Birding Northern Territory July/August 2020 Part 2

Saturday was to be our last in Kakadu and so we decided to stop at Marc’s Buff-sided Robin ‘stake-out’ at Gerowe Creek. Surprisingly a pair were calling nearby as we got out of the truck. Ebird List

Our next stop was Pine Creek, but unlike my previous trip in 2010 the Hooded Parrots were sadly not feeding on the oval, but some were in trees near the Lazy Lizard store.

Ebird List

After some lunch we continued south to Katherine and made our base at Manbulloo Homestead Caravan Park recommended by Marc Gardner, who arranged to pick us up and show us some of his local ‘specialities’. Marc took us to one of his local ‘birding-hotspots’, a large Sandalwood Farm west of the town, a birding-friends place near Katherine Gorge and to the Katherine Sewerage-ponds. At the farm both Mike and myself scored a ‘lifer’ with Star Finch (…but sadly, nearly all were brown ‘immatures’) we also saw some Yellow-tinted and Grey-fronted Honeyeater (…but no photographs of the latter, however!) Ebird List

We started the morning along the Central Arnhem Highway and Marc found a pair of Northern Shrike-tit ‘mimicking’ other species, and also had good-views of the laetior subspecies of Black-chinned Honeyeater. Ebird List

At the ‘Minneata Farm’ property (…owned by ‘noted’ bird-guide Mick Jerram) we were ‘treated’ to flocks of finches visiting the water-features to drink, the most ‘anticipated’ were 10-15 Gouldian’s with both red and black-faced males. Ebird List

Around the ‘Poo-ponds’ we saw plenty of the expected wetland species, Wood Sandpiper was probably a recent return, most of the Australian Pratincole were immature, plenty of Pied Stilt and Radjah Shelduck, but we were not expecting Mike to call out a wagtail species, especially not a ‘Eurasian’ one….but there in front of us near the fence was a breeding-plumage male Citrine Wagtail (…usually found in East Asia in July!)

Apparently this was only Australia’s ‘sixth’ record. Ebird List

After the ‘euphoria’ of the wagtail-sighting we headed west again towards the WA border, and spent a night at the Victoria River Roadhouse, virtually on our own. Initially we searched the bridge area for possible ‘lifers’, but were disappointed and decided to try the nearby boat-ramp, on advice from the roadhouse proprietor. At the boat-ramp car park I was surprised to see a large sign advertising the area as a great place to photograph Purple-crowned Fairywrens…… really was. Ebird List

On Monday morning we returned to the boat-ramp to try and add Red-browed Pardalote to Mike’s list but one decided to appear just as he was busy taking photos of the fairywrens, so no images were obtained. Our next refuel stop was Timber Creek and after some lunch we decided to look at scenic-site called Policeman’s Point. Sadly the area seemed unexpectedly quiet for bird-life (…time of day?) but Mike spotted a magnificent Black-breasted Buzzard attempting to feed on a road-kill Black-headed Python. Ebird List

Traveling west we headed for Timber Creek and were surprised to see a Grey Falcon fly low across the highway, characteristically it soon disappeared from view but we saw a large microwave-tower nearby and ‘scanning-vertically’ we found at least 3 raptors nests, sadly none appeared to belong to Grey Falcon and the highest appeared to have an Australian Hobby sitting on it. Further on near Snake Creek Mike found a Buzzard on a nest and nearby we stopped at a very small culvert ‘soak’ and noticed a path through the grass to a spot overlooking it (..a probable ‘birders stake-out’?), we spent at least an hour watching and waiting, saw many Diamond and Peaceful Doves and several species of estrildid-finch, including Pictorella Mannikins which was a ‘lifer’ for both of us. There were also some immature lonchura which (…with some assistance) we have ‘tentatively’ identified as Yellow-rumped Mannikin but would welcome any ‘constructive-criticism’ (…as these would be new for us as well!) Ebird List

As we drove towards our next destination at Keep River, we were suddenly aware of a police road-block and when an officer asked me if we were heading to Western Australia I replied that we were hoping to just spend the night at a campsite in the National Park (inside the NT) When I asked why the road-block was so far back from the border, he replied that it was positioned near the highway intersection to catch people trying to ‘sneak’ into the territory ‘illegally’ without proper paper-work. Soon we arrived in the park and made our way to the HQ to book a site for the night, and after exploring the ‘Cockatoo Lagoon’, which had an unexpected but excellent ‘selection’ of waterbirds, we were advised by the rangers to go to Gurrandalng Camp Ground to look for our ‘quarry’, White-quilled Rock and Spinifex Pigeon. Ebird List

The Gurrandalng Walk is only just over 2 kilometres long but after climbing halfway I was becoming slightly ‘despondent’ about ever seeing a bird, when suddenly a White-quilled Rock-pigeon flew up the gully in front of us, and soon we seemed to be surrounded by them and they seemed to be equally curious about us, peering down from the escarpment strata. Unfortunately though, we failed to find any Spinifex Pigeons (…and for the rest of the trip, sadly) Ebird List

White-quilled Rock-Pigeon

The next day we ‘reversed’ the route and headed back towards Darwin, with some stops, over-nighting in Timber Creek. We stopped for a ‘cuppa’ at the Saddle Creek Rest Area and noticed that most of the eucalypts were in blossom, full of immature Banded Honeyeater, and at the productive water-hole near Snake Creek, I missed a very close fly-by from a Grey Falcon as I was too busy ‘chimping’ my finch photos! We also got some better pics of previously-seen species. Ebird List

Snake Creek waterhole
Snake Creek waterhole

On our return to Katherine we caught up with Marc and Peter again, and revisited the sewerage-works and Minneata Park. There was no sign of the Citrine Wagtail this time but we did see a rare visitor from the Sunshine Coast in Ken Cross with his mate Steve doing a big road-trip and chasing potential ‘lifers’. Ebird List

Part 1 | Part 3






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