from the Rose Bay Public Ferry Wharf, (in Lyne Park,) which is c15 mins by taxi East of Sydney city centre. They usually run on the 2nd Saturday of the month, check schedules and book well in advance. Contact: Hal Epstein Tel: +61-411-311236, e-mail: hepstein @, (note: remove all spaces in e-mail addresses in this report,) or Tony Palliser (Tel: +61-294-911678) tonyp @ The "Halicat" (catamaran) leaves the wharf at 7am, returning c3pm, be ready on the quay at 6.45am. The Wharf is easy to find being next to the floating Restaurant, close to where the float planes take off. Cost in ’06 was AU$110.00 per person.

Plains Wanderer (Deniliquin) logistics: Phil Maher is the man in Deni. who can take you out for the Wanderer in his spotlight-equipped 4x4. Deniliquin is c4 hours’ easy drive North of Melbourne airport. The birds move around from year to year and are on private land, so booking with Phil is the only way to see them. Email: enquiries @ or to Phil’s wife Patricia: pmmah @ Website: Pre-book via phone or the web-site, then call Phil when you get to Deni on 58813378 or mobile 0427030007 to confirm your arrival and to let him know where you are so he can collect you. Total cost for two of us for an evening’s excursion in ‘06 was $350 AUD including Phil, vehicle etc. Other species are available too, and tailored trips can be arranged for a full day/evening, full weekend etc; contact Phil ahead of time to specify your needs.

Special thanks to: Phil and Patricia Maher, Hal E. and the Sydney Pelagic crew, all the trip report writers cited above, and the friendly denizens of Australia for making us feel 100% welcome everywhere.

Birding Diary:

Saturday 14th October: Pelagic off Sydney. I left our hotel in trendy Darlinghurst, SW Central Sydney ludicrously early, arriving at the deserted quay for 615am. I mooched around for half an hour clocking up suburban species until other birders turned up, sadly unmatched by any catamarans. A quick phone call confirmed that The Helicat was indeed on its way after a minor technical problem, and we were underway by 730. As we exited Sydney Harbour the ocean did not look too intimidating, despite an unrelenting NE breeze. A few hundred yards beyond the harbour entrance we passed close by a pair of Little Penguins, bobbing up and down on the swell. Over the next half mile or so we passed through rafts of Wedge-tailed- and Fluttering Shearwaters, with a few Short-tailed Shearwaters showing up for good measure. However, birds were few and far between for the next couple of hours as we steamed East, the famine broken at length by a couple of Providence Petrels. Once we got out over the shelf, we heaved to and chummed, bringing in c25 Wilson’s Petrel and a lone juvenile Wandering Albatross. A spot of fishing ensued, with one local birder landing a huge and beautifully iridescent Dolphin Fish (aka Mahi Mahi.) However, after a couple of hours it soon became apparent that today was not going to produce the hoped-for flocks of seabirds, and only a couple of Flesh-footed Shearwaters cheered us up on the way back into Sydney. Good numbers of Humpback Whale and a few Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin just North of the harbour lifted the spirits further, but the local birders in particular were disappointed at the low species count.

Sunday 15th: Our flight from Sydney landed on time at Melbourne Airport at 1130, and we managed to find the main highway North to Deniliquin after a small amount of weaving around, arriving at 430pm. I called Phil Maher on his mobile and he arrived in a 4x4 20 mins. later. We headed out immediately, having sorted out sandwiches from the helpful folks at the Peppin Motor Inn. We stopped at a couple of spots en route to the paddocks, notching up Australian Spotted Crake, Spotless Crake, Southern Boobook and a Tawny Frogmouth on the nest, plus three species of Kangaroo. Having watched the sunset and consumed our alfresco dinner Phil rigged up his spotlight and we drove around the paddocks. After 20 minutes or so of squinting into the darkness with little result, we caught a movement out of the driver’s window, and were soon gazing down on an Inland Dotterel, a species I had missed on my previous visit to Deni. Two more followed in quick succession, and posed for photographs at point blank range. Having scored this scarce nomadic wader, Phil drove us over to the current favoured paddock. For the next 20 minutes, every small passerine we flushed caused my heart to skip a beat, until finally, there in front of us, stock still but illuminated by the searchlight, stood our quarry; a female Plains Wanderer!

Having tried unsuccessfully once before to catch up with this elusive species, (I must be the only man in history to have been rained off in Deniliquin, which is increasingly drought-stricken,) victory this time was all the sweeter, and I fired off a few record shots as I crouched behind the vehicle, just a few short yards from this enigmatic bird. After a few minutes we left the bird in peace, though not before chancing upon a tiny endemic marsupial, the Fat-tailed Dunnart, which allowed us to examine its small but beautifully formed desert physique at close range. A minor diversion on the way back enabled us to flush a male and female Stubble Quail, with a Common Brushtail Possum providing a comedic interlude. A celebratory glass of house red back at the Peppin Motor Lodge rounded off a fabulous evening’s work.

Monday 16th/Tues 17th: We dragged ourselves up at some obscure hour in order to return to Melbourne early Monday morning, (scoring 5 Emu en route,) and the next two days were spent working in Melbourne, before an evening flight up to Darwin arriving in the small hours. Thankfully, having been warned of our late arrival the Avis car rental office had stayed open until 2am (Hertz Singapore, are you listening?) and we pointed our vastly over-specified 4x4 at the Darwin Airport Resort, a long haul at some 400m from the airport concourse.

