Blue-winged Kookaburra

Northern Territory Trip 3 – (King Ash Bay) – 8-10 April 2018

The second main location for our trip was King Ash Bay.  With hot showers, toilets, a bistro and a shop it was like moving up to luxury standards. It was great camping a bit more remotely but there is something to be said for a hot shower, especially when you don’t have to worry about a croc grabbing you when your collecting the water to wash in.

Again the primary purpose was fishing and as there is not really anywhere dry and cool enough to store the camera on the boat so I didn’t bother taking my camera out on the trips.  Birds seen where numerous with a constant fly-over of activity and birds on the shore. Most noticeable for me was a great viewing of a Great- Billed Heron, out in the open 20 meters from the boat and no camera!

The birding activity I did do was around the King Ash Bay grounds in the mornings and evenings when I had time. Sitting around our site the Black Kite were circling low overhead and perching in some of the trees around the grounds allowing for some close-ups.

Black Kite
Black Kite – King Ash Bay, NT


My first walk a bit further from camp providing a nice new tick with Red-collared Lorikeet (#291) in the flowering trees.

Red-collared Lorikeet
Red-collared Lorikeet – King Ash Bay, NT


Also in the trees where a couple of Blue-Faced Honeyeater. A common enough bird around home, the sub species up here is albipennis and is sometimes debated as being a separate species in it’s own right so it was good to get a couple of picks for a potential split in the future and an armchair tick.  This shot shows the longer beak of the albipennis subspecies.

Blue-Faced Honeyeater
Blue-Faced Honeyeater – King Ash Bay, NT


In the open area where a golf course had been mowed was another subspecies which may one day be split into full species classification.  The northern subspecies of the Masked Lapwing (miles) appears obviously different to the subspecies novaehollandiae  found at home with it being slimmer, paler and having no black on the breast or hindneck it is a ripe candidate for a future armchair tick.

Masked Lapwing
Masked Lapwing – King Ash Bay, NT


Other birds on the fairway included Galah and Magpie Lark but all where surprisingly pretty shy so I couldn’t get very close.

Continuing to follow the dirt roads and fairways I found my next new tick with the Great Bowerbird providing me with Aussie bird number 292. They were pretty common around the grounds but I only managed to get a couple of decent shots over the few days we spent at King Ash Bay.

Great Bowerbird
Great Bowerbird – King Ash Bay, NT


The Blue-winged Kookaburra proved to be common again but are still a pretty cool looking bird with their crazy eyes and bright blue wings. I was pleased to get one to stay still in good light for me to get some clear close-up shots.

Blue-winged Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra – King Ash Bay, NT

Heading to where the fairway runs beside the airfield a few small birds where darting in between the trees and after a bit of searching found tick number 293 the White-gaped Honeyeater.  Another relatively common bird around King Ash Bay that I unfortunately just didn’t get a really good shot of.

White-gaped Honeyeater
White-gaped Honeyeater – King Ash Bay, NT


The other birds flying around the trees chasing each other where the Paperbark Flycatcher, one I had a few shots of by now but had to get some more when it posed so nicely for me.

Paperbark Flycatcher
Paperbark Flycatcher – King Ash Bay, NT


A Robin had me excited for a potential new tick. I hadn’t done my research on the Robin’s in the area so didn’t know what to look out for so hadn’t realised that the Jacky Winter covers such a broad range. I already had lots of really good photos of the Jacky Winter from my trip to Bowra in 2016 but this was still a nice one to add to the collection.

Jacky Winter
Jacky Winter – King Ash Bay, NT


Ducking over to the runway to look for some finches around the edges proved unsuccessful so I had to settle for a couple of nice shots of the galah contrasted against the rich red earth.

Galah – King Ash Bay, NT


Continuing back along the golf course fairways White-throated Honeyeater and Rufous Whistler where common. None of the mature full coloured male Rufous Whistlers would come down to nice perches for a photo but a young one was not very shy and flew in to check me out landing to close for the camera forcing me to back away a bit to get him/her into the frame.

Rufous Whistler
Rufous Whistler – King Ash Bay, NT


Another young bird when I would have liked to have seen the adult was the Rufous-throated Honeyeater.

Rufous-throated Honeyeater
Rufous-throated Honeyeater – King Ash Bay, NT


One of the birds on my wish list was the Northern Fantail. I always like the antics of the fantails around home so was keen to add another Fantail species to my list. The Northern Fantail only made a brief appearance and took off when I tried to get closer so only a record shot of Aussie bird number 294. It would have been good to have shoes on but due to the large blisters from the first day of my trip I was still in thongs and sticking to the clearer areas for safety.

