Rose-crowned Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus regina)

The Rose-crowned Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus regina) is also known as Pink-capped Fruit Dove or Swainson’s Fruit Dove.  Their delicate beauty and bright pink caps make them a real treat to see!

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They have quite a large range in northern and eastern Australia and also Indonesia.  I spotted this beauty at Howard Springs Nature Park in the Northern Territory.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT ROSE-CROWNED FRUIT DOVES

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Backyard Birds

Australian Geographic

VIDEOS

When you know you’re gorgeous!

 

Bonded pair

 

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) also known as Banksian- or Banks’ Black Cockatoo, is a large black cockatoo native to Australia.

Five subspecies are recognised.

C. b. banksii is found in Queensland and, rarely, in far northern New South Wales
C. b. graptogyne, (Endangered) known as the south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoo, is found in southwestern Victoria and southeastern South Australia in an area bordered by Mount Gambier to the west, Portland to the south, Horsham to the northeast and Bordertown to the north
C. b. macrorhynchus, given the name great-billed cockatoo by Mathews; is found across northern Australia.

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C. b. naso (Near Threatened) is known as the forest red-tailed black cockatoo and is found in the southwest corner of Western Australia between Perth and Albany.

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C. b. samueli exists in four scattered populations: in central coastal Western Australia from the Pilbara south to the northern Wheatbelt in the vicinity of Northam, and inland river courses in Central Australia, southwestern Queensland and the upper Darling River system in Western New South Wales. Birds of this subspecies are generally smaller with smaller bills than the nominate banksii.

Good places to spot this gregarious and cheeky cockatoo are:  Along the coast of Western Australia, the Northern Territory south of Darwin, most parks in South-east Queensland.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOOS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Recovery Project

VIDEOS

Beautiful close-ups of cockatoos foraging and pair bonding.

 

Filmed at Paradise Park, this slo-mo clip shows the bird in flight.

Flock roosting near Cairns

 

 

Easy Birding In Howard Springs Nature Park, Northern Territory

Howard Springs Nature Park is the perfect way to begin your birding adventure in Australia’s Northern Territory.  It’s only half an hour from Darwin and easy to find.  Best of all, the birding is easy and amazing!

DSCN5526We opened the windows and drove slowly down the access road.  In less than 5 minutes, I saw a flash of colour on the left.  I drove closer as quietly as possible and found a beautiful Rainbow Pitta foraging in the bush!  This was going to be good  – one of my target species right off the bat!  I walked slowly and quietly closer until the bird disappeared into the bush. DSCN5541 DSCN5543 DSCN5532 DSCN5537 DSCN5542

Moving on, a Rainbow Bee-eater was doing his job!DSCN5549

A pair of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were frolicking in the trees.DSCN5553 DSCN5557

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Closer to the picnic area was this lovely Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, another of my targeted species!DSCN5562 DSCN5567 DSCN5568

We drove down to the end of the road, didn’t find anything so turned around.DSCN5571

An Australasian Figbird was watching us.DSCN5577

Peaceful Doves peacefully foraging near the picnic ground.DSCN5580

Pied Cormorant stretching his wings.DSCN5582

The visitors info place was closed but they had some good information posted.DSCN5587 DSCN5590 DSCN5591

Orange-footed Scrubfowl right near the sign!DSCN5588 DSCN5589

Bar-shouldered Dove watching from above.DSCN5598

Up to now we had been braving the mosquitoes.  We only had a small bottle in our carry-on because we planned to buy more when we got here.  By the time we reached the pond and the hiking trails we were being eaten alive and forced to turn back.DSCN5593 DSCN5594

I wasn’t worried as I knew we would be passing by here after the road trip around the Top End so decided to save our skin.  We had already seen many of the target birds anyway so a very auspicious start to this adventure!

Rainbow Pitta (Pitta iris)

The Rainbow Pitta (Pitta iris) is a colourful bird with a velvet black head with brown stripes above the eye, dark green upper parts, pale blue shoulders, black underparts and an olive green tail. It feeds on insects, crustaceans and other small animals and builds an untidy, spherical nest. It is a shy forest bird and a real treat to see!

