Top End – Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine, Australia - 31 May - 9 June 2007

Published by Frank Rheindt (frankrheindt AT


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

White-throated Grasswren
White-throated Grasswren
White-throated Grasswren
White-throated Grasswren

In late May to early June 2007, I finally seized the opportunity to visit the Australian tropics for the first time (after over 3 years of residence in Australia). Martin Kennewell was coming over from Singapore for a long-weekend trip to the Top End, and he and I were hooked up through a common friend. Unfortunately, Martin only had time for 4 days, just enough to take in all the non-Kakadu sites. However, I decided I was going to stay on for another 6 days to cover Kakadu as well and have the time to go back to any sites where we might have dipped.

For the planning of the trip, it would have been good to have Niven McCrie and James Watson’s site guide (“Finding Birds in Darwin, Kakadu and the Top End”), an absolutely essential travel companion to the Top End. However, this book is hard to obtain anywhere but in Darwin, and we didn’t have time to buy it the first morning, so the first half of my trip (the leg with Martin) was coordinated solely with the help of online trip reports, many of which outline the same sites as the book without giving the book’s precise directions. We also used Thomas & Thomas’s somewhat outdated though still excellent Australian site guide. In retrospect, I may have saved quite a bit of backtracking if I’d had McCrie and Watson’s book from the start, so I strongly recommend ordering it through online bookstores ahead of your visit.

The trip ended up being an unbelievable success. Tough and extensive searching on the Gunlom escarpment was finally rewarded with cracking views of a pair of White-throated Grasswren, along with all the other escarpment specialties. The Red Goshawk pair staked out in Mataranka in 2006 had not been re-located at the time we made preparations for this trip, so we didn’t expect to see it. Yet the female just made it back to re-occupy the nest a few days before we arrived, allowing close views during our visit. Hooded Parrots made an appearance, and Star and Gouldian Finches were seen on one and three occasions, respectively, despite the unsuitable timing of our visit for finches (see below).

Of course, there were also a number of misses that will have to be left for future trips, most notably the difficult White-breasted Whistler on the mangrove front, and the elusive Northern Shrike-Tit, a rare nomadic endemic to the Top End seen by few recent birdwatchers, no doubt because birders haven’t been looking for it hard enough because it is variably considered a subspecies. Moreover, both the region’s endemic mannikins completely eluded us, despite quite some effort. Frustratingly, it turned out that another birder had seen them just a day prior at the same sites where we searched for them.

I will first give a day-by-day account, followed by an outline of the itinerary and the complete trip list.

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Denise Goodfellow and the many members of Birding-AUS who responded to a request for information and provided much up-to-date info.

Day-by-day account

Day 1: Martin and I arrived at almost the same time in the early wee hours of 31 May at Darwin International Airport, him coming from the northwest, me from the southeast. The rental car booth was going to open a couple of hours later, so we bridged the waiting time by looking for owls in the airport surroundings, only finding our first (of many) Bush Stone Curlews.

We drove straight to Fogg Dam, arriving before dawn and taping out three very obliging Barking Owls at the dead end of the dam road. These remained the trip’s only individuals, probably for lack of trying again. Along the dam at dawn, we picked up the first common Top End waterbirds, many of them lifers for me, such as Magpie Goose, Green Pygmy-Goose and Pied Heron. The next 2 hours were dedicated to finding Rainbow Pitta, with excellent views eventually obtained. In the process, we lodged other regional specialties, most of which were to re-appear thoughout the trip, such as Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Gray Whistler and a wealth of Myiagra flycatchers.

An hour at the bridge over the Adelaide River in search of Mangrove Golden Whistler was devoid success, though we did see other good fare, such as Arafura Fantail. Then, we needed to make up for lost time by hitting the Stuart Highway, briefly stopping at the cemetery of the town of Adelaide River (unrelated to the bridge) for our trip’s only Silver-backed Butcherbird. Arriving at Pine Creek in the early afternoon, the watertower hill was quiet in the midday heat, so we bridged time at the sewage ponds with some fine waterfowl (best bird being Plumed Whistling-Duck). Subsequently, we visited Pine Creek cemetery, Copperfield Dam and Fergusson River, but none of them brought forth any species of note, maybe with the single exception of our trip’s first Red-backed Kingfisher at the cemetery. For the last hour of daylight we decided to backtrack to Pine Creek’s watertower, a decision that turned out to be excellent, since we bagged in our first big trip mega: a group of 4 male and 6 female Hooded Parrots in amongst the Rainbow (=Red-collared) Lorikeets at a roosting site at the bootom of the hill.

After dark we drove to the Mataranka cabins 100km past Katherine, since a phone conversation with the owners revealed the trip’s sweetest surprise!

Day 2: Waking up after a 30min post-dawn lie-in, Martin had already focussed his bins on the female Red Goshawk that was sitting in the nesting tree right outside our cabin’s verandah! She afforded great views! She had shifted to the neighboring tree by the time we got back from our morning birdwalk in the environs, the latter producing the first Long-tailed Finches and Great Bowerbirds amongst more common species.

