Wednesday, 5 August 2020

We were Seen in the NT or a Bit of NT Birding

LIFER! Chestnut Rail

This morning I write from the north west town of Camooweal, perched a mere 13 kilometres within the Queensland border. It is the last town one encounters on the way, or in our case, the way back from the Northern Territory.

Which brings me to my point in writing; to summarise the last few weeks of birding and travel in the mighty NT.

First, though, I need to make an admission. Two weeks in the NT actually takes three…. In other words I underestimated how much we could do in the territory in the time we had. 

So our time was spent sneaking in the ‘back way’ through Borroloola before heading to Daly Waters and north to Katherine before the big smoke of Darwin. Post Darwin a quick slide through Kakadu National Park before heading south in a big straight line and then east in a big straight line.

Highlights and observations?

First from a purely selfish birding perspective my highlight was getting the lifer of Chestnut Rail!!! A resident of the most northern of Australian mangroves, this bird saved itself for my third trip to the northern NT.

Other top top end birds included Rainbow Pitta, Gouldian Finch plus Long tails and Masked, Mangrove Fantail on the gulf near Borroloola, Sandstone Shrike thrush – to name a few.

my only photo of a wonderful bird Gouldian Finch
Masked Finch
Sandstone Shrike thrush
Hooded Parrots

Yellow Whiteeye

Broad billed Flycatcher

Grey Whistler

Rufous banded Honeyeater

Little Bronze Cuckoo at Fogg Dam

Dips? A few too many…

Sensational Dip number 1 was the Citrine Wagtail observed at the Katherine Poo ponds. We showed up the day after the last time it was seen. To the best of my knowledge it has not been seen since. The Poo ponds, for reasons that will continue to both confuse and mortify me, have sensational security. Tall wire fences with triple strands of barbed wires atop surround the place as if the shit was planning a massive break out….. Birders then are left to feebly peer through thick chain wire at birds often too far away to see well. Why such security? Do Australia’s birders and their activities present such a threat? It is crazy that there is not a reasoned process such that people can get entry to public facilities to observe the birds there.   

While I’m getting shitty at the shit ponds in Katherine I would also point out that this situation occurs elsewhere. The ponds at Palmerstone on the southern side of Darwin, have long had a reputation as an excellent birding locale and not just for the birds within the perimeter fence as the mangroves behind hold populations of some mangrove specialties. A where to find birds in the top end, indeed, herds birders in that direction, outside the perimeter, to enjoy the mangrove species. Since publication a new top flight fence has been installed to prevent anyone even peering into the ponds let alone getting around to the mangrove behind.  All in all a frustrating waste of time for reasons that are, like poo pond waters, murky.

Northern Rosella
The Katherine Ponds, like others elsewhere in the NT, could be an environmental asset. From the outskirts there were Pied Herons, Australian Pratincoles, early waders like Wood and Common Sandpipers, Burdekin Shelducks plus some impressive Freshwater Crocs. Outside Little, Masked and White breasted Woodswallows flew around, Great Bowerbirds were common and Yellow [Green?] Orioles sounded.

Partridge Pigeon

Quick – another positive. I loved seeing Yellow bellied Flycatchers in the Northern Territory. These birds are a different race from Queensland; brighter yellow with clear white throats. They were common, conspicuous and beautiful birds and they generally good at posing.

Yellow bellied Flycatcher [Flyrobin?]

Rainbow Pittas. These birds are definitely in my top 3 of Australian Pittas. Tantalisingly we heard them a few too many times before we locked eyes on them. It was one of those times where the wait was worth it as a single bird in Kakadu National Park decided that it was a showman.

Rainbow Pitta

Rainbow Pitta

Kakadu seemed to be in a state of confusion. Many walks and the information centre closed. Target species heard but not seen. Let’s blame everything on Covid and return again in happier times…

Nourlangie Rock in the foreground

Buffalos were common. There were easily 50 animals in view at Fogg Dam and we had one stampede loudly through nearby shrubs in Northern Kakadu, hooves stomping and branches breaking, uncomfortable close to where we were walking in northern Kakadu. Nearby girls, unsure of the reason for the noise or the culprit, stampeded themselves up nearby sandstone.
in our experience a necessary but useless sign

A properly planned tour to the top end of the Northern Territory will be planned though, with some assistance from on the ground experts, for 2022. Please consider joining us.  
Blue faced Honeyeater - the longer billed sub specie - albipennis

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