Weds 18th: After all too few precious hours’ sleep, dawn found me parking the behemoth landcruiser just past PeeWee’s Restaurant on the tarmac road out to East Point, c5 miles North of Darwin. I rubbed my eyes, partially to remove the sleep from them, but also in disbelief at the Rainbow Pitta which hopped out into the leaf litter at the edge of the road before I had even finished cueing up my MD player. The bird fed unconcernedly pretty much in the open until a passing vehicle flushed it back into the confines of the forest; a major target bird secured. Birding around the open parkland, forest and beaches produced a number of Orange-footed Scrubfowl, two male and a female Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, a Brown Booby, Rufous-banded Honeyeaters, a Pacific Baza, Green-backed Gerygones, a stately Bush Stone-curlew, and another Rainbow Pitta which came shooting in to tape and perched 3 metres up in full view. After a suitably enthusiastic breakfast back at the hotel, we drove North-East to the coastal outskirts of Darwin for a quick look in at Buffalo Creek/Lee Point, (plenty of Red-headed Honeyeaters and another Rainbow Pitta but sadly no Chestnut Rail, Great-billed Heron nor Beach Stone-curlews.) We then headed East, following the main road across the top of the Kakadu, but not before we’d called in at Fogg Dam, another required stop on any Top End birding itinerary. Highlights included lots of Pied Herons, a single soaring Black-necked Stork, 2 Radjah Shelduck, a juv. Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo, and 20+ Crimson Finch. Aware that we had a fair way to drive we pushed on through the (considerable) heat of the day, following the Arnhem Highway East past the West Alligator River and on to the Gagudju Crocodile Hotel. An evening’s sojourn at the Malabanbandju Camping Area 20 miles to the SW produced only a Masked Finch and a few Green Pygmy-Goose, plus a warning from one of the locals not to bird too close to the water’s edge. Saltwater Crocodiles are an ever-present danger in the Top End and their speed over short distances is apparently not to be under-estimated. Deciding that my involvement in a dinner scenario would best be as consumer rather than consumed, I packed up and drove back to the groaning buffet tables of the most crocodile-themed hotel in the universe.

Thurs 19th: A quick 45 minute drive South from Jabiru saw me vaulting down from the 4x4’s upper cabin just as it got light, and I wasted no time in heading to the Nourlangie Rock viewing platform. The trail took about 20 minutes to walk, my progress being enlivened along the way by a Sandstone Shrike-Thrush which came in to tape, 2 White-lined Honeyeater, a range-limited local speciality, 4 Helmeted Friarbirds and a couple of Great Bowerbirds. However, it took almost an hour’s hard scope-work from the upper viewing area before I finally tracked down my main quarry quarter of a mile away on the opposite side of the ravine; a pair of Banded Fruit-Doves. The birds were taking advantage of the early morning cool, feeding actively in large trees on the steep-sided sandstone escarpment. After sustained if distant views, and having cleaned up on most of my target species, I sweated my way further up the trail, which snakes its way into the sandstone hills for miles, in search of Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon. Despite helpful eco-tourist brochures assuring me they were ‘commonly seen along the trail’ I failed to connect, eventually admitting defeat and settling for the Fruit-Doves and a well-earned breakfast.

To duck accusations of being complete philistines we next visited Ubirr Rock, home to some of the most impressive Aboriginal rock paintings in Australia, and quite possibly the oldest art in the world. A Collared Sparrowhawk made a brief appearance, along with our first rubritorquartus (“Red-collared”) Rainbow Lorikeets A visit to the nearby boat ramp produced Azure Kingfisher, but failed to turn up Little Kingfisher, (a bird I had missed before in the North-East and which I still haven’t seen,) but did provide disconcertingly spectacular views of two Saltwater Crocodiles. The rest of the day drifted by at a leisurely pace, the searing heat preventing any frenetic activity, but a visit to the Mamukala Wetlands turned up three spanking Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 000’s of both species of Whistling Ducks, a single flock of 2000+ Whiskered Terns, and scads of other waterbirds. Jabiru Lake was quiet save for a pair of Red-backed Fairy-Wren, but an hour utilizing the last of the light at a creek c10 kms along the road to Ubirr produced a male Paperbark Flycatcher, a female Shining Flycatcher, 3 Nankeen Night-Herons, and a few Lemon-bellied Flycatchers.

Friday 20th: Having managed to fend off the lady owner of the Merl Campsite near Ubirr who incorrectly suspected I had stayed there the previous night, I trekked around the bush looking for Partridge Pigeons in likely-looking recently burned-over areas, but without success. However, the area was far from birdless, with a Black-tailed Treecreeper, 2 pairs of Red-winged Parrot, and an obliging Brush Cuckoo making appearances. The sandstone outcrops just to the South were my next stop, and after a short while clambering around, (and having found my own tiny Aboriginal art site in the process,) I finally flushed a Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon, which promptly disappeared. After a bit of careful stalking I re-found the bird, silhouetted at the top of an outcrop, and it eventually grew in confidence and dropped down a little, feeding unobtrusively in the shadows. Elated, I drove back for breakfast, and we checked out suitably fortified for our trip South-West along the Kakadu Highway. As we turned North out of the hotel my eye was caught by a bird walking slowly across the road, and after bringing our bus to a screeching halt, we were rewarded with killer views of a small covey of Partridge Pigeons. The birds allowed close approach, crouching in the shadows and apparently unwilling to give up the cool comfort of their shaded spot. We returned to Nourlangie Rock to admire more rock art, my other half as ever jamming in on the key species I had sweated so hard to find the previous day when we spotted a small family group of Banded Fruit-Dove feeding some 6 feet above our heads, in a tree sheltered beneath the overhang shade of the main rock art gallery.

Sated with rare Ptilinopus and ancient art, and conscious of the mileage which lay ahead of us, we drove South-West along the Southern edge of the Kakadu, stopping at Yellow Water (Cooinda) and Jim Jim Creek en route, before diverting off to the left and doubling back along c35kms of red-dust dirt road to look for White-throated Grasswren at Gunlom Falls. Having parked up at the campsite we hiked up the escarpment, a relatively easy though hot and sticky 20 minute climb on a well-marked rocky trail. During a brief rest near the top I checked my audio gear, and was horrified to discover that my playback speaker had died. We decided to make the best of a bad job and carried on regardless, the very epitome of the never-say-die British spirit. After a refreshing swim in the rock pools up on the escarpment, (any Saltwater Crocodile that could climb this far deserves everything it could get its big fat claws on…) I left the sane half of our duo to descend alone, determined to comb every inch of the lower slopes of the escarpment for the Grasswren. This I duly did, flushing a 2nd Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon in the process, but the Grasswrens were conspicuous by their absence; a major blow. I subsequently heard that the birds have not been seen at this site for months, perhaps as a result of recent fires if the charred remains of much of the adjacent habitat is anything to go by.

