Friday, August 09, 2019

Postcards from Australasia #5

We arrived in Darwin from PNG, via Brisbane, after midnight, collected our car and drove to our downtown hotel.   The following morning, albeit a little later than normal we set off on foot to walk to the Botanic Gardens.   We enjoyed exploring these, seeing a number of regional bird species, a brunch in the gardens though the building heat soon had us heading back to rest and recuperate.

The next day we headed early to Charles Darwin National Park.  This is a view back to the city from the park:

We again saw a good number of regional specialists though the main event was being eaten alive by midges.   They peak around dawn and dusk we found out later, so our timing was spot on!   100 bites between us and they are still coming up nearly three weeks after the event!

The next day we started our trip to Kakadu, stopping at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve.  We got our first glimpse of a Pitta in Australasia here amongst many other species, and enjoyed seeing the regional Blue-winged Kookaburra along a trail:

As well as Comb-crested Jacana on the lillies:

A trio of Little Kingfishers displayed, argued and moved around a dead tree:

From there we drove on to Mary River to stay at the lodge there, we mooched around the property mostly seeing the resident Wallabies.

The next morning we drove to the closeby Bird Billabong where we enjoyed a lovely walk, seeing a good number of species and bumping into a birding couple who helped us with some of the species thereabouts.

This image is of Royal Spoonbills and a Glossy Ibis on the billabong:

From there it was time to head into Kakadu:

It's one of the largest National Parks that's been formed out of land returned to it's original custodians, the Aboriginals.   They in turn work with the State government to run it as a National Park, which makes a lot of sense.   There's clearly challenges though as a number of the trails are closed and it seemed only the really big tourist draws like boat trips, etc. were fully staffed and operating.

Every dawn in the Top End was the same, a faint glow on the horizon which then turned through pinks and oranges and blues, before the golden sunlinght of dawn:

One trail we did enjoy was the Bardedjillidji (2.5km) weaving through the sandstone rocks.   We wanted to do the 6.5km extension but that was one of the trails that were overgrown and closed.

Another morning, another trail, this time we headed for Nourlangie and decided to start up the outback trail, at least to the top of the gorge.  On the way up we saw our first Kangaroo species, a Black Wallaroo, still before the dawn:

The view from the top of the gorge was spectacular, taking in part of the park from our perch:

From Kakadu we headed south stopping at Edith Falls, the Northernmost entry in Nitmiluk National Park and a spectacular location:

The rockpools are accessible and swum by many keen tourists both local and otherwise. 

We walked a number of trails in Nitmiluk from Edith Falls and from the Southern entrance, Katherine Gorge.   Around the visitor centre there are a number of Greater Bowerbirds, on one walk we found one of the bowers: 

One trail we did took us to Butterfly Gorge, which as the name suggested was home to a number of butterflies:

On our final morning in Nitmiluk we were somewhat nervous as we'd booked a boat-trip on Katherine Gorge, a bit 'touristy'' for us.   We arrived early and enjoyed seeing this Blue-faced Honeyeater on the lawn:

We also saw Great-billed Heron and Northern Rosella, two species i was sure we were going to miss so it was already turning out well.

The boat takes you through the first gorge:

Where we saw some excellent stuff including a few Freshwater Crocodiles:

Then the boat docks and you have a short walk across a natural rock-bar to a second boat:

The second gorge is outstanding and spectacular:

Along the sandbar is some Aboriginal art, this one circa 3,000 years old though apparently refreshed from time-to-time:

On our return trip we spotted this Little Pied Cormorant with a freshwater shrimp:

After much bashing the shrimp was minus its legs and antennae and suitable for consumption.  The trip was brought to life by a very entertaining guide and we'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

From Katherine we headed North towards Darwin and the completion of the circuit we'd planned, stopping at a park in Batchelor next door to Litchfield National Park.   The park owner has been feeding wild birds for about twenty years so he was assured a good turnout every evening, including a number of excited and boisterous Galah:

Litchfield, being close to Darwin, gets a lot of visitors, however being birders we're out shortly after dawn most mornings, before dawn quite often, so it's always pretty quiet.   We weren't however prepared for a pea-souper as we drove into the park:

Litchfield is replete with rockpools and spectacular waterfalls, hence no doubt it's popularity for people camping as they can escape the heat of the day with a swim in fish-infested waters!

We walked a few trails but found the birding frustrating, the birds keen to get away at first contact with humans, unusually for our trip so far.   By 11am we'd decided to head for Darwin a day early to sort ourselves out before our flight.  We stopped off at a few remaining spots as we headed out of the park:

Back in Darwin we washed clothes and ourselves and packed our things ready for our flight to Alice Springs and the Red Centre.


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