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!

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.

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.


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!

Yellow Waters Sunrise Cruise, Cooinda, Kakadu

A Yellow Waters Sunrise Cruise is the perfect companion to the Sunset Cruise, especially if you book them together as I wrote about here.  It will be an early wake-up call so you can get the shuttle to the dock but the sunrise is spectacular!

The birds gradually fly in……………… Nankeen Night Heron

Water Lilies

Royal Spoonbill

Radjah Shelduck

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Little Kingfisher

Black-necked Stork

Comb-crested Jacana


Azure Kingfisher

Our guide, Adam knew the birds a lot better than I did and it was with his help that I was able to log them all on eBird.

Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise, Cooinda, Kakadu

The best way to see LOTS of birds (and a few crocs) with no effort at all is to book a Sunset Cruise with Yellow Waters at Cooinda.  It’s a short drive from the Kakadu Lodge Cooinda and they have a shuttle bus between the lodge and the boat dock.  Not only do you see more birds but you avoid the crowds at the mid-day cruise who are day-tripping from Darwin!

When you book, do it online and be sure to scroll all the way down to where you can add a Sunrise Cruise the next morning (incl bkft) for $36!

The boats are open but try to sit in the front if you are into photography.

Crocs before even leaving the dock.



“I will eat you!”

Plumed Whistling Duck

Black-necked Stork

Rainbow Bee-eater

White-bellied Sea Eagle


Little Corellas

Comb-crested Jacana

Nankeen Night Heron

Azure Kingfisher

Whistling Kite

Towards the end of the cruise, they parked the boats at a nice vantage spot to watch the sunset.

I actually saw more birds than I got photos of.  Here is my full eBird list.

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.


  • 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.


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