After slithering back down the dusty trail, an evening dip in the lower pool below the waterfall was a godsend, and we still made it to the Mary River Roadhouse in time for last food orders at 7pm. Our friendly barman filled us in on the local gossip, (despite hailing from Chester…,) and we were pleased to see all the neighbourhood drinkers obeying the new national no smoking policy, dutifully trooping outside for a smoke each time they ended a game of pool. Whether the health of the locals will benefit overall remains to be seen however, since the smoking porch also doubles as the front apron of the petrol station…

Saturday 21st: I left the motel in the dark, amazed at the panoply of stars overhead, free here from any light pollution. By first light I was birding the creeks along the road in to Gunlom Falls, (pick the ones without the “warning: radioactivity” signs; there are a number of abandoned uranium mines in the area,) and I was delighted with an early prize of a Channel-billed Cuckoo unhurriedly tossing fruit into its outsize open bill. Leaden Flycatcher and the only Bar-breasted Honeyeater of the trip followed in quick succession, with a single Partridge Pigeon crossing the road in front of me on the way back. We fuelled up, (after the obligatory check for law-abiding smokers,) and were soon turning South in Pine Creek, picking out Little Eagles and a single Grey Goshawk as we counted off the miles to Edith Falls. The falls themselves produced few birds in stifling heat, but 250 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos and a swim in one of the rock pools were some recompense. We followed the highway further South to Katherine Gorge, where again birds were elusive, with only Great Bowerbirds and more cockatoos numerous. A return to the entrance road to Edith Falls in the early evening again failed to produce the hoped for Hooded Parrots despite endless searching, but a late check on a group of parrots, (all Galahs as usual,) did yield one unexpected surprise. Having checked with some of the local rangers we had all but given up on one of the star local birds, a species which, we had been told, had dispersed widely following a bumper wet season the previous year. However, whilst scanning across dry woodland in the vain hope of a flash of a turquoise parrot, I caught a movement of a distant small passerine. A flash of yellow behind a branch, a partly-obscured bright red face, until suddenly I pieced together what I was looking at- a male Gouldian Finch! A little manouevering and careful scanning revealed a further 7 birds, all the adults bar one black-faced individuals, with a couple of relatively nondescript juveniles. The disappointment of missing the parrots was instantly forgotten, with even my other half moved to come and see these elusive creatures. We arrived too late to meet our host at the Pine Creek Digger’s Rest resort, but a note on our cabin marked our spot for the night. Dinner in Pine Creek at the Pine Creek Hotel was excellent and represented all that is great about Australia; a man-sized steak and a great local wine in an outback town under the stars, and all for a price not far above a kebab and a pint in the UK. Definitely as stated in the brochure.

Sunday 22nd: Having checked John Bransbury’s “Where to find birds in Australia” with increasing desperation in a quest to find another Hooded Parrot site, I drove out first thing to the recommended Umbrawarra Gorge NP, off to the West of the main highway just South of Pine Creek. The creek still contained a little water, but the only new birds were a group of Long-tailed Finch and a Hooded Robin. A Black-tailed Treecreeper flew in, and a Little Shrike-Thrush perched up nicely, but the only new species in the parrot flocks just South of town were 15 Cockatiel. As I checked out I casually mentioned to Pat the proprietress that I had failed to find Hooded Parrot, and she looked horrified, grabbing a map and circling the areas on the edge of town where the birds were currently coming in to drink, most of which were less than a mile from where we were standing. I hurried out to check all the spots, but the flocks had already dispersed for the day. A visit to the local petrol station to fill up did little to improve my mood, since the key-ring of choice for the discerning tourist sports a close-up of the damn parrot, and the cashier assailed me with “seen the parrots yet?” before cheerfully informing me that they could be seen feeding on the plot adjacent to the garage most evenings. A last gasp attempt in the park in the middle of town was not short of parrots, but still no Hoodeds, although a Red-backed Kingfisher was a bonus. And thus are major dips made; but I guess I’d have to say that I’d still trade the Gouldian Finch for the parrot if pushed to choose between the two. The point with birding is of course that you’re not supposed to have to choose, you’re supposed to see them both…

Our time was up, and we sped North to complete our Top End Circuit, arriving back at Darwin Airport without incident, though having driven 1001 kms more than our allotted 750kms mileage allowance. It’s a big country, and looking at the tiny postage-stamp portion of the Top End we had covered was a sobering experience. We boarded Qantas flight QF793 and four and a half hours later we landed on time in Perth, and were soon washing away the dust in the walk-in shower of our swanky downtown hotel.

Monday 23rd: The usual early start, and a cold and damp welcome to the South-West lay in wait at John Forrest NP North-East of Perth. The forest held few surprises, but nonetheless, many species were new; Red-capped Parrots flew by shrieking, small groups of ‘Twenty-Eight” Australian Ringnecks courted in the canopy, whilst inconspicuous flocks of Western Gerygone, Splendid Fairy-Wren, the spotted form of White-browed Scrubwren and a single Western Thornbill squeaked and chipped from cover. Having wolfed down a few high-class pastries and an ostentatiously frothy cappuccino back in town, we pointed our (now sensibly-sized) rental car South and made good time through the sprawling land-grab that is the South-West ‘lifestyle’ homestead explosion. Little of the original habitat has been left intact, and the first hundred miles or so is a rather depressing, if immaculately landscaped experience. However, once through the development belt the views become steadily more attractive, and we spent time at the Leschenault Peninsula and Lulworth Forest on the way down to Desborough. Having arrived in the South-West corner, we found a motel, dropped off our stuff, and headed out to Cape Naturaliste. The Sugarloaf Rock sadly did not hold any early Red-tailed Tropicbirds, but the point itself was stunning, with Yellow-nosed Albatross and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters offshore, wheeling above what must be the friskiest pod of Humpback Whales in the Southern hemisphere. In the evening we ate at the excellent Enjoia restaurant, although the waitresses seemed surprised to be presented with a picture of a Rainbow Pitta scrawled on the thoughtfully provided paper placemats with the crayons provided for the purpose. What else is a man supposed to draw with so many colours available?

