Monday, 21 September 2015

Wildlife upside down 2: the top end

After Perth we went north, to Darwin, right at the top of Australia. We spent three days going into the bush in Kakadu and Arnhemland. This got us much closer to the "real" Australia, including seeing some insights into Aboriginal art and culture.

We were now in the land of beautiful sunsets and crystal clear skies. We were also staying in a lovely hotel right on a dock where there was a superb seafood restaurant. Not only did it serve giant mudcrabs, you could watch the sun go down with a beer in one hand whilst black kites, created terns, silver gulls and white-bellied sea eagles flew past and masked lapwings shouted the odds from the rocks.

In the parks, white-bellied cuckoo-shrikes, bar-shouldered doves and figbirds lurked in the trees,

whilst orange-footed scrubfowls, white and straw-necked ibis pottered about beneath them.

The next day we set off into Kakadu national park and Arnhemland. both of which took us well off the beaten path and into some very wild areas.
Our first stop was at Fogg Dam. This is a large wetland area that we found at later holds one of the largest biomasses of any creature, pythons, which are there in incredibly large numbers though we didn't see any.

Flying in this shot are two brolga's, large crane-like birds of he region.

There were large numbers of many typical wetland birds, including these purple swamphens. note their feet. It looks like sticks but they are pulling up water plants to eat.

With them were large numbers of whistling ducks, white-necked herons, comb-crested jacanas and green pygmy geese, themselves only the size of ducks!

It wasn't only waterbirds though, as there were lots of insects around attracting australian hobbies (another endemic), lemon belliedn and leaden flycatchers and feeding on seeds not insets, scarlet finches.

One thing i didn't expect to see, at least not in such numbers were pelicans. We ended up seeing them in a number of different places, but Kakadu provided large flocks of them.

In Australia of course, where you get water you get things which will eat you, and often those are giant crocodiles, especially salt-water crocs. We saw many, often of giant size, up to 16 feet long, and many more were presumably lurking out of sight.

In case you are wondering, that isn't a growth on one of the crocs, as we first thought, but a radio-tracking device, and no I don't know how the hell they got it on there!!

Second day we went deeper into Arnhemland and visited a number of sites which were sacred, if that is the right word, to the local Aboriginal tribes. The caves held some exquisite rock art.

In the woods around though were some cracking birds inlcuding sulphur-crested cockatoos, blue-winged kookaburras, 

We also went on another wetland cruise, seeing some new wildlife as well as some more crocs!

Green pygmy goose

Australian darter

Black-necked or jabiru stork

Pied cormorant

Rainbow bee-eater

Radjah shelduck

Azure kingfisher

White-bellied sea-eagle

 comb-crested jacana

and a rather self-satisfied pelican

Our last stop was another lodge closer to Darwin whre we spent 2 days doing not a lot, which was nice in itself. There were agile wallabies all around, mainly coming out at dusk to feed on the grass. this noe though was annoying to one of the local magpie-larks!

Some also had joeys in their pouches still...

Another highlight were these little corellas who were really enjoying the sprinkler which was keeping the grass green for the wallabies!

In the trees and using the termite mounds were many pairs of rainbow bee-eaters. I was surprised at how many of them their were, the number of pairs must have been in the dozens.

Other birds spotted included this Australian pratincole patrolling the airstrip outside our room,

blue-faced honeyeaters, which are quite large and were loving the blossom around,

and some smaller birds like rufous-throated honeyeater
 rufous whistler
 and forest kingfisher