2 — 16 JULY 2013
Optional Mitchell Plateau flight
16 JULY 2013

2 JULY 2013

Pre-tour night: Darwin

Day 1

Darwin area: Mangroves, rainforest, wetlands and Botanic Gardens.
Low tide being just before 8 am, we'll bird the Darwin mangroves first thing, 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 power lines 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. 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. Dinner at Darwin's best waterside restaurant will complete our day.

Overnight: Darwin

Day 2


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.

Overnight: Darwin

Day 3


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 often alive with birds. It can produce 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


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


Cooinda area

This morning we will visit the Arnhem Land escarpment where our main goal 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 woodlands for chestnut-backed button-quail as well as other woodland birds such as varied lorikeet, silver-crowned friarbird, rufous-throated and banded honeyeaters and black-tailed treecreeper. 

Overnight: Gagudgi Lodge, Cooinda

Day 6


Cooinda to Mary River Roadhouse

This morning we will bird the swamps and lagoons around Cooinda for two of the Top End's more difficult species, the great-billed heron and little kingfisher. This area is one of the best areas in Kakadu NP for turning up surprises, such as red goshawk and Pacific baza. Other species we could encounter here include black bittern, large-tailed nightjar, buff-sided robin, grey goshawk and bar-breasted honeyeater. Later we will travel south to some of the Arnhem Land escarpment country for the increasingly difficult chestnut-quilled rock-pigeon and partridge pigeon.

Overnight: Mary River Roadhouse

Day 7

Mary River to Pine Creek

An early start this morning as we make our way back to Gunlom Falls for our final attempt for some of the Arnhem Land endemics. Leaving the best till last, we try for the delightful but very challenging white-throated grasswren. Also 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

10 JULY 

Pine Creek to Mataranka

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: Mataranka

Day 9

Mataranka to Victoria River

This morning we will be on the lookout for the rare northern race of crested shrike-tit which 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

12 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

13 July
Timber Creek to Kununurra

We have another chance this morning for Gouldian finch — seen in good numbers around Timber Creek on our last tour. Black-chinned (golden-backed form), yellow-tinted, rufous-throated, grey-fronted and banded honeyeaters are some of the species that are seen in the flowering eucalypts and grevilleas in the area. We will keep an eye out for pictorella manikin, masked, double-barred, crimson and star finches and the yellow-billed form of long-tailed finch, as well as raptors, such as square-tailed kite and black-breasted buzzard.
 Ground cuckoo-shrike and hooded robin are sometimes seen south of Timber Creek. In the afternoon we head across the border into Western Australia.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 12

14 July

A big bird list is assured when we take a boat trip on Lake Argyle this morning. Our primary target is yellow chat. If water levels are suitable this chat breeds out on swampy islands in the lake. Other possible species here include white-quilled rock-pigeon and sandstone shrike-thrush. Short-eared rock wallaby and northern nail-tail wallaby may also be seen here. We'll head back into Kununurra in the afternoon and check out the reedbeds round Lake Kununurra
 where black-backed bittern (little bittern) is a possibility, as is Baillon's and white-browed crakes. There is usually an abundance of waterbirds and finches about the lake.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 13

15 July

Driving northwest this morning to Wyndham, we check out areas for spinifex pigeon and 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 Parry's Lagoon, which consists of vast grassy plains and freshwater swamps, where we have a chance for Australian pratincole and red-chested and red-backed button-quails, yellow chat and zitting cisticola. Black-breasted buzzard, spotted harrier and black falcon frequent this area; and there is always the chance of shorebirds.

Overnight: Kununurra

Participants electing NOT to take the Mitchell Plateau option finish the tour after breakfast on 16 July and can fly back to Darwin if they wish. End of main tour

2013 cost: 
Cost for the main section of the tour is $6,280.00.
A single supplement applies to single rooms: $1,225.00
This includes accommodation on the pre-day of the tour, 2 July to 15 July inclusive as well as meals from breakfast 3 July to breakfast 16 July. The cost does not include the flight back to Darwin. See Qantas/AirNorth schedules on on

Mitchell Falls option
 FULL - there are no more places available on the Mitchell Plateau excursion.

Day 14

16 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. The Kimberley honeyeater, a Kimberley endemic recently split from white-lined honeyeater, will be another of our targets today. Distinctive subspecies we may see in this area are the rare yellow-eyed form of the partridge pigeon — the Mitchell Plateau is the last stronghold for that race; the Kimberley race of the grey butcherbird and the Kimberley race of the variegated fairywren. We return to Kununurra late afternoon taking in the spectacular view across the Kimberley.

Overnight: Kununurra

Top End tour participants electing to take the Mitchell Plateau option finish the tour after breakfast on 17 July.



See previous trip reports, checklists & photos