Thinking About Birds

I only update the gallery photos occasionally. Sorry about that, too busy. See my Sri Lanka gallery though and also  the latest additions to my UK and Denmark galleries.

June 2024

14 June

I did my monthly surveys of the Warrah Trig section of Brisbane Water National Park. The honeyeater activity level was high and there were eight different species of them. Also, at the first site there were two Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens lurking. At the second site there were two Red Wattlebirds and two Little Wattlebirds. The latter seemed to be keeping an eye on the former. It was interesting to see the two species side by side - that doesn’t happen often for me. After I’d finished there I went to Patonga - where the highlights were a Whistling Kite and an Australian Brush-turkey.

13 June

I walked to Woy Woy alongside Brisbane Water. There was a Striated Heron on a jetty when I arrived and I later saw two Australian Pied Oystercatchers on another jetty (plus there were two on the sandbank). Birds were pretty much as per usual except, remarkably, there weren’t any Black Swans. Normally there are 100-150 of them.

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Kimberleys: May-June 2024

I travelled to Kununurra from where I joined a 12-night birding tour with NT Bird Specialists. We went to various locations in the northern and central parts of the Kimberleys - places such as Lake Argyle, Mitchell Plateau and Wyndham. Then I flew to Broome where I met up with Margaret and we did a 16-night nature tour with Kimberley Wild. We went to various locations in the southern and central parts of the Kimberleys - places such as Mitchell Falls, Halls Creek and Purnululu NP (the Bungle Bungles). I recorded 180 species overall, and I added four species to my Australian list - Black Grasswren, Kimberley Honeyeater, Northern Shrike-tit and Sandstone Shrike-thrush.

12 May

I flew into Darwin arriving mid-afternoon. Later in the afternoon I walked to the Botanic Gardens. It was rather hot and birds weren't all that active, and so I gave up after about an hour. However, I found a large group of Australasian Figbirds (one of the northern races) and also there were many Brown Honeyeaters and some Rufous-banded Honeyeaters, several Orange-footed Scrub-fowls and also some Varied Trillers. I was delighted to find a small flock of Crimson Finches, but the highlight of my visit was a Black-necked Stork - a young bird which was loitering by a small waterhole.

13 May

Before leaving Darwin I walked to the esplanade and along it for a while. There were several Spangled Drongos together, and with some Helmeted Friarbirds and White-quilled Honeyeaters nearby. A couple of Green Orioles were calling (briefly seen) and there were more Australasian Figbirds. Then I flew to Kununurra. It was too early to check in at my hotel, so I stored my bags and walked to Lily Creek Lagoon. This yielded several honeyeaters including Yellow-tinted, White-quilled and White-throated Honeyeaters. I saw several Comb-crested Jacanas out on the floating plants, and also several Green Pygmy-geese. I flushed a White-browed Crake but only had brief views of it. There were numerous Black Kites around, and also a few Whistling Kites. I saw more Crimson Finches, and a couple of Great Bowerbirds. On my way there, I found some black-rumped Double-barred Finches.

14 May

In the morning I walked to Mirama National Park, a couple of km out of town. There were Grey-crowned Babblers building a new roost, and I had great views of a Northern Fantail. A Brown Goshawk flew through and there were Double-barred Finches, Yellow-throated Miners, a Torresian Crow and I heard a Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. I hung around the hotel (with an excursion to buy food and a decongestants) until the birding tour started at 2:00. We drove to Mirama NP for the introductions etc, which took a couple of hours, and then walked around - covering pretty much the same ground as I’d done in the morning. Extra birds included several White-quilled Rock-Pigeons (they definitely were absent in my morning visit). There also were some Purple-backed Fairy-wrens and distant views of Little Woodswallows. Our main guide, Luke, heard a Sandstone Shrike-thrush which would have been a tick for me. We spent a fair while looking for it but my only view was of it flying away - not a tickable view of it unfortunately.

15 May

We left at 5:30 and went to Ivanhoe Crossing at the Ord River - the river was raging and the crossing itself was closed, but our birding went well. We found about 40 species there, including great views of male and female Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens, and of species such as Buff-sided Robins (several), Azure Kingfisher, Star Finch, Crimson Finch and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Brush Cuckoo and Paperbark Flycatcher. A Spotted Harrier flew through as did pairs of Radjah Shelduck and Australian Bustard.

