A 2nd Visit To Howard Springs

It was just a short drive from Fogg Dam to Howard Springs, less than an hour (trying to remember).  On our first visit, the birds were out in force but hungry mosquitoes chased us off prematurely.  This time we had liberally doused ourselves in Deet and were ready for action!

More than just a dorky hairdo!

This time we were able to do the walking trail undisturbed by mozzies.  It’s a nice flat trail, anyone can do it and we were even wearing thongs/flip-flops!

Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Watch for Rainbow Pittas! 

Streams attract kingfishers

Suddenly a flash of green!  Could it be?

Yes!  A beautiful Rainbow Pitta!

He was towards the end of the trail as we emerged back to the picnic area.  What a great way to end an awesome day of birding!  Rainbow Pittas were actually the first bird we saw on this trip and almost the last.  We still had one last stop…………….Darwin’s coast.

Mid-day Birding Fogg Dam, Northern Territory

Hardly the optimal time to visit a Territory birding hotspot such as Fogg Dam which is easily accessible from Darwin but you can’t be everywhere at the crack of dawn!

Excellent access road, good for 2WD cars.

Crimson Finches seen while driving across the top of the dam.

There’s an excellent bird hide with information about what you may see while sitting there.

Lonely cockatoo

Mom & Baby Pelicans

Little Kingfisher watching for food

If we had been here earlier we would have done this walk.  But I am sure we will be back some day!

Picnic area where we had our final sandwiches.  After a week of self-catering, we never wanted to see another sandwich as long as we lived!

Restrooms in the picnic area

I have no doubt that this would have been a better post if we could have spent a morning here!

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton)

The Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) is commonly found in moist savannah, and subtropical/tropical (lowland) moist shrubland.  They range in colour, some are more crimson-y than others as you will see in the links below.  These are less crimson-y.

A male?

A female?

They range from far Western Australia-Kimberley across to northern parts of Northern Territory and Gulf Country and on to the east coast of Far North Queensland.  I got a glimpse of them on the Yellow Waters Cruise in Kakadu, saw some in the bush near Windows on the Wetlands and a closer look at Fogg Dam.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CRIMSON FINCHES

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Birds in Backyards

The Guardian

10,000 Birds

VIDEOS

Look how bright these guys are!  My photos are duller but maybe it’s just my lack of skills.

The ones I saw were more like this.

 

 

Quick Stop Birding – Adelaide River Bridge, Northern Territory

Pretty much everyone who is going to Kakadu from Darwin stops at the Adelaide River Bridge but that is because they have those tourist boat rides to see jumping crocodiles (baited).  But even if you aren’t into such things, it’s worth a stop here to see what birds are around.  This is what we saw in about 20 minutes mid-morning.

More Corellas than Crocs!

Specialty of this area is Mangrove Golden Whistler. 

Restrooms and a shop are in the main building.

Typical tourist boat.

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.