Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A review of our vagrant visitors to the Top End in 2014

2014 proved to be an exciting year for Bird watchers in the Top End of the NT!
It all started with the arrival of the Grey (Red) Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicaria) in January! A true 'Mega' arrival indeed, but this guy was then joined by the arrival of 7, 11 and 21 of his cousins the Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) before they all flew after about 24 days of R&R.

 Phalaropus fulicaria - Grey (Red) Phalarope, Leanyer WTP, Darwin  Jan-Feb 2014

Phalaropus lobatus - Red-necked Phalarope, Leanyer WTP, Darwin Feb 2014

March then saw the arrival of a White (Black-backed) Wagtail Motacilla lugens for a week to the same venue. White wags (or Pied) have turned up occasionally but are always welcome. Unfortunately access to the ponds didn't allow any good shots (from me anyway), so please excuse the record shot below!

A number of Eastern Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla tchutchensis), a regular vagrant, started to appear from October throughout the NT.  This young individual (up to 6 months old) was a first record at Lake Copperfield, Pine Creek on the 23rd November.

 Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tchutchensis), Lake Copperfield, Pine Creek, November

Darwin is aiming to finish off the birding year similar to its start! A less frequent vagrant, and very much a highlight, was the arrival of a Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) at the Charles Darwin University drainage channel.  The shade of the large outflow pipes, combined with the gravelly/muddy surface of the nearby mangrove creek proved to be ideal for this individual to hang around for awhile (still reported at 10th December)

 Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), CDU, Darwin, Nov-Dec

The year is not finished yet and with the arrival of Citrine Wag at Mudgee this year, it would bode well for all birders to keep an eye out for any other vagrants which add to the ever expanding list of species seen in the NT!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Gouldian Work Distraction

Male Red-faced Morph Gouldian Finch

This fine Male was seen incidentally in my front yard whilst I was making a phone call while working from home. He was accompanied by a female and I did hear at least another flying over. My place is on the border of Nitmiluk Park on Gorge Road, so there must be more around!!

Good birding


Sunday, March 30, 2014

A visit to the mangroves around Darwin

 Broad-billed Flycatcher

 Mangrove Robin

 Large-billed gerygone


 Northern Brush=tail Possum

Striated Heron

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Red Morph Pied Heron (Egretta picatta) at Fogg Dam

On the morning of the 25th Jan, this unusual looking bird was observed at the overflowing water on Fogg Dam.  It created an optimistic flurry and conversation.  The bird is a Pied Heron (Egretta Picata) and is a Red or Rufous  morph.  Similar sighting have been seen in the past at Leanyer Waste Treatment Plant but with varying degrees of the Red (and the cap prominent on the Pied). According to Birding expert Jeff Davies, he receives 1-2 reports of this morph on an annual basis.

Its an interesting find and needless to say, a 'Smart' looking bird.

Red Morph of Pied Heron (Egretta picatta) Fogg Dam NT Australia 25th Jan 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First NT Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)

This morning (21st Jan), fellow birder Gus Daly and I decided to have a quick visit to Leanyer Ponds, just on the off chance that something interesting has landed.

In about 3 minutes we spotted something different and called straight away 'Phalarope'!

Well, this shabby little fellow has created quite a stir.  He has obviously been challenged by the recent monsoon activity in the area and got blown from the sea down to us.

This is the 7th report in Australia of Phalaropus fulicarius although BARC (Birds of Australia Rarities Commission have only accepted 4 reports.

1.  Lake Woorinen, Vic, Feb-March 1976
2.  McGrath Flat, SA, 7th July 1989
3.  Port Fairy, Vic, 12th July 1992
4. Lake Mitchell, QLD, 4th November 2003
This is the first record and the NT and yet another Mega rarity, a great start to the new year.

Breeding in the Artic/Alaska and wintering off of Chile or w Africa it has been pretty rare for a visit here and particularly up in the NT.

Grey Pahalarope ID Lateral widening of bill at tip

311 Final Count for NT 2013

After an inability to find some common species in the area, such as Cicada Bird and Feral Rock Dove, I was lucky enough to embark on a last ditch effort out Timber Creek way with Experience the Wild's Mike Jarvis.

