Please note that the stated itinerary is subject to possible adjustment due to unforeseen delay or changes to rail / flight schedules.
Days 1 - 3
FLY DARWIN: RAINFOREST & MANGROVES
We leave London on a scheduled flight to Darwin, arriving there early in the morning of Day 3. We shall be met by Peter and transfer directly to our comfortable hotel in Darwin, where we shall spend our first two nights in Australia. As a new day dawns, the likes of Straw-necked Ibis, Pied Imperial Pigeon and the ubiquitous Magpie-lark may be among our first birds Downunder - even before we are checked in!
Tropical Darwin, by the shores of the Timor Sea, is Australia’s gateway to Asia. Isolated at the “Top End” of the great Australian Outback, the intertidal flats and mangroves are a welcome sight for thousands of wintering shorebirds as they arrive now from their Asian breeding grounds. Here, we too shall get acclimatised to the heat and humidity as we visit some of the key birding spots around the city.
After a chance to freshen up at the hotel, our birding begins in earnest after breakfast (substantial and highly recommended!), with a visit to the excellent Darwin Botanic Gardens. We will spend the morning here, enjoying some easy, introductory birding - and seeing some great birds! Screeching flocks of ‘red-collared’ Rainbow Lorikeets dash about the trees as we get to grips with Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Black, Whistling and Brahminy Kites, our first friarbirds and honeyeaters (perhaps including Rufous-breasted and Bar-breasted), Spangled Drongo, and ‘impossible to miss’ Australasian Figbirds and Green Orioles. Stunning blue and white Forest Kingfishers sit out boldly for us to admire, and we’ll soon discover the jaunty Magpie-lark, a widespread species and the one most likely to be recorded on every single day of the tour. With luck, we may find a Barking Owl staring down at us from within the shady canopy or even the scarcer and very localised Rufous Owl, dozing at its daytime roost.
After a delicious lunch back in the comfort of our air-conditioned hotel, we head north to Buffalo Creek, an area of coastal mangroves and tidal mudflats within a short drive of town. In contrast to this morning’s birding, we will encounter a quite different range of species - and we might also discover Paul’s Iced Coffee here, the second most popular drink in Northern Territory after beer! Striated Heron, Pacific Reef Egret, Silver Gull, Crested Tern, and Collared and Azure Kingfishers are likely along the creek, while scrutiny of the wader flocks feeding out on the flats should reveal a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar, with Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Red-capped and Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwit, Far Eastern Curlew, Knot and Great Knot, Turnstone and Red-necked Stint among possible treats in store. In the mangroves, passerines to watch for include Green-backed Gerygone, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
and the tiny Australian Yellow White-eye. The big Chestnut Rail also lives here and although we may well hear them calling from the depths of the mangroves on the far side of the river, this secretive species is seldom seen. Night Darwin.
DARWIN: HOWARD SPRINGS & PALMERSTON SEWAGE PONDS
Today we head out of town to Howard Springs, a patch of relict monsoon rainforest with a small lake.
A real oasis amidst the dry eucalypt country, the mighty trees of this small nature reserve attract large numbers of birds. The gorgeous Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, immaculate Shining Flycatcher and superb Rainbow Pitta, with its shining emerald back and distinctive black head and body, are key species here. Noisy Sulphur-crested Cockatoos explode from the tree in the drier woodland and we may see Blue-winged Kookaburra beside the lake, while Brown Honeyeaters and Dusky Myzomelas swarm amongst the blossoms of flowering trees.
Later, at Darwin River Dam, we could see eye-catching Red-winged Parrots and Northern Rosellas, along with Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Fantail and Crested Hawk. Orange-footed Scrubfowl scratch about the woodland floor and we may also find the Buff-sided form of the White-browed Robin.
