6 to 21 July 2008

Day 1
6 July 2008 Darwin area
Mangroves, rainforest, wetlands and Botanic Gardens
This morning, if the tide is right, we'll bird the Darwin mangroves concentrating on the most difficult species—chestnut rail—while the more easily seen species include red-headed honeyeater and yellow white-eye.

Later we'll visit some patches of monsoon rainforest where target birds will include the spectacular rainbow pitta and rose-crowned fruit-dove. Also here we should see large-billed and green-backed gerygones and possibly mangrove golden whistler. We should get pied imperial pigeon perched on powerlines around Darwin suburbs.
We'll lunch at the Darwin Botanic Gardens where rufous owl might be our just dessert for a tough morning's birding. Nearby wetlands and mudflats should set our bird list soaring in the afternoon.
Overnight: Darwin

Day 2
7 July Darwin area
More mangroves are on the agenda this morning, giving us another chance should we need it for chestnut rail. Other species could include mangrove robin, shining flycatcher, mangrove grey fantail and the melodic mangrove gerygone. Pied heron and radjah shelduck should be about and there is a chance for grey goshawk.

We will lunch at Howard Springs where we have a chance for rose-crowned fruit dove and rainbow pitta and less glamorous species like lemon-bellied flycatcher and spangled drongo. Collared kingfisher and beach stone curlew are on the agenda late afternoon. We'll witness the sun setting spectacularly beyond the ocean's horizon after which we'll spotlight for large-tailed nightjar and barking owl. Dinner at Darwin's best waterside restaurant will complete our day.
Overnight: Darwin

Day 3
8 July Darwin to South Alligator Village
We leave Darwin this morning travelling east to Kakadu NP. En route to Kakadu we will visit Fogg Dam where the patch of monsoon rainforest is alive with birds. It often produces little bronze-cuckoo and brush cuckoo, bar-breasted and rufous banded honeyeaters as well as rainbow pitta. White-browed crake can often be seen on the wetland and we could see our first brolgas here, plus a variety of waterbirds. After lunch we will make a stop at Adelaide River for the stunning mangrove golden whistler should we still need it. If we have the energy tonight, we'll spotlight around South Alligator for barking owl, spotted nightjar, northern brushtail and dingo.
Overnight: Kakadu Resort

Day 4
9 July South Alligator Village to Cooinda
The South Alligator floodplain can be an excellent area for raptors such as both spotted and swamp harriers, black-shouldered kite, brown falcon and black-breasted buzzard, and sometimes a surprise or two. It can also be good for zitting and golden-headed cisticolas and Australian pratincole, and occasionally Australian bustard. The patch of monsoon rainforest at South Alligator can be good for rufous fantail and cicadabird. We will also visit some of Kakadu's famous wetlands where we should see green pygmy-goose and wandering and plumed whistling-duck. The spectacular Arnhem Land escarpment will come into view today. We will be on the lookout for woodland birds including partridge pigeon and black-tailed treecreeper.
Overnight: Gagudgi Lodge, Cooinda

Day 5
10 July Cooinda area
This morning we will visit the Arnhem Land escarpment where our main quarry will be the elusive black-banded pigeon – one of the hardest birds to see in Kakadu NP. Other possibilities here include Top End endemics such as white-lined honeyeater and sandstone shrike-thrush. Both species have beautiful melodic calls that echo through the escarpment. The Arnhemland race of the variegated fairy-wren (race dulcis) can be seen here. We'll also visit one of Kakadu's major Aboriginal rock art sites. After lunch we will check out some of the swamps around Cooinda where we have a chance for the elusive great-billed heron, and have another chance for large-tailed nightjar and grey goshawk.
Overnight: Gagudgi Lodge, Cooinda

Day 6
11 July Cooinda to Mary River Roadhouse
A good list of waterbirds will be had this morning as we cruise, on private charter, the beautiful Yellow Water billabong. We hope to see the aptly named little kingfisher, as well as the more common but still gorgeous azure kingfisher. We'll also be on the lookout for black bittern. The cruise is also good for bush birds, the most attractive of which is the delightful white-browed robin. Nearby woodland could produce owlet nightjar – not such an easy bird to see in the Top End. Later, we travel south, checking out woodland for chestnut-backed button-quail and looking out for some of the area's delightful finches, such as masked and long-tailed, and the diminutive diamond dove – the smallest member of the pigeon family in the world.
Overnight: Mary River Roadhouse

Day 7
12 July Mary River to Pine Creek
An early start this morning as we make our way back to the Arnhem Land escarpment to the Gunlom Falls for our final assault on the Arnhem Land endemics. Leaving the best till last, we seek the delightful white-throated grasswren in amongst the boulders and spinifex at the top of the escarpment. Also up here we seek the oddly proportioned chestnut-quilled rock pigeon, its colours perfectly camouflaged against the rocks on which it lives. After lunch we will leave Kakadu NP behind and head towards Pine Creek. We'll be on the look out for hooded parrot; a quite rare and beautiful parrot that nests in termite mounds and inhabits the stony hills, often feeding in recently burnt areas.
Overnight: Pine Creek

