Trip report: Australia’s Top End, Victoria River to Kakadu (Oct 2013)

Guided by Nick Leseberg.

Easily my favourite part of Australia to go birding, the Top End is hard to beat for a combination of nature and scenery. From the monsoon forests of Darwin to the open savannas around Katherine, the floodplains of Kakadu and the sandstone escarpments of Victoria River, the scenery is as spectacular as some of the amazing birds. The extreme climate in the Top End can make birding a challenge, but when your targets include Gouldian Finch, Rainbow Pitta and Hooded Parrot, motivation is easy to find.

Dry conditions throughout inland Australia and also across the Top End this year meant there wasn’t much standing water around. This had also affected the movements of some species, pushing a few unusual birds further north than normal. Some of the regular species were a little thin on the ground as a result, but we still managed to pick up all our major targets, plus a few unexpected species. The highlight of a Top End trip is always difficult to choose, but the three clear contenders this year were particularly difficult to separate. A small party of Purple-crowned Fairywrens kept us enthralled, while our only group of Gouldian Finches for the trip gave walkaway views. Maybe the highlight though, not because of rarity but because we had such a great view, was an absolutely stonking Rainbow Pitta on our first day of the trip. Good luck picking a winner between those three!

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