A breakfast stop at the Mataranka town park was enlivened by greedy Apostlebirds, but then we were off to the Central Arnhem Road, going the whole stretch to Maranboy Police Station. The roadside was birdy, with our first sightings of many nice species that would show up again and again on this trip (Masked Finch, various honeyeaters), and the creek crossing at Maranboy was one of the only spots of the trip where we found what could be called a mixed finch aggregation, with Crimson, Masked, Long-tailed, Double-barred and (yes!) a single juvenile Gouldian Finch. Though not donning the bright plumage of adults and immatures, this juvenile was a welcome tick, since we were starting to fear missing out on this species altogether. May/June is the beginning of the dry season, but little bodies of water still dot the landscape, so finches and other species are not attracted to waterholes the way they are later in the season (say October) when water becomes scarce.

After Maranboy, a marathon drive to the Victoria Roadhouse saw us trying to nail our two remaining target species with the little daylight that was left, and things went according to plan: a stop at the roadhouse itself quickly produced three very vocal Purple-crowned Fairywrens, whilst a sunset hike up the adjacent escarpment provided two flushed views of a White-quilled Rock-Pigeon (here the subspecies boothi without white quills). With all the important species of this leg in our bag, we decided to give Timber Creek a try for some of the missing finches, so we drove there after dusk to position ourselves for the following morning.

Day 3: After the great success of the first two days, the third day started out decidedly slower. Policeman’s Point right outside of Timber Creek Township is where Timber Creek joins the Victoria River. However, the track to the confluence of the streams did not yield the pigeon we had hoped for, and the point itself seemed to be deprived of mannikins, though down by the water we did find our first Buff-sided Robins, more Purple-crowned Fairywrens and an immature black-faced Gouldian Finch (with an infinitely more beautiful plumage than yesterday’s individual) in amongst the commoner finch species. The entire surroundings were birdy with common species, including our first Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters. A quick visit to the airstrip also failed to produce mannikins, while a sortie to a nearby lookout point just yielded one of only two Gray Shrike-Thrushes of this trip (here of the highly distinct local form brunnea). Subsequent searching in Timber Creek Township itself (following the directions of locals) uncovered none of the Star Finch flocks that are usually said to linger around town.

In retrospect, this day was not much of a success, as I received information from another birdwatcher, Drew Fulton, who saw all three of our target species (Pictorella Mannikin, Yellow-rumped Mannikin, Star Finch) in and around Policeman’s Point and the airstrip on the previous day. We failed to go to the exact spot where he saw them at Policeman’s Point (at the end of a side-track to the right, a few hundred meters before the actual point), so we will never know whether they had been there during our visit.

We left Timber Creek to return towards Katherine, driving down 10km along Bullita Access Road without seeing anything of note. Then, a side-trip along the first 16km of Buntine Highway was more productive, with flocks of Cockatiel, large numbers of Diamond Dove and our first and only Red-browed Pardalotes.

The hour before dusk was spent walking around long grass at Chainman Creek, where we duly flushed a covey of buttonquail. The views we obtained were extremely shabby, and the birds would not let us re-locate them. Though size and jizz considerations would rule out anything but Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, I knew I would have to try and see these buggers again before I could start feeling happy about them. As a consolation, a pair of Hooded Parrot joined a roadside flock of Masked Finch on the tarmac in the last minutes before sunset, before we headed off to a motel in Katherine.

Day 4: Martin’s last day saw us give Edith River Road a try in the morning, but bird activity was appalling – probably because of the wind – and a quick stop at the Pine Creek cemetery and sewage farm didn’t add anything new either. We decided that the afternoon was best invested into sites in Darwin, which turned out to be a great idea.

The pruned tree growing above the ladies’ toilet block at the Botanical Gardens had a hidden Rufous Owl, but a more exposed individual on a neighboring tree soon alerted us to its presence by calling in broad daylight. A stop in the Bayview Area in Stuart Park happened at perfect tide conditions, and though the time of day was far less perfect, we soon enjoyed quick glances at a distant Chestnut Rail through Martin’s scope, thanks to his great scanning prowess. A visit to the mangrove foreshore south of Nightcliff (accessed through Orchard Road) was intended to yield White-breasted Whistler, yet this species remained elusive throughout the trip. Nevertheless, we celebrated a little event of success with our first Mangrove Gerygone, which sounds so different here from the subspecies cantator in southern Queensland. Finally, a visit to Buffalo Creek rounded off Martin’s visit, and though we didn’t see any rarity, we recorded a couple of species I did not see again (or only rarely so) during the rest of the trip, such as Black Butcherbird and Green-backed Gerygone. Later that evening, Martin and I parted, not before having downed a couple of beers to celebrate the fantastic previous four days of birding.

Day 5: Amazed that I could get myself out of bed before 6.30am after last night’s booze, I took a cab to the Bayview site to try for closer views of Chestnut Rail, only to find that the water level was way too high for any rail to be seen. Then I set out to hire another car (Martin had hired and paid the previous one himself – good on him!), but that took longer than desired, as the guy at the Auto Barn (on Daly St) talked me into getting a campervan for the same price as a car ($40/day). With my new wheels, I went to Casuarina Mall for groceries and to buy Niven McCrie’s site guide. That was a good decision, since his book answered so many questions Martin and I had had about how to access some of the sites.

Armed with the site guide and good directions, I decided to go straight to the Palmerston Sewage Ponds to try for missing mangrove fair. My quest was partly successful, with Large-billed Gerygone and Mangrove Gray Fantail coming in for good views despite the midday heat. The fantail was sitting in the same tree as a Northern Fantail for easy size and plumage comparison. Another good bird was one of only two Wandering Whistling-Ducks of this trip. On my way out of the sewage pond area, my campervan had a flat rear tyre – a great start to an intimate relationship between me and that beast of a vehicle. I needed to have it fixed at a garage in Palmerston, which took up the best part of the afternoon.

