Western Australia and Northern Territory, 24th August -19th October 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


by Robert Grimmond

My wife, Kay, and I made our second trip to Australia between August and October 2003. We travelled around in medium-sized camper vans.

In this report I've used the abbreviations 'WA' for Western Australia and 'NT' for Northern Territory.

Books & information

There are several Australian Field Guides. By general consensus the best is considered to be Pizzey & Knight's 'Field Guides to the Birds of Australia' (revised edition 2003) ('P & K'), although it's on the large size and therefore heavy to carry. Also highly rated is 'Slater's Field Guide to Australian Birds'. A revised edition was published late in 2003. It's worth getting for the plates and is lighter in the field.

Thomas & Thomas's 'Complete Guide to Finding the Birds of Australia' is useful as a rough guide but the information is over 12 years old now. Bransbury's 'Where to Find Birds in Australia' has been reprinted but hasn't been revised since 1987. Nigel Wheatley's 'Where to Watch Birds in Australia and Oceania' is also available but it received some criticism in Australia for multiple inaccuracies (see Birding-Aus mail archive http://menura.cse.unsw.edu.au:64800/1999/04/msg00221.html and http://menura.cse.unsw.edu.au:64800/1999/04/msg00327.html).

What you must remember is that the localities for many birds are dependent on weather, either for rainfall or flowering plants, so what has been seen one year or even month in one place may not be found there next time.

I recommend Lloyd Nielsen's book 'Birding in Australia' (reviewed in 'Birding World' 15:9). It's not a detailed site guide but it's got some very useful information in its 155 pages. It's not cheap if you buy it from the UK (I bought my copy at Kingfisher Lodge, in Queensland, which seems to be the only place you can get it apart from direct from Lloyd) - it costs around UK£33 including postage. Lloyd's contact details are lloydnielsen@ledanet.com.au

As for regional guides, we used three, namely:

'Finding Birds in Darwin, Kakadu & the Top End' by Niven McCrie & James Watson (2004). This was published just a couple of months before our trip, which was very timely. It's an excellent good with good, clear, maps and information. I recommend it highly;

'Finding Birds in Australia's Northern Territory' by D. Donato, P. Wilkins, G. Smith & L. Alford (1997). Another useful guide that has some overlap with the above book in respect of the Top End but comes into its own for the Red Centre. It has some useful maps; and

'Birding Sites around Perth' by Ron van Delft (revised 1997). We didn't get much opportunity to use it since we didn't spend much time around Perth. The maps are very good - the one for Bungendore Park came in very handy.

It's certainly worth trying to get hold of some tapes or CDs. The 'Field Guide to Australian Birdsong', published by BOCA, a 12 cassette set (which is currently being reproduced on 10 CDs - the first five are available in that format at the time of writing, January 2004). You can check with the 'Birding Shop' or other suppliers (see web site link below).

Australian mammals are something special. A very good field guide is 'A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia' by Peter Menkhorst & Frank Knight (Oxford).

As for reptiles and amphibians, we used 'Australian Reptiles and Amphibians' by Leonard Cronin, in the 'Key Guide' series. Envirobook publishes these paperback guides in Australia. They are good value and well produced, with good colour plates. Other guides cover fauna and flora such as mammals, wildflowers and trees.

There are many maps available for the Australian States, in varying detail and scale. We found the series of maps published by HEMA to be very useful. The car rental companies tend to provide useful town maps. At the start of our second spell in Western Australia we bought a copy of HEMA's 'Travellers Atlas of Western Australia' at a service station. It has 154 pages of road maps and 30 pages of town maps - well worth obtaining.

I haven't given specific directions to most sites since they are generally well covered in the literature or on the web. However, if anyone needs any specific information, then don't hesitate to contact me.

As for travel practicalities, internal flights within Australia are frequent and efficient. Now that Virgin Blue is operating, prices may become more competitive. We booked flights to Perth (with Malaysia Airlines, via Kuala Lumpur) and internal flights with Qantas, through 'Bridge the World', the UK travel agent, whom we found to be very good. They also booked for us campervans in Broome, Alice Springs and Perth, through Britz. Maui and Koala are among the other main operators. Campgrounds are plentiful, ranging from five star tourist parks to caravan parks operated by local councils (often good).

We booked hotels in Perth and Alice Springs through 'Bridge the World'.

Food is very cheap compared to the UK. We mainly prepared our own meals.

Despite Australia's reputation for fearsome creatures, we came across only one venomous snake (on the penultimate day of the trip) and only non-venomous spiders. It's a question of taking care and being aware of your surroundings. Follow all warning signs (e.g. crocodiles). Biting insects can be a nuisance in the tropics. Bush flies are abundant in drier areas but they don't bite. There is a large fly (like a horse fly) that does bite and can be a nuisance in the tropics. Ticks can be around in the Red Centre and other areas.

Don't forget to drink plenty of water in the hotter areas and use plenty of sunscreen!

Try to avoid travel by road at night and late afternoon and early morning because of the risk of hitting animals such as kangaroos.

Useful web sites & email links

Western Australia

http://members.iinet.net.au/~foconnor/ Frank O'Connor's 'Birding Western Australia' site - an essential site containing much information on birds and other fauna in WA. Very detailed information on birding sites in particular

http://home.it.net.au/~austecol/birds.html Alan Burbidge's 'Birds and birding in Western Australia' - includes checklists, reports of recent sightings and information on birds and birding in Western Australia (including good information on WA endemics)

http://birdswa.iinet.net.au/ Birds Australia Western Australia Inc - useful information, including guides to various birding sites (see 'Bird Guides' on orange left-hand panel). It has information on places like Albany, Broome, Bunbury, Busselton, Carnarvon, Kununurra, Narrogin, Perth, Shark Bay and Wyndham (in the form of PDF files)

http://home.it.net.au/~austecol/observatories/broome.htm Broome Bird Observatory

http://turnstonenaturediscovery.com.au/ Turnstone Nature Discovery Tours

http://www.whales-australia.com/ Naturaliste Charters - whale watching from Albany or Dunsborough, according to season

http://www.rottnest.wa.gov.au/Rotto/science_nature_ecosystem Rottnest Island Authority - useful information on the island and environment

http://www.calm.wa.gov.au/ Department of Conservation & Land Management WA (CALM)

http://www.lakeargyle.com/english/intro.htm Lake Argyle (including cruise information and bookings)

Northern Territory

http://members.iinet.net.au/~alicenats// Alice Springs Field Naturalist Club - information on sites and the more sought after birds

http://www.ntbirds.com/ Birds of the Top End - with the emphasis on the Katherine area

http://www.users.bigpond.com/birdsnt/ Birds of Darwin, Kakadu & the Top End - Niven McCrie's very good site, with information on the special birds and sites

http://birds.rhyme.com.au/ NT Bird Atlas

http://www.nt.gov.au/ipe/pwcnt/ Parks & Wildlife Commission of the NT

http://www.deh.gov.au/parks/uluru/index.html Uluru_Kata Tjuta National Park

http://www.yellowwatercruises.com/ Yellow Waters Cruises


www.thebirdingshop.com The Birding Shop, Melbourne. While many books on Australian can be bought in Europe and North America others may need to be obtained from Australia. The Birding Shop has a good range of titles and audio items.

http://shc.melb.catholic.edu.au/home/birding/index.html Birding-Aus mailing list - it has a searchable archive and is a source of much useful information.

http://www.ausbird.com/ Birdwatching Australia - a directory of Australian birdwatching tours, bird clubs, freelance-guides, bird-orientated accommodation and reference information. There is a separate section for each state

http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au/ Birds Australia (formerly the RAOU)

http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/paaustralia.htm Tina MacDonald's 'Where do you want to go birding in Australia today?'

http://www.abc.net.au/archives/av/birds.htm ABC Archives has a selection of Australian bird song clips

The Trip

Sunday 24th August

We arrived in Perth late afternoon and made our way to the city, where we stayed the night at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Monday 25th August

In the morning we flew to Broome and picked up our first campervan from Britz. After a shopping expedition at a local supermarket, we discovered that the refrigerator in the van wasn't working. We returned to the Britz depot, where we discovered that our van had a flat battery! A new one was installed. We checked in at Roebuck Bay Caravan Park for two nights. Note that late August is still high season so we pre-booked a site in the UK a few weeks before leaving.

Tuesday 26th August

We arose before dawn and were collected by Chris Hassell of Turnstone Nature Tours. We had a great morning in the Roebuck Bay area. We didn't find any Asian Dowitchers but managed 23 species of shorebird, including our first Grey (Black-bellied) Plover & Common Redshank in Australia (the first time I've really got excited about seeing the latter since I was knee-high to a grasshopper!) and all the target mangrove species. New birds were Pacific Reef-Heron, Red winged Parrot, Dusky Gerygone, Singing & Rufous-throated Honeyeaters, White-breasted Whistler, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Mangrove Grey Fantail & Yellow White-eye. Striated Herons seemed to be everywhere and an Australian Hobby obligingly landed on the beach. It was great fun tramping through the mud in old clothes we'd brought for this purpose - it was the only way to get close to the White-breasted Whistlers! Chris is a nice guy who knows his fauna and flora - we recommend him highly.

Full list for the morning was: Australian Pelican, Little Black Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Little Egret, Pacific Reef-Heron, Striated Heron, Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Osprey, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon, Pied Oystercatcher, White-headed Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Grey Plover, Red-capped Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Great Knot, Red Knot, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Silver Gull, Gull-billed Tern (both Australian &, smaller, Asian race), Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Red-winged Parrot, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Tree Martin, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Mangrove Grey Fantail, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, White-breasted Whistler, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Dusky Gerygone, Yellow White-eye, Singing Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, White-breasted Woodswallow, Mistletoebird & Torresian Crow.