No bird tour worth its salt would be complete without a visit to at least one sewage works (and we shall visit several!), so this afternoon we’ll spend our time at Palmerston. The extensive mangrove forest fringing the treatment lagoons provides cool shade from the hot sun, and here we can expect an array of waterbirds such as Australasian Grebe, Pied Heron and Wandering Whistling Duck as well as some key mangrove specialities like Mangrove Fantail, Mangrove Robin and Mangrove Gerygone. We may well encounter our first exotic Australian finches too, including Crimson Finch and the lovely Double-barred. But outshining them all will be the stunning Red-headed Myzomela, the brilliant males attired in jet black and scarlet! Night Darwin.
FOGG DAM & KAKADU: SOUTH ALLIGATOR RIVER
We leave Darwin this morning and drive south and east to Fogg Dam. With its monsoon rainforest trail, boardwalk, shallow lakes and marshes, this really is an outstanding spot. Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Grey Whistler, Little Shrikethrush and Mistletoebird frequent the woodland trail and boardwalk. However, it is the wetlands here that really steal the show: birds are abundant and highlights on our last visit included the huge Black-necked Stork, Glossy Ibis, Intermediate Egret, Pied Heron, Darter, Buff-banded Rail, White-browed Crake, Brolga and tip-toeing Comb-crested Jacanas. Willie Wagtails, and aptly-named Restless Flycatchers, flirt and flycatch beside the causeway.
Reluctantly tearing ourselves away from Fogg Dam, we continue east along the Arnhem Highway towards Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage Site and arguably Australia’s finest area for birds. Famed not only for its ancient Aboriginal rock art and rich natural history, this area is hugely popular with tourists for its landscapes and massive flooding rivers which make it impassable during the Wet Season.
As we drive on through the flat countryside we’ll keep an eye open for Agile Wallabies and the comical Frill-necked Lizard with its neck “frill” fanned into a wide ruff. We could also see our first Black-faced Cuckooshrikes this afternoon, while flocks of Little Corellas wander about beneath the eucalyptus trees; at first glance, they might easily be dismissed as a flock of Cattle Egrets!
Our destination this evening is Aurora Kakadu, on the eastern edge of Kakadu National Park, along the South Alligator River. Night South Alligator River.
KAKADU: THE ARNHEM LAND ESCARPMENT, UBIRR & NOURLANGIE
The immense Kakadu National Park extends over 20,000 square kms, the entire catchment area of the South Alligator River – so named in error by a confused early British explorer for there are no alligators here, only ‘crocs’. Mangroves and paperbark swamps border the creeks, but away from the water the flat expanse of dry country is clothed in scrub and eucalypts. The park leapt into the limelight in 1986 through the film “Crocodile Dundee”, the success of which was no doubt partly due to the evocative landscapes filmed on location here.
After an early breakfast we head directly to Bardedjilidji and take the Sandstone Walk before the outback heat becomes too oppressive. The extremely localized Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon, an Arnhem Land endemic, will be our number one target bird here, a most peculiar species that is found only on the eroded rocky outcrops of this mysterious place. The arid brush country around about seems a strange place to find White-bellied Sea Eagle, but we may see them here, and other species to watch for include Leaden Flycatcher and Grey-crowned Babbler.
The Mangarre trail beside the East Alligator River will be our next port of call, a place remarkable for the sight, sound and stench of thousands upon thousands of roosting Black Flying Foxes we will find hanging in the trees all about us! We are likely to spot our first Saltwater Crocodiles too, lurking menacingly in the muddy waters of the river - beware of straying too close! We’ll stop for lunch here.
Ubirr consists of a group of rock outcrops on the edge of the Nadab floodplain, and is famous for its Aboriginal rock art. A circular walk beneath the trees and in the shadow of the rocks themselves offers some welcome shade, where we will pause to admire the ancient artwork. We may hear Rufous Whistler singing in the woods, one of a very few local birds it seems that still remain active during the heat of the afternoon.