Next we had a group breakfast back at Celebrity Park in Kununurra where I found some Pied Stilts and there was a Torresian Imperial-Pigeon hanging around. We also had a Great Bowerbird attending to its bower (plus others were looking on). Later we stopped off at the eastern side of the lake, where we saw a couple more Star Finches.  Then we had quiet time for a couple of hours (interspersed with a group luncheon), before heading to the John File Park - a largeish conservation wetland. Here we found many great birds - such as Magpie Goose, Wandering Whistling-Duck and Plumed Whistling-Duck, Brolgas (two) and Black-necked Stork (two). Three Red-backed Kingfishers turned up, plus - late in the day - we saw at least three White-browed Crakes foraging discreetly. A pair of Ospreys had built a nest on a power pole, and both birds were at the nest in the late afternoon.

16 May

We left the hotel at 5:30 and went down to the eastern side of the lagoon for an hour or so. The highlight was a White-browed Crake, briefly out in the open although on the far side from us. Several Red-winged Parrots came in for a while. We saw Crimson Finches, Star Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, and a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes. After breakfast on the western side, we were on our way heading westwards and into new territory for me.

Not long after starting on the Gibb River Rd, we stopped for some Black-faced Woodswallows - which turned out to be a finch hotspot. We had Masked, Zebra, Long-tailed and Gouldian Finches, and Pictorella Mannikins. We also had our first Diamond Doves and Singing Honeyeaters for the trip, and a couple of Cockatiels. Then we passed by the spectacular Cockburn Ranges. Later, just before the Pentacost River crossing, we found several Spinifex Pigeons. The river crossing was delayed because there was a Gibb River Road cycle event happening - all vehicles had to wait until the spread-out cyclists had done their crossing plus done various PR stunts (the cycle event is a team-based fundraiser). Many were in fancy dress, with brightly coloured tutus proving quite popular.

Lunch was alongside the road near Bindoola Creek - there I saw Weebill, White-throated Honeyeater and Red-backed Fairy-wren. We crossed the Durack River, which was the widest and deepest of the rivers we encountered today. A while later, we turned off into Ellenbrae Station where we stayed overnight (bush camping). Some Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos came through while we were having scones, jam and cream at the homestead.

17 May

We left not long after dawn with a quick breakfast and pack-up, as it was to be a long day of driving (we did about 300km today on unsealed and sometimes roughish roads). We had brief stops for an Australian Hobby and a group of 41 (my count) Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos, and a slightly longer stop at the Kalumburu turn-off rest area (which was full of illegal campers). We turned north, only stopping for a quick look at a Square-tailed Kite (we also saw Brown Falcon and Wedge-tailed Eagle, plus many of the usual Black Kites). We refuelled at Drysdale Station then pressed on northwards for another approx 2 hours then turned westwards. We had lunch soon afterwards, on the King Edward River at Munurru (which seems to be in an indigenous area not a national park, but similarly accessible). Here were Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos, White-throated Gerygone, Silver-crowned and Little Friarbirds, Red-backed Fairy-wrens, and an Olive-backed Oriole which hung around for at least half an hour.

We stopped later to collect firewood - where my attention was distracted for a while by a pass-by from a pair of Northern Rosellas. Eventually we reached the campsite at Mitchell Falls National Park - where there was another pair of Northern Rosellas, this pair offering far better looks. The handful of other species included White-throated Honeyeater and Blue-winged Kookaburra. A Southern Boobook called in the night.

18 May

We set out just after dawn, and walked the River View Trail in the little-used direction until we reached mature Spinifex on a rocky slope. There we searched successfully for Black Grasswrens, eventually achieving cracking views of a pair. We also had poor views of a Kimberley Honeyeater - much later near the waterfall we had far better views of one - which was my second new bird for the day. Red-winged Parrots and Little Friarbirds were flying about as we watched for the grasswrens. I saw a Rufous-throated Honeyeater on my way to the Kimberley Honeyeater site, and a White-quilled Rock-Pigeon on the way back.

We rested around the campsite in the hotter part of the day. Some Red-backed Fairy-wrens came by, including a coloured-up male, and later I found one of the local yellow-faced form of the Partridge Pigeon. Eventually we saw several of them at various times, all within the campsite. Around the campsite we also had Varied Triller and Green Oriole. Mid-afternoon several of us walked to Little Mertens Waterhole for a swim. We saw another Kimberley Honeyeater on our way, and an Azure Kingfisher fishing at the waterhole.

