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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

darwin sailing club sunset australiaOn Sept 21 we went to the Darwin Sailing Club (open to the public) for a sunset dinner with Paul & Christie. We had ocean front seating and great views of the sun disappearing into the ocean as a giant red/orange ball. We had natural air conditioning with beautiful cooling sea breezes. We ordered grilled and crumbed (breaded and pan fried) Barramundi fish with a salad bar. The food was great and only cost $15US per person.

We met Tim, one of Paul and Christie's friends, who was taking a year's sabbatical from being a lawyer. He said several of his friends had recently died which had motivated him to take a break from working and travel more, and generally take a new perspective on what life is about and what's important. He seemed to be having so much fun I doubt he'll get back to working any time soon.

We woke-up at 4:30am on Sept 22 to the sound of rain on the metal roof of the cottage. This is the first rain here since April, but it didn't last long.

We drove 100Km (62 miles) in the dark to the Bird Billabong (Wetland) at Mary River NP. We saw a wild pig standing beside the road. The first bird we saw was a Blue-wing Kookaburra with a small bird in its beak, beating it to death on a tree limb, with feathers flying everywhere.

We walked the 4.5Km track around the Billabong in just under 5 hours. About sun-up we found a tree covered with the endangered Gouldian Finches. While we were watching, a Dove flew into the tree and the Finches exploded out of there in a cloud. When the Dove left, they returned in mass to continue eating the berries. This was our day for Finches -- we saw the Masked, Long-tailed, Black-throated, Double-barred, and Crimson Finches; plus a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. We also saw 8 Jabiru and heaps of ducks, geese, and cormorants.

We had Barramundi sandwiches and chips for lunch at the Bark Hut (12.900S 131.676E) - the only restaurant for 50 miles. They put grated carrots, sliced tomato, cucumber and thinly sliced pickled beets on their sandwiches. The tarter sauce didn't have pickle relish in it. Beautiful!

We stopped at Fogg Dam on the way back to see the stacks of water birds. The Magpie Geese were taking mud bathes. At one point we saw tens of thousands of Egrets take flight and briefly circle the wetlands. This was our biggest day birding with 73 different species identified.

We went to the Nightcliff Beach on Sept 24 for an organized Shorebird Watch by the Darwin Bird Observing Club. We met Andrew there who had an 85-power Zeiss spotting scope. Andrew pointed out the bird we came to see -- the Oriental Plover that had just migrated to Australia from Siberia. We also saw Greater Sand-Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, and a Whimbrel.

We saw a pair of Long-tailed Finches at our birdbath on our afternoon walk-about. The pair of Bush Stone-curlews we hear every night doing their mournful cries came out on the edge of the horse paddock with their 2 new chicks for a photo event. We checked-out the Forest Kingfisher's nest we see from the patio -- sure enough it is built in a termite nest in a tree.

For dinner Paul fixed Pork Roast & gravy, roasted potatoes & carrots, squash and green beans.

On Sept 25 we fixed Scones & Rue (Buttermilk Biscuits & Gravy) with eggs for Paul, Christie and their friend Gary the Horse Whisper. Great cultural exchange! Gary got the recipe and started making Biscuits & Gravy for his wife.

kangaroo meat barbeque bbq australiaFor our last dinner celebration we started off with pita bread and Christie's home made Dukkah (ground nuts and spices). Then she added Prawns and dipping sauces. For the main course we had salad (parsley, mint, cucumber and tomato with white wine vinegar dressing) and our first Kangaroo steaks marinated in spices. Paul barbied them, and I took pictures in case no one would believe we ate Kangaroo. Kangaroo is a little gamy, so they were better with Plum Sauce.

Birding Summary

Of the 178 bird species we saw in the Darwin area, 54 are endemic to Australia. 17 bird species were never seen again during the 255-day trip around Australia.

Carl & Wilma Ball carlball@yahoo.com

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