We spent the afternoon in and around Roebuck Bay Caravan Park. There were plenty of birds around - Australian Pelican, Striated Heron, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Osprey, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle (an immature, mobbed by an Osprey!), Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Rainbow Lorikeet, Singing Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Magpie-lark & Australasian Magpie.

Wednesday 27th August

We spent the day travelling to Fitzroy Crossing, spending the night at Fitzroy Lodge by the Fitzroy River. During the journey, we saw a Spotted Harrier, some 40 kilometres south of Fitzroy River. A short stop at the Nillibubbica Rest Area that day gave us great views of Long-tailed Finches coming into drink. Other birds we saw on the way were Black & Whistling Kites, Brown Falcon, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Galah, Singing Honeyeater & Magpie-lark.

In the camping ground at Fitzroy Lodge we saw Silver-crowned Friarbird, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater and Black-faced Woodswallow - all easy to see here. Other birds here were Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Galah, Red-winged Parrot, Willie-wagtail, Brown, White-gaped, Black-chinned & Rufous-throated Honeyeaters, Magpie-lark, Great Bowerbird, Zebra & Double-barred Finches & Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.

A short walk to the river produced a bit of a surprise - several Major Mitchell's Cockatoos with Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. By the river we saw Pied Cormorant, Grey Teal, White-headed Stilt & Tree Martin.

Thursday 28th August

A quick, early morning scan around the camping ground produced Red-winged Parrot, Tawny Grassbird, White-gaped Honeyeater & Double-barred Finch. We made an early start on our travels; it was a long haul - 401 miles. On the way we saw Ground Cuckoo-Shrikes about 40 kilometres southwest of Hall's Creek and Yellow-throated Miners just north of Hall's Creek. Other birds were Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Magpie-lark, Black-faced Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird, Great Bowerbird (Turkey Creek) & Torresian Crow.

Late afternoon we arrived at Kununurra and settled in at the Kona Lakeside Park. A short walk here produced a roosting Nankeen Night-Heron. Paperbark Flycatchers (formerly a race of Paperbark Flycatcher) were abundant Also here were Little Pied Cormorant, Straw-necked Ibis, Indian Peafowl, Comb-crested Jacana, Bar-shouldered Dove (very tame), Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Rufous Whistler, Brown & White-gaped Honeyeaters & Yellow Oriole.

Friday 29th August

A dawn walk along the road from the Park and around the golf course was quite productive. I thought I heard a Black Bittern calling but wasn't sure. The only new bird was Clamorous Reed Warbler but there were many White-gaped, Yellow-tinted, Brown and Rufous-throated Honeyeaters (particularly the latter). Other birds were Little Pied Cormorant, Darter, Great Egret, Nankeen Night-Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Radjah Shelduck, Black Kite, Brown Goshawk, Purple Swamphen, Comb-crested Jacana, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Pheasant Coucal, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Golden-headed Cisticola, Willie-wagtail, Paperbark Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, Yellow Oriole, Magpie-lark, White-breasted & Black-faced Woodswallows, Great Bowerbird & Crimson Finch. At the golf course, ask for permission to walk around - there should be no problem.

We spent the late morning around Hidden Valley National Park on the eastern edge of town (after seeing Nankeen Kestrel & Australian Hobby along Ivanhoe Road and Grey-crowned Babblers at the caravan park near the National Park). With a bit of patience we managed to find our first White-quilled Rock Pigeon and Sandstone Shrike-thrush. We also saw Variegated Fairy-wren, Weebill, Brown Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner & Double-barred Finch.

In the afternoon we stopped by Lily Creek Lagoon, Kununurra, where we saw Hoary-headed Grebe, Glossy Ibis & Comb-crested Jacana. Then, at Dunham Diversion Dam, we found Little Pied Cormorant, Darter, Comb-crested Jacana, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Paperbark Flycatcher, Grey-crowned Babbler, Brown Honeyeater, Magpie-lark & Torresian Crow. At one point we became a bit concerned when a Freshwater Crocodile got a bit close to a Jacana!

A late afternoon walk around Kona Lake TP produced one very tame White-browed Robin! Great Bowerbirds were easy to see here. Also present were Australian Pelican, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Egret, Nankeen Night-Heron, Comb-crested Jacana, Little Corella & Olive-backed & Yellow Orioles. At dusk we were treated to the spectacle of thousands of Flying-Foxes streaming across the sky upon leaving their daytime roosts.

Saturday 30th August

As we prepared to leave Kona Lake we had two White-browed Robins around our van, one perching a metre from it! We went to Wyndham for the day. On the way we stopped at the Grotto, which was virtually birdless, apart from a Jacky Winter and Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike. Between there and Wyndham we saw a single Wedge-tailed Eagle and Pied Butcherbird.

At Wyndham we found a couple of Masked Finches on the ground opposite the road to the caravan park. Little Corellas and Black-faced Woodswallows were common around here. Wyndham Crocodile Park was interesting - great views of Saltwater Crocodiles and a few birds thrown in - Radjah Shelduck, Masked Lapwing, Leaden Flycatcher, Brown Honeyeater, Crimson Finch & our first Star Finches. On the way out of the town we stopped by the jetty where we had brief views of Mangrove Gerygones flitting about - the first we had seen (though we'd heard many in Queensland the year before).

On the way back to Kununurra we stopped at the Cockburn Rest Area, at the junction of the Great Northern and Victoria Highways, since several raptors were soaring in the area. This proved to be a good decision because we picked out our first Black-breasted Buzzards among the Black & Whistling Kites. Red-backed Fairy-wren was easy to see here. Some 7 kilometres west of Kununurra we saw the first Collared Sparrowhawk of the trip and, near the Dunham Road Bridge, another Spotted Harrier.

We spent that and the following night at Hidden Valley TP in Kununurra. A late afternoon walk into Hidden Valley National Park produced several species, including Great Bowerbird (with bower by the track), Euros and a Short-eared Rock-Wallaby. The only birds new for the Kununurra area were Striated Pardalote and Blue-faced Honeyeater.

Sunday 31st August

I went for a dawn walk into the National Park, where I found a couple of White-quilled Rock-Pigeons and heard a Sandstone Shrike-thrush calling. Two additional birds for the locality were White-throated Honeyeater and Long-tailed Finch.

We spent the morning at Lake Argyle, where we'd booked a cruise. On the way, between the Victoria Highway and Lake Argyle, we saw Brown Falcon, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Red-backed Fairy-wren, White-throated Honeyeater & Grey Butcherbird. At Lake Argyle village, as we walked from our van to the bus pick-up, we saw a White-quilled Rock-Pigeon wandering around the streets of the village! Brown Honeyeater and Great Bowerbird were also here.

On the cruise, the scenery was gorgeous. Best birds were Black-necked Stork, Black-breasted Buzzard and White-bellied Sea-Eagle (two newly fledged juveniles on or near the nest, which was also occupied by nesting Willie Wagtails & Long-tailed Finches!). We also saw a Short-eared Rock-Wallaby. Other birds were Hoary-headed Grebe, Australian Pelican, Little Black & Little Pied Cormorants, Darter, Great Egret, Glossy Ibis, Magpie Goose, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Whistling Kite, Comb-crested Jacana, White-headed Stilt, Red-kneed Dotterel, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Willie-wagtail & White-breasted Woodswallow.

A visit to the Argyle Homestead Museum was productive - here there were 2 Spinifex Pigeons, another White-quilled Rock-Pigeon and Double-barred & Long-tailed Finches coming to drink. A Great Bowerbird was attending his bower in the grounds. As we drove back to the Victoria Highway we flushed a pigeon from the road. The sighting was brief but we were sure we'd seen a Partridge Pigeon - but one of the red-faced, Top End race. It was bigger than a Spinifex Pigeon and had white above the red eye patch. Where does the demarcation line between the two races occur?

When we got back to Kununurra, we drove around River Farm Road and Ivanhoe Road, looking for finches. On a field by the former we saw White-necked Heron, Radjah Shelduck, our first Australian Pratincoles & Magpie-lark. By an irrigation channel by Ivanhoe Road, just north of Mills Road, some birds were coming into a small pool on a partly dried-up ditch. After a bit of searching we found 3 Yellow-rumped Mannikins, Double-barred, Crimson and Star Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins. A Spotted Harrier was quartering the fields. Other birds in the area were Crested Pigeon, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Rainbow Bee-eater, Paperbark Flycatcher, Brown, White-gaped & Rufous-throated Honeyeaters.

Monday 1st September

We spent the morning driving from Kununurra to Victoria River Crossing in NT, stopping at several places on the way, including Dingo Creek, the East Baines River and Bullita Access Road. Raptors were a highlight - Black-breasted Buzzard, Black & Whistling Kites (both common), Spotted Harrier, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Black Falcon (by Bullita Access Road) & Nankeen Kestrel. Just west of Timber Creek we found our first Diamond Doves. We had no luck with Gouldian Finches at Timber Creek. Other birds were White-necked Heron (on East Baines River), Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet (Timber Creek), Red-winged Parrot (East Baines River), Blue-winged Kookaburra (by floodway at Bullita Access Road), White-winged Triller (Dingo Creek), Brown Honeyeater (Dingo Creek), Yellow-tinted Honeyeater (Timber Creek), Rufous-throated Honeyeater (Dingo Creek), White-breasted & Black-faced Woodswallows, Pied Butcherbird, Australasian Magpie, Great Bowerbird, Torresian Crow & Double-barred & Long-tailed Finches (both at Dingo Creek). Later, we checked in at the campground at Victoria River Crossing.

