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!

Birding Edith Falls #1, Northern Territory

This is post #1 about Edith Falls in the Northern Territory because I was not to know it at the time but we missed the prime birding hotspots.  I didn’t realize this until I bought the “Top End Birdwatching” book at the Katherine Museum a few days later.  Anyway, we got an early start out of Pine Creek and drove about 50kms to the Edith Falls turn-off which is well marked, you can’t miss it.

We drove slowly along the Edith Falls Road and kept our ears and eyes open.  It proved to be a parrot paradise with all kinds of psittascine psightings!  First up was this Galah.

Then came a Red-collared Lorikeet.

And an acrobatic Red-winged Parrot.

Pied Butcherbird watches from above.

The Edith Falls Road enters Nitmiluk National Park.

We saw lots of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.

A young Red-winged Parrot foraging.

Willie Wagtails are also everywhere.

There is a campground and snack bar at the end of the road.  You can also park here and walk the various trails.

I decided this little bridge would be a good vantage point so set up the cameras to wait for birds.

I didn’t have to wait long for Red-collared Lorikeets.

White-gaped Honey-eater

Helmeted-Friarbird

Elegant Red-collared Lorikeets

Collared Sparrowhawk.

Information boards at the campground

Camp reception and snack bar

Men take notice!

Aboriginal art decorated bathrooms

Red-winged Parrot

Camping facilities, looks like a nice place to hang out!

Bar-shouldered Dove

Torresian Crow

Shy birds hiding!

Double-barred Finch

Leaden Flycatcher

Great Bowerbird

Peaceful DoveI hope I got all those birds right, if I didn’t please comment so I can correct it!

We hung around a couple hours, then headed off towards Katherine as we still had a long drive to Victoria River Crossing ahead!

Copperfield Dam Excursion From Pine Creek

A popular excursion for birders who are staying in Pine Creek is a drive out to Copperfield Dam a few kms south of the town.  We were up early as we wanted to be there by dawn but our GPS didn’t seem to know where it was exactly!  We found the turn off from the highway but from there it was very confusing.

Nice to see Hooded Parrots having pride of place on the town’s Welcome sign!

This appeared to be the access road a few kms from the main road but it ends in a shocking road that we couldn’t drive down.

We walked around a bit and at one point I heard some cockatiels flying overhead (I have them as pets and know the calls well) but nothing was perching.

After driving back and forth a few times hoping to see other birders, we finally took a chance and drove down this side road on the right just a few kms after the Copperfield Dam turn-off.  I was expecting to be chased off at some point but there wasn’t a soul around.

This was a turn-off to where you could see the lake and walk around a bit.

We decided to just hang out by the lake and see who flew by.

It was pretty quiet until finally a few Red-collared Lorikeets flew to a nearby tree.

A Silver-crowned Friarbird showed up.

I messed up the exposure here on this Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

There really wasn’t much action at this location so maybe we didn’t go to the right spot.  It did make a nice picnic spot by the lake!

A Drive Around Pine Creek

Pine Creek is a small town in Australia’s Northern Territory which is of primary interest to birders because it is so easy to find Hooded Parrots here.  But it is also a quaint little town which was founded in 1870 and has some interesting places to see.

Even if you are not staying at the Lazy Lizard, you may want to fill up your car or yourself!

Map of the historic sights found at the park just across the street from the Lazy Lizard.

Railway Precinct

Cockatoos are all over the town and make their presence known!

There’s also a large flying fox population.

Straw-necked Ibis near the park.

The Railway Resort looked like a nice place and you can use their wifi if you buy some coffee or something.

These Hooded Parrots were close to the Police Station, wonder what they did!

Birding The Grounds Of The Lazy Lizard

While we were very happy with the Lazy Lizard’s facilties, we were even happier at the easy birding to be had!

Let’s start with the the camp area.  Birds can be seen foraging in the grass for leftovers.

This nest was just outside our cabin but several species of birds were seen so I am not sure who the rightful owner was.

Sulphur-cested Cocaktoos were seen above while we were in the swimming pool.