Continuing on towards our next hotel, we will keep our eyes open for woodland birds such as the strange looking Partridge Pigeon. As the shadows lengthen and the daytime temperature starts to cool, we take a short detour out to Anbangbang Billabong. Wetland species can be numerous here. Plumed Whistling-duck, Green Pygmy-goose, Eastern Great White Egret, Royal Spoonbill, Australian Pelican and Black-fronted Dotterel are possible. Agile Wallabies graze the lush waterside grasslands and we could see the big Red-tailed Black Cockatoo over the woods.
Our destination this evening is Cooinda, where we shall stay for two nights. Dusk will be upon us as we arrive at Cooinda, gateway to the world famous Yellow Water Billabong. Night Gagudju Lodge, Cooinda
KAKADU: YELLOW WATER CRUISE
We start the day with one of the undoubted tour highlights: a dawn cruise on the Yellow Water billabong. This wetland of international renown is the Dry Season home to a multitude of waterbirds. In the cool pre-dawn we’ll watch the sun rise, gradually illuminating the wetlands to reveal its throng of waterbirds as the morning mist lifts. Impossible to miss are the tens of thousands of Magpie Geese that trail endlessly across the dawn skies. Plumed Whistling-ducks are common (outnumbering Wanderers here), along with Green Pygmy-geese, Pacific Black Duck and flocks of Australian, Straw-necked and Glossy Ibises. Seventy or more species can be seen on the cruise and others we may see include Darter, Rufous Night Heron, Black Bittern, Royal Spoonbill, Black-necked Stork, Brolga, Arafura Fantail, and both Azure and Little Kingfishers, the latter a tiny jewel of a bird. Whistling Kites call from their roosts in the treetops, White-bellied Sea Eagles watch as we pass and crocodiles lurk, half-submerged in the shallow water.
After breakfast, we take a circular walk through the nearby forest. Black-tailed Treecreeper is one of the special birds here, a member of the Australian treecreeper family and best located by its loud, piping call. Very different to its European namesake, its large size will come as a surprise! The impressive Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Pheasant-tailed Coucal and Shining Flycatcher could also be seen along the trail.
The superbly scenic Arnhem Land escarpment is home to several Top End endemics. White-lined Honeyeater, ‘Sandstone Friarbird’ (the sandstone race of Helmeted Friarbird) and Sandstone Shrike-thrush, with its beautiful melodic calls that echo through the escarpment, are among those we could see at Nourlangie Rock this afternoon. Like Ubirr, Nourlangie is famous for its galleries of fine rock art beneath the cool shady overhangs. Little Woodswallows ride the air currents against the immense rock, and we might just spot an aptly-named Black Wallaroo, sheltering beneath an overhang on the cliffs beneath us. With much luck, and careful scanning, the beautiful Banded Fruit-dove can sometimes be found sitting quietly on an exposed perch against the cliffs. Night Cooinda.
RETURN TO DARWIN VIA PINE CREEK
We have a long drive ahead of us today as we leave Kakadu behind and head towards the town of Pine Creek, on our way back to Darwin. But the roads are good and largely traffic free as we travel south, and we will make a couple of stops to investigate woodland for some of the area’s delightful finches, including both Masked and Long-tailed, as well as the tiny Diamond Dove, the world’s smallest pigeon. Gradually, the tree cover opens up and towering termite mounds dot the landscape. We’ll stop in suitable habitat where the grasslands have been recently burnt to look for the exquisite and endangered Gouldian Finch. This elegant but gaudy little bird is unusual in that three phases of face colour exist: red, yellow or black. Red-winged Parrot is not uncommon in the open woodlands and, continuing to Bukbukluk, we’ll pause to search any flowering eucalypts for Varied Lorikeets, weird looking parrots with what appear to be “Biggles” style goggles!