Late afternoon I went down to the river crossing. I could hear Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens singing west of the bridge but couldn't see them. Crossing the bridge, I had more luck - a male seen briefly. In all there must have been at least five males around. I also managed to find my first Red-browed Pardalote in the tall trees beyond the river. A Greenshank was on the river and a couple of Star Finches were by the riverside. A small Freshwater Crocodile was basking on the river. Silver-crowned Friarbirds and Agile Wallabies (the night-shift) were common around the campground. Other birds were Black Kite, Masked Lapwing, Bar-shouldered Dove, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Little Corella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, White-throated & Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Black-faced Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird, Great Bowerbird & Torresian Crow.

Tuesday 2nd September

I was hoping for better views of Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens so I got up at first light and went down to the river again. This time I struck lucky. The bird that was probably the male I had seen the day before showed in the open for several minutes, singing from time to time, the early morning sun shining on his purple crown - what a stunning bird! I also had brief views of a female the other side of the road. Also of interest were a Brown Goshawk and a Yellow-rumped Mannikin. Other birds additional to those seen the previous day here were Great Egret, Radjah Shelduck, Common Sandpiper, Brown Honeyeater & Crimson Finch.

The drive to Katherine produced nothing out of the ordinary - White-necked Heron, Great Egret, White-faced Heron (both at Brandy Bottom Creek), Black & Whistling Kites, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Falcon, Crested Pigeon, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Galah, Little Corella, Cockatiel (40+ Brandy Bottom Creek), Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Brown Honeyeater, Black-faced Woodswallow & Pied Butcherbird. We also saw a Euro just east of Victoria River crossing.

In the afternoon we checked in at Nitmiluk National Park Campground. Here I was pleased to see Apostlebirds again - delightful birds, I think. Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Great Bowerbirds were equally tame and spent much time around the campsites. Here we also saw Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Striated Pardalote, Brown & Dusky Honeyeaters, Silver-crowned Friarbird and Rufous-throated Honeyeater.We decided to walk the Lookout Trail. Along it we saw our first Common Bronzewing of the trip and a Northern Fantail. At dusk, Agile Wallabies came around the campsites, some approaching very close. It was a shame to see some people feeding them, despite the signs warning them not to.

Wednesday 3rd September

I took an early morning walk around the campground and the visitor centre. In addition to the birds seen here the day before were Blue-winged Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Paperbark Flycatcher & Yellow Oriole.

After breakfast, we drove to Edith Falls, in Nitmiluk National Park. On the way in, we stopped along Edith Falls Road at the site 5 kilometres in, mentioned in Niven McCrie & James Watson's book 'Finding Birds in Darwin, Kakadu & the Top End' - but found little. Around the Edith Falls car park and Loop Trail we found Straw-necked Ibis, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Northern Fantail, Paperbark Flycatcher, Rufous & Grey Shrike-thrushes, Weebill, Brown, White-gaped & White-throated Honeyeaters, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Rufous-throated Honeyeater & Pied Butcherbird. On the way back along Edith Falls Road we stopped again at the site mentioned earlier. After a bit of persistence, we managed to find near the pools a Little Woodswallow and a Gouldian Finch. Other finches here were Double-barred, Masked and Crimson. In the general area and along the road, we also saw White-necked Heron, Eurasian Coot, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Paperbark Flycatcher, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Brown Honeyeater & Black-faced Woodswallow.

We finished the day at Pine Creek, where we checked in at a tiny campsite by a petrol station. A walk around the area produced a good list of birds, the highlight being 5 Northern Rosellas along Lookout Road. No luck with Hooded Parrots, though! Other birds were Great Egret, Masked Lapwing, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Paperbark Flycatcher, Grey-crowned Babbler, Brown & Blue-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Yellow Oriole, Magpie-lark, Great Bowerbird & Double-barred Finch.

Thursday 4th September

I took an early walk around the village. Birds were even more plentiful than the previous afternoon. By the water gardens I saw Nankeen Night Heron and Azure & Sacred Kingfishers. Other highlights were 7 species of parrot & cockatoo, including the 5 Northern Rosellas again and several Figbirds. It was a great disappointment not to find any Hooded Parrots. Interestingly, Jim Ostwald of Mary River Park told me later that he had found Northern Rosella more difficult to locate of late than Hooded Parrot! That's birds for you! Other birds additional to the previous day's were Black Kite, Little Corella, Cockatiel, Red-winged Parrot, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Pied Butcherbird & Torresian Crow.

Between Pine Creek and Cooinda we saw Black-breasted Kite, Pheasant Coucal, Blue-winged Kookaburra & White-throated Honeyeater. By late morning we arrived at Cooinda where we checked into the campground. Here we saw a Dingo foraging around the campsites! Late afternoon I took a walk down to Yellow Waters. It turned out to be particularly good for Honeyeaters - Rufous-banded Honeyeater being the commonest Honeyeater - & Flycatchers - Leaden, Broad-billed, Shining & Paperbark. Varied Trillers were easy to find. I also saw a Saltwater Crocodile and 2 Agile Wallabies Just before midnight I heard a Large-tailed Nightjar calling. Other birds here and at Yellow Waters were Australian Pelican, Great Egret, Green Pygmy-goose, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Forest Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Northern Fantail, Willie-wagtail, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Mistletoebird, Dusky, White-gaped, White-throated & Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Yellow Oriole & White-breasted Woodswallow.

Friday 5th September

An early morning tragedy - a Dingo caught and started to eat a Pheasant Coucal!

We went to Nourlangie Rock, to see the rock paintings and hopefully pick up a few good birds. Along Nourlangie Road I was lucky to spot an Emu by the roadside (we later found out they are quite uncommon in the area). At the Rock, we managed to see White-lined Honeyeaters quite easily - at least 4 birds in all, quite noisy & conspicuous. I suspected that Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon & Banded Fruit-Dove might be trickier! As luck had it, a Banded Fruit-Dove flew over us and landed in a tree, giving brief but good views. The Rock-Pigeon was a no-show, though. A non-avian highlight was a large Eastern Blue-tongued Skink (good eating according to one of the Aboriginal Rangers!). We also saw Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Paperbark Flycatcher, Grey Shrike-thrush, Brown, Dusky, White-gaped & White-throated Honeyeaters, Helmeted Friarbird & Spangled Drongo.

The nearby Anbangbang Billabong was good for water birds - Magpie-Goose, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Green Pygmy-Goose, Pacific Black Duck, Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, White-necked Heron, Great & Little Egrets, Glossy, Australian White & Straw-necked Ibises and Royal Spoonbill. Non-water birds were Rainbow Lorikeet, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Paperbark & Lemon-bellied Flycatchers, Grey Shrike-thrush & White-throated Honeyeater.

We still hadn't seen Black-tailed Treecreeper so we called in at Mardugal on the way back to Cooinda. We tried the Gun-Gardun walk. After what seemed long a long time walking in the heat, we got excellent views of a female bird. The only other bird we saw here was White-throated Honeyeater.

On a late afternoon walk to Yellow Waters, I managed to see a White-bellied Sea-Eagle catching a fish - the Eagle, perched, saw the fish jump out off the water slightly then glided down to snatch the fish; an awesome sight! In the area I also saw a Grey Goshawk and a Brush Cuckoo calling frequently and driving the Paperbark & Paperbark Flycatchers crazy. Birds additional to the previous day were Australian White Ibis, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Tree Martin, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Magpie-lark & Torresian Crow.

After dark, I thought I heard a Barking Owl calling. On further investigation I discovered the calls had been made by Glenn Threlfo (from O'Reilly's Rainforest Guesthouse at Lamington NP in Queensland) who was leading a small group of birders! We remembered Glenn from our stay at O'Reilly's the previous year - it's a small world! Glenn tipped us off about a possible spot for Little Kingfisher on Yellow Waters.

Saturday 6th September

We had a booked a dawn cruise on Yellow Waters. It was quite beautiful - leaving before sunrise and seeing the sun rise through the mist. The cruise was excellent and produced 35 bird species and good, close, views of Saltwater Crocodiles. Highlights were 4 Nankeen Night-Herons, 4 White-bellied Sea-Eagles, 2 Azure Kingfishers and 1 Little Kingfisher - at one stage we had the two kingfisher species in view at the same time. Supporting cast was Australian Pelican, Little Pied Cormorant, Darter, White-necked Heron, Great, Intermediate & Cattle Egrets, Black-necked Stork, Australian & Glossy Ibises, Magpie Goose, Plumed & Wandering Whistling-Duck, Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy-goose, Whistling Kite, White-headed Stilt, Whiskered Tern, Bar-shouldered Dove, Little Corella, Sacred Kingfisher, Tree Martin, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Leaden, Paperbark & Shining Flycatchers, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Magpie-lark & Torresian Crow

Before leaving the Cooinda area we stopped off at the Warradjan Cultural Centre, which has very interesting aboriginal cultural displays. Here we saw several Crimson Finches. We then drove up to Jabiru, where we checked in at the campground at Jabiru Lodge. As we parking at our site we saw a Partridge Pigeon wandering between the sprinklers! After lunch we went to Ubirr, where we admired the rock paintings and wonderful views (shades of Crocodile Dundee!). The only birds we saw here were Blue-winged Kookaburra and Red-backed Fairy-wren. We then did the Mangarre Walk, where we found two new birds, Rainbow Pitta (2 gorgeous birds bouncing around in the leaf litter) and Green-backed Gerygone. We also found Common Sandpiper, Bar-shouldered Dove, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Varied Triller, Yellow Oriole & Spangled Drongo. Non-avian sightings of note were 2 large ''Salties' on the East Alligator River and colonies of Black & Little Red Flying Foxes (what a smell!).