Northern Fantail
Northern Fantail – King Ash Bay, NT


It was starting to get dark by this stage and as the light goes very quick when it goes I started to head back as quickly as possible along the way seeing Red-backed Fairy-wren and chasing off a small family of Brown Quail. Back at the camp site I got to test out the low light capabilities of the Nikon D810 with a Frilled-neck lizard appearing on the tree right in front of us. ISO4000 1/50sec and some post-production work to get this shot.

Frilled-neck lizard
Frilled-neck lizard – King Ash Bay, NT


The following morning I got up early and went for a little bit of walk around the same sort of locations as previously. There was still not a lot of light around unfortunately as I found but didn’t get any decent shots of a White-throated Gerygone. The White-throated Gerygone is a bit of a photographic bogie bird with me. I have seen them on a couple of occasions but can never seem to get a decent shot.

Also around in the same trees where Blue-faced Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote and a White-throated Honeyeater who had caught a spider for breakfast.

White-throated Honeyeater
White-throated Honeyeater – King Ash Bay, NT


I tried briefly again to get closer to the Masked Lapwing with no luck so continued down the road that heads towards the airport along the way finally finding an adult Rufous-throated Honeyeater in the open only for it to be to far away and not enough light so once again didn’t get a decent shot.

The next sighting was one I wasn’t expecting with a Brush Cuckoo showing up, he proved to be a bit painful either sitting in the open with a large shadow or light across his face, sitting behind a branch, or sitting in the dark shadows. A preening shot was the best I managed.

Brush Cuckoo
Brush Cuckoo – King Ash Bay, NT


My first Sacred Kingfisher for King Ash Bay was next to appear, but again I really struggled with the lighting. So far a pretty unsuccessful morning.

Up next was my first new tick for the day with a Broad-billed Flycatcher briefly making an appearance before disappearing again so I had to settle once again for just a record shot for Aussie Bird number 295.

Broad-billed Flycatcher
Broad-billed Flycatcher – King Ash Bay, NT


Rounding out the morning was more Rufous Whitsler, Black Kite, and Great Bowerbird. Not a lot of activity for a mornings walk and unfortunately my most unsuccessful day quality photo wise. A Peaceful Dove on the ground was nearly my best shot.

Peaceful Dove
Peaceful Dove – King Ash Bay, NT


My next opportunity was the following afternoon. This time I headed straight towards the back fairways of the golf course where I had seen the Northern Fantail hoping for some better shots.  Along the way I picked up a really nice Striated Pardalote who couldn’t have posed much better for me.

Striated Pardalote
Striated Pardalote – King Ash Bay, NT


I also found a Blue-winged Kookaburra who sat perfectly for me. Definitely a better quality start than the previous morning.

Blue-winged Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra – King Ash Bay, NT


As we were nearly at the end of my stay I made a bit more of an effort to get some of the more common birds for a record.  The Bar-shouldered Dove and Peaceful Dove where easily found.

Bar-shouldered Dove
Bar-shouldered Dove – King Ash Bay, NT


A new one for my Northern Territory trip and only the second time I had seen one was the White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike. It unfortunately took off as I tried to get a little closer so had to crop this shot a bit.

White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike – King Ash Bay, NT


The Red-collared Lorikeet were again easy to find so I grabbed some more shots of them plus a couple of shots of the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo – King Ash Bay, NT


I had no luck locating the Northern Fantail however did find more White-throated Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Paperbark Flycatcher, White-gaped Honeyeater, Little Bronze-cuckoo, Magpie Lark and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike – King Ash Bay, NT


My best surprise was finding a beautiful little Diamond Dove.

Diamond Dove
Diamond Dove – King Ash Bay, NT


King Ash Bay was a great spot to stay with awesome facilities.  I really only gave it a light go on the birding front to photograph 29 different birds species (saw a lot more) and pick up 5 new ticks, with a bit more time and effort I could have found a lot more and got some better shots.  My one learning though from a place like this was to take the time to get decent shots of the birds that are commonly around as soon as they present themselves rather than passing it over to get a shot later, because later does not always happen and who knows when I will ever get back this way again.

Oh and yes and I did end up getting a good barra, 98cm!


  • World Bird Count:  442
  • Australian Bird Count: 295


Birds Photographed:




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