19 May

Not so much birding today - the main activity was walking to Mitchell Falls and back. The walk back was faster because three of our group opted to go back by helicopter. On our way to and from, we had nice views of Kimberley Honeyeater, Buff-sided Robin, Green-backed Gerygone, Spangled Drongo, Mistletoebird, Varied Triller and Leaden Flycatcher. I only saw two species at the Falls - Brown Honeyeater and White-quilled Rock-Pigeon. The place was full of tourists many of whom were positively decrepit - they had come in by helicopter and needed help from their guides to get to the lookout. The noise from helicopters coming and going was completely over the top. I and most of our group had a swim at the waterhole - and John (assistant guide) and I had another one at Little Mertens waterhole on our way back.

I got back to the campsite at about 3:30 and spent the remainder of the afternoon taking things easy. Some Northern Rosellas came by and a pair of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew through. A few of us got into a Pheasant Coucal too.

20 May

We set out early for another go at the Black Grasswren - unsuccessfully. We tried at Saturday’s spot and then at a few more in the same general area, to no avail. Whilst watching and waiting, we had Northern Rosellas, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos, Leaden Flycatchers, etc, and another White-quilled Rock-Pigeon. We packed up, and were on the road just after 9am. We drove eastward, stopping briefly for a pair of Pacific Bazas and, later, a Frill-necked Lizard.  About 10km before the junction we turned off to visit some Aboriginal art - about a kilometre walk. There were Banded, Rufous-throated, Yellow-tinted and Brown Honeyeaters, also Red-collared and Varied Lorikeets at that spot. Lunch was at the Munurru site where stopped on Friday on our way in. The numbers of Little Friarbirds had risen and there was a Paperbark Flycatcher. We visited another nearby art site (saw Weebills there). Then it was a long drive to Drysdale Station where we stayed overnight.

21 May

We left Drysdale after an early breakfast but only went about 15km down the road, to a recommended woodland area. It was recently burnt, but we had very good birding there. Two Crested Bellbirds were calling - we spent ages tracking them down. The highlight was Northern Shrike-tit - another new bird for me. There were four of them in the area (we estimated) and we had terrific views, often prolonged and up close. Also in the area were several Grey-fronted Honeyeaters, a new bird for the trip, plus Black-tailed Treecreepers (also new for the trip), Masked and Gouldian Finches and several Varied Lorikeets. Two Horsfield’s Bushlarks sat on the road for a while and there also was a brief encounter with a Rufous Songlark.

We drove on, eventually returning to the Gibb River Rd and turning eastward. A while later we stopped at a creek on Ellenbrae Station, where we found nesting Bar-breasted Honeyeaters, also Star Finches and a Paperbark Flycatcher as highlights. However, the standout highlight was a young Black Bittern, which flushed and flew along the creek before disappearing into long grass. We had lunch near the Durack River (lunch was delayed because one of our vehicles had a tyre blowout). A Jacky Winter on an island in the river got me excited for a while as I tried to turn it into a Kimberley Flycatcher. There were several  raptors around - White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Whistling Kite, Square-tailed Kite and Black Kite. We also saw Spotted Harrier and Black-breasted Buzzard later in the afternoon. The drive into Wyndham was uneventful except for an over-lengthy stop for Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos (the photographers went a bit overboard).

22 May

Early morning we went to a waterhole on King River Rd - actually just a puddle in the road, which we sat alongside  in the grass. Over the next few hours, lots of finches came in to drink - Double-barred, Long-tailed, Star, Masked and Gouldian Finches, also a few Chestnut-breasted Mannikins.  We heard Red-browed Pardalote and Red-backed Button-quail, both close by, and saw Sacred Kingfisher and Paperbark Flycatcher.  All the birds seemed spooked by the two Brown Goshawks that kept coming back to sit in the big boab tree nearby.

After breakfast in the strong wind, we went to a causeway over the floodplain. Here there were stacks of shorebirds led by about a thousand Pied Stilts. There were migratory sandpipers (Marsh, Curlew and Terek Sandpiper), Red-necked Stints and a Black-tailed Godwit, and some endemic shorebirds - many Red-capped Plovers (often with chicks) and a solitary Red-necked Avocet. There were a couple of Whiskered Terns and four Australian Gull-billed Terns.

