After leaving Australia’s East Coast I decided to head back to Australia’s Northern Territory to work in Kakadu once more. It’s a massive national park east of Darwin, and as usual it didn’t disappoint.
During the first night camped out near the Mary River a spotlight search of the campsite revealed a scruffy looking Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) sitting on a branch scanning the ground below for prey. In the north of Australia they are smaller than their southern brethren and often reddish in color. Not an owl, but a cousin of the nightjars these birds are very hard to find by day but can be spotted at night as they hunt.
We kicked off the Kakadu part of the journey the following morning with a wildlife cruise by Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge on the Mary River’s Rockhole Billabong. In Northern Australia, a billabong is a stretch of permanent water that remains throughout the dry season. Full of wildlife, it is home to fish, frogs, an impressive list of birds, and of course crocodiles. Both Australian species live here, the Johnson’s (freshwater) and Estuarine (saltwater) and can be easily spotted in and around the water.
One of the most obvious birds around is the Australian Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) which looks to be designed by a committee with a long snakelike neck, sharp bill and webbed feet. It barely floats so it can dive with ease and hunt fish, spearing them with the bill before returning to the surface to flick them off the bill, catch them in midair to swallow.
I stopped for a quick look at the East Alligator River at Cahill’s Crossing, the gateway into Arnhemland. A large crocodile patrolled the waters upstream of the crossing. The odd object on his back is likely a GPS tracker installed in a study:
Before sunset, Ubirr rock was our destination. Famous for its sunsets and cave paintings I decided to take the group there late in the afternoon when it’s at its best. I have loads of pictures of the paintings already but it’s this one that I like the most:
It’s not amazing in an artistic sense but it’s what it represents that makes it special. A dog-like animal with a striped rump. There is nothing else it could be that we know of other than a Thylacine. Often unfortunately known as the “Tasmanian tiger” it is a marsupial like kangaroos and koalas, not a tiger at all. Bearing in mind this painting is about as far from Tasmania as you can get without leaving Australia it is remarkable. Around six Thylacine species are known from fossils on mainland Australia, and none remained by the time Europeans settled here. Only in the dingo-free Tasmania did they persist for a time until the last confirmed one was shot in the 1930s. Sightings continue to be reported in Tasmania.