We were now running short of options for Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon so we tried the nearby Bardedjilidji Sandstone Walk. The McCrie & Watson book said that the birds might be feeding on the ground in late afternoon so it was worth a try. We had just got a short way along the walk when noisy calls attracted us to a flock of 50+ Varied Lorikeets in the trees along the track - a nice surprise. We also saw Rainbow Lorikeet and Mistletoebird here. A few minutes later, as we were going past the first main sandstone outcrop I saw movement on the ground - a foraging Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon. Many thanks, Niven & James!

Sunday 7th September

An early morning walk around the campground produced Partridge Pigeon, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Little Corella, Varied Lorikeet, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Grey-crowned Babbler, Mistletoebird, Brown, White-gaped, White-throated, Rufous-throated & Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Olive-backed & Yellow Orioles, Magpie-lark, Crimson, Double-barred & Masked Finches.

We were now heading west towards Darwin. We stopped off at Mamukala Wetlands. The distinct, humming or buzzing sound we could hear was not bees but hundreds of Magpie Geese! There was a good selection of the commoner water birds - we saw our first Pied Heron here. Other species were Hoary-headed Grebe, Darter, Great & Little Egrets, Black-necked Stork, Glossy Ibis, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy-goose, Whistling Kite, Comb-crested Jacana, White-headed Stilt, Masked Lapwing, Forest Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Paperbark & Lemon-bellied Flycatchers & Green Figbird. An interesting sighting was a huge Gould's Goanna.

A brief stop at the South Alligator yielded just Black-breasted Buzzard, Whistling Kite & several Little Corellas. 2 'Salties' basked along the river.

Late morning we arrived at Mary River Park, where we decided to stay for 2 nights. On an afternoon walk in the area I flushed a Great-billed Heron from the riverbank - I hadn't been expecting to see it till we got on a river cruise. Torresian Imperial-Pigeons were calling around the campground. I also saw Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Little Corella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Blue-winged Kookaburra, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Dusky, White-gaped & White-throated Honeyeaters & Yellow Oriole. A non-avian sighting was an Antilopine Wallaroo.

We went on an evening dinner cruise on the Mary River with our host Jim Ostwald and a handful of other people. We managed to see Great-billed Heron, Large-tailed Nightjar (after dark) and Azure Kingfisher. Other birds were White-faced Heron, Black-necked Stork, Whistling Kite, Red-winged Parrot, Varied Triller, Shining Flycatcher & Spangled Drongo. We also saw several Freshwater Crocodiles and a tiny brown frog jumped into the boat! Dinner, on a sandbar in the river, protected by a fence was a great experience. The stew and beer, along with Jim's harmonica-accompanied songs created a wonderful atmosphere. Highly recommended!

Monday 8th September

I went for a walk along one of the trails at first light and again in the afternoon. We also went on a morning cruise on Mary River (which failed again to produce Black Bittern). In all the day produced some 52 species. Highlights were another (or the same) Great-billed Heron along the river, Pied Heron, 30+ Varied Lorikeets, Brush Cuckoo, 9 species of Honeyeater, including Little Friarbird, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, White-browed Robin, Rufous Shrike-thrush, Rufous & Northern Fantails, White-winged & Varied Trillers, Crimson Finch & Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.

Other new birds for the location seen during the day were Australian Pelican, Darter, White-necked Heron, Great Egret, Radjah Shelduck, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, White-headed Stilt, Peaceful & Bar-shouldered Doves, Pheasant Coucal, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Broad-billed, Shining & Lemon-bellied Flycatchers, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Brown, Rufous-banded, Rufous-throated & Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Torresian Crow & Double-barred Finch. I also saw an Agile Wallaby.

Tuesday 9th September

Just before we left Mary River we heard Brush Cuckoo and White-throated Gerygone calling near our site. It's a beautiful spot that we were sorry to be leaving. We thank Jim Ostwald for his wit and knowledge.

Our next port of call was the South Adelaide River, reputed to be one of the best spots in the Top End for Mangrove Golden Whistler. Here we checked the accessible riverside vegetation on both sides of the road, without luck. On our way back we tried the fenced compound north of the road - and found a very obliging male Mangrove Golden Whistler. Another new bird under the belt! Here we also found Purple Swamphen, Varied Triller, Broad-billed & Paperbark Flycatchers, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner & Crimson Finch.

We had a look around the Fogg Dam area but there didn't seem to be anything we hadn't seen elsewhere. The best spot was by the observation blind at the end of the dam wall. Here there were Broad-billed, Lemon-bellied & Shining Flycatchers and, sitting nicely on a low branch, our first Little Bronze-Cuckoo. Other birds were Darter, Great Egret, Australian & Straw-necked Ibises, Green Pygmy-goose, Black-shouldered Kite (along Middle Arm Road), Whistling Kite (around a crocodile farm!), Comb-crested Jacana, Whiskered Tern, Pheasant Coucal, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Willie-wagtail & Mistletoebird. Gilbert's Dragons were a treat to see as they scuttled around before us.

Early afternoon we checked in at the Howard Springs Big4 Caravan Park. After lunch we drove the short distance to Howard Springs Nature Reserve, in the hope we would find Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove. This proved to be a nice spot (the mosquitoes thought so too!). Orange-footed Scrubfowls were easy to see and we saw another Rainbow Pitta here. Frustratingly we could hear, but not see, Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves. We also saw Peaceful Dove, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Varied Triller, Shining Flycatcher, White-throated Honeyeater & Crimson Finch. Reptiles seen were Merten's Water Monitor & Northern Long-necked Turtle.

The Big4 Caravan Park proved to be a good spot for birds. Near our site we saw Australian White Ibis, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Masked Lapwing, Bar-shouldered Dove, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon (including one in a tree by our van), Little Friarbird, Green Figbird & Magpie-lark.

Wednesday 10th September

Before leaving the area we decided to check out Howard Springs Nature Reserve again. For a few minutes we could hear Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves calling. Just as we thought we were going to be thwarted again, a male bird flew onto an open branch; a little later, we saw a male and female sitting together. A cracking bird!

We then had a look around Knuckey Lagoons, on the eastern fringes of Darwin. At Fiddler's Lane, there were Little Pied Cormorant, Darter, Great Egret, Pied Heron, Cattle Egret, Magpie Goose, Pacific Black Duck, Whistling Kite, Comb-crested Jacana, White-headed Stilt, Masked Lapwing, Marsh & Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Rainbow Bee-eater, Silver-crowned Friarbird & Grey Butcherbird. At Snipe Swamp I managed to come upon a few Singing Bushlarks. Birds here additional to those at Fiddler's Lane were Australian Pelican, White-necked Heron & Whiskered Tern.

We checked in at Lee Point Resort, to the north of Darwin. We then walked down to the point. Here we saw our first Collared Kingfisher, sitting on the beach. A Forest Kingfisher was in the car park. Other birds here were White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Red-capped Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Eastern Curlew, Silver Gull & Gull-billed Tern. We also saw another large Gould's Goanna.

Later in the afternoon we drove down to Buffalo Creek. Here we found 13 species of shorebird - Black-bellied & Red-capped Plovers, Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, our first Oriental Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eastern Curlew, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Great & Red Knots, Sanderling & Red-necked Stint. Another Collared Kingfisher was on the beach and Crested Terns were offshore. Around the car park there were several passerines - Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Grey Whistler, Yellow White-eye, Brown, Red-headed (our first, a truly handsome bird) & Rufous-banded Honeyeaters.

In the grounds of Lee Point Reserve we found Masked Lapwing, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Large-tailed Nightjar (calling after dark), Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike & White-gaped & Rufous-banded Honeyeaters. That night we had an unexpected experience - we were parked under a tree and had Flying-Foxes dropping fruits on the van and urinating & excreting on it. Picture us in the small hours, rolling the van down the slope to get away from the trees and next morning going to work with a hose to clean up the vehicle!

Thursday 11th September

We spent the first half of the morning around Lee Point and Buffalo Creek. At the latter, we could hear a Chestnut Rail calling but it stayed in cover - not surprisingly since two fishermen were making enough noise to be heard in Darwin! While on our Rail vigil, however, we managed to catch a glimpse of a Beach Stone-Curlew emerging briefly from the mangroves. Rufous-banded Honeyeaters were common, flying all around us. We also saw Darter, Striated Heron, Brahminy Kite, Common Sandpiper, Emerald Dove & Rufous-throated Honeyeater. There was also a possible Slaty Grey Snake in a creek.

Late morning we had a look at East Point, where there were Pacific Reef-Heron, Gull-billed Tern, Rainbow Lorikeet, Rainbow Bee-eater, Northern Fantail, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher and White-gaped & Rufous-banded Honeyeaters.

We paid our first visit to the Darwin Botanic Gardens, to look for Rufous Owls but saw just Orange-footed Scrubfowl & Spangled Drongo. For the second night running we heard Bush Stone-curlews and Large-tailed Nightjars calling after dark at Lee Point Resort. Earlier we saw Mistletoebird & Green Figbird.

Friday 12th September

We started off in the Darwin Botanic Gardens. Orange-footed Scrubfowls were plentiful here, even seen high up in trees. No owls though despite asking for help from one of the staff. We made the short journey to Tiger Brennan Drive but failed to see any Chestnut Rails (though we heard them calling again). There was a pair of nesting Collared Kingfishers here and a female Red-headed Honeyeater. Supporting were Great Egret, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Common Sandpiper, Mangrove Gerygone & Brown Honeyeater.

Late afternoon we arrived at Hidden Valley Tourist Park, Berrimah, where we were to spend our last two nights in the Top End. Crimson Finches were regular around the sprinklers here. Other birds were Straw-necked Ibis, Rainbow Lorikeet, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, White-gaped & White-throated Honeyeaters & Double-barred Finch.

