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

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