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Darwin Sept 2006 Bird Watching Trip Report

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Email: carlball@yahoo.com (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2006

The Bush Stone-Curlews are large birds that are only active at night. Their call is a very loud, blood curdling, mournful wail -- like something is being slowly killed. We hear them every night at our cottage. When you see them standing, they are like statues. They are amazing to see.

Dinner tonight was baked Quail with a fancy rice dish that had pumpkin, zucchini, and onions in it. We liked the quail and their dogs liked the bones.

For breakfast on Sept 6, we made everyone biscuits and gravy with fried eggs and bacon. The biscuits turned out good and the gravy finally thickened. In short order it was all gone. This was a first for our hosts and their housekeeper.

Mid morning we heard a racket by our car. It seems a Yellow Oriole saw himself in the side view mirror. He stayed around all day looking at himself in the mirror and singing, rubbing against the mirror, and hopping on top the mirror. Other Orioles would come by and dive bomb him and chase him away, but he always came back.

About 4pm we decided to go birding at Holmes Jungle. We saw 4 new birds including a Red-headed Honeyeater and Shinning Flycatcher.

We awoke at dawn on Sept 7 and headed off to Lee's Point -- a beach about 10Km from our cottage on the Timor Sea coast. We got there at low tide, which meant the shore birds had plenty of room to spread out. We saw Greater Sandplovers, Eastern Reef Herons, & Red-capped Plovers.

For dinner tonight we started with pita bread, groundnuts and olive oil (you dip the bread in the olive oil and then the nuts), followed by cigars (spinach and brie wrapped in a filo leaf). Then Christie grilled steak. We had the steak with stuffed potatoes (twice baked) and green beans.

We got to Lee's Point on Sept 8 at High Tide this time. The vast beach, exposed reef, and small trees we saw yesterday was gone. That forced the birds to be closer to us. The beach was covered with Red-capped Plovers and Silver Gulls. Later in the morning it was neat to see the treetops emerge from the water. The beach is so flat it didn't take long for things to get back to normal.

Later we drove over to nearby Buffalo Creek (12.337S 130.908E). We saw a flock of Australian Pelicans about half a mile away. We walked toward the Pelicans in the exposed sand-mud. When we got out on the sand-mud flat we saw other birds like Little and Eastern Curlews. Paul was surprised we didn't see any Crocs.

dinner grungle downs bed and breakfast australiaFor dinner tonight we had Morton Bay Bugs. Bugs are top of the line in Australian seafood. They look like small lobsters but are softer and sweeter. When cooked they curl-up like large shrimp, but are twice as thick. We were lucky to have them tonight because Bugs as so popular here, and the supply so limited, the seafood stores don't always have them in stock. The Bugs were served with a mango & almond rice dish. The Bugs and rice were wonderful.

Christie also fixed some of the Bugs in a soupy dish with garlic, bok choy, spinach and other vegetables and served it with fresh home made bread. This was great too!

At 7am on Sept 9 we were walking out the back gate to Holmes Jungle. We saw 2 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos land near us. We spent a lot of time watching a pair of Red-winged Parrot eating fruit in a small bush. We saw 2 new birds: the Silver-backed Butcherbird and White-winged Triller.

Saturday night the birds were taking their bath in the sprinkler system during our walk. We saw a Little Bronzed-Cuckoo -- it is only found around Darwin.

We were up at 6am on Sept 11 so we could see the Spring tides at Buffalo Creek & Lee's Point. They were expecting 8-meter (24 foot) tides today. When we got to Buffalo Creek the tide was still rising. The huge sand-mud flat we walked on before was gone. We walked out on the little strip of remaining beach at Buffalo Creek, but had to retreat when we saw a little ribbon of tide water trying to cut us off from the main land.

We found some higher ground at Lee's Point. The shore birds, gulls and terns were corralled up on a finger of beach that was still out of the water. There were thousands of birds. We couldn't identify many of them till Bass from Holland came along with his 80 power spotting scope. Through the spotting scope you could see birds right, left and center -- what we had thought were rocks turned out to be an army of Great Knots and Red Knots. Yesterday they counted 850 Great Knots on this beach.

On Sept 12 we went into town to the free NT Art Gallery and Museum. We liked some of the Aborigine art and paintings, but didn't understand most of it. The pandanas baskets were great. There were also exhibits on the 1970 Cyclone Tracy that destroyed Darwin with 200+ mph winds, and a big stuffed 17 ft Crock named Sweetheart from out near Kakadu NP

We were up at 5am on Sept 13 so we could get to the Fogg Dam wetlands before dawn. At first light, we could see clouds of birds flying by and swalking. There were 1000's, if not 10,000's, of magpie geese, mixed Egrets, Pied Herons, Green Pygmy Geese, Radjad Shelducks, and White Ibis right, left and center. We saw our first Royal Spoonbill this morning -- then we saw 100's of them.

Driving across the dike, we had to stop for a flock of 100s of Magpie Geese (they are twice the size of Canadian Geese) on the road. We stopped to photograph a Nankeen Kestrel eating a Dusky Rat. Then there was the 10 Swamp Harriers eating road kill with a White-bellied Sea Eagle overseeing the job.

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