Saturday 13th September

Two further visits to the Botanic Gardens brought no joy with owls (near the toilet block or in the rainforest area) but we did see Straw-necked Ibis, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, White-gaped Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Yellow Oriole, Green Figbird & Spangled Drongo. At Tiger Brennan Drive we heard Chestnut Rails. Birds additional to the day before were Australian Pelican, Little Egret, Striated Heron, Brahminy Kite & Yellow White-eye. In between visits here we drove down to the Elizabeth River, where we heard Chestnut Rail calling very close to us but again had no sighting. Mangrove Gerygones were singing here.

Birds seen at Hidden Valley Tourist Park were similar to the previous day, though we heard Bush Stone-curlews after dark and additionally saw Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Yellow Oriole & Green Figbird.

Sunday 14th September

It was our last morning in the Top End. At Hidden Valley Tourist Park, we saw a Rufous-banded Honeyeater before we left.

We decided to give the Botanic Gardens another go since our flight didn't leave till the afternoon. The bad news was that there had been a concert there the night before so, if the owls had been roosting near there, they would probably have moved. We tried the toilet block again, without luck, and headed up the avenue towards the rainforest area. While searching there we saw two Rufous Owls flying into the trees. Shortly afterwards, one of them flew again and landed in a tree, out of sight, but then proceeded to call briefly! Talk about taking it to the wire! We also found a Green-backed Gerygone. As we were making our way back to our van we came across Gina and Jim Ostwald, our hosts from Mary River Park. It was good to see them again. Jim pointed out the regular roosting site by the toilet block.

Late morning we returned our van to Britz and headed for the airport. Unfortunately our flight was delayed for technical reasons so we didn't get to Alice Springs till after dark. As our plane taxied out at Darwin, we saw our last birds in the Top End, 4 Australian Pratincoles.

Monday 15th September

After a night at the Aurora Alice Springs we picked up our next camper van. On the way south from the town we saw our first Western Ringnecks, flying across the road. We checked in at the McDonnell Range Tourist Park for a couple of nights then, after lunch, drove to the Alice Springs Desert Park. Here we quickly picked up two new birds, Splendid Fairy-wren & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. Variegated Fairy-wrens were also quite conspicuous. Other birds in the grounds were Willie-wagtail, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey-crowned Babbler, Mistletoebird & Singing & White-plumed Honeyeaters. We spent some time looking round the aviaries and displays. It was fascinating seeing Crimson Chats, Chiming Wedgebills, Red-backed Kingfishers etc - it made me wonder how frustrating it might turn out to be if we didn't subsequently see any of them in the wild!

At the McDonnell Range Tourist Park, Crested Pigeons and White-plumed Honeyeaters were common.

Tuesday 16th September

On an early walk behind the Tourist Park I found several Little Crows (which has a distinctive, duck-like, 'nark, nark, nark' call).

We then headed for the Tanami Road and Kunoth Bore, to the north of Alice. It was an interesting experience in a mid-sized van since the Tanami Road has just a tarmac strip down the middle and has its share of road trains! The Bore and well were fairly quite though I did manage to see my first Mulga Parrots. Zebra Finches were plentiful here. At the junction with Hamilton Downs Road I had a look round the scrub. With a bit of perseverance I found a Slaty-backed Thornbill. Spiny-cheeked, Singing & White-plumed Honeyeaters were plentiful. Other birds in the general area were Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Western Ringneck, Willie-wagtail, Grey Fantail, Rufous Whistler, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Yellow-throated Miner & Magpie-lark.

On the way back, the Tanami Road produced Australian Pratincole and Black-faced Woodswallow.

Late morning we arrived at Alice Springs Telegraph Station Reserve, an interesting place that's worth visiting. The most interesting bird was a very tame Pied Butcherbird at the picnic tables. We also saw Galah, Weebill, Striated Pardalote, White-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater & Australasian Magpie. We then went on to the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, where we saw our first Western Bowerbird, attending its bower. Grey-crowned Babblers were easy to see here. We also saw Black Kite, Mistletoebird & White-plumed & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters.

Late afternoon I went for another walk behind the McDonnell Range Tourist Park. This turned out to be quite fortuitous since not only did I get good views of a Black Falcon gliding along the ridge but I also found two new birds - White-winged Fairy-wren (a stunning male) & Grey-headed Honeyeater. Other birds were Galah (500+ streaming towards town at dusk), Western Ringneck, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Splendid Fairy-wren, Brown & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters & Zebra Finch. There were also several Euros in the area. Grey-crowned Babblers were nesting in a tree near our site.

Wednesday 17th September

We spent the morning driving to Yulara Resort. It was interesting to note that the Banded Whiteface site north of Erldunda mentioned by Thomas & Thomas appears to be inaccessible since there is a fence all along the road here (although I've been told this doesn't deter keen Aussie birders!). At the Erldunda roadhouse there were a few Welcome Swallows (also seen on the way back) - the only ones we saw in the Kimberley & NT. We had a productive stop at a rest area on the Erldunda to Yulara road 7 kilometres east of the turning to Kings Canyon. Here Chestnut-rumped Thornbills & Southern Whitefaces were quite easy to see. Other birds between Erldunda and Yulara were Spotted Harrier, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel, Crested Pigeon, Galah, Western Ringneck, Australasian Magpie & Little Crow.

Late afternoon we had our first proper view of Uluru - quite amazing!

There were a few birds around the resort area. We saw Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Singing & White-plumed Honeyeaters, Yellow-throated Miner, Black-faced Woodswallow & Little Crow.

Thursday 18th September

We spent the morning at Uluru & the afternoon at Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). The scenery was fabulous but it was pretty disappointing for birds. The commonest birds were Singing, Grey-headed & White-plumed Honeyeaters. We also saw a Ground Cuckoo-Shrike between Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Other birds were Wedge-tailed Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel, Crested Pigeon, Galah, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Yellow-throated Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Black-faced Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird & Zebra Finch.

Friday 19th September

It was time to return to Alice. Just after leaving Yulara we saw our first White-backed Swallow. At the rest area near the Kings Canyon road, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills & Southern Whitefaces were easy to find again (in the case of the latter picked up by its trilled, almost bell-like, call). I managed to pick up a tick - but one of the unpleasant, unwelcome, type! Birds additional to the trip out were Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Shrike-thrush, Western Gerygone, Black-faced Woodswallow & Zebra Finch.

We stayed at the McDonnell Range Tourist Park again. An unexpected sighting here was a Spotted Dove.

Saturday 20th September

This day we had allocated to drive out to the West McDonnell Range. On the way we saw an Black-shouldered Kite just west of Alice Springs. Our first stop was at Simpson's Gap where we saw Western Ringneck, a few White-plumed & Grey-headed Honeyeaters, Pied Butcherbird and Zebra Finches but no Dusky Grasswrens, despite much searching. The best sighting was of 7 Black-footed Rock-Wallabies feeding almost at ground level.

Ellery Creek Big Hole was a beautiful spot. We had no luck in finding the trail to the area where Dusky Grasswrens might be found - the trail markers just stopped! The only birds here were an Australasian Grebe, Eurasian Coots, a Brown Falcon, a couple of Diamond Doves, Weebills & the ubiquitous White-plumed Honeyeaters. We had no luck with Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens. At the Ochre Pits were common birds - Western Ringneck, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Weebill & Zebra Finch.

Late morning we checked in at Glen Helen Lodge, where we were to spend the night. After lunch we made the short drive to Ormiston Gorge. The most notable bird here was a Spinifex Pigeon wandering past the visitor's kiosk! We also saw Grey Teal, Crested Pigeon, Weebill & Torresian Crow.

Later in the afternoon, at Glen Helen, we walked to the gorge. Birds around here were Little Black & Little Pied Cormorants, Hardhead, Willie-wagtail, White-plumed Honeyeater & Torresian Crow. We also saw 4 Black-footed Rock-Wallabies (this time on the rocks).

Sunday 21st September

We went back to Ormiston Gorge and at 8.30 a.m started on the Gorge and Pound Walk. Just after the climb from the main road we saw 4 more Black-footed Rock-Wallabies just below us and a splendid Lined Fire-tailed Skink. It was a long hot walk - but the scenery was spectacular! The best birding was around the dried-up riverbed. On the walk the best birds were a Red-browed Pardalote, Grey-fronted Honeyeaters (one seen at point blank range!) & 3 Hooded Robins. Other birds were Whistling Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Falcon, Western Ringneck, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Willie-wagtail, Weebill, Mistletoebird, Grey-headed Honeyeater, Torresian Crow & Zebra Finch. No luck though with Grasswrens or Emu-wrens. Just as we were approaching the visitor's kiosk we saw our first Inland Thornbill. We had lunch at the picnic area - with Crested & Spinifex Pigeons, Yellow-throated Miners & Western Bowerbirds for company!

On the way back to Alice we stopped again at Simpson's Gap. There were more people here and fewer birds! A Grey-fronted Honeyeater was easy to see - funny how you wait to see a bird then keep seeing it! A Western Gerygone was singing here. We stayed again at McDonnell Range Tourist Park.

Monday 22nd September

It was our last day in the area. We spent the morning walking one of the trails at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Reserve but it was very hot. We found out later that Alice had that day experienced a record September high of 39 degrees C! The most notable bird we saw was a Collared Sparrowhawk. I had the interesting experience of being 'buzzed' by an Australian Magpie! We also saw a Euro.

We spent the night at the Aurora Alice Springs. We ate at the Bluegrass restaurant in town - apparently it has been voted one of the best restaurants in Australia. The food was brilliant - highly recommended!

Tuesday 23rd September

We left Alice Springs early in the morning and had wonderful views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta as we flew past. After an unscheduled refuelling stop at Kalgoorlie, we landed at Perth late morning - to drizzle and temperature 15 degrees C, a drop of 24 degrees C from the previous day! After picking up our last van we checked in at the Perth International Tourist Park at Forrestdale for the night. There were several Long-billed Corellas in the trees around the Park.

