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Kakadu, Katherine and Kununurra: parrots, pittas, pigeons and a frenzy of finches


Treepol
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This winter I migrated to the 'Top End' of Australia, flying the coop from chilly Hobart to the so-called winter in the “Top End” where August daytime temperatures range between 32°- 34C and 16-21°C at night. I booked a photographic tour with Mike Jarvis of Experience the Wild (ETW) followed by a 3N/4D private charter with Mike from Darwin to Kununurra. ETW is owned by Mike and Jenny Jarvis. Mike is a one man show – you book him and you get him. ETW offer a range of scheduled tours throughout the year and will also do tailor-mades. Mike has an extensive knowledge of Top End wildlife and has been running ETW for 8 years.

 

This year I was seeking the flashy birds of the north – Hooded Parrot, Rainbow Pitta, Gouldian Finches and Fruit–doves were high on my wishlist.

 

280978108_0779-Hoodedparrot.JPG.bab3cac5d3d4f510896818517b1f5350.JPG

Hooded parrot, Pine Creek

 

590146372_0415-Red-collaredLorikeetMamukala.JPG.a0279424a7faf195311c22ee10578d61.JPG

Red-collared Lorikeet, Mamukala, Kakadu

 

The Top End is not blessed with a diverse array of mammals however all sightings are valued and dingo, water buffalo and black flying fox were all hoped for together with as many reptiles as possible. The flight path was:

 

5 nights in Darwin, including 1 marathon day (7am – 6 pm) sticky-beaking around Darwin with Mike.

 

2 nights Mary River

2 nights Kakadu

1 night Katherine

1 night Pine Creek

1 night Victoria River

1 night Timber Creek

1 night Kununurra

 

 

I had been to Darwin and the Top End twice before in 1988 and 1990, quite a while ago so I was prepared for lots of change. Please forgive this short diversion down memory lane, I quickly scanned some old snaps from 1988 when @GnuGgnu and I drove her Ford Laser from Adelaide to Darwin up the Stuart Highway with stops at Ayers Rock, Katherine and Pine Creek.

 

 

 

152339972_SomewhereintheNT.jpg.5a27c6700ee6b10a8d38b147810648ba.jpg

Somewhere in the Territory, 1988

 

 

The Kakadu Highway was unsealed back then and we heard at Pine Creek that some of the rivers were in flood. A guide suggested that we get some advice from the local mechanic about getting the Laser through the flooded Mary River and Barramundi Creek.

 

 

Mechanic.jpg.da5555c0694b7858f6260962e2b4d179.jpg

 

 

We bought a can of CRC and a plastic groundsheet and through we drove.

 

 

653332341_Creekcrossing.jpg.d762a9cdbe97e772954be3055bad0f31.jpg

Mary River, Kakadu, 1988

 

Planning

 

After raiding the nest egg the 2016 trip came together very quickly. The photographic tour was a scheduled departure and Mike arranged the charter out to Kununurra. Early birds had nabbed a lot of the cheep flights to Darwin, so I flew on points this year and scored an exit row seat from Melbourne to Darwin. I booked additional nights in Darwin at the Palms City Resort and Club Tropical.

 

 

Day 1

 

It was 9C in Hobart when I left - a great day to be flying to Darwin. The flights were uneventful and whilst in the air I mused about the size of Australia, where after 5.5 hours of flying its still possible to be within national borders - it sure is a Big Country. My 2016 flight was a far cry from the experience of Qantas travellers in 1938 travelling on the inaugural flight between Sydney and London. This flight took 9 days, with Darwin being the first stop before the Asia sector on the outbound trip.

 

In addition to flying over miles and miles of Australia, I was also amazed at the variety of habitats that the trip covered. The flight afforded views of Mt Wellington, tracked over rural Tasmania and the mountainous Central Plateau to the north coast, and over Bass Straight to Melbourne. The second sector took in the urban sprawl of Melbourne, to Mildura in the river lands after which we turned and headed over the outback to Tennant Creek, flying east of Katherine due Operation Pitch Black a joint military training exercise involving Australia and other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and the US.

 

Darwin is a tropical, exotic destination with colourful birds and different wildlife species to cool climate Tasmania. The bounteous and colourful bougainvillea and hibiscus are common around the city as is the fragrant frangipani.

 

 

226814206_0140-Hibiscus.JPG.01476b214f6b65f2dc98e5f35ec7024d.JPG

Hibiscus

 

 

Darwin has 2 seasons - the wet and the dry, in contrast with the 4 seasons experienced in Tasmania. The aboriginal people of the Top End identify 6 seasons linked to hunting, gathering and ceremonial occasions. I visited during August which is one of the cooler dry season months.

 

The Northern Territory is known for 3 outstanding events - the Japanese attacks on Darwin in February 1942 and the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Tracy at Christmas 1974, which explains the relatively recent age of the buildings in the city and the remaining number of historical buildings. The third is the Wave Hill walk off that occurred in August 1966 when 200 indigenous stockmen, house servants and their families walked off the station owned by British company Vesteys in protest over low wages, poor conditions and the loss of tribal land. More on this later.

 

Day 2

 

Before starting the safari, I opted to do a half day tour of World War 2 sites around Darwin. I knew that Darwin was bombed in 1942 but I didn't know the extent or timeframe of the Japanese attacks across the Top End. Here are some quick facts:

 

  • 188 aircraft attacked Darwin at 10 am on 19 February 1942 and a second attack by 54 planes occurred at 11:45. These unexpected raids on the unprepared city caused the death of 235 people;
  • The Northern Territory was raided 64 times between February 1942 and November 1943. The Top End was raided 107 times during the same period.
  • A 6.25 km submarine net stretched across the mouth of Darwin harbour. The net could be lowered to allow access to shipping. The wreck of one 80 man submarine (I-124) still lies outside the harbour.

 

The tour began at 8:00 am with a drive around the significant war and historical sites of Darwin that included Government and Parliament Houses, the Admiralty buildings, the site of the former China Town and two cathedrals. Nearby Charles Darwin NP was an ideal site for ammunition storage bunkers due to its undulating landscape. This bunker has been re-opened as an interpretation centre.

