Birding Kakadu

by Anne
(British Columbia, Canada)

A week in Kakadu in November was a great success for us, despite minimal planning and flexibility (my husband was there for work but I was free to roam and explore).

Much website information was somewhat misleading for this time of year (such as: "expect crowds of tourists in the park", "November is the beginning of the wet") - in fact the weather was still very dry except for one downpour and thunderstorm lasting about an hour one evening.

There were minimal tourists, in a whole morning spent at Mamukala wetlands I saw only 2 other people, and on the Nourlangie Rock Barrk walk I was the only person. Billabongs and floodplain were mainly dry, except for the wonderful Yellow Waters. The weather was hot (35°C) and very humid, and the high humidity made hiking difficult.

My main interests were birds, wildlife and the Aboriginal art sites, and I only had a regular 2wd vehicle so had to stick to the bitumen. Wildlife was relatively difficult to find compared with other locations in Australia, except at the wetlands (I am pretty experienced at finding wildlife). However, we saw dozens of bird species.

The early morning Yellow Waters cruise was terrific with good commentary by the guide and excellent views of active estuarine crocodiles, kingfishers (including Little Kingfisher), White-bellied Sea Eagles, terns, egrets, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stork (Jabiru), Australian Pelican, etc. The boardwalk was good for flycatchers and wetland birds too.

Elsewhere in the park we saw Black Wallaroo, Agile Wallabies and Dingos, mainly at dusk or early in the morning. I arrived at the art sites by 8.00am opening time each visit and that helped with them being quiet (although the first groups arrive then).

This is very late for birding though, and I missed some of the rarer species I would have liked to see. By repeat visits to the sites I was able to appreciate the art and the natural ecology better.

Flies were a bit of a nuisance when birding (get in your eyes while looking through binoculars) but there were no mosquitoes to speak of. Reptiles were conspicuous by their absence apart from the Yellow Waters crocs.

The escarpment scenery and rock art was fantastic and the more time I spent in the dry, apparently empty scrub savannah areas, the more they yielded up their subtle secrets.
Cheers, Anne
British Columbia

Comments for Birding Kakadu

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Kakadu in November
by: Birgit

Hi Anne,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a wonderfully detailed report! I very much appreciate it and I am sure people thinking of visiting Kakadu in November, as well as all bird and nature lovers, will appreciate it, too.

And good to hear you had such a great time! (Someone with your interests and attitudes will always have a great time in Kakadu, no matter which time they go.)

You mention misleading information about November.

I guess that for overseas visitors the name "wet season" can be misleading if not explained further.

So I'd like to take the opportunity to explain it a bit further :-), for future readers.

November IS the beginning of the wet season. It just isn't necessarily wet... The period is also called "the build up". Temperature and humidity are building up towards the big rains...

We only have two seasons. Temperate climates have two additional seasons describing the transition between summer and winter. We don't have names for them, but there are still those periods of transition.

On the Kakadu climate page I call it the shoulder season and don't specify any months.

The problem with that transition is that it is very unpredictable. (Well, the rain is unpredictable, we CAN predict that it'll be hot...)

November COULD be wet. You COULD have got rain every afternoon and through to the early morning hours. Or it could remain dry until late December...

January to March are the real soggy months. And then it gets extremely unpredictable again...

Thanks again, Anne, for the great write up. I recommended on the climate page that people read it :-).

The crowds in Kakadu...
by: Birgit

As for the crowds, I don't mention crowds in November anywhere on this site, do I? It would be a typo. (If that's the case, could you let me know where?)

While the heat and humidity are a drawback in the eyes of the average tourist, the good thing is that you will have the park just about to yourself.

Here's a quote from that Kakadu weather page:

"The transitional periods between the dry and wet season are also an excellent time to visit Kakadu National Park. At the end of the dry season, before the first rains, huge numbers of birds and also other wildlife congregate around the receding waterholes."
"Tourist numbers in either shoulder season will be low, and the temperatures high."

Peak season is from mid-June to mid-August. That's when it's really hard to get away from the crowds.

Hard but not impossible. The Nourlangie Rock Barrk walk for example is great and never crowded. The majority of people do not bother with the longer walks. They are in too much of a hurry...

From the Kaka-do or Kaka-don't page:

"Even in the more touristy areas there are longer bushwalks (e.g. the Barrk Sandstone Walk at Nourlangie) and beautiful bush camping sites (e.g. Sandy Billabong, or Mardugal if you prefer camping with facilities). You don't have to stick with the crowds at all times."

For readers who plan to visit Kakadu during peak season but hope to get away from the crowds, that page has other suggestions as well!

Re: Birding Kakadu
by: Anne

Hi B
My mention of "misleading websites" was not meant as a comment on your website but at some of the other ones I had browsed before going on my trip.
I appreciate your info about weather in the Wet so I'm glad I was lucky.

by: Birgit

Ah. Thanks for letting me know!

By the way, I don't think you were just lucky. How we experience something depends on our attitude more than on the surrounding circumstances.

When it rains, that has wonderful sides to it as well, and you sound like someone who would have been able to appreciate them :-).

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