With only a bit of remaining daylight, I decided to give the Mangrove Golden Whistler at Adelaide River another chance. After 90min of searching by tape and crawling through the undergrowth (and spotting a giant crocodile in the process!), I finally found a female right near the bench between the bridge and the house. Ace bird, and much brighter and yellower than female Golden Whistlers! This female was totally unimpressed by my recorder’s utterings and went about her foraging business completely undisturbed, a potential sign that this pair might have been affected by too much tape playback, as this seems to be the showcase pair for the species. The whistler was foraging on the same branches with a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, which provided a nice illustration of the structural differences between these two similarly-plumaged birds.

A few more minutes remained till dusk, so I rushed to Harrison Dam for the off-chance of a chat, but the only remarkable thing here was a number of waterbirds. Then, I set out on my long drive to Gunlom, where I arrived shortly before midnight (with a Spotted Nightjar en route).

Day 6: I walked straight up to the Gunlom escarpment and started a long day’s search for the grasswren, always heading for locations where spinifex and boulders combine to make the area look suitable. The season must have been quite atypical, since the avifauna I encountered on top was fairly different from what I expected after reading trip reports. The streamside vegetation on the escarpment was in bloom, attracting common species of honeyeater, but White-lined Honeyeaters were hard to come by, and I had to content myself with one fleeting (but conclusive) view of a single individual. Other escarpment specialties were also more difficult than expected, with only one pair of Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon flushed and subsequently seen perched briefly (other reports mention up to 8 in a day). A perilous scramble among dark boulder-strewn gullies produced a perched and singing Sandstone Shrike-Thrush and the trip’s only pair of Lavender-flanked Fairywren, and I flushed a Banded Fruit-Dove in the process, getting brief but outstanding perched views as it landed again. Surprisingly, the escarpment race ammitophila of Helmeted Friarbird was far outnumbered by Silver-crowned Friarbirds up here, possibly on account of seasonal movements in response to blooming bushes.

The rugged top of the Gunlom escarpment

My search for the grasswren on this and the following day was restricted to the right hand side of the stream as you walk up to the escarpment, mainly because that is where most successful encounters seem to have occurred in trip reports. As you reach the top of the escarpment, the path is bordered by the stream to the left and a steep boulder-strewn ridge to the right. Walking along the poorly-marked path by the stream for about 300-500m, the area to the right flattens out and becomes a wide plateau, which divides a second high ridge system from the stream. This second high ridge system is where I concentrated my search for the grasswren on this day, spending most time in the higher, rockier and more spinifex-dotted parts, where the birds are most likely to be encountered. However, despite thorough searches until dusk, success was not on my side.

Day 7: Rising early in the morning, I again ascended to the top of the escarpment to continue my search for the grasswren, today concentrating on the ridge immediately to the right of the path as you reach the top of the escarpment. It took me three hours of careful slow walking, climbing and searching to reach the highest part of this ridge, and the day’s heat had started to kick in. I was very close to giving up the search when – suddenly – I heard the high-pitched twitter of what I suspected to be another pair of Lavender-flanked Fairywrens from the back of a rock. However, a brief flushed shadow looked decidedly bigger than a fairywren, and subsequent check-up with tape brought in a beautiful pair of White-throated Grasswren! I did not want to bother the birds with my playback too much, but couldn’t resist playing two or three bouts of their song to make them approach me close enough for a photo shot.

The day’s deed was done, and I retraced my steps down the escarpment in an elated spirit. En route to the stream, I had bin views of another Sandstone Shrike-Thrush perched next to a Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon, and I enjoyed extended looks at four perched Banded Fruit-Doves. Down at the carpark, I gave the billabong walk a quick go, hoping in vain for Partridge Pigeon, the only real Kakadu specialty remaining to be seen on my trip.

Directions: This peculiarly shaped rock marks one of the two highest points of the first ridge to the right of the trail as you reach the top of the escarpment. However, this rock cannot be seen from the trail itself, as you have to climb two to three “levels” of rock terraces to get here. It can – however – be seen in the distance from most angles as you drive towards the escarpment on the access road. The grasswrens were first seen about 75m to the right and in front of the rock, but they readily followed me down the slope for 200m, down past the spot from where this photo was taken.

Driving back to the Kakadu Highway along the poor Gunlom access road, I briefly stopped at Stag Creek, about 6-8km from Gunlom carpark. This site is only mentioned by Thomas & Thomas, not McCrie & Watson, and the reason may be found in matters relating to radioactivity. While primarily a site for Banded Fruit-Dove, I stopped here because Thomas & Thomas report White-lined Honeyeater from the creekside. I was very keen to get better views of this enchanting species after yesterday’s poor sighting, since I feel a special fascination for the genus Meliphaga. A few months before this trip, I was involved in a phylogenetic study of this genus which showed that White-lined Honeyeaters from the Top End and their cousins from the Kimberley should more appropriately be classified as different species (Norman, J., Rheindt, F.E., Rowe, D. and Christidis, L. 2007. Speciation dynamics in the Australo-Papuan Meliphaga honeyeaters. Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 42: 80-91), so I have held a lot of White-lined Honeyeater DNA in my hands and was understandably eager to gain real-life experience with these birds as well. I soon found a pair in a dark gully a few meters behind the Warning and Radioactivity signs, and they were even more amazing than I had anticipated. Bigger in real life than expected, and with a more reptile-like impression than other honeyeaters, these birds have been trapped on the Top End’s escarpments for about 3 million years without a habitat connection to their Kimberley cousins. The next relative of White-lined and Kimberley Honeyeaters is Streak-breasted Honeyeater from Timor and not – as one might think – one of the other Australian species, emphasizing the spectacular evolutionary pathway taken by these birds!