 

 

958213742_0136-EastPointbunker.JPG.b2f6af64be252ee6b9c3692628816321.JPG

 

 

We visited the Darwin Military Museum which had wartime vehicles such as this Willys Jeep.

 

 

1566074908_0145-Jeep.JPG.756d4001eb5829de0c055863e3b2b9eb.JPG

 

 

 

We visited the Darwin Military Museum where displays included uniforms, weapons and many other things I didn't recognise. One of the aspects of this museum that resonated with me was the focus on the war as experienced by locals - a policeman, a typist and tax office clerk. This added a personal dimension to the maps, dates and official documents. I found the propaganda aimed at Australian soldiers fighting overseas particularly insidious.

 

 

181595681_0143-Propaganda.JPG.3ad233161dfa6f245e2973ee289a3518.JPG

 

 

The tour concluded with a one hour cruise around Darwin Harbour which gave a different perspective to Parliament and Government Houses. The guide pointed out the sites of the wrecks of Catalina Flying Boats, the USS Peary, the current naval base and several historic and well concealed gun emplacements. The four outer pillars of Parliament House are shaped like falling bombs with fins at the top to commemorate this aspect of the city’s history.

 

 

1078908953_0149-TParliamentHouse.JPG.2aa1a7ae2360aefb529219de8bb7c69f.JPG

 

 

I spent the afternoon out of the sun, emerging for a walk along the Esplanade once an afternoon sea breeze cooled the city. There are many shady trees, viewpoints and commemoratives. Birds seen included Orange-footed Jungle Fowl, Whistling Kite, Double-barred Finches, Bar-shouldered Doves and Magpie Larks.

 

 

217195641_0160-Orange-footedscrubfowl.JPG.38bca65ca96c643b8c15d66f1d57c56d.JPG

Orange-footed Jungle Fowl

 

 

1576412570_0163-Magpie-lark.JPG.fa47041e1e51f4de941df154e4b7f4d1.JPG

Magpie Lark

 

1243848907_0165-Double-barredfinch.JPG.04a26f155751901212e7d8e30f621c3e.JPG

Double-barred Finch

 

 

608224240_0182-Bar-shouldereddove.JPG.5de87292a77ab4bf3a2f6e86eabcb70a.JPG

Bar-shouldered Dove

Edited by Treepol
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offshorebirder

Good stuff @@Treepol - looking forward to this trip report.

 

A trip to Australia is on my bucket list; the Top End and Broome / Eighty Mile Beach are definitely on my list of places to visit.

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Looking forward to more! I once drove Darwin to Perth in about 3 months. I loved the top end, especially looking forward to your reptile encounters and bird pictures!

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I'm looking forward to reading more, the eight days we spent in the Top End a couple of years ago really only scratched the surface.

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@@offshorebirder the Top End and Broome won't disappoint!

 

@@egilio that sounds like a great 3 month trip, lots of time to explore off the beaten track places. There are just a couple of encounters with small reptiles, and some of the biggest freshater crocs that I have ever seen.

 

@@Zubbie15 I remember your TR and referred to it a couple of times while working on this itinerary.

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Day 3

 

Mike Jarvis from ETW collected me at 7 am and we immediately set out for East Point right next to the Military Museum where I had visited the previous day. A Bar-shouldered Dove called from a treetop as we began a walk through the monsoon forest in search of rainbow pitta. Outside the tree line we saw agile wallabies, mistletoe bird, green-backed gerygone, grey whistler and red-headed honeyeaters.
 

 

472329629_0191-Agilewallabies.JPG.6bf5cdd0a8b84690dced806ebfde91d6.JPG

 

 

Returning through the monsoon forest, suddenly the pitta prize is hopping along the track in front of us. The neon blue on the pitta's shoulders and the emerald back and wings catch the sun that also lights up the black, red and tan hues of this forest floor gem.

 

1937815982_0260-RainbowPitta.JPG.71b8123c2d39adec399b260b72fbeeb5.JPG

 

 

We drove the short distance to East Point where shore birds were scarce this morning, but the view back towards Darwin was worth a photo.

 

314573181_0272-EastPoint.JPG.94eb386f1f0adbd8119343cab11a1889.JPG

 

 

A couple of beach stone curlews scurried off as Mike set up the scope and a distant Sacred Kingfisher stayed tantalisingly out of photo range, while masked lapwings fossicked on the lawn. This bar-shouldered dove posed for photos before we returned to the car.

 

 

1401055249_0269-Bar-shouldereddove.JPG.efffd42b51b8e5215087ffe025ae3c5e.JPG

 

 

The mangrove boardwalk was the next stop where we enjoyed morning tea. A Lemon-bellied Fly Robin and a Broad-billed Flycatcher perched close by while a Collared Kingfisher (now known as a Torresian Kingfisher) peeped shyly from behind a mangrove branch.

 

 

1378131369_0202-Lemon-beliedFlyRobin.JPG.abb27f1f86205ad34fa9f7cad7ccbab3.JPG

 

 

963657659_0204-Broad-billedFlycatcher.JPG.c98567787dff826b2b1e05e71427dfbe.JPG

 

Leaving the city behind, we drove to Fogg Dam where Comb-crested Jacanas, best known for their ability to walk across lily pads due to large feet and long toes, Egrets, Crimson finches and an immature Black-faced cuckoo shrike flutter amongst the water lilies.

 

301921613_0218-ImmatureBlack-facedcuckoo-shrike.JPG.3804008adfe4c1f7a7162dd4543aca4d.JPG

 

 

A Horsfield’s Cuckoo perched over the shallow pool.

 

2004250524_0214-HorsfieldsBronze-cuckoo.JPG.b4b6f100f3b62a8c2e161a1cabdaa1ce.JPG

 

We began the Lily-pad walk mid-afternoon to the raucous cackle of a Blue-winged Kookaburra. The walk was through a paperbark swamp (dry today)

 

960739386_0225-PaperbarksFoggDam.JPG.cb3e0f6c7007b8bbc3e5248665613332.JPG

 

and ended at a small lookout where wild pigs had been churning up the dry mud. A Straw-necked Ibis foraged in the mud overlooked by a Forest Kingfisher.