Day 8
13 July Pine Creek to Katherine
This morning gives us more chances for hooded parrot as well as northern rosella and plenty of great bowerbirds; their bowers scattered around Pine Creek. We will then travel south of Katherine where we have a chance for the most elusive of raptors, the red goshawk. Several pairs of red goshawks reside in the area. We will also be on the lookout for Gouldian and star finches. We might also see our first cockatiels today as well as rufous-throated and yellow-tufted honeyeaters and perhaps the beautiful white-winged form of the varied sittella in the dry woodland.
Overnight: Katherine

Day 9
14 July Katherine to Victoria River
This morning we will be on the lookout for the rare northern shrike-tit that lives in the woodland about Katherine as well as the golden-backed form of black-chinned honeyeater. Travelling west we will have more chances for Gouldian and star finches, as well as chestnut-backed button-quail. Budgerigars can occasionally be seen in this area and of course, we will be ever alert for raptors.
Overnight: Victoria River Roadhouse

Day 10
15 July Victoria River to Timber Creek
Birding the canegrass along the Victoria River should deliver purple-crowned fairy-wren, yellow-rumped mannikin and star finch. These species have declined in number and have a restricted distribution. Freshwater crocodiles are also common in the Victoria River. We then head west to bird the dry woodland for species such as red-browed pardalote and red-backed kingfisher. If the bloodwoods are flowering, the varied lorikeets should be about.
Overnight: Timber Creek Motel

Day 11
16 July Timber Creek to Kununurra
We have another chance this morning for the ever-declining Gouldian finch—often seen at water in Timber Creek or nearby woodlands. Black-chinned (golden-backed form), yellow-tinted, rufous-throated, grey-fronted and banded honeyeaters are some of the species which are seen in the flowering eucalypts and grevilleas in the area. After lunch, we shall continue west, crossing the Western Australia border. We will keep an eye out for pictorella mannikin, and raptors, such as square-tailed kite and black-breasted buzzard.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 12 Kununurra
17 July A big bird list is assured when we take a boat trip on Lake Argyle this morning. Notable species include yellow chat and white-quilled rock-pigeon, and a great list of waterbirds, as well as short-eared rock wallaby and northern nail-tail wallaby. Later we should have close up views of the delightful spinifex pigeon and we will check out reed beds for crakes and bitterns.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 13
18 July Kununurra
Driving northwest this morning to Wyndham, we check out areas for finches, including pictorella mannikin and Gouldian finch—if we still need them. In Wyndham we will explore the mangroves for white-breasted whistler, mangrove grey fantail and the Kimberley form of lemon-breasted flycatcher. Later we will visit grassy plains and swamps where we have a chance for Australian pratincole and several species of button-quail. Spotted harrier and black falcon frequent this area; and there is always the chance of shorebirds.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 14
19 July
Kununurra—Mitchell Falls
Today we charter a plane to Mitchell Plateau and then transfer by helicopter to the car park of Mitchell Falls. Our chief purpose is to seek out the black grasswren—the most isolated of the grasswrens-—which inhabits the boulders and spinifex around Mitchell Falls. Another species we may see in this area is the rare yellow-eyed form of the partridge pigeon; the Mitchell Plateau is the last stronghold for that race. The scenic view on the flight across the Kimberley is spectacular. We return to Kununurra late afternoon.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 15
20 July
Kununurra —Katherine
Today we start our journey back to Darwin, perhaps doing a quick bird around Kununurra before we leave if we are still missing some species. We'll be looking out for rare raptors, such as black-breasted buzzard, square-tailed kite, spotted harrier and grey falcon, on the return journey to Katherine
Overnight: Katherine

Day 16
21 July Katherine—Darwin
On the drive back to Darwin we will stop at Adelaide River War Cemetery to seek out the silver-backed race of grey butcherbird. Back in Darwin we will have a final shot at any Darwin species missed.
Overnight: Darwin

Additional information:

Cost: $6,300.00 AUD twin share (includes GST)
A single supplement applies to single rooms: $804.00 AUD
  • Motel accommodation from 5 July to and including 21 July
  • Meals from breakfast on day 1 (6 July) to dinner on day 16 (21 July); participants pay for their own breakfasts on 22 July.
  • Park entry fees
  • Transport; cost does not include airfares except the Mitchell Plateau charter
  • Cost does not include alcohol, personal items, laundry, phone calls etc
  • Luggage: Restricted to 2 bags per person, preferably soft bags.
  • Weather: Warm to hot, mostly dry—expect temperatures from 25-35C (77-95F)
  • There is no camping on this tour
Possible bird list