Wednesday 24th September

An easy new bird first thing - Laughing Turtle-Dove near the van! The weather wasn't good as we headed south - steady rain. We stopped off at Wungong Gorge. The rain initially eased then returned. In the dry spell I managed to find a handsome male Red-Winged Fairy-wren and two brown birds in the creek opposite the car park. Spendid Fairy-wrens were common. Other birds were Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Purple Swamphen, Laughing Kookaburra, Grey Fantail, Scarlet Robin, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Western Gerygone, Silvereye, Brown & New Holland Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird & Australasian Magpie. By the time we'd stopped up the road at Bungendore Park the rain had also eased again. At the edge of the car park I saw White-breasted Robin and along the track a superb male Western Spinebill. I also saw Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Western Ringneck, Splendid Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren (the south-western race with streaked throat & breast), Weebill & Striated Pardalote.

As the rain came down again we drove south down the Albany Highway. At short stops by the Gleneagle Forest and the Gleneagle Rest Area we saw two more White-breasted Robins. Still the rain came down! Along the Albany Highway we saw our first Grey Currawong.

By the time we got to Narrogin the rain had eased off, though it was still cold. We stopped for the night at the council caravan park. Here, Western Ringneck, Laughing Kookaburra, Brown Honeyeater & Red Wattlebird were easy to see.

As luck had it, opposite the caravan park is Foxes Lair Nature Reserve. I went for a walk along the main track late in the afternoon. It proved to be a good spot - Rufous Treecreeper, Inland Thornbill, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Western Spinebill and Varied Sitella were all easy to see here. Other birds were Western Ringneck, Western Gerygone, Striated Pardalote, Silvereye, Brown & White-naped Honeyeaters, Australasian Magpie & Australian Raven. Wild flowers were good here.

Thursday 25th September

We spent much of the morning at Dryandra State Forest, mainly around the Old Mill Dam and along the Wandoo Walk. Highlights here were Blue-breasted Fairy-wren (which took a while to find but was worth it in the end, with great, close views of a pair), Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (common) and Brown-headed Honeyeater (popping into view as I was looking at a Blue-breasted Fairy-wren!). Other good birds were Rufous Treecreeper (common) and Scarlet Robin. Supporting them were Western Ringneck, Willie-wagtail, Restless Flycatcher, Jacky-winter, Grey Shrike-thrush (common here), White-browed Scrubwren, Inland & Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Weebill, Western Gerygone, Striated Pardalote, Silvereye & Brown Honeyeater. On the way to Cuballing we saw a Common Bronzewing and 3 more Grey Currawongs. Along the Dryandra to Wickepin Road we at last saw Australian Shelducks, on a farm dam, and more Common Bronzewings.

In the afternoon we went to Yillaminning Rock, which is about 18 kilometres east of Narrogin on the road to Harrissmith (see the Birds Western Australia leaflet for the Narrogin area). Along the dirt access track we saw Western Rosellas and White-browed Babblers within seconds of one another. Near the rock was our first Elegant Parrot. Brown-headed Honeyeaters were in the same area (curiously this was the only day we saw them on the trip). We also saw Jacky-winter & Brown Honeyeater.

Later afternoon I walked the track at Foxes Lair Nature Reserve again - a somewhat different selection of birds this time. New birds for the locality were Common Bronzewing, Laughing Kookaburra, Grey Fantail, Weebill, White-cheeked Honeyeater & Western Wattlebird (the only sighting of the latter on the trip).

Friday 26th September

We headed south from Narrogin towards Stirling Ranges. We saw nothing new on the way, though there was an Elegant Parrot just south of Parkeyering Lake (south of Wagin) and, at the lake itself, White-faced Heron, Australian Shelduck (hundreds) & Yellow-rumped Thornbill. At Broomehill, near the shire hall, Red Wattlebirds were common. Here we also saw a Western Rosella. Late morning we checked in at the Stirling Range Retreat for three nights. It was still cool and showery - so cool that we had to buy fleeces to wear!

In the afternoon we took the Kanga Walk, from the Retreat into Stirling Range National Park and back. Highlights were Emu (an adult with 3 chicks and 2 adults in a field near the Retreat), Square-tailed Kite (just south of the Ranger's Dam), Brown Goshawk, Short-tailed Black-Cockatoo (18 very vocal & conspicuous birds at the Retreat), Western Rosella, Red-capped Parrot, Elegant Parrot, Rufous Treecreeper, Scarlet Robin and Varied Sitella. Other birds were White-faced Heron (on the dam opposite the entrance to the Retreat), Galah, Western Ringneck, Laughing Kookaburra, Tree Martin, Restless Flycatcher, Grey Shrike-thrush, White-browed Scrubwren, Inland & Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Weebill, Western Gerygone, Striated Pardalote & Yellow-plumed & White-cheeked Honeyeater.

Saturday 27th September

A glorious, sunny day! I walked around the grounds of the Retreat at first light. Purple-crowned Lorikeets were quite conspicuous and easy to see. Just south of the campground I had the good fortune to finally see a Western Yellow Robin, which was collecting food. Shortly after I heard a booming call that I thought at first was a Bronzewing - imagine my surprise and delight to flush a Painted Button-Quail and hear a second bird! Other highlights included Short-billed Cockatoo, Western Rosella, Red-capped Parrot, Rufous Treecreeper and Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (common). I also saw Grey Teal, Tree Martin, Restless Flycatcher, Grey Shrike-thrush, White-naped & New Holland Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebird, Dusky Woodswallow & Australian Raven. There were also 2 Western Grey Kangaroos.

Since the weather was good we decided to do the Ongarup Walk, in the National Park. Best birds along this walk were a Little Eagle, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Western Thornbill, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater (fly catching) and a noisy, conspicuous group of Splendid Fairy-wrens (one male must have been about 15 metres up a tree!). Other birds were Brown Goshawk, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Short-billed Black-Cockatoo, Western Ringneck, Western Rosella, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Willie-wagtail, Grey Fantail, Restless Flycatcher, Scarlet Robin (5), Grey Shrike-thrush, Inland & Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Weebill, Western Gerygone, Varied Sittella, Striated Pardalote, Yellow-plumed, White-naped & New Holland Honeyeaters & Western Spinebill.

Back at the Retreat, additional birds for the area seen in the afternoon were Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike & Australasian Magpie.

We had pre-booked a Malleefowl trip from home so we left the retreat at 5.00 pm with our trusty guide, Brian. Some 45 minutes later we arrived at private property near Ongerup. We saw three mounds but no birds! After leaving the patch of Mallee we luckily saw a distant Malleefowl foraging just inside a field and then another bird much further off. A little later, just as we were driving back to the road we saw a much closer bird. We had superb views from about 20 metres. The experience was one of the highlights of the trip! We also saw 2 Black-shouldered Kites, Common Bronzewing, Galah, Western Ringneck, Australasian Magpie & Western Grey Kangaroo.

Sunday 28th September

The weather was a total contrast from the day before - overcast and light drizzle. I did an early walk around the grounds of the Retreat and found six species of parrot - Short-billed Black-Cockatoo, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Red-capped Parrot, Western Ringneck, Western Rosella & my first Regent Parrot (a group of 5). New birds for the Retreat for me were Willie-wagtail and Grey Currawong.

After breakfast we decided to drive south in the hope of escaping the rain - to no avail, though we saw an Elegant Parrot along the road. The Porongorups were equally damp though they gave us the chance to visit a couple of wineries! At one winery, Castle Rock, we were lucky to see 8+ Long-billed Cockatoos nearby. I tried to have a look round the Tree in the Rock Picnic Area but all I could find before the rains returned was a Red-winged Fairy-wren.

Later in the afternoon, after the rain stopped, we walked to the Ranger's Dam in Stirling Range National Park. Unfortunately the rain soon returned so we didn't manage to see any Southern Scrub-Robins, Purple-gaped Honeyeaters or Southern Emu-wrens.

Monday 29th September

I got up early again, this time for a final try along the track to the Ranger's Dam. It may have been dry when I set off but within a few minutes the drizzle had started and a bit later I heard thunder. Needless to say, I didn't see much, apart from Short-billed Black-Cockatoo - certainly none of the target species.

The rain accompanied us all the way to Cheynes Beach Caravan Park, near Albany. It didn't stop till well after dark - to say it was a disappointing, depressing, day would understate the obvious! We did manage to see a few birds on the site from our van, including a very drowned looking Brush Bronzewing, a juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo, attended by its White-browed Scrubwren foster parents, Splendid and Red-winged Fairy-wrens. At one stage a brown Splendid Fairy-wren was displaying to the windshield of our van! New Holland Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds were common in the grounds.

That night we debated whether to stay or cut our losses and head north. We decided on one more night in the area.

Tuesday 30th September

I got up at first light to look for the special birds of the area. Luckily the rain was only occasional and light but the wind was still a problem. Despite much patience and perseverance, I managed only to hear Noisy Scrub-bird and Western Whipbird (the former only feet away). Other birds were Australian Gannet, Black-shouldered Kite, Sooty Oystercatcher, Silver Gull, Caspian Tern, Brush Bronzewing (easy to see), Red-capped Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Welcome Swallow, Willie-wagtail, Grey Fantail, White-breasted Robin (3 in caravan park), Golden Whistler, Splendid & Red-winged Fairy-wrens, White-browed Scrubwren, Inland Thornbill, Silvereye, Singing, New Holland & White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Western Spinebill, Australasian Magpie, Grey Currawong & Australian Raven. I also saw 2 Western Grey Kangaroos. I came across a couple of lady birders from Perth - the only birders I had met all trip apart from a couple of Brits at Alice and a European couple at Stirling Range Retreat.