 

Returning to Darwin in the late afternoon, the last stop was the Botanical Gardens where a Rufous Owl is known to roost. Unfortunately, today he had chosen to deal with the visiting paparazzi by hiding his face behind a leaf. His mate roosts nearby, but today was nowhere to be found.

Edited by Treepol
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Always a sucker for those kangaroos. Like the comparison with 1988. Australia ranks right up there for brilliantly colored birds. Hope you see a dingo.

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Pittas are wonderful birds, and pretty difficult to see everywhere they occur. I never got to see one in Africa.

 

I hope to go back one day. The thing I dread most...I remember seeing lots of goannas (or monitors), sand-, mitchell's, merten's, long-tailed rock monitor and some I can't remember. But this was before cane toads reached Kakadu and The Kimberleys. I wonder how many I would encounter now.

 

Never saw a perentie or a thorny devil though :(

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Fabulous so far.... You've planted a seed in my head for a trip next year.

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@@egilio (bad) photos of pittas coming in the next day. You are so right about the cane toad, it has devastated Top End wildlife.

 

 

@@Geoff nurture that seed! As I write up the TR I am amazed with how much we saw and did. I can wholeheartedly recommend ETW.

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This winter I migrated to the 'Top End' of Australia, flying the coop from chilly Hobart to the so-called winter in the “Top End” where August daytime temperatures range between 32°- 34C and 16-21°C at night. I booked a photographic tour with Mike Jarvis of Experience the Wild (ETW) followed by a 3N/4D private charter with Mike from Darwin to Kununurra. ETW is owned by Mike and Jenny Jarvis. Mike is a one man show – you book him and you get him. ETW offer a range of scheduled tours throughout the year and will also do tailor-mades. Mike has an extensive knowledge of Top End wildlife and has been running ETW for 8 years.

 

This year I was seeking the flashy birds of the north – Hooded Parrot, Rainbow Pitta, Gouldian Finches and Fruit–doves were high on my wishlist.

 

GC3WYBKuniw9lsRPr5r_qL7whSf5LDQuxrbelpOd

Hooded parrots, Pine Creek

 

BWuw14dgKalj2hqm52N2I6jCWdvJBatIlkKjwUKY

Red-collared Lorikeet, Mamukala, Kakadu

 

The Top End is not blessed with a diverse array of mammals however all sightings are valued and dingo, water buffalo and black flying fox were all hoped for together with as many reptiles as possible. The flight path was:

 

5 nights in Darwin, including 1 marathon day (7am – 6 pm) sticky-beaking around Darwin with Mike.

2 nights Mary River

2 nights Kakadu

1 night Katherine

1 night Pine Creek

1 night Victoria River

1 night Timber Creek

1 night Kununurra

I had been to Darwin and the Top End twice before in 1988 and 1990, quite a while ago so I was prepared for lots of change. Please forgive this short diversion down memory lane, I quickly scanned some old snaps from 1988 when @GnuGgnu and I drove her Ford Laser from Adelaide to Darwin up the Stuart Highway with stops at Ayers Rock, Katherine and Pine Creek.

 

2Ou5i5XPkWR3bcQ8WXFeOTkN1jilqEvuk0iYwhCH

Somewhere in the Territory, 1988

 

The Kakadu Highway was unsealed back then and we heard at Pine Creek that some of the rivers were in flood. A guide suggested that we get some advice from the local mechanic about getting the Laser through the flooded Mary River and Barramundi Creek.

 

OMB1hbT2jzUAm0nxIl_vpleKQHG6ZfpsnJf5Mpra

 

We bought a can of CRC and a plastic groundsheet and through we drove.

 

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Mary River, Kakadu, 1988

 

Planning

 

After raiding the nest egg the 2016 trip came together very quickly. The photographic tour was a scheduled departure and Mike arranged the charter out to Kununurra. Early birds had nabbed a lot of the cheep flights to Darwin, so I flew on points this year and scored an exit row seat from Melbourne to Darwin. I booked additional nights in Darwin at the Palms City Resort and Club Tropical.

 

 

Day 1

 

It was 9C in Hobart when I left - a great day to be flying to Darwin. The flights were uneventful and whilst in the air I mused about the size of Australia, where after 5.5 hours of flying its still possible to be within national borders - it sure is a Big Country. My 2016 flight was a far cry from the experience of Qantas travellers in 1938 travelling on the inaugural flight between Sydney and London. This flight took 9 days, with Darwin being the first stop before the Asia sector on the outbound trip.

 

In addition to flying over miles and miles of Australia, I was also amazed at the variety of habitats that the trip covered. The flight afforded views of Mt Wellington, tracked over rural Tasmania and the mountainous Central Plateau to the north coast, and over Bass Straight to Melbourne. The second sector took in the urban sprawl of Melbourne, to Mildura in the river lands after which we turned and headed over the outback to Tennant Creek, flying east of Katherine due Operation Pitch Black a joint military training exercise involving Australia and other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and the US.

 

Darwin is a tropical, exotic destination with colourful birds and different wildlife species to cool climate Tasmania. The bounteous and colourful bougainvillea and hibiscus are common around the city as is the fragrant frangipani.

 

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Bouganvillea

 

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Hibiscus

 

Darwin has 2 seasons - the wet and the dry, in contrast with the 4 seasons experienced in Tasmania. The aboriginal people of the Top End identify 6 seasons linked to hunting, gathering and ceremonial occasions. I visited during August which is one of the cooler dry season months.

 

The Northern Territory is known for 3 outstanding events - the Japanese attacks on Darwin in February 1942 and the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Tracy at Christmas 1974, which explains the relatively recent age of the buildings in the city and the remaining number of historical buildings. The third is the Wave Hill walk off that occurred in August 1966 when 200 indigenous stockmen, house servants and their families walked off the station owned by British company Vesteys in protest over low wages, poor conditions and the loss of tribal land. More on this later.