We stopped at the Five Rivers Lookout - we saw a Wedge-tailed Eagle on the way up to it. After a few hours break we headed out again, this time to Marlgu Billabong in Parrys Lagoon Nature Reserve. This had stacks of waterbirds - such as Plumed and Wandering Whistling-ducks, Radjah Shelducks, Green Pygmy-geese, Glossy Ibis, and Pied Herons. There also were several Red-kneed Dotterels and Nankeen Night-Herons around. We had drinks and nibbles at Telegraph Hill then drove to Parrys Farm for an excellent meal. We did night birding on the roads to and from there, picking up Barn Owl (three times, but possibly the same bird each time) and a Spotted Nightjar (sitting in the middle of the highway).

23 May

We went back to the puddle on Kings River Rd for a few hours. The birds were pretty much the same as yesterday but the photographers were happy to be taking more shots of them (as mostly was I). We had a few additional birds - Pheasant Coucal, Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, Red-headed Honeyeater were the stand-outs. After breakfast (no wind today) we went to the causeway again ie we were repeating yesterday morning’s activities. However, the water was a long way from the road and that limited our diversity. Perhaps the wind yesterday pushed the water closer? We saw three Black-necked Storks, and the Australian Gull-billed Tern count had sky-rocketed plus there were some Pied Herons. Mostly it was otherwise as for yesterday, except there were only a few shorebirds (apart from the Pied Stilts which still were in very large numbers).

Then we went to the Wyndham wharf area, where we found a flock of Tree Martins and some Mangrove Gerygones.  Mid-afternoon we set out again but our plans were dented because of a large “truck” (a 12 tonne 2WD monstrosity) bogged in the middle of the track. After an hour or so of failed assistance, by the end involving people from a half-dozen vehicles, we only had time to go to yesterday’s billabong again. The birdlife was pretty much the same as yesterday although the party-crash by a Brown Goshawk was new. After yet another “watching the sunset” (so boring) we bought take-away from the only after-dark food place In Wyndham, which we ate at the caravan park. Some Barking Owls were calling while we ate.

24 May

The group separated this morning, with some returning to the King River Rd puddle yet again and the others (including me) heading for the sandstone country near Wyndham’s dam. There was extensive aboriginal art work, essentially unprotected although probably little visited. We saw several White-quilled Rock-Pigeons, Crimson Finches, Leaden Flycatchers, Red-backed Fairy-wrens etc, and I had a brief view of a Brush Cuckoo. We found an old nest of the Sandstone Shrike-thrush and heard a distant one - and then, after more than an hour searching there, a bird finally showed itself! That was my fourth new bird of the trip (and probably the final one).

From there we visited the Prison Tree, a horrible reminder of Australia’s past - we saw a Square-tailed Kite just before we arrived there. On our way back to join the others for breakfast we saw two Brolgas. Across the causeway the water was so far off the road that we scarcely saw any birds - we were lucky on Wednesday it seems. We checked out and headed to Kununurra for lunch - saw Golden-headed Cisticola and Crimson Finch en route, and White-quilled Honeyeaters at lunch. We checked in at Lake Argyle, where there were Silver-crowned Friarbirds and Great Bowerbirds around the cabins, and another White-quilled Rock-Pigeon.  Later we drove to the dam wall, where the adjacent park had Olive-backed and Green Orioles and a pair of Blue-winged Kookaburras, and across the river there was another Sandstone Shrike-thrush! A White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew through and there was a Great Pied Cormorant fishing in the turbulent waters.

25 May

Another very early start, this time for a birdwatching boat trip around Lake Argyle departing at dawn. We motored steadily across the lake for about an hour until we reached a shallow bay for our breakfast stop - it was the same spot as for my trip two years ago. En route we had a close encounter with a pair of Sandstone Shrike-thrushes - my drought on them is well and truly broken. We had many good birds there, highlighted by two Buff-banded Rails by the water’s edge and a cryptic White-browed Crake foraging in the middle of a bush in the water (the water levels were very high on account of a heavy wet season). There were many Comb-crested Jacanas, one of which eventually was foraging within about a metre from the boat. From there we went further upstream in the lake, until reaching what currently was an island but normally is a spit from the mainland. Here were Yellow Chats - at least 30 birds. There also were 80-100 Australian Pratincoles and 40-50 Red-capped Plovers as well as some Radjah Shelducks and Glossy Ibis, a Caspian Tern etc. I saw a very large freshwater crocodile (about 2.5m) resting on the shoreline. As we departed, a couple of Whiskered Terns came through. The trip back took us past a Black-necked Stork nest, with a sitting female, and a pair of Brolgas at another site.

