Planning A Birding Trip To Kakadu

Kakadu National Park is one of Australia’s top attractions so unlike the other places I have been so far on this Northern Territory birding trip, I ran into LOTS of other tourists!  Most of them are there for crocodiles but a few are also interested in birds.  I also found accommodation here to be proportionately more expensive than the other places in the Territory as well.

TOP TIPS FOR BIRDERS IN KAKADU

  • Come in the cooler dry season – April to October.
  • Be aware that many of the roads are accessible only by 4×4 such as Jim Jim, Gubara an Gunlom.
  • Buy your Kakadu Pass in advance online.
  • Visitors Centres have restrooms, maps, information, shops and food available.
  • Download the Kakadu Birds app if you have an iPhone or Android.  I found it extremely useful.  It even has bird calls!

With only a 2WD car, we were still able to do this itinerary that took in most of the park.  We entered from the Pine Creek side and stayed the first night at Cooinda.  Then we stopped for a visit to Nourlangie Rock before going to our 2nd night’s accommodation at Jabiru.  The 3rd day, we made a couple other birding stops before leaving the park and staying at Mary River.

All of this will be covered in detail in future posts!

 

Return To Edith Falls Road

We first visited Edith Falls a few days before but didn’t really know where the best birding spots were.  Now that I had the “Top End Birdwatching” book, it was easy to find the place where Gouldian Finches are best seen.  It’s not down near the caravan park where we were before.  It’s a few kms off the main road.

A small flock of young Gouldian Finches, a couple of them were starting to get the adult colouring.
Long-tailed Finches were also plentiful here.

And Double-barred Finches.

Should I bathe here?

Mike Reed, the author of “Top End Birdwatching” was there, we were lucky to meet him here!

Visit National Parks In The USA Free On These Dates – 2017

National Parks are a great resource and can be found in most countries around the world.  If you are lucky enough to live near one, you can get to know your local birds and practice your photography skills before embarking on a longer trip.

LEARN ABOUT USA NATIONAL PARKS

Visit for free on these days in 2017:
January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February 20: Presidents’ Day
April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
August 25: National Park Service Birthday
September 30: National Public Lands Day
November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

The Katherine Hot Springs

Katherine’s Hot Springs are a “Must See”, mostly for their natural beauty.  They are definitely not hot, they seemed more like a swimming pool temperature.  They attract both tourists and locals and best of all are totally free to visit!

Just follow the signs!

Turn right at the cockatoo (just kidding).

We didn’t walk the trails (too hot) but they are there.

Keep an eye on the trees near the car park, it was a good place for birds-especially cockatoos, lorikeets and a lifer for us – the beautiful Northern Rosella!

There’s a crocodile warning, not sure why as there were lots of people swimming there.  Head down the long stairway.

There’s some seats and a smaller set of stairs down to the hot springs.  They are slipery so be careful.

After swimming, I was thrilled to spot this little guy.  He was flying from tree to tree and thankfully landed so I could get a good look. 

He was just there to have dinner.

Birding Donkey Camp Weir, Katherine, Northern Territory

I never would have known about this place had it not been for the book “Top End Birdwatching” by Mike Reed.  The curiously named “Donkey Camp Weir” is not an obvious stop when driving between Katherine town and Nitmiluk NP so I was glad to have the map and recommendation that Northern Rosellas could be seen here.

It’s 9.8 kms from town and this is the sign you will see if headed towards Nitmiluk.  There are no signs in the opposite direction and we went past it before turning back and looking real hard.

Drive down this dirt road past a farm to the end of the road and park.

Then walk through this gate and follow the trail down to the river.  Don’t go to close to the water as there could be crocodiles.

It was dry and hot and we were there at a bad time, around 11am so not expecting to see anything but gave it a try anyways.

Suddenly I heard parrot squawks above.  Much to my delight and surprise, there was a small flock of Varied Lorikeets up in the trees.

They hung around a good half hour so we got to spend some quality time watching them.  Finally they flew off and we walked back to the car park.

I just had to take this shot as I couldn’t get over seeing any parrot species at this time of day…………..and so well!

Birding Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge is only a half hour drive from town so it’s realistic to stay in town and get up early to drive to the Gorge.  Katherine Gorge is actually part of Nitmiluk National Park and a highlight of the Northern Territory.

We started at the visitor centre and brought our picnic breakfast with us.

First to greet us was a Red-collared Lorikeet.