 

Day 2

 

Before starting the safari, I opted to do a half day tour of World War 2 sites around Darwin. I knew that Darwin was bombed in 1942 but I didn't know the extent or timeframe of the Japanese attacks across the Top End. Here are some quick facts:

 

  • 188 aircraft attacked Darwin at 10 am on 19 February 1942 and a second attack by 54 planes occurred at 11:45. These unexpected raids on the unprepared city caused the death of 235 people;

  • The Northern Territory was raided 64 times between February 1942 and November 1943. The Top End was raided 107 times during the same period.

  • A 6.25 km submarine net stretched across the mouth of Darwin harbour. The net could be lowered to allow access to shipping. The wreck of one 80 man submarine (I-124) still lies outside the harbour.

 

The tour began at 8:00 am with a drive around the significant war and historical sites of Darwin that included Government and Parliament Houses, the Admiralty buildings, the site of the former China Town and two cathedrals. Nearby Charles Darwin NP was an ideal site for ammunition storage bunkers due to its undulating landscape. This bunker has been re-opened as an interpretation centre.

 

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A-JR33-6K_lvxNKmFSPHfHBml7uFeo3nYnQ_rGRe

 

We visited the Darwin Military Museum which had wartime vehicles such as this Willys Jeep

 

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We visited the Darwin Military Museum which had wartime vehicles such as this Willys Jeep [photo] Displays included uniforms, weapons and many other things I didn't recognise. One of the aspects of this museum that resonated with me was the focus on the war as experienced by locals - a policeman, a typist and tax office clerk. This added a personal dimension to the maps, dates and official documents. I found the propaganda aimed at Australian soldiers fighting overseas particularly insidious.

 

 

TlusJBNI6Fn-FW7OCbEbgqq1NguEEhXS1r1EiT6k

 

The tour concluded with a one hour cruise around Darwin Harbour which gave a different perspective to Parliament and Government Houses. The guide pointed out the sites of the wrecks of Catalina Flying Boats, the USS Peary, the current naval base and several historic and well concealed gun emplacements. The four outer pillars of Parliament House are shaped like falling bombs with fins at the top to commemorate this aspect of the city’s history.

 

t-2yxlL2DRbCc1UJk8VM9nqoz9Ir8XqfrnBGhgVN

 

I spent the afternoon out of the sun, emerging for a walk along the Esplanade once an afternoon sea breeze cooled the city. There are many shady trees, viewpoints and commemoratives. Birds seen included Orange-footed Jungle Fowl, Whistling Kite, Double-barred Finches, Bar-shouldered Doves and Magpie Larks.

 

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Orange-footed Jungle Fowl

 

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Magpie Lark

 

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Double-barred Finch

 

 

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Bar-shouldered Dove

 

Hi @@Treepol. Love Kakadu. Love the birdlife. You certainly got around.

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@@Zubbie15 I remember your TR and referred to it a couple of times while working on this itinerary.

 

Glad my trip report served as some help! Not totally sure when I'll get back to Australia, and even if I do I think I'd probably want to see new areas, like Tassie, Kangaroo Island and the Great Ocean Road, but I've bookmarked ETW for future reference.

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Day 4

 

Today was similar to yesterday as we followed the same itinerary before heading out to Mary River NP. This morning we saw 4 rainbow pittas at East Point although we dipped on shorebirds and waders.

 

540469897_0262-RainbowPitta.JPG.199f03d43102d3167e8d10728445f4c7.JPG

 

 

Masked lapwings and Little Friar Birds frequented the park at Lake Alexander where we stopped for morning tea. We lurked around a child’s birthday party to get the photos of Little Friar Bird.

 

728361603_0280-NoisyFriarbird.JPG.c173c25cc413dd185f989992ade4e09a.JPG

 

After morning tea we returned to the mangrove boardwalk where once again Lemon-bellied and Broad-billed flycatchers flew in and Collared Kingfisher showed well. Unfortunately, I only caught a fleeting glimpse of a Red-headed Honeyeater which was my target for the day. Lunched at the same place as yesterday and walked part of the Monsoon Forest Trail where we managed to see another rainbow pitta, making 5 individual birds for the day. Called in at Corroboree Park for fuel where a noisy flock of Little Corellas squawked and squabbled in the trees and Agile Wallabies grazed on the lawn.

 

 

919200256_0296-LittleCorellas.JPG.8add33d90a4e7da684a09a3366d7f6e6.JPG

 

Corroboree Park is the home of Brutus, a large saltwater crocodile - I thought he looked sad in his pond. We arrived at the very comfortable Mary River Wilderness Retreat for a shower, dinner of fresh, wild caught barramundi and retired early ready for a 5 am start (gulp).

Edited by Treepol
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Day 5

 

We left Mary River Wilderness Retreat at 6am for a bush breakfast along the Marrakai Track. A group of Antilopine Walleroos bounced over the road before disappearing into the bush, including 3 large reddish coloured males. There was very little activity at one of the last remaining waterholes so we moved down to the Margaret River where the group split up. Mike and I sat overlooking a small waterhole while the honeyeaters fed in a flowering tree way overhead. Varied lorikeets, Rufous and Dusky Honeyeaters jumped from blossom to blossom.

 

Red-tailed black cockatoos settled in trees up the road but we couldn't get close enough for a photo. Driving back up the Marrakai Track we found a Whistling kite, Wedge-tailed eagle and a Black breasted buzzard feasting on roadkill and although we waited patiently, they didn't return to feed. A dingo appeared about 50 metres from the vehicle before loping off into the bush.

 

Bird Billabong was our next stop, and due to two consecutive poor wet seasons in the Top End held just a fraction of the wetland birds that are seen in a typical year. Water birds and waders were well represented. Royal Spoonbills fished frantically in the shallows while a large flock of Magpie geese created a continuous background murmur during the heat of the afternoon. Other birds included darters, Australian Pelican and Intermediate Egrets. Radjah Shellducks recognised by a distinctive chestnut chest band and pink bill passed the afternoon at the water's edge.

