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.

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


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.

Torresian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa)

The Torresian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa), also known as the Nutmeg Pigeon, White Nutmeg Pigeon, Australian Pied Imperial Pigeon or Torres Strait Pigeon, is a relatively large, pied species of pigeon.

I spotted a pair hanging around the Gagadju Lodge in Cooinda.

The have a fairly large range in northern Australia and the island of New Guinea.




Birds in Backyards


Stretching and looking pretty!


Lodge Review: Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru

Not to be confused with the similarly named property at Cooinda, Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru is managed by Aurora Resorts and is located in Kakadu National Park’s main town, Jabiru.

Welcoming comittee!

The lodge is the best budget option in what is usually an expensive tourist destination and caters for campers and people who want a room or bungalow.  We went for the cheapest budget room.

Budget means no ensuite, you use the shared bathrooms and a camp kitchen.

You still get a fridge and tea service in the room. 

It is pretty small but in a place like Kakadu, we weren’t planning to spend much time in the room.

They have an attractive shaded swimming pool with a non-heated jacuzzi.  Cockatoos will watch the swimmers below and towards evening you also get flying foxes.

In the town of Jabiru there are a few shops but I recommend stocking up before entering the park for better selection and prices.

The famous crocodile shaped hotel which is now an Accor property is also in Jabiru but was twice the price of Kakadu Lodge.

Maybe not everyone would be ok without an ensuite but since we come from a backpacker background,m we were fine with it for the savings.  The grounds are nice and plenty of birds to keep you entertained while you have a refreshing swim!  Book on their website or try Pointshound or Rocketmiles to gain some airline miles!

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.

Lodge Review: Gagudju Lodge, Cooinda

Staying at the Gagudjdu Lodge Cooinda in September wasn’t cheap!  For some reason, this month was higher than August or October and I did plan the trip outside of school holidays.  I was able to bring the cost down somewhat by using Le Club Accor certificates.  40 Euros was equal to about $60 each and between my husband and I we had a few of them.  If you are birding in Kakadu, you really do need to stay at least one night here because this is where the Yellow Water Cruises depart from and they are a MUST!

This was our room in a building that had 4 rooms (I think), 2 on each side.

Very neat and tidy room.  Since it was my birthday, they gave me a bottle of white wine!

Nice assortment of toiletries!

One thing is that they don’t have that many tables in the restaurant.  We ended up on a couch with a coffee table in front of us.

I had a lamb shank which was really good.  They  didn’t have birthday cakes so I ordered this pineapple flavoured dessert.

The next morning, a breakfast buffet was included as part of the Yellow Waters package I bought.  It had a good selection, but again we had to take the same couch as the tables were all full.

We weren’t in a hurry to leave so had a quick swim after breakfast.

A few birds were hanging around the pool, including a Blue-faced Honey-eater, a Great Bowerbird and a pair of Torresian Imperial Pigeons.

There is a small gift & food shop and info centre near reception.

I really liked this lodge for the location and the nice rooms.  The people were very nice and helpful.  There is no wifi but you are way out in the bush!  I was sorry we could only afford one night here, 2 would have been better.

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!


Long-tailed Finch (Poephila acuticauda)

The Long-tailed Finch (Poephila acuticauda) is a common species of estrildid finch found in Australia; also known as the Blackheart Finch, Shaft-tail Finch, Heck’s Grassfinch, Heck’s Grass Finch, and Heck’s Finch.

They have a large range across northern Australia.  I saw them very well at the finch spot on Edith Falls Road in the Northern Territory.




Australian Finches


Foraging in the grass.


Drinking water

Small flock in Mataranka