The visitor’s centre is a great place to hang out.  They have a gift shop, snacks and a small museum.

You can relax and watch an orientation film about the park.

The cafe has a spectacular viewpoint over the gorge and is a great place to look for birds.

Curious Cockatoo

Wallabies

Bowerbird

Blue-faced Honey-eater

Heading back to the car park, we wandered around and found this lovely Blue-winged Kookaburra.

Meanwhile these wallabies were either dancing or fighting, hard to tell which!

Map of hiking trails

This is where you get boat trips through the gorge.  We didn’t do this as our budget was pretty stretched and we already had a boat ride booked at Yellow Waters.

Gotta love traditional rest rooms!

We got here around 7am and stayed until 10:30-ish when it started getting hot.  The ideal would be to spend more time and do a boat ride, but that’s just one more reason to come back!

Katherine – The Town & The Museum

Firstly I need to say that Katherine gets HOT even in September which is supposed to be spring!  Driving around town revealed some nice informational signs.  Katherine’s location, about 320 kms south of Darwin and in the centre of some great birding hotspots make it an ideal place to stop over, refuel both your car and yourself and pick up some groceries as it has a couple small shopping centres.  If you are traveling around the Northern Territory, you are likely to pass through at least a couple times.

We saw some birds just driving around, starting with these Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.

The area near the tourist information centre is supposed to be good for finches but I think we got there at the wrong time.

White-gaped Honey-eater

Willie Wagtail

The best thing to do during the heat of the day is visit the excellent Katherine Museum

I would have bought one of these except I didn’t want to pay for checked luggage on the way home.  What I did buy was the excellent “Top End Birdwatching” by Mike Reed, I just wish I had found it sooner!  The gift shop also has Aboriginal art, didgeridoos, historical books, tea towels and more!

They have a film about the great flood in Katherine, best seen after you’ve driven around town a bit to see the comparison between normal and flooded.

The exhibits include information about the settlers, Aboriginals, railway, mining and more!

I love this wedding dress and couldn’t believe how tiny it is!

Wallabies on the front lawn.

The next building has displays on the Overland Telegraph Line.

Another building has a very old airplane and some exhibits on the Flying Doctors.

The museum will keep you entertained for a couple hours and closes at 4pm…..which is a good time to catch the Bowerbird on the front lawn! 

Birding Humbles Creek/Buntine Highway, Northern Territory

We didn’t get there at the optimal time as we spent the early morning birding around the Victoria River Roadhouse, but it was still worth a try.  Humbles Creek is about 15 km from the main road going south on the Buntine Highway.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos showed well.

Road can sometimes be flooded in the wet season.

It was getting hot and these Galahs were taking a break.

A Crested Pigeon was hiding.

Apostlebirds watching us watch them.

Bad photo, can’t make this one out.

We left around 11am and drove back to Katherine after spending the night at Victoria River.  I was hoping for finches and mannikins but we should have gotten there earlier.  This would be on my list of places to go back to the next time we are in the Territory.

Birding Victoria River Crossing – Bridge Area

The bridge area I am referring to is the old bridge on the Katherine side of the Victoria River Roadhouse.  It’s the dirt road that is blocked on the end and you can see the new bridge above.  You cross this new bridge when driving from Katherine to Victoria River.

You have an excellent vantage point from here well above any crocodile infested area so just keep scanning the banks of the river and the bushes for birds.

White-faced Heron

This was the best I could do for the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren.  There was a male and  some females I could see with binoculars but they were too far and too small to get the focus on them.

We also walked around the back of the campground but couldn’t find any more Fairy-wrens, I was hoping for a closer view.

Birding Victoria River Crossing – River Area

There are several places to look for the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren and other birds.  Excellent maps are provided in Mike Reed’s “Top End Birdwatching” book (which unfortunately I hadn’t bought yet).  One is the boat ramp/river area below the escarpment.  It’s just a few kms beyond the Victoria River Roadhouse, turn left and keep going until you see the car park.

***DO NOT GO TOO CLOSE TO THE RIVER AS CROCODILES ARE PRESENT***

There were a couple Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens hopping around across the river but I couldn’t zoom in on them.  They are tiny and fast!  Binoculars work better for this bird.

Corellas stood out much better.

The scenery is gorgeous!  A few fishing boats passed while we were there.

Wallabies are everywhere!

Amazing scenery!

Rainbow Bee-eaters posing nicely!