Top End – photo gallery

Pictures of a few of the superb birds seen during our six day visit to Darwin and the Top End.

OK, so I know it’s common but it’s still gorgeous – Rainbow Lorikeet

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Not so common but equally as gorgeous – Rainbow Pitta. One of five seen in Howard Springs Nature Park

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Australian Bustard – seen near Cooinda

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Now that’s a pretty pigeon – Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove

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One of several new honeyeaters seen on the trip, this one is Red-headed – seen at East Point boardwalk

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and this is Banded Honeyeater, near Edith Falls

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We had a bit of a finch fest – this is Masked Finch

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Long-tailed Finch

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and Crimson Finch. All fairly common in the ‘triangle’

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A few more of the Yellow Waters specialities. Comb-crested Jacana

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Black Bittern – also seen at Edith Falls

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Black-necked Stork or Jabiru

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‘Guardian of the waters’ – a male White-bellied Sea Eagle

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and finally…..another superb, splendid parrot – this time Hooded, seen in the Water Gardens at Pine Creek

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Off to Thailand this morning to meet up with Neil and Eunice for a ten day Thai bird fest – or my money back Neil!

Top End is Top Notch….

Friday, 30 November. Sitting in Darwin airport, waiting for our flight back to Sydney, having just spent six fabulous days birding around Darwin and the Top End. We hired a camper van and drove the 650k ‘triangle’ between Darwin, Kakadu and Pine Creek, using the Niven McCrie site guide as ‘our bible’, with some excellent supplementary advice from Mick Roderick, Hunter Bird Observers Club. We did most of the main birding sites but were frustrated that a number of them were either closed or had restricted access because of increased croc and snake activity! We did manage to do the Yellow Waters dawn cruise and visit the traditional cultural site at Nuralangie Rocks (Burrunggui & Anbangbang). We saw around 150 species (we’re still sorting through the pictures to decide the id of about thirty!) and in the process topped 300 for the Australian leg of the tour.

First, a couple of scenic shots – Yellow Waters, taken on the dawn boat cruise

 

Traditional art work on the rocks at Anbangbang

 

one large rock sat on another…..

 

 

and a hungry crocodile…

 

 

Pink water lily – Yellow Waters

 

 

Due to imminent flight departure I’ll post the bird pictures tonight in a separate gallery. But as an appetiser, try this little beauty!

Azure Kingfisher…..with more to follow!

 

Major Mitchell’s Mallee Melee

Saturday 24th November, Wentworth Falls. Returned to our Blue Mountains base on Thursday evening after a 48 hour dash to mallee country, a particular type of native scrub, around Lake Cargellico, towards the western boundary of NSW – a round trip of just 1250k! But with plenty of potential Aussie ticks on offer it was a ‘must do’. In the event we saw 150 species, many of which were new for various members of the group – even Dan managed to clock up half a dozen new birds! Highlights included Superb Parrot and Red-backed Kingfisher en route, Painted, Pied ,White-fronted and Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Shy Heathwren, Southern Scrub-Robin, Crimson Chat, Crested Bellbird, Spotted Bowerbird, Gilbert’s Whistler, Black-eared Cuckoo, Chestnut- backed Quail-Thrush and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. On our way back we called in to Charles Stuart University campus to add a rare NSW species to Dan’s list – a European Greenfinch!

What a superb Superb Parrot

Mistletoebird

One of the ‘difficult to get’ honeyeaters – this is Painted

Masked Woodswallow

A ‘Wedgie’ – Wedge-tailed Eagle

another of the ‘difficult to get’ honeyeaters – this time it’s White-fronted

A real skulker – Chestnut-backed Quail-Thrush

..and an even more difficult species – the aptly named Shy Heathwren (hence the poor photo!)

Gilbert’s Whistler – yet another skulker

A real surprise – Red-backed Kingfisher, found whilst looking for Cockatiels

and the ‘piece de resistance’ – Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo!

We’ve just been enjoying a couple of days chilling with the family, including Rob & Gi, up from Melbourne for the weekend. Tomorrow we’re up early and off to the ‘Top End’ for some intensive birding!

Birding down under….Cook’sing on gas (now with additional photos)

Tuesday 20th November. Arrived in Australia last Tuesday afternoon and spent the first three nights at the delightful Old Brush cabins near Mulbring…real ‘bush’ place with an outside dunny and resident spiders! A nice combination of ‘family time’ with Dan, Morgan and the boys –  Sam, Jonah & Sol, and a bit of bush birding. By the time we came to head for Port Stephens, our next stop, I’d added five new species to my Australian bird list, including the ‘must see’ Regent Honeyeater.

Port Stephens, on the Tomaree peninsular, was our next stop and the departure point for our next pelagic. Family time on Saturday and then the big boat trip – could it live up to the high expectations created by the very successful Chilean pelagic. The short answer is ‘yes’, with three species of albatross, two storm petrels, three petrels, five shearwaters, three jaegers, two terns and a penguin, it was awesome! Five more additions to the Aussie list.

We’re now in a cabin in the Blue Mountains, with a planned trip ‘out west’ tomorrow and Thursday – meeting up with brother Rob and sis in law Gi for a family weekend, prior to going up to Darwin and the ‘top end’ on Sunday.

The cabin at Old Brush

First new species for Australia – Green Catbird

and now the ‘must see’ Regent Honeyeater – a seriously threatened species!

