We enjoyed travelling with Steve Davidson. He is very knowledgeable and more than willing to assist anyone with getting on birds, and he takes time to explain where the bird is.
Our Alice Springs, Kakadu, Kimberly & Beyond tour has been carefully designed to take in the very best sites through this often little explored part of Australia. Our tour begins in Alice Springs where time will be taken to explore a variety of habitats from stony desert plains to spinifex dominated areas. The region is well known for a variety of special birds and high on our list of targets will be species such as Spinifex Pigeon, Bourke’s Parrot, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Dusky Grasswren, Spinifexbird and the rare Grey Honeyeater. In addition time will be spent in the Erldunda and Uluru areas where fabulous species from Cinnamon Quail-thrush to Chiming Wedgebill and Inland Dotterel can be found. We will also venture out to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), a special place for the local Aboriginal people and watching the sunset from here is sure to be a highly treasured experience. We then head north for Darwin where we will witness a complete change of scenery and birdlife. Tropical monsoon forest and mangroves in the area will provide for some fabulous birding before we head off to Kakadu. The forested areas around Darwin give us excellent chances for the shy Chestnut Rail in addition to other spectacular species such as Rainbow Pitta and Rose-crowned Fruit Dove. The Kakadu area is sure to be one of the major highlights of our time in northern Australia with numerous range-restricted species high on our list of targets. These include the likes of Sandstone Shrike-Thrush, Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon and Partridge Pigeon. The area is also excellent from a waterbird point of view and time spent at sites such as Fogg Dam, Yellow Waters Billabong and Mamukala Wetlands are sure to produce some fabulous species of waterfowl from the stately Brolga and Magpie Goose to Black Bittern and Black-necked Stork, a variety of herons and many species of duck including Radjah Shelduck and Plumed Whistling Duck. Our adventures will continue onto the famous Kimberly area and beyond. Places such as Pine Creek, the Victoria River, Timber Creek and Kununurra will all feature prominently over the final week of the tour and the hit list contains some very special birds. Highlights are bound to include species such as Hooded Parrot, Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, Buff-sided Robin, Black-tailed Treecreeper, White-quilled Rock Pigeon, Yellow Chat, Purple-crowned Fairy-wren, Pictorella Mannikin and a plethora of exotic finches that include Masked, Star, Long-tailed and the magnificent Gouldian.
Chestnut Rail, Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, Grey Falcon, Bourke’s and Hooded Parrot, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Northern Rosella, Dusky Grasswren, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, Yellow and Orange Chat, Purple-crowned Fairywren, Grey and White-lined Honeyeater, Spinifexbird, Redthroat, Banded Whiteface, Spinifex, Partridge, Chestnut-quilled Rock and White-quilled Rock Pigeon, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Chiming Wedgebill, Inland Dotterel, Rainbow Pitta, Sandstone Shrikethrush, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Buff-sided Robin, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Gouldian, Painted, Masked, Star & Long-tailed Finch, Yellow-rumped & Pictorella Mannikin
Grey Wolf (Dingo), Black-footed & Short-eared Rock Wallaby, Common & Black Wallaroo, Northern Nailtail Wallaby
spinifex, desert and semi-desert, stony plains, mangroves, monsoon forest, wetlands, open eucalypt and grassy woodland, rocky outcrops, gorges
Warm to hot throughout, humid in the north
Moderate pace, mostly easy walking
Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Gibber Plains, Yellow Water Billabong, Nourlangie Rock, Mamukala Wetlands, Lake Argyle, Simpson’s Gap, Ormiston Gorge
Day 1: Arrival in Alice Springs
Today is set aside as an arrival day but if time allows, we will head out in the late afternoon to a nearby area of dry, semi-desert scrub and woodland where we could encounter several exciting introductory species typical of the area, such as Western Bowerbird, Diamond and Peaceful Doves, Yellow-throated Miner, Singing Honeyeater, the attractive Crested Pigeon, Black-shouldered and Whistling Kites and Nankeen Kestrel.