A hot but enjoyable time saw us catch the elusive Chestnut-backed Buttonquail at a little site 40km along the Victoria Highway on the 28th of December....Hooray

A couple of days earlier, I caught up with David Webb out at Fogg Dam and an early showing of an Oriental Reed Warbler.  (I havent seen it since, so am feeling lucky)

Anyway  Final result is 311 Species seen in the Northern Territory and an increase to 338 NT life species seen from about 323 at the beginning of the year.

Good Birding


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

309 NT Birds..Log of a biggish year 2013..So Far! 14 Days to go

The NT's beautiful Rainbow Pitta..seen quite easily but always captivating to watch. 

When I started the New Year interstate and crossed the border straight into a couple of NT Lifers on the rain soaked Tablelands Highway (see Post

Trip Report: Tablelands and Carpentaria Highway Jan 2013), I decided that I would try and see 300 different species in the NT in a calendar year!

This task shouldn't be too difficult as I spend most of my working year outdoors taking tours on the Katherine River and out on the trails of Nitmiluk and Kakadu.
To get to the point…I spotted species number 300 on the 22nd November. It ended up being a lifer, spotted in the centre at Hugh Gorge…White-browed Woodswallow, although they had been spotted regularly around Katherine throughout the year…no pics unfortunately!!

The shores of Darwin produced early good species counts with Godwits, Knots, Plovers and a host of other Shorebirds

By the end of April I had reached 228 species, which by a Big Year standard, would be low, however, there are many birders who haven't seen 300 species in years of Birding (my N T life count at this stage was 328), so I was pretty confident at this stage.  May was to turn up another 19 species and also heralded the start of a peculiar year for NT visitors, including the famous Forest Wagtail from Asia (an Australian mainland first).  It also started my first real 'Twitch'.

May long weekend (2-3rd) an historic turn-up.  Many successfully twitched this bird as it stayed until September.

Freckled Duck, way up North (Leanyer Ponds)

May through June was interesting as far as birding goes Australia wide.  There were many reports of large numbers of Freckled Ducks in places where they had not been seen for awhile.  On a tip from a mates report on Birdline, we found this single Northern most individual.

Observations through to the end of September were at 275 and slowing down a bit as I was operating in one habitat - riparian.  Its rewarding all the same.  October however, turned up another highlight, Sarus Crane!  NT records had them on the Eastern Border near Borroloola, but we had always questioned their distribution into the Top End.  Three turned up in October on Yellow Water Billabong in Kakadu.

Sarus Crane in the Centre of the Top End - Yellow Water, Kakadu October 2013.  Pic: Peter Eve

By the end of October I had only another 3 species (278), but was quietly confident as I had 2 key plays left; A trip to Central Australia and…a pelagic trip out of Darwin (we believe the first planned such trip).

                                   Chestnut-rumped Thornbill                                  Inland Thornbill
                                      Slaty-backed Thornbill                                     Splendid Fairywren

The Alice Springs Water Treatment Plant always has some surprises.  There was the same phenomenon continuance of wader appearances this year including; Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-toed Stint and a Ruff!

 Australian Spotted Crake

Ruff, Alice Ponds

The Pelagic trip went 125Nautical Miles West of Darwin, to survey what could be found in an otherwise rarely surveyed area.  A key species hoping to be seen were Persian Shearwaters (only seen in Aussie waters in 2010, but any seabird was going to be a lifer for me. The trip produced another 8 species for the year list (and 5 lifers).  With the 300th bird being sighted in the Centre as mentioned above, the end of November has me sitting on 307 and more to come!

Mid December is slow, but after many hours looking at Howard Springs for a Rufous Owl, one finally showed up again at the easy travelling Darwin Botanical Gardens.  A few Eastern Yellow Wagtails (already seen for the year) have also been showing up. Also, a Little-ringed Plover at Leanyer Treatment ponds

Persian-type Shearwaters (8 seen during the Pelagic off Darwin 15-17th Nov)

Rufous Owl, Darwin Botanical Gardens

                                                                       Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Palmerston Ponds

Total Count on the 17th of December - 309.  Stayed tune for next post to see what the total 2013 NT count ends up at?

Good Birding and Merry Christmas