And the best place was the water tap at the rear of the property.  Lots of birds came here, even perching expectantly while we refilled the water dish. 

And this is why people come to Pine Creek – it’s the best place to see  the gorgeous Hooded Parrot!  We were lucky to see adults and some juveniles that would have recently fledged!  They were a bit more cautious and would only come down if we stood back from the water dish but once they got their courage up, they were so much fun to watch!

 

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

Broad-billed FlycatcherDSCN5559

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!

Misadventures In El Yunque Rainforest

The El Yunque National Forest is one of Puerto Rico’s biggest drawcards for both birders and normal tourists alike.  At one time, it was the only place to find the Puerto Rican Amazon but they have now been expanded to Rio Abajo Forest as well.  It’s an easy 45 minute drive from the Intercontinental Hotel where we stayed the night and also to the airport.  This would be our last excursion before flying to Orlando.

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A few scenes on the way

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Beautiful Puerto Rican Parrot statue!DSCN4568

Wait, what’s that?DSCN4572

A beautiful parrot mural!  That sign is very ill-placed though.DSCN4573

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So now we have entered the park and trying to decide where to go first.  Another tourist we passed said there was a nice lookout just up the road so decided to take their advice.DSCN4575 DSCN4576 DSCN4577 DSCN4578 DSCN4580

Still heading towards the lookout, there were some shops I thought we would check out on the way back.DSCN4582 DSCN4583 DSCN4584

Now we are parked at the lookout and almost immediately I was hearing birdsong.DSCN4587

And found this cute little Puerto Rican Tody!DSCN4588

After the tody flew off, we wandered around looking for more birds.DSCN4589

Another tourist called my attention to the banged up hubcap and ding above it.DSCN4591 DSCN4592

This was NOT good!  I started freaking out, even though we had paid for the full CDW insurance.  I have no idea when and where that happened.DSCN4593 DSCN4594

I was worried there might be dramas so we decided to leave El Yunque early and head back to return the car.  I showed it to the returns officer and also showed my rental agreement with the CDW included.  Thankfully, he said it was OK and covered by he insurance!  So lesson learned – always make sure your rental car is insured!

Sadly this meant our trip to El Yunque was cut short…………..maybe a reason to go back someday?

Old San Juan For Tired & Lazy Birders

I’m going to preface this with the fact that we had the right to be tired and lazy since we got maybe 2 hours of sleep the night before due to late Liat and an early morning start to see Puerto Rican Amazon parrots.

IMG_8386So by the time we left Rio Abajo we were starving and stopped at the first shopping centre we found for the food court and also to try to find a prepaid SIM card that would work in the mainland USA as well.  This mall did the trick and we ended up hanging around until T-24 to do online check-in for Southwest and got A46 and A48 boarding positions.

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We were fading fast and decided just to drive around the old town and see as much of the fort and local area as possible from the car.  So fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride with us!  Don’t mind that I got lost until spotting a sign for old San Juan!DSCN4428 DSCN4430 DSCN4431

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The old town has some lovely old Spanish style buildings.DSCN4439 DSCN4441 DSCN4443 DSCN4444 DSCN4445 DSCN4446

The traffic was pretty bad and everyone was jockeying for parking so we had to circle around Castillo San Felipe del Morro a few times with angry motorists honking behind us.  I was trying to shoot photos out the window as much as possible.DSCN4448 DSCN4449 DSCN4450 DSCN4451 DSCN4452 DSCN4453 DSCN4455 DSCN4457 DSCN4458 DSCN4460 DSCN4462

I got closer on the second try.DSCN4470

Where did these people park?DSCN4464 DSCN4465 DSCN4466 DSCN4467

One last try.DSCN4468 DSCN4469

Cute trolley.DSCN4471 DSCN4472 DSCN4473 DSCN4474 DSCN4475

 

OK I give up, let’s just drive around the shopping area.  It was pretty crowded, might have been a cruise ship in town.  Maybe that’s how those people got there, shuttles from the ships.DSCN4479 DSCN4481 DSCN4482