In the afternoon we drove to Two People's Bay. Here we discovered that the track to Little Beach was closed. Unfortunately we didn't have time to walk it. We just saw Swamp Harrier, Sooty Oystercatcher, Pacific Gull, Caspian & Crested Terns, Laughing Kookaburra & Australasian Magpie. White-faced Heron, Pacific Black Duck, Pied Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Eastern Curlew & Common Greenshank in or around Oyster Harbour. In the Albany suburbs we came across Great Crested Grebe, Australian Pelican, Swamp Harrier & Short-billed & Long-billed Black-Cockatoos (at least among Short-billeds at the junction of Bon Accord & Prideaux Roads).

Wednesday 1st October

I took another early walk around Cheynes Beach for me. It was still windy but the rain was largely gone. I had a Western Bristlebird calling only feet from me but it failed to emerge. Noisy Scrub-bird and Western Whipbird were also calling. Eight Western Grey Kangaroos were near the caravan park.

After checking out from the caravan park we drove along the road to the point. Here, through the scope, we got views of Great-winged Petrels and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses offshore, among the Flesh-footed Shearwaters. At one point I was watching to an Albatross to the accompaniment of a Noisy Scrub-bird just behind me!

Other birds seen around Cheynes Beach that morning were Australian Gannet, Brown Quail (2 feeding in caravan park), Silver Gull, Crested Tern, Brush Bronzewing, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-browed Scrubwren, Silvereye, Singing, New Holland (very common) & White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Western Spinebill & Red Wattlebird (common).

On the way from Cheynes Beach to Albany we saw 3 more Grey Currawongs. We stopped off at Oyster Harbour and Lake Seppings in Albany before heading north. At the fromer we added Royal Spoonbill to the birds seen the day before. At the latter, I had no problem finding a Musk Duck and 20+ Blue-billed Ducks among the Hoary-headed Grebes, Little Black Cormorants & Pacific Black Ducks. I thought I heard a Red-browed Firetail calling but couldn't locate it.

On the journey north we saw the only Whistling Kite of the southwestern part of the trip and 2 flocks of Short-billed Black-Cockatoos (about 50 birds in each flock) between Williams and Narrogin We spent the night at Mount Bakewell Caravan Park, at York, east of Perth.

Thursday 2nd October

We left York and headed north along the Brand Highway. By lunchtime we had got to Jurien Bay and the sun had reappeared - out came the shorts again! On the journey we saw Nankeen Kestrel, Short-billed Black-Cockatoo (20+ west of Toodjay), Galah, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Singing Honeyeater, Magpie-lark, Australasian Magpie & Australian Raven.

We spent the night at the Big 4 Dongara-Dennison Beach Caravan Park. We went for a short walk north along the coast from here. We saw an Osprey carrying a fish, two White-winged Swallows and a couple of White-winged Fairy-wrens. Other birds were Australian Pelican, Great Cormorant, Red-capped Plover, Silver Gull, Crested Tern, Welcome Swallow & Silvereye.

Friday 3rd October

We headed north and spent the day in the Kalbarri area. We saw little of consequence. We stopped along the highway through the National Park but failed to find any White-fronted Honeyeaters. We did see an impressive Western Blue-tongued Lizard ambling across the road in Kalbarri NP! We spent the night at a crowded caravan park in Kalbarri

Saturday 4th October

Our destination for the day was Shark Bay. Between Kalbarri and the Billabong Roadhosue we saw nothing apart from Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo and Pied Butcherbird. We stopped at a parking area some 20 kilometres south of the Overlander Roadhouse. Southern Whitefaces and White-browed Babblers were easy to see here. A calling Chiming Wedgebill finally showed itself. Then, after a little while a flash of red caught my attention - a Crimson Chat! A male was feeding an attendant juvenile, while a female was close by. We had fabulous, close, views.

Along the Denham Road, we stopped by the first of the two windmills along this road. This was an excellent spot - Splendid, Blue-breasted & White-winged Fairy-wrens (at one stage I had males of all three species in view together), 18+ Crimson Chats (including one leucistic bird), Hooded Robin and White-winged Triller. Also there were Crested Pigeon, Galah, Grey Shrike-thrush, Singing Honeyeater & Black-faced Woodswallow.

After this we checked in at the Hamelin Pool Caravan Park. This proved to be an interesting place to say the least, where the power is switched off at night, even if you've paid for a powered site! Beyond that I'll say nothing more!

In the afternoon we walked to the nearby stromatolites (which were fascinating). Bird highlights in the area were 12+ Pied Honeyeaters (including 5 males), giving superb views, 23 Crimson Chats and 5 Chiming Wedgebills. Variegated Fairy-wrens were plentiful here. Other birds were Red-capped Plover, Crested Pigeon, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Australasian Pipit, White-browed Babbler, White-browed Scrubwren, Singing & White-plumed Honeyeaters & Magpie-lark. Interesting non-bird sightings were a Central Netted Dragon & a Red Kangaroo.

Sunday 5th October

We made the short drive to Denham, where we checked in at the Denham Beach Tourist park (and stayed three nights). In and around the town we saw Nankeen Kestrel, Pied Oystercatcher, Common Greenshank, Pacific & Silver Gulls, Caspian & Crested Terns, Welcome Swallow & Singing Honeyeater. In the Tourist Park we came a cross a medium-sized Gould's Goanna.

In the afternoon we drove to Little Lagoon, just east of the town, where we saw a couple of Striated Herons near the mangroves and a few Chiming Wedgebills. Other birds here were Australian Pelican, Willie-wagtail, White-winged Fairy-wren, Yellow White-eye & Singing Honeyeater.

Monday 6th October

Our first visit to Monkey Mia Reserve. On our arrival we quite quickly saw Thick-billed Grasswrens in the car park - one singing. We soon got used to seeing them bounce around between vehicles! We saw 7 in all. We did the Discovery Walk and saw a further 4. On the walk we also saw 3 White-browed Babblers and 5 silent Chiming Wedgebills. Later in the morning we went to see the Long-beaked Bottlenose Dolphins coming in for fish. Despite all the hype about it, we thought it was a great experience. Luckily there were not too many people around by late morning, the day-trippers on the tourist buses having left earlier.

In the afternoon we went for a cruise on Shark Bay, where we saw more dolphins and 4 Dugongs, including a calf.

Full bird list for the day was Australian Pelican, Pied Cormorant, White-faced Heron, Australian Shelduck, Pied Oystercatcher, Red-capped Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Pacific & Silver Gulls, Caspian, Lesser Crested, Crested & Fairy Terns, Laughing Dove, Galah, Welcome Swallow, White-browed Babbler, Chiming Wedgebill, Thick-billed Grasswren, Silvereye, Singing Honeyeater & Little Crow. We also saw a couple of Central Netted Dragoons at Denham and Monkey Mia.

Tuesday 7th October

In the morning we went back to Monkey Mia. The Discovery Walk produced nothing new, though we did see 4 Thick-billed Grasswrens. Unfortunately we still hadn't been able to find any Southern Scrub-Robins. Back at the car park we saw another 4 Thick-billed Grasswrens (2 nestled under the wheel of a vehicle!). We went in with the Dolphins again - this time I was chosen to feed one! Just after driving out of the Reserve we saw another Thick-billed Grasswren flying across the road.

On the way back to Denham we stopped again at Little Lagoon. Birds not seen on our previous visit here were Pied Oystercatcher, Galah & Variegated Fairy-wren.

Wednesday 8th October

We said our goodbyes to Denham and headed back towards the North West Coastal Highway. On the section we saw the usual Wedge-tailed Eagles and Nankeen Kestrels. At the Overlander Roadhouse we turned north towards Carnarvon. At the Edagee Rest Area, north of Woramel, we saw 5 more Crimson Chats and plenty of Australasian Pipits. Whistling Kite and Wedge-tailed Eagle were seen en route.

We arrived at Carnarvon late morning and checked in at the Wintersun Tourist Park. After lunch we visited Pelican Point, on Babbage Island. The tide was falling so there was a good selection of shorebirds here - Bar-tailed godwit, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red Knot, Sanderling, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-capped Plover and Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. White-faced Heron, Pacific Gull, Caspian Tern, Peaceful Dove, Welcome Swallow, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike & White-plumed Honeyeater were also in the area (the last named in the town centre).

Thursday 9th October

We decided to head up to the Blowholes, a tourist spot on the coast north of Carnarvon. On the way we stopped a few times - highlights were Hooded Robin, Crimson Chat (6), Chiming Wedgebill and our first Crested Bellbird, singing away on the top of a bush. We also saw Wedge-tailed Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel, Galah, Welcome Swallow, Australasian Pipit, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous Songlark (the only sighting on the trip), White-winged Fairy-wren, Singing Honeyeater & Little Crow (common in this area).

The Blowholes were quite spectacular, giving lots of photo opportunities. Offshore we saw at least two Humpback Whales blowing and slapping flippers on the surface, many Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and several Lesser Crested terns. On the rocks near us we had superb, close views of a Grey-tailed Tattler.

Later, at the Carnarvon Water Treatment Plant (along Babbage Island Road), we saw our first Black Swans of the trip and a small section of the commoner water birds. On Babbage Island we saw Pied Cormorant, Great Egret, Brahminy Kite, Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Red-necked Stint & White-winged & Variegated Fairy-wrens.