As I got back to the Kakadu Highway, a tough decision loomed: either stay in Kakadu National Park to look for Partridge Pigeon (which was going to be difficult outside) or head back to the Stuart Highway to chase up some of the Katherine specialties for which I had lacked appropriate site information on the first leg of my trip before I bought McCrie and Watson’s site guide. Greedily, I headed out of Kakadu to spend the remaining daylight back at Copperfield Dam near Pine Creek, which – according to my newly-bought book – hosted three of my outstanding targets plus the Partridge Pigeon. However, only one of the targets, Black-tailed Treecreeper, obliged with distant views through a fence, as its breeding area on the track north from the campground is now fenced off and the birds wouldn’t come closer to me than 200m.

After dusk, I had a giant drive ahead of me all the way to Warloch Ponds south of Mataranka, which seems to be the best current site in the world for Northern Shrike-Tit. Martin had a tape for it, but we didn’t have the site info during the first four days, so didn’t try this site. Now, I wanted to position myself strategically for the morning, as I was willing to give it a try even without a tape.

Day 8: First bird of the day as I left my campervan was a probable Red-chested Buttonquail flushed from underneath my feet, or – as my notes say – “…a smallish buttonquail with a red flash somewhere on its body…”. But being compulsively pedantic about what I admit on my life list, of course I wouldn’t count it. Early-morning songbird activity in the savannah woodland next to the Warloch Ponds was dismal, probably on account of winds, so I soon headed towards the highway bridge over the ponds proper. On my way there, the best species of the day, a flock of six Star Finches, alighted in reed-fringed bushes by the roadside. This was a welcome surprise, after having missed these birds in Timber Creek. The birds donned an inconspicuous juvenile plumage, generally resembling Crimson Finches, though their soft high-pitched vocalizations, tiny size, short tail and red eye instantly gave them away as something infinitely more delicate than a Crimson Finch. Star bird of the day! The ponds themselves had a few remarkable waterbirds, such as Brolga and Silky Stork.

I was not ready to give up on the shrike-tit as yet and decided to try for them along Gorrie Road as well (see McCrie and Watson). Bird activity had picked up, and there was a fantastic mixed flock aggregation about 1.3 km into Gorrie Rd that contained several species of finch, including another two Gouldian Finches (a colorless juvenile and a black-faced immature), as well as another 15 species of bird, including my trip’s only flock of Varied Sitella (a distinct subspecies here in the Top End). Also here was a group of three Brown Quail on the road that actually let me had a long perched look at them for a change. Continuing on to KM 5 whence the shrike-tit is reported, I failed to connect with my target, as half anticipated. But I did lodge an unexpected single individual of the nomadic and irruptive inland subspecies albicauda of Gray Fantail, nicely distinguished by its pronounced wingbars and broad white outertail feathers. Here, also, was the second of only two Gray Shrike-Thrushes of the race brunnea.

It had become noon time, but despite a full schedule I wanted to give the Botanic Walk outside of Mataranka a try for two target honeyeater species. I failed to find either, but the creekside had a nice and unsolicited Buff-sided Robin in store.

Next was a long drive back to Katherine and Chainman Creek, where I intended to spend the rest of the day obtaining better views of the buttonquail I had found here with Martin a few days previously. Buttonquail hunts are not the most enjoyable type of birding, as you have to walk through high grassland for extended periods of time in the hope of flushing a bird and getting quick but conclusive views. This visit to Chainman Creek was no different: I ended up flushing a covey of three buttonquail once, doubtless Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, but the birds could not be relocated, and the views were even poorer than previously.

With only two more days to go and the Partridge Pigeon still not in my bag, I opted for returning to Kakadu for my best chances of this bird. So a quick dinner in Katherine was ensued by a long long night drive to Cooinda and Yellow Waters.

Day 9: My strategy for finding Partridge Pigeon was going to be roadside birding, since they do seem to be seen mostly from vehicles or around campgrounds in the early morning. So after a quick check of the Cooinda campground, I took to the road heading to Muirella Campground near Nourlangie, where my first Partridge Pigeon was soon spotted along the access road. Views of this one were not great, but a second one on the drive back to Yellow Waters perched still and only flushed when I got my camera out.

The morning was young, so I decided for another buttonquail hunt at the Old Darwin Highway site (now called Jim Jim Road) given by Thomas & Thomas. Changed road conditions necessitated a bit of searching before I found the long-grass patch where the buttonquails reside. Walking around for 3-4 hours, past midday, produced six single flushed individuals of Chestnut-backed Buttonquail. None of the sightings were picture-book, and the flushed birds were extremely wary and wouldn’t let me relocate them on the ground, but the totality of all sightings included some in which I discerned light underparts with no rufous or chestnut flanks, and one in which a clear chestnut wing panel and back contrasted against the darker parts of the flight feathers. Additionally, size was quite big as far as buttonquails go. So at the end, I surrendered and was happy to do something I rarely do, admitting this bird to my picture-book life-list despite only ever seeing it briefly in flight. Other birds seen while hunting buttonquail were a group of four Black-tailed Treecreeper, the trip’s only male-plumaged Red-backed Fairywren (female-plumaged ones were common throughout) and the only two perched Varied Lorikeets of the trip (at most of the inland sites I had only seen fly-by’s).