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They are endemic to Australia’s Northern Territory and are easily seen at Howard Springs and sometimes near Fogg Dam.  I spotted the one above barely 3 minutes after entering the park!

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LEARN MORE ABOUT RAINBOW PITTAS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Experience the Wild

VIDEOS

This is the call to listen for.  They tend to be spread out but close enough to contact each other.

A birding group spots one.

This is pretty cool, I didn’t know you could attract them by tapping on the ground!

 

 

Hotel Review: Hi Way Inn Motel, Darwin

Our needs were simple for this overnight stop.  We would be checking in around 2am and getting up at 6am to head out to Howard Springs.  We just needed a cheap place to lay down for a few hours.  The Hi Way Inn Motel is an easy drive from the airport and I had already programmed it into my personal GPS so we had no trouble finding it.  They are well used to late night arrivals and I had called that morning to remind them we were on that late Jetstar flight.  All went smoothly and we were quickly checked in, the even gave us a couple bottles of mineral water as nothing had been open for us to buy anything when we arrived.

Exterior photo taken in the morning after check-out.  It was dark when we arrived.

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Lobby area.  You can grab some tourist info here and some free maps.DSCN5524

Simple room but clean, wifi worked well.DSCN5519 DSCN5520

It had one queen bed and one single, fairly small but like I said we weren’t here for long.DSCN5521 DSCN5522

They do have a pool if you find yourself here for a longer stay.  DSCN5525

The location is perfect to hit the highway heading south.  Most rental car companies don’t allow you to drive between dusk and dawn in the Territory so you will need a place like this for the first night if you arrive at night.  You can easily book this hotel at any of the usual OTAs such as Hotels.com which is what I did as I needed one more stay to make 10 stays for a future free night.  Both the night clerk and the morning clerk – a French working holiday visitor were very friendly and helpful.

The Jetstar Experience

I’ve mentioned that Jetstar has some amazing sales throughout the year so it’s always worth looking at these before redeeming miles on Qantas or Virgin.

I took these screenshots a couple days ago and they are pretty much what I had bought the year before at around this time for travel in September.

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Typical of the low-cost carriers, they will try to upsell you to various bundles.  I knew that we would have already had dinner by this time and just want to sleep on this flight, plus I also knew we would have carry-on backpacks only.  So I just kept the original fare with no added extras.Jetstar2

Jetstar will still try to upsell you features one by one.  This time I went for the pre-booked seat, as far forward as possible but still in the $7 zone.

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Jetstar flies an Airbus A320 on this sector all economy in a 3 x 3 configuration.  Nothing to get excited about but it’s always nice to get on and off as quickly as possible.

I did the online check-in and we took our carry-on backpacks to the gate.  Much to my surprise (this being my first flight on Jetstar), the ground crew were weighing the carry-ons!  Even the small ones like ours which were well under the maximum measurements but we did have the camera gear and the Pizzey-Knight field guide.  They have scales at the kiosks where you can check in if you haven’t done so online and they were strictly enforcing the 7kg weight limit.  Thankfully they weren’t familiar with Scottevests and Ina and I quickly shoved some books and a camera in our pockets, then presented the backpacks for weighing.  They passed and were tagged as carry-ons.

The weight thing is probably the most frustrating thing to birders as it’s fairly easy to pack light but the camera gear, especially those 400mm lenses can weigh 2kg all by themselves!  I didn’t bring the Canon gear for this trip but even the Nikon P900 was still heavy compared to a normal tourist camera.

The other shocker is that sometimes they don’t even give you water on the plane!  This time they did in small plastic cups which was enough to survive the flight.  One way around this would be to bring a small empty water bottle and refill it after security.  We were prepared for the return trip and did this.

Anyway, Jetstar has its place as a cheap way to get from A to B with no frills.  Be prepared and keep your eye on the prize – the birds that await at the end of the journey!

