July 19 I went to Australia for the 5th time. As a pert of the trip I wanted to meet my old friend Graham Palmer and his wife Liz. These fantastic people have been so generous to my family back in time and seeing them again was great. Graham is suffering from severe Parkinson's but he refuse to give up his birding. Flying in from Cairns, where I had left my wife and daughter they met me at Darwin airport. Without hesitation we started do drive south and made a short stop at Pine Creek and found this lovely Great Bowerbird preparing its bower. Close by a group of Black Fruit Bats made me smile. These gorgeous animals never stops fascinating me. We continued to Katherine for a nights sleep.
Next morning we began driving early, eager to reach Timber Creek as soon as possible. However, one of my main target birds for this trip, the Red-kneed Dotterel was not far away, at the Katherine wastewater treatment plant. Unfortunately, the gates were closed so I could only witness them through the fence at quite a distant (no use for photos). In the bush, next to it we saw a flock of the stunning Red-shouldered Parrot.
Feeling great to see the red soil and Australian outback, we continued to drive south-west. Next stop was Victoria River Crossing Roadhouse where we had a quick lunch, filled up more petrol and saw some good birds. On the other side of the creek I got some new Honeyeaters on my list but only came close enough for photos to this Australian Kestrel and White-faced Heron.
Continuing towards Timber Creek we made a few more stops looking at spots marked at E-bird. Not so much was seen but close to the town a group of Black-faced Woodswallows showed well.
Finally, we arrived to the small but quite famous (for birders) little town and checked in at our cabins. I took Graham for a walk in his wheelchair and we saw some of the more common birds here, Brown Honeyeater, White-gaped Honeyeater, Brown Goshawk, Little Corella and the cute Long-tailed Finch.
After a good birding day, sunset finally sets the complete feeling of Australian outback.
Super-target birds for this trip was the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren and the elusive Gouldian Finch. Taking the car by my own as Graham needed to rest I drove out of town to Bradshaw Bridge where the Fairy-wren had been observed. Using my playback, three immediately came in. I had trouble getting focus on these very swift and restless birds trying at the same time to use the speaker. One gorgeous male were among them and one of my most memorable birds for a long time. Not a photo to be proud of but a memory of this event. At the same time I got my first Star Finches.
Back to town I picked Graham and Liz up and we drove to Policeman's Point. This is a stunning place to spend sunset and even if we didn't see any Gouldian's, we had nice views of Black-necked Stork, Paperbark Flycatcher and Double-barred Finch.
Time to go back, we stopped at the Escarpment Walk, next to the Victoria River Roadhouse. Not wanting to let Graham and Liz wait too long, I made the walk in high speed which made me sweat a lot. But worth it no doubt. First I didn't see much but as I moved to the northern side of the flat area at the top I stated to spot many birds. The best highlight was 5 White-quilled Rock-Pigeons. Quite shy, I still managed to get a pick on the edge before it took off. A group of Little Woodswallows also gave me some attention. On the way down something special happened to me. As I started my walk down a big Falcon came out just in front of me 10-15 meters and took speed out from the rock. A Grey Falcon, a very rare bird was on my list. So great to see it also from above at the start.
We returned to Pine Creek, for an other target and lifer for Graham. Around 5 p.m a flock of Hooded Parrots usually show up at the water sprinkler next to Lazy Lizard Motel, where we stayed. Felt great to make Graham get an other lifer sitting in his wheelchair. First the male and secondly a female. This is a rare and difficult bird to see and on many birders wish list. However, if you are at the right spot even rare birds can be easy.
Here also some nice Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Little Friarbird, Yellow Oriole, a few tiny Peaceful Doves and a family of the ever entertaining Grey-crowned Babblers.
Before we took off for Darwin we made a morning visit to the Water Treatment area in Pine Creek. In the dry Outback, these tiny pools attract lots of birds. New bird on my list was the Plumed Whistling-duck. I had hoped to get better views of the Red-kneed Dotterel but no one was present. A group of Black-fronted Dotterels are still a blessing sight. The gates were closed here too but the area is much smaller than the one in Katherine so photos were possible anyway.
On the way towards Darwin we took a detour to the famous Fogg Dam, a wetland area southeast of Darwin on the way to Kakadu N.P. Fogg Dam is a mix of open wetlands and seasonal rainforest. This makes it a spot with many species. The obvious and stunning Rainbow Bee-eater is usually easy to find.
In the forest area, you can find the finest juvel of them all, the Rainbow Pitta. I knew it should be possible and hearing it is usually pretty easy. We we were lucky to have one bird come in decently close to us and in dark forest and 30 meters away it's not easy to get a good photo. I saw this bird in 1997 in Kakadu but this was still a glorious moment to remember. What a cracker!
Other great bird in the forest interior were Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Arafura Fantail, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, and the very small Green-backed Gerygone.
In the open it was easy to spot different types of herons like this Pied Heron and this Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
The last day before I went back to Cairns I went with a Birding Pal, John Rawsthorne, who had promised to take me to the mangrove and look for some hard birds in this habitat. I don't have a photo of the White-breasted Whistler but it was great fun to walk bare-footed with him in the tidal mangrove and eventually see a stunning male.
Birds seen and which I managed to get photos of were; Red-headed Honeyeater, Northern Fantail, a proud White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and the local Yellow White-eye.
In the afternoon Graham; Liz and I went to the coast for some birding and a very nice dinner at sunset. Among the waders seen were this lovely Red-capped Plover and a mixed flock of Great Knots and a few Knots and Ruddy Turnstones.
The Gull-billed Tern in Australia is now a split and is now called Australian Tern (though true Gull-billed could probably show up!). Other birds seen at the beach were these relaxing Masked Lapwings, and hungry (white morph) Eastern Reef Egret and Silver Gull.
I end this blog part with a classic photo of the great entertaining and socializing group of White-breasted Wood-Swallows. I have seen this before but it always a happy moment. They just love to warm up together.
Love you Oz, can't wait to go back!!