A quick stop at Yellow Waters for general waterfowl was followed by a long drive to Mamaluka, where I briefly checked out the hide (seeing the second of two Wandering Whistling-Ducks of the trip, apart from other waterfowl). Then, the rest of the day was dedicated to finding Zitting Cisticola at the nearby South Alligator River Crossing in the wrong season, a futile quest – as I was soon to learn. However, the wide plain had a number of Australian Pratincoles flying by (and perching on the road at dusk), while the forest near the roadhouse yielded a Channel-billed Cuckoo next to more common forest denizens, such as a photographable Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove. With one day to go, I drove back to the Darwin area, positioning myself at the Palmerston Sewage Farm for the next morning.

Day 10: The early morning at Palmerston Sewage was intended to add the two remaining mangrove species to the list, but only Mangrove Robin obliged, while the White-breasted Whistler snubbed my tape. However, a repeatedly flushed covey of King Quail was a nice compensation. Then, I talked myself into visiting Howard Springs though no particular remaining target was likely to be seen there. I suspect it was for the pitta, as I get very sentimental about these birds, and I may have viewed it as a sacrilege to spend 10 days in the Top End and only see pittas on the first day. My strategy paid off, as I quickly located a Rainbow Pitta by the trail side. Kingfishers here were of the azure kind, and unfortunately no Little Kingfisher was found. However, a good surprise was the trip’s only Little Shrike-Thrush, its Top End race parvula being much more distinct than I had imagined.

A quick bite was followed by a visit to Holmes Jungle, where I was willing to spend most of daylight’s remainder to look for unseasonal Zitting Cisticola – yet again without success – and engage in more buttonquail hunting, definitely not my favourite birding activity. Apart from bleeding legs, a 3-hour dash into the razor-sharp grass produced a Singing Bushlark, flight views of the allegedly distinct race rogersi of Australian Pipit (not that I would have discerned anything), and a single very brief sighting of a tiny darkish buttonquail without any noticeable red flash. The latter was probably a male of either Red-backed or Red-chested Buttonquail, based on size and the lack of red-flashing body parts, but who knows…

Since there was a bit of daytime left, I did want to give the White-breasted Whistler another chance along the foreshore south of Nightcliff (accessed through Orchard Road), but tape only made Gray Whistlers come in. A subsequent quick stint to Bayview to check for rails happened at an unsuitable tide, and there was no time left anyway, as I had to hand back the vehicle. After dusk, a couple of beers at a Greek Dance Festival in downtown Darwin and a quick dive into Darwin’s backpacker scene courtesy of my fellow countrywomen Sandra and Kathrin concluded what was without a doubt a fantastic trip to the Top End.


31 May 2007:
pre-dawn start from airport -> Fogg Dam (FD) -> Adelaide River Crossing on Arnhem Highway (AR) -> Adelaide River Town Cemetery on Stuart Highway -> Pine Creek incl. cemetery and sewage ponds (PC) -> Copperfield Dam (CD) -> Fergusson River (FR) -> back to Pine Creek (PC)-> night in Mataranka

1 June 2007:
Mataranka incl. surroundings of cabins and town park (M) -> Central Arnhem Road from Stuart Highway to Maranboy Police Station (CA) -> Victoria Roadhouse on Victoria Highway (VR) -> escarpment walk next to Victoria Roadhouse (eVR) -> night in Timber Creek

2 June 2007:
Policeman’s Point, airstrip and town surroundings in Timber Creek (TC) -> first 10km along Bullita Access Road -> first 15km along Buntine Highway (BH) -> Chainman Creek (CC) -> night in Katherine

3 June 2007:
Edith River incl. road and walk to escarpment (ER) -> Pine Creek (PC) -> Darwin Botanical Gardens (BG) -> Bayview area in Stuart Park, Darwin (BV) -> mangrove foreshore accessed from Orchard Road south of Nightcliff (mOR) -> Buffalo Creek (BC) -> night in Darwin

4 June 2007:
Palmerston Sewage Ponds (PS) -> Adelaide River Crossing (AR) -> Harrison Dam (HD) -> night in Gunlom car park

5 June 2007:
all day in Gunlom (G)

6 June 2007:
Gunlom (G) -> Stag Creek -> Copperfield Dam (CD) -> night in car at Warloch Ponds south of Mataranka

7 June 2007:
Warloch Ponds (WP) -> first 5km along Gorrie Road just south of Mataranka (GR) -> Botanic Walk in Mataranka (M) -> Chainman Creek (CC) -> night at car park in Cooinda

8 June 2007:
roadside birding between Cooinda Centre – Muirella Campground and back -> intersection Old Darwin highway (Jim-Jim Road) and Kakadu Highway (JJ) -> Yellow Waters (YW) -> Mamukala Walk (MM) -> South Alligator River Crossing along Arnhem Highway (SA) -> night in car near Palmerston Sewage Ponds

9 June 2007:
Palmerston Sewage Ponds (PS) -> Howard Springs (HS) -> Holmes Jungle (HJ) -> mangrove foreshore accessed from Orchard Road south of Nightcliff (mOR) -> Bayview area in Stuart Park, Darwin (BV)