Planning A Birding Adventure To Australia’s Northern Territory (Top End)

Now that you know how to use miles to get to Australia and use Darwin as a gateway city, what you really want to know is how to get out in the bush where the birds are!  Fortunately, Australia is an amazingly easy country to travel around in.  It’s safe, everyone speaks English and the tourism infrastructure is excellent!  All you need is a well-researched plan and a car to get there.

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MAKE YOUR PLAN

1. Determine what species of birds you want to see. Bear in mind that no matter what species you are targeting, you will find many other species in the same location. In my case, although I was really keen to see wild Parrots, I was very happy to see that other species such as Rainbow Pittas, Gouldian Finches and Bowerbirds were also within reach.

2. Use guide books such as “Parrots of the World” by Joseph Forshaw and “The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia” by Graham Pizzey & Frank Knight to determine where these species can most easily be found. These books have maps to help you formulate an itinerary. Although I prefer Kindle/eBooks for casual reading, with a field guide you really need the hard copy to be able to compare the birds you see to the images in the book. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the species. As long as you get a decent photo, you can always look them up! You can buy these books on Amazon.com if you don’t have them already.

3. Use other internet resources to find out where the birds have been seen most recently. These may be Facebook or Twitter contacts, blogs like Miles to the Wild or trip reports on Surfbirds. Google the scientific name of the bird + “report”. For example if you Google “Lophochroa leadbeateri sightings” you get this. If you have destinations in mind from researching the field guides, you can get better results by Googling “Lophochroa leadbeateri Bowra” such as this.

4. Use eBird searches on the species to see where other people have reported them.  I now have a full tutorial on how to use eBird to plan a trip.   Spend more time if the destination has more of the species you are targeting.

This step can be very time consuming as you need to research each species you want to see individually but it is well worth it as you will save lots of time once you are traveling and you can travel independently which saves you lots of money and gives you more choices as to when, where & how you want your birding adventure to happen!

5.  Visit some local birding websites.  The Northern Territory ones are especially helpful and I can recommend:

Experience the Wild

NT Bird Specialists

Book:  Top End Birdwatching written by Mike Reed.  I found it for sale at the Katherine Museum or contact NT Bird Specialists.  Wonderful book and helped me find lots of birds and identify them from the photos.  Plus it doesn’t weigh much!

Laurie Ross

Once I did all the research, this is the itinerary I put together which gave a fair shot at all my target birds.  I will go into depth on each hotspot in turn throughout this series.

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LOGISTICS

You will definitely need a car, as this is a huge chunk of territory to cover and public transport is very sparse.  One thing to note about the Northern Territory is that cars don’t have unlimited kilometers like in most other Aussie cities and the per kilometer cost will probably double your rental car budget.  For this trip, since I happen to be a member of RACQ (the local auto club) I got 15% discount on Thrifty Car Hire-including the rental, the kilometers and insurance.  My own GPS covers all of Australia so I brought it along.  The itinerary above is all on tarred roads so a 2WD car is fine but if you want to include places like the Marrikai Track you will need a 4WD.  Always get quotes from several car companies and use whatever discounts you qualify for!  Refueling is cheaper in Darwin and Katherine so always top up before heading into the Outback.

A good plan is to bird early in the morning, use the afternoon to either siesta by the pool or drive to the next destination, then more birding in the afternoon.  The Territory is HOT, even in September which is when we did our trip!

Accommodation ranges from typical Aussie caravan parks (that also have self-catering cabins) to Outback style B&B’s.  You only chance to use hotel points will be in Darwin and Katherine but in this case I recommend choosing a property based on location and convenience within your price range.  We were low-budget and our accommodation averaged around $100 AUD per night.  Plan on picnic breakfasts and lunches while birding or driving between locations, then either BBQ or hit up a pub for dinner.

Stock up on groceries before leaving Darwin or Katherine for a better selection and cheaper prices.  We have a cooler that we keep the meat in and the drinks for the day.  Most accommodations will have a fridge and microwave, even a small kitchenette.  Having said that, by the time the trip was finished, we couldn’t look at another sandwich for weeks!