In the late afternoon, we will return to our comfortable accommodation where we will be based for the next three nights of our Australia birding tour.
Day 2 & 3: Alice Springs and surrounds
We have two full days of our Australia birding tour in the Alice Springs area to enjoy the fabulous array of outback specialities on offer in this unique landscape and habitat. This area is an excellent base from which to access a wonderful diversity of birds typical of Australia’s arid interior. A large number of dry-country endemics occur in this area and in the days to come we will endeavour to track down as many of these specialities as possible.
Our birding excursions will take us into the unique spinifex habitat that occurs through much of the area and this endemic habitat is home to several sought-after endemics that include the skulking Dusky Grasswren. Grasswrens are endemic to Australia and are notoriously difficult to find but we do stand an excellent chance of seeing this target species along with the lovely Rufous-crowned Emu-wren that occupies the same habitat.
Spectacular White-winged and Splendid Fairywrens also occur here and we will also search for the nomadic but gorgeous Orange and Crimson Chats, as well as White-fronted Honeyeater, White-browed and Grey-crowned Babblers and the beautiful Red-capped Robin. In the heat of the day, we will return to Alice Springs to visit the famous Alice Springs Sewage Works, a veritable magnet for waterbirds in this thirsty landscape. Red-necked Avocet, Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills, Pink-eared Duck and Black-fronted Dotterel may be seen along with more retiring species like Baillon’s Crake and with a lot of luck, the secretive Australian Spotted Crake. We’ll also spend time birding in woodland areas near Alice looking for typical Australian interior species like Crested Bellbird and Hooded Robin and we may even encounter the very rare and elusive Grey Honeyeater. In the late afternoon, we will visit a nearby waterhole that will afford us views of common but no-less-lovely species such as the gaudy Galah and Common Bronzewing. These species will be watched coming in to drink but our main target here will be one of the “outback’s” star birds: the rare, localised and partially crepuscular Bourke’s Parrot.
Our second day in the Alice area will be spent in the scenic MacDonnell Range, west of Alice Springs. This ancient landscape of rugged mountains and cool, scenic gorges is an impressive area and harbours a number of magnificent avian treasures. We will visit Simpsons Gap and Ormiston Gorge; both stunning locations that exhibit an interesting range of birds and mammals, as well as being scenically spectacular. The delightful Black-footed Rock-wallaby, a small and highly agile macropod with a very long tail, may be seen this morning as might the Common Wallaroo.
Notable endemic birds that we hope to find include the secretive Spinifexbird, robin-like Redthroat, the handsome Spinifex Pigeon, Western Bowerbird, and the rare and nomadic Pied and Black Honeyeaters. More widespread species include the vivid Mulga Parrot, Southern Whiteface, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, immaculate Zebra Finch, Red-backed Kingfisher, Brown Falcon and Australian Hobby and if we are very lucky, we may even encounter the very rare Painted Finch. We will enjoy a picnic lunch in the field and return to Alice in the early evening.
Day 4: Alice Springs to Erldunda
This morning on our Australia birding tour, we have time for some final early morning birding around Alice for any species we may still need in this area before we begin our journey south towards Erldunda. Our first stop south of the town will likely be at an area of waterholes on the Hugh River. This productive area is usually home to a few patches of water and these, along with the fabled red river gums, attract a range of striking species. This is an excellent area for Cockatoos and parrots and we may well see the eye-catching Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Little Corella, gaudy Galah, Cockatiel and the familiar but rather nomadic and erratic Budgerigar! If we encounter a mixed feeding flock in this woodland, we may also find White-plumed and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters and Western Gerygone. After some time here, we will continue south to Erldunda, keeping a lookout for the scarce and nomadic White-backed Swallow along the way. Upon arrival in Erldunda, we will settle in before a short exploration of the surrounding area, searching for the extremely range-restricted and uncommon Banded Whiteface. Other highly prized species we may encounter while searching for the whiteface include Red-browed Pardalote, Slaty-backed, Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Grey-headed Honeyeater. Two mega-rare and ultra-elusive raptors that are possible in this area are the Grey Falcon and Letter-winged Kite but we would have to be immensely fortunate to see either of these Outback rarities.