Chestnut-rumped Heathwren

Painted Snipe – a very difficult bird to find in Australia

and to complete the ‘quintet’ – a Banded Stilt, rare on the east coast. It’s the white bird looking left in the centre of the picture

A shot of our pelagic as it heads towards the ocean

First pelagic species, Arctic Jaeger

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Wedge-tailed Shearwater

Great-winged Petrel

Black Petrel – similar to White-chinned and Westland Petrel, seen in Chile

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Wilson’s Petrel

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A lovely White-faced Storm Petrel

The amazing, spectacular, Wandering (Snowy) Albatross

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Shy Albatross – rather like Salvin’s, seen in Chile

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Flesh-footed Shearwater

..and the ‘jewel in the crown’, Cook’s Petrel – only one seen on average a year in the whole of Australia!

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And on the way back, at a distance this bird excited imaginations as possible Spectacled Petrel – turned out to be just an aberrant Wedgie!

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That’s all for now, hopefully some more new Aussie birds to blog once we get back from our trip to mallee country.

The (Chilean) Lake District

After a few days ‘chilling on Chiloe’ we headed north up Routa 5, the Pan American Highway, for a rondevue in Pucon with the lads, who were heading south for Joe’s stag do. Pucon is in the Chilean Lake District, where the scenery of lake, forest and volcanos is spectacular. Pucon (probably better pronounced ‘puke – on’ from the boys perspective!) was chosen as the stag venue, not so much for the views though as for the casino and adventure activities. It suited us fine because it is in the heart of nothofagus forest country and home to some pretty special birds. Our comfortable cabana was on the edge of town, we stunning views of Volcano Villarrica, which towers over the town. It’s an active volcano and on a good night you can see it glowing! As one of the many adventure activities available, the boys decided to join a guided climb to the top – rather them than me! We settled for more gentle strolls around the foothills, although we did mange a pretty gruelling ten miler in the Huerquehue National Park on one day. We split the remaining journey to Santiago into two days and stayed over night at Salta de Laja, with it’s impressive waterfalls. We arrived back in Santiago on Thursday afternoon, prior to Friday’s wedding and stayed at the well appointed and located Times Apartments in Los Condes.

Volcano Villarrica, on the approach to Pucon.

 

The volcano from near to the Ski Centre, where we watched the lads four hour accent through the telescope!

 

Villarrica from the cabana

 

Views of the volcano from Huerquehue National Park

 

Wild ‘monkey puzzle, trees

 

Laguna Verde, Huerquehue National Park

 

The falls at Salta de Laja

 

Supper with the lads during an interlude between adventure activities and the casino

 

A surprise at the ski lift was a couple of pairs of Yellow-bridled Finch

 

White-throated Treerunner

 

For the second time at Salta de Laja we were fortunate to find Spectacled Duck on the river

 

…and finally, a Californian Quail

 

and that pretty much brings you up to date!

Viva Valpo

Thursday 15 November, Dan and Morgan’s, Newcastle, NSW.

With such a blistering birding end to our stay in Chile I’m slightly out of sequence with my blogging. Here are a couple of posts to complete the journey so far.

On route between Quintero and Santiago we stopped off in Valparaiso for coffee in the artists quarter.

Coffee, overlooking the harbour, on the hottest day of the trip so far

 

Several shots of the artists quarter

 

 

 

 

 

 

There, shows that there is more to our trip than birds!

Yes o Yeso…!

Sunday 11th November. Out of sequence I know but I couldn’t resist this post. Having made a quicker than anticipated recovery from the wedding celebrations we managed a trip up to the ski resort above Santiago on Saturday afternoon and today we’ve been up the Yeso valley on what Joe described as the ‘traditional excursion to dip on Diademed Sandpiper-Plover’! Expectations were pretty low once we managed to navigate our way out of Santiago and up the road to the ski resorts of Farellones and El Colorado…. just an opportunity to blow out the cob-webs (or in my case, see off a whiskey induced hang-over!) However, in the space of a couple of hours we’d seen a superb cast of High Andean species including Magellanic Horned Owl, Yellow-rumped Siskin, Greater Yellow Finch, Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch, Great Shrike Tyrant, Moustached Turca, Crag Chilia, White-sided Hillstar, Andean Condor and Aplamado Falcon. Today, our last day in Chile, we set out to find the legendary El Yeso valley, south east of Santiago – another road which penetrates deep into the High Andes, and reputedly the summer quarters of the mythical Diademed Sandpiper-Plover!  After a near-perfect traverse of Santiago, we were climbing the 30k dirt road to the dam by 9.30am. On the way up we met a group of British birders on tour with ‘Ramblers’ and their Chilean bird guide – they were also on a quest for the DSP. The pressure was on. We only had Pearman and a couple of recent trip reports to go on, so we drove to the most likely location, where the inlet stream for the dam flows over wet bog, and commenced our search. Fabulous views of Grey-breasted Seedsnipe were only a temporary distraction and after an hour of searching the tributaries hopes were beginning to wane. I’d just got back to the car for a little light refreshment when there were frantic gesticulations from the Titmans. A rapid yomp across 300m of bog, loosing my sandal in the process, and there in the scope was an unbelievably exquisite Diademed Sandpiper-Plover! Not just one but two with two young chicks for good measure!! Just perfect. And here are the pictures to prove it…. A magnificent Magellanic Horned Owl, found whilst watching an Andean Condor!   Greater Yellow Finch – only found in the Andes above 2000m     Yellow-rumped Siskin, another High Andean speciality   Moustached Turca, a Chilean endemic   Crag Chilia, another endemic species   Grey-breasted Seedsnipe   …and now the one we’d all been waiting for – the mythical, the mysterious, the bloody beautiful Diademed Sandpiper-Plover!   and it’s mate.   That’s it for now, I’ve run out of internet time. Off to Australia on Monday (arr Tuesday). More blogging from there I hope.