Species Lists

1. Orange-footed Scrubfowl – Megapodius reinwardt tumulus: 1 FD, BG, BC, HS
2. Brown Quail – Coturnix ypsilophora australis: 3 GR
3. King Quail – Coturnix chinensis colletti: a covey (ca. 10-15) PS
4. Chestnut-backed Buttonquail – Turnix castanota: covey of 7-10 (2 June) and 3 (7 June) at CC; then 6 singletons flushed at JJ (8 June)
5. Australian Pelican – Pelecanus conspicillatus: coastal sites, YW, SA
6. Darter – Anhinga melanogaster novaehollandiae: FD, CD, HD, VR, TC, YW, WP
7. Little Pied Cormorant – Phalacrocorax melanoleucos melanoleucos: FD, PS
8. Little Black Cormorant – Phalacrocorax sulcirostris: FD
9. Australasian Grebe – Tachybaptus novaehollandiae novaehollandiae: 12 PC, MM, PS
10. Magpie Goose – Anseranas semipalmata: FD, YW
11. Wandering Whistling-Duck – Dendrocygna arcuata australis: 1 PS, 1 MM
12. Plumed Whistling-Duck – Dendrocygna eytoni: 125 PC
13. Radjah Shelduck – Tadorna radjah rufitergum: FD, PC, YW, PS
14. Pacific Black Duck – Anas superciliosa: PC, WP
15. Gray Teal – Anas gracilis: 6 PC
16. Pink-eared Duck – Malacorhynchus membranaceus: 6 PC
17. Hardhead – Aythya australis: 2 PC
18. Green Pygmy-Goose – Nettapus pulchellus: 27 FD, HD, MM
19. Chestnut Rail – Eulabeornis castaneoventris castaneoventris: 1 BV
20. Eurasian Coot – Fulica atra australis: 2 PC
21. Pacific Heron – Ardea pacifica: PC, TC, WP
22. Pied Heron – Ardea picata: FD, PS, YW
23. White-faced Heron – Ardea novaehollandiae: 1 CD
24. Cattle Egret – Ardea ibis coromanda: common
25. Great Egret – Ardea alba modesta: common
26. Intermediate Egret – Ardea intermedia intermedia: WP, YW
27. Little Egret – Egretta garzetta nigripes: several sites
28. Eastern Reef Egret – Egretta sacra sacra: 1 BV
29. Mangrove Heron – Butorides striatus stagnatilis: 1 BV, 1 mOR
30. Nankeen Night Heron – Nycticorax caledonicus hilli: FD, 1 HS
31. Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus: FD, HD, YW
32. Australian White Ibis – Threskiornis molucca: common
33. Straw-necked Ibis – Threskiornis spinicollis: common
34. Royal Spoonbill – Platalea regia: FD, HD, WP
35. Silky Stork – Ephippiorhynchus australis: 1 FD, WP, YW
36. Brolga – Grus rubicunda: 3 WP
37. Whimbrel – Numenius phaeopus: 1 BV
38. Australian Pratincole – Stiltia isabella: SA
39. Comb-crested Jacana – Irediparra gallinacea novaehollandiae: FD, HD
40. Bush Stone-Curlew – Burhinus grallarius: many sites, e.g. Darwin airport, G, TC, petrol stations en route
41. Masked Laping – Vanellus miles miles: common
42. Red-capped Plover – Charadrius ruficapillus: 2 BC
43. Black-fronted Dotterel – Elseyornis melanops: 11 PC
44. Black-winged Stilt – Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus: PC, PS
45. Silver Gull – Larus novaehollandiae novaehollandiae: BC
46. Whiskered Tern – Chlidonias hybridus javanicus: FD, PS
47. White-winged Black Tern – Chlidonias leucopterus: 1 FD
48. Osprey – Pandion haliaetus leucocephalus: BV, Darwin downtown
49. Black Kite – Milvus migrans affinis: very common
50. Whistling Kite – Haliastur sphenurus: very common
51. Brahminy Kite – Haliastur indus girrenera: sites in/around Darwin
52. White-bellied Sea-eagle – Haliaeetus leucogaster: PS
53. Wedge-tailed Eagle – Aquila audax audax: several sites inland
54. Brown Goshawk – Accipiter fasciatus didimus: many sites, e.g. G
55. Collared Sparrowhawk – Accipiter cirrocephalus: 1 CC
56. Red Goshawk – Erythrotriorchis radiatus: 1 female M
57. Spotted Harrier – Circus assimilis: 1 WP
58. Australian Hobby – Falco longipennis murchisonianus: 1 ER, 2 G
59. Brown Falcon – Falco berigora berigora: common, especially en route
60. Nankeen Kestrel – Falco cenchroides cenchroides: several sites
61. Banded Fruit-Dove – Ptilinopus cinctus alligator: 1+4 G
62. Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove – Ptilinopus regina ewingii: FD, SA
63. Peaceful Dove- Geopelia placida placida: common
64. Diamond Dove – Geopelia cuneata: 1 CA, many BH, 1 JJ
65. Bar-shouldered Dove – Geopelia humeralis inexpectata: common
66. Common Bronzewing – Phaps chalcoptera: 1 CA, 1 CC
67. Crested Pigeon – Geophaps lophotes lophotes: several inland sites
68. Partridge Pigeon – Geophaps smithii smithii: 1 Muirella Campground access road, 1 Kakadu Highway between Cooinda and Muirella turn-off