Day 5: Erldunda to Uluru (Ayers Rock)
This morning on our Australia birding tour we head out early onto the surrounding stony plains (known as gibber plains after the Aboriginal word for stone). These sparsely vegetated and barren plains may appear ‘empty’ at first glance but they are home to some very exciting and handsome species. Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Chiming Wedgebill and the amazing Inland Dotterel are three of the special birds of this area that we may be fortunate to see. If we are very lucky, we may even encounter a flock of the nomadic and elusive Flock Bronzewing. In the afternoon we will continue our journey south to the famous Ayers Rock – now called Uluru after the aboriginal name for the area.
Upon arrival in the area, we will head out to Kata Tjuta from where we will explore this unique landmark while enjoying the surrounding avifauna. Here the remarkable domed geological formations tower 500 meters (1600ft) above the flat, surrounding landscape. In the late afternoon, we will make our way to Uluru where we will enjoy the surreal visual effect of the fading afternoon light on this incredible piece of rock, one of the most impressive geological wonders of the world!
Day 6: Uluru to Darwin
This morning after breakfast we will make our way to Uluru Airport for our onward flight to Darwin. Upon arrival, we will check into our accommodation before spending the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens where we will no doubt be treated to a marvellous suite of wonderful birds and unique and beautiful flora that occurs in this part of northern Australia. Possibilities include Red-collared Lorikeet, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Little Bronze Cuckoo, White-breasted Woodswallow, Magpie Goose, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Rainbow Bee-eater, Sacred Kingfisher and Brown Myzomela (Honeyeater).
Day 7: Darwin and surrounds
Darwin is surrounded by a fantastic diversity of habitat types and we will spend most of the day exploring an area of mangrove and monsoon forest for an impressive range of possible highlights. In the coastal mangroves, we will concentrate on finding the elusive Chestnut Rail, hyper-active Red-headed Myzomela, the furtive Mangrove Robin, the scarce White-breasted Whistler, Mangrove Fantail and Mangrove Gerygone; while in the monsoon forest and adjacent woodland, we hope to find Orange-footed Scrub-fowl (a kind of megapode), the gorgeous Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, the striking Rainbow Pitta, Forest Kingfisher, the uncommon Pacific Baza, Olive-backed and Green Orioles, Little Shrikethrush, Black Butcherbird, Green-backed Gerygone, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Northern Fantail, Spangled Drongo, the loud and obtrusive Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, impressive Blue-winged Kookaburra with their amazing vocalisations, Great Bowerbird, Pheasant Coucal, musical Pied and Silver-backed Butcherbirds, Bar-shouldered and Pacific Emerald Doves and the lovely Red-collared Lorikeet (a recent split of the more widespread Rainbow Lorikeet).
Two very rare raptors that we may be extremely fortunate to find in this area and during the next week include the impressive Black-breasted Buzzard and the mega Red Goshawk. Little Red Flying-fox and Agile Wallaby are two of the possible mammal species that we may encounter during our day’s explorations of this faunal-rich area.