Bidding a reluctant farewell to Kakadu, we drive out of the National Park towards Pine Creek. Flowering trees along the way are well worth checking for some of the many honeyeaters possible here, like Rufous-throated, Dusky and Banded. Pine Creek is a reliable spot to look for another of the Northern Territory’s most beautiful endemics, Hooded Parrot, the brilliant black and turquoise males with their golden-yellow shoulder patches contrasting with the soft green tones of the females.
After lunch in town, a visit to the unpromising looking Pine Creek Sewage Ponds may actually reward us with a fascinating array of birds, from Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe to Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and the gorgeous Red-backed Fairywren. Leaving Pine Creek, the highway back to Darwin is good and we should be settled back at our comfortable hotel by around teatime, with time to repack and ready ourselves for the first leg of our eagerly awaited journey south on The Ghan tomorrow!. Night Darwin.
ON BOARD THE GHAN, KATHERINE GORGE BOAT TRIP
After an early breakfast, we’ll be collected by coach and ferried out to Darwin station where we board The Ghan. Departing at 9.00am, we begin our journey south across this huge continent, leaving the lush tropics behind in favour of arid woodlands and deserts of the interior.
Meals on board The Ghan are excellent! Shortly after enjoying a first delicious lunch on board today, the train makes a scheduled stop at Katherine. Various activities are on offer here and, while many passengers favour a sightseeing cruise along the river at famous Katherine Gorge, we may opt for a wildlife cruise (subject to operation) along the Katherine River where it snakes gently through Nitmiluk National Park.
White-necked Heron, Darter and white Radjah Shelduck may be seen as we drift slowly downstream, and Dollarbirds and Blue-winged Kookaburras are common in the riverside trees. We’ll go ashore on the sandy riverbank for some ‘billy and bush tucker’ at what is also a great spot to watch small birds bathing and drinking: White-gaped, Yellow-tinted, White-throated, and numerous Banded and Rufous-throated Honeyeaters, plus many Double-barred Finches, should provide plenty of entertainment as we enjoy some welcome refreshment ourselves. On the return journey we may again be lucky to see Black Bittern and the scarce and not so dangerous (but equally scary) Johnston’s Freshwater Crocodile. On our last visit, a fine pair of Tawny Frogmouths with two fluffy grey nestlings on a bough in a massive tree also provided those with cameras with some irresistible photo opportunities!
Returning to The Ghan in the late afternoon, we set off again, south towards Alice Springs. Over dinner onboard the train, we can watch as the great Australian Outback glides by outside and fades slowly into the desert night. Night aboard The Ghan.
Days 10 - 11
ALICE SPRINGS, ULURU (AYERS ROCK) & KATA-TJUTA (THE OLGAS)
The enormity of the great Australian Outback will hit home today, for even after travelling all through the night it’s still there, right outside the window and stretching away in every direction as far as the eye can see! We may spot our first Crimson Chats, Brown Falcon or perhaps an Australian Hobby or two from the window. Late morning on Day 10, The Ghan pulls in at Alice Springs, in the arid Red Centre of Australia.
We transfer the short distance to Alice airport. Lunchtime check-in for the afternoon flight westwards into the desert, where (if conditions are good!) the massive monolith of Uluru - better known by its former name, Ayers Rock - should provide a stunning backdrop to the desert sunset tonight.
From our Ayers Rock resort, we can explore the gorges and waterholes around Uluru and Kata-Tjuta, looking for local specialities such as the magnificent Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and the familiar Budgerigar, occurring here in its natural green and yellow plumage, sometimes in huge flocks. If there has been rain recently, the desert vegetation can be amazingly green and lush, ablaze with flowers and alive with nesting birds. The startlingly coloured Crimson Chat makes its home here, alongside Singing, White-plumed and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, and the smart Black Honeyeater. Tiny Zebra Finches nest in the spiny shrubs, while more open brushy habitats are the haunt of lovely Variegated and White-winged Fairywrens.
