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Humpty Doo | Litchfield Shire | Darwin Rural Area | Northern Territory | Australia

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Looking for the Gouldian Finch

September 8, 2017

We set out early afternoon in search of the Gouldian Finch at a site near Edith Falls.


We had good Intel that they would be there.


The drive from Rakhi Retreat took about 2 ½ hours making sensible use of the 130 km/h speed limits


The side road was at the exact distance as Intel suggested


We scoped the vacant site, had a cooling swim at Edith Falls and then returned to enjoy the late afternoon into sunset


I had never see the the fabled Gouldian finch


As a small boy with my treasured bird book from Ma I had gazed at its photo and imagined what they were like. Such vivid colours.

Videos and bird cages don't really tell you about the full nature of their being


Through time being at Rakhi I have rediscovered the joys and wonder of quiet rapture as ecology dances around me

Seeing something in this dance is seeing it with the full breath of life

Spirit comes the Greek word for breath

The bustling insect life in the remnant lagoon

Water beetles and nymphs in sticks

The occasional squirt of clay clouds into the clear water by freshwater mussels

Dragon flies marrording over the water and stick insects pulling themselves from it

And all the birds coming in to drink and bathe

Moments now and moments 35 years ago have the same raptuose feeling

The little boy and me are still one


Off on an adventure to see what we can see

We came to see the Gouldian Finch in its natural environment and I was yet to know it.

Know comes from the greek Gnosis.

We sit quietly absorbing ourselves in our suroundings

I know they flock with other birds and a bunch of other details about breeding and diet and I should be able to recognise it but it is all still abstract…

The cicadas sang in the woodland of salmon gums.

The ground was hard and dry away from the waterways.

A small flock of double bar finches are hanging around the water hole as we settle into the shade.

Just small movement and calls in the bushes at first but then they come down to the water to drink and bathe.

What do Gouldians look like in the distance?


The surrounding trees are busy

Crows cleared off on our arrival

A willy wagtail is strutting its stuff as it hunts on the wing and takes drink or a dip.

The pandanus and surrounding grass begins to fill with crimson finches drinking and bathing and searching for grass seeds.

Another species of finch arrive but with my vision now a little short sighted I'm not sure if they might be Gouldians?

The flock swirls around and descends into a black wattle

They move fast or sit in shadow of branches.

They are so small!

I need to get glasses.

It would be nice to see the stars and moon clearly again 

Might be handy reading airport screens from a distance.



A few pigeons arrive and come down to bathe a few meters away.

The binoculars come out.


A finch comes down close, 1m away, and it is a Long Tail Finch.

It evades the tunnel vision of the camera.


More come and all three types of finches flock together


A couple of Banded Honeyeaters join the action as the light begins to fade


We camp in a secret spot and have the night to ourselves

We return at (almost) first light

A few others have joined us

A guide and 3 others here to see a gouldian

We wait

Other finches come and go

The crimsons put on a show on the bank

Then a flock of slightly small finches swirls as silhouettes in the sky.



Is that them?

The mystery lingers for a moment before the guide quietly confirms they are Gouldians.

They swirls again an go a little further down the valley before going down to drink

We wait

Another flock comes


They go into the branches above us and are silhouettes against the early morning light.

And down they go spreading out onto the pebble back before on signal all lining up to drink

Just as suddenly they have gone

Off to feed on seeds in the grassland

Most of them were juveniles

Possibly a good sign for their future or at least a good season after last heavy wet

The guide has been in NT a long time and remembers the numbers before the decline in the 80s when the land was all burnt to a crisp each year. Now he says there is a ranger who describes himself as ‘still learning’ and is putting in considered patchwork burning practice and with the return of habitat we have had the return of the Gouldian.


























A brown goshawk nest is spotted and the morning moves towards afternoon.


The other birders leave to go about their day.

We wander a little down river to check out the other water holes and then return to sit in the shade

I tuck myself under pandanus and am treated to quite a show and all 4 species of finch return to go about their business within a few meters of me.



Once the Gouldians put their heads down to drink, dull green back to the sky and thier vibrant colours hidden, they stay down and take off the moment they stop.

The double barred finches hop around searching every crack and are comfortable half a meter away from me.



Just before leaving more tiny colour arrived and was only later identified as a Striated Pardalote by a friend.



Much more vibrant yellows and a little more slender than the pictures had suggested.  Again knowledge takes a different life attached to life breath in its environment.

The photos are mixed results with the tiny Gouldians evading focus and these words trying to convey something of the experience. A picture may paint 1000 words but the rapture of moments with these tiny birds so close in their environment brings the knowledge of 1000 photos. To live and breathe with these beautiful, tiny creatures just for 24 hours brings such a sense of richness to life. It is highly recommended.