Tuesday 24th: I returned to Cape Naturaliste again early morning to see the same 7 Silver Gulls as the previous evening, but the area was no more infested with Tropicbirds than it had been 12 hours earlier. I adjourned to the nearby Leeuwin Naturaliste forest, and after an hour of so-so birding eventually found a good area which held Scarlet Robin, Western Spinebill, Baudin’s (‘Long-billed’) Black-Cockatoo, and both Western Yellow- and White-breasted Robin. 2 pairs of Red-winged Fairy-Wrens completed a good Western endemic haul. After a fabulously stylish organic breakfast at the Food Farmacy, we spent the rest of the day heading slowly South and East, dropping in at Borarup Forest, Hamblin Bay, a couple of randomly chosen Karri forest locales, (the last of which finally yielded up a Rufous Treecreeper,) before selecting Pemberton as the base for the night. We caved in to our tourist tendencies and visited Pemberton’s Gloucester Tree; climb 60m into the canopy up a skeletal circular steel rope ladder that winds around the huge aforementioned tree and you can just about get a glimpse of the canopy-dwelling Purple-crowned Lorikeets.

Weds 25th: By 6am I was freezing my a** off in Big Brooke State Forest. A skittish Spotless Crake on a forest stream was a pleasant surprise, and after two and a half hours of taping in a number of spots, I finally managed to pull in a small party of diminutive Red-eared Firetails.

Back at the ranch, after throwing our bags into the boot of the car once more, we drove onward to Denmark, where we got sand-blasted on the beach thanks to a strong South-Westerly which doubtless had also driven the Hooded Plovers to more comfortable feeding grounds. The stiff breeze did, however, bring a Great-winged Petrel within identification range, with other shearwaters grazing the white-tops further offshore. The Treetop Walkway nr Walpole, despite being a bit of a tourist trap, is worth a visit, not least because you’re up at canopy level, which brought us eyeball to eyeball with a small flock of Varied Sittellas. As the afternoon wore on, and growing tired of driving, we pulled into Middleton Beach just East of Albany, where I left my long-suffering partner on the beach and sped on to Two People’s Bay Reserve 30kms East of Albany. The reserve was deserted, but a diligent search revealed the presence of at least one other resident; a Noisy Scrub-bird singing very close to the trail. Two hours later I could at least say I had been within two metres of this arch-skulker, but no amount of fieldcraft would offer up even so much as a brief flight view.

Thurs 26th: I returned to Two People’s Bay Reserve and was in place on the trail for dawn. Two and a half hours later I was still in the same spot, having got to within a metre of the same Noisy Scrub-bird but still without a glimpse. All very frustrating, but hardly unexpected; the locals I chatted to, (everyone seems to know about their local avian celebrity,) who had visited the reserve had all heard the species but none had seen it. In fact a lone Grey Currawong was the only bird I saw all morning, hardly surprising I guess when you immerse yourself in dense scrub and try to look like a bush.

The four hour drive back from Albany to Perth was enlivened by a flock of Regent Parrots, and two Carnaby’s (‘Short-billed’) Black-Cockatoos, (and the desiccated skull of a third,) plus a single Wedge-tailed Eagle and the odd Crested Pigeon to keep us amused. We made our flight with time to spare, and 6 hours later we were heading to Boat Quay in Singapore in search of crab and shrimp.

Fri 27th/Sat 28th: We spent a relaxing day and a half chilling out in Singapore, with repeat visits to Tyersall Avenue next to the Botanical Gardens resulting in a bathing Siberian Blue Robin, an overhead Oriental Pratincole, and, at the third attempt, good views of the regular Red-legged Crake in the renowned concrete drainage ditch, (which runs perpendicular to the road, accessed via a 5m semi-obscured trail.) After a last taste of local seafood we said our farewells and 13 hours later touched down at Heathrow, delighted as ever to have traded the burgeoning Austral Spring for the lowering skies of an English winter…

Systematic list: (Follows Lloyd Nielsen’s Australian Checklist, which can be downloaded free at

E = Endemic to Australia
+++ = Will probably be elevated to a full species in the next official taxonomic review.
[I] = Introduced

E Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae
5, c40kms South of Deniliquin.
Orange-footed Scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt
5 East Point, 4 Buffalo Creek, Darwin.
E Stubble Quail Coturnix pectoralis
A pair spotlighted in Deniliquin.
Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata
c30 Fogg Dam, 300+ Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
E Plumed Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna eytoni
Thousands Mamukala Wetlands, hundreds Anbangbang Billabong nr Nourlangie Rock.
Wandering Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arcuata
Smaller numbers with the above species, Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor [I]
Scattered singles in the SW.
E Black Swan Cygnus atratus
A few Centennial Park, Sydney, 500+ on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, and seen at most other wetland sites in smaller numbers.
E Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides
3 on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, 6 Ocean Bay South of Denmark.
Radjah Shelduck Tadorna radjah
2 Fogg Dam, 3 Malabandju camping area, 5 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
E Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata
Green Pygmy-goose Nettapus pulchellus
c30 Fogg Dam, 8 Malabandju camping area, 1 Cooinda.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos [I]
A few in the SE.
Pacific Black Duck Anas supercilliosa
Grey Teal Anas gracilis
A few in the SE.
E Chestnut Teal Anas castanea
A pair in Centennial Park, a male at the Sydney Pelagic quay.
Hardhead Aythya australis
c20 Centennial Park, Sydney.
Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
1 c70kms South of Deniliquin, 1 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu, 1 an hour South-East of Perth alongside the main Albany-Perth highway.
E Hoary-headed Grebe Poliocephalus poliocephalus
2 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Little Penguin Eudyptula minor
2 on the Sydney pelagic.
Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera
1 seen close inshore plus a couple of distant probables off Ocean Bay South of Denmark in the SW.
Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri
4 on the Sydney pelagic were a highlight.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
Hundreds on the Sydney pelagic, 3 offshore at the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, 3 off Cape Naturaliste.
Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes
3 on the Sydney pelagic.
Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia
c20 on the Sydney pelagic.
Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris
c30 on the Sydney pelagic.
Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans
1 juv. gave protracted views just yards from the boat on the Sydney pelagic.
Yellow-nosed Albatross Diomedea chlororhynchos
3 off Cape Naturaliste, West of Dunsborough. 3 albatross spp. seen off Hamblin Bay in the SW may also have been this species.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus
c25 on the Sydney pelagic.
Australasian Gannet Morus serrator
4 on the Sydney pelagic, 4 off Cape Naturaliste.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
1 flew East off East Point, Darwin.
Australian Darter Anhinga melanogaster
1 on the ponds in Centennial Park, 1 Fogg Dam.
Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius
Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
Common near water, max. 100+ Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae
1 alongside the main Albany-Perth highway.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Eastern Reef Egret Egretta sacra
Small numbers along the coast, Top End, both light- and dark- phase.
E White-necked Heron Ardea pacifica
6 Fogg Dam, 2 Cooinda.
Pied Heron Ardea picata
c20 Fogg Dam, 2 Anbangbang Billabong nr Nourlangie Rock.
Great Egret Ardea alba
150+ Fogg Dam, smaller numbers elsewhere.
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Cattle Egret Ardea ibis
Fairly common, Top End wetlands.
Striated Heron Butorides striatus
1 Buffalo Creek Darwin, 1 Ubirr Rock Boat Ramp, Kakadu.
Nankeen Night Heron (Rufous Night Heron) Nycticorax caledonicus
2 juveniles along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
1 Fogg Dam, 2 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca
Very common; 1 skulking in a doorway in Central Sydney was a surprise!
E Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis
10 Deniliquin, 1 East Point Darwin.
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia
Kakadu: 1 Mamukala Wetlands, 6 Anbangbang Billabong nr Nourlangie Rock.
E Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes
1 Deniliquin. In the SW, 1 between Albany and Two People’s Bay, and 1 alongside the main Albany-Perth highway.
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
4 total in the Kakadu; 1 Fogg Dam, 1 Mamukala Wetlands, 2 Anbangbang Billabong nr Nourlangie Rock.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
3 close to the shore West of Dunsborough in the SW.
Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata
1 showed extremely well at East Point Darwin.
E Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris
A couple between Albany and Two People’s Bay.
Black Kite Milvus migrans
A few Deniliquin, very common Top End, max. 100/day.
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
A few in the Kakadu, 1 Cowaramup Bay in the SW.
Swamp Harrier Circus approximans
1 Fogg Dam.
Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae
1 close to the Stuart Highway very approx. 30kms South of Pine Creek.
Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrhocephalus
1 Ubirr Rock North of Jabiru.
Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax
1 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu, 1 in the SW seen from the main Albany-Perth highway.
Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides
1 pale phase adult South of Pine Creek, 1 on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth.
Brown Falcon Falco berigora
1 on the road in to Gunlom Falls, SW Kakadu.
Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides
Scattered singles everywhere.
E Brolga Grus rubicunda
5 from the Yellow Water tourist boat quay at Cooinda, S. Kakadu.
Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis
1 showed very well in the Botanical Gardens, Sydney.
E Australian Spotted Crake Porzana fluminea
1 Deniliquin.
Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis
1 Deniliquin, 1 Big Brooke State Forest, Pemberton.
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
10+ Centennial Park, Sydney, 3 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa
A few in Centennial Park, Botanical Gardens etc in Sydney.
E Black-tailed Native-hen Gallinula ventralis
3+ irruptive migrants at Deniliquin.
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Common in Centennial Park, Sydney.
(Painted Button-quail Turnix varia
2 button-quail spp. flushed from the road-side at Cowaramup Bay in the SW were almost certainly this species.)
E Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus
Absolutely stunning views of a spotlit female at point blank range near Deniliquin; a life-defining moment.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
1 East Point, Darwin.
Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis
Small numbers at East Point North of Darwin.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
1 Buffalo Creek Darwin.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
1 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus
2 East Point Darwin, 1 Kakadu; East branch of the West Alligator River.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
3 East Point Darwin, 1 Ubirr Rock Boat Ramp North of Jabiru.
Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelus brevipes
2 East Point Darwin.
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
1 Middleton Beach just East of Albany in the SW.
Sanderling Calidris alba
In the SW; 5 Hamblin Bay, 1 Ocean Bay South of Denmark.
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis
A few East Point North of Darwin, and in the SW; 10 Hamblin Bay, 6 Ocean Bay South of Denmark.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata
3 in front of the hide at the Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea
15+ Fogg Dam, 1 Jabiru Lake, 2 Cooinda.
Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius
1 East Point, North of Darwin.
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris
4 Hamblin Bay in the SW, 1 pair with 2 young chicks.
E Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus
4 Cowaramup Bay in the SW.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
2 Fogg Dam, 10+ Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Small numbers East Point Darwin.
E Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus
2 Buffalo Creek Darwin. In the SW, 2 Hamblin Bay and 2 Ocean Bay South of Denmark.
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Small numbers East Point Darwin.
E Inland Dotterel Charadrius australis
3-4 spotlighted in Deniliquin had arrived in the area a few days before. A stunning little wader that can be difficult to catch up with given its nomadic lifestyle.
Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops
2 on the ponds in Centennial Park.
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles
Fairly common.
E Pacific Gull Larus pacificus
Only seen in the SW; 1 Hamblin Bay, 1 Middleton Beach just East of Albany.
Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae
Common everywhere.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
In the SW; 1 on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, 1 at Cape Naturaliste, 2 Ocean Bay South of Denmark.
Crested Tern Sterna bergii
The commonest tern on the coast.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
2 probables distantly off East Point, North of Darwin.)
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
4 Ocean Bay South of Denmark in the SW.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
1 Fogg Dam, 2000+ Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Spotted Turtle-Dove Streptopelia chinensis
A few in urban areas in the SE.
E Common Bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera
Fairly common in the SW, especially in coastal scrub, max 5/day.
E Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes
A few in Centennial park, Sydney, around Pine Creek, singles in the SW etc.
E Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii
5 showed extremely well c300m North of the Gagudju Hotel in Jabiru, 1 on the road in to Gunlom Falls.
E Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon Petrophassa rufipennis
1 possible seen very briefly at Nourlangie Rock, then a single bird just SE of Ubirr Rock, and a pair on top of the escarpment at Gunlom, all in areas with large sandstone outcrops.
Peaceful Dove Geopelia striata
Common Top End.
Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis
Common Top End.
Banded Fruit-Dove (Black-backed Fruit-Dove) Ptilinopus cinctus
2 scoped at long range on the far side of the ravine viewed from the lookout point at Nourlangie Rock. A party of 5 the next day just above our heads in a tree at the largest rock art site within the shaded ‘rock tunnel which Aboriginal people have used for centuries to hide from the heat of the sun’ blah blah.)
Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus regina
2 male, one female East Point Darwin.
Pied Imperial-Pigeon Ducula bicolor
1 East Point Darwin. 1 seen briefly in flight over one of the creeks on the road in to Gunlom was a long way inland. I had been told that there are Banded Fruit-Dove sightings from this area; has someone else made a mistake, did I, or do both species occur?
E Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banskii
21 just South of Buffalo Creek Darwin, 2 Malabandju camping area, Kakadu, 1 Jabiru Lake, 250+ Edith Falls.
E Short-billed (Carnaby’s) Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus latirostris
Whilst I was examining the skull of this species found on the ground, two rather more healthy-looking individuals flew over! Exact location not noted, but a forest site c1 hour South-East of Perth on the main Albany-Perth highway.
E Long-billed (Baudin’s) Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus baudinii
Fairly common in the far SW; flocks seen in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough, Borarup Forest.
E Galah Cacatua roseicapilla
Common in the SE, a few Top End.
E Western Corella Cacatua pastinator
3 Lulworth Forest South of Perth.
Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea
50+ Malabandju camping area, Kakadu.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita
Very common in Sydney.
E Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus
20+ at various locations South of Pine Creek.
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus
Birds around the Top End were all of the Red-collared form rubritorquatus which some treat as a separate species; 2 at Ubirr Rock North of Jabiru, 26 Merl Campsite, 3 at Gunlom, Kakadu.
E Varied Lorikeet Psitteuteles versicolor
4 Gunlom Falls, and 100+ on the road in to the falls, SW Kakadu.
E Purple-crowned Lorikeet Glossopsitta porphyrocephala
10+ at the Gloucester Tree, Pemberton in the SW.
Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus
2 pairs Merl Campsite, Kakadu, 1 female at Gunlom, 2 pairs on the road in to the falls, 3 Edith Falls, 15 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth.
E Regent Parrot Polytelis anthopeplus
A flock of c6 showed very well in flight an hour North of Albany en route back to Perth.
E Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius
Common in the SE.
E Northern Rosella Platycercus venustus
2 Nourlangie Rock, 2 on the road in to Gunlom Falls SW Kakadu.
E Western Rosella Platycercus icterotis
3 Borarup Forest in the SW.
E Australian Ringneck Barnardius zonarius
Common in the SW.
E Red-capped Parrot Purpureicephalus spurius
3 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth.
E Rock Parrot Neophema petrophila
A party of 4 at Hamblin Bay in the SW gave good flight views.
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus
1 at Umbrawarra Gorge NP South of Pine Creek, 1 at the Boat Ramp nr Ubirr.
E Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis
1 juv. Fogg Dam.
Little Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus
1 Buffalo Creek car park, Darwin.
[Common Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
Heard in suburban Sydney, on the road in to Gunlom falls in SW Kakadu etc.]
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
1 seen very well feeding in a fruiting tree at dawn, along Kambolgie Creek (the 1st wet creek,) on the road in to Gunlom Falls.
Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus
3 Mamukala Wetlands, 2 near Ubirr Rock, Kakadu.
Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae
1 seen whilst spotlighting near Deniliquin.
E Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides
1 seen on the nest whilst spotlighting near Deniliquin.
Azure Kingfisher Alcedo azurea
2 Ubirr Rock Boat Ramp North of Jabiru, 1 on the road in to Gunlom Falls SW Kakadu.
E Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae
Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii
Fairly common in drier areas around the Top End.
Forest Kingfisher Todiramphus macleayii
3 East Point Darwin, 3 Fogg Dam, 1 Nourlangie Rock.
E Red-backed Kingfisher Todiramphus pyrrhopygia
1 in the centre of Pine Creek, perching up on telegraph wires etc.
Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus
2 South of Pine Creek.
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
Common Top End.
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Fairly common Top End.
E Rainbow Pitta Pitta iris
2 seen at East Point and another heard, 1 seen later the same day at Buffalo Creek. For a pitta, ludicrously easy to see, especially at East Point, where at dawn I didn’t even have time to cue up my tape before one came hopping out to the edge of the road where it fed quite unconcernedly in the leaf litter. Very tape responsive, flying in quickly and often perching up to 3m off the ground. As glamorous as most others in the genus, and a major target bird secured in the first few minutes of Top End birding.
[E Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus
2+ heard on both visits to Two People’s Bay East of Albany, but not even a brief flight view despite getting extremely close to one singing bird. Both were c20 mins walk along the main trail that leads coastwards from the visitors’ centre in an area of open hillside scrub. (Both may have been the same lurking, non-cooperative, evil, skulking, subway-using individual.)]
E White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaeus
2, c30kms South of Denliquin.
E Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus
2, c30kms South of Denliquin.
E Black-tailed Treecreeper Climacteris melanura
1 Merl Campsite nr Ubirr Rock, Kakadu, and 1 on the road in to the Umbrawarra Gorge South-East of Pine Creek.
E Rufous Treecreeper Climacteris rufa
3 seen in total around Pemberton; 1 in forest along the main road c40kms West of Pemberton, and 2 at the Gloucester Tree site just East of the town.
E Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus
In Sydney, 3 in the Botanical Gardens, 6 Centennial Park, plus 4 c30kms South of Deniliquin.
E Splendid Fairy-wren Malurus splendens
2 pairs at John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth responded strongly to pishing, a male on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, and a pair Big Brooke State Forest, c10kms West of Pemberton.
E Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti
A couple in the SE.
E Red-winged Fairy-wren Malurus elegans
2 pairs in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough, two females at the Gloucester Tree site just East of Pemberton, and a pair at Two People’s Bay East of Albany. An attractive Western endemic.
E Red-backed Fairy-wren Malurus melanocephalus
2 female and 1 eclipse male Jabiru Lake, Kakadu, 1 female along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru.
E Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus
2 (of the form P. s. melvillensis?) on the road in to Gunlom Falls, SW Kakadu. Birds in the SW were all of the race P. s. substriatus; 2 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth, 2 in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
E White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis
3 of the nominate race in the Botanical Gardens, Sydney, 4 30kms South of Deniliquin, In the SW, birds of the spotted form were seen in John Forrest NP North-East of Perth, on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, at the Gloucester Tree site East of Pemberton etc.
E Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris
4 Merl Campsite, Kakadu, 1 Edith Falls, 2 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth, 1 Lulworth Forest South of Perth, 2 in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
E Brown Gerygone Gerygone mouki