We headed back to Kununurra for lunch and then spent a couple of hours cruising the back roads mainly looking for finches. We didn’t find many of those but we did see a pair of Australian Bustards, two Brown Goshawks, a White-necked Heron and a Black-necked Stork. We finished at the sewage works, where there were 50-60 Plumed Whistling-ducks and 30 or so Radjah Shelducks present, and one Pied Heron. Our birding activities wrapped up at Celebrity Tree Park, where we did our final bird list (about 170 species seen by the group). Later we had the farewell dinner - I heard a Tawny Frogmouth on my way to it.

26 May

No birding today. I spent the first few hours of it in Kununurra and then flew to Broome, where I met up with Margaret. Mid-afternoon I walked into town (and back, in the heat), There were lots of Singing Honeyeaters and Little Friarbirds, also Torresian Crows, Relaxing poolside later, a flock of 19 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew over.

27 May

Again, no specific birding activities today - mostly it was spent relaxing or else preparing for the big expedition which isstarting tomorrow. Once again, there were lots of Singing Honeyeaters and Little Friarbirds, Torresian Crows, and also several Black Kites.

28 May

Today was the first real day of the tour.  We were picked up from the hotel, to join a group of 20 tourists plus two guides in a 4WD bus. We headed for Derby, stopping for a while en route at Willare Bridge Roadhouse and then in Derby. From there we went back to the Gibb River Rd and then turned onto it. A couple of hundred km along we turned onto the Fairfield-Leopold Rd and proceeded to Bandilngan NP - our campsite for the night and our very late lunch stop. From there we did a late afternoon expedition to Tunnel Creek (Dimalurru NP). It wasn’t a birding day but I saw various raptors including several Wedge-tailed Eagles, a flock of Red-winged Parrots and several Black-faced Woodswallows. There were Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes around the campsite.

29 May

Early morning we walked into Windjana Gorge, which was near the campsite. I saw some Rock Wallabies and a largish Freshwater Crocodile. The birding highlight was a pair of Nankeen Kestrels working from high-up rock ledges. There also was a roosting Little Pied Cormorant and a couple of Paperbark Flycatchers. We returned to the Gibb River Rd and headed northward for a while and then turned off towards Dalmanyi NP (Bell Gorge). I walked to the waterhole and falls with the group and then meandered my way back to the carpark. Although there were frequent noisy groups I did manage to see a White-Quilled Rock-pigeon and some Little Woodswallows, also Double-barred Finches and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters. There were Weebills around the carpark. Lunch was at Imintji Roadhouse, where Torresian Crows were dominant. Our next detour was into Adcock Gorge, where I saw several Red-winged Parrots, also two Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew through and a Silver-crowned Friarbird sat obligingly. I heard Grey-crowned Babblers too. Finally, on dark, we arrived at Mt Barnett roadhouse and thence to the nearby Manning Campsite.

30 May

It bucketed down with rain in the morning and then off and on during the day (and that evening), but never enough to upset the planned arrangements. Many of our group set out to walk to Manning Gorge but I opted to explore the area around the campsite. There were a couple of hundred noisy Little Corellas around all of the time. I found a pair of Silver-backed Butcherbirds and various honeyeaters, and I also flushed two White-quilled Rock-pigeons. Many Double-barred Finches and Peaceful Doves were feeding in quieter areas of the very large campsite. Some Red-backed Fairy-wrens came through, and several Red-winged Parrots. After lunch we went to Galvans Gorge, mainly for (yet another) swim in a waterhole. A couple of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew through and I had a nice view of a couple of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes. Also there were some Little Woodswallows and Little Friarbirds, and a Paperbark Flycatcher. We got back to the campsite a while before dusk.  I did a short walk down to the Manning River - the Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters were active but  I didn’t find much else.

31 May

There was more rain overnight. We set off early, intending to get to the Mitchell Falls campsite, but only making it as far as Drysdale Station (arriving there at lunchtime). The road to Drysdale Station was hard going and reportedly was worse further on. But, thankfully there was no more rain around. In the afternoon I wandered the environs, at one point scoring close looks at a pair of northern subspecies Striated Pardalotes. Later, at a recently burnt area, there were 30 or more each of Peaceful Doves and Long-tailed Finches, some of the latter feeding youngsters. I found one Diamond Dove amongst them, also some Red-backed Fairy-wrens (including one semi-coloured male) and a pair of Jacky Winters. A highlight was a great look at a Varied Sittella (the Black-capped subspecies). The main honeyeaters were Brown, Yellow-tinted and White-throated Honeyeater (later on I also heard White-gaped Honeyeater).

