Katie Stacey and nature photographer Luke Massey explored the unique flora and fauna of the Northern Territory in Australia. On their journey from Darwin to Kakadu National Park they encountered a multitude of birds and other species, for which the huge area is home. We document their experiences and stunning images in a series.

It may not be your regular start destination for a birding trip but in Australia’s Northern Territory the bustling metropolis of its capital city, Darwin, is where you have to begin! We had landed early one hot autumn evening, just in time to experience one of Darwin’s most impressive natural phenomenas, and so after dropping our bags at the hotel we headed straight back out to grab a beer and watch the show on Mitchell Street. What begins as a tiny pre-roost on the Esplanade ends in a climatic explosion of feathers flooding the sky with colours and calls, before thousands of rainbow lorikeets finally settle themselves in the very heart of Darwin. It’s a spectacular way to start our visit, and get acquainted with this charming city.

The next few mornings were spent watching the huge wader flocks at Lee Point and Buffalo Creek – sooty oystercatchers, red-capped plover, great knot, little tern and Caspian tern – and going in search of the rainbow pitta up at East Point. While in the evenings we wondered the Esplanade where tawny frogmouth hang out, and we spent time in the Botanic Gardens with the rufous owl and its chick – Darwin really is an urban jungle. A few days in Darwin allowed us to decompress and then it was time to make our way further into the Aussie bush. Our first stop was at Corroboree Billabong, just 90 minutes from the city along the Arnhem Highway. Here we headed out on an airboat with Wildlands Wetlands Safaris, for an exhilarating exploration of the majestic Mary River wetland system. These floodplains are twice the size of Singapore and act as an important breeding and feeding ground for water, shore and sea birds as well as being home to a large number of freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. During the wet season 85% of the area is covered in water!

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Our guide Chase Walker, had been guiding the area for the past 20 years, and she and her son Jackson knew the area intimately. Chase told us that the secret to knowing where to drive came down to reading the saltwater crocodiles behaviour. “I’ve got three big salties – Ned, Kelly & Josh – and when they start retreating to deeper water that’s when I start avoiding the shallower territories.” It’s pretty dry at the time of our visit, the rains are imminent and you can feel it in the crushing heat of the midday sun, and so our tour is rather restricted. However this makes it the perfect time for birdwatching, as when the water sources shrink the birds are drawn to the remaining sites of water. Plumed whistling ducks feed on the banks, a lone male jabiru (the local name for a black-necked stork) picks through the muddy waters edge.

(This is part 1 of 3 from the reportage about Australia’s Northern Territory by Katie Stacey and nature photographer Luke Massey. Part 2 and 3 will follow June 24 and June 26). 

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