69. White-quilled Rock-Pigeon – Petrophassa albipennis boothi: 1 eVR
70. Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon – Petrophassa rufipennis: 1+2 G
71. Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo – Calyptorhynchus banksii macrorhynchus: common
72. Galah – Eolophus roseicapillus kuhli: common
73. Little Corella – Cacatua sanguinea sanguinea: 60 TC, many HS
74. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – Cacatua galerita fitzroyi: common
75. Cockatiel – Nymphicus hollandicus: 16 BH, 40+20 ER
76. Rainbow (‘Red-collared’) Lorikeet – Trichoglossus haematodus rubritorquatus: common
77. Varied Lorikeet – Psitteuteles versicolor: 2 perched at JJ, many fly-by’s at various inland sites
78. Red-winged Parrot – Aprosmictus erythropterus: many inland sites, e.g. PC, BH, JJ
79. Northern Rosella – Platycercus venustus venustus: many sites, e.g. VR, CA, G, CD
80. Hooded Parrot – Psephotus dissimilis: 4 males 6 females at PC, 1 male 1 female at CC
81. Pallid Cuckoo – Cuculus pallidus: 1 juv. PC, 1 M
82. Little Bronze-Cuckoo – Chrysococcyx minutillus minutillus: 1 FD, 1 M, 2 BC, 1 MM
83. Channel-billed Cuckoo – Scythrops novaehollandiae: 1 SA
84. Pheasant Coucal – Centropus phasianinus melanurus: 1 ER, 1 AR, 1 CC
85. Rufous Owl – Ninox rufa rufa: 2 BG
86. Southern Boobook – Ninox boobook ocellata: 1 TC
87. Barking Owl – Ninox connivens peninsularis: 3 FD
88. Spotted Nightjar – Eurostopodus argus: 1 G
89. Large-tailed Nightjar – Caprimulgus macrurus schlegeli: 1 seen, many heard at FD
90. Azure Kingfisher – Alcedo azurea ruficollaris: 1 FD, 3 HS
91. Blue-winged Kookaburra – Dacelo leachii leachii: several sites, e.g. TC, G, HS
92. Forest Kingfisher – Todiramphus macleayii incinctus: several sites, e.g. G, AR, 2 FD, BG
93. Red-backed Kingfisher – Todiramphus pyrrhopygia: 1+2 PC, 1 BH, 1 CA
94. Sacred Kingfisher – Todiramphus sanctus sanctus: several sites
95. Rainbow Bee-eater – Merops ornatus: common
96. Rainbow Pitta – Pitta iris: 1 FD, 1 HS
97. Varied Sitella – Daphoenositta chrysoptera leucoptera: 3 GR
98. Black-tailed Treecreeper – Climacteris melanura melanura: 2 CD, 3 JJ
99. Purple-crowned Fairy-wren – Malurus coronatus coronatus: VR, TC
100. Variegated (‘Lavender-flanked’) Fairy-wren – Malurus lamberti dulcis: 1 male 1 female G
101. Red-backed Fairy-wren – Malurus melanocephalus cruentatus: several sites, e.g. CD, CA, ER, WP, JJ
102. White-throated Grasswren – Amytornis woodwardi: 1 male 1 female G
103. Red-browed Pardalote – Pardalotus rubricatus rubricatus: 2 BH
104. Striated Pardalote – Pardalotus striatus uropygialis: common, mainly at inland sites
105. Weebill – Smicrornis brevirostris flavescens: several sites, e.g. CA, G
106. White-throated Gerygone – Gerygone olivacea rogersi: 1-2 CA
107. Green-backed Gerygone – Gerygone chloronotus chloronotus: BC
108. Mangrove Gerygone – Gerygone levigaster levigaster: mOR, PS
109. Large-billed Gerygone – Gerygone magnirostris magnirostris: PS
110. Helmeted Friarbird – Philemon buceroides: [gordoni] BC, PS; [ammitophila] G
111. Silver-crowned Friarbird – Philemon argenticeps argenticeps: many sites, especially inland, e.g. PC, M, G
112. Little Friarbird – Philemon citreogularis sordidus: many sites, esp. inland, e.g. G, PC, CD
113. Blue-faced Honeyeater – Entomyzon cyanotis albipennis: common
114. Yellow-throated Miner – Manorina flavigula lutea: several inland sites, e.g. G, PC
115. White-lined Honeyeater – Meliphaga albilineata: 1 G, 2 Stag Creek
116. Singing Honeyeater – Lichenostomus virescens: BH, TC, GR
117. White-gaped Honeyeater – Lichenostomus unicolor: common
118. Yellow-tinted Honeyeater – Lichenostomus flavescens flavescens: TC, BH, GR
119. White-throated Honeyeater – Melithreptus albogularis albogularis: common
120. Brown Honeyeater – Lichmera indistincta indistincta: very common
121. Bar-breasted Honeyeater – Ramsayornis fasciatus: several sites, e.g. FD, CA, TC
122. Rufous-banded Honeyeater – Conopophila albogularis: several sites, e.g. AR, BC, Muirella Campground
123. Rufous-throated Honeyeater – Conopophila rufogularis: several inland sites, e.g. CA, TC
124. Dusky Myzomela – Myzomela obscura obscura: several coastal and sub-coastal sites, e.g. BC, G, HD
125. Red-headed Myzomela – Myzomela erythrocephala erythrocephala: BC, AR, PS, mOR
126. Banded Honeyeater – Certhionyx pectoralis: CA, BH, TC, GR