Bring lots of sunscreen and mosquito repellent, especially for Howard Springs!  If you are using carry-on only, you can easily buy it in Darwin at any supermarket.

Getting To Darwin, Northern Territory With Airline Miles

Darwin is the gateway to the vast Northern Territory of Australia and you’d be surprised how big it really is!  If you are already in Australia (see miles guide here), it’s pretty easy to pick up domestic flights to Darwin (DRW) from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS

STAR ALLIANCE

There are no Star Alliance carriers operating to Darwin, however if you have Singapore Krisflyer miles you can use Silk Air from Singapore.

ONEWORLD

Obviously in Australia Qantas is the main player and you can redeem your miles from any OneWorld partner.  Although Qantas has no direct international flights from Darwin, you can easily add on a Sydney-Darwin (for example) segment to any international award to Australia.

Malaysian Airlines flies direct from Kuala Lumpur and is a great choice for people arriving from Europe.

SKY TEAM

There are no Sky Team carriers operating to Darwin although people with Delta miles can redeem them on Virgin Australia.

NON-ALLIANCE AIRLINES & LOW COST CARRIERS

Virgin Australia is the big one and as mentioned above people with Delta miles can redeem with them.  Virgin is also partnered with Singapore Airlines, Etihad and others.

Jetstar is a partner of Qantas but not a member of OneWorld but they have frequent sales so you are better off keeping an eye on their sale page and just paying for the flights.  This is what I did, I got BNE-DRW-BNE for $210 each!

Air Asia flies direct from Denpasar.

Air North has some interesting destinations like Dili, Timor-Leste and some remote Aussie towns.

 

 

Scottevest’s 16th Anniversary Sale – Save 40% Through 6 Feb

Scottevest has some huge bargains on some of their most popular products.  You can save 40% through 6 Feb by using coupon code SEV16.

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For tropical birding, I recommend the Featherweight vest (Shown below) or the Hunting vest which comes in a nice olive shade.scottevest sale feb2

They have some nice women’s styles for city traveling on sale this time as well.  See my more detailed review on Scottevest.  With more and more airlines restricting carry on bags, I find them invaluable to get those heavy birding field guides, laptop, camera lens past the boarding gates.

It’s also a good idea to keep your valuables like your passport, credit cards, SD cards, cash in the inner pocket and keep it on during the flight.  If there is an emergency evacuation, you will be wearing your valuables and can disembark safely without losing anything essential!

Powerseed Charges Devices Even In The Bush

One of the biggest challenges for ecotourists is keeping your devices such as smart phones, tablets and cameras charged when you are off in the bush and the electricity supply isn’t reliable.  Enter the Powerseed!

This is the one I have and I love it!  It works with my iPhone and Nikon Coolpix P900 (but not the MS Surface Pro I was traveling with until it broke down.

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● Extra Large capacity battery, 4800mAh, this unit provides the extra power to charge multiple units on a single charge

● After 500 charge cycles(drained and recharged): the power is still up to 85%

● Output: DC 5V/1A

● Size: 96 x 42 x 23.5 mm (3.8 x 1.65 x 0.92 inches) compact easy to store or carry

● Supports a variety of universal mobile phone charging interface quick and easy. Comes with the following adapters:

● Mini USB tip

● Micro USB tip

● Tip for Apple iPhone4/S, iPad

● Tip for Samsung Galaxy Tab series & Galaxy Note series

● Tip for Nokia cell phone series

● Tip for Sony Ericsson cell phone series

● Tips for other devices like PSP and GPS

● You can charge this unit from your computer with included cable or use an optional wall plug charger

 

The first trip I actually used it on was the Northern Territory which I am about to start blogging about but I got it when I visited a friend in the USA after the South America & Caribbean trip.

WHERE TO BUY ONE

USA – Orlando

Samm Bucceri
407-496-8297

The biggest problem I was having is that the Nikon eats batteries like no one’s business.  It’s no good to find an awesome bird when you are out in the bush and your camera is dead!  The Powerseed gives a full charge to my camera which I thought was pretty amazing!