Oz from top to bottom

2008 July 8
by David J. Ringer

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS — I’m in the Solomon Islands now, hoping desperately to have time for some birding before I leave this week. Last month, I was in Australia, and I’ve finally gotten some photos posted.

I started off in Darwin, where I had a great time birding with fellow Birdstacker Fregata and her husband. The couple took me to several sites near Darwin, including Fogg Dam and Charles Darwin National Park.

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My best bird of the day was this marvelous little Rainbow Pitta (Pitta iris)! I’d long wanted to see a pitta of any sort, but they are elusive and hard to come by. This bird, though, sat quietly on the monsoon forest floor, preening and feeding, offering just spectacular looks. Wow, wow, wow!

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Pittas have absurdly short tails. The Rainbow Pitta has a few iridescent green-blue feathers just above it stubby tail feathers. I should add that our pitta observations came at a price — the forest was jammed full of mozzies.

For more on the trip (which also featured jacanas, Scrubfowl, Magpie Geese, egrets, cockatoos, and Wedge-tailed Eagles), check out Fregata’s Fogg Dam trip list.

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I also had time for a trip to Kakadu National Park, where I got several large and charismatic birds, including nesting White-bellied Sea Eagles. I’ve seen them in other countries too, but they never fail to impress.

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And what Australia trip report would be complete without a crocodile photo? The saltwater crocodile is a wide-ranging species in the Old World tropics, and it’s become rather abundant in northern Australia since being protected from hunting.

More bird, animal, and plant photos are available in my Top End gallery.

uluru

From the hot, wet Top End, I flew down to the arid Red Center, which is cool now because it’s winter. Work commitments sort of fell through, so I took a day trip from Alice Springs to Uluru (which is a LONG trip). It didn’t make for excellent birding, but the landscape is pretty amazing in itself.

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Along the road, I saw Crested Pigeons (shown here). Huge, impressive Wedge-tailed Eagles and small, noisy Little Crows were fairly common along the road too because of all the roadkilled kangaroos.

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Hakea (Proteaceae) plants were in flower, attracting White-plumed Honeyeaters and Zebra Finches. More photographs are posted in the Red Center gallery.

From Alice Springs, I flew to Melbourne, where it’s a cold and periodically drizzly winter. I explored the Melbourne suburb where I was staying, and I went birding with John O’Malley of Geelong, who helped me find Rufous Bristlebird, Hooded Dotterel, and many other excellent birds.

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I saw Eastern Grey Kangroos nearly every day. Absolutely wonderful animals!

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One thing I really love about Australia is the diversity and abundance of parrots and their kin. From enormous Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in the Top End to lovely, jewel-like Eastern Rosellas in Victoria, the birds are just fantastic. Here, a pair of raspberry sherbet colored Galahs feeds on the lawn behind my flat.

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Maned Ducks (Australian Wood Ducks) were common in grassy and pasture areas. They’re pretty sharp-looking ducks. More photos available in the gallery.

I’ll be back in Australia later this month and hope to get a chance to explore even more of that fascinating and very birdy continent. But first, I need to find some birds in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

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