1 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth.
E Western Gerygone Gerygone fusca
1 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth.
Green-backed Gerygone Gerygone chloronotus
2 East Point Darwin.
E Brown Thornbill Acanthiza pusilla
2 on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth, 2 at the Gloucester Tree site just East of Pemberton, 6 Big Brooke State Forest, c7kms West of Pemberton etc.
E Western Thornbill Acanthiza inornata
1 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth.
E Yellow Thornbill Acanthiza nana
1 Centennial Park, Sydney, 1 c30kms South of Sydney.
E Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata
Common in the SE and the SW.
E Western Wattlebird Anthochaera lunulata +++
2 Big Brooke State Forest, c10kms West of Pemberton.
Helmeted Friarbird Philemon buceroides ammitophila
4 at Nourlangie Rock of the sansdstone race ammitophila which may be split at some point in the future, in which case this becomes ‘Sandstone Friarbird.’
E Silver-crowned Friarbird Philemon argenticeps
1 Gunlom Falls, 1 Kambolgie Creek on the way in to Gunlom, SW Kakadu.
Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis
1 Nourlangie Rock.
Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis
Small numbers Jabiru.
E Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
Common in the SE.
E Yellow-throated Miner Manorina flavigula
1 Umbrawarra Gorge South-West of Pine Creek.
E White-lined Honeyeater Meliphaga albilineata
2 seen on both visits to Nourlangie Rock; an extremely localized species.
E Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens
2 seen in Perth’s Eastern suburbs.
E White-gaped Honeyeater Lichenostomus unicolor
2 East Point Darwin, 1 Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu, 2 on the road in to Gunlom Falls.
E White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus
2, c30kms South of Denliquin.
White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis
1 East branch West Alligator River, 3 Malabandju camping area, Kakadu, 4 along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru, 2 on the road in to Gunlom Falls.
E White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus
5 Borarup Forest in the SW, 3 Big Brooke State Forest, c10kms West of Pemberton.
Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta
Common, Top End.
E New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
2 Centennial Park, Sydney, 9 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth, 3 Big Brooke State Forest, c10kms West of Pemberton etc.
E Bar-breasted Honeyeater Ramsayornis fasciatus
1 along a wet creek on the road in to Gunlom Falls, SW Kakadu was the only one seen.
Rufous-banded Honeyeater Conopophila albogularis
3 East Point Darwin, 1 East Branch of West Alligator River, 1 along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru.
E Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris
1 in forest c70kms South of Deniliquin.
E Western Spinebill Acanthorhynchus superciliosus
1 in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
Dusky Honeyeater Myzomela obscura
4 on the road in to Gunlom Falls, SW Kakadu.
Red-headed Honeyeater (Red-headed Myzomela) Myzomela erythrocephala
1 male, 3 female, Buffalo Creek Darwin.
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher Microeca flavigaster
1 Fogg Dam, 2 West Alligator River, 1 Ubirr Rock North of Jabiru, 6 along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru.
Scarlet Robin Petroica multicolour +++
A stunning male in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
E Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata
A male on the road in to Umbrawarra Gorge South-West of Pine Creek.
E Western Yellow Robin Eopsaltria griseogularis
1 in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
E White-breasted Robin Eopsaltria georgiana
3 in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough, 2 Big Brooke State Forest, c10kms West of Pemberton, 1 well below us from the Treetop Walkway nr Walpole!
Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis
5 along the road to Ubirr Rock, 1 Edith Falls.
E Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera
1 flew in front of the car between Ubirr and Jabiru. 3 seen very well from the Treetop Walkway near Walpole in the SW.
Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis
1 male John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth, a female in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
Grey Whistler Pachycephala simplex
2 East Point Darwin.
E Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris
1 along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru.
Little Shrike-thrush Colluricincla megarhyncha
1 on the road in to Gunlom Falls, SW Kakadu, 1 at Umbrawarra Gorge SW of Pine Creek.
E Sandstone Shrike-thrush Colluricincla woodwardi
2 Nourlangie Rock, East Kakadu.
Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica
1 c30kms South of Deniliquin, 2 Big Brooke State Forest, c10kms West of Pemberton.
Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula
1 Kambolgie Creek on the road in to Gunlom Falls, SW Kakadu.
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto
2 male, 1 female, Ubirr Rock North of Jabiru, 1 female along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru, 1 Jim Jim Creek, South Kakadu, 1 Edith Falls.
E Paperbark Flycatcher Myiagra nana +++
1 male along the creek c10kms along the road to Ubirr Rock, North of Jabiru, 1 Jim Jim Creek, South Kakadu. A pending split from Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta.
Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca
Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa
2 John Forrest NP, North-East of Perth, 4 Lulworth Forest South of Perth.
Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris
3 East Point Darwin, 2 on the road in to Gunlom SW Kakadu.
Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus
2 East Point Darwin.
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis
1 East Point Darwin, 2 between Fogg Dam and Jabiru.
E White-winged Triller Lalage sueurii
1 Edith Falls.
Varied Triller Lalage leucomela
2 females at East Point, Darwin, 4 Fogg Dam.
Yellow Oriole Oriolus flavocinctus
1 Buffalo Creek Darwin, 3 Nourlangie Rock, 1 Anbangbang Billabong, Kakadu.
Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus
Seen somewhere but location not noted.
Figbird Sphecotheres viridis
c10 at East Point Darwin 1 Ubirr Rock North of Jabiru.
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
In the Kakadu: 2 Mamukala Wetlands, 2 Anbangbang Billabong nr Nourlangie Rock.
Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus
3 Fogg Dam, 1 Malabandju camping area, Kakadu.
E Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis
Fairly common South of Pine Creek. A few South of Perth.
Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen
Common everywhere except the Top End.
E Pied Currawong Strepera graculina
Common in the SE.
E Grey Currawong Strepera versicolor
1 at Two People’s Bay Reserve, East of Albany.
E Australian Raven Corvus coronoides
Common in the South.
Torresian Crow Corvus orru
Common Top End.
E Great Bowerbird Chlamydera nuchalis
2 Nourlangie Rock.
E Singing Bushlark Mirafra javanica
A few Deniliquin, 2 Fogg Dam.
Richard's (Australian) Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae australis
3 Deniliquin, 1 in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Forest West of Dunsborough.
E Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii
20 East Point Darwin, 2 Fogg Dam, 2 Jabiru.
E Long-tailed Finch Poephila acuticauda
c15 on the road in to Umbrawarra Gorge, South-West of Pine Creek.
E Masked Finch Poephila personata
1 of the brown-eared form, Malabandju camping area, Kakadu.
Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton
20+ at Fogg Dam.
Red-browed Finch (Red-browed Firetail) Neochmia temporalis
1, c30kms South of Denliquin.
E Red-eared Firetail Stagonopleura oculata
3 eventually seen after a lot of tape-trawling; in an area of open forest beside a wet area in the Big Brooke State Forest, c7kms NW of Pemberton in the SW. One of the trickier Western endemics.
E Gouldian Finch Erythrura gouldiae
We jammed in on a flock of c8, one third of the way down the road in to Edith Falls; a mix of one male of the Red-headed race, a few black-headed adults and a couple of juveniles. A rare, elusive and gorgeous species. (If you miss them and live in High Wycombe, UK, there’s currently a pair for sale in the pet shop near the Cressex Trading Estate, though ticking them with a clear conscience would be awkward.)
E Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum
1 Malabandju camping area, Kakadu, 1 Nourlangie Rock.
E Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena
The commonest hirundine.
E Tree Martin Hirundo nigricans
8 in Sydney, a few elsewhere.
Clamorous (Australian) Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus +++
2, c30kms South of Denliquin.
Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis
1 at Yellow Water, Cooinda in the Kakadu.
Little Grassbird Megalurus gramineus
1 Deniliquin.
Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis
1 Deniliquin, 1 Fogg Dam.
E Yellow White-eye Zosterops luteus
2 East Point Darwin.
Silvereye Zosterops lateralis
2 Centennial Park Sydney, common in small parties in the SW.
Common Blackbird Turdus merula [I]
A few in suburban areas in the SE.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris [I]
Common around Sydney etc.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis [I]
Very common in cities in the SE.