 

957933584_0339-MagpieGeese.JPG.b15e0298fef85cc6d253016fc4468ed0.JPG

 

 

1521892048_0333-Birdbillabong.JPG.112f1ae606b3d2b2cd058943fc0708ef.JPG

 

 

1084647700_0327-RadjahShelducks.JPG.ebfba4f2dff55954d258976a3941a698.JPG

 

A Great Egret was patiently fishing in the shady shallows and a pied heron kept company with a masked lapwing and a freshwater or Johnston's crocodile. Australian Grebes and Comb-crested Jacanas floated a small distance away from a flock of Green Pygmy-Geese that swam amongst the water lilies where the sun caught their green wings.

 

Driving out of Bird Billabong we saw several large groups of Agile Wallabies and a Slaty Gray snake.

 

1329516083_0344-Kangaroos.JPG.5a3dcfa1b3fe0e75232e9fde563695ba.JPG

 

Back at the Wilderness Retreat the group hired 2 birdwatching buggies and set off along the river.

 

1284320674_0346-Birdbuggies.JPG.0ca91afb909f7864113d3074e188d364.JPG

 

This Asian Gecko was my guest at Mary River Retreat where he was responsible for flying insect removal.

 

1212698325_0360-Asiangecko.JPG.7cf62bfd515e8bcd2967c251e94938c3.JPG

Edited by Treepol
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Day 6

 

Another early start, leaving Mary River Wilderness Retreat at 6 am for Mamukala, a bird rich bush and wetland environment. We enjoyed a bush breakfast and then set out on the circuit walk. An Australian Wagtail hopped around the picnic area and soon we were amongst a small flock of Long-tailed Finches.

 

655293519_0399-Long-tailedfinch.JPG.83bad711f9f3d00b0dc9c56d7880580b.JPG

 

 

Further along the path a Pheasant Coucal displayed a resplendent tail.

 

2002079184_0384-Pheasantcoucal.JPG.7e8515bfeaf2c4c73c8c3de7182756a8.JPG

 

Closer to the carpark a flowering tree attracted the nectar feeders – Green oriole, Red-collared Lorikeets and White-winged Triller.

 

1787097389_0417-Oriole.JPG.8de7d1301f7be600bb43c82d515714af.JPG

 

148882145_0418-White-wingedtrillerMamukala.JPG.b9d93deccae765f319401523e066606e.JPG

 

The Hide at the viewpoint provided good sightings of Purple Swamphen, while a Paperbark Flycatcher and White-winged Triller fluttered around the walkway. An Australasian Darter paddled close by.

 

1927291131_0422-AustralasianSwamphen.JPG.7af8b3d2c4aa283e10ec495def0a7c08.JPG

 

2137232438_0427-Darter.JPG.82cb4c6989fc50504ffed60090d1676e.JPG

 

Back at the car, a Whistling Kite kept watch over the area.

 

1205395172_0432-Whistlingkite.JPG.02bb20101b8f5020286bc3190cc60f5c.JPG

 

After lunch we did a short walk to see Black Flying Fox before leaving to drive to Ubirr Rock (oo-bir) which is the site of some of Australia's best known rock art galleries.

 

815929804_0435-Blackflyingfoxes.JPG.6819fdaca10f9104bec9fb8c3675718a.JPG

 

Roger spotted a Rose-crowned Fruit Dove on the walk into the art sites. This gorgeous bird has a colourful head and a green back that provides camouflage while feeding in fruiting trees.

 

628708043_0443-Rose-crowned1.JPG.1a3c2631060065b04eee020719dd5629.JPG

 

The galleries at both Ubirr and Nourlangie Rocks are well known and depict styles of naturalistic, x-ray and contact art. Aboriginal people lived in the rock shelters around both sites where there was ample and varied food to be found. Food items were painted and over-painted as a sign of respect to a particular animal, to ensure ongoing hunting success or to record a significant catch. The animals in the main gallery include barramundi, long-necked turtles and wallabies and are still hunted today.

 

This painting depicts a hunter.

 

250027811_0446-X-raywarrior.JPG.8b41e9fb54f2d777b8b0bb647a3c43bb.JPG

 

 

Most of the X-ray art in the main gallery is less than 1,500 years old.
 
394975163_0447-X-rayturtle.JPG.bf7202ea18db4c3486cdcf3e834d873c.JPG
 
2103046584_0449-X-ray1.JPG.ca6146bc21e316ee923507a9e0b68d7e.JPG
 
1738607452_0455-X-Rayfigures2.JPG.56511631873a20f140b91586664445d8.JPG
 
 There are also some examples of contact art such as this 'white fella' thought to be an early buffalo hunter from the 1880s.

 

820955260_0450-X-raysailor.JPG.4f0719e13b6831c22f6be2c5eac6c4e8.JPG

 

I just had to include this painting of a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) near the main gallery. Thylacines are thought to have been extinct on the 'north island' for 2,000-3,000 years.

 

85481764_0451-X-raytastiger.JPG.5e64825e29b5578e4f8c4d48dfb29d38.JPG

 

The views of the surrounding countryside from Ubirr Rock are spectacular.

 

2025767546_0452-Ubirr4.JPG.1d4fa796ec7417125ed839ec36d607b3.JPG

 

1476612351_0457-Ubirr2.JPG.7309bddc86bc5697d4f26ea10141c9fe.JPG

 

After browsing around the rock art galleries we bought ice-creams at the Border Store located on the border of Kakadu NP and Arnhem Land before stopping at Cahill's Crossing to check for crocs, kingfishers and whatever else was around. The Estuarine Crocodiles patrol below the crossing, hoping that fish will be washed over the barrier.

 

1021961152_0458-Cahillscrossing.JPG.15f6b8e2e09b04473acfedf30c1a8db5.JPG

 

We have a 2 night stay at Kakadu Lodge booked, and it is Jane’s birthday so we celebrate with champagne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Day 7

 

Up early once again for a bush breakfast and the walk to Anbangbang (arn-barng-barng) Billabong. However both roads to the billabong were closed so we walked around the base of Burrungguy (boor-oon-goy) aka Nourlangie Rock.