127. Gray-crowned Babbler – Pomatostomus temporalis rubeculus: M, BH, ER, PC, CD, GR
128. Mangrove Robin – Eopsaltria pulverulenta alligator: 2 PS
129. Lemon-bellied Flycatcher – Microeca flavigaster flavigaster: FD, AR, M, BC, MM
130. Jacky Winter – Microeca fascinans pallida: CA, BH, GR
131. Buff-sided Robin – Poecilodryas cerviniventris: 2 TC, 1 M
132. Little Shrike-Thrush – Colluricincla megarhyncha parvula: HS
133. Sandstone Shrike-Thrush – Colluricincla woodwardi: 1+2 G
134. Gray Shrike-Thrush – Colluricincla harmonica brunnea: 1 TC, 1 GR
135. Mangrove Golden Whistler – Pachycephala melanura robusta: 1 female AR
136. Gray (‘Brown’) Whistler – Pachycephala simplex simplex: FD, BC, PS, HS, mOR
137. Rufous Whistler – Pachycephala rufiventris falcata: common, especially inland
138. Northern Fantail – Rhipidura rufiventris isura: 1 ER, G, PS, M
139. Gray Fantail – Rhipidura fuliginosa albicauda: 1 GR
140. Mangrove Gray Fantail – Rhipidura phasiana: 1 PS
141. Rufous (‘Arafura’) Fantail – Rhipidura rufifrons dryas: 1+2 AR, 2 BC
142. Willie Wagtail – Rhipidura leucophrys picata: common
143. Broad-billed Flycatcher – Myiagra ruficollis mimikae: FD, AR, PS
144. Leaden Flycatcher – Myiagra rubecula concinna: several sites, e.g. 1 FR, ER, G, PS, YW
145. Shining Flycatcher – Myiagra alecto melvillensis: FD, PS, HS
146. Restless Flycatcher – Myiagra inquieta nana: several sites, e.g. FD, FR, CD, TC
147. Magpie Lark – Grallina cyanoleuca neglecta: common
148. Spangled Drongo – Dicrurus bracteatus baileyi: several sites, e.g. AR, BC, Stag Creek, Darwin Area
149. Yellow Oriole – Oriolus flavocinctus flavocinctus: several sites, e.g. FD, G, AR, ER, BC
150. Olive-backed Oriole – Oriolus sagittatus affinis: TC, ER, Darwin Area
151. Figbird – Sphecotheres viridis ashbyi: generally common, especially near coast
152. Great Bowerbird – Chlamydera nuchalis nuchalis: M, TC, ER, G, GR
153. Black-faced Cuckooshrike – Coracina novaehollandiae melanops: common
154. White-bellied Cuckooshrike – Coracina papuensis hypoleuca: common
155. White-winged Triller – Lalage sueurii: common and numerous inland, e.g. G, M, ER, TC, BH, GR, CC
156. Varied Triller – Lalage leucomela rufiventris: AR, FD, BC, G, SA, HS
157. White-breasted Woodswallow – Artamus leucorynchus leucopygialis: common
158. Black-faced Woodswallow – Artamus cinereus melanops: several sites, especially inland, e.g. CA, ER, TC
159. Little Woodswallow – Artamus minor derbyi: several inland sites, e.g. CD, ER, G, GR
160. Black Butcherbird – Cracticus quoyi spaldingi: BC
161. Silver-backed Butcherbird – Cracticus argenteus colletti: 1 Adelaide River Town Cemetery on Stuart Highway
162. Pied Butcherbird – Cracticus nigrogularis picatus: fairly common
163. Torresian Crow – Corvus orru ceciliae: common
164. Apostlebird – Struthidea cinerea dalyi: large groups in M, BH
165. Tree Martin – Hirundo nigricans: many PS
166. Fairy Martin – Hirundo ariel: 1 PS, many TC
167. Australian Pipit – Anthus novaeseelandiae rogersi: 2 HJ
168. Singing Bushlark – Mirafra javanica soderbergi: 1 HJ
169. Golden-headed Cisticola – Cisticola exilis lineocapilla: several sites, e.g. FD, BH, BC, ER, HD
170. Double-barred Finch – Taeniopygia bichenovii annulosa: generally common, e.g. M, CA, mOR, ER, Darwin downtown, TC
171. Long-tailed Finch – Poephila acuticauda acuticauda: CD, M, CA, TC, BH, GR, JJ
172. Masked Finch – Poephila personata personata: CD, CA, ER, TC, BH, CC, GR, JJ
173. Crimson Finch – Neochmia phaeton phaeton: FD, M, CA, TC, mOR, ER, CD, Darwin downtown, JJ, HJ
174. Star Finch – Neochmia ruficauda subclarescens: 6 juv. WP
175. Gouldian Finch – Erythrura gouldiae: 1 juv. CA, 1 black-faced sub-adult TC, 1 juv + 1 black-faced sub-adult GR
176. Mistletoebird – Dicaeum hirundinaceum hirundinaceum: several sites, e.g. G
177. Yellow White-eye – Zosterops luteus luteus: BC, PS, mOR


Red-chested Buttonquail – Turnix pyrrhothorax: a smallish buttonquail with a red flash somewhere on its body was flushed at WP and most likely constituted an individual of this species

Red-chested / Red-backed Buttonquail – Turnix pyrrhothorax/maculosa: a single tiny darkish buttonquail flushed at HJ did not afford views of any red-flashing body parts and may have been a male of one of the two species