249 species

Key stuff we missed included: White-throated Grasswren (Still possible at Gunlom?), Hooded Parrot, (hard to miss at Pine Creek but I managed it,) Great-billed Heron, Chestnut Rail and Beach Stone-curlew, (all occur at e.g. Bleeser’s Creek, Buffalo Creek, Darwin,) Banded Honeyeater, (others have seen this species around Katherine,) Spotted Nightjar, (likely South Alligator river and elsewhere in the Kakadu,) Little Kingfisher, (can occur anywhere on coasts, rivers, wetlands in the Top End,) and Barking and Rufous Owls (see other reports for recent stake-outs.)

Animal Species seen:

Eastern Grey Kangaroo Macropus giganteus
c20 Deniliquin.
Western Grey Kangaroo Macropus fuliginosus
4 Deniliquin, 2 John Forrest NP North-East of Perth, 2 on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth.
Red Kangaroo Macropus rufus
10+ Deniliquin.
Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis
3 presumed to be this species East Point Darwin. 1 crashed in spectacular fashion when crossing the road out to the point but seemed to make a full recovery!
Short-eared Rock Wallaby Petrogale brachyotis
A few near Merl Campsite, East Alligator River North of Jabiru perched atop sandstone outcrops were almost certainly this species. (I have a good photo if anyone is able to assist with Wallaby ID.)
Fat-tailed Dunnart Sminthopsis crassicaudata
1 of these tiny mouse-like marsupials seen whilst spotlighting in Deniliquin.
Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula
1 Deniliquin.
Eurasian Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
A few in the SW, locations not noted.
Wild Pig Sus scrofa
A few of unknown origin (!) at the Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu.
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae
c10 on the Sydney pelagic and 5 off Cape Naturaliste in the SW.
Australian Fur-Seal Arctocephalus pusillus
A few off the end of cape Naturaliste in the SW.
Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Delphinus delphis
c25 on the Sydney pelagic.
Grey-headed Flying-Fox Pteropus poliocephalus
Common in the middle of the Botanical gardens in Sydney where they roost colonially.
Australian Saltwater Crocodile Crocodylus porosus
2 Ubirr Rock Boat Ramp North of Jabiru.
Bobtail Tiliqua rugosa
1 of these curious reptiles showed very well crossing the road on the Leschenault Peninsula SW of Perth.
Dolphin Fish (Mahi Mahi) Coryphaena hippurus
A few seen around lobster pots on the Sydney pelagic, and one metre-long specimen caught off the back of the boat after a struggle of Hemingway proportions.