 

22691463_0461-NourlangieRock.JPG.8fb23387637ccb9b63801e9bf20484fb.JPG

 

The red ochre cliffs, green swamps and gun-metal grey gums are the colours of Kakadu. This painting in the Anbangbang Shelter of the solid kangaroo is ancient, painted long before the later X-Ray art.

 

1007728635_0462-X-Raykangaroo2.JPG.e1e36f231e566dd4dff19b5f3621d95b.JPG

 

Culturally important stories are re-told in the paintings such as the legends of Lightning Man and the Rainbow Serpent.

 

1490802931_0466-Lightningman2.JPG.b5b423485b44f4b577e8f17c17b8a2b0.JPG

 

A White-bellied cuckoo shrike flitted amongst the shady trees next to the rock shelter, whilst further along the return walk a Mistletoe Bird fluttered around the trees. We encountered this Double-lined dragon on the way to the paintings at the Narngaburr shelter and just a little further on a Top End Rainbow Skink was also soaking up the sun.

 

910803268_0473-Two-lineddragonKakaduNP.JPG.471923207cfe711a13f53b56a68229d2.JPG

 

1647366366_0477-TopEndRainbowSkink.JPG.fc24ac48a62e242fda1404ec4c288999.JPG

 

The Narngaburr shelter paintings included some contact art of which the white sailing ship is a good example.

 

875076104_0479-Xrayship.JPG.21047cf91f509e437e00b5a1c3478d19.JPG

 

After viewing the rock art and enjoying the shade offered by this traditional shelter we slowly made our way back to the vehicle for lunch, over the remains of an old road which I am sure we drove along in 1988, saving the 3.4 km return trek! The last bird on the return walk was this Silver-crowned Friarbird.

 

1652194820_0486-Silver-crownedFriarbird.JPG.bf34ed21abf12d787646581fa593c59c.JPG

 

After lunch we visited the Cultural Centre and enjoyed a cold beer at Cooinda before boarding a private boat for the Yellow Waters cruise. These Blue-faced Honeyeaters were flying around the restaurant and a Pied Heron was prowling around the outside tables.

 

476156641_0505-Blue-facedHoneyeatersKakaduNP.JPG.14e95fe48c01806d907806b2195fe213.JPG

 

614844494_0501-PiedHeronKakaduNP.JPG.ed91035c41a8b95bc914df411ee941ef.JPG

 

 

 

Mike had booked the Balanda, a private boat for our group for the Yellow Waters Cruise. The boat guide was Reuben, a tribal man from the local who shared his knowledge of and passion for the Kakadu area.

 

The first bird we saw was this very confiding Azure Kingfisher,

 

1585592446_0507-AzureKingfisherKakaduNP.JPG.a7eb48aff8e8881c6e501cd81cdee159.JPG

 

followed by preening Radjah Shellducks.

 

1172392805_0517-RadjahShelducks.JPG.5d7a40eb2f32799a01157171565c12fa.JPG

 

A close view of both an Intermediate and Great Egret clearly showed the differences between these two birds. Rainbow bee-eaters ducked and dived over the wetlands where dragonflies are an acceptable substitute for bees.

 

377571123_0521-GreatEgret.JPG.8ed600ea70a4c7ad08766847e7ef7bd2.JPG

 

313976927_0524-Rainbowbee-eater.JPG.f8bf7e7023f0136bdd1717fab769b678.JPG

 

A Striated Heron was out hunting in the fading light, while these Brolgas caught the last of the sun.

 

1920749494_0530-Striatedheron.JPG.1b89b8825a40c5e5528a454cb818c4e5.JPG

 

A White-bellied Sea Eagle surveyed Yellow Waters from a high perch,

 

1910143021_0547-Seaeagle.JPG.3b4e32f2eb6cf04a24721b7a6285ae8f.JPG

 

maybe contemplating stealing this Darter’s catch.

 

756281069_0552-Darterwithcatfish.JPG.89be0a4f0fc2bf79e0979d03d8c55647.JPG

 

Plumed Whistling Ducks are usually found at the water’s edge as they tend to be waders rather than swimmers, although they can swim well. These birds are distinguished by the long plumes curling upwards over the back.

 

317978011_0585-White-plumedwhistlingducks.JPG.5ec139c42d2c18479eeea652d29a5b73.JPG

 

The Comb-crested Jacana males were busy with child-minding duties as a number of long-toed chicks stepped daintily over the lilypads.

 

1487087927_0564-Comb-crestedjacana.JPG.e35f8f426e5fcda5f89219243dd03c24.JPG

 

Reuben turned the boat into a quiet creek in search of Little Kingfisher and a Great-billed Heron.

 

686742589_0594-CreekKakaduNP.JPG.e1205a51ea3b370e9a970c8af5759013.JPG

 

 

I had a fleeting glimpse of Little Kingfisher and was pleased when this Sacred Kingfisher posed for photos.

 

 

1089788927_0573-SacredKingfisher.JPG.239c0d6159817fb4a7c8d550e83437aa.JPG

 

A Nankeen Night Heron was waking up to begin searching for food.

 

344713644_0590-NankeenNightHeron.JPG.2973c390ce1c6d339379a3e9eb2b951d.JPG

 

Suddenly, the Great-billed Heron launched off a low hanging branch and flapped upstream.

 

1182677446_0601-Great-billedheron.JPG.e40fc94bb2f426101b90cbac68e7ac94.JPG

 

 

 

971344264_0613-Kakadutwilight.JPG.59728d1951f9f8c2f36ad85cf0d6c927.JPG

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Day 8

 

We left Kakadu Lodge at 5.30 am this morning for a bush breakfast at the South Alligator River. Breakfast was at a very pretty stretch of river where the paperbark trees overhung a shallow part of the river. Sulphur-crested cockatoos screeched from the trees overhead. Mike and I walked downstream but didn't see much except for Bar-shouldered doves and a Lemon-bellied flycatcher.