Day 8: Darwin to South Alligator (Kakadu National Park)
This morning on our Australia birding tour, we start the day with a visit to Fogg Dam. This well-known site is an excellent area for waterbirds such as the monotypic Magpie Goose, Green Pygmy Goose, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, White-necked, White-faced and Pied Herons, Glossy, Straw-necked and Australian White Ibises, the stately Brolga, White-browed Crake and the quirky Comb-crested Jacana. By mid-morning, we will depart Fogg Dam and continue our drive towards the vast and world-renowned Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is undoubtedly the Northern Territory’s most well-known protected area and at almost 20,000 square kilometres (around 7600 square miles), it is a massive area that protects vast tracts of woodland and seasonal wetlands that harbour a wealth of magnificent creatures. En route to Kakadu, we will enjoy a stop at the Adelaide River crossing for lunch where we may see Mangrove Golden Whistler and a variety of flycatchers, including Shining, Leaden, Restless and Broad-billed. On arrival in Kakadu, we will embark on a short walk to a nearby, scenic lagoon not far from our cabins to enjoy an amazing sunset. After dinner, there will be an optional spotlighting excursion for nocturnal species such as Barking Owl, Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth, Large-tailed Nightjar and Australian Owlet-nightjar.
Day 9: South Alligator to Cooinda (Kakadu National Park)
This morning on our Australia birding tour we make a stop at the impressive Mamukala Wetlands where, if conditions are right, we can enjoy the spectacle of thousands of birds represented by many different species. Plumed and Wandering Whistling Ducks, Raja Shelduck and Black-necked Stork are possible highlights. Later this morning there will be an option to visit Ubirr, an area of rock outcrops in Kakadu that is home to some impressive aboriginal rock art, much of which is many thousands of years old. The art depicts creation ancestors and animals of the area, including several fish and turtle species, wallabies and possums. If we are lucky, we may see the localised Short-eared Rock Wallaby around their day-time rock shelters. Other birding highlights that we may find during some short stops today include Sandstone Shrike-Thrush, Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon, Partridge Pigeon (red-eyed form) and Rufous-throated Honeyeater.
In the afternoon we will enjoy a rewarding cruise on the Yellow Waters Billabong, Kakadu’s best-known wetland. This impressive wetland of channels, swamps and floodplains is a delight to explore and is home to crocodiles a-plenty and a variety of waterbirds, including Nankeen Night Heron, Black-necked Stork, Black Swan, Australasian Darter, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, the impressive Australian Pelican, the minuscule Little Kingfisher, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Australasian Swamphen. The stately Great-billed Heron and Black Bittern may also be seen, as might the rare Black Falcon. In the early evening, we will check into our accommodation.
Day 10: Cooinda to Pine Creek
This morning on our Australia birding tour, we make an early visit to Nourlangie Rock where we hope to find several of the area’s most sought-after specialities, like the very attractive Banded Fruit-dove, White-lined Honeyeater, Little Woodswallow, Black-tailed Treecreeper and the strange Helmeted Friarbird. We also have a reasonable chance of seeing the range-restricted Black Wallaroo in this area. We will then enjoy a last look around Kakadu before making our way out of the park and south-west towards the Pine Creek area. We will be sure to stop for any new birds and mammals on the way. After checking into our accommodations, we will visit Copperfield Dam where we will spend the afternoon searching the grasslands for Chestnut-backed Buttonquail and possibly Brown Quail; while the surrounding dry woodland supports the superb Hooded Parrot, Varied lorikeet and Buff-sided Robin and we may also encounter Silver-backed Butcherbird and Blue-winged Kookaburra during our forays.
If time allows, we may also spend time birding around Water Gardens and the Old Cemetery where Red-winged Parrot, the noisy Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, the sought-after Hooded Parrot, Northern Rosella, the scarce and migratory Red-backed Kingfisher, the delightful Red-backed Fairywren, Australian Figbird, Striated Pardalote, the stately Great Bowerbird and brilliant Masked, Long-tailed and Double-barred Finches are all possible.
Day 11: Pine Creek area
We have the whole day to bird the variety of habitats around the Pine Creek area. Sites that we will visit today include Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park for the now-rare and absolutely sensational Gouldian Finch, as well as Umbrawarra Gorge for Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Great Bowerbird and Partridge Pigeon should we have missed them earlier in the trip. Other specialities that we hope to encounter in this bird-rich area include Grey Goshawk, Jacky Winter, Black-faced Woodswallow, Varied Sittella, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, the vociferous Grey Shrikethrush, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, the minute Weebill, the boldly-patterned Bar-breasted Honeyeater, tiny Mistletoebird (a type of flowerpecker) and the rather elusive and unpredictable Square-tailed Kite.