Friday 10th October

We spent the whole morning on Babbage Island, looking for Rufous Fieldwren. We walked down a track running southeast from Pelican Point Road, towards mangroves. We found a couple of Mangrove Grey Fantails and several Yellow White-eyes but had no luck with Rufous Fieldwrens. Nor did we have any luck with this bird on a walk down to the Gascoyne River from Silver City Road. As we were approaching our van, I was lagging behind. Kay called that she'd found something interesting. I could hear a bird singing and traced the sound to a Rufous Fieldwren sitting high up in a bush! Two others were in the surrounding area. In celebration we decided to walk the mile long jetty!

That morning we saw, in all, Australian Pelican, Pied & Little Pied Cormorants, Great & Little Egrets, Australian Hobby, Common Sandpiper, Silver Gull, Lesser Crested Tern, Laughing Dove, Sacred Kingfisher, Welcome Swallow, Mangrove Grey Fantail, White-winged Fairy-wren (easy here), Rufous Fieldwren, Yellow White-eye, Silvereye, Singing & White-plumed Honeyeaters & Zebra Finch.

On our way back to town we saw 7 Whiskered Terns at the Carnarvon Water Treatment Plant. We finished the afternoon with an entertaining tour of the nearby banana plantation with the owner (a bit like Tom Selleck doing a Basil Fawlty!).

Saturday 11th October

After much deliberation, we had decided to return to the southwest, in the hope that the weather might have improved. On the way down to Geraldton we made a number of stops. Bird highlights were a male Red-capped Robin by a parking area north of the Murchison River, White-browed Babblers opposite the Billabong Roadhouse and 6 Crimson Chats north of the Billabong Roadhouse. Little Crows were common between Carnarvon and Shark Bay.

We also saw Wedge-tailed Eagle (between Carnarvon & Overlander Roadhouse), Crested Pigeon, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Galah (one of which unfortunately flew into the front of the van), Welcome Swallow, Australasian Pipit (common along road), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Chiming Wedgebill, Splendid Fairy-wren, Inland & Chestnut-rumped Thornbills (opposite Billabong Roadhouse), Singing & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters (the latter opposite Billabong Roadhouse), Dusky Woodswallow, Australian Raven (near Geraldton) & Zebra Finch.

We stayed overnight at the Top Tourist Tourist Park to the north of Geraldton. In the grounds we found a large party of Variegated Fairy-wrens.

Sunday 12th October

Our intention was to spend the night at Mullewa and make a trip towards Yalgoo and back the next day. We got to Mullewa mid-morning (seeing 2 Mulga Parrots between Geraldton and Mullewa) and stopped briefly at Pindar Common just east of Mullewa. We hit a major problem - hordes of grasshoppers or locusts flying around. The radiator grille of our van was filling up with them quickly and our windshield was getting messier by the minute. There were a few birds around where we stopped - Grey Shrike-thrush, White-winged Fairy-wren, Inland & Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Crested Bellbird - but it was no fun being bombarded by the insects! We decided to head back towards Mullewa. Just east of the town we saw Spotted Harrier and a male Red-capped Robin.

We stopped for lunch at Wilroy Common, southeast of Mullewa. Here I followed an unfamiliar call and found at least 4 White-fronted Honeyeaters feeding on flowering bushes - the 32nd honeyeater species of the trip. Crested Bellbird, Grey Shrike-thrush & Dusky Woodswallow were also here.

We spent the night at the council caravan park at Carnamah. The weather was deteriorating again - rain was back!

Monday 13th October

We took up the day driving from Carnamah to Busselton, so birding was limited to what we saw along the road. Most birds were of the commoner species. The best one was Western Corella - at least 2 were among Little Corellas between Carnamah and Moora. 3 Shingleback Lizards, basking on roads, were interesting to see. When we got to Busselton we checked in at the Mandalay Tourist Park (a superb site where we spent the next four nights).

Tuesday 14th October

The weather was showery so we drove down to Cape Leeuwin. As I walked along the eastern side of the cape I managed to flush two Rock Parrots, almost treading on one! There were several Flesh-footed Shearwaters offshore. Sooty Oystercatchers and Silvereyes were also here.

On the way back north we stopped at Cowaramup Bay, to look for Red-eared Firetails. We had no luck here but did see Splendid Fairy-wren, Inland Thornbill, Western Gerygone, Silvereye & New Holland Honeyeater.

In the afternoon we visited the Margaret River area and the Vasse Felix Winery. The lakes here had Hoary-headed Grebes & Maned Ducks. The cheese factory just north of Margaret River is worth a visit (it produces a lovely, nutty cheese).

A late afternoon walk on the beach at Busselton produced a few Red-capped Plovers. Around the Mandalay Tourist Park, Common Bronzewings and Red Wattlebirds were easy to see.

Wednesday 15th October

We spent the morning on a whale-watching trip from Dunsborough, with Naturaliste Charters. Not far out, Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses found us. For most of the trip they were around the boat and gave great views in flight and on the water. The small albatross group included one adult. We had fabulous views of Humpback Whales around the boat, breaching and showing their tail flukes. The icing on the cake was a sighting of 4 Blue Whales - luckily they stuck around and didn't motor off. Wonderful! Other birds seen were Australian Pelican, Pied Cormorant, Osprey, White-bellied Sea-Eagle (spotted by the Osprey & mobbed!) & Caspian & Bridled Terns.

After lunch we checked the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse Museum area for Red-eared Firetails. The omens were not good since one of the guides told us he hadn't seen any for a few weeks. Needless to say, we didn't find any - just Inland Thornbills, New Holland Honeyeaters & Red Wattlebirds.

Later we went to Sugarloaf Rock, where we had a measly view of a Red-billed Tropicbird! We had a pleasant time, though, chatting to a couple of Canadian birders (who had seen Red-eared Firetails around Albany!). We saw a few Bottle-nosed Dolphins offshore.

Thursday 16th October

We went back to Cowaramup Bay, to look for Red-eared Firetails - again, no luck here. Birds additional to those on the previous visit were Sooty Oystercatcher, Pacific & Silver Gulls, Fan-tailed Cuckoo (a juvenile fostered by White-browed Scrubwrens), Grey Fantail, White-browed Scrubwren & Brown Honeyeater. I thought I heard a Southern Emu-wren calling but couldn't locate it.

We went to Sugarloaf Rock again in the hope we'd get better views of Red-tailed Tropicbirds - and we did, within minutes. We watched two birds for some time then another joined them. They were fabulous birds - the red tail wasn't easy to pick out. A Yellow-nosed Albatross and a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters were offshore. We saw 2 Humpback Whales - a female and her calf - close inshore.

After lunch I plucked up the courage to take the van down a rough track just before the car park at Cape Naturaliste (mentioned by Frank O'Connor on his web site). At the end we parked at a rough car park and I scanned the scrub for Emu-wrens. I could hear at least two calling very close but couldn't see them. I walked a few yards down a sidetrack and had the good luck to see a male Southern Emu-wren pop out of cover briefly - handsome he was. We had a scary moment driving out as the rear wheels of the van kept spinning as we tried to go up a slope. Luckily we got traction and managed to get back to the tarmac!

We checked around the lighthouse museum again and walked some tracks but failed to find any Red-eared Firetails. We saw a few Humpback Whales offshore.

Friday 17th October

It was another wet morning as we left our caravan park for the last time. On the way north we saw a good variety of water birds along the Vasse Estuary, including the only Australian Shovelers of the trip, Purple Swamphens with tiny chicks and 2 Red-necked Avocets but we had no luck with Banded Stilts. We checked for the latter at Peel Street, Coddanup but the tide was unfavourable and the weather was miserable. We checked in at Woodman Point Tourist Park, Freemantle for the last two night of the trip.

Saturday 18th October

The weather was fine so we made the decision to visit Rottnest Island. A courtesy bus picked us up from the Tourist Park and we landed at Rottnest by 10.45. We spent most of our time on the island walking around. Governor's House Lake proved to be one of the best spots. Here birds included Red-necked Stint, Banded Stilt (hundreds), Banded Lapwing (the only birds we saw on the trip) and, at long last, White-fronted Chat (we saw two more on our walks). Near the tennis courts we saw 2 Rock Parrots flying around and Sacred Kingfishers were plentiful.

We also saw Pied Cormorant, Australian Shelduck, Ring-necked Pheasant, Indian Peafowl, Pied Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Silver Gull, Caspian, Great Crested & Fairy Terns, Spotted & Laughing Doves, Rainbow Bee-eater, Welcome Swallow, Singing Honeyeater & Red Wattlebird.

Mammal highlight was the Quokka - we saw at least 7 of these tiny wallabies. To our surprise, we hadn't seen a venomous snake all trip - until we saw a Dugite crossing the road!

Sunday 19th October

It was the last day of our trip. After a short visit to the riverfront in Perth, we returned our van late morning and headed for the airport. The last bird we saw was, perhaps fittingly, an Australia Pratincole as our plan taxied out for takeoff. On to Kuala Lumpur and then home!

It had been a wonderful trip - great birds, fabulous scenery and some of the friendliest people you could hope to meet. It was certainly great fun being part of the travelling community. One of the drawbacks to hiring a van was that it was impossible to get to some of the more out of the way places - try going down a corrugated road in one (which the rental conditions don't permit for 2WD vehicles)! This is why we didn't try for White-throated Grasswren at Gunlom Falls.

On the bird front there were some disappointments - the biggest being Hooded Parrot, Budgerigar, Red-backed Kingfisher (I think back to the day at the Alice Springs Desert Park!), Southern Scrub-Robin, Dusky Grasswren, Redthroat, Pictorella Mannikin and Red-eared Firetail. I just don't know how we missed some of them. Perhaps another time and place! The total trip list was 311, of which 123 were lifers. We also saw lots of good mammals, reptiles and wild flowers.

Our thanks to Frank O'Connor for his splendid website - we relied on it heavily in WA.

click here for a full trip list

Robert Grimmond
January 2004