1 June

We set off early on an often sloshy road, but quite doable in our big 4WD coach. There was one section where we walked across on higher ground while the coach slewed through. We saw many other vehicles travelling ie the difficulties about the road seemed to have been exaggerated. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for any serious stops, on account of a helicopter booking deadline for the group. En route I saw Red-winged Parrots, a White-faced Heron, Yellow-throated Miners, Black Kite - and not much else. At our brief stop at Munurru there were some Little Friarbirds. Eventually we reached the Mitchell Falls campsite - and then there was a flurry of activity to get people fed and onto helicopters to go to Mitchell Falls. I watched them go and then headed for the Little Mertens Falls area. My target was to photograph a Kimberley Honeyeater, which after about an hour of trying, I succeeded. There were Varied Trillers and White-quilled Rock-pigeons around, and a pair of Varied Lorikeets flew through. Back at the campsite later, I found several Silver-backed Butcherbirds, also Northern Rosellas and Red-winged Parrots. I looked for ages for Partridge Pigeons but there were many campers and I suppose the birds had gone to somewhere quieter.

2 June

We drove back along the Mitchell Falls Road, already after some sunshine it was much easier going than yesterday. Not far along, a Partridge Pigeon flushed from alongside the road. Later we stopped to look at the prolific Livingstonia palms - and a Pacific Baza was calling nearby. Our first major stop was at the aboriginal art site near Munurru. Here I saw Northern Rosellas, and there were serious interactions happening between the Yellow-throated Miners and the Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters. At Munurru there was a Paperbark Flycatcher and a White-throated Gerygone, also several Little Friarbirds plus a Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo flew through. At the second art spot, a Pied Butcherbird was taking baths in a rock pool - I saw it make several visits. There was a Little Pied Cormorant at the Drysdale River crossing. We arrived at Drysdale Station mid-afternoon. I didn’t go exploring but I could hear many of the species that were around on Friday afternoon. Not long after I went to bed a Southern Boobook called a few times.

3 June

We had a leisurely start from Drysdale Station, packing up in proper daylight. The travel was uneventful and we had no long stops until we reached Ellenbrae Station for the mid-morning break. I saw an Australian Bustard (it flushed from the side of the road) and a Black-tailed Treecreeper, also a group of four Cockatiels. At Ellenbrae there were some Long-tailed Finches near the homestead, and a solo Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo flew through. Lunch at the lookout for the Cockburn Range was uneventful but a highlight came soon afterwards, at the Pentecost River crossing. A male Black-necked Stork was standing just beside the ford, and a Little Egret was perched on a rock not far off. Overhead was a Whistling Kite and four Black Kites, and also I found a flock of 6-7 Zebra Finches.

We arrived at El Questro mid-afternoon - there were masses of people already there but our tour group had the use of permanent tents in a nice little set-up (eg there was an enclosed kitchen with power and lights). There were stacks of Little Corellas around, and also many Red-collared Lorikeets and Peaceful Doves. That evening two Barking Owls started up - they called all night based upon the group’s comments next morning.

4 June

In the morning there was an expedition to Emma Gorge, about 45 minutes away (to get there we went back to the Gibb River Rd then headed east for a while to the turn-off). The walk to the gorge involved a lot of rock clambering and there weren’t any birds in the second half of it. I walked back “alone” for some quiet listening for birds, but there was pretty steady passing traffic. I saw an Azure Kingfisher and pairs of Leaden Flycatchers and Red-browed Pardalotes, and a Wedge-tailed Eagle flew over quite majestically. I spent some of the afternoon walking around the El Questro site. Highlights included a Diamond Dove (plus many Peaceful Doves) and another Red-browed Pardalote. Another highlight was to bump into Luke Paterson, who was leading another NT Bird Specialists tour, and to compare notes with him above the past week’s birding.

