Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Nourlangie (Anbangbang)

The Aboriginal rock shelter and art sites used to be called Nourlangie but that was due to a misunderstanding. The actual Aboriginal name for the rocky outcrop is Burrunggui, and their name for the lower area where the art sites are is called Anbangbang. Visitors are being encouraged to use the correct names. There were excellent information boards at each art site and fences keep visitors at a distance to protect the art. It's a fascinating site and apparently there are hundreds more on the Arnhem Plateau. We also visited the very attractive Anbangbang Billabong which is nearby.

Whistling Ducks on Anbangbang Billabong
Anbangbang Billabong

Yellow Water

You can't go to Kakadu without going on a Yellow Water wetlands cruise. So we were there at the crack of dawn and for the next two hours enjoyed the delights of a wetland reflected in the still water and  full of wildlife - Azure Kingfishers, Forest Kingfishers, Jabiru, Rainbow Bee-eaters, whistling-ducks, egrets, spoonbills, pygmy-geese, night-herons, a jacana dad with two chicks, sea-eagles, herons and whistling kites. I was most surprised and pleased with a pair of large Channel-billed Cuckoos calling loudly from a dead tree because I've never seen them before and I think they are probably returning from a visit to Asia slightly early this year.

Crocodiles, again, and a few wild horses.

Juvenile Nankeen Night Heron
Pandanus aquaticus and Lotus Lilies
Sea Eagle

Monday, 28 July 2014


Arnhem Land Escarpment
The East Alligator River marks the eastern boundary of Kakadu National Park. That area is also the abrupt boundary of the floodplain and the Arnhem Land plateau marked by a geographical feature called 'the escarpment. For tourists the 300 m high escarpment provides adventure in the form of waterfalls, birdwatching expeditions, fishing, rock pools, four-wheel driving on dirt tracks, exploration of Aboriginal cultural sites and flights to see the splendour from the air. 

As the plateau rose the continuous erosion has created spectacular landscapes of chasms and gorges along its 500 km length.

We visited the Ubirr area near the East Alligator River, famous for the rock paintings found in a low outlier of the escarpment. The trail lead us higher and higher until finally we were rewarded by a spectacular 360 degree outlook from the top. 

View from Ubirr
It took us a while to get to the top and down again because the ancient Aboriginal rock paintings are equally spectacular. Layers of history that are of international significance and still hugely significant to the local cultures.

Evidence that the thylacine once existed in this area.

On our way back past the impressive Border Store (you can grab a Thai meal there!) to Jabiru we stopped to have a look at Cahills Crossing where the road to Oenpelli and Arnhem Land crosses the East Alligator River. There is a lookout near the crossing where you can view the crocodiles loitering with intent. We saw about five in the water near the crossing and one briefly on the crossing.

Cahills Crossing, East Alligator River

Crocodile beside Cahills Crossing
We didn't stay at the Merl camp in this area but I wish we had. If we're ever in Kakadu again I plan to spend more time in this lovely and fascinating spot.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

South Alligator River

As we travelled east on the Arnhem Highway we were on the floodplains of several large north-flowing rivers, the Mary, the Wildman, West Alligator, South Alligator and East Alligator.

South Alligator River
The largest is the South Alligator and we stopped a while to admire it. Just up the road is a large wetland, part of the South Alligator complex, called Mamukala.

Last night on TV we happened to catch one of the Crocodile Dundee films on its umteenth rerun, and watched it with interest. It was the environment we were interested in, not the story, because we are in the middle of it right now. I was reminded of a line of conversation in the film when I saw Mamukala. You know when Dundee is in New York and when threatened with a knife says 'That's not a knife. This is a knife' and produces a large pirate-type cutlass. Well at Mamukala they have an amazing bird hide and viewing deck. It's huge. I've never seen one like it.

Part of the Mamukala viewing facility. It is a curved shape.
Part of the Mamukala observation deck.
The river, the footpath leading to the wetland as well as the wetland itself provided me with some photo opportunities.

Nesting Little Corellas
Meadow Argus butterfly. (I never even noticed the delicate little plant
 until I saw it on my computer screen.)
Swamp Tiger butterfly
Two for the price of one. A Lesser Wanderer (above) and a Swamp Tiger (below)
Whistling Kite

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Corroboree Billabong

Heather guided our boatload of tourists skilfully through the bends of the Corroboree Billabong and, just as skilfully, told us what we were looking at. The billabong is on the floodplain of the Mary River and is beautiful, the banks lined with pandanus and paperbarks, the shallow waters covered in several types of waterlily. It's home to birds and animals that congregate there during the dry as the floodplain dries out.

The leaves of the waterlilies track the sun, so they all lean the same way.
We were able to get close to quite a few birds on the cruise. The stately Jabiru was particularly impressive.

Juvenile Comb-crested Jacana with astonishingly big feet. It spends its life on lilypads.
A male Darter with wings stretched out to dry.
Black-necked Stork (Jabiru)
But we all wanted to see crocodiles, saltwater crocodiles, and we weren't disappointed. Heather was able to show us several small crocodiles lurking around the lilies. As we approached too close they submerged quietly under the surface of the water with scarcely a ripple. And then she spotted a larger older crocodile on the bank, soaking up the last warmth of the sun.

Saltwater Crocodile

Friday, 25 July 2014

Fogg Dam

Fogg Dam, east of Darwin, is well known in the birding community, here and overseas. The dam was built for irrigation purposes but is managed now as a conservation reserve. And birds love it.

Dam wall closed to walking
There are several walks from the carpark before the wall, one through Monsoon Forest and the other to waterlily ponds. The second is closed for some reason so we couldn't walk that and by the time we got back from crossing the wall and having lunch we really didn't have time to do the other. Both get a good mention in  Dolby and Clarke's Finding Australian Birds. The dam wall, shown in the photo above, is a low construction with a bitumen road leading to a birdhide on the other side. We drove across at walking pace and stopped frequently but didn't get out of the car because of the danger from estuarine crocodiles. It's not very far, but it took us quite a while because there was so much to see. Then we spent time in the excellent bird hide before repeating the process to recross the wall.

What a wonderful place. I barely skimmed the surface with my binoculars and don't have a telescope with me on this holiday but saw five birds that I can add to my Australian list as well as flocks of magpie geese, spoonbills, egrets and ibis. It must be fantastic revisit this area in all seasons and at different times of the day. I'd love to go back.

Fogg Dam
Crocodile beside the dam road.
Can you see it? There's a juvenile Jacana on a lily leaf.
Can you see them? A family of Wandering Whistling-Ducks hiding among the lily pads.
Fogg Dam
Magpie-geese and Pied Herons
Paperbark trees, Fogg Dam
And Fogg Dam isn't just about birds. It would be good to have the time to explore the botany and the insect life. There's a lot happening at Fogg Dam.
Mating dragonflies and a caterpillar on a lily leaf
PS You can click on any of the photos in the blog to view a larger version (but I have been uploading smaller than I usually do because of my more limited internet).