We will rise early next morning (Day 11) for a ‘Sunrise Tour’, taking a boxed breakfast and heading out to Uluru. From the viewing trail in the desert we may hear the distinctive song of the Pied Honeyeater (which is oddly reminiscent of that of Hoopoe Lark). Crested Bellbirds will also be calling across the flats - though actually getting to see one of these infuriating birds is another matter entirely! Next we head to foot of Ayers Rock itself. Taking the trail right beneath the immense domed cliffs, we can gaze up in awe at the rich red stone contrasting with a cloudless and intensely azure sky. Australian Kestrel and Grey-headed Honeyeater may be seen.
After a well-earned break at the hotel, we take an afternoon excursion out to the Olgas, a collection of
36 steep-sided monoliths also known by their Aboriginal name of ‘Kata Tjuta’. One option here is to take a short hike up hill and down dale, into the aptly-named Valley of the Winds - where it is likely to be windy, too! We have chances of Grey Shrikethrush, Rufous Songlark and Zebra Finch. At nearby Walpa Gorge, we may find the delicate Diamond Dove. Two nights Yulara.
Days 12 - 13
ALICE SPRINGS & THE WEST MCDONNELL RANGES
Time for some final birding in the desert around our Ayers Rock resort before we catch the morning flight from Uluru back to Alice Springs, and check into our hotel there around lunchtime.
In the afternoon, we head out to the Alice Springs Waste Water Rehabilitation Works - better known locally as the “Poo Ponds”! This is another cracking spot for birds and we should encounter the likes of Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes, Grey Teal, Hardhead and Pink-eared Duck. If we’re in luck, we could even jam the rare Freckled Duck here. The lagoons can also be a good spot for waders: Red-necked Avocet, Black-necked Stilt and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper are among possible species, and unexpected bonuses last time included Australian Pratincole and three Banded Stilts. Black-tailed Native-hens strut about the margins, Brown and Rufous Songlarks perform their fluttering flight songs, and in the grasses beside the water we should hear and hopefully catch sight of the furtive Little Grassbird.
Next day (Day 13), we’ll drive out to the west of Alice to explore the rugged McDonnell Ranges. At Ormiston Gorge, we can look for Brown Falcon and the curious little Spinifexbird. We also have further chances of Budgerigar as we go in search of Little Buttonquail, Port Lincoln Ringneck, Hooded Robin and the superb ‘Golden-backed’ form of Black-chinned Honeyeater. We might also find the tiny Spinifex Pigeon, scooting along the ground with its ridiculously tall crest pointing skywards.
Over lunch at Glen Helen we can admire the magnificent gorge cut by the Finke River. With luck, Budgies may be nesting again in the big old eucaplypts beside the river, while surprisingly musical Australian Reed Warblers sing from the fringing reedbeds and White-necked Herons fish in the shallows. Making our way back to Alice Springs in the afternoon, we’ll detour via the Ochre Pits, a place where ochre was formerly mined by local aborigines. Splendid Fairywrens, Western Gerygones and the gorgeous Red-capped Robin are among species to watch for here. Two nights Alice Springs.
ALICE SPRINGS & ONWARD ON THE GHAN
In the morning we’ll enjoy some final birding around “The Alice”. Yellow-throated Miners, Pied Butcherbirds and Weebills are common at the Old Telegraph Station, where Black-footed Rock Wallabies may pose confidingly for the photographers. At the nearby Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, we may be captivated by the antics of Western Bowerbirds and Grey-crowned Babblers, and there are more than 250 central Australian plant species on display in the park.
We return to Alice railway station late morning, where we once again board The Ghan for the second leg of this great railway journey, southbound towards our ultimate destination, Adelaide. South of Alice we will cross the state border, passing from Northern Territory into South Australia, and head out across the Painted Desert. Night on board The Ghan.