The shopping area was pretty cool – cobblestone streets, interesting artwork and colourful buildings.DSCN4483 DSCN4487 DSCN4488 DSCN4489 DSCN4490 DSCN4491 DSCN4492 DSCN4493 DSCN4494 DSCN4498 DSCN4499

I do love a pina colada!DSCN4500 DSCN4503 DSCN4504 DSCN4505Wait, parrots have their own club?  We would have stopped in if we could find parking. DSCN4506 DSCN4507 DSCN4508 DSCN4509 DSCN4510 DSCN4511 DSCN4512

So that’s it, by this time we realized we were not going to find parking and were exhausted so time to go to the Intercontinental and relax!

 

Birding The Lesser Antilles

Before I move on to the final chapter of the Caribbean birding adventure, let’s have a look at the Lesser Antilles from the perspective of an organized birding tour that went to 9 islands.  Rigdon Currie has a wonderful channel on Youtube for birders and I always enjoy seeing how other people experience the same birding locations.  You get a better perspective of the parrot outlooks and how difficult it is to spot the parrots as they zoom past.

Last but not least, Puerto Rico coming up next!

Birding With Dr Birdy – Syndicate Forest, Dominica

Actually his real name is Bertrand Jno Baptiste but Dr Birdy has the prescription for finding Dominica’s two endemic parrots and many other birds such as the Antillean Hummingbird.  I contacted him by email and arranged a morning of birding using his car with a pick up at the Tamarind Tree Hotel.  The hotel staff know him quite well as the proximity of the property to the (pink route) Syndicate (Morne Diablotin National Park) attracts many birders.

Dominica map

Since we arrived after dark, I was excited to see how beautiful the island is!

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As we drove to the Syndicate, we saw some seabirds flying by and a few fishermen.img_8058 img_8061 img_8063 img_8065 dscn4390 dscn4389

I can’t quite make this one out.img_8070 img_8073

Antillean Crested Hummingbirdimg_8076 img_8083 img_8088 img_8090

Blue-headed Hummingbird

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We keep driving uphill.dscn4323 dscn4324 dscn4325

A smaller trail leads to the parrot lookout.dscn4326

Don’t worry, you don’t have to hike to the summit.  This is a relatively easy walk through the forest.dscn4328 dscn4329

Dr Birdy leads the way.  Notice that scope?  This was essential to see the Sisserou especially.dscn4330 dscn4331 dscn4336

We were the only ones there.  We set up the scope and got the cameras ready, then it was a waiting game.  dscn4338

Dominica’s most wanted!dscn4339 dscn4340

Rufous-throated Solitaire dscn4348 dscn4357 img_8112

Mostly Red-necked Parrots flying back and forth through the gorge.  Trying to get a photo at a distance was quite a challenge!  If you look very closely, you can see the tiny specks in these photos.  I did my best to enlarge them below.img_8122 img_8125 img_8133 img_8147 img_8173 img_8186 img_8190 img_8199 img_8202 img_8216 img_8239 img_8250 img_8307 img_8329 img_8303

Red-necked Parrot (Jaco)img_8303a img_8306 img_8306a img_8309a img_8311a img_8314a img_8315a img_8317a

This is an Imperial Parrot (Sisserou) flying through but I messed up the only “flight shot” I had.img_8334a

No better luck when trying to digiscope the Sisserou.  I was able to see him perched but couldn’t manipulate my iPhone to find him.

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I barely got the back of his head behind leaves, I had to aim wide angle at the general area so zooming in didn’t produce much.

img_8340a It was getting close to noon and we had a 5pm flight and uncertain bus transport ahead so we had to be satisfied that at least we saw the birds!  We head back towards Portsmouth and Dr Birdy dropped us at a bus stop where we finally did get a bus passing the airport.   dscn4392

It was a great morning and we saw the birds we wanted (even if I couldn’t get a decent shot) and we never would have found the perched parrots without Dr Birdy.  He’s a cool guy and one of the top birding guides in the Caribbean so definitely book him if you want the best chances to see the SIsserou!  He can be reached by email.