The "Top End" of Australia
Part 1: Darwin
From a comfort point of view, October is probably not the best time to visit the Top End as temperatures begin to soar into the high 30's/low 40's and the humidity rises in the build-up towards the start of the wet season. Although October is officially classed as being the start of the wet season, rain in October is infrequent and generally consists of occasional short showers. This year, I only experienced one rainshower in the entire month.
After my flight from Perth landed in Darwin, I spent the next few days exploring some sites in and around the city, such as Charles Darwin National Park, Lee Point, the botanical gardens, Holmes Jungle Nature Reserve and Howard Springs. By far the most productive site, however, was East Point and it was here that the majority of the photos displayed on this page were taken.
East Point is less than 10km from Darwin city centre and is a popular recreational spot for dwellers of the city, so it is often quite busy. On the plus side, this means that most of the wildlife within the park is used to the presence of humans and is consequently less timid and easier to approach than in many wilderness areas.
Large flocks of Red-collared Lorikeet could usually be found feeding in the flowering trees and shrubs scattered throughout the park. This very common species is closely related to the Rainbow Lorikeet found on the east and southeast coasts and they were formerly considered to be conspecific. The main differences between the two are that Red-collared has: a red, instead of lime green, collar; blue on the nape instead of green; and a black, instead of blue, belly.
Bird activity along the Monsoon Forest trail is best in the early morning. At this time of day they are more likely to be singing or calling making it easier to locate them among the dense cover.
Northern Fantail is a less fidgety species than the similar Grey Fantail, and tends to fan its tail less and sit more upright.
Shining Flycatchers are common along the Monsoon Forest Trail and several can usually be found rooting around for insects in the leaf litter.
In more open areas, Forest Kingfishers can often been seen surveying the area from exposed perches.
The mown lawns bordering the cycle track and surrounding the military museum are a favoured spot for Masked Lapwings, although you have to be careful you don't approach these guys too closely when they are defending a territory if you don't want to be dive-bombed!
Orange-footed Scrubfowls also occasionally leave the shelter of the forest to forage on the lawns.
Large mobs of Agile Wallabies graze on the lawns in less disturbed areas. They are fairly timid here and usually hop into the cover of the forest at the first sign of human approach.
Silver-crowned Friarbirds are common in a variety of woodland habitats in the Top End.
Pacific Reef Herons occur in two colour morphs: white and a dark bluish-grey. Both can regularly be seen along the coastal path at East Point.
During October, there is a considerable amount of shorebird movement through Darwin as many species who breed in northeast Asia pass through on their way to their wintering grounds. One of the best places to view these is at the high-tide roost at East Point. Here you could usually see about 10 species at relatively close range.
Howard Springs, about 30km south of Darwin, didn't come even close to living up to its billing as being the best place to find Rainbow Pitta (they were much easier to find at several other places, especially Fog Dam). Not only were there not any Pittas to be found, there wasn't much of anything else either here with the highlight of my 2 visits being a very obliging Merten's Water Monitor who was basking in the early morning sun at the edge of the lake.
Olive-backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatus)
Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
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