Jabiru, Yellow Water Billabong or Pine Creek, where hooded parrots hung from the sprinklers outside on the common, a great bowerbird tended its intricate bower of white trinkets, and galahs and figbirds feasted on the fruits of the wild mango trees. A sunset cruise at the Yellow Water Billabong.
After ticking off a few more birds in and around Jabiru; including the red winged parrot, red backed fairy wren and a very daring pair of stone curlews who had made their nest only metres from the side of the road, we headed over to Yellow Water Billabong for the sunset cruise. Green pygmy geese, plumed and wandering whistling ducks cruised the calm waters, whilst white faced and white necked heron fished from the banks. White browed crake peeked through the reeds, and black bittern hid in the roots of the trees. Azure, sacred and little kingfisher, like miniature fireworks fired past us, while the discrete Arafura fantail flitted secretively amongst the shrubbery. In the pandanus Luke spotted 3 barking owls, and one of the owls karate kicked an unwitting nankeen night heron out of the palm-like tree after it had the audacity to disturb the owls roost.
From sunset on Yellow Water Billabong we arose before sunrise the next morning to be taken to a secret spot of Luke and Sarah’s in search of a very special bird. As the light grew on the nest site we began to see movement and soon we could make out the young red goshawk. An hour later its mother arrived with breakfast and shortly after came its father, who swiftly headed off to hunt once again. We were actually positioned at the old nest site, perhaps 100m from the current nest site, and at the foot of the tree where we stood we could see the remnants of kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets – the meals of choice for the red goshawks.
Our final stop on the tour was Pine Creek, where hooded parrots hung from the sprinklers outside on the common, a great bowerbird tended its intricate bower of white trinkets, and galahs and figbirds feasted on the fruits of the wild mango trees. The heat was now quite unbearable, but Luke promised us this was a good thing for we were in search of one particular bird that was only really possible to see well at this time of the year, when the water was at its most scarce. We headed to one of the last remaining water sources, again at day break, and waited. Flocks of double barred and crimson finch were the first to arrive. A golden tree snake hung lazily in the branches of a tree behind us.
Then came the next wave of birds; redwing parrots, hooded parrots, cockatiels and northern rosellas followed by bar shouldered, peaceful and diamond dove. They would begin in the tree with the snake, and then work their way down to the water to drink. A brown goshawk flew through flushing everything in sight, and still there was no sign of our target bird. Banded honeyeater, silver crowned and little friar bird joined the party. And then we heard them, they were in a mixed flock with masked and long tailed finch, but in comparison their colours were unmistakable. Brightly coloured with black, green, yellow, and red markings – the Gouldian finches had arrived. Luke gave an audible sigh of relief at the sight of them. In fact his timing couldn’t have been more perfect for that very afternoon the heavens opened to present the first rains of the season.
A version of this article was first published in Bird Watching magazine Autumn 2019.