Darwin – Kakadu National Park.
After six nights in Darwin we set off for Kakadu and beyond – with no program. As usual we depart early at 6am -a lot cooler, yet light enough to keep a look out for animals crossing the road.
Our first stop – Fogg Dam. We arrive just as the sun is rising and the place lives up to its name – quite foggy over the wetlands. We have been advised to be careful on the causeway as the crocs have been seen basking there. The drive along the causeway is very productive with several bird hides along the length and one at the end.
At our first stop we are quickly rewarded with an obliging White-browed Crake.
Along the way we see a number of waterbirds but also a few other specials.
Then a walk in the woodlands beside the wetlands is surprisingly active – and Sally sees a Pheasant Coucal much to my dismay as it was readily visible.
After several hours there, we head for Mary River. The campsite is reasonably priced, shady and it has a good cookhouse. We are greeted by Little Correllas everywhere bathing in the spray and puddles as the grounds are watered.
There are several good walks in the camp which is beside the Mary River. On one that evening we had good views of a pair of Dollarbirds amongst others.
The next morning we were up early and headed for Bird Billabong about 8 kms from the camp. We arrive at 06h15 – it is almost an hour’s walk to the billabong and we see a number of Wallabies and their kin along the way.
There is a good bird hide unfortunately on the west side of the billabong – meaning we are facing into the rising sun. An hour spent there was very productive for waterbirds. And we even saw a large family of feral pigs wallowing in the billabong.
Afterwards we return to the campsite and enjoy a good cook up at the cookhouse.
Next stop is Kakadu. Along the way we stop at several places and the Mamukala wetlands just off the highway and a short way from the car park (for a change) was teeming with waterbirds.
On to Jabiru – the main town in Kakadu NP – and to the Kadadu Lodge campsite. Kakadu is about 20000 sq. kms (1/3 the size of Tasmania). Over 10% of the surface area is constantly under water. It is probably the only National Park worldwide which houses an entire river system – the Alligator Rivers of the Top End.
A morning was spent in Gubara looking in vain for sandstone specials. However we were lucky enough to find Red-winged Parrots and a Collared Sparrowhawk.
We tried Nourlangie before doing the tourist bit and going to Ubirr to see the Aboriginal Rock Art – quite impressive despite the heat.
That night we head for Cooinda and Gagudju campsite for 2 nights. The intention here was to go on their well known early morning boat cruise where birding is a prime part. We were not disappointed – the wildlife was teeming, thousands of Magpie Geese and hundreds of Green Pygmy-Geese amongst a vast array of ducks and herons – even saw a dingo – albeit fleetingly. Despite the $100 per person the trip was brilliant. Many lovely Kingfishers and even a GBH as they call it – a Great-billed Heron.
Breakfast at the lodge after the cruise was included – and we royally dug in. Even at breakfast the birds still appeared – Mistletoebirds and a Great Bowerbird robbing guests’ plates.
The campsite has a very welcoming pool and birdlife in the grounds is abundant – check out one of our first sightings:
We also went on the late evening cruise which was not so bird orientated however we did find the Little Kingfisher although the captain nearly did not bother to stop!. This second trip is at a discount $25 each. If I had realised that we could have gone on the early morning cruise the next day for that price then that is the choice I would have made – even if it meant paying an extra $11 to cover the cost of breakfast again.
And that concluded our stay in Kakadu. Perhaps we should have gone to Gunlom early one morning to have another go at seeing the sandstone specials – however 40 kms each way on a dirt track was a bit risky especially as we were told that we were not covered by any insurance if we went off road.
And so we headed for Pine Creek and an overnight stay in an unpowered but cheap campsite at Edith Falls. Along the way we bumped into a few interesting birds.
The swim in the pools were a lifesaver – however the Falls were not that impressive except that they were still flowing rapidly for the end of the dry season.
We did have several good sightings in Edith Falls including a late night Bush Stone-Curlew and I got my sighting of a female Pheasant Coucal.
Monday morning – real early start – meeting Mike Reed (a Birding Pal based in Katherine) – what a superb morning he gave us. We went to a secret site of his to find the elusive Hooded Parrots and Goudian Finches. Of course it drizzled which dampened the birds spirits. However after a very patient wait we were rewarded with both – along with a number of other species we had yet to see.
Next it is the Katherine region and perhaps down to Konunurra.
Paul & Sally Bartho