Day 15 - 16
ARRIVAL IN ADELAIDE: ONKAPARINGA & FLEURIEU PENINSULA
After rolling through the seemingly limitless South Australian outback, past the Flinders Ranges and on to the coastal plain between the Mt Lofty Ranges and Gulf St Vincent, we arrive in Adelaide about lunchtime, having completed one of the world’s great railway journeys. The capital of South Australia, Adelaide is romantically known as the ‘city of churches’ - but also boasts as many pubs!
We swap the refined comfort of The Ghan for the more humble surroundings of our minibus and begin our southern birding at the Onkaparinga Estuary and its associated wetlands. Here we should see Chestnut and Grey Teal, Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler and Musk Duck as well as Black-winged Stilts, Red-necked Avocets, Red-capped Plovers and various migratory waders including Greenshank, Red-necked Stint, and Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers. Fishing around the muddy margins will be Great and Little Egrets, and Yellow-billed Spoonbills. Little Black, Pied and Little Pied Cormorants should all be here too, thriving in the nutrient rich waters alongside the more familiar Great Cormorants, Eurasian Coot and Whiskered Terns.
Further south we will enter the Fleurieu Peninsula. This ‘biogeographic island’, which includes the Mt Lofty Ranges, is home to many birds more typical of the wetter forests of southeastern Australia. We’ll visit the bird-rich Scott Conservation Park where we hope to see a range of honeyeaters such as Yellow-faced, Crescent, White-plumed, Brown-headed, New Holland, White-naped and Black-chinned, along with Golden Whistler, Scarlet Robin and Varied Sittella. If the eucalypts are in blossom, screeching flocks of rosellas and lorikeets can be numerous in the trees. Before we reach our hotel in Victor Harbor, on the shores of Encounter Bay, we’ll detour via the little town of Mount Compass and look for Red-browed Finch and the stunning but elusive and rare Southern Emuwren, with its long filamentous tail.
Over the following day or so we’ll have time to explore the coasts and forests of the Fleurieu Peninsula, looking for such specialities as the huge Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, the elusive Beautiful Firetail and the ungainly looking Cape Barren Goose. We’ll hope to admire the rapidly dwindling population of Little Penguins sheltering on Granite Island, Pacific Reef Egret, and the big Pacific Gull with its outrageous ‘meat cleaver’ bill, while Black-faced Cormorants sit on rocky islets with their wings spread out to dry. A constant parade of parrots - including Eastern Rosellas, Red-rumped, Elegant, Blue-winged and, with luck, the range-restricted Rock Parrot - will enchant us wherever we stop. Two nights Victor Harbor.
Days 17- 18
RIVERLAND: GLUEPOT RESERVE, BOOKMARK BIOSPHERE
Leaving the coast, we drive eastwards into the South Australian Riverland, where we will meet the mighty River Murray, one of the longest river systems in the world but also one of the poorest in terms of flow. Along the way we’ll stop at Bakara, a small reserve of open woodland featuring many species of multi-stemmed eucalypts known as “mallees”, which give their name to the Mallee region of southern Australia. With careful searching, skulking mallee specialities such as the ground-dwelling Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren and Chestnut Quail-thrush may be found. From here we continue to the small riverside town of Waikerie, where we spend the next two nights.
Next day, we drive north of town to explore part of the huge Gluepot Reserve *1, which was purchased by Birds Australia in 1997. Formerly known as Gluepot Station, this reserve safeguards the largest block of intact mallee left in Australia and is home to six nationally threatened species including the Malleefowl, Red-lored Whistler, Black-eared Miner and Striated Grasswren, as well as 17 regionally threatened species amongst the 190+ species recorded here. Other rare or unusual species that we may encounter include White-browed Treecreeper, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Hooded Robin, Redthroat and Shy Heathwren. If we’re really lucky, we may catch a glimpse of the sought-after and brilliantly coloured but elusive Scarlet-chested Parrot.
