Botched Visit To Bird Billabong (Near Mary River)

I am still not sure if we were in the right place.  I had an eBird map zoomed in as far as possible and I found this sign-posted entrance.

We drove down the track towards Bird Billabong but the road got too rough for a 2WD so we turned back.

OK obviously people are meant to find birds somewhere around here!  Or at least fish!

We tried another direction which ends up at this boat ramp.  Not knowing what to do, we had to turn back and give up.  At least there were a few birds in the surrounding trees. 

Ironically, when we got back to Mary River Wilderness Retreat, we spotted the guide from Experience the Wild (his 4×4 was marked as such).  They are the ones who wrote the guide to Bird Billabong!  If I had printed out this page, we probably would have found the right place.  Good lesson to double-check directions and locations.  Or maybe we would have been ok if we had a 4×4.  Guess we will have to come back someday!

Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusillus)

The Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusillus) is a small and rare kingfisher with a rich blue back and head and a snowy white breast. It has a heavy bill and has a short tail.  They aren’t easy to find so I was really happy to see this one on the Yellow Waters Cruise.

They are found mostly on the island of New Guinea but also some small, scattered populations in Australia.  Given the remoteness, your best bet is the Yellow Waters Cruise in Kakadu.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LITTLE KINGFISHERS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Oz Animals

VIDEOS

Not many but Laurie Ross has some on YT.

Don’t blink or you will miss this one!

A beautiful bird ready for his close-up!

 

 

 

 

My Wild Birding Buggy Ride

One of the best things about staying at Mary River Wilderness Retreat is the chance to hire a buggy to go birding on their vast trail system.  Ideally you should do this early in the morning but since we only had one night, we did the afternoon buggy run.  Surprisingly we were the only ones out there that afternoon.

Hiring a buggy (golf cart) is reasonably priced at $20 first hour and $10 each following hour.  You need at least 2 hours to explore the trails properly.

So we set off, I was driving and had my camera and binoculars next to me and my husband was sitting in the back so hopefully we had eyes on all the birds.  A few wallabies watched with trepidation as we entered the trail system.

I heard about a bowerbird bower so got directions from the receptionist but somehow I still managed to get lost.  There are signs but they get a bit confusing further down.

The road can be a little bumpy, it was pretty funny as this was my first time driving a buggy and I had to be careful not to run it off the road (I didn’t).

A few peaceful doves minding their own business when the crazy driver approached.

We stopped at the river hoping some birds would be there but not much activity.

This is where you should turn left for the Bowerbird.

This was some kind of dump, don’t know how we ended up here!

This is how you control the buggy.

Aha, finally found the bower, but it’s owner wasn’t home.  Or maybe he was sitting up in a tree laughing at us!

By this time, it was getting dark and I was supposed to have the buggy back by (IIRC) 5:30pm.  I was a few minutes late and one lady had already taken off looking for us, we must have barely crossed paths exiting the trails.  It was a fun adventure and I wish we would have stayed longer so we could try a morning trip.

Lodge Review: Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Northern Territory

Conveniently located on the road from Darwin to Kakadu, the Mary River Wilderness Retreat is a worthy addition to any Northern Territory birding itinerary.  It’s also close enough for people visiting Darwin on business to make a weekend trip.

The property is huge and has some amazing birding habitat which is best discovered by hiring a buggy (golf cart).  Of course we did this so look for my report on birding by buggy!

The main building overlooks the swimming pool and houses the reception, shop and restaurant.  This is also the only place to get the wifi connection.

Nice display to show off the local birds!

This was our bungalow.  As you can see, they aren’t large but are set up well for budget accommodation.  They do have larger but more expensive bungalows and safari tents as well.

No cooking facilities but they do have a small fridge so suitable for sandwiches, salads and other non-cooking meals.

Just relaxing on the deck, birds can be seen flying from tree to tree.

My husband cooled off in the pool while I used the wifi.

A few garden birds.

Torresian Imperial Pigeon (I think, can’t see all of him)

Spangled Drongo

Mistletoebird

Red-collared Lorikeet

I need some help with these.

Not pictured but positively ID’d by a guide staying in the next bungalow from Experience the Wild was a Dollarbird.  He said it was the first one of the season and I reckon he would know!  I ran for my camera but the uncooperative bird had left the scene.

I really liked Mary River Wilderness Retreat and would love to come back for a longer stay sometime.  You can book on their site or try the usual booking agents like Pointshound or Rocketmiles to earn miles for your booking.

Oh Joy, Another Devaluation, This Time It’s Avianca Lifemiles

Got this email which has some unwelcome news for Aussies who buy Avianca Lifemiles for cheap Star Alliance awards.  It’s not all bad, some awards to South America went down.  Thankfully I burned my balance last year in Ecuador and Colombia!

This is why I always say don’t buy miles unless you are redeeming them straight away.

We want to inform you that starting May 15th, 2017, the amount of miles required for redemption of air tickets of routes from Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, in Economic, Business and First class from Star Alliance table will have some changes. The changes for some routes will be reductions, and for others they will be increments, while some other regions will remain the same.

Remember you can use your miles to redeem Round-trip, One-way, Multi-City tickets, and use flexible payments combining LifeMiles + Money. General terms and conditions for ticket redemptions apply.

Review the table here

Bowali Visitor’s Centre, Kakadu

Bowali Visitor’s Centre is the main “go-to” for all things Kakadu.  They have well-informed staff here who know the park extremely well and can advise you on places that suit your interests.  They recommended some places to see birds including Crimson Finches at Mamukala Wetlands.

Videos, displays and a library are also available to assist you in planning your visit. Visitor Centre is open 8.00am to 5.00pm.  The Marrawuddi Gallery stocks Aboriginal arts and crafts, books and gifts.  Refreshments are available from the Anmak An-me Cafe.

 

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus)

The Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus) is a small and very colourful bird, with a stunning deep blue to azure back, a large white to buff spot on side of neck and throat, rufous-buff with some blue-violet streaks on breast and flanks.  The colour of these two birds is different but that could be the lighting, I took both photos in Kakadu on the Yellow Waters Cruise.

They have a huge range throughout much of Australia and the island of New Guinea.  I saw several in Kakadu and have also seen them on local Brisbane area birding walks.

LEARN MORE ABOUT AZURE KINGFISHERS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Birds in Backyards

ABC

VIDEOS

Now you can appreciate the amazing colours of this bird!

Looking for food in the billabong.

 

Visiting Nourlangie Rock Art Site, Kakadu

Nourlangie Rock Art site is about a 20 minute drive from either Cooinda or Jabiru but it gets so hot out there you should get here as early as possible in the morning.  Not only can you see some fascinating Aboriginal art, you also see some birds while walking around the marked 1.5 km trail.

We made our visit the morning after our stay at Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru and got to the turn off at dawn.  Lots of birds were about, especially kingfishers, kookaburras and corellas.  We drove down some side roads to small lakes looking for birds before entering the main Nourlangie area.

The road to Nourlangie is fine for normal cars but if you want to go to Gubara, you need a 4×4.

There are picnic tables outside the entrance to Nourlangie Rock and we had breakfast there before heading inside.  You must have your visitor’s pass with you, there are staff there checking.

The information provided is excellent!  Everywhere you look, there are explanations for the art and history of the area so you don’t need a tour or a guide.  Just follow the trail and read the signs!  In addition to the Yellow Waters Cruise, a visit to Nourlangie Rock is a “Must do” in Kakadu and truly has something to interest everyone-birders and non-birders!