 

419176150_0615-Quicksandcreek.JPG.a366b154addcc9ad0ee5e4adc95c9102.JPG

 

2016841311_0619-Bar-shouldereddoves.JPG.32442cd5589f5f4b55b628e42a62547c.JPG

 

Moving on, we stopped at Harriet Creek where a Silver-Backed Butcher Bird perched in the trees. Driving south to Katherine we checked out a couple of possible sites for breakfast with the Gouldian finches tomorrow. A White-throated Honeyeater was perched in a tree overhanging a small pool that we will stake out tomorrow. Once we arrived in Katherine, Mike topped up the fuel, water and ice while some of us went to investigate the Apostlebirds hopping around a park.

 

130699943_0642-Apostlebird.JPG.adb970826b26b6315aa37a2de84db086.JPG

 

A Red-backed Kingfisher was perched overlooking the road to Nitmiluk where we saw our first boabs.

 

1760370860_0654-Boab.JPG.88a0eaf3a55e18f0c11fe4f8bcaebdc7.JPG

 

A Blue-winged Kookaburra perched obligingly in the gardens at Nitmiluk NP, also known as Katherine Gorge NP.

 

1628595879_0658-Blue-wingedKookaburra.JPG.6aaf30c7e8f0ea6bf0f5095c8eb66ea9.JPG

 

Black Flying foxes squabbled and grumbled in this riverside tree, under which an Agile Wallaby grazed quietly.

 

1015379519_0665-Blackflyingfox.JPG.0d80a7cb9bf4eb5ddef660c1f6193135.JPG

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol
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Great report, Darwin is now on my radar. Loved the walk down memory lane and the rainbow pitta.

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Day 9

 

Mike allowed the group a small sleep-in until 5.30 before heading back to the Ferguson River for breakfast with the Gouldian finches. While we waited for the finches we saw Azure and Sacred Kingfishers fishing in the river. Unfortunately, the finches didn't show which was surprising as we had seen a few when we checked the site the previous day. A few of us went for a walk up the river where a pair of bee-eaters kept us entertained in between quick visits from Double-barred finches and Cockatiel flyovers.

 

651738777_0695-FergusonRiver.JPG.2e494a410d4b1d959fa25aeed36f4e7a.JPG

 

Before lunch we drove to Edith Falls to use the facilities and then to a quiet spot in Nitmiluk NP for lunch. A happy hour or so was spent above the river where Crimson, Masked and Double-barred finches flitted through the shallow water.

 

437942876_0697-CrimsonFinch.JPG.909c513e90d7f64fe92f8e1ed5addbcf.JPG

 

314685269_0712-Black-throatedfinches.JPG.5918fc3383824f40bb090bfbba1cf0d1.JPG

 

267205531_0720-Double-barredfinches.JPG.45004ccb2fa776b4b1e4636d2b8439bf.JPG

 

On the road to Pine Creek Mike stopped to show Roger a rare grevillea which has a range of just a few hundred square metres either side of the Ghan railway line. Arriving in Pine Creek, Mike immediately spotted a Red-backed Kingfisher. Later, we walked in search of Hooded Parakeet, picking up Straw-necked ibis, Gray-crowned babblers, before the prize of the Hooded Parrots flew in - the males with the black heads are a particularly good looking bird.

 

1392753604_0741-Straw-neckedibis.JPG.fead032795a05f12c2aea910d7f85e36.JPG

 

161190544_0754-Grey-crownedbabbler.JPG.6765803c6aeb5e46e3e8d8263447205e.JPG

 

1291900086_0769-Hoodedparrot.JPG.9294ffcc4826b0414cbd58255e6372de.JPG

 

573171275_0779-Hoodedparrot.JPG.8e7039bd1f5eb81f7c980a0918ce8449.JPG

Edited by Treepol
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Ahhh, those sweet memories! And so many so colourful birds! Thanks a lot, @@Treepol for returning me back in time to this magical place.

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Day 10

 

Breakfast this morning was beside a water-lily laden billabong where 2 Little Black Cormorants gazed across the water from a dead tree. An Azure Kingfisher flashed brilliant colour every time it left the perch, while across the water a Royal Spoonbill and a Darter searched for breakfast. The Floating Hearts are very small water lilies that have a delicate, frilly flower floating above the heart-shaped leaves.

 

1419645695_0816-Billabong1.JPG.0142fc5beb2f3b02f6a88fa93e73cf74.JPG

 

After breakfast we headed for Litchfield National Park where we stopped for photos of Cathedral and Magnetic termite mounds.

 

1420105815_0819-Watersnowflake.JPG.0162f332c53c5f1545e5b92bf88fb44b.JPG

 

1883293498_0814-Watersnowflake.JPG.17201b17396a5475c01abde8f3192385.JPG

 

This broken piece of a Cathedral mound was lying on the ground when we arrived and shows the honeycomb-like structure within the mound.

 

868380640_0827-Termitemound.JPG.d85c1fc27798dab8605f9c50e2b36637.JPG

 

The magnetic termite mounds are built with the narrower East and West sides facing the rising and setting sun in order to provide sufficient warmth to the mound without overheating.

 

1893832533_0829-Magnetic.JPG.c8e4217f151b4236bb7aa7b14c8fb3b0.JPG

 

1338846951_0830-Magnetic.JPG.9e989a31dc241f35670a53c4bc0db44d.JPG

 

 

The mounds with the jagged tops are active. Lunch today is at a picturesque paperbark swamp called Tabletop Swamp.

 

1943940600_0836-LitchfieldNP.JPG.190e19687a684634dc2aff993042e3f6.JPG

 

A family of Australasian Grebes ducked and dived amongst the water lilies while a flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos called in the background.

 

1563173231_0847-GrebeLitchfieldNP.JPG.52cbeee8d24d3589d841872477a5100d.JPG

 

After lunch we continued towards Darwin, stopping at the Finness River where a hand-written notice warned against swimming as a 3 metre crocodile had been seen just 3 weeks ago.

 

124948939_0854-FinnissRiver.JPG.589845172cbf2df381df215293e2b3cf.JPG

 

Closer to Darwin we passed through towns with names such as Batchelor and Rum Jungle before arriving at the Botanical Gardens where a Harley-themed wedding was underway. Scurrying past the nuptials we were surprised to be asked by a passer-by if we were looking for an owl - I wonder how he could tell that? The male Rufous Owl was at his usual day roost and was beginning to stir in the late afternoon.