Apart from its birds, Gluepot is also home numerous mammals, among them the Hairy-nosed Wombat, Western Grey and Red Kangaroos, and the charming porcupine-like Echidna, which curls up into a ball when approached leaving only its long snout exposed. There are also forty-nine reptile species recorded for the park, some of which - like the Bobtailed Lizard with its pine-cone scales, and the fierce-looking Bearded Dragon - we are likely to encounter as we drive along the bush tracks. Two nights Waikerie.
*1 Please note: if there have been heavy rains recently, the aptly-named Gluepot Reserve may be closed, since its unmade tracks become so ‘sticky’ as to be impassable to all vehicles. In this event, we shall endeavour to visit an alternative - and hopefully less glutinous! - mallee site a little further from town.
RIVERLAND & BAROSSA VALLEY
Our last full day of birding sees us heading for the world-renowned wine making region of the Barossa Valley, where we’ll be staying tonight. En route we will make a couple of excellent birding stops. Beside the Murray River at Morgan, we’ll pause for a while to look for the golden yellow flash of Regent Parrots as they fly between the mighty River Red Gums, and to listen out for the songs of Gilbert’s Whistler and the diminutive Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo. We may also see Rainbow Bee-eater, raucous Little Friarbirds, Australian Darters as they dive for fish and Brown Treecreepers, which ironically spend most of their time on the ground.
Brookfield Conservation Park was a gift to the people of South Australia from the Chicago Zoological Society, to protect the mallee woodlands and research the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat which lives here. Vast areas of the Mallee were cleared for agriculture and this important remnant is home to many unique Australian birds, including the world’s only dry country megapode, the Malleefowl, Mulga Parrot, and honeyeaters such as Striped, White-fronted and Yellow-plumed. Other birds here include Red-capped Robin, White-browed and Chestnut-crowned Babbler, and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill. Also possible is the smart-looking Ground Cuckoo-shrike, with its delicately barred rump, and flocks of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows which soar effortlessly overhead or come in to roost noisily on tree snags.
As we head into the Barossa Valley and cross over Jacob’s Creek, passing through some of the world’s most celebrated vineyards, we know we’re close to Tanunda, our destination tonight. Before we get there, however, we’ll stop at a little reserve on the outskirts, to stretch our legs and watch out for chattering parties of White-winged Choughs as they forage through the leaf litter. Striated, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Thornbills are all found here and, with any luck, we’ll also come across the strikingly patterned Diamond Firetail, a finch-like bird with a blazing red rump and bill, and the impressive Crested Shrike-tit, larger and louder here than its scarce northern cousin.
We spend our final night of the tour at the cracking Novotel Barossa, right in the heart of the beautiful Barossa Valley. Blue and orange Adelaide Rosellas, and red and green Musk Lorikeets feed noisily in the eucalypts around our very comfortable hotel, which is set on a hillside with views across the rolling and very ‘English-looking’ landscape. Superb Fairywren and the dazzling New Holland Honeyeater are two more beauties to look for in the trees and bushes outside our rooms. The hotel restaurant is superb and we’ll have a chance to sample some of those famous Barossa wines over dinner tonight! Night Tanunda
RETURN TO ADELAIDE, FLY LONDON
We spend our final day in South Australia leisurely making our way back to Adelaide for the evening flight. But on the way we’ll make one last special stop, calling at Waterfall Gully, where numbers of Australia’s most beloved furry animal, the Koala, can be found lounging peacefully in the tall gum trees along the creek. Colourful Rainbow Lorikeets will entertain us at the feeders and Superb Fairywrens are probably nowhere easier to see. The wooded hillside trails are also good for birds, with the likes of Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Yellow-faced and Crescent Honeyeaters, White-throated Treecreeper and the strange Grey Currawong wrapping our birding at the end of a wonderful and remarkably diverse tour!
From here, we wind our way back down on to the Adelaide Plains and head out to the airport for farewells to Peter and in good time to catch our evening flight back home to London.
Arrival back in London, where our “Grand Central tour” of Australia comes to an end.