5 June

We departed El Questro early, but soon stopped for a dip in the geothermal pools at Zebedee Springs (temperature 32C). There were White-gaped Honeyeaters and White-quilled Honeyeaters and who knows what else (it was rather windy which made it difficult to find birds). As we approached Kununurra the numbers of Black Kites and Whistling Kites escalated markedly. We did touristy things for a few hours - Zebra Rock workshop and shop, a rum distillery (The Hoochery), lunch and some wandering in Kununurra). From there we proceeded to Lake Argyle - my third visit to this spot and easily the most downmarket of my three stays. We (22 people including the tour guides) were in a tiny area in a really crowded caravan park, and the Kimberley Wild permanent tents were but a shadow of those at El Questro.  Late afternoon I wandered the site - I didn’t find many species but there was a remarkable number of Great Bowerbirds - I estimated there were easily 15-20 of them.

6 June

Today was mainly spent on sightseeing activities - the Lake Argyle lookouts, the Argyle Downs Museum, and a late afternoon boat cruise on Lake Argyle. Incidental bird sightings included White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Paperbark Flycatcher, Double-barred Finch, Great Pied Cormorant, Whistling Kite and Mistletoebird. Around the campsite I found Northern Fantails, White-quilled Honeyeaters, Northern Rosellas and Yellow-throated Miners plus about as many Great Bowerbirds as yesterday.

7 June

We travelled from Lake Argyle to the Kimberley Wild camp in Purnululu NP, arriving there mid-afternoon.  Our stops were brief and/or had limited birding opportunities - Kununurra town, Doon Doon roadhouse,  Warnum roadhouse, the entrance to Mabel Downs station, a lookout in the NP.  Birds I found included Black-faced Woodswallows and Red-backed Fairy-wrens (both species were at the station entrance), Spinifex Pigeons, the usual two kite species (Black and Whistling Kite) and the usual Torresian Crows and Brown Honeyeaters. There was a Black Falcon perched on a dead tree as we passed through the cattle station. The campsite was rather shmick but not many birds were around. However, I flushed a group of 8 Brown Quail from down by the nearby creek (dry, with small waterholes).

8 June

Our morning expedition was to Piccaninny Lookout and Cathedral Gorge, with magnificent close-up encounters there with the famous Bungles beehive formations. Birds were few and far between but we had a wonderful up-close view of a Brown Falcon, and also there was a Nankeen Kestrel and three Black Kites in the area. Then followed a lengthy stop at the airstrip for those doing flights over the Bungles. I occupied the time by checking out the local birds - it was great! The airport staff had set up an artificial waterhole to which Peaceful Doves and Diamond Doves were coming regularly, plus 30 or so Zebra Finches. I also found a Grey-headed Honeyeater plus some Black-faced Woodswallows, Little Friarbirds, etc. We had lunch at the campsite and then went to Echidna Gorge - I saw a Pheasant Coucal en route and a Great Bowerbird, and there were Red-winged Parrots during the walk (and not much else). That night a Southern Boobook called (as did Dingoes).

9 June

We drove back to the Great Northern Highway (53 km. in about 2 hours) and headed south, to Halls Creek after a brief stop at the Spring Creek rest area. I saw a Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo and a Square-tailed Kite en route, plus there were scores of Black Kites. From Halls Creek we detoured to visit the ruins of the original town, about 15 km away. I found some Little Woodswallows there, and another Grey-headed Honeyeater. Lunch was at Mary Pool, a crowded grey nomad free camping spot - and hardly any birds. That was the case for the remainder of the trip to Fitzroy Crossing where we stayed for the night. However, that night at the campsite I heard Southern Boobook and Barking Owl calling.

10 June

We departed a bit later than usual, which gave me a chance to explore the caravan park which was on the Fitzroy River. There was a lot of damage still evident, from Cyclone Ellie about 18 months earlier. Down at the river were several Black-fronted Dotterels and one Red-kneed Dotterel, while up higher I found Grey-crowned Babblers, Double-barred Finches, White-gaped Honeyeaters, etc. As we crossed the river there were many Fairy Martins, and a flying Black-necked Stork. We went to the original  point for the Fitzroy River - a very low elevation dilapidated bridge that would have been completely useless in the Wet. Two elders talked to us about the local indigenous people - I listened but also took note of the birds around (similar range to where we had stayed - Red-backed Fairy-wren, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike were notable additions). Before departing southwards we stopped at the Visitor Centre (where I found Zebra Finches). There was a family group of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos at a rest area later - I showed them to the group (most of whom had walked within 10m of the birds without seeing them). From there it was a slow steady drive to Broome, and then finally to our hotel.

11 June

I did a quick walk to the Broome town beach and back. The highlight was an Osprey - it had a nest on an artificial platform near the carpark. I also saw two Australian Pelicans - the first of these for my trip, on the final day of it.

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