 

1003654565_0856-Rufousowl(Male).JPG.2ad1dd7e0894bc672887b0dee04c63be.JPG

 

Further down, his mate had found a cool place to roost and kept gazing in the direction of the male, possibly keen to start hunting early.

 

1952633527_0884-RufousOwl.JPG.bcade9459d0d873a91bbafab6036bcd9.JPG

 

We completed the final bird call, said our farewells, agreed what a great tour it had been and arranged to stay in touch.

Edited by Treepol
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Day 8

 

We left Kakadu Lodge at 5.30 am this morning for a bush breakfast at the South Alligator River. Breakfast was at a very pretty stretch of river where the paperbark trees overhung a shallow part of the river.

 

ypprteHmf0EqgIkfmWWgetbVY4vwYYUfyD5zcpWX

 

Sulphur-crested cockatoos screeched from the trees overhead.

 

Mike and I walked downstream but didn't see much except for Bar-shouldered doves and a Lemon-bellied flycatcher. Moving on, we stopped at Harriet Creek where a Silver-Backed Butcher Bird perched in the trees. Driving south to Katherine we checked out a couple of possible sites for breakfast with the Gouldian finches tomorrow. A White-throated Honeyeater was perched in a tree overhanging a small pool that we will stake out tomorrow.

 

V3OEHDwN7MdCX-w2zyDdEBwqeosaYsVxguGMq_Bu

 

Once we arrived in Katherine, Mike topped up the fuel, water and ice while some of us went to investigate the Apostlebirds hopping around a park.

 

m-rurO0K8d6lWt9BOfazQiLazAVf0m6KZGwTNabk

 

A Red-backed Kingfisher was perched overlooking the road to Nitmiluk where we saw our first boabs.

 

nnytn9LEJmQPV8UKxM9oZv5WG-uBa4AO_Koe2zxb

 

A Blue-winged Kookaburra perched obligingly in the gardens at Nitmiluk NP, also known as Katherine Gorge NP.

 

55w7XnuerycR1hPA-Kz7OO07LqRrvx56eHrfNCPc

 

Black Flying foxes squabbled and grumbled in this riverside tree, under which an Agile Wallaby grazed quietly.

 

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OiZQ2cO9bnq79BXohOVLGUgfQUciwGR1fbj04u_H

 

 

I remember Ubirr, fabulous views from the top, and that enormous overhanging rock where the paintings are. You have some wonderful photo's, especially the birds, and especially the bee-eater with Dragonfly. Super trip. Thanks for sharing.

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Day 10

 

Breakfast this morning was beside a water-lily laden billabong where 2 Little Black Cormorants gazed across the water from a dead tree. An Azure Kingfisher flashed brilliant colour every time it left the perch, while across the water a Royal Spoonbill and a Darter searched for breakfast. The Floating Hearts are very small water lilies that have a delicate, frilly flower floating above the heart-shaped leaves.

 

AIQskEqnZdHruB_Z5E9eB63-JjmeTkqfh1JNxnZv

 

After breakfast we headed for Litchfield National Park where we stopped for photos of Cathedral and Magnetic termite mounds.

 

ghKmz5m23ZY-i8IlDGFEcTEbN3z8A0otUoysNb54

 

This broken piece of a Cathedral mound was lying on the ground when we arrived and shows the honeycomb-like structure within the mound.

 

Uh5hUBVl9dLtGhl7F3teV4OKkr7cRxy04B5Zj-GR

 

The magnetic termite mounds are built with the narrower East and West sides facing the rising and setting sun in order to provide sufficient warmth to the mound without overheating.

 

CdwgNrSPHLzCTeWrivfNlrugGxN-zZhABUztXfMM

 

DYHn5R5MaPWOIlKxBH7wNlMA5lCIB2A9BdP0zIa2

 

e2sBNELcOgAOMAupAMoSiH8j1dZz7hb2NnlNB73Z

 

The mounds with the jagged tops are active.

 

Lunch today is at a picturesque paperbark swamp called Tabletop Swamp.

 

lTg6L0S1scVIcQUI1TlGkcvs_Pa9VFN0OHo3AVje

 

A family of Australasian Grebes ducked and dived amongst the water lilies while a flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos called in the background.

 

tKsX_QKjkrdLWpvRnjhKCFnkU5tkXKxdck9FIlsG

 

After lunch we continued towards Darwin, stopping at the Finness River where a hand-written notice warned against swimming as a 3 metre crocodile had been Seen just 3 weeks ago.

 

PtpFX3ALYY_-MbfeiYPTMJOQgoguJXUPst8rsK3i

 

Closer to Darwin we passed through towns with names such as Batchelor and Rum Jungle before arriving at the Botanical Gardens where a Harley-themed wedding was underway. Scurrying past the nuptials we were surprised to be asked by a passer-by if we were looking for an owl - I wonder how he could tell that?

 

The male Rufous Owl was at his usual day roost and was beginning to stir in the late afternoon.

 

fYKNErAtxPKLXzWVT4xSYp6tGzS9ssiefwAUFxm4

 

Further down, his mate had found a cool place to roost and kept gazing in the direction of the male, possibly keen to start hunting early.

 

hvIJFcqnwhyWfxGgNnW-Pq14-OWng2N5AyNova-F

 

We completed the final bird call, said our farewells, agreed what a great tour it had been and arranged to stay in touch.

I was totally stunned by the Magnetic termite mounds, nature is soooo amazing. You certainly had an adventure with some wonderful memories.

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Such a colourful report, Treepol, really enjoy seeing all these unfamiliar birds and other animals. And beautiful landscapes of course. I will definitely consult you when I go to Australia - I´m very tempted after his report. :)

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@@michael-ibk let me know when you are visiting 'down under' and be sure to include Tasmania...

 

When do you head to Kenya - I'm keen to hear about Tumbili Cliffs and the flamingo lakes as well as Kakamega. Are you using Petra's guide and vehicle for all of this trip?

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