Day 12: Pine Creek to Victoria River
Today on our Australia birding tour we begin our journey west across the “Top End”. En route we have additional chances for Hooded Parrot and with some luck, we may see the uncommon northern race of Crested Shrike-tit (all the more challenging as this species is silent at this time of year!). Other possible species today include Black-tailed Treecreeper, Rufous-throated, Black-chinned, White-throated and Banded Honeyeaters and Buff-sided Robin, amongst many other more common species.
Day 13: Victoria River to Timber Creek
Today we will wind our way west through Gregory National Park. One of the unique, target habitats that we will explore today will be the tracts of cane-grass on the fringes of the Victoria River. This localised and endangered habitat is the favoured habitat for the superb Purple-crowned Fairywren and Yellow-rumped Mannikin. Freshwater Crocodiles are common here and, unlike their saltwater cousins, subsist mostly on fish, and thus pose little threat to large mammals (humans included!). In the surrounding rocky and wooded areas, we stand a good chance of seeing White-quilled Rock-Pigeon and Sandstone Shrike-thrush, amongst other more widespread and regular species.
Day 14: Timber Creek
Today will be dedicated to continuing our search for the stunning Gouldian Finch should we have missed it earlier at Edith Falls. This area is also home to a rich diversity of species and there will be plenty to keep us entertained while we search for our quarry. Highlights may include the Spinifex Pigeon, Long-tailed, Masked and Star Finches, Chestnut-breasted and Yellow-rumped Mannikins and Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, as well as further chances to locate White-gaped Honeyeater, Purple-crowned Fairywren, Silver-crowned and Little Friarbirds, Little Woodswallow, Crimson Finch, White-throated Gerygone and Pheasant Coucal should we have missed them earlier in the trip.
Day 15: Timber Creek to Kununurra
This morning we continue our sojourn west, as we cross the Western Australia border. We will be on the lookout for the very rare Pictorella Mannikin during the drive, as well as a selection of raptors that could include Collared Sparrowhawk, Brown Goshawk, Spotted and Swamp Harriers, Little Eagle and the magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle, as well as the rare and erratic Square-tailed Kite. While today is mostly a travel day, we will be passing through spectacular countryside and making regular stops to stretch our legs and enjoy any birding highlights. In the late afternoon, we will arrive in Kununurra in the fabled Kimberley area where we will spend the final two nights of this incredible northern Australian birding tour.
Day 16: Kununurra
Today we have a full day of our Australia birding tour to explore the riches of Kimberly in the Kununurra area. A certain highlight is bound to be the boat trip on Lake Argyle, where we will enjoy a wonderful variety of waterbirds, as well as search for two very special avian gems: the highly sought-after, incredibly localised and low-density Yellow Chat and the range-restricted White-quilled Rock Pigeon. Other highlights that we are likely to encounter during the trip include Australian Reed Warbler, White-browed Crake and Pheasant Coucal that reside in the dense vegetation at the lake-edge. Local conditions will determine where we spend the rest of the day, with additional possible birding highlights including Brolga, the gorgeous Northern Rosella, Silver-crowned Friarbird, the spectacular Blue-faced Honeyeater, Bar-breasted and Banded Honeyeaters, and Sandstone Shrikethrush. Noteworthy mammal possibilities include Short-eared Rock Wallaby and the bizarre Northern Nail-tail Wallaby.
This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner while reminiscing over our many memorable sightings and experiences over the past two and half weeks.
Day 17: Kununurra and depart
After a final breakfast, we will transfer to the Kununurra Airport where our birding adventure of northern Australia will conclude.